ஞாயிறு, 30 ஏப்ரல், 2017

Bridging the chasm

-Suganthy Krishnamachari


Ramanuja showed the continuity of tradition in the realms of both philosophy and religion

Ramanuja’s biggest challenge was in the philosophical realm. While the bheda srutis talk about the distinction between the Jiva and the Paramatma, the abheda srutis posit the identity of the Jiva with the Supreme One. They seemed mutually exclusive, until Ramanuja found a way to bridge the chasm. The reconciling text is called the ghataka sruti.

Jivatma and Prakrti have an abiding bond with God. The soul and Prakrti are attributes or modes of Isvara. But the Prakrti constitutes bondage as far as Jivatma is concerned. Jivatma has to strive to reach Him, and for this He is the means. So the means and the end coalesce into one, in the Visishtadvaita system.

This philosophy serves another more practical purpose too. When we are told that we are all but the body of the Supreme One, in one stroke it eliminates the possibility of abusing another. Passages that talk of Brahman being alone, without a second, refer to the state of Pralaya (dissolution). Here matter and souls remain in a subtle state. When Pralaya ends and creation takes place, the sookshma sareera (the subtle body) becomes the sthula sareera (gross body).

The great reconciler

Ramanuja’s God of auspicious qualities is the ‘uyarvara uyarnalam udaiyavan’ of Nammazhwar. In Thiruvoimozhi 3-8 (Mudiyane), we find a synesthetic experience described. Synesthesia is a state where the senses perform more than the functions they normally would. In Nammazhwar’s case, the senses are so eager to serve the Lord, that they behave synesthetically. His eyes want to offer flowers, his hands want to sing His praises! And when Ramanuja shows us a God full of kalyana gunas, we can understand Nammazhwar’s experience.

In his Agamapraamaanya, Yamunacharyasays the validity of the Pancharatra is unquestionable. Pancharatra works, Lakshmi Tantra and Ahirbuddhnya Samhita talk of surrender as the easiest way of reaching God. Ramanuja wrote Nitya, which lays down ritual observances and here the influence of the Pancharatra is clear. Ramanuja gave us a combination of philosophy and theism. By pegging his philosophy and God to our ancient texts, Ramanuja showed us the continuity of our tradition in the realms of both philosophy and religion. As Dr. K.C. Varadachari wrote, Ramanuja’s Ubhaya Vedanta was the “synthesis of revelation (sruti) and the mystic experiences of Reality (anubhava).”

Sociologist Cooley says of the qualities of a leader: “There is a definiteness about him, which makes us feel he will not leave us drifting, but will set a course, will substitute action for doubt and give our energies an outlet.” Ramanuja did all of these. The aspects of daily worship mentioned in Nitya can easily take an hour. We then have to study Sri Bhashya, visit temples, chant the Dvaya mantra. With such a 24-hour engagement with God, where is the time for us to fall prey to temptation?

In Ramanuja’s scheme, there is no conflict between metaphysics and philosophy; no conflict between spiritual aspirations and performance of duties; there are no linguistic conflicts either. He gave us a prescription, which if we follow, there can be no conflicts in our lives.


Courtesy: The Hindu- Friday Review


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