Vedanta Desika's magnum opus is his treatise in Manipravala on the three basic tenets of Visishtadvaita — Ashtaksharam, Dvayam and Charama slokam — wherein he elucidates the import of Pranava and expounds the doctrine of Prapatti (surrender), with all its nuances, procedures, and injunctions. In Adhikara Sangraham, he brings out these essentials of the Vedanta in 56 elegant, remarkably simple Tamil verses.


Desika begins with paying tributes and obeisance to the Azhvars and the long line of preceptors. Then he goes on to explain the significance of the three mantras;the three ‘Reals' — namely, the sentient, the insentient, and Isvara; the distinctive doctrine of body-soul relationship between the sentient and the insentient, on the one hand, and Isvara, on the other; God as the object of attainment; the nature of the individual self; the means of attaining the goal (God); the arduous nature of the Bhakti route to salvation compared with that of surrender, et al.

Desika clarifies the possible doubts about the doctrine of Prapatti, which has the sanction of the Upanishads, Pancharatra Samhitas, the Bhagavad Gita, and the utterances of the Azhvars, notably, Nammazhvar. After delineating the duties of the preceptor and the disciple, he concludes the work with a homage to the presiding deities of Srirangam, Tirumalai, and Kanchi.

Ironically, the fact that the path of absolute surrender, which guarantees salvation at the end of the supplicant's life — or even earlier if he so desired — is less rigorous than the Bhakti Yoga seems to go against it; for that very reason it appears to fail to carry conviction with the cynics. Desika points to the mental attunement — marked by a spirit of total and self-denying dedication — that one should acquire before he could qualify for doing Prapatti. Unflinching readiness to submit to the will of the Lord; abjuring anything that will cause displeasure to Him; unwavering faith that God will never fail him; realisation of his own helplessness; and appealing for His protection — these are the essential traits of a supplicant. For one to train his mind on these lines and be eligible for performing the highly nuanced Prapatti is of course not that easy.

Vedanta Desikan, who has edited this work, deserves to be commended for having retrieved five old commentaries — a boon for researchers — and also for having provided lucid explanatory notes for the benefit of the beginner.

ADHIKARA SANGRAHAM OF DESIKA (Tamil): Edited by V.N. Vedanta Desikan; Sri Poundarikapuram Swami Ashramam, 43A/13, Ashramam Salai, Srirangam-620006. Rs.150.

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