Once Ramanujaacarya aproached his guru to recive secret mantra initiation.
The guru, Gosthipurna began to consider the matter deeply, but still he was unwilling to give the mantra to any person.
Time and again Ramanuja approached him, but repeatedly Gosthipurna refused his request. When his appeals had been denied on eighteen separate occasions, Ramanuja began to feel that there must be some great impurity in his heart and that it was for this reason that Gosthipurna would not bestow his mercy upon him. In this state of dejection, Ramanuja began to shed tears of despair.
When some people informed Gosthipurna of Ramanuja’s condition, he was moved by pity for the young devotee.
Therefore, when Ramanuja came before him again, he spoke to him in a kind way. “Only Lord Visnu Himself is aware of the glories of this mantra. Now I know that you are worthy to receive it, for you are pure and firmly fixed in devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord. At the present time I can find no one but yourself who is fit to receive the mantra, for whoever chants it is certain to go to Vaikuntha at the time of death. Because this mantra is so pure and sacred, it must not be touched by the lips of anyone who has material desires. Therefore, you must not disclose the mantra to any other person”
Having thus instructed Ramanuja, Gosthipurna initiated him into the chanting of the
mantra of eight syllables. Ramanuja was filled with ecstasy to chant this wonderful vibration, and his face began to glow with spiritual effulgence. He considered himself the most blessed of all beings and bowed again and again at the feet of his guru.
REVEALING THE SECRET MANTRA
Having taken leave of Sri Gosthipurna, Ramanuja, in a joyful mood, began to return to Sri Rangam.
But as he was walking, he began to think about the potency of the mantra that had been given to him. While thinking in this way, he became filled with feelings of compassion for the sufferings of all living beings in this material world.
Then, as he was walking near the walls of the Visnu temple in Tirukkotiyur, he began to call out to all the people who were passing by, “Please, all of you, come near to Lord Visnu’s temple, and I will give you a priceless jewel!”
Attracted by his pure expression and unusual words, a large crowd of men, women, and children began to follow him. A rumor began to spread all over the town that a prophet had appeared who could fulfill all of one’s desires.
Within a short time a huge crowd had assembled outside of the temple. On seeing this mass of humanity, Ramanujas heart swelled with joy. He embraced the two disciples who had accompanied him, Dasarathi and Kuresa, and then climbed up the tower of the temple.
In a loud voice he began to address the gathering: “All of you are more dear to me than my own life. Therefore I have a strong desire to deliver you from the torments and sufferings all of us must undergo in this temporary world. Please recite this mantra which I have obtained for you. Do this, and the Lord’s mercy will be upon you.”
When they heard Ramanuja’s words, all the people in the crowd called out, “Please tell us the mantra. Shower the Lord’s blessings upon us!”
Then Ramanuja called out in a deep resounding voice the mantra he had just received from Gosthipurna;
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA
Immediately the crowd responded, everyone calling out the sacred words together, producing a sound like thunder. Twice more Ramanuja called out the mantra, and twice more the thunderous response resounded from the crowd.
Every person became silent and looked at one another with feelings of deep ecstasy in their hearts. At that time it seemed that the earth had become Vaikuntha.
The faces of the men, women and children were flushed with joy and it seemed that all miseries were gone from the earth. Those who had come running to the temple hoping to receive gold or jewels, immediately forgot their worldly desires, feeling as if they had been given a diamond in place of a piece of broken glass.
As the joyful crowd melted away, men and women came and prostrated themselves beforeRamanuja, considering themselves most blessed to have received such a benediction from that great soul.
Ramanuja then climbed down from the tower and began walking towards Gosthipurna’s residence to worship the feet of his guru.
By this time Gosthipurna had come to hear in detail of everything that had taken place outside the temple and was extremely angry, feeling Ramanuja had betrayed his trust.
When Ramanuja approached him with his two disciples, the aged acarya addressed him in a voice that trembled with rage. ‘Get out of my sight, O lowest of men! I have committed a great sin by entrusting the most precious gem to such an untrustworthily person as yourself. Why have you come here again, forcing me to commit the sin of looking at your face? Surely you are destined to live in hell for countless lifetimes.’’
Without any sign of remorse, Ramanuja replied to his guru in a most humble manner, saying, ‘ It was only because I am prepared to suffer in hell that I dared to go against your order. You told me that whoever chanted the mantra of eight syllables was certain to be liberated. Thus, according to your words, so many people are now destined to find shelter at Lord Narayana’s lotus feet. If an insignificant person like me has go to hell, it is off no great importance if so many others thereby attain the mercy of Lord Narayana.’’
On hearing these words, which fully revealed the depth of the devotee’s compassion , Gosthipurna was completely stunned and filled with great wonder. All his fierce anger disappeared in an instant, like the passing of violent storm, and he embraced Ramanuja with profound affection. Everyone who was able to witness this transformation was filled with joy and astonishment.
Gosthipurna then addressed Ramanuja with folded palms, ‘My child, I have never known anyone so magnanimous as yourself. From this day you are my guru, and I am your disciple. When Goshtipurna saw the earnest sincerity of his disciple, his heart was moved. After all, what greater principle can there be than the distribution of the Lord’s mercy. Although Ramanuja had disobeyed the letter of his instructions about the mantra, he had understood the real spirit of the mantra itself. He would make a great preacher of the Sri sampradaya, and had shown that he had the capacity to instill devotion in the hearts of the people in general. How could he then be condemned?
After this incident, Ramanujacarya’s reputation spread far and wide. He was regarded as an incarnation of Laksmana himself. He began training more and more disciples, and his camp grew. He engaged many scholars in debate and defeated them by propounded his sytematic view of Vedanta, known as Visistadvaita-vada, or qualified monism. One such scholar was Yajnamurti.
Yajnamurti was a famous pandita who had defeated many scholars in argument and had written many commentaries on the scriptures. He challenged Ramanuja to a debate saying that if he lost, he would carry Ramanuja’s shoes and become his disicple. Ramanuja, for his part, declared that if he was defeated, he would give up books and arguments forever. The debate began and went on for 17 days. Ramanuja was discouraged. He prayed fervently to Lord Varada, his beloved Deity, for help. That night he had a dream in which the Deity assured him of victory, advising him to follow the line of reasoning given by Yamunacarya.
Uplifted by his divine vision, Ramanuja appeared in the arena of debate with renewed confidence. Before the debate began, however, Yajnamurti surrendered himself to the holy feet of Ramanujacarya, saying, “You are my master. You are glowing with the confidence of one who is in connection with divinity. I realize now that it is futile to argue with you. Please accept me.”
From that day on, Ramanuja’s reputation increased. During this time, he toured India with his disciples, traveling as far north as Kashmir, where he consulted the commentary of Bodhayana on the Vedanta Sutras. Ramanuja was also a great advocate of proper Deity worship and had a habit of reforming the system of worship wherever he went. In this way, he standardized the system of worship throughout the Vaisnava temples of India, eliminating many of the practices of nonVaisnavas that had become traditional. His system was not, however, greeted with much enthusisam in Jagannatha Puri, where worship is performed according to the system of raga-marga, or spontaneous devotion. It is said that after he attempted to reform the system of Deity worship there, Lord Jagannatha became disturbed. One night, as Ramanuja slept, he was transported by the power of Jagannatha to Kurmasthan. When he awoke, he thought he had committed a great offense to Visnu.
Mistaking the deity of Kurma for a Siva-lingam, he thought that Visnu had thrown him into a Siva temple. When at last he realized that it was a temple of Lord Kurma, Ramanuja set about reforming the deity worship there.
After this, Ramanuja wrote the Sri-Bhasya, his commentary on Vedanta, and his fame spread still further.
All Glories to Sri Ramanujacharya!