In Sri Vainshnava Sampradaya, when someone says Perumal, it connotes Lord Vishnu. But there are certain specific reserved keywords that denote a special meaning. To substantiate this precept, the term ‘Kovil’ means temple. It automatically refers to the Lord Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. The word ‘Kovil Annan’ refers to Bhagavath Ramanuja. The phrase ‘Perumal Kovil’ refers to Lord Varadaraja Perumal in Kanchipuram. There are two primary seats of bhakti and scholarliness in Sri Vaishnanvism’s heritage and the first one is Kanchipuram and the second being Srirangam. Kanchipuram being the hometown of Bhagavath Ramanujacharya and the deity Lord Varadaraja has been a father and a mother to Ramanujacharya and many other devotees. Our Guru Maharaj enjoys the beautiful Garuda Seva in Lord Varadaraja temple. He frequents to this temple and spends a lot of time enjoying the beauty of Varada Hastam; the very reason why he is known as Lord Varadaraja.
“Yad srinvatham rasa gnayanam swadhu sawdhu pathae pathae” is one of the slokas in Srimad Bhagavatham. Srimad Bhagavatham is a ‘Moksha Grantham’ that can bestow one with Lord Krishna himself [sushrusbihi takshanath]. But Mahatmas do not even seek Moksha. The very introductory sloka of Bhagavatam says that the Dharma is such that it does not even intend for liberation –“Dharma projitha kaithavo atra parmanirmathsaranam satham”. One does not follow dharma in anticipation of something in return. Dharma means one’s true self. It does not have an expectation [apeksha]. But many dharmas in our Shastras speak about a “pala stuthi”. It is said in Vishnu Shashranama when one does a recitation of the Vishnu Sahasarnama, then it will fulfill what one desires –
Dharmarthi Prapnu yathdharmam arth arthi chaartha mapnuyath
Kamana vapnuyath kami prajarthi chapnu yath prajaha
But Srimad Bhagavatham says “Dharma projitha kaithavo atra paramonirmath saranam satham” that Bhagavatha Dharma Dharma does not have any hypocrisy that it does not expect anything in return. Sri Sridhara Swami gives a beautiful interpretation clarifying that expectation includes presumption of liberation as well. The true nature of devotees of the highest order is that they do not follow the path of Bhagavatha Dharma for liberation [Moksha]. A question then pops up to the readers as to why Bhagavathas read Srimad Bhagavatham.
atmaramascha munayo nigranthapi urukrame
kurvanthy ahaitukim bhaktim ithambhuta guno harihi
King Parikshit once asked Sage Sukha for the reason for his exposition of Srimad Bhagavatham. Suka replied saying that great Mahatmas and Atmaramas listen to the divine plays of Lord Hari and sing the Lord’s divine names for no reason [kurvanty ahaitukim bhakti] because they enter a state of ecstasy when they are reminiscing the Lord – “Yad srinvatham rasa gnayanam swadhu sawdhu pade pade”. The person who enjoys and extols the Lord is also the connoisseur of the greatest extent and the person who is being sung is also the best of the best. That is verily why it is mentioned twice “Swadhu Swadhu pade pade”. Srimad Bhagavatham is completely filled with nectar and essence of devotion to Lord Hari [Hari Bhakti] and the one who renders this scripture are the Mahatmas and Jeevan Muktas and for them Bhagavatham is not a Moksha Grantha but listening and reading Bhagavatham is enjoyment and jubilation for them. When they are reminiscing Bhagavatham; the mellows of devotion and bhakti, they interpret it in various different ways, akin to how when one goes for a stroll in the beach he tends to enjoy the sea and the waves. A person, who sells sweet meats in the beach, perceives the sea to be a profit making place. A person, who dives into the sea for pearls, recognizes the sea as one that bestows pearls and a fisherman discerns that the sea is a place to get fishes. Likewise, Bhagavatham is enjoyed by every Mahatma in their manner. Every time the Mahatmas read Bhagavatham, they construe a new meaning.
tadh eva ramyam ruchiram navam navam tad eva sasvan manaso mahotsavam
tad eva sokarnava soshanam nrnam yad uttamah sloka yashonugiyathe [Srimad Bhagavatham 12.12.50]
There are interpretations of Srimad Bhagavatham saying that Bhagavatham has come to show the path of Sharanagathi, the path of Nama Sankirtan, while some perceive that it has come to show the path of Guru Bhakti and to show the path of pure and pristine love to the Lord. Some Mahatmas beautifully give interpretations that Srimad Bhagavatham is a Jnana Grantha, the one that bestows with Jnana, while some Mahatmas discern it to be a scripture that institutes dispassion [Vairagya]. Of all the beautiful interpretations, there is one explanation that says that Bhagavatam has come to show the path of Kainkarya. Devotion [bhakti] to the Lord is one aspect and from this sprouts divine service [Kainkarya] to the Lord. Srimad Bhagavatham shows the greatness of Kainkarya.
“Koti janma punya sadhana sadhyam govindha dasa mandala dasyam” One might have the darshan of the Lord, one can even get God realization easily but it is very arduous to get even a glimpse of a Sadguru who is a realized soul and it even harder to do service to that Mahatma. To do a simple service for the Lord is possible by accruing tons of good merits in ones’ previous births. Bhagavatam shows this precept in many different places. Sage Narada’s life-history in Bhagavatam depicts the path of divine service [kainakrya] to the Lord.
ekathmaja me janani yoshin moodha cha kinkari
mayi atmaje nanya gatau chakre snehanubandhanam [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.6]
Sage Narada’s mother was a maid-servant [kinkari] and her son, Narada a little boy was blessed with supreme knowledge and the Lord also bestowed Narada with his darshan.
When the Lord came to give his darshan to Narada from far, he immediately disappeared. Soon a divine invisible voice of the Lord was heard, “Oh Narada, I will not give darshan to unbaked people
hanthasmin janmani bhavan ma maam drashtum iharhati
avipakva kashayanam durdarsho ham kuyoginam [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.21]
Sage Narada after hearing the Lord’s words asked him as to why he momentarily gave darshan to him. The Lord said that very momentary darshan was to recognize his divine service that he performed to Mahatmas for a short period of time.
Sat sevayadirghayapi jataa mayi drdha matih
hithvavadyam imam lokam gantha maj janatam asi [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.23]
Bhagavatam then goes to show how Dhruva pleaded for an opportunity to serve the Lord, King Prithu requested the Lord to bestow him with Kainkarya to the Lord and Lord Prahalada boldly expressed his desire to not be in the service of the Lord but to be in the association and do service to the Lord’s devotees [tava bruthya sevaam]as that alone can bestow him with liberation.
evamm janam nipatitham prabhavahi kupe kamabhikamam anu yah prapatan prasangath
krtvatmasat surarsina bhagavan grhitah so ham katham nu vishruje tava bhrutya sevaam [Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.28]
We all know that the Gopis were the epitome of Bhakti. They requested the Lord for Kainkaryam in Rasa Leela.
vyaktam bhavan vraja bhayarti haro bhijato
devo yathadi purusah sura loka gopta
tan no nidhehi kara pankajam artha bandho
taptastaneshu cha sirahsu cha kinkarinam [Srimad Bhagavatam 10.29.41]
They confide in the Lord that they have come to be in the presence of the Lord, when the Lord tried to send them away requesting them to do service to their husbands and parents. They aptly replied that they perceive Lord in each one of them. They further added that they weren’t deterred if the Lord deemed them unfit for Rasa dance and they told the Lord to let them witness the dance and also do service to the Gopi whom the Lord chooses for Rasa. They expressed their interests to string garland, sprinkle holy waters, make sandalwood paste and that they wanted to be the Lord’s maid-servants and cried to the Lord to not send them away. Further the wives of Lord Krishna [Ashta Mahishis] – Rukmini, Jambhavathi, Sathyabama, Kalindhi, Mitravinda, Bhadra, Sathya and Lakshmana when they prostrate to the Lord, recounted the reasons for getting married to Lord Krishna and reminisced the divine plays of Lord Krishna to marry each one of them. Kalindi confided that she did not marry the Lord to be a crown princess and expressed her desire to be as broom sticks in the Lord’s palace –“yoham thad griha marjani” to Draupadi. By being a broom stick, she mentioned that she can roll in the dust from the holy feet of the Lord.
tapas charantim ajnaya sva paada sparshanasaya
sakhyopethyagrahit panim yo ham tadh gruha marjani [Srimad Bhagavatam 10.83.11]
There was an Azhwar who has lived all his life as a dust at the feet of Mahatmas was Vipranarayanan, who is none other than our ThondaradiPodi Azhwar. The name itself connotes that he was a dust at the feet of other devotees. While all other Azhwars had one-pointed devotion to the Lord [Perumal], this Azhwar had razor focused devotion to Lord Ranganatha alone. Vipranarayanar, created a garden and used to string garlands to Lord Ranaganatha. It is said that the Lord had recognized his devotion. He once wandered away in life by lust due to Lord’s infatuation, and the Lord enacted a divine play to get him back on path. He has composed fifty-five pasurams, out of which ten of them are called “Thirupalliyechi” – the hymns sung even today in the sanctum of Lord Perumal in many temples to wake up the Lord. In one of the hymns, the Devas are waiting for the Lord to wake up to brief him about his schedule of the day – “Adalalal avarku nalolakam seyya” akin to how a busy person has a diary [nalolkam] listing all the events for that day. The other forty-five pasurams of Thondaradipodi Azhwar’s compositions are known as ‘Tirumalai’. It is often perceived to be an approximation of a scripture known as “Vishnu Dharmam” in the Vedas. It is a fact that all the Vedas, Upanishads and scriptures have been translated into tamil by the Azhwars and is came to known in the world as “Nalayira Divya Prabandham”. “Vedam thamizh saida maran Sadagopan”. Namazhwar’s Thiruvaizhmozhi is the very transliteration of the Vedas. The Vishnu Dharmam extols the greatness of chanting of Divine Names and glorifies the path of Bhagavatha Dharma – the very dharma expounded in Srimad Bhagavatam and it is a Kainkarya dharma. A great devotee of Lord Panduranga in his Abhangs sings –
“Guru dyayi guru dhyayi Guru parathae sadhana nahi
Kelae Sadguru pujana Hemchi maje anushtana
guruseva cha saṅkalpa Hemchi maje purṇatapa
shantiśvara sāṅkhyae Varma Gurutochi parabrahma”
Performing service to the holy feet of the Sadguru is verily the Anushtana- the devotee sings. He then sings that serving his Guru is verily his Sankalpa [desire] and praying for a Sankalpa to serve his Sadguru is verily his Tapas. One should only have a desire to serve the Guru and that should be ones’ prayers to the Lord and once that desire his indeed true, the Guru takes that devotee for the service of the Lord.
“Payanandragilum pangalar aagilum sevandraga thiruthi pani kolvan”
The Guru bestows each one with some service and one cannot belittle any of the divine service that one renders to the Lord. Azhwar sings and exults about SethuBandhanam.
“Kurangugal malaiyai noka kulithadam purandit odi”
“Tharanga neer adaikal utra salamila anilum pole”
“marangal poye valiya nanje vanjanen nenju thannal”
“Aranganarku aat seyadhae aliyathen ayarkindrenae” [Thirumalai Pasuram: 898]
Lord Rama decided to construct a bridge to enable him to travel to Sri Lanka to wage a war against Ravana. He summoned Sugreeva and all the monkey clan. Lord Rama was standing on a hillock and was overseeing all the arrangements and all the monkeys in different statures started to lift the boulders by breaking the mountains. Nalan was the architect for the bridge and is considered to be an incarnation of Vishwakarma himself. Sugreeva was leading the whole effort and was the impetus to the timely construction of the bridge. The monkeys on seeing Lord Rama in the hillock were overjoyed to have Rama’s darshan on them and so they started to lift more than one boulder with them. There was a squirrel in one corner witnessing the mammoth tasks the monkeys were doing with awe and excitement and also wanted to be of some help. The monkeys used to drench themselves in the ocean waters since the service they render was verily the service to the Lord. The squirrel also went to the waters and took a dip in the raging waters of the ocean. They completely drenched amidst the raging waves [Tharanga neer adaikal utra] for two reasons. Firstly they wanted to purify their body before doing service to the Lord and secondly they wanted to bring sand and deposit it in between the rocks. It would not suffice if they carried it by hand and hence they swirled their wet bodies in sand and then took that sand and deposited it in between the rocks. The squirrel was so enthused to do service to the Lord and they did not bother about their lives.
There once a lived a great Mahatma called Embar. One day circumstances led him to put his hand in an ant hill in which a snake was dwelling. The devotees witnessing this cautioned him since it was dangerous and Embar replied that it is the Lord who is destines his fate. He said that it is verily the Lord’s wish to decide if he has live or die. He further added that if he was alive in this earth, he would do service to the Lord in this world and if it was otherwise, he told his devotee that he would do service to the Lord in Vaikunta.
Akin to Embar were the squirrels since they did not pay any heed to their lives and jumped into the water to carry sand and placed it between the rocks. One can interpret the service rendered by the monkeys as a gratitude to the Lord. They were over-powered by Vali, a tyrant and the Lord killed Vali and crowned Sugreeva as the king and thus peace was restored. However, there is no reason [salam] for the squirrel to help Rama in bridge construction thereby depicting the path of Bhagavatha Dharma. Lord Rama’s vision fell on the squirrel as he was sedulously doing service to the Lord to help in bridge construction. He immediately summoned Lakshmana and requested him to bring the squirrel to him. When Lakshmana tried to carry the squirrel, he did not want to come since he was totally involved in rendering the service. He then carried him the squirrel by force and summoned him in front of Lord Rama. The Lord, who is personification of compassion, placed him on his lap and gently caressed him. The squirrel was kind of restless since he wanted to go and continue his service and at that instant of time, the squirrel was informed that the bridge construction was completed. It was not due to the monkey’s gargantuan task or due to Nala and Lord Rama that the bridge was completed. It was due to the sheer craving of the squirrel; a Mahatma for the bridge to be completed and his true weeping for an opportunity to render service to the Lord hat aided in the construction of the bridge.
Such is the glory of ‘Kainkarya’.
The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan.