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Acharya Vamsa Vruksham - 3 (April 15, 2009)

Lineage Tree of Preceptors
Anbil Ramaswamy, U.S.A.

5. NAATHA MUNI (Aani-Anusham)

If Vaishnavism has a global appeal today, it is due to the great Naatha Muni who literally recovered from oblivion the hymns of the Azhwars and inaugurated devotional Vaishnavism. Ranganatha Muni as Naatha Muni was originally called was born at Veera Narayana Puram near Kattu Mannar Koil. His other names are Shadamarshana Kula Thilakar and Sottai-Kulathu Arasar. He is believed to be the Amsam of Gajaananar (not to be confused with the elephant-headed son of Siva), one of the Nithyasuris in Paramapadam and one of the ministers of Vishvaksena.

His period has been placed at Kaliyuga 3684 (according to Katapayati Sankhya) which corresponds to 584 AD. He was born in the year Sobhakruth, Aani month, in the constellation of Anusham in Krishna Paksha, Thithi 7, a Wednesday.

The following passage in Vruddha Padma Purana foretells his birth: “There will arrive one Natha, a great Yogi who by his yogic power will restore to the world the long-lost sacred collect of Sri Satakopa”

Once while Naatha Muni was worshipping at the local temple, he heard a few pilgrims reciting a decad of Nammalwar's Tiruvoymozhi praising Lord Araavamudhan – the unsatiating nectar – of ThirukKudandahi. This concluded saying “those who recited these ten which formed part of my 1,000 psalms would become the darling of the Gods.” Naatha Muni was so impressed with the poetic beauty of the decad and asked them whether they knew the full text of Tiruvoymozhi or at least point out anyone who could help. They directed him to one Parankusa Daasa in ThirukKurugur who was a disciple of MadhuraKavi Azhwar.

Naatha Muni made straight to Kurugur but Parankusa Daasa also could not help. But, he suggested that if Naatha Muni could recite the “Kanni Nun Siru-thambu” of Madhura Kavi 12,000 times at one stretch in front of the famous tamarind tree in Adhi Natha temple, he might get an insight into the original verses. This Naatha Muni did with utmost devotion. He obtained in his trance a vision of Nammazhwar himself who personally taught him not only his own compositions but also those of all the other Azhwars.

Naatha Muni promptly codified the treasure of devotional hymns as the “Nalayira Divya Prabhandam”. He set them to melodious music and rhythm and taught them to his two nephews Sri Krishnan and Sri Varadan also known as Keezhai Agathu Azhwan and Melai Agathu Azhwan and brought to the forefront the long-lost Divya Prabandham. He also revived the Adhyayana Uthsavam instituted by Thirumangai Azhwar. The tradition of reciting these had been established by him and kept alive for posterity.

He also institutionalised the tradition of ‘Arayar Sevai’ (a form of dance performed by male dancers specially trained for the purpose) before the Lord on special occasions in the Srirangam temple which continues even today. Similarly, it was he who revived the propagation of Rahasyas and Vyasa’s Brahma Sutra. It was from his time only that our Sampradaya began to shine like a beacon light. He had eight disciples. After a long life of 340 years, major part of which was spent in Yoga (meditation), he ascended to his Heavenly abode during the lifetime of Manakkaal Nambi.

Naathamuni wrote a couple of scholarly works, apart from Thaniyans for Prabandhams including Thiruvoymozhi:

  1. Nyaya Tatthva which contains the following five chapters, viz., (i) Jnaana (Knowledge), (ii) Prameya (Objects of cognition), (iii) Pramaathru (the Cognizer), (iv) Karma (Action) and (v) Nyaya (Logic).
  2. Yoga Rahasya which is said to have contained the nuances of devotion (Bhagavath Upaasana) to the Lord through Dhyaanam (meditation).

Sri Naatha Muni's Thaniyan by Swami Desika reads as follows:

நாதேந முநி நாதேந பவேயம் நாதவாநஹம் !
யஸ்ய நைகமிகம் தத்வம் ஹஸ்த ஆமலகதாம் கதம் !!
(Yathiraja Sapthathi - 5)
“I have as my master, the seer Naatha Muni, to whom the true import of the Vedas was like myrobalan fruit in hand (உள்ளங்கை நெல்லிக்கனி). With this ‘Naatha’ available for me, I cannot be ‘Anaatha’ (destitute).”

Aala Vandhaar has the following to say about his illustrious grandfather:

நமோ சிந்த்யாத்புதாக்லிஷ்ட ஜ்ஞாந வைராக்ய ராஸயே !
நாதாய முநயேகாத பகவத்பக்தி ஸிந்தவே !!
(Sthothra Rathnam - 1)

“Salutations to Naathamuni who is having single-minded devotion to the Lord and who is the treasure of both Gnaana and Vairaagya.”

Naatha Muni’s principal disciple was Pundarikaksha, known as UyyakKondaar.

The familial lineage of Sri Naatha Muni is as follows: Sri Easwara Muni → His son Sri Naathamuni → His son Easwara Bhatta Aazhvan → His son Yaamuna Muni → His son Sottai Nambi → His son Ennaachaan → His son Pillaiappar → His son Thozhappar.

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Next in series: On May 15, 2009.

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The author is President, Swami Desika Darsana Satsangam (SDDS) and Editor,
Sri Ranga Sri (SRS) Electronic Journal, U.S.A.

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