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Sri Prativadi Bhayankaram Annagaracharyar Swami
In the Srivaishnava sampradhayam, there are many works created by our ancestors of both kalais. Let us not worry about the works of acharyas such as Manavala Mamunikal whose time was after that of Swami Desikan. There are not many who know the closeness of the acharyas such as Periyavacchan Pillai and Pillai Lokacharyar who were present at the same time or just prior to Desikan's time.
That Periyavacchan Pillai is ahead of Desikan's time is shown very clearly by Desikan himself in one of his sri suktis.
Periyavacchan Pillai's vyakhyanams had become well known by Desikan's time. In his Rahasya Traya Saram, in PrabhavavyavastAtikara, Desikan says the following: "kulam tharum engiRa pAttukku vyAkhyAnam paNNina abhiyuktharum 'janmaththAl vruththaththAl kuRainthAn oruththanukku bhagavath sambandham uNdAnAl avanai ivai udaiyAn oruththan thAza ninaikkak kUsa vENdumpadiyAyiRRu bhagavath prabhAvam irukkumpadi. AnAl ivargaLOdu peN koduththuk koLLugiRathillaiyE ennil athu jAthi nibandhanam, slAkhai guNa nibandhanam' enRu nirkarshiththArkaL." In this, Desikan has quoted the words from Periyavachchan Pillai's vyakhyanam. It is the determination of all vyAkhyAtas up till Srimad Injimettu Azhagiya Singar, that Desikan is talking about Periyavachchan Pillai in this statement with the use of the word 'abhiyukthar'. It is therefore clear that Periyavachchan Pillai's time is ahead of that of Desikan.
If one reads Desikan's Stotra Bashyam along with Periyavachchan Pillai's vyakhyanam, it will be easily understood how much Desikan has followed the path of Periyavachchan Pillai's words.
This can be in the first shloka "namochintyAdbhuda:" itself. Desikan uses nearly 80% of Periyavachchan Pillai's Sanskrit pramANas. This is not a false claim. Both works are easily available and anyone can examine them both and see for themselves. Not only the pramANas, but Desikan also takes the delightful inner meanings shown in Periyavachchan Pillai's vyakhyanams.
A hundred examples can be shown for these and a few are taken up here.
In the first shloka, in the phrase "njAna vairAgya rAshayE", the common meaning that most would think of is that Nathamunigal is a collection of such qualities as njAna and vairAgya. This is not incorrect. Desikan too determined this meaning first. Periyavachchan Pillai considered the bahuvrIhi samAsa here and taking the meaning of rAsi as a samUha, applied it to both njAna and vairAgya and said that he posseses collections of njAna and vairAgya. Considering that njAna and vairAgya are single, he then questioned himself whether they can be refered to as collections. He answered that by saying that because the divine nature/qualities of the Lord are many, the knowledge about them is also many. And because there are many things that have to be given up, vairAgyam is also many. Desikan has translated this exact meaning into his bashyam.
Further in this shloka, comes the phrase "agAdha bhagavad bhakti sindhavE". Here, Periyavachchan Pillai, instead of taking the meaning that Nathamunigal is an ocean for the quality of bhakti, takes the meaning that bhakti is an ocean (as per the divya sUktis "kAdhal kadal puraiya viLaiviththa", "kAdhal kadalin migap perithAl", etc) and states that he possesses the ocean that is bhakti. Desikan took this meaning and wrote "bhaktim vA sindhudvEna rUpayitvA bahuvrIhi:".
In the phrase "na ninditam karma tadasti lOkE", Desikan first gave the ordinary meaning 'worldly' for the word lokE. However, seeing that Periyavachchan Pillai had used the meaning 'Sastra' for it in his vyakhyanam, Desikan too stated the same in his bashyam.
For the phrase "vasI vadAnyO guNavAn", Desikan explains the twelve divine qualities following the vyakhyanam of Periyavachchan Pillai.
For the shloka "achintyadivyAtbudEdhya ...", Desikan has translated Periyavacchan Pillai's avatharikai and added to it.
For the phrase "bhaktajanaika jIvitam", Periyavachchan Pillai provides two meanings: 1. that He provides all sustenance for His devotees and 2. He has His devotees as His sustenance. Desikan too says the same in his bashyam.
Next, let's look at the word "samartham". Here too Desikan follows Periyavachchan Pillai's vyakhyanam. Here, it is said that the Lord is capable and qualified. However, lowly as we are, we too are celebrated as being capable. Therefore, the capacity of the Lord cannot be something simple. So, Periyavachchan Pillai looked to see what special meaning can be understood here. And knowing Alavandar's divine heart, he said "aLavudaiyarAna nithya sUrigaL anubavikkum thannai, nithya samsArigaL anubavikkum idaththil 'ARRa nalla vagai kAttum ammAnai" enkiRapadiyE Sathmikka SAthimikka anubavippikkum SAmarththyaththai udaiya". Truly, this is the great capacity of the Lord. Desikan practically translated this as "AsritAnAm sAtmya bOghap pradAnE". The term sAtmya is a rarely used one. This is specially used in the divya granthas of our acharyas. This is used by Periyavachchan Pillai in his avatharikai for Thiruvaymozhi 1.9 ("ivaiyum avaiyum uvaiyum") as the Lord giving His anubhavam to Azhvar ("SAthmikka SAthmikka koduththaruLinAr"). Desikan takes that and states the same in his Dramidopanishad Tatparya Ratnavali as "vipumanubhujE sAtmya yOgapradAnAt". It is in the same meaning that he has used this word in Stotra Bashyam as well.
In Saccharitra Rakshai, in the second adhikara which discusses Urdhva Pundram, Desikan explains the meaning of the Thiruvaymozhi pasuram 4-5-6 "kariya mEni misai veLiya nIRu siRithEyidum, periyakOla thandangkaNNan" by saying "chakshushi tattAraNam tatra vihitamiti anjana paratvamAhur AchAryA:". Here, it is unshakeably clear that Desikan is refering only to Periyavachchan Pillai by the word "AcharyA:". Why? Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan's vyakhyanam for this pasuram is as follows: "nIlamEga nipadhivya rUpOchitha dhivyAngkaragaththAlE anulipthanAy, adhivisAlamAy adhiramaNIyamAy iruppathoru thAmaraith thadAgam pOlE iruntha thirukkaNgaLai udaiyanAy". From this, the meaning for 'veLiya nIRu' can be taken as dhivyAngkarAgam and the whole first line 'kariya mEni misai veLiya nIRu siRithEyidum' can be taken as refering to the Lord. Periyavacchan Pillai's vyakhyanam here is much different from that of Pillan. The meaning of 'veLiya nIRu' is taken to be anjana chUrNam (veLiyam is anjanam). The first line is therefore not taken as refering to the Lord, but as refering to the Lord's eyes ('thadangkaN'). The meaning then of the pasuram is that the Lord who has the divine dark eyes which has anjana chUrNam. This meaning is seen only in Periyavacchan Pillai's vyakhyanam and is different from Pillan's vyakhyanam. In Pillan's vyakhyanam, for the word 'nIRu', neither anjana paratvam is shown nor chakshushi tAraNam is shown. Therefore, the word "AchArya Ahu:" that Desikan uses cannot be said to refer to Pillan and has to be taken to be refering to Nampillai's vyakhyana parampara and therefore Periyavachchan Pillai.
That Desikan gathered knowledge of Ubhaya Vedantas from his acharyas is clear. When no vyakhyanams had been written for Thiruvaymozhi, pUrvAcharyas learned its meanings with the help of the original text and by listening to its meanings from their acharyas. After Pillan's Arayirappadi, they would have used it to learn the meanings. Nanjiyar's Onbathinayirappadi is also short. Once Periyavachchan Pillai wrote his detailed and delightful Irupaththunalayirappadi, they started using it for understanding its meanings. Even though, Nampillai's Idu Muppaththariyrappadi was written down then, since it was hidden for a while before being brought out, in that middle period, everyone including Desikan would have used Periyavachchan Pillai's work as the kAlakshepa grantham for Thiruvaymozhi. This has been proven with many examples.
Arayirappadi avatharikai vyakhyanam for pasurams such as Thiruvaymozhi 1-8 "Odum puLLERi", 1-10 "porumA nILpadai", 2-8 "aNaivatharavaNai mEl", etc are quite different from the Irupaththunalayirappadi avatharikai vyakhyanam for the same. Desikan has followed Irupaththunalayirappadi vyakhyanam in his Dramidopanishad Tatparya Ratnavali and Dramidopanishad Saram.
Thiruvaymozhi 10-1 is "thALa thAmarai" pasuram in which Azhvar's anubahavam of Thirumogur Lord takes place. In his avatharikai for this pasuram, Pillan states this much only: "Thirukkannapuraththil emperumAnai anubaviththu ippOthu thirumOgUril emperumAnai anubavikkiRAr". In the following pasurams too, he presents only the simple meanings. Other acharyas show a special meaning here: Azhvar has determined his passage to parampadam previously in the pasuram "saraNamAgum" in Thiruvaymozhi "mAlai naNNi". Having determined his archirAdi mArga gathi, Azhvar is now said to be seeking Thirumogur Kalamegap Perumal to help him in that path ("vazhith thuNai"). Manavala Mamunigal in his Thiruvaymozhi Nurranthathi states "thAL adainthOr thangkatkuth thAnE vazhith thuNaiyAm, kALamEgaththai gathiyAkki". Acharya Hrudayam too states "mArkkabandhu chaithyam mOhanaththE maduvidum". Periyavachchan Pillai presents this meaning in his vyakhyanam "kALamEgap perumALai vazhith thuNaiyAga paRRugiRAr". Pillan's vyakhyanam does not say anything like this, other than saying that Azhvar worships Thirumogur Appan. Now let us look at Desikan's Dramidopanishad Tatparya Ratnavali and Saram. In Ratnavalai, in shloka 104 "taithyAnAm ithyAdi", he says "srAntihAritvamukhyai rAgArais satgatis syAt". All those who wrote vyakhyanam for "satgatis syAt" state here that "kALamEgap perumALE vazhith thuNai". In Dramidopanishad Saram also, Desikan says "satpadavyAm sahAyam srIsam prAha" as the meaning of this pasuram.
This does not mean that we are saying that Desikan did not like Arayirappadi. Because it is a smaller work, Desikan used it a little and because Periyavachchan Pillai's work was more detailed and had more interesting interpretations, he used it as his kAlakshepa grantham.
There are a couple of rare and very important matter in Bhagavd Gita. One time a pundit came to Nampillai and asked "Why is there no reference to archAvatar in Gita?". Nampillai replied "In the fourth adhyaya, where it says 'ye yatAmAm prapadyante tAn tadaiva bhajAmyaham', it includes archAvatar". This is recorded in Varththamalai. It is shown in Idu and Irupaththunalayirappadi that Nampillai determined that Thiruvaymozhi pasuram 8-1-4 "umaruganthugantha uruvam nin uruvamAgi" as refering to archAvatAram and that he used this Gita shloka as the pramANam for it. This determination is done by Nampillai only and it is not present in Ramanuja's Gita Bashyam. This is also shown by Desikan in his Tatparya Chandrikai in the 'ye yatA mAm' shloka as "atra krushNAvatAra vrutthAntena saha archAvatAra vrutthAntOpi sangruhIta:".
There is an even more important point. One time Nampillai was doing an upanyasam and was refering to the Nachchiyar Thirumozhi pasuram "thammai ugappAraith thAm ugappar". He then took the "ca"kAram in the Gita shloka "priyo hi njAninotyarttham aham sa ca mama priya:" and stated "njAni en pakkalil seyyum prIthiyai upAthiyAkki avan pakkalil nAn prIthi paNNuvathu perithO?". Seeing this, Desikan stated at the end of his Tatparya Chandrikai "sa ca mam priya: itpatra nirathisayaprIthim kurvatopi mahotArasya IshvarasyApi tatprIthyupAdhikaprIthikaraNAt athruptis suchiteti kesitAchAryA:". The veneration shown using the word 'kesitAchAryA:' instead of 'kesitAhu:' should be understood here.
The focus of what has been said thus far is not to try to bring down the greatness of Desikan. It was done only to show the respect that Desikan had toward the srIsUktis of Periyavachchan Pillai.
There are many who state that Desikan and other acharyas (Thennacharyas) have great differences of opinion in the sampradhaya meanings. If they give up their personal stands and opinions and study the srIsUktis of all acharyas, the oneness of their thoughts will become very clear.
If they wish so, they don't even have to accept that Desikan followed the srI sUktis of Periyavachchan Pillai and Pillai Lokacharyar. Let it be that these acharyas followed Desikan in their works. It is only important for us to accept that they all spoke with one voice ("pEsiRRE pEsum Eka kaNdarkaL") and one thought.