Updated: 1 May 2009


This is a divya desam which is not in this world.  This is the place to which every vaishnavite would like to go on attaining moksha.  This is varyingly referred to as Tiru Nadu, Thiru Paramapada and Paramakasam..  It is said that the people staying in this Paramapada. i.e. the muktatmas will look like God in their physical attributes.  They will be spending all the time rendering service to God (Kainkaryam).


 Let us first see Vaikuntha through Nammazhwar’s eyes.

The Jiva has to first have para bhakti, then  paragnana andfinally parama bhakti and only then can attain salvation or moksha.  Nammazhwar the vaishnavite saint visited Thirumoghur and prayed to Kalamege Perumal to give him moksha.  It is believed that God personally accompanied this great athma  to Vaikuntha. God would turn His head every now and then to ensure that Nammazhwar’s soul was following. Nammazhwar has described the beauty of  kalamege perumal in one of his pasurams and it is said that the vision that he had of that perumal was gathered from whathe whenever Perumal turned  His head to ensure that the    alvar was following him to Vaikunta !  Theten pasuram covered by soozh Visumbu adimukil is Nammazhwar’s vision of Vaikuntha.  The great   vaishnavite sage of Vaisnavite sage in these ten pasurams paints his”Manaseeka Anubhavam’ of Vaikuntha.

In this particular pasuram, Nammazhwar says that the clouds which had encircled  the sky were encircled the sky wer trumpeting in joy when the mukthaatma reached  Paramapada (here Nammazhwar).  He says it was as if the waves in the deep ocean were rising high and waving their hands in joy at the journey of this Mukthathma.  Thus, the clouds and the waves in the ocean were expressing their joy and happiness at a since  devotees (adiyar) of their master and lord the Perumal having attained moksha.

 In this pasuram Nammazhwar says that the sight of the thick clusters of clouds looked as if they were lined up to give poorna kumbha to this “adiyar” i.e servant  of God. “Poorna Kumbha “ is acermonial welcome given to an important person.  The lashing of the waves in the ocean were raising a noise as if they were clapping their hands.  People had tied arches made of mango leaves (thorna) and were bending their head and doing namaskaram to the soul of Nammazhwar on its journey to Vaikuntha.

              In this pasuram he says that the rishis and other mukthatmas in Vaikuntha showered flower petals on Nammazhwar’s soul saying that he was the servant of Perumal who had taken avatar as Thrivikrama.  They also offer dhoopa.  “Dhoopa” refers to the sprinkiling of sambirani and other scented powder on live coal held in receptacle. The smoke that emanated will be sweet smelling.  Some of the rishis were heard loudly asking the people residing in Vaikuntha to stand up.  They were trying to discipline and introduce some order amongst the residents of Vaikuntha who were apparently excitedly jostling and surjing forward to welcome the great new entrant i.e the atma of Nammazhwar.  Thje rishis were also seen pointing the pathway to Vaikuntha lest he should miss his way to Vaikuntha.

            In this pasuram the azhwar says that the devas had made arrangements for the stay of this muktatma at various places enroute to Vaikuntha as this muktatma was an” adiyar” of Madhava.  The Ekadasa Rudrars also paid their obesience to the soul of this great muktatma.  The sound of the drum beats sounded to welcome him were like the sound of waves of the ocean.

             In this pasuram the azhwar says that as the great soul of an “Adiyar” (Sincere devotee) of Madhava was ascending the devas stood in front of their residences and requested that great soul to step into their houses.  The vedic scholars were reciting the Vedas.  The kinnaras and Gandharvas were singing a song of welcome.

           In this pasuram the azhwar says homams (sacrificial prayers) were being offered in many places as a welcome offering.  The scented smoke arising out of that sacred fire had spread all over like a canopy.  People residing in Paramapada played on conches (shanku) and  kalangal ( a type of musical instrument) and other musical instruments.  Goddesses blessed this muktatma and asked him to rule over Paramapada.

           In this pasuram the azhwar says that throughout the route he was accompanied by pious women who blessed him and said that he was a sincere devotee (adiyar) of Thirukudanthai Perumal. The Maruthars (similar to devas) Astavasus were repeating the stothrams while accompanying this great soul.

             In this pasuram the Azhwar says that as the soul neared Paramapada, the leaders amongst the devas welcomed him. The soul crossed the high rampart walls and reached the gopura vassal i.e. temple tower entrance to Vaikuntha.

             At the entranceof  Vaikundtha, the nitya suris welcomed this great soul, Bhagavan’s servant ( adiyar) to their places of residence.  Even as they uttered words of welcome, the amarars, munivars(i.e. bhakti nishtars and kainkarya nishtars) said that only the sincere devotees of Perumal can ever enter Paramapada..

             In this pasuram, the azhwar says that his soul reached Paramapada, the vedic scholars offered Sripadha theertham to him.  The divine damsels welcomed him with kuda vilakku (lamps) in their hands.  Even as the soul entered thirumamaani mandapam, it could see the happy atmoshphere prevailing in that place wigth God surrounded by His sincere devotees.  The Almighty then invited this new entrant i.e the soul of muktatma viz. Nammazhwar to join that group and thus admitted him into paramapada. Such was the glorious journey of the muktatma to Vaikuntha.

            The first three paths are for ordinary, sinful mortals where the soul has to go through Narakanubhavam i.e. hell before attaining moksha, if at all it is blessed as to attain moksha.  Archiradhi gathi however describes the path to moksha exclusively reserved for mumukshus i.e great souls.  “Archiradi” means a praiseworthy, “gathi” means the path to paramapada.   Archiradhi gathi has four prakaranas i.e chapters.  This describes as stated earlier, the path taken by a muktatma i.e. a gnani, while attaining moksha.  More or less the description given here of the route to Vaikuntha compares with what Nammazhwar described in his Soozh visumbu adi.

          The archiradhi gathi is written in manipravala style i.e. a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil.  As stated earlier, thanks to my teacher I read through the book and what follows is an attempt to present in simple English what is written in that great rahasya.

          Lakshminayakan, the rahasya says is the master of the entire world.  The world consists of nitya vibhooti and leela vibhooti. Nitya vibhooti is Paramapada.  The rest of the world is leela vibhooti.  The people  living in the nitya vibhooti are also referred to as those residing in Bogha vibhooti that is to say, they are staying in Paramapada enjoying the company of Baghavan.  They are under the suzeranity of Baghavan who rules them seated under a white umbrella.  That is to say God is the sole monarch in Paramapada. He is the ultimate and only master.  The use of the words “ Ekatha pathram” i.e. a white umbrella is used to denote the usual insignia of a king. In other words, it refers to Eka Chatradhipatyam or sweta chatradhipatyam.


        Those who are staying in leela vibhooti are in direct contrast to the lucky residents of Paramapada.  Unlike the people in Paramapada those living in leela vibhooti are not accustomed to implict obedience of orders.  While those in Paramapada would bend their heads out of respect before the sincere devotees of Perumal, those in leela vibhooti well behave in the exact opposite manner and will show scant respect  for the pious devotees.
Instead each and everyone of them claim that they are the master.  Having made the tall claim that they are the masters, they think that all the things in the world belong to them.  While those in Paramapada worship only one God i.e. Narayana as the Supreme Lord, in sharp contrast those living in leela vibhooti sing the praises of any number of gods.  In short, people in Leela vibhooti suffer from “ahamkara” and “Mamakara” i.e from the illnesses of arrogance and attachment.


It is said thatg the behavious of the people in leela vibhoot will be as follows;

              Unlike the people in Paramapada these residents  will lay claim to fame or name.  They are not intelligent, Unlike those in Paramapada whose body has a shining glow of purity, those living in leela vibhooti have a sinful body.  While those in Paramapada will be praised by the devas as great souls and will always have the sole objective of doing kainkarya i.e. service to God, not so much to please themselves as to please Him, those in leela  vibhhoti  do not know what it is to render service to God.  Instead, they become the slaves of Manmadha and run behind  sensual pleasures.  They do not  realize that God is the one and only whole truth.  They do not bow down before the Perumal who holds the charka and the shanku in His hand.  Instead they follow the path dictated by their bodily pleasures.  Instead of saying that their sole objecrtive and purpose in life is to attain God, they find various methods to get separated from God and to go far away from God.  They escape the long reach of the benign helpful hands of Bhagavan.  They get lost in the evanescent pleasures of the world and go far away from the grace of the God.

             The above is the description of the people residing in the leela vibhooti as given by Sri Pillai Lokacharya in his book.  It is painful and amazing that  this description of the world given so long ago should hold good even today.

           Pilla Lokacharya says that God sees this sorry state of affairs of people living in leela vibhooti.  He does not throw up His hands and vive up hope.  He does not also leave them to their fate.  As He is associated with them ever since the origin of Creation, He thinks of ways and means of Correcting and salvaging these erring souls which have taken the wrong path.  He, who, is the friend, philosopher, guide and protector of the entire creation, is ever busy in trying to rescue these pitiable souls.  He makes them realize the ills of this world.   He with His abundant grace blesses these poor souls.  Ever since His kataksha rests on them, these poor souls start raving for salvation.  They learn the beauty of advesha (universal love). They adopt vairagya.  They are blessed with gnana and viveka. They seek a good acharya and with his help want to be inititated into doing kainkarya (service) to the Lord.  The futility of this life with its ills, hits them in the eye.  They realize that life in this world is comparable to the life of a helpless frog caught in the mouth of a snake.  They understand they are like a doe caught in a forest fire running hither and thither not knowing where safety lies.  The realize their fate is none better than that of a helpless ant caught between the two ends of a burning stick.  They are like a rudder less ship tossed about in the turbulent waters of the sea.  They realize they are torn  asunder by the five senses.

            Similar thoughts were expressed by Thirumangai azhwar in his Peria Thirumozhi (Pasuram 2022).  Thirumangai azhwar as is well known was a chieftain.  He had therefore enjoyed the pleasures of a king. In this pasuram, he is seeking moksha from God.  While addressing  God he cries out of the depths of his heart that he like a tree on the bank of a river which runs the risk of being washed away during heavy floods.   He says he  is like a person. Who rushed to the roof top to escape from the swirling flood waters only to find that he had to share that haven with a vicious snake!  He compares himself to a frightened ant caught on a piece of wood which is burning furiously at both ends.  He adds he is like a fox which is caught in a flood in the forest.  He says he is worried to distraction and seeks the help of God to rescue him from this world and confer moksha….

            Similar thoughts are expressed by Pillai Lokacharya while describing the thoughts of a reformed enlightened soul of leela vibhooti.  With God’s kataksha when enlighten ment dawns, the poor soul hates his surroundings.  His feeling of distaste to the life in this world is similar to the feeling of revulsion that Sita Devi had when in Ashoka vana she was surrounded by the despicable demonesses.  They realize the folly in pursuing good clothes and good food.  They are able to clearly understand that life is not permanent as they thought and that is only a maya and short lived ephemeral glory.  The realization makes them turn a new life.


          Having turned a new leaf, the individual devotee is impatient.  He is looking forward to the day when he will be emancipated and blessed with salvation.  He will be looking forward to the day when he could attain the divine lotus feet of the Perumal. Every day’s delay makes the hunger for attaining the Lord more sever.  As he is not able to see God, each day looks like thousand pralaya kalam.  The eye sight and the powers of speech get weakened.  He looks forward only to the day when he can give up his mortal coils.  Such is his impatience and eagerness to reach God.


           From the day the person changed his habits and started directing his thoughts towards God, God became ever more keen to rescue him.  Even as the devotee started showing scant respect to his body and wanted to shed the mortal coils and looks at God and says that he will not leave Him till such time as he attains Him, that is to say he reaches the stage of paramabhakti and wants to give up his body as he feels that the body is the cause for all the sins, Perumal tries to teach patience to him and impresses upon him that the same body which he hates can be made to adopt practices which will take him towards salvation sasranagathi from that day.  The devotee bends his head in veneration and devotion so as to reach the divine feet of the Lord.  The God takes it as His prime task to see that the devotee attains his objective.   All the time, God is thinking as to how He could help this devotee who is striving to attain salvation.  He realizes that with enlightenment the devotee is having a body which is as harmless as a snake from who the venom has been taken out.  Yet the devotee is mortally afraid that as long as he had got a body and there is a prakruti sambanda, it is possible that he may commit sins.  God realizes these fears of the devotee and tries to guide him in the proper path so as to
attain moksha.


       It is said that if the thirst of the devotee for attaining salvation occupies an area as big as the area covered by hoof of a cow, the desire and affection of God to see that this soul which is thirsting for salvation attains his objective, covers an area which is a big as the ocean!  Thus God is more keen to take this reformed soul to Paramapada.  In brief it means that if the individual devotee takes atleast the first small step towards attaining salvation, God extends the helping hand to enable the giant leap to Moksha.  The thirst of God for ensuring that this soul attain salvation is more than the thirst of the individual soul to attain moksha.  Even as the devotee wants to reach God, God also wants to help this reformed person and make him come to Paramapada.


            Hope this letter finds you in best of health and cheer. I am very proud of you dear! At this young age you are able to appreciate the difference between the body and the soul. I was wonderstruck when you said “I am able to stand away from my body and look at my own real self” This ‘swarupagnanam’ or ‘athmagnanam’ or ‘brahmavidhya’ cannot be achieved so easily. Years of studying Vedha Upanishad, practicing austerities and doing hard penance may not render this knowledge to a person. So, you are one without any doubt, embraced by Sri Krishna’s “Nirhethuka kripa”.

            Nirhethuka kripa actually means ‘the causeless mercy’. Emperuman Sriman Narayana chooses on His own will, to shower His causeless mercy on some jivathmas. You are most certainly one such!

            The question may arise in your mind, as to why and how He chooses the particular jivathma to shower His mercy. This procedure has been beautifully described in a text named “Sri Vasana Booshanam” rendered by the great Acharya – Pillai Lokacharya. He has rendered 18 granthas named ‘Ashtaathasa Rahasyangal’ (18-rahasyas) and Sri Vasana Booshanam is considered the best of them.

            Before going into the text, let me shortly explain to you the concept of “Thathvathrayam” (three thathvas or the three principles) explained in the Vishishtathvaitham. The three principles are: chith, achith and Eshwara.

            Eshwara is Sriman Narayana, the owner of the other two principles. He is the Supreme. He has no one above Him to dictate or direct Him. His intention is the only intention and it is final.
            Chith is the jivathma ,smaller than an atom, always existing, indestructible, full of knowledge and happiness, self illuminating and always subservient to Sriman Narayana.

            Achith is the material mode. It is visible to the naked eye, subject to changes, destructible, lacks knowledge and not self illuminating. This property of Sri MAhavishnu is known as “Prakruthi, Avidhya or Maya”. This is made up of 24 divisions: They are:

Gnanendriyas-5:    Eyes, nose, tongue, ears and skin.
Karmendriyas-5:    Speech, hand work, walking, organs of excretion and sex organs.
Thanmathras-5:     Vision, smell, taste, sound, and touch.
Pancha boothas-5: Space, air, fire, water and soil.
Mahath-1:             The principle from which gunas (rajas, thamas and sathva) arise.
Ahankaram-1:       The principle which makes the jivathma believe, that the body is the self.
Manas-1:              The principle which can bind the jivathma to the above said principles or                             liberate it from them.
Mula prakruthi-1:  The  material from which the various forms of bodies (trees, birds,                             animals, humans, devas, and asuras) are made up of.

            At the beginning of the Shrushti, Eshwara binds the jivathma as the 25-th principle with the body made up of 24 principles of achith and He Himself permeates (anupravesam) the jivathma and resides there as the 26th principle.          

            This unique combination has been explained by the Sarina-sareeri bhava. Sareeri is the one who wears anything. Sariram is the thing that is worn. Example: Anupama is the Sareeri and her dress is the Sariram.

            In Thathvathrayam
1. Eashwara, Sriman Narayana is the sareeri. Jivathma is His sariram.
2. Jivathma is the sareeri and the material body is his sariram.

            Eashwara wears the jivathma and jivathma wears the material body! (Hope I am not confusing you). The dress is useless without the person who wears it. Similarly, jivathma is useless without Eashwara, residing within himself an the material body is useless without the indwelling jivathmas.

            Having thus bound the jivathma in the material body, Paramathma, Sriman Narayana grants him the knowledge equal to His own, to do good or bad deeds. He also gives him the permission (anumathi thanam) to pursue the path he chooses. Here starts the trouble! Jivathma misunderstands the granted permission as total independence and starts to wander in all the paths shown by his five senses and drowns himself in good and bad deeds, which in turn lead to accumulation of ‘punya and papa‘. Punya and papa karma sow the seeds for repeated births and deaths. This endless cycle of birth, death and birth is known as the “Samsaram”.

            Sriman Narayana is unable to bear the sufferings undergone by the jivathmas. So He interferes at some point in the cycle of “samsaram”, to shower causeless mercy on the jivathma to break the vicious cycle of birth, death and birth. This particular birth amongst lacks and lacks of births taken by the Jivathma becomes the last one! At the end of this auspicious birth, the jivathma travels to SriVaikutham to serve Sriman Narayana even after. He never returns to the “samsaram”.

            The journey undertaken by the Paramathma along with the jivathma from the beginning to the retrieval of the jivathma from the “samsaram” has been explained by Pillai Lokacharyan in the 384th-suthram of Srivasanabooshanam. I will try to write the essence of this suthram.

            Sriman Narayana resides in Srivaikuntum which is three times as large as this universe. There, nothing but total happiness and joy exists. But the divine Father Sriman Narayana is not really happy, because out of His three sons, the Nithyas, Mukthas and Paththas, Nithyas (Garuda, Vishvaksena, and Anatha) are always with Him rendering uninterrupted service; Mukthas have been liberated from the shackles of Samsaram and enjoying the bliss of serving the Lord; but the youngest son Patha is still under going untold miseries in the Samsaram. We see in our everybody life that the father is not very much bothered about the children staying with him and enjoying the comforts of his home; but he is always thinking and worrying about the child which is staying away from him in a far off place; such is the state of mind of the Father of the Universe, Sriman Narayana.

            Now you could ask, ‘why at all He should bind the jivathma with the achith and send him away to the Samsaram? The reason is, He wishes to see them with beautiful bodies, head, hands and legs. He loves to see them worshipping, talk about Him and sing in His praise. He wants to mingle with them when He is born as Rama and Krishna. He wants to be amongst His devotees while in His Archavatharam – as Idols and pictures in temples and homes. He loves to accept whatever His beloved devotees offer Him with love – be it fruits, flowers, thulasi leaves or even pure water!’

            But the jivathma forgets all these and start wandering behind his senses, which show him the wrong path. Now you could ask the next question ‘why can’t the Paramathma appear before the jivathma now and then and correct whenever jivathma is going wrong? Why can’t He stop him from accumulating papa and punya?’ The answer is , as said before, the jivathma mistakes the permission (anumathi thanam) for total independence; so He does not want anybody questioning him about his deeds. If the Paramathma were to follow him in His visible form and starts guiding him, he would surely say,” Look here Sir! I know what to do. Please keep away from me; I swear by Shri Mahalakshmi, get away from here”. So the Paramathma makes Himself ‘katkilee’ (can never be seen by eyes). In this invisible form, He resides inside in every one of us as ‘Antharyami’.

            In this invisible form, He follows the jivathma through lacks and lacks of births be it a worm, a butterfly, elephant, man, woman, swargavasi or inmate of hell, just looking out for a chance to divert jivathmsa’s attention to His presence.

            This act of Paramathma is compared to that of a mother, who embraces her child, who is immersed in deep slumber. The child doesn’t even know that the mother is embracing it, due to her abundant care and love. But the mother, who is aware that she has to protect the child, embraces it, even while it is sleeping.

            Similarly, jivathma’s ignorance and lack of awareness about his relationship with the Paramathma, is comparable to deep sleep. Paramathma, who is concerned only about the welfare of the jivathma, is compared to the embracing mother. This ‘guna’ of the Paramathma is known as “Rakshakathvam”.

            Paramathma unforgotten His Rakshakathavam continues His journey with jivathma through all his births. During this journey, he starts collecting points for the ‘good deeds’ done by the jivathma to save him. When good deeds are not available, He starts looking for ‘bad deeds’ that could be considered good.

Good deeds. Done unknowingly by the jivathma:

1.      His devotees have traveled a long distance and are very thirsty. At this time a farmer          opens out the channels to irrigate his fields. The devotees wash their feet, hands and          faces and drink the cool water and feel very happy. Even though the farmer has let out          water unintentionally, he has unknowingly served Lord’s devotees, hence he gets points

2.      A rich person builds a huge mansion with large comfortable platform outside his house          for gambling playing cards and for chatting with his friends. If some devotees passing          by this mansion happen to sit on these platforms and rest for a while, the owner of the          house gets some points.

3.      While conversing with each other, people utter Paramathma’s name unknowingly.          Example: “Meet my friend Krishna from Srirangam”. The person unknowingly          pronouncing His name and the name of the town where He dwells gets the point.

If such good deeds are not directly available, He looks for ‘bad deeds’ that could be considered ‘good’.

1.      A farmer angry with the cow, which grazed his field, chases the cow to hit it. The cow          starts running round and round the temple. The farmer in shear anger follows the cow          also goes round and round the temple. Beating the cow is a bad deed; but going round          the temple is good! This is taken as a point in favor of the farmer.

2.      A young man eager to mingle with women follows them into the temple daily. Following          the women indeed is bad; but in doing so, he has gone into the temple. This is a good          point.

3.      Even if someone uses His name as an abuse, it is taken as a good point. For example,          Sisupala spent his entire life cursing Sri Krishna. In doing so he has uttered the Lord’s          name many times. This got Sisupula the Paramathma’s causeless mercy!

         Even when such points are also not available, the Paramathma sheds tears and feels “Oh! I have lost him”. But He doesn’t give up with this. He follows the jivathma to the next birth. While following like this He collects and gathers points in favor of jivathma. This is compared to the act of Goldsmith. People take gold to the goldsmith to check it’s purity. The goldsmith rubs it on a stone to estimate it’s quality. In this process minute particles of gold are left behind on this stone. The goldsmith collects them with the help of wax and stores them. He happily starts counting “Oh! Now I have one gram of gold; now two!” and so on.

         So does Paramathma! He collects points through lacks of birth of a jivathma and sometimes He multiplies them also to increase the number of points! When He satisfied, He chooses that particular birth to shower His causeless mercy on that particular jivathma.

         So dear Anu, you can imagine the extensive trouble the Paramathma takes to get us!! Once thus secured. He never lets down, till such time we leave this body and enter His Kingdom of Srivaikuntham. We should be experiencing great ecstasy because; He has chosen so many of us in one group to shower His Nirhethuka Kripa. We have nothing else to worry about, expect carry out His orders, and serve Him and His devotees.

Anu, please send your comments and opinion about this letter whenever you find time.

Alwar Acharyan Emperuman Jear Thiruvadigaley Saranam


Swathanthra Govindarajan Ramanujadhasyai

The Brahmana in Actual Life

From the foregoing description it should not be surmised that the brahmana was above the laws of the land and hence a law unto himself! His own pure conscience being the best judge, the brahmana often applied the rules to himself even more ruthlessly than he wished for the others. The story of Sankha and Likhita (vide Mahabharata, Santiparva, ch.23) is a case to the point.

Human nature being rather fragile, easily subject to the weaknesses of the flesh and lucre, not all the brahmanas could keep to the superhuman ideals expected of them. As they gradually slided down from the lofty ideals, they took to other means of living as were prescribed for the ksattriyas and vaisyas, like fighting, agriculture, trade and commerce. As long as they sincerely struggled to keep up the Vedic Studies and also lead a simple and austere life, the smrtis and dharmasastras (of later periods) permitted them to do so.

Doing further periods of decline of their brahmanahood, they advocated the theory of the superiority of a brahmana just by birth and started claiming the privileges as of old, as a matter of right.

            This had a twofold deleterious effect: They contibuted to their own spiritual damnation. They also generated unhealthy reactions from the other members of the society. Gradually they lost their privileges. They were forced to obey the general laws of the land as others.

            Since the brahmanas were the trendsetters for the society – it being universally conceded that they represented the Ideal Man – their forsaking the spiritual ideals of human excellence, had a catastrophic effect on the whole society. If today the Hindu society in general is sunk in the quagmire of corruption, nepotism and immorality, much of the blame should be apportioned to the brahmanas themselves.

Courtesy:- Swami Harshananda



The Agama literature includes the Silpa- Sastra, which is basic to iconography. Worship dealt with the Agama necessarily involves images which are worship-worthy.