Translated by Madhurakavi dAsan TCA Venkatesan
lOkAchArya gurave krishna pAdasya soonavE
samsAra bhOgi sandaShta jeeva jeevAtavE nama:
All beings who are born repeatedly in this world and suffer in the samsaric cycle have to understand many things in order to obtain Moksha (liberation). Of these many things, one of the most important is the understanding of Artha Pancakam. The understanding of 1. Nature of the Supreme, 2. Nature of the Jiva, 3. The means to attaining liberation, 4. The nature of the goal to be attained, and 5. The obstacles in attaining the goal seeked, are known as Artha Pancakam.
The knowledge of these five is given clearly by the three rahasyas, Thirumanthiram, Dvayam and Carama slokam and as such the understanding of the rahasya- thrayam is very important for Mumukshus.
The origin of the rahasyathrayam is as follows. The Thirumanthram, also known as Periya Thirumanthram and Moola Manthram, originated in Badri. It was taught to Nara by Narayana. Dvayam which is also known as Manthra Rathnam, was revealed to Sri Mahalakshmi in Vishnu Loka by Sriman Narayana. Carama Sloka is part of the Bhagavad Gita and as such was told to Sri Arjuna by Sri Krishna. Thus the originator of all three rahasyas is Lord Sriman Narayana. Therefore, He is the first acharya in the Guru parampara. It is thus that Sri Kooraththazhvan said "Lakshminatha samarambam ... vande guruparamparam".
Therefore this rahasyathraya even though short in words has very many great, rare and majestic meanings and as such our acharyas have studied it extensively and taught their meanings carefully to their disciples.
Prior to Swamy Ramanuja the acharyas guarded the rahasyathraya and their meanings and taught them exclusively to select disciples only. Bhagavad Ramanuja in his broad mind and large sympathy for those caught in the samsaric cycle, exceeded the norms of the day and himself and through his disciples taught the rahasyathraya and their meanings to all who were interested. This is shown in Upadesa Raththinamalai as
OraaNvazhiyAy upathEsiththaar munnOr, eraar ethiraasar innaruLaal - paarulagil aasaiyudaiyOrkkellam aariyarkaaL kooRumenRu pEsi varambaruththaar pin
From the time of Sri Ramanuja the meanings of these rahasyas were taught but there is no evidence that during his time their special meanings were recorded in written form by acharyas. There is a possibility that a rahasyathraya vyakhyanam was made into a grantha by Sri Koorathazhvan. Sri Vedantha Desikar in his Rahasyathrayasaram, in the Carama Sloka section talks about the Carama Sloka vyakhyanam of Azhvan. However, if there was such a grantha, it is not available now.
Sri Bhattar who is the son of Sri Koorathazhvan wrote the composition Ashtasloki as the essence of the rahasyathrayam. Even though this composition is short, Bhattar has included in it tremendous meanings of these manthras.
Sri Pillai Lokacharyar who is the son of Sri Vadakku Thiruveethi Pillai and who is considered the avathara of Sri Varadaraja, has composed the Ashtadasa Rahasyam which is a phenomenal collection of the meanings of rahasya granthas. Later Sri Achan Pillai also wrote rahasya arthas through works such as Parantha Rahasyam.
Amongst the Ashtadasa Rahasyas, Yathruccikappadi, Paranthapadi and Sriyapathippadi contain the meanings of the rahasyathraya vyakhyanams but it is Mumukshuppadi that has gained fame in many ways. The other granthas suffer from drawbacks such as being extensive or being very short or that they contain a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil words. Mumukshuppadi does not have any of these drawbacks. Also, this work contains special and rare meanings that are not present in the other granthas. Thus, this work occupies a special place in the purvacharya works and in the minds of Srivaishnavas.