Long before the Advent of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna Chaitanya, the North of India had been the scene of various non-theistic movements. The Elevationism and Idealism of the different philosophical schools professing allegiance to the Vedas and the atheistic cults of Jainism and Buddhism, especially the former, had brought about the almost total suppression of the Theistic tradition embodies in the worship of Vishnu the supremacy of which had been an admitted fact at least from as early as the age of composition of the oldest hymns of the Rig Veda. Mathura became, as the result of these later movements, the chief center of the non-theistic propaganda.
The revival of the Vishnuvite religion came from the South and was carried on by the schools founded by Shri Vishnuswami, Shri Nimbarka, Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhva respectively. The Alvars, who had also preached pure Theism, appeared in the South from a period as early as the Christian era. Shri Vishnuswami belonged to the third century before Christ.
From the Atharva Veda, with the commentary of Shrila Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura—Shri Chaitanya Charitamrit. The confidential truth is that the Lord has descended with His own abode, Goloka-Dhama, to the supremely sanctified land of Gauda, in the form of a devotee as Shri Krishna Chaitanya Himself and desiring to deliver love of God, He has exposed the transcendental secret of madhura-rasa which enlivens all the devotees in the material world, headed by Sathakopa, Ramanuja, Visnuswami, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka, etc., for the purpose of quickly bestowing suspiciousness unto the living beings in Kali-Yuga. Bhakti vedyah means that the living entities can know the Lord by the practice of devotional service and not by the practice of dry philosophical speculation.
According to the evidence of Ramanuja, etc., by the mellow of servitorship, dasya-rasa, there is no direct path. The destination of those who practice dasya rasa etc. is limited to Vaikuntha. This is apparent in their books, etc. This is because Shri Chaitanya is the source of the universe and the only teacher in the matter of instructing vraja-rasa.
Shri Ramanuja, the incarnation of Anata, who took birth in the month of Chaitra (April-May) under the sixth lunar mansion in the Tundirades, and who came upon this earth to establish the philosophy of Shri Vishnu.”
Four major schools or sampradayas of Vaisnavism are considered authorized by Vaishnavas everywhere: the Brahma, Shri, Rudra, and Kumara Sampradayas. While Gaudiya Vaishnavas follow the disciplic line of Visnu worship originating with Brahma, Shripad Ramanujacarya Ji is the founder-acarya of the Shri Sampradaya, the school of Vaisnavism or Visnu worship descending from the eternal consort of Visnu known as Laksmidevi or Shri. His commentaries on Vedanta rival those of Sankaracarya, especially in Tamil-speaking South India, where Shri Vaisnavism is prominent to this day. He propounded the Vedantic philosophy known as Visistadvaita-vada, or qualified monism. The most famous among his numerous writings are his commentary on Vedanta (Shri Bhasya), his commentary on Bhagavad-gita, his Vedanta-Sara, and the Vedartha-Sangraha.
According to Shri Vaishnavas, Shri Ramanuja was an incarnation of Lakshman himself. Since Lakshmana had been a great devotee of Rama the boy soon became known as Rama-anuja (follower of Rama). According to Shri Vaishnava tradition, Shri Ramanuja was born on the fifth day of the full moon in the month of Chaitra in 1017 AD Shri Ramanuja’s family belonged to the caste of Vadama smarta-brahmanas, who were formal Vedic scholars. Shri Ramanuja’s father Kesavacarya was very much attached to the performance of Vedic sacrifices or yajnas. For this reason he became famous as Sarvakratu or the performer of all kinds of sacrifices.
When the boy came of age, Kesavacarya immersed him in Sanskrit education, teaching him grammar, logic, and the Vedas. Although Shri Ramanuja was well-schooled in brahminical learning, however, he had not yet been exposed to the deeply devotional Tamil hymns glorifying Shri Visnu. Still, his natural devotion had already been awakened by association with a non-brahmana disciple of Shri Yamunacarya named Kancipurna, and Shri Ramnuja demonstrated a saintly nature even from his early childhood. As time passed he underwent all the purificatory rites of a pious Hindu, including the sacred thread ceremony and was married, at the age of sixteen.
Only a month after the wedding, Shri Ramanuja’s father became gravely ill and passed away. After the passing of his father, Shri Ramanuja moved along with his family to Kancipuram, where he entered the academy of Yadava Prakasa, a Vedantist of the impersonalist Sankarite School. According to some commentators, the decision to enroll Shri Ramanuja in the school of a non-Vaishnava is evidence that his family was not strictly devoted to Visnu but were merely caste brahmanas interested in insuring that their son would become a good scholar. Others are convinced that this was merely Shri Ramanuja’s strategy to become well-versed in the arguments of Sankaracarya before thoroughly refuting them in his own commentaries.
Shri Ramanuja soon excelled among the students of Yadava Prakasa and become his teacher’s favorite student. Yadava Prakasa preached the theory of nondualism, and stressed the illusion of all form, including the form of Shri Visnu. As Shri Ramanuja’s devotion to Visnu blossomed, his disgust with this philosophy grew. Still, out of respect for his teacher he avoided conflict.
Soon, however, the day arrived when he could no longer tolerate the impersonalism of Yadava Prakasa. One day Shri Ramanuja was massaging his guru’s back as Yadava Prakasa explained a verse from the Candogya Upanishad. The verse contained the words kapyasam pundarikam evam aksini. Following the interpretation of Sankaracarya, Yadava Prakasa explained that kapy means “monkey” and asanam means “ass.”
Shri Ramanuja was enraged at this blasphemy, and the hot tears flowed which from his eyes in anguish fell upon his guru’s back. Yadava Prakasa could understand that his disciple was disturbed, and inquired as to what the problem was. When Shri Ramanuja took issue with his guru’s interpretation, Yadava Prakasa was astonished. He demanded Shri Ramanuja’s interpretation. Shri Ramanuja explained that kapyasam means, “that which sits upon the water and flourishes by drinking,”?in other words, a lotus. So the meaning of the verse is that the lotus eyes of Visnu are as beautiful as the red lotus which blossoms in the water.”
When Yadava Prakasa saw his disciple’s expertise in defeating his argument, he knew that he had a powerful rival in his midst. From that day on, he began plotting Shri Ramanuja’s murder. He conspired with his disciples to go on pilgrimage to the Ganges and kill Shri Ramanuja in a secluded place. After killing Shri Ramanuja, they would bathe in the Ganges to expiate the sin. Fortunately, Shri Ramanuja’s cousin learned of the murder plot and warned Shri Ramanuja, who managed to escaped unharmed. After some time Yadava Prakasa returned to Kancipurnam, and Shri Ramanuja continued going to his lectures, although inwardly he was looking for another path.
At Yamunacarya himself went to visit Shri Ramanuja, but when he came to Kanci he saw that Shri Ramanuja was still a follower of Yadava Prakasa and so Yamunacarya did not approach him. It is said that Yamunacarya watched him from a distance and prayed for Shri Ramanuja to become the darsana-pravartaka, or philosophical preceptor of the Shri Vaishnava Sampradaya.
About this time, the king of Kancipuram called for Yadava Prakasa. His daughter was possessed by a brahma-raksasa, a brahmana ghost. Yadava Prakasa was called as an exorcist, and when he arrived with his disciples, he was brought before the king’s daughter and asked to relieve her of the influence of the ghost. Speaking through the girl’s mouth, the ghost insulted Yadava Praksas and laughed at him. Shri Ramanuja was asked to try, and when he came before the girl, the brahmana ghost said, “If Shri Ramanuja blesses me with the dust of his lotus feet, I shall leave this girl.” Shri Ramanuja did so upon which the girl was cured, and the king was deeply indebted to him.
After this humiliation before Shri Ramanuja, it was not long before Yadava Prakasa told Shri Ramanuja to leave his ashram. The final split between them came when Yadava Prakasa was discussing the meaning of two Upanisadic texts: saravam khalv idam brahma (Candogya Upanisad 3.1, “everything is Brahman”) and neha nanasti kincana (Katha Upanisad 4.11, “there is no distinction”). Yadava Prakasa discussed these verses at length while explaining the theory of oneness promoted by Sankaracarya with great eloquence. After Yadava Prakasa was finished speaking, Shri Ramanuja gave his own interpretation.
Shri Ramanuja explained that sarvam khalv idam brahman would mean “the whole universe is Brahman, if it were not for the word tajjalan in the next part of the verse, which qualifies the meaning. Shri Ramanujacarya Ji held that the means not that the universe is Brahman, but that it is pervaded by Brahman. From Brahman the universe comes, by Brahman it is sustained, and into Brahman it ultimately enters, just as a fish is born in water, lives in water, and is ultimately dissolved into water. Still a fish is not water, but a separate entity entirely. In the same way the universe, although existing within Brahman is different from Brahman. Just as a fish can never be water, so the universe can never be Brahman. As to the second verse, neha nanasti kincana, according to Shri Ramanuja it does not mean “No distinction exists,” but rather that things are not distinct in that they are all interconnected, just as pearls are strung on a thread. Since all things are inter-related and inter-connected, in a certain sense it may be said that there is no distinction to be made between them. All things are related to Brahman and as such do not have any existence, which is distinct from Brahman. Still, while a certain unity can be seen in the inter-relatedness of all things, everything within the universe has its own distinct reality. Pearls strung on the thread have unity; collectively they form an organic whole, a necklace. Still, each individual pearl has its own unique qualities. Therefore, Shri Ramanuja argued, the principle of absolute oneness as argued by Sankaracarya cannot stand; rather the principle of unity characterized by different qualities must accepted.
After leaving Yadava Prakasa, Shri Ramanuja was advised by his mother to take guidance from Kancipurna, the non-brahmana Vaishnava whose devotion Shri Ramanuja greatly revered. Kancipurna advised him to serve the Visnu deity in the temple of Lord Varaha by carrying water every day to the temple. He began serving Kancipurna with great devotion, and soon was accepted as his disciple. Although Kancipurna was by birth a member of the sudra caste and Shri Ramanujacarya Ji was a brahmana, this never influenced Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s devotion for him. He accepted Kancipurna as his guru without reservation. Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s wife, however, could not tolerate her husband’s acceptance of a sudra as a guru, and did best to discourage Shri Ramanujacarya Ji from remaining his company.
Yamunacarya by this time was very old. Wracked by illness, he was on the verge of passing from this world when he heard that Shri Ramanujacarya Ji had left the school of Yadava Prakasa and had begun serving the humble Kancipurna, who was famous as a great devotee of Visnu. He sent some disciples to bring Shri Ramanujacarya Ji. When Shri Ramanujacarya Ji heard the news, he immediately set out for Shri Rangam, the headquarters of the Shri Vaishnavas, where Yamunacarya lay dying. But by the time he arrived at the side of Yamunacarya it was too late. The master has passed from this world, entering Vaikuntha and the eternal service of Shri Visnu.
At that time, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji noticed that three fingers on the right hand of the master were closed. He asked the disciples of Yamunacarya if he had been accustomed to hold his hand in such a way, and they replied that it was highly unusual. Shripad Ramanuja could understand that his unusual gesture of the three clenched fingers represented the three unfulfilled wishes of Yamunacarya. He then vowed to fulfill these three wishes. He promised to teach the people in general the religion of surrender to Visnu, training them in the five samskaras, or purificatory processes. As he did so, one of Yamunacarya’s fingers relaxed. Shri Ramanujacarya Ji then vowed to comment on the hymns of the Alvars, the South Indian saints, and with this the second finger relaxed. Finally Shri Ramanujacarya Ji promised to write a scholarly commentary on the Vedanta-sutras expounding the principles of Shri Vaisnavism as the ultimate truth of the Vedas. With this the last clenched finger was relaxed. A look of spiritual peace came over the lotus face of Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s divine master, Shri Yamunacarya, as if to say that he could now depart peacefully, knowing that his mission was in good hands.
Upon his return to Kancipurna, Shri Ramanuja gradually became completely disinterested in his family life, his beautiful wife and home, and absorbed himself deeply in the service of his guru Kancipurna with whom he began spending most of his time. As Shri Ramanujacarya Ji spent more time at the temple, his wife became unhappy that her husband was ignoring her. She was further humiliated by the fact that he was neglecting her to serve a low-born sudra.
One day, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji invited Kancipurna for dinner, thinking that by so doing he would be able to take the remnants of his guru’s prasada, and so become blessed. Kancipurna, being very humble arrived early, before Shri Ramanuja returned home. Kancipurna explained to Shri Ramanuja’s wife Kambalaksa that he had service to do in the temple and could not stay for long. With this, Kambalaksa quickly fed him and sent him away. After Kancipurna had left, she took a long stick and carefully picked up the banana leaf upon which he had dined, so as not to soil her hands with what she thought to be the contaminated remnants of an untouchable. After ordering her maidservant to clean the room carefully, she bathed in order to purify herself. When Shri Ramanuja returned and heard of the insult to this guru, he was enraged.
One day, while drawing water from a well, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s wife met the wife of his guru, Kancipurna. When the water from their waterpots accidentally became mixed, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s wife cursed Kancipurna’s wife, thinking that the water of an outcast had contaminated her waterpot. When Shri Ramanujacarya Ji came to know of this insult, he was furious. He sent his wife home to her parents and left to take sannyasa.
After leaving home, he went to the temple of Varadraja to see the beloved deity of Visnu whom he had served for so long. After obtaining saffron cloth and all the necessary paraphernalia of the renounced order, he accepted the triple staff, (tridanada) of the Vaishnava sannyasi, symbolizing the complete surrender of mind, body, and words to Visnu. With this, he became known as yatiraja, “the king of the renounced order.”
Soon after taking sannyasa, Shripad Ramanujacarya Ji Goswami maharaja established his own monastery or ashram, where he began training disciples in his systematic Vaishnava interpretation of Vedanta as well as in the path of devotion to Visnu. His ashram was established near the temple in Kanci. His first disciple was his older sister’s son, his nephew Mudali Andan, also known as Darathi. His second disciple was a learned and wealthy brahmana named Kuratalavan, also known as Kuresa, who was renowned for his photographic memory.
One day the mother of Yadava Prakasa saw Shri Ramanujacarya Ji teaching his disciples and was impressed by his saintly qualities. She was a great devotee of Visnu and was somewhat unhappy that her son, Yadava Prakasa had become a follower of Sankaracarya’s impersonal monism. She encouraged Yadava Prakasa to visit Shri Ramanujacarya Ji. That night Yadava had a dream in which a divine voice instructed him to become Shri Ramanujacarya Ji’s disciple. The next day, upon visiting Shri Ramanujacarya Ji, Yadava Prakasa found him wearing the dress of a Vaishnava. He asked him, “Why have you rejected the school of Sankaracarya? Why have you adopted this Vaishnava dress? Where is this sanctioned in the scriptures? Can you show any scriptural evidence supporting your behavior?’
With this, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji instructed his foremost disciple, Kuresa, to enlighten Yadava Prakasa with the scripture evidence in support of Vaishnava dress. He quoted extensively from the Sruti, saying, “Sruti is the best evidence.
Shripad Ramanujacarya Ji maharaja goswami prabhupad was one hundred and twenty years old. During his life he had established seventy-four centers for the Shri Vaishnavas and had many thousands of followers, including several kings and many wealthy land-owners. Apart from the householders, he num-bered amongst his followers 700 sannyas disciples, 12,000 brahmacari disciples, and 300 ladies who had taken vows of renunciation. Eventually, seeing that his mission on earth was now completed, he decided to give up his frail body and return to the abode of the Lord. At this time Shri Ramanuja’s disciples cried very loud and felt very emotionally disturbed.
On hearing their cries, Shri Ramanujacarya Ji came out of his trance and said to his disciples, “My dear children, why do you cry out in lamentation like un-educated people? Do you think this body can endure forever? Am I not fixed in your hearts for all time? Therefore, give up this useless wailing and under-stand the will of the Lord.”
To this the disciples all replied, “0 master, as al-ways your instructions are perfect. Nonetheless, it is impossible for us to bear the pain of separation, which must surely overwhelm us if you leave us now.”
Shri Ramanuja showed them mercy and stayed three more days giving discourses on each of the following subjects:
1. Everyday worship all the Vaishnavas and joyfully associate with them as you worship your Guru and with firm faith and remain steady in their service.
2. Study the scriptures with devotion and teach others whom are sincerely
3. Always chant with devotion the holy name and relish the form and qualities of the supreme lord.
DISAPPEARANCE OF ShriPAD Ramanujacarya Ji MAHARAJA
When Shri Ramanuja had finished speaking, Da-sarathi, Govinda, Andhrapurna, and some of the other leading disciples came forward and made this request. ”Your body, which is fore ever engaged in the service of the Lord, can never be a product of matter. Our bodies are certainly temporary, but you exist only on the platform of spiritual life-Therefore, our request is that we never be deprived of the sight of your spiritual form.”
Taking pity upon them, Shripad Ramanujacarya Ji accepted their request and ordered that expert sculptors be brought there to carve a stone deity in his likeness. After three days the work was complete. Then the deity was bathed with water from the Kaveri and installed upon a newly constructed altar. Yatiraja then came slowly up to the deity and filled it with his potency by breathing into the crown of the head. Turning to the disciples, he said, “This is my second self. When I have cast off this body, you may worship this form instead of me.”
Then he lay down with his head on Govindas lap. His feet on the lap of Andhrapurna. In this position, with his eyes fixed on the wooden shoes of his own spiritual master, Shripad Ramanujacarya Ji gave up his body and returned to the abode of Lord Visnu. It was noontime on the tenth day of the bright moon fortnight in the month of Magha in the year 1059 of the Saka era (1137 A.D.). A few days later, Govinda, Shri Ramanuja’s cousin and lifelong companion, also departed from this world.
The other devotees remained under the leader-ship of Shri Parasara Bhatta, the son of Kuresa, always endeavoring to follow in their master’s footsteps by constantly serving Lord Narayana. By se-rious practice of devotional service, they were able to feel Shri Ramanuja’s presence within their hearts; thus their intense feelings of separation were mitigated. Parasara continued the mission of Shri Ramanujacarya Ji by strongly preaching the doc-trines of Vaisnavism. In a great debate he over-came Vedantin Madhava dasa, the leader of the impersonalist scholars, and made him into a devo-tee. Years later, after the disappearance of Para-sara, this same Madhava dasa became the acarya of the Shri Vaishnavas.
This is only a drop in an ocean of unlimited transcendental pastimes in relationship to this Great Vaishnava Acarya
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!
Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare!!
“Jai Shri Radhe Krishna”
Please Visit us at http://www.shrimadbhagwatkatha.com