artha-pañcaka

(‘the five truths’)

Śrīvaiṣṇavism is the religion of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta Darśana, the school of Vedānta systematized by Rāmānuja (A. D. 1017-1137) and his followers. It prescribes the knowledge of ‘arthapañcaka’ or five truths, as very necessary in sādhana or spiritual practice. These five truths equip the sādhaka or the mumukṣu (the spiritual aspirant of emancipation) with the correct perspective derived from the philosophy of sādhanā.

They are: prāpya (that which is to be obtained viz., Īśvara or God), prāptṛ (one who obtains, the jīva or the individual soul), upāya (the means of achieving God), prāptivirodhi (that which obstructs attainment of God) and prāpti (attaining the highest, i.e., God). The aspirant is expected to know the ‘svarūpa’ or nature of all these five truths.

These five are sometimes described as parasvarūpa (nature of the highest), svasvarūpa (nature of the self), upāya-svarūpa, virodhisvarūpa and puruṣārtha-svarūpa (nature of the ends of human endeavour) also.

God who is ‘para’ and ‘prāpya’ can manifest himself in five forms as para (the highest form in Vaikuṇṭha), vyūhas (emanations like Saṅkarṣaṇa), vibhava (incarnations like Rāma), arcā (icons of worship) and antaryāmin (the indwelling spirit).

The jīvas (individual souls) who are prāptṛ, have been divided into five groups viz., nityas (the eternally free), muktas (the liberated), baddhas (the bound), kevalas (the self-realized souls) and mumukṣus (those desirous of liberation).

The well-known yogas of jñāna and bhakti as also prapatti (surrender to and dependence on the grace of God) and ācāryābhimāna (surrender to and faith in the preceptor) are the upāyas recommended.

Identification of the body with the soul due to ignorance, disbelief in divine incarnations, pursuit of worldly pleasures to the exclusion of divine grace, doing things which will offend God, insulting devotees of God—these are some of the obstacles listed under ‘prāptivirodhi.’

Prāpti in the highest sense means living with God in the world of Vaikuṇṭha in eternal service to Him.

Arthapañcaka is also the title of a famous work in Tamil by Piḷḷai Lokācārya (A. D. 1264—1327), the founder of the Teṅgalai or the Southern school of the Śrīvaiṣṇava movement.