Ramalinga's Prostrate Adoration to "Donkeys"
Thathacharya was the royal teacher to the King Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu. He was a Vaishnavite (Vaishnavites believe Sri Maha Vishnu as the Supreme God) by practice and was having a defiant opinion and behaviour towards the Smarthas (Smarthas follow the tradition instituted by Sri Adi Sankaracharya).
While moving out, he used to cover his head and face with his upper garment (cloak) to avoid seeing Smarthas in the town. People watching Thathacharya doing this time and again titled him unofficially as stupid rituality. The learned category of Smarthas and other practices were finding ways to teach a lesson to Thathacharya.
They could not decide upon how and when to make tit for tat. The scare spread among them was that Thathacharya is the royal teacher to the King Rayalu and his family. If something goes wrong and kindles fury in the King, who should face it? With all these thoughts, they started searching who is efficient to do this job for them. Their search ended after touring and scanning through all the faces in the kingdom. That face belonged to Ramalinga. In a group all the learned people went to Ramalingas residence to see him.
Ramalinga was little surprised to see all of them together at his threshold. Clipping some smiles on his lips, Ramalinga invited them folding hands to the scholars’ battalion,
“Welcome to you all the learned personalities of the capital city. Welcome. It is my pleasure to see you all together.”
Dhurjhati took the initiative to explain the problem that was boggling their minds,
“Ramalinga! We are all here to discuss a problem with you seeking a solution. The royal teacher Thathacharya is behaving beyond limits and is humiliating the Smarthas regularly. This might end up elsewhere, if he is not taught a right lesson. We all strongly believe that you are the right man who can do it in a sensible way. Please do not dishearten us. You should take this matter up.”
Rama Raja Bhushana seconded supporting Dhurjhati,
“Dhurjhati was right Ramalinga. You should plunge into action for a right solution to this problem.”
Ramalinga thought for a while, when all the other members of the group were coming out with one or the other statement against Thathacharya.
“Dear friends…” Ramalinga assured them, “All of you had put a heavy and burdensome job on my shoulders…Let me see what can I do about this. This is all the blessings of the Goddess Kali. You don’t worry; I will take care of Thathacharya and his Vaishnavite proudness.”
Though Ramalinga personally watched Thathacharya’s misbehavior towards Smarthas, he could not do anything. ‘Now, the time has come. Nevertheless, how to go about this? What would happen if King Rayalu is irked on taking Thathacharya to task?’ Ramalinga was waiting for the time tuning.
While all this was going on, King Rayalu learnt about the indecent mannerism of Thathacharya. He was hurt with the behaviour of Thathacharya and thought that if this continued, it might give way to communal differences in the kingdom. Thinking so, Rayalu summoned Ramalinga to his private chamber in the palace.
Ramalinga was present before the King as quickly as possible after hearing the call.
“Ramalinga!” King Rayalu said in a low tone, “I wish to discuss an important issue with you.”
“Yes My Lord, as you Please!” Ramalinga replied.
“This is a matter that should be handled completely undercover. I thought you are efficient to handle this matter. I am assigning this job to you. Are you ready?” Rayalu questioned.
“Yes my king, every word of yours is an order for me.”
“It came to my knowledge that the royal teacher Thathacharya is humiliating Smarthas. I also noted that people are disgusted with him for this, in fact some of the courtiers also pleaded me to handle him and stop him from doing so. He is my family master and an elderly person. What and how should I tell him to correct his deeds? Now, it is up to you. Think wise and do something to check him from continuing with this” Rayalu ordered Ramalinga.
Ramalinga promised the King, “My Lord! I will do my best to solve the problem and bring some change in the ideology of Thathacharya about Smarthas.”
Leaving the palace, Ramalinga was overwhelmed with joy. He was waiting for a right opportunity and it has come through his way in the form of King’s order. The next morning Ramalinga went to see Thathacharya. No sooner Ramalinga approached the main gate, he could see Thathacharya coming out of the house. While approaching the gate, Thathacharya watching Ramalinga standing there took his upper garment and started covering his face. Ramalinga immediately said in a loud tone,
“Hey Master! I am the beloved disciple for you. Why is that you are covering your face on seeing me?”
“Ramalinga!” Thathacharya replied, “I will tell you a secret, just because you are my beloved disciple. Smartha culture is a sin filled one. Anyone who sees a Smarthite will be born as a Donkey in his or her next birth. That is why I protect myself by covering my face from attracting the sin of seeing a Smarthite. Keep this to yourself and don’t reveal anywhere.”
Ramalinga was more humble then, “My dear master! You know me. If I hear something, that totally remains within me. That will not come out even after my death. You don’t have to worry about this. Now, if you permit me I will take leave” “Go ahead”, Thathacharya sent him off.
On way home, Ramalinga was almost jumping with joy. All these days he was breaking his head to find ways to teach a lesson. That was a fine day, because Thathacharya himself guided for an excellent way.
Ten days passed off. Coolly, with Ramalinga waiting for an opportunity. On the eleventh day, King Rayalu along with Thathacharya, Ashta Diggajas and other scholars visited a garden on the outskirts of the city as part of his relaxing routines. The day was spent off in a pleasurable manner.
While all of them were returning a herd of donkeys were seen coming in the opposite direction. Immediately, Ramalinga ran from behind the King and started paying prostrate homage to the donkeys falling on the ground before the herd.
King Rayalu was completely surprised with his behaviour. He shouted, “Ramalinga have you gone mad? Why are you saluting those donkeys?”
“My Lord! Kindly pardon me. I did not go mad or crazy. This donkey is Thathacharya’s brother-in-law. That one his grandfather, that stout one is his maternal uncle and the one with those spots is Thathacharya’s father.”
Ramalinga continued, “I am blessed to see all these persons reborn as donkeys. There are here in this form for the sin of looking at Smarthas in their previous birth. I am pleased to see all of them together. Please My King do not mistake me. I am not lying. You can confirm this with the respected royal teacher Thathacharya. He does practice to cover his face to protect himself from the sin of seeing Smarthas.”
King Rayalu looked at Thathacharya, who already had hung his chin down in shame. Since then, Thathacharya stopped both humiliating the Smarthas and covering his face on looking at people, belonging to other traditions and cultures. The King felicitated with a great gift to Ramalinga in his private chamber for treating the royal master with a right lesson.