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Desika Darsanam - 7. Sri Vairagya Panchakam
Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar, Chennai.

Desika DarsanamAsceticism or being austere and indifferent to worldly desire (Vairagyam) is held as one of the three major qualities of a supreme Acharya in our Sampradaya. The others are knowledge (jnana) and perfect adherence to one’s religious obligation (Anushtanam). The kind of asceticism exemplified by Swami Desika will hardly find a match and has been well documented in the form of Sri Vairagya Panchakam.

Originally this was not meant to be a sthothra. It all started when our Acharya received a message from Vidyaranya, an advaitin and a boyhood friend. He was, at that time, a court scholar and spiritual preceptor in the Vijayanagara kingdom.

It was in fact, a royal invitation, to adorn the court of Harihara and Bukka, the emperors. Vidyaranya, who came to know about the Uncha Vruthi way of life Swami Desika was so assiduously following and the dire straits he was in, apparently wanted to help him.

Consider the situation. Here was fortune presenting itself in the face even as Sri Desika was living in utter penury in Kanchi. He could have helped himself to court honour and a hefty bounty, which were there for the asking, if he wished so. Would anyone have the guts and gumption to turn down such a golden opportunity? No, not ordinary mortals, really.

But how did our great Acharya respond? He simply wrote and sent out a sloka to Vidyaranya, categorically declining the offer while making it absolutely clear that he was not a wee bit interested in worldly riches. He stressed that according to him, the real treasure was Lord Krishna Himself, who turned His friend Kuchela into a Kubera in a trice.

The matter could have stopped with that. But it was not to be. Vidyaranya was still not out of his sense of sympathy for his friend, and unwilling to let go the opportunity to providing him a lifeline, so to say. He wrote to Swami Desika again, insisting him to reconsider the earlier decision and visit the emperors’ court.

But Lord Varadaraja perhaps destined that the lone sloka blossomed into a beautiful little hymn. The result was that our Acharya stood firm and wrote (a further) five slokas reiterating his stance to close out the matter. Hence the hymn came to be known as Vairagya Panchakam.

Jnana and Anushtana are great, no doubt. But the rigorous self-denial and extreme abstinence observed by Swami Desika under the circumstances, call for outstanding courage and extreme commitment to one’s principles. That’s what makes our Acharya’s Vairagya especially adorable and vaults it to a different altitude.

The author comes down heavily on the practice of praising petty kings and worthless masters for the sake of the stomach. He scorns at the wealth derived from such a shameful act and identifies as the real wealth the Lord who caused Arjuna to thrive, who lifted the Govardhana mountain, who is easily attained and who is worshipped by noble-minded people. – Sareera Pathanaavadhi...

சரீர பதநாவதி ப்ரபு நிஷேவணாபாதநாத்
அபிந்தந தநஞ்ஜய ப்ரசமதம் தநம் தந்தநம்!
தநஞ்ஜய விவர்தநம் தநமுதூட கோவர்தநம்
ஸுஸாதநம் அபாதநம் ஸுமநஸாம் ஸமாராதநம்!!

The above sloka offers a fascinating insight into the author’s command over the language involving the crux of the issue i.e. wealth. The term ‘Dhana(m)’ has been employed – either as a full word or a part there of – in 11 different contexts as given below:

  1. Abindhana – With water as food
  2. Dhananjayam – The fire in the belly
  3. Dhanam – Wealth
  4. Dandhanam – A waste
  5. Dhananjaya – Arjuna
  6. Vivardhanam – Promoted the interests of
  7. Dhanam – (The real) Wealth
  8. Govardhanam – The great hill
  9. Susaadhanam – A perfect tool (to achieve a thing)
  10. Apaadhanam – Wealth that is indestructible
  11. Samaaraadhanam – One that results in happiness

The piece de resistance of this sthothra is the classic climax. In a moving declaration, Swami Desika says, “There is no such thing as paternal property for me. Nor have I earned anything on my own. But I have the treasure (Lord Varadaraja) which was earned by my grandfather, on the summit of the Hasthi Giri”.

"நாஸ்திபித்ரார்ஜிதம்கிஞ்சித் நமயாகிஞ்சிதார்ஜிதம்
அஸ்தி மேஹஸ்திசைலாக்ரேவஸ்துபைதாமஹம்தனம்"

Here, the word ‘Paithaamaham’ (பைதாமஹம்) is used to denote paternal grandfather as well as Brahma. It was Brahma, who, through his Aswamedha Yaga, secured the presence of Varadaraja in the Hasthi Giri. As convention would have it, the inheritance of treasure from grandfather to grandson is natural.

True to the spirit of the work, there is no phala sruti mentioned as such. However one who recites this is sure to be richer in terms of ‘Vairagya’.

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Next in series: 8. Sri Saranagathi Deepika, on June 10, 2007.

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