Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja – As a Student and as a Teacher

Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja – As a Student and as a Teacher

In Srivaishnava Sampradayam, Acharyan is equal to Perumal. The foremost Acharya is Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja who reestablished the Visishtaadhvaitha principle and spread Srivaishnavism all over India. Sri Ramanujar had undergone training from all of the five famous disciples of Alavandaar – Periya Nambi, Periya Thirumalai Nambi, Thirukottiyur Nambi, ThirumalaiAandaan and Thiruvaranga Perumalaraiyar. Alavandaar had split all his knowledge into five parts and taught each of his disciples one part. All that knowledge, once again came to be concentrated in one person, Sri Ramanujar.

Sri Ramanujar showed us the path (Prapatti) to salvation. He taught us many things and also practiced them Himself. One of the important lessons that He taught was to shed our ego, especially when serving our Acharya. The following anecdote shows how He practiced it when He was a student and how He taught that idea to His students.

One day Sri Ramanuja’s disciple, Koorathazhvan, asked what the inner meaning of the Charama Slokam (Bhagavad Gita 18.66) was. Sri Ramanuja replied that according to his Acharya, Thirukottiyur Nambi, he could explain the meaning only to the person that serves his Acharya for one year without any anger and controlling their senses. When Koorathazhvan replied that since life was uncertain and that he may not live one year, Yathirajar (Sri Ramanuja) suggested an alternative. He told Koorathazhvan that if he were to beg everyday for a month and made a living that way, he would satisfy his requirements. Begging for a month or even for a day would mean that one has to give up his ego. To understand the meaning of that great slokam it is necessary for one to shed one’s ego.

Kooranthazhvan listened to his Acharya and started begging. After a month making a living by begging, Koorathazhvan understood the inner meaning of the slokam. At another time, another disciple, Mudaliandan, asked Yathirajar the inner meaning of the same slokam. Yathirajar told him that since Mudaliandan was His relative, He could not see any of his faults. Hence He suggested that Mudaliandan should go to his guru, Thirukottiyur Nambi, to learn the meaning of the slokam. Ramanujar was concerned that since Mudaliandan was a very learned person, he may have a lot of ego. As instructed, Mudaliandan went to stay with Thirukottiyur Nambi. Unfortunately the great Acharyar did not pay any attention to Mudaliandan for nearly six months.

Finally one day he told Mudaliandan that he knew that he was his relative and a very knowledgeable person. However, knowledge, high family background and wealth would only give rise to ego in a person with fickle mind. But for a person who behaves in a righteous way, the same qualities could lead one to control their senses and form the basis for good personal qualities. Thirukottiyur Nambi suggested to Mudaliandan that he should understand this very well and go back to his Acharyar to learn the inner meaning of the slokam.

One day, back in Ramanujar’s place Periya Nambi’s daughter, Atthuzhai, came complaining about her plight in her in-laws home. She said that she had to walk great distances every morning and evening over tough terrain to get water for cooking. When she said that to her mother-in-law, her mother-in-law scolded her and told her to ask her father to arrange for a permanent cook. Ramanujar consoled her and said that He would send somebody with her to do the cooking. He looked at Mudaliandan who immediately understood his Acharya’s wish and accompanied Atthuzhai back to her house to work as a cook. Six months time passed.

One day a learned Srivaishnava came to their house and was giving a discourse on a Veda manthram. The learned man made many mistakes in his explanation and the poor folks assembled were listening to his explanation. Mudaliandan, who was listening to all this could not keep quiet any longer. He spoke up and refuted and corrected the Srivaishnava’s explanations. The latter, who got very angry at first thinking that he was a mere cook, fell at Mudaliandan’s feet when he heard the lucid explanation of Mudaliandan. He then explained to everyone present that he was there as a cook at the behest of his Acharya, Ramanuja.

The assembled folks went to Sri Ramanuja and told him the whole story and said that his disciple, Mudaliandan, did not even have an iota of ego and should return back to Sri Ramanujar’s place. Mudaliandan, even though a great scholar himself, served his Acharya by doing a cook’s job at someone’s house just because it was commanded by his Acharya. Ramanujar took him back and educated him on the inner meanings of the slokams in Bhagavad Gita.

When Sri Ramanujar was a student of Thiruvaranga Perumalaraiyar and learning the Dharma Rahasyangal from him, Araiyar used to sing the pasurams set to music and dance in front of Arangan and lie down tired. Ramanujar would then massage Araiyar’s feet and spread turmeric powder all over his body to relieve his pain and suffering.

Ramanujar would heat up milk at night and give it to Araiyar. After nearly six months, Araiyar finally acknowledged the presence of Ramanujar. He knew very well about Ramanujar’s knowledge and high intellect and how He is serving without any ego. One day, as Ramanujar was massaging his feet, Araiyar said that he knew why Ramanujar was serving him. He said that he would be very happy to teach Ramanujar all the secret meaning of Divya Prabhandam. He also told Ramanujar that the service he was doing was man’s highest goal. He told him that an Acharya is Parabrahmam itself, is wealth, is the highest item that one would want to own, is the most protected place to reach, is the incarnation of knowledge, is one’s salvation, and is the person who gives one knowledge. Hence there is nobody greater than him, he is the path to reach Perumal and he is Paraman himself. This concept was later given by Swamy Desikan in Srimadh Rahasya Thrayasaram.

Thus, Sri Ramanujar taught us how important an Acharya is for us and to gain knowledge from them we must serve our Acharya without any ego. He not only preached this, but he also practiced it.

We can only hope and pray that we can serve our Acharyan some time in our life, without any ego and without expecting anything in return other than gaining an infinitesimal amount of His knowledge.

Sri Ramanujar’s guideline for us to follow that would assure us the grace of Sriman NaarAyaNA
1) Read SriBhashya and teach it to others
2) If that is above your level, read Thiruvaimozhi and make others read it
3) If that is beyond your level, build a hut in any holy land and live there
4) If that is impracticable, do service in a temple
5) If that is inconvenient, chant Dwaya Mantra
6) If that is also difficult, serve a devotee of Sriman Narayana

( Courtesy Sri Nrishimhapriya Trust, Chennai )


gablu said...

It is really "shameful" for the authorities to have morphed the picture of sri ramanujar different from the way he is worshipped with archa tirumeni at sri perumbudhur for nearly 1000 years

this only shows that the authorities can stoop to any level to satisfy their ego, whims and fancies regardles sof the religious sanctity - not bothering about what is truth and what is just and fair

while many of us are aware of the continuous efforts by the mutt to seize every opportunity to change tiruman kappu, to twist facts and misrepresent past hsitory it is indeed a fraud, a sign of arrogance, a sign of scant respect to sri rmanaujar himself( to project him in a way differnt from how he lived)

no vaishnavite in his right sense will tolerate these atrocities done with ulterior motives and perverted mind - offering gold plated jewellery /other offerings can certainly not absolve one from these sins

no one has authority to project the archa murthy of a respected acharyan in a different manner than how he himself lived, especially where the archa murthy was established in his life time with his own blessings

recisting "ramanuja dayapatram" is of no use when you disrespect the acharyan like this

pleas take note that legal remedies are available to stop such misrepresentations unless better sense prevails and proper remedial action is taken immediately

Adiyen Madhurkavi Dasan
T A Bharathwaj

Padma said...

agree wtih Madhurakavi Daasan and TA Bharadwaj