In 1895 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura published in his “Sajjana-tosani” selected verses from “Śrī Prapannāmṛta”, a 12th century book by Sri Ananta Acarya, son of the great Kuresa, famous disciple and chief associate of Srila Ramanujacarya. The book contains valuable information and biographical accounts of the great founders of the Sri-sampradaya – Nathamuni, Yamunacarya and Ramanuja. It is stated in “Prapannāmṛta” in relation to Ramanujacarya’s birth:
caitre meṣe śukla-pakṣe pañcamyāṁ guru-vāsare |
madhyāhne karkaṭe lagne nakṣatre rudra-daivate ||
“[Ramanuja was born] on the fifth day of the waxing moon during Caitra month [March-April], on Thursday, at noon when Cancer was the ascendant and the Moon was in Ardra-naksatra.” (Sri Prapannamrta, 2.25).
Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu Himself states the following in “Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya” (16.54):
“From Ramanuja I take two essential principles – unalloyed devotion and service to the devotees of the Lord.”
To provide some knowledge of the Sri-sampradaya to the residents of Bengal Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura translated some verses from the section of “Prapannamrta” where Ramanuja instructs his followers and then published them in his “Sajjana-tosani” (Vol.7, numbers 3 and 4, June-July 1895) under a title “Ramanuja Swamir Upadesh”, “Instructions of Ramanuja Swami”. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur quoted some of these verses in his book “Brahmana and Vaiṣṇava”. In honor of Srila Ramanujacarya’s 1000th anniversary celebrations we present here some of his instructions with the English translation of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Bengali translation-cum-explanation.
yā prītir āsīt satataṁ bhagavan-nāma-kīrtane |
sā syāt prītir hi tad-bhakta-nāma-saṅkīrtane ca vaḥ ||9||
As you had an affection for chanting the Lord’s holy names, may you have the same affection for chanting the names of His devotees.
kāraṇaṁ bhagavat-prāpter mahā-bhāgavatāśrayaḥ |
iti matvā dṛḍhaṁ teṣāṁ ājñayā vartayet sadā ||10||
Having realized that the only cause of attaining the Lord is the shelter of the great devotees you should always remain under their guidance.
vihāya viṣṇu-kaiṅkaryaṁ kaiṅkaryaṁ vaiṣṇavasya ca |
vinaśyet sa naraḥ prājñaḥ rāgādi-prerito yadi ||11||
Just as a wise person perishes due to his attachment to sense gratification, similarly any person meets with destruction if he gives up service to Lord Viṣṇu or to His devotees.
vaiṣṇavānām anuṣṭhāne nopāya matim unnayet |
upeyam eva satataṁ unnayet su-mahā-manāḥ ||12||
A wise person should never consider service to Vaiṣṇavas as a method (upāya), but should always consider it to be the goal (upeya). A method-attitude (upāya-buddhi) is when we think that we achieve some other result by serving Vaiṣṇavas. But when we think that Vaiṣṇava-sevā becomes possible only after performing many other pious activities – such attitude is called “goal-attitude” (upeya-buddhi).
nāhūyed eka-vacanān mahābhāgavatān janān |
pūrvāñjaliṁ vaiṣṇavānāṁ dṛṣṭi-mātre ca kārayet ||13||
If one needs to call great Vaiṣṇavas he should not use singular number, which denotes disrespect, but instead he should use plural number denoting respect. When one sees a Vaiṣṇava he should immediately fold his hands with respect.
harer bhagavato viṣṇor vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca sannidhau ||
pādau prasārya na vaset kadācit amalātmanāṁ ||14||
One should not sit near Lord Viṣṇu or pure Vaiṣṇavas with one’s legs spread before them.
vaiṣṇavāgamanaṁ śrutvā gacched abhimukhaṁ tadā |
sākaṁ gacchet kvacid dūraṁ bhaktyā teṣāṁ vinirgame ||19||
When one hears that a Vaiṣṇava is coming one should walk some distance to meet him. When a Vaiṣṇava departs one should walk some distance along with him.
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ sarveṣāṁ deha-chāyā na laṅghayet |
sva-deha-chāyā saṁsparśaṁ vaiṣṇaveṣu na kārayet ||27||
One should not step over the shadow from the Vaiṣṇavas’ body. Also one should not make other Vaiṣṇavas touch one’s own shadow.
yadi praṇamate pūrvaṁ dāso’haṁ iti vaiṣṇavaḥ |
anādare kṛte tasmin aparādho mahān bhavet ||29||
One commits a great offense by disrespecting a Vaiṣṇava who, considering himself a servant, offers his respects first.
vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca janmāni nidrālasyāni yāni ca |
dṛṣṭvā tāny aprakāśyāni janebhyo na vadet kvacit || 30||
teṣāṁ doṣān vihāyāśu guṇāṁś caiva prakīrtayet ||31||
Vaiṣṇavas’ birth, sleep and laziness are not to be disclosed to others. If one sees them one should not tell others anything about them. Quickly giving up their faults one should glorify their good qualities.
viṣṇu-pādodakaṁ caiva bhakta-pādodakan tu vā |
prākṛteṣu ca paśyatsu na pibet toyam uttamam ||32||
One should not drink the great water that washed the lotus feet of Lord Viṣṇu or of His devotees while being looked upon by materialistic people.
tattva-trayasya jñānena śrī-rahasya-trayasya ca |
rahitasyāṅghri-jaṁ toyaṁ grāhayen na kadācana ||33||
One should never drink the water that washed the feet of a person who is devoid of knowledge of the three tattvas and three rahasyas. Three tattvas are cit (living entities), acit (matter) and Īśvara (God). Bhagavān is one non-dual entity and this non-dual entity possesses two viśeṣas (attributes) – cit and acit. Even if a person devoid of this knowledge has undergone five saṁskāras, still one should not accept the water from his feet.
jñānānuṣṭhāna-yuktasya sadācāra-ratasya ca |
pādodakaṁ vaiṣṇavasya piben nityaṁ prayatnataḥ ||34||
One should endeavor to always drink the water from the feet of the Vaiṣṇavas who possess proper knowledge, in other words the knowledge of artha-pancaka and three tattvas, and is devoted to following proper behavior (sadācara-rata).
māṁ ca bhāgavataiḥ sārddhaṁ sāmya-buddhiṁ na kārayet |
prākṛtānāṁ ca saṁsparśaṁ prāptaḥ prāmādikād yadi |
snātaḥ sacailaḥ sahasā vaiṣṇavāṅghri-jalaṁ pibet ||35||
One should not consider oneself equal to Vaiṣṇavas. As soon as one accidentally touches a materialist one should immediately take bath with one’s cloth on and then drink Vaiṣṇava-caraṇāmṛta.
na grāhayed viṣṇu-tīrthaṁ prākṛtānāṁ gṛheṣu ca |
prākṛtānāṁ nivāsa-sthān na seved viṣṇu-vigrahān ||38||
One should not accept caraṇāmṛta from the śālagrāma-śilā situated in the house of materialistic people. One should not serve the Deity of Lord Viṣṇu situated in the house of materialistic people.
śrī-harer-divya-deśeṣu paśyatsu prākṛteṣv api |
tīrtha-prasāda-grahanaṁ kārayen na tu saṁśayaṁ ||39||
One should accept prasādam from the Lord’s holy places even while being looked upon by materialistic persons residing in those places. One should not have any doubts about this.
yadi śri-vaiṣṇavair dattaṁ prasādaṁ viṣṇu-sannidhau |
upavāsādi-niyama-yukto ‘ham iti na tyajet ||40||
If a Vaiṣṇava gives you some prasādam in front of Lord Viṣṇu you should not refuse it saying “I’m fasting”.
sannidhau vaiṣṇavānāṁ ca sva-guṇān naiva kīrtayet |
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ sānnidhye nānyaṁ paribhavej janaṁ ||42||
One should not sing one’s own glories in front of the Vaiṣṇavas and one should not criticize anyone in front of the Vaiṣṇavas.
dinaika ghaṭīkāyāṁ ca varṇayed guru-sad-guṇān |
dinaika ghaṭikā-madhye hy api viśvāsa-pūrvakam ||
śaṭhāryādi prabandhāṁ vā prabandhān kīrtayed guroḥ ||44||
Every day one should faithfully glorify the good qualities of one’s guru for half an hour. One should certainly devote half an hour every day for glorifying the pastimes of of Sathakopa and other great Acaryas or one’s own guru’s pastimes.
dehābhimāninā sārdhaṁ saha-vāsaṁ na kārayet |
One should not live together with a person who identifies himself with his body.
śrī-vaiṣṇavānāṁ cihnāni dhṛtvāpi viṣayāturaiḥ |
taiḥ sārdhaṁ vañcaka-janaiḥ saha-vāsaṁ na kārayet ||46||
If cheaters attached to sense gratification wear Vaiṣṇava signs still one should not live together with them.
sva-deha-priya-bhogyāni nārpayet paramātmane |
śāstrīya-sarva-bhogāṁs tu viṣṇave tāni cārpayet ||59||
One should not offer to the Supreme Lord those kinds of food and other items which are pleasing to one’s own body. One should offer to Lord Viṣṇu those items which are prescribed by śāstra.
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 ||65||
The highest rule in worshiping the Lord is worship of His devotees. Neglecting Vaiṣṇavas is more dangerous than disrespecting Lord Viṣṇu. The water from the feet of Vaiṣṇavas is greater than water from the feet of Lord Viṣṇu. Knowing this you should endeavor to serve the Vaiṣṇavas without any laziness.