SAMASHRAYANAM - Taking Shelter

                             An explanation of a fivefold Sacrament in Vaishnavam by KaraLapAkkam Anand

     Table of Contents:

     I. Introduction
         1. Neccessity of Spiritual Knowledge
         2. Approaching the AchArya of Sri Vaishnava Parampara
         3. What is Samashrayanam ?

     II. Pancha SamskAram
         1. thApa SamskAram
         2. Pundra SamskAram
         3. Nama SamskAram
         4. Mantra SamskAram
         5. YAgA SamskAram (worship of Salagram)

     III. Life After Samashrayanam

     I Introduction

     1. Neccessity of Spiritual Knowledge

     Any intelligent person will have queries like "Who am I?" ; "Who is God?" ; "What is my duty ?" ; "Why am I suffering through
     the process of birth , old age , disease and death ?" ; "What is death ?";"What is the relationship between myself and God ?";
     etc. These are highly important queries which leads one to know the actual realities.

     The fact is that ,everyone is individually a spiritual entity called jIvAtmA , who is eternally subservient to the Supreme Lord
     Sriman NArAyanA . Due to the karmA (good and bad activities) associated with the jIvAtmA , it takes varieties of bodies like
     that of a bacteria , plant , bird ,animal , human being etc.It is very very rare to get a human body.

     Once a jivAtmA gets the highly precious human body , he ('he' refers to jIvAtmA eventhough there is no gender associated) has
     to start knowing about the actual purpose of life . There may be so many varieties of knowledge floating around . But he has to
     pick up the 'sAram'(essence). He should choose that type of knowledge which will answer all such important queries as raised
     above. These fundamental queries are answered by the spiritual knowledge.

     Materialistic knowledge (as explained by modern science etc) finally doesn't help the jIvAtmA.For instance , a glorified Nobel
     Laureate may take the body of donkey in the next birth. What is then the Credit of being a Nobel Laureate in his human birth ?
     The purpose of human birth is to have the realisation of God ( Sriman NArAyanA). If this human body is used for other purposes
     ,then the activities of that person boils down to eating , sleeping and mating. Ofcourse , this is the way an animal also spends its

     As long as one identifies himself as a body made of flesh and not as a jIvAtmA , he leads a life of an animal and thereby wastes
     the most precious human body. The greatness of Spiritual Knowledge is that it makes one understand the truth that he is a
     jIvAtmA, subservient to Sriman NArAyanA and not the body housing him . It also gives the processes ( Bhakti YogA and
     Prapatti ) by which one can terminate the repeated cycles of birth and death in this material world , and reach the spiritual
     kingdom of Sriman NArAyanA known as "Vaikuntam", thereby attaining complete bliss.

     One has to start knowing about himself first ,rather than speculating about matter. Without knowing the answer for the question
     "Who Am I ?" , what is use of studying so many other things ? Without knowing the purpose of human life , what is the use of
     engaging in varieties of activities ? So an intelligent seeker of knowledge gets hold of the spiritual knowledge which is complete
     in itself and thus understands the Ultimate knowledge one needs to know.

     2. Approaching the AchAryA of Sri Vaishnava ParamparA

     Spiritual Knowledge is something which is far beyond the materialistic knowledge gained through a study of modern science . It
     is far beyond the reach of one's senses. One can't understand these things on his own. Even for learning materialistic things
     which are highly evident to our eyes (senses in general ) ,one has to go to school for years together.This process of learning
     from experienced persons goes on and on. Now , What to speak of Spiritual Knowledge , which deals with the relationship
     existing between the three realities namely
        1.IshwarA (Supreme Lord) : Sriman NArAyanA (NArAyanA who is ever united with Sri )
        2.ChetanAs ( entities with knowledge) : jivAtmAs
        3.achetanAs( entities without knowledge) : Matter , Time, SuddhaSattvA
     Obviously , one has to approach a person who has this type of knowledge. But so many pose themselves to know this. How to
     find a bonafide AchAryA ?

     The answer to this is really simple . The Supremely merciful Lord Sriman NArAyanA reveals the spiritual knowledge to His most
     ardent devotees.They in turn instruct these things to others. This is called as a "ParamparA" .Thus, NArAyanA Himself
     becomes the first AchAryA and the knowledge revealed in the paramparA is nothing but what NArAyanA Himself has revealed.
     This chain of tradition beginning from Sriman NArAyanA is also known as the "SatSampradAyam" .

     Sri Vaishnava SampradAyam has Supreme Lord NArAyanA as the first AchAryA , followed by His belowed consort 'Sri' (
     MahALakshmi ), Sri Vishvaksenar ( Commander in chief of Sri Vaikuntam ) , Saint ShatagopA (NammAzhvAr) , Sri NAthamuni ,
     Sri PundarIkAkshA ( UyyakkondAr ) , Sri RAmamishrA ( ManakkAl Nambi ) , Sri YAmunAchAryA , Sri Ghoshti PUrnA ( Peria
     Nambi ) , Sri Bhagavad RAmAnujA, ....SwAmi Desikan and so on down to our present AchAryAs.

     Sri Ahobila Mutt was founded by the Supreme Lord Lakshmi Nrusimhan Himself , by initiating a twenty year old genius and
     supremely devout brahmachAri named kidAmbi SrinivAsAchAryA of Melkotte . This AchAryA is very well known as Sri
     Adivan Shatagopa Yateendra MahAdesikan .. The current AchAryA of this illustrious Ahobila Mutt is Sri Lakshmi Nrusimha
     Divya pAduka Sevaka Srivan Shatagopa Sri NArAyana Yateendra MahAdesikan.

     The knowledge coming through the SriVaishnava SampradAyam (SatSampradAyam) is thus faultless. So, ONLY the AchAryA
     belonging to the SatSampradAyam is bonafide. Such an AchAryA is called as a "sadAchAryA" ( Ideal Preceptor). He will be
     well versed in the spiritual knowledge delineated by Sanskrit VedAs (including Upanishads ), Tamil VedAs (Divya Prabandham
     by AzhvArs) , Rahasya TrayA ,Brahma SutrAs , Smrithis , IthihAsAs ( RAmAyanam and MahAbhAratham), SAthvIka PurAnAs
     (like Vishnu purAnam , Srimad BhAgavatham ), PAncharAtrA , VaikhAnasa AgamA & other Vedic Literatures.

     The Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA , in His merciful avatAram as Sri KrishnA , instructs everyone to approach the
     sadAchAryA. In His GIta Upadesam , Sri KrishnA says "Learn the spiritual knowledge by prostrating , by questioning and by
     service to Wise men (sadAchAryAs) , who sees the truth .They (sadAchAryAs) will teach it to you " (4.34).

     Thus the person desirous of becoming linked to the Sri Vaishnava SampradAyam, approaches the SadAchAryA with great
     humility. One cannot attain a sadAchAryA easily . The reasons behind the acquisition of a sadAchAryA are :
         i.Sriman NArAyanA's benevolence .
        ii.Merit acquired accidentally.
        iii.Grace of Sriman NArAyanA .
        iv.No aversion towards Sriman NArAyanA.
        v.Listened to the anectodes of NArAyanA ( Stories about avatArams of NArAyanA like NrusimhA,RAmA and KrishnA
          etc) and eagerness to learn.
        vi.Conversed with devotees of NArAyanA.

     So, one should be highly fortunate to attain a sadAchAryA .AchAryA ( Henceforth used to refer sadAchAryA ) has every right
     to test that person ,even for many years, before he can be initiated by him. Thus, SamAshrayanam is a result of great mercy from
     the part of our AchAryAs.Only the highly fortunate souls gets this rarest oppurtunity of getting initiated ( SamAshrayanam )
     and thereby become a "Sri VaishnavA" .

     3. What is Samashrayanam ?

     SamAshrayanam means 'to approach (AchAryA) with all sincerity'. In a nut shell , during 'SamAshrayanam' ,the AchAryA
     initiates a person , irrespective of caste,creed or sex, as his sishyA. It is a commitment from the disciple that he or she will live as
     per the wishes of the AchAryA. Thus the person gets the link to the Sri Vaishnava paramparA. During SamAshrayanam ,Pancha
     SamskAram (five fold Purifications) is performed and he becomes a "Sri VaishnavA".

     The five samskArams and its main purposes are
        1.thApam : To emboss the impressions of heated Sankha and ChakrA on the arms ( near the shoulders ).
        2.pundram : To wear the dvAdasa OOrdhva pundram ( 12 Thiruman & Srichoornam )
        3.nAmam : To be christened by the AchAryA afresh as "RAmAnuja dAsan" (addition of 'dAsA' at the end of ones name)
          to indicate that one is forever a servant of the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA and BhagavAn RAmAnujA .
        4.manthram : To get the initiation of "Rahasya Traya MantrAs" - AshtAksharam , Dvayam and charama slokam .
        5.Ijyai : To learn the worship of Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA in proper form ( Bhagavad ThiruvArAdhanam) .

     II. Pancha SamskAram

     In general,the human body must undergo many samskArams.This is done basically to make the body more pure and thereby aid
     the jIvAtmA in the path of Spiritualism , which culminates in God- Realisation.The greatest stumbling block for one's
     advancement in Spiritualism is their body itself, which is a result of their previous karmAs.So , sAstrAs prescribe various varnA
     specific samskArams like JAtakarmA , NAmakaranA , Upanayanam etc.

     Pancha SamskAram is superior to all such samskArams .One is not a born "Sri VaishnavA". It is this "Pancha SamskAram" that
     makes him one. Millions and Millions of janmAs(births) were simply wasted without becoming a "Sri VaishnavA".It is this highly
     sacred "Pancha SamskAram" which gives the real "birth" to the jIvAtmA. Since all the previous births were simply spent in the
     darkness of ignorance , they don't have any value . The real meaning of life starts, only when one becomes a "Sri VaishnavA" .
     Since "Pancha SamskAram" marks the beginning of the true life one has to lead , it is a VERY VERY SPECIAL EVENT for the
     person undergoing it .

     "IyengAr" means 'Iyndu angam Udayavar'or'Iyndu kAryangaL Udayavar'. These five refers to the 'Pancha SamskAram'. It also
     means the fiva angAs of prapatti. We can in general say that this PanchaSamskAram gives one the name "IyengAr".

     1. thApa SamskAram

     This is the first samskAram . The AchAryA embosses the impressions of Conch (Shankam) and Discuss (Sudarshana chakram)
     on the left and right arms of the disciple, respectively .

     To give an analogy in the materialistic world , a sales representive wears a logo representing the organization for which he is
     working. Factually , we ( JIvAtmAs) are servants of the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA. So ,we also identify ourselves through
     the things which uniquely represent Him. NArAyanA holds the Conch(PAnchaJanyam) in His Left Hand and the Sudarshana
     Chakram in His right Hand.So ,we also bear the same way .Any highly fortunate jivAtmA ,who becomes a devotee of Lord
     Vishnu will be very happy about wearing Shankam and Chakram .

     The AchAryA with great devotion recites the mantrAs to invoke Sriman NArAyanA and His weapons Sudarshana Chakram &
     PAnchajanyam .The Supremely merciful NArAyAnA abides by it.The Lord and His weapons thus become present in the Agni
     (Fire ).Then, AchAryA prays specifically to the divine weapons to be eternally present with the disciples for whom Pancha
     SamskAram is being performed.

     The emblem of "Sudarshana ChakrA" is heated in the agni and is embossed on the right hand , by chanting a hymn, which
     translates into "Oh! Sudarshana MahAJwAlA (Highly resplendent), as lusturous as crores of Sun , please show me , an ignorant
     one, the path of Lord Vishnu" .

     Then , the emblem of "PAnchajanyam" is heated in the fire and is embossed on the left hand , by chanting a hymn , which
     translates into "Oh! PAnchajanyA! You are capable of driving away the sins of individuals through your sound. Please protect
     me , a sinner , from this samsArA ".

     In Sri Ahobila Mutt , the procedure is much simpler since the emblems of ShankA and chakrA were given by the most merciful
     Lord Sri Lakshmi Nrusimhan Himself , to Sri Adivan Shatagopa Yateendra MahAdesikan.

     This is a highly powerful samskAram . SudarshanAzhvAr's (ChakrA) mercy to the devotees of Sriman NArAyanA is highly
     glorifiable. No one can forget the wonderful way in which SudarsanAzhvAr chased DhurvAsa Muni for his BhAgavadha
     apachArA unto the great VaishnavA "Ambarish". That is the way in which Sri SudarsanAzhvAr extends his mercy to protect the
     devotees.He wards off the evil elements and thereby makes a nice pathway for the devotee to engage in Bhagavad Kainkaryam .

     Nowadayas , SudarsanAzhvAr is popular amongst the 'mooda bhakthAs' ie. those people who pray for the fulfillment of their
     cheap materialistic desires.Its really a pity that eventhough SudarsanAzhvAr is highly merciful to ward off all the evil obstacles
     that obstruct a person from developing pure bhakti or performing prapatti,these people keep pestering him regarding their
     materialistic desires.

     The divine conch 'PAnchajanyam' shatters all the evils through transcendental sound . The most important aspect is that we
     have to realize our ignorant way of leading the life. The whole life should be packed with ONLY devotional services (kainkaryAs)
     unto Sriman NArAyanA and His devotees.If we are even an inch shorter to it , it clearly implies that we are ignorant.But ,
     attaining the mood of kainkaryA is not a material phenomena.One must deeply depend on the mercy of AchAryAs and
     BhAgavathAs.This is the only way to get it.

     But before coming to this position , one has to know that doing kainkaryam to the Divya Dampati ( Sri and NArAyanA )is the
     ultimate goal of life . Thats why , we pray to SudarshanAzhvAr to show us the path of Vishnu . SudarshanAzhvAr will lead us to
     do prapatti and by becoming a prapanna , one will be ever ecstatic in performing various kainkaryAs .But , how will he help us if
     we don't want this from the depth of our hearts ?

     In addition to our unwillingness to completely surrender to the lotus feet of Sriman NArAyanA , there are so many nefarious
     traps in this world of samsArA. Since everyone is allured by this and indulge nicely in the materialistic activities , they pile up the
     sins.So, already being a sinner , who is attracted by all the petty materialistic things , we pray to 'PAnchajanyam' for his
     protection from 'SamsArA' (materialistic world).

     ThApa SamskAram is highly glorified by the sAstrAs in various places. Some of them are as follows :
        1.Brahmasooktha in the Atarva Mahopanishad says " ChakrA in the right shoulder and Sankha in the left shall be worn" .
        2.The Pushkala Samhita in Rig VedA says " Oh vishnu ! The learned wear the holy Sankha - Chakra to cross the ocean of
          samsArA ".
        3.Atarva vedA says " By adorning the armour of the Lord , we shall live happily in this world and reach the abode of the
          Lord ( conveying that others cannot reach Sri Vaikuntam ) "
        4.In the Vishnu Tattvam , the passage narrating about NarakalokA says " Wearing of Sankha and ChakrA informs the
          relationship with Vishnu . The sentries of YamA are afraid of them . The world will perish if they are belittled . The
          devotees of Vishnu are never seen in YamA's place due to the glory of Sriman NArAyanA " .
        5.BheeshmaparvA of MahAbhArathA says " All shall , as ordained in the PAncharAtrA SAstrA preached by Lord
          SankarshanA ( NArAyanA ) , wear the chakrA mark. They only are eligible to worship BhagavAn Vishnu ( Bhagavad
          ArAdhanam ) "
        6.VarAhapurAnam glorifies the persons wearing the hot seals of the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA on their arms
          (shoulders) . It says that these devotees ultimately reach Sri Vaikuntam .
        7.Garuda PurAnam says that only those who have been affixed with the Sankha and ChakrA are eligible to take part in the
          ceremony to forefathers.
     Atarva vedA is very clear in the regard that one should adorn the heated symbols of Sriman NArAyanA on ones body , and
     continues to say that only such people attain the Supreme Abode ( Sri Vaikuntam). Rig VedA is also categorical that the Sankha
     and chakrA be heated and adorned.

     Any intelligent person ,after getting so much help from the divine weapons of Sriman NArAyanA , should proceed further to
     become a true Sri VaishnavA in practise.

     Thus the AchAryA out of his dayA does this "thApA SamskArA" for the upliftment of the sishyA from the world of samsArA
     .Further, the disciple with Anjali MudrA should regularly chant the two hymns through which this samskAram has been
     performed and thereby derive the supreme protection from SudarsanAzhvAr and PAnchajanyam .

     2. Pundra SamskAram

     The achAryA makes the disciple aware of the places in the body where the 'upavyUha' forms of the Supreme Lord Sriman
     NArAyanA, are to be saluted.The sishya becomes fortunate enough to know the names of the Lord and pirAtti ,associated with
     each 'upavyUha' form of NArAyanA and also comes to know about the way in which he has to offer his salutations.

     From the para-vAsudevA ( Sri Vaikuntam) form ,NArAyanA emanates into the four vyuha forms namely VAsudevA ( Vyuha
     VAsudevA) , SaNkarshaNA , PradyumnA and AniruddhA . From each of these four vyuha forms , NArAyanA emanates into
     three sub-vyuha forms known as 'upavyuha'(vyuhAntarA) forms.

     VAsudevA -> KeSavA ,NArAyanA, MAdhavA SaNkarshaNA -> GovindA , Vishnu , MadhusUdhanA PradyumnA ->
     TrivikramA, VAmanA, SridharA AniruddhA -> HrusIkeSA, PadmanAbhA, DAmodarA

     There are some minor differences in these forms of Sriman NArAyanA.All these different forms of our merciful Lord are highly
     relished by different Yogis deeply meditating upon Sriman NArAyanA. For instance , let us take the case of sweets .Each one
     relishes a particular variety of sweet more than the other ones .Similarly ,the taste of the Yogis /BhakthAs also differs .Each one
     gets attracted to a particular feature of Sriman NArAyanA.

     Each 'upavyUha' form of Sriman NArAyanA is externally represented by the 'OOrdhva pundram'(Thiruman kaapu).The 'thiruman'
     represents the Lord and the 'Sri Choornum' represents PirAtti.The salutation to the Lord has to be done with folded hands (
     Anjali Mudra ) : "KeSavAya Namaha" prefixed by pranavA, "MAdhavAya Namaha" prefixed by pranavA etc. The salutation to
     the pirAtti is also done in a similar way : "Sriyai Namaha" , prefixed by pranavA , "AmrutodhbhavAyai Namaha" , prefixed by
     pranavA etc.

     The thiruman (white color) should be like the outline of NArAyanA's Lotus foot. Sri choornum is yellow in color since the
     thirumeni of pirAtti (divine body) is Golden in color. Since Red Color is for mangaLam (pirAtti) , some do wear red colored Sri
     Choornum. Any photograph of GodA pirAtti (AndAL) shall reveal the way in which the ladies has to wear thiruman on their
     foreheads . There is an unwritten convention among ladies to wear Red Sri Choornum if they are SumangalIs & Yellow Sri
     Choornum if they are widows.

     OOrdhva Pundram is vertical and faces upwards denoting that it helps one in reaching 'Sri Vaikuntam' , the spiritual abode of
     Sriman NArAyanA.These twelve OOrdhvapundrams are known as the 'DvAdasa OOrdhvapundram '.

     The location of the Thiruman kaapu , forms , names and colour of all the UpavyUha forms of NArAyanA are as follows :

             (part of Human Body)
                                  Forms of Lord
                                  for Meditation
                                                    Name & Colour
                                                       of Lord
                                                                       Name of PirAtti
                                  ChakrA in all
                                   Four Hands
              Lower Abdomen
                                 Conch (SankA) in
                                  all Four Hands
                                                      (Blue cloud)
                                   Mace in all
                                   Four Hands
                Front Neck
                                   Bow in all
                                   Four Hands
              Lower Abdomen
                                Ploughshares in all
                                   Four Hands
                                                    (Lotus Filament)
                                                                         Vishnu Patni
                Right Arm
                                Pounding Rod in all
                                   Four Hands
                                   Sword in al
                                   Four Hands
                                                     (Sparkling Fire)
              Lower Abdomen
                                Thunder Bolt in all
                                   Four Hands
                                                      (Rising Sun)
                                                                        Hari VallabhA
                 Left Arm
                                    Axe in all
                                   Four Hands
                                  Crow-bar in all
                                   Four Hands
                                                                        Deva DEvikA
               (Lower Spinal)
                                 All weapons in all
                                   Eight Hands
                                                     (Lustre of Sun)
               (Upper Spinal)
                                   Whip in all
                                   Four Hands

     First of all , all the 12 OOrdhvapundrams , starting from Lord KesavA should be adorned at appropriate places with proper
     salutations . After this , one might be left with some amount of thiruman . In accordance with the traditions of Sannidhi
     SampradAyam (Sri Ahobila Mutt) the remaining thiruman should be smeared on top of ones head while meditating on Lord
     VAsudevA through dvAdasAksharam . Then , Sri Choornum at all the appropriate places should be worn .The remaining Sri
     Choornum should be smeared on top of one's head while saluting pirAtti as "SarvAbhishta phala pradAyai Namaha " prefixed by
     pranavam .

     The upavyUha forms of NArAyanA also represent the twelve suns in the Universe corresponding to the twelve zodiacs of the
     universe . KeSavA is the presiding deity of month MArghazhi, NArAyanA is the presiding deity of month 'thai' and so on.They
     are the presiding deities of the twelve AdityAs.

     Thus , the sishyA gets the unique previlege to wear the Thiruman kAppu. So, only after SamAshrayanam should one wear the
     dvAdasa OOrdhva pundram .From then onwards, the sishyA (including ladies) WITHOUT FAIL should wear them. All the evils
     fly away on seeing the thiruman kAppu (kAppu => protection).

     Materialistic people apply varieties of powder & cream to their faces,hands etc .They keep on polishing this temporary body with
     their deep materialistic attachment towards it.They more over put many more ornaments over the lump of flesh(body) and
     foolishly think that they look beautiful. The very basic understanding is that one is a jIvAtmA ( soul) who is ever subservient to
     the Divya Dampati, and not the lump of matter housing it.

     The BEST ORNAMENT for the body is THIRUMAN KAAPU. This should be applied with great humility , thanking AchAryA
     and Sriman NArAyanA for their mercy . One should be really proud of the fact that he is a servant of NArAyanA .He should be
     highly enthusiastic to wear the thiruman kAApu for the reason that it reminds him of the servant - master relationship eternally
     existing between himself and the Supreme Master Sriman NArAyanA.

     Materialistic people take pride in identifying themselves as a 'fan' ( follower) of some other materialist ( cinema star , sports hero
     etc) , who is also a jIvA suffering in this whirlpool of samsArA . These so-called 'stars' of the material world are going to take
     bodies like donkey,cat etc in their future births .They are followed by thousand fools who are also going to take such bodies in
     the next births.Materialists are highly ignorant fools because, their level of understanding that someone is 'great' is highly limited.
     Once one becomes a fan of the greatest of all greats 'Sriman NArAyanA' , he CANNOT become a fan of any other person (except
     NArAyanAs staunch devotees).Even the greatness of demigods like BrahmA ,SivA & IndrA in comparison with the greatness of
     Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA is like the brightness of a small spark of light in front of the brightness of millions of suns.

     A Sri VaishnavA is thus never attracted to even any of the demigods ( what to speak of tiny materialists in earth). One who gets
     attracted to NArAyanAs divya mangala vigraha ; kalyAna gunAs ; avatAra lIlAs as in NrusimhA , RAmA and KrishnA avAtAra
     ; Holy Names etc can never turn back to anything short of it.

     It is furthermore a duty of a Sri VaishnavA to follow what the AchAryA has taught him during samAshrayanam.Some may feel
     that they are ignorant about these facts .But , they also see so many Sri VaishnavAs, wearing the thiruman kApu and thus
     should automatically enquire into it.But , there are some who even after knowing that they should wear the DvAdasa OOrdhva
     pundram daily , doesn't wear them out of shyness.Actually ,this is due to their ignorance. Any devotee of Sriman NArAyanA is
     never a cheap personality . He is the most glorifiable one. So , one should wear them with love and enthusiasm without any
     hesitation. Once one understands about the glories of Sriman NArAyanA and the eternal connection existing between himself
     and the Lord , he will automatically wear the dvAdasa OOrdhva pundram.

     One can talk a lot about VedAs, PurAnAs etc. If he doesn't put their teachings into practice, there is no use in learning
     them.NArAyanA gets pleased when one follows the sAstrAs .Moreover , if it is a upadesA from an AchAryA and is followed by
     the sishyA , NArAyanA gets pleased to a much greater extent.At the same time , if a sishyA doesn't follow the AchAryA,
     NArAyanA will never be pleased with him. So, if a Sri VaishnavA doesn't wear the OOrdhva pundrams , he is obviously not
     following the AchAryA and thereby becomes avaishnavA in practice . Moreover , sAstrAs says that a body without
     OOrdhvaPundram is equivalent to a Cemetery (burial place).

     In extreme circumstances ,when one is not able to wear the dvAdasa OOrdhvapundrams , salutations to Sriman NArAyanA at
     the twelve places , with Anjali MudrA , should atleast be performed without fail .

     The katA portion in YajurvedA says " One who prays to the Supreme Lord Vishnu by wearing the OOrdhvapundram and by
     accepting the hot chakrA on the shoulder , reaches the Supreme Lord Himself ". Such is the glory of pundram and thApa

     3. NAma SamskAram

     The AchAryA adds the name 'DAsA' at the end of the disciples name , to indicate that he is forever the servant of
     Lord Sriman NArAyanA and Bhagavad RAmAnujA. He becomes a 'RAmAnuja dAsan'.This is highly important.

     Eventhough Sri Vaishnavam is eternal , it was Bhagavad RAmAnujA who propagated it with intensity and fervour ,out of his
     great compassion for all the living entities. He was a supreme devotee of Sriman NArAyanA and an intellectual genius. He gave
     the true imports of Brahma SUtrAs and established the eternal truth vouchsafed in the Upanishads . He made everyone
     understand that NArAyanA , the consort of 'Sri' is the Supreme Lord , who has all the sentient beings and insentient things as
     His body (ie. NArAyanA is supporter & controller of everything and everything exists for His pleasure ).

     He gave the secret doctrine of 'prapatti' ( self -surrender ) to the whole world. PRAPATTI IS THE ONLY WAY IN THIS KALI
     YUGA BY WHICH ONE CAN REACH SRI VAIKUNTAM (MOKSHAM). Thus ,it was Bhagavad RAmAnujA who opened the
     gates of Sri Vaikuntam for anyone , irrespective of caste , creed or sex. The greatness of Bhagavad RAmAnujA cannot be
     expressed in mere words.

     Since he was the one who redeemed the whole suffering humanity by propagating the eternal truth and the ultimate good to
     everyone , Lord RanganAthA residing at SriRangam became so moved that , the Supreme Lord placed at the disposal of
     RAmAnujAchAryA , all His possessions - LIlAvibhUti ( Material World ) and Nitya-VibhUti (Spiritual World ie. Sri Vaikuntam ) -
     including Himself.In commemoration of that act , Lord RanganAthA conferred upon Bhagavad RAmAnujA the name of
     'Udayavar'( Possesor or Master ) ,to signify that he was thenceforth the Master of All. Thus , to enter the Spiritual Abode of
     Sriman NArAyanA , the link with ' Udayavar '( Sri RAmAnujA ) becomes a vital and important criterion.

     The sishyA should always identify himself through this 'dAsa ' nAmA . Whenever he speaks to other bhAgavathAs he should
     have the servitude attitude which in one way can be cultivated by remembering his 'dAsa ' nAmA. Ladies shall identify
     themselves by suffixing "nAmine RAmAnuja dAsi" to their name ( eg: RanganAyaki nAmine RAmAnuja dAsi ).

     4. Mantra SamskAram

     Eventhough all the five samskArams are highly important , Mantra SamskAram is the most important amongst
     them. The Rahasya traya ( 3 secrets) mantrAs are initiated to the sishyA .They are the AshtAksharam , Dvayam
     and the Charama slokam . These are the TOPMOST ESSENCE OF ALL THE KNOWLEDGE .They are highly
     potent and have deep philosophical meanings. These are secrets and are highly precious . These are to be learnt
     from the AchAryA only. The sishyAs at any cost CANNOT tell these mantrAs (AshtAksharam and dvayam) to
     others , who haven't had samAshrayanam. Only the AchAryA who is eligible to perform samAshrayanam to
     others is entitled to initiate the sishyAs with these mantrAs.

     One should be VERY VERY FORTUNATE to receive these mantrAs. The glories of these mantrAs have no bounds.

     The potency of the mantrAs work only when it is obtained from the AchAryA ( paramparA). This is because , without getting
     the link to the paramparA , which is started by Sriman NArAyanA ,one cannot obtain the benifits of the mantrA ; rather it may
     lead to negative results also.PAdma purAnA says that " sampradAya - vihInA ye mantrAs te niShphalA matAhA" ie. "Unless
     mantrAs are initiated (by the AchAryA) through the sampradAyA , it has no effect ". Anyone who wants to become the devotee
     of NArAyanA must get linked with the ParamparA . Sriman NArAyanA Himself has clearly laid out that the paramparA is the
     way through which one should approach Him .

     AshtAksharam (also known as Moola Mantra , Thiru Mantra) is extolled by great people like AzhwArs and Rishis . This mantra
     originated from Lord BadriNArAyanA of BadrinAth , chanted in Gayathri Chandas and is addressed to Sriman NArAyanA .
     Since this mantra is initiated by the Lord NArAyanA Himself , this is highly sacred.Infact NArAyanA initiated this
     AshtAksharam to Thirumangai AzhwAr also.This same AshtAksharam was initiated to pundarIkA and PrahlAdA by sage
     NAradA.Yogis practising Bhakti YogA , who were ever immersed in seeing the wonderful form of Sriman NArAyanA,used this
     secret AshtAkshara mantram as the key to their success of God-Realisation (ie. realising NArAyanA).

     This highly sacred mantra has pranavam(combination of A,U and M) in the beginning.Vedic Scriptures strictly restrict the usage
     of pranavam. Only purushAs (men) belonging to first three varnAs (BrAhmanA , KshatriyA & vaishyA) are allowed to recite it .
     This pranavam cannot be used according to ones whims and fancy. Whenever it is referred in general public, it has to be
     addressed as pranavam only.One doesn't have the right to say this pranavam as a combination of A,U and M ,in public ( unless it
     is a part of the recitation of VedAs for a particular ceremony etc). But, the same effect of AshtAksharam can be obtained by
     others by reciting 'um' instead of pranavam.

     Everyone can infact chant 'Namo NArAyanA' aloud in public ( without even undergoing Pancha SamskAram ) .Its a humble
     request to all the bhAgavathAs , that the chanting of 'Namo NArAyanA' be propagated allover the world . This is the real
     medicine for the suffering of all the living entities swirling in the whirlpool of SamsArA .Since this has no restriction , anyone can
     be made to chant this and the soul can be saved. Propagation of the Holy Names of NArAyanA ( esp."Namo NArAyanA" ) is
     the best service for the whole society , irrespective of caste , creed , sex etc. The Holy Name will then make all the necessary
     arrangements for the spiritual upliftment of others.

     AshtAkshara mantra japam (either in tAntric or VaidhikA form ) MUST be performed daily in accordance with one's adhikAram ,
     as prescribed in pAncharAtrA. Out of great respect to this most valuable treasure , one should chant AshtAkshara mantram ,
     only when he is pure in his body & mind. In Sannidhi SampradAyam (Sri Ahobila Mutt) AshtAkshara japam is performed during
     SandhyAvandanam ( before upasthAnam , same number of times as that of GAyatri japam) .

     AshtAkshara japam gives ALL BENIFITS that one can derive from different mantrAs. More importantly , it facilitates the
     bondage between the person performing the japam and Sriman NArAyanA for SaranAgati (Prapatti).

     Dvaya Mantram consists of two lines.It is eulogised as the 'Mantra RatnA' ( Gem/Jewel amongst all the MantrAs). This helps one
     to perform SaranAgati (Prapatti) unto Sriman NArAyanA. Once this mantrA is initiated by the AchAryA, it should be recited
     constantly within ourselves . It can be recited by the sishyA without bothering about time , place etc. Infact Dvayam should be
     dancing in the lips of SriVaishnavAs , all the time. It is infact an INSTRUCTION from BhagavAn RAMANUJA that Dvayam
     should be chanted for maximum time possible.

     Both AshtAksharam & Dvayam shall not be chanted in an audible manner . They have to be chanted within ourselves.

     Charama slokam is the famous 'Sarva DharmAn ....." sloka of Srimad Bhagavad GitA. It is a secret because of its invaluable
     hidden truth. Sriman NArAyanA during His Krishna AvatArA did the Gita UpadesA to all the people through ArjunA. Since
     Bhakti YogA was highly difficult even for ArjunA , KrishnA out of His Mercy asked him ( all the people) to perform 'Prapatti' , as
     a means of God-Realisation .

     Bhakti YogA is the CONSTANT meditation (without any break; as constant as the flow of an unbroken stream of oil from the
     hole in the bottom of a vessel filled with oil ) with unsurpassed love , on the essential nature (svarUpA) , qualities (kalyAna
     gunAs) and form (divya mangala vigrahA) of Sriman nArAyanA , by the aid of any one of the 32 vidyAs prescribed in the
     Upanishads.Such constant meditation is obviously difficult for the kali - yugA people. That is why the Supreme Lord Sriman
     NArAyanA in His Krishna avatArA pointed out the presence of another means of attaining salvation (prapatti) in the

     In many Vedic literatures & in works of Sri Vaishnava AchAryAs , the term "Bhakti" is usually associated with the term "Bhakti
     YogA"( ie. UpAsanAs prescribed in Upanishads ) . But , nowadays , the term "Bhakti" is commonly used by people for denoting
     any sort of devotion .A SriVaishnavA should certainly have Bhakti in the sense of reciting VedAs,Divya Prabandhams, Nama
     Sankeertanams, StotrAs etc. And all these things are to be carried out as a kainkaryam (service) to the Divya Dampati with the
     understanding that it is the ocean of dayA of Sriman NArAyanA that was responsible for him to be selected as an instrument in
     performing the kainkaryam . These services should be done for the pleasure of Sriman NArAyanA and the fruits of these
     services are to be submitted to Him . Also, one should do the duties (like SandhyA Vandanam , Bhagavad ArAdhanam etc)
     according to his varnA and AshramA , in the same spirit of kainkaryam (with sAthvIka thyAgam) to the Divya Dampati (Divine
     Couple) as mentioned above.

     Regular recital of these mantrAs are highly essential and a Sri VaishnavA should be immersed in these mantras and its meanings .

     5. Yaj~na (YAgA) SamskAram

     In this SamskAram , the AchAryA teaches about Bhagavad ArAdhanA ( Ijyai ). ArAdhanA is the way of
     worshipping Sriman NArAyanA. There are basically two forms of ArAdhanA : bahyA (External) and mAnasIkA

     This samskAram is initiated by the AchAryA through Sanskrit verses whose translation in English is as follows :

     " After Achamanam , wearing OOrdhvapundram , prostrating to the Lord (Sriman NArAyanA) , sit in a seat. After prAnAyAmam
     , perform japam with DhyAna slokAs ( AshtAksharam , etc). Later , worship the Lord Sriman NArAyanA residing in ones heart (
     mAnasIka ArAdhanA). Then with water from the vessel placed left (of Sriman nArAyanA) , sprinkle water on flowers and other
     materials for worship and also vessels for arghyam, pAdyam etc.From water in arghyA Vessel , sprinkle water on flowers etc (for
     worship) and also self "

     " After welcoming the Lord , offer arghyam , pAdyam ,Achamaniam & give ritualistic bath. Then offer cloth, Yaj~no Pavitha
     (sacred thread), Sandal paste , flower , incense , light , in order. Offer Achamanam , honey and again Achamanam. Later offer food
     comprising of pudding, rice , vegetables, water, pan-betel etc.After Prostration ,restoring status quo is the procedure of worship
     of Vishnu"

     Thus , the sishyA gets the eligibility to perform Bhagavad ArAdhanam ( Ijyai) to Sriman NArAyanA's archA avatAram as
     'SALagrAmA'. Since the food we take should only be the remnants of food offered to Sriman NArAyanA , SALagrAma
     ArAdhanA is very important for a Sri VaishnavA..

     Lord Sri KrishnA in His GIta Upadesam , says that " Good people eating the remains of yaj~nAs are released from all sins.Those
     sinners who cook food for their own sake eat only sin " (3.13)

     Food is the major source of input to the body. It drastically affects the proportions of sAtvikkA (goodness), rAjasA (passion)
     and tAmasA (ignorance) gunAs in the body.By eating the food which are devoid of sAtvikA nature , the person drifts away from
     spiritualism and his indulgence in materialistic affairs increases. Further , if the food is not offered to the Supreme Lord Sriman
     NArAyanA through Bhagavad ArAdhanA ,the person incurs lot of sins . Therefore ,One should perform the Bhagavad
     ArAdhana kainkaryam daily without fail .

     By performing SALagrAma ArAdhanam (Ijyai) , one gets cleansed from many impurities (seated in mind).The sacred water
     obtained after the ablution of SALagrAmA is highly potent. We have to remember that , the sacred water has had the direct
     contact with the thirumeni (divine body) of Sriman nArAyanA .Thus it makes one charged with sAtvika gunA and cultivates
     bhagavad bhakti very easily.

     Ofcourse there are many side - benifits like improvement in health, intelligence, memory , etc due to the intake of sacred water (
     'PerumAL theertham'). All these benifits are for aiding the cultivation of bhakti and shouldn't be seen in a materialistic
     perspective. The spiritual benifit obtained is enormous , and can only be felt by the devotee.

     A true devotee of Sriman NArAyanA however doesn't bother about the so called scientific explainations for the side-benifits
     incurred during any devotional kainkaryA . These explainations are only for those who doesn't believe in NArAyanA and
     sAstrAs .For instance , Sri AnnamAchAryA ( disciple of Sri Adivan Sadagopa Yateendra MahAdesikan) , out of his intense
     devotion to the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA , has sung 32000 nectarian songs on Lord SrInivAsA at TirumalA . rAgA ,
     tAlA are not planned . These things pour out spontaneously out of his great devotion. But , one may get attracted by the
     greatness of rAgA , tAlA , way of composition etc.But, the important aspect which should attract one ,is his bhakti towards
     NArAyanA . If this is left out , then there is no point in discussing other things. Eventhough the rAgA,the composition structure
     etc are amazing, they simply aid one to create the mood of bhakti involved in that song & it is in this context that they are to be
     eulogized. Similarly , we can talk about some petty, so called scientific explainations behind some devotional activities & the side
     - benifits obtained thereby .But , the spiritual reason behind it and spiritual benifit one obtains is beyond the comprehension of
     our senses.

     The archA form of NArAyanA is due to His Soulabhyam ( easy accesibility to one and all ) & Sowseelyam ( Friendship shown
     by an exalted one towards a lowly person without expecting anything in return ). His dayA (mercy) for all of us has no bounds.

     Garuda PurAnam says

             "SAlagrAma shilA yatra devo dwAravathIbhavaha
              vubhyoho sangamo yatra tatra mukthirna samshayaha "

     ie . Mukthi is assured without doubt in those places where SALagrAma DwArakA shilA coexist (ie.Bhagavad
     ThiruArAdhanam leads a devotee to perform prapatti and makes him lead a life of true prapannA ). The greatness
     of sALagrAmA is that, Sriman NArAyanA has Himself chosen ( svayam vyaktA) to incarnate in that form ie. it is
     not consecrated or installed by others.SALagrAmA can thus be straightaway worshipped without any special

     Eventhough the sALagrAma ArAdhanA is performed by the male members of the three varnAs , ladies too have important role
     in that kainkaryam. They can make nice arrangements in terms of preparing food, gathering & making fragrant flower garlands ,
     etc.Thus they too derive the same benifits out of the ArAdhanam. The entire family should assemble together for the
     'SAtrumurai', the concluding session of ArAdhanam .

     The important aspect in any kainkaryam is that, it is performed purely for the pleasure of Sriman NArAyanA . SAstrAs also
     clearly specify the type of kainkaryam one has to perform , according to ones varnA & AshramA. So , one has to just take up the
     kainkaryam assigned to him/her & perform that with devotion. This is the spirit behind the kainkaryam & thus one shouldn't
     entertain questions like "Why can't I do this ?" , "Why should they only do that ? " etc.

     mAnasIkA ArAdhanA has to be performed by all. This is similar to the bahyA ArAdhanA , but the whole ArAdhanA is done
     mentally .Pictures of Sriman NArAyanA in various Divya Desams , plays an important role here . Irrespective of the caste, place ,
     time or sex , one can perform this mAnasIka ArAdhanA .

     Sri Sukabrahma maharishi in his nectarian Srimad BhAgavatham says about the way in which great devotees worship
     NArAyanA residing within their hearts ( mAnasIka ArAdhanA ) :

     "These devotees meditate on NArAyanA with His four hands holding the Conch , ChakrA , GadhA (club) and Lotus. They fix
     His figure firmly in their mind. Having fixed His figure firmly , they worship Him with the courtesies ( as in Bahya ArAdhanA or
     pUjA ) including serving of food , mentally. They conclude the worship with MangalAsAsanam ( MangalArathi)".

     If one doesn't remember about the upadesam of the AchAryA as regarding the Ijyai and unfortunately couldn't meet the
     AchAryA , he can approach another Sri VaishnavA who is spiritually advanced and learn the practical way of doing the
     sALagrAma ArAdhanA.

     This samskAram is very important in many angles. thApa samskAram makes the sishyA eligible to start performing various
     kainkaryams to the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA . The pundra samskAram makes a person eligible to wear the dvAdasa
     OOrdhvapundram ,which is a must while performing kainkaryams like Bhagavad ArAdhanam. NAma samskAram makes the
     sishyA get the intimate relationship with Sriman NArAyanA & Bhagavad RAmAnujA, which is again important while performing
     kainkaryams. The mantrAs initiated during the mantra samskAram are used to please Sriman NArAyanA while performing
     kainkaryams like Bhagavad ArAdhanam. So , all the samskArams are ultimately aimed to make the sishyA perform the
     kainkaryams like Bhagavad ThiruvArAdhanam properly.

     While doing Bhagavad ThiruvArAdhanam to Sriman NArAyanA , one is also reminded about the Lord in various Divya Desams
     , the nectarian anubhavA of AzhvArs , mercy of our AchAryAs etc.All types of spiritual emotions can be nicely poured out
     during the Bhagavad ArAdhanam ,thereby bringing immense divine ecstacy.This makes one get rid of the sins that propel a
     person to engage in materialistic pleasures and makes him deeply attached to the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord Sriman

     3. Life After Samashrayanam

     SamAshrayanam marks a great turning point in the journey of jIvAtmA through the cycle of repeated birth and
     death. The Pancha SamskAram performed is invaluable. But , one has to keep up the samskAram by his regular
     devotional activities. The samskArams done loses its significance when one starts indulging in more materialistic
     activities , without caring about the Supreme Lord Sriman NArAyanA . The whole purpose of SamAshrayanam is
     to make a person ( jIvAtmA ) get involved in the sanAtana dharmA ( eternal dharmA) of performing Kainkaryam
     to Divya Dampati ( MahALakshmi & NArAyanA ). Surrender and love towards the Supreme Lord Sriman
     NArAyanA is the only purpose of human life . SamAshrayanam helps in a great way to make a person progress
     towards achieving this goal.

     The disciple should be highly thankful to the AchAryA for his great compassion. He should take deep interest in the
     SampradAyam & gain the true knowledge from kAlakshepams (Discourses) either under the lotus feet of his achAryA or under
     other SriVaishnava achAryAs his achAryA directs him to do so.He should atleast learn from cassettes , books etc of our
     AchAryAs. He should learn the recitation & meaning of the most nectarian , unparalleled divine songs of the Tamil VedA(Divya
     Prabandham) , which is embedded with soul stirring devotional pAsurams.He should carry out the duties ( like
     SandhyAvandanam , Bhagavad ArAdhanam etc ) without fail , according to the VarnA and AshramA . The taniyan of the
     AchAryA must neccessarily be recited daily , atleast after adorning the dvAdasa OOrdhvapundram.

     He should perform various services to the AchAryA and Sriman NArAyanA daily. Then, jn~AnA ( knowledge) , vairAgyA
     (detatchment from materialistic things ; sense control) and bhakti (devotion) is automatically gained by the devotee due to
     blessings of the AchAryA . By performing prapatti , the devotee should lead a life of prapannA ever immersed in various
     kainkaryams .Eventhough he is in the midst of the society , he can earn through dharmA as a service to Sriman NArAyanA . The
     money so earned should be spent for various devotional services and not for materialistic pleasures.

     Swami Desikan says in his NyAsa vimsati that ,

     "The disciple too must fulfil certain requisite qualifications. He should have
        1.A Good sense
        2.A friendly approach towards sAdhus.
        3.A good character.
        4.An earnest desire to understand the tenets of the sampradAyA.
        5.A loving mind to render service to the AchAryA
        6.No self-esteem or self conceit.
        7.Abject obedience to the AchAryA, this being a SUPREME DUTY.
        8.A tendency of waiting and readiness for the correct oppurtunity to get clarification of our doubts from AchAryA.
        9.A complete restraint over the external senses.
       10.A mental discipline
       11.A mind of surrendering to the AchAryA without any jealosy
       12.An implicit faith in what the SAstrAs say.
       13.The ability to pass all the tests the AchAryA admininsters.
       14.Supreme graditude to the AchAryA for the great help.
     Only such a disciple is eligible to be inducted into the philosophical training." Nyasa Vimsati(3).

     In his glorious 'pallAndu' to Sriman NArAyanA , PeriAzhvAr (Sri Vishnu chittar) glorifies samAshrayanam and instructs us the way one should lead the life after samAshrayanam : "Bearing (on our upper-arms) the imprint of Holy ChakrA ,caused by the special consecrated instrument with the red - hot wheel-emblem ,which is blazing more fiercely than fire , we have been at the
     service of Lord Sriman NArAyanA , generation after generation".

     Kindly follow the instructions of our dearmost AzhvArs and AchAryAs and lead a life of a true Sri VaishnavA by their divine

     Those who haven't undergone samAshrayanam , please take the earliest oppurtunity to get the blessings of the AchAryA
     corresponding to your sampradAyam and humbly request the AchAryA to perform Pancha SamskAram. Please do help others
     also ,to know about Pancha SamskAram and bring great fortune to their lives too.

                                          Namo NArAyanA

     Sri Vaishnava dAsAnu dAsan
     KaraLapAkkam KomAndUr ELayavalli AnanthapadmanAbha dAsan

                          All glories to the lotus feet of AzhvArs, EmperumAnAr & Desikan
                                      Sarvam Sri KrishnArpanamastu