After stopping for a couple of days at Kanchipuram to have darshan of Lord Varadaraja and the association and blessings of Kanchipurna, Ramanuja and his disciples reached the foothills of Tirumala. Srishaila Purna and the priests of Lord Venkateshwara’s temple received Ramanuja with temple honors. Srishaila Purna presented the Lord’s prasadam and clothes that adorned the main deity to Ramanuja. Ramanuja saluted Srishaila Purna and said, “Sir, you could have sent some younger devotees instead of coming all the way to receive me at this old age.”
Srishaila Purna replied, “When I received the news of your coming I felt as if I was the youngest person around.” This incident clearly highlights the love and respect that Ramanuja’s preceptors had towards him.
King Vittala Deva, who was ruling over Tirupati and surrounding areas, came to the foothills of Tirumala after coming to know about Ramanuja’s arrival. Vittala Deva offered his obeisance and requested Ramanuja to accept him as a disciple. After coming to know about the king’s devotion to Lord Venkateshwara, Ramanuja initiated Vittala Deva by performing the five sacraments and revealed the sacred ashtakshari mantra to him.
Ramanuja climbed the hill along with his disciples and had the darshan of the Lord. Ramanuja stayed at Srishaila Purna’s house for a brief span of time along with his disciples. Govinda, who had accompanied Ramanuja, became excited and started to serve his guru, Srishaila Purna, like before. One night, Govinda started preparing the bed for Srishaila Purna and after preparing the bed he slept on it for a moment, got up and left the room. Ramanuja, who was observing Govinda’s actions, was shocked as a disciple is not supposed to sleep on his guru’s bed or sit on his guru’s seat. Ramanuja informed Srishaila Purna about Govinda’s misdeeds and requested him to reform Govinda. Srishaila Purna summoned Govinda and asked him if he knew the consequences of his actions.
Govinda said, “I am sure that I will go to hell for sleeping on your bed. Yet, I wanted to check if the bed was ok and anything in the bed would disturb your sleep. I don’t mind going to hell for the sake of your happiness as you have virtually liberated me from this transmigratory cycle of births and deaths by reclaiming me into the Vaishnava fold.”
Ramanuja was moved by Govinda’s devotion and respect to his guru. One morning, Ramanuja was taking a stroll and he saw Govinda putting his finger into the mouth of a poisonous snake. Ramanuja got terrified and rushed towards Govinda and asked him the reason for inserting his finger into the mouth of the snake. Govinda said, “The snake was suffering from a lot of pain as a thorn had pierced its mouth when it was trying to swallow its food. It was lying lifeless as it had not eaten anything from many days due to pain. I removed the thorn and I am sure that the snake will recover in a few days.”
Ramanuja was stunned at Govinda’s reply and was overawed at Govinda’s compassion towards all the beings around him. After staying in Tirumala for a few days Ramanuja returned to Sri-Rangam. One morning, Govinda was sitting at the doorstep of a prostitute’s house with folded hands and was listening to something unaware of the happenings around him. Some disciples noticed Govinda before the prostitute’s house and complained about it to Ramanuja. Ramanuja summoned Govinda and asked him what he was doing near the prostitute’s house ignoring his morning services. Govinda said, “Someone was melodiously singing the glories of Lord Rama with a lot of devotion and I got attracted to it. As I was engrossed in listening to the glories of Lord Rama I forgot my morning services. Please forgive me for that.”
The disciples who complained about Govinda were dumbstruck at Govinda’s reply. Ramanuja drew Govinda closer and hugged him as if to acknowledge his greatness.
We will reveal more about Ramanuja in the next post.