|Sri Ramanuja Acharya (1017-1137 AD)|
Monism, as propounded by Shankaracharya on the basis of Vedic texts, seemed to the majority of individuals too simple a solution to satisfy their inner urges. They had in them the yearning to worship, to dedicate themselves to a higher power. They could not grasp the truth of their inner Reality being the one and only. Their emotions and activities had to be sublimated by disciplines of devotion. Therefore, Ramanujacharya commented upon the Vedic texts and religious scriptures from a new point of view. This made the Advaita take on a special outlook. So it was called Vishishta (special) Advaita (non-dualism). The path of devotion was laid down to enable man to merge with God.
- “The Sai Religion”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 13,
October 1, 1976, Prasanthi Nilayam
Advaita did not encourage or inspire devotion to a Personal God. There was no room for surrender to a master figure. The masses who longed for the removal of an inner thirst had to be led, step by step. Ramanuja interpreted the basic texts and discovered that man can realise God through worship, using the gift of Nature as instrument. God is the kernel, the shell is man and the fibrous stuff is Nature (as in the coconut). They are intimately intertwined, as limbs in the body, parts with their own peculiar characteristics. Man, Nature and God are One without a Second (Advaita) in a special and unique sense (Vishishta). So, Ramanuja’s philosophy is named Qualified Non-Dualism.
- “The Royal Road to God”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 18,
August 28, 1985, Prasanthi Nilayam
Ramanuja who is the exponent of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy, derived the meaning of Bhakti from the name of ‘Raadha’ and interpreted it as the continuous flow of love for God. The word ‘Raadha’ contains four syllables- Ra, Aa, Dh, and Aa. If you read the word starting from ‘Ra’, you have Raadha. Starting from ‘Aa’, you get the word Aadhaara. Starting from ‘Dh’ you get the word Dhaaraa. Starting from the second ‘Aa’, you get the word Aaraadha. Aadhaara means basis. Dhaaraa means continuous flow. Aaraadha means worship. Thus, Raadha signified for Ramanuja the continuous stream of worship of the Divine.
- “The Triple Purity”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 29,
January 1, 1996, Prasanthi Nilayam
Vishishtadvaita (qualified Monism): Ramanuja considered the problem whether God whom one seeks to worship and realise as real, must be conceived as being apart from oneself, or whether God can be conceived as in oneself. His answer is, Life is the soul of the body. God is the soul of Life. God is the grantor, the force, the sustainer.
- “Modes of Worship”, Sathya Sai Vahini
To realise the Brahman through continuous meditation on the Brahman is not an enjoyable path for all to take. This was why spiritual teachers like Ramanuja favoured the path of devotion, experienced themselves the bliss flowing from the love of God and propagated the love-principle as the easiest means to experience the Divine. There have been teachers who have emphasised the Karma Marga (the path of Action), the Jnana Marga (the path of knowledge), the different types of Yoga or other means to realise the Divine. But the common under-current that flows through all of them is the path of Bhakti- the path of Divine Love. This is accepted by all of them.
Love is God. The universe is permeated by God. To see God in everything, to love everything as a manifestation of God and to offer everything to God as an offering of Love—this is the way of Love.
- “The Love of God”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 19,
January 19, 1986, Chennai
Sri Ramanujacharya’s Vishishtadvaita
Ramanujacharya founded Vishishtadvaita. What is Vishishtadvaita? Beings and things are different but there is a unitary Divine aspect within all of them. So, Ramanujacharya emphasised on this aspect.
When a thing exists, then naturally there is a complimentary thing also in existence. Reflection is seen only when there is an object. Resound is heard only when there is a sound. So there is a reality and there is its reflection and this was well explained by Ramanujacharya. His philosophy is that a human being can merge in God through effort.
There is a unique analogy for this, in milk. When milk is warmed and set, it congeals into curd. When curd is churned, butter emerges. Butter is clarified into ghee by heating. Now, where did the ghee come from? Butter is the source of ghee. Milk is the source of butter. Every drop, every molecule of milk has butter in it. But it is not perceptible. Only after due processing, does butter get formed. Here milk is non-dualism. The essence of the milk is butter. What remains is buttermilk. There is no butter in buttermilk and vice versa. Therefore, butter is as important as it is the quintessence of milk. We need not bother about buttermilk at all. Butter should be our focus. This was what Ramanujacharya enunciated as Vishishtadvaita.
- “The Universal Religion”, Discourse 16,
My Dear Students, Volume 02
Note: Born in Tamil Nadu in the year 1017, Sri Ramanujacharya was a philosopher-saint and the foremost exponent of Vishishtadvaita (Qualified Non-Dualism) school of philosophy. Considered to be an incarnation of Adishesha, he combined the northern and southern traditions of Vaishnavism and propounded a new sub-sect known as ‘Sri Vaishnavism’. He spread devotion in society through his nine works known as Navaratnas. He established the traditional ways of worship in scores of temples across India, and propounded the principle of Prapatti or surrender to God as the highest Sadhana. He took Mahasamadhi in 1137 at the age of 120 in Srirangam.