Translated from the book Au Bord du Gange, (On the banks of the Ganges River) by Martine Quentric-Séguy
Râmânuja, one of the three great masters of Védânta, was generous. He viewed all human beings in the same manner, gave to all the same attention, men and women alike no matter what caste they belonged to. He was even warm towards the “untouchable” (outcast). He scandalized the people of his time.
In the days when he was still searching for his path, he approached a master and asked to be initiated. He offered him a coconut. The master, recognizing a great soul, split the nut sharply. Thus, without a word being uttered it was stated that his mental was broken and his ego could be emptied out. Then the master whispered the sacred mantra into the ear of the disciple.
“Repeat it with tenderness, with intelligence of course, freely and with passion, and above all with detachment. This mantra has great powers, it will surely free you from ignorance. Repeat it in secret, keep it in the innermost part of your heart, share it with no one.
“Why may I not say it aloud, in front of people?
“If you reveal it, it will free the one who hears it, however you will then continue to wander in this world, full of ignorance and suffering.”
Râmânuja left the master and immediately climbed up to the roof of the tallest temple. From there, he called out to the population in a loud voice.
“Come and listen well: the master imparted to me the powerful mantra which saves the one to whom it is given. Hear it, repeat it: ‘Aum namo Narayana.’ Did you hear it? ‘Aum namo Narayana. Aum namo Narayana.’
Of course, the master heard it also. He sent for Râmânuja. The disciple arrived in haste.
“Why have you divulged this precious mantra on the public square, in spite of my warning?” he asked, alarmed.
“I am ready to live another thousand lives of ignorance and pain if the ones I see in front of me in the square are all saved in this life,” replied the disciple peacefully.
The mantra of Visnu (also known as Narayana) is chanted to invoke His all pervading power of mercy and goodness. It is through His grace that righteousness is able to prevail. Repetition of this mantra confers infinite love, prosperity, power, glory, wisdom, and total liberation. It gives the ability to dissolve obstacles resulting from egoism and ignorance. It is a mantra of peace, bringing balance to an off-centered world. – (Taken from the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Manual)