Sri Ramanujacharya was one of the most prominent philosophers and saints of Sri Viashnavam Sampradaya. He was one of those visionaries who illuminated the way to justice and devotion.
Bhakti Marga(the path of devotion) was a major focus of Ramanuja’s teachings. He acknowledged the value of ritual adherence, but only under limited circumstances. Devotion, he believed, was the most effective method of salvation, and bhakti-yoga is the greatest practice. Ramanujacharya is the pioneer of the Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism) doctrine of the Vedanta philosophy.
Ramanujacharya studied Vedanta Philosophy
To put it in simpler terms, the basic principle of this Vedanta doctrine is that Brahman (the God or Ishwara) and Atman (oneself, devotee) are one and the same. The physical reality that separates Atman from the notion of this oneness is called ‘Maya’. ‘Maya’ is a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘that which is not.’
Ramanuja frequently had disagreements with his Guru while interpreting Vedic texts especially the Upanishads with this postulate of the Advaita. So he separated from his Guru Yadav Prakash.
What is Vishishtadvaita?
It was only in the Varadaraja Perumal Temple that Ramanujacharya started teaching that ‘Moksha is not necessarily contemplating the Brahman or getting liberated from the birth-death cycle as understood by many others, but it is an experience of joy that results from devotion, praise, worship, and contemplating the divine perfection.’
Ramanujacharya had put forth that ‘though the God and his devotee have separate existences, the elixir of their cosmic oneness can certainly be experienced and this is a very personal experience for oneself. Therefore, all the differences amongst humans on the basis of caste or gender should be straightaway discarded and everyone be equally regarded.’
It is this teaching of him due to which his statue being inaugurated by honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi is named as the statue of equality.
Ramanuja: The Social Reformer
Ramanujacharya had opened the doors of the Vaishnava doctrine for everyone barring the differences of caste, gender, economic class and social background.
Ramanujacharya connected people with a single common thread of Bhakti.
Ramanujacharya had taken and completed three vows while being initiated as a Vaishnav devotee. One of them was to bring the ‘Brahmasutra’ scriptures in front of the common masses in a way they would better understand them.
Ramanujacharya had followed another Saint of his times, Swami Goshthipurna, to receive sacred mantras from him. Ramanujacharya was denied the mantras 18 times as he was always accompanied by at least two of his own disciples. He could receive these mantras only when he met Swami Goshthipurna in solitude and was advised to keep them secret. But as soon as he came out to meet the people, he started chanting those mantras aloud. The reason behind this as told by Ramanujacharya himself was ‘there is no greater salvation than sharing the divine knowing with the ones who are deprived.’
Writings of Ramanujacharya
Ramanujacharya started writing the commentary of ‘Brahmasutra’. It is known as ‘Sri Bhashya’. Ramanujacharya composed other texts named ‘Vedantadeep’, ‘Vedantasar Sangrah’, ‘Geetabhashya’, ‘Nityaradhana-Vidhi’ and ‘Gadyatraya’. After the writing works of these texts were over, Ramanujacharya left for a tour of Bharat.
Uniting the nation through the Bhakti movement
In his Bharat tour, Ramanujacharya went on to establish Vishnu temples and muths at 108 different places.
He had also visited the farthest situated Sharada Peeth of Kashmir for getting references of some scriptures needed for his next writing.
Worship of Vishnu incarnations Lord Rama and Lord Krishna in north India have a great influence on Ramanujacharya.
During his times, Ramanujacharya had ensured that every single temple and the muth has qualified teachers who teach Vedanta philosophy to everyone who approached with the intent of learning.
The standardization of the rituals in the Bhakti movement has come from the southern part of the nation. Other great philosophers of Bhakti namely Nimbarkacharya, Madhvacharya and Vallabhacharya also hail from the Deccan. They are either contemporary to Ramanujacharya or from the following centuries. Therefore it is well said that, Bhakti first appeared in the southern part of the nation, Ramananda (14th generation of Ramanujacharya’s disciple) expanded it in the north and Kabir revealed the deepest of the secrets of Bhakti to the world.’