Adiyen presented the below paper on aruttha panchakam, a Tamil prabandham of Swami Desikan at Madurantakam Patashala on the 4th of December 2018 during the 750th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Desikan. The paper below is in English but I presented it in Tamil with quotations from Nalayira Divya Prabandham and Desika Stotras and prabandham for better appreciation by the audience. The below sloka on Lord Rama of Madurantakam was composed and read by me during the presentation.
श्रीमन्तं तं धनुष्मन्तं रामानुजसमाश्रितम् ।
गतिमन्तं सतां मध्ये वन्दे सकरुणाकरम् ।।
(I salute him (Lord Rama) who is who is presiding (here at Madurantakam) along with Sri (Sita), Sri Ramanuja (one meaning Lakshmana, and other being Sri Ramanuja who underwent Samashrayana ceremony here), & Lord Karunakaran & who moves about in the hearts of his devotees.
Sri Vedanta Desika, a non-pareil multifaceted acharya of the Srivaishnava tradition is an author of more than a hundred literary compositions in different genres of literature in Sanskrit, Tamil and Manipravala, a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil. His Tamil compositions do not match his Sanskrit compositions in terms of quantity but definitely do in terms of quality. His extraordinary ability to summarise abstruse Vedanta tattvas in chaste and poetic Tamil is one of his unique qualities. His Tamil compositions are hailed as Desika Prabandham.
Aruttha panchakam is one such composition in Tamil consisting of eleven verses which summarise the concept of arthapanchaka – a set of five doctrines or topics that a mumukshu, a seeker of liberation, must know according to Sri Vaishnava tradition. This composition is in kocchaga-kalippa meter and is dedicated to Lord Varadaraja, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and who is the presiding deity of Perumal koil, Kanchipuram. Vishnu, along with Sri, His eternal consort, is Brahman or Paramatma and Lord Varadaraja is identified as Paramatma in this work. The subject matter of this work is elaborated in the 4th adhikara of his own another work, Srimad Rahasyatraya Sara, celebrated as his magnum opus.
Generally, whenever a man ardently desires to attain an object in life, he must thoroughly know about the object of desire, the ways and means to attain it, the potential obstacles in attaining and the consequences of attaining it. He may also try to know his own Self in relation to the object, so as to know if the desire is worth pursuing. These aspects are thoroughly discussed from the point of view of moksa, the ultimate desire of man, in aruttha panchakam.
Attaining Brahman, or constantly experiencing Brahman to be precise, is moksa according to Vedanta, and hence knowledge of Brahman is the first artha. The knowledge of one’s own Self, the attainer, is the second artha. The knowledge of the means to attain Brahman is the third artha. The understanding about the obstacles that have not led to attainment of moksa is the fourth artha and awareness about the nature of moksa itself is the fifth artha. These five together (panchakanm) are called as artha panchakam in Sanskrit and aruttha panchakam in Tamil.
All important aspects of the first artha, namely Brahman, its svarupa or essential nature, rupa or form, guna or attributes, vibhuti or wealth and ayudha or weapons are all discussed in the first two verses. Brahman possesses satyatva (ever unchanging in its nature), jnanatva (of the form of knowledge), ananta (being infinite in its nature), anandatva (blissful in nature) and amalatva (being pristine in its nature) as its svarupa. It has an auspicious transcendental rupa that matches the brilliance of its svarupa. Besides svarupa and rupa, Brahman possesses infinite number of auspicious gunas like jnana, bala, tejas etc. Its eternal abode, Srivaikuntha, and the manifested universe in which the jivatmas keep experiencing the results of their karma in a seemingly unending cycle of births and deaths, Prakrti, are his vibhutis – they are called nityavibhuti and lilavibhuti respectively. Further to the above, Brahman possesses several divine ayudhas among which five are quite popular and they usually adorn the vigraha of His beautiful archa forms in temples. Brahman, i.e Vishnu and Sri together, rules all sentient and non-sentient beings. It pervades all beings and resides in them as antaryami, and by whose will, the svarupa, existence and functioning of all the sentient and non-sentient beings depend upon. Brahman grants moksa to those who resort to It and propitiate It.
The third and the fourth verses delineate the svarupa of the Jivatma. That the Jivatma is different from his gross body, senses, mind, prana and intellect, and is of the form of jnana, with jnana as a guna, and is ever subservient to Paramatma, who resides as his antaryami, is the summary of the 3rd verse. In the 4th verse the experiences of a Jivatma in the lilavibhuti are highlighted. With a body granted by the will of Paramatma in accordance with his karma, the Jivatma, until the dawn of right jnana, is born repeatedly (acquires new bodies after the loss of previous ones) to experience the results of his karma and thus subjects himself to the travails of samsara. In this, he is led by Paramatma, who resides in him as antaryami. This becomes a lilarasa to Lord Varadaraja and his eternal consort.
The obstacles to the attainment of moksa are discussed in the 5th and 6th verses. The Jivatma, oblivious of his – liege and Lord – relation with the Paramatma, chooses, out of ignorance, to be subservient to another Jivatma, who is also just like him. Being unaware of the fact that his essential nature is completely different from that of his body, he identifies himself with his body and relishes the transient and insignificant pleasures arising out of it. Until he seeks the guidance of an acharya he slips further in to the nadir of samsara, despite the omnipresence of the ever-compassionate Lord. Karma is said to be the reason for this and thus it becomes the main obstacle in transgressing the ocean of samsara. The origin of karma cannot be ascertained as it follows the bija-ankura maxim – the inability in finding out which came first – the seed or sprout. The Jivatma, because of karma, takes up four types of bodies in the course of his experiencing the results of karma – of gods, men, animals and plants due to lack of knowledge to overcome karma. Eventually the Paramatma bails out those who resort to Him.
The 7th and 8th verses deal with bhaktiyoga and prapatti respectively that are the two means recommended by sastras to overcome samsara. Bhaktiyoga is defined on the lines of ashtanga yoga of Yoga sastra, Paramatma being the object of meditation. It consists of the following eight limbs – yama or controlling the external senses, niyama or controlling the internal senses, asana or getting accustomed to a comfortable body position to pursue further aspects of yoga, pranayama or mastering the flow of prana, pratyahara or withdrawing the senses from outward objects, dharana or focussing on the divine form of the Lord and his auspicious attributes, Dhyana or constant contemplation of the same and samadhi or the immediate experience of a glimpse of the vision of the Lord. Not all Jivatmas can embark upon the path of bhaktiyoga due to strict norms of eligibility, and to those who cannot prapatti is recommended as an alternate means, which is equally efficacious. Prapatti, which is usually done through an acharya, is first performed at the lotus feet of Sri or Lakshmi, who is ever accompanying the Lord and who is ever compassionate without a reason. This is called as purushakara prapatti. With her grace on his side the Jivatma then approaches the Lord and performs prapatti adhering to the five limbs of prapatti. The Lord, pleased with the performance of either bhaktiyoga or prapatti grants moksa to the Jivatmas as and when it is desired by them or at the destruction of prarabda karama to be precise. It is at the end of the that life in which prapatti was performed in the case of prapannas.
The 9th and 10th verses describe the journey of the Jivatma to the eternal abode of the Lord and the nature of moksa. The Jivatma, who has earned the grace of Lord and having got rid of all his karma, leaves his confines of his body through the sushumna nadi, a subtle channel that leads to the path of moksa. In this final journey he is accompanied and guided by divine agents of the Lord and is taken through the worlds that appear in the way. He then reaches the nityavibhuti or Srivaikuntha only to shine in his pristine natural form and, along with eternal and other liberated Jivatmas, revels in performing all kinds of kainkarya or services, which were hitherto lost by him, to the Supreme Lord and his divine consort, who independently rules over his two vibhutis forever.
Through the 11th verse, which is the concluding verse, Sri Vedanta Desika submits that he has composed the work with the grace of those Vedic scholars who were blessed devotees of Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram, who was indeed propitiated by Brahma himself, and in stating the doctrines therein he has only followed the footsteps of his preceptors. He has placed this work at the lotus feet of Lord Varadaraja who is ever united with his divine consort, Sri. To those who recite the decad, this work will bestow all good, and to the learned scholars who read, it will give a sense of joy.
Here ends a brief outline of the Tamil prabandham by name Arutthapanchakam composed by Sri Nigamantha Mahadesikan.