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Significance of Charama Sloka

Dr. C. Umakantham
Associate Professor
S.V. University

(Sapthagiri magazine of TTD)

 

Sarvadharman Parityajya Mam Ekam Saranam Vraja |
Aham tva Sarva Papebhyo Mokshayishyami Masuchaha ||

This is the noblest of all Slokas in the Bhagavad Gita. The commentators have shown their originality in commenting upon this Sloka and maintaining their own point of view. To Ramanuja, this is the final verse (charma sloka) of the whole Gita. So, these are the final verses of Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the eighteenth chapter of sixty sixth Sloka of Gita. It is a universal scripture, it is the Bible of man, the Koran of humanity, the dynamic scripture of Hindus. The implied meaning of this Sloka according to Ramanuja, is that if an aspirant has no capacity to perform Sadhanas like Karmayoga, Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga etc., he can perform this alternative Sadhana through Charama sloka. The first part of the sloka states, "Having given up all Dharmas or rites unintentionally, surrender to the Lord alone". Further, the first sentence explains the thing that has to be done by the doer of Saranagati. The second part assures, "I will release you from all sins and give Moksha; don't despair or grieve". In the second sentence the things that the Lord will do for the sake of doer of Saranagati is explained. On close observation, it is obvious that the first part of the verse shows that the Lord only as the Upaya or the means to be adopted at times of distress and the later part explains the fruits of Saranagati. We now deal with the first part of the Charamasloka.

A summary of the meaning of the Charama sloka

In 'Rahasyatrayasara' Vedanta Desika (Tr. Rajagopala Ayyangar) vividly says about Charama Sloka as follows:

"Your knowledge is limited; your ability is insignificant, your life is short and you are also impatient of delay; therefore do not go about seeking other upayas which you cannot (fully) understand; which you cannot easily adopt and which can bear fruit only after much delay; Realise that I, who am easy of access to all, who am the Saviour of all the worlds, and who am endowed with the attributes essential for a Saviour, am the only upaya and perform the surrender of the responsibility of protecting your self to me with its five Angas. When you have adopted this upaya, you will have done what you ought to do, you will become my ward and be extremely dear to me. Supremely compassionate and gracious, independent and omnipotent, I will, myself, by my mere will and without any other aid, and for the fulfilment of my own purposes, free you from the manifold, endless and insurmountable groups of obstacles without leaving any trace of them. I will enable you to have enjoyment similar to mine own, since you will enjoy myself and all that belongs to me. I will find delight in making you render all forms of service in all places, at all times and in all circumstances - service which will be of the nature of the overflow of the full and perfect enjoyment (of my self) you have absolutely no cause for grief".

The first sentence of the sloka contains six words (Sarvadharman, Parityaja, Mam, Ekam, Saranam, Vraja) and the second sentence contains five words (Ahamtva, Sarvapapebyo, Mokshayishyami, Ma, Suchaha) - both comprise 32 alphabets.

Meaning of the word 'Sarva Dharman'

The general meaning of the word 'Dharma' is 'the way' or 'means of attaining an object'. The way or means is shown in the Sastras. The word Dharman (in plural number) indicates the varied nature of the ways or means of Dharmas. The word 'sarva' means 'all' which includes the sayings in Sruti, Smruti etc. as follows: Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhaktiyoga, Avatararahasyajnanam, Purushottama Vidya, Desavasam, Tirunama Sankeerthanam, Tiruvilakkuerikkai, Tirumalai edukkai etc., are the things to be done intentionally. It is suggestive of the Angas or limbs of Dharmas which are referred to by the word 'all'. But 'Sarva' could also be interpreted to mean the opposite of 'one' i.e., Anga Dharmas. Another meaning of the word 'Dharma' is the absence of qualities like Nitya and Kamya Karmas. The 'Dharma' without these qualities would refer to other Upasanas or meditation with accessories like Dharavidya, Sandilya Vidya etc., for attaining liberation. Thus, according to Visistadvaita - 'Sarva Dharman' refers to Upasanas or certain Vidyas but not the duties pertaining to social life. Pillai Lokacharya also underlines that the word Dharma here refers only to the 'Mokshapha-lasadhana' in a sutra. Commenting on the Sutra, Manavala Mamuni stresses that here Mokshaphala sadhana means that it contains Bhagavatprapti. With a view to change the wavering mind of Arjuna who considered his duty of war as Adharma, the Lord Krishna says it as 'Dharma'.

Implications of the word 'Parityajya'

The word 'Parityajya' means 'having given up' or ' renunciation' which implies that Saranagati does not require other Sadhanas. This gives rise to the question, how can the aspirant know his ability to renounce all Sadhanas. Desire develops bondage and renunciation is advocated, though it is not easy to adopt or practice perfectly. The syllable 'pari' in Parityajya means extreme dislike or aversion. According to Rahasyatrayasara of Vedanta Desika "Aversion in every form" means being without the improper desire to perform what is impossible for a man with the thought: "Though I cannot adopt the upaya in full perfection, I will do it to the best of my ability; when that also is too difficult to perform, I will adopt, in the place of the prescribed Angas, something less difficult or the upayas which will produce the prescribed Upayas". Ramanuja has said in his Saranagati Gadya thus: "I see no means of crossing the sea of Samsara in all the eternity of time which lies before me". When one desires to adopt any Sadhana it is preferable to adopt any easy Sadhana rather than difficult ones like Karma, Jnana and Bhakti etc. In such a predicament, "Give up all Dharmas" is an advice to an aspirant who has renounced all other Sadhanas which are unsuitable for practice. In such circumstances alone one can adopt Saranagati. This only goes to prove that Saranagati does not need any other Sadhana along with it.

Pillai Lokacharya classifies the word 'Parityajya' under three aspects viz. Tyaga, Laypu and Upasarga. 'Tyaga' means not merely giving up the Dharmas; but it means that one has the constant mind in giving up other upayas also as a mean, like thinking of the brass as silver or thinking of a particular route which is wrong and that one has to go through another route. Manavala Mamuni adds that one has to feel for his ignorance of following other means for Moksha though he is the one who desires that Lord is the means for Bhagavatprapti. The syllable 'Layup' means that it stresses the giving up of other upayas andsurrender unto the Lord who is the only means to attain Moksha just like the Sastras which prescribe that one has to take food only after bath. Likewise one has to practice Saranagati, after giving up all other Sadhanas.

In conclusion, it can be summarised thus: Vidhi or imperative presupposes the renunciation of all Dharmas. To put it differently and more simply, the Dharmas that are required for all the other Vidhyas are not necessary for Saranagati. For instance: (i) shaving off one's head (ii) residing in holy places where Bhagawan is residing (iii) wearing the holy thread. In other words, Saranagati does not prescribe the renunciation of any Dharma. Some Acharyas, while attempting to explain what is Charamasloka, first state what need not be done and then state what has to be done. But all Acharyas are in total agreement that Saranagati can be practised only when one is ignorant of all the other Sadhanas and one is fully aware of the relationship betwen Jivatman and Paramatman. The following are the implications of the word 'Sarvadharman Parityajya':

1.       Inability to perform the duties beyond one's capabilities makes one suitable for adopting the Sadhana of Saranagati.

2.       Total ignorance of other Sadhanas becomes a qualification for Saranagati.

3.       Giving up all rites or Dharmas becomes an Anga for Saranagati.

4.       Non-indulgence in trying to perform what one is not capable of.

5.       Being uninterested in doing what one is unable to do.

6.       The principle of Brahmastra which states that resorting to use any other accessory or Anga would render the entire attempt a failure.

Meaning of the word 'Mam'

Pillai Lokacharya lucidly expresses the word 'Mam'. Mam means the Lord Narayana who is all protector, who responds to Bhaktas' prayers disregarding their mistakes and who is the asylum, the constant protector even when 'Sri as the mediator intercedes to help the jiva for unison. Further, the word 'Mam' dispels the other stages of the Lord i.e., Para, Vyuha and other Devas like Agni, Indra and so on, since the Lord Krishna asked Arjuna to vanquish all Dharmas and surrender to Him, as He is the real Dharma (Sakshat Dharma). Pillai Lokacharya says that this word 'Mam' directly focuses on the attributes of the Lord i.e. Vatsalya, Swamitva, Souseelya and Sowlabhya. He beautifully describes Lord Krishna who is having the following qualities in his Mumukshuppadi :

He brings out the dramatic contrast within the image of Lord Krishna, who is both the charioteer, sitting on the chariot with His legs dangling over the edge, His hands holding rein and a whip, and his hair all awry with the dust of the battlefield, and at the same time He is the Supreme Lord who declares that He is the ultimate refuge of all men.

Vedanta Desika in his 'Rahasyatrayasara' defines by quoting Harivamsa Sloka that 'Mam' means that the Lord is the saviour. Lord Narayana who has the ocean - milk as His abode has now come to the city of Madhura leaving His serpentine bed Adisesha. He also elicits that it means the Lord's inseparable qualities like Sousilya Seshi, His being the Lord of Sri, His being Narayana, omniscience, omnipotence etc. Each quality is enumerated by quotations from Bhagavat Gita, Lakshmi Tantra, Vishnu Purana, Amanushastava and so on.

The word 'Ekam'

The syllable 'Mam' in singular offers the same meaning of 'Ekam'. Pillai Lokacharya further means that the word 'Ekam' implies the meaning of negation of the nature or Upaya in choosing Saranagati, as understood in the word 'Vraja'. According to Vedanta Desika, the word 'Ekam' represents the fact that Lord is the Ultimate goal of the Jiva and He is at the same time the Upaya for attaining that goal. He is comparable to the Kalpaka tree that has the power of granting all wishes. The usage of the word 'Eka' after the word 'Mam' shows the underlying unity in the ultimate goal of attainment and the means for that attainment. The Bhagavatam expresses the same idea in these words, "By all Sadhanas, seek the protection from Me alone who am the inner self of all beings. You will then have no fear of any kind". Some Acharyas interpret 'Ekam' in a different way. They are of the opinion that 'Ekam' means 'Chief', 'something other than' and 'there is no other than this'. These could be synonymous with 'no other' and lastly 'only' or 'alone' as the Gita says:

Daivi hyesa gunamayi mamamaya duratyaya |
Mameva ye prapadyate mayametam tarantite
||

"Those who seek Me alone (and no other) as their refuge will overcome the insurmountable Maya". Ahirbudhnya Samhita also says as follows: 'I pray that thou alone shouldst be my upaya'.

Meaning of the word 'Saranam'

According to Pillai Lokacharya, the word 'Saranam' has several meanings such as Upaya, abode, protector, taking refuge in and total surrender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Here it means 'upaya' only because it has to add with the meaning of 'Sarva...Ekam'. This is being underlined in Ahirbudhnya Samhita. This was the prayer that was taught to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. It is applicable to all and Ramanuja has mentioned it in his Saranagati Gadya thus, "O thou who art the saviour of all beings in the world ignoring the differences that may exist among those that seek thee" and in the utterance of Valmiki, he said, "The great and eminent Rishis say that thou art the refuge and the saviour of those that have sought thy protection". These prove beyond doubt that the Almighty is the only saviour for all Jivas. The most essential requisite while taking refuge in Him is that one should not entertain the idea of any other Lord except Lord Narayana.

Meaning of the word 'Vraja'

'Vraja' means 'choose' or 'take to'. It is comparable to 'Prapadye' of Dvayamantra because it also enjoys self-surrender. In Prapadye the first person 'I' is used because it is only a meditation of a man who performs Saranagati, whereas in the word 'Vraja' of Charamasloka, the second person 'you' is used because it is addressed to Arjuna by Lord Krishna. It is the mind to choose the right path through mind'. This is called Jnana Visesham. This Jnana Visesham is also attainable by the grace of the Lord as spoken by Nammalvar - 'Aduvum Avanadhu Innarule' in Tiruvoiymozhi.

This leads to an intriguing question; whether the aspirant has the option of surrendering or not because the very soul is bestowed with a 'free will'. So, Saranagati is definitely an act of choice, an exercise of free will when it becomes convinced of the Jiva's utter helplessness and feels the necessity of attaining the life's goal i.e. Moksha. Does possession of the free-will lead the Jiva to choose the right path for the attainment of the Ultimate goal? Every Jiva is free to choose the path of liberation. However the right conduct is to seek refuge in Lord because man is helpless. The discerning power must actuate the free will to discriminate between what duties have to be performed and what ought not to be performed.

As seen above, the Charama Sloka consists of two parts. In the first part a particular Upaya the Lord is suggested for a particular Adhikari. It also enumerates the ways to be adopted by Adhikari to attain Moksha. Hence in the first sentence of this Sloka the following theme is derived:

The negation of all Dharmas intentionally is spoken in 'Sarva Dharman Parityajya' meaning the method of negation, 'Mam' means the Lord as Upaya, 'Ekam' means the negation of other means like Karma, Jnana and Bhakti, Saranam means the nature of upaya. 'Vraja' means the upayasveekaram.

Let us discuss the syllable existing in the second part of the Charama Sloka. In the second part Bhagawan is said to be the saviour who eagerly awaits the opportunity to protect and comfort the aspirant. For this, the aspirant must perform Saranagati with wholehearted faith in God. In other words, the second sentence enlightens the doings of Lord Krishna.

The meaning of the word 'Aham'

'Aham' or 'I' is the only source capable of doing the impossible and relieving the evil effects of one's sins. Pillai Lokacharya vividly describes the attributes of Lord Krishna in the word 'Aham' i.e. the Lord who is all knower (Sarvjna), all Valour (Sarvasakti), (Praptam), chief (seshi). Having given the meaning for 'Aham' by quoting God's attributes Lokacharya further states its usage in the present context as commented by Mamuni. Mamuni states that when the Lord wanted to help the aspirant by eradicating his sins and accomplishing his wishes, He realises Arjuna's earlier stage and further adds what he wants to do with this when the utility of Sarvajnatva and Sarvasaksitva of Lord is known. For the action of His is only for His sake by benefitting by Himself as He is seshi - the relation of Lord. Mamuni includes the attribute of Poorthi (Avaptasamastakamatvam) along with these qualities. Further, Pillai Lokacharya says that Arjuna feels that Lord Krishna distinguished Himself as a charioteer for his sake and to clear his fear, emphasises His attributes in the word 'Aham'. He underlines that Lord's servitude as charioteer is also His supreme.

The word 'Tva' (Thou)

'Tva' refers to the acquisition of the discerning ability to comprehend the nature of three ultimate Tatvas namely Cit, Acit and Iswara. Pillai Lokacharya says that 'Tva' refers to Arjuna (soul) who does not know what to do; who has no valour to do what he wants to do; and also has no right to do what he wants to safeguard and who approached Him as the means. Elaborating the sutra, Manavala Mamuni says that even one has knowledge to do what he wants and one has valour to act what he thinks, but he has no right to execute it and one who has redeemed all Dharmas and approached Him as the mean. Such is the nature of soul as enlightened in this word.

The word 'Sarva Papebhyo' (free from all sins)

For eliciting the inner thought, Pillai Lokacharya has given three Sutras for the word 'Sarva Papebhyo'. Manavala Mamuni classified it into three words as follows: Papam, its multitude and Sarvam - all combined 'Sarva Papebhyo'. Here 'Sins' are categorised into two aspects : i) the obstacle for desire (Istavirodhi) and ii) the cause for the evils (Anishtahetu). Here Mamuni means that since this Sloka speaks about Moksha, 'papam' denotes the obstacle for desire (Istavirodhi) i.e. the obstacle for the experience of divinity. It is necessary for the aspirant to renounce all evil deeds that lead to Adharma, Artha and Kama which are sinful and not capable of giving joy or bliss. The sins are as follows: ignorance (Avaidya), past impressions (Karma Vasana), taste (Ruchi) and matter (Prakrti) are the evil deeds that have to be shunned and they are characterised by the word 'Papebhyo'. Manavala Mamuni describes the word 'Sarva' denoting the aspirant who performs duties unknowingly that accumulate sins and who performs daily rituals with fearfulness etc. According to Sruti and Smrti the evil deeds must be avoided if one wishes to attain Moksha. Tiruvoyamozhi also reiterates the same point. It says : "sarntha iruvalvinaikalum janiththu mayap, pattamuththu theernthu thanpal manam vaikka thirutti veedu Tiruththvan" - which means "give up Punya and Papa both of which are of the nature of Karma and hard to give up".

It is necessary to assure the anxious Jiva that he would be freed from all sins. Sins could be classified as past, present and future which could be committed either through body or mind or speech. Past sins are sins that were committed before performing Saranagati. Present sins are those that are being committed and future sins refer to those that may be committed after the performance of Saranagati.

The word 'Mokshayishyami'

Pillai Lokacharya says 'Moksha ishyami' means that the 'Lord will grant liberation from sinful life. Further, he says that in the phrase mokshayishyami, the tense 'Ishyami' means that neither the Lord will try for it, nor the aspirant need pray for eradication of sins; as the aspirant has surrended to God, they will automatically leave him due to fear and not known where they has gone. Vedanta Desika opines that the word 'Mokshayishyami' conveys the meaning "I will grant the liberation or Moksha from this mundane world at the time when you want it". Liberation means release or freedom from the bondage of Samsara. This liberation is possible only if the individual (jiva) adopts Sadhana. Further, Vedanta Desika states that, one thinks that he is doing this for his personal end and becomes sinful. The Lord Krishna shows the way for liberation in the following words:

Sarvakarmanyapi sada Kurvano madvyapasrayah |
matprasadadavapnoti sasvatam padamavyayam
||

which means, the Karma Yogi, however who depends on Me, attains by My grace the eternal, imperishable state, even though performing all actions".

The syllable 'Masuchaha'

'Masuchaha' means 'do not feel sad' or 'do not despair'. According to Sruti, God will never forsake one who has taken refuge in Him. Once the Sadhana is performed by the individual which in fact is not difficult, is capable of removing all the obstacles and is having the power to grant the desired goal i.e.. Moksha. Hence, truly there is no need to grieve or despair. In the words of Bhagavan Krishna:

Daivi sampadvimokshasya nibandhayasurimata|
masucah sampadam daivimabhijatosi pandava
||

It means - "If you adopt this Upaya, your welfare is My burden or responsibility and I Myself be interested in looking after it; you are as it were My property or wealth (to look after) and there is no reason why you should despair". Pillai Lokacharya says that 'Masuchaha' means that since Arjuna has not entered to do his work and the Lord has involved Himself in his work, there is no grief for 'Arjuna'.

It is said that there are two more Charamaslokas i.e., Varaha Charamasloka and Rama Charamasloka. During Varahavatara, the Varahamurthy preached two slokas (Vakya Dvaya) to Bhumi Piratti, which speaks the easy way of doing Saranagati when one in a calm state of mind, health and action, prays God and when unable to sustain one's health at the end of life the Lord will think of him and take him away to His abode. In Ramaavatara also, Rama preached Charamasloka to Vibhishana when he wants to surrender before Him, by saying even one who pretends himself as a friend and surrenders Him, He will take him away His abode (Vaikunta).

From the above discussion it is obvious that the mantra- Charamasloka is the source of maintenance, nourishment and enjoyment to Jiva and also the cause for Moksha. This Mantra focuses on Saranagati as an easy Sadhana for attaining Moksha. Thus Charamasloka has a significant place in Srivaishnavam.

I have known this Mighty Being refulgent as the Sun beyond darkness.

By knowing Him alone darkness there is no other way transcends to go death.

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"