SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
Azhwars and Bhagavad Ramanujacharya – 1
Swami Manavala Mamunigal says, “This verily is Emperumanar Darsanam, as declared by Lord Namperumal.” Even outside the Srivaishnava fold, it is common knowledge that the seeds of the nationwide (and now worldwide) bhakti movement that has remained in vogue ever since it were sown by Swami Ramanujacharya. Therefore, it is important that the glory of Dramidopanishad is understood from the works of this great master.
In the previous sections, Swami Ramanuja was discussed as a teacher and student of Divya Prabandham, as a devotee of Azhwars, and as a propagator of its purport through the words of several of his followers.
In the following articles, we will try to understand the direct correspondence between the word and spirit of Bhagavad Bhashyakarar’s works and the words of the Azhwars.
There is a wonderful aspect to the works of Swami Ramanuja, even his commentaries. Wherever there is a mention of the Supreme Lord, Swami Ramanuja takes after the Azhwars and dives into an elaborate description of the Lord’s pristine and supreme self, His highest nature, His auspicious and divine attributes, His enchanting form and His captivating exploits. There is not one place where Swami Ramanuja shies away from doing this. He experiences the Lord over and over again producing immense delight in the mind of readers and listeners. Graduating from the school of Azhwars, Swami Ramanuja cannot resist experiencing the Lord at every opportunity. Those who want to relish this spiritual treat must at least study the Sri Bhashya, the Gita Bhashya and the three Gadyams.
In the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says,
manmanā bhava madbhakto madyāji māṃ namaskuru
māmevaiṣyasi yuktvaivamātmānaṃ matparāyaṇaḥ
The simple meaning is “Fixate your mind on Me, be My bhakta, worship Me, bow to Me, attain Me as the highest refuge. By habituating your mind like this, you shall attain Me alone.”
“manmanā bhava” means fixate your mind on Me. It is a simple set of words that can be easily interpreted, so easily interpreted that Sri Madhvacharya hardly touches upon it. Sri Sankaracharya writes मयि वासुदेवे मनः यस्य तव स त्वं मन्मना भव. In addition to the direct meaning, the only additional insight provided is that the word “Me” stands for “Vāsudeva” – ‘fixate your mind on Me, Vasudeva’. Sankaracharya considers that the word “Me” is significant and identifies it with Vasudeva. This much explanation should be certainly sufficient for this simple set of words.
Swami Ramanuja’s commentary, however, would bring tears even to the stone hearted.
मन्मना भव – मयि सर्वेश्वरे निखिलहेयप्रत्यनीककल्याणैकताने सर्वज्ञे सत्यसङ्कल्पे निखिलजगदेककारणे परस्मिन् ब्रह्मणि पुरुषोत्तमे पुण्डरीकदलामलायतेक्षणे स्वच्छनीलजीमूतसंकाशे युगपदुदितदिनकरसहस्रसदृशतेजसि लावण्यामृतमहोदधौ उदारपीवरचतुर्बाहौ अत्युज्ज्वलपीताम्बरे अमलकिरीटमकरकुण्डलहारकेयूरकटकभूषिते अपारकारुण्यसौशील्यसौन्दर्यमाधुर्यगाम्भीर्यौदार्यवात्सल्यजलधौ अनालोचितविशेषाशेषलोकशरण्ये सर्वस्वामिनि तैलधारावदविच्छेदेन निविष्टमना भव!
Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to constantly think about Him, become His devotee, love Him dearly and worship Him with bhakti. By doing so, He says that Arjuna will obtain the highest goal, the Lord Himself. What is required here of the commentator than merely state the same words? Swami Ramanuja crosses that line and discusses an entire host of wondrous qualities of the Lord. Is Lord Krishna asking Arjuna to mechanically perform a set of dull actions? He is asking him to love Him dearly and commit his mind entirely to Him. Who is Krishna? Is He some ordinary person who is forcing his student to perform certain actions? He is verily the Supreme Brahman, the most wonderful, the most auspicious, the most beautiful, the most enchanting, the highest being whose very thought enthralls the hearts of devotees and drives them into matchless bliss; He is the Lord of all, the Isvara of all Isvaras; yet, He is also the easily accessible and merciful. Whichever way you look at Him, who else than the Lord can be the object of love and worship?
To Arjuna, this is clear. However, Swami Ramanuja wants to discuss this point explicitly. Swami Ramanuja, arriving in the disciplic succession of Azhwars, is himself intensely devoted to the Lord, he loves Him dearly, his mind is fixed on Him. Swami Koorathazhvan identified this as नित्यमच्युतपदाम्बुजयुग्मरुक्मव्यामोह. Hence, the very mention of these words triggers an avalanche of exuberant epithets flowing out of the depths of devotional experience. They have the effect of instilling bhakti in the hearts of the readers and listeners, which is precisely Krishna’s intention! In a single masterstroke, Swami Ramanuja dons the roles of the elaborating commentator, the redeeming acharya and the devotee deep in love simultaneously. When the words of Krishna meet the heart of the master drenched in the hymns of Azhwars, the result is phenomenal.
Fixate your mind on Me, the god of all gods, who is bereft of any blemish and is a repository of auspicious and desirable attributes, who is omniscient, whose will is always true, who is the single cause of all universe, who is the Supreme Brahman, who is the Highest Person, whose lotus eyes are like freshly blossomed lotuses, whose divine form is hued with the peerless and impeccable darkness of blue, whose form is brilliant as the radiance of over a thousand suns shining at once, who is the ocean of sweet nectarine beauty, who has four powerful and graceful arms, who dons a shining pitambara, who adorns several wonderful ornaments such as the crown, earrings, necklaces, armlets and anklets, whose love is matchless, who is easily accessible, who is extremely beautiful, who is sweet, who is great, who is merciful, who is affectionately compassionate, who is the sole refuge of all, who is the lord of all. Arjuna! fixate your mind on Me, as the oil oozes steadily without interruptions or distraction.
Through this exposition, Swami Ramanuja builds a beautiful showcase of reasons for bhakti – His enchanting form, His supremacy, His blissful and auspicious attributes, etc; – and captivates the hearts of his disciples. He sends them into an emotional rapture, where the mind is arrested by the multi-dimensional glories of Lord Krishna causing the longing to worship Him, to serve Him and to love Him. By listening to these passages, one’s heart is instantly soaked in bhakti towards the wonderful Krishna, and the message of the Gita in theory stands fulfilled in practice by the commentator.
Needless to say, Swami Ramanuja’s opulence in bhakti is his principal inheritance from the Azhwars. It is this fact that made Amudhanar sing,
பண்டருமாறன் பசுந்தமிழ் ஆனந்தம் பாய்மதமாய் விண்டிட எங்களிராமானுச முனிவேழம்!
கலிமிக்க செந்நெற்கழனிக்குறையல் கலைப்பெருமான் ஒலிமிக்க பாடலையுண்டு தன்னுள்ளம் தடித்து அதனால் வலிமிக்க சீயம் இராமானுசன்!
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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