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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 2

YADAVAPRAKASA'S PLOT

Actually, Yadavaprakasa was very envious of Rāmānuja, seeing in him both a purer heart and a greater intellect than his own.

One day, therefore, he called all his other students to a secret meeting. There he addressed them:

"My dear children, none of you has ever found fault with my teachings, but this impudent Rāmānuja has repeatedly challenged my explanations.

He may be an intelligent boy, but all his ideas are based on the false doctrine of dualism, seeing a difference between the self and God. He is a complete heretic who will cause havoc in society through his teachings. We must find some way to be rid of him."

"Sir, surely you could just forbid him from coming to the school," suggested one student.

"But then our master's worst fears would be realized," responded another, "for he would open his own school and go on propagating his falsehoods all the more.

Already he has written a commentary on the mantra: satyam jñānam anantam brahma, which contradicts everything we have learned from our teacher."

This was true, for Rāmānuja had effectively refuted Śankara’s explanations: and his writing had been widely read and appreciated by Vaiṣṇavas in south India, including Yamunacharya at Rangaksetra.

After discussing the matter for some time, they all agreed the only way to stop Rāmānuja was to kill him. They then began to consider how this could be done secretly without anyone discovering their crime.

Eventually Yadavaprakasa made a proposal:

"Let us all go on pilgrimage to bathe in the Ganges. On the way there are many remote areas, where we can put an end to this heretic without anyone knowing anything about it.

By bathing in the sacred Ganges we will free ourselves from the sin of killing a brāhmaṇa and when we return we will simply say he felt sick and died on the journey."

All the disciples readily accepted their teacher's suggestion and set out to induce Rāmānuja to accompany them on their journey. Rāmānuja was delighted at the idea of bathing in the Ganges and happily accepted their invitation.

Govinda, Rāmānuja's cousin, was living with his aunt in Kānchīpuram at this time, and he also studied at the school of Yadavaprakasa. When Rāmānuja announced that he was going on pilgrimage to North India, Govinda immediately decided to go with his beloved friend and relative.

DANGER IN THE FOREST

Kantimati was unhappy at the prospect of being separated from her son for so many months, but, understanding the meritorious nature of such a venture, she gave him her permission to go.

So it was that, at an auspicious moment, the band of disciples, headed by Yadavaprakasa, started out on the pilgrimage.

After a few days traveling they came to a desolate region near the Vindhya Hills. Yadavaprakasa considered that this would be a suitable place to put his evil plan into operation, and he told his disciples to prepare themselves.

However, while they were discussing the final preparations, Govinda was in the forest nearby, and he heard everything they said. As soon as he had the opportunity, he informed Rāmānuja of the great danger he was in.

When he understood the wicked intentions of his teacher and fellow students, Rāmānuja left the party and fled into the forest.

When his absence was noticed, Yadavaprakasa sent some of the boys into the forest to search for him, but when no one replied to their calls, they concluded that Rāmānuja must have been killed by some wild beast.

Although secretly very pleased by this apparent turn of events, because of Govinda's presence, they all pretended to be very much aggrieved.

Yadavaprakasa spoke to Govinda, instructing him about the temporary nature of the body and bodily relationships, thus revealing his cunning and treacherous nature.

MEETING WITH THE HUNTER

When Rāmānuja heard from Govinda of the plot that was threatening his life, he was at first stunned and completely bewildered, it was just half an hour before nightfall: he was a young man of only eighteen years, alone and friendless in a land far from his home.

Then suddenly he felt great strength and courage enter his body: "Why should I be afraid?" he considered, "Is Lord Nārāyaṇa not the protector of His devotees? Therefore what have I to fear from the darkness of the forest?"

Thinking like this, he turned his face resolutely towards the south and began walking quickly through the forest. Sometimes he thought he could hear faint voices calling him in the distance, but he never hesitated and continued on his course.

He travelled for most of the night, until eventually, exhausted by hunger and fatigue, he rested beneath a large tree. He awoke the following day, refreshed and vigorous once more. Already it was afternoon, and so he prepared to continue on his journey.

While he was considering which direction he should take, he saw a fowler couple approaching him. The hunter's wife said to him, "Is it because you have lost your way that you are sitting here alone in the forest? You look like the son of a brāhmaṇa. Where is your home?"

"My home is far from here," replied Rāmānuja, "way to the south. Have you heard of a place called Kānchīpuram?"

"How is it that you are so bold as to journey alone through this dense forest, which is infested with robbers and wild animals?" asked the hunter. "I know Kānchīpuram very well, and, as it happens, we are also going in that direction"

Rāmānuja was very surprised to hear this, and so he asked, "Where are you from and for what reason are you going to Kānchī?"

"We are forest dwellers," came the reply, "and live in a small village near the Vindhya Mountains.

Because we have made our livelihood by catching birds, we are now going on pilgrimage to Rāmeśvaram and Kānchīpuram to free ourselves from the reactions to so many sinful activities. It seems that the Supreme Lord, who gives shelter to everyone, has brought you to us for protection."

At first Rāmānuja was a little afraid of the tall, dark-skinned stranger, but there was something about the affection in his face and the sweetness of his words that quickly dispelled all the misgivings from the young brāhmaṇas mind.

As it was by now almost evening time, the fowler said, "Let us go quickly through this forest region, and then we can camp for the night near an underground river that is not too far from here"

They set off at once and about an hour later came to the banks of the river. The fowler collected some pieces of wood and lit a fire. Then he prepared a camp site, so that they could spend the night there.

Just before he fell asleep, Rāmānuja heard the fowler's wife say to her husband, "My dear, I am feeling very thirsty. Can you look for some water for me?"

"Now the night has come," said the fowler, "and it would be foolish to leave the shelter of the firelight. Tomorrow you will be able to quench your thirst with the cool waters of a well that is just near here."

THE LORD PROTECTS HIS DEVOTEE

Early the next morning they rose and continued on their journey.

Soon they came to the well the fowler had spoken of, and Rāmānuja went down the steps to collect water for the wife of the fowler. Three times he brought water to her, but still her thirst was not satisfied.

When he came back for the fourth time, there was no trace of the couple to be seen. They had completely disappeared.

It was only then he realized They were in fact Lakṣmī and Nārāyaṇa, who had taken the forms of a fowler and his wife just to protect Their devotee and guide him through the dangerous forest.

Seeing the towers of temples and a cluster of houses nearby, Rāmānuja asked a passerby, "Sir, what is the name of this town?"

The man looked at him in amazement. "Can't you recognize the reputed city of Kānchīpuram?" he replied. "Why are you speaking like a stranger? I know that you are one of Yadavaprakasa's students, and I have seen you many times in the city."

Saying this the man continued on his way without waiting for a reply.

At first Rāmānuja was taken completely by surprise at this unbelievable news, but gradually he began to realize how Lakṣmīdevi and Lord Nārāyaṇa had bestowed their mercy upon him.

Then his heart became filled with the ecstasy of divine love, and with tears rolling down his cheeks he began to offer prayers:

namo brahmanya-devaya go-brāhmaṇa hitaya ca |
jagad-hitaya Kṛṣṇāya Govindāya namo namaḥ ||

RĀMĀNUJA'S RETURN

For over an hour Rāmānuja remained at the well, rapt in ecstasy, reciting Queen Kunti's prayers from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in glorification of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Eventually three women carrying water pitchers approached the well, and, upon seeing them, Rāmānuja controlled his emotions and proceeded on towards Kānchīpuram.

Ever since her son had set off on the pilgrimage to northern India, Rāmānuja's mother, Kantimati, had been in a state of constant lamentation, shedding tears of separation.

Thus, when he suddenly appeared at the doorway of the house, she could not at first believe it was actually him. Only when he paid obeisances and spoke to her was she fully convinced.

Then she was filled with happiness and began to inquire from him:

"My dear child, how is it that you have returned so soon? Where is Govinda? I thought that it would be at least six months before you returned from your pilgrimage to the holy Ganges"

When the whole story had been related to her, Kantimati was horrified by the evil intentions of Yadavaprakasa, but also delighted to hear of the great mercy the Lord had shown her son.

At that moment Rāmānuja's aunt, Diptimati, the mother of Govinda, came to the house along with Rāmānuja's young wife. They were also overjoyed to see he had returned safely.

They then began to cook offerings for Lord Nārāyaṇa, and, just as they were serving prasādam, Kānchīpurna, who had heard of Rāmānuja's arrival, came there.

The two devotees warmly embraced one another, and Rāmānuja invited Kānchīpurna to take prasādam as their honored guest. That night the feelings of joy in that small house were practically unlimited.