Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Legacy of Ramanuja

Written By Shraddha NS (Grade 10)

Sri Ramanujacharya, also known as Ramanuja or Emperumaanaar, was a great philosopher, theologian and spiritual leader who lived in South India during the 11th and 12th centuries. He played a crucial role in shaping the Bhakti movement and revitalizing the worship of Lord Vishnu, leaving a lasting impact on Hinduism.

Ramanuja was born in a village called Sriperumbudur near Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India, in the year 1017 CE. He belonged to a pious Brahmin family, and from a young age, he displayed remarkable intelligence and a deep sense of devotion to Lord Vishnu. He was initiated into spiritual practices and religious teachings by his guru, Yadava Prakasha, who belonged to the Advaita Vedanta tradition, which propagated the philosophy of non-dualism.

However, Ramanuja started to question the strict non-dualistic teachings of his guru. He couldn’t accept the idea that the individual soul (atman) and the supreme soul (Brahman) were one and the same. Instead, he believed in the concept of Visishtadvaita, or qualified non-dualism, which stated that the individual soul is distinct from Brahman but still dependent on it.

After a few years of learning and contemplation, Ramanuja’s disagreements with his guru Yadava Prakasha became apparent. Consequently, he decided to leave Kanchipuram and seek further knowledge and guidance from scholars elsewhere. He embarked on a journey to the town of Srirangam, where he met his most influential teacher, Periya Nambi, a revered Vaishnava saint.

Under the tutelage of Periya Nambi, Ramanuja’s spiritual understanding deepened, and he became well-versed in the scriptures and the teachings of Vaishnavism. He also received initiation into the sacred “Ashtakshara Mantra,” the powerful mantra consisting of eight syllables that represents the name of Lord Vishnu.

With his newfound knowledge and spiritual insight, Ramanuja returned to Srirangam to spread the message of Visishtadvaita. His teachings garnered a significant following, and he began to gain prominence as a charismatic and compassionate teacher.

During this time, Ramanuja encountered opposition from the followers of the Advaita Vedanta school, who were not receptive to his ideas. However, he persevered and continued to disseminate his philosophy, emphasizing the path of Bhakti (devotion) and encouraging people to surrender themselves to the loving grace of Lord Vishnu.

Ramanuja’s impact extended beyond philosophy and theology. He was deeply concerned about the social welfare of the people around him. He worked to uplift the downtrodden and those considered outside the traditional social hierarchy, promoting equality and compassion among all.

One of the most significant events in Ramanuja’s life was his visit to the Chola King, Kulothunga Chola II, who ruled over a vast kingdom in South India. The king was initially hostile to Ramanuja’s teachings, but the philosopher’s wisdom and charisma eventually won him over. The king became a patron of Ramanuja and granted him the freedom to propagate his philosophy throughout the kingdom.

Ramanuja’s influence continued to grow, and he established several temples and centers of learning, particularly in Srirangam and Melukote. He wrote numerous commentaries on sacred texts, including the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, which further solidified the teachings of Visishtadvaita.

Towards the later part of his life, Ramanuja undertook a pilgrimage to various sacred sites across India, spreading his teachings far and wide. His devotion to Lord Vishnu and his unwavering commitment to his beliefs inspired countless people to follow the path of Bhakti.

Ramanuja breathed his last in 1137 CE, leaving behind a legacy that continues to shape Hinduism to this day. His followers established the Sri Vaishnava tradition, which thrives as one of the prominent sects within Hinduism, emphasizing the importance of devotion, service, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Ramanuja’s teachings had a profound impact on Hindu philosophy, promoting the idea of unity in diversity, inclusivity, and the profound love for the divine. His life and teachings remain an enduring source of inspiration for millions of devotees seeking spiritual wisdom and divine connection.

Featured Image Courtesy – The Hans India


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