For my friend Shri Kannan Rangachar
In the Vaishanava tradition (Sampradaya); Sri Nathamuni (Ca.823-951?), Sri Yamunacharya (917-1042), and Sri Ramanuja (1017 to 1137) are highly revered as Munitrayam – the Grand Trinity of Acharyas – of their Guru Parampara.
Sri Kuresa (Kurathazhwan) reverently submits his homage to the Guru Parampara, the hierarchy of the Acharyas, commencing from Lakshminatha (Supreme Lord Narayana, the consort of Sri Lakshmi) and ending with his preceptor Sri Ramanuja; with the sages Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna in-between. (This verse is devotedly recited as part of Sri Vaishnava Nithya-anu-sandhanam)
Lakshminatha samarambham / Natha-Yamuna madhyamam / Asmad Acharya paryantam / Vande Guru-paramparam //
Sri Nathamuni is regarded as the Prathama Acharya with whom the distinguished line of Alagiyas or the Acharyas of the Vishistadvaita tradition begins. He set the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta on a new and a glorious phase of its progression. But, sadly, none his works is now available.
Sri Nathamuni is said to have lived to a very ripe old age. He was succeeded at Srirangam by Pundarikaksha Uyyakkondar; and, then by Rama Misra Manakkal-nambi.
Sri Yamuna strengthened the Vaishnava tradition and philosophy considerably by proving its validity through the authority of the Upanishads, Brahma-sutras, Bhagavad-Gita and other ancient scriptures. While Sri Nathamuni recovered, compiled and codified the treasure of devotional hymns, which were almost fading into oblivion – the ‘Nalayira Divya Prabhandam’; and, brought those Tamil hymns within the fold of temple worship at Srirangam; it was Sri Yamuna, the grandson and the spiritual heir of Sri Nathamuni, who had the unique privilege of inheriting the spiritual wealth of the past generations; and, who established the principles of Vaishnava Siddantha within the framework of the pristine Vedanta tradition (Aupanishada). Thus, the works of Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna complement each other; enormously enhancing the scope, content and authority of the Vaishnava Vedanta scriptures.
[The disappearance of the earlier texts on the Vaishnava doctrine, within the framework of Vedanta, makes Sri Yamuna the first Vaishnava Vedantin, whose views are well informed and authoritative.]
Thus, Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna occupy a central position (Natha-Yamuna madhyamam) among the illustrious Acharyas, who reformed and revitalized this ancient system of thought and faith – Vishitadvaita Siddantha.
Sri Ramanuja inherited that rich heritage; and enhanced it further. It was on the basis of the works of his Grand Acharya (Pracharya*) i. e., Sri Yamunacharya, that Sri Ramanuja, later, established, fortified and perfected the Vishistadvaita Siddantha. [*Sri Yāmunācārya was said to be the preceptor of Mahāpūrṇa who initiated Sri Rāmānuja.]
And, about two centuries later, Sri Vedanta Desika (1269–1369) edited the works of Sri Ramanuja.
Sri Yamuna is described as the grandson of Sri Nathamuni; and, as the son of Iswara Bhatta Aazhvaan and Ranganayaki.
It is said; even as a boy of twelve, Yamuna was learned, scholarly, and highly eloquent. In a prestigious and a much publicized debate of his times, the bright young Yamuna defeated the haughty Akkialvan, of the Pandya royal Court, feared as the terror of all debaters (Prati-vadi-bhayankara). And, in recognition of his victory over a much feared adversary, the grateful Chola Queen (perhaps the queen of Parantaka I 907 – 955 AD ?) conferred on Sri Yamuna the title of Alavandar (the saviour or the one who came to the rescue ); and, also granted him rights over a sizable tract of land within the King’s territory . Thus, while still in his adolescence, Sri Yamuna, apart from affluence, achieved great distinction; and, fame for his intellect and debating skills.
Thereafter, initially, the young Yamuna, for a short time, led a life of luxury and pomp; almost forgetting the legacy of wisdom that he had inherited.
It was the influence of Rama Misra also known as Manakkal-nambi, the chosen disciple of the scholar Pundarikaksha (who himself was the foremost among the disciples of Sri Nathamuni) that awakened the young Yamuna; made him realize the futility of the wayward life that he was then leading. It was Rama Misra, who talked sense to the young man; sparked in him the awareness of his preeminent lineage; prompted him to recognize his spiritual obligations; and, eventually led him to tread the path of virtuousness.
Rama Misra became the teacher of the young Yamuna; and, taught Vedic texts, Mimamsa and other scriptures as also Divya Prabandam. Thereafter; Rama Misra handed over to Sri Yamuna his grandfather’s legacy of the shrine at Srirangam. Soon thereafter, Sri Yamuna became a Sanyasin, settled down at the holy city of Srirangam; and, devoted the rest of his life to the propagation of the Vaishnava faith; and, to spreading the spiritual wisdom he inherited from his teacher Rama Misra and from his Parama Guru Sri Nathamuni.
Swami Desika in Sloka 7 of his Yathiraja Saptadhi pays homage to Yamuna thus:
Vighaahe Yaamunam Theertham Saadhu Brindaavane Stitham | Nirasthajih Magha Sparse Yatra Krishnah Kritaa Dharah ||
Sri Yamuna, not only by name, was like the one who resided at Brindavana on the banks the Yamuna; but, was also like the one (Sri Krishna) who cleansed the waters of Yamuna. He purified the tainted interpretations of the Vedic texts; and, established the true Vedanta Siddantha
Like his Grandfather Sri Nathamuni and his distinguished successor Sri Ramanuja, Sri Yamuna is said to have lived for a very ripe old age of about 120 years.
[Please also see The Stotraratnam or Alavandar-astotram ascribed to śrīmadyāmunamuni; submitted to Sri Yamuna with deep reverence.]
Sri Yamuna was renowned for his sharp intellect and unerring logic. He could see through sophistry and crooked arguments (Jalpa and Vitanda). He could present his arguments with precision and clarity, in a manner that it could hardly be refuted.
In his exposition of the Vishitadvaita thought, Sri Yamuna closely follows the ancient masters (Purva-charyas) like Bodhayana, Tanaka, Bharuchi and Dramida. And, of course, he was greatly influenced by the works of Sri Nathamuni, particularly by his Nyaya-tattva. Sri Yamuna’s following of Sri Nathamuni was so implicit that the scholar of the later period Sri Vedanta Desika described Yamuna’s Atma-siddhi as a condensed version Nyaya-tattva ( Nyayatattva prakaranam hi Atmasiddhi).
Sri Yamuna also turned into a prolific writer. The works of Sri Yamuna are of special importance to the students of Vedanta; not only because they are the earliest available Vishitadvaita texts, but also because they present a system of thought and faith that was inspired and nurtured by his Purva-charyas, including Sri Nathamuni ; and, transmitted through an unbroken tradition.
Sri Yamuna is said to have authored at least eight valuable works: Atma-siddhi; Isvara-siddhi; Samvit-siddhi; Gitartha-samgraha; Purusa-nirnaya; Stotra-ratna; Chatus-sloki; and, Agama-pramanya .
[References to the texts of Sri Yamunacharya:
Agamapramanyam –Sanskrit text : https://archive.org/details/agamapramanyam
Works of Sri Yamunacharya (English) :
Agamapramanyam (pages 1 to 145); Siddhi-trayam (pages 147 to 360); Gitartha Sangraha (pages 341 to 343); Stotra-ratna (pages 344 to 356); Chatus-sloki (pages 357 to 359)
There is often a mention of Kashmira-agama-pramanya; but, that text now appears to be lost]
: – Siddhi-traya
The first three are collectively referred to Siddhi-traya (Siddhi trilogy), which describes the relation that exists between the soul, god and the universe : Maha Purusha Nirnayam ; and, declares that the ultimate reality is the union of Sri and Narayana
But, sadly, much of these texts are lost; and, Atma-siddhi , which is the most extensive of the three, is incomplete. And, it is mainly through the quoted fragments that one gets to know Sri Yamuna’s thoughts on certain important philosophical issues as discussed in these texts. Sri Ramanuja, in his Sri Bhashya, quoted profusely from these splendid texts.
The Gitartha-samgraha is an excellent epitome of the Bhagavad-Gita. In about thirty-two stanzas, Sri Yamuna very ably sums up the essential teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, as per the tenets of the Vaishnava tradition. It logically demonstrates how it is only Bhakthi – the loving devotion tempered with Jnana- knowledge and Vairagya – detachment that can lead the devotee to the presence of the Lord (Svadharma jnana vairagya sadhya bhakyaka gocharah). It is said; the inspiration for this work came from Rama Misra, who had initiated Sri Yamuna into the secrets of the Bhagavad-Gita. Later, this work served as the foundation for Sri Ramanuja to develop his luminous exposition of the Bhagavad-Gita
As regards the structure of the Gita-artha-sangraha:
The first sloka encapsulates the essence of the Gita
The entire text of the Bhagavad-Gita is then divided into the Shatakas (segmentsof six); each Shataka dealing with a set of six chapters of Bhagavad-Gita. Each segment (Shataka) has six slokas.
Of these, the First Shataka – Prathama Shatakam – dealing with Karma and Jnana yogas, covering the first six chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita, is divided into two sub-divisions
- The first sub-division, covering the first two chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita deal with the grief of Arjuna (Vishada); and, also the need to realize ones identity to get rid of the grief
- The second sub-division, covering four chapters (3-6) of the Bhagavad-Gita describe the means for realizing the identity of Jivatman
The Second Shataka – Madhyama Shatakam – dealing with Bhakthi Yoga- covering next set of six chapters (7-12) of the Bhagavad-Gita, is again divided into two sub-sections:
- – The first sub-division deals with the competency of a person to perform Bhakti Yoga and the nature of such yoga;
- – the second sub-division deals with the methods and means to be practiced for the sprouting of and the growth Bhakti
The Third Shataka – Uttama Shataka- covering chapters 13 to 18 of the Bhagavad-Gita is also divided into two sub-sections:
- the first sub-division deals with the essential principles –Tatvas
- and the next with Hita – the means for attaining the ultimate end (Purushartha).
Apart from these, there are ten other Slokas commenting on essential teachings of the Gita
At the outset, Sri Yamunacharya declares that the subject matter of Gita-Shastra is Sri Narayana, the highest Brahman within the range of the vision of Bhakti alone. Bhakti attainable only by performing one’s duty (without attachment), by the acquisition of (true) knowledge and by the detachment (absence of worldly desires).
Sva-dharma-jnAna-vaiiraghya-sAdhya-bhaktyeka-gocharaha / NArAyana param-brahma giita-shastre samiritaha || (Verse 1)
: – Purusha-nirnaya
Purusha-nirnaya was said to be an acclamation, upholding the supremacy of Lord Vishnu. But, sadly, this work is lost; and, is no longer available.
: – Stotra-ratna
Stotra-ratna and Chatus-sloki are hymns singing the glory and splendour of Lord Vishnu and Devi Lakshmi. They are the fervent outpouring of Sri Yamuna’s intense devotion towards Vishnu and Lakshmi; and, his deep rooted longing for communion with his favorite deities.
Traditionally, the rendering of the Stotra-ratna, commences with paying respects to Sri Nathamuni
Salutations to Sri Nathamuni, the unfathomable ocean of Bhakthi, the divine Love; the very embodiment of the marvellous virtues of Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (detachment) and Bhakthi (Loving devotion) that is beyond our comprehension
Namoh Achintaya-athbhutha Aaklishta Jnana Vairagya Rasaye | Naathaaya Munaye Ekaantha Bhagavad Bhakti Sindhave ||
The Stotra-ratna is a garland of sixty-two -verse hymns submitted to the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu in the spirit of Sharanagati or complete surrender seeking Moksha. These hymns, in delightfully lucid verses, present the central philosophical theme and outlook of Vishistadvaita doctrine, elucidating its essential principles of Tattva (the intricate relation between god, nature and human); Hita (the excellent path that leads to ones emancipation); and, Purushartha (the attainment of the supreme goal).
Ullanghita trividha-sıma-samati sayi sambhavanam / tava parivradhima-svabhavam/
Maya-balena bhavatapi niguhyamanam / pasyanti kecid anisam tvad ananya-bhavah //
Oh My Lord, everything within this material nature is limited by time, space and thought. We are aware that your attributes, which truly are countless, unequaled and unsurpassed, are ever beyond such limitations. Yet; you sometimes disguise your limitless virtues; however, your guileless devotees, pure in heart, are always able to see through your play.
Sri Vedanta Desika (Veṅkaṭanātha), in his Rahasya-raksha (Secret-Protector), comments that in these lyrical poems of Stotra-ratna, Sri Yamuna has given expression to the spontaneous overflow of his divine ecstasy. Sri Desika observes that in these hymns one can experience the fragrance of the Divya Prabandhas; especially the Tiruvoimozhi of Saint Satakopa (Nammazhwar), which eulogizes the unfailing efficacy of Saranagati, the precious secret (Rahasya). And, some of the Stotras seem to be the Sanskrit rendering of the Tamil hymns.
For instance; he says: the following Stotra (2nd sloka of the Stotra-ratna) is replete with the ideas adopted from the Tiruvoimozhi, which worshiped the Sri Nammalwar as the Father, Mother, Consort, Child and wealth of every sort.
Mata-pita yuvatayah tanaya vibhuti / sarvam yadeva niyamena matanvyanam/ adhyasa nah kulapateh vakula-bhiramanam / Srimad tadangrhri yugalam pranamami murdhana //
It is said; Sri Vedanta Desika was deeply moved and highly inspired by the 28th Sloka of the Stotra-ratna, which extols the virtues of submitting to the Lord, in intense devotion, enormous reverence and deep humility, with folded hands (anjali mudra).
thvad-angrim uddhisya kadapi kenacid / yathaa tathaa vaapi skrit-krito anjali / tathaiva mushnathi asubhany aseshatha / subhani pushnathi na jaatu heeyathe // 28 //
Oh Lord! When one submits to your sacred feet , with devotion and humility, as Upayam (means) and Phalam (fruit, result) with folded hands (anjali mudra), even once, his past ill-fated Karmas would soon be destroyed ; it would secure freedom from every sort of fear ; and, he would enjoy the blessed joy of residing in your supreme abode of Sri Vaikunta. Such submissions to you with folded hands will surely bring all auspiciousness into one’s life.
It is said; when Sri Desika pondered over the essence of this verse of the Stotra-ratna, he was struck by the awe-inspiring significance and the immense auspiciousness of this simple gesture of submitting to the Lord with folded hands (Anjali) in a spirit of absolute surrender (Saranagati, Prapatti). And, that inspired him to annotate its verse 28 ; to give a detailed exposition of its essence; and, to compose his, now famous, garland of verses under the title Anjali-vaibhavam (the glory and splendor of Anjali).
Further, it is also said; that Sri Ramanuja was much moved by recitation of the Stotra-ratna; and, that inspired him to compose the Vaikunta-gadyam, a pure expression of Bhakti immersed in the spirit of Atma-nivedana.
: – Catussloki
Catussloki is a brief poem composed of four stanzas. It sings the glory, splendor and the beauty of the Goddess Lakshmi; and, it attributes to her the qualities of the Brahman as mentioned in the Brahma sutras.
The First stanza refers to the Vibuthis of Goddess Lakshmi that are beyond praise. The Second stanza eulogise Her incomparable glory. The Third stanza sings about Her infinite Grace. And, the last stanza describes Her resplendent forms-Vibuthi, which are inseparable from those of the Lord.
: – Agama-pramanyam
The main theme and the purpose of the Agama-pramanyam is the vindication of the Pancharatra doctrine (Agama), its texts (Samhita) and its practices (Tantra). In this Prakarana, Sri Yamuna sets out to prove by reference to ancient scriptures and valid logic that the texts of the Pancharatra Agama have an authority, equal to that of the Vedas.
The motivation for Sri Yamuna to script this text was to rescue, to defend (raksha) and to establish the Pancharatra as the pristine, flawless and sublime doctrine that unerringly leads the ardent devotee to the presence of the Supreme Lord. It was necessitated to defend the Pancharatra, which was under attacks from the rival Schools, such as: Mimamsa, Nyaya and Advaita. By employing varied means of valid knowledge (Pramana), textual authority (Sabda-pramana) and reasoning (Tarka, Yukti), Sri Yamuna establishes that the Pancharatra Tantra is uplifting, beyond any reproach, and is the most authoritative.
Agama-pramanyam promoted the Pancharatra Agama in preference to the already existing Vaikhanasa Agama for worship in the temples. This was an ideological shift from an exclusive, metaphysical approach of the Vaikhanasa Agama towards a more popular and inclusive form of worship. Thereafter, the Pancharatra, with emphasis on devotional idol worship ; and, with greater scope for festivals , celebrations and processions where all sections of the society, including ascetics, can participate soon spread to most of the Vishnu temples in South India.
The Agama-pramanyam – composed in a mixture of prose and Karikas (verses) – is regarded as the best among the works of Sri Yamuna. It establishes him as a highly learned scholar; and a master dialectician. Further, during the course of his exposition, he discusses and offers his opinion on wide ranging issues including those related to linguistics, psychology, the study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context ; the theories of valid knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion (Pramanya); and, critical explanation and interpretation of the scriptures, especially the Brahma sutras.
The Agama-pramanyam, the superb treatise which establishes the scriptural validity of the Pancharatra, forms a significant chapter in the Vedanta – mimamsa; not only because of its excellence, but also because of the influence it excreted on his successor Sri Ramanuja, who perfected the doctrine of Vishitadvaita. Further, it establishes the Pancharatra on the basis of the Upanishads (Agama); and, brings it under the Aupanishada tradition; thus giving a completely new scope for the theistic Vedanta.
At the conclusion of the Agama-pramanyam, Sri Yamuna devotes a stanza, which extols the greatness of his predecessor Sri Nathamunindra, who enhanced the eminence of the past scriptures. It says: May, up to the end of the Aeon (Aakalpam vilasantu) the teachings and the writings of the glorious Sri Nathamunindra guide and protect all those who have implicit faith in the pious Sattvata doctrine.
Sources and references
- Yamuna’s Agama Pramanyam – Edited and Translated by J.A.B. Van Buitenen (Ramanuja Research Society; 1971) – https://archive.org/details/pancaratra-agamas
Images are from Internet