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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 16

INSTRUCTION TO DISCIPLES

Kureśa was one of Rāmānuja's most intimate disciples, always absorbed in thought of how he could assist his guru in his preaching work.

He came from a wealthy brāhmaṇa family of Kuragrahara, a small village near Kānchīpuram. As he was in fact the landowner of the whole area around the village of Kura, he came to be known as Kureśa, the master of Kura.

He married a very qualified girl named Andal, and together they used the immense wealth he had inherited in acts of charity, providing for all the poor people in the area.

He had known Rāmānuja since his boyhood and had always regarded him as a most elevated personality. When Yatiraja adopted the sannyāsa order of life, Kureśa and Andal were among the first to become his disciples.

Kureśa was widely renowned as a great scholar, for whatever he heard, even once, he would remember for all time. It was with his assistance, as we have heard previously, that Yadavaprakasa was defeated and made into a devotee.

From early in the morning until midnight, the gates of Kureśa's house would be open and any poor man who went there would receive gifts in charity.

Once Lakṣmīdevi, the consort of Lord Varadarāja, on hearing the gates of Kureśa's house closing, inquired from her servant Kānchīpurna as to where the sound was coming from.

At that time Kānchīpurna explained to Mother Lakṣmī all about Kureśa's activities:

"From early in the morning until midnight, service is rendered to the poor, the lame and the blind," he told Her.

"Then the gates of the house are closed until the next morning so that Kureśa and his wife Andal may take a little rest. It was the sound of the gates closing that you have just heard."

After hearing this description from Kānchīpurna, Lakṣmīdevi became very anxious to see Kureśa and asked him to bring that devotee to her the next morning.

When Kānchīpurna saw Kureśa early the next day, he informed him of the Goddess of Fortune's wishes.

At this Kureśa appeared astonished and replied:

"Who am I? Nothing but an ungrateful, evil-minded man, while Lakṣmīdevi is the mother of the universe, who is worshipped with great reverence even by Brahma and Śiva.

It is said that a chaṇḍāla may not enter the temple and I, having been polluted by my wealth, am lower than any chaṇḍāla. Therefore how can I present myself before Mother Lakṣmī?"

KUREŚA'S RENUNCIATION

Having spoken in this way, Kureśa returned home and after removing his costly garments and ornaments, he dressed himself in the garb of a mendicant.

Then he approached Kānchīpurna once more:

"O Mahātma," he said, "I cannot disobey the order of the consort of Lord Nārāyaṇa, but it is not possible for me to go before Her at present, polluted as I am by the contaminations of opulence and wealth.

Therefore I will take shelter of Yatiraja, my guru, and purify myself by bathing in the water that has washed his feet. Who knows, if I receive the mercy of great souls such as yourself, then I may be able to see the lotus feet of Mother Lakṣmī even in this life."

So Kureśa set off that same day, walking towards Śrī Rangam, with Andal following behind. She too had abandoned all trace of opulent life, retaining only one gold cup from which to supply water to her husband when he became thirsty.

After travelling for some time, they entered a dark forest and Andal began to be afraid. "My lord," she said to her husband, "is there anything for us to fear in this desolate place?"

"It is only the rich who have cause to be afraid," replied Kureśa. "If you have no money or wealth with you then there is nothing to fear"

On hearing this, Andal immediately threw away the golden cup.

The next day they arrived in Śrī Rangam. When Rāmānuja heard news of this, he sent at once to have them brought to the āśrama. Then, when they had rested and taken prasāda, he arranged accommodation for them in a nearby house.

From that time on Kureśa lived in Śrī Rangam and maintained himself and his wife by begging from door to door.

Although he had been accustomed to living in the most opulent circumstances and was now in a poverty-stricken condition, he considered himself most fortunate, for now he could pass his days in chanting the holy name, discussing the scriptures and serving the feet of his guru.

Andal was also completely satisfied by the position in which she found herself, never once lamenting the wealth they had abandoned.

Whilst staying in Śrī Rangam, Kureśa wrote two books, a commentary on the Sahasra-giti and another work entitled Kureśa-vijaya.

THE PURITY OF KUREŚA'S DEVOTION

Once during the rainy season there was such a torrential storm that Kureśa was unable to go out and beg, and so he and his wife were fasting for the day.

Kureśa was completely undisturbed by hunger, but Andal, who was always absorbed in serving her husband, was very unhappy to see him without food.

Within her mind she began to pray to Lord Ranganātha that He might provide something for His devotee Kureśa.

A short while later there was a knock at the door, and one of the priests from the temple was admitted carrying a plate of mahā-prasāda that he had brought as a gift for them.

When the priest had left, Kureśa inquired from his wife:

"Did you ask Lord Ranganātha to provide for us? Why else would he send such opulent foodstuffs, the taste of which may reawaken our material desires?"

After Andal had sorrowfully confessed what she had done, Kureśa instructed her:

"It is not our business to make the Lord our servant. What has already been done cannot be helped, but please never do such a thing again."

Having said this, he ate a small portion of the mahā-prasāda and asked his wife to honour the rest.

BIRTH OF KUREŚA'S SONS

About a year later Andal gave birth to twin sons.

Yatiraja was delighted to hear of this and sent Govinda to perform the jata-karma, or birth ceremony.

After the ceremony was completed, Govinda whispered two mantras into the ears of both babies – Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa-caranau saranam prapadye , 'I take shelter at the feet of Lord Nārāyaṇa' and Śrimate Nārāyaṇaya namaḥ , ‘I offer my obeisances to Lord Nārāyaṇa'.

As gifts for the children, Rāmānuja had made out of gold the five weapons of Lord Viṣṇu - the conch, disc, club, sword and bow - so that by wearing them the babies might be protected from ghosts and evil spirits.

After six months Yatiraja performed a name- giving ceremony both for Kureśa's twin sons, whom he named Parāśara and Vyāsa, and for the son of Govinda's younger brother, whom he named Parankusa-purna.

When Rāmānuja had stood before the body of Yamunacharya, he had made three vows:

to write a Vaiṣṇava commentary on the Vedanta-sutras, to preach the philosophy of devotional service all over India, and to name one disciple Parāśara, in honour of the speaker of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa.

Now all three of these vows were fulfilled.

PARĀŚARA AND THE PAṆḌITA

From an early age the child Parāśara gave evidence of his genius and extraordinary character.

When he was only five years old, a renowned paṇḍita known as Sarvajñā Bhaṭṭa passed along the road by Kureśa's house, accompanied by many disciples who were beating on drums and proclaiming the glories of the great scholar.

One of the disciples announced, "Here is the unrivalled paṇḍita, Sarvajñā Bhaṭṭa. All those who wish to become his disciples may come to his feet without delay."

On hearing this the child Parāśara approached the paṇḍita, scooping up a handful of dust as he went. Standing before the great scholar, the child addressed him boldly:

"Let me see if you can tell how many grains of dust are in my hand. If you are truly Sarvajñā then you should know everything."

The paṇḍita was very surprised to hear Parāśara's question, but, as he considered the child's words, he began to see clearly the emptiness of his pride and vanity. Taking the young boy on his lap, Sarvajñā kissed him on the forehead and said:

"My child, you are truly my guru. Your question has revealed how foolish I was to be so proud of the little knowledge I have acquired."

Both Parāśara and Vyāsa grew up to be great devotees of Lord Nārāyaṇa, dedicating themselves to the service of Yatiraja.

Following Rāmānuja's instructions, Parāśara later married two daughters from Mahāpūrṇa's family.