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Acharya Vamsa Vruksham - 6 (July 15, 2009)

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

10. SRI RAMANUJA (Chiththirai-Thiruvaadhirai) – Part - I

Sri Ramanuja is the most prominent of our Acharyas and it is by his name that Srivaishnava philosophy is called ‘Ramanuja Darsanam’ and he is hailed as “Sri Vaishnava Siddhanta Nirdhaarana Saarvabouma”.

Ramanuja (a) Ilaiyazhwar (a) Ilaiya Perumal was born to Kesava Perumal Somayaji Dikhsithar and Kanthimathi Ammal at Sriperumpudur. Just as Sage Vasishta on seeing the brilliance in the face of the child named him as Lakshmana saying “Lakshmano Lakshmi Sampanna:”, Periya Thirumalai Nambi, – maternal uncle of the child – struck by his Thejas, named him after Lakshmana as Ilaiyazwar.

There is a sloka in Yadhavaachala Mahathmyam which says:

அநந்த: ப்ரதமம் ரூபம் லக்ஷ்மணச்ச தத: பர: |
பலபத்ரம் த்ருதீயாஸ்து கலௌ கச்சித் பவிஷ்யதி ||

“It is the same who was Adhisesha first, Lakshmana after and Balarama in the third who is born as Sri Ramanuja in the Kali Yuga.” This is taken by our Poorvaacharyas as referring to Ramanuja.

Sri Ramanuja was born in the Kali Yuga year 4119 which corresponds to 1017 AD, in the year Pingala, month Chitrai and the constellation Thiruvaadhirai in Kataka Lagnam. It was a Sukla Paksha Panchami and a Friday.

Vruddha Paadhma Purana presages his incarnation thus:-

“Long, long afterwards, the Lord himself will come down on earth as a Tridanda Sannyasin, to restore the good law. At that time heretics and men of perverted intellects will confuse the minds of the people. Aasuric Saasthraas, based upon fallacious arguments and various schools of thought, very attractive and almost indistinguishable from the Vedanta, will turn away men’s hearts from Vishnu and cause them to forget His glory. That glorious incarnation will, through the good fortune of the Lord’s devotees, come down upon earth, to explain and amplify the teachings of the great Sage Baadaraayana and the divine singer of the Gita. The holy one would compose a Bhashya on the Vyasa Suthras, to save men from the confusion and despair caused by spurious doctrines and lead them to the True Faith”.

While still a boy, he lost his father and was living with his mother at Kancheepuram under the protection of one ThirukKachi Nambi. This Nambi was believed to converse and was on ‘speaking terms’ with Lord Varadaraja in the Archa form.

Events in the life of Sri Ramanuja:

  • Within 16 years of age, he had mastered all the Vedas and Saasthras. At 17, he married Rakshakaambaal (Thanjammal, in Tamil)

  • Ilaiya Perumal (Ramanuja) was placed under the Advaithic Sannyasi called Yadhava Prakasa at ThirupPut Kuzhi near Kancheepuram for training in Advaitha Purva Paksha Saasthra of Vedanta. Once during this period, Aala Vandhaar who desired nominating Ilaiya Perumal to succeed himself, visited ThirupPut Kuzhi, met with him but had no opportunity to speak to him and had to return to Srirangam.

    Very many occasions arose when the Advaithik Guru clashed with Ilaiya Perumal when the Guru misinterpreted Vedantic statements. Ilaiya Perumal fearlessly pointed out the errors in his master’s interpretations and corrected him. This enraged the Guru. Fearing that one day, his disciple would demolish Advaitha philosophy, he plotted to kill Ranmanuja by drowning him in Ganga while on a pilgrimage tour of the country with his disciples.

    Learning of the design through one Govinda, another disciple who was also his cousin, Ramanuja slipped out into the forest at dead of night. Miraculously, an aged hunter couple appeared and guided him. As Ramanuja, who was in a trance, opened his eyes, he found himself at the outskirts of Kancheepuram and the couple had disappeared. He realised that it was Lord Varadaraja and Perundevi Thayar who had come in the guise of the hunter couple. He stayed at Kanchi for a while to assist ThirukKachi Nambi in his daily chores of service to Lord Varadaraja.

  • News came that Aala Vandhaar was very sick and he desired to meet with Ramanuja. Just as ThirukKachi Nambi and Ramanuja arrived, they saw the funeral procession of Aala Vandhaar. During the last rites, they noticed that three fingers of Aala Vandhaar remained folded signifying three of his last unfulfilled wishes.

    As Ramanuja swore (i) that he would write a commentary on Veda Vyasa’s Brahma Sutra; (ii) that he would perpetuate the memory of Vyasa and Parasara and (iii) that he would strive to propagate Visishtaadvaitha on the lines of the 4,000 holy collects of Azhwars, the fingers unfolded one by one automatically and stretched out to normal position signifying that these were his last wishes. Since he could not meet with Aala Vandhaar, he returned to Kanchi without even going into the temple at Srirangam.

  • ThirukKachi Nambi obtained from Lord Varadaraja the famous ‘Six Words’ and passed them on to Ramanuja. They provided the guidelines for Ramanuja to follow. They were:-

    1. That Lord Narayana is the Paramaathma;
    2. That the individual souls were different from Paramaathma;
    3. That Prapathi is the means to attain salvation;
    4. That the last remembrance of the Lord on the part of the departing soul was not necessary;
    5. That Moksha can be obtained only on laying off the mortal coils; and
    6. That Ramanuja should take refuge at the feet of Periya Nambi.

    Accordingly, he met with Periya Nambi at Madhuranthakam, where under the shade of Vakula tree Periya Nambi performed Pancha Samskara to him. As he was initiated into the esoteric of Dvaya Manthra at Madhuranthakam, the place came to be known as “Dvayam Vilaindha Thiruppathi”. Both returned to Srirangam and did Kalakshepams on Brahma Suthra, etc. for sometime. It was at this time that Lord Ranganatha called him “Nammudaiyavar” (He is ours).

  • Ramanuja’s was not a happy married life. His wife never understood either his greatness nor appreciated his catholicity and always acted on her own wavelength and there was no compatibility between them. Several instances are cited wherein the lady ensconced in her own pet ideas of being holy or otherwise showed scant respect to Bhagavathas and this greatly annoyed Ramanuja. At about 30 years of age, he took Sannyas with the name of ‘Ramanuja Muni’. He was the king among Sannyasis. Hence, he is called ‘Yathi Raja’– a honorific invested by Lord Devaathi Raja.

  • The seat of Acharya at Srirangam was lying vacant without a successor to take over. He was prevailed upon to assume charge. But, before doing so, he wanted to equip himself with the secrets of the three great Manthras. For this purpose, he approached one ThirukKottiyur Nambi, who made him come several times before actually instructing him. He cautioned Ramanuja that he should not give out the secrets to all and sundry and if he did so, he would go to hell.

  • Immediately on receiving the instructions, Ramanuja climbed up to the top of the steeple of the temple at ThirukKottiyur and proclaimed to the large gathering of his disciples assembled there the purport of the instruction.

    The popular belief that he gave out the Manthras is not correct; What he actually gave out was that he had found out the way to attain Moksha through the three great Manthras and invited those who sincerely wished to follow him and get initiated. Also, he did not advise all and sundry as assumed by some. By the time of this episode, he had already gathered a huge following of disciples who congregated at the main entrance to the temple and he was thus addressing his own disciples. This is a less known fact about the well-known Acharya. ThirukKottiyur Nambi was so enraged and demanded an explanation. Ramanuja replied that he did not give out the secrets and even if he had transgressed the specific warning of the Guru, only he himself would go to hell but the multitude of humanity that listened to his clarion ‘wake-up’ call would be saved spiritually. The Guru was overwhelmed by this reply. Embracing Ramanuja and appreciating his broad mindedness, he called him ‘Emperumanar’ (meaning O! My Lord) and declared that Sri Vaishnavism would thenceforward be known as “Ramanuja Darsanam” – “The Light of Ramanuja”.

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Next in series: On August 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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www.svdd.com - © Sri Vedantha Desikar Devasthanam, Mylapore, Chennai.