Rāmānujācārya was a very powerful ācārya; very powerful. Like Rāmānujācārya, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura took tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa, not eka-daṇḍa sannyāsa. Rāmānujācārya had many learned disciples who were pure devotees. One of them was highly learned and perfectly knew all the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and other śāstras. He had some ego, however, thinking himself very highly cultured and knowledgeable. Rāmānuja wanted to take away that ego by giving him an operation [as follows]:
Rāmānuja had a disciple who was very beautiful. Also, she was from a wealthy, highly aristocratic family. From her childhood she used to come to him. She was always sitting with him, taking prasāda from him, and sometimes she used to sit on his lap. Gradually she became mature and she was given in marriage to a very high-class, wealthy person. At that time she went to her in-laws’ house with her husband, but after six months she returned to her father in Śrī Raṅgam where Rāmānuja was living. She came to him and began to weep very bitterly.
She said, “O Gurudeva, I am so unhappy. My father-in-law, grandfather-in-law, and mother-in-law always chastise me. They tell me to go to a well about two miles from my home, up a very steep road. They give me two or three very big pots, and I have to carry them all. I have to cook alone for so many persons, and I have to wash all the clothes of the family – my husband, son-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and so on. I cannot do it alone.
When I tell them I need help, they chastise me. They say, ‘Oh, your father is so rich. Go and bring two, three, or four servants. If you want to be here with us, you will have to bring water, wash the clothes and pots, cook for everyone, and do everything else.’ Day and night I have to do this, but I cannot.” She continued to weep, “They always chastise me. I want a servant.”
Gurudeva began to think and then called for that very high-class, learned scholarly disciple who was honoured by all. He told him, “You should go to my initiated daughter’s house, and help her bring water, cook, and do other services. You should serve her without hesitation, as you would a queen, and never complain, ‘Why should I go there and cook, wash clothes, and do so much other service for this girl?’ ” Rāmānuja was a very powerful guru, and if this disciple had complained like this, Rāmānuja would have said, “Oh, get out!” He was not an ordinary ācārya; He was Lakṣmaṇa himself, the younger brother of Rāmā, so he was very powerful. The disciple, therefore, could not object. Without hesitating, he began to bring that girl water and was always cooking. The householders did not allow him to use soap or anything like that, so he looked like a dirty person, a cook. All the villagers knew him as a cook and a very low-class person who knows nothing, like a servant, but he was a servant without pay. He was a servant of his gurudeva, not of anyone else. He was therefore carrying out orders without hesitation, without any “noo noo, choo choo – I will not do, I will not do.”
After he had been there for over six months, a highly learned person came to that village. He knew all the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and other śāstras and he challenged the residents of that village: “If anyone wants to debate with me, he can come.” But no one came. He began giving classes. The cook came to his classes, only to see what was going on. All were charmed by his lectures, by his knowledge of Sanskrit, and by his knowledge of all the śāstras. He was very proud of his learning.
After some time this cook said, “May I say something?”
All the villagers, along with that learned person, looked at him. They said, “Oh, he is a cook, a dirty person, and his personality is not so good. He has a long beard and long hair, and his dhotī is dirty and torn, so what can he say? Stop, stop, stop!”
The cook said, “I want to speak.”
There were many good persons there, and they said, “Why are you stopping him? He can say anything he wants.”
At that time he spoke in Sanskrit. He began to recite from śāstra, and he totally cut all the arguments of that Māyāvādī speaker. Everyone looked at him. “How astonishing! How wonderful!” Everyone clapped, and they all wanted to take that cook’s foot dust.
That defeated person ran away, and where he went, nobody knew. All the villagers asked, “Who is that cook?” They knew he was a disciple of Rāmānuja. All of them collectively went to Rāmānuja and asked, “Why have you done this? Although that girl is your disciple, still you should not have made him her servant. We think that he has been insulted. Please be merciful to him and keep him with you.”
Rāmānuja called his disciple, “Now you have been operated upon. I think your false ego has gone. Now you are pure and you can come to me.” He gave him some service and he gave him the renounced order, sannyāsa. That disciple became a very high-class sannyāsī and preached everywhere throughout the world. Can you be a disciple like this? This is a real disciple. No false ego. If I ordered you to do what Rāmānuja ordered this disciple to do, you would be the first to tell me, “I cannot do it. Now I am leaving you.” There would be no daṇḍavaṭ praṇāmas at all. Giving up all faith in Kṛṣṇa and in guru, you would write a paper proclaiming, “He is a bogus guru. He wanted to engage me in the service of a girl.”
But this was a high-class disciple, and his guru was also a highclass guru. Rāmānuja gave him love and affection for Nārāyaṇa, and he became a realized soul.
―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja