based on the vyakhyanam of Sri Periyavaccan Pillai
by Sri M.N. Ramanuja
(A translation of the avataarikai of the Jitante stotra vyakhyanam graced by Sri Periya vAchchAn Pillay)
Introduction :- Jitante stotram is a Rigveda khilam meaning an infrequented portion. Just as Purushasuktam which propounds the tenets, exists in all Sruthis, so all so, this Jitante is proclaimed in the scripture and itihAsa purAnAs as a mahamantram and classified as confidential on par with tirumantram. This Jitante, being a portion of the Apourusheya vedas, it may be questioned as to how it exists in the other man-made works like ItihAsa and PurAnas. The answer is :- Khilam is a highly infrequented portion. The Sutrakaras have studied vedas with khilam portions. They have mentioned and included Jitante as a mantram in ItihAsa PurAnas as evidenced by the quotation " Jitanta iti mantreNa " .
The residents of SwetadwIpa, who have yielded their hearts to the virtues of KshIrAbdhi nAtha like His beauty and handsomeness, sing this Jitante hymn. It is graded as a stotram as it is dearest to the lord, who is fond of praises (stavapriya). This stotram appears in a place hard to access even to BrahmA and others. How possibly could it then find a place in ItihAsa and PurAnas and become accessible to humans? Here is how :- When Narada bhagavan was on his way to Sweta DwIpa to visit and worship KshIrAbdhi NAthan, who is the God revealed by this mantram, he saw sages Ekata Dvita and Trita doing penance. Narada thought, "how can I hope to see the object which even these sages are unable to approach" and returned and asked them "What is then appropriate for me to do?". They replied, "In this place, the stotram, with which, the residents of Sweta dwIpa, praise KshIrAbdhi NAthan has been obtained and learnt by us by virtue of our long penances. You may learn it from us and recite it every day". Narada learnt this Jitante from them and was on his way , when on a mountain called Jayantha, one Kutumbi (sic) , who came to know from Narada of the episode of the birth of this stotram from BrahmA, insisted on learning it and accepted it from Narada. From then on, it was written (by Kutumbi) in ItihaAsa and PurAnas and became available to all devotees of the God.
When we contemplate on the inner meaning of this stotram it appears like the commentary on prapatti. Sri Parasara Bhattar has said of this, in a muktaka (free) slokam,
avidyAto deve paribhridhatayA va viditayA
sva bhakter bhUmnA va jagati gatimanyAm aviduShAm
gatir gamyashchAsow haririti jitantAhvaya mano:
rahasyam vyAjahre sa khalu bhagavAn Shaunaka muni:
meaning that the eligible candidates for prapatti are ajnas, sarvajnas and bhakti paravashars. ajna is one who does not have jnana and shakti for attaining God; sarvajna is one who knows that God can not be measured in terms of space, time, and other mundane objects and thus does not put any effort to attain God, knowing that God is unattainable by any other means; bhakti paravashan is one who although having the necessary jnana nd shakti is unable to follow the prescribed rules for attaining God due to addiction to bhakti. These three types of persons know of no other means except God. For them the target and means of reaching it are both, the Lord Himself. This is the actual secret meaning, of the mantram called Jitante, which was expounded by that omniscient sage bhagavan Saunaka.
Atma is an asset and God is its owner. One who is solely the servant of the Lord alone can be the adhikari for dvayam. This swami-dasa relationship exists since time sans a beginning. Not realising this due to a long connection with Nature, and due to Ahankara and Mamakara, the Atma usurps the Lord's qualities of swamitva and swatantrya and becomes a robber of the soul (Atmaapahaari). The lord seeing the Atmas which are under opposition to Him as exemplified by Hiranyakasipu saying "paramesvara samjno ajna kimanyo mayyavasthite" and Ravana saying " dvidhaa bhajyeyam apyevam na nameyam tu kasyachit", thought that these Atmas can not be redeemed with the help of Shaastras; they are addicts to sense objects; so let me attract them using their own addiction by showing My beauty and other gunas. He first generated their taste for beauty and once attracted by beauty He became their means of reaching Himself and once they stuck to Him as the Upaaya, He became their prapya. These aspects are dealt with in this prabandham of Jitante.
Thus, the first slokam briefly states the target and the mode of reaching it. The further slokams elaborate on this aspect as opined by Sri Parasara Bhattar in his nirvaham.
Alternately, the first two slokas describe the prapya and prapaka and the further slokams justify the above by describing the Sharanyatva of the Lord according to TiruNaraiyur Araiyar's nirvaham. When it is appropriate to state first, the Sharanyatva and then describe the prapya and prapaka, why is it done in the reverse here? Araiyar opined that this is done in the analogy of the first occurrence of God's union in "tiruvaaNai ninnaaNai " and then followed by separation as "peraavaaNai" in muniye nAnmukane decade.