Wednesday 4 May 2016

Emancipation through Bhakti

This month marks the beginning of the 1000th anniversary of the great saint and philosopher Sri Ramanuja. The history of Hindu society is replete with lot of churnings to inundate the social and cultural stagnation which the society has begotten into. This becomes essential as the philosophy and culture entwined with it has to be refurbished to suit the needs of people in every century. This is even more essential as this condition befalls on a society because it weans away from the Dharma.  Hence branding this society as one which has stagnated with evils and lack of social mobility is an accusation designed with a motive to deride it by the colonialists. It was done to make the society believe that it needs an overhaul with a culture and belief system totally alien to the people. Simply a design to proselytize our people. If we look at the past and through the lives of great seers we can see that our society had indigenous methods to clean itself from the cobwebs. The bhakti movement is one significant example of such a mass social emancipation when it was needed. 

Many a great seer has come in the past to remind our society its destined path. One such seer was Sri Ramanuja. He was a spiritual leader, a social reformer, a builder of Institutions, a reviver of the eternal spirirtual spring called Sanatana Dharma and a great Philosopher. Sri Ramanuja was an institution by himself. Emperumanar (as he is fondly called by Sri Vaishnavas) just arrived at a juncture when Islamic invasions were in full force attempting to rip apart the Hindu civilization, and posing a great threat to the integrity of Bharat. Sri Ramanuja’s contribution must be understood in the broader context of the civilizational challenges, and how he acted as a bulwark against insidious and external threats. One Incident will bring to light the compassion he had towards the fallen and downtrodden people. After establishing worship procedures at Srirangam, Ramanuja approached an elderly spiritual master Thirukkottiyur Nambi to learn the most sacred of mantras. He introduced himself to Nambi as the servant of Lord Varadaraja. Nambi took him as his disciple and taught the sacred mantras, but instructed him not to share with anyone as they were the most sacred mantras. He also warned him that he would go to hell if he shares the mantras with others.  After learning, Ramanuja was not contended with that soul ennobling mantra. He wanted to share the wonderful secret to the society so that everyone can attain liberation. So he shared them with everyone irrespective of the caste, creed, sex and social status. The next day he climbed up the gopuram of the temple and taught the mantras to all those who gathered there. He also advised them to chant that sacred mantras all the time to attain liberation. Ramanuja’s teacher Nambi called him and threatened him that he would go to hell for sharing the secret mantras with everyone. In reply Ramanuja told his teacher that he would be happy to go to hell at the expense of many people getting liberation for chanting the sacred mantras. At this response his teacher Nambi realised his mistake and Ramanuja’s greatness and decided to become Ramaunja’s disciple. This compassion and inclusiveness is the need of the hour in the present society too. Let us mark the thousandth birth anniversary of this great seer by taking a vow to rekindle that spiritual wisdom of seeing Vishnu in every being and to embrace everyone.

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