In accordance with the order of his guru Mahapurna, Ramanuja continued to study the Divya Prabandhams and their meanings from Vararanga. All his preceptors including Thiruvaranga Perumal Ariyar, Mahapurna, Ghostipurna and Vararanga used to respect Ramanuja as a personification of devotion, humility and spiritual knowledge and started seeing Yamunacharya in him. Mahapurna’s son Pundarika accepted Ramanuja as his spiritual master at the behest of his father. Ghostipurna too entrusted the responsibility of his son Sowmya Narayana to Ramanuja.
Once, Ghostipurna came to Sri-Rangam with his god brother Maladhara, who was very dear to Yamunacharya from whom he had learnt to interpret Thiruvaymozhi, the thousand hymns compiled by Nammalwar which are considered to be the essence of the scriptures. Ghostipurna asked Ramanuja to learn Thiruvaymozhi and its esoteric meaning from Maladhara. Ramanuja obeyed his preceptor without question.
Maladhara was an ardent follower of Yamunacharya and never deviated from the interpretations given by his spiritual master. Whenever Maladhara used to interpret the hymns of Thiruvaymozhi, Ramanuja used to suggest a different meaning to the hymns. Maladhara was not willing to deviate from the traditional interpretations that he had learnt from his guru and stopped teaching the hymns to Ramanuja mistaking him to be a heretic.
During his next visit to Sri-Rangam, Ghostipurna asked Maladhara if Ramanuja had finished learning Thiruvaymozhi and its meaning. Maladhara said, “I stopped teaching the sacred Thiruvaymozhi to a heretic like Ramanuja. Whenever I try to teach him the interpretation given by our guru he suggests different meanings to the hymns and tries to justify his interpretations. I do not want to teach Thiruvaymozhi to such an arrogant person.”
Ghostipurna was surprised as he had a very good opinion about Ramanuja and asked Maladhara to tell him the meanings suggested by Ramanuja. When Maladhara told him about Ramanuja’s suggestions, Ghostipurna said, “I have heard our guru giving similar interpretations and Ramanuja is interpreting these verses like Yamunacharya without even meeting him. Ramanuja knows Yamunacharya’s heart and he is like Yamunacharya. Ramanuja knows the purport and the essence of the scriptures by his intuition and we regard him to be the incarnation of Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. Just like Lord Krishna showered His mercy on Sandipani by accepting him as His guru in spite of being omniscient, Ramanuja has given us the chance of becoming his guru. Resume your lessons to Ramanuja immediately.”
Ghostipurana also told Maladhara how Ramanuja had revealed the Ashtakshari Mantra at the cost of risking his wellbeing for the sake of emancipation of his fellow beings and Maladhara agreed to teach Ramanuja once again. Unlike before, Maladhara used to patiently listen to Ramanuja’s interpretations and appreciate them. Once Maladhara started interpreting a hymn from Thiruvaymozhi and Ramanuja suggested a different meaning, Maladhara would dance after listening to the interpretation. Maladhara circumambulated and prostrated before Ramanuja despite being his preceptor. Maladhara started to glorify Ramanuja for having understood the heart of Nammalwar and Yamunacharya better than him. Maladhara finished teaching Thiruvaymozhi to Ramanuja within a short period and made his son accept Ramanuja as his guru.
After learning Thiruvaymozhi, Ramanuja once again started studying the dharmasastras under Vararanga at the behest of Mahapurna. Though Ramanuja was very popular and had many obedient disciples, he used to personally serve his preceptors. Ramanuja very soon mastered the scriptures and became a great scholar and saint.
Let us know more about Ramanuja in the next post.