Nammazhwar being graced by the causeless mercy of the Supreme was able to realise the defects of this world, the misery associated with the cycle of births and deaths and the eternal happiness awaiting one in the Lord’s upper abode (Vaikuntam). However, the Supreme Lord’s grace notwithstanding, Nammazhwar continued to remain in this very world and the defects of material existence deterred his stay here. Having attained the knowledge of discerning the right from the wrong, Nammazhwar pleaded to the Lord to remove him from this world and to take him up to the VAikunTam. On the one hand, Nammazhwar was happy that he had realized the Lord in His true form while on the other hand, he was forlorn that he was still being kept in this world in a physical body associated with earthly defects. It is this longing of Nammazhwar that runs throughout the Tiruvirutham. Nampillai demonstrates this to us from Nammazhwar’s choice of words from the first song ‘inninra neermai’ to the last one ‘polla aruvinai’, indicating that his plea to the Lord, to remove the impediments to salvation, goes on forever.
It was said earlier that EDU, one of the commentaries of Thiruvaimozhi, is outstanding piece of scholarship. This commentary was recorded in a language called Manipravalam that contains an admixture of Tamil and Sanskrit languages. The commentary primarily explains the import of Nammazhwar’s verses interspersed with quotes from the Upanishads, Itihasas, Puranas and other ancillary scriptures. In addition, the commentary also includes anecdotes (itihya) indicating conversations between earlier preceptors of Srivaishnavism. Nampillai reports certain happenings in the context of particular verses and points to multifarious interpretations that are possible to the same verses, thereby adding great credibility to his work. Further, the author points to the coherence between different decads of Thiruvaimozhi and explain the logical order of the hymns that represent the emotional journey of Nammazhwar. Finally, as described earlier, the commentary of Nampillai also posits the philosophical concepts that underlie practical Srivaishnavism. The value of this commentary can only be appreciated if we go into nuances and finer details in the commentary pattern of Nampillai. We shall delve into some of them in further detail:
Nampillai took over the reins of Srivaishnavism and its propagation from his preceptor Nanjiyar. He began delivering lectures on Nanjiyar’s onpatinayirappadi commentary on the Thiruvaimozhi in addition to adding his own examples and quotations from the scriptures. These lectures were transcribed on a palm-left by one of Nampillai’s disciples by the name Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai. When the latter submitted this commentary at the feet of his preceptor, Nampillai took possession of it as it was written without his permission. He then gave this commentary to another of his disciples by the name Eyunni Madhava Perumal at a later date. Eyunni Madhava Perumal taught this EDU commentary to this son Padmanabha Perumal. Padmanabha Perumal taught this to Nalur Pillai, who in turn taught his son Nalur Achan Pillai. The commentary finally reached Mamunigal’s preceptor Srisailesa through divine intervention in Lord Devaraja temple, Kanchipuram.
Stotra Ratnam is a hymnal composition of Svami Alavandar. It is a book of praises on the Lord – Narayana, the Supreme Brahman, in the school of the author. The traditional accounts consider the work to be an exposition of the core tenets of the Divya Prabandham of Azhvars, regarded as Dramidopanishad in Srivaishnava tradition.
At the outset, the author praises his spiritual master Svami Nathamuni in three hymns. Svami Nathamuni is identified as the eternal refuge both in this world and the next. The succeeding hymn praises Sage Parasara Muni, who is the author of the Vishnu Purana, for his contribution to the understanding of metaphysical realities. Svami Nammazhvar is praised next, and identified as the foremost master of his tradition. In Srivaishnava tradition, Svami Nathamuni and Svami Nammazhvar occupy positions before Svami Alavandar on the lineage of preceptors.
Upadesa Ratnamalai or ‘Jewel-studded Garland of Instructions’ is a work authored by Manavala Mamunigal in a classical Tamil form of poetry called venpa. A venpa is a metric prosody that ranges anywhere from two to twelve lines. This work appears to be an attempt by the author to educate the Srivaishnava community about: (i) The Glory of Alvars and Purvacharyas representing the tradition of Srivaishnavism; (ii) The commentaries authored by his earlier preceptors on the Divya Prabandham, (iii) The Greatness of the Tiruvaimoli and its commentaries, (iv) The tradition of Eedu Commentary of the Tiruvaimoli from Vadakku Tiruveedhi Pillai to Mamunigal himself, (v) The glory of Pillai Lokacharya’s srivachanabhushanam, (vi) Some instructions to Srivaishnavites on how to conduct themselves as worthy seekers of salvation and finally (vii) The revelation of ultimate means, Charamopayam.
Of the multiple incarnations of Sriman Narayana, it is visibly the Krishnavatara that has captured the imagination of all the Alvars. It is nigh impossible to find a work among the twenty-four divya prabandhas that does not carry a reference to the Lord’s Krishnavatara in one way or the other. Though the Lord’s incarnation as Rama lasted for a longer duration than His incarnation as Krishna, it is in this latter episode that the Lord demonstrated the unbounded limits of His easy accessibility (saulabhya). It is this possibility that the Supreme Lord – whose greatness spans a vast expanse that the Vedas fail to successfully describe (yata vaco nivartante) – and whose abode remains unattainable to seers performing rigorous austerities, can descend down this earth, walk amongst cowherds, engage in memorable pastimes, and above all, demystify the Upanisads to posterity in the form of Bhagavad Gita, that makes Him celebrate-worthy. Has there been a more generous and an easily approachable God?