Antaryāmitva in Śrī Deśika’s Stotras – A Brief Study (M K Srinivasan)
Among the five modes (prākāras) of Śrīman Nārāyan‹a, the Para and Vyūha forms are transcendental.
The Vibhava forms occur occasionally.
The Arca forms are found in temples and are easily accessible to all.
The Antaryāmin exists in every individual but generally remains unseen.
According to the Nārāyana Anuvāka (12)
the Antaryāmin Bhagavān resides in the tiny steady flame in the heart region.
Sage Yājñavalkya describes Him in the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad (III:7:3) as follows.
He Who resides in the earth, within the earth, but Whom the earth is not aware of, Whose body the earth remains, directs the earth from within, is the inner self (ātmā), the Controller (antaryāmin) and He is immortal (amrtah).
The sage makes the same statement indicating His presence in the remaining four elements, the five sense organs, sun, moon, stars, space, ether, light, darkness, individual soul, semen, mind, breath, all beings, etc.
This establishes the Brahman as the Indwelling Self in both sentient and non- sentient entities who controls and rules them from within.
Lord Krishna also says in the Bhagavad Gītā [X-20(a)]: “I am the Self residing in the hearts of all beings.”
The Antaryāmin can be perceived only through intense meditation.
The common people cannot visualise Him, much less express Him.
Only seers, mystics and highly evolved souls can see Him.
The Ālvārs have perceived Him and have made several references to the Antaryāmin in the Divyaprabandhas. A study of these references will be exhaustive.
Svāmi Deśika also, in many of his stotras, has touched upon the Antaryāmin aspect besides the Arcā form.
He has visualised Him in a rare and unusual manner.
A study of his rapturous references to the Antaryāmin form is a highly rewarding exercise.
In his Śaranāgati Dīpikā (21), Śrī Deśika outlines how seers are able to perceive the divine form of
the Lord within them through the practice of ashtānga yoga.
Through practising yama and niyama, good men purify and control their minds. By performing āsana and pranāyāma, they achieve pratyāhāra (turn their senses inward).
These enable them to focus their minds (dhāranﬁa) on the Lord’s form within. The next step is continuous and uninterrupted meditation on Him (dhyāna) which ultimately takes them to the state of beatific composure (samādhi).
Śrī Deśika refers to types of samādhi – savikalpa and nirvikalpa.
In the first state, the person gets to see on his mental screen the Image of the Lord of his choice which, when continuously practised, leads to the second where the Lord’s infinite svarūpa appears.
While the above-mentioned verse outlines the general process of ‘seeing’ the Antaryāmin form, Svāmi Deśika points out in verse 21 of Śrī Varadarāja Pañcāśat that the Lord Himself, out of His own volition, chooses to reside in the hearts of men.
Śrī Deśika wonders why the small aperture of the human heart is chosen by Him to reside, in preference to other grander areas such as the Milky Ocean, the bejewelled canopied hall in Śrīvaikuntha, etc. where He can dwell comfortably.
This is obviously because of His immense love and compassion for His devotees.
Later on, in the same hymn, in verse 33, Śrī Deśika brings out the benefit to human beings of the Lord’s residence in their hearts as Antaryāmin.
But for the grace and kindness of the Lord as the In-dweller (antaryāmin) which has impelled them to come closer, men would have ever remained aloof and distant from Him.
This is a fact.
Thus the Antaryāmin Bhagavān is a ‘cementing force’ between man and God, says Svāmi Deśika.
Another benefit is mentioned in verse 14 of the Hayagrīva Stotra.
Śrī Deśika says that he who enshrines Lord Hayagrīva (the royal Swan) in his mind (mental lake) will acquire mastery in all subjects, which will vie with one another to serve him.
Now, to become aware of the Antaryāmin and to perceive Him is a hard and arduous task. It is not given to everyone to do so.
But here is an assurance given by Śrī Deśika in Bhagavad-dhyāna Sopāna (verse 1) to those who cannot go through the strenuous process to visualise Him. He is available so near and for all to see.
Śrī Deśika says that the indwelling form of the Lord which can be seen only by seers is appearing in a visible concrete form at Śrīrangam.
Like a collyrium which, when applied to the eyes, enables a person to see hidden objects, like the gem cintāmanﬁi fulfilling hearts’ desires, like a divine eye among Vedic scriptures, Lord Ranganātha, the Supreme among celestials, has taken residence here to eradicate the sorrows and grant liberation to the helpless and forlorn beings.
Thus Śrī Deśika brings solace to the common people who are unable to perceive the Antaryāmi Bhagavān in them.
They can easily fill their minds and hearts with the sight of Lord Ranganātha and get the same beatific feeling.
A study of the Antaryāmin form in Śrī Deśika’s stotras will not be complete without a reference to some unique forms of the Lord that he perceives in his mind.
Though, strictly speaking, they do not conform to the Antaryāmin form, they are highly imaginative expressions indicative of Śrī Deśika’s devotion and desire to see Him in many forms.
First, in the Varadarāja Pañcāśat (verse 47) he prays to Lord Varadarāja as follows.
(O Varada! May You ever stay in my mind just as You get up at daybreak from Your Couch of Ādiśesa adorned by the imprint of Goddess Lakshmī’s golden bangles on Your neck caused by Her close embrace.)
What an unusual prayer!
Only a highly mystic person or a divinely inspired poet like Śrī Deśika can stretch his vision to such heights. With the richness of its imagery and high philosophical import, it is no wonder that this verse is recited as the awakening song (suprabhātam) at the Lord’s temple at Kāñcīpuram.
Another interesting and unusual form which Śrī Deśika envisages is found in the Vegāsetu Stotra (verse 4).
This hymn is on Lord Vegāsetu, who is better known as Lord Yathoktakāri or ‘One who acts as bidden’.
The former name Vegāsetu has arisen because He is supposed to have laid Himself across the river Vegavatī, the form taken by Goddess Sarasvatī who was separated from Brahma due to a misunderstanding, to flood the site where he wanted to perform an aśvamedha sacrifice.
Here is the verse in reference.
Śrī Deśika desires to keep in his mind the recumbent form of the Lord lying across the river in spate and Who thus enabled Brahmā’s sacrifice to proceed without let or hindrance.
Elsewhere, Śrī Deśika proclaims that this form is a bridge to cross the ocean of worldy existence and would put an end to the ‘comings and goings of people in this world’.
A third rare picturisation of the Lord in Śrī Deśika’s mind is given in verse 3 of the Paramārtha Stuti, a stotra in praise of Lord Vijayarāghava at Tirupputkuli (near Kāñcī). Let us enjoy the verse.
Śrī Deśika prays to the Lord to let his mind be filled with His beauteous form adorned with ornaments and weapons (astras) and which is seen by His Consorts with unblinking eyes.
It is seen here that Śrī Deśika envisions young Lord Rāma during the few moments when He was adorned by innumerable astras which He acquired on initiation from sage Viśvāmitra and before He gave them leave to go.
A prayer for a very unusual and rarely seen form indeed.
The most picturesque and enduring of these imagined forms of the Lord occurs in the Gopāla Vimśati (verse 14).
Śrī Deśika wonders which sculptor has engraved in his heart the picture of this Youth with a peacock feather on his head and Whose face is like a sun unto the lotuses of the lovelorn Gopis’ faces.
Śrī Deśika’s fondness for this rare form is seen in another verse (12) of the hymn where he prays that his mind should remember His playful form even on his last journey.
(May His iridiscent blue form like a cut sapphire, wearing a tiara of colourful peacock feathers framing the curly black tresses on His head and playing on a bejewelled flute lightly sitting on His lips appear as I prepare to leave this world.)
One can only bow down one’s head in utter reverence to Svāmi Deśika for his vivid portrayals of the indwelling Lord in such inimitable fashion.
It can perhaps be said that this is an exhibition of another कृष्ण तृष्णा तत्तव (kRRiShNa tRRiShNA tattava), no less significant than that of Śrī Nammālvār who was utterly devoted to Lord Krishna.
This humble piece is offered at the feet of Bhāgavatas who are appreciative readers of Śrī
Ranganātha Pādukā. In fact, the subject merits a more elaborate treatment at the hands of scholars.
Śrīmate Nigamāta Mahādeśikāya Namah