Sara Sangraham forms the eighth work among Pillai Lokacharya’s Ashtadasa Rahasya (18 Secrets). This text belongs to the category of works that were written to expound the meanings of the three secret doctrines (Rahasya Traya). The Rahasya Traya in Srivaishnava sampradhaya refers to the Tirumantra, the Dvaya Mantra and the Charama Sloka.
In this work, the author demonstrates that the whole of the Tiruvaimoli divya prabandha embodies the inner meanings of the dvaya mantra. The dvaya mantra is claimed to be the essence of the Vedas (srutis), Dharma Sastras (smritis), the epics (itihasas) and the Puranas. The Srivaishnava preceptors understood the greatness of this mantra and are quoted to have been in constant meditation of its implicit meanings in times of weal and woe. Since the dvaya mantra is expounded in this work, it has been suitably titled “Sara Sangraham” or an ‘Abridged Essence’ of the Tiruvaimoli. Just as the revealed scriptures (srutis), Srivaishnavites consider the Tiruvaimoli to be beginningless and of Divine Origin (apauruseya). Although the authorship of Tiruvaimoli has been ascribed to saint Sathakopa (Nammalvar), the original author, by his own admission, is but a conduit in revealing the eternal truths of the srutis through the grace of God. Lokacharya opines that the entire Tiruvaimoli explains the merit of sharanagati or absolute surrender as enshrined in the dvaya mantra. Thus, in other words, this text can be considered to be an abridged explanation of the dvaya mantra itself.
To the casual reader, the complexity of Nammalvar’s work, which is an anthology of his divine experiences (as compiled my Nathamuni), could be quite overwhelming in terms of the its philosophical import. It is this never-ending fountain of philosophical experience that Tiruvaimoli guarantees that led the Srivaishnavite preceptors to remain perennially immersed in this work. Their engagement with the Tiruvaimoli at an intellectual level has spawned multiple categories of Srivaishnavite texts. While Tirukkurukai Piran Pillan, Nanjeeyar, Nampillai, Periyavaccan Pillai and Vadikesari Alagiya Manavala Jiyar wrote commentaries on the Tiruvaimoli, Pillai Lokacharya distilled the essence of Tiruvaimoli into multiple instructional works for spiritual seekers. In this particular text, Lokacharya brings out the correspondence between the essence of each centum of the Tiruvaimoli with syllables in the dvaya mantra, thereby masterfully explicating the meaning and spiritual implications of the dvaya mantra in the process. Alagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar, the younger brother of Pillai Lokacharya, corroborates this correspondence between Tiruvaimoli and Dvaya Mantra in his ‘Acharya Hrudayam’ sutra 210 :
dvayarttam dheerga sharanagati endradu sara sangrahattile
According to the author, the first centum of Tiruvaimoli brings into focus the Supreme Lord’s Sriyapatitva – His permanent togetherness with the Divine Mother. The Supreme Lord is so attractive and distinguished that the Divine Mother (Sri) desires to remain fused in a state of permanent togetherness with Him. It is Sri’s association with the Lord that preserves the latter in a state of permanent youthfulness. From a philosophical standpoint, the fusion between the Lord and Sri is such that they don’t exist independent of each other. Sri is said to be together with the Lord in a way that is comparable to how fragrance rests in a flower, i.e. inseparable from the flower itself. Thus, when the three verities (tattvas) of Visistadvaita are discussed, the Supreme Lord (or Isvara Tattva) is always referred to as ‘Sriman’ Narayana, thereby acknowledging Sri and Narayana as one philosophical entity. Sri plays the role of the mediatrix (purusakara bhuta) between Sriman Narayana and mortal souls and makes the Lord overlook their transgressions from the prescribed path of the scriptures. Thus, Sri is an epitome of compassion who, on behalf of the erring subjects, urges the Supreme Lord to deliver them from bondage. Sri does this by ensuring that certain auspicious attributes of the Supreme Lord, such as His easily accessibility (saulabhya) and his tenderness (vatsalya), shine prominently alongside His Supreme eminence (paratva). Although the Supreme Lord can exercise his franchise and punish us for our transgressions, it is His easy accessibility that allows mortals to surrender to His benevolent grace and seek redemption. Sri plays the crucial role in activating the Lord’s benevolent grace to the benefit of His hapless subjects.
The second centum of the Tiruvaimoli highlights the Supreme Lord’s narayanatva, i.e. the Lord being the bearer (dharaka) of all entities and the Master of the three worlds (sarvasvami). According to Visistadvaita philosophy, the Supreme Lord holds together the living (souls) and non-living (matter) entities of the universe in an organic relationship (sarira-sariri bhava). His pervasion (vyapti) into these entities as the Inner controller (antaryami) gives them a state of existence and being. As a result of bad deeds accumulated over several births, the mortal souls are driven to forget the nature of their eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord. This lack of knowledge leads them adrift from the path of spirituality and immerses them in state of bondage, thereby impeding their spiritual progress. It is the benevolent grace of the Lord that can arrest this downward spiral and put the souls on the right path to salvation. The Lord’s narayanatva, indicated by the term ‘narayana’ in the dvaya mantra, brings into focus His affection or tenderness (vatsalya) towards His devotees, His super-eminence (paratva) and omniscience (sarvajnatva) notwithstanding. It is this tenderness of the Supreme Lord that makes Him overlook the limitations of His subjects and shower His blessings on them without an iota of condescension. The care He demonstrates towards His subjects is comparable to how a protective cow licks the wounds and impurities from its calf’s body.
The third centum of the Tiruvaimoli extols the twin lotus feet of Sriman Narayana (charanavindayugala) as the soul refuge to salvation-seekers in the entire world. This attribute corresponds to the term ‘charanau’ in the dvaya mantra. Sriman Narayana’s twin feet are enchantingly beautiful and are a source of unsurpassed enjoyment to His subjects, forming an object of their mediation. The twin feet of the Supreme Lord have the powers to dispel the impediments to salvation seekers – those that result from birth, aging, death and disease. His lotus feet can a) arrest the cycles of birth and death that each human undergoes, and b) help them sustain their devotion to Him by overcoming the problems of disease and old age. The twin feet of Sriman Narayana also weans them away from their attachment to transient and impermanent desires and conditions them to remain in permanent contemplation of the supreme goal of salvation.
The fourth centum of the Tiruvaimoli explains the Supreme Lord’s prapakatva. This corresponds to the term ‘saranam’ in the dvaya mantra. It is the Lord’s nature to stand by those who have surrendered to Him and destroy the effects their bad deeds have on their spiritual progress. The deeds of a person are classified into three types: sancita, agamya and prarabdha. Sancita deeds are those that a person has accumulated across different births that he had taken in the past. Agamya deeds are those which a person has accumulated during his lifetime. Prarabdha deeds are those which are brought by a person into this birth to be exhausted over his lifetime. The scriptures say that while the sancita and agamya deeds can be nullified by seeking refuge at the Lord’s feet, one has to still experience the effects of prarabdha deeds. In this context, Lokacharya explains that the Lord’s prapakatva can even annul the prarabdha deeds and purify the person for spiritual experience. The Lord ensures this be blessing His protégés with true knowledge of the Self, thereby ridding them of birth, death and the miseries associated with ill-health and old age.
The fifth centum of the Tiruvaimoli, corresponding to the term ‘prapadye’ in the dvaya mantra, refers to the unswerving conviction (mahavisvasa) a soul has to develop in sharanagati (i.e. surrender unto the twin Feet of Supreme Lord as the sole means to salvation). The Lord blesses those who have unconditionally surrendered to Him. It is through the Lord’s grace that the individual soul realizes the Lord to be both the means (upaya) to and the fruit (upeya) of liberation. The individual soul has to be convinced that there is no faithful companion to him in his spiritual progress barring the Supreme Lord and surrender unto His feet is a fail-proof means to salvation.
The sixth centum of the Tiruvaimoli corresponds to term ‘srimathe’ of the dvaya mantra. Just as the Supreme Lord assumes two roles (one indicating His upayatva, i.e. Him being the means to salvation; and the other indicating His upeyatva; i.e. service unto Him being the ultimate goal to be sought for the mortal souls), the Divine Mother too assumes twin roles. In the first role, she plays the mediatrix which was explained in the meaning corresponding to the first centum. In her second role, she becomes the object of worship of the soul owing to her permanent togetherness with the Supreme Lord (nityasambandha). Thereby, she becomes a recipient of the services rendered by the individual soul unto the Lord’s lotus feet as well. Thus, after attaining salvation, the individual soul performs its services to the Lord who is fused in union with the Divine Mother.
The seventh centum of the Tiruvaimoli, corresponding to the term ‘narayanaya’ in the dvaya mantra, represents the unsurpassed enjoyableness the protégés of the Supreme Lord achieve by extolling His auspicious attributes and performing service unto His feet. The Lord is both the life-sustaining nectar as well as the object of enjoyment of the mortal souls.
Going further, Lokacharya separates the term narayanaya in the dvaya mantra into two terms viz. narayana and aya. He then demonstrates that the eighth and the ninth centums of the Tiruvaimoli correspond to these two terms of the dvaya mantra. The eighth centum of the Tiruvaimoli, corresponding to the term ‘narayana’ in the dvaya mantra, brings out the Lord’s Sovereign Supremacy (sarva svamitva). He is extolled as being the King of the Celestials and the Lord and ruler of the three worlds. The ninth centum of the Tiruvaimoli, corresponding to the term ‘aya’ in the dvaya mantra, refers to the permanent service (nitya kainkaryam) performed unto the feet of the Supreme Lord.
The tenth centum of the Tiruvaimoli, corresponding to the term ‘nama:’ in the dvaya mantra, signifies the Supreme Lord’s ability to completely annihilate the obstacles the individual souls face to perform Divine Service unto the Lord’s feet eternally.
Contributions of the work to Visistadvaita:
In this work, Lokacharya explains in clear terms as to how Sri and the Divine Lord are to be considered as one ontological entity owing to their permanent togetherness. In conceptual terms, the existence of Sri and the Lord as one ontological entity is referred to as ‘aprthak siddhi bhava’ (separate but inseparable nature of the substratum and substrate, as in the case of ‘red’ colour resting in the rose but inseparable from the rose itself) and is central to Ramanuja’s metaphysics. Lokacharya envisions the Supreme Lord as an ocean of auspicious attributes and brings into focus his tenderness (vatsalya), easy-accessibility (saulabhya) and supremacy (svamitva) through this work. This explains the Visisatadvaitic view of Brahman as one endowed with auspicious qualities as opposed to the attributeless (nirguna) Brahman propounded by the Advaitins.
Lokacharya also holds the view of unconditional surrender (sharanagati) as being the supreme and failsafe means (upaya) to attain the Lord. Unconditional surrender can annihilate all impediments to one’s spiritual progress and also pave the way for the dawning of accurate knowledge of the metaphysical entities. It allows the individual soul to forever remain in contemplation of the Supreme and achieve a higher state of spiritual maturity. However, Lokacharya clarifies that surrender does not qualify as an independent means in itself (alongside karma, jnana and bhakti) and it is the Lord who is the means as well as the end of all spiritual pursuits. It is the Lord’s causeless grace that initiates a soul lurking in bondage to the supreme path of spirituality and subsequently, on attaining salvation, it is the Supreme Lord, in union with Sri, to whom the uplifted soul performs eternal service to. Thus, Lokacharya explains the Srivaishnavite view that the ultimate objective of salvation is to serve the Divine couple in Srivaikuntam across all times.