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bhagavad dhyana sopanam
This is a Stotra patterned upon a Prabandham (Alvar's work in Tamil). It is in praise of Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. Tiruppaan Alvar was vouchsafed a vision of that great God, and he has sung about what he then saw, in ten verses. Vedanta Desika enjoys the same Tirumeni (Sacred Body) of the same Sleeping Beauty in the same manner, i.e., from the Feet to the Head; but the enjoyment here is mental dhyaanam or contemplation.
Sopaanam means steps -- the several stages from the Feet to the Head (slokas 2 to 9). Sloka 10 recapitulates those eight angas (parts of the body) and incidentally gives a new meaning to Ashtaanga-yogam. Sloka 11 refers to the utsava murti -- the Smiling Beauty standing in front of the Moola-Viraat reclining on the Adisesha (Serpent Couch). The last one of course is the phalasruti.
In all the twelve slokas of the Stotra, there is reference to the mind, chinta, maneeshaa and so on. Is not dhyaanam a mental process? That the dhyaanam (contemplation) has been fruitful is indicated by slokas 1 and 11. What was seen in Rangam in sloka 1 is said to reside in Desika's heart (11).
shriimaan.h veN^kaTa naathaaryaH kavitaarkika kesarii |
vedaantaa chaarya varyome sannidhattaaM sadaahR^idi ||
antar.h jyothiH kimapi yaminaam.h a~njanaM yogadhR^iShTeH
chintaa ratnaM sulabhamiha naH siddhi moxanuruupam.h.
diinaanaatha vyasana shamanaM daivataM daivataanaaM
divyaM chaxuH shruti pariShadaaM dR^ishyate ra~Nga madhye..1
velaatiita shruti parimalaM vedhasaaM mauli sevyaM
praadur.h bhutaM kanaka saritaH saikate haMsa juuShTe.
laxmii bhuumyoH kara sarasijair.h laalitaM ra~Nga bhartuH
paadaaM bhojaM pratiphalati me bhaavanaa diirghikaayaam.h..2
chitraa kaaraaM kaTaka ruchibhishchaaru vR^ittaanu puurvaaM
kaale duutya dR^itatara gatiM kaanti liilaa kalaachiim.h.
jaanu chchhaayaa dviguNa subhagaaM ra~Ngabhartur.h madaatmaa
ja~NghaaM dhR^iShTvaa janana padavii jaa~NghikatvaM jahaati..3
kaamaaraama sthira kadalikaa stambha saMbhaavaniiyaM
xaumaashliShTaM kimapi kamalaa bhuumi niilopadhaanam.h.
nya~nchat.h kaa~nchi kiraNa ruchiraM nirvishatyuuru yugmaM
laavaNyaugha dvayamiva matir.h maamikaa ra~Nga yuunaH..4
saMpriiNaati prati kalamasau maanasaM me sujaataa
gambhiiratvaat.h kvachana samaye guuDa nixipta vishvaa.
naaliikena sphurita rajasaa vedhaso nirmimaaNaa
ramyaavarta dhyuti sahacharii ra~Nganaathasya naabhiH..5
shriivatsena prathita vibhavaM shrii pada nyaasa dhanyaM
madhyaM baahvor maNivara ruchaa ra~njitaM ra~NgadhaamnaH.
saandrachchhaayaM taruNa tulasii chitrayaa vaijayantyaa
santaapaM me shamayati dhiyashchandrikodaara haaram.h..6
ekaM liilopahitamitaraM baahumaajaanu lambaM
praptaa ra~Nge shayiturakhila praarthanaa paarijaatam.h.
dhR^iptaa seyaM dhR^iDa niyamitaa rashmibhir.h bhuuShaNaanaaM
chintaahastin.h yanubhavati me chitramaalaana yantram.h..7
saabhipraaya smita vikasitaM chaaru bimbaadharoShThaM
duHkhaapaaya praNiyini jane duura dattaabhi mukhyam.h.
kaantaM vaktraM kanaka tilakaala~NkR^itaM ra~Nga bhartuH
svaante gaaDaM mama vilagati svaagatodaara netram.h..8
maalyairantaH sthira parimalai vallabhaa sparsha maanyaiH
kupyachcholii vachana kuTilaiH kuntalaiH shliShTa muule.
ratnaapiiDha dhyuti shabalite ra~NgabhartuH kiriiTe
raajanvatyaH sthitimadhigataa vR^ittayashchetaso me..9
paadaam.h bhojaM spR^ishati bhajate ra~Nga naathasya ja~Nghaam.h
uurudvandve vilagati shanair.h uurdhvam.h abhyeti naabhim.h.
vaxasyaaste valati bhujayor.h maamikeyaM maniiShaa
vaktraa bhikhyaaM pibati vahate vaasanaaM mauli bandhe..10
kaantodaarair.h ayamiha bhujaiH ka~NkaNa jyaa kiNaa~NkaiH
laxmii dhaamnaH pR^ithula parigair.h laxitaabhiiti hetiH.
agre ki~nchid.h bhujaga shayanaH svaatmanai vaatmanaH san.h
madhye ra~NgaM mama cha hR^idaye vartate saavarodhaH..11
ra~Ngaasthaane rasika mahite ra~nchitaa sheShachitte
vidvat.h sevaa vimala manasaa ve~NkaTeshena kluptam.h
akleshena praNihita dhiyaam.h aaruruxora vasthaaM
bhaktiM gaaDaaM dishatu bhagavad.h dhyaana sopaana metat.h..12
BHAGAVAD DHYANA SOPANAM
by Sri N. Krishnamachari
February 19, 1998
This is the third stotram being covered in this series. The intent of this writeup, as in the previous ones in this sequence, is to give a very broad view of the stotram with the desire that it will give the motivation to go deeper into the stotram as the next step.
Sri Desika sings the beauty of Lord Ranganatha in this stotram. The word sopAnam means steps, and is probably derived from sa and upAyana (going near, approaching). In this stotram, Sri Desika describes Lord Ranganatha's beauty part by part starting from His lotus feet all the way up to His kirItam (The Sacred Crown). He points out in the concluding sloka that one who is desirous of yoga or union with the Lord will find it easy to climb through the steps needed for this by acquiring the necessary bhakti by chanting this stotram. This is the reason for the title 'sopAnam'.
This stotram follows the example of Sri Tiruppan Alvar's composition amalanAdipirAn which is also a similar composition on Lord Ranganatha, except that Alvar's composition is in Tamil while Sri Desika's composition is in Sanskrit. Both stotrams start with the description of the Sacred Feet of Lord Ranganatha, and end with the praise of His eyes, face, kirItam, etc. It is Sri Vaishnava tradition that when we have the darsanam of the Lord in the temples, we start with viewing His feet first. When the arcaka-s do the karpUra-Arati, they start with the pAda-sevA, and then gradually give us the sevA all the way through the sevA of vaksha-sthala Mahalakshmi (Lakshmi residing on the Lord's chest), up to the sacred facial view and the kirItam of the Lord.
When I read Sri Rama Desikachariar Swami's interpretations on some of the sloka-s in this stotram, I was reminded of the Alvars who imagine themselves as a friend of the Lord, or as a mother, or as a consort, etc., when they express their experience (anubhavam) of Bhagavan in the form of their compositions. In composing the Bhagavad Dhyana Sopanam, Swami Desikan's mind seems to have been in the state of a young girl in deep love with Lord Ranganatha. Thus when he describes the Lord's hands in sloka 7, he describes his mind as a she-elephant which is enjoying a tight embrace by the Lord's beautifully decorated hands. In sloka 10, where he summarizes his anubhavam of the Lord, Sri Rama Desikachariar Swami interprets Swami Desikan's thoughts as that of a young girl who is in love with the Lord and who is having this great anubhavam of the Lord first by touching His delicate feet with both her hands, then gently touching His ankles with devotion, then having the contact (sparSam) of His Sacred vaksha-sthalam or chest, then enjoying the rapture of touching His beautiful face, and then losing herself in the beauty of His kirItam.
There are a total of 12 sloka-s in the stotram. The poet in Swami Desikan is evident throughout the stotra. In the sloka where he describes the Lord's ankles, he points out that by worshipping those ankles which helped the Lord "go" fast as a messenger to the Pandavas, we can get rid of the need to "go" in the cycle of birth and death. When
describing His nabhI-kamalam (lotus navel), Sri Desikan compares it to the deep vortex formed during the pralaya which can hide the whole Universe in it, and where the pollen dust from the lotus flowers have settled, leading to new lotus flowers bearing new brahma-s in each kalpa. It is also like the big vortex formed from the flooding beauty of the Lord. When he describes the Lord's vaksha-sthalam, he loses himself totally in Lord Ranganatha's beauty. This vaksha-sthalam is decorated by the beautiful white Srivatsam mole, blessed naturally by the sacred touch of the lotus feet of Mahalakshmi since She resides on His vaksha-sthala, and is shining at the same time red because of the kaustubha gem, green and other different colors because of the tulasi and the vaijayanti garlands, and white like the moon because of the white pearl necklace decorating His chest. His hands are like the parijata tree, only special because these can give moksha to those who have done prapatti (surrendered) to Him, whereas the parijata can give only things other than moksha. His face is turned on the side as if to welcome those who come to Him even from a distance, His smiling lips look like they are speaking to His devotees, and His eyes look like they are graciously welcoming those who are coming to Him. While describing His kirItam, Swami Desikan describes the beautiful locks of hair on which the kirItam rests. These locks of hair are "curled liked the twisted words from the angry women of the Chola country".
After the description of his anubhava of the Lord in detail, Swami Desikan summarizes his feelings of the darsanam of the moolavar and utsava-moorti in the penultimate two sloka-s. The last sloka is the phala-Sruti. This overall organization is similar to what we saw in the Dasavatara Stotram we visited last week. Just as we had one sloka in the Dasavatara stotram that summarized the ten incarnations, here we have two sloka-s that summarize the Lord's beauty. I am including these two "summary" sloka-s with their brief meanings.
pAdAmbhojam spRSati bhajate ranganAthasya janghAm
Uru-dvandve vilagatiSanair Urdhvam abhyeti nAbhim |
vakshasyAste valati bhujayor-mAmikeyam manIshA
vaktrAbhikhyAm pibati vahate vAsanAm mauLi-bandhe ||
My mind dwells on the sacred Lotus Feet of Lord Ranganatha, then moves to enjoy the darsana of His ankles, then rests well on the enjoyment of His majestic thighs, reaches His nabhI-kamalam, gets set on the vaksha-sthalam, revolves around His majestic hands, drinks the nectar of the darSanam of His beautiful face, and sets finally on His kirItam.
kAntodArair ayamiha bhujaiH kankaNajyA-kiNAnkaih
lakshmI-dhAmnaH pRthula-parighair lakshitAbhIti-hetiH |
agre kincit bhujaga-Sayanah svAtmanaivAtmanaH san
madhye rangam mama ca hRdaye vartate sAvarodhah ||
This great Lord Ranganatha who is resting on Adi-Sesha, and whose hands are beautiful, bestow all that is wished for by the devotees, has the imprint of the bangles as well as the mark of the bow-string left by bearing the bow in the process of carrying it for destroying His enemies, look like they are there to protect the vaksha-sthalam which is the dwelling place of Mahalakshmi, and carry the divine weapons that can drive away any and all fears that the devotees may be exposed to by their mere darsanam, is also presenting Himself in the form of His utsava-moorti along with His divine consorts under the Sriranga-vimaana in the heart of Srirangam as well in my heart.
In the last sloka, the phala-Sruti, the great acharya pleads to the Lord on our behalf to confer on us eternal and unswerving bhakti to help us "ascend" with ease to the level of what the great yogi-s accomplish only by intense effort.