Remembering Yaamuna Muni, The Path-Breaker
If our Sri Sampradaya – with special reference to the Doctrine of Saranaagathi – can be likened to a solid fort-like edifice erected by Swami Desika, it is chiefly because it stands on the beams and pillars so assiduously and expertly raised by Bhagavath Ramanuja upon the foundation laid by Sri Aala Vandhaar.
Aala Vandhaar (named Yamunai-Thuraivan/Yaamunacharya) was the grandson of Nathamunigal and the son of Iswaramunigal. His legacy to our Sidhdhantha is of far greater magnitude than one would imagine. His Chathu-Sloki and Sthothra Rathnam are philosophy-defining works which Emperumaanaar and Thooppul Pillai used to great effect in establishing the supremacy of Sriman Narayana, and with that the Visishtaadvaita.
We shall very briefly recapitulate the great Acharya’s life-sketch.
He was born in 917 AD corresponding to the year Dhathu in the month of Aadi under the constellation of Uththiraadam on a Friday in Kaattumannar Kovil. He grew up as an intelligent young man and mastered all the Saasthras under the tutelage of one Mahabhashya Bhattar. Once when his master was challenged by a royal chaplain called Akkiyaazhwan, Yaamunacharya took up the gauntlet and offered to conquer the haughty scholar.
So did the young man in the debate of logic and got half the kingdom as promised by the king at the insistence of the queen, who hailed the young man as ‘Aala Vandhaar’. After a few years of royal stint, he realised through Manakkaal Nambi that he was destined for greater things, took to Sanyasa and accepted the spiritual throne earlier adorned by Nathamunigal.
Sthothra Rathnam literally means a gem among hymns. It is interesting to note that apart from this salutary name, and the other name ‘Aala Vandhaar Sthothram’ — one derived from the authorship — no given name is attributed to this hymn. Just as Vishnu Puraanam is hailed as ‘Puraana Rathnam’ and the ‘Dhvayam’ as ‘Manthra Rathnam’, this hymn of Aala Vandhaar is celebrated as ‘Sthothra Rathnam’. Very fittingly, Yaamunacharya refers to the ‘Puraana Rathnam’ in the fourth sloka of his own hymn which is regarded as an elaboration of the ‘Manthra Rathnam’.
The ‘Gem among Hymns’ is in fact, an assembly of 64 gems (slokas). The author begins the work with invocation to Nathamunigal in the initial three slokas, salutes Sage Parasara in the fourth and bows to Nammazhwar in the fifth. He even indulges in salutation in jest to himself for shamelessly attempting the impossible of singing the praise of the Lord’s feet in Sloka No. 7, before embarking on the main job.
From then on it is a virtual feast with the menu comprising delicious mix of the Lord’s great virtues, the glory of His feet which are both the means and goal, Thathva-thrayam, Rahasya-thrayam, Anjali Vaibhavam, Prapaththi Saasthra and its five mandatory elements, Naichyaanusandhaanam (self-deprecation), and so on. It is amazing that so much could be packed in 64 slokas. No wonder that Swami Desika has not only written a wonderful Sanskrit commentary on Sthothra Rathnam but also drawn comprehensively from this masterpiece to shore up our philosophy, especially in Srimath Rahasyathraya Saaram and very many of the Chillarai Rahasyangal.
We shall see the meaning of a handful of landmark slokas from this splendid hymn of lilting meters.
- The prayer with folded hands even if done howsoever and by whosoever and even once, immediately erases all the sins and grants auspicious things in their entirety (Sloka No. 28).
- Thrivikrama! The Conch, the Discus, the Flag Mast, the Lotus, the weapons – Goad and Thunderbolt… they are all the palm lines of Your lotus feet. Pray, when will it adorn my head? (Sloka No. 31).
- O! Hari! I am the receptacle of countless sins and have fallen into the dreadful worldly ocean. I am helpless and not interested in any other means but have surrendered unto You. Pray, save me and make me Your own. (Sloka No. 48).
- To the entire universe, only You are the father, mother, beloved son and friend, relative, master and refuge. I am Your servant and someone that has to be nurtured by You. I have surrendered unto You and hence am Your responsibility (Sloka No. 60).
- I am a callous person engaged in menial pursuits, fickle-minded, source of jealousy, ungrateful, full of ill-feelings, drenched in sensual pleasures, adept cheat, brutal being and incorrigible sinner. How can I wriggle out of this ocean of sorrow and reach Your feet and serve them? (Sloka No. 62).
The great Acharya’s Thirunakshathram (Aadi-Uththiraadam) falls on August 5. The best way to celebrate the same will be by remembering him and remaining grateful to him for his compassion and magnanimity in gifting us such a great work. Even better it would be if we can recite the hymn, particularly with proper understanding of the meaning.
Swami Desika, in his Prabandham Adhikaara Sangraham, dedicates the fifth Paasuram to Aala Vandhaar, which we shall recall on this occasion:
|நீள வந்து இன்று விதிவகையால் நினைவொன்றிய நாம்|
|மீளவந்து இன்னும் வினை உடம்பு ஒன்றி விழுந்து உழலாது|
|ஆளவந்தார் எனவென்று அருள் தந்து விளங்கிய சீர்|
|ஆளவந்தார் அடியோம் படியோம் இனி அல்வழக்கே.|
“After the vicious cycle of innumerable births and deaths, we have been fortunate to be born as servants of the majestic Aala Vandhaar and learn his works to be rid of our miseries. So we shall never read works related to other faiths.”
On the same August 5th falls the Yajur Upaakarma this year. All are requested to observe it diligently adhering to the requirement of the Saasthras as much as possible. Rather than regarding the occasion as an annual routine, doing it with involvement will keep us all in good stead.
And also, for the Gayathri Japam on the following day, the Japam should ideally be done 1008 times as opposed to 108 preferred and practised by some. Not a tough ask, considering we are to do it once a year only. Subham Asthu!
Meet you in the next Note.
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