Saranagati Deepika of Swami Desikan

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This stotram is in praise of Lord dîpa-prakâsha of tirut-taṇkâ, the birthplace of svâmi deshikan. SrI râmadeshikâcârya svâmi has translated the name “dîpa-prakâsha” in tamizh as விளக்கொளிப்-பெருமான் . “viḷakkoḷi” means the light from the lamp. “perumân” means Lord. Thus, the name can mean “One who is the Guiding Light” or “One who is the tejas behind all things that shine”, etc. SrI deshika has named this stotra as sharaṇâgati dîpika, or the “torch that shows the path for sharaṇâgati”, instead of, for instance, SrI dîpa-prakâsha stotram. This is because the stotram enlightens or reveals the path of sharaṇâgati. In fact, in the very first Slokam, svâmi deshikan says that this stotram will reveal the path of sharaṇâgati handed down to us from the yatîshvara, SrI râmânuja.

The different concepts conveyed to us by svâmi deshikan through this stotram cover a wealth of information. Following is a summary of these as I understand them. Not having been initiated by an âcârya, I am sure I am making many mistakes, but this is not going to keep me from going through the stotram-s of svâmi deshikan with the objective of doing the best I can for now.


  • Bhagavân Sriman nârâyaṇa is brimming with dayâ towards us with no obvious act on our part to deserve this dayâ from Him. All we have to do is re-visit our summary on dayâ Satakam to see the innumerable instances of this. The key phrase in Slokam 2 of this stotram conveys this: निर्व्याज निर्भर दया भरितम् . nirvyâja - natural and without any obvious reason, and nirbhara - absolute, full; dayâ bharitam - filled with dayâ.
  • Sriman nârâyaṇa “surrenders” to those who surrender to Him - sharaṇokti vashyam -(Slokam 3). Again, each word of svâmi deshikan conveys a ton of ideas. Just saying that we surrender to Him (ukti) suffices for Him to be pleased with us.
  • Pirâṭṭi and bhagavân are inseparable. Bhagavân’s kânti is because of His association with Pirâṭṭi. Pirâṭṭi lives in His vaksha-sthalam, and His tejas or kânti (dîpa sama avabhâsam- Slokam 4) is because She is inseparably with Him.
  • Bhagavân is the purushottama who is the Cause of the Universe, its Supporter, dwells in everything, Lord of everything, and in fact everything in this world is His body (Slokam 6).
  • All the beings and all the objects of this Universe constitute His body. All the praise and all the worship to all the gods are ultimately His praise. He is the antaryâmi in everything (Slokam 7).
  • Bhagavân is the foremost of all the deities (सर्व अधिकः त्वम् - Slokam 7, 19). Bhagavân is the only one who can give moksha. Brahma, Siva and other gods can only give lesser benefits to those who worship them (Slokam 13).
  • Bhagavân is the Abode of all the sad-guṇa-s or desired attributes such asj~nâna, bala, aishvarya, vîrya, Sakti, tejas, etc. in their perfection (Slokam 8).
  • Bhagavan is the one who created the Universe with Brahma as the first one, and taught us the veda-s out of His dayâ (Slokam 9).
  • Bhagavân is the prathama âcâryan in the âcârya paramparâ, and those who desire moksha become His followers and attain Him through sharaṇâgati (Slokam 9). Nothing else is needed for attaining Him than just prapatti or sharaṇâgati (Slokam 10, 13).
  • Bhagavân is both the means and the end for His devotees. He just looks for the vyâja (pretext) of simple sharaṇâgati, and hurries to bestow moksham on the prapanna (Slokma 14).
  • Moksha is attained by one who observes either bhakti yoga or prapatti mârga, and in prapatti, through any one of the four paths - स्वनिष्ठा (acquiring the knowledge oneself and surrender to Him through this knowledge), उक्ति निष्ठा (uttering the words of prapatti as instructed by an âcârya), आचार्य निष्ठा (surrender to the âcârya and leave it to him to present you as a prapanna to Him), and भागवत निष्ठा (entrust this responsibility to a bhâgavata who is not the âcârya) (Slokam 16).
  • In spite of His greatness, He mixes with even the lowliest of people in stature, which is His quality of saushîlya. svâmi deshikan observes that this is most astonishing (hanta! - Slokam 18).
  • The âcârya or guru is to be treated like Bhagavân Himself. It is Bhagavân’s dayâ that He becomes accessible to us in the form of an âcârya in order to give us the instruction to do kaimkaryam to Him so that we can derive permanent happiness throughout our lifetime (Slokam 20).
  • Even living in a puṇya kshetram in the vicinity of Bhagavân’s sacred temples will lead to bhagavân’s katâksham (Slokam 47).

The avatâra rahasya (The Principle Behind His Incarnations)

Bhagavân has taken different incarnations out of His sheer Mercy in order to be accessible to us in many ways. The six rahasya-s behind His incarnations (avatâra rahasyam), are (Slokam 17):

  1. नाना-विधिः - The incarnations are of different forms, including matsya, kūrma, râma, kr*shṇa, etc.;
  2. आत्मीय रक्षण, विपक्ष विनाशनार्थैः - The incarnations are taken by Him for the protection of His devotees and for the destruction of their enemies;
  3. अकपटैः - These incarnations are real, and not a display of trickery or magic;
  4. अजहत-स्वभावैः - In these incarnations He retains all His qualities intact;
  5. अप्राकृतैः - He is not made of the pa~nca bhūta-s as we are; they are pure Suddha-satva and not contaminated by rajas, tamas etc. and
  6. निज विहार वशेन सिद्धैः - His ‘births’ or incarnations are not a result of pūrva karma-s but are taken because of His samkalpa or lîlâ (leelâ).

Bhakti mârga vs. prapatti mârga

Bhagavan can be realized by bhakti yoga, which has the following eight a~nga-s (Slokam 21):

  1. yama - Leading a life of ahimsâ, truthfulness, brahmacarya, etc.
  2. niyama - Purity in mind, being satisfied with what one has, observing vrata, tapas, etc.
  3. Asana - Performing yogic exercises such as padmâsana, bhadrâsana, etc.
  4. prâṇâyâma - Practicing breath control
  5. pratyâhâra - Control of the five senses
  6. sthira dhâraṇâ - Steadfast diversion of one’s mind on Him
  7. dhyâna - Uninterrupted meditation
  8. samâdhi - Ultimately accomplishing His nearness through the above seven steps
  • With a pure mind, if one meditates on Bhagavân’s tirumeni, with His lotus face and eyes, His beautiful form with His divya Ayudha-s and divya âbharaṇa-s, this is one way to realize Him and derive unending peace of mind. This is called sâlambana yoga, and is simple to follow. All sins are removed from such meditation (Slokam 22).
  • Those who practice bhakti yoga meditate on His svarūpa or True Nature instead of meditating on His tirumeni. His divya svarūpa is unlimited by the constraints of location, time, and shape or object (tri-sîma rahite - Slokam 23). In other words, He is mediated on as one who is everywhere, in everything, and at all times (bhūta, bhavya, bhavan- nâthah). Meditation on bhagavân’s divya svarūpa is called nirâlambana yoga. Those who meditate on His divya svarūpa are relieved from the three types of tâpa or torment (tâpa trayeṇa vihatim na bhajanti - Slokam 23). SrI râmadeshikâcârya svâmi points out that these three tâpa-s are associated with samsâra or being born in this world. These are: 1) bodily and mental afflictions such as diseases, desire, anger etc.; 2) those that are caused by birds, beasts, men etc.; and 3) those that are caused as a result of nature, such as weather, wind, rain, etc. Since those who adopt this meditation overcome the miseries associated with samsâra, they attain moksha.
  • SrI râmadeshikâcârya svâmi gives the following additional interpretation. karma yoga consists of acts such as sacrificial offerings or yâga-s, tapas, dhânam, etc. which are done with the clear realization that all these are done as a part of His worship, and are done because of His will. Performing karma yoga with this state of mind and without expecting anything in return leads to the development of the ability to perform j~nâna yoga, which involves control of the mind and meditation on the soul with a clear recognition of the difference between body and soul. The result of observing j~nâna yoga is the realization of the true nature of the self and the development of the mind that will be conducive to observing the rigors of bhakti yoga (whose a~nga-s were outlined previously). Selfless bhagavat-kaimkaryam (i.e., kainkaryam done without expecting any benefit to oneself in return) such as construction of temples, helping in keeping temples clean, decorating the temples, establishing nandavanam in the temple, helping in other aspects of devotional worship in the temple, etc. will all lead to further realization of the bhakti mârga.

Prapatti mârga Introduced

  • Bhagavân blesses those who worship Him through whichever path they choose with whatever fruit they aspire for - be it through karma yoga, j~nâna yoga, or bhakti yoga, or through any other means whatsoever (Slokam 24). However, when one considers the rigors required for bhakti-yoga, and remembers the length of time it may take to attain moksha through bhakti yoga, even the great mahâns resort to the easier path of prapatti (Slokam 28).
  • Prapatti mârga or sharaṇâgati is the means available to those of us who cannot observe the rigors needed for realizing Him through karma yoga, j~nâna yoga or bhakti yoga (Slokam 25). svâmi deshikan refers to the prapatti mârga as the “shada~nga yoga” - the path with the six a~nga-s. He points out that this path is fit for even the ever-lazy (nitya-Alasa arham), with no need to fear about the consequences of not observing any rules or strictures (abhayam), not requiring the help of other objects or people to guide (anyaih nirapeksham), vishva adhikâram (fit to be observed by any one without distinction of caste, creed or sex), can be easily learned and practised (shikshâ vishesha subhagam), and is capable of bestowing anything that is desired, including moksham (akhila abhimata prsūtim) (Slokam 26). Thus in one single Slokam svâmi deshikan introduces us to the ease and greatness of praptti at the same time.

The anga-s of prapatti

The following aspects of prapatti are outlined in Slokam 27 -

  • Giving up whatever is antagonistic to any of His creations or to Him (tvat prâtikūlya vimukhâh) - प्रातिकूल्य वर्जनम्
  • The resolve to do good to all beings. The realization that all beings are in actuality the body of God, and the resolve to live in accordance with the will of God (sphurat ânukūlyâh) - आनुकूल्य सङ्कल्पम्
  • Absolute humility bordering on lowliness and honest awareness of one’s own natural ignorance, impotence and impurity partly because of stains acquired through countless births (kṛpaṇatâm kṛtvâ) - कार्पण्यम्
  • Irrepressible and great faith in Godhead. Involves the understanding that God is the benefactor of all beings, and His compassion is always and readily available. The firm conviction that He will not fail to protect us (vigata atishankhâh) - महा विश्वासम्
  • The conscious and mindful selection of Him as our Sole Protector, and the realization that He and only He can protect us - (svayam upâyah bhava iti ) - गोप्तृत्व वरणम्
  • Giving up independent ownership in matters of actions or fruits thereof, and placing oneself completely and directly under His care. This is sharaṇâgati, but is traditionally included as the sixth a~nga of prapatti and is called Atma-nikshepa or nyâsa - (tavayi nija-bhâram arpayanti) - आत्म-निक्षेपणम्

Prapatti further elaborated

  • Once a person has surrendered to Him, He takes the responsibility to embrace the jîvan when it leaves the body, and guide the jîvâtmâ to SrI vaikuṇṭham to the accompaniment of all the deva-s (Sloka-s 37 - 39). In fact, He has given His word in SrI râma incarnation that it is His dharma to protect those who have surrendered to Him (Slokam 45). Irrespective of the enormous sins committed, He protects those who surrender to Him without fail, as evidenced by the incident of kâkâsura (Slokam 46). Even if one just pretends to be a prapanna, this is sufficient for Him to offer His protection (Slokam 50). Among His guṇa-s that corroborate the above are: He is the svâmi - One who owns everyone and everything; dayâ jala nidhih - The Ocean of dayâ or Infinite Mercy; madhurah - Sweet like nectar; kshamâvân - Infinitely forgiving; SIla adikhah - Possessed of Infinite good character; Srita vashah - One who willingly becomes subject to the wishes of His devotees; Sucih - Pure; atyudhârah - Infinitely generous; anaghah - Flawless (Slokam 52).
  • A prapanna reaches equality (sâmyam) with Bhagavân in SrI vaikuṇṭham by being able to enjoy the same paramânanda anubhavam that He enjoys, by just being able to do kaimkaryam to Him uninterruptedly (Slokam 40).

Different Types of prapatti

  • There are three types of prapatti that are described. These are - sva-nishṭhâ, ukti-nishṭhâ, and âcârya nishṭhâ. sva nishṭhâ involves gaining the requisite knowledge for this through one’s own learning from an âcârya etc. prior to performing this upâya. ukti nishṭhâ involves one’s use of one’s general knowledge in the absence of specialized knowledge of the first type. One way of practicing this is for a disciple to repeat the prapatti mantra after an âcârya. Unlike the other two, if an âcârya undertakes to present us to Bhagavân, this is âcârya nishṭhâ. This is by far the easiest mârga for prapatti.

The Practice of prapatti

  • A brief outline of how a sharaṇâgatan leads his/her life is given in Slokam 36. They consider themselves the dâsa-s of those who have surrendered to Him (dâsânudâsan) - ânukūlya sankalpam; they avoid, like snakes, those who indulge in acts that are counter to His worship - prâtikūlya varjanam; they consider worship of other devatâ-s as not worthy of their time - goptṛtva varaṇam; and they spend their life in bhagavad and bhâgavata kainkaryam.
  • Bhâgavata kainkaryam during their brief life in this world is an important aspect of those prapanna-s who have thus surrendered to Him (Slokam 30). svâmi deshikan compares this aspect of a prapanna’s life to the zeal with which a married woman cherishes her mângalya-sūtra (kinkaratvam mângalya sūtramiva bibhrati). In fact, the prapanna is not just satisfied by being His dâsa, but derives great pleasure in being the dâsa of His dâsa-s - aḍiyârkku aḍiyan, dâsânudâsan (Slokam 35).
  • One who performs His worship with devotion while following one’s own Agama (pâñcarâtra or vaikhânasa), sūtra (Apastamba, bodhâyana etc.), varṇa (brâhmaṇa, kshatriya etc.), and ASrama (brahmacarya etc.), pleases Him in the process since Bhagavân accepts these different offerings as a garland of flowers strewn with different flowers (Slokam 33).
  • A prapanna’s trust in shrîman nârâyaṇa is that of a pativratâ towards her husband. Thus they do not resort to worship of other gods such as Brahma, Siva etc. This is because they have realized that shrîman nârâyaṇa is the only one who can give moksha, while the other deva-s can give only lesser benefits which will still get us back to the ocean of samsâra after this benefit is enjoyed (Slokam 34).

The Ultimate Choice - Temporary Pleasures vs. Eternal Pleasure

The choice between the lesser worldly pleasures (including svargam), and the alternative of devoting ourselves to His service, is very clear (Slokam 56):

  1. The pleasure from the first category is trivial (अल्प ) compared to that derived from the anubhavam of Bhagavân
  2. They are impermanent (अस्थिरैः )
  3. One has to strain one’s body and indriya-s in attaining these (असुखजैः )
  4. In the end they lead to sorrows (such as re-birth) (असुख अवसानैः )
  5. Even while enjoying them, there is no peace of mind because of the worry of what will follow after this temprary enjoyment is over (दुःख अन्वितैः )
  6. These are not the kinds of experiences that are desired by those who want His anubhavam to start with (अनुचितैः )
  7. They give the false feeling that we are enjoying these for our own sake (अभिमान मूलैः )

Svami Desikan - The Ultimate Example of an Ideal Prapanna

svâmi deshikan’s humility (kârpaṇyam) starts ringing out loud even from the first Slokam. He starts with feeling that the work will be meritorious (because it expounds SrI râmânuja’s sampradâyam), in spite of it being communicated by him (meaning he considers himself too low in qualification to expound this great siddhânta) - mad-vâkya samvalitamapi. In Slokam 3, he refers to himself as a “jantu” - which generally refers to a living organism of the lowest organization.

His kârpaṇya svabhâvam (absolute humility bordering on lowliness), which is an a~nga of sharaṇâgati, finds expression again in Sloka-s 41 to 47. Words are inadequate to describe the extent of humility and simplicity that runs through svâmi deshikan’s life as a prapanna. He asks Bhagavân’s forgiveness for aspiring the great bhâgyam to do kaimkaryam to Him and considers it an aprâdham or apacâram for someone as ‘low’ as himself to even desire such a thing. He feels his desire to enjoy Him who is enjoyed by shrîdevi and Bhūdevi as comparable to the desire of a dog which wants to quench its thirst by drinking the waters of Ganges which is held in high esteem by Siva and Brahma. He feels that all the anushṭânam and the prapatti that he has done is inadequate and may be blemished and may not be all sincere, and prays to Bhagavân to accept whatever he is doing even as a put-on and a show, but be pleased with it anyway. He prays to Bhagavân to not use His vîrya and Sakti to ‘reward’ (i.e., punish) him for all his acts which can be abundantly counter to SAstra-s, but instead use His quality or guṇa of dayâ and forgive all his mistakes. His humility is so absolute that he feels he knows nothing about karma yoga, j~nâna yoga, or bhakti yoga, and asks for Bhagavân’s Mercy nonetheless (Slokam 47).

In Sloka-s 53 and 54, we see svâmi deshikan’s mahâ-vishvâsam that Bhagavân will protect those who surrender to Him - period. No if’s and but’s. The âcârya submits to Lord dîpa-prakâsha that his sins are infinitely more than that of 100 râvaṇa-s combined - dashânana shatân adhika Agaso’pi , but so what? He did not surrender to Bhagavân earlier (apūrvân) and waited for so long - so what? Even now, he may not be sincere in his surrender but may be doing so half-heartedly (ahṛdayânapi)- so what? A prapanna is assured of moksham because Bhagavân has repeatedly assured us that once we surrender to Him, it is His dharma, His duty, His responsibility, His business, to protect us. He has said as much in the gîtâ, during vibhîshaṇa sharaṇâgati, etc., and demonstrated as such during the abhayam to kâkâsura and many others.


In Slokam 57, svâmi deshikan summarizes the step for a prapanna to follow: A prapanna should seek an âcârya to get instructions so that the right kind of knowledge is obtained. This will result in His Grace which will lead the prapanna to the path of prâtikūlya varjana (turning oneself from doing anything that is not in His service), ânukūlya samkalpa (devoting oneself to His kaimkaryam in thought, word, and deed), and mahâ viishvâsa (the firm conviction that shrîman nârâyaṇa is the only one who can give us moksham). Given Bhagavân’s Infinite Mercy, an infinitely small act of kaimkaryam to Him is sufficient for His protection and Grace (Slokam 58).

— dâsan kṛshṇamâcâryan