Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A fight against monopolization of knowledge

Guru calls Ramanuja – My Lord (Emberumanar)

Part IV

Prof. Madabhushi Sridhar,

Former Central Information Commissioner &

Dean, School of Law Mahindra University, Hyderabad

One of the popular names of Ramanuja is ‘emberumanar’. In Tamil it means ‘my Lord or My God’. It is interesting to know how Ramanuja acquired this title, that too from his Guru, Gosthipurna, (Tirugosthiyurnambi) who tested his patience and perseverance by returning him back home without imparting the Divya Mantra. In part III of my (previous) article, Ramanuja’s steadfastness in learning has been explained. He does not ever murmur against teacher, does not complain to anyone, not even was depressed. Simply waited for his luck to smile. Guru gave it with a condition of secrecy, and conditioned curse – if you reveal it to others, your head will break into pieces, and soul will spend years in hell.

Also read: Ramanuja is the positive example of perseverance, Not Gajani Mohammad

Ramanuja acquiesced to the condition of secrecy imposed by Goshti Poorna. He is not supposed to reveal the secrets of Ashtakshari. But he was not convinced but rethinking about it. When he saw people suffering from lack of knowledge, darkness of ignorance and there were no compassionate teachers to show them light, he thought each and every one should know the ways to reach the ultimate goal of relief.  If the best among disciples like Ramanuja cannot get mantra for 18 attempts, it will be almost impossible for others.   He pondered why these divine methods of liberation, truths about them are so secret and guarded? If not Lord, who will uplift them? And how can they be uplifted without knowing the method. Ramanuja was concerned about his fellow Jeevas. Compassion and love for them burned in his heart. What If this transcendental knowledge is shared to so many jeevas. Should they not be uplifted? He apprehended anger of Acharya and punishment for breaking the secrecy too. Being a kind human being Ramanuja overcame the dilemma and decided to disseminate divine knowledge.  He decided.

Ramanuja climbed temple-tower of Sowmya Narayana. In a loud voice he began to address the gathering: “I would like to deliver you from the torments and sufferings of materialistic world, come near, listen, I am giving a priceless jewel, repeat what I say thrice after me… OM NAMO NARAYANAYA”.  There are different legends in circulation, as some believed that he revealed Tirumantra, the others tried to reason out that as he already knew Tirumantra, he might have been explained the secret significance of the Tirumantra.

The crowd responded immediately, everyone repeating the sacred words together, producing a vibrating sound filling the air around Tirukosthiyur temple. For a while, everyone was silent without action, looking at each other with disbelief and feelings of deep ecstasy. 

Also read: PM Modi says Gujarat Bhakti Leader Narsi Mehta’ influenced by Ramanuja

The furious Guru

As the news of this sensational revelation of Tirumantra to all from temple-top, Acharya Goshthipurna was furious at Ramanuja’s breach of promise. He thought that it was betrayal of trust. He was repenting for the blunder of revealing him the divine secret. In an admonishing voice Goshthipurna asked, ‘do you know the consequence of breach of promise and revealing great mantra to undeserving the inevitable Hell?’  

Ramanuja obediently replied: “I am guilty of disobedience! But I revealed the truths to glorify your authority and the transcendental teachings, yes disobedience surely deserves me Hell. I must be sent, No doubt at all……….. But Master, May I submit that it is a little sacrifice for one sinner to make in as much as it brings salvation to millions. It was compassion for the mankind that made me blind, I seek forgiveness. Please do whatever you wish I deserve. Am here just before with remorse..I surrender to your lotus feet now …”


After a few thoughtful moments, Acharya realized the compassion-filled-thought and action of Ramanuja saw him with folded hands and stubbornly silent.  Perhaps he began to understand the futility of his idea of secrecy and welcomed the new outlook…and he wondered how he could not grasp the greatness of Ramanuja earlier, embraced him and said: “You are guru…you are our Emberumanar (my Lord)

The Jnana of this mantra is thus so rich and highly valuable as it was attained after a long wait of more than a decade and long walk to Tirukosthiyur for 18 times, which he never hesitated to share with all, because Ramanuja did not believe in secrecy and monopolization of knowledge.

There can be no intellectual property rights over divine paths of attaining salvation. The knowledge, God’s grace Bhagavadanugraham, or Teachers grace Acharyaanugraham showers equally like rain, moonlight or sunshine on all. Acharya was kind enough to show the divine path to all.  The Right to Information we are talking today was brought in thousand years ago by this great saint. The Right to information as per law does not extend to ‘knowledge’, but Ramanuja has extended the freedom to knowledge that leads to freedom from materialistic bonds. The knowledge belongs to the Universe none could dare to claim ownership over it. Trying to establish monopoly over knowledge is like Hiranyaksha grabbing Vedas for his own misuse and deprive the Universe of its benefit. Those, who hide knowledge and disallow others from learning are doing a great disservice and deserve condemnation. This is the greatest message from this significant part of his life of Ramanuja. He is Emberumanar. Later he called Ramanuja again to provide knowledge of some more divine aspects and recommended other Acharyas also to impart him their knowledge. Like a father, the GuruGoshtipurnanourished him with necessary knowledge and took care of Ramanuja’s evolution as full-fledged Acharya and created systems for his security and protection. This stands out as an example of excellent relationship between teacher and his disciples. Nowadays, it is very difficult to find shishya like Ramanuja and Guru like Goshtipurna.

Also read: Ramanuja who broke the law of secrecy

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.


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