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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 6

MAHĀPŪRṆA IS SENT TO KĀNCHĪ AGAIN

After the death of Śrī Yamunacharya, none of his disciples was able to discourse on the scriptures in the same wonderful way that he had done.

Tiruvaranga was now in charge of the āśrama, but he lacked the ability to expound the meaning of the scriptures as his master had done.

Everyone admired his devotional qualities and noted the fact that he spent so much of his time worshipping the Lord, but still the atmosphere in the āśrama was not what it had been before.

At that time both the married and unmarried devotees used to live together in the āśrama, while the wives would live in separate quarters outside in the city. Their time was passed for the most part in worship of the Deity and the chanting of bhajans glorifying the Lord. In this way a year passed by uneventfully.

On the anniversary of Yamunacharya’s disappearance all his disciples gathered together, and Tiruvaranga addressed the assembly:

‘It is now one year’, he began, ‘since our guru-maharaja , Śrī Yamunacharya, left us to return to the abode of Lord Nārāyaṇa.

While he was with us it was our great fortune that every day we were able to hear his nectar-like words. However, since his disappearance no one has been able to describe the glories of the Lord in such an exquisite manner or expound all the subtle points of the scriptures as he was able to do.

Although he instructed that I should take over his position at the āśrama, I have to admit that I am incapable of properly executing this duty.

All of you may recall how, just prior to his departure, our master desired to see Śrī Rāmānuja of Kānchīpuram and sent Mahāpūrṇa there to fetch him.

It is that great soul alone, the intimate friend of Kānchīpurna, who, having been chosen by Śrīman Yamunacharya himself, is competent to take on the responsibility as Ācārya for this āśrama.

Therefore, let one of us go to Kānchīpuram and, after initiating him, bring him here to Śrī Rangam. He will spread the teachings of Yamunacharya all over the India, as he promised to do whilst looking at the body of our preceptor.’’

All the assembled devotees unanimously accepted Tiruvaranga’s proposal, and Mahāpūrṇa was chosen to go to Kānchīpuram to initiate Rāmānuja and bring him to Śrī Rangam.

He was told:

’’If at present he is reluctant to abandon the association of Kānchīpurna, then do not press the matter. You may remain in Kānchī for one year, instructing him in all the bhakti-śāstras. He need not to be told that your purpose is to bring him to Śrī Rangam.’’

RĀMĀNUJA’S INITIATION

Being thus instructed, Mahāpūrṇa , along with his wife, set off for Kānchīpuram.

After four days they reached the town of Madurantakam, where there is a Viṣṇu temple with a lake in front of it.

While Mahāpūrṇa and his wife were resting beside that lake, Rāmānuja suddenly appeared there offering obeisances at his feet.

Mahāpūrṇa was both surprised and delighted by this unexpected turn of events, and he immediately rose to embrace Rāmānuja:

‘This is certainly a surprise,’’ he said. ‘Anything can be accomplished by the grace of Lord Nārāyaṇa. For what reason have you come here?’’

‘This must certainly be the plan of Lord Nārāyaṇa,’’ Rāmānuja replied,’’ for it was only to find you that I left Kānchīpuram. Varadarāja Himself has instructed me to accept you as my guru. Please bestow your mercy upon me by initiating me at once.’’

Mahāpūrṇa agreed to this request, saying:

‘Let us go to Kānchīpuram so that the ceremony can be performed before Lord Varadarāja.’’

However, Rāmānuja was insistent:

‘You know that death makes no distinction between the timely and the untimely," he said.

"Do you not recall with what high expectations I went with you to meet Śrī Yamunacharya? Providence cheated me then, so why should I trust him now by allowing any delay? Please give me shelter at your lotus feet right at this very moment"

Mahāpūrṇa was pleased by Rāmānuja's words, and there on the banks of the lake in the shade of a flowering bakula tree he lit a sacrificial fire.

In that fire he placed two metal discs, one bearing the sign of Lord Viṣṇu’s cakra and the other that of His conch. When the two discs were hot, Mahāpūrṇa pressed them onto Rāmānuja's right and left arms, thus marking them with the signs of Lord Viṣṇu.

Finally, meditating on the lotus feet of Yamunacharya, Mahāpūrṇa whispered the Vaiṣṇava mantra into Rāmānuja's ear.

When the initiation was thus completed, Rāmānuja returned to Kānchīpuram, accompanied by his guru and his guru’s wife.

When they arrived, they were welcomed by Kānchīpurna, who took great pleasure in associating with Mahāpūrṇa. At Rāmānuja's request, Mahāpūrṇa then also initiated Raksakambal. Half the house was given over to Mahāpūrṇa and his wife, and every day Rāmānuja would study the Vaiṣṇava scriptures in his association.

RAKSAKAMBAL'S PRIDE

Six months passed by quickly, while Rāmānuja felt great satisfaction in hearing all the truths of Vaiṣṇava philosophy from Mahāpūrṇa.

One day, while both Rāmānuja and Mahāpūrṇa were away from home, Raksakambal went to the well to get water.

It so happened that Mahāpūrṇa's wife was drawing water at the same time, and while so doing a few drops from her pitcher felt into that of Raksakambal, who immediately flew into a rage:

"Are you blind?" she shouted. "Look what you have done! By your carelessness a whole pitcher of water is wasted.

Do you think that you can sit on my shoulders just because you are the gurus wife? Just remember that my father's family is of a superior lineage to yours, so how can I use water that has been touched by you?

But why should I blame you, for having fallen into the hands of this husband of mine all my caste and position is lost."

When she heard these harsh words, Mahāpūrṇa's wife, who was by nature calm and modest, begged forgiveness from Raksakambal. However, being very disturbed by the woman's anger, she set down her pitcher and began to weep quietly.

When Mahāpūrṇa returned and found his wife in that distressed condition, he asked her what was the cause of her unhappiness.

When he learned of everything that had taken place at the well, Mahāpūrṇa became thoughtful. Eventually he said:

"It is no longer the will of Lord Nārāyaṇa that we should remain here, and for this reason he has caused you to hear these unkind words from the mouth of Raksakambal.

Do not be sorry over this matter, for whatever the Lord ordains is for our good. Because we have not worshipped the lotus feet of Lord Ranganātha for a long time, He now desires that we go back to Him."

DEPARTURE OF MAHĀPŪRṆA

Without waiting for Rāmānuja to return, Mahāpūrṇa and his wife then collected together their few possessions and departed for Śrī Rangam.

While Mahāpūrṇa was staying with him in Kānchīpuram, Rāmānuja had been very happy, looking upon his guru as the representative of Lord Nārāyaṇa.

During those six months they spent together, Rāmānuja had studied about four thousand verses composed by the great Vaiṣṇavas of south India.

That morning he had gone out to purchase fruit, flowers, and new cloth with which to make an offering to his guru, but, when he returned to his house, he found Mahāpūrṇa's quarters deserted.

After searching all over the house, he inquired from a neighbor, who told him that Mahāpūrṇa and his wife had left Kānchī to return to Śrī Rangam. Anxious to discover what could have caused his guru’s abrupt departure, Rāmānuja went to speak to Raksakambal.

She told him:

"I had a quarrel with the wife of your guru when we went to fetch water from the well this morning. I hardly spoke any harsh words to her at all, but the great man was so enraged that he left here almost immediately.

I had heard that a sadhu is supposed to have given up all feelings of anger, but it must be that he is a new sort of sadhu. I offer millions of obeisances at the feet of your sadhu."

Rāmānuja could hardly believe his ears when he heard his wife speak in such a contemptuous and sarcastic way about Mahāpūrṇa, and he could not restrain his feelings:

 "O sinful woman," he cried out, "it is a great sin even to look at your face"

Having said this, he left the house and went to the temple to offer the fruits and flowers he had purchased to Lord Varadarāja.

RĀMĀNUJA'S PLAN

A short time later, a lean and hungry brāhmaṇa came to Rāmānuja's house to beg for something to eat.

Raksakambal was still shocked by her husband's words, and, when the brāhmaṇa disturbed her, she immediately became angry and shouted at him in a shrill voice:

"Get out of here. Go somewhere else. Who do you think will give you rice here?"

Hurt by these harsh words, the brāhmaṇa turned away and began to walk slowly towards the temple of Lord Varadarāja. On the way he met Rāmānuja, who was returning home, having made his offering to the Lord.

Seeing the brāhmaṇas dejected features and undernourished body, Rāmānuja felt compassion and said to him, "O brāhmaṇa, it seems that you have not eaten today."

"I went to your house to ask for a little prasādam, but your wife became angry and turned me away," replied the brāhmaṇa.

Rāmānuja was shocked to hear that a guest had been so badly mistreated at his house. He was thoughtful for a few moments, and then he said:

"Please go back to my house. I will give you a letter, and I want you to tell my wife that you have been sent by her father to deliver it to me. When she hears this, you can be certain she will feed you with great attention."

Rāmānuja then wrote out a letter as follows:-

My Dear Son,

My second daughter is to be married soon. Therefore please send Raksakambal to my house with this man. If you have no pressing business at present, I would be very pleased if you could come as well. However, it is very important that Raksakambal comes here as soon as possible, as it will be very difficult for your mother-in-law to cater for all the guests alone.

Promising that he would be well rewarded for his services, Rāmānuja sent the brāhmaṇa to his house with this letter. When he arrived there, the brāhmaṇa told Raksakambal, "Your father sent me here."

She was delighted to hear this and received the brāhmaṇa with great courtesy, feeding him and offering him water for bathing.

In the meantime, Rāmānuja returned home. "My father has sent this letter for you," Raksakambal said modestly and gave it to him.

Rāmānuja read the letter out loud and then said to her:

"I have some urgent business to attend to at present, so you must go alone. If I get finished quickly, then I will try to come later on. Please convey my greetings to your father and mother."

Raksakambal accepted his words, and, after preparing herself for the journey, she offered obeisances to her husband and set out for her father's house, escorted by the brāhmaṇa.