When Govinda accepted the renounced order of life, Ramanuja had 74 highly taught disciples who had already accepted the renounced order of life. All of them had memorized the Vedas and the Divya Prabandhams and had mastered different subjects including Shiksha (Phonetics) Kalpa (Rituals) Vyakarana (Grammar), Nirukta (Etymology), Chhandas (Metrics) and Jyotisha (Astronomy & Astrology) which help one interpret the scriptures. In order to reform the temple rituals, which were being performed according to the whims and fancies of the unqualified temple priests, Ramanuja appointed these disciples as the administrative officers of 74 important temples, which were glorified by the alwars in their hymns and were included in the 108 divya deshams. As instructed by Ramanuja, these disciples used to foresee the administration of the temple besides spreading the message and philosophy of Ramanuja through their discourses. In the process, they established 74 mathas in different parts of south India and these mathas, eventually, became the centers of learning. Some of these mathas continue to spread Ramanuja’s message even today.
As the days passed by, Ramanuja was becoming desperate to fulfill his promise to Yamunacharya and resolved to write a commentary to Brahma-sutras in accordance with the Vishista-advaita philosophy at the earliest. As the original copy of the Brahma-sutras was not available in south India, Ramanuja undertook a journey to Sharada pitham in Kashmir along with Kuresha after ascertaining that a copy of the text was preserved there to procure the original text. As Ramanuja had successfully refuted the Mayavada philosophy, his name had spread all over the country and the ardent Mayavadis had a grudge against him. The Mayavadi scholars challenged Ramanuja and entered into a debate wherever he went. Though the debates delayed their journey, they helped Ramanuja in reviving the bhakti movement and spreading the message of the Alwars, Nathamuni and Yamunacharya. Many scholars who challenged Ramanuja became his disciples and many others became his disciples after coming to know about his greatness.
Ramanuja reached Kashmir and went to the king’s court. Ramanuja requested the king to give him a copy of the Brahma-sutras. The court scholar was an ardent Mayavadi and had a great influence over the king. The court scholar asked Ramanuja to refute him in a debate if he wanted the copy of Brahma-sutras. Ramanuja accepted the challenge and the debate ensued. The scholar lost in the debate and yet, he decided not to give the copy of Brahma-sutras to Ramanuja to prevent him from refuting Mayavada by writing a commentary to it. Therefore, he convinced the king to tell Ramanuja that the copy of Brahma-sutras that was with them was eaten away by worms and send him away without giving the text. In accordance with the court scholar’s instructions, the king told a lie to Ramanuja and sent him away without giving him the preserved text. Ramanuja became very sad as he did not get the copy of Brahma-sutras and slept near the library that housed the script that night.
Goddess Sarasvati appeared with tears in Ramanuja’s dream that night and said, “You have traveled a long distance just to get the copy of Brahma-sutras and to fulfill the promise made to your guru. Your desire might be fulfilled if you can interpret the famous passage, ‘tasya nayane yatha kapyasam pundarikame-vamakshini’, from Chandogya Upanishad correctly.”
Ramanuja saluted Sarasvati and after taking her blessings said, “The term kapyasam can be split as kam-jalam-pibati, which means he who drinks water, i.e., sun. The root asa is indicative of something that blossoms. Therefore, the entire term can be interpreted as that which has blossomed by the sun. Therefore, the passage should be interpreted as, the eyes of the Golden Purusha is as lovely as the lotus that blooms due to the rays of the sun.”
Let us know more about Ramanuja in the next post.