Swami Ramanujar

Ramanujar இராமானுஜர் is seen by SriVaishnavam as the third most important teacher (Acharya) of their tradition (after Nathamuni and Yamunacharya), and by Hindus in general as the leading expounder of Vishishtadvaita, one of the classical interpretations of the dominant Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy.

     


Swami Ramanujar Thanian (rendered by Koorathazhwan):

yo nithyam achyutha padhaambuja yugma rukma |
vyaamohathas thadhitharaaNi thrNaayamene |
asmadhguror bhagavathoasya dhayaikasinDHoh |
raamaanujasya charaNau sharaNam prapaDHye ||


Year: 1017 (Pingala Year) - 1137 (Pingala Year) 
Birth Place: Sri Perumbudur
Other Names: Ramanujar, Yathirajar, Emperumaanar, Lakshmana Muni, Bhashyakarar, Udaiyavar, Ramanujamuni, Ilaya Perumal
Month: Chithirai
Thiru Natchathiram: Thiruvadhirai
Amsam: Adhi seshan and also Combination of Lord Vishnu's five weapons - Conch, Discus, Mace, Sword, Bow

Ramanuja was born as Ilaya Perumal in a Brahmin family in the village of Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, India in Pingala Year (1017 CE). His father was Asuri Kesava Somayaji Deekshithar and mother was Kanthimathi. "From a young age he is reputed to have displayed a prodigious intellect and liberal attitudes towards caste. At this time he became friendly with a local, saintly Sudra (member of the service caste) by the name of Kanchipurna (Thirukachi Nambi), whose occupation was to perform services for the local temple statue of the Hindu deity Vishnu. Ramanuja admired Kanchipurna's piety and devotion to Vishnu and sought Kanchipurna as his guru-much to the horror of Kanchipurna who regarded Ramanuja's humility before him as an affront to caste propriety."

Shortly after being married in his teenage years and after his father died, Ramanuja and his family moved to the neighboring city of Kanchipuram. There Ramanuja found his first formal teacher, Yadavaprakasha, who was an accomplished professor of the form of the Vedanta philosophy that was in vogue at the time-a form of Vedanta that has strong affinities to Shankara's Absolute Idealistic Monism (Advaita Vedanta) but was also close to the Difference-and-non-difference view (Bhedabheda Vedanta). ("Vedanta" means the 'end of the Vedas' and refers to the philosophy expressed in the end portion of the Vedas, also known as the Upanishads and encoded in the cryptic summary by Badharayana called the Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra. The perennial questions of Vedanta are: what is the nature of Brahman or the Ultimate and what is the relationship between the multiplicity of individuals to this Ultimate. Vedanta comprises one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy.) "

From a young age, his intelligence and ability to comprehend highly abstract philosophical points were legendary. He took initiation from Yadavaprakasa, a renowned Advaitic scholar. Though his new guru was highly impressed with his analytical ability, he was quite concerned by how much emphasis Ramanuja placed on bhakti. After frequent clashes over interpretation is that one of Yadavaprakasa's students plotted to kill Ramanuja as a means of pleasing their teacher, but Sri Ramanuja escaped in the afore-mentioned manner. Yadavaprakasa was horrified when learnt about the conspiracy. Ramanuja returned to Yadavaprakasa's tutelage but after another disagreement, Yadavaprakasa asked him to leave. Ramanuja's childhood mentor, Kanchipurna, suggested he meet with Kanchipurna's own guru, Yamunacharya.

Ramanujar had doubts and it is believed that Thirukachi Nambi cleared with that of Lord Varadarajan's wish.

Thirukkachi Nambi obtained from Lord Varadaraja the famous 'Six Words' and passed them on to Ilayazhwar. The six words provided the guidelines for Ilayalwar to follow. They were:-

Ahameva Paramtatvam – Sriman Narayan is the Supreme-most God/ Supreme-most Being.
Darishanam Bedayevacha – Individual jeevathmas (souls) are different from Sriman Narayana – the Brahmam and the Paramatma, but are a part of the Brahmam. Sriman Nayanana and souls are different (Bheda).
Upayayeshu Prapathischaath – Prapatti (surrender) is the means to attain salvation. By faith and surrender alone shall anyone reach Sriman Naraya, their only salvation.
Antimastriti Varjanam – Last remembrance of the Sriman Narayana on the part of the departing soul is not necessary. Thought of Brahmam at the time of death is not compulsory.
  Dehavasane Muktisyaath – Moksha can be obtained only on laying off the mortal body. Release from bondage (Moksha) follows immediately on death.
  Poornaacharya Samashraya – One must undergo SamashrayaNam as soon as possible from a qualified SriVaishnava Acharya. Choose Mahapurna as your spiritual teacher (Acharya).

After renouncing the life of a house-holder, Ramanuja travelled to Srirangam to meet an aging Yamunacharya, a philosopher of the remergent Vishishtadvaita school of thought. Yamunacharya had died prior to Ramanuja's arrival. Followers of Ramanuja relate the legend that three fingers of Yamunacharya's corpse were curled. Ramanuja saw this and understood that Yamunacharya was concerned about three tasks. Ramanuja vowed to complete these

  • Write a Visishtadvaita Bhashya for the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa which had previously been taught orally to the disciples of the Visishtadvaita philosophy.

  • That the name of Parasara, the author of Vishnu Purana should be perpetuated.

  • The name of Swami Nammazhwar should be perpetuated by writing a commentary on the Thiruvoimozhi

  • Legend goes that on hearing the vow, the three fingers on the corpse straightened. Ramanuja accepted Yamunacharya as his Manasika Acharya and spent 6 months being introduced to Yamunacharya's philosophy by his disciple, Periya Nambi although he did not formally join the community for another year. Ramanuja's wife followed very strict brahminical rules of the time and disparaged Periya Nambi's wife as being of lower subcaste. Periya Nambi and his wife left Srirangam.

    Ramanuja realized that his life as a householder was interfering with his philosophical pursuit as he and his wife had differing views. He sent his wife to her parents house and renounced family to become sanyasin.



    At the time of Sansyasin, Ramanuja renounced everything except Daasarathi as he was his Triple Staff (tridandam). Then he named Daasarathi as Mudaliandan as he was the 1st sishya of Ramanujar.



    Swami Ramanuja incorporated teachings from 5 different people who he considered to be his acharyas
    .

  • Peria Nambigal: who performed his Samahsrayanam at Eri Katha Ramar Koil, Madhurandhakam

  • Thirukkotiyur Nambigal: who revealed the meaning of the Charama Shlokam and Ashtakshari to swami on his 18th trip

  • Periya Thirumalai Nambigal: who taught him Ramayana

  • Tirumalai Andan: who taught him Thiruvaimozhi

  • Azhwar Thiruvaranga Perumal Arayar: who taught remaining 3000 verses of Arulichcheyal (works of Azhwars) and Sandhai

  • With due respect, Kandadai Aandan carried the idol to Sriperumbudur and installed it there on the day nominated by Ramanujar. "sarva - kAlattilum sarva - chEtanarkkum sEvyamAm-paDi...".

    While this was being done at Sriperumbudur, at Sri Rangam Emperumanaar felt that his strength was draining out and wondered why was it happening so.

      

    He then recollected that it was the day he had nominated that day for his idol to be installed at Sriperumbudur. He at once sent a communication to Andan to come fast to Sri Rangam. On receipt of the communication Kandadai Aandan reached Sri Rangam very fast and prostrated before Emperumanaar. Emperumanaar told Kandadai Aandan to peform his final rites, as also to install his idol at the place where his body was laid to final rest. So Swami Ramanujar's utsavar thirumeni was installed by Kandadai Aandan at Sri Rangam.


    Writings:


    Ramanuja may have written 9 important books. They are also referred to as the nine precious gems, the Navarathnas.

    1) His most famous work known as Sri Bhashyam. It is a commentary on the Brahma Sutras, known as the Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana.
    Gadhya Thrayam (three prose hymns).
    2) Vaikunta Gadyam describing Vaikuntha, the realm of Vishnu and recommending meditating on it.
    3) Sriranga Gadyam, a prayer of surrender to the feet of Ranganatha.
    4) Saranagati Gadyam, an imagined dialogue between Ramanuja and Shri (Lakshmi) and Narayana where he petitions Lakshmi to recommend Narayana
    to give him grace. Narayana and Lakshmi accept his surrender.
    5) Vedartha Sangraha (a resume of Vedanta). It sets out Ramanuja's philosophy, which is theistic (it affirms a morally perfect, omniscient and omnipotent God) and realistic (it affirms the existence and reality of a plurality of qualities, persons and objects).
    6) Vedanta Saara (essence of Vedanta) an appendix to Sri Bhasya. 7) Vedanta Deepa (the light of Vedanta), another commentary to Sri Bhashya.
    8) Gita Bhashya (his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita).
    9) Nithya Grantham (About the day to day activities to be performed by all Sri Vaishnavas)
    .

    Attained Paramapadam:

    Ramanuja's service to promote our Sri Sampradaym grew day by day and he established a system at SriRangam temple which is called as "Koilozhugu" to perform the daily rituals and procedures to run the temple. This is followed even today. After this he went to Tirumala and established a system and created a mutt (religious institution) to organize the activities of the Thirumala temple. He had written various books on our Sri Sampradayam.

    He established the Vishistadvaita philosophy based on the Vedas and azhwars Divya Prabandam. He appointed 74 simhasanapadhis to spread our sampradayam. He established a temple for Sriman Narayana in a place called Thirunarayanapuram (called as Melkote) in Karnataka state near Mysore. His works continued and he was taking all efforts to spread our Sri Sampradayam till his last. He lived for 120 years and attained Vaikuntapathi from SriRangam by the year Pingala (1137).