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By Swami Harshananda

Artha-pañcaka literally means ‘the five truths’.

Srīvaiṣṇavism 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. The aspirant is expected to know the ‘svarupa’ or nature of all these five truths. They are mentioned below :

  1. Prāpya - That which is to be obtained viz., īśvara or God
  2. Prāptṛ - One who obtains, the jīva or the individual soul
  3. Upāya - The means of achieving God
  4. Prāptivirodhi - That which obstructs attainment of God
  5. Prāpti - Attaining the highest, i.e., God

These five are sometimes described as

  • Parasvarupa - Nature of the highest
  • Svasvarupa - Nature of the self
  • Upāya- svarupa - Nature if the means of achieving God
  • Virodhi svarupa - Nature of the obstructions
  • Puruṣārtha svarupa - Nature of the ends of human endeavour

God who is ‘para’ and ‘prāpya’ can manifest himself in five forms as follows :

  1. Para - The highest form in Vaikuṇṭha
  2. Vyuhas - Emanations like Saṅkarṣaṇa
  3. Vibhava- Incarnations like Rāma
  4. Arcā - Icons of worship
  5. Antaryāmin - The indwelling spirit

The jīvas (individual souls) who are prāptṛ, have been divided into five groups :

  1. Nityas - The eternally free
  2. Muktas - The liberated
  3. Baddhas - The bound
  4. Kevalas - The self-realized souls
  5. Mumukṣus - Those desirous of liberation

The well-known yogas of jñāna, bhakti, 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, 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 Pillai Lokācārya (A. D. 1264-1327), the founder of the Teṅgalai or the Southern school of the Śrīvaiṣṇava movement.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore