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THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE TEMPLE
In this way the temple of Lord Rahganatha came to be built and was famous as the largest temple in all of India. At the time of Ramanuja, however, the high priest of the temple was not at all a devoted or pious man. He had used his position to amass a fortune for himself, and he was willing to remove any person who became an obstacle to his ambition. Ramanujacarya now proved himself to be just such an obstacle.The high priest observed how people would offer respect and veneration to Yatiraja and that his own position was now being overlooked. That envious person could not tolerate this threat to his prestige and status, and so he immediately began to consider ways by which he might be rid of this dangerous rival. After formulating a plan, he went to Ramanuja one day and invited him to take alms at his house. Then he quickly returned home and instructed his wife, "Today I have invited Ramanuja to take alms here. This is our opportunity to be rid of the scoundrel once and for all. You know where the poison is to be found. Need I say more?The priest's wife was a woman of similar disposition to her husband, and she gladly agreed to his proposal. The high priest then went back to the temple, and at noon Yatiraja arrived at the house to take alms as he had been invited. The wife of the priest received him with great courtesy, washing his feet and offering him a nice sitting place. AlŽthough this woman was known to be hardhearted by nature, when she beheld the transcendental appearance of the great devotee with his pure, guileless expression, feelings of compassion began to arise within her.When she brought the poisoned dish forward, she was unable to restrain herself and, shedding tears, addressed Ramanuja, "My child, if you want to save yourself, then go elsewhere to take your meal. If you take this food you will die.Yatiraja was shocked to hear these words, and he sat silently for some time wondering what he might have done to bring out such hatred in the priest. Eventually he rose and, leaving the house, walked slowly towards the KaverT. Seeing GosthTpurna there by the banks of the river, he ran towards him and fell down at his feet. GosthTpurna raised him up and inquired as to the cause of his distress.Ramanuja narrated to him the whole story and then asked his spiritual master, "I am so unhappy at the thought of his mental condition.
How can he be freed from such a great sin?"My child," GosthTpOrna replied, "when you desire the Lord's mercy for this sinful soul, there is no need to fear for him. Very soon he will give up his evil ways and become a righteous man.When he had left his guru, Ramanuja returned to the dsrama, where he found a brahmana waiting with various types oiprasddam. He took a little and distributed the rest to his disciples without telling anyone what had befallen him at the house of the high priest. Sitting alone, he continued to contemplate how the priest's sinful nature might be reformed.In the meantime the high priest had returned to his residence and discovered that his plot had been unsuccessful. He was extremely angry, but, considering that a woman's heart is naturally soft, he excused his wife and immediately began to devise another scheme to do away with his imagined rival. Every evening Yatiraja would visit the temple to see Lord Rahganatha. That evening, when he was standing before the Lord, the high priest came towards him, offering him caranamrta. Ramanuja gratefully accepted and drank the caranamrta, even though he knew that it was mixed with poison. Then he offered prayers to Lord Rahganatha, "O ocean of mercy, how great is your affection for your devotee. I am not worthy to accept such nectar from Your lotus feet. Your mercy is causeless and unlimited.When he had finished offering prayers, RamaŽnuja left the temple, his body trembling in ecstasy. Seeing these emotions, the high priest mistook them for signs that the poison was taking effect and was very pleased, thinking that his mission was accomplished. He was convinced that the next morning he would see the smoke of Yatiraja's funeral pyre, for he had put in the caranamrta enough poison to kill ten men.However, in this he was to be disappointed. The next morning, as he was going to the temple as usual, he heard the sound of many voices singing joyful songs in praise of Ramanuja. The priest hurried to the place the sound wascoming from and saw there that all the people of Sri Rahgam were singing and dancing around Yatiraja, offering flow"How can you look with such kindness on a man as abominable as myself!" exclaimed the priest. "O savior of the fallen, this glory of yours will be proclaimed by men for all time to come.Ramanuja then blessed the high priest and bestowed his full mercy upon him. From that day on, the priest was like a different person. He cast far away all the enviousness which had polluted his heart and became a humble servant of the Lord, completely devoted to his savior and guru, Ramanujacarya.