Ashtabhuja-Ashtakam of Swami Desikan

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अष्ट भुज means “eight hands”. This stotra is about Bhagavan in His form with eight divya-bhuja-s in the divya kshetram called Attabuya karam. This divya kshetram and its sthala purana have been covered briefly earlier. The title for the stotra is that given by Swami Desikan himself, and is included in the phala-Sruti sloka following the eight sloka-s in praise of this Perumaal.

In this stotram, Swami Desikan reminds us of Bhagavan’s aiśvarya, sauśîlya, moksha-pradatva, etc., and urges us to resort to Him and no one else as the sure way to attain moksha. This is another stotram in which he conveys the basics of complete self-surrender (prapatti) and its efficacy in very crisp terms in the short span of eight sloka-s (excluding the two phala-Sruti sloka-s).

  • In the first sloka, Swami Desikan compares our lives to one being attacked and torn apart by our senses and dragged towards them on all sides as if by vicious crocodiles, and invokes Bhagavan’s mercy and protection just as in the case of Gajendra when attacked by the crocodile.
  • In the second sloka, he points out the need for us to realize our always being His dependent, and recognize our lack of independence from Him. As we may recall, this is one of the anga-s of prapatti — kârpaṇya. When we observe the anga-s of prapatti, Bhagavan gives us the desire to seek His feet single-mindedly as the next step in attaining Him.
  • In the third sloka, Sri Desikan praises Bhagavan’s guna of sauśîlyam or His greatness of mixing with even the lowliest of beings with ease. We all can recall His greeting Kucela with all the intimacy that one can imagine, doing paada-pujâ for him with Mahalakshmi holding the pot of water, and then sprinkling the water from the paada-puja on His head and that of Mahalakshmi. If Bhagavan reveals His divine divya mangala vigraha or form to us right in the beginning, it just will prevent us from approaching Him in sheer awe of the greatness of this form. Recall the reaction of Arjuna, one who lived with Bhagavan as a close friend throughout his life, when the viraat-svarupa was revealed to Him for a brief moment. In order to make it easy on us to approach Him, He presents Himself to us in forms where we can approach Him at our level, and hides His greatness from us for our benefit in the beginning. His arca-rupa, iconic form, in temples — in this stotram the Ashtabhuja Perumaal — is an example of this. Then as we get used to Him, He reveals His true form to us.
  • In sloka-s 4 to 7 Swami Desikan emphasizes the importance of prapatti. He reiterates that Sriman Narayana is the only one who can bestow the ultimate that can be asked for — moksham, and all the other devata-s can bestow only lesser fruits. Those who have realized this truth do not resort to the worship of anya devata-s, but perform prapatti at the feet of Bhagavan and devote the rest of their life to His kainkaryam. Also, He is the only one who can protect us, and if He does not want to protect us, no other devata can protect us (bhayam kutah syât tvayi sânukampe, rakshâ kutah syât tvayi jâtaroshe). This again is one more reason for prapatti at the feet of Lord Narayana alone. None of the efforts that we may undertake, such as worshipping the anya devata-s, will be of any use if He does not offer His protection. If He decides to protect us, with Periya Piratti (Mahalakshmi) standing in support of us by His side constantly, it does not matter what other efforts we undertake (tvayi pravṛtte mama kim prayâsaih, tvayyapravṛtte mama kim prayâsaih). Thus He is the only upâya, and there is no other upâya for moksha.

Summary

As Sri Desikan has pointed out in several other stotra-s, he points out again in this stotra the relative difficulty of undertaking bhakti-yoga for attaining moksha and getting it to completion in this lifetime. He strongly recommends that prapatti-mârga is the path to choose for us who cannot observe the stringent requirements of the bhakti-yoga (He obviously considers himself in this category; so we know where we stand!).

Once a prapanna has done prapatti, moksham is guaranteed at the end of this life, and the prapanna spends the rest of his life in great bliss by performing selfless kainkaryam at the feet of Bhagavan. The life of a prapanna after prapatti is described in detail in Nyasa Tilakam etc. In sloka 8 of this stotra Swami Desikan briefly restates this.

In sloka 6, Swami Desikan makes reference to another of the tenets of Sri Vaishnava sampradaya, viz. the purushakâratvam (mediation) of Piratti, and refers to Bhagavan as kamalâ-sahâya (One who is aided by Periya Piratti) in the context of His protection of the prapanna-s.

Swami Desikan’s intent in composing this stotram is two-fold: it is to induce the desire for prapatti in those who have not yet resorted to this path (prapitsūnâm rasâyanam), and to help as the sustenance of the trust in the greatness of prapatti for those who have already done prapatti (prapanna jana pâtheyam). Thus it is his desire that those of us who understand the principles laid down here about prapatti will develop the mahâ viśvâsam that is a requirement (anga) for prapatti. It is for the good of this world that this stotra on Ashtabhuja Kara Perumaal outlining the greatness and importance of prapatti has been composed by Venkatesa Kavi. Let us all get one step closer to understanding the significance, ease, and efficacy of prapatti as a result of the knowledge that Swami Desikan has imparted to us through this stotra.

— dâsan kṛshṇamâcâryan