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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 21

KUREŚA'S MERCY

After residing for some time at Śrī Rangam, Kureśa, who had been blinded by Koluttunga's men, went with his wife and children to Krsnacala. There he worshipped the Deity known as Śrī Sundara-bhuja and composed many beautiful prayers in glorification of Lord Viṣṇu and Lakṣmīdevi.

When he learned that Yatiraja was now staying at Yadavadri, he went there, desiring to take shelter at the lotus feet of his beloved guru once more.

Coming before Rāmānuja, Kureśa fell at his feet to offer obeisances.

Raising him from the ground and embracing him warmly, Yatiraja said:

"Today I have been purified by the touch of this great soul. This is an auspicious day for me."

Kureśa shed tears of joy and was so overcome by emotion that he could say nothing in reply.

A few days later, while Rāmānuja was talking with Kureśa, he instructed him to go back to Kānchīpuram:

"Go and take shelter of Lord Varadarāja" he told him, "for He will surely remove your blindness. King Koluttunga is now dead, and so there is nothing to fear"

Assisted by his wife and two sons, Kureśa went straight to Kānchīpuram where he engaged in the worship of Śrī Varadarāja. All day he would remain in the temple, constantly reciting bhajans in praise of the Supreme Lord.

Eventually the Lord spoke to him, saying:

"Kureśa, what is your desire? Whatever you want I shall give to you."

Kureśa then replied, "O Lord, my only prayer is that You bestow Your mercy on CaturgRāma and deliver him from material existence"

This prayer wonderfully reveals the true nature of a pure devotee, for it was this CaturgRāma who had caused all of Kureśa's suffering.

Originally one of Kureśa's disciples, he had turned away from his spiritual master and become a minister in the court of King Koluttunga.

When the king was endeavouring to get signatures from various Vaiṣṇavas admitting the supremacy of Lord Śiva, it was CaturgRāma who advised him that the submission of Yatiraja alone would be enough to bring about the conversion of the kingdom.

Thus, although this sinful man had been the cause of so many difficulties for the devotees, still Kureśa prayed that Lord Varadarāja would have mercy upon him.

The Lord accepted this request and Kureśa continued singing His glories.

Again the Lord spoke to His devotee, offering him a benediction.

This time Kureśa said to the Lord, "May King Koluttunga be the object of Your greatest mercy."

When Lord Varadarāja agreed to this, Kureśa was filled with ecstasy and without regard for his own well-being, he left the temple and returned to his āśrama.

KUREŚA AND LORD VARADARĀJA

When Rāmānujācārya, who was still residing in Yadavadri, came to hear about these wonderful benedictions that Kureśa had begged from Lord Varadarāja, he sent a message to his disciple in Kānchīpuram.

In this he said:

"My dear Kureśa, I am very glad to hear of the ecstasy you are feeling from delivering those who have wronged you.

However, in this you have shown great selfishness by keeping the happiness to yourself. Now you must make me happy as well by begging the Lord for the return of your sight.

Do you not know that your body and mind are my property? Thus it is your duty to maintain them on my behalf."

When Kureśa received this message, he felt jubilant at heart, thinking that now Rāmānuja had accepted him as a fully surrendered servant.

Immediately he hastened to the temple and stood before Lord Varadarāja with folded hands. After singing the praises of the Lord for some time, Kureśa heard Lord Varadarāja speak to him once more, saying:

"My dear devotee, what is your desire? Tell Me and I shall fulfill your prayer."

"O most merciful Lord," Kureśa answered, "some time ago I lost two valuable possessions belonging to my master. By your grace I would like to recover them this day" "

Certainly two new eyes will now adorn your body," the Lord said, "and may they bring unlimited pleasure to your master.

Just as My devotees desire only to serve Me, so I take great pleasure in supplying everything to My devotees. In this way our exchanges of love become sweeter and sweeter."

On hearing these words, Kureśa was overwhelmed by ecstasy and fell to the ground unconscious.

On awakening he realized that his vision was restored and that he was able to see as before.

Bowing down before the Deity, he prayed:

"O Lord, it was You who gave me sight in the beginning of my life, it was You who took it away and now it is You alone who have restored it to me.

Who can understand Your inconceivable pastimes? Your nature is pure transcendental bliss, and anybody who comes in contact with You will experience this bliss.

I used to think of this world as a place of misery, but, now that You have revealed Yourself, I see only happiness in all directions. How great is my good fortune. How great is Your mercy."

When people came to learn of this miraculous cure by which Kureśa had regained his sight, they were all astonished.

Wherever the news spread, it led to an increase in the reverence that was shown for Lord Viṣṇu and the Vaiṣṇava devotees. All the people of south India thus came to have great faith in the teachings of Rāmānujācārya and his followers.

FINAL DAYS IN SRIRANGAM

Not long after Kureśa regained his sight, Rāmānuja decided to leave Yadavadri and return to his previous residence at Śrī Rangam.

On the way, he stopped for some time at Vrsabhacala, near Madurai, to worship Lord Sundara-bahu in the temple there. In previous times the great female devotee, Andal, had composed a prayer which said:

"O Lord Hari, if you will accept me, I wilt offer you a hundred pots of sweet rice and a hundred pots of butter." Shortly after composing this prayer, Andal left this world and returned to the abode of the Lord.

Now, Rāmānuja fulfilled her prayer by offering Lord Sundara-bahu the hundred pots of sweet rice and the hundred pots of butter she had promised Him. For this act Yatiraja became known as the elder brother of Andal.

From Vrsabhacala Rāmānuja and his disciples went on to Śrī Villiputur, the birthplace of Andal. There he saw the Deity of Sesasayi Nārāyaṇa and offered prayers to Andal in the temple dedicated to her.

Continuing on their journey, the Vaiṣṇavas passed through Alvar Tirunagiri, Śrī Vaikuṇṭha, and other holy places, before finally arriving back at Śrī Rangam. Immediately, all the devotees ran to see Lord Ranganātha, their Lord and master.

When the people of the town heard that Yatiraja and his followers had returned, they felt as if they had regained their lives. At that time Kureśa was also reunited with his spiritual master, falling at Yatiraja's feet with tears of ecstasy in his eyes.

PARINIRVANA OF KUREŚA

For the next two years all the Vaiṣṇavas passed their days in Śrī Rangam just as they had done previously, singing bhajans in praise of Lord Hari and hearing Rāmānuja's wonderful discourses on the revealed scriptures.

By this time Kureśa was a very old man and was unable to rise from his bed. Therefore Yatiraja and the other devotees would come to him every day to chant the holy name and discuss the pastimes of the Lord.

One day, while all the Vaiṣṇavas were holding joyful kīrtana, Kureśa began to shed tears of ecstasy. Taking hold of his gurus lotus feet, he pressed them to his heart. In this position he gave up his life.

On witnessing the departure of this exalted Vaiṣṇava from their midst, all the devotees were grief-stricken, and Rāmānuja himself was seen to shed tears.

After a short while the ācārya controlled his intense feelings of separation and spoke to the others, comforting them and reminding them that Kureśa was now undoubtedly in the direct association of the Lord.

Then he said:

"Parāśara, Kureśa's son, is just like the son of Lord Ranganātha Himself. From today you should accept him as your leader. His devotion is like that of his father, and his wisdom is incomparable. Therefore, he is fully qualified to take the position of ācārya."

Then he seated Parāśara on the vyasasana and put a flower garland around his neck. He embraced the son of Kureśa and bestowed all his blessings on him, empowering him to spread the glories of the Supreme Lord.

Kureśa's body was burned on the banks of the Kāverī, and the devotees passed the rest of the day performing the congregational chanting of the holy names of Lord Hari. In this way all grief was removed from the hearts of the devotees.

Every day for the next month a great festival was held in Śrī Rangam to celebrate Kureśa's return to the abode of the Lord, and Vaiṣṇavas from all over south India came to take part in the festivities.

Many poor people and those who were lame or blind also came there, and all of them were fed sumptuously with prasāda from Lord Ranganātha.