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A disciple should render menial service to the guru, irrespective of his material position. An instructive story from the ife 0f Yatiraja Ramanujacharya. one of the important acharyas if the Sri sampradaya teaches the importance of this quality.Ramanujacharya had a disciple and nephew named Dasharathi, who was famous for his knowledge of the Vedas. One day Dasharathi approached Ramanuja and requested him to reveal the full meaning of the supreme verse of the Bhagavad-gita (18.66):
sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja
aham tvam sarva papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucah
"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."Ramanujacharya told him, "You are my relative, and therefore it is my desire that you understand this verse by hearing from the great devotee, Gosthipurna. Even though there may be some fault in you. I will tend to overlook it because you are my family member. The duty of the guru is to remove all taints from the heart of the disciple. Therefore it is better that you take instruction from Sri Gosthipurna." Dasharathi was famous as a great scholar and was a little proud of his learning. It was for this reason that Ramanuja directed him to approach Gosthipurna. Dasharathi went to Tirukoshtiyur and served Gosthipurna faithfully for six months. But the acharya did not explain the meaning of the verse.
Finally, taking pity on the young man. Gosthipurna told dasharathi, "You are certainly a most brilliant scholar; I know that well. However, you must understand that education, wealth. a"d birth in an aristocratic family can cause pride to arise in the ueart oi a small-minded man. In those who are virtuous, great learning brings self-control and thus gives rise to good qualities. not blemishes. Understanding these instructions, now return to your own guru; he will reveal the meaning of the verse as you desire." Dasharathi then returned to Sri Rangam and reported to Ramanuja all that had taken place in Tirukoshti yur. At that same time Attulai, the daughter of Mahapurna (the guru of Ramanuja) came there in great distress. When Yatiraja inquired from her about the cause of her unhappiness, she replied, "Dear brother, mv father has sent me to you. I live at the house of my father-in-law and every day, both morning and evening, I have to bring water from a lake, which is over two miles from the house. The road there is lonely and difficult to traverse and as a result I have become overwhelmed by fear and physical exertion. When I told my mother-in-law of these difficulties, rather than sympathizing with my plight, she flew into a rage, saying, "Why did you not bring a cook from your father's house? Can I afford to employ a servant while you sit idly at home?" Being very unhappy at this treatment, I returned to my father's house and he has instructed me to come to you for help with this problem." To this request Ramanuja immediately responded, "Dear sister, do not worry. Here I have one brahmana whom I will send with you. He will do the work of fetching water from the lake and the cooking as well." So saying he glanced at Dasharathi, the great scholar. Although working as a servant in the kitchen was an occupation he might have considered unbefitting for a renowned pandit such as himself, Dasharathi understood the desire of his guru and gladly followed Attulai to her father-in-law's house. There he began to do all the work in the kitchen with great care and devotion. In this way six months passed.
One day a Vaishnava came to the village and, during his discourse, started explaining a verse to the assembled villagers. Dasharathi was among the audience and, when he heard the speaker's presentation tinged with impersonalist misconceptions, he could not restrain himself from pointing out these errors. At this the speaker became very irritated and shouted out, "Stop, you fool! Has anybody heard a cook explaining scriptures? Go back to the kitchen and display your talents there." Without showing the least sign of annoyance at these harsh words. Dasharathi calmly went on with his explanation of the verse. His presentation, based on many different scriptures, was made so perfectly that evervone who heard it was astounded. Even the speaker begged pardon from him by touching his feet and asked him, "How is it that such a sincere devotee and learned scholar as your good ^elf is engaged in doing menial work in the kitchen?" To this Dasharathi replied that he was simply acting in accordance with the order of his guru, which was his life and soul. When the people came to know that he was Dasharathi, the renowned devotee-scholar, all of them rushed to Sri Rangam. They presented their petition to Ramanuja, saying, "O Mahatma, it is not proper that your worthy disciple should be engaged as a cook any longer. He has not a trace of pride in his heart and is certainly an exalted paramahamsa. Please order us so that we may bring him respectfully to your lotus feet once again."
Ramanuja was so pleased to hear the people describing the humility of his disciple in this way that he went with them to their village. When he met Dasharathi, he embraced and blessed him. After returning to Sri Rangam, Ramanuja explained to him the full significance of Lord Krishna's final instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, which reveals the essence of a devotee's surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And because Dasharathi had fulfilled the desire of his spiritual master by rendering service to the devotees, from that day he was known as Vaishnava das.