1) Swathi – 23-05-2013 – Thursday
Periya thirumalai nambi
2) Sri Narasimha Jayanthi – 23.05.2013 – Thursday
(In Srirangam, it will be on 24.05.2013)
3) Vishagham – 24.05.2013 – Friday
4) Anusham- 25/05/2013 – Saturday
5) Kettai – 26/05/2013 – Sunday
5) Rohini – 08/06/2013 – Saturday
SrImathE Gopaladesika Mahadesikaya namah:Dearest Srivaishnavas,YAmunAchArya- SrI Alavandhaar- His period -from year 917 AD to 1042 AD.
(about 125 years). Today is his Thirunakshathram (Adi UtthirAdam). He was
the Grandson of “thaaLam vazhagith thamizh maRai innisai thandha
Sri Nathamuni.YAmunAchArya is the grand -Acharya (PrAchAryA ) of Ramanujacharya (1017 AD
to 1137 AD). He established the principles of VisishtAdhvaita as an
expansion of the doctrines housed in his grandfather’s treatises and
elaborated on those doctrines with authoritative scriptures such as
Sruthis, Bhagavadh Gita , AzhwAr’s pAsurams and Selected SAtvikaPurAnAs.He is the one who composed the earliest Stotras of Srivaishnava
He wrote the following works great in content and yet lucid.(1) chathuslOki
(2) StOtra Ratnam
(3) Siddhitrayam consisting of (i) AtmaSiddhi. (ii) Samvitsiddhi and (iii)
(4) Agama Pramanya
(5) Maha Purusha Nirnayam
(6) Gitartha Sangraha
(8) Maayaa Vaadha KhandanamSwamy Desikan says in YathirAja Sapthathi:Vighaahe Yaamunam Theertham Saadhu Brindaavane Stitham |
NirasthaJih Magha Sparse Yatra Krishnah Kritaa Dharah ||(meaning) Alavandar who learned Vedantha Arthas at the feet of MaNakkaal
Nambi was not only the one residing on the banks of Yamuna (Yamunai
Thuraivan) by name but was also like the clear flowing waters of the river
Yamuna. Lord Krishna got rid of the cruel Kaalinga from the river and made
its water pure and clear for all to drink. He was most delighted when he
played with the Gopis of Brindavanam in the Yamuna waters. Likewise,
Alavandar vanquished those who misinterpreted the Vedas and established
Vedanta Siddhanta. Just as one can derive supreme pleasure by bathing in
the holy waters of Yamuna, one can enjoy supreme Bhagavad Gunanubhava by
immersing in the lucid granthas of YaamunaOnce an arrogant vidwAn by name Akkiyalvan was challenging and humiliating
learned men. Yamuna (as a 16 year old boy) accepted the challenge and went
to the court to argue with him. The queen was so impressed with the boy
that she told the king and pursuaded him to give away half the kingdom if
he won in the debate and offered herself to be thrown to wild dogs, if the
boy failed. Akkiyalvan asked the boy to state three propositions positive
or negative which he offered to counter. And, if he could not, the boy
would be declared the winner.Yamuna asked (or stated) three statements. He asked Akkialwan to counter.( i ) Your mother is not a barren woman- Naturally he could not counter
saying that his mother is a barren woman (he is very much standing in front
of Yamunacharya).( ii ) The king is a righteous and powerful ruler – Obviusoly he can not
afford to conuter this.
and ( iii ) The queen is a model of chastity. – oh no! Never can he counter
this.Akkialvan accepted defeat and the King now asked Yamuna to disprove his own
statements.Yamuna clarified by observing the following:-( i ) The sacred laws say that an only son is no son at all. So,
Akkiyalvan’s mother was as good as barren in the eyes of the law.
( ii ) The king cannot be called righteous when he entertained such an
arrogant person to be his chaplain and his not dismissing the chaplain
showed that the king was indeed powerless.
( iii ) According to the Sruti texts, every woman is wedded first to Soma,
then Gandharva and then Agni before marrying her earthly partner. The queen
was no exception and therefore cannot be deemed a model of chastity.(This is only to drive home a point that logic can not be the solution
fully. One needs to fall back on Saasthras and Sruthi/Smrthis for
The King sent Akkiyalvan out of his kingdom and gave Yamuna half his
kingdom. The queen hailed the boy as “Alavandhaar”- One who came to
me..Thus, Alavandar has become the king and could not attend to spiritual
pursuits further.Meanwhile, Rama Misra (maNakkaal nambhi) was trying to catch Yamunacharya’s
attention to fulfil his promise to his Guru to install Alavandar as the
spiritual successor to Nathamuni.. But, he could not meet Alavandar, being
a king now to discuss the matter. He came out with an idea. He came to know
that the king relishes thoodhu vaLai keerai (kind of spinach). He supplied
that spinach to the royal kitchen daily. After few months, he stopped. The
king asked the cook as to why the spinach is not being served. They replied
saying “one brahmin used to supply. He does not come nowadys.”
told them that he would like to meet him, if he comes next. Next day, they
met each other.Rama misrar told Alavandhar that his grandfather Sri Nathamuni had passed
on the family wealth (kula dhanam) that needs to be handed over to Sri
Alavandhar. Alavandhar said, “in that case, give me that.”
“No. It is not here. Come with me.”. He took him all the way to
Koil. (ArAdha aruLamudham podhintha kOil). He showed Alavandhar, the Divya
mangaLa vigraham of Sri Ranganathan. Looking at the Lord, in such divine
splendour, the divine beauty- and looking (with tears rolling down his
cheeks) at those “kariyavaagi, pudai parandhu, miLirndha, sevvariyOdiya,
neeNda, ap periya vaaya kaNgaL..” (those dark, well spread, shining, ruddy
lined, long, large eyes)-He bursts out:
I have nothing to give you. None at all. I have no quailifications. I am
not religious. What a Great person my Grand Father was! What am I! I have
no one but You(the embodiment of mercy! Compassion!- dayA) as my refuge. He
performed Saranagathy at the Lotus Feet of Lord Ranganathan.na dharma nishtOsmi na chaatma vEdi
na bhaktimaan tvaccharaNAravindE
tvat paadamoolam saranam prapadye. (Sthothra Rathnam- 22nd sloka)
Oh you worthy of being sought as refuge! I am not one established in
Dharma, nor am i a knower of the self. I have no fervent devotion to your
lotus-feet. Utterly destitute as I am, and having none else for resort, I
take refuge under your feet. (Translation by Swamy Adidevananda)
Rama Misra explained the purpose of his mission and requested Alavandar to
take over the reins of spiritual leadership bequeathed to him by his
illustrious grandfather, Nathamuni. Alavandar took to Sannyas and was then
known as YAMUNA MUNI.
Sri Alavandhar’s naichyAnusanthAnam (feeling lowly nature of oneself- the
jIvAthma as compared to the Lord’s Greatness, KalyANa guNAs) is very
beautifully reflected in SthOthra Rathnam (total 65 slokas in this work-
reported to be an elaborate refelction of Dwayam). They are more
appropriate and applicable to us (and not Sri Alavandhar). He has composed
for us only.
agatim saran’aagatam hare!
krpayaa kevalam aatmasaat kuru.
Oh SrI Hari! pray, make me your own out of sheer grace – me, who has fallen
into the depths of the terrible ocean of worldly existence, and who, being
resortless, have sought refuge at your feet.
amaryAdha: Kshudra: chalamadhi: asUyAprasavabhU:
kruthagnO dhurmAni smara paravasO vanchanapara:
nrusamsa: pApishta: kathamahamithO dukkajaladhE :
apArAth uttheerNa: tava paricharEyam charanayO :
What a soul stirring sloka! One can not but cry reciting this, (imagining
himself as the hero:-( of the sloka)
AlavandhAr describes himself as:
amaryAdha: – one who has crossed the bounds of established rules
Kshudra: – engaging in trivial /worldly /material/sensual pursuits
chalamadhi:- never steady; (chanchalam), fickle mind
asUyA prasava bhU : Place where jealousy is born
kruthagana: Ungrateful one
dhurmAnee:- ill feelings towards fellow human beings;
smara paravasa : Fallen into the gamut of desires and sensual impluses
vanchanapara: skillfully deceiving others (at cheating others )
nrusamsa: – engaging in violent acts
paapishta: ( Incorrigible sinner – mahA paapi
Swamy Desikan says- ahamasmi aparAdha chakravartthi. (also meant for us).
Swamy desikan also writes in Subashithanivi:
I bow with mind, speech and body to that great Lord, who is the best among
all persons, who approaches others of His own accord without waiting for
them to take the initiative because of His innate goodness and agreeable
nature, as also to myself who is chief among the wicked and who harms
others without reason, there being one thing in common to us both, viz.,
that the good or evil done to us once has the effect of wiping off all the
good and or evil done before. If what God, in His wisdom, thinks is good,
though not really good, has been done to Him even once by a person, all the
wrongs committed by him earlier is forgiven by Him. Therefore, I bow to
Him. In my case, if once what I consider wrong, which may not really be so,
is done to me by someone, all the good done by him to me till then is
completely forgotten by me. Fie upon me! Ingratitude-being the basest of
vices, it has been mentioned at the very beginning. (Translation by Sri L
Srinivasan, New Delhi)
What a naicchiyAnusanthAnam!
Swamy Alavandhaar’s works are the ones which give us crystal clear jnAnam
about our unparalleled unambiguous VisishtAdvaita Srivaishnava philosophy,
the presence of which can never take us to the wrong roads.
After taking so many countless births, We, (dAsars (servants) of Sri
Alavandhar), who have been blessed to be born (due to the limitless,
unconditional grace of the Lord Sriya: Pathi Sriman Narayanan) as
Srivaishnava in this birth, and have realized and taken up the prapatti
maargam (due to the nirhEthuka krupA of the Lord), who are bequeathed with
such Great Acharyan ? YamunAchAryan, the learning of whose SrI sookthis
enable us to know the tatvatrayam crystal clear and upAyam and upEyam
(means and goal) perfectly, and keep us reminded of the same always, will
never ever read (hereafter) works of those who belong to other religions. ?
Says Swamy Desikan in Adhikaara sangraham.
neeLa vandhu inRu vidhivagaiyaal ninaivonRiya naam/
meeLavandhu innum vinai udambu onRil vizhundhu uzhalaa(dhu)
ALavandhaar ena venRu aruL thandhu viLangiya seer/
Alavandhaar adiyOm padiyOm ini alvazhakkE.
Alavandhaar ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam
AzhwAr Emperumaanaar Desikan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam
aDiyEn Narayana dAsan madhavakkannan
From: Madhavakkannan V <email@example.com>
vAsudeva: sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabha:
Srimad Bhagwad GitA 7:19It is yet another ArdrA asterism in chaitrAmAsam. The day which marked the advent of rAmAnujA, fondly known as Udaiyavar, bhAshyakArar and EmperumAnAr in the SriVaishNavA sampradAyam. As someone who enjoys referring to oneself as a rAmAnujadAsan, I would like to use this occasion to explore rAmAnujA from what I believe will be, a novel and more progressive perspective.
This will not be an ordered biography of the saint. I will not make emotional claims about his sanctity or the veracity of supernatural events associated with his life. Instead, I will analyse rAmAnujA’s life in brief paragraphs, in an attempt to obtain nuggets of valuable insights into the thoughts and ideas which made him the greatest philosopher who ever lived in the subcontinent (oh yeah…those who disagree are welcome to treat themselves to some eggless cake).Let us now look at rAmAnujA as I know him, the human being who rose above the limitations of his times, to become an icon of harmony, divine love, honest asceticism, energetic scholarship and above all, genuine compassion.Intellectual Integrity BrAhmaNAs were supposed to live a frugal life. The original idea behind this seems to have been the need to preserve the freedom of the intellectual or the learned person. If learning and knowledge are sold to the highest bidder, then there results a gradual decline in the intellectual capital of a society. In our world, the torchbearers of humanity are scientists and thinkers. It is important that they be allowed to explore uncharted waters in the pursuit of knowledge.The freedom of the individual is no less sacred than the freedom of the intellectual. I can see objections being raised by some people on the grounds that all selves are essentially ‘paratanrAs’ of the Lord. Acknowledging this does not obviate the need for individual freedom as far as I can see. I think it is perfectly possible to maintain one’s personal freedom while being completely resigned unto the Lord.
Why do I bring this up here?
There is a simple reason. rAmAnujA was clearly intellectually upright. He did not modify his views to please yAdavaprakASA. He did not hesitate to pursue his ideas to their logical conclusions. He did not pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by resorting to polished sophistry. Given the fact that the Vedic Corpus is full of seemingly contradictory passages, it was no mean task to distil a consistent philosophical position from it, without resorting to interpretative high-handedness (which one sees every so often in the writings of modern pseudo-philosophers who love to appropriate the Vedic label).
I must mention here, that the tattvavAdins who follow madhwA, though often accused of denying a place for abheda shruthis, must not be accused thus, because they have formulated and maintain a consistent position that there are no abehda shrutis whatsoever. This is different from SankarA’s unjustifiable elevation of abehda shrutis to a state of greater authoritativeness.
Coming back to rAmAnujA, he did face the daunting task of going through all these texts which seemed to disagree with each other. rAmAnujA claims, and his followers maintain, that his ideas are not revolutionary, and that they come from the vedAntA as taught by TankA, dramidA etc. This was just a commonly used technique to assert one’s position without losing one’s face in front of the orthodox scholars in India. I am willing to break with time honoured tradition, and assert that rAmAnujA , being the genius that he was, single-handedly harmonised the conflicting texts of the VedAs and synthesised what came to be known as VisishtAdwaitA.
If we truly respect him, we ought to acknowledge the fact that he was a true luminary in the field of philosophy and not a blessed parrot who repeated things which were once uttered by sages of yore. Credit must be give where credit is due. Otherwise it will be a serious lapse on our part.Choices and DecisionsvyavasAyAtmikA buddhir ekeha kurunandana
bahushAkA hyanantAscha buddhayo(a)vyavasAyinAm
Srimad Bhagwad GitA 2:41Life is an endless series of decisions. Indeed, we are decision making machines. Even emotions which we regard as human and special are factors which affect our ability to take judgment calls when making important decisions.
How does rAmAnujA fare in this department?
Exceptionally well if you ask me!
rAmAnujA’s first emotional crisis, as far as I can see from accounts of his life, was caused by being wedded to someone who was not his equal. I hasten to clarify my use of the term’ equal’ here. rAmAnujA’s wife did not see eye to eye with him on several issues. Given the fact that they lived in an age which had lesser regard for the rights of women than the present one in which we live, it is quite surprising that she got away with being rude to people who were deeply venerated by rAmAnujA. She seems to have exercised her judgement freely on more than one occasion, to thwart her husband’s wishes, as they conflicted with her own notions of social superiority. In life, relationships with other human beings can be of two kinds. To one who is endowed with the right knowledge, all relationships are oblations which are poured into the yagnA known as life. To most people, relationships imply being ‘bound’ to someone or the other. Hence the term ‘bandham’.
One of steady wisdom knows that none save the Lord is one’s own. Such an individual will not allow themselves to be bound by those who know nothing but bondage. rAmAnujA was one of steady wisdom indeed. He realised that he needed to be truly free from the psychosocial aspects of the human condition, to achieve all that he had the potential to achieve.
He decided to renounce all ties, not to run away from life, but to be active and productive to the best of his abilities.
One thing which does catch the attention of even an admirer such as myself, is the fact that he sent away his wife by means of a ruse and then proceeded to renounce worldly life. History does not give us RakshakAmbAL’s side of the story in great detail, and we have no means of knowing whether she had a different opinion on what was happening in her personal life (well, in case you haven’t given a thought to it, women are not subtexts in a male-centric narrative and they do have personal lives and worldviews). However, given the times in which they lived and the social conditions, rAmAnujA’s decision is understandable.
Is there any lesson for us laypeople in this episode? Yes indeed. One must not entertain relationships which have the potential to degenerate into bondage. To those who say that all relationships are reducible to bondage, I simply ask to be shown proof of this notion. More importantly, the moral aspect of it is very interesting. Had rAmAnujA remained married and had somehow kept himself within the confines of a family, he may never have become the great luminary he was to become. He may have been one other scholar who lived and died in times of yore. However, by choosing to adopt a harsh decision which would certainly have hurt his wife’s feelings, he let loose his potential for all to behold and wonder at. The number of people who benefited by his act of renunciation are too many to account for, but to do good to so many people, he had to do something which must have been unpleasant for at least one person.
Such moral decisions are always staring at us in the face, and we need to have the courage to choose our own paths. A path once chosen, must never be given up for another just because it is not easy to journey on. It goes without saying that whatever we choose to do, as vedAntins and legatees of rAmAnujA, we ought to live and work in the spirit of renunciation.Perseverance Pays
rAmAnujA was renowned for his perseverance. Very few people appreciate this aspect of his life. He reached Kashmir on foot, from Tamil Nadu, twice. He made eighteen trips to learn the import of the ashtAksharam from GoshtipUrNA. Pious tradition records that he performed his sandhyA-vandhanam everyday right up to the time of his demise. Will we lose anything if we tried to model our personal discipline on his?
Do hardships and inconveniences matter when we are engaged in the supremely interesting endeavour of finding Sriman nArAyaNA in everything that we experience?
What have we done? We have made it impossible for the common man to emulate rAmAnujA. The Sovereign among Ascetics, was indeed unique and extraordinary in many ways. His life, however, was constrained by his humanity. In principle, his noble qualities can be appreciated and practiced by all human beings who care to do so. Once again, I must mention clearly, that I am not trivialising rAmAnujA or his accomplishments. I just do not wish to kill his spirit by making him inaccessible to myself and to others. I do not know whether he would prefer people reading and analysing his arguments in the SribAshyam, vedAntasArA etc, or offering special prayers on his birth asterism to fulfil their desires! Knowing what little I do of the great man, I can only say that I think he would prefer the former.
Do we need to do things like trekking to Kashmir or seeking the import of rahasya-mantrAs? No! It must be fairly obvious to all readers that I am hoping to revive the ‘rAmAnujA spirit’, not to clone the great saint.Never Abandon WorkSahajam karma Kaunteya sadosham api na tyajAet
sarvArambhA hy doshena dhUmaenAgniravAvrtA:
Srimad Bhagwad GitA 18:48The Lord of the gitA counsels again and again, that the abandonment of work is not a sane thing to do. If one looks at rAmAnujA’s interpretation of the gitA, we find that he treats the term ‘karma’ to mean ‘prescribed/ordained/permitted duties’. He retains the framework of the four-fold social order and advocates the efficacy of performing one’s ordained duties according to one’s station in life. In stark contrast, you find him taking up the role of a leader (of the SriVaishNavA community), an administrator (when he regularised the conduct of temple affairs in the Periya Kovil,), and a negotiator (when he obtained the Utsavar of SelvaPiLLai from the thurushka ruler).
Did our illustrious preceptor adopt double standards? I see no reason to take such a distasteful view.
His writings were for a scholarly, orthodox, insular audience. Hence he restricted his interpretations to those which would make sense given the social conditons that prevailed. There is a clear indication in his actions, though, that he enjoyed playing various roles in his lifetime, and did a wonderful job no matter what he had to do. In rAmAnujA, one finds a willingness to accept uncertain situations and to think on one’s feet. He worked tirelessly, and without any desire to amass personal glory or wealth. Anyone who has even skimmed through the first adhikaraNam of the SribAshyam will know that the man who thought it up was lacking neither in energy nor in perspicacity. If we do not use our lives to work and remain active, what do we achieve by calling ourselves followers of rAmAnujA? KrishnA (another rAmAnujA if you know what I mean…), advises Arjuna to work at all times, renouncing attachment to fruits, the sense of agency and the notion of being a possessor. Isn’t this a simple prescription? Is it too hard to renounce everything unto the Lord, and still act as motivated, active human beings who are concerned about the welfare of not only humanity, but also the world that we live in?
Did Udaiyavar shy away from making the most extraordinary of efforts to locate reference material for his magnum opus (I refer to the BodhAyana vritti)? Did he stop serving the Lord of SriRangam when his body started showing signs of old age? Did he ever give up and throw his arms up in the air in despair without pushing himself hard? The answer to all these questions must be in the negative, for otherwise it could only mean that the one giving the answers doesn’t know rAmAnujA well enough.Innovation, Education, Emancipation
“nAnya panthA vidyate(a)yanAya!”
Purusha sUktamWas rAmAnujA an innovator? ‘Ooooh…we can’t say that, as it would imply that he did something new. Doing something new is not permissible under a timeless tradition.’ What rot?
After the arguments of the ekAyanA’s and the sAktAs, each claiming supremacy for the masculine and feminine aspects of the divine respectively, rAmAnujA’s model of the Divine as a loving couple existing in blissful harmony comes as a refreshing surprise. Indeed, there is a needless dichotomy within the SriVaishNavA sampradAyam and one of the bones of contention is the status of SrI. I personally find it unacceptable to relegate the Divine Mother to a lesser position just on the grounds of her femininity. This smacks of regressive attitudes one can clearly show as having been handed down to us over the centuries. Needless to say, I am risking a digression and will not give in to the temptation to rant on these things at present.
rAmAnujA harmonised the texts of the VedAs, finding a defensible and organise worldview from a bunch of texts which seemed to be saying all sorts of things about the same thing. That, dear readers, is the work of a master innovator. Sure, BodhAyanA, TankA, et al must have had views which resonate with rAmAnujA’s position. However, they do not find mention in history in the same way as rAmAnujA does. Surely there was something unique about his work which made it stand apart.
Was rAmAnujA an educator?
In a sense he was. He did try to take his message across to people and to train disciples who could not only chant his name (as all disciples of all spiritual teachers do), but also state and defend (almost always successfully) his substantive theses in debates.
Did he emancipate anyone?
I cannot answer this with force, as I am not in possession of actual facts concerning his efforts to integrate hitherto marginalised sections of society with the religious mainstream. However, the presence of multiple accounts of such activities seem to suggest that he did have a heart that was large enough to see all beings as nArAyaNA’s children, and to realise that the world of beings and matter (it may well turn out to be the case that beings are made up of matter) as the body of the Lord. Indeed, can we look down upon anyone if we believe that the universe itself is God, for the Divine is both the upAdana and Nimitta kAraNAs of the cosmos? Can we resort to violence if we love the Lord who resides in everything, every moment and every word?
rAmAnujA, I assert, was not only the greatest orthodox philosopher ever produced by India, but also a human being endowed with compassion, sagacity and vitality. As people who uphold his tradition, we have a duty to respect his achievements AND, take things to the next level in terms of philosophical/intellectual evolution. Stagnant water breeds malaise. rAmAnujA would surely be hurt were he to see the tradition he tended to with loving care, remain stagnant and barely alive. Please do not be offended. Offering worship in temples and conducting temple festivals will not keep the tradition alive. At least not in the sense that I have in mind. Building on rAmAnujA’s priceless legacy and taking the practice of vedAntA seriously are but two steps we can take in what I believe to be the right direction. Is it okay if we just take his name, perform prapatti and have sweets on special occasion? I don’t think so. Each and every individual must work and do her/his bit for the world and for humanity. rAmAnujA stands tall as an exemplar in this regard. We must take our inspiration from him and march cheerfully towards the future. Just as the Purusha sUktam declares, ‘I know of no other way’.I do not feel small or mean as I look at the image of our preceptor. I feel proud to be heir to his ideas. I feel happy to know that I can learn from him and chart my own course in life. I say with sincerity, but not meaningless servility, ADIYAEN RAMANUJADASAN.SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!