Continuing with Swami Desikan’s pasuram, “ennuyir tandu aLittavarai”, we are impressed with the distinguished author’s apparently boundless bhakti and admiration for Sri Ramanuja.
“pin aruLAl Perumboodur vanda vaLLal” says Tooppul Pillai, referring with devotion to Sri EmperumAnAr. Each word of this line is worth its weight in gold, as it illuminates one aspect of the multi-faceted personality that was Sri Bhashyakara.
Swami Desikan would appear to divide the Guruparampara into two broad categories- the Acharyas before Sri Ramanuja and those after him. Immediately after paying obeisance to one’s own Acharya and the ones before him, Swami Desikan says one should remember with reverence and gratitude the Great Acharya who re-established VisishtAdvaita siddhAnta on unshakeable foundations, through such monumental works as the Sri Bhashya. Swami Desikan is of the firm opinion that if the Guruparampara were to be likened to a magnificent necklace, then Sri Bhashyakara would be its splendorous centrepiece, adding glamour to both sides of the necklace (“mahatI gurupankti hAra yashti YatirAjEna nibaddha nAyaka shree:”).
Just as the Acharyas after Sri Ramanuja attained glory due to association with his tiruvadi, the pre-eminence of the Acharyas before him was also multiplied manifold due to their association with his tirumudi (head).
“aruLAl” vanda vaLLal- Sri Ramanuja came to this world with the sole aim of emancipating jeevas like us, who wouldn.t listen to words of wisdom even if the Lord Himself were to appear before us and preach-
(“engaL MadhavanE kaNNura nirkilum kANagillA ulagOrgaL, எங்கள் மாதவனே. கண்ணுற நிற்கிலும் காணகில்லா உலகோர்கள்”- Sri Ramanuja NootrandAdi).
Thus the only motive behind this avatAra was kripa or aruL. Whereas the Acharyas before EmperumAnAr limited their teachings to those near and dear to them, and in any case only to the chosen few, it was Sri Bhashyakara who opened the floodgates of the Sampradaya to one and all, irrespective of caste, creed or community, by propagating the Prapatti mArga, which does not prescribe any eligibility criteria. Hence the title “KripA mAtra prasanna Acharya” fits Sri Ramanuja to a T. And in so doing, he was motivated not by considerations of the popular acclaim he would gain or the resultant power or riches, but solely by unfathomable mercy for the countless millions securely bound by the coils of samsAra and knowing not the means for redemption there from. Swami Desikan is so impressed by Sri Ramanuja’s kripa, that he compares it to the Ganga in its breadth, depth and purifying qualities-“Yatipati dayA divya thatinI”.
“aruLAl vanda vaLLal”
The word “vanda” is extremely significant. Even though the words “Perumboodur piranda vaLlal” could have been used, the usage of “vanda” denotes that the birth of Sri Ramanuja was no accidental, uncontrolled happening, but one planned and decided well in advance. While jeevas like us have little control over when, how, where and in what form we would be born next, Emperuman and nitya sUrIs, who enjoy absolute independence, decide the place, time and other aspects of their avatArA. Thus we have Sri Rama choosing Sri Dasarata as His father-
“pitaram rOchayAmAsa vriddham Dasaratam nripam”.
Similarly, Sri Ramanuja, who was but an avatara of Sri Adisesha, too chose SriPerumboodur as his avatAra stthala. The choice of Sriman MahAbhootapuri as birthplace, Sri Kesava Somayaji as father and Sri Kantimati as mother, were all decided in advance to give Sri Ramanuja the advantages of location and background. Further, Swami Desikan calls Sri Ramanuja’s avatAra the result of the combined merit and prayer of the three worlds, (“trijagat puNya phalam”) for, had this avatara not happened, the world would still be clouded by ignorance and groping for a way out of the debilitating samsAra.
“Perumboodur vanda vaLLal” – vaLLal is a philanthropist with boundless munificence. Tamil literature lists seven great vaLLals- Kari, PAri, Began, etc. KarNA too qualified as a vaLLal. However, all these philanthropists satisfied only one aspect of the requirements of the needy- they gave away money and riches, which could buy food, clothing, shelter, and other objects of material pleasure. The one thing they could not give was happiness, that is, lasting happiness. Ephemeral happiness could be acquired through spending money, but not everlasting bliss. Sri Ramanuja was the rare philanthropist who gave away bliss, not merely happiness, and that too, perennial, everlasting, uninterrupted bliss, in the company of the best of the Lord.s devotees, at that abode of all happiness, Sri Vaikuntam. That all mortals who came into contact with the Prince of Saints were emancipated through hard-to-earn knowledge and were assured of heavenly bliss, is pointed out by Sri AmudanAr thus- “aNNal IrAmAnusan vandu tOndriya appouzhudE naNNarum gnAnam talai koNdu NaraNarku AhyinarE”.
Sri Ramanuja.s munificence does not stop with mere mortals: it extends to the Lord Himself. When there was a dispute as to the identity of the Lord of the Seven Hills, it was Sri Ramanuja who bestowed Him with the Shankha and Chakra, thus conclusively establishing Him to be Sria:pati.
Just as Sri Nammazhwar calls Emperuman “vaLLal”(“vaLLalE, Madhusoodana, en maradaga malayE”, “vaLLal Manivannan tannai kavi solla vamminO” etc.), Swami Desikan applies the sobriquet to Sri Bhashyakara, overwhelmed by the latter.s generosity in parting with the esoteric secrets of the Sampradaya , so that even the common man could start thinking of attaining liberation, hitherto beyond the reach of all but the chosen few, by adopting Prapatti.
Sri Amudanar addresses Sri Ramanuja in a similar vein- “Kozhundu vittu Ongia un vaLLal tanattinAl valvinayEn manam nee pugundAi”.
Amudanar also lists the multifarious benefits that Sri Ramanuja’s munificence bestows on those who come to him-
“porundiya tEsum porayum tiralum pugazhum-nalla
tirundiya gnAnamum selvamum serum- seru kaliyAl
varundiya gyAlatthai vaNmayinAl vandu edutthu aLittha
arunthavan- engaL IrmAnusanai adaindavarkkE
பொருந்திய தேசும் பொறையும் திறலும் புகழும் நல்ல
திருந்திய ஞானமும் செல்வமும் சேரும் செறு கலியால்
வருந்திய ஞாலத்தை வண்மையினால் வந்து எடுத்து அளித்த
அரும் தவன் எங்கள் இராமானுசனை அடைபவர்க்கே “.
to be continued…
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore