Posted in Archiradi, Pillai Lokacharya

Archiradi – A Synopsis

Archiradi is one of the 18 Rahasyas of Pillai Lokacharya that was written to expound the doctrine of the three verities (Tattva Traya). This work is organized into four cantos (prakaranas). The first canto describes the remorseless material existence the individual souls lead in this world of bondage, followed by the onset of interest in them to know about the Divine. This interest comes through the Supreme Lord’s causeless grace, which in turn drives the souls to seek the Lord’s feet and long for performing service unto Him. As the individual soul progresses through various stages of spiritual maturity, a time comes for its separation from its gross body (sthula sarira) during death. The relieved soul subsequently traces the archiradi path via the susumna nerve of the heart, encountering various pitstops in its travel, with the journey culminating in the company of the Archiradi Purushas just outside the solar constellation.

The second canto begins from where the description of the soul’s spiritual journey in the first canto ended. This canto traces the further journey of the soul as it is accompanied by the Archiradi Purushas, leading its way through the solar constellation, lunar constellation, the abodes of Varuna, Indra and Prajapati, beyond the realms of Mulaprakruti and to the banks of Viraja River. This canto further describes the separation of the individual soul from its subtle body (suksma sarira); its adoption of a form (vigraha) composed of Suddhasatva (made possible by the touch of a person called Amanava), and its final journey to the Supreme Lord’s Tirumamani Mandapa in the company of the nityasuris (eternals). This canto ends with the description of the soul joining the ranks of the Supreme Lord’s army of eternals and liberated souls (muktatma) in Srivaikunta.

The third canto is dedicated to describing the layout of the Tirumamani Mandapa in which the Supreme Lord — the Dwelling Place of auspicious attributes — the Encyclopaedic Definition of Beauty and the Master and Controller of the Worlds is seated at the Centre, accompanied by Goddess Mahalakshmi to His immediate right and His other two divine consorts, viz. Nila and Bhu Devis on either side. Further, the author draws from the Divya Prabandhas to explain the captivating and enchanting physical features of the Lord from His crown to the tip of His toe, as experienced by the various Alvars. In the process of describing His Divine Form, the author extols the glance (kataksha) of the Supreme Lord, as He gazes the eternals and the liberated souls who occupy the space on either side of His throne. The glance of the Supreme Lord is so divinely that the eternals and the liberated souls are drawn to performing service (kainkarya) at His Divine Feet.

The fourth canto begins with the liberated soul experiencing the captivating sight of the Lord seated with His consorts and genuflexing at His feet as a mark of expressing its servitude unto Him. What ensues after this act is a detailed conversation between the Supreme Lord and the liberated soul. The Lord offers the soul a warm hug that is indicative of an ailing mother welcoming her child returning from a long trip to a foreign land. Further, the Lord enquires about the soul’s well-being and what it was up to in all those eons of separation from Him. In response, the soul acknowledges its mundane existence in bondage and expresses its merriment at having had His company in Srivaikunta, which was made possible by His causeless grace. Subsequently, the Lord offers the soul the wealth of the Lila and Nityavibhutis and blesses it with the prospect of performing eternal service to Him (in union with His consort) in the company of the eternals and other liberated souls. Further, the Lord offers the liberated soul the prowess to assume various physical forms in order to discharge services unto Him in whatever way He desires.

Contribution of the work to Visistadvaita:
According to Visistadvaita Vedanta, Nityavibhuti, the Lord’s divine abode, is classified as a substance (dravya) that is extraneous to the cognizance of the soul (parak). Salvation involves the journey of a soul from this world to the Lord’s Nityavibhuti. Drawing upon references from Chandogya Upanisad and Nammalvar’s ‘Sulvisumbu Pani Mugil’ Tiruvaimoli (10-9-1), the author details the spiritual journey of an individual soul after its separation from the gross body.

The contents discussed in Archiradi also find a place in the last three parts of the 4th chapter (phala adhyaya) of Ramanuja’s commentary on the Vedanta Sutras — the Sri Bhashya. This chapter is entirely dedicated to explaining the fruits accruing to a salvation-seeker who has worshipped the Brahman as ordained in the scriptures (Brahma Upasana). In the first canto, Lokacharya explains that liberation is guaranteed to a soul which passes through the brahmanadi called Susumna at the time of its separation from the gross body. We find correspondence to this description in the second part of the 4th chapter in Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya.

There are certain upper worlds, which are charged with the responsibilities of guiding and conducting the liberated souls in their march towards the Lord’s abode. The denizens of these upper worlds are described as welcoming and revering the newcomers by burning incense, showering them with extraordinary (aprakrta) flowers, setting up camps for their enchantment, singing paeans of their praise and so on. Even if the liberated soul does not use up these offered respects of welcome, the eternals (nityas) continue to be satisfied, having discharged their duty keeping with their essential nature. Thus, the author drives home the point that in the Lord’s transcendental abode, each liberated and eternal soul revels in bliss, having performed a kind of service that befits its true nature. Lokacharya’s detailed descriptions of the pitstops the soul encounters as it raptures the cranium of the skull through its journey to the Lord’s Tirumamani Mandapa at Srivaikunta, and the entreaties of various celestials and eternals that it receives in the path, finds reference in the third part of the 4th chapter in Sri Bhashya.

Lokacharya puts the liberated souls on a Supreme pedestal when compared to the eternals who are unborn and have not experienced conditioned existence. He opines that these nityasuris have not passed through the gruelling mill of bondage and it is hence they honour these liberated souls on such a grand scale without an iota of superiority complex. They specifically admire these souls as they have come from the dark world of bondage where there are multiple impediments to engross oneself in God-love and devotion. They deem these liberated souls praiseworthy: (i) as they were able to turn their attention towards God under difficult circumstances, and (ii) as they love Him solely for His sake without any expectations whatsoever.

In addition to being adored and revered en route, the liberated soul achieves eternal bliss in the company of the muktatmas and the nityasuris, with the words of the latter forming honey to its ears. The soul also revels in its enjoyment of the company of the Supreme Lord. Lokacharya describes this unlimited bliss the liberated soul enjoys in the Lord’s abode as unbounded and equal in magnitude to the one experienced by the Lord Himself.

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