The Divine Disciple

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SrI Rama in Gurukulam

Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

Shastras speak volumes about the Lord being our Prime Preceptor. He is our first and foremost Acharya, and is at the head of the Guruparampara (‘LakshmInAtha samArambhAm’). ‘Peetaka Adai PirAnAr pirama guru Agi vandu’ says Sri Periazwar, acknowledging Emperuman’s invaluable contribution as an Acharya. He also takes birth in this mundane world, and guides mortals out of the morass of sin and ignorance, with the light of Scriptural knowledge.

‘SAkshAth NarayanO dEva: kritva martyamayeem tanoommagnAn uddharatE lOkAn kAruNyAt shAstra pANinA’. Thus the role of the Lord as an Acharya par excellence is well known. What adiyen would like to mention in this piece is about the few roles He has played as a disciple. Normally, a person in authority, used to commanding others, does not make a good disciple, for he knows not how to obey his Master. What is the record of the Lord in this regard.

In Sri Ramavatara, the Lord takes on the character of an ideal human being, and all the roles He plays (that of obedient son, faithful and protective husband, loving brother, a King whose sole care was His subjects’ welfare, etc.) set out models of how human relationships should be. Therefore it is no surprise that when it comes to being a disciple, He excels there too.

SrI Rama in Gurukulam

Though a person might have several acharias, his father is the first Acharya, by virtue of ‘BrahmOpadEsam’ or upadEsa of the Gayatri mantra at the time of his upanayanam. To Sri Rama too, Sri Dasarata must have been his prime Acharya. And Sri Rama’s obedience to His first Acharya is legendary. All of us are fond of expecting implicit obedience from our children: Alas, most of us never have a taste of it. In Sri Dasarata’s case, however, Sri Rama was all that he could have expected in a son, and much more too. Sri Rama never waited for His Acharya’s spoken command, but used to read His father’s wishes from the minutest of gestures, and carry them out instantly (‘Pitru sushrooshaNE rata:’).

Sri Raghava’s unresisting departure to the forest for a long sojourn of 14 years, especially on the eve of His coronation, is a case in point. The moment He is given this news of Sri Dasarata’s wish by KaikEyi, He immediately makes arrangements for leaving Ayodhya, without even verifying independently whether His father had indeed wished so. In fact, He remonstrates with KaikEyi for saying ‘Your father wants this’. Addressing Kaikeyi, Sri Rama continues, ‘Would I not carry out your wishes ? Do you have to say that father said this ? I am indeed pained at your lack of confidence in me. After all, who is inheriting the mantle ? It is my beloved Bharata’. (In the immortal words of KambanAttAzhwan, ‘Mannavan paNi endrAgil numpaNi maruppEnO’, ‘ILayanan petra selvam adiyEn petraduandrO’). Confirming Sri RaghuveerA’s unprotesting adherence to His Acharya’s wishes, Sri Valmiki says ‘Pitur vachana nirdEsAt na icchat rAjyam mahAbala:’

Prior to this too, Sri Rama displays endearing qualities of the Model Disciple. Despite His station in life, that of the Heir apparent to Sri Dasarata’s vast empire, Sri Rama is all humility and obedience when it comes to interacting with Acharyas. With all meekness, He puts not only Himself but his brother too completely at the disposal of Sri Visvamitra, with whom He is sent for YAga SamrakshaNam. Sri Chakravartthi Tirumagan says ‘imou sma muni shArdoolakinkarou samupastthitou’. The wor d ‘Kinkarou’ speaks volumes, for Sri Rama puts Himself at the beck and call of Sri Visvamitra, much in the fashion of a lowly servant. This act is magnificent indeed, considering that the speaker is none other than the Paramapurusha, on whom the entire Universe depends for its subsistence. A moving display of Acharya bhakti indeed!

We turn next to the KrishnAvatAra, to scrutinise the Lord’s attitude towards His Gurus. Nobody would expect in Sri Krishna the model conduct we see in Sri Rama. In fact, some of the sobriquets He earned during the KrishnAvatAra are indeed unflattering – ‘Dharumam ariyA kurumban’, ‘Puram pOluLLum kariyAn’ etc.

However, we are surprised to see that whatever be His attitude towards others, Sri Krishna displays a perfectly obedient demeanour towards His Acharya. He spends several years in the Gurukula of Acharya Sandeepini, learning the Vedas. This looks paradoxical, for the Lord is verily the essence of all Vedic knowledge, as He Himself declares to Arjuna later (‘Vedaischa sarvam ahamEva vEdya:’). Thus the ultimate undergoes instruction at the feet of an Acharya, perhaps indicating to us mortals how knowledge should be acquired.

And at the end of the period of instruction, it is customary to offer the Acharya Guru dakshina, as a token of one’s gratitude for the wisdom imparted. ‘Token’ is the operative word, for, even the Lord would not be able to adequately recompense the Acharya for his immeasurable contribution (‘Etri ezhil viLakkai manatthu oru kaimmAru Mayanum kANagillAn’ says Swami Desikan).

Sri Krishna too offers plentiful wealth to His Guru at the end of His studies. However, the Acharya is unsatisfied with the bounty offered, but requires his son, long dead and gone, swallowed by the ocean, to be brought back to life. A tall order indeed, for who can rejuvenate the departed? Further, even if it is possible, would it not be against the laws of Nature for the dead to be brought back to life? Here, Sri Krishna, torn between preserving the balance of nature and satisfying His Guru’s wishes, chooses the latter, in a scintillating display of Acharyabhakti. For, doesn’t the Upanishad say ‘AchAryAyapriyam dhanam Ahritya’ (Give unto the Acharya what is dear to his heart).

Hence, obediently, the Lord brings back the Acharyaputra and is thrilled at the Acharya’s delight. It is said that only he can command, who knows how to obey. Thus every Acharya should have been an obedient disciple, if he were to command respect later as an Acharya. Perhaps it is to emphasize this concept that the Lord, whenever the circumstances warrant, displays the qualities of the Dutiful Disciple.

Srimate Sri LakshmINrsimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya Nama:

Soruce:  Sadagopan Swami

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