Hinduism - Who Was Ramanuja?

    Who Was Ramanuja?

    Ramanuja was a Southern Indian philosopher and the most important figure in the Shrivaishnava religious community in the 11th century.

    He was the greatest exponent of the philosophical position known as Vishishthadvaita ("qualified non-dualism") Vedanta, the core tenet of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy and the most important figure in the Shrivaishnava religious community.

    Ramanuja spent the most of his life at the temple town of Shrirangam in Tamil Nadu, where he served the temple's resident god, Ranganatha, a form of Vishnu.

    Ramanuja believed that Brahman, or Supreme Reality, was a personal god rather than an impersonal abstract concept, and that the most significant kind of religious activity one could perform was devotion (bhakti).

    His philosophical viewpoint, Vishishthadvaita Vedanta, emphasized both of these principles.

    God, according to Ramanuja, is entirely transcendent and without flaws in his basic essence.

    A notion taken from the Samkhya philosophical tradition is that the universe evolves from God via a process of evolution.

    The universe is therefore like God in that it comes from him, but it is also unlike him in that matter is unaware and insentient.

    Human beings, too, are comparable to God in nature since they have him as their source, yet they are susceptible to ignorance and suffering, unlike God.

    God, according to Ramanuja and his followers, is not the same as human beings or the earth, all of which are said to exist in their own right.

    Due to the differences in capability between God and humans, dedication is the most efficient way to achieve eventual soul liberation (moksha), which is defined as everlasting fellowship with God.

    What Is The Philosophy Of Ramanuja?

    A Brahmin initiate into the theistic and devotional South Indian Sri Vaisnava tradition, Ramanuja lived from from 1075 to 1140 AD. 

    Members of that tradition hold him in high regard as the theologian and scriptural interpreter who, in the tradition of Nathamuni (c. 900-950) and Yamuna (c. 966–1038), provided a strong and thorough theological and philosophical defense and articulation of their beliefs and practices in the system that would later become known as Visistsadvaita Vedanta. 

    What Is The Advaita Vedanta Tradition?

    The Advaita Vedanta tradition of scriptural exegesis, which maintains that the significance of those texts is the identity of the soul (atman) and the ground of being (Brahman), and that all experience of difference is the ultimately unreal result of ignorance or misunderstanding, was challenged in this (avidya). 

    Nothing in Vedanta, whether theistic or not, could ever be the same again as a result of his achievement in this area. 

    What Are The Beliefs Of The Vaisnava Sect?

    The Sri Vaisnava sect gets its identity from the fusion of traditional Vedantic components with sectarian Tantric (non-Vedic) Pancaratra temple ritual and theology, emotional devotionalism (bhakti) toward a personal god with characteristics (saguna), and Tamil Alvar poets. 

    The Pancaratra texts serve as a framework for the sect's liturgical activity (agama). 

    In the temple image, there is a focus on the immanent presence of the divine in creation (arcavatara). 

    Was The Alvar Worship Open To All Of Society?

    The Alvars' devotionalism is open to all social groups. Everyone is welcome to a relationship with God, regardless of caste or gender. 

    The songs portray a deep yearning for God, the "agony of separation" from him, and the joy of reestablished contact. 

    Vedanta, also known as the science of Brahman or the absolute reality, is the systematic exegesis and elucidation of those sections (the jnana-kanda) of the purportedly timeless and infallible Vedic sacred texts known as Upanisads that address in various ways such metaphysical issues as the nature of the absolute principle and summum bonum underlying the cosmos, the nature and destiny of the essential self (atman). 

    Its foundational text is the Brahmasutra, attributed to Badarayana in the second century A.D., which summarizes the major Upanisadic themes in a way that is easily remembered but inevitably highly ambiguous (given the aphoristic nature of the sutra genre), much like the Mimamsa sutras, attributed to Jaimini in the 100s A.D., which summarizes those sections of the Vedas (the karma- Vedanta is also known as Uttara Mimamsa (Later Exegesis). 

    Insofar as the road of ritual activity came to be viewed as antecedent and propaedeutic to the path of knowledge, the ritualist received the title Purva Mimamsa (Previous Enquiry). 

    Did Ramanuja Help Transform Non-Vedic Traditions To Vedic Traditions?

    Ramanuja is a key player in the non-Vedic tradition's transformation into a Vedic tradition. 

    The Upanishads, the Brahmasutras, and the Bhagavad Gita serve as the fundamental sources for the ancient Vedantic tradition, which he attempted to harmonize with the principles of his bhakti religion. 

    The most important of the criteria for Hindu Brahminical orthodoxy (smarta), which also include the acceptance of the Vedically derived social and religious obligations unique to hereditary caste members (varnashrama dharma) and the eternity of an essential principle in man (atman), is the Veda's authority. 

    What Is Vedanticization?

    Vedanticization is the process of articulating sectarian traditions' theory and practice in terms of a broadly accepted philosophy and code of conduct that has been upheld by the main Vedantic tradition. 

    Ramanuja argued for the Vedantic validity of his bhakti religion by writing commentary on the Brahmasutras and the Gita. 

    His theistic and dualistic readings of the Upanisads gave popular devotional religion a classical foundation. 

    Yamuna had created the groundwork for such an endeavor by using Tamil religious literature. 

    He aimed to show in his Siddhitraya that the fundamental self (atman) possesses a personal existence. 

    He promoted the idea of effects being the realm of material things. 

    He maintained that God is the right object of one's devotion since He has attributes of a personal kind. 

    In his Gitarthasamgraha, he argued that the Gita's fundamental goal is to instill bhakti as the only way to achieve liberation, which entails an intimate, loving connection with God in which the individual self is preserved. 

    Since the Upanisads are considered to be completely infallible with respect to the transcendent, synthesizing beliefs with the Vedantic worldview gives them the sanction of antiquity and ensures their reality. 

    The Vedantic language suggests that teachings have an unwavering, everlasting validity. 

    Vedanticization, or the notion that one's tradition has a foundation that is eternally and inherently legitimate, gives one a stronger base on which to develop their religious life. 

    How Was Ramanuja's Philosophy Pan-Indian?

    A theological system may have pan-Indian currency among the educated thanks to the usage of Sanskrit

    Nathamuni and Yamuna started the process, which Ramanuja reinforced. 

    We see a constant endeavor on their part to further the Sanskritization of the bhakti religion. 

    The worshipper's adoring contemplation of God in his heaven is equivalent to moksha (release from the cycle of births), and the acts of worship and veneration are on par with the rites outlined by scripture and tradition. 

    This is how the God of the bakhta is equated with the supreme principle of the Upanishads. 

    It has been claimed persuasively that Yamuna was a self-aware representative of a Pancaratrika Vedanta, who asserted that the sectarian Vaisnava Pancaratra writings are equivalent in authority to the Vedic texts. 

    Using literature that had never before been included in Vedanta or Uttara-Mimamsa, such as the Pancaratra Agamas, which was viewed as a "easily understood" divine revelation, he created a theistic Vedanta. 

    Ramanuja can't be stated to be the same. He is so preoccupied with proving Sri Vaisnavism's Vedantic validity that Pancaratra is left in the background. 

    Only while justifying the compatibility of that tradition with Vedic culture does he make reference to Pancaratra scriptures (SBh.2.2.40–43). 

    He makes no mention of the openly sectarian Vaisnava Bhagavata Purana for the same reason. 

    Ramanuja And The Tamil Veda.

    The Divya Prabandha, sometimes referred to as the Tamil version of the Veda, was compiled by Nathamuni from the passionate songs of the Alvars and utilized in temple worship. 

    Ramanuja doesn't mention the "Tamil Veda" at all. He views bhakti as an intellectual and philosophical phenomena rather than an emotional one. 

    In his conservative view, dedication must be placed within the framework of social and religious commitments. 

    However, there are clear parallels between his realistic and pluralistic metaphysics and the bhakti religion. 

    In the end, monistic Advaita-Vedanta is opposed to bhakti. 

    Ramanuja had to demonstrate that revealed scripture (shruti) and authoritative tradition (smruti), not the Advaitins' religion, was what was taught. 

    In order to do this, he critiqued the intellectual underpinnings of monism and offered theistic and dualistic readings of Upanisadic scriptures. 

    What Is Ramnuja's Visistsadvaita or Vedanta?

    The philosophy he developed, known as Visistsadvaita or Vedanta, is based on the premise that all conscious souls and material beings are one with and in God, who they are inextricably reliant upon since they make up the divine body. 

    Vedanta is the aphoristic summary of the Upanisads' significance found in the Brahmasutras and the systematic hermeneutic of the Upanisads. 

    The Vedantic theologian views himself as a scriptural exegete who draws theological conclusions from a body of scripture that is intrinsically valid (svatah pramanya), independent of God (although, according to Ramanuja, promulgated by the deity at the beginning of a cycle of cosmic emanation), and our only source of knowledge regarding the nature of whom it is (pramana). 

    The Vedic language is ageless, and its meaning is not dependent on any given situation, although it is acknowledged that it is difficult to grasp and requires interpretive clarification. 

    What Is The Significance Of Sampradaya In Vedanta?

    According to Vedanta, a prerequisite for a correct reading of the scriptures is adhering to an established religious tradition (sampradaya). 

    Tradition shouldn't breed damaging bias but rather awareness. Originality in theology is a flaw. 

    The theologian's endeavor, which entails the methodical explication of accepted concepts, is one of preservation. 

    The inherent (autpattika) and unchangeable (nitya) relationship between a Vedic term and the referent in which it participates metaphysically is the source of the infallible authority of text. 

    It was assumed that Sanskrit words were not only symbols for their objects, but also integral parts of them. 

    Neither supernatural intervention nor human convention have been able to mend the link. 

    The Vedas Are Considered A Revelation.

    Vedic speech is "non-personal" (apauruseya). 

    There is neither a divine nor a human author of the Vedas. 

    They are not a divine self-revelation, even yet they are the sole source of information about God. 

    The Purva-Mimamsaka theorists, whose primary religious concern was the clarification of those sections (the karma-kanda) of the intrinsically valid but frequently cryptic and ambiguous Vedic texts that are the only source of knowledge about those ritual performances which are an essential component of the cosmic order (dharma), developed these theories regarding the authority of the Vedas. 

    The Vedas Are Regarded As Infallible.

    The Vedas are regarded as being infallible in theory since all cognitions are taken for granted as true just by virtue of their occurrence and remain true unless refuted. 

    The Mimamsakas were atheists who believed that the universe's stability and human well-being in this world and the next (both covered by dharma) resulted from the disinterested conduct of Vedic rituals, whose proper execution would inevitably have beneficial effects. 

    While certain rituals (kamya) might be conducted with a particular goal in mind, the most important ones were to be carried out in a spirit of obligation for the sake of duty, independent of any particular benefits. 

    Those "twice-born" men (i.e., members of the higher three castes who have undergone the upanayana ceremony of initiation entitling them to participate in Vedic ritual) with the necessary qualification for legitimate access to the rituals (adhikara), according to the Prabhakara school of Mimamsa, are moved to action in the manner of categorical imperatives by the prescriptions enjoining them (vidhi or niyog Indicative, descriptive, or fact-asserting scriptural statements are to be construed as praising the sacrifice or explaining the mode of its performance, according to the Prabhakaras, who also held that only those scriptural statements that are injunctions bearing upon the essential rituals (karya — "things to be done") are an authoritative source of new knowledge (pramana). 

    Siddha And Sadhya.

    They are not authority for things that are already established (siddha) and do not need creation (sadhya), since they are the purview of knowledge-producing mechanisms like perception and inference. 

    As a result, the language of the scriptures cannot be considered authoritative in regards to Brahman. 

    They provide evidence for this by saying that all language has meaning when it is connected to an action. 

    They support a semantic theory known as "associated designation" (anvitabhidhana), which carries the weight that a word only has meaning when it is used in a sentence. 

    The Prabhakaras adopted an anti-realist stance, exemplified by their epistemically constrained definition of reality (satta), which they defined as anything that exists and is amenable to connection with valid cognition (pramana sambandha yogyata). 

    This definition is consistent with their view that reality is something that must be brought about in accordance with the dictates of Vedic injunction. 

    Insofar as it depends on following set rituals, the universe is truly of our creation. 

    A Theory Of Truth.

    A pragmatic theory of truth, which holds that knowledge is useful for directing action whereas mistake is worthless in that regard, complements this point of view. 

    In response, Ramanuja argues that effective action requires language with informational significance, which is often fact-assertive and descriptive. 

    Even if the Vedic jnana-kanda, the Upanisadic books, are taken as commandments that forbid meditation on Brahman, they can only do so if they have previously proven its existence. 

    According to Ramanuja, learning the meanings of words involves an ostensive defining process that results in the creation of an idea (buddhyutpatti) of the words' referents. 

    The young child learns that all words convey their intended meanings and that some word combinations signify various types of unforced linkages between basic items. 

    Thus, he holds to the kind of semantic theory (abhihitanvayavada) put out by the Mimamsaka direct realist Kumarila (c. 650 A.D.), which may be summarized as the idea that a phrase is made up of a string of word meanings that have previously been articulated singly. 

    The fundamental units of meaning are words as individual expressions of general characteristics. 

    A sentence is made up of a collection of distinct words, each of which, taken alone, designates a set of discrete objects, which serves as the main epistemological "given." 

    These words then each separately and serially express one of their proper senses, which are then combined to create a further syntactically connected whole, the purport (tatparya), of the sentence, which stands for a particular person or situation. 

    The grammar (anvaya) of the words' explicitly articulated (abhihita) meanings provides the purport. 

    The intent is particular even if the individual word meanings are universal. 

    It is important to note that they consider the Vedic commands as hypothetical imperatives that only apply to eligible individuals (high-caste men) who have an interest in the specific purposes they define. 

    The logic, epistemology, and metaphysics of the Nyaya-Vaisesika school acknowledged the inspiration of scripture as God's written word. 

    As a result, its validity is external. 

    They rejected the idea that the scriptures alone could answer questions concerning the nature of God and the soul and instead argued that inferential reasoning could be used to prove Isvara and atman's existence and characteristics. 

    They only sometimes used the scriptures to support a point that had previously been made by logical reasoning. 

    They were unable to make an argument for God's existence only based on the scriptures due to the danger of becoming circular. 

    Ramanuja As A Metaphysical And Epistemological Realist.

    Ramanuja is a realist in both metaphysics and epistemology.  Here, I briefly discuss some aspects of both realism and anti-realism in order to distinguish between them and how they restrict what is possible within the confines of language or human comprehension. 

    At its core, realism is the expression of a natural human desire to see beyond appearances that are caused by our limited human perspective on the universe and to get at a genuine perception of reality as it is in itself. 

    Any discussion of a reality that is incomprehensible to our cognitive abilities is questioned by the anti-realist. 

    As a result, "to be" is to be intelligible to us. 

    Such theories include idealism, which entails the mental nature of the ostensibly physical and the exhaustive reduction of everything to states of consciousness; phenomenalism, which holds that familiar physical objects can be reduced to human sensory stimulations; representationalism, which holds that what we are immediately aware of are sensory and mental impressions standing in causal relations to objects; and the type of semantic anti-realism propagated by the semantic anti-realism movement. 

    A realist philosophy, however, may include any or all of the following characteristics: There is an objective, mind-free world. 

    That is to say, even in the absence of occupied human subjective standpoints attesting to their existence, things proposed by an ontology as belonging to a domain exist, truths are true, and situations of events exist. 

    There may be more than we can comprehend or imagine. 

    In other words, certain facts are unreachable to humans. 

    While the degree of connection between our ideas and the outside world is decided independently of human cognitive activity, we are nonetheless capable of accurately imagining and understanding the human surroundings. 

    We often discuss actual objects rather than ideas, concepts, sensory data, or mental sensations. 

    Never are the objects of sense primarily cerebral and non-physical. 

    A universe of mindless physical things is seen as real until that view is refuted by another perception. 

    Similar to how they seem to humans, familiar macroscopic things would also appear the same to species with diverse sensory modalities. 

    (Epistemological realism or realistic common sense) Initially, consciousness is unformed, passive, and receptive. 

    Language and innate concepts do not significantly organize or perhaps even distort the sensory outputs. 

    According to facts about the mind-independent sphere, every proposition is categorically either true or false (realist empiricism). 

    Truth is some kind of relationship between ideas, words, and circumstances. 

    True thoughts and phrases have a representation that is structurally isomorphic to extra-mental reality. 

    Complex true cognitions depict complex situations of events and are causally connected to them. 

    True concept-laden cognition provides more information about the reality. 

    It does not alter or remove us from reality. 

    Certain sorts of property, like abstract universals, exist apart from the human mind and language. 

    (Platonism and the Naiyayika theory of universals, which Ramanuja does not agree with.) It is not possible to reduce claims about one domain (such as the mental) to statements about another kind of domain (e.g.  the physical).

    References And Further Reading:

    • A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, edited by Sarvepalli Radha Krishnan and Charles A. Moore, 1957.
    • John B. Carman, The Theology of Ramanuja, 1974.

    ~Kiran Atma