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Reference: Ramanuja's Teachings in His Own Words.

Author: Ramanuja (10171137 CE)

Translation by:  M. Yamunacharya

 

CHAPTER VII  THE SWAN SONG OF RAMANUJA   page 128

Ramanuja's gospel of self-surrender (Prapatti) finds ecstatic expression in his prose-poem known as Śaraṇāgati Gadya. It is a dialogue of communion with God in which the soul of Ramanuja voices forth its innermost aspirations calling forth from the depths of his consciousness a response from his Lord who assures his devotee of His living presence with him in the consciousness of which and in the perennial joy of whose service he may live content and happy  It is a dialouge between the soul and the Over-soul, the Jivātman and the Paramātman. There is a sense of certainty, an atmosphere of utter serenity, that prevails in the Saraṇāgati Gadya, the hymn of self-surrender which is said to have been poured forth from Ramanuja's heart on seeing a beatific vision of the Lord on the occasion of a temple festival. The fervour of the human soul throbbing with deep love and surrender to its Master has rarely found elsewhere such beautiful and sublime expression as in this Śaraṇāgati Gadya, which may be considered as the Swan Song of Ramanuja. The theme of the Gadya expresses the consummation devoutly wished for by every true devotee. In analysing the Śaraṇāgati Gadya the traditional commentators aver that it falls into three drvisions, each division representing a rahasya or secret and altogether demonstrative of the three rahasyas or Rahasyatraya of Śrivaiṣṇava theology. Vedanta Desika, the great exponent of one of the Schools of Sri Vaiṣṇavaism known as the Vadagalai, has written a very learned treatise known as Rahasyatrayasāra dealing with the three Rahasyas. Similarly Pillai Lokacarya, the exponent of what is known as Tengalai or Southern School has also written his own commentary of the Rahasyatraya in a treatise of his, called Mumukuppadi

 

THE SWAN SONG OF R.AMANUJA 129

 

or the steps of the Salvation-seeker. Both these Sri Vaishnava theologians have derived their original inspiration from Ramanuja.

 

The three divisions spoken of are that the first portion of the Śaraṇāgati Gadya is illustrative of what is known as  the two holy statements the second of sacred eight-syllabled mantra, holy to every Sri Vaishnava and the third is expressive of the चरम श्लोक (carama sloka) 66th verse of the 18th Chapter of the Gita looked upon by the pious Sri Vaishnava as the pledged word of God to man that he shall be saved, if he lives in utter resignation to the will of God and becomes a Prapanna, In the first portion, there is also the principle of intercession or mediation introduced in the form of Sri, the spouse of the Lord, who is the very embodiment of Divine Grace and who mediates between the contrite soul on the one side and the Perfect Supreme Being on the other. She pleads with the Lord for justice to be seasoned with mercy. Sri is the Adi Guru, the first of teachers in the line of teachers, Guruparampara, from whom all other teachers, prophets and apostles derive their authority or mediation between God and man. This truth of intercession marks out the Ramanuja School of Vaiṣṇavism from the other forms of Vaiṣṇavism. This is the reason why it is called śrivaiṣṇavism. The entire fabric of śrivaiṣṇava theology is based on these truths as expounded in śaraṇāgati Gadya. So from the point of view of Śrivaṣṇava theology, the Śaraṇāgati Gadya is of great importance. No account of the teachings of Ramanuja will be complete unless a reference is made to the content of the Gadya Traya or the three prose-poems of Ramanuja.

 

In the Śaraṇāgati Gadya Ramanuja pays homage to his God and His glory and prays to Him to accept Him as one who has absolutely surrendered himself to God and His service. He praises God as one who is entirely free

 

130  RAMANUJA'S TEACHINGS IN HIS OWN WORDS

 

from all that is evil who is the abode of all that is holy, who is uniquely different from things that one sees round him, and whose nature is constituted of knowledge and bliss. He has a divine form which is the treasure of qualities like unsurpassed effulgence, beauty, fragrance, softness, grace and youth. He is also characterized by tenderness, friendliness, impartiality, compassion, sweetness, dignity, magnanimity and the like. In short He is a veritable ocean of innumerable escellences. With all these qualities He yet remains inscrutable even to the highest of Yogins. He is Srīmanst Nārayaa, who is the resort of the resortless. The individual soul of Ramanuja now proclaims itself as one who has resorted to his Lord. Ramanuja asks for forgiveness of all the sins committed by him and prays for his being accepted as the humblest of His humblest servants "I have surrendered myself to thee and have become thy servant."  He proclaims and seeks the protection of the Lord and prays for being saved from the lure of sense-life which has obscured to him the vision of the radiant Lord.  His only wish, he says, is to remain ever after the Lord's eternal servitor 'and derive the greatest joy and solace of life from it'. After uttering this prayer which is the innermost aspiration of the Soul of Ramanuja he hears all inner voice in him, the voice of the Lord seated in his heart assured him that he has been accepted by the Lord as His eternal servitor in which state he may rest happily as long

THE SWAN SONG OF RAMANUJA 131

 

as he would live in this world and thereafter. When the time draws nigh for him to leave this world, He would shuffle off his mortal coil having his gaze fixed on the Lord's glorious form.

The Lord assures his devotee not to waver in his faith but rest assured in the certainty of the presence of the Lord with him through all the vicissitudes of his life. The Śaraṇāgati Gadya brings to us a revelation of Ramanuja's impassioned religious consciousness and his vivid sense of the personal presence of God.

 

The second of the Gadyas is Sriraga Gadya. It is just a reiteration of the aspiration of Ramanuja as addressed to Ranganatha, the holy image of the temple of Śrīragam where Ramanuja lived precious long years of his life.

 

The third is Vaikunha Gadya, In its initial verse, Ramanuja acknowledges his debt to Yamuna whom he likens to an ocean from diving in which he was able to recover the gem of bhakti yoga which he was delighted to show to the world. Ramanuja gives here, a description of Vaikuntha, the Kingdom of God, the abode of all that is beautiful, good and true, where the Lord abides in a community of free souls. His one aspiration that remains to be fulfilled is expressed by him in the desire " When will I see with these my eyes, my Lord, who is my sole treasure, and my father, my mother, and my all ? When will I touch with these hands those tender, beautiful, lotus-like feet of the Lord, When will I enter into them with all my entire being? When will I enter into that ocean of immortality ?" Ramanuja longed for a vision of divine loveliness with which he must have been vouchsafed wbich made the Śaraagati Gadya well up from the depths of his soul.

 

In the Nityagrantham one of his miscellaneous works, Ramanuja prescribes the ritual of  daily worship (nitya) in

 

132 RAMANUJA'S TEACHINGS IN HIS OWN WORDS

 

solitary meditation (dhyāna) to one who would like to practise the presence of God ever and anon. One must commence worship of God by offering himself whole and entire to the Lord in humble submission in contemplation of His sublime attributes. This may be parapharsed thus: Surrender yourself to Him. This leads to the blossoming of your soul under the benignant influence of His grace. Consider Him as the God of Gods and your loving Lord. Your great affection for Him will bring Him before your mind's eye in the clearest of the clear visions of His immediate presence. Sit awhile in tranquility contemplating His sweet presence. This ineffable experience engenders in you a deep affection for the Lord, which must then take the form of overt worship which is His real service. Nothing could, to Ramanuja, equal the pure joy of self-forgetting service (Kainkarya) of which the daily ritual of worship was an external symbol. No religion can altogether dispense with such ceremonial expression.

 

Here is the act of worship which is a blend of Dhyāna, Upāsana and Bhakti (in Ramanuja these three are identical) issuing itself out in overt service (Kaikarya) of God. Here is the consummation devoutly wished for by the devotee. Ramanuja was the fruit and fulfillment of the spiritual endeavour (Sadhane) the object of which is nothing short of the attainment of God Himself which is the Siddhi for which he strove through his philosophy and religion. His philosophy has found its fulfillment in Love. This, indeed. is the fulfillment of the aspiration of his soul expressed in the invocatory verse of Sri Bhāṣya.