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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.