Vyakyanam by Shri D. Ramaswamy Iyengar
This noteworthy sentiment voiced about Vedanta Desika by his illustrious son and desciple, Kumara Varadacharya, is as true today in the eighth century after his advent, as it was, when it was given expression to six centuries ago. Vedanta Desika lives and will ever continue to live in and through his innumerable works, each a fine and finished work of religious art, which speak to us, and reproduces his voice and make us feel as if he is now here with us in Vibhava form.
The work that is now being published is Nyaasa Tilaka. Nyasa means bharanyasa ( or the laying down of the burden ) and Tilaka means a jewel of ornament which beautifies prominently like a facial pundra which gives life and lustre to the person wearing it. This work is therefore a precious and charming treatise on Nyasa . The name " Nyasa Tilaka" has been given to this stotra by Desika himself, as can be seenfrom the last sloka where he speaks of spurad - varnam - vaktra -Nyasatilakam, with an obvious pun on words.
Desika has been referred by his followers and admirers as Prapadana - kakaa - janma - jaladhi and தஞ்சப் பரகதியைத் தந்தருள்வோன் because his outstanding contribution to world-thought in general, and to Vishshtadvaita Vedanta in particular, is the postulation of the Prapatthi yoga as an immediate and certain means to the attainment of Moksha or salvation. This he has done in and by his numerous works in four lanuages, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil, and Manipravala, couched variously as Sastraic treatises , kavyas, Drama, Dance-drama (Opera or Ballet ) Stotras and Prabhandhas In one sense all his works can well be said to expound or deals with Nyasa. But there are certain special treatises on Nyasa like the present one, the others being Nikshepa Raksha, Nyasa Dasaka , Nyasa Vimsati, Saranagathi Deepika, Adaikalappatthu (Tamil) and Abhaya-pradana- sara (Manipravala) From the fact that the present stotra alone is named as Nyasa Tilaka, it is upto us to understand its importance and appreciate its superior spiritual and mystic value as awork on Nyasa.
This work is reckoned as a stotra, but with this great and prolific writer, the division into Stotra, Kavya, metaphysical works etc., is very thin, if not arbitrary, There is no political work of his which is not high class philosophy There is no philosophical work of his which is not also excellent poetry. If poetry is the warp, philosophy is the woof; and if philosophy is the warp, poetry is the woof fabrics that are Desika's works, (quot;தம் -ப்ரோதம்) We can see this truth well illustrated in this Nyasa Tilaka, as indeed in every work of his.
This work consists of 32 slokas in various metres, from Anushtup (of 8 syllables to a quarter ) to Shragdhara (of 21 syllables to a quarter ) The figure 32 appears to be a great favourite with this Acharya, probably because it is the number of Upanishadic Brahma-Vidhyas. His Paduka Sahasram has 32 paddhathis and his Rahasyatraya Sara 32 Adhikaras. The Adhikara Sangraha Prabandha (Tamil) culled from the latter makes pointed reference to முப்பத்திரண்டிவை முத்தமிழ் சேர்ந்த மொழித்திருவே. The number of Rahasya Granthas (esoteric treatises) of his is 32. Even while referring to jumping across a well, he refers a well with a diameter of 32 feet. No wonder therefore that this Nyasa Tilaka the chief among the treatises on Nyasa Vidya, contains 32 slokas.
The Deity in whose praise this stotra is conceived, is Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam , even as Lord Varadaraja of Kanchi is in respect of Nyasa-Dasaka, Nyasa-Vimsati and Adaikkalappatthu, and Lord Deepaprakasa in respect of Saranagathi Deepika. As is well known, Acharya Ramanuja chose Lord Ranganatha as the Saranya on refuge, as can be seen from his Saranagati Gadyam. A close study of Nyasa Tilaka will show to us that Desika has in mind while composing this work the said Gadyam of Ramanuja. The Stotra, after the first two verses which are invocatory, begins, with Sree Prapatthi (slokas 3 and 4) even as Saranagathi Gadyam does. Sloka 22 makes pointed reference to a passage int the Saranagati Gadyam wherein Lord Ranganatha refers to His sayings as Rama and Krishna addressed to Vibishana and Arjuna, in order to convince Ramanuja that his Saranagati has borne fruit. From these and from references to Lord Ranganatha in almost every sloka, we can conclude that this Stotra is based on that Gadya, which it develops and elucidates, in addition to embellishing it by Padya (Poetry)
A study of Nyasa Tilakam is essential to dispel several doubts that are sure to assail us regarding the efficiency of Saranagati. I have heard several learned scholars exclaim : "What ! Prapatthi which is to be performed only once is going to do away all my sins committed ; during myriads of years . And it is going to secure for me quickly a place in Paramapadam which is beyond the reach of great gods and greatest saints ! I can't believe it ". This mentality is pictured to us in sloka 19, which refers to it as " the obstacle to Mahaviswasa" or great faith in the efficiency of Prapatthi as an unfailing and infallible means for obtaining release from Samsara. Such doubts will vanish, it is pointed out, only if one rightly comprehends the true nature of the Lord as Sriman Narayana.
This Mahaviswasa is pointed out in sloka 20 as attainable only by Acharya-prasada (grace of the guru) And sloka 21 points out how what we may not be able to achieve by ourselves we can easily obtain by the grace of an Acharya. Three trite illustrations given in that sloka are noteworthy and significant. Like the blind man led by the man with good vision, like the same man who is enabled to cross a stream and reach the other shore by the ferry -- man, and like the child of a King's valet which enjoys the best pleasures of life, we too can obtain redemption by the Acharya's grace, though we lack gnana or Sakti or both.
Sloka 14 is another wholesome tonic to wavering prapanna. Posing the problem thus, " because of the prapatthi that I have gone through , I am promised complete freedom from grief after this life ; but here I am undergoing unspeakable misery in this life. How about this? " Desika solves it by pointing out that even the suffering we undergo here in the post-prapatthi period is calculated for our ultimate spiritual welfare as otherwise we are sure to forget Him who has taken upon Himself the huge burden of our sins , by wallowing in worldly pleasures, and ignore Him completely . To forget Him is the greatest of sins (மறப்பெல்லாம் ஏதமே --as Nammalwar would have it. ) Even when the Lord is by our side willing to satisfy our every want, the undying world-mindedness in us works havocs with us. (sloka23) This sloka finds a place inthe 10th act of Sankalpa Suryodaya, and the setting in which it is placed there will show to us the devastating power of unquenchable human desires.
Towards the end, this stotra contains more than the usual measure of personal touches and introspective exclaims. The poet addresses his own fickle and vacillating mind in sloka 24. and in sloka 26 advises his speech, body and mind , respectively, after informing them that Venkatesa Kavi is now a prapanna at the lovely feet of Ranganatha, and asks them not to play their old pranks with him any longer. The stotra winds up with aprayer to be made the recipient of the highly coveted title of "Servant of the Lord and His Sri"
In its metaphysical aspect Nyasa Tilaka like Saranagati Deepika is a poetic rendering of the salient features of Saranagati as laid down in the Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, with this difference, that while Saranagati Deepika is an epitome of Rahasyatrayasara , Nyasa Tilaka concerns itself more with the mentality that should prevail in the post-prapatthi period. The importance of Nyasa Tilakam to the prapanna cannot be over-estimated. It is probably for this reason that Swamy Nainaracharya has furnished a very helpful, though brief and crisp, commentary on this stotra, the only stotra, to my knowledge, for which that illustrious Son has furnished a commentary, among all the stotras of his illustrious Father.