Nampillai took over the reins of Srivaishnavism and its propagation from his preceptor Nanjiyar. He began delivering lectures on Nanjiyar’s onpatinayirappadi commentary on the Thiruvaimozhi in addition to adding his own examples and quotations from the scriptures. These lectures were transcribed on a palm-left by one of Nampillai’s disciples by the name Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai. When the latter submitted this commentary at the feet of his preceptor, Nampillai took possession of it as it was written without his permission. He then gave this commentary to another of his disciples by the name Eyunni Madhava Perumal at a later date. Eyunni Madhava Perumal taught this EDU commentary to this son Padmanabha Perumal. Padmanabha Perumal taught this to Nalur Pillai, who in turn taught his son Nalur Achan Pillai. The commentary finally reached Mamunigal’s preceptor Srisailesa through divine intervention in Lord Devaraja temple, Kanchipuram.
Why the Name EDU?
Nampillai s commentary on Thiruvaimozhi, Thiruvirutham and Kanninun siruthambu are all referred to by the name EDU. EDU is derived from the noun form of verb ‘iduthal’ representing a work of commentary. However, this may be common to other works also. EDU is also a short form of ‘Eedupaduthal’ or involvement and attention. Since, this commentary attracts those who study it and enables them to become involved in Nammazhwar’s works, this meaning appears more apposite. EDU could also mean that which is at par. This size of this work is considered to be at par with the Srutaprakasika commentary on Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya and hence this term could have been coined. The term EDU can also be used in connotation of ‘shield’ or ‘armoury’. Since this commentary shields the Thiruvaimozhi from misinterpretations and preserves its true meaning for posterity, this connotation suits this particular great commentary.
What is Padi?
The word EDU is suffixed by 36000 padi. A padi is considered as a unit of measure and it is widely believed that it is composed of 32 syllables, including vowels and consonants. Therefore, 36000 padi comes to refer to the size of the commentary being made up of 36000* 32 syllables approximately.
Vaktru Vailakshanyam – About Nammazhwar:
It is stated by Nammazhwar himself at the outset that he was graced by the Almighty without any cause whatsoever. Nampillai analyses this critically in the introduction while detailing on the author of the work. It is an integral part of the commentary to discuss about the author not just to know about the author’s background but to understand his greatness, the intricate knowledge of the work and the authenticity of information conveyed therein. Dismissing candidly all claims to Nammazhwar’s exalted status, Nampillai systematically establishes that Nammazhwar is an ordinary soul like each one of us and the reason for the earlier preceptors’ exalted opinion is solely due to the magnificence of Nammazhwar. Besides this, Nampillai also candidly mentions that the line of thought that Namaazhwar was the Lord Himself would not fit in with the ontology of Visistadvaita which recognizes the existence of only three entities, viz. the Lord, the sentient and the insentient and that the latter two are subservient to the Lord. The Lord is independent, and is ready to shower His causeless mercy on a soul to deliver him from bondage.
Further, Nampillai likens Nammazhwar to Bharata, Lakshmana and Sita of Ramayana fame based on certain common attributes present in each one of them. Bharata has the indistinguishable trait of not just being subservient to Lord Rama but also one who does not act against His wishes. Lakshmana desired to be of everlasting and blemishless servitude to Lord Rama. Sita lived her belief that the ultimate saviour for an individual soul is the Lord and only He can protect it from the dangers of bondage. According to the author, Nammazhwar possessed all these traits in one person.
Nampillai classifies Nammazhwar’s devotion into three stages: (1) Para Bhakti, representing a state of utmost devotion to the Lord, where togetherness with Him brings mirth and separation brings sadness; (2) Para Jnana, the stage comprising visualization/realisation of the ultimate Goal of life being to reach the Lord’s abode, Srivaikunta; (3) Parama Bhakti, where existence is impossible without attaining His feet. This classification of Nampillai fits with Nammazhwar’s emotional and literary journey, as envisioned in his works. Azhwar’s state of Para Bhakti is visible from the first pasuram of Thiruvirutham (poi ninra jnanam) to the eight decad of Thiruvaimozhi (tirumalirumcholai endren enna). The Para Jnana state is visible from the ninth thiruvaimozhi of the tenth decad (soozh visumbu) and the Parama Bhakti state is visible in the final ‘muniye nanmugane’ thiruvaimozhi.
Vishaya Vailakshanyam – About the Thiruvaimozhi
In this section, Nampillai communicates, in a nutshell, the crux of the contents of Thiruvaimozhi that explains the undercurrent of Nammazhwar’s emotional journey.
The theology of Srivaishnavism holds that a Mumukshu (one desirous of salvation) should have the knowledge about Artha Panchaka (five Doctrines). These five doctrines include: (1) Para Svarupa or the Nature of the Supreme Soul, (2) Jivatma Svarupa or the Nature of the Individual Soul, (3) Purushartha Svarupa or the Nature of Goal to be achieved, (4) Upaya Svarupa or the Means to achieve the desired Goal and (5) Virodhi Svarupa or the obstacles that prevent one from achieving salvation. Nampillai opines that that entire Thiruvaimozhi elaborates the concepts/doctrines associated with Artha Panchakam. The author also quotes several verses from the Thiruvaimozhi to explain these doctrines in detail. Pillai Lokacharya however opines that the Thiruvaimozhi embodies the essence of the Dvaya Mantra.