Arulaala Perumaal Emperumaanaar was a direct disciple of Ramanujacharya, whose thousandth birth anniversary will be celebrated on May 1, 2017. Arulaala has composed two prabandha-s (a literary composition, particularly a poetical one), namely Jnanasaram and Prameyasaram. The former composition is said to be an exposition of the Dvaya Mantram and the latter, of the Tirumantram, . Together with the Charama Slokam, they constitute what is called the Rahasyatrayam, a foundational concept in the Sri Vaishnava school of thought.
Taken together Jnanasaram, which has thirty verses and Prameyasaram, which has ten verses expound on the nature of the seeker (jivatma), the nature of that which is to be sought (Paramatma) , and the nature of the one who leads the seeker towards the goal (guru).
‘…The inborn desire for a state of peace and happiness inevitably moves towards a serious consideration of the nature of the self… The search for a solution takes us to experts in the field to get at this foundation source of knowledge which furnishes the supreme equipment that we need..’, writes Prof. V. T. Tirunarayana Iyengar in a scholarly exposition titled ‘What am I?’
Keeping the above quoted observation of my preceptor in mind, I have tried to translate the verses of Prameyasaram as a humble tribute to that great ascetic, Ramanuja, a milestone in whose honour we are fortunate to celebrate this year. A free translation of the verses together with their meanings in brief are posted here. A longer version with the original verses in Tamil, transliteration in English, and detailed commentary will be made available in the next few months.
Thaniyan (Invocatory hymn)
At all times, without end, think of and honour, O mortals,
The feet of the unpretentious ascetic Arulaala.
He lives in lush Pudipuliman with its wealth of gardens
And gave us the noble Prameyasaram* which gently reveals.
*(The true knowledge of things = pramEyam; Essence = sAram).
This is an invocatory verse (thaniyan) in praise of both the composition, Prameyasaram, and its composer, Arulaala Perumaal Emperumaanaar.
Manavaala Maamuni begins his commentary on Prameyasaram with this verse. The saint calls upon the people of the world to meditate on the great ascetic, Arulaala, who is humility personified and who has presented the world with a composition that encapsulates the essence of that which is worth knowing.
pAsuram (verse) 1
Supplicants are all sentient beings to the Universal Spirit
proclaimed the preceptor –
Those who have heard and heed this precept,
Liberation is theirs, I assert.
The sentient being (jivatma) is both knowledgeable and ignorant, self-confident and angst-ridden. The Supreme Real (Paramatma), in contrast, is omnipotent and the embodiment of eternal bliss. He is a repository of incomparable auspicious qualities, completely lacking in vices. The wise seers who have understood the true identities of these two entities reveal that the way to happiness for the jivatma is to recognise that he is subservient to and dependent on the Paramatma.
pAsuram (verse) 2
Society is one, life forms, many;
The same elements of Nature constitute all life forms
but individual vocations differ.
Forsaking the advice of selfless seers produces such inequities.
We are unable to come to terms with the inequities we perceive in this world because we neglect the advice of selfless seers (refer to verse 1 to recall this advice) whose only motive is to uplift humanity that is disenchanted.
Even though individual actors are countless in number, all of us belong to one human family. Life forms and vocations differ, but the same elements of Nature constitute all beings. Equally for all God is the Original Cause (kAraNam) and God is the Ultimate Salvation (rakshaNam), and equally are we all supplicants of that Supreme Real. This is the underlying message.
pAsuram (verse) 3
Desiring possessions, interred in a cesspool of sin –
If this be your lot, to what avail being in the family of the faithful?
By spanning the world with His two feet aeons ago
Has He not taken custody of each and every one?
By straddling the universe God has shown the inclusive nature of His prowess. Nothing and no one falls outside the ambit of His protection and His authority. ‘I am yours. You will take care of me.’ This is the attitude that a jivatma should try to cultivate. Knowing this, what can one say if those who belong to the community of the faithful still perceive themselves as independent agents and exert themselves for personal profit?
pAsuram (verse) 4
Self-effort, physical or mental, will it help to see
That holy pair of feet which are the sole refuge?
These are the feet of He who churned the waters once long ago,
Bridged it, caused it to be and then lay down on it.
The Lord’s pair of feet at once represent His inconceivable prowess and His incredible simplicity. This contradiction cannot be questioned; it has to be understood. And, this knowledge cannot be acquired through self-effort – physical or mental. It is a realization that can come only through His grace.
However, He has repeatedly demonstrated this twin quality of mEnmai (immeasurable worth) and nIrmai (incomparable softness) that coexist in Him in order to make it easy for us to comprehend.
pAsuram (verse) 5
There is but one path. Once this is seen,
all other paths are given up. One feels no qualms
about remaining passive as it is in submission to the Lord.
Such an attitude is but a blessing conferred by him.
Once you have grasped the essence of true knowledge which is conveyed by the selfless spiritual master (See Verse 1 of this composition and also footnote on Pillai Lokacharya’s statements, Verse 3), the path to emancipation becomes clear. You perform every action and accept every experience in a spirit of submission to His will. Everything else becomes inconsequential.
Liberation from the encumbrance of exertion and expectation is the end result of His grace.
pAsuram (verse) 6
If perceived as it is, is there any one thing
we can lay claim to as ours?
To Him who is not deficient in any way,
What can we say, we who have nothing to call our own?
When the identity of your self and the Supreme Real are understood in the right manner (see verse 1 and earlier verses of this composition), is there anything you can break away and claim as your own, over which the Paramatma can have no claim whatsoever?
When everything is His, including you and yours, and He is flawless by nature, what is there left to pray for? Won’t He take care of His own?
pAsuram (verse) 7
There’s nothing you lack, and there’s nothing I have:
So we both are on equal footing. Does it occur
To anyone to claim this equivalence with God?
Know this to be the path shown by the Veda.
No one has succeeded in establishing equivalence with God: Has this occurred to anyone? That there is nothing He can ask for since everything that exists is already His, and there is nothing we can give Him since there is nothing that is ours, including our selves: He doesn’t lack anything and so don’t we because everything is His, and so are we. This is the path shown by the Veda, which is now being made explicit for the benefit of all.
pAsuram (verse) 8
Wealth and want, delight, distress, disease, downsides
They come and go – fret not over them.
Free from care, pray with devotion
Such piety will put you on par with denizens of Paradise.
Wealth and loss of wealth, pleasure and pain, disease and death are different stages in life that will come and go. Drop wishes and worries concerning these from your prayers. Instead, sing His praises without any self-interest. Such selfless devotees will find an everlasting place alongside the denizens in the abode of the Lord.
pAsuram (verse) 9
To fail to treat as God incarnate the one who has shown the path
And to madly vilify such a guru instead
Will ensnare one in endless life cycles.
Firm faith will secure eternal paradise
The guru who has steered you towards the feet of Iswara is to be worshipped as God incarnate. To insult him instead by treating him as a mere mortal like any other will keep you entrapped in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth. In contrast, those who venerate their preceptor unequivocally will find eternal bliss.
pAsuram (verse) 10
The deity and the devotee, and the bond between them
And the words of the Veda that affirm this link –
It was all obscure till the (spiritual) master came.
When he did, everything became clear.
The svarupa (characteristics) of Paramatma and jivatma and the nature of the relationship between these two entities are explained in the Veda, which are eternal, and hence always extant. But with none to explain their content, the people at large remained lost due to their ignorance. But when such a preceptor emerged, the true knowledge of things (pramEya) also came to light.
 Pronunciation: jnyAnasAram
 Pronunciation: pramEyasAram
 See earlier post on Dvaya Mantra.
 The eight-syllabled and eight-lettered mantra, Om namO nArAyaNAYa is known as the Tirumantram or the Tiruvashtaaksharam. In brief it means, ‘I submit my all to Narayana’.
 This observation is made by Manavaala Maamuni(maNavALa mAmuni) , who is deferentially referred to as the great seer (mAmuni), in his commentary for the two compositions.
 Our pUrvachAryA-s were seers blessed with knowledge that did not suffer from the blemishes of ignorance, delusion, illusion, and forgetfulness. They proclaimed that the essence of the Veda-s (scriptures, believed to be the source of ancient Indian philosophy, and various schools of Hindu thought) are contained in these Rahasya Mantras (deep secrets held in an aphoristic form).
The extract below is a brief note on the Veda from V.T.Tirunarayana Iyengar’s initiation lesson in English titled The Acarya:
‘Indian dhArshaNikA-s are not original thinkers in the sense Western philosophers are. Their thought structure is based on experience. The book reflecting the thought structure is known as the Veda. It covers experience extending to eternity. The Veda is therefore treated as beyond the province of any producing agent. They are valid for all. On this assumption, Indian thinking is developed and schools of dharshana have emerged. The great thinkers are regarded as participants in a cosmic symposium on experience on the platform of time.’
 Pronunciation: jIvAthmA
 Pronunciation: paramAthmA
 The allusion here is to the Vamana avatara episode, in which Vishnu assumes the guise of a diminutive mendicant and later transforms himself into the gigantic Trivikrama, stretching from earth to sky and beyond, in order to deflate the ego of the mighty king Bali, who, proud of his invincibility, had become a menace to the divinities.
Vamana is not only diminutive, he is also a mendicant. Should the Lord of the universe have to beg for alms? But he did. This shows the extent to which he would humble himself for the sake of his devotees.
Vamana’s purpose was not only to protect the divinities but also to redeem Bali himself. Arrogance, ostentation and conceit are demoniac qualities which consign a jivatma to bondage, says Sri Krishna in the Gita. And the Lord wanted to save Bali who had succumbed to these qualities, as he was blameless otherwise.
Vamana asked for three measures of land from the king, Bali, and when it was granted, the diminutive Vamana grew into the gigantic Trivikrama who straddled the worlds in just two steps. ‘Where shall I place the third step?’ he asks Bali, who bends down, contrite, and shows his head. The Lord places his foot on Bali’s head and in so doing, liberates him or grants him moksha.
 The following statements (71 and 72) from Pillai Lokacharya’s Sri VachanaBhushanam may be recalled here:
- ஸ்வய்த்ந நிவ்ருத்தி பாரதந்த்ரய பலம்; ஸ்வப்ரயோஜந நிவ்ருத்தி ஶேஷத்வ பலம்.
Demands on the self cease when one recognizes one’s dependence (on the Paramatma). Desire for personal profits cease when one submits oneself completely (to the Paramatma).
- பரப்ரயோஜந ப்ரவ்ருத்தி ப்ரயத்ந பலம்; த்த்விஷய ப்ரீதி சைதந்ய பலம்.
To advance God’s work is the purpose of all effort. To enjoy doing this is the purpose of life.
 The Lord manifested Himself in different forms at various points in time such as in the dashAvatArA-s. The Lord also presents Himself for perpetual veneration and worship in accessible, iconic forms that the devout give Him as in various shrines.
 The bodily organ that helps you walk on a path are your legs. It is the feet, therefore, that are worshipped as they metaphorically help you progress on the right path towards God (From an initiation lesson in Tamil by V. T. Tirunarayana Iyengar. Translation mine.)
 ‘The royal road to emancipation, mukti, trodden by the ancient seers and sages was strewn with thorns and thistles gathered by the views and words of philosophers whose views were narrow and dogmatic. As a result of this people lost sight of the right view and way of life and were groping in the dark in despair.’ (From V. T. Tirunarayana Iyengar’s Sruta Prakasika – The Sacred System of the Vedanta According to Sri Ramanuja – Revealed as Received by Sudarsana (Part I))
 ‘With a view to helping them [see previous footnote] to see clearly the truth, being convinced that the ancient seers, who had the undisputed gift of insight and discrimination pursued the path which was safe and smooth, Ramanuja refuted all the untenable theories and re-established the irrefutable view which was recognized and followed by one long tradition.’ (ibid).