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Title: The History of Shri Tirupati Balaji Venkateswara from the Puranas
User: Damodara Svarupa dasa Date: 2005-03-01 20:02:32
The History of Shri Tirupati Balaji Venkateswara from the Puranas -- By Swami Gaurangapada
Some extracts from the Varaha Purana:
The Rishis headed by Kasyapa began to perform a sacrifice (yaga) on the banks of the Ganges. Sage Narada visited them at that time and asked them to tell him why they were performing the sacrifice and who would be pleased by it.
Not being able to answer the question the Rishis approached Sage Bhrigu.To reach a solution after a direct ascertainment of reality, Sage Bhrigu first went to Satyaloka (the abode of Lord Brahma).
There, he found Brahma reciting the four Vedas with his four heads in praise of Lord Narayana and attended upon by Sarasvati and not taking notice of Bhrigu offering obeisance. Concluding that Brahma was unfit for worship, Bhrigu left Brahmaloka for Kailasa.
At Kailasa, Bhrigu found Lord Siva spending his time pleasantly with Parvati and not noticing the Sage Bhrigu. Parvati drew the attention of Siva to the presence of the sage.
Lord Siva became furious at the intrusion of Bhrigu and tried to destroy him. The sage cursed and left for Vaikuntham.
The angry sage went to Shri Vaikuntham. Shrimannarayana was reposing at that time on Adisesha with Shri Mahalakshmi at His feet in service. Finding that Shrimannarayana also did not notice him, the sage was infuriated and he kicked the Lord on His chest, the place where Mahalakshmi resides.
At once the Lord hastened to make apologies to the angry Sage and pressed his feet to allay the pain caused to the leg. In doing so the Lord removed the eye in the foot of the Sage, which gave him power as to defy the Devas. The Sage thereupon decided that Shri MahaVishnu was the most Supreme of the Trimurtis and told the Rishis the same.They thereupon decided that Shri MahaVishnu was the fruit of the Yaga and sacrifice was offered to Him (Vishnu).
At the commencement of the present Sveta Varaha Kalpa, the whole Universe was filled with water and the earth was immersed in it. Lord Vishnu took to form of a White Boar and dived into the water to lift the earth. He slew the demon Hiranyaksha who caused obstruction to him and rescued the earth.
Brahma and the other Devas extolled Shri Varaha at the time with the chanting of the Vedas and showered flowers on him for saving the Earth. Lord Vishnu decided to stay on Earth in the form of the White Boar for some time, to punish the wicked and protect the virtuous. This place thenceforward came to be known as Varaha Kshetra and Varaha Kalpa began from that time.
After the departure of Mahalakshmi, Lord Vishnu left Vaikuntha in a forlorn condition and took his abode in an ant-hill on the Venkata Hill under a tamarind tree beside a Pushkarini.
Brahma and Mahesvara, taking pity on the condition of Vishnu, made up their mind to assume the forms of a cow and its calf to serve him.
The Sun God informed Mahalakshmi of this and requested her to sell the cow and calf to the king of the Chola country assuming the form of a cowherdess.
The king of the Chola country bought the cow and its calf and sent them to graze on the Venkata Hill along with his herd of cattle. Discovering Lord Vishnu in the ant-hill, the cow everyday emptied her under over the ant-hill and thus fed the LORD.
Finding that the cow did not yield any milk, the Chola Queen chastised the cowherd severely.
To find out the cause of the absence of milk, the cowherd followed the cow and hid himself in a bush and discovered the cow emptying her under over the ant-hill.
Getting wild over the conduct of the cow, the cowherd aimed a blow with his axe on the head of the cow. But the God rose from the ant-hill to receive the blow and save the cow.
When the cowherd saw the Lord bleed at the blow of his axe he fell down and died.
On the death of the cowherd, the cow returned bellowing to the presence of the Chola King with blood stains over her body. To find out the cause of the terror of the cow the Chola King followed her to the scene of the incident.
Near an ant-hill, the King found the cowherd lying dead on the ground. While he stood wondering how it had happened, the Lord rose from the ant-hill and cursed the king to become an Asure from the fault of his servant. Entreated by the king who pleaded innocence, the Lord blessed him by saying that His curse would end when He was adorned with the Kireetam presented by Akasa Raja at the time of His marriage with Shri Padmavati.
Thereafter Shrinivasa decided to stay in this Varaha Kshetra. He therefore requested Shri Varahaswami to grant Him a site for His stay. His request being readily granted, Shrinivasa ordained that a pilgrimage to His shrine would not be complete unless it is preceded by a bath in the Pushkarini and Darsan of Shri VarahaSwami, and that Puja and Naivedyam should be offered to Shri Varaha first.
Yasoda brought up Shri Krishna, the son of Devaki, in his early years. Yasoda was not blessed to witness the marriage of Shri Krishna with Rukmini and she felt very sad. Shri Krishna promised to fulfil her desire in her next birth as Vakuladevi in his next Avatara as Shrinivasa. This Vakuladevi was sent to serve Shrinivasa by Lord Varahasvami, on whom she was attending till Shrinivasa came to Venkatachala.
Sometime after, a King named Akasa Raja who belonged to the Lunar race was ruling over Thondamandalam. He had a brother named Thondaman. Akasa Raja had no issue for a long time and so he wanted to perform a sacrifice for obtaining an offspring. While he was himself ploughing and ground for sacrifice, his plough turned up a lotus in the ground. On examining the lotus, the King found a female child in it.
The king was happy to find a child even before he performed a sacrifice and carried it to his place and gave it to his Queen to tend it. At that time he heard an aerial voice which said "O King, tend it as your child and fortune will befall you". As she was found in a lotus, the king named her Padmavati.
In course of time Princess Padmavati grew up into a beautiful maiden and was attended by a host of maids. One day while she was spending her time in a garden picking flowers with her maids, Saint Narada approached her. Assuring her that he was her well-wisher, he asked her to show him her palm to read her future. He foretold that she was destined to be the spouse of Lord Vishnu himself.
At this time Lord Shrinivasa, who went for hunting chased a wild elephant in the forests surrounding the hills. In the pursuit, Shrinivasa was led into a garden, where Princess Padmavati and her maids were picking flowers.The sight of the elephant frightened them and their Princess.
But the Elephant immediately turned round and saluted the Lord and disappeared in the forest.Lord Shrinivasa came on horse back and saw the frightened maidens and he was accosted by them with queries.
Lord Shrinivasa had explained them about his birth and parentage. He enquired them about their princess and her parentage and birth.
When he was informed that the Princess was Padmavati (lotus-Born) the foster Daughter of Akasaraja, he loved her and made advances to the Princess. He was repulsed with stones by the maids and he urgently returned to the hills leaving the horse, which fell on the ground.
Vakuladevi, as usual, brought dinner to Shrinivasa comprising various delicious dishes. But she found him lying on his bed love-sick. She enquired the cause of his sickness. The Lord informed her that unless he secured Princess Padmavati, he would not be well. Vakuladevi then asked him to tell her all about the Princess, who she was, and how he came to love her. The Lord then narrated the story of her (Padmavati’s) previous birth and his promise to wed her.
In olden times Lakshmi was staying as Vedavati in a Rishi Asrama in the forests. At that time Ravana, the lord of Lanka came there and tried to tempt her. Vedavati grew angry and cursed him that she would bring about his death.
To fulfil her words, Vedavati entered into the fire but the fire-god rescued her. He took Vedavati to his house and entrusted her to his wife to take care of her.
When Ravana was about to carry away Sita from Panchavati in the absence of Rama and Lakshmana, the Fire-God appeared on the scene and offered Vedavati to Ravana as the real Sita who was kept with him by Rama to evade Ravana.
Ravana took Vedavati to Lanka thinking she was the real Sita, while Agni(Fire-God) took Sita to his house and asked his wife Swahadevi to look after her.
After the destruction of Ravana, Vedavati entered the fires when rejected by Rama. Then the Fire-God offered the real Sita to Rama. Rama then questioned her as to who the other lady by her side was.
Sita informed Rama that she was Vedavati who suffered all the tortures for her sake for ten months in Lanka and requested Rama to accept her also as his spouse. But Rama declined her request saying that he was wedded to policy of having only one wife during his life time, and he promised to wed her in her next birth as Padmavati, born as the daughter of Akasaraja when he will take the form of Shrinivasa.
There upon Vakuladevi thought that Shrinivasa would not be happy unless he married Padmavati and she offered to go to Akasaraja and his queen and arrange for the marriage. On the way she met the maid-servants of Padmavati returning from a Siva Temple. She learnt from them about Padmavathi's love-sickness and went to the queen along with them.
Akasaraja and his queen Dharanidevi became anxious about the health of their daughter. They learnt about Padmavati's love for Shrinivasa of Venkata Hill. Akasaraja consulted Brihaspati about the propriety of the marriage and was informed that the marriage was in the best interests.
After the departure of Vakuladevi Shrinivasa could not rest in peace. He doubted her success in the mission. He therefore assumed the form of a Yerukula-woman and entered the streets of the capital telling fortunes. Padmavati's maids saw her and invited her to the presence of their queen.
The maid-servants went and informed the queen that the fortune-teller was hesitating to come into the palace without an invitation from the queen.
The queen came out herself and invited the fortune-teller into the palace.The fortune-teller was taken to the presence of Princess Padmavati.
The fortune-teller saw the palm of the Princess and told the queen about the cause of Padmavati's indisposition and advised to give her in marriage to Lord Shrinivasa. She also told the queen that a lady would approach her shortly to formally request Padmavati's hand in marriage on behalf of Shrinivasa.
After the departure of the fortune-teller, Vakuladevi went to the queen along with the maids and informed her that she came from Shrinivasa to request the hand of Padmavati in marriage for him.
Having consulted Brihaspati and heard from his queen about the prediction of the fortune-teller and arrival of the messenger, from Shrinivasa, Akasaraja decided to bestow his daughter on Shrinivasa and he called the palace purohits to fix a Muhurtam for the marriage.
Akasaraja informed his Ministers and other Officials of his intention. Immediately a letter was drafted for being sent to Shrinivasa requesting him to come and marry the Princess.
Akasaraja entrusted the letter to Sukamahamunin for being delivered to Shrinivasa. Suka went to Venkata Hill with Vakulamalikadevi. He presented the Patrika to Lord Shrinivasa, who felt pleased and sent his garland through him for Padmavati.
Immediately Lord Shrinivasa called for a conference of the Gods to win their consent for His marriage with Princess Padmavati.
To meet the expenses of the marriage, Kubera lent money to the Lord.
Lord Shrinivasa started for the residence of Akasaraja with his consorts and Brahma and Siva and his vehicle Garutman.
At the entrance the Lord was received by Akasaraja with all honours and was taken in procession on a mounted elephant to the palace for the marriage.
In the presence of all the Devas, Lord Shrinivasa took the hand of the Princess Padmavati and wedded her and thus blessed Akasaraja.
Contest between Adisesha and Vayudeva
During the Dwaparayuga, Vayudeva (the Wind God) went to Vaikuntam to pay his obeisance to Lord Shri Vishnu. The Lord was reclining in the company of Shri Lakshmi. The doorway was guarded by Adisesha. Vayudeva was incensed when Adisesha prevented him from entering Shri Vishnu’s mansion. Adisesha and Vayudeva began to fight with each other.
When Lord Vishnu intervened, each was boasting of his superior valour and supreme might. To test who was stronger, the Lord suggested that Adisesha encircle the Ananda hill, an off-shoot of the Meru mountain on its northern side, and that Vayudeva blow hard to try and dislodge the Ananda hill from Adisesha's hold. The contest waxed furiously, and as the World trembled, Brahma, Indra and the other Divine Beings requested Adisesha to yield victory to Vayudeva for the welfare of the world.
Obliging them, Adisesha released his hold on the hill. As a result, Adisesha and the Ananda hill were blown away to the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. Adisesha was dejected by his defeat. Lord Brahma and the others appealed to him by saying that he would be merged with the hill Venkatadri and Vishnu would reside on him. Adisesha then metamorphosed into the vast Seshadri, with his hood manifesting itself as Venkatadri sustaining Shri Venkateswara, his middle as Ahobila supporting Lord Narasimha, and his tail as Shrisailam bearing Lord Mallikarjuna (Lord Siva).
Restoration of the Earth by Adi Varaha
During the eight thousand yugas (the equivalent of a day and night for Brahma, the Creator), there was a raging fire, and everything on Earth was reduced to ashes. Man had to forsake the Earth and seek refuge in Janaloka.
At the approach of night (of Brahma), Vayu, the Wind God, blew furiously. Huge clouds were formed, there was torrential rain, and it resulted in Pralaya Kalpa (the Great Deluge). The Earth sank into the Patala loka, and remained in that state for a thousand years (during a part of that night of Brahma).
Shri Maha Vishnu, wanted to rescue the Earth. He assumed the form of Adi Varaha and proceeded to Pataloka. He fought a fierce duel with Hiranyaksa and killed him. He then slashed the water and brought up the Earth on his tusks.
Brahma, the Devas and the sages extolled Adi Varaha's virtues, by chanting the Vedic mantras. They prayed to Him to re-establish the Earth as before. Adi Varaha obliged them, and called upon Brahma to recreate the world. He expressed his desire to reside on the Earth to protect its people. He commanded his vehicle, Garuda to fetch Kridachala (an extensive natural hill with lofty peaks, embedded with gold and precious stones, and which resembled Adisesha in shape) from Vaikuntam.
Garuda brought Kridachala and deposited it on a sacred spot (to the East of Swami Pushkarini) chosen by Adi Varaha. Adi Varaha stood within the divine vimana of Kridachala, which shone with many gem-studded gopuras.
Brahma and the other holy personages requested the fearsome-looking Adi Varaha to assume a tranquil and composed look, and rest on the hill to protect men and grant boons to people unable to reach God through Dhyana Yoga (meditation) and Karma Yoga (doing one's own duty).
Adi Varaha appeared with four arms and a white face. He was adorned with jewels and accompanied by Bhu Devi. He resolved to stay at Venkatadri, under a divya vimana, to grant the prayers of men. (from indiadivine.com)
"There is one more confidential story. Ramanujacharya once came to Puri and pleased the Lord with many prayers. Jagannatha appeared before him and said, `Go and see Navadvipa-dhama, for I will soon appear there in the house of Jagannatha Misra. The entire spiritual sky is situated within one corner of Navadvipa, My very dear abode. As My eternal servant and leading devotee, you should see Navadvipa. Let your students, who are absorbed in dasya-rasa, stay here while you go. Any living being who does not see Navadvipa has been born uselessly. Just one portion of Navadvipa contains Ranga-ksetra, Shri Venkata (Tirupati), and Yadava Acala. O son of Kesava, go to Navadvipa and see the form of Gauranga. You have come to the earth to preach bhakti, so let your birth be successful with the mercy of Gauranga. From Navadvipa, go to Kurma-sthana and join again with your disciples.'
"With folded hands, Ramanuja submitted to Jagannatha, `In Your narration You have mentioned Gauranga, but exactly who He is, I do not know.'
"The Lord mercifully replied to Ramanuja, `Everyone knows Krishna, the Lord of Goloka. That Krishna, whose vilasa-murti is Narayana, is the Supreme Truth, and He resides in Vrndavana. That Krishna is fully manifest in the form of Gaurahari, and that Vrndavana is fully manifest in the form of Navadvipa-dhama. I eternally reside as Lord Gauranga in Navadvipa, the topmost abode in the universe. By My mercy that dhama has come within Bhu-mandala, yet it remains without a scent of maya. This is the verdict of scripture. If you say that Navadvipa is part of the material world, then your devotion will dwindle day by day. I have placed this spiritual abode within the material world by My desire and inconceivable energy. Simply by reading scriptures one will not get the highest truth, for the highest truth surpasses all reasoning power. Only the devotees can understand by My mercy.'
"Hearing this, the sober-minded Ramanuja was agitated with love for Gauranga. He said, `Lord, Your pastimes are truly astounding. The scriptures cannot know Your opulences. Why isn't Gauranga-nama-lila clearly described in the scriptures? When I closely examine the sruti and Puranas, now I can see the verses about the Gauranga-tattva. After hearing Your instructions, my doubts are gone and the sweet mellows of Gauranga's pastimes have arisen in my heart. If You order me, after going to Navadvipa I will preach Gauranga-nama-lila throughout the three worlds. I will give people evidence from the hidden scriptures and establish devotional service to Gauranga throughout the universe and make all the three worlds into Gauranga-bhaktas and make them chant Gauranga's Name. Please instruct me.'
"Seeing Ramanuja's eagerness, Jagannatha said, `Ramanuja, do not broadcast like this. Keep the confidential name, pastimes and abode of Gauranga secret. Only after Gauranga has finished His pastimes will the general public receive them. For now, preach dasya-rasa, while in your heart worship and chant the name of Gauranga constantly.'
"Taking the Lord's advice, Ramanuja secretly cultured his attraction for Navadvipa. So that Gauranga's pastimes were not revealed prematurely, Lord Narayana then led Ramanuja here to Vaikunthapura and mercifully showed Ramanuja His transcendental form served by Shri, Bhu, and Nila. Ramanuja considered himself fortunate to obtain darsana of his worshipable Lord, when suddenly he saw the Lord assume the enchanting form of Gauranga, the son of Jagannatha Misra. Ramanuja swooned at the brilliance of the form. Then Gauranga put His lotus feet on the head of Ramanuja, who was thus divinely inspired and recited prayers of praise. `I must see Gauranga's actual lila on earth. I can never leave Navadvipa!'
"Gauranga said, `O son of Kesava, your desire will be fulfilled. When the Nadia (Navadvipa) pastimes will be revealed in the future, you will take birth here again.'
"Gauranga disappeared and Ramanuja, contented, resumed his journey. After some days he arrived at Kurma-sthana and saw the place with his disciples. During his life he preached dasya-rasa throughout South India, while internally he was absorbed in Gauranga-nama-lila. By Gauranga's mercy, he took birth in Navadvipa as the devotee Shri Ananta Acharya. He went to Vallabhacarya's house and saw the marriage of Laksmipriya and Gauranga.
From Shrila Saccidananda Thakura Bhaktivinoda's supreme classic book Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, Chp 15.
Last Instructions of Shri Ramanujacharya
On his death bed Shri Ramanuja is said to have articulated 82
statements to his disciples. It is not an exaggeration to present these
statements as the essence of Shri Vaishnavam. I give below excerpts of these,
translated from "Shri Ramaanujar," pi. shri, sudhEsamitthiran, pp. 250 - 259,
aagaStu 1964 . I apologise for the lack of lucidity of my translation.
(written by Shri Parthasarathy Dileepan).
1. Serve God and God's devotees. Serve all devotees without regard to their
2. Have faith in the teachings of AchAryAs.
3. Do not succumb to sensual pleasures.
4 & 5. Do not put your conviction on trivial saasthraas, have conviction on
the saasthraas that deal with God.
6 - 8. Protect yourself from the five senses.
9 & 10. Praise the name of the Lord and AchAryAs.
11. All the knowledge you may have will not protect you if you choose
12 & 13. It is not enough to control your sensual desires, you must
surrender to the Lord.
14 - 17. Do not be disrespectful of shri vaishnavaas for any reason,
including age, caste, etc. You must show respect to them all.
18. When you rise from your bed meditate upon your ancestral line of
19. In front of the sanctum of our Lord, amongst shri vaishnavaas utter the
words of dvayam. (mentally' Do not utter loudly, as they are rahaysyams)
20. Praise the auspicious qualities of our Lord and AchAryAs.
21 and 22. Welcome shri vaishnavas with open arms and praise. Do not praise
ordinary people for the sake of material gain.
23. Pay respect when you see the gOpuram of a temple.
24 - 25. Have undying faith in Lord Vishnu.
26. Do not find fault with praise of the Lord or devotees.
27 - 29. Pay at most respect to shri vaishnavaas.
30 & 31. Among shri vaishnavaas do not discriminate between poor and rich.
32. Ignore the faults and praise the virtues of shri vasihnavaas.
33 - 35. Consume Shri paadha theertham with respect.
36. Do not consider yourself as equal to other devotees. Think of yourself
as their servant.
37 - 39. To purify your sins consume the shri paada theertham of great
saints. For this, do not consider the caste of those saints.
40 & 41. Duties of families. (Not described in the text)
42 - 44. Visiting temples and securing prasaadam is important.
45. Do not boast about your virtues.
46. Do not scorn a devotee.
47. Do not ignore serving devotees.
48. Praise the auspicious qualities of the Lord daily.
49. Recite prabhandams like thiruvaaymozhi daily.
50 - 58. Do not associate with the ones who only pretend to be shri
vaihnvaas. Do not associate with the ones who find faults with others. Do
not even look upon those who belittle devotees. Associate with those who
wish to surrender to the Lord.
59 & 60. Ignore the harsh words of other shri vaishnvaas. Always do good to
(From this point onwards I am unable to give numerical listing as the
original text does not give the numerical ordering.)
Do not think of the deities of the Lord as just stone or wood. (my note: In
as much as we give respect to the cloth (the flag of a nation) as the nation
itself, we need to consider the Divya mangaLa vigraham as the transcendental
form of Emperumaan Shriya:pathih Shriman Narayanan Himself.)
Do not think of your guru (AchArya) as just an ordinary person. Even simply
saying out loud the caste of a shrivasihnavaas is a sin.
Do not consider anything related to our Lord as ordinary. There is nothing
greater than making our Lord and his devotees happy. Insulting a devotee is
a greater sin than not praying to the Lord. Your duty is to surrender to our
Lord. Try to live in Thiru naaraayanapuram (mElkOte) at least for some time.
If you are unable to, where ever you are, live with dvayam in your tongue.
If you are unable to do even this, serve other shrivaishnavaas.
"The Dawning of Devotion" (by Jeffrey Wallace)
Originally published by The Gaudiya–Vaishnava Society
When the religion of the Vedas became weakened due to the influence
of less intelligent men who blindly performed ritualistic ceremonies and
wantonly killed animals in the name of Vedic injunctions, Buddha appeared on
the scene as a great reformer. Totally rejecting the Vedic literature and
substituting his rational, atheistic views, Buddha advocated the path of
ahimsa, (nonviolence and nirvana-the negation of reality as we know it) as
the ultimate goal of life. Soon after, the philosophy of Shankaracharya
overpowered Buddhism and spread throughout India.
The authority of the Upanishads and other Vedic literature were
revived by Shankara and employed as weapons to fight the Buddhist doctrine.
Interpreting the Vedas to draw a particular conclusion, Shankara established
the doctrine of non-dualism, adwaita-vedanta, stating that all living
entities were on an equal level with God. He prominently stressed those
texts which afforded an answer to the rationalistic atheism of the
Buddhists, yet the teachings of Shankara were not wholly theistic, and thus
a further unveiling of the ultimate reality was destined. That destiny was
fulfilled through Shri Ramanujacharya.
Ramanuja was born in India during the year 1017 A.D. when, according
to astrological calculations, the sun was in the zodiacal sign of Cancer.
His parents were Asuri Kesava and Kantimati, both from aristocratic
families. Rumanja passed his childhood days in Shriperumbudur, the village of
his birth. At the age of 16 he was married to Rakshakambal.
Only four months after his wedding, Ramanuja's father was struck
with a severe illness and died. Upon the death of his father, Ramanuja
became head of the household and decided to move to Kanchi, a holy city
famed for its scholars and magnificent temples.
In Kanchi there lived a scholar named Yadava Prakash, who w as
renowned for his scholarship in the doctrine of adwaita-vedanta, nondualism.
No one could surpass Yadava l in his ability to explain Shankara's
commentaries on Vedanta-sutra. Ramanuja enrolled in Yadava's school and
engaged in the study of Sanskrit and Vedic literature. Although not at all
convinced by the Shankarite conception, Ramanufa learned his lessons well
and soon became one of Yadava's favorite students. Thinking Ramanuja to be a
sincere follower of the conclusions of Shankara, Yadava showed Ramanufa
special affection, But that affection did not last for long.
One day, after delivering a discourse on the Chandogya Upanishad,
Yadava asked Ramanuja to massage his body with oil, as was the customary
service to be performed by a student in those days. While giving the massage
ing his teacher, another student came to Yadava for some clarification on a
point from the morning discourse. The l boy had failed to grasp the meaning
of the seventh verse of the first chapter, which began with tasya vatha
kapvasam pundarikam evam akshini. Yadava proceeded to expound an
interpretation which described the sublime qualities of the Godhead in a
manner which was flagrantly objectionable. On hearing the words of his
teacher, the heart of Ramanuja, which was full of love for the Supreme
Godhead, was saddened, and hot tears streamed down from his eyes and fell on
the thigh of Yadava. Looking up at the touch of the hot tears, Yadava could
understand that something was troubling Ramanuja. When he inquired about
Ramanuja's distress, Ramanuja replied, "O great and wise master, I have been
sorely afflicted at heart to hear such an unbecoming explanation from a
noble soul like you. How sinful it is of you to debase the Supreme, who is
endowed with all gracious qualities and who is the source of all beautiful
things in this world. From the mouth of such a learned man as yourself I
would never have expected such a low and deceitful interpretation!"
Yadava became so angry that he could hardly control himself. "Well
then," he scorned, maybe you would like to give your own interpretation
since you obviously think you know better than l!"
In a very gentle voice Ramanuja replied, "Revered sir, there is no
need to give a low-minded interpretation to the verse when the real meaning
is direct and glorious."
"Then let us hear this meaning of yours which is so glorious!" said
Yadava. Ramanuja then stood and with great humility recited the meaning of
the verse. "The two eyes of the Supreme are as lovely as two lotuses that
are blossomed by the rays of the sun."
"I see," said Yadava. "You speak as though there actually was such a
'Supreme Person.' That is due to your childish ignorance. You have not
learned your lessons properly. You should always remember that the j Supreme
is without form, without name, and without attributes. That is the teaching
of the great Shankara. In the future you should not voice your foolish
sentiments!" The words of Yadava were painful to Ramanuja's ears, but out of
respect for his teacher he remained silent.
A few days later a second incident occurred. While explaining a
verse from the Taittiriya Upanishad beginning with satyam jnanam anantam
brahma, Yadava said that Brahman was intelligence, truth, and the infinite.
Hearing this explanation, Ramanuja politely added, "Brahman is endowed with
the qualities of intelligence, truth, and the infinite. This means that He
is not covered by ignorance as are ordinary living entities, He is never
untruthful, and His energies are unlimited, not limited. The Supreme Brahman
is the reservoir of all good qualities, yet He is superior to those
qualities, as the sun globe is superior to sunlight."
The agitation which Yadava felt within his mind made his voice
tremble. "You young fool!" he shouted. "Your conclusions do not agree with
those of Shankara or any of the previous masters! If you are going to
persist with this useless talk about a personal God, why come here at all
simply to waste my time? Why don't you start your own school and teach
whatever you like? Now get out of my classroom immediately!"
As Ramanuja rose from his seat and quietly left the room, Yadava
began to reflect, "This Ramanuja is not an ordinary boy. If he starts his
own school, the philosophy of devotion might become a threat to the
philosophy of non-dualism. For the sake of preserving our doctrine, this
fool should be killed!"
Shortly thereafter, Ramanuja opened a small school at his home, and
in no time many people began to come to him to hear his devotional
discourses. Ramanuja's lectures were wholly theistic. He rejected the
concept that the jiva, a living entity, could be equal to the Supreme
Brahman or become God as postulated by Shankara. The living entity, Ramanuja
taught, is a particle of Godhead, and as such, his position is to serve the
complete whole. He said that as the hand is part of the body and thus a
servant of the body, similarly the living entity is part of the Supreme and
thus his constitutional position is to serve the Supreme.
Ramanuja's philosophy became known as visishtadwaita or qualified
non-dualism. Accordingly, the living entities are believed to be
qualitatively one with the Supreme and at the same time quantitatively
different. Ramanuja's assertion was that the quantitative difference means
that the fragmentary parts of the Supreme are dependent on the Supreme but
they cannot become the Supreme.
The philosophy of Shankara stated that everything is Brahman and
Brahman itself is absolutely homogeneous, undifferentiated, and without
personality; individuality arose only due to illusion or maya. But this
concept was staunchly opposed by Ramanuja. His philosophy stated that there
can never be knowledge of an unqualified object; knowledge necessarily
points to an object as characterized in some way. Ramanuja never admitted to
an attributeless, undifferentiated Brahman, but rather a Brahman which is an
attribute of a greater reality: Godhead Himself. He reasoned that as the
living entities are individual personalities, so too is the Supreme also a
personality-the Ultimate Personality.
Ramanuja further reasoned that if illusion could cover the identity
of the Supreme, then illusion was greater than Godhead. Therefore he
asserted that we are eternally individual personalities and the Supreme is
eternally the Supreme Personality, but due to our finite nature we are
sometimes subject to illusion.
Ramanuja also accepted the theory of transformation rejected by
Shankara. According to Shankara the material world is false; it has no
existence .Ramanuja, on the other hand, said that the material world is the
energy of Godhead, and the subjective reality does not undergo any change of
substance in the matter of material manifestation in the same way that a
singer who creates a song out of his own energy is not diminished due to his
creation; rather, he becomes more glorious.
Neither the material world nor the living entities are conceived of
as being independent of the Supreme Personality in the system of
vtsishtadwaita philosophy. The living entities are a different manifestation
of the Supreme due to their being endowed with free will, whereas the
material energy is manifest directly under the will of the Supreme. The free
will of the living entity is an all-important factor, since that free will
is considered to be the basic principle of reciprocal relations between
Godhead and the living entity.
Ramanuja presented the living entities' relationship with Godhead as
being one of eternal service. According to Ramanuja, when the living
entities are freed from the illusions produced by the material energy by the
method of devotion and natural love of GodAlike the dealings between an
affectionate servant and his masterA then the soul enters the spiritual sky
known as Vaikuntha. Once having reached the Vaikuntha world, the soul
engages in eternal service to the Supreme Person, Narayana (Vishnu). This
sublime message was daily imparted by Ramanuja to his listeners.
Seeing the growing popularity of Ramanuja and the influence which he
had on the people of Kanchi, the proud and arrogant Yadava Prakash became
restless. Gathering his faithful students by his side, Yadava said, "This
impudent Ramanuja is a heretic! He is a nuisance to society and a threat to
our doctrines of non-dualism. I can see no other solution to the problem
than to kill this rascal! What do you say?" Yadava's disciples were in
complete agreement with their teacher since they too were envious of
Ramanuja. Thus they devised a plan to kill him.
On the plea of worshipping the sacred river Ganges, Yadava and his
disciples made arrangements for a pilgrimage to Banaras and asked Ramanuja
if he would like to join them. Unsuspecting of their treacherous plan,
Ramanuja accepted the invitation. As the group was about to depart, Ramanuja
requested his cousin Govinda to accompany him. On the fourth day of their
journey, Govinda was taken into confidence by some of Yadava's younger
students who disclosed the plan to kill Ramanuja.
Shocked at the evil intentions of Yadava and his followers, Govinda
took Ramanuja to a secluded place in the forest and informed him of the
danger. Govinda requested Ramanuja to flee into the forest immediately
before it was too late.
Govinda then returned to the camp and told the others that while he
and Ramanuja were looking for wild berries in the forest, a tiger had
pounced upon Ramanuja and dragged his helpless body away. Outwardly Yadava
and his disciples displayed symptoms of sorrow, but inwardly their hearts
leaped with joy. Ramanuja was now gone from their lives forever. Or so they
While wandering across the countryside trying to find his way home,
Ramanuja came to a well where a man and woman were busy drawing water to
take to their village. The couple offered Ramanuja a cup of water to relieve
his thirst. After drinking, Ramanuja laid down to rest and fell into a
dreamful sleep. He dreamt that while walking in the forest he saw the
incarnation of Godhead Ramachandra and His consort Sitadevi, who showed him
the way to his village. When Ramanuja awoke from his dream, the man and
woman at the well were gone. As he looked around he saw that he was now on
the outskirts of Kanchi. How he had gotten there he could not ascertain,
save and except that it was by a miracle.
Ramanuja resumed his normal life at Kanchi and did not reveal to
anyone that his life had been in danger. Several months passed until one
day, Yadava and his disciples finally returned to Kanchi after completing
their pilgrimage. They were staggered at the sight of Ramanuja alive and
conducting his school as usual. Thinking that their plan might have been
discovered, they became fearful and abandoned any further plans to kill
The fame of Ramanuja continued to spread far and wide. One day as
Ramanuja sat in the solitude of his study, a venerable saint named
Yamunacharya came to his door for alms. Extending his full courtesy,
Ramanuja welcomed the saint into his home. Ramanuja learned that Yamuna was
from Shri Rangam, the famous temple of Vishnu. In the course of their
discussion, Ramanuja soon realized that Yamunacharya was a qualified
spiritual master of the science of devotion. Overwhelmed with ecstasy and
jubilation, Ramanuja fell at his feet and asked to be accepted as his
Yamuna instantly raised Ramanuja up from the floor, and embracing
him with deep love, said, "My child, I am blessed today by seeing your
devotion to God. May you live a long and fruitful life always being intent
in the service of Narayana, the Personality of Godhead." Ramanuja then
circumnambulated his guru to invoke auspiciousness, and Yamuna left for Shri
Now more than ever, Ramanuja preached the doctrine of devotion with
strength and conviction. So convincing was Ramanuja in his presentation that
even Yadava Prakash and his followers surrendered and became the disciples
Then one day, a messenger came from Shri Rangam and informed Ramanuja
that his guru was ill and on the verge of death. Ramanuja immediately
departed for Shri Rangam, but was not able to reach there in time. Shortly
before Ramanuja arrived, Yamuna left his body and entered the blissful realm
Crossing the river Kaveri, Ramanuja reached the island on which the
temple of Shri Rangam was located, and went directly to the place where his
guru was lying. Surrounded by a group of his disciples, Yamuna laid on a bed
with his eyes closed, his arms outstretched at his sides, and his face
shining as if immersed in thoughts of infinite beauty.
Momentarily, everyone's attention focused on Ramanuja as he entered
the room and came to sit by the side of his guru. Tears of love filled his
eyes and he wept, his heart feeling great separation from his master. The
left hand of Yamurva was poised in the yoga posture for peace, with three
fingers extended and the thumb and forefinger joined together at the tips.
His right hand, however, was at his side but clenched into a fist. All the
disciples were struck with wonder about the position of their guru's right
hand. and none of them could understand the meaning. As everyone looked on
in wonder, Ramanuja broke the silence by declaring, "Our guru. the revered
Yamunacharya. has three desires that he wishes to be fulfilled. I will
protect the people in general who are deluded by impersonalism by bestowing
upon them the nectar of surrender at the lotus feet of Narayana."
As Ramanuja spoke, one of the ! fingers on Yamuna's right hand
extended outward. Then Ramanuja said, "For the well-being of the people of
the world, I will prepare a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra that will
establish the Supreme Person as the ultimate reality." At this, a second
finger extended, and Ramanuja continued speaking. "And in order to honor
Parasara Muni, who in ancient times established the relation between jivas,
I living entities, and iswara. the Supreme Person, I shall name one of my
disciples who is greatly learned and devoted after him."
Ramanuja then became silent and the third finger on the right hand
of Yamuna extended. Everyone present was amazed to see this miracle, and
from that day on they all accepted Ramanuja as their leader and guide.
Ramanuja continued to live at Shri RanRam for the remainder of his life and
in due course all three vows were fulfilled by him.
Although he lived for many years as a successful householder,
Ramanuja was destined to accept the path of renunciation. Eventually he took
up the renounced order of life, sannyasa, by going before the deity in the
temple and praying to be exclusively engaged in the service of Godhead. From
that day forward Ramanuja always wore the the symbol of Narayana on his
forehead, dressed in saffron cloth, and carried the renunciate's
three-sectioned staff, which signified service to God by body, mind, and
So powerful was Ramanuja that the philosophers of non-dualism soon
found it difficult to maintain their position in any kingdom. Ramanuja
established the tenets of devotion so firmly that none could oppose him.
Many great and learned scholars came to hear him speak and became his
Feeling oppressed by the growing popularity of devotion, a certain
group of impersonalists went to see the Chola king, Krimikantha, at Kanchi.
Bowing humbly before the king, who was himself an impersonalist, they asked
him to do something to stop Ramanuja. After some discussion it was decided
that the king would invite Ramanuja to take part in a philosophical debate
at the palace. Thus the king's messengers were sent to Shri Rangam to fetch
Ramanuja. The king had it in mind to convert Ramanuja by force if necessary.
Once Ramanuja had been indoctrinated, he thought, then everyone in his
kingdom would return to the fold of Shankara.
After meeting with the king's messengers at Shri Rangam, Ramanuja
prepared to go to Kanchi. However Kuresh, a wise disciple of Ramanuja, did
not trust the intentions of the king. and pleaded with his guru to allow him
to go in his place. Kuresh insisted, and
Ramanuja had to submit. Kuresh then dressed in the saffron robes of
his guru and appeared before the messengers with staff in hand. Thinking
Kuresh to be Ramanuja they started for Kanchi. Meanwhile, dressed in white
robes, Ramanuja remained behind.
When Kuresh reached the palace, King Krimikantha greeted him with
respect, thinking him to be Ramanuja. But later, when Kuresh refused to he
intimidated by the behavior of the king, Krimikantha, in a mad rage, ordered
his soldiers to arrest Kuresh and burnt his eyes out. The king s men took
Kuresh to a prison, and after blinding him, released him in the forest.
During the entire horrifying experience Kuresh never once protested. He
found strength within knowing that his guru was safe.
With the help of some people from Kanchi who were appalled by the
action of the king, Kuresh was able to rejoin his guru at Shri Rangam. Within
a matter of days after committing that grave offense against Kuresh, King
Krimikantha was stricken with an incurable disease and died a miserable
At Shri Rangam. Ramanuja took Kuresh before the deity of Narayana,
and with fervent prayers asked the deity to restore his sight. O master of
the universe, You are the protector and well-wisher of Your devotees. Kindly
be merciful and renew the eyes of Kuresh, who without protest has made the
supreme sacrifice. At that very moment Kuresh felt a gentle breeze blow
across his brow and he immediately regained his sight.
Ramanuja continued living at Shri Rangam, serving the deity of
Narayana and imparting enlightenment to whoever came to him until he was 120
years old. One day while worshipping the deity, he prayed, Dear God,
whatever I could do to preserve the essence of the Vedas, to uplift the
fallen souls, and to establish the shelter of Your lotus feet as the supreme
goal in life, I have done. Now my body has grown tired after many years in
this world. Kindly allow me to depart from this mortal world and enter Your
With this prayer Ramanuja returned to the assembly of his disciples
and announced his desire to depart from this world. Thrown into an ocean of
grief, the disciples clasped the feet of their guru and petitioned him to
remain with them. It is unbearable for us to conceive of the disappearance
of your divine form, which is the supreme purifier, the abode of all that is
good. the destroyer of all afflictions, and the fountain of unlimited joy.
Out of pity for your children. please stay with us for some time longer."
Ramanuja remained on Earth for three more days. To appease their
afflicted hearts. Ramanuja spoke his last instructions to those who were
most near and dear to him. always remain in the company of and serve those
souls devoted to Godhead just as you would serve your own spiritual
preceptor. Have faith in the teachings of the Vedas and in the words of the
great saints. Never become the slave of your senses: always strive to
conquer the three great enemies of self-realization: lust. anger, an(l
greed. Worship Narayana and take pleasure in uttering the holy names of God
as your only refuge. Sincerely serve the devotees of Godhead: by service to
the great devotees, the highest service is done and one quickly gains the
supreme mercy. Remembering these things you should live happily in this
world for the attainment of the next. "With these departing words, Ramanuja,
keeping his head on the lap of Govinda and his mind fixed in spiritual
trance, relinquished his mortal body and entered the realm of Vaikuntha.
Ramanuja was indeed a great theologian whose life and teachings have
had a lasting influence on the development of theistic thought in India.
Ramanuja's introduction of the Godhead as the absolute entity with
supersubjective characteristics and his having pioneered the dawning of
devotion to Godhead opened the door for future theistic reformers who would
in due course fully reveal the highest potential of the soul in a loving
relationship with God and His eternal servants.
"I take refuge at the feet of Shri Ramanuja, our venerable master,
who, during the dark night of the impersonal conception of divinity, carried
the torch light of knowledge and thus illuminated the path of devotion to
the Personality of Godhead.
Ramanuja's Literary Contributions:
1. Vedartha-Sangraha - A treatise presenting the tenets of Visistadwaita, a
reconciliation of different conflicting srutis.
2. Shri Bhasya - A detailed commentary on the Vedanta Sutras.
3. Gita-Bhasya - A detailed commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita.
4. Vedanta-Dipa - A brief commentary on the Vedanta Sutras.
5. Vedanta-Sara - Another brief commentary on the Vedanta Sutras and meant
6. Saranagati-Gadya and Shri Ranga-Gadya - Manuals of self surrender to Lord
7. Shri Vaikuntha-Gadya - Describes Shri Vaikuntha-loka and the position of
the liberated souls.
8. Nitya-Grantha - A short manual intended to guide the Shri Vaishnava
The system of Philosophy associated with Ramanuja is known as
Vishistadvaita. We should not think that Ramanuja started a new philosophy
and he does not claim that either. If Vishishtadvaita can be likened to a
lotus plant , then Srutis are its roots, Smrithis are its stems and leaves,
Earlier Alvars and Acharyas are its nourishment and Ramanuja is that bright
Sun-light that caused the lotus flower to fully bloom.
Ramanuja's supreme effort resulted in a systematic presentation of
the Vishishtadvaita. His genius also led to the development of a complete
system which synthesizes the concept of God with the philosophy of the
impersonal absolute. It is a matter of fact that the beauty of Lotus appeals
to everyone. The same was true of Ramanuja. Such were his attributes. His
scholarship coupled with humility, devotion, kindness, beauty, love,
compassion, pragmatism, and adventure left a strong impression on anyone who
came to know him.
The followers of Ramanuja are called Shri-Vaishnavas. Followers of
Ramanuja (or at least those who include him in the lineage of their earlier
Acharyas) can be seen far and wide in different parts of India including
Gaudia Vaishnavas of Bengal and the Swminarayans of Gujarat.
During Ramanuja's time he appointed 74 Mudhalis (Leaders or
Simhasanadipati) of whom a good number were Shattadas(generally of
non-Brahmin origin). It is noteworthy that 5 among the 74 Mudhalis were
women. All these fit well with the character of Ramanuja. He freely mingled
with true devotees of God, irrespective of their caste. He washed their
feet, ate food left over in their plate, held them with great reverence, and
popularized their works. When Kanchi Purna, a great devotee of God, did not
let Ramanuja to wash his feet, saying that he is from a low caste, Ramanuja
says, "pray , noble Sir, is it the wearing of the sacred thread that makes
one a Brahmana? He who is devoted to God, he alone is a genuine Brahmana."
At another instance, Kanchi Purna refused to accept Ramanuja as his
disciple, stating that Ramanuja was a Brahmin well versed in the shatras,
while Kanchi Purna was just an ignorant old Sudra. To this Ramanuja replied:
"If the knowledge of the Sastras only brings about pride instead of devotion
to God, then it is false knowledge, better is ignorance than this. You have
verily tasted the real essence of the Sastras; other scholars merely carry
the burden, like the ass that carries the load of sandalwood". So saying, he
fell at the feet of Kanchi Purna and began to weep.
The tradition followed by Shri-Vaishnavas is called Shri-sampradaya,
which is perhaps best preserved among the Shri-Vaishnavas of South India. In
this tradition, the Goddess Lakshmi acts as the mediator of salvation on
behalf of the devotees of Vishnu. This sampradayam recognizes a host of
Acharyas and Alvars. The lineage up to Ramanujacharya is as follows:
Periya Perumal (Parabrahman, Shriman Narayana, Emberuman)
Periya Piratti (Lakshmi)
Senai Mudaliyar (Viswaksena)
Nammalvar (around seventh Century AD)also known as Shatakopan, or Shatari
Natha Muni (823 AD)
Yamuna Muni (918-1038 AD) also known as Yamunacharya, Alavandar)
Ramanujacharya (1017 AD-1137 AD) also known as Yeti Raja, Bhashyakara,
In this list the first three names, of course, are ahistorical.
Nammalvar, who belonged to a non-Brahmin community is one among the twelve
Vaishnavite Alvars. Alvars lived between 100 AD to 900 AD. Alvars found God
realization through Bhakti-Prapatti. Bhakti means immense love of God and
Prapatti (also known as Saranagathi or Bharanyasam) means a single minded
total surrender to God. The Tamil devotional works of Alvars is known as
Nalayirum (4000 verses) or Divya Prabhandam. Shri-Vaishnavas learn Nalayirum
and other Tamil works on par with the Sanskrit scriptures. Such
practitioners are called Ubhaya Vedantins. Ramanuja took responsibility to
popularize the Tamil scriptures. This was one of the oath he took at the
site of the dead body of Alavandar in Shrirangam. Ramanuja also ensured that
Tamil poems become part of all Shri-Vaishnava style Puja.
Nammalvar, is placed first among the Historical personalities
revered in the Shri-sampradayam. He rescued the works of previous Alvars ,
added his own contribution of 1296 verses and passed it on to Natha Muni,
who is a great scholar and a devotee. Natha Muni's grand son is Alavandar,
who at a tender age of 14, won half the Kingdom by defeating a great scholar
in a debate. Among Alavandar's grand children are Ramanuja's mother and
Ramanuja's uncle Periya Tirumalai Nambi (or Shrisaila Purna).
Ramanuja (1017-1137 AD) was born in a pious Vaishnava Brahmin family
in Shriperumbudur, 30 miles South West of Madaras. His parents were Aasuri
Sarvakrutu Keshava Somayaji Dikshitar and Kantimati (grand daughter of
Alavandar). The couple gained progeny after they performed an Yagna at the
Parthasarathy shrine in Triplicane, Madaras. The Lord Parthasarathy appeared
to Keshava in his dream and promised that the Lord himself would be born as
his son for the purpose of redeeming the misguided souls. (Many had mistaken
the Shankara's exposition of the vedantic mantra "Aham Brahmasmi" to apply
to their physical body and had thus turned arrogant, wicked and perverse).
Shrisaila Purna (Periya Tirumalai Nambi), the maternal uncle of
Ramanuja came from Shrirangam for the child naming ceremony. He saw the
divine traits in his nephew and was reminded of what Nammalvar had foretold
as the divine messiah of Shrivaishnavism in his Tamil work Thiruvoymoli.
Nambi was totally convinced that his nephew was none other than Lakshmana,
the Ananta or Adishesha of Kali Yuga. Thus, he gave the name Ramanuja
(meaning brother of Rama) to his nephew. Interestingly, Ramanuja's birth
month(Chaitra) and Zodiac (Cancer) sign are same as that of Sumitra's sons
Lakshmana and Shatrugna. Ramanuja is generally regarded as the manifestation
of both Adishesha (just as Lakshmana). as well as the five ayudhas of
Ramanuja was a good student loved by his teachers. He was able to
grasp even complex ideas by hearing just only once from his teacher He also
loved to associate with holy men. Ramanuja at age 16 was wedded to an
exquisitely beautiful girl in a rather grand week long wedding ceremony. The
whole town rejoiced. The joy did not last long as Ramanuja's father severely
fell ill and died shortly after. Ramanuja with his wife and mother moved to
the holy city of Kanchipuram and therein became a disciple of
Yadavaprakasha, the most renowned scholar of that time. Yadavaprakasha was a
great champion of Advaita Philosophy. His doctrine is known even today as
"Yadaviya Siddahanta." He was such a rigid Advaitin, that he would not
acknowledge God with form. Unlike Shankaracharya, he would not even regard
this universe as a maya. To him it was totally insignificant. Ramanuja was
all devotion. The doctrine of Yadava did not at all appeal to Ramanuja.
Mostly out of respect, Ramanuja did not challenge his guru until one day
when he could not take it any more.
Ramanuja humbly, but firmly disagreed with Yadava Prakasha on the
interpretation of one of the rather confusing mantra from the Chandogya
Upanishad. The mantra was "tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamakshini."
Taking "kapyasam" to mean the "nates of a monkey" as interpreted by the
venerable Shankaracharya, Yadavaprakasha explained the passage as follows:
"The two eyes of that golden Purusha are like two lotuses which are
red like the nates of a monkey." Hearing this interpretation, tears rolled
down from the corners of Ramanuja's eyes likes flames of fire and fell on
the thigh of Yadavaprakasha. Yadava understood that something troubled his
dear disciple Ramanuja. When asked for the cause of his anguish, Ramanuja
politely answered: "Revered Sir, from the mouth of a wise person like you, I
never expected to hear the comparison of the eyes of the Supreme Godhead
with the posterior of a monkey." Yadava considered this as a display of
arrogance by Ramanuja and challenged him to give his interpretation.
Ramanuja proceeded to give his interpretation of Kapyasam, the troublesome
word in the mantra. Kapyasam = Kapih + Asam Kapih = Kam jalam pibatiti
Kapih: he who drinks water = Suryah, Sun Asa = blossomed. Thus, Kapyasam =
Sun blossomed or blossomed by the Sun. Now the mantra can be translated as :
"The eyes of the golden Purusha are as lovely as the lotuses blossomed by
the rays of the Sun". Hearing this Yadava said that it is not a direct
meaning but only a derived meaning. Nevertheless, he recognized the skill of
The trend continued. One of the famous Upanishadic mahavakyas
"Satyam Jnanam anantam Brahma" was interpreted by Yadava as Brahman is
truth, Intelligence and Infinitude. Ramanuja, again disagreed with Yadava
and interpreted it as Brahman is endowed with the quality of truth,
intelligence and infinitude. It is not correct to hold that all these
qualities are He Himself. These qualities are His, but not He, just as the
body is mine, I am not the body. At this point Yadavapraksha grew jealous of
Ramanuja. He plotted to kill Ramanuja and wash off his sins at the sacred
Ganges. Yadava with Ramanuja and the other disciples set out on a pilgrimage
to Kashi. Ramanuja, came to know his guru's wicked plan through his cousin
Govinda and returned back from the Dandaka forest without finishing the so
Ramanuja returned to his studies under Yadava. Everyone concerned
pretended as though nothing happened. The mantra being discussed this time
was "sarvam khalvidam brahma" - All this is verily Brahma and "neha nanasti
kinchana" - there is no diversity whatsoever here. Yadava, had his class
spell bound with his discourse on the oneness of Atman and Brahman. Ramanuja
disagreed and expressed his position. As the universe is born of Brahman, is
sustained by Brahman, so it may surely be said to be permeated with
Brahman(not verily Brahman). For instance, fish is born in water, lives in
water, and dissolves into water; so it may be said to be surely permeated
with water. But as fish can never be water, likewise the universe too can
never be Brahman.
And "neha nanasti kinchana" does not mean that there is no diversity
whatsoever here; the various objects do not exist separately, but are like
pearls strung on a thread form a garland, so the various objects threaded in
Brahman have formed this universe. Many have united and give the appearance
of oneness, but by this the distinctiveness has in no way been impaired. At
this Yadava expelled Ramanuja from his school. (Many years later, Yadava
became a disciple of Ramanuja and took sanyasa under the name Govinda Jeer.
He composed the incomparable work Yatidharmasamuccaya).
Alavandar, who was of ripe age thought his prayers answered when he
heard that Ramanuja was no more associated with Yadava.. He sent words for
Ramanuja so that he could place the responsibility of spreading
Vishishtadvaita on his shoulders. . By the time Ramanuja arrived in
Shrirangam, to his dismay the old sire Alavandar had just passed away.
Ramanuja noticed that the three fingers of the Maharshi's right hand were
folded and clenched. Disciples of Alvandar vouched that they had never seen
the fingers of Alvandar that way before. Hearing that Ramanuja made three
promises on front of the dead body: "I will popularize the Tamil Veda, I
will write Shri-Bhashya (detailed treatise on Brahma Sutras), and I shall
give the name of Parashara to an accomplished Vaishnava(as a mark of respect
to sage Parshara, the father of Vyasa)". As he made these promises one by
one, so also the folded fingers became straight one after another!
Later, Ramanuja fulfilled all his promises and more. He made sure
the Tamil Veda remained as a part of Shri-sampradaya. He entrusted many of
his disciples to expound on the message of the Nalayirums. He wrote
Shri-Bhashyam, writing of which required a study of the Bodhayana-Vritti. He
obtained the only copy of it at the Sarada Peetam of Kashmir established by
Shankara. The library attendants refused to give him that book, however, it
is believed that Ramanuja had the vision of Sarada there and got the book in
a mysterious way. His other literary works include: Vedanta Sangraha - a
treatise on the principles of Vishishtadvaita elaborated from the Srutis;
Gita Bhashya - a detailed commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita; Vedanta dipa - a
brief commentary on the Brahma sutras; Vedanta sara - a brief commentary on
the Brahma sutras and intended for beginners; Saranagati gadya and Shriranga
gadya - tells about saranagati or prapatti; Shri Vaikunta gadya - describes
Shri Vaikunta and the state of the liberated; Nitya grantha - a short manual
to guide devotees in their daily life. As promised, he also named a great
disciple of his as Parashara Bhattar and instructed him to write his famous
commentary on the Vishnu Sahsranamam.
Ramanuja studied under numerous disciples of Alavandar and other
Vaishnavite scholars. He left his wife, who was never in phase with
Ramanuja. He took Sanyasa, studied further and under Goshti Purna, after
much fuss, received the moola mantra of Shri-Vaishnavas, "Om Namo
Narayanaya." However Ramanuja even before leaving Goshti Pura, assembled the
whole town with the promise of a great gift, claimed the top of the Temple,
and gave the moola Mantra to the entire town that had assembled . Such was
the nature of Ramanuja. Both preserving and spreading his creed.
Ramanuja lived in Tirumalai for a while and studied Ramayana under
his uncle Shri Saila Purna. At a later time he returned to Tirumalai and
reestablished it as a Vaishnavite shrine. Ramanuja basically returned to the
shrine the old glory as elaborated in the works of Alvar about Tiruvengadam.
He also founded the town of Govinda Raja Puram (Tirupati) at the foot hills
of the mountain and installed the Govinda Raja's idol which he rescued from
a nearby abandoned town. This town initially used to be called Ramanuja
Puram. He also established the flower gardens at Tirumalai and entrusted its
care to Shattada Shri Vaishnavas.
His digvijayas included many other holy places such as Thiruvanantha
puram in Kerala, Dwaraka, mathura, Brindavan, Salagram, Saketa,
Badarikashrama, Naimisha, Pushkara, Kashmir, where he had the vision of
Sarada. It is said that, Sarada, particularly impressed by his previous
translation of the word "Kapyasum" to mean blossommed by the Sun instead of
nates of a monkey (as translated by Yadava and other scholars) gave him the
title Bhashyakara. From Kashmir he proceded to Puri and established a
monastery there and called it Embar Math after his cousin Govinda, his own
disciple. From here he went to Ahobila and established a math there also
which is still very well known. Finally he returned to Tamil Nadu via
There were two other murder attempts on Ramanuja. The high priest of
the Shrirangam temple tried to poison him out of jealousy. However, the
priest's wife let the cat out of the bag. Later this priest became one of
the greatest devotees of Ramanuja. His Tamil poetry on Ramanuja is held at
great esteem. The other threat to Ramanuja's life came from king Krimikanta.
This Chola king residing in his capital Kanchipuram desired to have his
entire kingdom embrace the Shaiva doctrine. He saw Ramanuja as a threat to
his plan. He sent for Ramanuja with the intention of forcibly converting him
in to a Shaivaite, if that is not possible to execute him. This king
remembered very much the service rendered to his family by Ramanuja who had
exorcised the ghost out of his sister many years ago. Nevertheless, the
king's mind was made up. When the king's order came, Ramanuja switched his
sanyasi robes with one of his devout disciple Kuresa and exiled out of Chola
empire into Karnataka. Kuresa did not become a Shaivite either, the king had
his both eyes plucked and sent him away.
In Karnataka, Ramanuja brought the Jain king Vittala Deva (Bitti
Deva) under the Vaishnavite fold. He reestablished the temple in
Yadavagiri(also known as Thirunarayana Puram or Melkote) near Mysore. A
Moslem chieftain had earlier raided this town and made it away with the
Utsava Murthy of Sampath Kumara (Cheluva Narayana). The Moola Vigraha lay
buried under an ant hill (perhaps it was hidden there by the town's people).
Ramanuja went all the way to North India and rescued the Sampatkumara's idol
from the Sultan. Sultan's daughter Bibi Lachimar, loved that idol very much
and so she followed it to Melkote. She lived there for many years serving
that idol and when she passed away, the Shri Vaishnavas impressed by her
love, made a statue of her and placed it at the foot of the idol which can
be seen even to day. The idol of Lachimar is revered as Bibi Nachhiar. The
Bibi Nacchiar idol has been duplicated in many other temples in South India.
Ramanuja lived for many years in Melkote and with a heavy heart left to
Shrirangam. The people of Melkote were deeply grieved at his departure and
learing this Ramanuja made a stone image of his, invoked his life into it
and gifted it to to people of Yadavadri. Melkote enjoys the status of
Abhimana sthanam in the Shrivaishnava tradition. It is one of the greatest
Shri vaishnava centers in Karnataka.
Ramanuja spent his last 60 years of life at Shrirangam. He left this
world at a ripe age of 120 years, after delivering his last sermon to scores
of Shishyas who had gathered with a heavy heart to listen to his last