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Origins of the Lord's Devot

From: M Srinivasan (m_srinivasan_at_qmgate.anl.gov)
Date: Mon Oct 23 1995 - 07:09:55 PDT

  REGARDING           Origins of the Lord's Devotees.

Sri. Dileepan wrote:
>The first person known to have put this
>into practice is Sri Ramanuja's guru, Sri Periya nambi.
>He attended to the needs of the aging saint and fellow
>pupil of Sri Alavandhaar, MaaRanEri nambi, a Candala
>by birth, and performed the last rites after his death.

There is a beautiful passage in the Sri Vachana Bhooshna Vyaakhyaanam of Sri.
ManavaaLa MaamunigaL on this episode: Sri Ramanuja happens to come by when
Sri. Periya Nambi is performing the last rites for Sri. MaaRan NEr (or
MaaRanEri) Nambi (MaaRan NEr = equal of Nammaazhvar). Sri. Ramanuja tells his
Acharya that his (Sri. Periya Nambi's) act would offend custom (Loka
Maryaadai) and that Sri. Periya Nambi could have ordered himself (Sri.
Ramanuja) to perform these rites. Sri. Periya Nambi replies to the effect:
"Would one hire some one else to perform Sandhya Vandhanam on one's behalf?
(aaL ittu andhi thozhuvadho?) Am I a greater person than Sri Rama? Or is
MaaRan NEr Nambi any less than Periya Udaiyaar (Jataayu)? [This is a reference
to Sri. Rama performing Brahma Medha Samskara for Jataayu] Are 'NedumaaRkku
adimai' and 'Sudarum payiloLi' mere noises like the sound of sea waves?"
[These are Paasurams in the Tiruvaymozhi where Nammazhvaar sings the greatness
of the Lord's servants and their servants.]

It has been a long tradition in Sri Vaishnavism going back to the Aazhvaars
and even earlier (Vishnu Purana etc.) to hold the Lord's servants as great
mahatmas worthy of veneration irrespective of their origins. It is even
considered a sin to enquire into the origins of bhagavatas. Sri Ramanuja and
some of the Acharyas that came before and after him exemplified such behavior.
It is unfortunate that most of the spiritual descendents of these Acharyas do
not show much zeal in this particular regard. There are always exceptions and
if you know of any, please let us all share that information.