The greatness of traditional masters was not merely established based on the extent of their knowledge, but rather on how well they used it to serve the people. One such giant from Indian history is the great Ramanujacarya, a grand Vaisnava master who lived in the twelfth century and is considered the most important proponent of the Visistadvaita Vedanta philosophy.
One of his early teachers was a man named Gostipurna (pronounced Goshtipoorna). Initially Gostipurna did not easily accord his support to Ramanuja and was intent on testing the latter's devotion and eligibility. He often evaded Ramanuja citing that he was too busy to meet him. Being a sincere student Ramanuja eventually convinced him that he was a deserving student. Gostipurna accepted Ramanuja as a pupil and asked him to approach him with a danda (walking stick) and kamandalu (portable water container used in spiritual practices) so that he could teach him the most sacred mula mantra. These two items were considered necessities by ascetics of the past, and they were never separated from it.
The following day Ramanuja approached his teacher along with two of his own pupils Dasarati and Kuresa. Taken by surprise Gostipurna questioned Ramanuja "I told you to come alone. So you have brought these two with you?" Without hesitation Ramanuja replied "Dasarathi is like my walking stick and Kuresa, my Kamandalu. I cannot survive without them." The boldness of Ramanuja and his affection for his disciples touched Gostipurna very deeply.
He thus proceeded to teach Ramanuja the mula mantra and its significance. He further instructed him "Since those who will recite this most special mantra, will find God, you should be discriminating while teaching it. So you must keep it a secret. If you share it with anyone you will definitely go to hell."
Ramanuja thanked him for this initiation and left his teacher's presence. But Ramanuja did not like such invidious discriminations and deeply believed that every one should profit by such divine knowledge. So the next day he climbed atop the temple tower and summoned all the residents of the town. When the entire village gathered be broadcast the mula mantra and its significance to all and told them that they should recite it with pure devotion in their heart so that they can all reach God. The entire population jumped with joy and were so grateful to Ramanuja.
However Gostipurna was appalled and was furious with his protege. He summoned Ramanjua and challenged him by saying "Do you know this act of yours will surely take you to hell?" With all humility and confidence in his heart Ramanuja replied -
"Sir, I shall happily go to hell, if this mantra can take all these people to heaven."
On hearing this Gostipurna had tears in his eyes. He realized that Ramanuja was a great man who had taken his birth only for the deliverance of the world. He called him "My Lord" and embraced him.