A study of the Divyaprabandhas and the works of Sri Vaishnava Acharyas will show that the words they have used to expound Visishtadvaita are the most appropriate. Brief yet eloquent is Nammazhvar, for example, in describing the Lord in the first verse of the Thiruvaimozhi. Following in his footsteps, Acharyas such as Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika, too, have used words with felicity to explain and clarify. Swami Desika in his Bhagavad Dhyana Sopanam, which describes Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam, speaks of the lotus feet of the Lord.
This is how the Lord’s feet are always described, but Swami Desika makes several other significant observations, said Adur Asuri Madhavachari in a discourse. Swami Desika says the Lord’s feet emerged from the sands of the Cauvery, where there were many swans.
Swans are not seen on the banks of the Cauvery, or even in the Cauvery itself. So where and why did Swami Desika come up with such an observation, one might wonder. A literal interpretation of the word ‘swan’ as being a bird would be erroneous: The swans referred to are the many Sri Vaishnavas to be seen on the banks of the Cauvery.
It is said 700 Sri Vaishnava sanyasis were Acharya Ramanuja’s disciples. And they were no ordinary sanyasis, for the mere wearing of ochre robes does not make a person a sanyasi. What makes one a real sanyasi is his knowledge of Brahma Swaroopam. The 700 sanyasis who were Acharya Ramanuja’s disciples were ones who had knowledge of Brahma Swaroopam. Furthermore, there were with the Acharya, the 74 Simhasandipathis, and countless devotees. These are the swans Swami Desika is referring to. Here he is inspired by Nammazhvar’s ‘Anjiraiya madanaarai’ verse from the Thiruvaimozhi.
In the Raghuveeragadhyam, Swami Desika says Rama’s eyes are like a forest of lotus flowers. It is customary to compare the Lord’s eyes to lotuses. But why describe them as a forest of lotuses?
A similar description is seen in Nammazhvar’s Thiruviruttam (verse 23). Swami Desika is guided by the verses in the Nalayira Divya Prabandham when he uses such similes.