Gaudiya Acharyas

Śrī Rāmānujāchārya

“Śrī Rāmānujāchārya appeared in a village called Śrī Perambadur in the district Chengalpet in South India in 1017 A.D. His father, Sree Keśav Tripāṭhī belonged to Hārita gotra and was a follower of the Āpastamba branch of Yajurveda. As per Śrī Prapannāmṛta, his father was Śrī Nṛsṁhāchārya of Kuśika gotra.
Śrī Rāmānujāchārya’s father, who used to reside in Bhūtapuri town in the region Tonḍira, was an unmatched scholar. Śrī Rāmānuja had studied the Vedas from his father until he was fifteen. Later he went to Śrīrangam and studied the Vedas, Vedānga, Vedanta and other scriptures after becoming a disciple of Śrī Mahāpūrṇāchārya. His power of remembrance was so sharp that he learnt all the scriptures in a very short time while in Śrīrangam.” — Viśwakoṣa.

“Śrī Lakshmaṇ Deśika, who was later renowned as Śrī Rāmānujāchārya, appeared in the village Śrī Perambadur, which is about 13 krośa (1 krośa = 2 miles) on the western side of Madras (present day Chennai), on the fifth day during the bright fortnight in the month of Chaitra (chaitra śukla panchami tithī) in 938 Śakābda or 1016 A.D. (as per others it is 937 Śakābda or 1017 A.D. and yet as per others 940 Śakābda or 1018 A.D.). His father’s name was Āsuri Keśavāchārya Dikṣit and mother’s name was Śrī Kāntimatī, the younger sister of Śrī Śailapūrṇa. Śrī Śailapūrṇa was one prominent disciple of the renowned Śrī Yāmuna Muni of Śrī Sampradāya.”—the history and significance of Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan.

“Śrī Rāmānujāchārya took birth in the village Śrī Perambadur in the Chola province in South India in the eleventh century.” Charitāvali section of Śrī Āśutoṣadev’s new bangla dictionary.

“With a desire to compile Śrībhāṣya, Śrī Rāmānuja went to Śāradāpīṭha in Kashmir along with his disciple Kureśa to bring Bodhāyana-vṛtti. Though the followers of the kevalādvaita (absolute non-duality) in the Śāradāpīṭha were reluctant to give the Bodhāyana-vṛtti, by the grace of Śrī Śāradādevi Śrī Rāmānuja obtained that and escaped from there. The followers of kevalādvaita ran after them swiftly for a month and snatched the literature from Śrī Rāmānujāchārya. But Kureśa who had a remarkable retentive memory had gone through that literature every night for one month and memorized the entire literature by then. Based on that Śrī Rāmānujāchārya had compiled Śrībhaṣya and Kureśa wrote.

Kulottunga I (1098 A.D.), the king of the Chola province at that time, who was a follower of Lord Śiva and who was hostile towards the vaiṣṇavas, had resolved to pluck out the eyes of Śrī Rāmānuja. Knowing this Kureśa, whose life was dedicated to the service of his guru, came to the assembly of the king in the garb of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya. As a result he lost his eyes. Later by the grace of Lord Śrī Varadarāja (Lord Narāyaṇa) he got divine eyes. Meanwhile the king died with an intense suffering from a bruise in the throat.

Between 1118-1120 A.D. the king of that period who was a follower of Jainism, the Ballalrao and many other followers of Buddhism became disciples of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya. Śrī Rāmānujāchārya spent his last 60 years in Śrī Rangam and propagated the teachings of Śrī Vaishṇavism. Even when he was present in this world his Śrī Mūrti (deity) was installed in Śrī Rangam. The followers of the Śrī Rāmānuja lineage worship him as an incarnation of Śrī Lakshmaṇa. In 1059 Śakābda (1137 A.D.) on the tenth day during the bright fortnight in the month of Māgha (māghī śukla daśamī tithi), Saturday he entered the Vaikuṇṭha abode.” — The history and significance of Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan.

“Śrī Rāmānujāchārya had inclination towards the worship of Śrī Viṣṇu right from his childhood. He came to Kānchipura along with his Gurudeva and preached the doctrines of viśiṣṭādvaita (non-duality with particular attributes) while staying in the temple of Śrī Varadarāja Swāmī. Many persons came to take shelter of his feet during his long stay there. During the same period he compiled Śrībhāṣya of Vedāntasūtra and a commentary on the Gīta thereby refuting the doctrines of kevalādvaita (pure non-duality) by Śrī Śankarāchārya and establishing the principles of viśiṣṭādvaita. He performed penances on Venkaṭādri (Venkaṭa mountain) in Tirupati for a few days and also established the mode of worship of Lord Venkaṭeśa. Later when he came to Śrī Rangam and preached the tenets of Vaiṣṇavism thousands of people accepted. Seeing that countless people were getting admitted in to the Vaiṣṇava school of thought, the governor of Triśirāpalli (present day Trichy) Kṛmikānt Chola developed hostility towards Śrī Rāmānujāchārya to such an extent that he employed a few persons to kill him. Śrī Rāmānujāchārya left Śrī Rangam for Yādavpuri (Melkote) in the province of Mahisura.

The king of Melkote Ballālrāj was a follower of Jainism but he was broad-minded. When Śrī Rāmānujāchārya freed the daughter of king Ballālrāj from a brahma-daitya (evil spirit) through the power of mantras, he gave up Jainism and accepted Śrī Rāmānujāchārya as guru. He became Śrī Viṣṇuvardhan. Due to this the teachers of Jainism were enraged and engaged in a scriptural altercation and debate with Sri Ramanujacarya. When the great scholars of Jainism became defeated in the debate and escaped, many persons accepted the shelter of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya and became vaiṣṇavas. Since then Melkote has become a prime place of pilgrimage for the vaiṣṇavas.

Twelve years later when Kṛmikānt Chola died, Śrī Rāmānujāchārya returned to Śrīrangam. Later he went to various parts of India to preach the vaiṣṇava dharma. He preached the doctrines of viśiṣṭādvaita profoundly in many pilgrim places like Tirupati, Maharāṣṭra, Girnar (prime pilgrimage for Jains), Dwāraka, Prayāg, Mathurā, Vāraṇāsī, Haridwār etc. Due to his authoritarian preaching many followers of Jainism and Śankara’s school of thought became vaiṣṇavas. After his pilgrimage he went to the Śāradāpīṭha in Kashmir via Śrī Badarīkāśrama. The in-charges of Śāradāpīṭha did not used to keep the scriptures that are contrary to their ideology but later they were obliged to preserve the literature having been defeated by Śrī Rāmānujāchārya in a scriptural debate. There is a hearsay that in the Śāradāpīṭha goddess Saraśwatī had personally come and posed puzzling questions from Vedānta to Śrī Rāmānuja. Satisfied with his replies, the goddess gave him the title ‘Bhāṣyakār’ and also presented him a deity of Śrī Hayagrīva.

Śrī Rāmānujāchārya also converted many Bauddhas (followers of Lord Buddha) to vaiṣṇava-dharma in Gaya. After visiting the holy places Padmanābha, Siṁhāchal, Kānchipurā etc. he reached his favourite Ṣrī Rangam. At the age of 120, in 4238 Kaliyugābda he disappeared in Śrī Rangam. Among his jñānī and bhakta disciples 74 have become āchāryas and pīṭhādhipatīs (in-charge of sacred institutions).” — Viśwakoṣa.

The āchāryas of all the four vaiṣṇava sampradāyas hold the same opinion that the object of worship, the worshipper and the worship are eternal. According to them if the object of worship and the worshipper are not accepted as eternal then the worship or devotion also becomes non-eternal. Such thoughts are not in favour of pure devotion. Śrīla Bhaktivinode Ṭhākur has instructed, “The tendency to enjoy and renounce exist in this world. Harmony in this world means to keep these propensities intact. The material enjoyers desire to get rid of miseries and gain pleasures in this world and in the upper worlds by obtaining the objects of their enjoyment from the five treasurers (Viṣṇu, Śiva, Śakti, Ganeśa and Sūrya).”

Distressed by the end results of the path of enjoyment, Śākyasiṁha (king who propagated Buddhism) took a stand against the process of karma-kaṇḍa and propagated the ideology of renunciation and austerities. According to him the highest accomplishment is to become free from one’s own independent identity and consciousness by performing austerities or sacrifices or any other severe practices. That state as per his philosophy is nirvāṇa or mukti. Such consideration of liberation in which the living entity loses its identity results from the concept of an attempt to synthesize the matter and spirit. Śrīpād Śankarāchārya also established most of the principles of Śākyasiṁha in a concealed way. This unifying concept (considering that the jiva loses the identity after liberation) emerges from the combination of nirviśeṣa (impersonalism) and pancopāsana (worship of the five deities – Viṣṇu, Śiva, Śakti, Gaṇeśa and Sūrya). In the name of universality and being liberal unifying the imaginary (kalpanik) atheistic ideas which are truly deceptive and transient with undisputed eternally existing Truth is meant only for the gross pleasure of those who are devoid of devotion and averse to Supreme Lord. These so-called non-sectarian classes are the creators of the imaginary cult of averseness to Supreme Lord. Such unifying attempts which are an indication of aversion to Śrī Viṣṇu are not modern but were also prevalent in the past. By seeing such a state two magnanimous great personalities (Śrī Rāmānujāchārya and Śrī Madhvāchārya) had mercifully appeared in this world, having been sent by the Lord. In order to differentiate the so-called non-sectarian worldly minded people from the true followers of the Supreme Lord they have distinctly designated the false temporary lineage and the eternal lineage. Lakṣmaṇ Deśika became the leader in this regard.

The bona fide preceptorial channel is not a fabricated path, they do not give shelter to atheism in the name of non-sectarianism which is highly deceptive. The Supreme Lord is the only eternal Truth and eternal Supreme Entity. His inconceivable potency is also eternal. The followers of the eternal path eternally worship the Supreme Entity who has incomprehensible potencies; therefore they are the most magnanimous. Nobody except the worshippers of Lord Adhokṣaja can be more benevolent in this world. Material generosity is not true generosity, it is only a sense gratification in the pretext of generosity or it is only duplicity. The samanvyavādis (followers of the unifying conception) had initiated the worship of any one of Viṣṇu, Śiva, Śakti, Gaṇeśa and Sūrya in the name of magnanimity. But then they destroyed and broke the deities they had worshipped for such a long time with swords. (This is like) First you do the whitewash, and then perform the plaster and then after some time you completely discard the plaster even.

In this way when the Supreme Lord’s eternal form and eternal worship were not being accepted, by the desire of the Supreme Lord a very powerful spiritual personality Śrī Lakṣmaṇ Deśika, who was later known as) Śrī Rāmānujāchārya, appeared in the town Mahābhūtapurī in Andhra Pradesh. After him Śrīman Madhvāchārya Pūrṇaprajña appeared. Wherever there is a propagation of the eternal religion of devotion to the Supreme Lord in this world, those who are averse to the Supreme Lord and even the demigods will become inimical to such propagators.

The scriptural conclusions of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya are mentioned briefly in ‘The history and significance of Gauḍīya Darśan’ as —-

“The conclusions of vedānta of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya is prevalent as ‘viśiṣṭādvaitavād’ (non-duality with particular attributes) — cid-acid-viśiṣṭa-advaitaṁ-tattvam — the principles that deal with sthūla-cid (gross consciousness) and acid (inanimate), sukṣma-cid (subtle consciousness) and acid (inanimate), the oneness and diversity (living entities) of the Supreme Brahman with principle attributes, and the prime non-dual Brahman. The name of his commentary is Śrībhāṣya.

Brahman (primordial substance) — The principle meaning of Brahman is supremely vast and unlimited by nature and qualities. He is the supreme controller and by virtue devoid of defects, the ultimate destination (avadhi), equal to all, infinitely auspicious, the Supreme Personality. At other places the word ‘Brahman’ signifies a figurative or secondary aspect only due to the partial understanding or realization of the above qualities.

Jīva (living entity) — the partial attribute of the substantive Paramātma. Since jīva is the body of Brahman, at particular places there is an indication of non-difference between the two. Jīva is eternal, beginning-less, infinite, outcome of Brahman, knowledgeable and knower, the doer and the enjoyer or sufferer, finite in size, countless, by state conditioned or liberated, among liberated either eternally liberated or liberated from conditioned state.

Jagat (material world) — gross body of personified brahman, partial manifestation, like brahman this world which is attributed with qualities is also real and not false like a rope mistaken for a snake out of illusion. Brahman is the highest Truth; though jīva and the jagat are also real like brahman, they are controlled by the latter and are lower to each other in the order brahman, jīva, jagat. Material world is the lowest because it can be enjoyed by the other two. Jīvas are higher in the state of conscious enjoyers and brahman is the highest being capable of mastering and controlling everything. Brahman is the cause and instrumental for the material world.

Māyā (illusory potency) — the potency of Parabrahman, the material nature comprising of the three modes, the creator of variegatedness. Māyā is not unreal, she enamours the jīvas but the Supreme Lord, who is the controller of Māyā, creates the material world through her. Māyā is not synonymous of inexplicability or false existence, she is the energy of Supreme Lord.”

As per the Māyāvādis there are two types of Brahman — śaguṇ-brahman (brahman with material attributes) and nirguṇ-brahman (brahman without material qualities). Those who are lowly in experience and knowledge, those who are incapable of worshipping the Supreme Brahman, who is devoid of material attributes, material potency and material qualities, worship the temporary illusioned imaginary brahman with material attributes (sādhakānāṁ hitārthāya brahmaṇarūpa kalpanaṁ – Supreme Lord assumes form accepting the mode of goodness of the Māyā). According to them when the three veils of worshipable-worshipper-worship or object of service-servitor-service or object of meditation-meditator-meditation are broken, one attains the ultimate attainment of oneness with nirguṇa brahman (brahman without attributes). Vaiṣṇavas do not use the word saguṇ-brahman. However, if the saguṇ-brahman do not signify the meaning as per the interpretation of māyāvādis but indicate the all-auspicious attributes of the nirguṇ-brahman, the vaiṣṇavas have no objection to accept such interpretation. Māyāvādis do not understand that nirguṇ-brahman can have attributes of highest auspiciousness.

Śrī Rāmānujāchārya’s literary contribution — (1) Śrībhāṣya (commentary to brahma sūtras) (2) Vedāntadīpa (Vedānta (/Brahma) sūtra vṛtti) (3) Vedāntasār (purports to brahma sūtra) (4) Śrīmad Bhagavad Gīta bhāṣya (5) Vedārthasār saṁgraha (6) Prose on Vaikuṇṭha, Śaraṇāgati, Śrīranga (7) Nitya grantha (worship of Śrī Nārāyaṇa). Apart from these — Vedānta-tattva-sār, commentary on Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma (thousand names of Śrī Viṣṇu), Prayers of glorification of the Deity form of Śrī Viṣṇu, commentaries on Īśopaniṣad, Praśnopaniṣad, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, Śvetasvatāra Upaniṣad, Kūṭa saṁdoha, Divyasūri prabhāv dīpika etc. — The history and significance of Gauḍiya Darśan.

Apart from the above there are many more literatures compiled by Śrī Rāmānujāchārya as per Viśwakoṣa — Aṣṭādaṣa-rahasya, Kanṭakoddhār, Chakrollās, Devatāpāramya, Nyāya-ratnamāla-ṭīka, Nārāyaṇa-mantrārtha, Nityārādhana-vidhi, Nyāya-pariśuddhi, Nyāya-siddhānjan, Panchapaṭal, Pancharātra-rakṣā, Maṇidarpaṇ, Matimānuṣa, Yoga-sūtra-bhāṣya, Ratnapradīpa, Rāmapaṭal, Rāmapaddhati, Rāma-pūja-paddhati, Rāma-mantra-paddhati, Rāma-rahasya, Rāmāyaṇa-vyākhyā, Rāmārcā-paddhati, Vārttā-mālā, Viśiṣṭādvaita-bhāṣya, Śatadūṣaṇī, Sankalpa-sūryodaya-ṭīkā, Saccaritra-rakṣā, Saccaritra-rakṣā-sāra-dīpikā and Sarvārtha-siddhi.

Param-pūjyapād Parivrājaka-āchārya Tridanḍiyati Śrīmad Bhakti Pramode Pūri Goswāmī Mahārāj had written in relation to Śrī Rāmānujāchārya in his article entitled ‘Āchārya Śrī Rāmānuja and Śrī Yādava Prakāśa’ published in the monthly magazine Śrī Chaitanya Vāṇī, 22nd Year, Issue No. 5, pg. 88 —

Śrī Yāmunāchārya, the most prominent āchārya of Śrī Rāmānuja sampradāya (lineage), appeared in a brāhmin family in 916 A. D. (maduraya?) His father’s name is Śrī Īśwar Muni. At the time of his appearance his grandfather Śrīnātha Muni was living. Sri Iswara Bhatta is the father of SrinathanMuni. These three personalities – Śrī Śrīnātha Muni, Śrī Īśwar Muni, Śrī Yāmunāchārya – are residents of Vīrnārāyaṇpūr, which is located 15 miles away from Chidambaram (Chitrakūṭam). Śrīnātha Muni’s full name is Śrī Ranganātha Muni. In Vīrnārāyaṇpūr the temple of his family deity Mannār Koil or Mannāvār – Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrī Rājagopāl Jiu is situated. Śrī Yāmuna Muni’s father died when he was only ten years old and his grandfather Śrīnātha Muni also entered the sannyās order. Therefore Yāmuna Muni was brought up with great difficulty by his old grandmother and widowed mother. Uncommon intelligence was seen right from his childhood. When he was only twelve years old he defeated the Viddvajjan Kolāhal, the court paṇḍita (scholar) of the king of Pāṇdya, in a scriptural debate and obtained half of the Pāṇdya kingdom. Later by the unlimited mercy of Śrī Ranganātha Muni he had accepted sannyās from Śrī Rāma Miśra, became popular as Śrī Yāmunāchārya or Ālbandār and was coronated in the seat of sārvabhauma āchārya (sovereign leader) of Śrī sampradāya. His four sanskrit literary works – Stotra-ratnam, Siddhi-trayam, Āgama prāmnāyam and Gītārtha Saṁgrāha – are specially honoured in Śrī sampradāya.

Śrī Nambi or Mahāpūrṇa, the disciple of Śrī Yāmunāchārya, had two sisters – Bhūmipa Pirāṭṭi or Bhūdevi and Periya Pirāṭṭi or Śrīdevi. The elder sister Bhūdevi was married to Āsuri Keśava Perumāl or Āsuri Keśavāchārya (he who performed many sacrifices), the resident of Śrī Perambudur near Madras. Bhūdevi and Śrīdevi were also known as Kāntimatī and Dyutimatī. Śrīdevi was married to Śrī Kamalanayan Bhaṭṭa born in the family of Bhaṭṭamaṇi from village Majhlai Mangalam. From the womb of Śrī Bhūdevi Śrī Rāmānuja, the āchārya of Śrī sampradāya and the founder of the viśiṣṭādvaita school of thought appeared in 938 śakābda 1016 A. D. or as per others in 939 or 940 śakābda. As soon as Sri Nambi, the disciple of Śrī Yāmunāchārya heard the message of Rāmānujaṣ birth, he quickly rushed to Śrī Perambudur, which is 10 miles away from Tiruvallur station on the Madras railway line. After reaching there he embraced Śrī Keśavāchārya with great pleasure and congratulated him for being blessed with the birth of a wonderful divine gem-like son. Seeing many uncommon symptoms in the child he repeatedly said that the child would become a great spiritual personality in the times to come. During the name giving ceremony he was named Lakṣmaṇ Deśika saying that Lord Rāma’s younger brother Lakṣmaṇa Himself had appeared in the form of that boy. Later he became known worldwide as Śrī Rāmānuja.

By the order of his father Śrī Āsuri Keśavāchārya, Śrī Rāmānuja entered in to the family life at the age of sixteen. He used to study vedānta under Śrī Yādavaprakāśa, a resident of Tirupuṭkujhi near Kānchīpuram or Kānchībharam. Śrī Yādavaprakāśa was a scholar in the Śankara school of thought. Though Rāmānuja was performing the activities of studying he was not an ordinary person. He is an incarnation of Lakṣmaṇa, the younger brother of Lord Rāmachandra, hence possessed transcendental powers. While studying under Sri Yadavaorakasa, the transcendental activities and illumination of highest knowledge were manifest in him.

As an illustration the following two incidents are mentioned —

(1) One time Śrī Yādavaprakāśa while commentating on ‘satyaṁ jñānaṁ anantaṁ brahma’ of Taittirīya Upaniṣad said to the disciple Rāmānuja, “brahman cannot be simultaneously eternal, cognizant and unlimited. Just like a cow cannot have a broken horn, a horn and no horn state simultaneously in the like manner brahman cannot have variety of attributes simultaneously. Therefore it is illogical to say that brahman has qualities. It is devoid of qualities.” After listening the commentary the dissatisfied Rāmānujāchārya said, “If brahman is said to be eternal without qualities then it is to ascertain that brahman is unreal. If brahman has to be accepted as real then one has to accept it’s attributes, especially being eternal, cognizant and unlimited. Such a state is not contradictory or impossible. As per the words of śruti brahman is real. By saying that brahman is cognizant it’s eternal consciousness is being accepted. Otherwise brahman will be confirmed to be a dull matter. Cognizance is an inseparable feature of brahman. Brahman is unlimited. He cannot be attained by the limited knowledge perceived by the material senses of a human. Brahman is beyond material perception, limitless, beyond the material anxieties. Therefore the brahman’s qualities of being eternal, cognizant and unlimited are interrelated and perfectly coherent. Nirguṇa indicates the lack of material qualities but he is an embodiment of unlimited transcendental qualities.” Śrī Yādavaprakāśa was astounded by the logical statements of Śrī Rāmānuja.

(2) One time Śrī Rāmānujāchārya was massaging oil on the body of his teacher Śrī Yādavaprakāśa who was commentating on the two ślokas from Chāndogya Upaniṣad.

atha yadevaitadādityasya śuklaṁ bhāḥ saiva sā’tha yannīlaṁ paraḥ kṛṣṇaṁ tadamastat sāmātha ya eṣo’ntarāditye hiraṇmayaḥ puruṣo dṛśyate hiraṇyaśmaśṛrhiraṇyakeśa āprāṇathāt sarva eva suvarṇaḥ (1.6.6)

tasya yathā kapyāsaṁ puṇḍarīkamevam-akṣiṇī tasyoditi nāma sa eṣa sarvebhyaḥ pāpmabhya udita udeti ha vai sarvebhyaḥpāpmabhyo ya evaṁ veda (1.6.7)

The essence of the treatise given by Śrī Yādavaprakāśa based on the commentaries of Śrī Śankarāchārya — “Although all the limbs of the effulgent Supreme Lord are golden colour complexion there is a special significance of His eyes. Just like the organ of evacuation of a monkey is more brighter than the other organs similarly the Lord’s eyes resemble that brilliance. Through those brilliant eyes He sees everything.” Listening to the comparison of the most beautiful eyes of Supreme Lord with the excretory organ of the monkey the extremely agonized Śrī Rāmānujāchārya shed tears incessantly. Few drops of the tears fell on the body of Śrī Yādavaprakāśa. He was astounded to see that Rāmānuja is crying with a heavy heart. When the āchārya asked the reason for Rāmānuja’s sadness, he said that he was deeply hurt by listening to the perverted meaning of the word ‘kapyāsaṁ’. He explained, “The word ka means water. As per kaṁ pibati iti kapiḥ – meaning that which absorbs or dries water – the word kapi indicates Sun. As per ‘asa dhātu vikasane, na tu upaveśane’ the word āsa means fully opened or blossomed. ‘Puṇḍarīka’ means lotus. The two eyes of the radiant face of Supreme Lord are thus as beautiful as the lotus that is blossomed by the Sun.” Even though Śrī Yādavaprakāśa was astonished by listening to the narration of his disciple Rāmānuja, he became angry and censured Rāmānuja. Initially though Śrī Yādavaprakāśa was a guru of the Śankara lineage of kevalādvaita (pure non-duality) and had aversion to Rāmānuja later he became Rāmānuja’s disciple. This is an indication of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya’s supernatural power.

As per Śrī Śankarāchārya the Pūrva-mīmāṁsā by Śrī Jaimini Muni and Uttar-mīmāṁsā (vedānta) by Śrī Vedavyāsa Muni are two independent scriptures. As per Śrī Rāmānujāchārya both these together comprise a single scripture. The only one mīmāṁsā (investigation) started by the Pūrva-mīmāṁsā (prior inquiry) of Jaimini Muni was complete with Uttar-mīmāṁsā (posterior inquiry) of Vedavyāsa Muni. After a careful contemplation on Pūrva-mīmāṁsā when one understands the karma and the fleeting results of the karma, the inquiry into Brahman arises. The great commentators like Bodhāyana and others had given explanations to both the mīmāṁsās considering them to be a single scripture. After the death of Kuluttunga Śrī Rāmānujāchārya came to Śrī Rangam along with his disciple Kureśa and completed the commentary on Vedānta named Śrībhāṣya there.

In the lineage of Śrī Rāmānuja many incidents are heard that illustrate the glory of serving Lord’s own associates or the vaiṣṇavas. The founder achārya of Śrī Chaitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh, Our Most Revered Gurudeva Nitya-līla-praviṣṭa Om 108 Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Goswāmi Mahārāj often used to narrate one such incident during harikatha discourses— One time during his preaching engagements along with his sannyās and brahmachāri disciples, Śrī Rāmānujāchārya had arrived at a place where he had one wealthy and another extremely poor brāhmin disciples. The name of the poverty stricken disciple is Śrī Varadārya. Upon the arrival of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya along with his other disciples at the house of the wealthy devotee initially, seeing his indifference to serve vaiṣṇavas Śrī Rāmānujāchārya had set his holy footprints with his other associates in the house of the devout Varadārya. When he took the name of Varadārya at the door he did not get any reply from inside instead heard the sound of three clappings. He saw a threadbare dress of a woman drying in the Sun outside. Understanding the indication of the claps, the all-knowing Śrī Rāmānuja threw one uttarīya inside the house. The wife of Varadārya wore that cloth, came in front of her gurudev and offered obeissances while crying in ecstasy. Even in her dream she never thought that her gurudev would come to their house. She started weeping in an extremely distressful state as no proper seat was available there to offer to her gurudev. Seeing this Śrī Rāmānujāchārya consoled her by saying, “What can be more better seating place than the natural God given beautiful grass under the shade of a tree?” Being ordered by Śrī Rāmānujāchārya all the devotees sat under the trees and he sat on a torn āsan (seat) provided by the lady.

Śrī Rāmānujāchārya had earlier told his disciples that Varadārya is extremely poor that he cannot make arrangements for their food and that they had come there only to take rest for few minutes in the house of the devotee. Varadārya’s wife was extremely worried about how she could make arrangements for the afternoon meals of her gurudev and her godbrothers.

Varadārya’s wife was extremely beautiful. Attracted by her beauty one rich merchant tried to allure her several times before to get her company. But due to her high chastity and devoutness to her husband the merchant could not have even the sight of her. “Husband is not home and the vaiṣṇavas will leave without eating” thinking her misfortune thus she made up her mind to sell her body which is only made of blood and flesh. She arrived at the house of that rich merchant in order to collect the ingredients for the service of the vaiṣṇavas. Seeing her all of a sudden the astonished merchant enquired the cause of her arrival. She replied that she wanted necessary ingredients for the service of her gurudev and other vaiṣṇavas who had come to their house and that in return she would offer her body to him. She promised that she would come again after the dusk to fulfil his desire. The greatly pleased merchant had sent the ingredients twice the amount she requested.

In the house of the brāhmin Varadārya one Nārāyaṇ Śālagram was worshipped daily. Varadārya’s wife offered many delicacies to the Lord, pleased her gurudev and vaiṣṇavas by serving them the prasād remnant of the Lord and herself waited fasting till the arrival of her husband. After prasād Śrī Rāmānuja and other vaiṣṇavas rested under the trees in the afternoon. Varadārya returned with the bag he carried for begging alms and was astonished to see them. He offered prostrated obeisances to his guru and cried incessantly in an overjoyed state. For a long time he was extremely eager for the darśan of gurudeva but never even thought in a dream that gurudev himself would come along with his other disciples to the house of such a poverty stricken person like him. He had only few grains of rice in his bag that he collected from begging alms. The grieved Varadārya entered the house and was astonished to see various types of delicacies and remaining ingredients. He enquired his wife about how she could collect so much. When she requested him to honour prasād first he said that his mind became restless and that he cannot take even a morsel of food before he knew from where she accumulated the necessary items. Upon his repeated questioning she fell at his feet and started crying. She revealed her guilt and begged for his forgiveness. Varadārya was dumbstruck listening such impossible words from his chaste wife and honoured prasād with lot of gravity. After he finished his meals she took his remnants. Before leaving from that place, the all-knowing Śrī Rāmānuja told Varadārya and his wife to give the remnant Nārāyaṇa prasād to the person who had given the ingredients for the offering.

In order to keep her promise Varadārya’s wife fell at his feet and requested his permission to leave. Both of them cried in separation to each other. After some time Varadārya became composed and boldly said, “I am extremely poor. I cannot even sumptuously feed you two times a day, cannot give you clothes to wear, leave aside giving you ornaments. I know how many enticements the merchant, to whom you sold your body, played earlier to attract your grace on him. But he could not even get a sight of yours. That very person has sold her body for the service of guru and vaiṣṇavas. I don’t believe that any person in this universe has the capacity to touch even the tip of your hair. You go fearlessly.”

When Varadāry’s wife reached the merchant’s place he was extremely pleased and astonished. She told him that she would fulfil his desire but requested him to honour the prasād first that was prepared using the items sent by him for the service of Lord Nārāyaṇa, guru and the vaiṣṇavas. When the merchant agreed she offered him the remnant prasād of her gurudeva. Such is the wonderful nature of prasād that as soon as the merchant honoured it his consciousness was transformed and the mind’s pollution was expelled. The merchant, who was burning in the flames of repentance, started crying loudly falling at the feet of Varadārya’s wife. With an aggrieved heart he said, “You are not an ordinary but a celestial woman. I am not even destined for hell. I desired to enjoy a chaste and saintly woman like you. In spite of my countless attempts and allurements I could not even get a sight of you, leave aside your physical association. And today that very person has come to sell her own body in lieu of just rice, pulses and vegetables. Please tell me who had come to your house.”

When the merchant heard about the arrival of Śrī Rāmānujāchārya he immediately left in search of him. The merchant fell at the feet of Varadārya and his wife and begged forgiveness for his offenses. He took dīkṣa from Śrī Rāmānujāchārya and served Varadārya and his wife till they lived.

“Rāmānuja, also called Rāmānujāchārya or Ilaiya Perumal (Tamil: Ageless Perumal (God)) [b.c. 1017, Sriperumbudur, India-d. 1137, Srirangam], South Indian Brāhmin theologian and philosopher, the single most influential thinker of devotional Hinduism. After a long pilgrimage, Rāmānuja settled in Srirangam, where he organized temple worship and founded Centres to disseminate his doctrine of devotion to the God Viṣṇu and His consort ‘Śrī’. He provided an intellectual basis for the practice of Bhakti (devotional worship) in three major commentaries: the Vedārtha-Sangraha (on the Veda), the Śrī-Bhāṣya (on the Brahmasūtras) and the Bhagavad-gīta-bhāṣya (on the Bhagavad-gīta).

Information on the life of Rāmānuja consists only of the accounts given in the legendary biographies about him, in which a pious imagination has embroidered historical details. According to tradition, he was born in South India, in what is now Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) state. He showed early signs of theological acumen and was sent to Kanchi (Kanchipuram) for schooling, under the teacher Yādavaprakāśa, who was a follower of the monistic system of Vedānta of Śankara, the famous 8th-century philosopher. Rāmānuja’s profoundly religious nature was soon at odds with a doctrine that offered no room for a Personal God. After falling out with his teacher he had a vision of the God Viṣṇu and His consort ‘Śrī’ or ‘Lakṣmi’ and instituted a daily worship ritual at the place where he beheld them.

He became a temple priest at the Varadarāja temple at Kanchi, where he began to expound the doctrine that the goal of those who aspire to final release from transmigration is not the Impersonal Brahman but rather Brahman as identified with the Personal God Viṣṇu. In Kanchi as well as Srirangam, where he was to become associated with the Ranganātha temple, he developed the teaching that the worship of a Personal God and the soul’s union with Him is an essential part of the doctrines of the Upaniṣads on which the system of Vedānta is built, therefore the teachings of the Vaiṣṇavas and Bhāgavatas (worshippers ardent devotees of Viṣṇu) are not heterodox. In this he continued the teachings of Yāmuna (Yāmunāchārya, 10th century), his predecessor at Śrīrangam, to whom he was related on his mother’s side. He set forth this doctrine in his three major commentaries.

Although Rāmānuja’s contribution to Vedānta thought was highly significant, his influence on the course of Hinduism as a religion has been even greater. By allowing the urge for devotional worship (bhakti) into his doctrine of salvation, he aligned the popular religion with the pursuits of philosophy and gave bhakti an intellectual basis. Ever since, bhakti has remained the major force in the religions of Hinduism. His emphasis on the necessity of religious worship as a means of salvation continued in a more systematic context the devotional effusions of the ‘Alvars’, the 7th-10th century poet-mystics of Southern India, whose verse became incorporated into temple worship. This bhakti-devotionalism, guided by Rāmānuja, made its way into Northern India, where its influence on religious thought and practice has been profound.

Rāmānuja’s doctrine, which was passed on and augmented by later generations, still identifies a caste of brāhmanas in Southern India, the Śrī vaiṣṇavas. They became divided into two sub-castes, the northern, or ‘vaḍakalai’ and the southern or ‘tenkalai’. At issue between the two schools is the question of God’s grace. According to the ‘vaḍakalai’, who in this seem to follow Rāmānuja’s intention more closely, God’s grace is certainly active in man’s quest for Him but does not supplant the necessity of man’s acting toward God. The ‘tenkalai’, on the other hand, hold that God’s grace is paramount and that the only gesture needed from man is his total submission to God (prapatti).

The site of Rāmānuja’s birthplace in Sriperembudur is now commemorated by a temple and an active ‘viśiṣṭādvaita’ school. The doctrines he promulgated still inspire a lively intellectual tradition, and the religious practices he emphasized are still carried on in the two most important vaiṣṇava centres in Southern India, the Ranganāth temple in Śrīrangam and the Venkaṭeśwara temple in Tirupati, both in Tamil Nadu.” —- The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 9, Page 918-Extracts.

vaḍakalai – like a monkey; the offspring of a monkey holds firmly to it’s mother; signifies the importance of practice or endeavour of the practitioner (devotee).

tenkalai – like a cat; the offspring of a cat completely surrenders fearlessly to its mother signifies the importance of surrender of the practitioner to God.

From the book Pauranik Charitavali by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj.