I am happy to state that my present book ‘Nithyam is the sixth among the nine works of Sri Ramanuja, the other five on which I have had fortune to write about are Sri bhashya, Geetha bhashya and the three prose works viz. Sharangathi Gadhya, Sriranga Gadhya, and Vaikunta Gadhya. While, reading any Ramanuja work is in itself a journey through bakthi-drenched jnana, writing about it is like visiting the Lord Himself with the acharya leading the way.
In Nithyagrantham, Sri Ramanuja deals with the ritual of daily worship enabling one to immerse oneself in ‘dhyana’ and literally feel the presence of the loving Lord. A devotee, after surrendering himself to Him, witnesses the blossoming of his soul under the ‘influence of His grace’. This indeed is the effect over a period of constant worship. Nithyam is a prescription by Sri Ramanuja to take care of all the ills of our worldly life.
The ‘grantham’ was not easily available in all languages and efforts had to be made to collect the original texts from various sources I have added my transliteration in English and provided the meaning of the text in English. The Tamil text of the work is in what is known as “grantham tamil” : efforts will be made to publish it separately in a manner which will allow itself to be read without much difficulty.
The multi-language presentation of the text has, as usual, been ably handled by Smt. Sudha. Sri Sharada Prasad has done a good of printing. Sri Kiran has come out with a good art work for the front cover. I wish and pray that Sri Ramanuja blesses them all.
Sri Ramanuja wrote nine lofty and monumental works. While he longed for a vision of the Lord in his famous work 'Sharanagathi Gadhya' which is a dialogue with the Lord, that is, between a soul and the Supreme Soul, in Nithya grantham he prepares the ordinary folks like us to set out on a journey with the goal of getting to feel the Lord's presence. This work focusses on daily worship affording solitary meditation, call it 'dhyanam'.
It is commonly known that a Srivaishnava undergoes rituals like samashrayanam (panchasamskaram) and 'bharanyasam'. Similarly a Srivaishnava requires to be initiated into 'aradhanam' the details of which are outlined by the great acharya in his 'Nithyagrantham' - in fact it forms one, of the five 'angas' of 'samashrayanam' ritual; the other four are thapa, pundra, narna and manthra - 'Aradhanam' comes under 'yaaga'. 'Yaaga' comprises two types, mental (manasika) and external (bahya).
Time to Communicate Details of 'Aradhana' Ritual: A Late Act
Sri Ramanuja who had been following the ritual after 'standardising' the various elements culled from various sources, could not find time to respond to requests by his close shishyas to teach the details or put them down on paper, One shishya who was persistent in his entreaties was Vangipuratthu Nambi.
During Sri Ramanuja's travel to Thirumalai along with his shishyas Koorathalwan and Hanumaddaasa, the subject cropped up. Finding himself that he could not postpone any further, the acharya got down to describe I narrate the details to the two shishyas - veritably the first recipients of 'aradhana krama' !!
Shock, Guilt and Attendant Shame in Store!
As the narration of the details was in progress lo! who enters !? the 'persistent aspirant' Vangipuratthu Nambi. Visibly speechless, the acharya felt guilty of not responding to him or enlisting him for this instruction. He felt deeply ashamed.
Sri Ramanuja compared the guilt he experienced to Lord Krishna's on being caught red-handed by Yashodha in the process of stealing butter. He told Vangipuratthu Nambi that he could clearly feel the 'truth of that episode' (!!) at that juncture.
Feeling extraordinary remorse, Sri Ramanuja instructed his third shishya also in the ritual. In fact two of the three shishyas viz. Koorathalwan and Vangipuratthu Nambi wrote books on the subject later on.
Path to Salvation:
There are three categories of Vaishnavas depending on belief and intended goal : they are known as Vaishnava, Ekanthin and Paramaikanthin :
yethu bhogathaya vishnon sathkruthyam kuruthe the sadhaa I
sa eva parmaikanthi mahabhagavathotthma II
A vaishnava holds Sri man Narayana as upaya (path) and worships Him; an Ekanthin believes Him to be 'upaya' as also the goal and follows Lord's commands. But the Paramaikanthin considers all 'obligations' as kainkarya which gives immense pleasure to him as well as the Lord.
Nithyam's Starting Line
Notably Sri Ramanuja starts his work 'Nithyam' thus: 'atha paramaikanthin bhagavatharadhana prayoga .... .'. The starting letter 'a' ('maathra' to be precise) is 'Vishnu Vachaka'.
Probably taking into consideration the state of mind of, three types of devotees, Sri Ramanuja had held back / postponed publicising the details of worship: paramaikanthins amongst his shishyas fulfilled the characteristics of sincere service to the Lord viz. having a single goal of rendering service to Him.
Other Treatises On Aradhana
Parashara Bhattar's work on daily worship is known as 'Kriya Deepa'. There are works on the subject by Koorathalwan (not available) Vangipuratthu Nambi, Embar, Vedantha Desika and Manavala Mamuni (Tarnil). Ahirbudhnya samhithe has details on the subject.
Yaaga - Anuyaaga (Or Teertha I Prasada Viniyoga)
Yaaga means worship (aradhana) and is of two types: manasika (mental) and external (bahya). The former comprises practising worship through ahimsa / controlling sense organs / kindness towards others / forgiveness / shanth' / thapa / dhyana / sathya. The second type of worship calls for action-oriented service. e.g. collection of Thulasi, flowers, pure water, and articles which impart fragrance to the holy water; also arranging for materials to be offered to the Lord (called 'Naivedhya' or 'amishe' in Tamil), the number and quantity depending on one's capacity. After all, one can always fall back on Sri Krishna's declaration that He accepts even just water or a leaf or a fruit!
Both manasika and external aradhanas are called for in daily worship.
Over to "Nithya Granthah”
Sri Ramanuja begins his famous work with the words "atha paramaikanthin bhaqavatharadhana prayoga vakshyey", Anyone familiar with Brahma Soothras / Sri bhashya will readily notice the use of the word 'atha'. While there it meant that after familiarising / studying karma kanda, the study of jnana kanda (vedantha) be taken up, here it is stating that after one has undergone sharanagathi / abject surrender to the Lord: "I then instruct that Paramaikanthin in the method of worship", Ramanuja declares thus.
Nithyam is a handbook for the Ijya part of the five-fold duties of a Paramaikanthin as per Pancharathra agama, After the rituals of ceremonial bath, Oordwapundra dharana, sandhyavandhana, abhigamana and upadhana, Ijya is undertaken. However the grantham starts with early morning bath with mud as soap' and saathvika thyaga - it is a reminder to the effect that the Lord is getting all this done as it gives Him pleasure - in fact it is directed to erase one's ego.
During abhigamana achamana - by pouring small quantities of water to the right hand and swallowing such water thrice uttering pranamams to God's names is done followed by 'tharpana', that is, offering oblations to devas, sages and manes. After this one walks into bhaqavathsannidhi in the house carrying the water pot and singing praises of the Lord - in olden days water used to be carried from a holy source considering it as Ganges water.
Paying obeisance to the acharya parampara finishing upwards with none other than Lord Himself, one should formally surrender to the Lord (sentence 5 in Sharanagathi Gadhya) - it can be considered as Sri Ramanuja's order that we repeat our surrender to the Lord.
Thiruvaradhana (the yaaga) calls for sincere devotion to the
Lord, the ultimate goal and object of our love, the realisation of which itself owes to his grace. Seeking Him as the ultimate refuge, the aradhana starts. (in fact for the purpose of worship, one should forsake the 'mundane body' and imagine having received a holy body to undertake His kainkaryam).
The worshipper should then instal Lord's entire entourage starting with Sri, Bhoo and Neela devis right upto Vishwaksenar. As per procedure detailed in the grantham all the asanas viz. Manthrasana, snanasana, alankarasana and bhojyasana are gone through with all love and devotion. There is 'punar manthrasana' before the Lord is allowed to retire and sleep (paryankasana). The Lord's jewelry items etc. are removed for safe deposition with Vishwaksenar. Before 'paryankasana' the Lord is offered fruits and milk.
[In the present procedure adopted by Srivaishnavas there is a 'shartumurai krama' before paryankasana, comprising recitation from 4000 Divya Prabhandham ; the anuyaqa of distribution of holy teertha and bhagavathprasada brings the aradhana to a formal close.]
The Greatness Of Nithyam
The present 'aradhana krama' has evolved from Nithyam, with some changes having taken place over the years. But the real greatness of Nithyam consists in -
i) Sri Ramanuja's care and attention for all aspects of worship,
ii) Sri Ramanuja's reverence for all lieutenants, 'Kainkaryaparas' serving the Lord.
One is strongly advised to study the number of Nithyasooris and others to whom Sri Ramanuja offers his 'pranamams'. It is simply baffling! At least from this point of view one needs to read 'Nithyam' and add to the "aradhana krarna" whatever one considers manageable and easy.
The Nithya Grantham : Overall Observation
One expects Ramanuja's compositions to have a certain contour, style of presentation, choicest epithets, a sense of complete perfection with regard to the subject being presented, besides the creation of a uniquely divine atmosphere. All these qualities one finds in Nithya Grantham and the added tenor he brings, being himself the manifestation of Adhisesha.
While in Vaikunta Gadhya, one finds the extraordinary description of Vaikunta which brings before our eyes the scene obtaining in Paramapadham, in Nithyam he brings into the fore various kainkaryaparas to whom we are expected to offer our respectful 'pranamams'. The Lord will be immensely pleased if we show reverence to his lieutenants !
With a view to help those who are comfortable with a particular language the original is presented in Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu besides a transliteration in English. The meanings are given in English.
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