Vishistadvaita of Sri Ramanujacharya
By Sujay Adukia
Ramanujacharya expounded Vishistadvaita or qualified nondualism. he taught that there is a difference between Parambrahman(Supreme Brahman ) and the jivas(eternally fragmentary souls).Not accepting Shankara’s elimination of the loving relationship(bhakti) between the supreme and the jivas.Ramanujacharya sought to expose Shankara’s philosophical contradictions and his defiance of the Vedic Siddhanta.On the other hand , Ramanujacharya accepted the vedic statements concerning the qualitative oneness of the Supreme and the jivas.He thus presented the philosophy of qualified oneness by giving logical resons to show that the absolute includes both what is changing (the material world and the jivas caught up in the Samsara) and what is changeless(the transcendental lord).
By way of analogy ,Ramanuja discussed the relation between the body and the soul: just as the jiva controls his body,God controls the material world and the jivas within it;just as the body is an instrument for the jiva,the material cosmos is an instrument for God. after liberation the self exists eternally in a spiritual body;whereas the soul experiences the events ,the material body determines the kind of experiences the soul go through.Ramanuja also described the body and the soul can not be separated;either materially every living body has a atma or by his karma every self has a certain type of body.after liberation the soul also exists eternally in a spiritual body.
By the analogy of inseparable body and soul, the Supreme Lord is understood to be both the Supreme soul and the cosmos. In this way adhering to Vedic principles, Ramanujacharya explained the variegated material world as part of the absolute truth .The eternal, unchanging nature of the absolute Truth(that is, of the Supreme Lord) does not contradict His maintaining the changing material world. Rmanujacharya taught that through God’s grace the jiva can transcend the material world and attain the eternal abode of Vishnu.
The Writings of Ramanuja acharya
During his lifetime Ramanuja wrote relatively few works compared to Sankara or Madhva, but what he did write had a major impact on the development of Vaisnavism in India. In fact Ramanuja has left us with nine works: Sri-bhasya, Vedanta-dipa, Vedanta-sara, Vedanta-samgraha, three prose works (gadyas): Saranagati-gadya, Sriranga-gadya and Vaikuntha-gadya, the Gita-bhasya and Nitya-grantha.
The Sri-bhasya is Sri Ramanuja’s magnum opus. It is his commentary on Vedanta-sutra. It was completed when he was around a hundred years old. Here Ramanuja presents the fundamental philosophical principles of Visistadvaita based on his interpretation of the Upanisads, Bhagavad-gita and other smrti texts, the previous acaryas, and of course the Vedanta-sutra itself. This is done by way of refuting Sankara’s advaita-vedanta and in particular his theory of maya. In his Sri-bhasya he describes the three categories of reality (tattvas): God, soul and matter, which have been used by the later Vaisnava theologians including Madhva.
The principles of bhakti as a means to liberation (moksa) are also developed. The Vedanta-dipa and the Vedanta-sara are also commentaries of the Vedanta-sutra, although in more brief form.The Vedanta-samgraha is a summary of Ramanuja’s views on the important Upanisads. In particular it is an exposition of the doctrines of categories of reality (tattva), the means to liberation, the goals of human life (purusarthas), the supremacy of Visnu and the powers of God. Next is Ramanuja’s famous commentary of the Bhagavad-gita called the Gita-bhasya.
In this work Ramanuja establishes the Supremacy of Visnu in the form of Krsna and discusses the details of bhakti-yoga, jnana-yoga, karma-yoga as the means to moksa. He also briefly discusses the Sri Vaisnava principal of prapatti or selfless surrender to God. The three gadyas are prose lyrics that also expound the doctrine of selfless surrender to God. Finally the Nitya-grantha explains the daily rituals and the mode of worship for Sri Vaisnavas. The writings of Ramanujacarya are most important because they provide a systematic account of the philosophic and religious principles of devotion for the first time in the history of Vaisnavism. Before Ramanuja’s we only had pieces of such an approach. Ramanuja’s writings also demonstrated how Vaisnavism could logically standup in the face of Sankara’s advaita-vedanta.
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