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Acharya Vamsa Vruksham - 7 (August 15, 2009)

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

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

Events in the life of Sri Ramanuja (Continued...):

  • Yadhava Prakasa, Sri Ramanuja’s old Guru, had by then returned to Kanchi and became Ramanuja's disciple assuming the name of ‘Govinda Yogi’.

  • Ramanuja used to go round the streets for his Bhiksha. An evil-minded fellow had mixed poison in the Bhiksha. His wife, while serving the Bhiksha, fell at Ramanuja’s feet with tears in her eyes. Ramanuja understood that there was something wrong. When the Sishyas sorted out the Bhiksha for cooking, they found out that poison was mixed with it. Ramanuja went on a fast with a view to cleanse the mind of the evil-doer. On hearing this, Thirukkottiyur Nambi rushed all the way to Srirangam. When Ramanuja heard of the coming of his Guru, he rushed to the banks of River Kaveri to receive him. It was the height of summer. Ramanuja ran towards him in the hot Sun to receive him and fell at his feet on the burning sands on the banks of river Kaveri. Nambi did not ask him to get up. Such was his Acharya Bhakthi. At that time, Kidambi Aachaan, who was nearby, told Nambi “Your action (in not asking Ramanuja to get up) is worse than the poison mixed in the Bhikshai”. Such was the Acharya Bhakthi of Ramanuja’s disciples! (Like master, like pupil!). Thirukkottiyur Nambi exclaimed, “After all, now I can cast off my physical body since I have found one who would take the greatest care of Ramanuja”.

  • Ramanuja travelled throughout the country spreading the message of Visishtadvaita. Once a votary of the ‘illusion theory’ Yagna Murthi by name confronted him for 16 days in arguments and counter arguments. Finally, he accepted defeat and became a disciple of Ramanuja assuming the name of ‘Arulala Perumal Emperumanar’ and wrote ‘Gnana Saram’ and ‘Prameya Saram’.

  • One of the most important disciples who was totally devoted to Ramanuja was Kooresa also known as Koorath-Azhwan. Once, Kooresa participated in the Shraaddha ceremony performed for his mother by Thiruvarangath-Amudhanar. This Amudhanar was in charge of the Srirangam temple. When Amudhanar inquired what Kooresa desired as reward for his participation, the latter replied that the administration of the temple should be handed over to Ramanuja. Amudhanar, who had already known the greatness of Ramanuja was only too glad to hand over the key to Ramanuja. It is this Thiruvarangath-Amudanar who subsequently wrote the Ramanuja Nootrantaadhi of 108 verses which was included in the holy collects to make up the total of 4,000.

  • After Mastering the ‘Bodhaayana Vruthi’ of Sage Vyasa, Ramanuja wrote several works like Vedantha Sangraham explaining the various viewpoints of Sankara, Yadhava, Bhaskara and others, Vedantha Deepam, Geetha Bashyam, etc.

  • During Panguni Uththiram, he did Prapathi before the Divya Dhampathi in Serthi and submitted his famous Gadhya-thrayam (comprising Saranagathi Gadhyam, Sriranga Gadhyam and Sri Vaikunta Gadhyam).

  • Later, he wrote a Grantha called ‘Nithyam’ detailing the Thiruvaradhana Kramam.

  • While he was on his Sanchaaram, it is believed that the Lord himself appeared before him at ThirukKurungudi as a Srivaishnava and got Samasrayanam from Udaiyavar.

  • When he visited Saraswathi Peetam, Goddess Saraswathi was so impressed with his commentary on Brahma Suthram that she named it ‘Sri Bhashyam’ and conferred on him the title ‘Sri Bhashyakaarar”. It must be noted that while the other commentaries are known by the names of their authors like ‘Sankara Bashyam'’ written by Adhi Sankara, the commentary of Ramanuja is always prefixed with the venerable honorific ‘Sri’ denoting its unsurpassed quality and clarity, to be called ‘Sri Bashyam' (PPM)

  • When he visited Thirumala, a miracle happened. Some argued that the Lord of Thirumalai was Saiva Param. It is surprising that such a claim should have arisen about the Lord who had been worshipped as Lord Vishnu by all the Azhwars and Acharyas besides Elango Adigal and other Tamil poets for several centuries. This was because the Lord had earlier entrusted His insignia to a king called Thondamaan. The Lord desired to take back from the king, these insignia viz., Sankhu, Thiruvaazhi, Soolam, Dhamarukam, etc. They were placed in the Sannidhi the previous night. And, when the doors were opened the next morning, the Lord gave Darshan adorning all his insignia. Ramanuja was hailed as “Appanukku Sangaazhi Alittha Perumaal”. Saivite Poet Arunagiri himself sang about Lord Venkateswara clearing all doubts in this regard saying “Ulageenra Pachai Umaiyanan, Vada Venkatathil Uraibhavan, Uyar Sanga Chakra Kara Thaalan”.

  • Ramanuja’s magnum opus is his wonderful commentary on Veda Vyasa's Brahma Suthram and a simpler commentary thereon called Vedantha Saaram. Kooresa was very helpful in publishing his works. Thus, he fulfilled his first promise to Aala Vandhaar. It is this Kuresan (aka) Sri Vathsanka Misra who wrote the famous Pancha Sthavam consisting of Athi Maanusha Sthavam, Sri Sthavam, Varadaraja Sthavam, Vaikunta Sthavam and Sundarabaahu Sthavam.

  • Ramanuja asked Kooresa to name his two sons after Veda Vyasa and Parasara and thus fulfilled his second promise to Aala Vandhaar. It was this Parasara Bhattar who subsequently wrote ‘Bhagavath Guna darpanam’, the famous commentary on Vishnu Sahasra Nama as ordained by Ramanuja.

  • Another disciple of Ramanuja was Pillaan. Once, when Ramanuja was alone mentally reciting a particular hymn of Thiruvoymozhi, Pillaan entered his room and inquired if he was meditating on a particular hymn. And, it was indeed the one Ramanuja was actually meditating on! Ramanuja decided that Pillaan was the person best suited to write a commentary on Thiruvoymozhi. As ordered, he wrote the famous ‘Thiru AaraayirapPadi’ (6,000 Padi, known as Bhagavath Vishayam) and called Pillaan as ‘ThirukKurugai Piran’ after the name of Nammazhwar. He was also known as Kurugesa and Bhraathru Thozhappar. Thus, he fulfilled his third promise to Aala Vandhaar. He was one of the ‘Sri Bhashya Ubhaya Simhasana Adhipathis’.

  • Kulothunga Chozha was a staunch devotee of Siva. He commanded Ramanuja to come to his court with a view to enlisting his support to establish the superiority of Siva over all other deities including Vishnu. If the support was not forthcoming, the king was planning to kill Ramanuja. Sensing the danger, Kooresa went to the court disguised as Ramanuja along with another disciple. The king ordered him to sign a document to the effect that ‘Siva is the greatest’. Kuresa added that ‘Sivam’ was no doubt great but ‘Dronam’ was greater than ‘Sivam’ – both expressions referring to units of measurement. The enraged king ordered both of them to be blinded when he came to know that he was Kooresa who was impersonating Ramanuja. The other disciple was tortured to death while Kooresa survived. Kooesa, though he himself was blinded, was happy that he had saved Ramanuja. It is this Kulothunga who is said to have thrown away the idol of Govindaraja into the sea. Ramanuja recovered it and had it installed at Thirupati.

  • While on a journey, Ramanuja noticed an officer of State, by name Danur Daasa, a hunter by birth was over-concerned and over-protective about the beauty of his wife who was walking along on the hot sands on the banks of the river Kaveri. Ramanuja offered to show him something more beautiful than his wife and took him to the proximity of the image of Lord Ranganatha. Danur Daasa was enraptured by the charm of the Lord and became a disciple of Ramanuja assuming the name of ‘Uranga Villi Daasar’. Ramanuja never entertained any caste distinctions and was conferring his benedictions even on the lowliest of the lowly whom he called 'Tiruk Kulattar'.

  • Ramanuja went to Thirunarayana Puram in search of white clay paste used by Sri Vaishnavites for applying forehead marks. The idol of the temple there had been taken away by the Muslim invaders and was being used at play as a doll by the Muslim princess in Delhi. Ramanuja went to Delhi and when he endearingly called “Come on! My dear child Selva Pillaiye Vaarum!”, the idol miraculously came onto his lap. Ramanuja reinstalled it in the temple.

  • Once some kids were playing on the road pretending to construct a temple, installing an idol of the Lord, offering fruits and flowers, etc. all the time using the dust on the road for the purpose. They offered some mud as Prasadam to Ramanuja who was passing by, received it with due respect. He remembered in this connection the words of Poigai Azhwar who said that the Lord took whatever name and form his sincere devotees wished (Thamar Ugandhadhu – Mudhal Thiruvantaadhi - 44) and in the instant case though the kids were only playing, they sincerely believed in what they were doing.

  • Another disciple of Ramanuja was Vaduga Nambi who put the sandals of his Guru along with those of the Lord. When questioned, he replied that the Acharya's sandals were for him as holy as those of the Lord. When Lord Ranganatha was coming on his rounds on the streets of Srirangam, Vaduga Nambi remarked that the eyes that had seen the charm in the eyes of Ramanuja would not be able to appreciate the beauty of the eyes of even the Lord. Such was his devotion to his Acharya.

  • Ramanuja arranged to make a lifelike idol of himself, invested it with his powers by embracing it and had it installed in Thirumala. The Archa Moorthi of Ramanuja known as ‘Thaan Ugantha Tirumeni’ was installed in Tirunarayana Puram.

  • Once, when he visited Thondanoor in Hoysala State, he happened to meet a Jain king called Devarayan. His daughter was possessed by a demon and none could get rid of her predicament. When Ramanuja's SriPaadha Theertham (water consecrated by association with his feet) was sprinkled on her, she was cured of the devil. The king pleaded to be accepted as Ramanuja’s disciple. Ramanuja accepted and named him ‘Vishnu Vardhana’.

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Next in series: On September 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.