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Sri Ramanuja (Makers of Indian Literature)

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  About The Book : Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137) was the great systematiser of what is now popularly known as Visistadvaita Philosophy. He differed from Sankara, Bhaskara and Yadava Prakasa in his interpretation of the Prasthana Traya. According to him, the Supreme Brahman is Lord Sriman Narayana or Srinivasa. Brahman is the 'soul' of which the universe of men and matter constitutes the 'body'. Bhakti (loving devotion) and whole-hearted surrender (prapatti) are the alt...


About The Book :

Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137) was the great systematiser of what is now popularly known as Visistadvaita Philosophy. He differed from Sankara, Bhaskara and Yadava Prakasa in his interpretation of the Prasthana Traya. According to him, the Supreme Brahman is Lord Sriman Narayana or Srinivasa. Brahman is the 'soul' of which the universe of men and matter constitutes the 'body'. Bhakti (loving devotion) and whole-hearted surrender (prapatti) are the alternative means of liberation. He wrote nine works in Sanskrit highlighting these truths. To him goes the credit going through the Bodhayana Vritti on the Brahmasutra during his visit to Kashmir on the basis of which he composed his celebrated commentary, the Sribhasya.

The present monograph is the moving account of the life and activities of this noble sour Sri Ramanuja. His philosophy and especially, his concept of bhakti and prapatti inspired several later Vaishnava thinkers like Nimbarka, Madhva, Vallabha, Rmananda, Srikrishna Chaitanya and Swami Narayana in formulating nad shaping their own systems of thought.

About the Author :

Dr. M. Narasimhachary (b. 1939) writer of the present monograph, is an erudite scholar of Vedanta with specialization in Visistadvaita is the founder Professor of the Deptt. of Vaishnavism, University of Madras. He was awarded Ph.D. for his thesis 'Contribution of Sri Yamunacharya to Visistadvaita'. He taught Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy at Kualalumpur (1982-84). Visiting Professor in USA and Visiting Academic at the Oxford Universtiy, U.K., Dr. Charry has authored about 75 research articles and 25 books. Recipient of titles such as Asukavisekhara, Sastrakaviratna, Srivaishnava Ratna and Desika Bhavajna.


Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137) was a great saint, scholar, visionary and social reformer. His view of the universe as the body of the Lord of which He is the soul, summarizes his vision of life. Every living being, scholarly or unlettered, of a higher origin or a lower origin, is part of the divine scheme. Nobody is outside the purview of God's grace. His position in the world of Vedanta is unique. Though chronologically he came next to Sankara, the impression he left on the subsequent thinkers and writers is immense. Acharyas like Nimbarka, Vallabha, Ramananda and Swami Naryana drew their inspiration from the concepts of Bhakti and Prapatti popularized by Ramanuja. Even among the Advaitins, Madhusudana Saraswati must have been profoundly influenced by the Bhakti tradition since he was an ardent devotee of Sri Krishna.

Given in the following pages is a brief but exhaustive account of the life and work of this great teacher of Vedanta whom Swami Vivekananda acclaimed as a great benefactor of humanity. According to Sri Ramanuja, the Supreme Brahman is Lord Sriman Narayana or Srinivasa. Brahman is the 'soul' of which the universe of men and matter constitutes the 'body'. Bhakti (loving devotion) and whole-hearted or total surrender (prapatti) are the alternative means of liberation. He wrote nine works in Sanskrit highlighting these truths. To him goes the credit going through the Bodhayana Vritti on the Brahmasutra during his visit to Kashmir on the basis of which he composed his celebrated commentary, the Sribhasya.

Ramanuja, above all the achievements in the field of religion and philosophy, was a great social reformer. He allowed the so-called 'fifth community' to enter the temple of Lord Tirunarayana at Melkote (Karnataka). To him also goes the credit of explaining the meaning of a secret mantra to many, against the wishes of his own preceptor since he believed that instead of his own self, many others should become eligible for liberation. Ramanuja was a great visionary. He saw that to attain liberation, Bhakti is easier to practice by. the ordinary masses than Jnana which was propounded by Sankara and his followers. He inherited a rich tradition-Sanskrit Vedas, the Tamil Veda (called the Divye Prabandha) of the Srivaishnava mystic saints Azhvars, the Agama literature and the Puranas. All' great ideas flowed in on him from these sources and he responded to all of them with a sympathetic heart. The result is the monumental philosophy called Visistadvaita. In his interpretation, every scriptural text finds an appropriate place.

Ramanuja's long and eventful life spanning 120 years is marked by several achievements. The tradition he has left is called the Sri Sampradaya since in his Gadyas (poetic prose passages) he conceived Goddess Sri or Lakshmi as the benign mother presenting all the erring humans before the Lord and making them eligible for His forgiveness and Grace. He paid glowing tributes to his "large-heartedness" and to his catholicity in admitting the downtrodden to his fold offering them solace and bliss. For sometime in the East and the West the term 'Vedanta' stood for Advaita only. Scholars like Prof. P.N. Srinivasachari and Dr. K.C. Varadachari, through their works countered this trend to some extent. Now, there is a greater awareness of the contributions of Ramanuja to the world of scholars. The present writer has also in recent years, contributed to this trend by giving a series of lectures, at the Oxford University (UK.) on the salient features of Sri Ramanuja's philosophy.



Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137 A.D.) is chronologically second in the line of three celebrated scholar-saints of South India who made significant and lasting contributions to the revival of Hinduism. Sri Sankara who systematised the Advaita Philosophy and Sri Madhva who advocated the Dvaita Philosophy appeared a little before and after Ramanuja, respectively. All these three noble souls re-established and revitalised the Vdeantic thought after a thorough and systematic refutation of the non-Vedic systems like jainism and Buddhism. They also successfully repulsed the pure conservative Vedic ritualism of the Mimamsakas and upheld the validity of the metaphysical speculations of the Upanishads.

Very often it is wrongly believed that these three saints represented three mutually contradictory and inconsistent systems of thought and that there is more of divergence than unity in their teachings. Nothing can be farther from truth. Depending upon the times and situations of the human society in which they lived, they were obliged to teach their fellow men what they thought was best in their interests. Doctrinal divergences and dialectical debates notwithstanding, all these three giants of spirituality tried to bring the entire nation, rather humanity, under one unique umbrella of Vedantism. The supremacy of the Veda in the scheme of valid means of knowledge, the impersonal character of the Veda (apaursheyatva) and the abiding and unexcelled bliss that marks the state of liberation, the highest human end (parama- purushartha)-are the points of concurrence among these thinkers. Though they were realised souls who did not need any special spiritual or religious exercises for their own emancipatiori, they strove ceaselessly for the upliftment of the common masses among whom they moved and worked. They taught to the contemporaneous people in their own mother- tongue, consecrated temples, worshipped images of gods and goddesses and sometimes suffered great personal losses and hardships at the hands of fanatics and uncharitable zealots. Whether it is pure knowledge that the individual self and God are one and the same, or whether it is the realization that man who is of limited kriowledge and poor is always an humble devotee and servant of the omniscient Lord who is full of auspicious perfections, or whether it is the unequivocal conviction that individual and God are eternally two distinct and different entities, the former always depending upon the latter as his humble servant - as taught by these great acharyas, the impact they had on society was remarkably the same. They all felt that the survival and revival of Vedantism was the crying need of the hour. It is with this prime objective in view that they chalked out their own course of action and worked meticulously and ceaselessly for its realisation. If we can indulge in a sort of metaphor, liberation is a beautiful mansion to reach which, Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva built a flight of steps in different periods of time. Thus the life and works of these three saints were mutually complementary but not contradictory.

Speaking of Sri Ramanuja in particular, whose life and work form the main theme of this monograph, his contributions to religion and philosophy are outstanding and quite well-known. His social reforms which are as important as his metaphysical writings are not that well-known to many. Tremendous conviction that there are no 'high and low' in the eyes of God from the viewpoint of caste or community was in the very blood of Ramanuja. Accordingly he gave solace to people of all castes and walks of life in his ahsram. Nobody was denied counsel if he or she had the genuine desire to be saved. He gave a new direction to the age-old practices of temple-worship. He reformed some of them, reinforced some, renovated some and substituted a few, by new methods, without at the same time, disturbing the fine fabric of tradition and convention. With tremendous love and sympathy to the oppressed and depressed classes of society, he took the epoch-making and daring step of throwing open the temples to the so-called 'untouchables' to whom he gave an ennobling new name, 'thiru-kulatttaar' (Tamil word), meaning, "people belonging to the family of Lakshmi, the Divine Mother". At a time when conservatism was synonymous with temple worship, Ramanuja defied its rigidness and personally supervised the admission of these so-called 'untouchables' to the temple of Lord Tirunarayana at Melkote, Karnataka. Quiteobviously, Ramanuja must have faced the fury of the conservative orthodoxy, but undeterred and unconcerned, he carried out what he believed was correct. What more, he reinforced the tradition of chanting the Tamil compositions of the Srivaishnava mystic saints called Alvars in temple-worship, a step already initiated by Sri Nathamuni, the first among of the Srivaishnava teachers of South .India.

Acts like these born out of great conviction that all are the children of God and that they are alike in the eyes of God made Ramanuja the greatest champion of the cause of the down-trodden, illiterate and innocent men and women of society. Ramanuja's great efforts for the spiritual and religious rejuvenation recorded in hagiological works like the Curuparamparas, the Prapannamrita and the Divyasuricarita make beautiful history. Though Ramanuja initiated the bold step of admitting the so-called 'untouchables' into the temple some thousand years ago, the last stigma on Hindu society came to an end only in the year 1944. This shows how deep the roots of conservatism spread into the soil of Hindu society.

Swami Vivekananda rightly observes that the "heavenly touch of the great Ramanuja converted the down-trodden pariahs into Alvars" and that the large-heartedness of Ramanuja made him the greatest social reformer of our country. A study of his long and eventful life as a metaphysician, mystic and social-reformer is attempted in the following pages. Care has been taken to present a balanced picture of these important dimensions of this great teacher. No effort has been made to depict him as a sectarian head, although a few scholars may view him as such. But the unquestionable historical and traditional evidences disprove all such claims. Painting Ramanuja in a different colour is highly inconsistent with the spirit of liberal orthodoxy advocated and practised by Rarnanuja all his life. The popular image of Rarnanuja seen usually in temples and shrines dedicated to Vishnu. greer all with . anjali' hand-gesture which eloquently summarises the entire theme of his life. It demonstrates very effectively the fact that he is subservient to God and his chosen one-pointed devotees. Our exposition of the life and teachings of this chosen apostle of God therefore conforms to the basic spirit of deesatva (status of a servant), which Rarmanuja exhibited throughout his life. This broad vision that all are eligible to become devotees of God and that all have the right to know Cod, worship God and reach God is the sum and substance of Ramanuja's life. With these introductory remarks let us consider the re ligious and philosophical atmosphere that prevailed before the advent of Ramanuja, in the next section.


1. Introduction   9
2. Religious and Philosophical Scenario   13
3. Birth and Early Life   17
4. Ramanuja's Disciples and Followers   26
5. Philosophical Writings   32
6. Last Day of th Master   37
  Appendix I
Sri Bhashyam (Sanskrit)
Sri Bhashyam-Commentary (English)
  Appendix II
Select Bibliography


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Item Code: IDD922 Author: M. Narasimhachary Cover: Paperback Edition: 2007 Publisher: Sahitya Akademi ISBN: 812601833X Language: English Size: 8.6" X 5.5" Pages: 52 Other Details: weight of the book: 80 gms
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