Prapatti

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Prapatti literally means ‘total surrender to God’.

Prapatti is a technical term specially used in Rāmānuja’s[1] philosophy, Viśiṣṭādvaita and religion, Śrīvaiṣṇavism. God-realization is the final or the only goal of life. This is possible only through the path of bhakti or devotion. This path of bhakti has two aspects:

  1. Bhaktiyoga
  2. Prapatti or Prapattiyoga

Though the path of bhakti or devotion to God has been considered as easy, compared to other yogas like Jñānayoga, it too has quite a few formal rules and disciplines to be followed. This naturally makes it a difficult path, especially for the ordinary sādhakas who have neither the time nor the competence to observe these disciplines properly. Here comes the role of the second path, that of prapatti or total surrender, complete submission to the will of God.

Synonyms for Prapatti

Prapatti is also known by other names such as:

  1. Ātmasamarpaṇa
  2. Bharaṇyāsa
  3. Nikṣepa
  4. Nyāsa
  5. Prapadana
  6. Śaraṇāgati

The meanings of all these terms are more or less the same. The path of prapatti has the support of the scriptures, both the śrutis and the smṛtis.[2][3][4]

Practice of Prapatti

The practice of prapatti is of three types:

  1. Svaniṣṭhā - depending upon oneself
  2. Uktiniṣṭhā - depending upon the ācārya’s words or teachings
  3. Ācāryaniṣṭhā - giving the entire responsibility to the ācārya or the spiritual teacher

Procedure of Prapatti

Prapatti has six steps. They are:

  1. Making up one’s mind to follow the path approved by God and his great devotees as revealed in the holy books.
  2. Eschewing the path of evil that goes against the will of God and spiritual evolution.
  3. Tremendous faith in God that he will certainly protect the surrendered person.
  4. Hence, voluntarily and willingly choosing God alone as one’s protector.
  5. Self-oblation or mentally keeping oneself at the feet of God for protection.
  6. A sense of utter unworthiness of oneself vis-a-vis the task of attaining liberation.

Persons Denied to Practice Prapatti

The following persons are unfit for prapatti:

  1. Unable to follow the prescribed disciplines
  2. Devoid of faith in the ācārya or teacher
  3. Not willing to serve the guru or spiritual preceptor
  4. Lacking faith in God.

Prapatti as per Ahirbudhnya Samhitā

The Ahirbudhnya Samhitā[5] the path of bhakti,[6] also called Jñānayoga and Bhaktiyoga respectively. In both these paths upāsanā has an important place. In the Jñānayoga, the upāsanā has to be on the ātman[7] which is nirākāra[8] and nirguṇa,[9] but whose essence is sat-cit-ānanda.[10] Since this upāsanā or meditation is extremely difficult for the beginners or the ordinary aspirants, a pratika or a symbol chosen for meditation are:

  1. Praṇava - Orn, the sound
  2. Surya - the sun
  3. Ākāśa - space
  4. Agni - fire
  5. Others

For those who find even this as a difficult path, Bhaktiyoga recommends meditation on the images of gods or goddesses. Here, the image is not considered God, but only as an aid to imagine in one’s own heart, God as a being of light and consciousness, lovingly responding to one’s prayers. Such meditations come under the category of pratikopāsanā.


References

  1. He lived in A. D. 1017-1137.
  2. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.18
  3. Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad 24.1
  4. Bhagavadgītā 2.7 and 18.66
  5. Ahirbudhnya Samhitā 37.2.27
  6. Bhakti means devotion.
  7. Ātman means the Self within.
  8. Nirākāra means formless.
  9. Nirguṇa means without any attribute.
  10. Sat-citnanda means the existence-consciousness- bliss.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore