“Like Vadukanambi, did I declare that the milk will boil over, if I leave my post?”, queried Thirukolur PeN Pillai.
Vadukanambi belonged to a place called SaaLagramam near Melkottai. His Acharya Bhakti is exemplary.
Similar to Madurakavi Aazhwar extolling his Acharya Nammazhwar by saying,
“I know no other lord and master other than Swami Nammazhwar (DEvu matrariyEn)”, Vadukanambi had undivided Bhakti towards Sri Ramanuja only.
So great, in fact, was Vadukanambi's Acharya Bhakti, that he believed:
“The four letters Naa-Raa-Ya-Naa will grant everything.
But the four letters Raa-Maa-Nu-Jaa will bestow Narayana Himself.”
Once Sri Ramanuja went on a pilgrimage to sacred places. At that time Vadukanambi was carrying the Thiru Aaraadhana PerumaaL Petti (The box in which SaaLagrama PerumaaL is kept and Aaraadhanam is performed). On the way, they had to cross the River Kaveri. Vadukanambi thought that the Thiruvadikal (Paadarakshai - Sri Ramanuja's footwear) would not be of use and hence he placed Sri Ramanuja's Thiruvadikal on Aaraadhana Petti.
Only after crossing the river did Sri Ramanuja find out that his Thiruvadikal were on the Aaraadhana Petti. When Sri Ramanuja asked Vadukanambi as to why he kept his Thiruvadikal on the Aaraadhana Petti, Vadukanambi replied to Sri Ramanuja as under:
"This (PerumaaL inside the Aaraadhana Petti) is your PerumaaL.
But your Thiruvadikal is my PerumaaL!"
Sri Ramanuja was moved.
They continued their journey to Thiruvarangam (Srirangam) to have the Darshan of Sri Ranganatha PerumaaL. At that time, *ThiruppaaNaazhwar's Amalanaadhipiraan Paasurams were being recited. While all the Bhakthas were immersed in the Aazhwar's soulful Paadhaadhi Kesha description** of Sri Ranganatha PerumaaL, Vadukanambi alone was blissfully enjoying the Paadhaadhi Kesham of Sri Ramanuja.
(**Paadhaadhi Kesha description -glorification of the Lord/Acharya, beginning from lotus feet to head.)
On seeing this, Sri Ramanuja asked Vadukanambi why he was not taking darshan of PerumaaL.
Vadukanambi humbly pointed out to Sri Ramanuja the following line from Aazhwar's Paasuram,
en amudhinai kaNDa kaNgaL matronrinai kANAvE!
My Eyes, having feasted upon the nectarean form of my Lord, will never again view anything/anyone else, meaning that Vadukanambi sees Sri Ramanuja as his nectar.
Hearing Vadukanambi's response, Sri Ranganatha PerumaaL laughed within Himself.
Vadukanambi's Acharya Nishtai (dutiful service) was very intense.
Once, Sri Ramanuja along with his Sishyas came to Thiruvananthapuram. Sri Ramanuja wanted to bring some reforms in the worship at Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram. But, the Namboodiripaads (pujaris) there did not accept the changes.
They prayed and appealed to PerumaaL Himself to give them guidance in this matter. PerumaaL also agreed with their view and instructed Garudaazhwar to take Sri Ramanuja to Thirukkurungudi instead.
Accordingly Garuda azhwar took Sri Ramanuja to Thirukkurungudi overnight and left him there on a stone boulder (rock). Vadukanambi and other disciples were still at Thiruvananthapuram. Upon waking up in the morning, Sri Ramanuja found himself at Thirukkurungudi. While he was wondering as to why he was at Thirukkurungudi, he thought that the changes he proposed to make in Sri Padmanabha Temple were not to PerumaaL’s liking. So he made peace with himself.
Then he called Vadukanambi. But Vadukanambi was at Thiruvananthapuram. However Vadukanambi came. How was it possible?
Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL Himself came to Sri Ramanuja in Vadukanambi's form.
Sri Ramanuja and Vadukanambi went and bathed in the river. Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL, who was in the guise of Vadukanambi, washed all the clothes of Sri Ramanuja. PerumaaL did all the kainkaryams (services) which were usually done by Vadukanambi.
After bathing, Sri Ramanuja applied ThirumaN Kaappu on his forehead and Vadukanambi’s forehead.
They both then went to Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL Temple.
While nearing the Temple, Vadukanambi suddenly vanished.
On observing that Vadukanambi was not there, Sri Ramanuja wondered where Vadukanambi disappeared.
With this thought, Sri Ramanuja entered the Temple.
At the Garbhagruham (Sanctum Sanctorum), Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL was glowing in all splendour as Azhagiyanambi (அழகியநம்பி), adorning the ThirumaN Kaappu on His forehead, applied by Sri Ramanuja!
Sri Ramanuja then marvelled that Thirukkurungudi Nambi PerumaaL himself came as Vadukanambi. By this Leela, Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL became the disciple of Sri Ramanuja. Thus, Thirukkurungudi Sri nambi PerumaaL also earned the special title as Sri VaishNavanambi!
Not finding Sri Ramanuja at Thiruvananthapuram, Vadukanambi and other disciples searched for him everywhere and finally came to know that he was at Thirukkurungudi. They all came to Thirukkurungudi and became aware of what all happened.
This Leela is the best example for the following :
If we firmly embrace Acharyan Thiruvadi, we need not directly embrace PerumaaL.
Instead, PerumaaL Himself will embrace us.
When Sri Ramanuja was doing service (kainkaryam) at Bhooloka VaikuNtam (the heaven on earth), Srirangam Ranganatha Temple, the annual Temple festival (thirunaaL Uthsavam) was going on.
Then one day Sri NamperumaaL was on Thiruveedhi Ula (procession on the streets).
The processional scene & sequence was so enchanting that even a thousand eyes are insufficient to drink in the beauty of this Thiruveedhi Ula.
This Thiruveedhi Ula arrived at the street where Sri Ramanuja had his Matam (Aashramam). Hence, Sri Ramanuja came out of the Matam along with his Sishyas.
He had a beatific darshan- the beauty of PerumaaL was beyond words.
When Sri Ramanuja surveyed whether all his Sishyas had taken darshan, he found that Vadukanambi was not there. He beckoned Vadukanambi, “Vadukaa, come and have PerumaaL darshan.”
Then Vadukanambi replied, “I am boiling milk for you, Acharya Ramanuja, who is MY PerumaaL. If I go now to have darshan of YOUR PerumaaL, the milk will boil and spill over.”
Vadukanambi was a Kainkarya SiromaNi (a crown-jewel of loving service) and always wanted to do uninterrupted and unhindered kainkaryam to Sri Ramanuja.
As already seen, Vadukanambi's devotion to his Acharya was intense.
"I don't have love and devotion for Acharya and Vairagya similar to that of Vadukanambi. What eligibility do I have to be in this holy place, Thirukolur?", expressed Thirukolur PeNpillai.
Sri Ramanuja, gratified to hear the glories of his disciple, joyfully said, “Respecting Vadukanambi's Acharya Bhakti, Thirukkurungudi PerumaaL Himself came in Vadukanambi's form. This was the special honour given to Vadukanambi!”
All the Sishyas around him were very happy to hear this.
Then, Sri Ramanuja asked, “Which devotee are you going to feature next, dear Child?”
“Did I hold on to both sides of the waist of Sri Ramanuja, like the Murthi of Sri Selvapillai?”
It was a wonderful incident.
Thirukolur PeNpillai was about to narrate this story about Sri Ramanuja to Sri Ramanuja himself without knowing that it was him!
In the next episode, we will see the greatness of Sri Ramanuja.