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Arulala Perumal Emperumanar – Short Biography – Famous Debate With Sri Ramanujacharya

Arulala Perumal Emperumanar was an Advaitic monk-scholar who became a disciple of Sri Ramanuja (11th century CE). He was won over by Acharya Ramanuja to his faith. The name Arulala Perumal Emperumanar or Varadaraja Mannatha (equivalent name in Sanskrit), was given to him by Acharya Ramanuja. This combines the names of Arulala Perumal, the Tamil name of Varadaraja of Kanchipuram, and Emperumanar meaning our Bhagavan, as Sri Ramanuja was known in Tamil. Yajnamurti, as he was called, live in Kashi with a large following and a reputation for invincibility in philosophical disputations.

Hearing of Sri Ramanuja’s greatness, he reached Srirangam with his disciples and challenged him to a debate, wagering that in case of his defeat, he would renounce his faith and adopt that of the winner. Sri Ramanuja agreed, promising likewise to stop propagation of his faith in case of his defeat.

The debate between the two lasted eighteen days. Neither side seemed to be winning on the sixteenth day. The seventeenth day seemed to favor Yajnamurti’s relentless logic and Ramanuja retired with a heavy heart. At night he poured out his agony before Bhagavan Varadaraja (Vishnu) and when he fell asleep, Varadaraja appeared in his dream to assure him that his adversary would become his disciple and his argument could be countered by Acharya Yamuna’s seven points of illogicality of the theory of maya (sapta-vidha-anupapatti).

Sri Ramanuja woke up with a new confidence. When he reached the hall of disputation, Yajnamurti was quick to notice divine brilliance on his adversary’s face in contrast to the previous day’s depressed state. He acknowledged defeat even before the debate began, stating that Bhagavan himself had taken Sri Ramanuja’s side and prayed to him to take him as his disciple. Ramanuja, however, let him know the seven points of objection which held the theory of illusion untenable.

Yajnamurti became a Vaishnava monk with the tridanda (three knotted staff) and the orange robe. Sri Ramanujacharya regarded him as his friend and equal who had been won over to his faith, not by argument, but by the grace of God. Soon Yajnamurti became so learned and devoted to the faith, that Sri Ramanuja treated him as his confidential adviser.

Arulala Perumal Emperumanar  has given us two short Tamil poetic compositions, Jnana-Saram and Prameya Saram which speak of bhakti (devotion) and saranagati (surrender to the God). He has also written nine works in Sanskrit.