Apr 8: Sri Ramanujacharya – 2

8 Apr

The talk was rendered by Sri Prakashji from Boston where he reminisced the incarnation of Sri Ramanujacharya, his association with Tirukkachi Nambi, his tutelage under Yadava Prakasha and his kainkarya in Kanchi.

When Ramanujar was learning under Yadava Prakasha, Aalavandar, a great Vaishnava Acharya from Srirangam, came on a pilgrimage tour to Kanchi, to have the darshan of Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal. When he arrived at Kanchi, he met Tirukacchi Nambi at the temple and talked to him. Alavandar’s eye caught sight of Yadava Prakasha coming along with his disciples around the temple, circumambulating, and among the disciples was Ramanuja with his hand covering the mouth in utter humility.  He realized the ‘Prabhava’ of Ramanuja and also heard from Nambi about his erudition and knowledge, humility and service.  Alavandar truly begged at the feet of Lord Narayana, that Ramanuja’s mission was to liberate the world and not be hidden in Kanchi and offered Ramanuja at the Lord’s feet. The Acharya took hold of Ramanuja just by sight [kataksha], even though Ramanuja and Alavandar had not met before. Alavandar had not initiated Ramanuja and yet, Alavanda has a sankalpa that Ramanuja should be pulled towards Narayana. After this incident, Alavandar returned to Sri Rangam, and Ramanuja continued his Theertha Kainkarya to Kanchi Varadan.

As Guru’s grace had falled on Ramanuja, his devotion to the Lord blossomed.  He truly yearned for Jnana and Bhakti and was totally immersed in kainkarya for Varadaraja Perumal.  He was sloly getting transformed.

Alavandar could not forget Ramanuja. He had so much to talk to Ramanuja and so he sent one his disciples to Kanchipuram and requested him to try and bring Ramanuja to Srirangam. Alavandar desired to initiate Ramanuja into the Vaishnava Sampradaya.

There are four kinds of people one can come into contact with – ‘darshana yogya’ – ones who are good in their looks – they may wear a Gopi Chandan and a pristine white dhoti, but one doesn’t know his qualities.  All one can do is, go to him, chant the Lord’s Divine Name, get one in return, and walk on!   The next is ‘sallapa yogya’ – those that are worthy of conversation – they may have good qualities  and no bad inclinations, frequent temples.  One can talk to him because there is a connection with Lord. Beyond that, they are not fit enough to spend time with or not fit enough to do satsangs with. The third level is “sahavaasa yogya” – those with whom we can mingle, and slowly lose our thought of ‘My’ and ‘I’ as they speak of Guru and the Lord all the time.  The fourth are the ones whom one can surrender unto.  Then, the question comes, “Whom do you surrender unto?”

tath viddhi pratipaadena, pariprasnena sevaya,
upadekshyanthi te jnanam, jnaninah tatva darshinaha”[Srimad Bhagvad Gita 8.40]

When one seeks a Guru, he should surrender totally unto the Guru and if at all there are some questions, those questions should be like how Parikshit posed to Sage Suka. One will be blessed with real Jnana when one does selfless service to his Guru. “upadekshayanthi te jnana, jnaninaha tatva darshinaha”. Only someone who has understood what the supreme truth is, can impart that Jnana, isn’t it? So, we should seek a Guru, we totally surrender unto him and we ask only relevant questions and not trivial ones relating to this mundane world.

Ramanuja had the Kataksha of Alavandar but was yearning for his initiation. Guru is the only one who can impart the Jnana. The reason being the Guru has the ability to clearly wipe out what is not needed, the difference between, “saaram” and “asaaram”, what is needed and what is not needed. He is the one who can, you know, find out what is fit for a disciple and what is not fit for a disciple. The Guru prunes and filters the good qualities that will give a Vinaya in a disciple and the qualities that will take us to the holy feet of the Lord. But our Guru Maharaj has bestowed us with Srimad Bhagavatham. Is there anything “ “assara” in Srimad Bhagavatham? There are two things, one is Vidya and other one is Jnana. Vidya is, to guide our day to day life, to contribute to the society, to bring advancement in science. Whoever teaches Vidya, is a guru, no doubt and needs to be respected. But one who teaches us Jnana, the one who takes us unto his fold and the one who makes us understand and who gives us clarity in thought is Guru and he can only transform and take us unto his fold and show us Bhagawan and the Supreme.

Ramanuja yearned for such a Guru to surrender unto as he was fetching water for Varadan’s kainkarya – when he heard a few slokas from Alavandar’s work called “StotraRatnam”, where, Narayana is described as “Narayana Paratattva, “Svabhavika Aloukika”. The term “Swabhavika”, connotes – by nature, the Supreme.   It was the messenger sent by Alavandar.

Alavandar’s works were very soothing to Ramanuja and the verses go to talk about the limitlessness of Bhagawan. When Ramanuja enquired of the author of the slokas, he learnt that it was Alavandar in Sri Rangam and also heard that it was Alavandar’s desire that Ramanuja come to Sri Rangam.  Tears welled in his eyes because he had heard a lot about Alavandar from Tirukacchi Nambi, including the one about Alavandar’s kataksha on him.   He immediately left for Sri Rangam and when they reached the outskirts of the holy city, many had gathered there in pall and gloom, only to learn that Alavandar had just reached the lotus feet of the Lord. Ramanuja was in excruciating pain after coming to terms with fact that his Guru had left his mortal coil. Alavandar’s physical body was open for darshan and for last respects and Ramanuja came to seek the darshan of his master when he saw that the three fingers of Alavandar were folded. He inquired with everyone if it was a natural thing that Alavandar’s three fingers were always folded. People nodded in negation.

Ramanuja started to pray unto his Guru in that form and he finally came to understand what Alavandar had to tell Ramanuja. He wanted Ramanuja to do three things and he does a vow to complete three things. One, to liberate, millions and millions of people – “anantha koti samsari”, without any rationale, without any limitations based on caste, creed or narrow limitations. Secondly, Ramanuja mentioned, “I shall write a commentary for the BrahsmaSutras in the form of Sri Bashyam.” Thirdly he mentioned that he heard Alavandar spoke about VishnuPurana in his lectures and so it was Alavandar’s wish that someone from that Acharya’s lineage be named as Parashara. Ramanuja mentioned he wanted to pay the respect to Parashara and that someone this lineage will be named Parashara. As Ramanuja spoke about each of these three vows, each finger started to unfold. It was because of the connection between the Guru and the Shishya and it cannot be fathomed by regular intellect. Guru’s grace is beyond words.

Ramanuja gave these three vows thinking, ‘How shall I pay back what you’ve given me and for all that you’ve done for me?”

yat padAmburuhadHyana bibratAshIshakalmashaha |
vastutham Buthayathoosmi ya muneyam namami tham. ||

He says, “It is only after your darshan that I am an object with some bhava.”. He says, “I am an object with life only after I have seen you. Ramanuja beautifully conveys the precept that it is as good as not having existed before we have the darshan of a Sadguru. True birthday is the day we have an opportunity to be blessed with the first darshan of a Guru. Ramanuja said that, “I am not even an object but people are now going to know me because of Yamunaacharya – Alavandar”. And, saying so, he left for Kanchi. He did not even have darshan of our beloved Sri Ranganatha since he was a little upset that Ranganatha did not grant him an opportunity to meet his Guru in person!

Ramanuja continued to perform Kainkarya to Kanchi Varadan, when one day the Lord answered his questions through Tirukacchi Nambi through whome he had asked.  These five responses formed the basis of Sri Bashyam that Ramanuja would write and for him to liberate millions and millions of people.

Ahameva parambrahma jagatkAraNakAraNam.

 First is, “ahameva parambrahma”, Narayana says, “I am the Parambrahma. I am the person responsible for this entire Universe and I am the One who create the things and is the cause of destruction.”

Second is, “kshetragye swarayorbodha sidDHayeva mahAmathehe|

There is a difference between Jiva and Ishwara. The Jiva has limitations. The Iswara does not have limitations. Jiva has limited powers but Iswara has unlimited powers. Ishwara is the controller, jiva is the controlled.

Thirdly the Lord said “mokshopayonnasa eva jananam muktim ichhathe”. It clearly says, “mokshopayonnasa”, the prapanna, one who completely surrenders, will be liberated from this cycle of birth and death. They are given Moksha. They are the ones who are eligible for Moksha.

The fourth truth that the Lord revealed was about whether one can get Narayana Smriti. How can one get the thought of Narayana at the end of one’s life. We know that in Ajamila charitra, Ajamila had his tenth son named as Narayana and he had Narayana smriti, even though in a different involuntarily way. Narayana, conveyed in the verse “madbhaktanam”, for my bhaktha who has surrendered unto me, “madbhaktananam jananam cha na antima smriti ishyathe”. They don’t even have to think or do a little bit about Narayana Smriti. When the devotee of Lord Narayana is about to come to an end, it is verily the duty of the Lord to bestow Narayana Smriti.

Fifth truth, that he confided was the basis for all,

pUrnAcharya mahAtmanam samAshraya guNAshrayam
iti ramanujAcharyaya mayogdha vadhasatvaram 

He requested Ramanuja to take ashraya unto Purnacharya”, Periya Nambigal, from the lineage of Alavandar. Ramanuja was so happy that he got his answers through Bhagavan himself. He again started to go back to SriRangam looking for Periya Nambigal and reached Madhurantakam, just a little south of Chengelpet. At the same time, Periya Nambigal was coming towards Kanchi to meet Ramanuja by Lord Ranganatha’s will. After Alavandar attained Vaikunta, there were not many learned men who had acquired so much Jnana to take over the lineage of the Guru Parampara.  Periyanambigal decided to go and bring Ramanuja back to Srirangam.  Both met at Madhurantakam.   Periyanambigal performed Panchasamskara for Ramanuja right there.

Panchasamskara is very unique because it establishes a connection with the Lord.  The Shanka and Chakra are directly stamped onto one’s body and thereby Bhagavan’s connection is established. – This is Thaapa Samskara.   Pundarasamskara relates to wearing ‘Thirumann’, denoting the adorning of the Lord’s feet on our head to destroy out our ego. In Namasamskara, one is named as a “dasan” of the lineage. This is again irrespective of caste or creed. We have “Kabirdas”. He was born Muslim. Can there ever be a greater disciple than Kabirdas who can show Bhakti to his Guru. Kabirdas was once asked, “If I were to bring the Guru and Bhagavan in front of you, whom will you choose?”. Kabirdas said, “I will choose the Guru.”

The last term is  “Thiruvaradhanam” and it refers to performing one’s daily pooja routine and rituals, according to Vaishnava sampradaya.   All these constitue the 5 samskaras – Pancha Samskaram, which is done on the basis of one’s love for the Lord and not on one’s birth.

Then they reached Kanchipuram where Periyanambigal continued Ramanuja’s classes and education, and imparted the Nalaairadivya prabandham to him. He also taught him “BrahmaSutras” for aiding him to do SriBashyam later.  Ramanuja’s wife unfortunately was caught in the framework of caste based rules and regulations because of which Periyanambigal and wife had to undergo trouble. And Periyanambigal decided to go back to Srirangam, because he was unable to stay away from Ranganatha for a long time and left without seeking Ramanuja’s permission for, he knew that Ramanuja would not allow him to depart to Srirangam. Ramanuja came back and realized that Periyanambigal was gone. He learnt from his wife and went in search of Periyanambigal, who convinced him that it was not because of malice that he left, but because of his being away from Ranganatha.

Once he had invited Tirukacchi Nambi for food, so that he could have Nambi’s ucchishtam.    He was at the temple engrossed in Kainkarya when Tirukacchi Nambi came home for food.  Ramanuja’s wife served him food, but washed off all the vessels soon after the lunch as Tirukacchi Nambi was not a Brahmin. Ramanuja learnt of this when he returned and was enraged and felt dejected.  He could not take it anymore and was finding it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that the very basic Dharma of feeding someone who is hungry was not being followed by his wife and he went crying to Lord Narayana. When he reached the temple, Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal, called Ramanuja as, “Yathiraja” and that was verily his clue. He renounced his family life at that point of time and embraced the path of “sanyasa”.

The satsang concluded with Namasankitan.

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