Devanayaka Panchasat of Swami Desikan

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April 3, 1999

The name for this stotra is based on the fifty slokas (there are actually fifty-three) that this stotra contains in praise of Sri Devanayaka Perumal in Tiruvahindrapuram. Sw?mi D?sikan was very devoted to this Perumâḷ and stayed in this kshetra for a long time and worshiped this arcâ mūrti. We can still find the tirumâḷigai where Svāmi Dēsikan lived, and the well from which he got his water supply.

1.  Some Personal Thoughts

My anubhavam is that this stotram is distinct from the previous 15 stotra-s that we have reviewed so far. In the previous stotra-s we have covered, svâmi deshikan has either dealt with topics such as sharaṇâgati (e.g., nyâsa dashakam, nyâsa tilakam, nyâsa vimshati, etc.,), or with bhagavân’s dayâ or other aspects through which he has given us explicit and direct instructions on the various aspects of our sampradâyam. Compared to these, a major part of the current stotram is dedicated by svâmi deshikan to express his thoughts as he has the tirumeni of perumâḷ’s arcâ-mūrti in his mind.

In my younger age, when I went to the temple and stood in front of bhagavân, I used to pray to Him to give me the ability to do well in my school, good buddhi, a good job, be paid well, etc. As I grew up a bit, the prayer just included the additional request to Him to give those around me who suffer from any difficulty, relief from these difficulties by being in their thoughts. But it is always one of asking for something - give me this or give me that or give me something else - so that everyone around me can be comfortable and without suffering.

It is in this context that when I go through the current stotram, I notice two things: 1) svâmi deshikan only thinks of the infinite kalyâṇa guṇa-s of bhagavân as he has the mūrti of bhagavân in his mind; 2) He also does not ask for anything - he only offers all his imperfections at the Feet of the Lord, and surrenders the responsibility for protecting him to bhagavân unconditionally - prapatti.

No matter what part of bhagavân’s tirumeni strikes svâmi deshikan’s thought, there is an association of bhagavân’s divya guṇam that runs through the great âcârya’s mind. For example, the nails in bhagavân’s divine hands remind svâmi deshikan of bhagavân’s being ever-ready and prepared to protect His devotees such as prahlâda, the nâbhî-kamalam reminds him of the creation of brahma and all the other gods through him, the nails in bhagavân’s tiruvaḍi remind him of the association of these with the origination of the river ga~ngâ which became holy because of its birth from His Feet, the thought of bhagavân’s udaram reminds him of the three worlds that bhagavân swallows at the time of pralaya and keeps in His stomach, and the dust particles that have association with bhagavân’s tiruvaḍi remind him of their ability to grant salvation to anyone on whom they settle.

Also, svâmi deshikan is not asking for anything from bhagavân unlike the likes of me do. Instead, he offers all his faults and sins at the Feet of bhagavân, and declares that this is the only wealth that he can offer to bhagavân. He declares that these faults and sins are so huge that there is nothing anyone except Him can do to relieve him from these, and totally and unconditionally surrenders to bhagavân the complete responsibility for protecting him. Thus he performs sharaṇâgati.

If I pick up even a small fraction of this anubhavam of his when I go and stand in front of the arcâ-mūrti in our temples from now on, I would have benefited from my current effort of going through this stotram induced by my âcârya’s dayâ.

2.  The Stotram

In this stotram, for the most part (30 of the 53 Slokam-s) svâmi deshikan describes his thoughts as he meditates on the various parts of bhagavân’s tirumeni, starting from His kirîṭam all the way down to His Sacred Feet. In the last 8 Slokam-s, he performs sharaṇâgati to deva nâyakap perumâḷ, and indicates the greatness of prapatti over bhakti as the fail-proof mârgam for attaining the bhâgyam to do nitya-kaimkaryam to Him in this world and ever after.

In amalanâdipirân tiruppâṇâḻvâr describes Lord ranganâtha’s beauty in 10 short pâshuram-s starting from His Lotus Feet, and as He describes His beautiful eyes, he is captured by His overall beauty, and becomes one with the Lord and does not get to describe His kirîṭam. svâmi deshikan in his bhagavad-dhyâna sopânam in 12 Sloka-s describes Lord ra~nganâtha similarly, starting with His tiruvaḍi. In the current stotram, svâmi deshikan has the anubhavam of devanâthap-perumâl starting from His kirîṭam all the way down to His Lotus Feet in 30 beautiful Sloka-s. As he sees the arcâ-mūrti of bhagavân, his thoughts are swept by all the kalyâṇa guṇa-s of bhagavân, and this storam is one in which we see the poet in svâmi deshikan revealed in Slokam after Slokam. In every one of these Sloka-s, he reminds us of bhagavân-s guṇa-s such as His paratvam (kirîṭam), His being the object of meditation for His devotees (the sweet, smiling face), etc.

He meditates on bhagavân’s kirîṭam, His beautiful dark hair, face, forehead, the Urdhva puṇḍram, nose, ears, ear rings, lips, eyes, eyebrows, the kaṭâksham from His eyes as it falls on us, neck, hands, the Sa~nkha and cakra, the abhaya hastam, the vaksha sthalam, the vyjayantî garland, udaram (stomach), the nâbhî-kamalam, the waist-band, the majestic thighs, feet, the fingers and fingernails of His feet, the knee, the ankle, and even the dust from His Feet. svâmi deshikan includes in his meditation bhagavân’s mind as part of this meditation on His divya soundaryam. Only selected portions of the descriptions are included below.

The kshetra is known as brahmâcalam (Slokam 10). The reference here is to brahma’s penance in the saugandhya vanam in this kshetra. In Slokam 11 the kshetra is referred to as aushadha giri - the mountain where bhagavân who is the Medicine that removes the piṛavip-piṇi - the repeated cycle of births - resides.

There are four puṇya tîrtha-s in this kshetra - Sesha tîrtha, bhūmi tîrtha, garuḍa tîrtha, and brahma tîrtha. perumâḷ’s tirunâmam is deva-nâyakan - God of all gods; also known as aḍiyârkku meyyan - Truthful to His devotees - dâseshu satyah (Slokam 6); amara adhipati - The chief of all deva-s. One writer observes that the first and last of the words of the stotra put together - praṇata and satyavâdî, lead to the meaning - adiyârkku meyyan.

2.1  Concepts

Among the concepts that are brought to us by svâmi deshikan through this stotra are the following:

  1. Bhagavân is the Supreme God whom all the others gods worship, including Siva and brahma (pashupati vidhi pūjyah - Slokam 1). He is amara-adhipati - daiva nâyakan - The Lord of all the gods (Slokam 8)
  2. Our âcâryas’ blessings are essential for the success of anything we do. SrI deshikan shows us this by starting the stotram by paying obeisance to our âcârya paramparâ - starting with perumâḷ, and continuing with pirâṭṭi, vishvaksenar, nammâḻvâr, nâthamuni, SrI râmânujar, etc. He continues with his obeisance to the divine poets (vâlmîki, vyâsa etc.)., who have composed the great works which are comparable to the veda-s (Sloka-s 2 and 3), and he compares their works to the steps through which we can approach the Ocean of Bhagavad-anubhavam without getting completely immersed and swept away in the absence of these steps.

    In SrI dayâ Satakam we had seen the similar concepts presented to us in Slokam 2 (vigâhe tîrtha bahulâm …), Slokam 3 (dhatte yat-sūkti-rūpeṇa…),and Slokas-s 4 to 10 (âcârya paramparâ dhyânam)
  3. pirâṭṭi’s purushakâratvam is brought out in Slokam 4. Our Divine Mother’s recommendation or support is essential for us to reach bhagavân
  4. Bhagavân is aḍiyavarkku meyyan (dâseshu satya iti nâmadeyam - Slokam 6) - One who fulfils the wishes of His devotees without exception.
  5. Bhagavân is also a stava-priyan - One who likes being praised. In Slokam 7, svâmi deshikan refers to three of bhagavân’s guṇa-s that are all referenced in the same Slokam in SrI vishṇu sahasranâma stotram - stavyah, stava-priyah and stotâ.
  6. Our indestructible association with bhagavân is beautifully described by svâmi deshikan in Slokam 8. It is like a wealthy person getting a bird for his sport, tying a rope around its leg, letting it fly freely for some time, and then getting the bird back to him in the end. Bhagavân is so Merciful towards us that even though He ties us in samsâra bandham and we try to fly as far away from Him as we wish, He gets us back to Him in the end and saves us.
  7. The behavior of most of us in this world is very nicely portrayed by poet svâmi deshikan in Slokam 9. Just as a person who is scorched by thirst may chase any mirage - false appearance of a source of water - without being able to quench his thirst, we all chase the worldly impermanent temporary pleasures thinking these are what will give us real happiness. But when the thirsty individual ultimately finds a real source of cool water, he immerses heartily in this and has the real quenching of his tâpam. So also, it is only when we find Him that our real thirst will be quenched.
  8. In another poetic display, svâmi deshikan succinctly describes the para, vyūha, vibhava, arcâ, and antaryâmi forms of bhagavân in one short Slokam (Slokam 10), when he refers to the different places where bhagavân dwells. Bhagavân resides in SrI vaikuṇṭham (divye pade), tirup-pâṛ-kaḍal (jala-nidhau), in the hearts of sâdhu-s as their antaryâmi (satâm svânte), in the middle of the sūrya maṇḍala (savtr*-maṇḍala madhya bhâge), and in arcâ form in brahmâcala kshetra - tiruvaindra puram, and of course in other divya kshetra-s.
  9. Bhagavân is the aushadham that cures the devotees who surrender to Him from the disease of the cycle of birth - piṛavip-piṇi - nata-janasya bhava aushdham (Slokam 11).
  10. The puṇya tîrtha-s in the divya kshetra-s are capable of removing the sins and fulfilling the desires of those who take a dip in them with devotion - vṛjina, durgati, nâshanârhaih tîrthaih (Slokam 11)
  11. The greatness and importance of purusha sūktam is explicitly mentioned by svâmi deshikan in Slokam 15. The purusha sūktam (tava sūktam-agryam) which describes the creation of the world by Him starting with the creation of brahmâ, occurs in all four veda-s, and was revered by the likes of vyâsa mahâ-muni (vyâsâdibhir-bahumatam)

2.2  Kalyana Gunas

Among the great kalyâṇa guṇa-s of bhagavân that svâmi deshikan has flowing through his mind as he meditates on bhagavân’s tirumeni, a few are given below:

  1. The dîpti or prakâsham emanating from His kirîṭam excels the jyoti that can result from 1000 Suns shining simultaneously. This prakâsham removes the ajñânam from the minds of His devotees, and at the same time proclaims to the world His paratvam or Supremacy over all the other devatâ-s (deveshvaratvam - Slokam 16)
  2. The sweet soothing natural smile in bhagavân’s face which shines like the full moon in the background of His curly dark hair which resembles the night, sets the ideal scene for meditation on Him and can remove all afflictions resulting from samsâra (Slokam 17). The natural beauty of bhagavân’s face with His beautiful red lips and lotus-like eyes is further enhanced by the added decoration of His golden ear-rings which shed light on this beautiful face, creating an atmosphere which rejoices the devotee’s mind (Slokam 18). The Urdhva-puṇḍram on bhagavân’s forehead looks like a streak of lightning (except it is not transcient light lightning), illuminating the dark-blue beauty of His forehead, or like an auspicious dîpam that has been lit for the purpose of removing the aj~nâna in the minds of the devotees who meditate on this (Slokam 20)
  3. Nothing about bhagavân is for His own Self, and everything He has is for the benefit of His devotees. Thus, even His tiruc-cevi-s are only for constantly being on the alert to listen to the pleadings from His devotees and rush to help them (Slokam 21)
  4. When svâmi deshikan looks at bhagavân’s beautiful eyes, he is reminded of the just-blossomed beautiful lotus flowers. They express the happiness that He gets when He sees His devotees. They look like they are doing kushala prashnam - enquiring the well-being and safety of His devotees. When His eye-sight falls on us, it makes us feel like we have just been drenched by the shower of soothing nectar on us, and it relieves us of all our tâpa-s - both of the body and the mind
  5. svâmi deshikan continues to have his great anubhavam of bhagavân’s tirumeni which spills out in superb poetry by describing His makara (fish-shaped) kuṇḍalam, His beautiful eyebrows which can bring anyone under their sway and which must have served as the model which brahma used to create the bow that manmathan uses to bring people under his sway, His beautiful Divine Eyes which resemble the Milk-Ocean which can bestow anything the devotee wishes for and which look at His bhakta-s with the compassion that is superbly soothing and comforting, His beautiful nostrils from which the veda-s emanated, etc., and ultimately starts describing bhagavân’s appearance with the Sa~nkha, cakra, etc. in His Divine hands. While the abhaya mudra in His right hand indicates His ever being ready to protect those who surrender to Him, the Sa~nkha and cakra in His other hands just keep reassuring the prapanna that any enemy to His devotee will be severely dealt with (Sloka-s 30 and 31)
  6. As svâmi deshikan is describing devanâyakap perumâḷ’s rūpa soundaryam, he is reminded of the purusha sūkatam declaration - candramâ manaso jâtah, and describes bhagavân’s manas whose attributes are limiltless: in addition to being the birthplace of all the different moons that are created during each cycle of creation, His Mind reflects the qualities of the moons that have their origin there. Meditating on this Mind of His gives us the light that removes our aj~nânam (tamo-mathanam), lifts us from our shortcomings and leads us to realization of Him (Asrita târakam), purifies us through Its purity (Suddham), showers His kindness on us because of Its coolness and kindness to us (Ardram), and leads us to moksham (sumanasâm amr*tam duhânam) (Slokam 34)
  7. When svâmi deshikan thinks of bhagavân’s udaram (stomach), he is reminded of bhagavân swallowing the three worlds at the time of pralaya and protecting them inside His udaram till the start of the next cycle of creation, and of brahma originating from His nâbhî-kamalam as the first in His cycle of creation after the pralaya (Slokam 35)
  8. The darshanam of bhagavân’s thighs in His tirumeni immediately reminds svâmi deshikan of purusha sūkta’s “UrU tadasya yad-vaishyah” (the vaishya jâti originated from His thighs). In addition, according to the purâṇa-s the beautiful ūrvashi also originated from these same thighs which also served as the great bed where the asura kings met their final end (referring to hiraṇyakashipu, madhu, kaiṭapa, etc.) and as the head-rest for His devi-s (Slokam 38)
  9. The darshanam of His Sacred Feet (tiruvaḍi) reminds svâmi deshikan of the incident of ahalyâ Sapa vimocanam, and also the incident involving bhagavân entering uttarâ’s body and giving life back to the charred ashes of parîkshit’s body by the touch of His Sacred Feet. These are the same Feet that are constantly served by bhū-devi and SrI-devi (Slokam 41).

2.3  Bhakti vs. Prapatti

In Slokam 47, svâmi deshikan re-emphasizes the simplicity and efficacy of the praptti mârga compared to the bhakti yoga, which we have seen over and over again in the previous stotra-s we have covered. Bhakti yoga requires specialized knowledge, effort, persistence, birth in the ASrama consistent with the required observances, etc., and is not guaranteed to bear fruit in this birth. On the other hand, prapatti mârga just depends on exactly the full and unconditional recognition, realization, and acceptance of the lack of any competency to liberate ourselves from the bondage of samsâra through any means other than His dayâ, and surrender to His Feet with this realization as the only capital in our possession. This is guaranteed to bear fruit in this birth itself, with no other constraint such as the birth etc. If one compares the individual who pursues the bhakti yoga with one who follows the prapatti mârga and has unconditionally surrendered the responsibility for his soul to bhagavân, svâmi deshikan declares that the greatness of the former is not even one-one hundred crore part of the greatness of the latter (Note that this statement is made to emphasize the relative ease and greatness of prapatti mârga, and is not meant to speak low of bhakti mârga).

It is important for us to understand that we belong to bhagavân, and should always be serving Him and nothing else. Anyone who thinks he/she is independent is committing thievery of His property. As His property, we should realize that He and He alone can protect us, and surrender all responsibility for our protection unto Him. It is with this clear realization that we should surrender our soul to Him (Atma samarpaṇam, bhara nyâsam, prapatti). Even though we steal His property and assume independence for ourselves and act as we like, the moment we realize our great apacâram and surrender to Him, His Immense kindness towards us makes Him accept us and give His protection (Sloka 49).

The bhâvam with which we should lead our lives and surrender to bhagavân is seen in Slokam 50, where svâmi deshikan appeals to bhagavân’s dayâ: “I am the personification of aj~nânam; I am the foremost among sinners; I have violated the SAStra-s laid down by You repeatedly; I have done nothing that qualifies me for Your Mercy. In fact, these are precisely my qualifications that make me the ideal candidate for You to protect, since nothing else can salvage me who is beyond redemption by anyone else. You can’t find anyone better than me to offer Your protection, and so please accept me under Your Feet and protect me!”.

We have in nyâsa dashakam -

न्यस्यामि अकिञ्चनः श्रीमननुकूलोऽन्य-वर्जितः |
विश्वास प्रार्थना पूर्वम् आत्म-रक्षा भरं त्वयि ||

3.  Concluding Summary

svâmi deshikan summarizes the stotram in the last Slokam (Slokam 53), reminding us again about the innumerable kalyâna guṇa-s of bhagavân. He is without any flaws, the God of all gods, the Cause of all that exists, has existed and will exist, the Only One who can give relief from the cycle of births, and most of all, One whose promise of protection to those who surrender to Him is always true - निरवधि गुण-जातं नित्य-निर्दोषम् आद्यं नरक-मथन दक्षं नाकिनाम् एक-नाथं विनत विषय सत्यम्.

— dâsan kṛshṇamâcâryan