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It is believed that Ramanuja (Vaishnava philosopher) openly gave out the nArayana ashtAkshari mahAmantra to the common public after climbing the temple gopuram.

News of this latest attempt on Sri Ramanuja's life spreads to thiruKOttiur and reaches thiruKOttiur Nambi.Who then teaches him the maha mantram, whispers in his years and warns him that if he tells anybody , he will derive no benefit from it.

After , this koorathazwan and others want him to go back to SriRangam but our acarya instead remembers the "thondar kuzhaam" (the low caste people) climbs on top of a Gopuram and addresses all people outside:

"People! Hear me carefully! I am giving you the secret mantram which will get you salvation in this very birth, irrespective of your caste of at birth. Listen! Om namo naaraayaNaaya!."

Source

Now my questions are,

Did he actually did this as given the above paragraphs?

If pranava is included in the mantra then why do these acharyas forbid shudras and women from chanting other mantras which also have "om" in it ?

Any scripture allows such act of open mass initiation? if yes then what are the references?

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Did he actually did this as given the above paragraphs?

Now, this is a purely historical question and which i am not answering.

I will be answering only two of your questions that can be addressed from scriptures.

Suppose a Guru chants a mantra (his Ishta mantra in this case) loudly addressed to a mass gathering. Does that mean that all who gathered there are initiated into that mantra?

Absolutely NO.

First of all, Mantra Diksha is much a more elaborate process than the mere transfer of mantra, which in technical terms, is known as the Mantra Upadesham.

Also, a Diksha is an one-to-one process and not one-to-many one,

Loosely speaking, Mantra Upadesa+ Shaktipata+ Abhisekha = Mantra Deeksha if we abide completely by Scriptures.

So, in this case we can rule out a full-fledged Diksha rather we can concentrate on only Upadesam.

But, even for Upadesam, a whole lot rules are there to be followed. I am giving few of them below:

Before initiating the Guru should tie the Sikha (tuft) of the disciple and then something of this sort happens:

...tatah sishyashya sirasi hastam datvA deyamantramashtottarasatam japTa amukmantran teham dadAmiti shishyahaste jalam dadyAt...

.........

...Thereafter, the Guru should the touch the disciple's head with his hand and chant the mantra (which is to be given) 108 times and upon saying "amuk mantra teham dadAmi (i am giving this mantra to you)" shall pour water into the disciple's hand, and the disciple should then say "dadaswa" which shows the approval (or acceptance) of the disciple...

Next, from Vashishta Samhita:

Tatah RishiAdisamyuktam Mantram Gururdakshina karne Trih SrAvayitvA VAma karne Sakrit SrAvayet.

........

Thereafter the Guru should speak the mantra, along with Rishi, Devata and other Nyasas, 3 times in the disciple's right ear and 1 time in the left (vAma karne Sakrit).

The Gautamiya Tantram also repeats the same procedure:

Nyasa jalam tasya dehe Guruh samnyasya jatnatatah | Daksha karne Vaden Mantram TrivAram PurnamAnasaha || Dakshe Iti DvijAtivishayam..

.......

The Guru should do Nyasas with care on the disciple's body and speak mantra into his right ears three times. (This rule of speaking unto the right ear is only for the DvijAs).

So, Diksha involves the Guru chanting the mantra into disciple's right (or left ear) depending on the varna of the disciple. But, when a mantra is said out loudly (and publicly) this requirement is obviously not met.

From Bhairavi Tantram:

Daksha Karne Triso VidyAm EkorchArena ChocchAret |
Evam Vidhim DvijAtinAm Stri SudrAnancha VAmatah ||

.......

The Guru shall speak the mantra into the disciple's right ear 3 times and into his left ear 1 time. This is the rule for the Dvijas, for women and Sudras it's just the opposite i.e 3 times in the left ear and 1 time in the right.

Same has been repeated in the Rudra YAmala Tantram:

Gurustu PrAngukhobhutva ShishyA Prachi Mukha Stithah |
TrivAram Dakshine Karne VAme chaiva TathA Sakrit ||
Viparitam Tato Geyam StreesudrAnancha VAmatah |

..........

Guru should face the east and the disciple the west direction. Guru should then speak the mantra into disciple's right ear 3 times and left ear 1 time. For Sudras and women the process will be reversed.

So, in a so called, one-to-many, mass initiation, none of these requirements are met. So, what happened can not be called Diksha technically. May be something else, like Satsang etc, but not Diksha.

Can Sudras be initiated into pranava (OM)?

I'm planning to post a separate question-answer on this topic based on Agamas only.

For the time being, i present only one verse from the Devi YAmala which answers the question in the negative.

SwAhA Pranava Samyuktam Sudre Mantram Dadad DvijAh |
Sudro NirayagAmi SyAd BrAhamano YAtyadhogatim ||

........

The Brahmin who gives to a Sudra a mantra that has the pranava (OM) and swaha in it goes himself downwards and the Sudra too visits hell.

Devi YAmala Tantram

Apart from all these there occurred another Dosha, that of "Guru Mantra Prakasha" or revealing one's Guru Mantra publicly which is strictly not to be done.

Even Ramanuja's Guru advised him to conceal the mantra as one can see. And, every Guru does the same, it's common.

This is what Lord Shiva says to Mother Goddess on this topic:

Gurum prakAshayed dhimAn mantram yatnen gopayet |
AprakAsha prakAshAbhyAm nasyatah sampadAyushi ||

.........

The Guru must always be revealed by the wise, but the mantra must carefully be kept secret. By not doing these two acts- that is, by not revealing the Guru and by not concealing the mantra, decrease, respectively, [the disciple's] wealth and longevity.

Kularnava Tantram 11.88

  • Good to know but Vedantins have no such rules. They are Swatantra :) – Rakesh Joshi Jul 31 '17 at 16:20
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    Ramanujacharya's guru saying that he should not reveal the mantra is only one side of the story. What happened after that is.. his Guru has given the title 'Emberumanar' to him means great because all of them were selfish but Ramanuja was thinking about the people and was also ready to go to hell for other's salvation. Ramanujacharya's guru sent his own son to Ramanujacharya as disciple and respected him. This is the complete story. Knowing it half makes people misleading and I think you might be knowing that Vaishnavas follow Panchartra not Shakta agamas. – Sarvabhouma Dec 4 '17 at 3:40
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    No. I didn't say that or you understood the story wrong. After knowing Ramanujacharya's reasoning, his guru was convinced and the dosha of Guru mantra prakasha is not incurred by Ramanujacharya. FYI, Ramanujacharya only learnt the secrets of the mantra at this Guru and already know the mantra before this incident. – Sarvabhouma Dec 4 '17 at 3:46
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    It is not about learning secrets of mantra on ur own. It is about mantra upadesha , taking mantra from Guru. And after that happens all Gurus advise disciples not to reveal it and Ramanuja's Guru also did the same. But he did not obey his Guru's orders. Even Rama, Krishna who are Gods did never disobey their Gurus orders. Because Guru is Parabrahman @NogShine – Rickross Dec 4 '17 at 3:54
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    This is not disobedience. Did you understand what I said? Tirukoshtiyur Nambi was not angry or something and didn't curse Ramanujacharya for revealing the mantra. He was okay wit h it due to his reasoning. If he was angry, then why would send his own son as his disciple? Why would give him a title? Where did I say about learning the mantra on your own? All the mantras were learnt by upadesham only. – Sarvabhouma Dec 4 '17 at 3:57

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