Prapatti (Sharnagati) Part 2

We have practicle experiances that even a mean boss who is hard-taskmaster and gives salaray to his employees only after hard work; he too gives a begger some alms when he fall on his legs. Thus if we too, fall on the feet of Narayana, who himself is the ocean of compassion, saying that I have no other means, no any other way; now you be my means (upaay) and way; he would definitly provide himself to us

Aparadha sahasra bhajanam patitam bhimabavarnavavodare |
Agatim saranagatim hare krupaya kevalamatmasat kuru || (Strot Ratna. 48)

Oh my saviour who eliminates the sorrows! I am the abode of countless faults, am fallen in the terrible ocean of samsAra (material realm), have no other refuge and declare to be surrendered unto you; by your mercy only, you should accept me as yours.


For reading Part 1 of the discussion:

Prapatti (Sharnagati) Part 1

Sadhan Bhakti-Yoga vs Prapatti

Those practicing Sadhan Bhakti-Yoga are under constant stress that whether they would be able to achieve Bhakti or Moksh or not. Am I capable of reaching the destination or not. Have I cleared my Karmas or not?

However, those who choose the path of Sarnagati, are in peace and confidence that Bhagwaan would definitely shower his causeless mercy. They have already accepted that they are completely useless and helpless. So, they don’t perform any action as a means to get the destination.

Krishna, throughout the Bhagwat Gita, preached Karm-Yoga, Gyaan-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga. But, Arjun found himself unable to practice them. In Bhakti-Yoga, constant remembrance is required just like oil tipping from a larger vessel to the smaller vessel.

Satatam kirtayanto maam..

सततं कीर्तयन्तो मां यतन्तश्च दृढव्रताः। नमस्यन्तश्च मां भक्त्या नित्ययुक्ता उपासते।।BG 9.14।।

Further, last minute remembrance is essential.

anta-kāle ca mām eva smaran muktvā kalevaram 

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्। यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः।।8.5।।

However, for a Sharnagat, last minute remembrance is not required. Bhagwaan takes care of him, as it’s his responsility now to transfer the Sharnaagat just like a mother cat transfers her baby.

Varadraaj Perumal himself assured Bhagwat Ramanuj. Further, Varah Bhagwaan in his Varaah-Charam shloka, assures the prapannas:

Varaah Charam Shloka

Sthite manasi susvasthe shareere sati yo narahaa lDhaatu-saamye sthite smartaa Vishwaroopam ca Maamajam llTatas-tam mriyamaaNam tu kaashtta paashaaNa sannibham lAham smaraami madbhaktam nayaami paramaam gatim ll


If anyone thinks of Me, when the mind is sound (sthite manasi),with the body in good health (suswasthe shareere), and with allmental and physical faculties working perfectly and intact (dhaatusaamye sthite) – thinks that I am indeed the very cause of thisuniverse (or the form of this universe, vishwaroopam), that I amwithout birth (ajam) – then I assure (You, Devi) that I will remember this devotee of Mine when he/she is on his/her death bed, lying (helplessly) like a stone or a log of wood, and  personally take him/her to the Supreme Abode.


Pic: Bhu-Varaah Swami

Lord Rama too  assures that if an aatman surrenders just for ONCE, he takes care of him

Ram Charam shlok:

Sakrud eva prapannaaya tavaasmeeti ca yaacate l

Abhayam sarva bhootebhyo dadaamyetad vratam ma-ma ll

To all those beings that fully seek My shelter and plead for Mymercy, and say I am yours, I shall certainly offer My protection toall of them. This is My vow.


Lord Krishna too assures at the end of Bhagwat Gita (18.66) that it’s his responsibility to transfer the devotee to the Supreme Abode.

Krishna Charam shlok:

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maam ekam sharaNam vraja l

Aham tvaam sarva paapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucahaa l

Relinishing all Dharmas means the complete relinishment of the sense of agency, possessiveness, fruits etc., in the practising of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti Yogas in the way instructed, and the realising of Me as the agent, object of worship, the means and the end.  If you practise such abandonment of the sense of agency and fruits, I will release you from all ‘sins’ – i.e., I will release you from all evil incompatible with the attainment of Myself, consisting of innumerable acts of the nature of doing what ought not to be done and not doing what ought to be done. These piled up from beginningless times from the obstruction in the way. Grieve not, you should not despair; for I shall release you from all these obstructions.


Who can be a Sharnagat?

One who possess these two qualities can be a Sharnagat:

1) Akinchanyam, Ananya-gatitvam: Thinking oneself to be helpless, not able to reach Bhagwaan on his own and nor anyone other than Bhagwaan can help him/her.

Thinking that if I was able to protect myself or reach the supreme abode on myself, I could have done it thousand births earlier. So, I am helpless.

It’s difficult to accept our defeat first of all that I can’t protect myself. A Sharnagat must shed these 3 things:

  • Ahankaar: Thinking body to be self.
  • Mamkaar: Thinking that I am the doer or everything belongs to me.
  • Swantriyam: Thinking that I belong to myself. I would enjoy my life.

2) Mahavishwaas: Absolute faith that Bhagwaan will definitely save me.

Now, suppose we have taken a lift, then we would have to faith the lift and the liftman. Have you not had faith, you could have used stairs. Onus to reach me upstairs shifts to the lift and I become a non-performer. The lift is Sharnagati and the liftman is Acharya.


Who can be a Sharanya?

One who possess these two qualities can be a Sharnaya (to whom sharnagati is performed)

1) Paratvam (Supremacy): No is parallel to him in the might.

2) Saulabhyam (Accessibility): One who can be easily approached?

It’s our general experience that one who has Paratvam e.g President; don’t have Saulabhyam. One who has saulabhyam e.g. our neighbor; don’t have Paratvam.

Bhagwaan has Paratvam since none is equal to him. (naa tasya pratima asti).  Along with Paratvam, Bhagwaan possess Saushelyam as well. He is present as Archa form in various divya-desham e.g. Tirumala, Sri-Rangam, Badrinaath, Rameshwaram etc. he is present inside every one of us. Infact none is as much closer to us as Bhagwaan is.


Obstacles in Sharnagati:

1) Bhaagwat-apcharam: Offence toward Vaishnavas.Never hurt or speak bad of devotees. This is a simple condition. Come on, if you’re humane, you actually shouldn’t hurt or speak bad of anyone, no matter you do prapatti or not

2) Anya-devata Paratva buddhi: Thinking other devtaas to be of the level of Narayan and considering them as upaay. (Stick to one krishna and forget about all others. It’s actually very relieving and convenient).

Swamy Desikan says in vairagya panchakam, For a sri vaishnava wat ever lord gives or make available for them he/she should satisfy with that. They should not approach other beings who are similar to them (anya devata brahma, siva, sakthi, indra and so on, they too are jeevathmas). Workshiping them is not a true nature of jeevathma, which is being shesha to Narayanan alone.

Pilla Lokacharya too says “Bhagavath seshathvathilum anya sheshathvam kazhigaye pradhanam”.


In Sharnagati,  Bhakti or Bhagwat-Prem is pure

Sri Ramanuj explains the Kathopanishad (1.2.23) mentions the word प्रियतमन् i.e. The person who is a refugee will have more devotion on Lord than one practices Sadhan Bhakti-Yoga.  Hence, the supreme being’s love toward him is more than an Upasaka.

This is well explained by Pillai Lokacharya in Sri Vachan Bhushan Meemansa bhasya. Normally, one who practices a Sadhana, he will have love towards that means. But, that is not in the case of a refugee. Noramally, an Sharanagat  takes refuse in Lord both as Upaay (means) and Upey (destination). For a refugee, both means and destination is only Supreme being and will have devotion toward him only. He has no other means than the Supreme being. Thus, an Upasaka may be प्रियतर: not प्रियतम:


Q) Why would Bhagwaan be our Upaay?

Bhagwaan is ever ready to be our Upaay. His mercy is causeless i.e. flows without any cause.

सेयं देवतैक्षत हन्ताहमिमास्तिस्रो देवता अनेन जीवेनात्मनानुप्रविश्य नामरूपे व्याकरवाणीति ॥ (Chhandogya Upanishad 6.3.2)

Entering into them with this living self, let me evolve names and forms. Here, हंत means means pity or kripa or mercy. The sentient being has no knowledge and power to request the supreme being till it enters into a body. Hence, Supreme being, out of his ‘nirhetuk kripa’, provides body to the aatmas so that they can perform Bhakti or Sarnagati.

Thus, the Supreme being’s mercy is raining continuously but we have applied umbrella above over our head. Due this umbrella or Barrier the rain i.e. Bhagwat-Kripa is not reaching us.

What’s that Umbrella?

Our Ahankaar or ego is the umbrella. Our belief that we can protect ourself on our own, that we belong to our bodily relations and that we can enjoy independent from Bhagwaan is the barrier.

Thus, Narayan is the cloud, his mercy is the rains and our Ahankaar, Mam-kaar and Swatantriyam is the umbrella which is stopping the mercy of Bhagwaan to reach us.

One of the ‘kalyaan-gunas’ of Narayan is Vatsalyam. Just like a mother cow cleans the dirt of her baby by licking through her lips, she don’t care for the dirt lying on the body of the calf. Similarly, Bhagwaan too ignores the karmas of his Sharnagatas. He himself cleans the jeevatma of his past Karma and provide him his intimate love or Bhakti.

Sudarshan Suri comments:

यद्वा स्वतः प्रियत्वं वरणीयत्वं च स्वस्मिन् प्रीतिमत एव|

To a person who takes refuge in the Supreme being, as ordained in Vedant, for his own fruitation he will have intense bhakti and love toward supreme being.


Q) Is Sharnagati an Upaayam (Means)?

Ans: No. In real sense, Sharnagati is just an requirement (Vyacham); not means. Means is Bhagwaan himself.

In Sarnagati. **Narayan is the tattva, Narayana is the means and Narayana is the destination.**

सियाराम ही उपाय हैं, सियाराम ही उपेय हैं|


Q) Who can surrender to Narayana?

Ans: Anyone can surrender, regardless of caste, Zender and birth.

मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्युः पापयोनयः।

स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् ।। (Gita 9.32)

“Women, Vaisyas and Sudras, and even those who are of sinful birth, can attain the supreme state by taking refuge in Me. How much? – more then the well-born Brahmanas and royal sages who are devoted to me! Therefore, roayl sage that you are, do worship Me, as you have come to this transient and joyless world stricken by the threefold afflictions. Sri Krsna now describes the nature of Bhakti:”।

( Ramayan Yuddhkand 18.34)

आनयैनं हरिश्रेष्ठ दत्तमस्याभयं मया।

विभीषणो वा सुग्रीव यदि वा रावणः स्वयं।।

O Monkey-king Sugreev! Even if he either Vibhisan or, Ravan himself, let him come. I would grant him Surrender.

Prapatti can be done by anyone.

Pillai lokacharya has beautifully shown in his works as to who all performed prapatti and for what reasons. Draupadi did prapatti for clothes. Gajendra performed prapatti for service. Kalinga (or kaliya) and kaakasura (jayanta) performed prapatti for saving their lives, and so on. The range of fruits is wide, and the number of souls who perform prapatti for those fruits are unlimited.

Pillai lokacharyar broadly categorizes the souls into three categories for showing their ‘dislikes’ and ‘likes’. He says ‘bubhukshu’s (material minded souls) do not like diseases or difficulties (in other words, that is their ‘anishtam’). They are happy with food and other material/physical enjoyments (that is their istham). Similarly, ‘mumukshu’s (souls seeking liberation) do not like material enjoyments. Their liking is eternal service to the Lord at Sri Vaikuntham. The ‘nitya’s and ‘mukta’s (liberated and ever-liberated souls) do not like any hurdles in their eternal service. Their liking is in uninterrupted service to the Lord in all ways possible. Prapatti can be done for any of these fruits, and that was shown with several examples.

So as mumukshus, we (Sri Vaishnavas wanting to be liberated from the cycles of births and deaths and perform eternal service to the Lord at Sri Vaikuntham) perform prapatti for moksha (that involves kainkaryam or eternal service to the Lord). In other words, we give up the onus of protecting ourselves (effort to reach moksha) and let Bhagavan do that for us more effectively. This comes in the wake of realizing our true natures as being subservient to Bhagavan, and more so, being His sole properties.

(Credit for info:

Q) Does Sarnagati means abstaining from work and being idle?

Ans: Krishna never adviced to leave work. In fact, all through the Gita, he has always advised to perform our Niyat Karma.

Sharnagati is less physical or Vocal and more mental. Mentally we have to leave the thought that we are the doer and our work would lead us to our destination. In fact, the prapannas like Ramanuj and Vedant Desika worked much more than what we could. Vibhishan too didn’t sit idle after Sharnagati. He was involved in his Karma.

The ‘nivritti’ is mental, not vocal or physical.

A Sharnagat or Prapanna performs Karm-Yoga but don’t desire any fruit out of it. He performs Gyaan-Yoga but desire Kaivalya moksha out of it. He performs Bhakti-Yoga but don’t desire moksham out of his performance of Bhakti.


Since, he has already accepted that he is completely helpless and dependent on Bhagwat-Kripa.

Hanuman was bound in the Brahmastra of Indrajeet. They Rakshas army, who were enough tormented by the utpaat of Hanuman, perceived it as an opportunity and tied Hanuman with ropes. Watching this insult, Brahmastra faded away.

Similarly, one who has sought Prapatti, should not indulge in any lower means like Karma, gyaan and Bhakti-Yoga.


Q) If Bhagwaan is showering his mercy on everybody, why is someone in merry and other in grief?

Ans: This is enlightened in Brahm-Sutra (2.1.34)

वैषम्यनैघृण्ये न सापेक्षत्वात्

There is not inequality and cruelty, on the account of there being regard to Supreme Being, for so declares.

Here, Sri Ramanuj beautifully cleared the doubts by quoting Brihadaranyak Upanishad (6.4.5)

साधुकारी सधुर्भवती पापकारी पापो भवति पुण्यः पुण्येन कर्मण भवति पापः पापेन कर्मणा|

means: He who performs good works becomes good, he who performs bad works becomes bad. He becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds . There is no chance of partiality or lack of compassion of Supreme being.

The connection of individual souls with bodies of different kinds, depends upon karma of those souls.


All these requisites of saranagati is complete in Krishna Charma-shloka itself.

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maam ekam sharaNam vraja l

Aham tvaam sarva paapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shucahaa ll (*BG 18.66)

  • (sarva dharman): The virtues that are to be renounced – Karm, Gyaan and Bhakti-Yoga.
  • (parityajya): The way to renounce
  • (maam): The object of surrender
  • (ekam): The truth that Krishna is the ONLY means and not even Sharnagati
  • (saranam): The upayama – Krishna’s lotus feet
  • (vraja): Accept absolutely and belief that Krishna is the upayam
  • (aham): Krishna – the supreme granter
  • (tvam): Jiva the beneficiary
  • (sarva paapebhyo): The benefit- (removal of sins)
  • (mokshayishyami): The benefit- (moksh-prapti)
  • (maa sucha): Command to be relieved of concern.

Author: ramanujramprapnna

studying Ramanuj school of Vishishtadvait vedant

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