Do you belong to Ramanuja Sampradaya?
Spiritual Truth is one. Yet their representations and manifestations in the hearts of pure devotees or people seeking pure devotion can be infinite. Although these realizations and statements that appear in the heart of such committed devotees may appear strange or unknown to a person from another region, who has nothing in common with such devotees, the truth of a spiritual statement can never be challenged, because truth is realizable only in individual hearts. This truth in the individual’s heart is enough to carry that individual, to the final destination, Moksha or ultimate emancipation.
Such a statement of truth is “Sri Ramanujacharya, is the Ultimate Truth, the Absolute. He is the Original Preceptor. He is the only one who can take me to my final goal, to my final Abode, that is Vaikuntha, the Abode of the Lord of Lords Sriman Narayana.” Surrender or Saranagati (சரணாகதி) has a fruit in its offering. The fruit of surrender to Sri Ramanujacharya is “Kainkaryam” (கைங்கரியம் servitude). One needs to understand the means (உபாயம்) and the end (ப்ராப்யம்), when one looks at the purpose of servitude or “Kainkaryam”. Through what way, and what process one may attain one’s goal determines the means. Now by applying certain means, what goal is achieved becomes a matter of importance. The good fortune of attainment is known as the “Name”. It is attained through the “means”. Now it becomes important to understand how this “Name” is to be obtained through the “means”. The details of the means have been revealed by the Alvars (ஆல்வார்). Alvars were the famous Tamil Poet Saints of Tamil Nadu and also called as Azhwars. They considered Lord Vishnu and his primary expansions Lord Rama and Lord Krishna as the Supreme Beings, who controlled the working of the world. Lord Vishnu and His expansions were the sole proprietors of the devotees and devotees are under the eternal servitude of their Lords. Their songs and compositions reflected the essence of the teachings of the great Acharya Sri Ramanujacharya, who was the direct Avatara of the Snake bed of Lord Narayana, known as Lord Adishesha or Lord Ananta.
The devotees of Sri Ramanujacharya and Sri Vishnu or Lord Narayana have only one goal and that is to ascend to the spiritual Abode of Sri Vaikuntha (வைகுந்தம் land of no anxiety). The question is what shall the devotees do on ascending to the zone of Vaikuntha? There the devotee shall only serve the eternal Acharyas (eternal teachers), sages and Lord Narayana Himself. Now who are these teachers and sages? The teachers or sages are the ones, who have met us on our journey on earth and have given us the knowledge about the Vaikuntha Abode. They have taught us what service is and taught us what it means to perform devotion. These teachers shall exist in the eternal abode of Vaikuntha as well, in their eternal forms. When we rise or ascend to Vaikuntha, an opportunity shall be given to us so that we may offer our heartfelt devotional service unto them, for all that they have done for us. We shall also personally meet Sri Ramanujacharya, whom we could not meet on our visit to earth, because there he had arrived about four thousand years ago, much before our coming to the earthly platform. But now, we shall have an opportunity not only to personally meet Him, but also offer our heartfelt devotional service to Him. Our service to Him in that abode of Vaikuntha shall be carried out eternally, without a break. Such a service shall only add to our inner gratification and inspire use to offer more personal services unto them out of devotion. This shall be our good fortune, incomparable to any earthly gain. This is called the gain of “Name”.
Now, when we talk of servitude in Vaikuntha, there is an entire tradition, a parampara, a particular sect with certain accentuated sectarian practices that proliferates on the earthly platform even today, mostly in the south of India. There is an extension of this sect in Northern India near to the Ganges belt, where service is extended to another Acharya in the line of Sri Ramanujacharya who is called Sri Ramanandacharya, believed to be the direct incarnation of our Lord Sri Rama. Now, why is there a need for such sects? This question shall be answered. A saint from an older time had attained the end through the means, given to him by his spiritual master, following the teachings of Sri Ramanujacharya. But then, he documented the practices that he had followed, following which he attained the “Name”, the fruit of the “means”. If he would have simply attained it and used it only for himself, the path would not have been lit up. His attainment could not have been useful to others. Now he mentioned in those documents the greater details of how he attained the “Name” and the nitty-gritty of the means. The documents included the qualifications for a devotee, the type of sacrifices that required to be done, the intensity of commitment and so on. However the document did not even assume that the devotees would have any strength to carry out all the documented practices to begin with. There was an entire system built around this document or sets of documents to hold the devotee by the hand and take him to the “end”. The means was the “hand-holding” process, which came to be known as parampara (பாரம்பரியம் disciplic succession). The succession was a chain of direct hand-holding spiritual masters extending themselves to the disciples and see them attain the “Name”. On attainment, after the Guru or the spiritual master left his mortal coils, the disciple after having attained the qualifications and position of a liberated being, is named as the next authorized spiritual master, who then leads the next generation of disciples and the succession continues from generation to generation. The purpose of the parampara is to maintain the original purity of the “means”, transmitting “directly”, the core value system “As It Is“, into the hearts of the successive disciples through an authorized set process without an inch of deviation. This is the direct-transmission process represented by the great line of teachers of the Ramanujacharya Vishishta-Advaita Sampradayam (ராமானுஜாச்சார்யா விஷிஷ்ட–அத்வைத சம்பிரதாயம்).