Monday, October 25, 2010



Srimad Ramanuja was born in 1017 in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. He lived for 120 Years and preached Visistaadvaita (qualified non dualism) philosophy. Though he did not differ much from Sri Sri Sankaras’ Advaita philosophy, he wanted to clarify certain things.

The Visishtadvaita philosophy is an ancient one as it was originally propounded by Sri Bodhayana in his Vritti written around 400 B.C. Based on this, text interpretation of Brahma sutras was made by Srimad Ramanuja.

In the opinion of Srimad Ramanuja, God is not only eternal, ‘His’ nature contains elements of plurality i.e. ‘He’ is empowered with manifestation.

Srimad Ramanuja rejects the doctrine that the materialistic world is illusory and unreal. According to Srimad Ramanuja, the materialistic world is not unreal unless it is viewed as distinct from Brahman. The materialistic world is not simply a realm of false and illusory appearances. He says the materialistic world can never be overlooked by illusion. If illusion itself were to subdue the Brahman, then illusion would be greater than Brahman. His version of this materialistic world is the drama (leela), which happens at His instructions.

Srimad Ramanuja also differs from Sri Sri Shankara on equating Jivatmas and Paramatma. Jivatmas can never be equated to Brahman; though he is a particle of Brahman his position is to serve the Brahman. As the hand is a part of the body and also a servant of the body.

Srimad Ramanuja preferred Saguna Upasana worship in Gross form (idol worship). He agreed to Sri Sri Shankara about the Jnana (knowledge) being important for salvations, but felt Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion) are both necessary. Like the knowledge of the pill for a headache alone cannot relive the pain one should take the pill.

The means for moksha is Bhakti through Prappati or Saranagati. Bhakti is a state of mind achieved through the process of karma yoga and / or jnana yoga, wherein the mind naturally flows to Brahman and is delighted only in thought of Brahman. Prappati is a state of mind in which the jivatmas appeals to Brahman to save it from its attachment and consequent pains.

Sri Vaishnavism talks of two types of prappati:

Vadakalai View

Some positive gesture is necessary on the part of the jivatmas to deserve the grace of Brahman, because He can be deemed partial if He grants moksha to both deserving and undeserving. This is based on 'Markata Nyaya'- a comparison with a mother monkey carrying its infant only when the infant takes effort to cling or attach itself to the mother.

Tenkalai View

Lord's grace is spontaneous. He can grant moksha to anyone He likes. This is based on 'Marjala Nyaya'- a comparison to a mother cat carrying its kitten holding it in its mouth without any effort on the part of the infant (unlike in the case of monkey)

Srimad Ramanuja never distinguished between ‘Param nirguna’ (formless, without attributes) and ‘Aparam Saguna’ (with attributes) i.e. Brahman. According to the His theory, God is personal with qualities like omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. When Vedic text describes God as Nirguna it means that God is untouched by the qualities like high and low. Being Saguna (i.e. with attributes) ‘He’ stands perfect without changes in accordance with space and time.

Since God is accepted by this philosopher as Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient, the Srimad Ramanuja declares that ‘He’ is the only ‘Truth’, Jnana (knowledge) and Ananda (bliss). Moreover, the Srimad Ramanuja speaks in his Vedanta sutra that the Lord is immanent, transcendent and unchanging.

Further it is clear that the entire universe is latent in ‘Him’ during ‘Pralaya’ which is projected during creation. But the essence of the Lord will remain unchanged. Hence the difference which is found in ‘Brahman’ in this theory will be named as ‘Svagatha Bheda’ (internal difference). ‘Prakriti’ consists of soul (Jiva) and matter is considered as its modes i.e. ‘Chit-Achit’ and ‘Vishishta’ (truth-world-importance/Visesha). The lord takes five fold forms viz. – ‘Para’ (The transcendent), ‘Vyuha’ (the group), ‘Vibhava’ (the incarnation), ‘Archa’ (the image) and ‘Antaryamin’ (the immanent).

Therefore, what has been witnessed as different/variety of materials, forms and individual souls is not an illusion or Mitya but a part of Brahman’s nature. Matter is considered to be the body of the lord and said to be real. No doubt it is a non-conscious substance (Achit) as it undergoes a real evolution (Parinama) during dissolution (Pralaya) as it exists in a subtle state as ‘Prakara’ (supreme deed) of God. Hence matter is dependent on and is under the control of the Lord. It forms the object of experience for the soul as pleasure and pain and through the nature of Karma of the soul. Hence it is neither ‘good nor bad’.

Why do Jivas need to undergo karma?

Since the ‘Prakriti’ contains trigunas (3 characters) i.e. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the Karmic cycle is associated for a temporary period. And it is well known that the Supreme being attached with His body [Param Nirguna (formless) with Aparam Saguna form with attributes)] is detached of the bodily actions i.e. Prakriti. That is why ‘His’ state is called ‘Suddha Tattva’ (feature of purity) has only ‘Sattva’ (the truth). Srimad Ramanuja threw some light on ‘Prakriti’ that is body of God. He classified matter as conscious and non-conscious. The conscious matter is given importance as ‘the essence of God’. These souls are categorized as Nitya (eternal) Mukta (free) and Baddha (bound).

Nitya: These souls have attained salvation and live with God permanently at Vaikunta.

Mukta: These souls are free from bondages of birth and death and have attained salvation now after repeated cycles of birth and death.
These two categories of souls live with God but with separate identity as a servant of the Supreme by rendering some service.

Baddha: These souls are still in Samsara (the vicious cycle of life and death) undergoing pains and pleasures according to karma till they are emancipated with the Will and grace of God.

Srimad Ramanuja considered Srinivasa (Tirumala Venkateshwara) as Para Brahman. This is endorsed in the Dyana Sloka of the Sri Bhasya written by him.

vinatha-vividha-bhUtha-vrAtha-rakshaika DhIkshE
Sruthi-Sirasi VidhIpthE BrahamaNi SrInivAsE
bavathu mama parasmin sEmushI Bhakthi-roopA

The meaning of this verse can be summarized thus:

Akhila Bhuvana Janma stema bhangadhi leele
Vinatha Vividha Bhutha Vratha Rakshaika Dhikshe

Akhila -------- Whole
Bhuvana ---- Universe
Janma -------- Things that has birth
Stema --------- Stability
Bhanga ------- Broken {Instability}
Adhi ----------- Also
Leele ---------- Drama
Vinatha ------- Humble
Vividha ------- Different
Bhutha -------- Beings
Vratha --------- Good Deed
Rakshaika ---- Protect
Dhikshe --------- Vow

The drama of stability and instability of the living things in the whole universe and protection of the good deeds of the humble beings are taken care by Him.

Sruthi Sirasi Vidhipthe Brahamani Srinivase
bavathu mama parasmin semushi Bhakthi-roopa

Sruthi ----- Scriptures
Sirasi ----- over the head
Vidhipthe ---- ordered by destiny
Brahamane ------ Brahman
Srinivase -------- is Srinivasa
Bavathu ------- Let
Mama ------------ Me (myself)
Parasmin ------- attain (you)
Emushi --------- by knowledge
Bhakthi Roopa --- devotion

Destiny has proclaimed at the crown of the all scriptures that SRINIVASA is the Para Brahman. May I attain that Supreme through knowledge and devotion.

1 comment:

  1. Great effort in summarizing key concepts of Vishistha Advaitha. May Sri Hari bless you.