Sri Ramanuja (1017 - 1137 CE), the most important philosopher-saint of Sri Vaishnavam and one of the most dynamic characters of Hinduism. He was a philosophical as well as a social reformer, displaying a catholicity that was nearly unparalleled in Hindu religious history before him. He revitalised Indian philosophy and popular religion so much that nearly every aspect of Hinduism has been influenced by his work. His life and works show a truly unique personality, combining contemplative insight, logical acumen, catholicity, charismatic energy, and selfless dedication to God.
The less known fact even among Srivaishnavas about this well known Acharya by whose name Srivaishnava philosophy is called 'Ramanuja Darsanam' and who is hailed as "Sri Vaishnava Siddhanta Nirdhaarana Saarva bouma" is that he was a 'Vadama' by birth.(Authority :" Periya Thrumudi Adaivu, Pazhanadai Vilakkam and Visishtaadvaita Catechism" - quoted in GLE)
HIS AVATARA AND EARLY DAYS
Ilaya Perumal was born to Kesava Perumal Somayaji Dikhsitar and Kanthimathi Ammal at Sriperumpudur. Just as Sage Vasishta on seeing the brilliance in the face of the child named him as Lakshmana saying "Lakshmano Lakshmi Sampannaha", Periya Thiru malai Nambi struck by the Tejas of the child, named him after Lakshmana as Ilaya Perumal. (PPM) aka Ilayalwar.
There is a sloka in Yadhavaachala Mahatmyam which says:
Ananthah Prathamam Roopam Lakshmanascha Tathah
Balabadram Thritheeyasthu Kalou Kaschit Bhavishyathi ||
(meaning) It is the same who was Adhisesha
first, Lakshmana after and Balarama in the third
who is born as Sri Ramanuja in the Kali yuga. This Kaschit is taken by our Poorva
Acharyas as referring to Ramanuja (PPM)
HIS BIRTH: (CHITRAI- TIRUVADHIRAI)
His date of birth is placed differently by
different authorities.As per PPM, he was born in
Kaliyuga year 4119 which corresponds to 1017 AD. PPM fixes even the exact date as 13th
April 1017 AD, interms of English Calendar.
PRA, though notes the year as 4118 Kali ,
maintains the year as 1017 AD only and gives
additional information that the Rasi was Karkataka and the time of birth was exactly at noon.
VAC, MKS and MSR also agree on the year 1017.
PTA gives a few more details like the
Yogam being Ayushman, Karanam being Bhadra, Gotra being Harita, Saakha being Yajus,
Sutra being Apasthambha and Sect being Vadama ( Vide p.45 of GLE).
PPM and ATA mention the year as Pingala,
month Chitrai and the constellation Tiruvadirai (Ardra nakshatra).
PPM adds that it was a Sukla Paksha Panchami, a Friday.
It will be for the Research minded scholars
to piece together all these details to arrive at the
correct date, time etc.
Vriddha Padma Purana presages his incarnation thus:-
" Long, long afterwards, the Lord himself
will come down on earth as a Tridanda
Sannyasin, to restore the good law. At that time heretics and men of perverted
intellects will confuse the minds of the people. Aasuric Saastraas, based upon
fallacious arguments and various schools of thought, very attractive and almost
indistinguishable from the Vedanta, will turn away mens' hearts from Vishnu and
cause them to forget His glory. That glorious incarnation will, through the good
fortune of the Lord's devotees, come down upon earth, to explain and amplify the
teachings of the great Sage Baadaraayana and the divine singer of the Gita. The holy
one would compose a Bhaashya on the Vyaasa Sutras, to save men from the confusion
and despair caused by spurious doctrines and lead them to the True faith" ( Vide p.44
While still a boy , he lost his father and
was living with his mother at Kanchipuram under the
protection of one 'Tiruk kachi Nambi' This Nambi was believed to converse and was on
'speaking terms' with Lord Varadaraja in the Archa form.
EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF SRI RAMANUJA
(1) Within 16 years of age, he had mastered
all the Vedas and Sastras. At age 17, he
married Rakshakaambaal ( Tanjammal, in Tamil) (PPM)
(2) Ilaya Perumal was placed under the Advaitic
Sannyasi called YADAVA PRAKASA at
Tirupput kuzhi for training in Advaita Purva Paksha Sastra of Vedanta. Once during this
period, Alavandar who desired nominating Ilaya Perumal to succeed himself visited Tirupput
kuzhi, met with him but had no opportunity to speak to him and had to return to Srirangam.
Very many occasions arose when the Saivite
Guru clashed with Ilaya Perumal when the
Guru misinterpreted Vedantic statements. Ilaya Perumal fearlessly pointed out the errors in
the Guru's interpretations and corrected him. This enraged the Guru. Fearing that one day,
Ilaya Perumal would demolish Advaita philosophy, he plotted to kill Ilaya Perumal by
drowning him in Ganga while on a pilgrimage tour of the country with his disciples.
Learning of the design through one Govinda,
another disciple who was also related to him,
Ilaya Perumal slipped out into the forest at dead of night. Miraculously, an aged hunter
couple appeared and guided him. As Ilaya Perumal who was in a trance, opened his eyes,
he found himself at the outskirts of Kanchipuram and the couple had disappeared. He
realized that it was Lord Varadaraja and Perundevi Thayar who had come in the guise of the
hunter couple. He stayed at Kanchi for a while to assist Tiruk Kachi Nambi in his daily
chores of service to Lord Varadaraja.
(3) News came that Alavandar was very sick
and he desired to meet with Ilaya Perumal.
Just as Tirukkachi Nambi and Alavandar arrived, they saw the funeral procession of
Alavandar. During the last rites, they noticed that three fingers of Alavandar remained
folded signifying three of his last unfulfilled wishes. As Ilaya Perumal swore
( i ) that he would write a commentary on
Veda Vyasa's Brahma Sutra ( ii ) that he would
perpetuate the memory of Vyasa and Parasara and ( iii ) that he would strive to propagate
Visishtadvaita on the lines of the 4000 holy collects of Alwars, the fingers unfolded one by
one automatically and stretched out to normal position signifying that these were his last
wishes. Since he could not meet with Alavandar, he returned to Kanchi without even going
into the temple at Srirangam (PPM)
(4) Tirukkachi Nambi obtained from Lord Varadaraja
the famous ' Six Words ' and passed
them on to Ilayalwar. The six words provided the guidelines for Ilayalwar to follow. They
( i ) that Lord Narayana is the Paramatma.
(ii ) that the individual souls were different from
Paramatma. (iii) that Prapatti is the means to attain salvation. (iv) that the last remembrance
of the Lord on the part of the departing soul was not necessary. (v) that Moksha can
be obtained only on laying off the mortal coils (Videha Mukti) & (vi) that Ilaya Perumal
should take refuge at the feet of Periya Nambi.
Accordingly, he met with Periya Nambi at
Madurantakam , where under the shade of
Vakula tree Periya Nambi performed Pancha Samskara to him. As he was initiated into the
esoteric of Dvaya Mantra at Madurantakam, the place came to be known as "Dvayam
Vilaindha Tiruppathi" (PPM) Both returned to Srirangam and did Kalakshepams on
Brahma Sutra etc. for sometime. It was at this time that Lord Ranganatha called him
"Nammudaiyavar" (He is ours).(PPM)
(5) Ilaya Perumals was not a happy married
life. His wife never understood either his
greatness nor appreciated his catholicity and always acted on her own wavelength and there
was no compatibility as between them. Several instances are cited wherein the lady
ensconced in her own in her own pet ideas of being holy or otherwise showed scant respect
to Bhagavatas and this greatly annoyed Ilayalwar. When he was about 30 years of age,
Ilayalwar took Sannyas with the name of 'Ramanuja Muni'. He was the king among
Sannyasis. Hence, he is called ' Yati Rajar'- a honorific invested by Lord Devaathi Rajan.
(6) The seat of Acharya at Srirangam was
lying vacant without a successor to take over.
He was prevailed upon to assume charge. But, before doing so, he wanted to equip himself
with the secrets of the three great Mantras. For this purpose, he approached one " Tiruk
Koshtiyur Nambi" who made him come several times before actually instructing him. He
cautioned Ramanuja that he should not give out the secrets to all and sundry and if he did so,
he would go to hell.
Immediately on receiving the instructions,
Ramanuja climbed up to the top of the steeple of
the temple and proclaimed to the large gathering of his disciples assembled there the purport
of the instruction.
The popular belief that he gave out the Mantras
is not correct; What he actually gave out
was that he had found out the way to attain Moksha through the three great Mantras and
invited those who sincerely wished to follow him and get initiated. Also, he did not advise all
and sundry as assumed by some. By the time of this episode, he had already gathered a
huge following of disciples who congregated at the main entrance to the temple and he was
thus addressing his own disciples (as explained in a separate posting in this series). This is
another less known fact about the well known Acharya Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi was so
enraged and demanded an explanation. Ramanuja replied that he did not give out the
secrets and even if he had transgressed the specific warning of the Guru, only he himself
would go to hell but the multitude of humanity that listened to his clarion ' wake - up' call
would be saved spiritually. The Guru was overwhelmed by this reply . Embracing
Ramanuja appreciating his broad mindedness, he called him 'Emperumanar'- " O! My lord"
and declared that Srivaishnavism would thenceforward be known as " Ramanuja
Darsanam"- ' the light of Ramanuja'
(7) Yadava prakasa, his old Guru had by then
returned to Kanchi, became Ramanuja's
disciple assuming the name of 'Govinda Yogi'
(8) Ramanuja used to go round the streets
for his Biksha. An evil minded fellow had mixed
poison in the biksha. His wife while serving the biksha fell at Ramanujas feet with tears in
her eyes. Ramanuja understood that there was something wrong. When the Sishyas sorted
out the biksha for cooking, they found out that poison was mixed with it. Ramanuja went on
a fast with a view to cleanse the mind of the evil-doer. On hearing this, Tirukkoshtiyur
Nambi rushed all the way to Srirangam. When Ramanuja heard of the coming of his Guru,
he rushed to the banks of River Kaveri to receive him. It was the height of summer.
Ramanuja ran towards him in the hot Sun to receive him and fell at his feet on the burning
sands on the banks of river Kaveri. Nambi did not ask him to get up. Such was his
Acharya Bhakti. At that time , Kidambi Aachaan, who was nearby told Nambi " Your
action (in not asking Ramanuja to get up) is worse than the poison mixed in the
bikshai". Such was the Acharya bhakti of Ramanujas Sishya !(Like master, like pupil !).
Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi exclaimed, " After all, now I can cast off my physical body since I
have found one who would take the greatest care of Ramanuja"
(9) Ramanuja traveled throughout the country
spreading the message of Visishtadvaita.
Once a votary of the ' illusion theory' Yagna Murthi by name confronted him for 16 days in
endless arguments and counter arguments. Finally, he accepted defeat and became a
disciple of Ramanuja assuming the name of 'Arulala Perumal Emperumanar' and wrote
'Gnana Saram and Prameya Saram'.
(10) One of the most important disciples
who was totally devoted to Ramanuja was
Kuresan also known as ' Kurattalwan'. Once, Kuresan participated in the shradda
ceremony performed for his mother by the famous Tiruvarangathu Amudanar. This
Amudanar was in charge of the Srirangam temple. When Amudanar inquired what Kuresan
desired as reward for his participation, Kuresan replied that the administration of the temple
should be handed over to Ramanuja. Amudanar, who had already known the greatness of
Ramanuja was only too glad to hand over the key to Ramanuja. It is this Tiruvarangattu
Amudanar who subsequently wrote the Ramanuja Noorrantadhi of 108 verses which was
included in the holy collects to make up the total of 4,000.
(11) After Mastering the Bodhaayana Vritti
of Sage Vyaasa, he wrote several works like
Vedanta Sangraham explaining the various viewpoints of Sankara, Yadhava, Bhaskara and
others, Vedanta Deepam, Geetha Bashyam etc.
(12) During Panguni Uttram, he did Prapatti
before the Divya Dhampathi in Serthi and
submitted his famous Gadhyatrayam (comprising Saranagathi Gadhyam, Sriranga Gadhyam
and Sri Vaikunta Gadhyam ),
(13) Later, he wrote a Grantha called Nityam detailing the Tiruvaradhana Kramam
(14) While he was on his Sancharam, it is
believed that the Lord himself appeared before
him at Tiruk Kurum Kudi as a Srivaishnava got Samasrayanam from Udaiyavar (PPM)
(15) When he visited Saraswati Peetam, Goddess
Saraswati was so impressed with his
commentary on Brahma Sutram that she named it "Sri Bhashyam" and conferred on him
the title of "Bhashyakaarar". It must be noted that while the other commentaries are
known by the names of their authors like 'Sankara Bashyam' written by Aadhi Sankara, the
commentary of Ramanuja is always referred to with the venerable honorific 'Sri' denoting its
unsurpassed quality and clarity and known as ' Sri Bashyam' (PPM)
(16) When he visited Tirumala, a miracle
happened. Some argued that the Lord of
Tirumalai was Saiva param. It is surprising that such a claim should have arisen about the
Lord who had been worshipped as Lord Vishnu by all the Alwars and Acharyas besides
Elango Adigal and other Tamil Pulavars for several centuries. This was because the Lord
had earlier entrusted His insignia to a King called Tondamaan. (SAA p.57-58). The Lord
desired to take back from Tondamaan, these insignia viz., Sankhu, Tiruvaazhi, Soolam,
Damarukam etc. They were placed in the Sannidhi the previous night. And, when the
doors were opened the next morning, the Lord gave Darshan adorning all his insignia
(PPM). Ramanuja was hailed as " Appanukku Sangaazhi Alittha Perumaal" Poet
Arunagiri himself sang clearing all doubts in this regard saying "Ulageenra Pachai
umaiyanan, Vada Venkadathil Uraibhavan, Uyar Sanga Chakra kara Thalan"
(17) Ramanuja "was the greatest synoptic
thinker which the world ever produced to
systematize Visishtadvaitic philosophy, faithfully interpreting the ancient knowledge
in tune with the letter and spirit of the text in the light of revelation and experience
tested by stern logic"- [- Hon'ble Justice K.S.Krishnaswami Iyengar of the High Court of
Judicture, Madras in his foreword to Desika Prabahandam( P.31) published by Lifco
Associates, Madras- 3rd Edition, 1982. ]
(18) His magnum opus is his wonderful commentary
on Vedavyasa's Brahma Sutram and a
simpler commentary thereon called Vedanta Saram. Kuresan was very helpful in publishing
his works. Thus, he fulfilled his FIRST PROMISE to Alavandar. It is this Kuresan (aka)
Sri Vatsanka Misra who wrote the famous Pancha Sthava consisting of Athi Maanusha
Sthava, Sri Sthava, Varadaraja Sthava, Vaikunta Sthava and Sundarabaahu Sthava.
(19) He asked Kuresan to name his two sons
after Veda Vyasa and Parasara and thus
fulfilled his SECOND PROMISE to Alavandar. It was this Parasara Bhattar who
subsequently wrote the famous commentary on Vishnu Sahasra Nama as ordained by
(20) Another disciple of Ramanuja was Pillaan.
Once, when Ramanuja was alone mentally
reciting a particular hymn of Tiruvoimozhi, Pillaan entered his room and inquired if he was
meditating on a particular hymn. And, it was indeed the one Ramanuja was actually
meditating on!. Ramanuja decided that Pillaan was the person best suited to write a
commentary on Tiruvoimozhi. As ordered, he wrote the famous 'AARAAYIRAPPADI'
(the commentary known as the 6000 Padi also known as Bhagavad Vishayam) and called
Pillaan as 'Tirukkurugai Piraan" after the name of Nammalwar. He was also known as
Kurugesar and Braathru Thozhappar. Thus, he fulfilled his THIRD PROMISE to
Alavandar. He was one of the Sri Bhashya ubhaya Simhasana Adhipathis.(PPM)
(21) Kulothunga Chola was a staunch devotee
of Siva. He commanded Ramanuja to come
to his court with a view to enlisting his support to establish the superiority of Siva over all
other deities. (including Vishnu ). If the support was not forthcoming, the king was planning
to kill Ramanuja. Sensing the danger, Kuresa went to the court disguised as Ramanuja
along with another disciple called Periya Nambi. The king ordered him to sign a document
to the effect that 'Siva is the greatest'. Kuresa added that ' Sivam was no doubt great but
Dronam was greater than Sivam'- both expressions referring to units of measurement. The
enraged king ordered both of them to be blinded when he came to know that he was
Kuresa who was impersonating Ramanuja. Periya Nambi was tortured to death while
Kuresa survived. Kuresa, though he himself was blinded, was happy that he had saved
Ramanuja. It is this Kulothunga who is reported to have thrown away the idol of
Govindaraja in the sea. Ramanuja recovered it and had it installed at Tirupati.
(22) While on an itinerary, Ramanuja noticed
an officer of state, by name Danur daasa, a
hunter by birth was over -concerned and over- protective about the beauty of his wife who
was walking along on the hot sands on the banks of the river Kaveri. Ramanuja offered to
show him something more beautiful than his wife and took him to the proximity of the image
of Lord Ranganatha. Danur daasa was enraptured by the charm of the Lord and became a
disciple of Ramanuja assuming the name of ' Uranga Villi Daasar'. Ramanuja never
entertained any caste distinctions and was conferring his benedictions even on the lowliest
of the lowly whom he called 'Tiruk Kulattar'.
(23) Ramanuja went to Tiru narayana puram
in search of white clay paste used for applying
caste marks by Vaishnavites. The idol of the temple there had been taken away by the
muslim invaders and was being used at play as a doll by the muslim princess in Delhi.
Ramanuja went to Delhi and when he endearingly called ' Come on! My dear child 'Selva
Pillaiye Vaarum', the idol miraculously came onto his lap. Ramanuja reinstalled it in the
(24) Once some kids were playing on the road
pretending to construct a temple, installing an
idol of the Lord, offering fruits and flowers etc all the time using the dust on the road for the
purpose. They offered some mud as prasadam to Ramanuja who was passing along , he
received it with due respect. He remembered in this connection the words of Poigai Alwar
who said that the Lord took whatever name and form his sincere devotees wished and in the
instant case though the kids were only playing, they sincerely believed in what they were
(25) Another disciple of Ramanuja was Vaduga
Nambi who put the sandals of his Guru
along with those of the Lord. When questioned, he replied that the Acharya's sandals were
for him as holy as those of the Lord. When Lord Ranganatha was coming on his rounds on
the streets of Srirangam, Vaduga Nambi remarked that the eyes that had seen the charm in
the eyes of Ramanuja would not be able to appreciate the beauty of the eyes of even the
Lord.-'En Amudinai Kanda Kangal Marronrinai Kaanaave.' Such was his devotion to
(26) Ramanuja arranged to make a lifelike
idol of himself and embracing it invested it with
his powers and had it installed in Tirumalai at Tirupati. The only temple consecrated in
Tirumalai , other than that of Lord Venkateswara, is that of Ramanuja.(SAA p.58) The
Archa moorthi of Ramanuja known as "Thaan Ugantha Tirumeni" was installed in
(27) Once, when he visited Tondanoor in Hoysala
State, he happened to meet a Jain king
called Devarayan. His daughter was possessed by a demon and none could get rid of her
predicament. When Ramanuja's SriPaada Theertham ( water consecrated by association
with his feet) was sprinkled on her,she was cured of the devil. The King pleaded to be
accepted as Ramanujas Sishya. Ramanuja accepted and named him "Vishnu Vardhana".
(28) Ramanuja nominated 74 Acharyas to succeed
him. It is he who instituted the 13 day
"iyal Goshti in Srirangam. (PPM)
HIS ASCENT TO PARAMAPADAM
With his head on the lap of Embar and his
feet on the lap of Vaduga Nambi, Ramanuja
breathed his last in 1137 AD listening to the recitation of the Divya Prabandam.
Born in PINGALA year, he left for his heavenly
abode also in PINGALA year that
followed 120 years from the year of his Avatara. Thus, he lived TWO full cycles of Tamil
years after his birth
PLV places the date in Saaka era 1009, Pingala,
in the month of Magha, the 10 th day of
Sukla Paksha under the constellation of Tiruvadirai and at noon ( as in the time of his birth).
TKG notes that Lord Ranganatha and Periya
Piraatti bathed and purified themselves as
PRA avers that he died on a Saturday
VAC places the date as 4238 Kali yuga which corresponds to 1137 AD.
PTA, however, states that he lived for 128
years and died in the year Durmati in the month
Again, Research scholars may fin ways to
piece together all these information to arrive at the
His physical body is preserved even today in a sitting posture in the Sannidhi (Sanctum Sanctorum) dedicated to him on the southwest corner on the fifth round within the Srirangam temple as ordered by Lord Ranganatha himself. (see the above picture)
The whole world is aghast at the feat of preservation of the mummies of Egypt and the body of St. Xavier in Goa in India and make so much fuss about them.
Even some Srivaishnavas are not aware that here in Srirangam, their holiest place hailed as ' Bhuloka Vaikuntam' (Heaven on Earth) lies preserved the body of Sri Ramanuja in all its pristine state unostentatiously, without any fanfare or publicity and without using any of the chemical preservatives employed by the Egyptian and Goan models.
Swami Desika in Sloka 10 of his Yathiraja Saptadhi pays obeisance to Bhagavad Ramanuja thus before proceeding with his eulogy.
Pranaamam Lakshmana Munih Prathi Grihnaathu
Prasaadhayathi yat Sookthih Svadheena Pathikaam Sruthim ||
(meaning) I beseech Sri Ramanuja whose Srisookthis
claimed the acclaim of the Lord and
adorned the Upanishads to kindly accept my Pranams. There is another famous Sloka
which says :-
Thasmai Ramaanujaaryaaya Namah Parama Yoginae
Yah Sruthi Smrithi Sutraanaam Antharjvaramaso Samathaa ||
(meaning) I bow to that Sri Ramanuja, the
great Yogi who became the very soul of Vedas,
Upanishads and other Sutras.
(1) "Acharya Vamsa Vriksha Chart" issued
by Desika Darsana Sabha, New Delhi and
released by Sri Uttamur Swami Centenary Celebration Committee (AVV)
(2) "Srirangam Srimad Andavan of Poundarikapuram
Asramam Tanians" compiled
by Kampavayal Vangipuram Sri J. Raghavachariar and released by Sri Paravakkottai
Srimad Andavan, Sri Gopal Desika Maha Desikan (PPT)
(3) " Sri Vaishnava Acharya Parampara"- A
special manuscript in the handwriting of Sri
Paravakkotai Srimad Andavan, Sri Dopala Desika Maha Desikan- containing details from
Prathama Acharya to Tirutturaippoondi Ramanuja Maha Desikan of Poundarika puram
(4) "Veda Malar"- Souvenir issued during
the Centenary Celebration of Vennatrankarai
Srimad Andavan, Sri Srinivasa Maha Desikan- containing details from Swami Vedanta
Desikan to Paravakkottai Swami (VM)
(5) " Aniyarangan Tirumutrathu Adiyargal"
published by Sri Visishtadvaita Research
Center, Madras, 1993 (ATA)
(6) " Sri Ranganatha Paduka"- March 1993
issue containing details from Srimad
Vazhuttur Andavan to Prakritam Srimushnam Swami of Periyasramam (SRP)
(7) " Guide to Srivaishnavas" by Srirangam
Siromani M.S.Rajagopalachariar and
published by Sri Visishtadvaita Pracharini Sabha, Madras. (MSR)
(8) " Peeps into Mysticism" by D. Ramaswamy
Iyengar and published by Sri
Visishtadvaita Pracharini Sabha, Madras,1986(DR)
(9) " Golden lives of the East" by Sri V.R.Srinivasa
Iyengar published by P.
Venkateswara & CO, Madras.(GLE)
(10) " Vaishnava Vinaa Vidai" by Karappankadu
Venkatachariar Swami and published
by Tamilnadu Deiveega Peravai, Madras18, 1970.(VVV)
(11) "Sri Vaishnavam" by Sri V.N.Gopala Desikan
published by Tiruppavai Committee,
(12) "A dialogue on Hinduism" by Sri V.N.Gopala
Desikan published by Sri
Visihtadvaita Research Center, Madras,1990 (DH-G)
(13) " Vaishnavism- A Concise study" by Sri
M.K.Srinivasan, President, Vedanta Desika
Research Center, Madras and published by Hari Vilas Charities, Madras,1995 (MKS)
(14) "Acharya Vaibava Manjari" by Puttur
Sri S. Krishnaswami Iyengar, Editor, Sri
Vaishnava Sudarsanam, Trichy (AVM)
(15) " Vinodha Rasa Manjari"- monthly (VRM)
(16) " Tenkalai Guru Parampara"- 1880 Edition- (TKP)
(17) " Vadakalai Guru Parampara" - 1880 Edition -(VKP)
(18) " Prapannamritam"- An old Edition (PRA)
(19) " Visishtadvaita Catechism" - An old Edition (VAC)
(20) "Srivaishnavam" published by Anuragam Publishers, Madras (SAN)
(21) "Srivaishnavam" by R. Ramaswamy Ramanuja
Dasar, published. by Alwargal
Amuda Nilayam, Madras.1994 (S-AAA)
(22) " Visishtadvaitam"-do- (V-AAA)
(23) " Pirkaala Vaishnavam" by M. Radhakrishna
Pillai. Published by Alliance &
(24) "Life of Alwars"- An old Edition (LOA)
(25) "Life of Ramanujaachaarya" by Govindacharlu- An old Edition (LOR)
(26) "Ramanujacharya's Divya Charitai"- An old Edition (RDC)
(27) "Palanadai Vilakkam"- An old Edition (PLV)
(28) "Periya Tirumudi Adaivu"- An old Edition (PTA)
(29)" Hari Samaya Deepam"- An old Edition (HSD)
(30) "Divya Suri Charitham"- An old Edition (DSC)
(31) "Vaarthaa Maalai"- An old Edition (VAR)
(32) "Alwargal Kaala Aaraaichi"- by Dr. M.Rajamanickanaar(AKA)
Nectar in the Life of Sri Ramanujacarya:
(The following section is from the book "The Life and Legacy of Sripad Ananda Tirtha - Madhwacarya" from the third chapter regarding the evolution and movement of intent to prepare the way for the arrival of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, by Jaya Tirtha Charan dasa).
In the year 1017 A.D. Sripad Ramanujacarya, a partial incarnation of Lord Ananta Shesha and Laxman appeared on the 'sasthi', sixth lunar mansion of the light fortnight in the month of Chaitra, (April-May). He made his appearance in South India, Tundiradesha, at Sriperumbudur, about half way between Kancipuram and Madras. His fathers' name was Asuri Keshava Somayaji, also known as Sarvakratu Diksitar, who it is believed was either an advaitin, or a smarta. His mother was Kantimati, the grand daughter of the great Vaisnavacarya Yamunacarya. Sri Ramanuja was given the name Ilaya Perumal, by his parents and was trained in the various studies of the Alwar saints of South Indian. His education was mostly given by his father a pandit of the time. When he was fifteen he was taken to Kancipuram, where he and his cousin Govinda were sent to study under the Advaitin Acarya Yadava Prakash. As the years went by and Ramanujas' maturity advanced. Many times there were philosophical clashes between he and his 'advaitin' teacher to the point when Yadava prakash made arrangements for Ramanuja to be killed. Still unperturbed he preached what became his "new" philosophy the Vaisnava philosophy of 'Visisthadvaita', or qualified oneness. Sripad Ramanujacarya directed his new philosophy to defeating the monistic views of Sankara. Instead of leaving understandings as some kind of impersonalistic blank, this is 'maya' or this is 'avidya', Ramanuja gave relationships to everything, that is, everything has a relationship to the Lord. He qualified everything. Sripad Ramanujacarya gives some nice points on referring to the acceptance of, or usage of 'avidya'. Though Sripad Ramanujacarya uses the word "ajnan" rather than 'avidya', the meaning is the same, ignorance. Being a personalistic worshipper of Sri Laksmi Narayana, Ramanujacarya tackles everything as a personalist would. He points out the existence of 'ajnan' (ignorance) as a positive entity and as being directly perceived in such perceptions as "I am ignorant", "I do not know myself or others". This really refers to having lack of understanding of something due to not having any, or insufficient knowledge of what it is. So in Ramanujacarya's philosophy he simply throws the blame back on the perceiver, not on the subject that the infinitesimal perceiver is trying with his limited senses to perceive, like the 'mayavadis' do. He suggests that maybe we are not seeing things fully or in the right perspective.
The 'mayavadis' simply try to blame the knife for stabbing the man to death, neglecting the chance that someone may have been holding the knife, and maybe even with some intent to do something, either consciously or not.
Once I observed one of my children, my then two year old, fall from the swing and clambering to stand up rebuked the swing, you're naughty swing. But the swing actually wasn't at fault, dare I say it was my child for not being co-ordinated.
Sri Ramanuja clarifies one rather interesting point as well. He said that if ignorance is a perceivable thing (entity or specific item), then that cannot be ignorance for it is known. Ignorance can only refer to that which is unknown, or that which one is ignorant of. Also if ignorance is unknown, how can one have ignorance standing on it's own to be perceived, one would not know? If it is argued that 'ajnan' or ignorance is 'a-visada-swarupa' (Indistinct knowledge), then again Sripad Ramanujacarya gives a good point that this is only to the fact that there is lack of distinct knowledge as to what it is. Even if their, (the 'mayavadis') philosophy of positive ignorance is admitted, it must be somehow related to something and that something must be known, which in its self is knowledge. In that way, if 'jnan' (knowledge) of any given subject such as the material world, or the Lord were there, the 'mayavadi' philosopher would have something to relate to. But they don't, therefore they are known as 'mayavadis' or 'ajnanavadis' due to their ignorance. This is understood by the Vaisnavacaryas who are in full knowledge. The opposite to black being white, the opposite to ignorance being knowledge.
Sripad Ramanujacarya clears up the theory of illusion
as set by the Sankarites in the following way by saying that if one knows
what is truth, one may, for a short period, be subject to illusion by which
normal things appear different to what they should be. But it cannot be
said that illusion has no cause other than illusion itself, or is unknown
or just appears for no reason. Ramanuja goes on to say that if illusion
were an inexpressible of an unidentifiable thing, again when or where would
one even known it was illusion for one would be in illusion and would have
nothing to compare with as real.
According to the 'avidya', 'advaitistic' philosophy of Sankara, the dream state, the wakeful state, and the state of self are all unreal and illusory. But according to Ramanujacarya there is a real character in all these three states. Even dreams are not illusion entirely. During the waking state the self is awake, and it contacts the objects of the senses externally through the mind and senses. In the dream state, the self becomes detached from the external world of the senses and their objects. The mind, however, experiences a succession of images presented from the memory without really any necessity of logic or reason. Originally the objects were seen or touched, smelt or heard through the senses, and the mind stores the information. The mind acts in this way, that's its function, so definitely it cannot be called illusion or unreal for it is just a reflection of reality that the mind has come in contact with.
Sankara says that in the case of sleep one is the witness of 'avidya' (ignorance). After waking, one says, "I slept well, I was pure spiritual consciousness, free from all material conditioning, and a witness to 'avidya'." Sripad Ramanujacarya however sheds a deeper light on this subject. He says that person who was sleeping is not only pure spiritual consciousness, but is a spirit soul, eternal servant of the Lord, and that pure spiritual consciousness is an attribute of the soul by which the soul can be perceived ('swarupopadhi'). So by this we can see that if the soul (self) did not remain conscious in sleep, then how could he then remember upon waking that he had been sleeping, or had slept well? Thus there would be a gap in his life, not knowing he had done anything what to speak of sleep, so what is this witness to 'avidya'. This is not a fact, for the soul has a sense of permanent consciousness carried by memory which tells him that he has done something or give the sense of fulfilment knowing he has taken rest for a set period.
The 'mayavadis' say that the perceptions one may have in a dream are all unreal in the same way scriptures are not real, as the written word cannot do justice to a spiritual reality. Sri Ramanuja refutes this saying, that, it is not true that dreams are unreal, but the circumstances are different, in as much as the activities may be there in a dream, and the same activities are there in a waking state. One could in fact say the activities are the same, in both states, but 'that is the only qualification to their one-ness' ('visistadwaita'). It is not that the dreams of subtle nature and the activities of the wakeful state are exactly one, however, there is a qualification to their one-ness. The activity may be of the same kind of act, and it is the same person who sees in relation with both. One could further say that the vision exists, but in the dreaming state not on a gross platform. The objects seen may not necessarily grossly exist, though certainly the objects do exist somewhere. An example may be given that one may see in a dream a golden mountain, and it is a fact that gold exists and a mountain exists, but to see a golden mountain?? Well maybe! Another example is that sometimes, due to our defective material vision, we may mistake a rope on the floor for a snake. Certainly ropes exist and snakes exists, but to fear a rope or pick up a snake, this kind of all one-ness can cause problems. The reason that one fears a snake that one sees in a dream even if it is a rope, is because of one's previous experience of the potency of snakes.
Another argument sometimes used is that of seeing silver in a pearl or that of a shell. If one has defective vision one could say that there is definitely silver in a shell or pearl. Silver is real and pearls and shells are also real, but when one's defect in vision is restored one can actually see what is actual silver and what is pearls colouration (mother of pearl in shells). Again, the perception was true but it was due to a particular circumstance. A conclusion can be drawn at this point that the qualification of oneness in different objects can be seen according to the perception of the seer. As with the pearl or shell, one can grasp what is there partially or totally depending on one's vision. So the practicality of discriminating in every day life proves that everything is not one, though due to everything having it's roots in the Lord, and the changeable nature of things in this material world one could say that, due to everything emanation from the Lord, it is one, but due to the practically unlimited varieties of temporary manifestations in the universe there has to be a qualification to the oneness, 'Visista adwaita', qualified oneness.
There are three ways of understanding the truth, out of
the three ways Sripad Ramanujacarya says, one must accept 'Sruti pramana',
Vedic literature without doubt. 'Anuman pramana', inference or reasoning
can also be accepted if it falls in line with 'Sruti', and 'pratyaksa pramana',
sensual perception can also be accepted as an authority in this matter
if it falls in line with 'Sruti pramana'. Though 'anuman' and 'pratyaksa'
can be debated, Sruti must be accepted as absolute truth having come down
from the Supreme Lord. This in essence is the summary of Sripad Ramanujacarya's
philosophy of 'Visisthadwaita', everything being based on what the Lord
has said or done.
Sripad Ramanujacarya makes the statement in his Sri Bhasya commentary on Vedanta Sutra, "For those who accept God as the highest and ultimate reality, who has the power to create all of these unlimited universes whilst in a dreaming state lying in the Karana Ocean. Who is glorified through the Vedic literatures, who is omniscient and free from all defects, and is full in all good qualities personified, having a body made of eternity, knowledge and bliss, to these fortunate Vaisnavas, what can be achieved or proven simply by dull witted argument, or blunt senses? The Supreme Personality of Godhead created all the universes for His own pleasure, and the tiny living entities (the Jivas) can enjoy in this world by serving the Lord or engage in their own selfish pursuits and become criminally entangled and further conditioned in the world of birth and death. The Lord gives results of one's actions through the contact of the senses and the objects of the senses, the result being happiness or distress. Due to the action the concomitant result follows for a limited period of time."
"Thus the distinction between experiences that are contradicted (like dreams) and those that are contradicting (like wakeful experiences) is a distinction between objects of the senses that are experienced by everyone and those that are not (as in dreams)." This is an example of qualified oneness.(Sri Bhasya 1:1:1. 'opening verse'.).
Sripad Ramanujacarya could not stand the way things were
at the time, the so-called religion that was being practised, the cheating
of priests ('Purohits') and the ignorant blind following of the people.
Although he accepted the 'daivi varnashrama' system, it was not solely
based on birth rite, but on quality and qualification, 'guna' and 'karma'.
Some guide lines he laid down were as follows:- That a devotee, or for that matter everyone, should be like salt. That is, the same within and without, free from duplicity and cheating. He also gave an example how one should be even like a fowl, in as much as a fowl is able to pick out the wholesome things even from a stock-pile of rubbish. These are also examples used by other great teachers, 1) to take gold from a dirty place, 2) to separate milk from water, 3) to take a good wife from even a low class family and 4) even take good advice from a fool. Another famous saying of his was that one should be like a bird called the crane, who is very watchful for his prey. Expect the unexpected and don't be surprised when calamity comes.
Sripad Ramanujacarya was a great propounder of and follower of the 'Pancaratriki' system of 'Puja', Deity worship. This system is so designed to invite the personal form, or image of God to reside in the temple, and then to render all kinds of opulent services to the Lord, that otherwise one would not be able to perform, for His pleasure. By doing so one can develop further one's own personal relationship with the Supreme Person by this simple process as laid down in the scriptures by such great devotees as Narada Muni. By such worship in the temple or in the home under the guidance of 'guru', 'shastra' and the devotees one' life can become perfect. There are various 'Pancaratric' texts which he followed (and to this day are followed by his followers), but basically the principal behind 'Pancaratra' is, giving the necessary rules and regulations, for purity, punctuality and use of exclusive privacy for 'puja' and preparations for the worshiping of the personal form of the Lord. In all of his institutions great care was taken daily to see to the worship of the deity in the temple, very high standards of personal service to the Lord were always followed, cleanliness and punctuality being of the utmost.
To establish his teaching he compiled the Sri Bhasya which was his commentary on the Vedanta Sutra. Also he made a commentary of Bhagavad Gita.
We can recap how Sripad Ramanujacarya strongly attacks the philosophy of Sankara. Saying that the concept of 'Brahman' as being without qualities is meaningless or fiction as it cannot be seen, touched, spoken about or known. Sripad Ramanujacarya goes on to state that it is not a fact that this world is false, but it is a fact that it is temporary, and originally comes from God and in that way, yes, everything is one because everything is coming from the Lord, and therefore that is the only qualification to its oneness.
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
"I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts."(Bhagavad Gita 10:8.).
Srimad Bhagavad Gita (14:27.) says:
brahmano hi pratisthaham
amrta syavya yasya ca
sasvatasya ca dharmasya
"I am the origin of the impersonal Brahman which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness."
During Sankara's reign he founded the philosophical deviation,
'panchopasaka', that one can worship five kinds of Deities together equally
as one, they are listed as Visnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Surya and Devi (either
Durga, Laxmi or Saraswati). However, in the Padma Purana it is stated that
the second offence against the Holy Name of Lord Krsna (Visnu) is "To consider
the demigods such as Lord Shiva or Lord Brahma or others to be equal to
or independent of the Holy Name or form of Lord Visnu." When Sripad Ramanujacarya
came he very strongly challenged this bogus idea of Sankara using the teachings
of Sri Narada Muni from the Narad Pancaratra to firmly establish that Lord
Visnu (Narayana), is the one true and Supreme Lord without a second.
Sri Ramanujacarya said that Lord Narayana (Visnu) is supreme and that all others are subordinate. One may offer respects to any demigod as one would to any devotee, but to mis-identify the Supreme Lord with a small lord is an offence. He quotes the verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam spoken by Lord Brahma (Canto 2., Adhyayah 5., texts 15-16-17.). Wherein it is said, "The Vedas owe their existance to Narayana. The 'devas' are all tiny aspects of Narayana. all the worlds are manifestations of Narayana. All worship is inspired by Narayana alone. The term yoga is meant for gaining union with Narayana. All austerity is meant to be performed for Narayana. Knowledge is only of Narayana. The final destination or goal is the association of Narayana. I am also a creation of that Supreme One who is the Ultimate Seer, the Eternal Lord, and the Supreme Soul who accompanies all souls in this world. By His grace alone, and by His command, I have become the creator and am doing the work of creation."(Srimad Bhagavatam 2:5:15-17.)
There are many instances in Sripad Ramanujacarya's eventful life which draw us to some kind of appreciation of how hard he battled to establish Visnu as supreme, even plans were made to kill him, to stop his mission, but the Lord came to his aid. There are many wonderful pastimes which could be told, but they are too numerous to do justice to here. I personally suggest instead, that one read the very nice book by Naimasaranya dasa of ISKCON entitled "The life of Ramanujacarya," many hours of enjoyable reading.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his Vani Vaibhava makes a nice statement to show how Sripad Ramanujacaya fits in to the overall plan of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
sripada ramanujaya visistha-dwaita siddhantaAn interesting story follows, showing how Ramanuja came to assist in the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this originally is found in the book of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur entitled Navadwipa Dhama Mahatmya and sheds the view of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas upon the mission, pastimes, and who came to help him, similar to how we are expressing here, but without the reasons, the concept of evolution of philosophy.
mahaprabhu gaudiya prema mandire bidhi swarupa
One can see from incidences like these, that these personalities were no ordinary conditioned souls, or for that matter sinful living entities, but directly the Lord's intimate, and trusted devotees.
Once Ramanuja was walking along with his 5 top sannyasi disciples. Stopping by a pond, he took some prasadam and threw half of it in the water for the fish. Then he got up to walk on. Just then the fish who had taken the prasadam assumed four-handed forms and rose up in the air, returning home, back to Godhead. The 5 sannyasis stopped and begand to disrobe. Ramanuja turned and asked them why they were not following. They said, "We are thunder- struck. Please explain what we have just seen. Otherwise, how can we follow behind you in this condition?" Ramanuja answered, "You've seen the power of taking maha-prasadam." They answered, "But we are taking your maha-prasadam daily, and this is not happening to us." Ramanuja said, "These creatures have no free will, and therefore make no offense. So they get full benefit at once. But you with your free will and human intelligence make offenses, and thus you hinder your own progress."
Another time Ramanuja was talking with his sannyasi disciples, and they asked him how they would ever be able to understand the deep philosophy he had written. He said, "What I have written ultimately means simply one thing - prapatti (surrender)." But they continued to argue that they would not be able to fully comprehend his writings. Then he told a sannyasi disciple to bring one deaf and dumb tailor who was just walking by. When the man came, Ramanuja asked them all to leave him alone with this man. So they got up and left, but one disciple looked into the room from a window outside. Ramanuja stood up and motioned to the man to touch his feet. The tailor made full dandavats and began to tremble and cry in ecstacy as he touched Ramanujas lotus feet. When the disciples returned, they were amazed to see this man's ecstacy, symptomatic of the highest transcendental realization. They asked, "How could such a thing like this happen to him." Ramanuja answered, "He touched my feet in full surrender. Although he cannot understand one word of philosophy, being deaf and dumb, he has attained all perfection."
On another occassion someone asked Ramaujacarya who was
more attached, the householder in Krishna consciousness or the sannyasis
in the mutt.
So he set out to reveal the truth. That night he entered with a few of his close associates into one of his renounced householder disciples homes. He then began to clean them out of everything that they owned. To the point that seeing the wife laying asleep with her gold earings and mangal sutram he began to remove them from her.
The husband saw that Ramanuja was doing this and remained laying there. The wife also stured and then in shock that someone was there with her let out a scream, and the "transcendental theif" was gone.
The husband then said to the wife, why did you disturb them, it was our gurudev, and he certainly must have had a higher plan - you should have rolled over to allow him to take the other ear-ring.
Hearing the response filtering back over the next few days Ramanuja set his next plan.
"Go to the mutt where the sannyasis live and in their
ashram take their cloth and hide it". And so one disciple took to the ashram
and while the sannyasis were all at their Sri Bhasya class the disciple
began to take parts of their kaupins, and tear strips from their Vesthis
(dhotis) as if kaupins had been made, and generally swap things around.
When they returned there was like all hell had let loose, "Where is my kaupin?" "Who has torn the end off my vesthis to make kaupin?" "Where is my anga-vaastra, has someone stolen it to make underwear?" and so on.
On of his sayings was that the Vaishnava should be like salt; in the middle salt, in the interim salt, and on the exterior salt - in this way he encouraged honesty among his disciples.
Ramanujacharya, just before leaving his body, gave 74 final instructions, all about serving Vaishnavas. For instance, one should feed them nice preparations and make them so happy they smile; one should massage their legs until they fall asleep; one should walk with them to the end of the village, and then nine steps beyond, and then faint due to intense separation at leaving the Vaishnavas......... His main instructions were two in number: surrender to guru, and serve the Vaishnavas.