Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ramanuja's 18 sojourns to Tirukkotiyur

Per his preceptor's directions, Ramanuja was required to learn the meaning of the eight sylllabled mantra from Tirukkottiyur Nambi. As the name describes, Nambi used to live in the village of Tirukkottiyur. Ramanuja was at that time residing in Srirangam. Nambi used to offer Ramanuja a short, meaningful sentence and would say "Please return again for more..." Ramanuja would return to Srirangam and return for more.  This iteration happened 18 times before Nambi offered the full meaning of the eight syllable mantra.  The short meaningful sentences offered by Nambi are very useful instructions for all Srivaishnavas. Trying to provide 18 sentences here in English, as far as I understand. (Errors and omissions are entirely mine - adiyen iraamaanusa dasan)

1. Just as a worm tries to leave the dirt despite being born in it, we should leave (or aspire and try to leave) from this dirt.

- Nambi is calling this world (aka samsara) and desires in worldly things as the dirt that we should leave behind and leave for the Lord's eternal world.  In short, the first thing we should cut out from life is desires and attachments for worldly life.

2. Air is important for the lamp to burn. Similarly, for us to live (appropriately), Sattva Guna is essential.

- Nambi's insistence on the need for Sattva Guna automatically implies that the other two gunas - Rajas and Tamas are nothing but a hindrance as stated by all acharyas of this tradition. The key is that the three gunas affect our ability to understand and know the true meaning of the vedas and therefore knowledge about the Lord. Sattva guna alone helps us understand the truth, while Rajas and Tamas not only show us the wrong meaning, but also assume that the wrong understanding is correct one. They make us cling to all kinds of different devatas and misquote the shastras to conclude that all are nothing but Lord and therefore the Lord can be worshipped in any form.  Only Sattva guna helps us to clearly delineate that Sriman Narayana is the Supreme Brahman and that all other devatas are only Jeevatmas of a special status and therefore are subservient to him.

---- To be continued.