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Desika Darsanam - 22. Sri Nyasa Vimsathi
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamThe doctrine of surrender or Prapathi receives a more extensive exposure at the hands of Swami Desika in Sri Nyasa Vimsathi. That this is the only hymn the author has chosen to supplement with his own commentary in Sanskrit, catapults its significance to great heights.

Comprising 22 slokas, this forms the central piece of the triplet of hymns on the subject (collectively known as Nyasa Thrayee) by our great Acharya. This sthothra, by systematically and unequivocally establishing the imperativeness, efficacy and unfailing nature of the means, puts to rest any possible scepticism. Therefore every Prapanna (one who has performed Saranagathi) would do well to include this also in his/her daily recitation routine.

Some of the salient issues covered in Nyasa Vimsathi are: Qualities of a model preceptor; reasons why an Acharya is on par with God; requisite virtues of a disciple and duties of a guru; cardinal concepts a spiritual teacher needs to impart to his student; governing rules of Bhakthi and Prapathi; greatness of Prapathi; indispensable nature of unswerving loyalty (Mahaviswasam); Prapathi being a direct and independent means of salvation; how to conduct oneself after performing Prapathi, among other things.

Opening the hymn, Sri Desika prescribes the following 14 points as the ideal qualities a preceptor must possess for a disciple to take recourse to for spiritual elevation. Accordingly, a model Acharya should be:

  • Well-founded in our exalted tradition
  • Strong-minded and determined
  • Of absolutely flawless nature
  • Well-versed in Vedas and Vedanthas
  • Full of devotion to the Lord
  • Good-natured and magnanimous
  • Committed to truth and devoid of deceit
  • One who conducts himself in the manner prescribed in the scriptures
  • Free from vices like boastfulness, jealousy, etc.
  • Steadfast in his adherence to self-control
  • One who can be a torch-bearer forever
  • One who oozes compassion
  • Committed to correcting an erring disciple
  • A well-wisher of everyone

The requisite virtues (15) of a disciple are enlisted in the third sloka. And it is the duty of the Acharya to take under his tutelage one who fulfils these qualities, without any inhibition. Thus, a perfect disciple should be:

  • Of noble thoughts
  • One who mingles with devotees
  • Honest and disciplined
  • Deep-rooted in his quest for knowledge
  • With an attitude to render service to the Acharya
  • Free from self-conceit
  • One with an innate sense of reverence to the Acharya
  • One with a tendency to wait for the right time to get his doubts clarified by the Acharya
  • With complete control over his senses
  • Straight forward and of disciplined mind
  • Free from envy and fault-finding
  • One to take refuge at the feet of the Acharya
  • With an implicit faith in the scriptures and lessons taught by the Acharya
  • Willing to subject himself to any test for assessment by the Acharya
  • One with an eternal gratitude towards the Acharya for his invaluable help, which is impossible to pay back

In the fourth sloka, Swami Desika delves on the cardinal concepts of our philosophy — well encapsulated in Moola Manthram, Dhvayam and Charama Slokam — that the Acharya needs to imprint in the mind of the eligible disciple. They are:

a) Lord Narayana, in association with His Consort Lakshmi, is the sole form, cause of sustenance, effort and ultimate goal of everything in the universe; b) You ought not to consider anyone/thing else as the goal to be attained; c) Do not reckon anyone else as the means of salvation (Upaya); d) Be aware that our worldly fear and its removal originate from Him only; e) Never ever breach His commandments that are spelt out in the scriptures.

Forwarding a logical and irrefutable argument for Prapathi Sasthra in the sixth sloka, Sri Desika says, “It is common knowledge that one approaches a person who is both generous as well as capable, to get what he wants. This has been established in the scriptures by sages. There is no dispute over that in any text of authority. That being the case even with ordinary persons, what can one say about Bhara Nyasa, a great means, when it is performed at the feet of none less than Sriman Narayana, who is all-powerful and an ocean of compassion! Thus, Bhara Nyasa assumes the proportion of a Bramha-Vidhya as affirmed in legends.” Those who have been beneficiaries of the doctrine of surrender in the past as shown in the scriptures and who readily come to one’s mind include Sugriva, Kakasura, Vibheeshana, Dhraupathi, Gajendra, Thrisanku.

Prescribing guidelines for post-Prapathi conduct, Swami Desika has the following to say in the 19th sloka. “Avoid doing rites that are means of material ends. But never give up Nithya Karmas (daily mandatory routines like Sandhya Vandhanam etc.) and Naimithika Karma (ordained in the scriptures like Pithru Tharpanam, that is, propitiation of the departed forefathers etc,). Do not commit offences of omission and commission and those against devotees of the Lord (Bhagavatha Apacharam). Do appropriate atonement when unknowingly committing an offence. Strive to enhance knowledge and devotion. Put up with pleasure and pain (results of Punya and Papa respectively) with equal ease. Aspire for things that would serve as tool for more determined service to the Lord. Wish for the prosperity of devotees of the Lord. All these prayers, noble as they are, ought to be submitted only at His feet.”

Unusually, the penultimate verse stands for phala sruti, in which the author states that he has expatiated in this hymn, the doctrine of surrender which has been established in the scriptures and by the Lord in His own words, based on the great works of Poorvacharyaas. This he has done for the benefit of learned men, in this world and beyond.

The final verse serves as icing on the cake for this great work. Here, the supreme Acharya recapitulates the essence of the hymn in an animated address to Lord Varadaraja. “I am bestowed with the blessing glance of my Acharya that would negate the ill-effects of the whirlpool of Samsara. I have cast off other means. Improper thoughts and conduct are far from my mind. I am rid of all doubts as regards the ultimate truth. O Varada! Saviour and of boundless compassion! I have chosen You as the means and end of Moksha and have laid down the responsibility at Your lotus feet and have thus become free from fear and burden.” A telling statement from a totally relieved mind, indeed!

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Next in series: 23. Sri Nyasa Thilakam, on January 6, 2008.

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