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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapter 3: ShrI RAmamisrar (ManakkAl Nambi)

MAkhE MakhAyam samBhUtam ShrI RanganagarAntikE
KumudhAmsham RAmamishram UpAsE Aham Jagadgurum

In the ChOlA kingdom, on the banks of the river KAvEri, east of ShrI Rangam, there was an agrahAram called ManakkAl. In KaliyugA year 4052, in the year of VirOdikrut, month of MAsi under the Maga nakshatram, ShrI RAmamisrar was born. Because of his place of birth, he came to be popularly known as ManakkAl Nambi. He was the prime disciple of Uyya KondAr. He attended to most of the needs of his Guru while learning the VEdAs from him. Eventually when Uyya KondAr's dEvigal passed, he moved in with his Guru and took care of all the day to day household chores also.

Once a group of women in the village decided to frolic in the waters of the KAvEri - to bathe and play for a while. Uyya KondAr's two daughters wished to participate in the fn as well. Sp he sent ManakkAl Nambi to chaperone them. After finishing up their food on the banks of the river, all the women went their separate ways. But Uyya kKondAr's daughters ot lost along the way and found themselves stranded in front of a stream, not knowing how to cross the waters. ManakkAl Nambi sensed their fear when he caught up with them. He immediately laid down in the stream and asked the girls to walk on his back to cross it. They did accordingly. Then he dropped them off close to their house and went to his own house to take a quick bath. Before he could come back, Uyya KondAr sensed all the events that happened and was very happy. He conveyed his happiness and blessings to his sishyA. ManakkAl Nambi was also very happy and added "UttrEn ugandu pani seidu un pAdam, pettrEn, EdE yinnam vEnduvadendAi".

ManakkAl Nambi settled with his disciples in ShrI Rangam. His premier disciples were AlavandAr, Deivaththukkarasu Nambi, GOmadaththu ThiruviNNagarappan and SiruppuLLOOrAvudaiya Pillai Achchi.

Anujjida KshamA yOgam ApuNyajanabAdhakam
Asprushta madarAgam tam RAmam Turyam UpAsmahE

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chapter 2 - Sri PundarIkAkshar (Uyya KondAr)

Chaitra mAsE KriththikAyAm Shri ShvEtAdri samudbhavam
Gurum ShrI PundarIkAksham JayathsEnAmsam AshrayE

ShrI PundarIkAkshar was born in the divya dEsam of TiruveLLArai in the kaliyuga year 3987 in the month of chitra under the KriththikA star. He was the prime disciple of ShrI NAdamuni amongst 7 others: Kurugai KAvalappan, NambikarunAkara DAsar, Eru TiruvudaiyAr, ThirukkanamangaiyAndAn, VAnamAdEviyAndAn, UruppattUr AchAnpillai and SOgathUrAzhvAn. These 8 disciples were imparted the knowledge of mantras, their meaning and also the divya prabandam and its importance.

Tiruvudai mannan was the king in that period and he once came along with his consorts on hearing about the greatness of SrImAn NAdamunigal to visit him and get his bessings. Upon seeing him, NAdamunigal got carried away and stated that seeing the King was like seeing TirumAl himself. He imagined the king to be Lord Vishnu and his consorts to be GOpikAs and followed them for a distance. On seeing this, one of the SishyAs Kurugai KAvalappan retorted that it was BhAgavathas and jIvAtmAs who do Bhagavat kaingaryam who had to be elevated to such a status and that it was not right to go behind the King as such. NAdamunigal graciously accepted the fact and came back to where he left off.

On another occasion, VangIpuraththAchchi, sent notice that he wished to see his daughter AravindappAvai. NAdamunigal trusted the pure-of-heart PundarIkAkshar with the task of accompanying his wife to her father's place. When he reached Achchi's place, he was asked to eat before he embarked on his return journey. PundarIkAkshar agreed. Some malicious pope who were present there, suggested that PundarikAkshar should not be fed inside the house, neither should they be forced to eat the remains of what he had eaten, so he should be served day old rice  that was customarily stored in water so it wouldn't get spoilt. And that was what was done. Still, PundarIkAkshar enjoyed the food and ate it with great praise, outside the house. He whole heartedly commented that he was very lucky to be receiving such a treatment. When he went back home, NAdamuni sensed his happiness and was able to perceive the entire chain of events as they had occurred through his powers.

PundarIkAkshar revealed that he was very happy and fortunate to have eaten the reamins of the food eaten by great BhAgavathAs. On hearing this, NAdamunigal gave him the title of "Uyya KondAr" meaning one who was one with him completely. Some other disciples questioned that it was considered against the practice to eat day old food. NAdamuni replied "Flowers that have not been strung, old food that has not had oil added to it, water that is not stored in the ground but in a vessel - all these have a dhOsham of being old. This question is only asked by those who do not realize these dharmAs. Pundits and orthodox people don't commit such mistakes in their house; so it was okay for Uyya KondAr to consume that food".

On hearing this, VangIpuraththAchi felt very bad at his actions. He went and asked NAdamuni and Uyya KondAr for apologies. He brought AravindappAvai back to NAdamuni.

DharmENa Brahma vitpAti dashapUrvAn dashAvarAn
KanyA BrahmavidE DattA dashapUrvAn dashAvarAn

If there is a person in a kulam  who knows the VEdAs, all his actions make up for the sins of 10 generations before and after him. Similarly, when one marries a girl off to such a knowledgeable person, she wipes off the sins of generations of her father's family - this is what the shAstram says. So narrated Aachchi to NAdamuni.

NAdamuni trained Kurugai Kavalan in YOga Rahasyam and Uyya KondAr was entrusted with the responsibility of imparting the VEdAnta Grahams to the rest of the disciples.

According to AchAryan's wishes, Uyya KondAn shared his knowledge with ManakkAl Nambi, TiruvellikkEni PAn PerumAlarayAr, SEtlUr SendalangAra DAsar, PundarIga DAsar, Ulaga PerumAn and Nangai.

NamasyAmi AravindAksham NAthaBhAvE VyavasThitam
Shuddhasatvamayam shOwrEhe AvatAramivAparam