Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 13

YatirAjar came to know that KUrathAzhvAr had left along with Periya Nambi donning his ascetic robes and armed with his tridandam and was worried for their welfare. According to the compulsions of NadAthUr AazhvAn, PiLLAn and MudaliAndAn, he wrapped a white dhoti over his saffron robes and unbeknownst to   the King's guards he headed up North. The King's men came to know about this and desired to follow them in order to prevent them from reaching their destination. YatirAjar's disciples warned him about the situation. However fast they tried to walk, it seemed that the King's men were catching up to them. YatirAjar asked his disciples to be brave and took a fistful of sand and uttered the following words:
"Kodumai seiyyum KUttramum en kOladi kurugap pera,
Tadavaraith thOL ChakrapANI SArnga VirchEvaganE".
He then scattered that sand behind him as they continued on their path. When the King's men stepped on that sand, they lost their senses and stood confounded, not knowing which way to go. They understood that it was all the work of the person whom they were attempting to follow and decided that their attempt would be futile. They turned back and YatirAjar continued his journey up North.

There were some hunters living in the NIlagiri valley along PAlaimalai. They were all disciples of NallAn Chakravarti. Once a SrI VaishNavar went past their dwelling in search of Udayavar. The hunters welcomed him warmly and asked him where he was coming from. He replied that he was from SrI Rangam. On hearing that, the hunters enquired about the welfare of Udayavar. The VaishNavaite could not contain his sorrow. He explained that owing to the doing of the ChOLA king, Udayavar had to don a white garb over his saffron robes and run and live in hiding. He explained that he was searching for him as his whereabouts were not known.

The hunters were distraught on hearing this. They did not eat or drink on hearing this news. Thus, six days passed when it started raining. They lit lamps in their houses and were huddled around the fire. RAmAnujar chanced to come there with his disciples. One of them enquired whether there was any path to proceed further. On hearing a Bhrahmin's voice, they invited the party in and asked them where they were coming from and if they knew if RAmAnujar was doing alright. The disciple asked them how they knew about Udayavar to which they explained that they were followers of NallAn Chakravarti who told them in his HitOpadEsam to them that they should all connect with RAmAnujar as their spiritual guide. The disciple was overjoyed on hearing this and revealed RAmAnujar to him. They then broke their fast and served delicious food and welcomed their Guru. The next morning, RAmAnujar send word for SrI Rangam to find out what had happened since he had left.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 12

AarAyirappadi VyAgyAnam

Once RAmAnujar was going over the meaning of the prabandhams in his matam. He was gesturing it out as he was contemplating on the meanings. PiLLAn was watching this fromoutside. He figured out that EmperumAnAr was expounding the meaning of the TiruvAimozhi pAsuram "TirumAlirunjOlai malai endrEn ennui". He asked from outside if he was right. RAmAnujar was surprised and asked if it was PiLLAn who had guessed it correctly. When PiLLAn confirmed, he opened the door to him and asked him inside. Later, in the audience of Periya Nambi and AazhvAn he narrated this incident. He also said that PiLLAn struck him as being very intelligent, respectful of BhAgavatAs and completely capable of receiving the full anugraham of NambigaL. He indicated his wish to adopt him as his "son of enlightenment" or "NyAna Putran". He named him "Tirukkurugai PirAn PiLLAn" from there on.

He then called PiLLAn and asked him to write a 6000 verse commentary on the TiruvAi mozhi. PiLLAn did as asked and submitted it. He did not write a separate MangaLa SOstram for it and adopted the one written for ShrI BhAshyam itself. RAmAnujar was thrilled on reading it and very happy that PiLLAn had proved himself worthy of the name given to him in accordance with ALavandAr's wishes. He blessed his work and said that it should be regarded with equal importance as the ShrI BhAshyam itself for all those who wanted to learn the right way. Periya Nambi and AazhvAn were very happy to se all this unfold.

RAmAnujar also sent word through some ShrI VaishnavAs to PiLLAn's father Periya Tirumalai Nambi that his son had indeed proved to be worthy of the name given to him.

As time passed on, great souls like TirukkOttiyUr Nambi, TirumalaiAndan and Tiruvaranga PerumALarayar departed this earth and went on to be with the merciful ShriyA Pati SrIman NArAyaNA.


AththuzhAi was Periya Tirumalai Nambi's daughter. Once, in her in-laws house, she asked her mother-in-law if she could accompany her to take a bath. Her mother-in-aw rudely retorted that if she had brought as dowry a maid who would assist in such duties, she could take such a non-existent maid with her. AththuzhAi was very upset on hearing this and chanced to convey it to her father. Periya Tirumalai Nambi said that he was helpless in this situation and the only person who could help her was JIyar SwAmigaL himself. Accordingly, she went and complained to RAmAnujar. Immediately RAmAnujar offered up the services of MudaliANdan. AththuzhAi's mother-in-law did not like this, so she complained to Periya Tirumalai Nmabi who again directed her to YatirAjar. YatirAjar said that he was bound to help out his AachAryan's daughter and hence he did the needful. Since MudaliAndAn's presence was not welcome, he called him back. Such was his devotion to his AachAryan.

YatirAjar's Northern visit

The ChOzha king of that reign, by name ChOzhan proved to be quite a dictator. He was a Shaivaite and alongwith his priest, pressurized everyone o accept that Lord ShivA was the ultimate God. They attempted to approach all VaishNavAs and have them sign a palm leaf declaring "SivAt Parataram NAsti" (There is no God greater than ShivA). Some people did so fearing the consequences, some people did so in exchange for monetary benefits and those who refused to do so were subject to severe punishment by the King. NAlUrAn, the King's minister suggested that it was not enough to get a signed declaration from any Tom, Dick or Harry, but that a similar signature from YatirAjar himself, who was regarded as the epitome of VaishNavism, would prove their point beyond doubt. He also extended the test to KUrathAzhvAn. The King sent his men to fetch them from SrI Rangam. When the men arrived at yatirAjar's matam, NadAthUr AazhvAn casually chatted them up to find out the cause for their visit and was horrified when he found out. he immediately told KUrathAzhvAn what he had learned. KurathAzhvAr was thrilled at his devotion, ad praised him. he immediately garbbed BhAshyakArar's saffron robes and staff and rushed off to meet the King along with Periya NambigaL.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 11

He wondered what was the reason for RAmAnujar's sudden effervescence. He had seen him walk off with a certain feel of defeat the previous day, but was exuding confidence presently. He immediately sensed that it must have been some sort of a divine intervention that must have caused this change. As soon as RAmAnujar took his place on the podium, YagnamUrti fell before him and prostrated him. He conceded defaeat and accepted RAmAnujar's footwear on his head. He asked RAmAnujar to accept him as his disciple and teach him the correct ways of life.

RAmAnujar was surprised on seeing this change. He asked YagnamUrti why he was not up for a debate. YagnamUrti replied that he had sensed divine intervention and hence felt the need to back away and do what was right. RAmAnujar then went on to explain his position on VisishtAdvaitam and postulated all important points: accepting that he had no answers for some questions, YagnamUrti broke his Ekadandam and begged RAmAnujar to give him his saffron robes. RAmAnujar did all the needful to initiate him into VisishtAdvaitam formally. He named his "AruLALa PerumAL EmperumAnAr" because it was by the grace of AruLALan (Varadan) that he got him as a disciple and also because one of the elements of the challenge was that YagnamUrti would take on RAmAnujar's name.He then took him to SrI Rangam to get the blessings of RanganAtar after which he took him to his matam and showed him to AruLALar too. He started teaching him all the prabandams beginning from TiruppallAndu.

YatirAjar continued t educate his disciples in SrIRangam s usual, when 2 SrI VaishnavAs came from out of town to visit Him. They approached the locals and asked them where EmperumAnAr's matam was. The locals asked them which EmperumAnAr they wished to visit since there were 2 in town. The out-of-towners asked if they were being ridiculed in any manner since they knew of only one. The locals then explained how there were 2 EmerumAnArs. On finding out that the intent was to visit Udayavar, they directed them accordingly. AruLALa PerumAL EmperumAnAr chanced to overhear this entire conversation and felt very bad for the confusion 2 matams were causing. On that day, he left his matam and moved in with YatirAjar and lived there.

Granting the SrI BhAshyam among other texts

As per his promise to AaLavandAr, RAmAnujar wished to write the commentary for SrI BhAshyam. He appointed KUraththAzhvAn to assist him and said, "Start by writing what I tell you. If you are discontent with any of my views, then you don't have to write it." Accordingly, once as AazhvAn was writing down the commentary, RAmAnujar indicated that the AatmA did not have Bagavath SEshastvam. AazhvAn did not write that down. RAmAnujar commanded him to. When he still did not do so, RAmAnujar got angry and told him that he could finish up all the writing himself. All others watching this, asked AazhvAn if it was right on his part to disappoint the AachAryan like this. Aazhvan was apologetic and agreed to go and ask for forgiveness the next day. Meanwhile Udayavar also thought about AazhvAn's take on the view and concurred that he was right. He called to him the next day and accepted his error. He said that AazhvAn could write it the way he desired and he did so. Thus RAmAnujar fulfilled 1 of 3 of AalavandAr's wishes. He also went on to write VEdAnta SAram, VEdAnta DIpam, VEdArta Sankraham and GItA BhAshyam. Later, he also wrote a text called Nityam for daily anushtAnams. On Panguni Utram, when RanganAtar and TAyAr were in Tirumanjana KOlam together, he came up with SaraNAgati Gatyam, SrIranga Gatyam and SrIVaikunta Gatyam. Thus he gifted us with 9 texts.


According to the wishes of KUrathAzhvAn, NadAthUrAzhvAn and PiLLAn, YatirAjar undertook a tour of divyadEsams while attempting also to convince people of other religions that VisishtAdvaitam was the correct philosophy. He sought the blessings of RanganAtar and first went to Tirukudandai to seek the darshan of AarAvamudAzhvAn. Then he went to PAndyA lands such as TirumAlirunjOlai and TiruppuLLANi. He bathed at Tiruvanai and enjoyed his time there for a while before moving on to AAzhVartirunagari and Tirukkurungudi.

SrI VaishNava Nambi

EmperumAnar was performing his daily anushTAnams with thousands of his disciples one day when the Lord of Tirukkurungudi Divya DEsam Tirukkurungudi Nambi appeared before him as a Vaishnavaite. He asked that RAmAnujar expound to him such a mantram that sought and corrected people who could not be corrected even after the Lord appeared to them in RAma/Krishna avatArams. Udayavar performed samAsrayaNam for him and applied tirumaN KAppu too after naming him SrI VaishNava Nambi. As soon as he received RAmAnujar's graces, the Vaishnavaite disappeared. EmperumAnAr was stunned. He went on to the temple and was astonished to find that the tirumaN KAppu was on the Lord's forehead. he narrated the saraNAgati Gatyam happily before the Lord, sought his blessings and went on to MalinAttu Tirupathis from there.

Getting the name of SrI BhAshyakArar

GOkulam, BrindAvanam, AyOdhyA, Naimi SAraNyam and Badri were the next places on his route. He visited Sarasvati VidhyA PItam. Goddess Sarasvati herself appeared before Him there and blessed him that his sacred text be called SrI BhAshyam, and he the autor be called SrI BHAshyakArar on account of writing it. She placed his SrI BhAshyam on her very head and gave it along with an idol of Lakshmi HayagrIvar that she prayed to. RAmAnujar accepted it happily.

On hearing this incident, the King of the land embraced RAmAnujar and his ways and conferred greatness upon Him. This caused jealousy among some members of the court and they planned to get rid of Him. Accordingly, they performed a AbichAra YAgam, but that became detrimental to them in that they all became insane and started beating one another. Upon heeding to the King's request, YatirAjar cured them and they embraced Him as their teacher. From there, He went to Vada Madurai, bathed in the Ganges, then went to PurushOttamam, SrI KUrmam, SimmAchalam, AhObilam and finally arrived at Tiru VEnkatam.

SrInivAsA accepting sangu chakram

The Shaivaites in Tirumala argued that SrinivAsar was actually SivA and fought with Tirumalai Nambi about it. He showed them in many ways that the Aazhvars had established that he was SrIman NArAyaNA and debated with them. They tried to establish a common ground saying that since he had markings of neither and some common markings, he should be regarded as a God common to both factions. RAmAnujar wanted to settle this right away and suggested "Let us keep a trident and damaru, which is the symbol of ShivA and the sangu chakram which is the symbol of Vishnu at the Lord's altar and lock them in overnight. In the morning, we will see what the Lord has chosen." Both sides agreed to this and after placing the symbols in the altar and ensuring no one else was inside, they meticulously guarded the locked altar overnight. The next morning, after sunrise they went inside to see what had happened, and behold, the Lord stood with his sangu and chakram. The trident and damaru were broken and cast aside. RAmAnujar was filled with ecstasy and he sang numerous praises of the Lord with all emotion. He arranged for all rituals to continue as before. Periya Tirumalai Nambi was very happy too. After finishing up his pigrimage, RAmAnujar came back to SrI Rangam. After swimming in the Lord's darshan from head to toe, he headed back to his matam to grace his disciples and continue imparting knowledge to them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 10

No danger to temple rituals

According to the wishes of Periya PerumAL, Udayavar performed all the temple rituals in an extraordinary manner in which no one else could perform them. He did not allow even a tiny gap or mistake to occur in them. He corrected those who erred in their duties and brought them back to the right track. Some bad souls found an issue with this and went to the extent of wanting to do away with Udayavar. They planned to do this by mixing some poison in the food he was to intake. They befriended a family to whose house YatirAjar went to beg for alms from, everyday. They got the head of the house convinced to carry out this horrendous task. He instructed his wife to carry it out. The wife was very afraid to do something like this and requested her husband to give up the idea since she worried that worst woes would befall upon them on carrying out a sin of this magnitude. But the husband tortured her into carrying out his orders. The wife had no choice but to carry out her husband's orders.

The next day, when YatirAjar came begging to her house for alms, she gathered up the poisoned rice. When she came to serve it to him, she could not control herself. Tears welled up in her eyes, her hands trembled and she dropped the rice in a separate corner of his bowl, away from the food gathered from other houses. She then went back inside after paying respects to him. (It is not customary to fall at the feet of sanyAsIs when they come for bikshai; if someone were to accidentally do so, then the sanyAsI has to throw away all the food collected thus far and fast for the rest of the day). YatirAjar found this behavior to be strange. He wondered why she would do something like this which she had never done before. NOt feeling good about it, he simply took all the food collected for the day and mixed it into the waters of the KAvEri. He dusted his clothes and washed them before sitting under a tree in a pensive mood. While shaking off the clothes, some morsels of poisoned rice had fallen on the ground and a crow who ventured by ate it and died. YatirAjar observed this and kept a strict fast for the next few days.

The love of AachAryAs

Periya Nambi and TirukkOttiyUr Nambi were together when they heard the news of RAmAnujar's assassination attempt. They were distraught and wanted to see him right away and planned a trip to SrI Rangam. On hearing the news of both his AachAryans coming to visit him, RAmAnujar was overjoyed and stepped out to visit them en route before they could make it to his place. While walking alongside the KAvEri river, he caught a glimpse of both of them. He started prostrating and getting up many times on the scorching sands of the river bank all the while walking towards them. There was quite a long distance to be covered and RAmAnujar was suffering from exhaustion. Instead of telling him that he could stop prostrating and be relieved, the AachAryAs let him continue on with the physically grueling ritual. AachAn who was with RAmAnujar at this juncture, could not bear it. Tears welled up in his eyes. "What kind of cruel teacher-stedent test is this? Is it the intent to test him until his death?", he sobbed out as he scooped up RAmAnujar from the scorching sands. Then TirukkOttiyUr Nambi replied, "AachAn, we were doing this o test to see who was truly loyal towards EmperumAnAr. You have proved your loyalty and that you are completely capable of taking care of him. From this day on, it is your duty to see to his physical benefits. I appoint you to cook for him daily and serve him alms". And accordingly, from that day on, KidAmbi AachAn became responsible for cooking and serving RAmAnujar.

AruLALa PerumAL EmperumAnAr

There was an Advaita SanyAsi by the name of YagnamUrti. He was a genius and a well learned scholar. He defeated quite a lot of scholars in debates in KAsi and adopted hundreds of disciples and taught all of them the advaitA philosophy. HE heard about YatirAjar having thousands of disciples in SrI Rangam to whom he was imparting the knowledge of VisishtAdvaitam. He did not want to be surpassed by anyone and decided that he had to take him on in a debate. He grabbed all his literature and proceeded to SrI Rangam. In a few months time, he reached there. He approached RAmAnujar and challenged him to a debate. RAmAnujar gladly accepted and asked him what he would do if he were to lose.

"If I were to lose, I will bear your footwear and also your name. I will renounce advaitam and come and join with you as a disciple after embracing VisishtAdvaitam. What will you do if you lose?", he asked. RAmAnujar said that he woud denounce all his literature were that to happen - he would not read or write books pertaining to the VisishtAdvaita philosophy were he to lose. Both of them agreed to each other's terms and decided to carry on a debate that would span over 18 days. And they went on for the first 16 days. Each one surpassed the other in succeeding arguments and no one had the upper hand, yet. Towards the end of the 17th day, YagnamUrti seemed to have the upper hand. He raised a question that RAmAnujar was supposed to answer. There was only one day left. YatirAjar stood stunned. YagnamUrti saw that and regarded success to be his. He suggested that they come back the following day and continue their arguments.

YatirAjar went back to his matam. He finished up his daily rituals and beseeched his favorite Lord, PEraruLALan who had always helped him in need. With tears flowing from his eyes, he asked the Lord, "This philosophy had been thriving since the beginning of time up until the period of AaLavandAr. What Am I to do if you decide to play a divine game and want this to be defeated in my time? All these days I have been arguing that everything about you is very real. Now you want to establish all that as an illusion by bringing an Advaitan proponent to argue so? What kind of game is this?" So saying he staid in a very pensive mood before the Lord.

That night, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He said, "Why should you lose heart this way? YagnamUrti is very intelligent, and I have made him your disciple from this point on. Refer to the work of your Guru AaLavandAr, called 'Akanda MAyAvAda Kandanam" and get the points to help you win the argument from that." So saying he disappeared. RAmAnujar woke up the next morning with Hari NAmA on his lips, as usual.He recollected the dream he had the previous night. He picked up the relevant points from AaLavandAr's SrI Sukti. He finished his morning rituals, convinced of his victory. He went to PeraruLALan's sannidi and sought his blessings before leaving.

When YagnamUrti saw the spring in RAmAnujar's step, he was taken aback.
(To be continued ...)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 9

Learning from TirumalaiAndAn

According to AachAryan's wishes, YatirAjar went to TirumalaiyAndAn and prayed to him and asked to be taught the meaning of the TiruvAi mozhis. AandAn happily obliged and did the same. The KAlakshEbams took place every day. When he came to the Second centime, third tiru, 3rd pAsuram called "AriyA KAlaththukkuLLE", he explained it thus: You gave the knowledge of relation to knowledge-less muscles and then destroyed the knowledge of birth by relating it to the body." YatirAjar observed that the previous 2 pAsurams were in praise of the Lord, as were the ones following this one. He argued that this explanation of the 3rd pAsuram did not satisfy on those lines. He said that it had to be interpreted in the same tone as the pAsurams before and after it - in a praising manner to the Lord and interpreted it thus: "Even though the knowledge of birth was destroyed by relating it to the body, you then showed me your true love and embraced me - just as how you tricked King MahAbali initially, but then showed him your ViswarUpam and embraced him." On hearing this interpretation, AandAn was overjoyed with this interpretation and conveyed the same to TirukkOttiyUr Nambi and Periya Nambi. They concurred that they had heard the same explanation from AalavandAr too. They were truly convinced that RAmAnujar had the complete blessings of AalavandAr. They all went and blessed him and AandAn completed his knowledge transfer of the meaning of the TiruvAimozhi.

The birth of PiLLAn

Kidambi AachAn (also known as PraNatArtigar) went to Tirumalai to see his aunt - the wife of Periya Tirumalai Nambi. He stayed there awhile. AT that time, a baby boy was born to Periya Tirumalai Nambi and he was named "PiLLai".

In Pilava year, month of Aippasi, in PUrAda star a second son was born to him and he was named "PiLLAn". He was a very different kid - he would not cry or laugh like other kids normally did. He paid concrete attention to Nambi when he would explain the meaning of the pAsurams in the prabandam. This astonished NambigaL. He thought that just like BhUmi PirAtti's son RAmAnujar, this child also had some special gifts. The other elders felt this way too. At the opportune time, they performed AksharAbhyAsam for the child. The child was a fast learner and grasped the meanings of the prabandam pretty well. Kidambi AachAn was thrilled to see this child develop in such an intellectual manner.

Once, a few VaishnavAs from SrI Rangam, went to TirumalA to get a darshan of the Lord. They also went by and inquired on NambigaL after that. While talking to him, they conveyed all the good work that RAmAnujar was doing and Nambi was thrilled that AaLavandAr's blessing were upon him fully. He asked them to narrate all the greatness of RAmAnujar and was very happy to see PiLLAn listening intently and talking about it in all his games with his friends.

AFter a few years, PiLLAn's upanayanam was performed and shortly thereafter he was married also. Kidambi AachAn was waiting to pay a visit to EmperumAnAr and get his blessings - he sought the permission of Nambi and planned a trip to SrI Rangam. He asked him to take PiLLAn along and to convince RAmAnujar to pay a visit to Tirupati. Accordingly, AachAn left with PiLLAn - they first ought the blessings of PEraruLALan and PerundEvi TAyAr. Then AachAn visited his mother who lived there and priceded to Periya KOvil.

Once at SrI Rangam, he first sought the blessings of Periya PerumAL and then went to EmperumAnAr's matam and fell at his feet and refused to get up. Udayavar made him get up and enquired about the happenings in TirumalA.  AachAn introduced him to PiLLAn and Udayavar was very happy to meet him. He blessed him and started teaching all the important texts to AachAn.

Monday, March 14, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics - Conclusion

Let us look at JIvAtma swarUpA and ParamAtma swarUpA as per VishishtAdvaitam:

"Satyam nyAnam anatam brahma"

Brahmam - ParamAtmA is always eternal, never changing, full of knowledge, omni present, omni potent, pervasive, pevadive. PiLLai LOkAchAr a famous exponent of VishishtAdvaitam wrote the AashAdasa rahasya grantam. Sri vachana bushanam is the best out of it. Nava vida sammandham is one text which iterates the 9 diff types of relationship that I enjoy with ParamAtmA:

No individual has all 9 relationships to us - we would have come across each in  different people but never all in the same person.

PitAcha rakshakaha sEshi bhartA  gnyEyO ramA pathihi
swamyAdharO mamAtmacha bhoktAchadya manUditaha

Pita-putra BhAva: Parent-child relationship.
Rakshya-rakshaka BhAva: Just because one is a father, it doesn't mean he is also a protector. But ParamAtmA is also a protector and I am the protected. Protector-protected relationship.

PiLLa LOkAchar says: Eesvaranai ozhindavargal rakshagar allure enbadai prapanna paritrAnathilE sonnom.

It means: Except NArAyanA none else can protect you; we commonly believe that a father protects us till we turn 18, then a husband, then maybe a son. He negates all these beliefs. If f anther protects did HiraNyakashipu protect PrahlAdA? If a brother is a protector, did RAvaNA protect VibhIshanA? As a mother, KaikEyi did not protect BharatA. None of these relationships seem to protect. When these people were abandoned by their supposed protectors, SrIman NArAyanA stepped in to protect them. Only the wealth of BhagavAn will protect you.

Sesha-sEshi BhAva - this is important as per RAmAnujar. BhagavAn is sEshi (master) and I am His absolute servant. UnakkE nAm At cheiyvOm. Only objective of JIvAtmA is to serve ParamAtmA. SitA was ordered by Rama to stay in the kingdom. Sita said that cording to manna smrti a man has to perform veridic rites only with his wife, so she insisted on accompanying him to the forest. Same rule was also applicable to UrmilA, LakshmaNA's wife. Then why did she not accompany her husband to the forest? There are 2 types of rules: SAmAnya dharma and VisEsha dharmA.Whenever there is no conflict between a special rule and a common rule, you can follow the common rule; but when there is a dispute, the special rule applies. In LakshmaNA's case, the sAmAnyam was to perform rituals with wife. The VisEsham was to take care of Rama. If UrmiLA came along to the forest, serve to RAmA will be disrupted. LakshmaNA's priority was service to his brother. This RAma-LakshmaNa master-servant relationship is sEsha-sEshi.

Bharta-Bharya BhAva: Narayana is my husband and I am his wife. Irrespective of their sex, All JIvAtmAs are females and only ParamAtmA is PurushOttamA. The only supreme male. We are all married to ParamAtmA. During wedding, in the kannikA dhAnam, the varA is addressed as being Vishnu roopaya thathAmi. He represents Vishnu. All girls are only married to Vishnu. Mangala sutrAm in this case is tiru mantram: Om Namo Narayanaya. It is tied to the neck of the JIvAtmA by the ParamAtmA. JIvAtmA belongs only to ParamAtmA and nobody else. This JIvAtmA is not available for anyone else. Intimacy is thus confirmed. Vaishnavas are often criticized for this reason - we will only worship SrIman NArAyaNA and no one else. We are called narrow minded in our perspective. Will any wife ask why her husband alone is her husband? When a wife says that she has solely one husband, she is a Pati VrtA. When we as Vaishnavaites say that we won't look at anyone other than NArAyaNA, why are we called narrow minded? We need to be praised, not criticized and certainly not asked to consider other Gods as ParamAtmA. This is the husband-wife relationship.

GNyatru - GNYEa BhAva: The JIvAtmA is the knower with knowledge. The ParamAtmA is the known, the realized, the recognized. The guiding light is the shastra. Source of knowledge is shastra. Ramaa patithi  is the sheaf pati BhagavAn realized by me. The knower-known relationship.

Swas-swami BhAva. Owner vs owned relationship. This is not applicable to other 5 relationships. I am His belonging/property. He can use me to any way possible. After sattumorai, prasdam is distributed. It is called KandaruLa pannudal. Somehow it is shared perfectly as per the discretion of the archakar distributing it. Similarly, God can use me as a viniyOga prasAdam however he deems fit.

Swami - Aadhaaraha BhAva: ParamAtmA is the one bearing me and I am the one being borne. if he leaves me, I will fall below. The relationship of the holder vs. the held. The entire universe is borne by ParamAtmA as evident form the Gita verse: vishtabhyaaham idham krthsnam ekaamSena sThitho jagath. KrsnA says "Without missing one small object on this universe, I bear it all. Arjuna, I don't even move an inch to bear it. I don't change/ I am not influenced/ I am unaffected". We are connected to Him like beads are connected by a string. Krishna gives another example of this: "SootrE manigaNa via maya tatam via sarvam". The beads (JIvAtmAs) are connected to to a sutrA string (Brahmam). Many beads are connected to one string, just as many JIvAtmAs are connected to one ParamAtmA. You cannot see the string, but only the beads. Jagat is visible, AtmA is known, but the Bhrammam is invisible. The beads are heavier than the string. We would think the beads are holding the string. But when the string is pulled out, that is when we know the truth.

SharIrAtma BhAva: He is my atma, I am his sharIra. The body-soul relationship.

BhOktAcha manOsita BhAva: He is the enjoyer and I am the enjoyed. He plays with me, toys with me and amuses Himself. Enjoyer vs. enjoyed relationship.

These 9 relationships are inevitable to understand the concept of V.

UpAya swarUpA talks about ways available to reach Him. Saranagati is the preferred method. Other means are too difficult to practice. Bhakti yoga is hard to attain. On Panguni Utram, RAmAnujar performed saranAgati to RanganAta and RanganAyaki since only on this day, they both come together from the North and South Gate and have tirumanjanam. He surrendered to RanganAchiyar first and she led him to RanganAtA. We should all follow saraNAgati too.

VirOdhi SwarUpa: This is a familiar concept. The obstacles that stand in the way of attainment of MOkshA.. KAma krOda lObha mho mada mAtsarya ahankAra and mamakAra. The way to overcome this is to be in the company of bhagavata uttamas always. Jadabharatar and AazhvArs prescribe this. In their company, all our dirt is cleansed. BhAgavata samAgama, Bhakta sangama and Satsanga is the way to remove all our enemies.

Lastly, it is the PrApya SwarUpA: What do you do when you reach the abode of SrIman NArAyaNA? Kainkaryam, what else? PeriyAzhvar in this last song said " PallAndennu pavithirana paramEttiyai sArngamennum villAndaan thannai villiputtur vishnu chittan virumbiya sol". He meant "I would go there and choose the same service and continue it there". The service was singing pallaandu. Whatever you do here, you can do it there. Serivce is same-  whether I am in the company of ParamAtmA or not is the question. Service is hindered here, but there is nothing to stop us there. All obstacles are removed. The moment we have his darshan, all knots tied to us are removed and we beome very clear as the purest water/fire.

Swami says that this needs to be repeated to be retained. He advices us to read PUrvAchAryA commentaries since they are blessed by BhagavAn to guide us.

Friday, March 11, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics - Part 2

What do you gain by understanding this relationship? When you address someone as "xyz"; is that "xyz" a qualification for the name or for the soul? It may sound like an insane question, but it is actually very valid. Once the soul leaves a body, the body becomes lifeless. There is no name for the body and it is simply referred to as a corpse. The body has no knowledge of a name attached to it; it is the AtmA that recognizes the name. But the AtmA does not have the capacity to physically turn and respond. That is the nature of the body - to perform the physical act of turning once the AtmA perform the act of recognizing. Thus, the thinking part is the paramAtmA and the executing part is the JIvAtmA. We usually don't have a different name for a body or a soul. Whatever name we call the soul also stands for the body. Because of this intimate relationship, the 2 can be considered as 1. Similarly, when the shAstrA says in AbhEda shruti to see everything as Bhrahmmam; it says so because everything is the body of the Bhrahmmam. Though there is only 1 bhrammam to be realized; it automatically flows down to all its parts. A beautiful quote that is an example of tis is when BrahmA says to RAmA after he defeats the war "Jagat sarvam sharIram tE": The whole world is your body.

VishishtAdvaitam can be interpreted as Vishishta yOgi Advaitam: As a connection to advaitam. Advaitam says that I am one and the same as Bhahmmam. Does that mean I am inseparable? For example, you see man everyday going for a walk with a walking stick. He is never seen without it. For you, the walking stick is a part of his identity and it is inseparable. But in reality, it is a removable component. But when you talk out a white dhoti, the white is an attribute of the dhoti and very different from the cloth itself. But they are in inseparable - in this case, one doesn't exist without another. RAmAnujA illustrates this as "Dandi purushah kundali purushaha. ShuklahA patAhA". JIvatmA and chit is related to ParamAtmA and it cannot be separated. This is the basis of sharIrAtma BhAvA.

This is a simple concept and very tangible. Advaitam on the other hand is difficult to achieve since it claims that everything is an illusion and we should not believe everything we see. An example of this is the following story told about an AAchAryA of advaitam. He finished up his kAlakshEpam in a village and was heading back home with his disciples after preaching that everything is an illusion. They had to cross a forest en route and while doing so, a wild tiger appeared. All the disciples ran helper skelter as did the Guru. When they reconvened, the disciples asked the Guru, "Oh Guru, do you not understand the principle of Advaitam or not practice it? If the tiger was an illusion, why did you get scared and run away?" To this the Guru replied, "I have understood Advaitam, it is you all who have failed to. Just as the tiger was an illusion, so was my running away. In reality, there was no tiger and there was no running away on my part"! Lighter vein apart, this concept is very abstract and questionable.

RAmAnujA on the other hand says that everything is not an illusion, but very true. He gives the following example: You wake up in middle of the night and chance to glance at your dark backyard. You see a pillar there, but mistake it for a thief because it is dark and your eyesight is poor. Is it a pillar or a thief? Is it illusionary or real? There is a trace of truth in that there is indeed something there; it is not an illusion - it is a pillar, mistaken for a thief. In some form or structure, there is a similarity between the two - the pillar is dark, tall and sturdy as a thief could very well be. We need to respect this similarity even when in doubt. After all, you didn't mistake the pillar for something like a telephone or television. You envisioned it to be something close to what it really could be. And in this sense, it is not a case of being illusionary, but just that of a mistaken identity. He also gives an example of a rope mistaken for a snake to really drive the point home.

There are 5 parts in any philosophy - the Artha PanchakA:
1. SwarupA of JIvAtmA
2. SwarUpA of ParamAtmA
3. SwarUpA of UpAyA
4. SwarUpA of PrApyA
5. SwarUpA of VirOdhi

They talk about the nature of the soul who attains, where he attains it to, through what means, for what purpose and the obstacles in doing so.

The Traveller is the JIvAtmA, the destination is the ParamAtmA, the vehicle could be bhakti yoga, nyana yoga, saranagathi, etc; the obstacles in the path of salvation are sarIram, samsAram, ahankAram, etc, enjoyment and final destination could be service to ParamAtmA.

What is all this as per VishishtAdvaitam? The set of these 5 will be totally diff as per Advaitam or Dvaitam. JIvAtmA reaching ParamAtmA wont change, but who the ParamAtmA changes. When I say Shiva is ParamAtmA, it is Shaivism. When I say Kumara is ParamAtmA, it is Kaumaram, Sun as ParamAtmA is Sauram. GAnesha as ParamAtmA is Gaanaapthyam. Shakthi as ParamAtmA is Saaktham. Vishnu as ParamAtmA is Vaishnavam. Thus these are the 6 religions/faiths. When ParamAtmA changes, faith changes. When the 5 basics change, philosophy changes. The philosophy just terms it as para bhrammam, doesn't mention who he is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics

While writing about RAmAnujA in AachArya Vaibhavam, I could not but stop to think to fill the gaps regarding topics I did not understand:

I always knew that as ShrI Vaishnavaite, we follow the principle of VishishtAdvaitA, but have never tried to find out what it really means until now. Compiling a gist of what I have heard about it, thanks in part to the discourses of Velukkudi SwAmi. As he rightly says, the concept is very simple and easy to understand when it is being explained; but also equally easy to forget when you walk out of the room. So I think putting it down in written form thus will enable me to refer to it whenever I seem to forget what it entails.

3 AachAryas have written commentaries on VEda VyAsA's Brahmma SUtram. RAmanujA's is called ShrI BhAshyam. ShankarAchAryA founded the advaitA philosophy, RAmAnujA VishishtAdvaitA and MAdhvA propounded the DvaitA philosophy.

First and foremost: We have to differentiate between philosophy and faith. When we talk about someone's faith, we say that (s)he is a Vaishnavaite, a Shaivaite and so forth. When we talk about philosophies, we talk about VishishtAdvaitam, Advaitam and Dvaitam among others. So faith is also the God who I believe and hence, religion.

Today, the concept of of philosophy vs. religion has gotten distorted a bit. We think that ShankarAchAryA being an advaitin is not a Vaishnavaite. In fact all the above 3 AachAryAs as 100% evident from their work, claim Vishnu to be their Lord. Since one who accepts Lord Vishnu as the supreme is a VaishnavA, MadhvA and Adi ShankarAcharyA are definitely in that category.

All 3 Gurus differ when it comes to the ways and means available to reach this supreme being (para bhrahmam). Again, all 3 philosophies agree to the basic concept that the JIvAtmA reaches the ParamAtmA and that the ParamAtmA is NArAyaNA. There is no difference between the schools of thought on this concept. Where is the difference then? Some of them lie in: What is the way available for salvation? Where do I reach? What do I do after reaching there?

All 3 philosophies are based on the VEdAs only. The VEdAs (Rig, SAma, Yajur and AtharvaNa) are age old. They are defined as anAdhi and apourushEya. AnAdhi means it does not have a beginning, it was not born on any particular day. It is eternal. ApourushEya means that it is not propounded by any human and is the word/ruling of the BhagavAn himself. No hand of any human is laid on the ShAstrAs. All philosophies culminate from this ShAstrA and all 3 philosophers based their arguments on the VEdAs and the Upanishads.

VEdAs are regarded as the PUrva BhAga and the Upanishads as the Uttara BhAga. The PUrva BhAgA talks about the karmA or rituals to be performed. But the rituals awe not an end in themselves - they need to take us somewhere; and this is dealt with in Uttara BhAgA.

When people started interpreting the Upanishads, they started doing so in a way they saw fit to them. NammAzhvAr in his TiruvAimozhi says:

Avaravar thamathamadhu aRivu aRi vagai vagai
Avaravar iRaiyavar ena adi adaivargaL
Avaravar iRaiyavar kuRaivu ilar iRaiyavar
Avaravar vidhivazhi adaiya ninRanarE

which means: 
Every individual is intelligent and has a different way of interpreting things. Each one's will will reach his own (perception of) God. Each one's God is full in every way. Each one will reach a destiny as per fate.

The more the scholars learnt, the more they started quarreling amongst themselves. They started interpreting the sacred texts in their own way. Hence we have many interpretations, but 3 of them are the most recognized.

Given that the basis for all these interpretations were the VEdAs and the Upanishads, how could we have 3 explanations stemming from one source? Shouldn't it all culminate in 1 philosophy? There is an answer to this basic question: The shAstrAs encompass 3 categories of text: BhEda shruti, AbhEda shruti and Ghataka shruti. BhEdA advocates absolute dualism. Everyone is different; ParamAtmA is different from JIvAtmA and very separable. There is no connectivity between the two. All the textual parts in the VEdAs advocating said dualism is BhEda shruti. If the VEdAs had stopped here, we would only have had Dvaitam. But the VEdAs also had AbhEda shruti: Absolute non-dualism which states that the ParamAtmA and JIvAtmA are the same. Even between JIvAtmAs, there is no distinction: an animal JIvAtmA is same as a human JIvAtmA. Anyone who looks at JIvAtmAs differently will never get mOksham but will only be going round and round in circles in samsArA. From these parts, stems Advaitam. Why would the VEdAs contradict themselves this way by stating something in one shruti and the opposite in another? They do not. Incorrect interpretations will cause us to think that way or devise philosophies based only on one particular shruti. The right shruti to be considered is the Ghataka shruti which reconciles both BhEdA and AbhEdA. It lays a bridge between the two and explains why what is said in both lights are true and why we cant just choose one over another. It is on this Ghataka shruti that RAmAnujA based his VishishtAvaitA philosophy. Thus, the VEdAs are not fools to ask us to practice a different view at different times. It is just our foolishness in interpretation that leads us to believe so. The difference between the 2 shrutis is clearly ironed out in Ghataka shruti. SankarA focused on AbhEdA, MadhvA on BhEdA and RAmAnujA on Ghataka. This is how 3 philosophies took birth from the same text.

Thus, the same VEdAs gave birth to 3 principles. Each principle was dictated by which shruti it was taken from. RAmAnujA alone focussed on all 3 truths and especially on Ghataka Shruti to formulate VishishtAdvaitam. He recognized that GhatakA was especially important as a bridge. BhEdA or AbhEdA alone won't flourish without it. VishishtAdvaitam is an offshoot of all these GhatakA truths in the VEdAs.

Here is an illustration of the 3 shrutis:

Absolute non-dualism - Section 14 of Chapter 3 of the Upanishads: "Sarvam khalvidam BhahmmA tajjalAn". Whatever you see in the universe is bhrahmmam. Do not look at differences.

BhEdA: Section 12 of Chapter 1 "BhOktA BhOgyam PrEritAramchya matvA". BhOktA is the JIvAtmA that enjoys something. BhOgyam is the knowledge-less thing that is enjoyed. In fact there is a third force that directs the BhOktA to enjoy the BhOgyam at a specific place and time and this is the IsvarA, without which the BhOktA cannot enjoy the BhOgyam.

Both the above principles are different - how are they reconciled in the VEdAs? "Tattvatraya". Vaishnava sanyAsIs have 3 sticks tied to a knot; represent chit, chit and IsvarA. Other sanyasIs have only 1 stick in their staff. Achit is that which is enjoyed and doesn't have any inherent knowledge. The JIvAtmA is the chit. It possesses knowledge and enjoys the chit. IsvarA is the director. AbhEdamE siddhAntam s Advaitam (one atom, none second to it) but "Yam AtmAnavEda Yasya AtmA sarIram" is VishishtAdvaita. It is the most important verse in the upanishads. The JIvAtmA is the body of the ParamAtmA; but it never recognizes it as its' master. Everything is the body of the ParamAtmA, which is the soul. The body does not recognize the ParamAtmA as its' soul.

Hence we have a case of 3 real entities with 2 distinct identities (chit, chit and IsvarA are the entities; the identities are body and soul). We need to connect 2 to 1. Chit and Acit need to be connected to IsvarA? How? As SarIrA and AtmA. This sarIrAtma BhAvA, the body-soul relationship is the crux of VishishtAdvaitA.

To be continued ...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Taking a break from AachArya Vaibhavam to compile some definitions for VishitAdvaitam. Lots of information out there, so please bear with me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 8

EmbAr returns

One day, the Vaishnavaite who was sent to deliver news to Tirumalai Nambi about correcting EmbAr and bringing him back to the right path com back to RAmAnujar. On seeing the happiness in his face, Udayavar sensed that he had succeeded in his task. He asked him to narrate the sequence of events in detail.

"I conveyed your orders to Tirumalai Nambi. He indicated that he himself had been thinking about this for a long time and was very happy to receive your orders to do so. He took me and a bunch of his disciples to KAlahasti. He crossed ULangai konNarnda NAyanAr's path and made AaLavandAr's shlokam fall on his ears: "SvAbhAvikAnavatikAtisayEchitrutvam". Something in NAyanAr's mind stirred when he heard those words and he became disturbed. On another occasion, Nambigal went and sat under the tree from which NAyanAr used to pluck flowers everyday and started teaching the meaning of TiruvAimozhi to his disciples. NAyanar forgot his task of gathering the flowers and stood there mesmerized. Nambigal explained the meaning of 3 pAsurams. The fourth one contained the following lines: "EmperumAnukkallAmal PUvum PUsanaiyum TagumE". On hearing those words, NAyanAr threw the basket and the flowers and said that it was not right. He fell at Nambigal's feet and asked for forgiveness and asked for his blessings and protection. He sobbed loudly and lamented his wasted time all these past years. Nambi consoled NAyanAr. The local Saivaites on hearing this news surrounded Nambigal, and fought with him while questioning if this behavior was okay. Nambigal redirected them to NAyanAr, who promptly disowned them and did not want to have anything to do with them. He gave them back the key and the ring that had been given to him. Nambigal took him to Tirupati and performed some cleansing rituals on him and did pancha samskAram too. He then started teaching him all the prabandams starting with "tirup pallANdu" and that is where they are at today".

RAmAnujar went straight to Periya Nambi's hose from there and conveyed his respects to him. He had one request of him - "Please teach me all the valuable things that you know and believe in. Let me not feel robbed at never having met AaLavandAr". Nambi taught him some of the things for a few days and bade him to go learn TirumantrArtham and Sarama slOkArtham from TirukkOttiyUr Nambi.

Becoming EmperumAnAr

According to the orders of Periya Nambi, RAmAnujar approached TirukkOttiyUr Nambi after finding out where he resided. He prayed in the direction of his residence. Then he went and met him and offered his respects to him and conveyed Periya Nambi's wishes. He wanted the world to know the greatness of the two works. But all Nambigal told him was to go and come back another time when he would teach him everything. Thus RAmAnujar came back to SrI Rangam and tried to learn from Nambigal 17 times.

Once Nambigal himself came to SrI Rangam and some elderly Vaishanavaites who resided there asked him why he was being so hard on Udayavar. Nambigal did not give them a response but went back to TirukkOttiyUr. He sent word through a Vaishnavaite to go bring RAmAnujar to him. Udayavar was thrilled on hearing this news.

He summoned KUraththAzhvar, NadAthUrAzhvAn and MudaliyAndan and went to TirukkOttiyUr. He had the three of them wait some distance away from Nambi's house and approached Nambi alone. Nambigal agreed to impart the knowledge to him with the warning that it was not meant to be shared with anyone else. Udayavar agreed and absorbed all that Nambigal had to say. the net morning, at TerkAzhvAn TiruvOlakkam, he taught the same to the three disciples who accompanied him. Nambigal was enraged on hearing this and summoned YatirAjar right away. He was very upset and angry and asked RAmAnujar if he knew what the penalty was, for disobeying the teacher's direct order.

Udayavar replied that he knew he was going to hell for disobeying the teacher's order. Nambigal was stunned and asked him "Even after knowing the consequence, why would you do something like this?" RAmAnujar replied that even though it meant that he was going to hell, he wanted that the secrets not be lost and be preserved in the willing minds of more than just one. Nambigal was moved by this explanation. He blessed him that no woe would befall him. EmperumAn is known for his compassion and on those lines, he gave RAmAnujar a new name: EmperumAnAr. He also revealed that the sampradAyam that was thus far known as Parama vaidIga SiddhAntam would henceforth be termed as "RAmAnuja darshanam or EmperumAnAr darshanam".

Listening to words of wisdom

EmperumAnAr got the blessings of TirukkOttiyUr Nambi and proceeded to Tiruvarangam. He reported to Perya Nambigal there and narrated all the happenings at TirukkOttiyUr to him. He asked that the TiruvAimozhi be imparted to him. Periya Nambi was very happy and directed him to Tiruvaranga PerumAL Arayar for this purpose. Uatirajar, accordingly went to Arayar. He confided the purpose of his visit to him. He steed on for about 6 months doing kainkaryams for him.

One day, he applied a soothing turmeric paste for Arayar as a pre-bath time ritual and Arayar was very comforted by it. He said that on account of making him so much relaxed and at ease, he would indeed impart the TiruvAimozhi along with other words of wisdom to him.

The words of wisdom thus imparted were: "AachAryaha sa Harihi SAkshAt SararUpI Na Samsayaha". And he also narrated the story of how PItakavAdaip PirAnAr came as the primary Guru. He confirmed that the sleeping Lord comes on earth as a live being in the form o AAchAryAs. One has to learn wise things from the AachAryan, like mantrAs and their meanings and the sarama SloKam that Lord Krishna expounded at the end of the Bhagavat GItA. He said that the way to goodness in this world and the other is obtained by AAchAryan's anugraham and being loyal to him is the sign of such goodness in a man. As an example for these words of wisdom, he cited Madurakavi's "KaNNinuN SiruththAmbu" and its meaning and explained that VaikuNtA was destined for those who believed the words of Madurakavi as lovingly said to Ten KurugUrNambi. He then went on to teach him the TiruvAimozhi. YatirAjar was boundlessly ecstatic on receiving all this information. He sought Arayar's blessings and went and reported back to Periya Nambi. According to his wishes, he went to learn the meaning for the TiruvAimozhi from TirumAlai AandAn.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 7

YAdavaprakAsar as disciple

YAdavaprakAsar's mother was very devout and prayed religiously to the Lord. She heard about RAmAnujar's merits every single day and one day wished fervently that YAdavaprakAsar reacquaint himself with RAmAnujar and become his disciple. As she was thinking this, she heard voices that seemed to confirm that it was a ferry good thing. She immediately summoned her son and told him about what she felt and what had happened just then. She requested that he go and join RAmAnujar and embrace the sigai, tridandam and yagnyopavItam.  YAdavaprakAsar was very much opposed to the idea as he ran all the previous disputes between them in his mind. However, he also started recounting the greatness and miracles of RAmAnujar. It did not take him very long to get convinced that he should indeed join him as his disciple. But as was the custom of AachAryAs following Advaita, he did not have a kudumi or yagnyopavItam. So in order for RAmAnujar to accept him, he would have to go around the whole earth once. But he was riddled with old age and felt that it would not be possible for him to undertake a journey of such magnitude. That night, PEraruLALan appeared in his dream and conveyed that going around RAmAnujar once was equivalent to going around the entire world.

Accordingly, the next morning YAdavaprakAsar went to Tirukkachchi Nambi and narrated his  desire and the Lord's solution to attain it. Nambi went to Arul Varadan's sannidi to confirm that going around RAmAnujar once would suffice and PEraruLALan came back with the same notion. YAdavaprakAsar hastened to RAmAnujar and conveyed his wishes to him. RAmAnujar was pleasantly surprised and did the needful for him. He named him "GOvinda JIyar" and gave him the tiridantam, yagnyOpavItam and the saffron clothing of an ascetic. He asked a favor of the newly appointed GOvinda JIyar - and that was to write a narrative for Yuti darmam. According to his wishes, he wrote "Yatidharmasamuchchayam" and offered it to the feet of YatirAjan. RAmAnujar blessed him in every way.

In KAnchI, YatirAjan taught MImAmsA and the SAshtrAs to the disciple who embraced him; namely KUraththAzhvAn and MudaliyAndAn among others. All the Vaishnavaites in SrI Rangam were very happy on hearing this. Under the supervision of Periya Nambi, it was decided that RAmAnujar should be brought to the periya kOil to carry out his immense services to mankind. TiruvarangaperumAL Arayar was chosen for this purpose.

Arayar agreed to carry out this task and left for PerumAL kOil. He reached KAnchI in a few days. He had the good fortune of getting the darshan of "VENdubavar VENdiyadai VIzhaindaraulum" Arul Varadan in the midst of the PuNyakOti vimAnam at kachchivAiththAn mandapam.Here he started reciting AalavandAr's sostraratna ShrI Sukti. In a melodious voice, he sang AazhvAr's compositions like "En NenjamE YAn". The Lord was moved by his bhakti and appeared before him and asked him what he wished. Arayar indicated that he'd very much like for RAmAnujar to come and stay in ShrI Rangam and bless his disciples from there. PEraruLALan agreed and ordered RAmAnujar to do the same.

Thus, by the will of God, YatirAjar decided to go to Tiruvarangam. He appointed KUraththAzhvAr and MudaliyANdAn t take care of the daly rituals for the Lord. As soon as they came to the temple, he left directly for ShrI Rangam without even going back to his matam one last time. Tirukkachchi Nambigal saw them off.

Becoming Udayavar

RAmAnujay settled in Tiruvarangam, thus. He finished anushtAnams in Vada Tiru KAvEri and wanted to do mangaLAsAsanam for Periya PerumAL. HEaring of this intent, the Vaishanavaites who were around rejoiced and brought Periya Nambigal there. RAmAnujar received all the blessings of the Lord, including TIrtam and SadAri. From there he went to the temple and sought blessings from SrI Ranga NAchchiyAr, Azhagiyasingar and finally went to Azhagiya MaNavALan sannidi. Near the TirumaNa pillars, he narrated AmalanAdipirAn's pAsurams and was very happy in holy bliss.

PerumAl appeared before him that very instant and gave him the gift of "Upaya VibhUti Aishvaryam" (The wealth of knowledge in this world and the one beyond) and commanded him to take control of the temple activities from then on. HE gave him the special title of "Nam Udayavar". Udayavar went to Periya Nambi and thanked him after acknowledging that it was by his grace that he received all these chpoicest blessings. "PeriyAk KAtpattakAl PerAda paean PeralAmandro"? He owed his gift of LilA VibhUti and Nitya VibhUti to Nambigal. The daily proceedings in the temple went on very smoothly from that day on. He appointed AgaLanganAttAzhvar as his disciple at the temple for carrying out these daily duties.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 6

3 mistakes

IlayAzhvAr habitually took an oil massage and had a ShrI Vaishnavaite be his masseuse. One day, as usual the helper came to assist him with this task. He said that he was hungry and that he would appreciate if he could have something to eat before starting on his task. RAmAnujar went and asked his wife if there was anything to eat and she replied that there wasn't anything. Incidentally RAmAnujar went into the kitchen to wash his hands and he saw that there was indeed some food left over. He took it and served it to the helper and chided his wife for hiding the truth from him.

On another occasion, he had to go to ShrI PerumbUdUr. He got the blessings of his AachAryan and left. When he had gone, a dispute ensued between his wife and Periya Nambi's wife: they fought over a silly pot used to draw water from the well. When Periya Nambi came to hear of this, he got angry with his wife and scolded her for picking a fight. He decided that it was not wise for them to stay there anymore and before RAmAnujar could come back from his trip, he vacated the house and left for SrI Rangam periya kOil. When RAmAnujar came back, he was distraught to find his AachAryan missing. He asked his wife what the matter was and she told him about the fight that had ensued between them. RAmAnujar did not want to hear those words and the anger towards his wife was limitless. He then told her that she should leave him immediately and go back to her parents' house. He explained that she had committed 3 grievances:
1. Cleaning up the area that Tirukkachchi Nambigal sat on
2. Refusing to offer food to a hungry Vaishnavaite when there was food available
3. Not respecting AachArya patni and picking a fight with her

So saying, he asked her to pack all her belongings and saw to it that she left immediately.

RAmAnujar becomes YatirAjar

Once he separated from his wife, RAmAnujar decided that it was a good idea for him to take up sanyAsam. He went before PerumAL's sannidi and asked for his orders to do so. He then bathed in the waterbody nearby and uttered the "PrEsha" mantram that had been taught to him previously and embraced asceticism.

"Tridandam UbavIdamsa VAsaha GoupInavEshtanam
Sikyangkavasa MityEtat PipruyAt yAvatAyusham"

According to those lines, he embraced the tridandam and the yagnyopavItam. PEraruLALan blessed him with the name of YatirAjar as his "Archchaka mukam".

According to the wishes of Yatigal, YatirAjan carried out his rituals dutifully. He them remembered the wishes of AalavandAr and wished to carry them out. He wanted someone to aid him in these tasks and his cousin GOvinda Battar came to mind immediately. He remembered that he had done good by him and was not materialistic and wished to get him to join as his aide immediately. The only person who could correct Govinda Battar, according to him was Tirumalai Nambi. He sent a Vaishnavar who was known to him to Tirumalai Nambi for this purpose who explained that "Govinda Battar is perfect to study the Sashtrams with me and help me carry out all my tasks. He has fallen prey to some illusion and is now doing DEvatAntram. You have to show him compassion and correct his ways".

On hearing that RAmAnujar was now a sanyAsi, he was approached by NadAtUr AazhvAn, KUraththAzhvAn and MudaliyAndAn who joined him. RAmAnujar did the 5 samskArams for them. They were all very loyal and stayed with AachAryan and helped him out in his daily duties.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 5

Opening of 3 fingers

MEanwhile, Periya Nambigal showed great haste in bringing RAmAnujar to see the AachAryan. As they approached SrI Rangam, at TirukkarambanUr turai, they saw a big congregation of ShrI Vaishnavaites. They enquired what the crowd was all about and on finding out that the AachAryan had passed away, they burst into tears and sobbed loudly. After a while, Periya Namabigal first steadied himself and then comforted RAmAnujar to make way to see the AachAryan for one last time. RAmAnujar prostrated before AalavandAr's body many times. On noticing the 3 fingers, he enquired what that was about or if it had always been that way. The disciples who had heard AalavandAr's 3 desires earlier in the day explained it to him. Immediately RAmAnujar vowed that "As the selected one of the Aacharyan, PEraruLALan will carry out all these 3 tasks through me". At that very instant, the 3 fingers of the Aacharyan relaxed on his departed body! Everyone who witnessed this was astounded. They realized that RAmAnujar was indeed the chosen one. They performed the necessary rites for AAchAryan and went back to their houses to take a shower. RAmAnujar, under the guidance of Periya Nambi went to the PerumAL temple.

Tirukkachchi Nambi and RAmAnujar

In Kachi, Tirukkachchi Nambi came to hear of the news of AalavandAr's passing in ShrI Rangam. He was deeply saddened by the news and paid his obesciences from afar.

RAmAnujar came to hear all about Tirukkachchi Nambi: how he was reforming daily rituals for PEraruLaLan and that he was a devotee of AalavandAr and hence invited him over to his house. He offered Nambi a place to sit and wanted to prostrate him at that very moment.  But Nambigal prevented him from doing so. He said that RAmAnujar was a chosen one; chosen none other than AalavandAr himself and he said that he should not forego his VarNAsrama duties. He recounted the story of how NAdamuni went behind the king and started singing his praises but was reminded by his disciples that we should not sing praises of mere humans when it is our prime duty to serve the Supreme Lord. Accordingly, RAmAnujar did not prostrate him. Instead, he asked him a few questions that were on his mind and requested that Nambi pass on the word of PEraruLAlan to him. When it was time for Nambigal to leave, he escorted him to his destination for a short distance and came back home. Unbeknownst to him, his wife, in the meantime had cleaned out the spot occupied by Nambi with "GOmeyam". RAmAnujar was enraged at her ignorance and left her then and there itself to be permanently under the service of PEraruLAlan.

6 words

The next day, Tirukkachchi Nmabi was in the KachchivAzhththAn mandapam, fanning PEraruLALan when he approached the Lord with all the doubts that RAmAnujar had and AruL Varadan gave him the following 6 pearls of wisdom:

1. SrIman NArAyaNa is the supreme and only Lord
2. The discrepancy between Advaitam and VishitAdvaitam
3. The only way to mOkShA at the lotus feet of the Lord is by CharaNAgati
4. Once charaNAgati is done, it is not necessary to utter/think of the Lord's name during the last moment of life
5. MOkshA is not instantaneous upon charaNAgati: until the body lives, the soul lives in it. The should departs for mOkshA only when the body dies.
6. RAmAnujar should stay by Periya Nambi's side and gain his tutelance.

Joining Periya Nambigal

Back in SrI Rangam, all of AalavandAr's disciples approached Periya Nmabigal with a request: They wanted that RAmAnujar, chosen by none other than the departed AachAryan, come on to take over the now empty post as the rightful successor. Periya Nambigal agreed to take on this endeavor. He left with his wife on a journey to PerumAL kOil enroute a few divvy kshEtrams. At one point, he reached MadurAntagam and sought the blessings of "Aeri KAththa RAmar".

Meanwhile, according to the wishes of PEraruLaLan, RAmAnujar was enroute from PerumAL koil to periya kOil and by sheer coincidence, happened to be in MadurAntagam at the same time! He was overjoyed to find Nambigal there and immediately prostrated him with the following lines: "Sishyas DEhamsAdimAm TvAm prapannam" which meant "Your slave, accept my surrender and bless and protect me". Periya Nambi offered to discourse him at PEraruLALan's sannidi but RAmAnujar did not wish to put it off and he asked that it be done right there and then. In Aeri KAththa RAman's sannidi, under a Magizha tree, Periya Nmabi revealed the Pancha SamskAram to RAmAnujar. He expounded all the shlOkAs and the meaning of every Dvayam. They both them offered their respect and gratitude to Lord RAmA for the unexpected meeting under his guidance.

(For these reason,s MaturAntagam is also known as "Dvayam viLainda KshEtram". He can be found here next to RAmA as a grihastar, i.e. not yet as a SanyAsi. Behind the AndAL sannidi, alongwith the Magizha tree, there is platform on whose walls there is a sculpting to this upadEsam taking place. A festival to commemorate this event occurs every Aavani month on sukla Panchami. In the lake, there are some steps called "BhAshyakArar padiththurai" where daily rituals are performed to this day.)

From there, they went back to PerumAL kOil and RAmAnujar gave up a portion of his house for Periya Nambigal to reside in. He provided him with everything needed for his rituals and was very devoted to him. Periya Nmabi transferred a lot of knowledge to him, including that of the tiruVai mozhis and Divyaprabandams.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 4

ShrI AalavandAr's last upadEsam

As we saw in the last chapter, in SrI Rangam, AalavandAr was plagued by the ills of old age. He was surrounded by his worried disciples. Then he was approached by TiruvarangaperumALarayar, Periyanambigal and TirukkOttiyUr Nambigal who pleaded with him to impart his knowledge of something special and dear to him. Aalavandar had the following orders for them: "By the grace of a good AachAryan, you have all done ChanaNAgati and are leading a good life. Continue in the tradition of an AAchAryan and serve the Lord thus. Perform all those duties that have to be carried out without fail (like SanDhyAvandanam). Such duties are called AajnyA kaingaryam. On the other hand, Anujnya kaingaryam comprises of those duties that should be carried out if they can; but is not a great sin if it cannot be kept up with. Exampls of such duties are going with God in proession, lighting lamps in the temple and doing the utsavAdigal in the temple. This is what BhAgavata AachArya kaingaryam is all about. Make it known to all your disciples".

The news that AalavandAr was sick spread all over the country. On hearing it, 2 vaishnaNavAs from PerumAL temple came to see him in SrI Rangam. While paying obeisance to him, they narrated the account of the dispute between RAmAnujar and YAdavaprakAsar in the interpretation of the line "Sarvam Kalu Idam Bhrahmma". They indicated that the Guru banished him from his service and that he was performing daily duties for PEraruLALan in his temple. AalavandAr was happy on hearing it and felt that PEraruLALan carried out his wishes for him. He called upon Periya Nambi and asked him to go to KAnjI and bring RAmAnujar to him.

Periya Nambi in PerumAl temple

According to AachAryan's wishes Periya Nambi came to PerumAL temple in a few days. He prostrated before the lotus feet of PEraruLALAn and PerundEvi ThAyAr. He met Tirukkachchi Nambi and conveyed the news of AalavandAr's health and his wishes to bring RAmAnujar to him. He was waiting for RAmAnujar's arrival from SAlak KiNar because he knew that he would be bringing the tirumanjana tIrtam for the Lord. At that time he was reciting the following mantrA: "BhrahmmA Sivaha Satamakaha ParamasvarAdityEtEpu Yasya MahimArNava ViprushahatE". RAmAnujar was thrilled on hearing it and asked who Periya Nambi about who wrote those verses. Periya Nambi indicated that it was none other than AalavandAr and RAmAnujar desired to see him immediately. Periya Nambi gladly agreed to take him. After getting the blessing of the Lord and DEvi, the pair made their way back to SrI Rangam.

SrI AalavandAr's desire

Meanwhile AalavandAr's health was deteriorating by the day. He wished to get the blessings of Periya PerumAL one day so he was helped up to his sannidi to get tIrtam and prasAdams. When he was standing before the Lord, he could not contain the discontent in his heart and burst into tears. The disciples surrounding him were shocked and wished to know what was ailing his mind that would upset him to this extent. AalavandAr revealed it to them along with the fact that he was upset about not having met RAmAnujar:
1. Writing a commentary for VyAsa SUtram
2. The names of ParAsaran and VyAsan who ruled that SrIman NArAyaNA was the supreme Lord be granted to 2 VaishNavAs worthy of the name
3. Write a commentary for NammAzhvAr's divya prabandham
He then folded his fingers to reveal the number 3 to indicate 3 of his unfulfilled desires. His disciples tried to reassure him that by the grace of the Lord, all these would be fulfilled eventually and asked him how they could be of his aid for that moment. Aalavandar expressed his wshes to pray before NAdamunigals slippers and get his blessings and TIrtam. Accordingly, NAdamuni's PAdukai was brought before. The AachAryan prayed to it heartily and revealed that as Abijit MuhUrtam closed in on them, he would make his way to the lotus feet of the Lord in paramapadam. He sat in a perfect PadmAsanam position with NAdamuni's pAdukais on his head chanting the names of ManakkAl Nambi and UyyakondAr and passed away thus. All his disciples including Tiruvarangap PerumALarayar stood like uprooted trees without their roots. Then they steadied themselves and started prepping to perform the last rites for the AachAryan. They called upon his son PillaikkarasuNambi to perform his duties thus. They adorned his body with garlands from Periya PerumAL and hoisted him upon a Bhramma chariot and took him to TirukkarambanUrturai for his final resting place.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 3

YAdavaprakAsar back in KAnchI

YAdavaprakAsar finished his pilgrimage and came back to his matam in KAnchIpuram. He was very surprised at seeing RAmAnujar in the PerumAl temple there one day. He approached him and said "We thought that you had fallen prey to one of the wild animals in the jungle. Very happy to see you back alive and safe. How did thi happen? What transpired in the forest after you got separated from us?". RAmAnujar kept the true story from him and instead said "After I got lost in the forest, I kept thinking of the Lord as I didn't know what else to do. A hunter and his wife approached me and offered to guide me back safely to Satyavada KshEtram. What took us so many days to travel, we covered all that back in a single night and I was back. That is what happened". YAdavaprakAsar listened to all this carefully and concluded that not only was RAmAnujar a genius, but he also had the Lord's graces shining upon him in many ways. He told him to come back to the matam and stay with him as before and RAmAnujar agreed to do so.

KAnchI VaishnavAs in ShrI Ranagam

Once 2 ShrI Vaishnavaites came to ShrI Rangam to pray to Lord RanganAtar. They also sought the blessings of AalavandAr along the way. AalavandAr was curious about their origins - where they came from, whether there was anything special there and so he asked them about it. (From here, we know the story that happened as was discussed in the Chapter on AalavandAr.)

Possession by a BhrahmarAkshas

At that time, the nation's King's son (some say daughter) became possessed and tormented by a Bhrahma RAkshas."TaddEsa BhUpasya SudE PisAsa KrastE". The learned men on the kingdom, suggested that YAdavaprakAsar's assistance be sought in fighting it. Accordingly, the King's team approached him and sought his help. YAdavaprakAsar haughtily told the King's men "Tell the monster that I asked him to leave and never return". So the King's men came back to it and repeated the same words. The RAkshas became very angry and retorted "You tell YAdavaprakAsar to leave". When YAdavaprakAsar heard about this, he was enraged. He came face to face with the monster and commanded it to leave. The moster said "Do you know who you were in your past birth and who I was? Do you think I would leave just because you commanded me to? How dare you?". At this, YAdavaprakAsar's curiosity was piqued. He asked the Bhrahma RAkshas to explain what he meant. The monster gladly agreed and said "You were a mere monitor lizard living in the MadurAntagam lake in your previous birth. One day, some esteemed VaishnavAs who were undertaking a pilgrimage to Tirupati, came by the MaturAntagam lake and after performing their rituals, sat down to have a meal. When they left, you ate the remains of their blessed meal. Because of the holiness of those leftovers and your luck in consuming it, you were blessed to be born as a leaned BhAhmaN in this birth. Myself, on the other hand - I was an esteemed BhrAhmaN and had extensive knowledge of all the 4 VEdAs. By making some mistakes in one of my penances, because of an error on my part, I was cursed to be born like this in my present birth. Given that I am superior to you in this way, I will not leave just because you asked me to. I will only go if someone worthy commands me to. RAmAnujar, who is in your group is one such esteemed man. I will leave if he sake me to; I won't go for your sake."  So saying he prostrated before RAmAnujar. He said that he would be granted a good way if RAmAnujar blessed him. The King requested RAmAnujar's help. RAmAnujar obliged and said "Hey Bhahma RAkshas; if what you say is indeed true, I wish you the very best in your endeavors. Please leave us alone and leave. As an indication that you've left, plea uproot this tree so we'll know that you have really gone". So saying. he pointed to a tree nearby. Sure enough, the RAkshas left as promised only after uprooting said tree. Everyone witnessing this realized how truly great RAmAnujar was; and paid obeisance to him. YAdavaprakAsar returned to KAnjIpuram with his disciples.

Religious difference of opinion, again

YAdavaprakAsar continued his teachings on a daily basis to his disciples. Once he was explaining the meaning of the following words "Sarvam Kalu Idam Bhrahmma". He explained it in the light of the Advaita philosophy. RAmAnujar silly could not agree that his explanation was correct. He explained the same line from a VishitAdvaita point of view, correctly. As usual, the Guru was enraged. "IlayAzhvar, please find a place more suitable for you to stay. I do not wish that you be here with us anymore." RAmAnujar came back to his house and told his mother everything that had transpired between him and his Guru. His mother was unnerved. She said "You start serving PErarulAlan once again like you used to. Enough of you studies with that Guru."  RAmAnujar started serving the Lord like before by bring water from SAlak Kinar like before and continued his duties at the temple.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 2

Over the next few days, YAdavaprakAsar spoke very sweetly to RAmAnujar indicating to him that he was a genius and he had the correct explanations for a lot of verses. He pseudo apologized to him and RAmAnujar believed all his words. At this juncture, he suggested that all the disciples undertake a pilgrimage to the Ganges with him. RAmAnujar obtained his mother's permission to travel and willingly agreed. An auspicious date was fixed for their departure.

Govinda Battar's loyalty

And so started the pilgrimage. They journeyed over many a land, forest and mountain. GOvinda Battar who was also on the trip, came to know of the evil scheme of his Guru. His wished to somehow convey this to RAmAnujar and warn him of his impending doom and urge him to find a way to escape. The opportune moment came one day when the Guru and his disciples walked fast ahead and RAmAnujar strayed behind to answer the call of Nature. Govinda Battar conveyed all that he had come to know about the Guru's plot. He urged him to find his way back to their hometown somehow. Govinda Battar then hurried and caught up with the rest of the entourage. When the others realized that he was missing, RAmAnujar was already making his way back. The Guru and his disciples looked all around for him and just naturally assumed that he ha been eaten by some wild animals in the forest. They marveled that their plot was carried out in such a natural way without their interference. Govinda Battar was very sullen and everyone noticed this, but they just attributed to his feeling bad for his cousin. Little did they know that he was large with concern for the safe return of his brother back home.

Varadan as the guide

RAmAnujar traced his way back and walked the whole day. Along with being tired, fear and loneliness crept up to him: He wondered how he would pass the night; where he would stay and who would help him if he got into any trouble? He leaned against a tree and fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. Did the sun have any concerns about him? No - so the sun also set as was his duty. When RAmAnujar woke up, it was dark. He could make the outline of a hunter and his wife in the dark. he wondered if it were a mirage, and hence wanted to make sure of it. He asked them "Who are you? Do you live around here? Where are you going?". The hunter replied "We are people of the Villi community. We live here in these parts. We intend to go to KAnjIpuram. This is a dangerous forest, please don't wander it all by yourself. If you are willing, you can come with us." RAmAnujar agreed. They walked in a straight file - first the hunter, then his wife followed by RAmAnujar. When Lord RAmA went to the forest, the trio walked in a similar fashion: RAmA leading the way, followed by SItA in the middle with LakshmaNA trailing behind them.

"Akradaha prayayou RAmaha SItAmatyE SumatyamA
Prushtadasya DanushpANihi LakshmanO AnujakAmaha"

In the middle of the night, all 3 of them slept under a tree. The wife was thirsty and asked her husband if there was any water nearby. The hunter replied that he remembered a well in the vicinity, but that it would be hard to find in the dark so he would get her some in the morning. RAmAnjuar overheard their conversation. He decided that since they had been so helpful to him, he should be the one fetching the water in the morning. Accordingly, when they arrived at the well the next day, RAmAnujar got in and brought water for the pair. They drank the water. Then they told him that the place they were in was called "PuNyakOdi VimAnam" and disappeared. RAmAnujar realized that it was none other than the Lord and Her almighty PirAtti who had been his guides and fainted at the realization. When he came to, he perfumed his daily rituals and went to the temple to have a darshan of PErarulAlan. From that day onwards, he cariied on the task of bringing water from the very same well to the deities. R=That well was called "SAlak kinar" and to this day, water is supplied to the deities from there. There is also a sannidi for BHAshyakArar here. Every year for IyarbA SAthumOrai, it is customary for ArulAlan to come be with RAmAnujar there.  Turumanjanam is also done. The Lord is dressed as haunter with a bow and arrow on this day.

YAdavaprakAsar in KAsi

After losing RAmAnujar in the forest, YAdavaprakAsar and his entourage reached the city of KAsi. They spent their days here for a while, bathing in the Ganges everyday. YAdavaprakAsar had a few magical powers. Once when GOvinda Battar was dipping in the Ganges, he made a lingam appear in his hands, magically. GOvinda Battar was amazed and he went and showed it to his Guru. YAdavaprakAsar told him that Lord ShivA had decided to grace him and hence he should start praying to that lingam every day. He also gave him the name of "ULLangai koNarndha NAyanAr". Thus, YAdavaprakAsar who was a Shivite also converted GOvinda Battar, the staunch Vaishnavite.

Coming back to Kacchi

After spending some time in KAsi, they wished to return to Kacchi. They visited holy places like JagannAtam and AhObilam. En route, GOvinda Battar indicated to YAdavaprakAsar that he would like to install his lingam in a temple and then come and join them in KAnjIpuram. The Guru also agreed. GOvinda Battar went to his hometown of Maduramangalam and installed the lingam there. One day, ShrI KAlahasti NAdan came in his dreams and asked him to come to KAlahasti and take care of the temple over there. Similarly, he visited the guards there and told them to go fetch GOvinda Battar from Maduramangalam. Accordingly, Battar settled in KAlahasti and was performing rituals for ShivA there.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 1

(RAmAnujar was known as EmperumAnAr, IlayAzhvAr (Raman-anujan = Lakshmanan) and Shri BhAshyakAr)

ChaitrArdrAsambhavam VishnOho DarshanasThApanOtsukam
ThuNdIramaNdalE ShEshamrutim RAmAnujam BhajE


Periya Tirumalai Nambi, one of AalavandAr's disciples had 2 sisters: BhUmi PirAtti and Periya PirAtti. The older of the two was BhUmi PirAtti and she was married off to KEsavaperuMal of ShrI PerumbUdUr of the Aasuri kulam. Madura Mangalam Kamala Nayana Battar married the younger sister. Nambigal prayed that they be blessed with virtuous children of good faith and prayed to Lord VenkatEshvarA of Tirupati. He invoked the Lord's blessings everyday. Accordingly, about 950 years ago, in the Pingala year, ChitrA month, on suklapaksha panchami titi, under the TiruVAdurai start, KEsavaperumAl was blessed with a holy son: He was none other than the avatAr of AadisEshan.

Anantaha PraThamamrUpam LakshmaNastu tataha Param
balaBhadraha TrutIyastu kalou Kashshid Bhavishyanti

The AadirUpam's first avatAr was AadisEshan, second was LakshmanA. His third was BalarAman and it was written in AadisEshAvatAram that he would be born in KaliyugA as RAmAnujar.

Naming Ceremony

On hearing the news of his nephew's birth, Periya Tirumalai Nambi ventured to ShrI PerumbUdUr from Tirupati. He blessed the child and was overjoyed on seeing him. He was ecstatic that the child was destined to serve God in many ways. Since the child resembles LakshmaNA, he named him RAmAnujan. He was also named IlayAzhvAn. KEsavasOmaji performed all the rites of AnnaprAsanam, Soulam, AkshrAbhyAsam and Upanayanam for his son at the right times. RAmAnujar turned out to be quite a literary genius in all ways. He got married at the age of 16 and then went to KAnjIpuram to learn Advaita VEdAnta grantAs from YAdavaprakAsar.

GOvinda Battar

Similarly, in Maduramangalam, Kamalanayana Battar was also blessed with a son in KrOdana year, Tai month under the Punarvasu star. Periya Tirumalai Nambi made a trip to Maduramangalam, blessed the child and named him GOvinda Battar.   All vaishnava rites were performed on this child also at the right ages and GOvinda Battar also grew up to be very intelligent and learned. He was also married at an appropriate age. Following his cousin's footsteps, he also went to KAnjIpuram under the tutelage of YAdavaprakAsar.

Once YAgavaprakAsar was explaining the meaning of the following shlOkam: Satyan NyAnam Anantam Brahma. RAmAnujar argued with him that his explanation was incorrected and proceeded to correctly explain it according to the VishitAdvaita principles. His Guru was enraged and became very angry with him, After a few days, he was doing an pilled massage for his Guru, when another disciple came and asked him for the meaning of some shlOkams: "Tasya yadA kabyAsamm PundarIkam Ayvam AkshiNI:. YAdavaprakAsar explained it thus - "Kapi means monkey. Aasam is it's rearside. So the line means that the Lord's eyes are as red as a lotus which is the same color of a monkey's rear". RAmAnujar could not digest this. His eyes welled up with water and he brutes into tears. Some hot tears fell on the Guru's thighs and he looked up to see what the matter was. On seeing a distraught RAmAnujar, he asked him what the matter was. RAmAnujar replied " I could not bear to accept the explanation that you just gave. Pardon my tears. You compared the Lord's eyes to a monkey's rear. It is not fair to equate the Lord's eyes to something so base. That is why I got upset." The Guru then asked him for his version of the explanation and Ramanujar came up with it:

"GambIrAm PassamudBhUta SamrushtanAlaravikara vikasita PundarIkAkshEnaha": A stem swollen lotus in a water filled pond, blooming on the occasion of a solar eclipse - that is what the Lord's eyes are like.

The Guru was enraged again with what he thought was impertinence. RAmAnujar was very distraught and stood there, silently weeping.

Pilgrimage to the Ganges

YAdavaprakAsar was determined to get rid of RAmAnujar because he was worried his popularity would outshine his. So he hatched an evil plot with some of his disciples. They decided to carry it out in a far-away location so that no suspicion would point to them. the Guru suggested that they could convince RAmAnujar to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Ganges with them. They decided to push him into the swelling waters of the floods and tell everyone that he passed away in an accident.

Chapter 5 - MahApUrNar (Periya Nambigal)

JyEshtAyAm MArgasIrshEtu ShrIranga KshEtrasambhavam
MahApUrNam GurUththamsam KumudAkshamsam AAshrayE

Periya Nmabigal was born in ShrIrangam in kaliyugam in the HEvilambi year in MArgazhi mAsam KEttai nakshatram in BhAratvAja gOthram. He was the prime disciple of AalavandAr. According to AachAryan's wishes he lived in SHrIrangam expounding the sampradAyams to his disciples. He was succeeded by EmperumAnAr (RAmAnujar), malai kuniya ninrAr, Aarya ShrI SadagOpa DAsar, ANiyarangaththamudanAr, TiruAik KulamudayAn Battar and Tirukkachchinambi as the sixth.

His history is entwine with that of ShrI RAmAnujar in many ways hence we can read about them in Chapter 6.

DayAnignam YaDIndrasya DEsikam PUrNamAshrayE
YEna VishvasrujO VishnOrapUryatamanOradaha

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chapter 4 ShrI Alavandar - Part 3

Blessing IlayAzhvAr

ShrI AlavandAr came to hear of the greatness of Bhagavat RAmAnujar (disciple of YAdava PrakAsar) doing KAlakshEbams in KAnjIpuram. RAmAnujar talked about truths called KapyAsam and moved people to tears with his discourses. AlavandAr wished to visit him and went to the perumAl temple there. After praying to DEvAdirAjan, while coming around the sannidi of KarumAnikkap PerumAl, he chanced to come upon YAdava PrakAsar and his disciples. AlavandAr asked the people around him who ShrI RAmAnujar was and found out. When he saw him he knew then and there what a great soul he was.

Yasya PrasAdakalayA BadhirashruNOti Padmuhu PradhAvati javEnachavatti mukaha
Andhaha Prapashyati Yatam Labhatecha VandhyA tam DEvamEva Varadam SharaNam GatOsmi

And this is what AlavandAr felt upon seeing RAmAnujar: "By the grace of which Lord a deaf person can reagin his sense of hearing, a lame person can start running, A dumb person start talking, a blind peson start seeing and a barren woman beget a child; in His presence I sense that this man will be a great influence on expounding VishitAdvaita to the world". He did not want to interrupt RAmAnujar any further so he left from there without a formal introduction.  He went to the Big KOil for a while and stayed there. Old age plagued him and sensing that his end was near, he summoned Periya Nambi to fetch RAmAnujar and bring him there. Periya Nambi went to KanjIpuram and was seeking the blessings of the Lord with the following shlOkA: BrahmA Sivaha Satamagaha. RAmAnujar, passing by, asked him who taught him that beautiful verse. Periya Nambi replied that it was the ShrI Sukti of AlavandAr. RAmAnujar wanted to meet him right away.

RAmAnujar meets AlavandAr

Both of them came back to ShrI Rangam. But sadly, AlavandAr had passed away just then. All the disciples there were waiting for their arrival. RAmAnujar was very distressed on hearing the news of AlavandAr's passing. He wished to see him one last time. When he was granted presence, he noticed that AlavandAr had passed on holding up 3 fingers. RAmAnujar wanted to know what the significance of that was. The others explained it to him thus:
1. The name of ParAsara munivar (to whom we owe Vishnu PurAnam) and his progeny should beshould be commemorated on the earth by giving it to a person worthy to bear
2. NammAzhvAr's prabandams must be expounded and explained
3. Write an commentary for Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and Bhagavad Gita
It was his life's ambition to carry out these 3 tasks but he passed on before that. RAmAnujar indicated his wish to take on those 3 tasks if they were indeed the wishes of the great AlavandAr. The minute he uttered this words, the 3 fingers on AlavandAr's departed body unfolded. What to say of the greatness of such an AchAryan?

ShrI AlavandAr's ShrI suktIs

AlavandAr expounded 8 grantAs. The kramAs expounded by those 8 were expounded by ShrI swAmi DEsikan in one shlOkA.  If these were said in other places by ShrI SwAmi, the kramAs were not gotten there. The 8 grantAs were: 1. AagamaprAmAnyam (States the autjority of PancharAtra AgamA) 2. Purusha nirnayam (describes that the ultimate reality is the god-goddess pair ShrI and NArAyanA) 3. Aatmasiddhi 4. Samvitsiddhi 5. Eesvara siddhi (All the 3 siddhis explain the VishistAdvaitA school of thought, describing a relation between the soul, god and the universe) 6. GItArththa Sangraham(a commentary on the Bhagavad GItA) 7. ChatuslOki (a prayer in praise of Lakshmi) 8. SthOthra ratnam (a prayer in praise of NArAyanA)

VigAhE YAmunam TIrtha SAdhubrundAvanE Sthitam
Nirasta JimhAgasparshE yatra Krishnaha KrutAdaraha.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chapter 4 ShrI Alavandar - Part 2

ShrI RAmamisrar looking for the right time to teach

NAdamunigal had 8 disciples; the premier one being Uyya KondAr. He indicated to Uyya KondAr that he would like for him to impart all his knowledge about ShrI Vaishnavism to his grandson, the great genius AlavandAr. Uyya KondAr came to realize that he would become too old by the time the task was to be carried out and hence he entrusted his prime disciple ShrI RAmamisrar with the task. RAmamisra lived his life waiting for the opportune moment to impart all his knowledge according to his AchAryan's wishes. When he heard out AlavandAr winning the debt at the Royal Court, he was thrilled that the time had finally come. He went to AlavandAr's kingdom. He asked to see him, but was refused audience in the court. He made friend with some local Brahmins and found out that AlavandAr's favorite food was a type of greens called tUtulai. From that day on, RAmamisrar started supplying it to the Royal Kitchens. This went on for about 6 months and he was still unable to see his potential disciple. He became very distressed with the fact and came upon an idea. For 3 days he stopped supplying the tUtulai. When Alavandar dined, he asked the royal chefs why his favorite dish was not being served to which they indicated to him that the learned man who supplied it usually had not shown up for 3 days. AlavandAr then requested that when he did show up again, he be granted audience with him. Accordingly, when RAmamisrar came the next day, he was taken to AlavandAr.

When Alavandar saw his charm, he got up and welcomed him and said that he was so pleased with his action and offered to give him anything that he wanted. RAmamisrar good naturedly told him that he was not there to receive, rather to impart. He said that he had a task laid down by AlavandAr's ancestors themselves which had to be carried out at the opportune moment. He asked that he get the King's undivided attention to do just that and requested that all distractions be barred while this went on. AlavandAr was very happy and agreed to do just that.

The next day, the upadEsams started. AlavandAr was taken aback by all that he was larding. His bhakti grew by leaps and bounds. He was terribly disappointed for having wasted a portion of his lifetime not knowing all of this. He thanked RAmamisrar from the bottom of his heart and asked for his complete blessings. ShrI  RAmamisrar dutifully continued his teachings. When AlavandAr got his jnAnam, he went with his Guru to ShrIrangam and was ecstatic with the darshan of Lord RanganAtar. RAmamisrar told AlavandAr that this was the wealth that his ancestors bequeathed on him. In that very instant, according to the shAstram called 'YadaharEva VirajEt", AlavandAr took up sanyAsam there itself. He settled right there with his disciples and started imparting the knowledge of VisishtAdvaitam to all 15 of them: Periya Nambi, Tituk KOttaiyUr Nambi, TirumAlaiyAndAn, AlavandArAzhvAr, Tirumalai Nambi,EesAndAn, DeivavAriyAndAn, SiriyAndAn, TirumOksharappan, TirumOgUr NindrAr, Deiva PerumAl, TirumangayAliyAr, Pillai TirumAliruncholai DAsar, MARanEr Nambi and Aal Kondi.

Visiting Kurugai KAvalappan

ShrI RAmamisrar, sensing that his end of days was near, went up to Alavandar one day and told him what he should do next: NAdamunigal had learnt YOgarahasyam and all its powers from Kurugai KAvalappan in VIranArAyanapuram. He was the last master who knew it and no one else. So RAmamisrar asked that Alavandar go to him and learn this valuable art so that it would not be last forever. When AlavadAr went to see him, he was deep in meditation. Not wanting to disturb him, AlavandAr went and stood behind the hut in which he was meditation. After a few minutes, Kurugai KAvalappan asked "Is anyone from Sottai kulam here"? Alavandar was amazed at how he culled have recognized that he was a descendant of ShrI NAdamuni and humbly introduced himself before asking him the same. There he learned the secret of how Kurugai KAvalappan sensed his presence: He was enjoying the company of none other than Lord Krishna himself, when suddenly he noticed the Lord glance over his shoulder and look behind him a few times. KAvalappan deduced that the Lord only loved the Sottai kulam descendants more than he loved him since they belonged to the same kulam and hence s descendant of NAdamunigal must be there. Alavandar was beside himself and he told him the purpose of his visit. KAvalappan told him that he was to attain the lotus feet of the Lord on the coming Tai month Pushya star. And he wrote down a date on which he wanted AlavandAr to come to him so the knowledge transfer could take place. AlavandAr accepted the letter and went on a tour of temples.

He chanced to come to Tiruvanadapuram and get the darshan of Lord PadmanAbhan. He was enthralled by the divinity of the Lord and stayed there for a few days. Suddenly he remembered the letter he had forgotten to open and when he did it was too late - that was the exact day he was supposed to go and learn YOgarahasyam. He felt terrible. On that day, the secret of YOgarahasyam was lost to us forever.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chapter 4 ShrI Alavandar - Part I

AshAdE SOththaRashAdasambhUtam tatravai purE
SimhAnanAmsham VikhyAtam ShrI YAmuna munim BhajE

On the banks of the river KAvEri, in the agrahAram of VIranArAyanapuram, Shri Alavandar was born ~1000 years ago in the TAtuhru year in the month of Adi under the UthrAdam star. He was none other than the grandson of the illustrious VishitAdvaita proponent ShrIman NAdamunigal. As you may recall from Chapter 1, munigal went on a pilgrimage with his father Isvara Bhattar and son Isvara munigal. They bathed in the holy waters as and when they saw them and eventually reached BrindAvanam. They loved the beauty of that KshEtram and lived there for a while. Then under the auspices of the Lord, they all came back to their home town. Munigal was blessed with the grace of Lord Krishna while in BrindAvanam and wished that his grandson be bestowed with the name of the Lord. Accordingly, the child was named Yamunai Thuraivan and came to also be known as YamunAchAryAr.


Yamunai thuraivar learned the shAstrAs from a great man named MahAbhAshya Battar. At that time, in the King's court, there was a learned man by the name of AkkiyAzhvAn. Just like the King levies taxes upon his subjects, AkkiyAzhvAn took it upon himself to grab 1/10th of the income of all the learned men in the kingdom. Once he sent written word through the palace guards to MahAbhAshya Battar asking for a share of his money. Bttar was very disappointed to receive such a letter. Yamunai Thuraivar was unable to see his Guru in distress and he tore up the letter on the very presence of the palace guards. Then he came up with the following shlOkam: "Na vayam kavayastu kEvalam na vayam kEvalatantrapAragAha. Api tu prativAdivAraNa prakatAtOpavipAtanakshamA". It meant: "we will not pay any money. We are not just base poets. We are not just learned men who know tantra-sAshtrAs. We are lions capable of taming the wildest of elephants.

Summoned to the court

The royal couple came to know of this incident. They thought about what to do. The queen said "Oh King, if he was able to retort so bravely, then he must be a very learned man indeed. We have to respectfully ask him to come here so we can pay homage to his Greatness." Without consulting AkkiyAzhvan, the king sent a palanquin and asked that the scholar who wrote the shlOkam to accept his invitation to come to the royal court. The minister went to Yamunai thuraivan and requested so. Yamunai Thuraivan marveled at the King's humility and offered to do so. He went to the court with his disciple asking them to utter the following shlOka that he came up with:

"AshoulAdadri kanyAcharaNa kisalayan yAsadhanyOpakatAt
ArakshAnI tasItA mukhakamala samullA sahEthOshva SEthOho
A cha prAchya prathIchyakshiti dharasugalAdarka chandrAvatamsAt
mImAmsAshAstra yugmavimalamanA mrugyatAm mAdhshOsanyaha"

(Because Girijan graced his presence, the thankful lands from the Himalayas to RAmasEtu Paryandam that caused SIta's (abducted by RAvanA) face to bloom; between the East and West directions which are the travel path of the sun; in-between these place lies this bhUmi is there one who equals me?)

Gracing the royal couple

On seeing him, the King stood up to welcome him. He took him to a court filled with geniuses from all over the land. There he asked Yamunai Thuraivan to debate with AkkiyAzhvAn. The Queen was very impressed with Yamunai Thuraivan's eluding charm and she had a feeling that he would emerge the winner. "RUpamEvAsyou TanmahimAnam vyAchashrE". (This young man's charm explains his capabilities to a great deal) The king thought that his AkkiyAzhvan would win. So they had a small wager. The King agreed to give up half his kingdom if YAmunEyar won. The Queen agreed to become the king's mistress if he didn't.

Winning the debate

AkkiyAzhvAn asked YAnunEyar what shAstrAs he was well versed in. YAmunEyar said that he could pick anything he wanted at that point. But AkkiyAzhvAn retorted that since he was very young and that it would only be fun to debate with someone on the rank of him in knowledge and experience, he would first pick a topic that was social and not too intensive. He asked him to come up with 3 statements that one would normally consider to be true and that he could prove that they could be false. He asked YAmunEyar to go first since he was the younger of the two.

YAmunEyar did not blink twice. He came up with the following questions:

1. TvanmAtA na vandhyA (Your mother is not barren)
2. RAjAsyam SArvabhoumaha (This king is a SArvabhouman)
3. RAja patnIyam pativratA (The queen is monogamously loyal to the King)

Now how could AkkiyAzhvAn refute these 3 statements? His mother cannot be barren since she has obviously given birth to him. To say that the King was not a SArvabhouman or that the queen was not monogamous would be a blasphemy! He gave up and asked YAmuNeyar an explanation by which one could refute the above statements.

1. There is an explanation for the word barren - A crow only lays one egg and begets a single chick in its lifetime. A banana tree just yields one bunch of bananas in its life time. Such things are termed as "VandhyA". Given that your mother had only one child, she could also be called by the same term and hence this explanation is valid.

2. There is an explanation for the term SArvabhouman - it does not just mean a great ruler. It means one who rules a land that is surrounded by oceans on all 4 sides. Since our King only rules the ChOlA kingdom, he cannot be called by that term.

3. In the wedding rites, there is one where the groom utters a specific mantram to the wife. It is 2 lines starting with the word SOmaprathamaha. It means that the girl first was the object of a DEvA named SOman. Next was the Gandharvan. Next she was consumed by Agni (figuratively, not literally). As the man, I am the fourth person who gets to have her. So, SOman and other DEvAs blessed this girl with wealth and fertility and by marrying her we will get all the goodness in life. According to this mantram, the Queen is not monogamous.

Thus he came up with an explanation to refute all of his original statements without hurting anyone's feelings. On hearing it, the Queen said "Emmai AlavandhIrO?" so he came to be known by that name also. As promised, the King gave him half of his kingdom. AlavanDAr rule wisely for many years. In due course of time, he was blessed with 4 sons: Sottai Nambi, Daivaththukkarasu Nambi, Pillaiyarasu Nambi and Tiruvaranga PerumAL.