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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 12

THE DEBATE WITH YAJNAMURTI

At that time there lived a great scholar and paṇḍita named Yajnamurti, who by dint of his learning and keen intelligence had become unconquerable in debate.

Although born in south India, he had travelled throughout the northern regions of the country without finding anyone who could rival his abilities in argument.

On returning to south India he heard of the fame of Rāmānujācārya, the renowned Vaiṣṇava who was so expert at refuting impersonalist philosophy. Therefore he hastened to Śrī Rangam, followed by a cart filled with the books he always took with him.

Appearing before Rāmānuja, Yajnamurti immediately challenged him to a debate.

At this Yatiraja merely smiled, saying:

"O Mahatma, what is the value of this mental wrangling? I will accept defeat at your hands, for you are a scholar without second. Victory follows you everywhere."

"If you acknowledge your defeat," rejoiced Yajnamurti, "then you must accept the flawless doctrine of monism and give up forever the false ideas of the Vaiṣṇavas".

Of course this was something that Rāmānuja could never accept, and so he protested:

"It is mayavadis such as yourself who are filled with illusion. According to such speculators all arguments and reasonings of the mind are simply aspects of maya, so how is your own doctrine free from illusion?"

"Whatever exists in time and space is illusion," said Yajnamurti, "and both of these must be transcended before one can reach the real truth. You accept a form of God as truth, but actually all forms are nothing but illusion."

In this way the great debate began and for seventeen days it continued, as neither of the two scholars seemed able to finally defeat the other.

At the end of the seventeenth day, when Yatiraja still found it impossible to nullify all of his opponent's clever arguments and establish the supremacy of Lord Viṣṇu, he felt very disappointed at heart.

Returning to the āśrama that evening, he went before the Deity and began to pray with folded hands:

"O Lord, the truth that is revealed in all the scriptures has become covered by the cloud of mayavada arguments. By cleverly juggling words these impersonalist present arguments which are bewildering even to great mahatmas.

O Supreme One, for how long will You allow Your children to be thus kept from the shade of Your lotus feet?"

When he had finished his prayer, Rāmānuja began to shed tears.

That night the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him, "Do not be anxious. Before long the full glory of devotional service will be revealed to the world through you."

YAJNAMURTI'S CONVERSION

The next morning when he arose and recalled the instructions the Lord had given him in the dream, Yatiraja felt great joy.

When he had finished all his morning duties, he walked over to the monastery where Yajnamurti was staying.

On seeing the blissful effulgence in Rāmānuja's face the impersonalist was completely amazed, thinking to himself:

"Yesterday, Rāmānuja returned to his āśrama greatly disappointed and on the verge of defeat. But today he returns looking like one of the gods. I can see that he is divinely inspired, and thus it is futile to argue with him any longer.

This man has indeed attained full perfection. Anger and pride never approach him, and his face glows with a transcendent beauty. I shall atone for my sinfulness by becoming his disciple and thus destroy the root of my false pride."

Having made this decision, Yajnamurti fell down to offer obeisances to Rāmānuja, who then addressed him:

"O Yajnamurti, such behavior is not proper for a great man like yourself. Why this delay in resuming the debate?"

"O great soul," replied the scholar, "I am no longer the same wrangler who has tried to overcome you with clever arguments for so many days.

I will argue no longer with a pure devotee such as yourself. I stand before you not as a rival, but as your eternal servant. Please fill up my darkened heart with the light of your purity."

Yatiraja was not surprised by the transformation that had taken place in Yajnamurti, for he clearly recalled the words spoken to him by Śrī Devaraja, the Deity installed in the āśrama. He realized that it was only through the mercy of the Lord that the proud paṇḍita had gained the jewel of humility.

Then, speaking in a gentle voice, Rāmānuja said to the scholar:

"May the name of Śrī Devaraja be ever glorified, for his grace can melt even the stones. To give up pride in one's learning is all but impossible for any man, but by His mercy it has been made possible. You are supremely fortunate."

"When I have been given the chance to meet a pure devotee such as yourself, then I am indeed fortunate," said Yajnamurti. "Now please instruct me. Show me how to become a devotee of the Lord."

On receiving this surrender from the famous paṇḍita, Yatiraja at once prepared to initiate him into the Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.

Yajnamurti anointed his body with tilaka and then accepted the symbols of Lord Viṣṇu: the conchshell, disc, club and lotus.

Because he had been delivered by the mercy of Śrī Devaraja, Rāmānujācārya gave Yajnamurti the name Devaraja-muni and instructed him:

"Now that your learning has been freed from the contamination of pride, it can shine forth upon the world. You should engage yourself in writing books which perfectly explain the behaviour and philosophy of the Vaiṣṇavas."

It was in accordance with this order from his guru that Devaraja-muni later wrote two wonderful devotional literatures, Jñana-sāra and Prameya-sāra.

THE HUMILITY OF DEVARAJA-MUNI

A few days later, four intelligent, devoted young men approached Rāmānuja and begged for initiation from him.

When he had heard their request, Yatiraja considered the matter for a little while and then told them:

"Go to Devaraja-muni and become his disciples. He is not only a great paṇḍita, but also a most advanced devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa."

Accepting this order with great respect, the four young men duly became disciples of Devaraja-muni.

That previously arrogant scholar, however, was not at all pleased to find himself in a position where he had to accept worship and veneration from disciples:

 "What a disturbance this is to me," he thought, "I have been endeavouring with all my strength to rid myself of vanity, but now I am forced to become a guru and listen to my praises being sung."

In bewilderment he approached Rāmānuja and humbly submitted, "O master, I am your surrendered servant. Why do you behave so cruelly towards me?

By your grace I have endeavoured to shake off the demon of false pride, so why do you hurl me once more into the arms of vanity by ordering me to become a guru?

I am not detached enough to accept such a position, so please allow me to remain here as your menial servant. For me, to be in such a position would be the supreme perfection."

Highly pleased by his disciple's words, Yatiraja embraced Devaraja-muni and said warmly:

 "I did all this simply to test whether you had truly overcome your pride. Now that you have passed the test, you should remain here with me and Lord Devaraja."

Devaraja-muni was very satisfied to receive this order from his guru. He passed the remaining years of his life absorbed in rendering service to the lotus feet of his spiritual master and Lord Devaraja.