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Acharya Vamsa Vruksham - 2 (March 15, 2009)

Lineage Tree of Preceptors
Anbil Ramaswamy, U.S.A.

4. NAMMAZHWAR (Vaikasi-Visakham):

Nammazhwar, who is an incarnation of Vishvaksena, was born on the 43rd day of commencement of the present Kaliyuga (3102 BC) in the year Pramaathi, Vaikasi month, Visakha Nakshathram, Sukla Paksha-Pournami, a Friday.

He was the son of Kaari, a Vellala agriculturist of Tirukkurugur on the banks of Tamraparni river and his mother was Udayanangai of Tiruvanparichaaram in Kerala.

Since the child did not open its eyes to see or mouth to eat, never cried like other children, the parents named it as “Maaran” — ‘one who is different’. He controlled the '(gaseous) spirit' called ‘Satam’ which afflicts the just born. According to Garbhopanishad, the foetus in the womb develops consciousness of its past births, present existence and the future destiny and resolves never again to go through the cycle. But, even as the child is born, the said spirit enters the newborn and makes it oblivious of all the consciousness and becomes worldly-conscious. He banished it with indignation even as he was born and established himself in yoga. Therefore, he was called ‘Sata Kopa’.

His parents prayed to Lord Aadhinatha (ThirukKurugur) and put the child in a cradle and left it under the tamarind tree that stood beside the temple. It is believed that the tree is an incarnation of Aadhi Sesha, the serpent couch of Lord Narayana. The child grew up in the same state of trance for 16 years. People wondered at this marvel of a boy and everyone called him “Nam Azhwar” — ‘Our Azhwar’. Incidentally, this is the way he was called by the Lord Himself.

Just like the word “Rama” denotes Seetharaman, the word ‘Azhwar’ denotes unerringly Nammazhwar. There was and is none like Satakopa since he regarded “Unnum Soru, Parugu Neer, Thinnum Vetrilai” as Kannan.

Lord Krishna lamented in Bhagavath Gita “Vaasudeva: Sarvam Ithi Sa Mahaathmaa Su Durlabha:,” perhaps having in mind his having to ascend to His Nithya Vibhuthi before the birth of Satakopa. Similarly, Satakopa lamented on his not having been born a few days before since he narrowly missed seeing Kannan who by then had ascended to His Parama Padham. His involvement with the wonderful experiences of Krishna was such that Bhattar, in his Rangaraja Sthavam, observed that it is the thirst of the love of Krishna that had personified itself and came down to earth as Para Ankusa.

ரிஷிம் ஜுஷாமஹே க்ருஷ்ண த்ருஷ்ணா தத்வம் இவ உதிதம் |
ஸஹஸ்ர சாகாம் யோத்ராக்ஷீத் த்ராவிடீம் ப்ரஹ்ம ஸம்ஹிதாம் ||
(Sri Rangaraja Sthavam - Poorva Sathakam - 6)

The Azhwar experiences Parama Purusha and out of the ecstasy generated by such experience, proceeds to give expression to the same. Swami Desika says that since his works convey all that Sruthi, Smruthi, Ithihasas, Puraanas all combined were only trying to convey, it stands far superior to them all.

யத் க்ருத்யம் ச்ருதீநாம் முநிகண விஹிதை: ஸேதிஹாஸை: புராணை: |
தத்ராஸௌ தத்வ ஸீம்ந: சடாமய முநே: ஸார்வ பௌமீ ||

Kamban says, “One who is devoted to Satakopa is verily the real ascetic entitled to rule over us.”

சடகோபனை சென்று இரைஞ்சும் தன்யர் எவரோ அவரே எம்மை ஆளும் தபோதனரே

Swami Desika pays homage to Nammazhwar thus:

யஸ்ய ஸாரஸ்வத ஸ்ரோதோ வகுளாமோத வாஸிதம் |
ஸ்ருதீநாம் விஸ்ரமாயாலம் சடாரிம் தம் உபாஸ்மஹே ||
(Yathiraja Sapthathi - 4)

“Vishvaksena taught the esoteric meanings to Nammazhwar. Therefore, our next Acharya is Nammazhwar. His words carry the fragrance of the Maghizha flowers. His Aruli-cheyals like Tiruvoymozhi is a flood of nectar that flows in chaste Tamil to instruct with clarity these meanings contained in the Vedas to benefit everyone irrespective of caste, etc. Because his Sri Sookthis perform the work of all the Vedas put together more efficiently, the Vedas can now go to take rest. We will constantly meditate on Nammazhwar who blessed us with such glorious Sri Sookthis.

There was at that time a Brahmin saint by name Madhurakavi of Thirukkolur who was visiting holy places in the north. When he was at Ayodhya, he saw a bright light shining in the far south which seemed to beckon him. Following the direction of the light, Madhurakavi reached where Maaran was. When Madhurakavi posed a cryptic question to the boy, he opened his eyes, looked at the saint and gave an equally cryptic and fitting answer. Immediately, Madhurakavi acknowledged the boy as his Guru and the latter acknowledged Madhurakavi as his disciple.

The manner in which the individual soul is afflicted when entangled with ‘Prakruthi’ or matter which includes our body is vividly portrayed in the conversational session of Sri Madhurakavi with his preceptor Nammazhwar.

Madhurakavi asks Nammazhwar “If the ‘small one’ is born in the womb of the ‘dead one’ what will it eat and where will it lie?” Nammazhwar answers thus: “‘That’ it will eat, and ‘There’ it will lie.” Here the ‘small one’ refers to the individual soul (subtle spirit) which is believed to be atomic in size. The ‘dead one’ refers to the (gross matter) body. Only when the soul enters the body, the body comes to life. Before the soul entering it and after the soul leaving it, the body is only a dead matter or corpse. The soul when it gets into the body and so long as it remains therein it experiences the pleasures and pains through that body and the senses, quite oblivious of its own innate nature of knowledge and bliss and unaware of its creator, the Paramaathma. This is the meaning of the reply of Nammazhwar.

In other words, the distinction of the three entities and the behavior of the soul when in conjunction with the body have been dramatically displayed. This brought the master and disciple together. After his encounter with Madhurakavi, Nammazhwar stayed under the tamarind tree for 32 years.

Lord Aadhinatha presented him with a garland of Vakula flowers from his own neck. Hence, the name Vakulaabharana. The Lord called him “Nam Azhwar.” As already mentioned all people at that time also called him, thereupon, endearingly as Nam Azhwar. The sectarians of all ages and faiths feared him just like an elephant fears the sharp iron goad. Hence, his name “Para Ankusan.” He is also known as Sataari, and KurugaipPiraan.

He is considered to be the foremost among the Azhwars and foremost among the Acharyas as well. His works brim with devotion, love, poetic excellence and literary flavor that hold in its grip the attention of anyone who cares to read. They explain the essence of Vaishnavism, Thathva Thrayam, Artha Panchakam, etc. and is deservedly called the “Tamil Veda.” In fact, he is known as “Vedam Tamizh Seidha Maaran.”

The four works of Nammazhwar written down by Madhurakavi are considered to be the essence of the four Vedas.

  1. Thiru Viruththam in a special style in Tamil in 100 verses is the essence of Rug Veda;
  2. Thiru Asiriyam in 7 verses is the essence of Yajur Veda;
  3. Periya Thiruvanthaadhi in 87 verses is the essence of Atharva Veda; and
  4. Thiruvoy Mozhi in 1102 verses is the essence of Sama Veda.

The sentiments expressed in every single verse of his works would kindle an insatiable interest and transport one to an enrapturing state of Bhakthi ecstasy. It is very difficult to select one verse in preference to another for appreciating the poetic excellence or the emotional content of his works. It is more because of our own limitations, space and time restrictions that we have to restrict ourselves to just a few of his expressions. But, even one among the many of his incomparable verses can bestow on the reader an unprecedented delectable experience.

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Next in series: On April 15, 2009.

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The author is President, Swami Desika Darsana Satsangam (SDDS) and Editor,
Sri Ranga Sri (SRS) Electronic Journal, U.S.A.

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www.svdd.com - © Sri Vedantha Desikar Devasthanam, Mylapore, Chennai.