Beginner’s guide – rAmAnujar – Part 1

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImath varavaramunayE nama:

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parAsara , vyAsa enter AndAL pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy.

pAtti : Welcome children. Wash your hands and feet. Here is the prasAdam for thiruAdip pUram festival that took place in our temple. Today, we will start our discussion on someone very dear to AndAL pirAtti, someone she called as her own brother. Can you guess who it is?

vyAsa : No pAtti, who is AndAL’s brother? Did AndAL have a brother?

pAtti : Yes, he was her brother, not by birth but by his act of love and affection. He was called gOdhAgrajar or kOyil aNNan, who is none other than our rAmAnujar! agrajan means elder brother in sanskrit. Being regarded as the elder brother by AndAL or gOdhA herself, he is called gOdhAgrajar. iLaiyAzhwAr was born in SriperumbuthUr to kEsava dhIkshithar and kAnthimathi ammangAr. He was an avathAram of AdhiSEshan himself. He was born with the grace of thiruvallikkENi pArthasArathy perumal.

pArthasArathy with ubaya nAchchiyArs and udaiyavar – thiruvallikkENi

parAsarA : pAtti, wasn’t AndAL born long time before the birth of rAmAnujar? Then how could he be her elder brother?

pAtti : Good question parAsara. As I said, he was not her brother by birth but by his action. AndAL , out of pure love towards perumAL, wanted to offer 100 plates of akkAra adisil (sweet rice) and 100 plates of butter to thirumAlirunchOlai azhagar perumAL. But, being a small child that she was, she couldn’t practically make it possible. rAmAnujar reads the pAsuram in nAchchiyAr thirumozhi, where AndAL conveys her wish to make this offering happen. rAmAnujar then offers 100 plates of akkAra adisil and 100 plates of butter to thirumAlirunchOlai azhagar perumAL on behalf of AndAL. After he finished offering to azhagar, he goes to SrIvillipuththUr and on reaching SrIvillipuththUr, AndAL welcomes him and calls him as her aNNan from kOyil (SrIrangam), hence the name kOyil aNNAn. He calls him as her elder brother as brothers are the ones who care of their sisters and fulfill their sister’s desires and wishes.

aththuzhAy, can you recite some pasurams from thiruppAvai? I remember that you enacted as ANdAL in your school fancy dress competition and recited some pAsurams!

(aththuzhAy recites some pasurams )

pAtti : Do you know why I asked you to recite it today? Because, rAmAnujar was also called thiruppAvai jeeyar. He always recited thiruppAvai everyday. Being a great scholar, rAmAnujar always found thiruppAvai close to his heart and recited it everyday. Do you know why?

vEdhavalli : because it is easy to learn? I know all the 30 verses!

pAtti (Smiling) : That’s very good vEdhavalli. thiruppAvai is not just easy to learn but also has the entire essence of our sampradhAyam in those simple 30 verses. It is equal to all the knowledge available abundantly in our vEdhas. That is why it is called “vEdham anaiththukkum viththAgum” – the 30 verses contain the core essence of all the 4 vEdas.

aththuzhAy: pAtti, rAmAnujar seems to have a lot of names. First, you said iLaiyAzhwAr , then rAmAnujar, and now kOyil aNNan and thiruppAvai jeeyar!

pAtti : yes. He was given such names by various AchAryas, ANdAL and emperumAn out of affection. We have already seen all the AchAryas of rAmAnujar and their contributions in his life. Let us now see the various names of rAmAnujar and who gave them to him.

  • iLaiyAzhwAr was the birth name given by periya thirumalai nambi , rAmAnujar’s maternal uncle.
  • SrI rAmAnuja was given by periya nambi during his pancha samskAram at  madhurAntakam.
  • yathirAja and rAmAnuja muni was given by dhEvap perumAL during the time rAmAnujar accepted his sanyAsASrama.
  • udaiyavar was given by namperumAL himself stating that both the worlds’ riches are now the possession of rAmAnujar too.
  • lakshmaNa muni was the name given by thiruvarangap perumAL araiyar.
  • emperumAnAr was given by thirukkOshtiyUr nambi when rAmAnujar gave the rich meanings of our sampradhAyam to all the ones who surrendered to him in thirukkOshtiyUr. thirukkOshtiyUr nambi was so impressed by rAmAnujar’s kindness that he said , “You are kinder than emperumAn himself, hence the name emperumAnAr – someone who is more benevolent than emperumAn himself”.
  • He was given the name satakOpan ponnadi by thirumAlai AndAn.
  • We just saw that he was called kOyil aNNan by AndAL.
  • SrI bhAshyakArar was the name given to him by sarasvathi in kashmir.
  • bhUthapurIsar given by Adhi kEsava perumAL of SrIperumbUthUr and finally
  • dhESikEndhrar was the name given to him by none other than our very own thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn.

So, to sum it up, rAmAnujar had so many AchAryas who raised rAmAnujar with all the care and knowledge that they could provide so that our sampradhAyam can flourish and carry forward after ALavandhAr. He was first taken into the folds of SrIvaishNavam by thirukkachchi nambi with the blessings of ALavandhAr, later was given pancha samskAram by periya nambi, learns the essence of thiruvAimozhi fully from thirumAlai ANdAn , learns the essence of our sampradhAyam from thiruvarangapperumAL araiyar, learns charama SlOkam from thirukkOshtiyUr nambi and finally learns the complete meaning of SrI rAmAyanam from his maternal uncle periya thirumalai nambi. Thus, the 6 great disciples of ALavandhAr fulfilled their duties towards their AchArya.

rAmAnujar – srIperumbuthUr

vEdhavalli : pAtti, while talking about AlavandhAr, you said that rAmAnujar could not become his disciple but promised to fulfill his wishes. What were they? How did rAmAnujar know that AlavandhAr had any wish at all?

pAtti : A very good question. When periya nambi was asked by ALavandhAr to bring rAmAnujar to SrIrangam, periya nambi leaves to kanchIpuram. By the time periya nambi comes back to SrIrangam with rAmAnujar, ALavandhAr leaves from this world to paramapadham. On reaching SrIrangam, periya nambi and rAmAnujar come to know about it. When rAmAnujar sees the thirumEni (divine form) of ALavandhAr, he notices that 3 fingers of one of his hands are folded. When asked, ALavandhAr’s disciples say that ALavandhAr had few unfulfilled desires. rAmAnujar immediately takes an oath to :

  • establish his gratitude towards vyAsa and parAsara rishis in his lifetime.
  • show his love and gratitude towards nammAzhwAr in his lifetime.
  • have a bhAshyam (commentary) written for vyAsa’s brahma sUtram, which is what is later called as SrIbhAshyam, written by rAmAnujar with the help of his foremost disciple kUraththAzhwAn. He travelled to Kashmir with kUraththAzhwAn, for this purpose specifically.

As soon as rAmAnujar takes these 3 oaths, the folded fingers of ALavandhAr straighten themselves up. All the disciples who watched this incident were surprised and full of praises for rAmAnujar and hailed him as the next AchAryar of our sampradhAyam. However, rAmAnujar was so overwhelmed and sad by the demise of ALavandhAr that he did not even stop to offer his prayers to SrI ranganathan of SrIrangam and immediately left to kAnchIpuram.

vyAsa : But pAtti, how can someone’s body respond in such a manner like how ALavandhAr’s fingers responded to rAmAnujar’s oath?

pAtti: vyAsa, the bond that rAmAnujar and ALavandhAr had was beyond the bodily senses. It was by mind and soul that they were bonded. Did ALavandhAr tell rAmAnujar what his last 3 wishes were? Still, rAmAnujar took the oath as per ALavandhAr’s wishes. How could that happen? Such relations did exist vyAsa. Very similar to the incident where dhEvap perumAL clarifies the doubts lingering in rAmAnujar’s mind even without rAmAnujar telling Him what they were. Such relations are bound by mind and soul and not by body. Such was the relation between AlavandhAr and rAmAnujar.

So long, we have seen everything about rAmAnujar and the different AchAryas in his life. Tomorrow I will tell you, all about how rAmAnujar went on to become the great leader and the various disciples who joined him in his journey.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

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