Saint Ramanujacharya: Life, Philosophy, Works

4 minute read

Ramanujacharya, also known as Ramanuja, was an esteemed Indian philosopher, spiritual leader and theologian who lived during the 11th and 12th centuries in India. His teachings revolutionised the Bhakti movement and shaped the course of Vaishnavism. Born in the 11th century, Ramanujacharya’s intellect, devotion, and commitment to social upliftment made him a revered figure in the history of Indian philosophy and theology. This article delves into the life, remarkable works and enduring contributions of Ramanujacharya.

Sri Ranganathswamy Temple. 

Who was Sri Ramanujacharya?

Ramanujacharya was born in the year 1017 in a Tamil Brahmin family in the town of Sriperumbudur in present-day Tamil Nadu, India.

  • His mother’s name was Kantimathi and his father was Kesava Samayaji.
  • He did not have a formal education until he was 12 years old, but from a young age, his inclination towards spirituality and intellectual pursuits became evident.
  • Yadava Prakasha was the guru of Ramanujacharya and he received extensive education in various fields of Vedic wisdom under the guidance of his guru.
  • It was during his apprenticeship with Yadava Prakasha that he encountered the philosophical works of the revered sage Yamunacharya, which immensely influenced his spiritual journey.
  • He was married to Rahshambal in the year 1033 but later was estranged from her. 

Also Read – Goswami Tulsidas: Life, Works and Ramacharitmanas

Ramanujacharya’s Contributions to Philosophy

Ramanujacharya presented a distinct interpretation of Vedanta philosophy that countered prevailing beliefs.

  • He vehemently advocated for Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), a school of thought that emphasized the eternal relationship between the individual soul (jiva) and the Supreme Being (Vishnu).
  • He argued with Advaita Vedanta (Non-Dualism) and propounded the belief that Brahaman is the ultimate reality but also that the Universe is real and is all a manifestation of Brahman.

Also Read – Who was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?

Major works of Ramanujacharya

Ramanujacharya’s masterpiece, the Sri Bhashya, serves as a comprehensive commentary on the Brahma Sutras of Vedanta.

  • Through the Sri Bhashya, he sought to establish the supremacy of Bhakti (devotion) as the means to attain spiritual enlightenment and liberation.
  • His interpretation of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita into Bhagavadgita- Bhashya elevated the significance of devotion, highlighting it as a path accessible to individuals regardless of caste or social status.
  • His other works include Nitya Grantham, Vedanta Sutra Bhashya, Vedanta Desika’s Pratikraman Sutra, etc. In these texts he analysed Advaita Vedanta and how he developed and believes in Vishishtadvaita Philosophy. 

Ramanuja’s Literary Contributions:

  • Vedartha-Sangraha: A work outlining the principles of Visistadwaita, a conciliation of various srutis that disagree.
  • Sri Bhashya: An in-depth analysis of the Vedanta Sutras.
  • Gita-Bhasya: An in-depth analysis of the Bhagavad-Gita.
  • Vedanta-Dipa: A succinct analysis of the Vedanta Sutras.
  • Vedanta-Sara: This is an additional short introduction to the Vedanta Sutras.
  • Saranagati-Gadya and Sri Ranga-Gadya are self-surrender manuals addressed to Lord Visnu.
  • Sri Vaikuntha-Gadya – Explains the meaning of Sri Vaikuntha-loka and the status of the freed souls.
  • Nitya-Grantha: A brief manual meant to serve as a guide for devotees of Sri Vaishnava.

Also Read – Sufi Movement: Features, Stages, Important Silsilas and Impact 

Social Reforms and Emphasis on Inclusivity

  • Ramanujacharya vehemently opposed the discriminatory varna (caste) system prevalent during his time and believed that all are equal in the eyes of God.
  • He actively promoted social equality and inclusivity, inviting all individuals, irrespective of their background, to embrace the path of devotion.
  • Ramanujacharya actively practised what he preached, breaking societal barriers by accepting disciples from lower castes and engaging in social welfare activities.
  • He emphasized that true devotion transcended external characteristics and lay in the sincerity and purity of one’s heart.
Commemoration by a statue of Ramanujacharya in Hyderabad

Legacy and Influence

Ramanujacharya’s teachings had a lasting impact on Indian philosophy, propelling Vaishnava Bhakti to the forefront of spiritual practices.

  • He inspired numerous subsequent religious leaders, including the revered saint Madhvacharya.
  • Ramanujacharya’s contributions continue to shape the philosophy, art, and literature of the Vaishnavism tradition.
  • His philosophy also played a crucial role in the development of two major sects of Vaishnavism: the Sri Vaishnava and the Vallabha sampradayas.
  • Today, temples dedicated to Ramanujacharya can be found throughout India, and his teachings are celebrated during various festivals and spiritual gatherings.

Death of Ramanujacharya

His work required extensive travelling and teaching to spread his philosophy. In the meantime, he composed many poems and hymns. It was at the age of 120 years that he breathed his last at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam in the year 1137 AD. Since then, it is believed that the temple has preserved the body of Sri Ramanujacharya in a sitting position as a mummy. 

Sri Ramanujacharya at the Srirangam Temple. Credit – Srirangam Temple.

Other names of Sri Ramanujacharya

Ramanuja is also called by the name Śrī Rāmānujāchārya, Ethiraja (Yatirāja, king of monks), Bhashyakara (Bhashyakarulu in Telugu) Godāgrajar, Thiruppavai Jeeyar and Lakshmana Muni.

  • ‘Tiruppavai Jeeyar’ by Periya Nambi
  • ‘Ilayazhwar’ by Periya Thirumalai Nambi
  • ‘Desi Kendiran’ by Tirupathi Thiruvenkatamudayan
  • ‘Koil Annan’ by Srivilliputhur Kothai Nachiyar
  • ‘Sri Bashyakarar’ by Kalaimagal
  • ‘Boodha Puriser’ by Sriperumbudur Adikesava Perumal
  • ‘Lakshmana Muni’ by Tiruvaranga Perumal Arayar
  • ‘Ethirajar’ and ‘Ramanuja Muni’ by Kanchi Perarulala Perumal
  • ‘Udayavar’ by Srirangam Periya Perumal
  • ‘Emperumanar’ by Tirukozhtiyur Nambi
  • ‘Am Mudalvan Evan’ by Yamunāchārya
  • ‘Sadagopan Ponnadi’ by Tirumalaiyandan

In conclusion, Ramanujacharya’s brilliance, devotion and tireless efforts to uplift society along with his interpretation of Vedanta, emphasis on Bhakti, and commitment to social equality have inspired generations of spiritual seekers.

Difference Between Nayanars and AlvarsGurukul Education System in Ancient India
All the Names of India Throughout HistoryAryan Invasion Theory
Vedanta PhilosophyMain Branches of Philosophy
Difference Between Ramayana and RamcharitmanasGautam Buddha

That’s all about Saint Ramanujacharya! If you want to know more about topics like this, then visit our general knowledge page! Alternatively, you can also read our blog on general knowledge for competitive exams!

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *