Ashtasloki is the first work in the literary history of Srivaishnava sampradhayam that deals with an explanation of the three secret doctrines – the Rahasya Traya. In stark contrast to the works of the later day Acharyas (that followed Parasara Bhattar and authored various works explaining rahasya traya in considerable detail as in Pillai Lokacharya’s Mumukshuppadi and Vedanta Desika’s Srimad Rahasya Traya Saram), Ashtasloki packs the subject matter into 8 terse verses set in the shikhariNi, saardhula, vikridhitham and sragdharaa metres.
We shall look at the translations of the first two slokas from the Tirumantra Prakaranam alone in this entry. We shall complete this entire work in three subsequent posts.
मकारार्थो जीवस्तदुपकरण वैष्णवमिदम् |
उकारोsनन्यार्ह नियमयति संबन्धमनयो :
त्रयीसारस्त्रयात्मा प्रणव इममर्थ समदिशत् ||
The three syllabled pranava mantra ‘AUM’, points to the following meaning: The letter ‘A’ refers to Sriman Narayana, who causes the creation, protection and destruction of the world. The meaning of the letter ‘M’ refers to the individual soul, who is subservient to Sriman Narayana. The letter ‘U’ indicates the relationship between Sriman Narayana (the paramatma) and the Jivatma – i.e. the jivatma is subservient to Sriman Narayana alone and no one else.
Note: In his Upadesa Rathinamalai (Pasuram 19), Mamunigal hails the Thiruppallandu Dhivya Prabandham as capturing the essence of this Pranavam portion of the Tirumantra. Just as the Pranavam forms the beginning of all vedas, the Thiruppallaandu, which marks the beginning of the spotless Azhwar compositions, serves as a summary as well as the invocatory “prayer for auspiciousness” verse for the sacred four thousand hymns.
मन्त्रब्रह्मणि मध्यमेन नमसा पुंस: स्वरूपं गति:
गम्य शिक्षितमीक्षितेन पुरत: पश्चादपि स्थानत: |
स्वातन्त्र्यं निजरक्षण समुचिता वृत्तिश्व नान्योचिता
तस्यैवेति हरेर्विविच्य कथित स्वस्यापि नार्ह तत: ||
The nama: portion – the middle word in the superior Tirumantra – teaches the soul’s true nature, way and goal. By looking at the words precede and follow this nama: portion, it is clear that the soul does not possess autonomy (or independence) and cannot protect itself. Its nature is to perform service (kainkaryam) to Hari (Sriman Narayana). The powers of autonomy and protection rest with the Paramatma. So a jivatma does not belong to himself but to the Paramatma.
Note: In his Upadesa Rathinamalai (Pasuram 28), Mamunigal hails the Kanninun Siruthambu dhivya prabandham as capturing the essence of the Nama: portion of the Tirumantra. The middle portion of Tirumantra contains sabda pUrthi (conciseness) and arththa pUrthi (completeness). It has the message to dispel the impediments to our swarupa (nature), upaya (means) and purushartha (goal).