Śrī Sampradāyera Ācārya Śrīmad Rāmānuja Svāmīra Upadeśa (The Instructions of Śrīmad Rāmānuja Svāmī - the Ācārya of the Śrī Sampradāya) was published by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol.7, issues 3 &4 in 1895. Due to the fact that there were not many Śrī Vaiṣṇavas in Bengal, the Ṭhākura wanted to familiarise his readers with the teachings of Śrī Rāmānuja, which are very akin to Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavism. The ślokas that he has included in this article are from Chapter 65 of the Prapannāmṛta-tarpaṇa, an old hagiography of the Āḷvārs and ācāryas of the Śrī sampradāya, written by Anantarāya. The Sanskrit verses from Prapannāmṛta-tarpaṇa are followed by an English translation of Bhaktivinoda's Bengali explanations.
(translated by Swami B.V. Giri)
The philosophy of Śri Rāmānuja Svāmī, the foremost of Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, is that all Vaiṣṇavas are worshippable. There are not many Vaiṣṇavas of the Śrī sampradāya in this province (Bengal). The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas have not seen the works of the Rāmānuja sampradāya. Now, in this article, we will present his instructions.
tato yatīśvaras tena raṅgiṇā jñāpitas tadā
praviveśa maṭhaṁ śrīmān śri-vaiṣṇava-samāvṛtam
On the command of Lord Raṅganātha, that master of sannyāsīs, Rāmānuja, entered the maṭha accompanied by the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas.
śrī-vaiṣṇavān samāhūya yatra tatra sthitān bahūn
kṛpā-mātra prasannāryo yati-rājo jagad-guruḥ
sarva-śāstrārtha-sāraṇi su-vākyāni dvi-saptatiḥ
samāhṛtya vidhāyāśu bhūridānaṁ mahā-yaśāḥ
Summoning all the other Vaiṣnavas who were elsewhere, that ocean of mercy, the universal guru, Yatirāja (Rāmānuja) of great fame, graciously pleased them by giving seventy-two wonderful instructions which are the essence of all the śāstra. Bestowing this gift to his own Śrī Vaiṣṇava disciples, he spoke the following for their deliberation.
sva-deśikasya kaiṅkarya kaiṅkarya vaiṣṇavasya ca
pratipattiṁ samāṁ kṛtvā kaiṅkaryaṁ kārayet sadā
pūrvācāryokta-vākyeṣu viśvāse naivavartayet
Always serve Gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas with equal veneration. Have faith in the words of the previous ācāryas.
na vartayed indriyāṇāṁ kiṅkaraś ca divā-niśaṁ
sāmānya-śāstra-nirato naiva tiṣṭḥet kadācana
Do not become a slave to your senses day and night. Apart from paramārtha–śāstra (that śāstra which leads to the highest realisation), other śāstra are mediocre. Do not become engrossed in them.
bhagavad-viṣaye śāstre nirataḥ sarvadā vaset
ācārya-kṛpayā pūrvaṁ sañjāta jñāna-sāgaraṁ
Initially, by the mercy of the ācārya, one will attain knowledge of Bhagavān (bhagavad–jñāna) by being immersed in that śāstra which delineates bhakti to Bhagavān.
bhūyaḥ śabdādi viṣaya kiṅkaro naiva varttayet
sarvān śabdādi-viṣayān samāneva vilokayet
Do not become a slave to the things of this world such as sound, touch, smell, taste, sight etc. In other words, all these things should be considered with indifference and only accepted when necessary for work. In particular, one should not become attached to material objects.
vāsanā-ruci-kāryāṇi kadācin naiva kārayet
Do not perform activities that cultivate the tendency to desire nice things such as flowers, sandalwood, tāmbula etc. In other words, perform actions that cultivate a tendency towards bhakti, by only accepting the remnants of Bhagavān.
yā prītir āsīt satataṁ bhagavan-nāma-kīrtane
sā syāt prītir hi tad-bhakta-nāma-saṅkīrtane ca vaḥ
Just as you had love for performing kīrtana of Bhagavān’s Names, may you now have the same love for performing saṅkīrtana of the Names of His devotees.
kāraṇaṁ bhagavat-prāpter mahā-bhāgavatāśrayaḥ
iti matvā dṛḍhaṁ teṣāṁ ājñayā vartayet sadā
Having understood that the only cause of attaining Bhagavān is by taking refuge of the mahā-bhāgavatas, you should always strictly obey their instructions.
vihāya viṣṇu-kaiṅkaryaṁ kaiṅkaryaṁ vaiṣṇavasya ca
vinaśyet sa naraḥ prājñaḥ rāgādi-prerito yadi
Just as even an intelligent man is destroyed due to attachment to mundane sense-objects, similarly one who rejects service to Viṣṇu, or service to the devotees, is ruined.
vaiṣṇavānām anuṣṭhāne nopāya matim unnayet
upeyam eva satataṁ unnayet su-mahā-manāḥ
While performing vaiṣṇava-seva, an intelligent man rejects upāya–buddhi (the mentality that it is a means), and always maintains upeya–buddhi (the mentality that it is the goal). One’s mentality is called upāya-buddhi when he considers that he will attain some other result through vaiṣnava-sevā. One’s mentality is known as upeya–buddhi when he thinks that the activity of vaiṣṇava-sevā is only due to having previously engaged in many other types of sukṛti.
nāhūyed eka-vacanān mahā-bhāgavatān janān
pūrvāñjaliṁ vaiṣṇavānāṁ dṛṣṭi-mātre ca kārayet
If one summons a mahā–bhāgavata, one must never use the eka-vacana (singular) which is disrespectful. One should use the bahu–vacana (plural) which is respectful. Upon seeing a Vaiṣṇava one should fold his hands (kṛtāñjali) immediately.
Translator’s note: In Sanskrit, and most Indian languages, when one addresses superiors, one uses the plural case (bahu–vacana) and not the singular case (eka–vacana) out of respect.
harer bhagavato viṣṇor vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca sannidhau
pādau prasārya na vaset kadācit amalātmanāṁ
One should not sit with one’s legs spread before Bhagavān Viṣṇu or pure Vaiṣṇavas.
viṣṇo guruvo vaiṣṇavasya gṛhānāñca diśaṁ prati
pādau prasārya nidrāñca kadācin naiva kārayet
One should never sleep with his feet pointing towards the residence of the guru, the Vaiṣṇavas or the Lord.
kṛta-nidraḥ samuhyāya vadet guru-paramparāṁ
mahā-bhāgavatān dṛṣṭvā niṣaṇṇān viṣnu-sannidhau
Upon waking up, one should recite the names of the Lord and His devotees according to the guru-paramparā tradition. One should also do this upon seeing a mahā-bhāgavata who is close to Bhagavān.
mantra-rāja manuṣyāyan praṇamed-daṇḍavad-bhūvi
saṅkīrtanaṁ bhagavatas tathā bhāgavatasya vā
One should offer daṇḍavat–praṇāmas while meditating upon the mantra-rāja that has been received from the guru. One should perform saṅkīrtana of Bhagavān and His devotees.
śrī-vaiṣṇaveṣu kurvatsu tāñcaktyā nābhipūjya ca
madhye cotthāya gamanam apacāratamo bhavet
When the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas are performing kīrtana, if one does not worship them before they are finished or leaves in-between, this is a great offence.
vaiṣṇavāgamanaṁ śrutvā gacched abhimukhaṁ tadā
sākaṁ gacchet kvacid dūraṁ bhaktyā teṣāṁ vinirgame
When one hears that a Vaiṣṇava is arriving, one should walk some distance to receive him, and when a Vaiṣṇava is leaving, one should walk some distance with him.
dvayor-karaṇatvena mahān-doṣaḥ prajāyate
ātma-yātrārtha maniṣaṁ śeṣatvena ca vaiṣṇavān
Failure to perform these two aforementioned acts is a great defect. One must live one’s life in accordance with vaiṣṇava–dāsatva (submission to the Vaiṣṇavas) and always worship them.
vinayādi gunair-bhaktyā nānusṛtya mahātmakān
deha-yātrārtha-maniṣaṁ prākṛtānāṁ gṛhe gṛhe
gatvā gatvātha nāmāni teṣāṁ teṣāṁ ca sādaraṁ
sva-nāmnaḥ purataḥ kṛtvā niyamādīn vihāya ca
vartanaṁ vaiṣṇavasyāsya svarūpasyaiva hānidaṁ
One should follow the mahātmā Vaiṣṇavas with bhakti and the qualities of humility etc. In order to maintain the body, materialistic persons continuously go back and forth from house to house. If you behave like them and put your name before theirs,* you will abandon your principles and your Vaiṣṇava nature will be lost.
* Translators note: The phrase ‘to put your name before theirs’ means to compete with such people.
viṣṇor divya-vimānāni gopurāṇi jagat-pateḥ
dṛṣṭi mātreṇa sahasā kārayed añjaliṁ tadā
dṛṣṭvetara vimānāni vismyaṁ naiva kārayet
Upon seeing Bhagavān’s divine vimāna and gopura,* one should fold one’s hands. One should not be astounded in any way seeing the temples of other Devas.
*Translators note: A vimāna is the ornate roof under which the Deity is situated in pañcarātrika temples in South India. A gopuram is the main gate/tower on the way to the Lord’s temple.
śrutvā na vismyaṁ gacched devatāntara kīrtanaṁ
viṣṇorvā vaiṣṇavānāñca nāma-saṅkīrtanāni ca
kurvataḥ puṇya-puruṣān dṛṣṭvā na vāpya vaimudaṁ
ākṣeyam apacāra syān madhye teṣāṁ suniścayaṁ
Do not be amazed at hearing the praises of other Devas. When one does not attain bliss upon seeing devotees perform nāma–saṅkīrtana of Viṣṇu and the Vaīṣṇavas, this is said to be apacāra (misconduct) or aparādha.
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ sarveṣāṁ deha-chāyā na laṅghayet
sva-deha-chāyā saṁsparśaṁ vaiṣṇaveṣu na kārayet
One should never step over the shadow of a Śrī Vaiṣṇava’s body. Also one’s shadow should not touch another Vaiṣṇava.
vaiṣṇavāya daridrāya pūrvaṁ vandana kāriṇe
anādarāṇī kāryāni bhaveyuḥ pātakāni vai
If one touches the body of one who has not undergone the Vaiṣṇava pañca–saṁskāra,* one should touch a Vaiṣṇava (for purification).
*Translators note: Pañca–saṁskāra refers to pañcarātrika initiation which comprised of five elements: Tāpa (wearing the marks of a Vaiṣṇava), puṇḍra (wearing urdhva–puṇḍra on twelve parts of the body), nāma (receiving a name with the suffix dāsa or dāsī), mantra (receiving mantra from Śrī Guru) and yāga (learning how to worship the Deity).
yadi praṇamate pūrvaṁ dāso’haṁ iti vaiṣṇavaḥ
anādare kṛte tasmin aparādho mahān bhavet
If a Vaiṣṇava offers you praṇāma saying, “I am a servant!” then it is a great aparādha to disrespect him.
vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca janmāni nidrālasyāni yāni ca
dṛṣṭvā tāny aprakāśyāni janebhyo na vadet kvacit
teṣāṁ doṣān vihāyāśu guṇāṁś caiva prakīrtayet
A Vaiṣṇava’s birth, sleep and laziness should not to be disclosed. Seeing all these, one should not say anything to anyone. One should give up such faulty thinking and glorify them.
viṣṇu-pādodakaṁ caiva bhakta-pādodakan tu vā
prākṛteṣu ca paśyatsu na pibet toyam uttamam
One should not drink that best of water which has bathed the feet of Viṣṇu or the Vaiṣṇavas while being observed by materialistic persons.
tattva-trayasya jñānena śrī-rahasya-trayasya ca
rahitasyāṅghri-jaṁ toyaṁ grāhayen na kadācana
One should not accept the water that has bathed the feet of a person who is bereft of knowledge of the tattva–traya and rahasya-traya.* The tattva–traya is cit (the jīvas), acit (matter) and īśvara (the Supreme). Bhagavān is the one advaya–tattva (non-dual Absolute Truth) and this non-dual substance possesses two attributes (viśeṣas), namely cit and acit. Even if someone who lacks this knowledge has accepted pañca-saṁskāra, still one should not accept the water that has bathed his feet.
*Translators note: The rahasya–traya specifically refers to the three confidential mantras that Śrī Vaiṣṇavas receive at the time of accepting pañca-saṁskāra initiation.
jñānānuṣṭhāna-yuktasya sadācāra-ratasya ca
pādodakaṁ vaiṣṇavasya piben nityaṁ prayatnataḥ
One should try to constantly drink the water that has bathed the feet of those Vaiṣṇavas who follow proper conduct and practice according to proper knowledge (jñānānuṣṭhāna), meaning the knowledge of the Artha–pañcaka* and the tattva-traya. (See śloka 51)
*Translators note: The Artha–pañcaka is a work by Śrī Yāmunācārya dealing with five fundamental principles. These are (1) Sva–svarūpa – our own intrinsic identity (2) Para-svarūpa – the Lord’s identity (3) Puruṣārtha–svarūpa – identifying the highest goal (4) Upaya–svarūpa – identifying the method of attaining that goal (5) Virodhi–svarūpa – identifying those things that obstruct the goal.
māṁ ca bhāgavataiḥ sārddhaṁ sāmya-buddhiṁ na kārayet
prākṛtānāṁ ca saṁsparśaṁ prāptaḥ prāmādikād yadi
snātaḥ sacailaḥ sahasā vaiṣṇavāṅghri-jalaṁ pibet
You should never consider yourself to be equal to the Vaiṣṇavas. If by accident one touches a materialistic person, you should take bath while wearing one’s cloth and drink the caraṇāmṛta of a Vaiṣṇava.
vairāgya-jñāna bhaktyādi guṇa-vanto mahātmanaḥ
vaiṣṇavāṁs tān mahā-bhāgan matvā carama-vigrahān
kārayet teṣu viśvāsaṁ viśeśeṇa mahātmasu
A mahātmā has the qualities of renunciation, knowledge and bhakti. Such Vaiṣṇavas are most fortunate for they know that this body is their final one. You should have special faith in such mahātmās.
vairāgya-jñāna bhaktyādi guṇa-vanto mahātmanaḥ
ye ye bhāgavatās taṁs tānuddiśya prītim-abhyaset
The mahātmā-bhāgavata who has all the qualities of renunciation, knowledge and bhakti, exercises love to all.
na grāhayed viṣṇu-tīrthaṁ prākṛtānāṁ gṛheṣu ca
prākṛtānāṁ nivāsa-sthān na seved viṣṇu-vigrahān
One should never accept caraṇāmṛta from a śālagrāma-śilā that resides in the house of a materialistic person. One should not offer service to the Deity of Viṣṇu that resides in the house of a materialistic person.
śrī-harer-divya-deśeṣu paśyatsu prākṛteṣv api
tīrtha-prasāda-grahanaṁ kārayen na tu saṁśayaṁ
At all the līlā-sthānas of Bhagavān, one should accept tīrtha–prasādam even if materialistic people are watching. There should be no doubt about this.
yadi śri-vaiṣṇavair dattaṁ prasādaṁ viṣṇu-sannidhau
upavāsādi-niyama-yukto ‘ham iti na tyajet
If a Śrī Vaiṣṇava gives you prasādam in front of Viṣṇu, one should not refuse by saying, “I am fasting.”
prasāde pāvane viṣṇoḥ sarva-pāpa-hare hareḥ
kadācid api cocchiṣṭaṁ pratipattiṁ na kārayet
The prasāda of Hari is pure and removes all pāpa. One should never think at any time that it is merely ordinary remnants.
sannidhau vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca sva-guṇān naiva kīrtayet
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ sānnidhye nānyaṁ paribhavej janaṁ
Do not glorify your own qualities in front of the Vaiṣṇavas, and do not condemn anyone else.
guṇānubhava kaiṅkaryaṁ tadīyānāṁ mahātmanāṁ
avidhāya kṣaṇam api kāryaṁ kiñcin na kārayet
The māhātmā Vaiṣṇavas possess divine qualities. Thus at the time of rendering service, they cannot do any other activity, even for a moment.
dinaika ghaṭīkāyāṁ ca varṇayed guru-sad-guṇān
dinaika ghaṭikā-madhye hy api viśvāsa-pūrvakam
Every day, for half an hour, one should faithfully describe the divine qualities of his guru.
śaṭhāryādi prabandhāṁ vā prabandhān kīrtayed guroḥ
One should spend an hour a day singing the prabandhams * of Śaṭhakopa and other ācāryas—in other words, works in relation to one’s guru.
*Translator’s note: The Prabandhams are the ancient Tamil prayers composed by the twelve Āḷvārs that comprise 4000 verses. Śaṭhakopa (or Nammāḷvār) is considered to be the chief amongst the Āḷvārs.
dehābhimāninā sārdhaṁ saha-vāsaṁ na kārayet
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ cihnāni dhṛtvāpi viṣayāturaiḥ
taiḥ sārdhaṁ vañcaka-janaiḥ saha-vāsaṁ na kārayet
One should never live with a person who identifies with the material body. If deceivers afflicted with materialism wear the signs of a Vaiṣṇava, one should never live together with them.
na bhāṣayecc satataṁ paradūṣaṇa tat paraiḥ
devatāntara-bhaktānāṁ saṅga-doṣa nivṛttaye
In order to prevent saṅga–doṣa (the fault of bad association) with those who are devoted to other Devas, one should never converse with such persons who are guilty of such defects.
śrī-vaiṣnavair mahā-bhāgaiḥ sallāpaṁ kārayet sadā
tadīya dūṣaka-janān na paśyat puruṣādhamāṇ
Always converse with those Vaiṣṇavas who are most fortunate. Do not even look at those most fallen souls who criticise them.
naivāvalokayet krūrān napacāra parān guroḥ
dvayaika-niṣṭhaḥ puruṣaiḥ saṅgatiṁ kārayet sadā
Do not look at those evil persons who are offenders to the guru. Always take association of those who have exclusive devotion to the guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
upāyāntara niṣṭhāṁś ca puruṣān parivarjayet
The method, according to the genuine sampradāyas, of attaining the ultimate goal has already been determined. You should reject any other persons who have an alternative method. In other words, do not associate with them.
prapatti dharma-niratair janaiḥ saha vaset sadā
rahasya-traya-sārajñais tattva-traya viśāradaiḥ
One should reside with those who are engaged in prapatti–dharma (total surrender to the Supreme). One should live with those who are conversant with the essence of the rahasya–traya, and learned in the tattva-traya.
nārthakāma-paraiḥ sārdhaṁ kadācin nivaset sadā
bhagavad-bhakti-niṣṭhaiś ca saṁlāpaṁ kārayet sadā
The tattva–traya is explained thus:
īśvaraś cid-acic-ccheti padārtha tritayaṁ hariḥ
iśvaraś-cit ityukto jīvo dṛśyam acit punaḥ
(“There are three things – īśvara, cit and acit. Īśvara is Hari, cit is the jīva, and acit is the universe.”)
Do not live with those persons who pursue wealth and pleasure. Always converse with those people who have exclusive bhagavad–bhakti.
vaiṣṇavena tiraskāraḥ kṛto hi bhavatāṁ yadi
apakāraṁ-smṛtiṁ tasmād matvā maunato vaset
In case you are reprimanded by a Vaiṣṇava, try not to remember the pain of that and remain silent.
saṁjātā vaiṣṇavasyāsīt buddhir hi parame pade
śrī-vaiṣṇavebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ kārayet satataṁ hitaṁ
The Vaiṣṇavas desire to attain parampada (the Supreme Abode). Thus, the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas always endeavour to benefit everyone.
dharmadapetaṁ yat karmaṁ yadyapi syān mahā-phalaṁ
na tat seveta medhārī nahi tadhvitam ucyate
An intelligent person will not perform any activity that contravenes dharma, even if it produce great results, because it is not beneficial for the Lord’s service.
nānarpitānnaṁ haraye kadācid api bhakṣayet
puṣpa-candana tambūla vastrodaka phalādikaṁ
One should not accept flowers, candana, tāmbūla, cloth, water, fruit etc. unless it is offered to Hari.
nānarpitaṁ tu haraye kadācid api dhārayet
sādhanānantara saṁprāptam artha-kāmādi hetunā
One should not accept items to offer to Hari from those that harbour desires for wealth and sex, and procure such things illegally.
ayācitam api prāptaṁ na gṛhṇīyāt kadācana
jātayādya duṣṭamannāyaṁ bhuñjīyātacca sādakaṁ
Even when all these things come unasked for, one should not accept them. With intelligence one should only accept pure grains from those of good birth, conduct etc.
sva-deha-priya-bhogyāni nārpayet paramātmane
śāstrīya-sarva-bhogāṁs tu viṣṇave tāni cārpayet
One should not offer to Paramātmā food etc. just because it is dear to one’s own body. One should offer to Viṣṇu only those things mentioned in śāstra.
viṣṇavarpitānna pānīya bhakṣyādiṣu sugandhiṣu
prasāda-buddhi kartavyā bhoga-buddhir hi na kvacit
Offering Bhagavān delicious foods and drinks with a mood of enjoyment (bhoga–buddhi) should be given up. Always maintain a mood that it is His prasāda (prasāda–buddhi).
kaiṅkarya-buddhyā kāryāni śāstrīyāṇyera kārayet
mantra-trayārtha-niṣṭhasya mahā-bhāgavatasya hi
Perform all your duties according to the śāstra, have firm faith in the mantra–traya,* and maintain a mood of servitorship in relation to the mahā–bhāgavatas.
*Translators note: The mantra–traya are the three mantras received at the time of pañca–saṁskāra initiation by the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas. These are the aṣṭākṣara–mantra, the dvaya–mantra and the carama–śloka.
apacāraṁ vinā nānyat ātmano nāśa-kāraṇaṁ
ātmano mokṣa-hetutvāt tat sukhollāsanaṁ vinā
Other than apacāra (misdeeds and offences), there is no other cause for the destruction of the self. Making the Vaiṣnavas happy is recognised as the means for one’s liberation and thus, any apacāra become insignificant.
pūjanād viṣṇu-bhaktānāṁ puruṣārtho’sti netaraḥ
teṣu tad-dveṣataḥ kiñcit nāsti nāśanam ātmanaḥ
The worship of Viṣṇu’s devotees is the goal of human life (puruṣārtha). There is no possibility of achieving the goal of human life when there is envy towards Vaiṣṇavas—there is only spiritual suicide.
arcā-viṣṇor śilādhir guruṣu naramatir vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhi
viṣṇor vā vaiṣṇavānāṁ kali-mala-mathane pāda-tīrthe’mbu-buddhiḥ
siddhe tan nāma-mantre kali-kaluṣa hare śabda-sāmānya-buddhiḥ
śrīśe sarveśvareśa tad itara sama dhīr yasya vā nārakī saḥ
One who considers the Deity of Viṣṇu to be merely stone, who thinks the guru to be an ordinary man, who gauges a Vaiṣṇava according to the community he was born in, who regards the caraṇāmṛta of Viṣṇu or the Vaiṣnavas (which removes the contamination of the age of Kali) to be ordinary water, who considers the perfect mantra of Bhagavān (which destroys the pollution of Kali-yuga) to be an ordinary sound, who thinks that the form of Śrīpati (the Lord of Lakṣmī), the Supreme Controller, and the Devas are equal—such a person is a resident of the hellish regions!
śrīmad bhāgavatārcanaṁ bhagavataḥ pūjā-vidher uttamam
śrī-viṣṇor avamānanād guru-taraṁ śrī-vaiṣṇavollaṅghanam
tīrthād acyuta-pādajād guru-taraṁ tīrthaṁ tadīyāṅghri-jam
tasmān nityam atantrito bhava satāṁ teṣāṁ samārādhane
The principle rule in worshipping Bhagavān is the worship of the Vaiṣnavas. Abusing a Vaiṣṇava is more serious than insulting Viṣṇu. The water that has bathed the feet of a Vaiṣṇava is greater than the water that has bathed the feet of Viṣṇu. Knowing such, you should endeavor to worship the Vaiṣṇavas without any reservations.
These are the teachings of the Śrī sampradāya ācārya,
Śrī Rāmānuja Svāmī, collected from the book Prapannāmṛta