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Editor's Note - 12 (May 1, 2009)

Exalted Status Of The Lord’s Devotee

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

A cardinal tenet that binds our Sampradaya and one which is unique is the exalted status enjoyed by the devotee. The Bhagavatha as he is known as, is one who belongs to the Lord (Bhagavan) and is dearest to Him. In Tamil he is called ‘Thamar’ (tham + ar) – one who, the Lord thinks, belongs to Him.

Gitaacharya categorically pronounces His preference for the Bhagavatha in the seventh chapter (slokas 16 to 18):

சதுர்விதா: பஜந்தே மாம் ஜநா: ஸுக்ருதிந: அர்ஜுந !
ஆர்த்த ஜிஜ்நாஸு அர்த்தார்த்தீ ஜ்நாநீச பரதர்ஷப !!

In the 16th sloka, He says that there are four kinds of devotees in all. They are: Aarthi, Arthaarthi, Jijnasu and Jnani.

‘Aarthi’ means the distressed sufferer.

‘Jijnasu’ means the one desirous of knowledge, that is, the one who wants to know the truth and endeavours to know.

‘ArthaarthI’ is the one who desires wealth, money, possessions, property, power, etc.

‘Jnani’ refers to the one who has realised the knowledge/truth about the Supreme Being, that is, the Lord Himself.

He goes on to emphasise His liking for 'Jnani', in the following slokas (17 & 18):

தேஷாம் ஜ்நாநீ நித்யயுக்த: ஏகபக்தி: விசிஷ்யதே !
ப்ரிய: ஹி: ஜ்நாநிந: அத்யர்த்தம் அஹம் ஸ: ச மமப்ரிய: !!

“The best among these is Jnani, the one who has a profound devotion to me. I am very dear to him and he is also the dearest to Me.”

உதார: ஸர்வ ஏவ ஏதே ஜ்நாநீ து ஆத்மா ஏவ மே மதம் !
ஆஸ்தித: ஸ: ஹி யுக்தாத்மா மாம் ஏவ அநுத்தமாம் கதிம் !!

“All the four mentioned above are good. However, since 'Jnani' is wise and contemplates Me as the mean-all and end-all, I like him the most.”

It is the bounden duty of each one of us to truly live up to our name. We Bhagavathas are not merely expected to follow certain regulations as prescribed in the scriptures to qualify for His affection. The Lord Himself has, explicitly ordained a few things as to the ideal conduct that would please Him.

Unswerving devotion to and faith in Sriman Narayana (only) is a must and there should be no disrespect towards the devotees of the Lord (Bhagavathas) are the two most important aspects of our philosophy that would not stand even a trace of compromise.

Swami Desika has extensively drawn from various legends – mainly, words of the Lord Himself – to underline the glory of Bhagavathas in the Purushaartha Kaashta Adhikaram of Srimath Rahasyathraya Saaram. In this chapter, our Acharya shows that service to Bhagavathas would please the Lord the most and it indeed is the farthest extent of our ultimate objective.

“The greatest of deity worship is the one involving Vishnu; but adoring His devotees is even greater.” – (Paadhmoththaram 29-81).

“Those who are devoted to my devotees are very dear to me. They must be adored.” – (Mahabharata - Aswamedhika Parva 116-23).

Those who have surrendered unto me, are devoted to My devotees and those devoid of devotion elsewhere are My devotees.” – (Mahabharata - Aswamedhika Parva 104-91).

“Humans get rid of all their sins by adoring not only the devotee of the Lord, but also, the devotee’s devotee, his devotee, his devotee… and so on.” – (Garuda Puranam - Sriranga Maahaathmyam 8-91).

Devotion to this hierarchy of devotees and service to God have been exemplified by Azhwars as follows:

எந்தை தந்தை தந்தை தந்தை தம் மூத்தப்பன் ஏழ்படிகால் தொடங்கிவந்து வழிவழி ஆட்செய்கின்றோம். . .
(Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 1-1-6)

“My father’s father’s fathers’s father and his grandfather… for seven generations we have rendered service to the Lord.”

.....எந்தை பிரான் தனக்கு அடியார் அடியார் தம் அடியார் அடியார் தமக்குஅடியார் அடியார் தம் அடியார் அடியோங்களே.
(Thiruvoymozhi 3-7-10)

“The servant of the servant of the servant of the servant…. of the Lord is my master.”

அமலன் ஆதிபிரான் அடியார்க்கு என்னை ஆட்படுத்த விமலன்.....
(Amalanaadhi Piraan - 1)

“The blemishless first-Lord has made me slave of His devotees.”

According to Periyazhwar, Bhagavathas are so beloved to Him that even if (in the hypothetical and unlikely event of) the lotus-dame (Piraatti) complains of His devotees to Him, He would firmly say that ‘My devotees would never do that; if they did, they did well.’

தன்னடியார் திறத்தகத்தே தாமரையாள் ஆகிலும் சிதகுரைக்குமேல்
'என்னடியார் அது செய்யார் செய்தாரேல் நன்று செய்தார்' என்பர் போலும்.....
(Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 4-9-2)

Thirumangai Azhwar avers, “I have nothing to do with those who think that there is another God; The only thing which I chose to do is service to Your devotees.”

மற்றுமோர் தெய்வம் உளதென்று இருப்பாரோடு உற்றிலேன்
உற்றதும் உன் அடியார்க்கு அடிமை.....
(Periya Thirumozhi 8-10-3)

Apart from these little nuggets, the glory of the Lord’s devotees has been captured in quite a few defining and exclusive Dasakams: i.e., Naavakaariyam (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 4-4), Thettarum Thiral (Perumal Thirumozhi - 2), Nannaadha Vaalavunar (Periya Thirumozhi 2-6), Kansora Venkurudhi (Periya Thirumozhi 7-4), Payilum Sudaroli (Thiruvoymozhi 3-7) and Nedumaarku Adimai (Thiruvoymozhi 8-10).

No wonder that, uniquely, Sriman Narayana is known as Bhaktha Vathsala and Bhagavatha Priya. He values Bhagavathas more than he does Himself. Hence, for our Kainkaryams to be complete, they should be submitted to Bhagavathas also. Even if we are devoted to the lineage of His devotees and do service to it, the Lord is immensely pleased.

Such is the place that Bhagavathas command in His heart that one should strive to do all that is in his powers to respect, serve and please His devotees. A delighted Lord would shower all His blessings on us.

Hail to the tribe of Bhagavathas !

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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