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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 3

STUDIES RESUMED

Rāmānuja continued to study the scriptures at home, and he asked his mother and aunt to tell no one about Yadavaprakasa’s treacherous dealings.

Some months later the Ācārya returned to Kānchīpuram along with all his disciples, except for Govinda.

When Diptimati asked Yadavaprakasa about her son, he told her that after Rāmānuja's disappearance they had journeyed to Benares, where they took darśana of Lord Viśvanātha and bathed in the Ganges. They had stayed there for two weeks.

One day whilst taking bath in the river, Govinda had discovered a Śiva linga in the water. Seeing this as the will of the Lord, Govinda had immediately begun to worship Lord Śiva in this form.

As he continued his worship, day by day his devotion to Lord Śiva had become more and more fixed.

Thus, when they arrived at Kalahasti on the return journey, he told his teacher and the other students that he no longer wanted to return to Kānchīpuram. He had decided to stay in that holy shrine of the Śaivites and dedicate his life to the worship of Lord Śankara.

Diptimati was not an ordinary woman, and, rather than feeling distress at hearing this news, she became completely joyful, considering herself blessed to have such a saintly son.

Soon after this she went to Kalahasti to visit Govinda, and, on seeing how he was completely absorbed in worship of Lord Śiva and freed from material hankering, her happiness increased many times over.

At first Yadavaprakasa was fearful when he saw that Rāmānuja was still living, but he thought the young man must be unaware of the plot he had made to kill him.

In the presence of Kantimati he pretended to be overwhelmed with joy at finding her son safe and sound: "You cannot imagine," he told her, "the suffering and anguish all of us underwent when we were unable to find him in the forest."

In actuality the teacher was feeling very ashamed of his wickedness now that he saw Rāmānuja's humble behavior.

Turning to the young man, he spoke affectionately, "My child, from this day you should come once more to study with me. May the Lord continue to shower His blessings upon you."

From that day on Rāmānuja resumed his studies with Yadavaprakasa.

YAMUNACHARYA'S PRAYERS FOR RĀMĀNUJA

A few days later the venerable Yamunacharya, accompanied by many disciples, came to Kānchīpuram to see Lord Varadarāja.

While he was returning from the temple, Yamunacharya saw Yadavaprakasa walking with his disciples, his hand resting on Rāmānuja's shoulder.

Seeing this handsome, effulgent young man, the Vaiṣṇava saint became curious and inquired from his followers as to his identity.

When he learned this was the same Rāmānuja who had written the wonderful commentary on the Upaniṣadic mantra, satyam jñānam anantam brahma, he was very pleased.

But at the same time he was disturbed to see him under the guidance of such an ardent mayavadi as Yadavaprakasa.

He then prayed to Lord Varadarāja for Rāmānuja's deliverance from such unfortunate association:

"I take shelter of the Supreme Being, by whose mercy the deaf may hear, the lame may arise and walk, the dumb may speak, the blind may see, and barren women may bring forth children.

"O lotus-eyed one, husband of Lakṣmī, please bestow your full mercy upon Rāmānuja, so that he will be able to worship you fully, without any hindrance."

Yamunacharya longed to approach Rāmānuja and converse with him, but he was unwilling to associate with a non-devotee like Yadavaprakasa.

At this time Yamunacharya was over one hundred years old and was the leading acarya among all the Vaiṣṇavas in south India. He realized that, if Kṛṣṇa desired it, he would one day have the chance to meet with Rāmānuja alone. Thinking like this, he returned to Śrī Rangam.

DELIVERANCE OF THE PRINCESS

Apart from his great learning in the science of Vedanta, Yadavaprakasa was also expert in magical arts, particularly in driving out ghosts and evil spirits.

Once it so happened that the princess of Kānchīpuram came to be possessed by a fearful brahma-Rākṣasa ghost. As Yadavaprakasa's expertise in dealing with such situations was widely known, he was at once summoned to the palace.

However, despite all his mantras, the ghost that was possessing the girl remained completely unmoved.

Laughing in a hideous shrill voice, the ghost within the princess called out, "Yadavaprakasa, of what use are all your mantras You are wasting your time. Go back home"

Determined not to be defeated, Yadavaprakasa continued with his attempts to exorcise the evil spirit, but to no avail.

Again the brahma-Rākṣasa spoke:

‘Why do you waste your strength in vain? Your power is much inferior to mine. The only way that you will be able to force me to leave the body of this beautiful princess is by bringing here your youngest disciple, the devoted Rāmānuja. His purity is the only force that can overcome my potency".

Yadavaprakasa then sent word for Rāmānuja to come to the palace without delay.

When that great devotee of Lord Viṣṇu arrived there and understood the situation, he spoke to the evil spirit, asking it to leave the body of the princess.

The brahma-Rākṣasa replied, speaking through the girl, "I will leave this body if you kindly place your lotus feet on my head."

Such was the purity of Rāmānuja's devotion that even this evil fiend could understand the benefit of taking shelter of such a great soul.

With the permission of his teacher, Rāmānuja placed both of his feet on the girl's head, saying, "Now leave this place at once and give us some sign by which we may know in truth that you have departed."

The ghost replied, "Look now, I am leaving this beautiful body, and as a sign I shall break the topmost branch of the nearest banyan tree."

At once the highest branch of the banyan tree cracked and felt to the ground, while the princess began to look around her in amazement, like one who has just awakened from sleep.

When she was informed by her maidservant of all that had taken place, she hung her head in shame and hurried away to the inner apartments of the palace.

When the King of Kānchī heard of his daughter's complete recovery, he hurried to worship the lotus feet of Rāmānuja and express his gratitude.

From that day on Rāmānuja's fame spread throughout the kingdom, and his name was on everyone's lips.

Yadavaprakasa, however, was not at all pleased by the turn of events, seeing that his position had been minimized by one of his own students.

Now everyone was aware that Rāmānuja was far greater in spiritual potency than Yadavaprakasa, and this was not at all to the liking of the proud mayavadi.

In addition, Rāmānuja's intense devotion to Lord Viṣṇu was completely incompatible with the dry monistic doctrines expounded by his teacher. Therefore, it seemed that conflict between the two was inevitable.

RĀMĀNUJA'S EXPULSION FROM SCHOOL

The final confrontation was not long in coming.

Only a few weeks after Rāmānuja's deliverance of the princess, all the students were assembled to hear Yadavaprakasa lecture on the mantras, sarvam khalv idam brahma - 'everything is Brāhman' and, neha nanasti kincana-'there is nothing else in this world'.

He was presenting the impersonalist philosophy in such an expert way that all his students were captivated by his explanations of the oneness of the jīva soul and the Supreme Brahman.

Only Rāmānuja showed any signs of unhappiness at the acaryas statements.

At the end of the class he spoke up, saying:

"The words sarvam khalv idam brahma do not mean that the Supreme Absolute Truth is nothing but the sum total of all creation.

Rather, it is seen that the universe comes from the Supreme as His energy, is maintained by Him and, in the end it dissolves back into Him. He maintains His own separate identity, although everything is indeed a part of His expanded energy.

The words neha nanasti kincana do not mean that there is no variety at all in this world.

Rather, we should understand that all the varieties of creation are held as one, just as separate pearls are held on one thread, although they are still individual entities. Thus, we can see how everything is both one and separate at the same time."

On hearing his teachings nullified by Rāmānuja in this way, Yadavaprakasa became very angry and he spoke harshly: "If you do not like my explanations of the scriptures, then do not come to me anymore".

"As you wish, sir" Rāmānuja replied.

He then worshipped the feet of his teacher and left the school, never to return again.

KĀNCHĪPURNA

The next day as Rāmānuja was sitting at home studying the scriptures by himself, Kānchīpurna came to visit him.

As we have heard before, Kānchīpurna was a pure devotee of the Lord, who was respected by the most aristocratic brāhmaṇas, though he himself took birth in a śūdra family.

From his very childhood he had absorbed himself in devotional service to the Deity of Śrī Varadarāja.

On hot summer days he would serve the Lord by providing cooling breezes with fans dipped in water, and he was always anxious to obtain the very best fruits and flowers to offer to the Lord.

All the people of Kānchī loved him for his simple devotion and gentle behavior. Wherever he went all bad feelings and misunderstandings seemed to vanish.

Sometimes he would stop in the middle of the road as if stunned, staring into the distance with an expression of great happiness on his face. It was said that he conversed with Lord Varadarāja Himself and that the Lord made His intentions known through the words of Kānchīpurna.

Despite his birth in a śūdra family, most of the brāhmaṇas in Kānchīpuram recognized his exalted devotional qualities and offered him all respects.

Only a few, who were very proud of their high birth and knowledge of the scriptures, said he was insane or an imposter. One of these, as you might imagine, was Yadavaprakasa.

INSTRUCTIONS FROM KĀNCHĪPURNA

Thus, it was with great happiness that Rāmānuja received this wonderful devotee as a guest in his house. Offering him a nice sitting place, he said:

"Your coming here is my great good fortune and can only be seen as part of the limitless mercy of Lord Varadarāja, who has sent you here to guide me.

You must have heard of my expulsion from the school of Yadavaprakasa. Now I can see that this is not to be regretted, for I will accept you as my guru and teacher."

"Rāmānuja, this cannot be," replied Kānchīpurna gently, "for I am a śūdra and an ignorant man, with no knowledge of the scriptures. I simply pass my life rendering a little service to Lord Varadarāja. As a brāhmaṇa you are my master, and I am your servant".

"Sir, you are the wisest man I have ever known," said Rāmānuja, "and if knowledge of the scriptures brings only pride instead of devotion, then what is its value? By your humble service to the Lord, I can see that you know perfectly the conclusions of all the scriptures."

On saying this Rāmānuja fell down to pay his obeisances at the feet of the devoted Kānchīpurna.

That saintly person instantly raised Rāmānuja to his feet and told him:

"I feel blessed to have seen your deep devotion for the Lord. Every day you should bring a jar of water to the temple for the service of Śrī Varadarāja. In this way you will quickly receive His mercy, and all of your desires will be fulfilled."

Having given this advice to the young devotee, Kānchīpurna left to go and worship Lord Varadarāja.

Rāmānuja, accepting his instruction, engaged in the service of the Lord by bringing water to the temple of Lord Varadarāja from the sacred well where he had seen the Lord in the form of a fowler.