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Essence of Srivaishnavam - Religious Articles - II

Om Sweet Aum

Jaya Jaya Sri Sudarsana !
Sri Sudharsana
Jaya Jaya Sri Sudarsana !




Ramanuja & His World view


Following is the article I received from Dr.Satyavati S.Kandala, who professes Sanskrit at Vedanta Society and at the International Society of Divine Love in Los 

Angeles, California. Her website portraits all the details on the subject she handles viz.: Sanskrit. 


TRS Iyengar


The quest for knowledge has been a constant pursuit of man. He wondered throughout the ages, about the cause of his existence and the process of genesis. All the societies 

irrespective of their state of civilization or the relative status of their material development had their own conjunctures about these fundamental issues. 

The Navajo and the Pueblos tribes of South Western U.S.A. 

For instance they have their own theory of creation.  According to it, world parents called Sky Father and Earth create the primal world Mother.  All the animate and inanimate 

things of this creation then move through a series of under worlds until they progress to a point when they can emerge into the present world.

The Nobel Laureate, Weinberg, in his celebrated book  "The First Three Minutes" gives us a scenario of what happened in the first three minutes after the Big Bang. Today's 

physics however, does not address itself to the question of the ultimate cause of this  creation.  Although Hinduism is divided into a large number of branches of philosophy,  

all these branches have some common ground rules of their logic. They all accept the authority of Vedas and a-r-e all  ' concerned about the mutual relationships between 

chith (spirit) and achith (matter) and Iswara (God). They accept the doctrine of karma and rebirth and the possibility if salvation through virtues and wisdom. The Brahminical 

system, which existed since antiquity had an unfortunate limitation in its application, as, in it, only the three upper castes were allowed to perform sacrifices, while the people 

at large were left to their own devotional methods. 


Ramanuja's Vaishnavaite Religion, which established the school of, Vishisthadvaita or "qualified Monism" was propounded to give a chance to all its followers 

to attain Salvation without reference to their caste.'  ' Ramanuja, to be sure, was not the first Vaishnavaite Saint. The Vaishnava movement has in fact had continuous 

history almost from the beginning of the Epic Period. The Religion referred to in Mahabharata identifies Sri Vishnu kith Bhagawan. In South India, between 5th and 6th 

centuries poet-saints called Alwars or Divya-Suris (Twelve of them have got canonical recognition) wrote innumerable songs in praise of Sri MahaVishnu. The hymns 

of these Alwars were out bursts of god-intoxicated souls - for whom Sri Vishnu was not merely the God but an intimate personal friend and guide. Four Thousands of these 

songs were compiled by " Nathamuni" into a book called "Nalayiram" or "Divya Prabhandham" (known as Dravida sagaram).  In the  Visishtadvaita literatures one often 

encounters names with two versions. Tamil and a Sanskrit version of which refer to the same person or thing. The names of the most of the Alwars appear in the Sanskrit 

version of in the salutation by Parasara Bhatta: Thus, 


"Bhutam Sarasca Mahadahvaya Bhattanatha

 Sri Bhaktisara Kullasekhara yogi wahan Bhaktamghri

 renu parakala yatindra Misran Srimat  parankusa munim

 prana±osmi nityam."


In these "Kulasekhara" refers to Kulasekharalwars, while Parankusamuni is more commonly known as Nammalwar Ramanuja was born in Srierumpudur in the year 1017 A.D. 

After completing his formal education at 16 years of the age he went to Conjeevaram to learn Vedanta under Yadava Prakas. He could not however agree with Yadava's Brahma 

Parinamavada or the theory of the Transformation of Brahman, which leans towards Advaita.The Guru and the young disciple soon fell out. Yamunacharya, famous head of the Mutt 

at Srirangam was impressed by Ramanuja's learning and wanted to meet him. But by the time Ramanuja arrived at Srirangam to pay his obeisance sadly the Acharya was no more. 

He, however, took a vow before the dead body to write an easily understandable commentary for Brahma Sutras and also to propagate the ideas set forth in the Divya Prabhandam.

Of the many Gurus he served as a devout disciple, Tirukkacchi Nambi was Sudra. His orthodox wife Tanjamamba did not like this and they have had frequent quarrels on this issue. 

Once when Ramanuja wanted to take the leftovers of Naambi's meal as prasada Tanjamamba didn't allow him to do so. Vexed with her obscurantist views Ramanuja renounced 

marital life and took Sanyasa there after. There is another well-heralded instance of Ramanuja's life, which throws light on his progressive attitude towards society. He was 

initiated into the mysteries of the Ashtakshari Mantra (OM NAMO NARAAYANAYA!!) by Goshti Purnacharya '. At the time of the upadesa the Guru told him that the Mantra is very 

powerful and is capable of breaking loose the fetters of Karma of any individual who chants the Mantra. The Guru also wrested a promise from him that he would not reveal the 

import of the Mantra indiscreetly to all and sundry.  He also threatened Ramanuja that in case he broke his promise he would go to hell.  


The next day Ramanuja collected all the people of the village before the village temple and preached to them the hidden meaning of the Mantra. Goshtispurnacharya came 

to know of this and Ramanuja was informed of the impending consequences of this impudence. Ramanuja replied thus: " having learnt the secrets of the Mantra all of these 

people will attain Moksha after this birth - what if I alone go to hell in the process." The Guru was so impressed by this logic that he not only pardoned Ramanuja but also actually 

acknowledged to be his real Guru. Ramanuja in his long life of 120 years traveled far and wide and spread the Vaishnava philosophy in all corners of India including Delhi and 

Kashmir. He wrote several books including commentaries on Brahma sutras and Bhagavad Gita, Vedanta Samgraha and Gadyatrayam. His most famous work is the 

Commentary of Brahma Sutras, which is known by the name "Sri Bhashyam". Ramanuja's life is described in a number of books including the Sanskrit work 

Prapannamrtam. Vishisthadvaita accepts the three pramanas. 


1. Pratyaksha or sensory perception.

2. Anumana or inference. 

3. Agamas, the sastras as means of knowledge in the - increasing order of authority. 


It does not however recognize other means like upamana and arthapatti arguing that these should actually found part of anumana.  Now what are the sastras? Which it considers 

as pramanas? It accepts   the authority of Vedas, puranas pancharatras and the nji/ Prasthana trayam. Prasthanatrayam viz., Brahma sutras,  Bhagavad- Gita and the Upanishads. 

In addition the «/ / Divya Prabandham of Alwars is specifically accepted. Thus it would seem that Ramanuja's Religion is eclectic in character. This however is not the case. What 

Ramanuja did was a deriving to unify in concept g principle contained in his diverse sources. He agreed with the concept of Panchartra agamas that God manifests himself in the 

five forms of "Para-  Vyuha Vibhava - antaryamin and archarupa.  The last one is especially important for expounding his concept of Bhakti. Nammalwar's "Tiruvoy Moyi" profoundly 

influenced him. Thiruvoymozhi has been described as Dravidian Veda Sangraham. Ramanuja's perspicacity becomes evident in the manner in which he harmonized the tenets 

of his philosophy with the sayings contained in the sastras. The idea of Prapatti or complete surrender, which he illustrates in his Saranagati Gadya - Ex: when he says: 





This  concept is backed by verses from Yajurveda - Upanishads like Taithiriya and Mundalia Pacharatra and Bhagavad Gita thus : I do not know what is good for me I have 

surrendered myself to you - I am your disciple- give me orders. Sri Krishna Himself advises in the charama sloka -


Although the metaphysical arguments proffered by Ramanuja in support of his philosophy are recondite - The general principles of Vishisthadvaita are easy to state. According to 

this school of Philosophy Paramatma, the supreme Over Soul is indeed real and independent also he is not nirguna. His qualities are uncountable and they are not touched by any 

defects. He creates the universe and manifests himself in the five forms of Para - vyuha - vibhava antaryamin and archarupa.  In the form of vyuha - he creates, sustains and 

destroys this world. Compassion towards the objects of his creation is the most significant of his Gunas. Chith  = which is the ensemble of all individual souls. Achit = which is 

the totality of matter. Both these are actually real. Though Their reality is utter dependant on that of God. The world is thus not an illusion or Maya. Although the reality of the souls

and the matter is not in doubt still neither of them is essentially the same as Brahman (God) - for - while God is eternally free from all imperfection, individual souls are subject to 

ignorance and suffering and the matter is after all unconscious. What then is the relation of this   Chit  - Achit - Samsara to God?  


The relation is described as Sarira - Sariri bhava. That is, the individual souls and the inanimate matter together form the Sarira possessed by God who himself is the Sariri. 

They are unified just as any body and its Soul. Extrapolating this concept of Sarira - Sariri Bhava even the body of the Sastras like Vedas is called by the scholars Saririkka as they 

have Brahman for their subject matter. Also, the souls and matter is the attributes of God. So Ramanuja's theory is an Advaita or Monism though with a Qualification (Vishesha) viz. 

That t admits plurality since the paramatma subsists in a plurality of form as souls and matter. It is therefore called Vishisthadvaita or Qualified Monism. What does Salvation mean?

And how can an individual soul attain it " Salvation is to reach Paramapada or the dwelling peace of God - and live in Fellowship with him. The best ways' to attain Salvation are Bhakti

and Prapatti Margas. Advaita, and in general all the Vaishnavaite movements those of Madhva Vallabha, Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu, Ramanuja etc., have many qualities, that bring them

closer to the people. They are less restricted and their attitude towards the lower castes and such under privileged segments Ramanuja had a Sudra as his Guru and out of the twelve

Vaishnavaite saints who preceded him there was a sudra and a prince. Vaishnavaite philosophy considers God not as an attribute less absolute but rather as a personal friend and 

guide for the tormented  souls. And there in lies their attraction too!!


The charm that Vaisnnavism holds for people following other faiths is best illustrated by wha  Lila Suka Yogi tells in his Krishna Karnamritam - He asserts that although he is a devout 

Shaivaite his mind is constantly thinking the smiling face of young Krishna.  : 






And probably, that's the Essence of Srivaishnavam.


      - Chinna Jeeyar



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