Beginner’s guide – nampiLLai’s Sishyas

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AndAL pAtti is inside the kitchen cooking when parAsara and vyAsa enter pAtti’s house with vEdhavalli and aththuzhAy. pAtti hears the children talking and comes inside the living room to welcome the children.

pAtti: Come in children. Wash your hands and feet. Take this prasAdam from temple. Last time, we learnt about our AchAryan nampiLLai. As I told you last time, today we will know about some of the prominent Sishyas of nampiLLai such as vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar, eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar to name a few.

VyAsa: pAtti, nampiLLai seemed to have had many Sishyas. Can you tell us about them?

Patti : Yes, let us know about them one by one. Let us start with nampiLLai’s illustrious Sishya vyAkyAna chakravarthi, periyavAchchAn piLLai. Born as krishNan, the son of yAmunar in sEngaNUr (thiruchchanganallUr), he becomes to be known as periyavAchchAn piLLai. He is one of the prime Sishyas of nampiLLai and learnt all SAsthra arthams (meanings) from nampiLLai himself. He adopts nAyanArAchchAn piLLai as his son. It is also said that thirukkaNNamangai emperumAn wanted to learn the meanings of thirumangai AzhwAr‘s pAsurams from thirumangai AzhwAr himself – so thirumangai AzhwAr appeared as nampiLLai and emperumAn appeared as periyavAchchAn piLLai to learn all the meanings of the aruLichcheyal.

periyavAchchAn piLLai – sEngaNUr

VyAsa: pAtti, why is periyavAchchAn piLLai called as vyAkyAna chakravarthi?

pAtti: periyavAchchAn piLLai is the only AchArya who has written vyAkyAnams for all of aruLichcheyal. His mastery over rAmAyanam and aruLicheyal is unparalleled. He had written a grantham called pAsurapadi rAmyAyanam where he uses words from AzhwArs‘ pAsurams alone to explain the whole of SrI rAmAyaNam in a crisp manner. Had it not been for his work, no one can speak about or understand the inner meanings of aruLicheyal. His work extensively covers vyAkyAnams for all our pUrvAchArya’s granthams.

nampiLLai’s another Sishya was vadakku thiruvIdhip piLLai, one of the prominent Sishyas of nampiLLai. Born as SrI krishna pAdhar in SrIrangam, he was completely immersed in AchArya nishtai. With the grace of his AchAryan nampiLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai gave birth to a son and named him piLLai lOkAchArya since the son was born with the blessings of his AchAryan nampiLLai (Also called as lOkAchAryar). I hope you all remember the story behind nampiLLai being named as lOkAchAryar.

vyAsa : Yes, pAtti. It was kandhAdai thOzhappar who named nampiLLai as lOkAchAryar. We also remember the story.

vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai – kAnchIpuram

pAtti: When vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai names his son as piLLai lOkAchArya, nampiLLai conveys his intention of naming the child azhagiya maNavALan. Soon, namperumAL, blesses vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai with another son and the second son was named azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr since he was born out of the grace of azhagiya maNavALan (namperumAL) thereby fulfilling nampiLLai’s wish. The two boys grow up together like rAma and lakshmana to become great stalwarts and proceed to do great kainkaryams for our sampradhAyam. They both were blessed to have the katAksham and guidance of great AchAryas of our sampradhAyam like nampiLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, etc at the same time.

Once, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai invites nampiLLai to his thirumAligai (Homes of SrIvaishNavas must be called thirumALigai) for thadhiyArAdhanam and nampiLLai accepts that and visits his thirumALigai. nampiLLai himself starts the thiruvArAdhanam and in the kOyilAzhwAr (perumAL sannidhi) he sees the bunch of palm leaves with the neat and clear explanations to all his teachings and lectures on nammAzhwAr’s pAsurams. Being interested, he starts reading a few of them and asks vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai what was that. vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai explains that every night, he recorded nampiLLai’s lectures after listening to them. nampiLLai asks vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai why he did this without his permission and asks if he did it as a competition to periyavAchchAn piLLai’s vyAkyAnam (detailed explanation of the meanings of AzhwAr’s pasurams). vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai feels guilty and immediately falls at the lotus feet of nampiLLai and explains that he wrote it only to refer to it in future. Convinced with his explanations, nampiLLai glorifies the vyAkyAnam and praises vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai for his work. Such was the immense knowledge and AchArya abhimAnam that vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai possessed.

parAsara : What happened to the vyAkyAnam? Did vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai finish it?

pAtti: yes, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai finished the vyAkyAnam and this vyAkyAnam for thiruvAimozhi is famously called eedu 36000 padi. nampiLLai orders vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai to give the vyAkyAnam to eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL to be taught to his descendants.


nampiLLai kAlakshEpa gOshti – eeyNNi mAdhavap perumAL seated 2nd from right

Vedhavalli : pAtti, what did eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL do with the vyAkyAnam that nampiLLai gave to him?

Patti: eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL teaches this to his son eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL. eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL teaches this to his dear Sishya nAlur piLLai. This way it kept going from one AchArya to his Sishya in a proper manner. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai is the son and dear Sishya of nAlUr piLLai. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai learns eedu 36000 padi under the lotus feet of his father. nAlUrAchchAn piLLai had many Sishyas and one of them was thiruvAimozhip piLLai. When nAlUr piLLai and nAlUrAchchAn piLLai go to kAnchipuram to do mangalASAsanam to dhEvap perumAL, emperumAn Himself orders nAlUrAchchAn piLLai to teach eedu vyAkyAnam to thiruvAimozhip piLLai. thiruvAimozhip piLLai along with others, learns eedu vyAkyAnam under nAlUrAchchAn piLLai and teaches the same to maNavALa mAmunigaL who becomes to be famously known as eettup perukkar (one who nourishes eedu vyAkyAnam). Thus nampiLLai knew that the vyAkyAnam would reach manavALa mAmunigaL eventually and hence gave it to eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL.

AththuzhAy : pAtti, in eeyuNNi mAdhavap perumAL and eeyuNNi padhmanAbhap perumAL, what does the word “eeyuNNi” mean?

Patti: “eethal” means charity in thamizh. “uNNuthal” means eating. eeyuNNi means one who is very charitable that he will only eat after feeding other SrIvaishNavas.


Another prominent Sishya of nampiLLai was pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar. He was a sanyAsi who served nampiLLai (who was a gruhastha) very similar to nanjIyar (a sanyAsi) who served bhattar. He was a dear Sishya of nampiLLai and is also known as pinbhazhagarAm perumAL jIyar. He lived his life as a true SrI vaishNava with the utmost respect, regard and affection towards his AchAryan. His AchArya abhimAnam (respect) is well known.


pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar at the lotus feet of nampiLLai, SrIrangam

parAsara : pAtti, today you did not tell us any conversations that nampiLLai and his Sishyas had. Please tell us some interesting conversations between them.

pAtti: All our pUrvachAryas converse only related to bhagavath vishayam and bhAgavatha kainkaryam. Once when pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar was ill, he asks other srIvaishNavas to pray to emperumAn for his speedy recovery. Generally in our sampradhAyam, a SrI vaishNava should not pray to emperumAn for anything – even for recovering from illness. Seeing this, Sishyas of nampiLLai enquire to nampiLLai about it. nampiLLai first says, “go and ask engaLAzhwAn who is an expert in all sAsthram”. engaLAzhwAn replies “may be he is attached to SrIrangam and he wants to stay here for some more time”. nampiLLai then asks his Sishyas to ask ammangi ammAL who says “who would want to leave nampiLLai’s kAlakshEpa gOshti, he may be praying so, so that he can listen to nampiLLai’s kAlakshEpam”. nampiLLai finally asks jIyar himself. jIyar replies, “Although you know the real reason, you want it to be revealed through me. Let me say why I want to continue living here. Everyday, after you take bath, I get to have the divine darshan of your form and serve you by fanning, etc. How can I give up that service and go to parampadham just yet?”. Thus, pinbhazhagarAm perumAL jIyar reveals the true nature of a Sishya – to be fully attached to the divine form of one’s own AchAryan. Hearing this everyone were amazed by jIyar’s devotion towards nampiLLai. pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar was so attached to nampiLLai that he would even discard the thought of going to paramapadham. His AchArya nishtai was so deep.

Finally, let us see about one more Sishya of nampiLLai – naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar. Initially, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar did not have a favourable attitude towards nampiLLai. Due to his rich family heritage (coming in the family of kUraththAzhwAn and parAsara bhattar) he developed pride and did not respect nampiLLai. There is a very interesting story of how he surrendered to the lotus feet of nampiLLai.


nampiLLai kAlakshEpa gOshti – naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar seated 3rd from left

vyAsa : What an irony it is that a descendant of kUraththAzhwAn had qualities of pride and arrogance. Tell us the story pAtti!

pAtti: Yes, but the unwanted pride did not last for long! After all, he was the grandson of none other than kUraththAzhwAn himself! Once, naduvil thiruvIdhip piLLai bhattar was going to the king’s court. He meets pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar on the way and invites him along to attend the king’s court. The king welcomes them, honours them and offers them a nice seat. The king being well learned, wanting to test the intelligence of bhattar, asks him a question from SrI rAmAyaNa. He says, “SrI rAman himself claims that he is just a human being and is the dear son of dhaSarathan. But during the last moments of jatAyu, SrI rAman blesses him to reach SrIvaikuntam. If he was a normal human being, how could he bless someone to reach vaikuNtam?”. bhattar was speechless and could not respond with any meaningful explanation. Incidentally, the king gets distracted by some other task. At that time, bhattar turns to jIyar and asks him “How would nampiLLai explain this?”. jIyar replies “nampiLLai would explain that a fully truthful person can control all worlds”. bhattar, explains that to the king, when the king focusses back on them. The king, at once agrees to the answer and honours bhattar with great wealth. bhattar, with great gratitude towards nampiLLai , asks jIyar to associate him with nampiLLai, at once goes to nampiLLai’s residence and surrenders all the wealth at the lotus feet of nampiLLai. bhattar says to nampiLLai, “I received all these wealth with just one small explanation from your teachings. All along, I have lost the valuable association/guidance of you. From now on, I will ensure that I will serve you well and learn the sampradhAyam principles from you”. nampiLLai embraces bhattar and teaches him all the essence of our sampradhAyam. So children, what do you learn from this story?

vEdhavalli: I learnt that with his ancestors’ blessings, bhattar reached the right destination.

aththuzhAy : I learnt about the greatness and knowledge of nampiLLai.

pAtti: Both of you are right. But there is one more lesson we learn from this story. Just like how emperumAn accepts us when we approach Him through our AchAryas, reaching the AchArya is possible only through the divine association with a SrIvaishnava. This is what we call SrIvaishnava sambhandam or adiyArgaL sambandam. Here, who was the divine SrIvaishnava who associated bhattar to nampiLLai?

parAsara: pinbhazhagiya perumAL jIyar!

pAtti: Yes! This shows the importance of bhAgavatha sambandham. jIyar, being the dear disciple of nampiLLai, blessed bhattar with AchArya gyAnam (realisation) and sambandham. Let us meditate on the lotus feet of nampiLLai and his Sishyas. The next time we meet, I will tell you about vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai’s two illustrious sons and their unparalleled kainkaryam for our sampradhAyam.

The children leave to their respective homes thinking about the greatness of various AchAryas and their divine services.

adiyEn jAnaki rAmAnuja dAsi

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