kUrathAzhwAn - perfect AchArya and sishya

srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

periyavAchAn piLLai in his mAnikka mAlai, says that "chishyAchArya kramaththukku sImAbhUmi kUraththAzhwAn enRu aruLichcheyvar" (சிஷ்யாசார்ய க்ரமத்துக்கு ஸீமாபூமி கூரத்தாழ்வான் என்று அருளிச்செய்வர்) meaning kUrathAzhwAn (also known as kUrEsa) is the best example for both being a sishya and an AchArya. He himself explains that,
  • He is the best example for being a sishya since when emperumAnAr was upset with him once, AzhwAn said that "since I am completely subservient to emperumAnAr I have nothing else to do than accepting what he does". He showed how a sishya should be totally surrendered to his AchArya.
  • He is the best example for being an AchArya since when emperumAn was very angry with nAlUrAn who committed apachAram to AzhwAn, AzhwAn argued with emperumAn and requested that "He should get the same paramapadham which I will". He showed how an AchArya should be full of krupai even to the ones who committed apachArams towards him.

Let us see why kUrathAzhwAn is glorified by many pUrvAchAryas in their works.

piLLai lOkAchAryar in his srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram identifies the main focus of sishyan and  AchAryan in 328th sUthram.

chishyan ugappilE UnRippOrum; AchAryan ujjIvanaththilE UnRippOrum.
சிஷ்யன் உகப்பிலே ஊன்றிப்போரும்; ஆசார்யன் உஜ்ஜீவனத்திலே ஊன்றிப்போரும்.

sishyan's focus should be on AchAryan's pleasure; AchAryan's focus should be sishyan's upliftment.

mAmunigaL beautifully explains this as follows:
Since a sishyan is fully dependent on his AchAryan, he should focus on his master's pleasure. Since An AchAryan is most merciful, looking at the pitiful state of the sishyan in samsAram, he should focus on uplifting the sishyan from samsAram. 

In the subsequent (4) sUthrams, piLLai lOkAchAryar (and mAmunigaL in the commentary) explain that 
  • A sishyan should thus become the target of AchAryan's happiness and not his anger.
  • Even if the sishyan becomes a target of AchAryan's anger, since it is for the well-being of the sishyan, it is acceptable from both AchAryan and sishyan's perspective.
  • A sishyan should not analyse the reason for the anger (to find fault in AchAryan).
  • AchAryan's anger is like bhagavAn's anger. bhagavAn also at times shows his anger to reform the jIvAthmA and that act is part of the final goal (to be fully purified). Similarly, AchAryan's anger should also be accepted the same way.
If we go through the life of AzhwAn, it is very clear that he is the epitome of both sishyathva and AchAryathva pUrthi.

sishyathva pUrthi (Being the perfect sishyan)

 emperumAnAr and AzhwAn, kUram
  • When emperumAnAr was summonned to the saiva king's court and his life was under threat, AzhwAn took up the responsibility to protect his AchAryan even at the cost of his own life. He stood firm for the supremacy of srIman nArAyaNan and in the process lost his eyes as well. He gives his own dharisanam (vision) for emperumAnAr's dharisanam (sampradhAyam). He never worried for his loss even for a moment, and even when emperumAnAr insists him to pray for his vision from dhEva perumAL, AzhwAn simply asks that he has the constant vision of dhEva perumAL and emperumAnAr only.
  • As we have seen already, when emperumAnAr was upset with AzhwAn, AzhwAn simply accepted that and explained that he is subservient to emperumAnAr and emperumAnAr can do whatever he wants with him.
  • Another striking example of his sishyathva pUrthi is the ekOthishtam incident of thiruvarangathu amudhanAr's mother. amudhanAr was the incharge of srIrangam temple and he was being a major hurdle for emperumAnAr in reforming the temple activities. emperumAnAr slowly engages AzhwAn in teaching real knowledge to amudhanAr. amudhanAr thus becomes purified and becomes very attached to AzhwAn and emperumAnAr. When his mother passes away, on the 11th day, a ceremony named EkOthishtam is to be performed where a person is assumed to be the body of the deceased person and offered a great feast. At the end of the feast, the consumer of the feast will be asked if he is satisfied and unless he says he is fully satisfied, the ceremony does not become complete. The main aspect of this ceremony is, the one consuming the feast cannot participate in any temple kainkaryam for 1 full year those days. amudhanAr wanting to have an advanced srIvaishNava approaches emperumAnAr and asks him to identify such person. emperumAnAr at once asks AzhwAn to go to that ceremony and AzhwAn happily accepts. Once the feast is over, amudhanAr asks AzhwAn if he was satisfied and AzhwAn says he will be satisfied only it the temple control is handed over to emperumAnAr. amudhanAr at once agrees and hands the temple keys and control to emperumAnAr through AzhwAn to fulfill his commitment. From this, we can understand the utter dependence of AzhwAn on his AchAryan. Being a great personality, he need not give up his kainkaryams for one year. But purely for the pleasure of his AchAryan (which is to reform the temple and ensure proper functioning of the same), he took up the most difficult challenge and fulfilled it without any tinge of hesitation in his mind.

AchAryathva pUrthi (Being the perfect AchAryan)

AzhwAn with his thiruvArAdhana perumAL (sIthA samEtha srIrAma parivAr), kUram
  • As explained in the 328th sUthram  of srIvachana bhUshaNam, AchAryan's focus should be fully on the sishyan's upliftment. AzhwAn shows his most merciful nature in two incidents:
    • nAlUrAn's scenario where even though nAlUrAn (unknowingly) caused the loss of his eyes and the separation from emperumAnAr, AzhwAn did not have even a tinge of anger on him. On the other hand, he had great attachment towards nAlUrAn (who unknowingly committed a mistake) and ensured that bhagavAn gives paramapurushArththa mOksham to him also.
    • When piLLai piLLai AzhwAn (AzhwAn's sishya) was continuously committing bhAgavatha apachArams, he goes to him during uththarAyaNa puNya kAlam and asks him to give all his sins as dhAnam to him thereby AzhwAn voluntarily takes up the sins of his sishyan's activities and reforms him through his own exemplified conduct.
  • The above 2 principles can be easily understood by looking at thiruppAvai 3rd pAsuram - Ongi ulagaLantha uththaman (the top-most person who measured the 3 worlds). Here, uththaman is beautifully explained by azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr in his 6000padi vyAkyAnam. He explains four categories of people and brings out the glories of emperumAn who goes and begs for 3 feet of land from mahAbali for the sake of indhran.
    • adhaman - most fallen - one who will torture others for his own well-being
    • a little better - he will let others live as well, but will personally not do any favours for others
    • madhyaman - will think that he should live as well as others should live and do some positive acts for others
    • uththaman - One who is the most udhAran (very generous) who will work for others even at the cost of his own loss
As we have seen, above, AzhwAn even though being AchArya, many times takes up so much trouble for himself to uplift others. This quality cannot be seen in any normal person. Any one can appreciate the great qualities of AzhwAn for his most merciful nature. And this is why he is rightly glorified as an amsam of srIrAman, because, srIrAman always looked out for others' welfare even at the cost of his own suffering. And fittingly, AzhwAn's thiruvArAdhana perumAL is srIrAma parivAr as well. We can see sIthA samEtha rAmA, lakshmaNa, hanuman along with kUrathAzhwAn in EkAsanam on punarpUsam day of his varushOthsavam at his avathAra sthalam.

This is why amudhanAr hailed AzhwAn in rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi as "mozhiyaik kadakkum perum pugazhAn" (மொழியைக் கடக்கும் பெரும் புகழான் ) which means AzhwAn's glories are beyond the limits of words/language. This same principle is explained by maNavALa mAmunigaL as "vAchAm agOchara mahA guNa dhEchikAgrya kUrAthiNAtha" (வாசாம் அகோசர மஹா குந தேசிகாக்ர்ய கூராதிநாத).

Fittingly his glories are revealed through the arvAnchO slOkam which is recited even today as part of the thirumanjana kattiyam in kUram (AzhwAn's avathAra sthalam).

arvAnYchO yath padha sarasija dhvaNdhvam Asrithya pUrvE
mUrdhNA yasyANvayam upagathA dhEchikA mukthimApu:
sOyam rAmANuja muNir api svIya mukthim karasthAm
yath sambhaNdhAth amaNutha katham varnNayathE kUranAtha: 
அர்வாஞ்சோ யத் பத ஸரஸிஜ த்வந்த்வம் ஆஸ்ரித்ய பூர்வே
மூர்த்நா யஸ்யாந்வயம் உபகதா தேசிகா முக்திமாபு:
ஸோயம் ராமாநுஜ முநிர் அபி ஸ்வீய முக்திம் கரஸ்தாம்
யத் ஸம்பந்தாத் அமநுத கதம் வர்ண்யதே கூரநாத:   
How can we speak the greatness of kUrthazhwan within the boundary of words? Everyone gets mOksham through srI rAmAnuja - some (who are elder to srI rAmAnuja) through his thirumudi sambhandham and others (who are younger to srI rAmAnuja) get mOksham through his thiruvadi sambhandam (Full explanation can be seen in http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/p/charamopaya-nirnayam.html). Such great personality srI rAmAnuja himself proclaims that it was due to his sambhandham to kUrathAzhwAn, he gets mOksham. 

We have only seen a glimpse of his glories and they are unlimited. There are many more incidents in his life which brings out his greatness, compassion and dedication towards his AchArya.
Let us meditate on AzhwAn's divine lotus feet and pray for devotion towards the same. Simply being the target of AzhwAn's katAksham (vision) and krupai (mercy) will purify us and nurture the proper srIvaishNava lakshaNam (http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/p/srivaishnava-lakshanam.html) in us.
adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

Sources: vyAkyAnams, 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam

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  1. Let us meditate on AzhwAn's divine lotus feet and pray for devotion towards the same........KURATH AZHVAN DIVYA THIRUVADIGALE SHARANAM.

  2. ASMAT GIRUBHYO NAMAH......JAI SRIMANNARAYANA ............. 22-01-2014............ Kurathalvan ThirunakshathraM..................DRAVIDA PRABANDHAM ANTA NETI NUNDI ANUSANDHICHU KOVACHU.......Kurathalvan divya Thiruvadigale SHARANAM.