RAMANUJACHARYA Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Sri Ramanujacharya is known as the greatest exponent of Visistadvaita Vedanta. He appeared around 1017 A.D in a pious brahmana family. He became the formost Acarya in the Sri Sampradaya and was reputed to be the incarnation of Sri Laksmana, the younger brother of Lord Sri Rama.


He was a boy of extraordinary intelligence and placed himself under the charge of Yadavacarya, a renown Sankarite scholar. His guru was struck by his marvellous intellect and became very uncomfortable on account of his firm faith in Bhakti. One day while taking a massage, Yadavacarya was explaining to ramanuja a sutra “tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamaksini"(Chandogya 1.6.7), saying that according to Sri Sankara, the two eyes of Pundariksa are like two lotuses which are red like the nates of a monkey. On hearing this interpretation with the unbecoming and low simile, Ramanuja’s soft heart, tender by nature and softened by devotion, melted and as he was massaging, tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes like flames of fire and fell on the thigh of Yadava. Looking up at the touch of the hot tears, Yadava understood that something troubled his disciple. Ramanuja explained his dismay at hearing such an unbecoming explaination from his guru. He thought it sinful to compare with the posterior of a monkey the eyes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead - who is endowed with all gracious qualities and who is the repository of all the beauty of the universe. Yadava was angry at the boy’s audacity and told him to explain the verse if he could. Ramanuja analysed the word kapyasam to mean `blossomed by the sun’ and the verse to mean “The eyes of that Golden Purusa are as lovely as lotuses blossomed by the rays of the sun.”


After a few more such incidents when Ramanuja corrected his guru, Yadavacarya thought him to be a threat to the Sankarite line and plotted to kill him. Later it came to pass that Yadavacarya was to become the disciple of Sri Ramanuja.


Yamunacarya the formost exponant of Vaisnava philosophy of the time, knowing of his extraordinary ability and purity, called for Sri Ramanuja with the intent of placing him in charge of the mission after his disappearance. Ramanuja was on his way to see Yamunacarya when he received the news of Yamunacarya’s departure from the world. Arriving at Srirangam, Ramanuja went to have his last darshana of that great soul. There he noticed three of Yamunacarya’s fingers were clenched.


Ramanuja then made three vows:
He would make the people surrender to God and initiate them by the pancasamskara.
He would write a commentary on the Vedantasutra which was later called Sri Bhashya.
He would also write what is like an encyclopedia on the Puranas and would name one greatly learned Vaisnava after Parasara Muni who wrote the gem among the Puranas, the Visnu Purana.


Later Sri Ramanuja took sannyasa and travelled throughout India vigorously defeating atheists and impersonalists by preaching the Vasistadvaita doctrine. He never failed to win over a rival in spiritual disputations.


Sri Ramanuja’s Teachings:


His philosophy is Visistadvaita. Brahman is Narayana - (cit-acit-isvara), Narayana with Laksmi - (transcendental form), Four Vyuha forms, Vaibhava forms. The qualities of Brahman are both nirguna and saguna. The soul is real, eternal, individual, not omnipresent, not independent of Isvara but part. Isvara is the efficient cause of creation. It is from His will out of delight. The cause of bondage is beginningless karma. The process of release is Bhakti based on Pancaratra and Visnu purana followed by det ached karma that brings jnana - Prapatti. The goal is to attain the same nature of Isvara and companionship with Him. He does not return and has no power of creation, etc.


The essence of his teachings are best summarized by his own prayer at the beginning of his Sri Bhasya:


“May knowledge transformed into intense love directed to Sri Narayana (VISHNU), the highest Brahman, become mine, the Being to whom the creation, preservation and dissolution of the Universe is mere play, whose main resolve is to offer protection to all those who approach Him in all humility and sincerity, and Who shines out like the beacon light out of the pages of the Scripture (Vedas)".