Posted in Acharya, Alavandar, Manakkal Nambi

Know your Acharyas – Part IVB – Alavandar’s Spirituality

Rama Misra (Manakkal Nambi) was watching silently the eminence which Alavandar had reached so rapidly; and when he heard of Aakkiyaazhvan’s ignominious defeat, and Alavandar becoming a king, his joy knew no bounds and he danced with flags in his hand. He now thought of carrying into effect the commission he had received, of making Alavandar the future Apostle of the Faith. So, he went to the palace, but the guards obstructed his entrance. He found his way however into the kitchen where contracting friendship with the cooks, had ascertained from them the potherbs that pleased Alavandar most. He took that herb Thoodhuvalai, a kind of spinach, daily to the kitchen for a period of six months; and yet no notice was taken of it. Wearied, he stopped away for a few days. Alavandar finding his favourite dish missing from his dinner so suddenly enquired of the cooks the reason. They informed him of an old Brahmana having, for six months uninterruptedly, brought the green herb and having stopped the supply for a few days. “If he should return again,” commanded the king, after chiding them, “inform me at once.” Rama Misra thought he would try again, and so put in his appearance with the favourite vegetable, after some interval. The king was immediately informed; and he ordered the venerable man being conducted into his presence. When he duly arrived, the king rose, and making obeisance, seated him with every mark of respect; and asked how he may reward him for his services, -by money or by lands. Misra said: “Good king, these riches I do not need from thee; for I have precious riches, amassed by your ancestors, to give thee; and I shall show thee where they lie treasured up. Till I put thee in possession of these, let me be admitted to thy presence without hindrance by the guards at thy gates.” Alavandar was taken out of himself by this unexpected revelation, and placed his men under instructions to admit the worthy visitant freely without caring for ceremony.

Misra now began to teach Alavandar the Bhagavad Gita, the essence of all the Upanishads. As Alavandar listened attentively through the eighteen books of this Sublime Poem, his spiritual sense was awakened, and a craving caused in his heart to realize God, as is spoken therein. “How shall I realize Him?” asked he of his Acharya. “That is taught in the Great Charama Sloka”, promptly responded the teacher and taught its significant Mysteries. The more Alavandar meditated on these, the more they entered deep into his heart. The saving Grace taught therein made him more and more inclined to surrender himself to God, and more and more to cultivate the sense of resignation to His will. His soul bent more and more to Him with the nourishment the teachings gave, just as the ripening grain-stalks bend as they receive more milk. As days passed, his love for the Merciful grew warmer and warmer; and as this love increased, his attachment to other things; became weaker and weaker. The Teacher watched the spiritual progress of his disciple, and thought the time was ripe for leading him to where his promised patrimonial wealth lay hidden. He led him therefore to the Holy Shrine of Srirangam, where, pointing to God reposing therein in the serene glory of His presence, to all worshippers accessible, he said: “Who will not worship Rangam, the most Holy, – if he be wise? For doth not wisdom blossom here and keep Yama (death) out of sight?” This is your trove, your heritage, and my trust, which I here discharge on this auspicious day.”

Alavandar, with the spiritual vision which was endowed to him by God’s Grace, saw in the Holy Image of Ranga the Treasure of the Universe enshrined; and exclaimed, with (a) feelings of remorse in his heart for past days, which had been spent without this Blessed Vision, and (b) feelings of bliss overflowing in streams of loving tears, at the fascinating sight he enjoyed: “O Blissful God”, he exclaimed, “Many days have I lost in the vain pursuits of the world. I mourn for this. Now I have seen Thee reclining on Thy Sesha. I serve Thee for evermore. I find myself reclaimed from the death of worldly enjoyments, and initiated into the life of Thy service.”

Lord! lands and friends and riches,
Sons and wives, cattle and houses, –
To him who has thy service tasted,
Hateful objects become they.

After this, a determination came to him to renounce the world, and don the robes of the Sanyasin, inasmuch as the love of the world and of God were incompatible with each other. Thenceforward he devoted himself to divine contemplation and service.

Alavandar’s spiritual fame attracted to him many disciples, of whom the following were notable; – Periya Nambi, Thirukkoshtiyur Nambi, Periya Thirumalai Nambi, Maraneri Nambi, Thirukkacchi Nambi, Alavandar Azhvar, Thirumaalai Aandaan, Vanamamalai Aandaan, Dheivavari Aandaan, Eesan Aandaan, Jiyar Aandaan, Thirukkurugur Appan, Thirumogur Appan, Thirumogur Misran, Dheivap Perumal, Vakulabharana Somaya Jiyar, Thirukkurugur Daasar, Thirumaliruncholai Daasar, Vada Madurai Pirandhaar and Aalkondi Ammangi, twenty in all. They were all learned and became evangelists as well of the Faith.

Manakkal Nambi, who had five disciples, viz., Alavandar himself, Deivathukkarasu Nambi, Gomathathu Thiruvinnagarappan, Siruppuliyur Udaiya Pillai, and Vaangipurathu Aatchi, was now to deliver his last message to Alavandar. “To Kurugaik Kavalappan has been entrusted another mystery, viz., the Yoga (i.e., the process by which to know God, not merely to conjecture or believe – by deep introspective meditation), which thou shalt learn from him,” said he to Alavandar, and explained, when the latter asked why he could not himself impart the mystery: “My Guru Uyyakkondar to whom your grand sire Nathamuni wished to impart this science, expressed himself as unworthy to receive the same in the words: “When the corpse lieth, where is wedlock.”? I did not therefore receive the science. Nathamuni entrusted it to his other intimate disciple Kurugai Kavalappan. Learn it from him. And I am now going to depart; to my disciples, give all learning and instruction, and make Srirangam your capital, and pass on to posterity the faith bequeathed to us by Nathamuni, your spiritual as well as bodily grandsire.” So delivering himself, he passed away, with his heart fixed upon the holy feet of his Guru.

Time passed with Alavandar happily in the work of propagating the faith and writing works, of which those that are extant are the Stotraratna., Siddhi Traya and Agama Pramanya, – the bulwarks of the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta. At this stage he bethought of visiting Kurugaik Kavalappan.  Accompanied by his disciples, he proceeded thither and finding Appan was absorbed in Yoga, approached the sanctuary with the utmost caution and reverence, and planted himself by the wall on the other side of which Appan was seated. Withal, Appan exclaimed: “Is there one of the Sottai-race (i.e., descendant of Nathamuni) standing there?” Surprised and with fear, Alavandar ventured to speak thus: “Holy Sire, yes, I am a most humble scion of that race; my name is Yamunaithuraivar (Yamunacharya). I am come here to do thee obeisance.” So saying, he went forward and fell at Appan’s holy feet. Rising, after being blessed, he asked of Appan, how despite caution on his part, he had been discovered by him. to which, Appan said: “Son, when God is with me, He so loves me as to be listless to all else; even Sri, His Spouse, is unable to withdraw His attention while He is so engaged; but now He looked away from me three or four times. I concluded thence that none other than a child of Sottai race was close by.” At which account, Alavandar was delighted; and entreated Appan that the Yoga-Mystery might be revealed to him, as directed by his Guru Manakkal Nambi; for he had come in quest of it. “Certainly it is intended for thee, son,” said Appan, “But I can only impart it at the moment of my death. That moment comes the next Pushya-month, Guru-pushya-yoga, Abhijin-muhurta. Take this scrap on which the time is noted so as to put thee in mind of it.” Come precisely at that moment. Prostrating to Appan, Yamunacharya returned to Srirangam.

Adhyayana Uthsavam, or one of the great annual festal celebrations in connection with the Holy Temple in Srirangam, came round. It is the festival when all the 4000 Prabandhams of the Azhwars are sung antiphonally. In the course of this recital, the Araiyar, or the chief chorister of the Temple sang the verse of Thiruvaimozhi, viz. Kaduvinai kaLaiyalAm (10.2.8), in which occurs the passage: Nadamino namargaL uLLeer etc., meaning:-

Speed, good souls, to Ananta-Sayana,
Remind us this-speed, oh speed.

This passage reiterated by Araiyar was taken by Yamunacharya as a sign that a shrine so dear to Saint Nammazhwar viz., Ananta Sayana, was one, which to visit became imperative on him. He immediately rose and, placing his disciple Dheivavari Aandaan in charge of his matham (monastery), went on a pilgrimage to Ananta Sayana (Thiruvananthapuram), where he visited the Lord Seshasayana by way of the three-doored sanctum. Some time passed thus. He suddenly remembered the scrap given him by Appan, and calling for it found to his surprize that it was the very moment he ought to have been with Appan for receiving the Yoga-Mysteries. With sorrow indescribable, he chid himself for his forgetfulness and wished, in his agony, for a Pushpaka Vimana to waft him instantly to Appan! Helpless and in sheer anguish he left Ananta Sayana and started back for Srirangam.

In Srirangam, meanwhile, Dheivavari Aandaan was unable to hear the separation of his Guru, Yamunacharya, and consequently became ill and wore away daily. Physicians were brought by his friends to examine the patient. They all declared that some deep mental affliction was at the root of his illness. But asked the friends: “Is it wordly affliction of any kind,-may be woman-gnawing at your heart? “No affliction,” said he, “troubles me, but affection which I have for my Guru; hence, if I am conducted to him promptly, I may hope to live.” Despairing of his life, the friends laid him on a stretcher and carried him towards Ananta Sayana. As they proceeded on their journey, Aandaan daily picked up strength and revived sufficiently to be able to go on foot. At Karaimanai river-side, the Guru and the disciple met. The latter fell flat on sighting his Guru,-overcome by joy. The Guru, finding him thus lying motionless, addressed him thus: “Sri Rama was a Master, hence He had the power to make his brother Bharatha carry out his behest, (viz., to stay at Ayodhya till he returned from his exile in the forest); but I seem no such master to thee, as I am powerless like Rama to exact obedience from thee.” This sarcastic remark penetrated deep into the heart of Aandaan, and he felt that by transgressing the commands of his Guru to remain in Srirangam, he had disobeyed him. Speechless therefore he lay.

The Guru taking compassion – his anger at the disobedience of Aandaan abating by this time, said: “I believe, son, you desire to re-establish with me the relationship of master and disciple. If so I bid thee rise.” On hearing this, Aandaan rose, trembling with fear and stood dumb. The good men standing near remarked that Aandaan’s temperament was like that of Lakshmana, who said that his separation from Rama would be like taking the fish out of the water [Ramayana II 53.31]. Yamunacharya hearing this said: “Aandaan! disciples constituted like thee are rare. I am proud of thee. But oh, much distress I find in thee. Take courage.” So saying, he softly stroked him and bid him go and visit Ananta Sayana. “Thou art my Ananta Sayana. I know no other”, burst out Aandaan, opening his month for the first time. Yamunacharya was struck with the extraordinary character of his disciple and taking him to be for one who answers the description

That Teacher is all who Faith bestows on his disciple
He is Vaikuntha itself, the Milk-Sea and the Dwaraka,

led him back to Srirangam, which they all reached in due course.

In the company of his faithful followers, Yamunacharya was here engaged in the prosecution of his spiritual mission; but a thought now began to harass him that to carry on the good work he had begun, no competent soul was yet found among his disciples.

Reference: The Life of Ramanuja by Alkondavilli Govindacharya, S. Murthy & Co., Madras, 1906

One thought on “Know your Acharyas – Part IVB – Alavandar’s Spirituality

  1. அடியேன் நமஸ்காரம் இந்த வலைதளத்தை அடியேனால் கண்ணுரமுடியவில்லையே சுவாமி. அடியேன் தாசன் ஏ.கே.கோபி.

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