Among Vedanta Desika’s more than 100 works, three are dedicated to Sri Rama. Of those, two – Paramartha-stuti and Mahaveera-vaibhavam – are hymns in Sanskrit and the third – Abhayapradanasaram – is a dissertation in Manipravala on the doctrine of surrender, the main thrust of the Ramayana. This work belongs to the Amritasvadini group under the generic heading ‘Chillarai Rahasyas’ which cover the Visishtadvaitaphilosophy.
Though couched in simple language like the other works of this group, the Abhayapradanasaram needs to be explained, either orally or in writing, for a proper understanding. Sowmyanarayanacharya has fulfilled this need by writing an exhaustive commentary on it.
Consisting of 10 sections, the treatise concentrates on two out of several interpretations of the Ramayana, viz. identification of Rama with the Supreme Being and the all-round efficacy of surrender to achieve one’s goals. After briefly touching upon the genesis of the Ramayana in the first section and establishing the supremacy of Rama in the second, Vedanta Desika devotes the remaining eight sections in providing a detailed analysis of the philosophy of surrender as brought out in the Svetasvatara and other Upanishads. Successful types of surrender for different objectives are brought out seriatim in the third and fourth sections with special emphasis on Vibhishana’s surrender, which is analysed in the fourth section. In fact, this surrender is held out as ideal, clearly composing of the five ancillaries thereof, viz. determined will to perform acts conducive to god, refraining from contrary acts, feeling of utter helplessness, unshakeable faith in god and seeking protection.
Sections five to nine, which form the kingpin of this work, deal exhaustively with the qualities essential for a protector, viz. competence and compassion, besides laying down justification for acceptance of surrender even if the person seeking refuge has several demerits. The vindication of such a stand taken by Rama is explained through a discussion between him and the vanaras when the latter, with the exception of Hanuman, vociferously argued against accepting Vibhishana into their fold, since he was the brother of Sita’s abductor Ravana, and would have come with evil intentions. In these four sections, Desika has brought out the subtle meanings of Rama’s arguments and His famous utterance that “he would bestow fearlessness on anyone who comes to him saying ‘I am yours’; it is my vow” which is referred to as the Rama-charamasloka. The work concludes with the declaration of Vibhishana’s mental purity and Rama’s exemplary grace even towards his enemies.
Sowmyanarayanacharya, who comes from a well-known family of scholars and is an exponent of Desika’s works, has done full justice to the text. His translation, with apt analogies and pertinent quotations, is lucid and appeals to the modern mind. A special annexure containing 24 verses from the Ramayana, relevant to the doctrine of surrender, and an index of references, add to the value of the book.
The excellent foreword by Mahamhopadhyaya Srivatsankacharya is an additional bonus to the reader.
Tamil commentary by Nelvoy Sowmyanarayanacharya (Vainavan Kural, L42L Bharatidasan Colony, K.K. Nagar, Chennai 600 078. Price Rs.200 )