Ramanuja
(Ramanujacharya)
(1077–1157 C.E.) (dated by his tradition from 1017 to 1137)
   philosopher of Vedanta
   Ramanuja was the founder of the philosophical school known as Vishistadvaita or “special non-dualism.”
   Ramanuja was born in the city of KANCHI-PURAM near present-day Chennai (Madras). His father was a Vedic BRAHMIN who was known as a brilliant student of the SANSKRIT scriptures. His first GURU, Yadava Prakasha, had a system that was not to the liking of this student genius. It soon became clear that he would develop his own system, which would challenge that of his teacher. Ramanuja’s guru is said to have arranged to have him killed, while luring him on a PILGRIMAGE to the holy city of BENARES (Varanasi) on the GANGES. Ramanuja was miraculously saved and eventually his guru bowed to his feet and accepted Ramunuja himself as his teacher.
   Ramanuja’s system of VEDANTA combines the view of a unitary divinity found in the UPANISHADS with the theism of later Hinduism. For Ramanuja the divinity is endowed with innumerable auspi-cious attributes, as opposed to the view of SHAN-KARA, who saw the ultimate reality or BRAHMAN as completely beyond characteristics or char-acterization. Where as Shankara’s brahman was an inert, transcendental reality upon which the world was lain as a false conception, Ramanuja’s brahman was the Lord VISNHU, who was the soul to the universe, which was seen as his body.
   Along with many philosophic works in San-skrit, Ramanuja wrote incisive Sanskrit commen-taries on the BRAHMA SUTRAS and the BHAGAVAD GITA in his effort to refute the earlier and well-accepted school of Shankara. In his work, he validated the mystical vision of the Vaishnavite saints of Tamil Nadu, the ALVARS, whose Tamil songs were later collected as the main text for Tamil Vaishnavites, the Nalayiradivyaprabandham.
   The movement in India that follows the teach-ings of Ramanuja and the Alvars is known as Sri Vaishnavism. It is a tradition of temple worship, in which both Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures are recited in the temples. The most important site for this tradition is the temple to Lord Ranganatha (Vishnu) at Shrirangam in Tamil Nadu. There is a secondary shrine in the smaller community of Sri Vaishnavites at Melkote in Karnataka.
   Further reading: John Carman, The Theology of Ramanuja: An Essay in Interreligious Understanding (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1974); Julius J. Lipner, The Face of Truth: A Study of Mean and Metaphys-ics in the Vedantic Theology of Ramanuja (Houndmills, England: Macmillan, 1986); Swami Tapasyananda, Bhakti Schools of Vedanta (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, n.d.); P. B. Vidyarthi, Divine Personality and Human Life in Ramanuja (New Delhi: Oriental, 1978).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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