Ramanuja, who is an Acharya of Shri Sampradaya, was not only merciful toward the renounced order but also toward those surrendered Grhasthas who had given their lives for devotion. One such Grhastha was Dhanurdas.
Dhanurdas was deeply devoted to his beautiful wife. One day, Ramanuja asked him whether he would want to see a real beauty, and Dhanurdas accepted out of curiosity. Ramanuja brought him to the Narayan temple and pointed him to see the deity’s beauty. Dhanurdas became a devotee of Ramanuja after realizing that the Lord’s beauty transcends all worldly beauty.
To teach detachment to one of his disciples, Ramanuja once performed the following demonstration. To create confusion when the sannyasis changed clothing, he had one of his disciples go to the location where they had their baths. After taking their baths, the sannyasis (all distinguished academics and renunciants) discovered that their garments had been switched. Due to the fact that one swami was wearing another’s garment, a fight broke out. The quarrel heated up as each person finished his bath and went to get dressed. These famous renounced people appeared to be attached to pieces of cloth.
In another case, after arranging for Dhanurdasa to serve at the temple and ensuring that he wouldn’t be at home, Ramanuja sent his disciple to Dhanurdasa’s residence. Following Ramanuja’s instructions, the disciple went to Dhanurdasa’s house in the evening and started robbing the jewelry from the wife’s body. The disciple had just finished removing the jewelry from one side of her body when she abruptly rolled over in her sleep. The disciple was startled and instantly walked out the window. In order to capture Dhanurdasa’s response, Ramanuja had directed him to wait outside the window for his return. Dhanurdasa eventually went back home. Dhanurdasa’s wife questioned him at that moment, “Dhanurdasa, is there something wrong?”
“No, my dear. Why?” Dhanurdas asked.
“I worry they need money but are too embarrassed to ask for it. We must do something to assist them.”
“What makes you say that?” Dhanurdas questioned.
“Because a temple devotee entered via the window and removed some jewels from my body. To undertake something like that, I believe those poor saints must be in urgent need of our assistance.
“What did you do?”
“I flipped over, but he escaped out the window.”
“Why did you act in that way? You frightened him off! What will we do next?”
“I didn’t intend to frighten him. I merely flipped over so he could remove the jewelry from both sides of my body.” Then Dhanurdas started chastising her.
Ramanuja’s disciple was astonished by Dhanurdasa and his chaste wife’s humility and detachment, watching them from his hiding location. The disciple told everything that had happened to his guru when he returned. The meaning of both of these incidents—the sannyasis’ clothing and Dhanurdasa’s wife’s jewelry—was then explained to him by Ramanuja. While the sannyasis in this instance were fighting over some saffron pieces of clothing, Dhanurdasa and his wife, who were grhasthas, were so detached from worldly possessions that they were willing to have their jewels stolen by the devotees if necessary for the Lord’s service.
Moral of the story
The story emphasizes that the detachment is internal rather than external. If the mind is not detached, then simply changing one’s appearance will not work. An Acharya is skilled at instructing through both precept and personal example.