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Rāmānuja Biography | Part 7

TAKING SANNYASA

When she had left, Rāmānuja walked back to the temple of Lord Varadarāja, praying constantly to the Lord within his mind, "O Lord Nārāyaṇa, please allow this servant of yours to take full shelter at Your lotus feet."

When he reached the temple, he bowed down before the Deity and prayed, "My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours in every way. Please accept me."

Then he obtained saffron-colored cloth and a staff that had been touched by the lotus feet of Śrī Varadarāja.

He went outside the temple and, after bathing, lit a sacrificial fire on the banks of the lake there. At that time Kānchīpurna, being inspired by Lord Varadarāja, approached him and gave him the name Yatiraja.

Rāmānuja then accepted the tridanda of Vaiṣṇava sannyāsa, which symbolizes, the surrender of thoughts, words, and deeds to the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

When the ceremony was completed, Yatiraja, in his saffron robes, appeared as effulgent as the rising sun.

RĀMĀNUJA BEGINS HIS TEACHING

All the people of Kānchīpuram were very surprised to hear that Rāmānuja had taken sannyāsa. He was still a young man, and his wife was extremely beautiful. Some considered him insane, but many others began to compare him to great devotees of the past; from all around people came to see him.

The Vaiṣṇavas who stayed at the āśrama at Kānchī made him their Ācārya, for his good qualities and understanding of the scriptures were well known. Gradually, by ones and twos, disciples began to gather around him.

His first disciple was Dāsarathī, his nephew, who was famous for his knowledge of the Vedas. The second was a young man named Kureśa, who had a wonderful memory.

YADAVAPRAKASA BECOMES A VAIṢṆAVA

One day, when the elderly mother of Yadavaprakasa came to the temple to see Lord Varadarāja, she noticed Rāmānuja instructing his disciples outside the āśrama.

Being captivated by his gracefulness and scholarship, she considered that if her son were to become the disciple of such a wonderful personality, then his life would be perfect.

Ever since his mistreatment of Rāmānuja, Yadavaprakasa had been very disturbed at heart, and his mother knew this. She considered that the best thing for her son would be to take shelter at the feet of this effulgent young sannyāsi.

When she returned home, she begged her son to go and become a disciple of Rāmānuja, but Yadavaprakasa would not hear of surrendering to one who had previously been his own student. Still, however, his mind remained disturbed.

Once he happened to meet with Kānchīpurna and he inquired from him:

"Sir, I am very troubled at heart and can find no peace. As you are well known as the one through whom Lord Varadarāja gives instructions, please tell me what I must do."

"Go home now," replied Kānchīpurna. "Tonight I wilt pray to Lord Varadarāja. If you come to me tomorrow, I will tell you His instructions."

When they met the following day, Kānchīpurna immediately began to describe the greatness of Rāmānuja and the benefits one might derive from becoming his disciple.

On hearing this, Yadavaprakasa decided he would go to visit Rāmānuja at the āśrama and discuss the scriptures with him.

That night Yadavaprakasa found it hard to sleep. He lay awake for several hours, considering the different points over and over again.

Eventually he dozed into a light sleep, and while he slept, he had a wonderful dream. It seemed that an effulgent person appeared before him and began to give him instructions. Again and again he told Yadavaprakasa that he should become the disciple of Yatiraja.

When Yadavaprakasa awoke, the effects of the dream were still with him, and he was struck with wonder. However, he was never a man to act solely on the basis of his emotions, and in his mind there still lingered doubts about Rāmānuja's philosophy.

That afternoon he went to the āśrama and, as soon as he saw Yatiraja, he was struck by the young Ācāryas purity and effulgence. Rāmānuja received his former teacher with courtesy, offering him an elevated sitting place.

After they had exchanged greetings, Yadavaprakasa began to express his doubts about the Vaiṣṇava philosophy that Rāmānuja was so expertly presenting:

"My child," he said gently, "I am very pleased by your scholarship and humble behavior. I can see from the markings of tilaka and the emblems of the lotus and cakra on your body that you are a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu and consider the path of bhakti alone to be proper. But what evidence can be found in the scriptures to support such a point of view?"

To this inquiry Yatiraja replied: "Here is Kureśa, who is most learned in all of the revealed scriptures. Place your question before him."

Thereupon, as Yadavaprakasa looked towards Kureśa, the young disciple of Rāmānuja began to speak. He cited numerous verses from many different scriptures - the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, etc. - which confirmed that loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the perfection of spiritual life.

On hearing this torrent of evidence from the scriptures, Yadavaprakasa was dumbfounded and fell silent. Different thoughts passed quickly through his mind - his previous outrageous behavior, the words of his mother, and the advice that had been given to him by Kānchīpurna.

Suddenly he threw himself down at the feet of his former disciple, crying out:

"O Rāmānuja, blinded by pride, I could not see your true qualities. Please forgive all my offenses and become my guide to deliver me from the miseries of this material world. I take shelter of you alone."

Yatiraja then raised Yadavaprakasa to his feet and embraced him with warm affection.

With his mother's blessings, that same day Yadavaprakasa accepted sannyāsa from Rāmānuja and considered himself greatly fortunate.

He was given the name Govinda dāsa, and from that day on he was like a different person. He now fully embraced the Vaiṣṇava philosophy and gave up all pride in his scholarship. Tears of humility now decorated his eyes as he engaged in acts of devotion to the Supreme Lord.

On hearing of this extraordinary transformation, everyone praised the influence of Rāmānuja, and his fame spread far and wide.

Seeing the devotional sentiments in his former guru, Yatiraja once addressed him, saying:

"Now your mind has become free from all contamination. To remove the sins of the past, you should write a book delineating the duties of a true Vaiṣṇava. By rendering this service you will attain full perfection."

Accordingly Yadavaprakasa wrote a wonderful book called Yati-dharma-samuccaya , which he offered at the feet of his guru.

At this time Yadavaprakasa, or Govinda dāsa as he was now known, was over eighty years old. A short time after the completion of the book, he passed from this world.