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More Nectar in the Life of Sri Ramanujacarya

More Nectar in the Life of Sri Ramanujacarya

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Published by: raj on Oct 05, 2009
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More Nectar in the Life of Sri Ramanujacarya:
 (The following section is from the book "The Life and Legacy of Sripad Ananda Tirtha -Madhwacarya" from the third chapter regarding the evolution and movement of intent toprepare the way for the arrival of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, by Jaya Tirtha Charandasa).
Sripad Ramanujacarya.
 In the year 1017 A.D. Sripad Ramanujacarya, a partial incarnation of Lord AnantaShesha and Laxman appeared on the 'sasthi', sixth lunar mansion of the light fortnight inthe month of Chaitra, (April-May). He made his appearance in South India,Tundiradesha, at Sriperumbudur, about half way between Kancipuram and Madras. Hisfathers' name was Asuri Keshava Somayaji, also known as Sarvakratu Diksitar, who it isbelieved was either an advaitin, or a smarta. His mother was Kantimati, the granddaughter of the great Vaisnavacarya Yamunacarya. Sri Ramanuja was given the nameIlaya Perumal, by his parents and was trained in the various studies of the Alwar saintsof South Indian. His education was mostly given by his father a pandit of the time. Whenhe was fifteen he was taken to Kancipuram, where he and his cousin Govinda were sentto study under the Advaitin Acarya Yadava Prakash. As the years went by andRamanujas' maturity advanced. Many times there were philosophical clashes betweenhe and his 'advaitin' teacher to the point when Yadava prakash made arrangements for Ramanuja to be killed. Still unperturbed he preached what became his "new" philosophythe Vaisnava philosophy of 'Visisthadvaita', or qualified oneness. Sripad Ramanujacaryadirected his new philosophy to defeating the monistic views of Sankara. Instead of leaving understandings as some kind of impersonalistic blank, this is 'maya' or this is'avidya', Ramanuja gave relationships to everything, that is, everything has a relationshipto the Lord. He qualified everything. Sripad Ramanujacarya gives some nice points onreferring to the acceptance of, or usage of 'avidya'. Though Sripad Ramanujacarya usesthe word "ajnan" rather than 'avidya', the meaning is the same, ignorance. Being apersonalistic worshipper of Sri Laksmi Narayana, Ramanujacarya tackles everything asa personalist would. He points out the existence of 'ajnan' (ignorance) as a positive entityand as being directly perceived in such perceptions as "I am ignorant", "I do not knowmyself or others". This really refers to having lack of understanding of something due tonot having any, or insufficient knowledge of what it is. So in Ramanujacarya'sphilosophy he simply throws the blame back on the perceiver, not on the subject that theinfinitesimal perceiver is trying with his limited senses to perceive, like the 'mayavadis'do. He suggests that maybe we are not seeing things fully or in the right perspective.The 'mayavadis' simply try to blame the knife for stabbing the man to death, neglectingthe chance that someone may have been holding the knife, and maybe even with someintent to do something, either consciously or not.Once I observed one of my children, my then two year old, fall from the swing andclambering to stand up rebuked the swing, you're naughty swing. But the swing actuallywasn't at fault, dare I say it was my child for not being co-ordinated.Sri Ramanuja clarifies one rather interesting point as well. He said that if ignorance is aperceivable thing (entity or specific item), then that cannot be ignorance for it is known.Ignorance can only refer to that which is unknown, or that which one is ignorant of. Alsoif ignorance is unknown, how can one have ignorance standing on it's own to beperceived, one would not know? If it is argued that 'ajnan' or ignorance is 'a-visada-swarupa' (Indistinct knowledge), then again Sripad Ramanujacarya gives a good pointthat this is only to the fact that there is lack of distinct knowledge as to what it is. Even if their, (the 'mayavadis') philosophy of positive ignorance is admitted, it must be somehowrelated to something and that something must be known, which in its self is knowledge.
In that way, if 'jnan' (knowledge) of any given subject such as the material world, or theLord were there, the 'mayavadi' philosopher would have something to relate to. But theydon't, therefore they are known as 'mayavadis' or 'ajnanavadis' due to their ignorance.This is understood by the Vaisnavacaryas who are in full knowledge. The opposite toblack being white, the opposite to ignorance being knowledge.Sripad Ramanujacarya clears up the theory of illusion as set by the Sankarites in thefollowing way by saying that if one knows what is truth, one may, for a short period, besubject to illusion by which normal things appear different to what they should be. But itcannot be said that illusion has no cause other than illusion itself, or is unknown or justappears for no reason. Ramanuja goes on to say that if illusion were an inexpressible of an unidentifiable thing, again when or where would one even known it was illusion for one would be in illusion and would have nothing to compare with as real.According to the 'avidya', 'advaitistic' philosophy of Sankara, the dream state, thewakeful state, and the state of self are all unreal and illusory. But according toRamanujacarya there is a real character in all these three states. Even dreams are notillusion entirely. During the waking state the self is awake, and it contacts the objects of the senses externally through the mind and senses. In the dream state, the self becomes detached from the external world of the senses and their objects. The mind,however, experiences a succession of images presented from the memory without reallyany necessity of logic or reason. Originally the objects were seen or touched, smelt or heard through the senses, and the mind stores the information. The mind acts in thisway, that's its function, so definitely it cannot be called illusion or unreal for it is just areflection of reality that the mind has come in contact with.Sankara says that in the case of sleep one is the witness of 'avidya' (ignorance). After waking, one says, "I slept well, I was pure spiritual consciousness, free from all materialconditioning, and a witness to 'avidya'." Sripad Ramanujacarya however sheds a deeper light on this subject. He says that person who was sleeping is not only pure spiritualconsciousness, but is a spirit soul, eternal servant of the Lord, and that pure spiritualconsciousness is an attribute of the soul by which the soul can be perceived('swarupopadhi'). So by this we can see that if the soul (self) did not remain conscious insleep, then how could he then remember upon waking that he had been sleeping, or hadslept well? Thus there would be a gap in his life, not knowing he had done anythingwhat to speak of sleep, so what is this witness to 'avidya'. This is not a fact, for the soulhas a sense of permanent consciousness carried by memory which tells him that he hasdone something or give the sense of fulfilment knowing he has taken rest for a setperiod.The 'mayavadis' say that the perceptions one may have in a dream are all unreal in thesame way scriptures are not real, as the written word cannot do justice to a spiritualreality. Sri Ramanuja refutes this saying, that, it is not true that dreams are unreal, butthe circumstances are different, in as much as the activities may be there in a dream,and the same activities are there in a waking state. One could in fact say the activitiesare the same, in both states, but 'that is the only qualification to their one-ness'('visistadwaita'). It is not that the dreams of subtle nature and the activities of the wakefulstate are exactly one, however, there is a qualification to their one-ness. The activitymay be of the same kind of act, and it is the same person who sees in relation with both.One could further say that the vision exists, but in the dreaming state not on a grossplatform. The objects seen may not necessarily grossly exist, though certainly theobjects do exist somewhere. An example may be given that one may see in a dream agolden mountain, and it is a fact that gold exists and a mountain exists, but to see agolden mountain?? Well maybe! Another example is that sometimes, due to our 
defective material vision, we may mistake a rope on the floor for a snake. Certainlyropes exist and snakes exists, but to fear a rope or pick up a snake, this kind of all one-ness can cause problems. The reason that one fears a snake that one sees in a dreameven if it is a rope, is because of one's previous experience of the potency of snakes.Another argument sometimes used is that of seeing silver in a pearl or that of a shell. If one has defective vision one could say that there is definitely silver in a shell or pearl.Silver is real and pearls and shells are also real, but when one's defect in vision isrestored one can actually see what is actual silver and what is pearls colouration (mother of pearl in shells). Again, the perception was true but it was due to a particular circumstance. A conclusion can be drawn at this point that the qualification of oneness indifferent objects can be seen according to the perception of the seer. As with the pearl or shell, one can grasp what is there partially or totally depending on one's vision. So thepracticality of discriminating in every day life proves that everything is not one, thoughdue to everything having it's roots in the Lord, and the changeable nature of things inthis material world one could say that, due to everything emanation from the Lord, it isone, but due to the practically unlimited varieties of temporary manifestations in theuniverse there has to be a qualification to the oneness, 'Visista adwaita', qualifiedoneness.There are three ways of understanding the truth, out of the three ways SripadRamanujacarya says, one must accept 'Sruti pramana', Vedic literature without doubt.'Anuman pramana', inference or reasoning can also be accepted if it falls in line with'Sruti', and 'pratyaksa pramana', sensual perception can also be accepted as anauthority in this matter if it falls in line with 'Sruti pramana'. Though 'anuman' and'pratyaksa' can be debated, Sruti must be accepted as absolute truth having come downfrom the Supreme Lord. This in essence is the summary of Sripad Ramanujacarya'sphilosophy of 'Visisthadwaita', everything being based on what the Lord has said or done.Sripad Ramanujacarya makes the statement in his Sri Bhasya commentary on VedantaSutra, "For those who accept God as the highest and ultimate reality, who has the power to create all of these unlimited universes whilst in a dreaming state lying in the KaranaOcean. Who is glorified through the Vedic literatures, who is omniscient and free from alldefects, and is full in all good qualities personified, having a body made of eternity,knowledge and bliss, to these fortunate Vaisnavas, what can be achieved or provensimply by dull witted argument, or blunt senses? The Supreme Personality of Godheadcreated all the universes for His own pleasure, and the tiny living entities (the Jivas) canenjoy in this world by serving the Lord or engage in their own selfish pursuits andbecome criminally entangled and further conditioned in the world of birth and death. TheLord gives results of one's actions through the contact of the senses and the objects of the senses, the result being happiness or distress. Due to the action the concomitantresult follows for a limited period of time.""Thus the distinction between experiences that are contradicted (like dreams) and thosethat are contradicting (like wakeful experiences) is a distinction between objects of thesenses that are experienced by everyone and those that are not (as in dreams)." This isan example of qualified oneness.(Sri Bhasya 1:1:1. 'opening verse'.).Sripad Ramanujacarya could not stand the way things were at the time, the so-calledreligion that was being practised, the cheating of priests ('Purohits') and the ignorantblind following of the people. Although he accepted the 'daivi varnashrama' system, itwas not solely based on birth rite, but on quality and qualification, 'guna' and 'karma'.Some guide lines he laid down were as follows:- That a devotee, or for that matter 

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