Ramanuja Sahasraabdi Commemorative Lecture 2018--2
LIFE OF SRI RAMANUJACHARYA
Sri Ramanuja (1017 - 1137 CE), is the most important philosopher-saint of Vaishnavism and is one of the most dynamic characters of Hinduism. He was a great philosopher as well as a social reformer, displaying a catholicity that was nearly unparalleled in Hindu religious history before him. He revitalized Indian philosophy and Hindu religion so much that nearly every aspect of Hinduism has been influenced by his work. His life and works show a truly unique personality, combining contemplative insight, logical acumen, catholicity, charismatic energy, and selfless dedication to God. After the wane of Buddhism if India rediscovered her Vedic spiritual Self with full vigor then the credit goes mostly to Ramanuja. He provided the love of God with an enduring philosophy, and philosophy with an abiding love of God. A traditionalist by conviction, he was none the less benign revolutionary who ventured to make creative departures from the beaten track for greater good of Mankind. Sri Ramanuja struggled hard to transform people and improve their life all over India. Although Ramanand and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not owe anything directly and precisely to Sri Ramanuja’s teachings or his works, we may not be far wrong in supposing that the Vaishnava Renaissance in North India was the result and product of dynamic propagation of this faith in South India--the holy home of the Trinity of Acharyas. Hindu Americans need such a revolutionary leader if Hinduism is to survive in a foreign soil, not to be devoured by the Abrahamic cultures, and to establish a culture based on Dharma for universal oneness and benefit of mankind. We need a Spiritual Renaissance based on Dharma.
HIS BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Ilaya Perumal was born to Kesava Perumal Somayaji Dikhsitar and Kanthimathi Ammal at Sriperumpudur. The month of birth and zodiac signs of the child was the same as those of two sons of Sumitra, Lakshmana and Satrughna and that day was 13th April 1017 AD, in English Calendar. Seeing the brilliance in the face, Periya Thirumalai Nambi named him after Lakshmana as Ilaya Perumal like Vasishtha named Rama’s brother. His birth as a savior saint of Vedanta was predicted in Hindu scriptures the most significant one being the one in Vriddha Padma Purana.
While still a boy, he lost his father and was living with his mother at Kanchipuram under the protection of one 'Tirukkachi Nambi'. This Nambi was believed to converse and was on 'speaking terms' with Lord Varadaraja deity in the Archa form.
Within 16 years of age, Ilaya Perumal had mastered all the Vedas and Sastras. At the age 17, he married Rakshakaambaal. Ilaya Perumal was placed under the Advaitic Sannyasi called YADAVA PRAKASA at Tirupput kuzhi for training in Advaita Purva Praksha Sastra of Vedanta. I believe Ramanuja was a Smarta by birth like Sankara!
Ilaya Perumal clashed oftenwith his Saivite Guru, when the Guru mis-interpreted Vedanta statements. Ilaya Perumal fearlessly pointed out the errors in the Guru's interpretations and tried to correct him. This enraged the Guru. Fearing that one day, Ilaya Perumal would swing his swan’s song to Advaita Philosophy, he plotted to kill Ilaya perumal by drowning him in Ganga while on a pilgrimage tour of the country with his disciples. Learning of the design through one Govinda, another disciple who was also related to him, Ilaya Perumal slipped out into the forest at dead of night. Miraculously, an aged hunter couple appeared and guided him. Ilaya Perumal who was in a trance, opened his eyes, and was surprised to find himself at the outskirts of Kanchipuram. The hunter couple had disappeared by then. With his esoteric mystic power it was not difficult for him to realize that it was Lord Varadaraja and Perundevi Thayar who had come in the guise of the hunter couple. He stayed at Kanchi for a while to assist Tiruk Kachi Nambi in his daily chores of service to Lord Varadaraja.
During one of his tours during this period, Alavandar who desired nominating Ilaya Perumal to succeed himself visited Tirupput-kuzhi, met with him, but had no opportunity to speak to him and had to return to Srirangam.
News came that Alavandar was very sick and he desired to meet with Ilaya Perumal. Just as Tirukkachi Nambi and Alavandar arrived, they saw the funeral procession of Alavandar. During the last rites, they noticed that three fingers of Alavandar remained folded signifying three of his last unfulfilled wishes. Ilaya Perumal often surprised people with his esoteric divine mystery power which he himself did not realize. Ilaya Perumal by virtue of his esoteric power had a clear vision about the parting message of Alavandar. He was moved with grief and instantly made the 3 promises: (I) that he would write a commentary on Veda Vyasa's Brahma Sutra (II) that he would perpetuate the memory of Vyasa and Parasara and (III) that he would strive to propagate Visishtadvaita on the lines of the 4000 Holy Postulations of Azhvars; the fingers unfolded one by one automatically and stretched out to normal position confirming that these were his last wishes. Since he could not meet with Alavandar, he returned to Kanchi without even going into the temple at Srirangam saddened and disheartened.
Tirukkachi Nambi passed on the famous 'Six divine Guide Lines' to Ilaya Perumal that helped for Ilaya Perumal in his work. They were: I) That Lord Narayana is the Paramatman; II) That the individual souls were different from Paramatman; III) That Prapatti (complete surrender of “I” and “mine” to God) is the means to attain salvation; IV) That the last remembrance of the Lord on the part of the departing soul was not necessary; V) That Moksha can be obtained only on laying off the mortal coils (Videha Mukti); and VI) That Ilaya Perumal should take refuge(Saranagati) at the feet of Periya Nambi.
Accordingly, he met with Periya Nambi at Madurantakam, where under the shade of Vakula tree Periya Nambi performed Pancha Samskara to him. The five Samskaras are Tapa, Pundra, Nama, Mantra and Yaaga. In Ramanuja concept Yaaga is referred as Archa. As he was initiated into the esoteric of Dvaya Mantra at Madurantakam, the place came to be known as "Dvayam Vilaindha Tiruppathi"-- Om Namo Narayanaaya; Sriman Narayana Charanam Saranam prapadye. Both returned to Srirangam and got busy in giving discourses to the disciples. Periya Nambi also affectionately called him "Namm-Udaiyavar" (He is ours).
Ilaya Perumal did not enjoy a happy married life. His wife never understood either his greatness nor appreciated his catholicity and always acted at her own wave-length and there was no compatibility between them. Several instances are cited wherein the lady encased in her own pet ideas of being holy and orthodox, showed scant respect to mentors and Gurus whom Ilaya Perumal respected and hosted them at his place irrespective of their caste or status. To him Bhaagavataseva was as equally important as Bhagavatseva! This negligence of duty of his wife towards his venerable guests greatly annoyed Ilaya Perumal. When he was about 30 years of age, Ilaya Perumal gave up family life and took to sainthood (Sannyasa) with the name of “Ramanuja Muni”. He was the king among Sannyasis. Hence, he is called “Yati Rajar”
The seat of Acharya at Srirangam was lying vacant for some time without a successor to take over. He was prevailed upon to assume charge. But, before doing so, he desire Guropadesa (Initiation) and wanted to equip himself with the secrets of the three great Mantras. For this purpose, he approached one "Tiruk Koshtiyur Nambi" who made him come several times before actually instructing him. He cautioned Ramanuja that he should not give out the secrets (rahasya traya) to all and sundry and if he did so, he would go to hell.
Immediately on receiving the instructions, Ramanuja climbed up to the top of the steeple of the temple and proclaimed to the large gathering of his disciples assembled there the purport of the instruction. The popular belief that he gave out the Mantras against the instruction of his Guru is not correct; what he actually gave out was that he had found out the way to attain Moksha through the three great Mantras and invited those who sincerely wished to follow him to get initiated. Also, he did not advise all and sundry as assumed by some. By that time, he had already gathered a huge following of disciples who congregated at the main entrance to the temple and he was thus addressing his own disciples only. Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi not knowing the facts was so enraged that he demanded an explanation for his mis-behavior. Ramanuja humbly submitted that he did not give out the secrets and even if he had transgressed the specific warning of the Guru by oversightin his enthusiasm, only he himself deserved to go to hell but the multitude of humanity that listened to his clarion ‘wake-up-call’ would be saved spiritually. The Guru was overwhelmed by this reply appreciating his generosity. Embracing Ramanuja appreciating his broad mindedness and concern towards his followers, he called him 'Emperumanar'- "O! My lord" and declared that Srivaishnavism would thenceforward be known as "Ramanuja Darsanam"- ' the Light of Ramanuja'
Yadava Prakasa, his old Guru had by then returned to Kanchi, became Ramanuja's disciple assuming the name of 'Govinda Yogi'. Ramanuja used to go round the streets for his alms. An evil minded fellow had mixed poison in the food material. His wife while serving the alms fell at Ramanuja’s feet with tears in her eyes. Ramanuja understood that there was something wrong. When the disciples sorted out the food materials for cooking, they found out that poison was mixed with it. Ramanuja went on a fast with a view to cleanse the mind of the evil-doer. On hearing this, Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi rushed all the way to Srirangam. When Ramanuja heard of the coming of his Guru, he rushed to the banks of River Kaveri to receive him. It was the height of summer. Ramanuja ran towards him in the hot Sun to receive him and fell down at his feet on the burning sands on the banks of river Kaveri in reverence. Nambi with his thought focused on something else, forgot to ask him to get up, so he did not get up too. Such was his devotion to Guru. At that time, Kidambi Aachaan, who was nearby told Nambi "Your action (in not asking Ramanuja to get up) is worse than the poison mixed in the alms" Such was the guru-bhakti of Ramanuja’s disciple! (Like master, like pupil!). Tirukkoshtiyur Nambi exclaimed, "After all, now I can cast off my physical body since I have found one who would take the greatest care of Ramanuja"
Ramanuja traveled throughout the country spreading the message of Visishtadvaita. Once a votary of the ' illusion theory' Yajna Murthi by name confronted him for 16 days in endless arguments and counter arguments. Finally, he accepted defeat and became a disciple of Ramanuja assuming the name of 'Arulala Perumal Emperumanar' and wrote 'Gnana Saram and Prameya Saram'.
One of the most important disciples who was totally devoted to Ramanuja was Kuresan also known as ' Kurattalvan'. Once, Kuresan conducted the shradda ceremony performed by the famous Tiruvarangathu Amudanar for his mother. This Amudanar was in charge of the Srirangam temple. When Amudanar asked what Kuresan desired as reward (dakshina) for his participation, Kuresan replied that the administration of the temple should be handed over to Ramanuja. Amudanar, who had already known the greatness of Ramanuja was only too glad to hand over the key to Ramanuja. It is this Tiruvarangattu Amudanar who subsequently wrote the Ramanuja Noorrantadhi of 108 verses which was included in the holy collects to make up the total of 4,000.
After Mastering the Bodhaayana Vritti of Sage Vyaasa, he wrote several works like Vedanta Sangraham explaining the various viewpoints of Sankara, Yadhava, Bhaskara and others, Vedanta Deepam, Geetha Bashyam etc. During Panguni Uttram, he did Prapatti before the Divya Dampathi in Serthi and submitted his famous Gadhyatrayam (comprising Saranagathi Gadhyam, Sriranga Gadhyam and Sri Vaikunta Gadhyam ), Later, he wrote a Grantha called Nityam detailing the Tiruvaradhana Kramam
While he was on his wanderings, it is believed that the Lord himself appeared before him at Tiruk Kurum Kudi disguised as a Srivaishnava, got Samasrayanam (Sanctification with Conch and Disc) from Udaiyavar. When he visited Sarasvati Peetam, Goddess Saraswati was so impressed with his commentary on Brahma Sutram that she named it "Sri Bhashyam" and conferred on him the title of "Bhashyakaarar". She was overwhelmed with his explanation of the Chandogya passage “kapyaasam pundareekam eva akshinee” to mean as a full blown Lotus which is bloomed by the rays of the Sun which Sankara explained as hinder parts of a monkey. It must be noted that while the other commentaries are known by the names of their authors like 'Sankara Bashyam' written by Aadhi Sankara, the commentary of Ramanuja is always referred to with the venerable honorific 'Sri' denoting its unsurpassed quality and clarity and known as ' Sri Bashyam'. All these showed Ramanuja was in direct touch with God. When he visited Tirumala, a miracle happened. Some argued that the Lord of Tirumalai was Saiva deity. It is strange that such a claim was made when the deity was being worshipped as Lord Vishnu by all the Azhvars and Acharyas besides Elango Adigal and other Tamil Pulavars by then for several centuries. This was because the Lord was not been seen with his customary insignia for He had earlier entrusted His insignia to a King called Tondamaan. The Lord desired to take back from Tondamaan, these insignia later viz., Sankhu, Tiruvaazhi, Soolam, Damarukam etc., later. These were brought back and placed in the Sannidhi the previous night. And, when the doors were opened the next morning, the Lord gave Darshan adorning all his insignia.
Ramanuja "was the greatest synoptic thinker which the world ever produced to systematize Visishtadvaitic philosophy, faithfully interpreting the ancient knowledge in tune with the letter and spirit of the text in the light of revelation and experience tested by stern logic"- says Hon'ble Justice K.S. Krishnaswami Iyengar of the High Court of Judicature, Madras.
His magnum opus is his wonderful commentary on Vedavyasa's Brahma Sutram and a simpler commentary thereon called Vedanta Saram. Kuresan was very helpful in publishing his works. Thus, he fulfilled his FIRST PROMISE to Alavandar. He asked Kuresan to name his two sons after Veda Vyasa and Parasara and thus fulfilled his SECOND PROMISE to Alavandar. It was this Parasara Bhattar who subsequently wrote the famous commentary on Vishnu Sahasra Nama as ordained by Ramanuja. Another disciple of Ramanuja was Pillaan. Once, when Ramanuja was alone mentally reciting a particular hymn of Tiruvoimozhi, Pillaan entered his room and inquired if he was meditating on that particular hymn. And, it was indeed the one Ramanuja was actually meditating on! Ramanuja decided that Pillaan was the person best suited to write a commentary on Tiruvoimozhi. As ordered, he wrote the famous 'AARAAYIRAPPADI' (the commentary known as the 6000 Padi also known as Bhagavad Vishayam) and called Pillaan as 'Tirukkurugai Piraan" after the name of Nammalwar. He was also known as Kurugesar Thozhappar. Thus, he fulfilled his THIRD PROMISE to Alavandar. He was one of the Sri Bhashya Ubhaya Simhasana Adhipathis.
Kulothunga Chola was a staunch devotee of Siva. He commanded Ramanuja to come to his court with a view to enlisting his support to establish the superiority of Siva over all other deities (including Vishnu). If the support was not forthcoming, the king was planning to kill Ramanuja. Sensing the danger, Kuresa went to the court disguised as Ramanuja along with another disciple called Periya Nambi. The king ordered him to sign a document to the effect that 'Siva is the greatest'. Kuresa added that ' Sivam was no doubt great but Dronam was greater than Sivam'- both expressions referring to units of measurement. The enraged king ordered both of them to be blinded when he came to know that he was Kuresa who was impersonating Ramanuja. Periya Nambi was tortured to death while Kuresa survived. Kuresa, though he himself was blinded, was happy that he had saved Ramanuja. It is this Kulothunga who is reported to have thrown away the idol of Govindaraja in the sea. Ramanuja recovered it and had it installed at Tirupati.
While on an itinerary, Ramanuja noticed an officer of state, by name Danur- daasa, a hunter by birth was over -concerned and over- protective about the beauty of his wife who was walking along on the hot sands on the banks of the river Kaveri. Ramanuja offered to show him something more beautiful than his wife and took him to the proximity of the image of Lord Ranganatha. Danurdaasa was enraptured by the charm of the Lord and became a close disciple of Ramanuja to the envy of his Brahmin disciples.
Millions of devotees of Ramanuja got attracted to Vaishnavism and he did not bar even low caste Hindus. When his orthodox disciples did not like Ramanuja leaning on a low caste disciple Dhanurdasa being a low caste hunter, Ramanuja clearly told them: “na jaatih kaaranam loke gunaa kalyaana hetavah”—know that it is the qualities of the head and heart which are the causes of good and not the caste. His strong advice to his disciples on caste was: “Relinquishing all your pride of caste, take pains to acquire good qualities. If caste becomes the mother of conceit, then there could not be more formidable foe. But if it saves you from evil, you cannot find a better friend”. Ramanuja never entertained any caste distinctions and was conferring his benedictions even on the lowest of the low whom he called 'Tiruk Kulattar' (Harijans).
Ramanuja went to Tiru Narayanapuram in search of white clay paste used for applying caste marks by Vaishnavites. The idol of the temple there had been taken away by the Muslim invaders and was being used at play as a doll by the Muslim princess in Delhi. Ramanuja went to Delhi and when he endearingly called ' Come on! My dear child 'Selva Pillaiye Vaarum', the idol miraculously came onto his lap. Ramanuja reinstalled it in the temple. Bringing back the image of Sampath Kumara from Delhi was not easy since the Sultan changed his mind and sent his army personnel to get it back. But for the help from the Untouchables this would not have been possible. Had they not carried the image all the way, Ramanuja might have fallen into the hands of The Emperor’s soldiery. Hence the Untouchables were given the right to enter the temple of Melkote for three days every year. More than eight centuries ago when Sri Ramanuja granted this right to Untouchables it was indeed a bold pioneering act of magnanimity. At present under article 17 of the Constitution of India Hindus irrespective of caste have equal rights to enter any public place of worship belonging to their religion, which act was passed only in 1955.
After he had finished writing Sri Bhashyam Ramanuja accompanied by seventy-four of his disciples set out on a campaign of conquest reforming many temple worships and introducing uniformly Pancharatra Agama mode of worship. Reaching Puri Jagannth he founded a monastery called Embar Math. Ramanuja requested priests of Lord Jagannatha to worship the Deity according to the Pancharatra Agama. When they refused to adopt any new doctrine he appealed to the king Chodaganaga who had by then become his strong disciple for arranging a discussion. Being frightened to face Ramanuja, the priests took refuge in Sri Purushottama who obliged to their prayers. Jagannatha had a different program for Ramanuja. It is said that, on that night, Ramanuja while asleep, he was carried away by Garuda to Kurmakshetra at Lord’s command, 900 miles away in Andhra Pradesh. Then he reformed worships in many temples of Andhra Pradesh.
Once, when he visited Tondanoor in Hoysala State, he happened to meet a Jain king called Bittideva. His daughter was possessed by an evil spirit and none could get rid of her predicament. When Ramanuja's Sri Paada Theertham (water consecrated by association with his feet) was sprinkled on her, she was cured of the devil. The King pleaded to be accepted as Ramanujas Sishya. Ramanuja accepted him as his disciple and named him "Vishnu Vardhana". Ramanuja nominated 74 Acharyas to succeed him. It is he who instituted the 13 day "iyal Goshti” in Srirangam.
Ramnuja gave 72 advices to his disciples with further ten advices before his departure from this mortal world emphasizing their role in preserving, observing and promoting Vishnu-Tattva taught by him. Ramanuja paid equal respect to Bhagavan (Vishnu), Bhagavatas (Vishnu devotees) and treated Bhaktas with equanimity irrespective of their caste, creed, status or knowledge. He dedicated his life to the service of mankind and their uplift with malice towards none. That is why Chinna Jeer called his Sahasrabdi commemorative statue as Statue of Equality!
HIS ASCENT TO PARAMAPADAM
With his head on the lap of Embar and his feet on the lap of Vaduga Nambi, Ramanuja breathed his last in 1137 AD listening to the recitation of the Divya Prabandam. Born in PINGALA year, he left for his heavenly abode also in PINGALA year that followed 120 years from the year of his Avatara. Thus, he lived TWO full cycles of 60 Tamil years after his birth. His actual date of demise is disputed. Some believe he lived up to 128 years.
His physical body is believed to be preserved even today in a sitting posture in the Sannidhi (Sanctum Sanctorum) dedicated to him on the southwest corner on the fifth round within the Srirangam temple as ordered by Lord Ranganatha himself. Even some Srivaishnavas are not aware that here in Srirangam, their holiest place hailed as ' Bhuloka Vaikuntam' (Heaven on Earth) lies preserved the body of Sri Ramanuja in all its pristine state unostentatiously, without any fanfare or publicity and without using any of the chemical preservatives employed by the Egyptianand Goan models.
It is not for me to question the authenticity of this mummy! I am not aware of any scientific study on it! Such a study can’t be forced also against the religious sentiments! History tells that Ramanuja took pity on the wailing disciples and ordered a stone image to be made and had the image properly bathed in the holy water of Kaveri and got it installed in a pedestal and then breathed his own powers to that by breathing into the crown of the head (Brahmarandhram samaaghraaya sarvasaktim tatra dattavaan—Prapannamritam LXVI-16),. Ramanuja said; “My children, this is my second half. There is no difference whatsoever between this and myself. Casting this worn-out body aside, here I go to reside in this new body”
An image of Ramanuja, after he shed his mortal coil, was consecrated in a shrine at the Tirumala temple. There is no other Acharya or Azhwar in `urcha form' at Tirumala.
Adisankara based on the Mahavakyas “Aham Brahmasmi”, “Tat Tvam asi” etc., came out with the firm conviction “Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithyam” and proclaimed, the Self in us is Paramatman, and the Paramatman is the only Truth and the whole world is unreal which is true once we leave the world and have no concern with it. Later, praying to Lord Visvanatha in Kasi he felt the difference between the Self in him and Paramatman and so in his Atma Bodha and his last composition Bhaja Govindam strongly recommended to all to meditate on Vishnu, the sustenance aspect of Paramatman as long as we have to live through Samsara in the present life. He had also thrown enough light on Vishnu-tattva (theology) in his commentaries on Upanishads. Ramanuja picked up the missing link from here and came out with his Tripartite Model of Chit (soul or Atman or Self), Achit (the Non-soul or Matter) and Iswara (Paramatman or Parabrahman (Narayana). He felt Avidya cannot act on Parabrahman directly, for He is Intelligence. Nor it can operate on Selfs for these are outcome of action of Avidya and cannot, therefore, be acted upon in anticipation. On account of these reasoning Ramanuja concluded that the theory of Maya or illusion is untenable and opposed to the spirit of Vedantasutra. As long as we are in Samsara the world is real and we have to deal with it. He drew strong support from Brahma sutras where the difference between Parabrahman and Atman are well defined and further substantiated by Upanishads and Gita. He therefore went deeper into the concept of Self and came to the conclusion that Parabrahman is Self of Selfs and is Antaryamin or innermost dweller.
Though Sankara silenced the Nastikavada of atheists and the Nehalists of Buddhism that threatened Hinduism during his times with his dominating philosophy of Advaita that the same Self is within all of us, his mind was not shut from further inquiry. But unfortunately he did not live long. It was left to Ramanuja to come out with his philosophy of Vishishtaadvaita to find answers to some of the doubts that bothered Sankara towards his end. Thus Vishishtadvaita is a progressive thinking and is not in conflict with Advaita. The word Vishishtaadvaita is rather diffcult to translate though we come across the meaning as Qualified Monism. This word is made up of three words: Vishesha, Isahta and Advaita. Otherwise why would Ramanuja call his philosophy as Enhanced (visesha) and Pleasing (ishta) Advaita (Non-Dualisam or Monism) or Vishishtadvita?
Ramanuja presented a religion of love and redemption through Bhakti and prayer rather than of knowledge to the common masses at large. By preaching this universal love of Vishnu, he brought to them such a God as they were yearning for. With approximately 550 million adherents, Vaishnavism is the most prominent faction within Hinduism today none like in the days of Sankara. In fact, recent statistics suggest that Vaishnavas make up approximately 70 percent of all Hindus with the vast majority of these followers situated in India. There is no Hindu who does not celebrate and enjoy festivals like Rama Navami, Krishna Jayanti and Deepavali all based on appreciation of Vishnu(sustenance aspect of Parabrahman) concept. In the past 50 years, the Gaudiya Vaishnava branch has increased the worldwide distribution of the tradition, largely through the activities of the ISKCON.
By his own compliance Ramanuja set an example of the conduct of an ideal disciple, as embodied in this dictum:
Sareeram vasu vijnaanam vaasah karmagunaanusoon | Gurvartham dhaarayet yastu sa sishyo netarah ssritah || (Prapannamritam xxvi 40-41)
None else but he who holds his body, wealth, knowledge, raiment, activities, merits and life for his Guru is a real disciple.
Those who are further interested in Vishishatadvaita philosophy are advised to go through my discourses published in the Blog Hindu Reflections: <nrsrini.blog spot.com>http://nrsrini.blogspot.com/2017/01/a-critical-study-of-self-and-supreme.html
How did Ramnuja conclude Parmaatman as Narayana and base his philosophy on Vishnu Tattva?
It calls for research on our part on our scriptures as to why Ramanuja went into deeper study of our scriptures for proper understanding of Advaita which means there is no other Principle to Devo Ekah. I have pleasure in bringing to your knowledge my own deep study with my limited knowledge. Perhaps you may come even with deeper and better study.
How didRamnuja conclude Parmaatman as Narayana and base his philosophy on Vishnu Tattva? His parting message to 74 Simhasnadhipatis also focuses solely on Vishnu- Bhakti. Here he had been guided by the divine message he received from Peria Nambi who got it direct from Lord Varadraja. The message of Lord Varadraja to Peria Nambi was:
1. I am the absolute Brahman, the cause of Prakriti which is the cause of the Universe.
2. O large-minded one, the distinction between Jiva and Isvara is axiomatic.
3. Self-surrender to Me is the only hope of liberation for those who strive after the final beatitude.
4. The liberation of My devotees, even though they fail to remember Me at the last moment of their life, is sure to take place.
5. As soon as My devotees give up their bodies, they attain the Supreme Object.
6. Take refuge in Mahatma Mahapurna who is endowed with all virtues. Go soon to Ramanuja and tell him what I have told you. (Prapannamritam x 66, 67, 68, 69)
Guided by the above divine message Ranmanuja studied Brahmasutras of Vedavyas that he got from Kashmir, Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Bhagvad Gita and then came to the above conclusion. Since he was a Smarta like Sankara and also a renowned scholar in Advaita Philosophy studied under the famous Guru Yadavaprakasa, he should have been very much influenced by Bhajagovindam which was the last composition of Sankaracharya as this text had been completed by two of his successors. Unlike their contemporaries who had sectarian views both Ramanuja and Sankara were broad minded. I do not know whether Ramanuja has made any specific reference to the scriptural texts I have cited below but from I own general reading they are quite substantial and authoritative. Also I have not also quoted all references I had given in my discourse on The Self and The Supreme. I also strongly believe that I do not owe further explanation as these quotes from our scriptures and their explanation are self-explanatory.
Adi Sankara declared in unequivocal terms what is to be chanted and what is to be meditated upon always ‑ it is Bhagavad Gita that should be chanted and it is the divine form of the consort of Lakshmi that should be constantly meditated upon:
“GEyam Gitaa naama sahasram; DhyEyam Sripathi Roopamajasram" Bhaja Govinda--27
Sankara further says that this is the way to achieve what he calls "Vishnutvam" (ultimate self) because Vishnu is the only reality that is 'within you, within me and elsewhere.
Tvayi Mayi Sarvatra EkO Vishnuh" and Sama chittah Sarvatra Tvam vanchasya chirath yadi 'vishnutvam--Bhaja.Govindam. Verses 24 and 25.
This is because he was a great Scholar who knew what he was saying and said it candidly without any bias or prejudice
Vedavyasa is the editor, author and compiler of all Puranas. He is also a minor avatar of Vishnu. All the four Vedas compiled by him start with “Hari Om”
1. Harih Om! AgnimeeLE purohitam! yagjnasya dEvam ritvijam hOtaram ratna dhatamam! Harih Om! (Rig VBeda)
2. Harih Om! Eeshetva urjetva! vaayavastha upaayavasth Devovah savita! Prarpayatu sreshta tamaya karmaNe! Harih Om! (Yajur Veda)
3. Harih Om! Agna ayaahi veetaye! GriNano havya dhaathaye! Nihotaa satsi Barhishi! Harih Om!(Samaveda)
4. Harih Om! SannO deveer abeeshTaye! Apo bavantu Peethay Samyor abhisravanthu nah! Harih Om! (Athrva Veda)
In our 16-step worship we always chant the Rigveda Mantra:
Tad Vishnoh Paramam Padam Sadaa Pasyanti Soorayah Diveeva Chakshur-aathatham / Tad Vipraaso Vipanyavo Jagruvaamsa Samindate / Vishnor yad Paramam Padam //
The Nityasuris (Liberated souls) with eyes wide open enjoy Lord Vishnu's divine form happily. These great and wise Nityasuris are also proficient in praising the Lord endowed with supreme knowledge they are ever vigilant"
Rigveda also states--From Narayana was born Brahma; From Narayana was born Rudra--
Narayanaat Brahma JaayatE / Narayanaat RudrO JaayatE
Purushasooktam from Yajurveda Taitaareeya Aranyakam says that Paramatma is the one who has Mother Earth and Mother Mahalakshmi as his consorts. This is applicable only to Lord Narayana.
Hrees cha Te Lakshmis Cha Patnyou"
Narayanah param brahma tattvam narayanah parah | (Narayanopanishad Taittareeya)
Narayan is the Supreme Brahman. He is the ultimate Reality.
Eko vai narayana aaseet | na brahma na eesaano neme dyavaaprithivee na nakshatraani naapo naagnir na yamo na saooryah ||
Narayyana alone was. Then none of Brahma, Siva, Earth, Sky, Stars, Water, Fire, Yama, or Sun was there--Mahopanishad 2.
Narayan is the Supreme Brahman. He is the ultimate Reality.
Eko vai narayana aaseet | na brahma na eesaano neme dyavaaprithivee na nakshatraani naapo naagnir na yamo na saooryah ||
Narayyana alone was. Then none of Brahma, Siva, Earth, Sky, Stars, Water, Fire, Yama, or Sun was there--Mahopanishad 2.
Epic Ramayana advocates worship of Vishnu only as Rishabha and Jagannatha and not Rudra, Durga and Navagrahas as some think. There is no mention of these deities other than Vishnu in Valmiki Ramayana.
Rama in his parting advice to Vibhishana advises him to do Jagannatha Aradhana in Uttara Kanda as follows: In Sarga 108, Slokas 30-31 he said to Vibhishana: “Rakshasendra Mahaa bala! Aaraadhaya Jagannaatham Ikshvaaku Kuladaivatam | Aaraadhaneeyamanisam devairapi savaasavaih ||”—O mighty Rakshasa King! Worship Lord Jagannatha the presiding deity of Ikshvaaku dynasty. He (Vishnu) is to be worshiped even by the Devas (divines) together with Indra”.
Valmiki says in the last chapter of Uttara Khanda Sloka 10 : “Ayodhyaapi Puree ramyaa soonyaa varshaganaan bahoon| Rishabham praapya Rajaqnam nivaasamupaayaasyati || The beautiful Ayodhya remaining desolate for long years, will become habitable again having secured the protection of King Rishabha. Rishabha is an incarnation of Vishnu acceptable to both Jains and Hindus. Rishabha was the first Teerthankara.
Vedavyas is also the author of Mahaabhaarata and 17 other Puranas:
He begins the epic Mahabharat with an invocation first and foremost only to SRI NARAYANA (which we usually sing in the introductory portion of Vishrusahasranama) thus:
Narayanam Namaskritya naram chaiva narottamam | Deveem Sarasvatim vaacham tatho jayam udhirayeth
And, he concludes the epic with the Sloka that says that ONLY SRI NARAYANA should be meditated upon ALWAYS. Why because Nartayana is Paramatman.
To dispel any doubts as to the statement being a superficial conjecture, he affirms with all the force at his command that only after making a thorough research of all the Saastras and only after great deliberation and discussions with knowledgeable persons that he had arrived at this unassailable and irrefutable conclusion thus:
Aalodya sarva saastrani vichaarya cha punar punah | Idamekam sunishpannam Dhyeyo narayanas sadaa ||
Mahabharata says at the time of deluge, everything disappears but there is only one that remains‑ -the one that is the ATMA of all Atmas and that is Sri NARAYANA thus:
Aabutha samplavE praaptE pralinE prakritou mahaan | Ekah thishtathi visvaatma sa thu narayana prabhu (Shanti Parva 210.24)
Esha Daatha Vidhaata Cha SarvEshaam PraaNinaam Prabhu Param Hi Pundarikaakshath Na Bhutam Na Bhavishyat (Mahabharata Bhisma Parva 67-18)
VASUDEVA is the greatest Soul; He is the supreme; He is the God of all Gods. There is none greater than him. He is the creator of all beings; the one who decides their destiny. There was not nor ever will be any God higher than VASUDEVA, PUNDARIKAKSHA (another name of Lord Narayana)
MAHA BHARATA (Saanti Parva 355.41) and DAKSHASMRITI explain how all performances in accordance with Saastras reach Sri Vishnu:
Rites performed as prescribed in the Saastras invoking the Manes, Divinities, Brahmins or the Fire God‑ all these performances reach ONLY Lord Vishnu since he is the indweller of all these entities.
Ye Bhajanti (Yajanti) Pitroon Devaan Brahmanaan Sa Hutasanath | Sarva Bhuta Antar Aatmaanam VishnumEva Bhajanti (Yajanti) te ||
In MAHABHARATA Sage Vyaasa says:
"Brahma, Nilakanta (Siva), Indra and other devatas are not worshipped by the discreet because they can grant only trivial, temporary worldly benefits and definitely not Moksha‑ which can be granted only by Sri Narayana.
Brahmam sithikanTam cha yaascha anyaahh devata smrutah | Prati buddhah Na SEvantE yasmaat parimitham phalam || (Saanti Parva350.36)