Sri Ramanujacharya, who appeared in present-day India in 1017, is well known as Jagadacharya (spiritual guru/preceptor for the world), who systematized the Vishistadvaita Vedanta school, and as the preeminent/central Acharya (Guru) of the glorious spiritual tradition called Srivaishnavam, of which the first Acharya (Guru) is God Himself.
Sri Ramanujacharya is also known as a social reformer because He called the so-called outcasts as Thirukkulathar (people of the sacred lineage) and took them into temples approximately 1000 years ago. He showered His grace equally on jivas (living entities) regardless of caste, color, etc. He is also known for social welfare projects such as the Thondannur lake that He built and which still brims with water like in an ocean, even today.
What is not well-known is that Sri Ramanujacharya is a Savior who descended to this planet to rescue jivas (living entities) from the birth-death cycle (called samsāra) and deliver them into eternal loving service of God in Vaikuntha (called Moksha). Not content with showing a path (Bhakti Yoga, Prapatti/Saranagati) to His followers, He Himself became their deliverer. He is thus an Uttāraka (takes us across samsāra) and Uddhāraka (uplifter of jiva) Acharya. Thus, a Jagath Uttāraka/Uddhāraka Acharya, in English, a Savior/Saviour for the entire world, in short, a World Savior.
The chief reason the Saviorship aspect is not well-known is because it isn’t to be cheaply and casually paraded out in the open, but only divulged to those that have become sincerely interested in Vishistadvaita and/or Sri Ramanujacharya and approach one of the 74 successor seats that Sri Ramanujacharya established to propagate the Vishistadvaita philosophy and conduct.
But we now live in the information age. All sorts of information on all sorts of topics is now out in the open and if something is not out there in the open, it is deemed to not exist. Secondly, there are many saviors being propagated in India and all over the world. It’s imperative, then, that Sri Ramanujacharya’s saviourship must be widely propagated. Withholding information on the great refuge provided by Sri Ramanujacharya’s lotus feet, in this day and age, when most people are no longer tied strongly to erstwhile Mutts/Mathas and are looking for spiritual succour, would be considered cruel/heartless, which totally goes against what it means to be a Srivaishnava (follower of Sri Ramanujacharya). Also see, Why propagate?
Srimath Paramahamsa Ithyadi Sri Kaliyan Vanamamalai Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamivaru, the 30th pontiff (peetādhipathi) of the venerable Vanamamalai Mutt (a preeminent seat of Srivaishnavam) has ordered that Acharyabhimana (Savior’s grace) and Acharyanishta (self, oblated to service of Savior) which are the quintessence of Srivaishnavam, be widely propagated across the length and breadth of this planet.
We will take the opportunity of the sahasrabdi (millennium) celebrations in the year 2017, celebrating the 1000 years since Sri Ramanujacharya’s appearance, to propagate Sri Ramanujacharya’s uttārakathvam/uddhārakathvam (saviourship) far and wide.
Lord Krishna (God) descended over 5000 years ago and beyond teaching about various means to salvation such as Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga, revealed Himself as the easiest and natural means (Saviour), via prapatti/saranagati (loving surrender), for a jiva (living entity) to escape the birth-death cycle (samsāra) and reach Vaikuntha (spiritual universe) and be in eternal loving service of God. The Lord revealed Himself to be directly the Savior in previous avatars (as Lord Rama, for example) as well.
There’s, however, an ultimate 5th “means” beyond Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Prapatti/Saranagati, called Acharyabhimana (Savior’s grace). From Artha Panchaka, one of the Aṣtādaśa Rahasya Granthas (18 Esoteric Foundational Texts of Śrīvaishṇavam) of Sri Pillai Lokacharya, translated by Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharya, published in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1910 :
Acharyabhimāna is either resort to the Mediator by the aspirant for salvation, or resort to the saved by the Mediator Himself from His own free choice. This fifth Means of Salvation possesses the virtue of being within the nearest reach of mankind, as contra-distinguished from all the other Means [Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Prapatti/Saranagati] aforesaid. These no doubt prescribe God as the object for resort, but He is so beyond the reach of mankind’s senses, minds, and hearts, as to forbid His being used in the manner of other objects more accessible. This want is supplied by the Mediator, insomuch as he is tangibly present in the midst of mankind, as one of their own, and therefore so accessible and so within reach, that the work of salvation becomes for souls, so to say, a practical reality. This contrivance in the Scheme of Salvation has been devised by God Himself, in the manner of the mother feeling love for her child, and the Mediator, patent to all mankind, is the result. The Mediator sees his children as weak and helpless, incapable of shifting for themselves. He stretches his hand down to them, on the one side, to lift them up, and he stretches his hand up, on the other side, to present them to God as fit objects for His mercy and compassion. The function of the Mediator is thus twofold. He is the Mother who is ready to sacrifice her own comfort by voluntarily treating herself to medicine and regimen for the sake of saving the sick child, and he is the Servant who, by such act of self-sacrifice, performs a great deed that pleases his Master, God, who, of course, in the first instance delegated him, or deputed him, for this loving task. He submits to personal suffering in order to redeem the fallen. The Mediator, then, is the Ready Means, under the grace of which souls may take refuge and shape their conduct entirely at his sole bidding. The resort to a Mediator is both an independent Means and an auxiliary Means to the other Means aforesaid, just as God Himself, the Eternal, is both directly the Goal, and indirectly the Goal as the Spirit indwelling in all the lesser [divinities] of the Pantheon.
The same has been succinctly explained by Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharya in the table of various Means for Moksha included in His translation of Bhagavad Githa as below:
[Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Prapatti/Surrender:] Salvation-seekers directly with God. And it is left to God to save them or dispose of them otherwise as He may will. But [recipients of Acharyabhimana] are, by reason of their Salvation-seeking indirectly, or through God-sent Saviours, necessarily saved, and God can never dispose of them otherwise, than save, by keeping them in bondage etc. For, God’s will to save through His own will-sent Commissioners, is non-alterable, when such Commissioners execute their mission by bringing to souls, God’s Feet.
Ignoring the AchAryan who is visible right in front of us (due to thinking that he is also a human being like us) and reaching out to emperumAn who can only be known by studying sAsthram and who is far away in paramapadham is like an ignorant person who is very thirsty and who has water in a container right in his hands drops the container and looks up to the sky for clouds to bring rain.
Further, in the article by Sri Yogi Parthasarathy Iyengar, a Srivaishnava Acharya, read out at Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893:
Ramanujacharya is venerated as a saviour, and still more is Krishna, identical with Rama and an incarnation of God. Faith consists in trusting him; it has no limits. It is the true method of salvation, for which all other means should be abandoned. He who trusts in the Saviour, simply abandoning himself to him without effort of his own, will, by God’s free grace, without regard to merit, be led through all stages of progress, from the abandonment of hatred to the service of God and the godly. The good deeds of him who does not so trust appear sins to God, while the very sins of him who trusts may appear virtues.
This key point is also explained in detail in Anthima Upāya Nishta (total dependence on AchAryan (the ultimate path)).
Also, Śrīvachanabhūṣaṇam (The Good Word Jewel), another of the Aṣtādaśa Rahasya Granthas (18 Esoteric Foundational Texts of Śrīvaishṇavam) by Sri Pillai Lokacharya, establishes Āchāryābhimānamē Udhdhārakam (Savior’s condescending love for the aspirant is the only/final/ultimate means for Mokṣa) as the quintessence of Śrīvaishṇavam.
‘Prapatti’ is resorted to by those who find the discipline of ‘Bhakti’ pretty hard besides running counter to their essential nature (swaroopa)’. Even ‘Prapatti’, preconditioned by the Subject’s immense and implicit faith in the Lord’s Grace, is fraught with the risk of the Lord operating in one of two ways, namely, throwing the Subject back into the bondage of Samsara in the light of his Karma, in His unbridled Independence (Swatantrya) or granting ‘Moksha’, in the exercise of His redemptive Grace. This risk is eliminated by the Subject switching on to ‘Charamopaya’ or the Acharya’s protective benevolence, the one-way traffic leading to ‘Moksha’. The loving condescension and Grace of the Acharya helps the Subject’s advancement in three distinct stages, beginning with the infusion of fresh vitality into his essential nature, like unto the tender leaf sprouting on a stalk, withered due to long years of aloofness from God and the Godly. The spiritually revitalised and regenerated Subject then blossoms into the service of the Lord’s devotees and ultimately starts yielding fruit, as a ‘Charma parva nishta’, wedded to the condescending love of the Acharya, which alone matters, in the final analysis, redeeming, correcting and perfecting the protege. This is indeed the ultimate blending of the ‘Means’ and the ‘End’, dealt with in the first and second part, respectively, of ‘Dvaya’, the Mantra Ratna.
Further, in the Foreword to the translation of Gadyatrayam into English by Śrī V.V.Rāmānujam Swāmi, Vidyābhūṣaṇa Śrī A.N.Śrīnivāsa Iyengār Swāmi states:
The composer of `prapanna pārijāta‘ [Śrī Nadadūr Ammāḷ, a Srivaishnava Acharya of the 12th century] says, “bhakti prapatti yadi duṣkarēva rāmānujāryam bhajatēti avādit”. Accordingly, for those who are too weak to do ‘prapatti’, they can attain mōkṣa by resorting to the feet of Ācārya Rāmānuja, the Kṛipāmātra Prasannācārya.
Nammalvar foretells Ramanuja’s appearance
Saint Nammazhwar not only foretold about the appearance of Sri Ramanujacharya in the Tiruvaymoli verse (5-2-1) “poliga poliga poliga” [pdf page 462] as the Bhavishyath (future) Acharya to destroy the the age of Kali, but also presented Sri Ramanujacharya’s murthy [image/diety] as the future savior to appear, to Sri Madhurakavi Alvār, 5000 years ago. This murthy [image/diety] is still being worshipped to the present day in Alvar Thirunagari, the appearance place of Saint Nammalvar.
Subsequently, about 1000 years ago, Sri Nammalvar granted another Vigraha (image/diety) of Sri Ramanujacharya to Sri Nathamunigal. An excerpt:
When NammAzhwAr, out of his kAruNyam [mercy], was teaching thiruvAimozhi to nAthamunigaL (nAthamunigaL had recited kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu 12000 times at once and pleased NammAzhwAr who then taught him aruLicheyal [Divya Prabandha, also known as Dravida Veda] and all the meanings along with ashtAnga yOgam), during 5.2.1 – “poliga poliga” (பொலிக பொலிக) meaning glories! glories!, since AzhwAr was thrikAlagya (one who knows past, present and future) based on emperumAn’s mercy, he reveals the divine avathAram of udayavar to nAthamunigaL and says“kaliyum kedum kanNdu konNmin” (கலியும் கெடும் கண்டு கொண்மின்) meaning kali will be destroyed. AzhwAr further says “A great personality is going to appear in this prapanna kulam. The whole world is going to be uplifted by him” to nAthamunigaL. Hearing this nAthamunigaL becomes ecstatic. Wanting to know more, he adds music to “payananRAgilum” (பயனன்றாகிலும்) pAsuram from kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu (10) and sings the same in front of AzhwAr, pleasing him very much and asks him “Since you are sarvagyar you will know everything. Please demonstrate the physical beauty of that great personality”. In the night, AzhwAr appears in nAthamunigaL’s dream with kAshAyam, thridhaNdam, dvAdhasa Urdhva puNdrams, beautiful long hands, very beautiful glowing thirumEni, etc. He has beautiful face which indicates the flowing mercy, a beautiful smile and red eyes (showing vAthsalyam – motherly forbearance) and tells nAthamunigaL that this is how udayavar will look like and all members of this prapanna kulam will benefit by their connection to udayavar. Suddenly nAthamunigaL wakes up from his sleep and immediately prostrates in front of AzhwAr and tells him that AzhwAr’s presentation as udayavar is more attractive than AzhwAr’s svayam (original) thirumEni (form). AzhwAr replies to him saying “that is no surprise, as the whole world is going to be attracted towards udayavar”.
nAthamunigaL subsequently asks AzhwAr how to constantly worship this bhavishyadhAchAryan (future AchAryan) form? AzhwAr appears in the dream of a sculptor as bhavishyadhAchAryan and orders him to make a vigraham (uthsava mUrthy) sitting under the divine tamarind tree. The sculptor arrives there the next morning and without break spends time at constructing this thirumEni (as seen in the dream). Once the vigraham is built, AzhwAr installs divine powers in that vigraham, invites nAthamunigaL and presents him that vigraham. He tells nAthamunigaL, “just like iLaya perumAL (lakshmaNan) is considered as the right hand of perumAL (srI rAman), think about this bhavishyadhAchAryan as my part (lotus feet)”. He also says “Since I am the origin for this bhavishyadhAchAryan, he will also be my lotus feet, he will fulfill all my desires. In your family, we are going to see one person who will meet this bhavishyadhAchAryan directly. This person will appear in the same month as when srI rAman’s pattAbhishEkam was due (chithirai) and like gIthai (which contains 18 adhyAyams) revealed emperumAn’s upAyathvam, this person will appear on the 18th nakshathram (thiruvAdhirai) from my own (visAkam). You worship this vigraham like you worship myself” and gives him a farewell to kAttu mannAr kOil. periyavAchAn piLLai often mentions that “At that time nAthamunigaL compiles and recites the following slOkam out of upakAra smruthi towards AzhwAr.”
yassvAbhAva kAlE karunNAkarassaN bhavishyadhAchchAryaparasvarUpam
saNdharchayAmAsa mahAnubhAvam tham kArisUNum charanNam prapadhyE
யஸ்ஸ்வாபாவ காலே கருணாகரஸ்ஸந் பவிஷ்யதாச்சார்யபரஸ்வரூபம்
ஸந்தர்சயாமாஸ மஹானுபாவம் தம் காரிஸூநும் சரணம் ப்ரபத்யே
I surrender unto nammAzhwAr who is the son of kAri and who showed me the divine form of bhavishyadhAchAryan in my dream, of his unlimited grace.
So, it was in the year 1017 that, Ādi Śesha, an intimate servant of the Lord in Vaikuntha (spiritual universe), descended by the will of Śrīman Nārāyaṇa (Nārāyaṇa, God/The High Lord of Vaikuntham, the Universal Father, together with Śrī, the Universal Mother), as Śrī Rāmānujāchārya, with the express purpose of propagating far and wide, the true purport of Veda/Vedanta (both the Sanskrit Vedanta and the Dravida Vedanta, the latter granted by Saint Nammalvar to Sri Nathamuni) as the systematized philosophy that later came to be known as Vishishtadvaita, and to rescue the suffering jivas from the birth-death cycle into eternal loving service of God in Vaikuntha. Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharya mentions in the preface to Gitabhashya 1898:
Sri Rāmānujāchārya, according to tradition, is no other than Ādi Śesha himself incarnated on earth as one of the Spiritual Saviors of mankind, according to the requirements of time, country and people. The tradition alluded to tells us:—
‘Anantaḥ prathamam rūpam, lakshmaṇaś cha tataḥ param,
Balabhadras tṛitiyas tu kalau kaśchit bhavishyati.’
I.e., He (Ananta or Śesha, the Symbol of Eternity) who became Lakshmaṇa (the brother of Sri Rama in the Treata-age), who became Balabhadra (the brother of Sri Krishna in the Dvāpara-age), became Śri Rāmānuja in the Kali-age.
A few of the instances in the life of Sri Ramanujacharya that further establish His saviorship will now be briefly recollected.
Emperumanar (More merciful than God Himself)
Sri Goshtipurna, one of the preceptors (Gurus) of Sri Ramanujacharya, bestowed the title Emperumanar (more compassionate than God Himself)  after Sri Ramanujacharya disclosed the truths/meaning of one of the Rahasya traya (3 esoteric mantras/slokam in Srivaishnavam), to all, even accepting the possibility of Himself going to hell for unauthorizedly disclosing the truths, if all others would be saved from the birth-death cycle by receiving the truths.
From Ramanuja’s Greatness :
“Here are two Holy Names”, Kūrēsa often said, “namely, Nā-rā-ya-ṇa and Rā-mā-nu-ja, each is made up of four syllables. But Nārāyaṇa as denoting God, can both save [from the birth-death cycle] and damn [punish for our sins], but Rāmānuja as Saviour, can only save. In this consists our stay, strength and safety”.
Udayavar (Owner of both spiritual and material universes)
The name Udayavar (owner) was bestowed by Sri Ranganatha (God)  after Sri Ranganatha bestowed ownership of the Nitya (spiritual) and Leela (material) vibhuthis (realms of the Lord) on Sri Ramanujacharya. Only those that own/control both the material and spiritual realms/universes can deliver jivas (living entities) from the material realmuniverse (Leela vibhuti) to the spiritual realm/universe (Nithya vibhuti). Per Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Establishing the ultimate path for salvation) only God Himself, His dear devotee Saint Nammazhwar (who presented Sri Ramanujacharya’s murthy [image] as the future savior to appear) and Sri Ramanujacharya possess that power by virtue of owning/controlling both the material and spiritual universes.
Lord Balaji (Venkateshwara) emphasizes this granting of ownership of the Nitya and Leela Vibhutis to Sri Ramanuja:
“Always remember these while conducting our sampradhAyam; You are the controller (udayavar) of both nithya vibhUthi and leelA vibhUthi; whoever takes shelter of you are liked by me; reform everyone so they become my devotees; I have ordered you (the leader of my eternal servitors) to incarnate here to uplift everyone; the ones who are related to you have nothing to worry for; I have incarnated many times but returned without being able to reform many; I am now satisfied that you will be able to fulfill my desires and just continue to do that”.
Nammalvar asserts Ramanuja’s Saviorship
It is related in Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Ramanuja’s glories revealed) that when Sri Ramanuja has darshan of Sri Nammalvar in Alvar Tirunagari, Sri Nammalvar asserts in the presence of everyone:
“Whoever wants my sambandham (relationship) should surrender to my dear rAmAnujan who represents my lotus feet. If you surrender unto him, I will consider that that you have surrendered unto me. By surrendering to udayavar, you can be relieved from this samsAram [birth/death cycle]”.
From that day onwards AzhwAr’s thiruvadis [lotus feet] are famously called “srI rAmAnujam”. Until then, AzhwAr’s thiruvadis used to be called “madhurakavigaL”.
AzhwAr sayanam with emperumAnAr (bhavishyadhAchAryan) as nAchiAr at his lotus feet – AzhwAr thirunagari – special thirukkOlam on vaikunta ekAdhasi day
Moksha for Tumbaiyur Kondi
From Ramanuja’s Greatness :
Lord Srinivasa [Balaji/God] confirmed this grant by His holy word also and to prove that this was not mere flattery, it is written that a milkmaid by name Tumbaiyur Kondi, was supplying curds to Ramanuja. When he was once on his way to Tirupati, the woman appeared and presented her bill for payment. Ramanuja commanded Kidambi-Acchan to give her food in the Math. She ate and coming to Ramanuja, prostrated to him and submitted to him that she had a favour to ask. He bade her ask it. She said: “Holy sire, desire not payment in coin for my curds, but grant me Moksha [eternal loving service to God in Vaikuntha (spiritual universe)] instead.” “But that power I possess not,” replied Ramanuja, “Lord Srinivasa alone can grant your prayer”. “Then give me written permit, sire, to take to the Lord” asked she. Ramanuja, over-come by her faith, gave her one. She forthwith ascended the Sacred Mount, but she had hardly reached the summit, before the Lord Himself met her on the way, and receiving the permit, gave her Moksha on the spot.
Moksha for Channayya
There is a legend related here [Tirumala/Tirupati temple of Lord Srinivasa/Balaji]. There was a person by name Tālpākkam Channayya. He was a favourite of God Srinivasa of this Shrine, so much so that when he sang hymns to Him, He kept time by dancing to them. Ramanuja came to know this, and asked the devotee to kindly ascertain from his God whether he (Rāmānuja) may hope for Moksha (Salvation/liberation to spiritual universe). Channayya, when he next sang and the God danced to him, reverently submitted to Him Ramanuja’s petition. God answered:—”Certainly he (Rāmānuja) shall be saved.”. “And I, Lord?” asked Channayya. “No” was the answer. “But have I not sung to You, Lord, all these days?”, protested Channayya. “But have I not danced to you, son, as often as you sang?” retorted the Lord. “Then I am undone, O Lord! Pray show me the way of salvation. By no means can I forfeit that state.” The Lord answered: “Go to that sanyāsi, our Rāmānuja, fall at His Holy Feet and win it. He (Rāmānuja) is fit to give Moksha (liberation to Vaikuntha, the Spiritual Universe) to whomsoever he will.” This story illustrates that salvation is won, not by bargain, but by grace (kripa), especially redoubled in the Saviors sent by God.
Securing Moksha for His sambandhis (followers)
On a Panguni Uthiram day in Sri Rangam, when both universal mother Mahalakshmi and universal father Sri Ranganatha (God) were seated together, Sri Ramanujacharya first performed Śaranagati (surrender) to mother Mahalakshmi and then to Namperumal (Sri Ranganatha). Not satisfied with liberation from samsāra and eternal loving service in Vaikuntha just for Himself, Sri Ramanujacharya pleaded for the same for all of His followers to come forever. Namperumal was stunned by Ramanuja’s magnanimity and said “Granted!” .
Editor’s note: these various pastimes happen, 1. to demonstrate the concern of Sri Ramanuja for the living entities stuck in this samsāra (birth/death cycle), and 2. to show the control Sri Ramanuja possesses over the Lord Himself, and 3. to firm up the conviction of the prapannas/saranagathas (surrendered) in Sri Ramanuja’s lotus feet, not that Sri Ramanuja acquires His saviorship here for the first time.
Lord further asserts Sri Ramanujacharya’s saviorship in this episode of prapatti/saranagati (loving surrender) directly to Himself:
On another occassion, Kidambi-acchan repeated before the Lord the verse: Aparadha ….(Stotra Ratna), in which the expression agatim: ‘wayless’ occurs. “How dare you utter this,” interrupted the Lord, “when you have Ramanuja for your ‘way'”?.
Assertion of Moksha for His sambandhis (followers)
From Ramanuja’s Greatness :
Ramanuja was one day conducting his ministry in his congregation, taking up the Doctrine of God’s Free Grace to frail humanity, as illustrated by Ramayana. Vibhishana, though born among the demons (Rakshasas), was angelic in nature. He tried to dissuade his brother Ravana from his evil ways, but he would not listen so he severed himself swiftly from all connection with him, and soaring into the sky, crossed the ocean with four attendants and coming to Lord Rama, who was encamped with his army on the other shore, cried thus:-
‘O Rama,’ thus he cried, ‘in me, Vibhishan, Ravan’s brother, see. By him disgraced your aid I seek, Sure refuge of the poor and weak. From Lanka, friends, and wealth fly. And reft of all on You rely. On You, the wretch’s firmest friend, My kingdom, joys and life depend’. [Ramayana, VI, 19.]
‘I left my children and my wife And fly to Raghu’s son for life’. [Ramayana, VI, 17.]
And yet the Vanar-chiefs of Lord Rama said to Him:-
‘Rama! We wait your word: the order give And these your foes shall cease to live. Command us, mighty king, and all, Lifeless upon the earth shall fall’. [Ramayana, VI, 17.]
On hearing this, Dhanurdasa stood up and cried:- “Godsire, if Vibhishana, who left wife, children and all in order to seek refuge with Rama, deserved to be stoned by Rama’s Vanar-chiefs, how much more indeed do I deserve that treatment, – I, who have made no renunciation at all like Vibhishana!!”.
“Peace,” cried Ramanuja, “Listen to me, my son, I will unfold to you the secrets of salvation. Sri, the spouse of Lord Narayana, ever stands by Him as our Mother-mediator. She is the personification of the most exalted attribute of God, viz., Grace or Mercy. When our Lord through Sri is ever anxious to shower His mercy unstintingly on His erring children on earth, what fear is there for us? We have an unbroken chain of apostles, reaching down to us from God, of which the first link is God, and His Grace, Sri, the next. St. Sathagopa (Nammazhwar) is the next important link and he has declared in unmistakable terms that he has obtained Heaven (moksha). If he has won it, Nathamuni has won; if Nathamuni has won, Yamuna has won; Yamuna winning, my next guru above me, Mahapurna, has won. If Purna has won, I have surely won. When I have, you have all indeed won. Take comfort then from this thought. Dvaya Mantra, which I have taught you, declares, as you are aware, the indissoluble unity of God with His Grace, Sri and an unbroken chain binds God and His creatures in one bond, from which it is impossible to escape and stand aloof. With me goes my flock. What I share it undoubtedly shares. The areca tree is watered by the gardener, but the plantain trees round it take the moisture as well. I and my church are linked together for one testing. My destiny shall invariably be its destiny. When Vibhishana was after all allowed to approach Lord Rama, no separate invitation to the four Rakshasa-men, who companied with him, was needed, nor when the Vanar-chiefs wished to drive him away, did they think of driving those four persons separately. In other words, the four persons counted with Vibhishana as one, in gains or losses. Even thus counts my flock with me. Hence, son! you may rest assured that if Heaven [Vaikuntham / Spiritual Universe / Eternal Kingdom of God] is mine, it is yours without question. As St. Bhaktisara [Thirumalisai Alvar] has said; ‘the flock has even more merit than the shepherd,’ Satrughna has more merit in following Bharata, than Bharata, Lord Rama; St. Madhurakavi than St. Sathagopa; St. Andal than St. VishnuChitta, her father and so forth”.
It is related in Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Avatāra Rahasyam) that Sri Ramanuja revealed Himself to be the Bhavishyath Acharyan mentioned in the above verse to His confidential disciples, when the verse was recited and discussed in His presence.
During his stay with all his sishyas in thirunArAyaNapuram, once mudhaliANdAn was reciting yAdhavagiri mAhAthmyam (a portion of nAradhIya purANam which brings out the glories of thirunArAyaNapuram which is known as yAdhavagiri due to the fact that balarAman and kaNNan emperumAn worshipped the emperumAn there in dhvApara yugam) in front of emperumAnAr and his gOshti. The following slOkam which glorifies AdhisEshan is recited at that time.
aNaNtha: prathamam rUpam lakshmanNachcha thatha: param
balabhadhras thruthIyasthu kalau kachchidh bhavishyathi
அநந்த: ப்ரதமம் ரூபம் லக்ஷ்மணச்ச தத: பரம்
பலபத்ரஸ் த்ருதீயஸ்து கலௌ கச்சித் பவிஷ்யதி
ananthan (AdhisEshan) is the first incarnation serving emperumAn in paramapadham, kshIrAbdhi, etc; his second incarnation is lakshmaNan to serve srIrAman; his third incarnation is balarAman to serve kaNNan emperumAn; his fourth incarnation will be in kali yugam as a great personality to reform the whole world.
When the sishyas ask ANdAn who is that great personality to appear in kali yugam, ANdAn looks at udayavar’s beautiful face. udayavar tells him that the rishi said this keeping AzhwAr in his mind. Understanding that the gOshti is not fully satisfied, udayavar instructs ANdAn to simply repeat that for now and we can see further meanings later. ANdAn also completes the recital for then. In the night after every one left, ANdAn, embAr, thirunArayaNapurathu arayar, mAruthi ANdAn and ukkalammAL goes to udayavar, offer their sAshtAnga praNamams to him and requests him to reveal the real meaning of bhavishyadhAchAryan identified by the rishi. He says:
“If you insist, I will tell you. But don’t reveal this to anyone since it is very difficult to develop nishta [commitment] on this matter (charamOpAyam). I am the bhavishyadhAchAryan; I have appeared to uplift every one who has the desire to serve emperumAn. So just fully depend on me, you have nothing to worry about”. This information is very confidential.
In another instance related in Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Ramanuja, our Savior):
When udayavar was explaining thiruvAimozhi meanings to thirukkurugai pirAn piLLAn (who is his abhimAna puthran), while explaining “poliga poliga” pAsuram, piLLAn was filled with ecstasy and emotions. Noticing that, udayavar enquired him what caused this changes in his emotions. piLLAn replies “AzhwAr hailed ‘kaliyum kedum kaNdu koNmin‘ meaning kali will be destroyed, with your appearance in his thiruvuLLam. Per his declaration, you have also revealed that you are that great AchAryan everytime you explained thiruvAimozhi. Thinking about those, I am unable to control my ecstasy and emotions thinking that I am so fortunate to have the sambandham (relationship) with you (who is uplifting everyone per AzhwAr’s divine revelation) and to hear the divine meanings of thiruvAimozhi from your divine self directly”. Hearing this, udayavar was very pleased. That night, he brings piLLAn and brings him to pEraruLALan (udayavar’s thiruvArAdhana perumAL), keeps his lotus feet on his head, and tells him “Always depend on these lotus feet as your refuge; Always show these as the refuge to the ones who surrender unto you as well. Tomorrow, you start writing a commentary to thiruvAimozhi in srI vishNu purANam style (vishNu purANam has 6000 slOkams), i.e., in 6000 lines”. Thus udayavar revealed his uththArakathvam [saviorship] himself to piLLAn who is very dear to him.
Savior for the dumb
Sri Ramanuja was one day observed leading a poor dumb man with him and shutting himself up with him in the monastery in a private chamber. Kūreśa was watching this unusual conduct on the part of the high pontiff; and looking through a chink in the closed door, observed Ramanuja showing the dumb man by means of signs, his own holy feet, and making him understand thereby that their contemplation would be the sole means of his salvation. Kūreśa, on seeing this supreme act of grace, soliloquized to himself thus: “Alas that I have been born Kuresa, a man of learning and wisdom; I had fain been born dumb and boorish to have deserved such precious free grace as this man!”. It is said, that Kūreśa swooned away under the weight of this reflection.
Thirumudi (head) Sambandha (Relation with future Acharya)
As related in this wonderful chapter in Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Establishing the ultimate path for salvation), Acharyas that appeared before Sri Ramanuja (Sri Ramanuja’s spiritual progenitors), credited their own salvation to their relationship with the Acharya to come in their parampara (disciplic succession), Sri Ramanuja, as Sri Nammalvar asserted that Sri Ramanuja is to be considered His (Sri Nammalvar’s) lotus feet.
Thiruvadi (lotus feet) Sambandha via 74 Successors
Sri Ramanujacharya chose 74 of His innumerable followers, and conferred on them the title ‘Simhasan-adhipati’. He ordained that they, and after their time their successors, could perform panchasamskaram. . Anyone desirous of becoming a “Ramanuja sambandhi” (spiritually related to Sri Ramanujacharya) can take refuge at the lotus feet of any one of these 74 Sinhasanadhipatis (Upakāraka (beneficent) Acharyas) even today and undergo panchasamskara (5 sacraments of Srivaishnava faith). In becoming a “Ramanuja sambandhi” (spiritually related to Sri Ramanujacharya), one should acquire Artha Panchaka knowledge and must, under the guidance of Acharya, strive to adhere to the conduct specified in the Conclusion section , and in this discourse by Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swamin, while avoiding the obstacles mentioned in the section on Virodhi Svarupa (Anti or Hostile Principles) , all the while conscious of the fact that it’s solely Acharyabhimana (Acharya’s grace/love) that saves us from the birth-death cycle, not our ability to acquire knowledge of Artha Panchaka or any other work for that matter, nor the act of undergoing panchasamskara itself. Acharyas’ instructions are to be followed to solely fulfill our own true nature (constitutional identity) of being an AchArya abhimAna nishtar (self, oblated to the service of Acharya/savior) and is not to be done as upAyam (means to an end).
Before returning to Vaikuntha, Sri Ramanujacharya granted the below 6 final instructions:
There are six ways by which you can usefully spend your days:
1. Read Sri Bhashya and teach it to others.
2. If that is above your level, read Tiruvaimozhi and make others read it.
3. If that is beyond your ken, build a hut in any holy land, and live there.
4. If that is impracticable, do services in a Temple.
5. If that is inconvenient, dwell ever on the profound truths contained in
the Holy Dvaya-Mantra.
6. If that also is difficult, take shelter or service under a holy man.
More information on Sri Ramanujacharya can be found here.
What we recollected briefly above are just a few of the highlights and verily drops in the ocean of Emperumanar’s Saviorship. The Why propagate? page has some more information on Sri Ramanujacharya’s Saviorship and the various reasons for propagating it. The granthas (works) below capture more episodes in greater detail and establish Sri Ramanuja’s saviorship clearly and with finality. These are thus a must-study:
- Chapter 24 on Ramanuja’s Greatness from The Life of Râmânujâchârya (1906)
- Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Establishing the ultimate path for salvation)
- Anthima Upāya Nishta (total dependence on AchAryan (the ultimate path))
As related in Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Our Savior), Kaṇiyanūr Siriyāchān (a disciple of Ramanuja) declared on oath (i.e., when remaining half-immersed in water) that faith in Ramanuja was the only road to salvation:
kaNiyanUr siriyAchAn … [while half immersed in water], invites all the srivaishnavas into periya thirumaNdapam (in srIrangam), accepts srIsatagOpam on his head, and declares:
sathyam sathyam puNas sathyam yathirAjO jagathguru:
sa Eva sarvalOkANAm udhdharthA NAthra samchaya:
ஸயஸய ந ஸய யதிராேஜா ஜக’:
ஸ ஏவ ஸவேலாகாநா உததா நார ஸசய:
I promise 3 times (emphasis) that yathirAjar is the AchAryan for the whole universe. He is the saviour for everyone and there is no doubt about this.
He loudly declares in front of the assembled srivaishnavas that, for everyone in this prapanna kulam, emperumAnAr’s lotus feet is the refuge and he is the saviour.
We always strive to adorn God and the Godly with the grandest ornaments we can muster and the grandest titles we know. So, at least starting in the millennium celebrations of Sri Ramanujacharya’s appearance in this year 2017, let’s highlight and celebrate His Saviourship, which is His avathara rahasyam (esoteric purpose of His avatar) by using the grandest titles of Emperumanar, Udayavar, Jagath Uttāraka/Uddhāraka Acharya along with their English equivalent, Savior, on a grand scale, so the whole world will come to know of His saviorship and benefit.
Let this campaign continue until the end of this Kali yuga, by the grace of Sri Ramanujacharya.
More information on Sri Ramanujacharya and the glorious spiritual tradition called Srivaishnavam that He systematized and propagated can be found on this page.
- Artha Panchaka of Sri Pillai Lokacharya, translated by Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharya, published in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1910 [pdf page 23]
- Sri Goshtipurna bestowed the title Emperumanar (more compassionate than God Himself) [pdf page 111]
- Ramanuja’s Greatness [pdf page 262]
- Udayavar (owner) was bestowed by Sri Ranganatha (God) [pdf page 92]
- Ramanuja’s Greatness [pdf page 250]
- Ramanuja’s Greatness [pdf page 259, simplified]
- Conclusion section of Artha Panchaka [pdf page 26]
- Artha Panchaka section on Virodhi Svarupa (Anti or Hostile Principles) [pdf page 24]
- kinchit.org 2017 Sahasrabdi calendar
- Sri Ramanujacharya’s six final instructions [pdf page 247]
- Anthima Upāya Nishta (total dependence on AchAryan (the ultimate path))
- Charama Upāya Nirṇayam (Establishing the ultimate path for salvation)
- Sri Ramanujacharya secures Moksha for His followers: Discourse by Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swamin.
- The Life of Ramanujacharya [pdf page 182]
Other content on this site
- Ramanuja, World Savior
- Do Hindus pray to Statues?
- Yogi Parthasarathy Aiyangar
- Five Truths
- Monism or Monotheism?
- Are Hindus Fatalists?
- Why propagate?
- Bhakti vs Surrender vs Savior’s Grace
- Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharya
- Sri Ramanujacharya
- Are Hindus Polytheists?
- Equality in Srivaishnavam
- Idolatry or Deity?
- Caste in Hinduism
- Suggested Study
- Subtle Srivaishnava Precepts