The four Sampradayas:
Toward the beginning of the creation Lord Narayana spoke to Brahma, Lord Narayana spoke to Lakshmi that pure devotional service is also given to Rudra and to the 4 Kumaras.  And it is explained by all great and authorized vaisnavas that without receiving the knowledge from one of these 4 sampradayas then true understanding of Krishna consciousness cannot take place.  In fact Rupa Goswami quotes from the shastra that without being initiated and receiving siksha from the unbroken lines of these 4 sampradayas one cannot understand Krishna consciousness, one cannot understand what isVaikuntha.  So if we have read in Bhagvad Gita as time goes on you will meet these great sampradayas

Evaà paramparä-präptam imaà räjarñayo viduù

(Bg. 4.2)

In the eyes of the masses and therefore either the Lord himself appears or he sends one of his most empowered representatives to create a spiritual revival or to re-establish the real spirit of bhakti that is the essence of every sampradaya.  So through the Rudra sampradaya Vishnu Swami appeared, through the Kumar Sampradaya Nimbarkacarya appeared, through the Brahma sampradaya Sri Madhavacarya appeared and to re-establish the truth and the essence of the spirit of what Lord Narayana spoke to Lakshmi Devi in the mood of pure devotional service Sri Ramanujacarya appeared.

Yajna performed for the birth of a son:

We read about his books it was at a time when the greatest of all of the acaryas of South India were Sri Yamunacarya and he had his headquarters in Sri Rangam.  Sri Yamunacarya came in this great line of Sri Sampradaya and he made his teachings in line with the Alvars.  The Alvars were very, very great devotees who lived some hundreds of years before and they wrote beautiful poems. Now one of these great disciples of Yamunacarya was a sanyasi of the name of Sailapurna.  Sailapurna had 2 sisters one was Kantimati and one is Diptimati.  So Sri Sailapurna helped to arrange the marriage of his 2 sisters.  After they were married he went to Sri Rangam and completely dedicated his life only to the service of the lotus feet of his Guru.  So Kantimati married a very, very great brahmana of the name of Asuri Kesavacarya and he was very expert in performing yajnas he was also known as Sarvakrati and they had one great anxiety in their hearts that they had no son.  So he had great faith in the lotus feet of Lord Narayana. He was a very good devotee, very advanced devotee.  So he decided that he would go to the temple of Parthasarthy which is close to the ocean in the modern day Madras.  In those days that area was called Brindaranya and he performed a wonderful yajna for the pleasure of Lord Parthasarthy and requested that a son would be born and it is explained while there the night of that yajna the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him that, “You and your wife should return to your native place and an incarnation of myself will be born to you”.  So with great happiness and confidence he returned home.

Birth of Ramanuja:

Some months later Kantimati gave birth to a beautiful and auspicious child, it was in the year 1017 of the Christian era.  Just at that same time her sister Diptimati also gave birth to a baby child.  After few days the 2 sisters came together also bringing their children together and they were both just merged in great happiness.  When this news came to Sri Rangam to Sailapurna, he decided to come to give the blessings of his Gurudeva to these 2 nephews of him.  They were living in the place called Bhutipuri and when he came there he saw the beautiful qualities of this son of Kantimati and he could understand that the prophecy given by the great, great devotee Nammalvar has been fulfilled.  What he prophesized that Lakshman the brother of Ram would take birth as a great acarya to deliver all the people.  So he named this child Ramanuja which is another name of Lakshman which means following in the brother of Sri Ram and e named Diptimati’s son Govinda.  So their parents were very, very great devotees and very much cultured Brahman’s so they performed all the samskaras to their children and from the very birth Ramanuja was just an ocean of good qualities very obedient, very humble, very submissive, very, very learned, very anxious to always hear and learn more and more about the Lord.  In fact he was a natural devotee of Lord Narayana in his earliest ages.

Early life of Ramanuja:

When he was about 16 years old, his father very much insisted that he married, so he got married.  Just a few months after his marriage, actually it was only one month after his marriage his father died he was only sixteen years old.  So it was very difficult for them to remain in the same place without father.  So Ramanuja being very responsible son as well as husband, he arranged for a house in Kancipuram which was a close city and there they resided.  Now during his very earlier years before even his marriage there was a great devotee who was also a disciple of Yamunacarya, his name was Kancipurna and he used to go from one village to another to worship the deity and on the way he would always pass the home of Ramanujacarya.  So Ramanujacarya was always very, very attracted by this person’s great, great love and devotion.  In fact although this person Kancipurna was born in a Sudra family even great, great Brahmans would worship his lotus feet because he had such simple and humble devotion and he was always simply anxious to please the Lord.  He worshiped the deity of Varadaraja which is in Vishnu Kanchi.  What he would do is just very simple worship, he would fan the deity, in the summer he would dip the fan in water and fan him.  He would bring the best nicest fruits to the deity and in this way he had such a loving relationship that it is said that he would be able to have conversation with the Lord and it was known by many great devotees that whatever Lord wanted people to know, he would speak through Kancipurna.  So Ramanuja was very, very happy and much honored to have the darshan of this person from time to time and they became very, very close and loving friends.

One day it is explained Kancipurna was passing and Ramanuja invited him to his home and when he invited him to his home they offered him some prasad and then Ramanuja wanted to massage this great saints lotus feet and Kancipurna said “No, no you cannot massage my feet, you are the highest caste brahmana and I am a sudra and I am a very fallen soul.  This is not proper for you to massage my feet.”

So Ramanuja replied, “If my being born as a brahmana is an impediment in serving the lotus feet of the great devotee of the Lord, then I consider this brahmana birth to be a curse and utterly useless.”

Because when someone is a great devotee of the Lord there is no question of caste distinction.  A devotee of the Lord wherever he is born, however he is born and deliver all of the world with pure devotional service.  So Kancipurna was very much happy to hear this young boy’s complete faith in the process of bhakti.

Discipleship under Yadavaprakash:

So after they moved to Sri Kancipuram, Ramanuja was sent to the gurukul the ashram of one very, very great learned acaryas at least he was famous as such.  His name was Yadavaprakash.  Yadavaprakash was a follower of Shankaracarya, he was a staunch mayavadi but he was very highly learned.  So Ramanuja very much wanted to understand the Vedas.  He was so intelligent that whatever he would hear he would immediately learn and understand and grasp.  Whenever he would hear the mayavad conclusions of his teacher it would just cause too much pain to his heart but because by nature he was very mild, very gentle and very humble he would just somehow or other restrain and tolerate his feelings.

Ramanuja correcting his guru:

One day it is explained that Yadavaprakash after the classes he asked Ramanuja to stay back because Ramanuja was his favorite and dear most of all students because he was so obedient and so humble and so anxious to learn and so capable of learning.  So he sent all the other students away he asked Ramanuja to massage his legs with oil.  Ramanuja was very humbly massaging his legs and then one student came back and he asked his teacher that, “I have a question in terms of one of the slokas from the Chandogya Upanishad, here it is described that the lotus eyes of Lord Narayana they are the beautiful reddish color.  Can you explain this in more detail?”

So his guru explained according to Shankaracarya’s verse that the meaning of this is that he used Sanskrit that “The eyes of Narayana are beautiful reddish color like the rear end of a monkey.”  He was going on explaining in this way and Ramanujacarya when he heard this blaspheme of Lord Narayana just tears started flowing from his eyes and tears were hot and they started falling on the body of his guru and his guru felt these burning hot tears and he looked up and saw Ramanuja in great distress crying.

So Yadavaprakash said, “Why are you crying?”

He said, “Because I cannot tolerate hearing this blaspheme of my Lord.”

“What do you mean?”

He said, “How could you compare lotus eyes of Lord Narayana to the rear end of a monkey?”

He said, “This is Shankaracarya’s explanation, I am repeating.  Can you think of something better?”

Then Ramanuja very, very expertly and poetically explained the same Sanskrit verse to explain that the real meaning is that, “His eyes are red like the red lotus that is in the presence of the shining sun.”

At that time Yadavaprakash became very angry, he said, “You think you know better than our acarya Shankar?  You think you know better than your own guru.”

At that time there became a great tension between the two of them.

Growing tension with Yadavaprakash:

On another occasion Yadavaprakash was giving a lecture and he was explaining how the form of the Lord is illusion, how the Supreme Absolute Truth is sat-cit-ananda and how he is beyond sat-cit-ananda.  When Ramanuja was hearing this, he could not control himself, he stood up and he gave a counter explanation which completely defeated his guru and his guru became very angry.  He said, “Why do you even come here to learn from me?”  He chastised him, very seriously he said, “You are very impudent, you think you can challenge your spiritual master you are a rascal.”

Yadavaprakash became very worried, ‘that this boy he is so learned and he has a pure heart, so much devotion to Narayana that he will completely destroy the philosophy of monism, he will completely discredit Shankaracarya if he is allowed to continue on.’  He called some of his disciples to a secret meeting to discuss what to do about him.  One of the disciples said, “Why don’t you expel him from school?”

Another disciple said, “That is even worse, if he expels him from school, he will start his own school and the way he is speaking his school will completely defeat and discredit all of our guru’s philosophy and make an ass out of our guru.”

So then the guru said, “The only way that we can protect our mission is this boy must be killed.”

So they planned out a way to kill him.  He said, “I will take all of my students on a pilgrimage to the Ganges in Northern India.  This will take many, many months and during that time we will figure out same way to kill him and then when we come back we will tell them that during the trip he fell ill and he died and then no one will question us.”

Yadavaprakash’s attempt to murder Ramanuja:

So they planned out this trip to the Ganges and Ramanujacarya when he heard that they were going to Ganga and guru is taking us on a pilgrimage he became very, very happy ready to go.  And his cousin Govinda also decided that he would go because he was also a student.  So they all went together and when they came to one place near the Vindhya Mountain, it is explained that they were in the forest just living in forest beside a river and Yadavaprakash sent Ramanuja out to do some errands to collect some flowers and so forth to bring back for worship and while he was away, gurudeva told the disciples

”This is a proper time that we should kill him in the forest, no one will ever know.”

While he was speaking it was just about evening, the sun was about to set and Govinda happened to be in the trees in the forest nearby and he heard the whole diabolical plan.  So he was very much disturbed and he approached Ramanuja in the forest and he told him that,” You should not come back because Yadavaprakash and his disciples they were so envious and fearful of you that they planned to kill you on this very evening.”

So Ramanuja began to run through the forest to get away and when he did not come for a long time, the guru and the disciples they all started calling him and searching everywhere.   When night was beginning to fall they realized that he must have been killed by some wild animals and therefore he must be dead because they didn’t suspect that he knew.  So they were all very happy and joyful in their hearts but because Govinda was there they pretended as if they were very sad and Yadavaprakash began to preach to Govinda, the difference between the body and the soul and how you should not lament over the death of a body because the soul is eternal and Govinda was listening patiently.

Protected by the Lord:

Ramanuja was running through the forest and he was very young, he was only 18 years old and he didn’t know where he was.  He was a long, long way from home, so many hundreds and hundreds of miles from home.  He became very fearful and then in his fearful condition the night was coming and in the jungle he did not know where to go, where to not go.  He started to think that Lord Narayana is the Supreme controller of everyone and I am his devotee so why should I be afraid, he will protect me.  And just upon remembering the mercy of Lord Narayana all of his fear was vanished and just after he came to that conclusion of taking shelter of lotus feet of Narayana he saw a hunter with his wife walking through the forest.  They were very surprised to see this young man, “Where are you going?”

He said, “I am going to Kancipuram, but I do not know how to get there.  It is such a long way.”

They said, “We are also going to Kancipuram.  We had already been travelled for over one month such a long distance.”

He said, “So far away, why are you going to Kancipuram?”

The hunter said, “Well, you see we kill birds for profession myself and my wife and this is a very sinful activity, so we must go to Rameshwaram and Kancipuram to perform yajna and to worship the lotus feet of the Lord to neutralize the offense of our sins. But we will guide you all the way back.”

So they walked for about an hour, they came to a river bank.  He started the fire, the wife of this hunter said she was very thirsty and the hunter said, “Now it is too dark but there is a well very close nearby and from that well we will get water in the morning.”

But the next morning they came upon that well and Ramanuja climbed down the mountain to where that well was and he brought water to the lady and she drank but she was still thirsty so she went back and forth bringing more and more water as she drank.  One time when he was bringing it, she disappeared she was no longer there.  He brought the water up, she was no longer there and the hunter was not there, no one was there and he was wondering ‘how will I find Kancipuram now’?  And just as he was thinking that way he looked above the trees he saw big beautiful temples, ‘What city is this?’  Then he saw someone passing by toward the well.  He said, “What is this city?”

They said, “You don’t know this city?  It is the famous city of Kancipuram.  And you are one of the bright students of Yadavaprakash, you live here.  How you do not know the city of Kancipuram.”  Then that person walked away.

Ramanujacarya could understand that, that hunter and his wife were Lakshmi and Narayana. He got that realization from within his heart.  When he was lost in a helpless condition in the forest, he prayed that the shelter of Lord Narayana always protects his devotees.  So, on the basis of that humble prayer Lord Narayana personally came with Lakshmi to bring him back to his home.  Then he just sat by the well weeping and crying in ecstasy thinking of the great mercy he had just received from the Lord.  And then he went back to his home, his mother was very happy to see him, she was thinking it would be at least 6 months but he had returned only after about a month and he told her the story, why he returned early, how Yadavaprakash was planning to kill him.  So she was simultaneously very sad to hear this but very happy that Lord Narayana saved her son.  Well, he was at home and then soon after this, not very soon but sometime after this, some months later, Yadavaprakash returned and when he found Ramanuja was at home with his mother, he went to the house and pretended to be very, very joyful, very happy, “Oh! We thought you were dead, we see that you are alive. You have been saved by the Lord.”  He and his disciples made a big show of showing great happiness.  But they knew that there was something else.  In this way Yadavaprakash he saw that Ramanuja was becoming so, so incredibly influential that he wanted him to return to his school so that he could find some other means.  So he returned for some time.

Yamunacarya visits Kancipuram:

On another occasion there was a philosophical confrontation.  Yadavaprakash became so angry that he just had to kick him away.  It is explained that at one time when he was again the student of Yadavaprakash, Yamunacarya came from Sri Rangam for the darshan of Varadraj and when he was walking through Kancipuram, he saw this beautiful sight of Ramanujacarya.  Now Ramanujacarya had already written a particular commentary on a sloka from Upanishads which completely defeated Shankar’s philosophy and that sloka became so famous, Yadavaprakash hated it.  When it came to Sri Rangam and Yamunacarya read it, he thought, ‘this person is divinely empowered’.  So he saw Ramanuja and Yadavaprakash had his hand on Ramanuja’s shoulder and Yamunacarya who was then over 100 years old, he asked one of his followers, “Who is that?”

He said, “That is Ramanujacarya.”

He said, “He is the one that wrote that beautiful commentary establishing the eternality of jiva and establishing the pure bhakti of the highest goal of life.”

“Yes, that is him.”

He said, “What is he doing with this mayavadi Yadavaprakash, rascal?”

He said, “He is his student.”

Yamunacarya was just so anxious to run out and embrace Ramanujacarya but Yamunacarya would never associate with mayavadis so he began to offer prayers to Lord Narayana.  He began to offer prayers that, “Please, rescue this Ramanuja, such a wonderful devotee, rescue him from this terrible, terrible association it is so contaminating to the heart, and bring him again to your lotus feet and the association of vaisnavas.”  Yamunacarya after offering this prayer, he went for the darshan and returned back to Sri Rangam.

Then there was a big confrontation and Ramanuja ultimately left his guru his teacher.

Ramanuja desired to be initiated by Kancipurna:

After he left, he desired to be initiated by Kancipurna, who was a great vaisnava but happened to be a Sudra.  When Kancipurna they would meet regularly and Ramanuja said, “Now I am no longer associating with this Yadavaprakash, so please, I beg you to initiate me and I will be your humble disciple.”

Kancipurna was very humble, he said, “How can I initiate you?  How is it possible?  You are so learned, you are a great brahmana, and I am a low class.  I have no real devotion how can I initiate you?  It is not possible.”

At that time Kancipurna, he went to the temple of Varadaraj and he said, “I have dedicated my life only to be your humble simple servant that’s all I want.  But now somehow or other you are putting me in situations where great Brahmans want to be my disciples and you want to put me in situation of being an acarya.  I do not like this at all.  So with your permission I want to leave Kancipuram and go to Tirupati to worship your form of Balaji.”

So Varadaraj murti said, “Yes, you go and worship me in Tirupati.”

So he just left.  After six months the summer came and Balaji spoke to Kancipurna and said that, “I am very hot and no one refreshes me with such loving service as you, so you must return to Kancipuram and you must serve me in my form of Varadaraj.”  So then he returned.

Again Ramanuja asked Kancipurna for initiation and he told him, “I cannot do this.”

Ramanuja started to think, ‘that the reason why he is refusing to accept me as a disciple is because I have such a sinful heart and I have no devotional sentiments therefore he does not want such a useless disciple as me.’

Kancipurna is invited to the home of Ramanuja for prasad:

So he was thinking if somehow or other I get the remnants of this great devotees food, this maha, maha prasad then perhaps I will become purified and be worthy to be his disciple.  With this plan in mind he invited Kancipurna to his house for prasad.  He told his wife, her name was Rakshakambala, that, “You must make the best possible prasad for this great vaisnava devotee.  She worked very hard on his order and cooked so many beautiful preparations and Ramanuja just about noon time he went to the home of Kancipurna to personally escort him to his house for prasad.  So after he left Kancipurna knew Ramanuja’s plan, so he came to the house from another way.  He told Rakshakambala that, “I am in a great hurry, Varadaraj is calling me, and I must do seva for him.  You must give me prasad immediately.”

She said, “But Ramanuja has already gone to your place, you must have come another way.  He will be here only in a few minutes.”

He said, “I cannot wait, I cannot keep the Lord waiting for my service just to feed my belly so serve me just now.”

So very carefully with great attention she served him all the different preparation and he ate them all and then got up.  He was so humble he washed his place with cow dung and water mixture and then he threw his leaf plate.  What she did is she just cleaned up everything and Kancipurna left and Ramanuja returned.

He said, “Why are you cooking again?”

She was cooking again.

“Where is Kancipurna?  I could not find him”

She said, “He was here, he already ate.”

He said, “He ate?  Where are his remnants?”

She said, “Well, he is a Sudra, how could I give you his remnants.  You are a brahmana, we are both Brahmans.  I have given his remnants to a Sudra woman and now I am cooking again for you.”

He became so much upset, so much disturbed, he said, “You are a rascal woman, you are the most unfortunate.  What an offense you have committed to a great soul, thinking of him to be of a certain caste.  He is a greatest devotee.  The goal of my life was to be fulfilled by taking his remnants and you have spoiled everything.”

He sat down with his head in his hands and began to cry.

Yamunacarya leave this world after giving final instructions to his disciple:

Ramanuja asked Kancipurna about his initiation.  So Kancipurna spoke to Varadaraj the murti and had many, many instructions for Ramanuja’s life that he gave him about the nature of the atma the nature of paramatma his duties to preach the glories of the Lord and he also explained that you should accept initiation from one of the great, great senior devotees of Yamunacarya.  Actually this happened a little later.  What happened first is Yamunacarya, he was very old and he became very much sick and all of his disciples gathered around him and this was in Sri Rangam.  It appeared that he was going to leave his body any day.  So Yamunacarya was remembering Ramanuja and one of his very dear most disciples, he told him that, “You must go to Kancipuram and bring Ramanuja here before I die.”

So he went to Kancipuram and when Ramanuja heard that Yamunacarya was calling for him, he was just bringing some fruits and flowers for Varadaraj, he said, “Let me just bring this to the deity and then I will go.”

So he brought them to the deity, he made his offering he said, “Now let us go.”

This great devotee of the Lord, he said, “What about you wife and your mother?  You will not even tell them where you are going?”

He said, “On the order of guru one cannot even consider one’s family.  He is calling for me this is my great fortune.  I cannot hesitate.” And they just went to Sri Rangam.  It took several days of walking.  During that trip Yamunacarya left this world after he gave his final instructions to his devotees. Essentially his final instructions were to always offer flowers and the best of whatever you have to the deity of Sri Ranganath and always remember his lotus feet, depend always on his mercy and free yourself from false ego by always serving the vaisnavas.  This was his final instructions and then he left.

An Ideal disciple:

They began to make his funeral arrangements.  They had a procession with his body.  They brought him to the river Kaveri and they were about to put him in Samadhi and at that time Mahapurna and Ramanuja arrive and when they arrived in Sri Rangam, they heard that Yamunacarya had left his body.  So they both began to weep and cry and they both ran to the place where the funeral was about to take place and when Ramanuja saw his guru laying there, he felt his presence so strongly.  It did not appear like a dead body to him, it appeared like full of life, full of bhakti.  People saw how Ramanuja was looking at the beautiful form of guru and it was great wonder in everyone’s mind and then Ramanuja noticed that 3 of the fingers of Yamunacarya very tightly and intensely closed.

So he said, “Did Yamunacarya usually keep his fingers closed like this?”

They said, “No, no we have never seen him like this.”

So then Ramanuja understanding the inner heart of Yamunacarya, he said, “I will take 3 vows on this day:

One is I vow to spread the message of pure devotional service by my example, by my words throughout all of the land.” When he said that, one of the fingers opened and became straight.

He said, “I vow to write a vaisnava commentary of the Vedanta Sutra of the name Sri Bhasya, which refutes Shankaracarya’s arguments and establishes pure devotional service and eternal servitude to the Lord as Supreme.”  When he spoke that the second finger opened.

He said, “Due to great gratitude and appreciation for Parasara Muni the father of Vedavyasa and the exponent of so many instructions and the glories of Narayana from the Vishnu Purana, I will name one disciple after him.”  At that time the third finger opened.

When everyone saw this, they could understand that Ramanuja really was being empowered by Yamunacarya to take over his mission.  Because Yamunacarya although he preached and wrote so many beautiful, beautiful prayers and writings such as Stotra-ratna and others, these were the three missions that were left unfulfilled in his life.  The three things that he wanted to do, but he was not given the time to do.  So Ramanuja being the very, very dear disciple understood what his guru wanted.  So everyone was struck with wonder and everyone could see that he was truly empowered by the mercy of Sri Gurudeva Yamunacarya.

Accepting Initiation:

Then Ramanuja decided that he would go back to Kancipuram so he returned.  On his way the devotees said, “Don’t you want to see Ranganath before you go?”

He said, “How can I see that Lord?  The real Lord of my life, Yamunacarya who was my eternal guide, my eternal preceptor my shelter my refuge he has taken away before I could even meet with him or speak to him.”

In this mood he went back to Kancipuram and there he was meeting with Kancipurna, this great devotee regularly.  It was there then that Kancipurna told him that “The Lord has told me that you will take initiation from a very, very great disciple of Yamunacarya.  His name is Mahapurna.”

So one year went by and the devotees at Sri Rangam, they celebrated the first anniversary of the disappearance of Yamunacarya and they began to think, since he has left there are so many great devotees but nobody could speak and inspire people the way Yamunacarya did.  Therefore, there is becoming much complacency and stagnancy in our mission in our sampradaya.  The only hope is that Ramanujacarya come.  So they sent Mahapurna to go there and when he went, this great devotee he went with his wife.  They were also from a lower caste Sudra caste by birth.  Ramanujacarya was so happy that he divided his house in half and gave half to them and then he accepted initiation from Mahapurna.  He also ordered his wife to accept initiation.  He was so happy for many months to serving his guru.  Although, he accepted Yamunacarya as guru because he never accepted initiation from him, he accepted from one of his disciples, and therefore, he was the disciple in one sense in the siksha level of his own god brother.  His siksha guru was Yamunacarya but his diksha guru was his god brother.

Quarrelsome wife:

One day when Ramanuja was out, his wife was drawing water from a well and Mahapurna’s wife was also there and accidentally a few drops from Mahapurna’s wife’s bucket entered into Rakshakambala’s bucket.  She became very angry and she became furious, she said, “You have spoiled all this water.  You think I can use this water after it has touched the water from a bucket of a Sudra?  Just because your husband has initiated us that my husband is so crazy we lost all our distinctions of caste.”  And she began to chastise her severely.

She said, “Now all this water has to be thrown away.  It is all a waste because of your carelessness.”

Mahapurna’s wife was very humble and very shy so she didn’t say anything.  She just sat down and started to cry.  So when her husband came back, Mahapurna asked, “What happened?”

His wife told him.  He said, “It is the arrangement of Lord Narayana that we return to Sri Rangam.  This is his indication that we should not stay here any longer.”

So they immediately left.

When Ramanujacarya returned home, he said, “Where is my guru gone?”  He was looking all over and his wife explained that “I just gently chastised her for doing like this.”

“What?  You crazy woman, you have insulted the wife of my guru.  You have insulted my guru himself, by considering him to be a Sudra.”  He said, “You are such a sinful creature. It is a sin to even see your face.”  And he walked out. He was very upset by all this.  Although, she was a very obedient wife and always ready to help her husband in every way and she was so beautiful, she was beautiful like an apsara and she performed all rituals, she believed in Lord Narayana but she did not have that spirit of devotion that her husband had the inner feelings of the essence of real devotion.  Thus she was becoming a great impediment but she was very much upset by her husband’s words.

Ramanuja tricks his wife:

Shortly after this one brahmana was begging alms came to the house.  Rakshakambala was there, Ramanuja was out and when he saw this brahmana he said,

“Brahmana, why are you looking so dejected?  You look very hungry.  Did you not get nice food?”

He said, “I went to your house, but your wife she was very angry and she kicked me away and called me a beggar.”

Ramanuja began to think very deeply for a few moments, he said, “I have a plan by which my wife will feed you very nicely.”

He wrote a letter, he said, “You bring this letter to my wife, tell her that this letter is from her father in her native place.”

So he brought the letter and when she heard that this man was a messenger of her father, she became very happy.  “Oh!  You are a messenger of my father!”  She read the letter and she was very happy and served him all nice wonderful prasad and then sent him on his way.

Then Ramanuja came, she said, “I have received a letter from my father” and he read.  It was a letter to Ramanuja saying, “My dear son, your wife sister is about to be married and there is so much work to be done and your mother-in-law cannot do it herself.  Please, it is urgent and you must send Rakshakambala right away and if you can come that is very good but if you have some urgent business at least send your wife immediately.”

So Ramanuja said to his wife, “I have urgent business, I cannot go now but you should go immediately and when you go offer all my respects and love to your parents and to everyone and tell them if I can take care of my business I will come as soon as possible.”

She was very happy, she packed her things and she left and just after she left he went to the temple of Varadraj and said that, “Today, I want to surrender everything to you.  Today I want to completely take shelter of your lotus feet.  I do not any distraction from my service to you and from preaching your glories.”

Accepting sanyasa:

Ramanuja he brought saffron cloth and he made a tridanda and he went to the banks of river and there he started a fire to perform a fire sacrifice and just at that time Kancipurna came and Kancipurna he gave him sanyas and then he gave sanyas name Yatiraj.  Ramanuja went back into the town of Kancipuram and when everyone saw that he had become a sanyasi he was such a young man and his wife was so beautiful and she didn’t even know what was happening.  Some people condemned him, they thought he had gone mad, they thought he was crazy but others who were more sincere understood that he is the most compassionate, most benevolent.  He had given up such pleasures of such a beautiful wife, his mother had already died some time before and people one by one started coming to seek shelter of his lotus feet and he began preaching with such force and such devotion that gradually so many people were coming and coming.  Ultimately the devotees in Sri Rangam, they requested him to come to Sri Rangam to make his base there because that’s where his gurudeva was residing.  He went to Sri Rangam and made his base and in this way he preached the great philosophy of Visistadvaita and of course, we can speak for many hours about the life of Ramanujacarya, so many wonderful incidents.  Such a pure and great philosophy, he was really the first acarya to combat against the monistic views of Shankaracarya.  In fact he became so popular amongst the devotees that throughout the land people were falling at his lotus feet but amongst the mayavadis they either had to surrender to him or they had to hate him and there were even plots to kill him.

Qureshi defeats the king’s ministers:

There is a story of one king, and this king he was a Shankarite and the philosophy was being so much belittled by Ramanuja that he considered this a great offense to Lord Shiva.  So he decided that Ramanuja must be either defeated or killed.  He sent his messengers to Sri Rangam that this king orders that you come back to have a debate amongst his ministers.  Now it was known by everyone that if he won the debate he would be killed and if he lost the debate his whole philosophy will be discredited.  So there was a disciple of Ramanuja, his name was Qureshi.   He was a very, very devoted disciple, he was so pure and so simple and so humble but yet so learned in his philosophy and he told Ramanuja his gurudeva, he said, “Please I beg you, you are so important to this world but I am insignificant.  If this world loses you association then it has lost everything, there is no hope.  But I am insignificant, so please let me go and accept this debate and you hide, otherwise they will kill you.”

So Ramanujacarya, seeing the great desire of his devotee, he put on the white cloth and left Sri Rangam in the guise of a grihasta and nobody knew where he was leaving and Qureshi put on his guru’s sanyas robes.  When these messengers of the king came they thought that he was Ramanuja so they brought him back to Kancipuram and there the king brought his best ministers, who were all mayavadis and there was a big debate and Qureshi completely defeated them.  So they decided that this man must be killed.

The Haunted Princess:

There was an incident that took place sometime before.  When Ramanujacarya was still a student at the ashram of Yadavaprakash, Yadavaprakash was not only a great mayavadi but he was also a mystic yogi and a magician.  He was very famous for exorcising ghost, remove them from haunted people.  So the kings daughter princess, she was being haunted by a ghost.  She was just totally mad and crazy all blasphemes were coming from her mouth, although she was a very quite shy girl.  So they called for Yadavaprakash and he was doing all of his rituals to exorcise the ghost and the ghost with a high shrills spoke through the mouth of this girl the princess.  She said, “Yadavaprakash, you have no power to get rid to me, you might as well give up all your futile attempts.  I am so much more powerful than you.”  And Yadavaprakash, his whole image and his reputation was on the line, so he was trying again and again with no avail.  But finally the ghost again spoke in a terrible shrilling voice through the mouth of this young princess that, “There is no hope, the only possibility is if your disciple, your youngest disciple Ramanuja comes, because of his purity of heart I will be forced to leave.”

So others heard this, so Yadavaprakash was forced to call his disciple Ramanuja and Ramanuja came very gentle and very humble and he began to pray to Lord Narayana, “Please, save this girl.” And at that time while he was praying the ghost spoke through the mouth of the girl and said, “Ramanuja, I will only leave the body of this girl if you put your lotus feet on my head.”

So then the princess who was completely being controlled by the ghost bowed down and put her head on the ground and then Ramanuja placed his feet on the princess head and then Ramanuja said to the ghost, “What will be the sign that you have actually left this girl?”

She said, “There is a banyan tree that we are sitting under and she said, the highest branch of this banyan tree will crack and fall to the ground as soon as I leave.”

Just within seconds the highest branch of the banyan tree cracked and fell to the ground.

Qureshi an ideal disciple:

After Qureshi defeated the ministers, they wanted to kill him but the princess appeared she said, “He saved my life, how can you kill him?  He saved me from that ghost, you cannot kill him”

So instead of killing they burned his eyes out.  Just see the great dedication of a disciple for his spiritual master.  Then they took Qureshi and they just threw him in a jungle area where he was completely lost and they left him there.  So Qureshi was feeling very grateful to Lord Narayana that he was allowed to do such a wonderful service for his spiritual master.  He was not thinking, oh! I have surrendered I have done all this for my guru and look what is happening.  I am blind and lost and probably starved to death.  He was very grateful.  He was very happy that “By your mercy my Lord, you are so kind you have allowed me to do such a wonderful seva for my gurudeva.”

This is the quality of a real disciple.  He is willing to give his life for his guru.  He is willing to accept any inconvenience gladly with a grateful, happy and joyful heart.  So then miraculously Qureshi was brought back to Sri Rangam and when Ramanujacarya saw what his disciple went through for his sake, he began to cry in ecstatic love and embraced Qureshi.  Then he brought Qureshi before Ranganathji in Sri Rangam temple and he prayed to Lord Narayana that, my disciple has gone through this only for me, then a breeze came and that breeze touched the lotus feet of Sri Ranganath and that same breeze from the feet touched the eyes of Qureshi and his vision was again restored.

Visistadvaita Philosophy:

Ramanujacarya was both loved and hated like all acaryas.  Those who were representatives of darkness hated him, they were threatened by him but those who were innocent, who were receptive to the truth, their hearts were utterly surrendered with love at his lotus feet.  He preached very far and wide the teachings of Visistadvaita Philosophy.  Visistadvaita Philosophy essentially explains that the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana has an eternal form, has an eternal abode and is ever emerged in loving pastimes with his devotees and he explains that there are three most important principles:

There is cit- which is the spirit soul the individual jivatma and then

There is sat- which is the material existence explains that there is individual jivatma there is the material existence

And then there is ishwara-God or Narayana who is the source of everything.

He refuted Shankar’s explanation who said that the jivatma and material nature are all illusion, the only truth is ishwara the only truth is Brahman.

Sri Bhasya:

In his Sri Bhasya he explained (S.B.1.1.1) janmādy asya yato- that everybody is emanating from the absolute truth that means the jivatmas are emanating from the absolute truth and also material nature is emanating from the absolute truth because everything is emanating from the absolute truth so how could anything emanating from the absolute truth be an illusion.  We must understand that they are the energies of the absolute truth emanating from the absolute truth.  They are not illusions, and he compared that Krishna is like the soul and that material energy maya energy the jivatma are like his body that all have a relationship through the soul and in this way he established the eternality of material nature and the eternality of the jivatma and he explained very, very deep philosophical terms the relationships between the three and established this Visistadvaita which means qualified oneness.  Qualified in the sense that there is an eternal relationship between the Lord and his energies which qualifies the oneness whereas Sripad Shankaracarya he thought monism which means simply that Brahma satyam jagan mithya– that everything is illusion except Brahman except the absolute truth – unqualified oneness.

Ramanujacarya really established the philosophical principles of vaisnavism very strongly and what he did was he took the devotional sentiments of the alvars of Yamunacarya that they had such love and devotion to the Supreme Absolute Truth – Narayana but he put it in terms of philosophy which had not been done before in the Sri Sampradaya.  He took these devotional sentiments and wrote them in terms of such a philosophy that it was irrefutable and undefeatable and especially with this philosophy he extinguished the principles of monism established by Sri Shankaracarya.  Of course, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu he took from the Ramanuja Sampradaya so much of the essence of these very, very divine teachings of pure bhakti and of course, Madhavacarya, he also simply expanded on the teachings of Ramanujacarya.  He no way contradicted the teachings but expanded upon the teachings with Advaita Philosophy and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu he culminated the complete comprehension of the absolute Truth through his philosophy of acintya-bhedäbheda-tattva.

Teachings of Ramanujacarya:

This way we can understand how the Lord through his empowered representatives has staged the scene for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance of the Yuga-Avatar.  First to annihilate the misuse of the Vedas, he appeared as Buddha then after Buddha established non-violence, moral conduct, austerity, meditation pure life then the Lord was able to re-establish the Vedas but in order to do so he had to keep the same conclusion as the Buddhist and in the form of Lord Shiva who is an expansion of Lord Narayana himself he came and appeared in order to re-establish the conclusions of the Vedas and then he appeared in his form of Ramanujacarya said to be Lakshman incarnation, he came to establish the real essence of the Vedas which was pure devotional service.  Ramanujacarya was very strict he considered the only valid evidence anywhere is in the shastra not from inference anywhere else, only the shastra’s authority.  In this way he was able to keep right to the shastra and establish Narayana as the Supreme Absolute Truth through the Upanishad’s, through the Vedas through all of this.  Especially he dealt with the Upanishad’s and the Vedanta sutra’s because he knew that was the only scriptures that the staunch mayavadis accept as the highest truth.  So Ramanujacarya did not deal so much with the Puranas, he did not make commentaries on the Srimad Bhagvatam, although, he accepted it.  Most of his teachings were on the basis of Upanishad’s and the Vedanta Sutra because that’s where he could really convince people of the truth of the Vedas and take away the illusions of Shankar’s teachings.  So in this way Ramanuja came to re-establish the principles of pure bhakti and then Madhavacarya came to establish the worship of Krishna and then Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to bring them all together and just the final ultimate essence of all philosophy acintya-bhedäbheda-tattva and not only that he has given within the field of acintya-bhedäbheda-tattva philosophy the most purest, essential highest relationships that can be developed through the 5 rasas with Lord Sri Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan.

So on this very holy day the appearance day of such great acaryas it is very auspicious to remember their lives to nourish our minds by hearing their teachings and also by praying at their lotus feet because factually these great acaryas are also within our line in the sense that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu who is Krishna himself he imbibed the essence of all the four great sampradayas.  All the four great sampradayas in the purest, highest most essential form were all merged together in the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  Although in the disciplic line we are following strictly according to the Brahma-Sampradaya, the Madhava-sampradaya but in essence Mahaprabhu who was the Lord Narayana himself, Krishna himself he has come to synthesize all the sampradayas.  So by surrendering to his teachings one is actually surrendering and getting the true substance and the mercy of all the acaryas of all the previous sampradayas of the 4 great lines coming from the Lord.  In this way Ramanujacarya certainly is one of our great acaryas and it is auspicious to worship guru before we worship God and Balaram is the representation of a guru and Lakshman is Balaram and so Rama Navami is coming up I am thinking it is very auspicious that today by hearing and chanting the glories of Lakshman who is the most intimate associate of Lord Rama and the representative of guru of Rama that we have begun our worship of Sri Rama Navami by falling at the lotus feet of Ramanujacarya.

Written by

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.

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About Me

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.