Paramapadam [प्रमपदम பரமபதம்] is also known as Sri Vaikuntam and Tirunaadu [திருநாடு] and is the 108th Divya Desam. At present, it is not possible to visit Paramapadam and return. It will happen on some day. Then, from which Kshetram we could see description of Vaikuntam? We will see its glory from Srirangam, also known as Bhuloka Vaikuntam. Today's [14th September 2009] lecture is from a garden on the banks of Kollidam river, near Srirangam. Let us learn about the marg or route to Vaikuntam. Afterwards we will see how an atman enters Vaikuntam crossing Viraja river. For this we will assume Kaveri to be Viraja. After bathing in Viraja, atman will encounter Vaikuntam. This we will appreciate from Vaikunta vasal [வைகுண்ட்ட வாசல்] in Srirangam temple. Further inside, atman will find Aayirakkal [ஆயிரக்கால்] mantap, which we will see from 1000 pillar mantapam in the temple. Then atman will see the Lord Sri Vaikuntanatha gracing in Tirumamani mantapam. We will comapre these spots in Sirangam temple with similar spots in Vaikuntam and get an idea of Vaikuntam, its splendour and various celebrations there. Are all necessarily to go to Vaikuntam? This question might arise. Either by Bhakti or by saranagati, one could reach Vaikuntam. Before reaching that, one should have ehausted all punya/papa accumulated. As we have been seeing for so many days, if papa is high, one reaches Naraka or hell; and, if punya is high, one reaches Swarga or heaven. If papa and punya are exhausted, rebirths and samsaram for this atman will vanish. Upanishads say that emptying papa and punya, this atman becomes blemishmess and gets bliss equal to the Lord's, at Vaikuntam. So, we have to exhaust punya/papa and then depart this world. How tha atman departs and in which path atman goes, will be described. Upanishad says that atman had to leave a body. This is done by the Lord Himself. Using backbone to churn this body, with organs and elements added with prana and mind in subtle form, and atman is taken out of the body. Atman has to exit and body has to be discarded. We could observe a very transient smile or happiness, when atman actually exits the body. It is like the bright glow of a lamp before getting extinguished. But here this atman jyoti or lamp is going to glow more brightly in Vaikuntam. Atman was imprisoned in this body for a long time and suffered. Now, it has exhausted all papa and punya and should depart for Vaikuntam. For this journey there is a route. From the inverted lotus bud like heart, 101 nerves go to brain. The 101st naadi [நாடி] or nerve is called Sushumna Naadi. If atman travels in that nerve, then it will direct into the arcchiradi marg or path, leading to Vaikuntam. Inside our body it is dark. Atman needs light. The Lord residing inside, out of mercy, blesses light by His luminent body and directs atman to take the 101st naadi. Atman takes that nerve and through brahmarandram [a small orifice on the top of head, which was formed while birth and which gradually got covered by skull] atman goes out. Then atman's journey crosses 12 stages or worlds, each ruled by a god. After crossing all these 12 stages, and crossing Moola prakruti and Viraja river, atman enters Vaikuntam after bath in the river. Nammalwar, in his Tiruvaimozhi [10.9], gives a running commentary of an atman crossing various stages! All these, he does, sitting under the tamarind tree at Azhvar Tirunagari! Using this description of Alwar and Chandokya, Brihadaranya and Kata Upanishads, we can find the path given below. Alwar says that as an atman journeys to Vaikuntam, oceans wave bidding farewell with joy. Devas up in the sky are welcoming the atman. Clouds roar to blow welcome signal. As the atman travels, at every stage atman is accorded welcome and respected. Nammalwar says that at each stage the god representing that stage welcomes the atman on journey to Vaikuntam, with water filled golden pots. All Devas like Brahma, Indra, Aditya, etc., welcome at appropriate stages and praise the atman for its journey.
1. Archit - This is the first stage. Archit means light. Atman travels from darkness in this world to brightness.
2. Day - This is not indicative of time, but the god representing that stage. Accepting their welcome, atman travels further.
3. Shukla Paksh - Representing the brighter portion of Moon, from Amavasya [New moon] to Pournami [Full moon].
4. Uttharayana - Six months from Tamil month Thai to Aadi.
5. Samvatsaram - Stage representing year.
6. Vayu lok - Place of wind.
7. Surya mandalam.
8. Chandra mandalam. [This may look reverse of our science learnt in schools. But this is the order mentioned in Upanishads]
9. Vidyut lok - stage of lightning. The god here Amanava, will accompany the atman and guide to Vaikuntam.
10. Varuna lok.
11. Indra lok.
12. Satya lok of lord Brahma.
Then comes Moola prakruti or primordial cause. It is a a tall, wide and long mass. Crossing this, atman reaches Viraja river. After bathing in this river atman enters Vaikuntam. This path is called Archiradi marg. 'Nachapunar avartate' - those travelling in this route never return [to samsaram]. This is what we will see in sloka 45:
sve sve karmaṇy abhirataḥ saṃsiddhiṃ labhate naraḥ
svakarmanirataḥ siddhiṃ yathā vindati tac chṛṇu 18.45
Tac chrnu = listen to that [carefully]. Sve sve = each of themselves, karmany = in their karmas, abhirata = involved, nara = [those born as] humans, samsiddhi = result of sublime level [indicates Moksham or Vaikuntam], labhate = is attained. Sva = [in one's] own, karma = duties, nirata = involved, yata = how, siddhim = sublime result [Vaikuntam], vindati = attains. One who is involved in one's own karma, as prescribed in Shastras, attains Moksham. Why is the second line? Sri Krsihna is asking Arjuna to perform his prescribed duty [of Kshatriya] to fight in the battle. If we dilute this, we may infer that fighting will get one Moksham! A doubt will arise then, whether by mere doing one's own duty, will one get Moksham. Sri Krsihna clarifies in the second line that Arjuna should listen to Him, to know how, by doing prescribed duty, one gets Moksham. From on coming slokas, He is going to explain how such persons reach Moksham. Srirangam is considered as Bhuloka Vaikuntam. Because, whatever experiences one would have in Vaikuntam, one can experience in Srirangam as a rehearsal! We will see how the temple, town and celebrations replicate Vaikuntam, in due course. Thus, though we can not visit Vaikuntam as such, we will have a glimpse of it in the pasurams and in Srirangam.