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The name Ulag-Ariya (or Lokacharya) first became associated with Sri Nampillai when Sri Kanthadai Thozhappar celebrated him as the acharya for the world ("kanthAdai thOzhappar tham ugappAl enna ulagAriyanO enRu uraikka"). Nampillai's disciple was Sri Vadakku Thiruveethippillai. Out of great affection for his acharya, Vadakku Thiruveethippillai named his first son as Pillai Lokacharya ("anbAl anna thiru nAmaththai Athariththu mannu pugazh maintharkku sARRukaiyAl").
One time Nampillai was enquiring Vadakkuth Thiruveethip pillai's mother Ammi about her welfare. She told him that she was sad as her family was not being furthered because her son was staying away from his wife and was not having a child. Nampillai asked her to bring her daughter-in-law to his presence. When she did, he told her daughter-in-law that she would give birth to a son just like himself. He then called his disciple Vadakkuth Thiruveethippillai and told him to follow proper gruhastAsrama and that it would not cause any damage to his vairAgya.
Vadakkuth Thiruveethippillai obeyed his acharya's words and in time a son was born to him; he named him Pillai Lokacharya out of respect for his acharya. While worshipping Lord Renganatha with his disciple's son on his Apthapoorthi day, Lord commanded Sri Nampillai to bless Sri Vadakku Thiruveethippillai to have another son like Lord himself. The second son was named Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar, after Lord Renganatha. Sri Pillai Lokacharya was born as the amsam of Kanchi Devaraja (Varadaraja) Perumal in the month of Aippasi under the star Thiruvonam, in the year 1205 CE.
Early Life and Acquiring Knowledge
In their youth, both brothers learned everything from their acharya Nampillai as well as from their father. They grew up like Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana.
In foreword to his vyakhyanam of Sri Vacana Bhushanam, Manavala Mamunigal tells of the following event. Once upon a time Kanchi Devaraja Perumal out of His nirhEduka krupa selected one Manarpakkam Nambi, and appearing in his dream taught him some special rahasya meanings; He also advised him to go live in Srirangam and wait for Him there where He will teach him in further detail those meanings. Manarpakkam Nambi moved to Srirangam, built a small temple and quietly lived there worshipping Him and keeping the meanings revealed by Him to himself. One day Pillai Lokacharya came to that temple with his close disciples and seeing the quiet nature of the place began teaching them the meanings of rahasyas. Nambi listening from inside noted that these meanings were the same as taught by Lord Varadaraja to him. He then came out and bowing at Pillai Lokacharya's feet, asked him "AvarO neer?" – Are you the one (the same as Devaraja)?. Pillai Lokacharya replied "Yes, and why do you ask?". Manarpakkam Nambi explained his dream to him. This is the avatara rahasyam of Pillai Lokacharya.
Pillai Lokacharya then took him as his disciple and taught him the meanings of the rahasyas. Nambi then told him that Lord Varadaraja had asked him to request Pillai Lokacharya to collect these meanings as a book. The book thus written is Sri Vacana Bhushanam. Manavala Mamunigal speaks of the greatness of this work in several pasurams in his UpadesaratthinamAlai. Mamunigal also says that this is the greatest of Pilla Lokacharya's works ("innaruLAl seytha kalai yAvaiyilum").
Both Sri Pillai Lokacharya and Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar remained as Brahmachaaris to make sure that their vyraakyam is not hindered. Because of this only, they were boldly able to advise that for a Sri Vaishnava, leading a marriage life even with his wife is not good.
Pillai Lokacharya's primary disciples were Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar, Koorakuloththama Dasa, Manarpakkam Nambi, Kollikavala Dasa (Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Pillai), KotturilaNNar and Vilanjsolai Pillai.
Also at a young age Srisailesa (Thiruvaymozhi Pillai) and Thirunaaveerudaiyapiran DaatharaNNar became his disciples. The former is the acharya of Sri Manavala Mamunigal and the latter is his father. Mamunigal's father was Kollikavala Dasa's disciple at Sikkil Kidaram and married his daughter. Thiruvaymozhi Pillai learned everything from Koorakuloththama Dasa. Thus, Mamunigal gained the great wealth of sambandham with Pillai Lokacharya through his acharya (Srisailesa), his father and his maternal grandfather.
Pillai Lokacharya's efforts to save Namperumal
While Pillai Lokacharya lived in Srirangam heading Emperumanar's Darsanam, the Islamic invasion of the city occurred. To save the temple and Periya Perumal, His sannidhi was covered with brick stones and a different vigraha was kept in front by Sri Pillai Lokacharya. Pillai Lokacharya left Srirangam along with Namperumal and Nacchimaars ahead of the invasion. While going through a forest they were attacked by thieves who stole all the jewellery and vessels of Namperumal. Pillai Lokacharya gave them everything he had and even rejected the items when they returned them to him. Happy that they left Namperumal with him, he continued on. They then reached a small town called Jyothishkudi. Here Pillai Lokacharya fell ill and reached His lotus feet. The year was 1311 CE and the day was jyEshtha suddha dvAdasi. At his death bed he advised his disciples such as Koorakuloththama Dasa and Vilanjsolai Pillai that Srisailesa was working for the king at Madurai and that they should bring him back into the Srivaishnava fold so that he could lead the darsanam.
While Swamy was about to leave this world and reach Achaaryan's Lotus feet, he started touching the ants and other such insects near him. (All such animals will get to reach Sri Vaikunta if they have get touched by a Sri Vaishnava). Such was Sri Pillai Lokacharya's Karunya towards the living beings. Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar reached Achaaryan's lotus feet at his 65th year. Pillai Lokacharya lived to the age of 106 years.
Sri Pillai Lokacharya authored Ragasya Granthas with mercy in His heart towards the samsaaris. He has authored the following 18 Ragasya Granthas collectively known as Astaadasa Ragasya
- Artha Panjakam
- Sri Vachana Booshanam
- Prameya Sekaram
- Prapana Parithranam
- Saara Sangraham
- Samsaara Saamrajyam
- Navavidha Sambandham
- SriyaPathi Padi
- Thani Dwayam
- Thani Charamam
- Thani Pranavam
All these works are done in manipravaalam. (A mix of Tamil and Sanskrit languages)
Works Praising Sri Pillai Lokacharya
Vilanjsolai Pillai has praised Pillai Lokacharya's work Sri Vachana Booshanam by singing "Saptha Kaathai" and Sri Vedanta Desikan sung "Lokacharya Panchaasat" (citation needed) in praise of Sri Pillai Lokacharya.
- Pillai Lokacharya’s magnum opus The Hindu