Home » Scriptural Meditations » Ramanuja Acharya – a Saint who taught ‘Pure love’ – Part 4

Ramanuja Acharya – a Saint who taught ‘Pure love’ – Part 4

During this time, the daughter of the King felt seriously sick. She was haunted by a ghost, and her fits and pain caused great anguish to her parents. After trying all conventional methods, they called for the respected guru Yadav Prakash to exorcise the ghost. As soon as the ghost saw him, he screamed that he would never leave the princess’s body, and Yadav Prakash wouldn’t be able to try any of his powers because he lacked spiritual potency. The ghost within the body of the girl declared loudly, for everybody to hear, that he’d leave the body only if he got the water that washed the feet of the saintly Ramanuja. While Yadav Prakash was shocked, the king excitedly sent for Ramanuja. Ramanuja humbly did what was asked of him, and lo and behold, the ghost vanished. Soon news spread far and wide. Ramanuja’s devotional stature was now confirmed. Yadav Prakash however felt humiliated.

Soon Ramanuja and Yadav Prakash’s relations strained. The gurukul saw intense philosophical debates between the guru and the disciple. Meanwhile Ramanuja’s popularity soared; his devotional interpretations had many takers, and Yadav Prakash was losing popularity and goodwill.

The two finally, officially, separated one day after a showdown in a public program. During this discourse, Yadav Prakash quoted the famous Chandogya Upanishad verse (3.1) that said, “Sarvam Khalau idam Brahma” and gave an impersonal interpretation to the same. He said everything in this creation, and the universe itself is ‘brahman’ or God or the Absolute Truth. There is nothing more to this reality. Ramanuja humbly protested. On being challenged, Ramanuja qualified the verse by saying the universe rests within Brahman, and it is by itself not Brahman. It is pervaded by Brahman. Just like the fish takes birth in the water, it lives and dies in the water, similarly the universe is created, sustained and dissolved within the Brahman; the universe itself is not Brahman. Just as the fish belongs to water but doesn’t become water, similarly the universe is within Brahman, but it is not Brahman.

The sound logic of Ramanuja didn’t go well with Yadav Prakash. In a desperate attempt to salvage his pride, he roared another verse from the scriptures, “The Katho Upanishad says (4.11) ‘neyam nanasti kincana’ and this confirms that ‘there is no distinction between the individual souls and God’. We are all identical to God and Absolute Truth.”  Immediately Ramanuja countered, “This verse doesn’t say that we are equal to God; it only says the soul and God are interconnected. Pearls are strung together in a necklace. Although all of them are similar, yet each has a distinct reality, and they have a common connection with the thread. Likewise everything in the universe shares the common connection with Brahman. Yet each aspect of this creation has a distinct identity and reality.” Yadav Prakash was livid; Ramanuja quietly left the ashram. He had now rejected his guru.

To be continued…

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