swastika 108

 

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God is not a dictator. He is not an autocratic ruler of this world.
He is your loving father, kind mother and Immortal friend.

Swami Sivananda

Origin and Glory
The earliest work in Sanskrit on Vedanta of the highest order is the Vasishtha Maha Ramayana or Yoga Vasishtha. This monumental work is one without a second in Sanskrit literature. Vasishtha, the great sage, taught the principles of Vedanta to his royal pupil, Sri Rama, the victor of Ravana and hero of the epic, Ramayana. He narrated beautiful and interesting stories to illustrate the principles. The book is written in the language of Valmiki.

It is the crest-jewel of all the works on Vedanta. It is a masterpiece. A study of the book raises a man to the lofty heights of divine splendour and bliss. It is really a vast store of wisdom. Those who practise Atma Chintana or Brahma Abhyasa or Vedantic meditation will find a priceless treasure in this marvellous book. He who studies the book with great interest and one-pointedness of mind cannot go without attaining Self-realisation. The practical hints on Sadhana are unique. Even the most worldly-minded man will become dispassionate and will attain peace of mind, solace and consolation.

The Yoga Vasishtha was once one of the most widely read books in India. It greatly influenced the general philosophical thought. The late Pundit Brindawana Saraswati of Benares had read the Yoga Vasishtha one hundred and sixty-five times. It is a comprehensive, deep, systematic and literary philosophical work of ancient India.

The name is derived from the sage Vasishtha. Though the book is called Yoga Vasishtha, it treats of Jnana only. Practical Yoga is dealt with in two stories. The word “Yoga” is used in the title of this work in its generic sense. It is known by the name Jnana Vasishtham also.

Rishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, compiled this remarkable book. He related the whole of Yoga Vasishtha to Rishi Bharadwaja as it passed between Sri Rama and sage Vasishtha.

There are two books, namely, the Brihat Yoga Vasishtha and the Laghu Yoga Vasishtha. The former is a big book containing 32,000 Granthas or Slokas or 64,000 lines. “Brihat” means big. The latter book contains 6,000 Granthas. “Laghu” means small.

The Yoga Vasishtha contains a system of ancient philosophical thought unique in its kind. This is a valuable heritage from the hoary past of this sacred land known as Bharatavarsha or Aryavarta. The system of thought that is presented in this book is a highly valuable contribution not only to Indian philosophical thought but also to the philosophical thought of the world at large.

Those whose minds are turned from this world, who have become indifferent towards the objects of this world and who are thirsting for liberation, will be really benefited by a study of this precious book. They will find in this book a vast mine of knowledge and practical spiritual instructions for guidance in their daily life. The Yoga Vasishtha first enunciates a doctrine in its various aspects and then makes it very lucid through interesting stories. This is a book for constant study as many times as possible. It must be read and re-read, studied and mastered.

The Yoga Vasishtha deals with the subject of effecting union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul amidst all the trials and tribulations of life. It prescribes various directions for the union of the Jivatman and Paramatman.

The nature of Brahman or Sat and the various methods of attaining Self-realisation are vividly described in this book. The main enquiry regarding the final beatitude or summum bonum is beautifully dealt with. This book embodies in itself the science of ontology, the knowledge of the Self, the principles of psychology, the science of emotions, the tenets of ethics and practical morality, discourses on theology, etc. The philosophy of Yoga Vasishtha is sublime. Read the rest of this entry »

The world’s most extraordinary book of practical philosophical idealism of India is Yoga-Vasishtha*.
The gist of this work is this:
“The non-dual Brahman or the immortal soul alone exists. This universe as universe is not. Knowledge of the Self alone will free one from this round of births and deaths. Extinction of thoughts and Vasanas is Moksha. Expansion of mind alone is Sankalpa. Sankalpa or thought, through its power of differentiation generates this universe. This world is a play of the mind. This world does not exist in the three periods of time. Extinction of Sankalpas is Moksha. Annihilate this little ‘I’, Vasanas, Sankalpas, thoughts. Meditate on the Self and become a Jivanmukta.”

Swami Sivananda

See The Yoga Vasishtha

* Here you can download the Yoga Vasishtha Laghu

Om Suryam sundarlokanathamamritam vedantasaram sivam,
Jnanam brahmamayam suresamamalam lokaikochittam svayam; Indradityanaradhipam suragurum trailokyachudamanim, Brahmavishnusivasvarupahridayam vande sada bhaskaram.

I always adore Surya, the sun, the beautiful Lord of the world, the immortal, the quintessence of the Vedanta, the auspicious, the absolute knowledge, of the form of Brahman, the Lord of the gods, ever-pure, the one true consciousness of the world himself, the Lord of Indra, the gods and men, the preceptor of the gods, the crest-jewel of the three worlds, the very heart of the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the giver of light.

Sivananda

It is said that the Buddha prophesied that someone would come after him who would clear up any confusion regarding Buddha-dharma. Nagarjuna is considered to be that person. Often called The Second Buddha, Arya [noble] Nagarjuna (2nd century CE) was from a wealthy South Indian Brahmin family. He is considered a terton (hidden-text revealer) as well as a philosopher.

Nagarjuna is sometimes called the First of “The Six Scholarly Ornaments,” a group that also includes Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, and Dharmakirti.

Two groups of texts are attributed to him. The Collections of Reasonings gives the Buddha’s intentions in Turning the Wheel of Dharma for a Second Time. The Collection of Praises concerns the Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso explains that in it we come to understand via meditation that the dharmadhatu and our own Buddha potential are the same.

Elegant Sayings of Nagarjuna, w. comments by the Sakya Pandita.

The Legend of His Name
While he was seated by a lake one day, a naga came from the depths and invited him to Potala to teach the serpentine water spirits. As a parting gift, they presented him with the 12 volumes known as the Prajnaparamita Sutra. (This teaching had been entrusted to them by Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin.)

He is best known for his explanation of the term shunyata (Emptiness, or Open-ness) that is developed in that treatise. The volumes are kept today still, in a temple dedicated to him in Kathmandu.

In those days, there was a terrible famine in the land that grievously affected the monks, for they were supported only by the surrounding community’s generosity. Nagarjuna is said to have gone to a distant planet and returned with a Philosopher’s Stone that could turn base metals into gold. With the profit he earned from that enterprise he supported the monastery for six years, but when the monks learned that he had broken a major precept by handling gold, they expelled him.

When Nagarjuna left the monastery, he went to live in the forest where he mastered all the accomplishments of the yogi. He could make detailed mandalas, prepare the ingredients for the finest incense, and practice astrology. He is believed to have encountered, and having attained the highest siddhis, subdued yakshas, ghouls and vampires.

He is also said to have found a copper casket containing the text of the Hayagriva tantra, in the Shankarakuta stupa at the Sitavana charnel ground near Bodhgaya. He is also known for his revelation of the Green Tara practice.

He established and built many temples and stupas with special clay he had received from the nagas.

The Teacher
As a philosopher and exponent of the Middle Way (Madhyamika philosophy) Nagarjuna gave many teachings, had hundreds of disciples and won many debates. He not only explained the more abstract principles of the Buddha’s doctrine, but also poignantly presented the more mundane:

    “Whoever is born has to die; whoever are together have to separate; whatever is saved has to be used; whatever is created is impermanent. So do not be upset over these laws of nature.”

He warned against wrong interpretations, saying:

    “The Conqueror [Buddha] taught openness [sunyata: emptiness] as the refutation of all [any] views. But those who hold openness as a view are called irremediable.”

And

    “Openness [sunyata] wrongly conceived destroys the dimly witted. It is like a snake grasped by the head, or a garbled incantation.”

~ Nagarjuna (MK 13: 8 and 24:11 in McCagney, Nancy. Nagarjuna and the Philosophy of Openness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.)

Verses From the Centre (Mula-madhyamaka-karika) trans. S. Batchelor.

Legends of His Death
According to legend, he spent the last part of life in meditation at Shri Pravarta mountain in South India. His reputation for selflessness was so great that it is said that when his opponents wished his death because they never could best him in an argument, he offered to cooperate. (They were powerless to do him any physical harm.)

Nagarjuna revealed that one of the debaters had been an ant in a previous life, and was accidentally killed by Nagarjuna with a blade of kusha grass. This person — the only being who could harm him in return — now had the power to kill him which he did, using only a stalk of that same kusha grass.

Aryadeva, the second of The Six Ornaments, continued his teaching traditions. Nagarjuna’s remains, with the exception of his head, are said to be preserved at Shri Pravarta.

Nagarjuna’s head that was severed by a blade of kusha grass is kept in this walled-enclosure, guarded by the tiger on its door, that is a part of the Swayambhu complex.

Nagarjun, [ancient case suffixes are dropped in Hindi and other contemporary languages] as he is called in India and Nepal, is believed by Nepalis to have retired to Nagarjun Mountain near Katmandu.

A person with a similar name was the abbot of Nalanda, the great Buddhist monastic university near Bodhgaya, since there is no evidence that the institution was founded before the third century CE. There was also an alchemist by that name who may also have become identified with the great teacher Nagarjuna. Therefore there is wide disagreement as to how long Nagarjuna lived, with estimates as high as 300 years. The Chinese believe that he visited and taught there. Also, he is credited by Japanese Buddhists with having taught the complete path of reliance on Amitabha.

In any case, teachings attributed to Nagarjuna are today still widely followed in all the countries where Mahayana Buddhism is practiced.

Named for Acharya [master-teacher] Nagarjuna, Nagarjuna Sagar is a place 150 kms. from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is where the Mahachaitya, most sacred of stupas [Tib. chorten] is located. The Brahmi inscription states it contains relics of the Buddha.

Misconception and Misconstrual

Misconception
About Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika, A. Charles Muller of Toyo Gakuen University says:

“Nagarjuna (c.150-250 CE) … realized at a profound level the difficulties of carrying out Buddhist discourse in the medium of language, and the degree of attachment that could occur with even such subtle concepts as shunyata. Therefore he endeavored to prevent people from falling into the error of attaching to Emptiness as a “something” or as “non-existence.”

He made his project an exercise in consciousness that sought to free people from being limited in thought by the linguistic options of “this or that” and “existence or non-existence.” He did this by taking Buddhist philosophical terms and putting them into his formula of “neither x nor not-x.” According to this formula, existence is “neither empty nor not empty,” “neither samsara nor nirvana.” Nagarjuna’s teachings are not something new ontologically speaking, but were developments toward a more advanced logical form that can be seen in his Madhyamaka-karikas.

In these texts, he strove to stop the reification of the concept of emptiness by: (1) stressing the non-difference between emptiness and dependent origination; (2) by emphasizing the understanding of emptiness as a mental attitude which pays attention to the non-attachment to concepts and theories. That is, emptiness should not be made into a theory to be clung to (as are other philosophical and religious doctrines). According to Nagarjuna, he who does so is like “a customer to whom a merchant has said that he has nothing to sell and the customer now asks to buy this ‘nothing’ and carry it home.”

For Nagarjuna, emptiness should not be interpreted ontologically, but rather in the way of the parable of the raft: The Buddhist teaching (especially shunyata), is like the raft one constructs for the crossing of a river. Once the river is crossed, the purpose of the raft has been served. It may now be discarded.

The same is true of emptiness: it should not be held on to; one who does hold on to it will have trouble functioning in life. In this sense, emptiness could also be compared to a laxative: once the obstruction has passed, there is no need to continue taking it. Nagarjuna wrote extensively, and his teachings resulted in the formation of an Indian school called Madhyamika or the “Middle Way School.”

This school was later transmitted to China [as] San-lun Tsung (School of the Three Treatises) where, although it died out as an independent sect, had great influence on the formation of Chinese Buddhist philosophy.”

~ Madhyamika: The Teaching of the Middle Way at Toyo Gakuen University, Japan. (9/2/1998 link to Zen Buddhism Electronic forum is no longer available in 2009 but on the University web site, A. C. Muller is still listed among the staff.

Progressive Misinterpretation
Andrew Tuck, in an inquiry into the philosophy of scholarship, charts three phases in the sequence of views of Western-trained scholars concerning interpretation of Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way:

“A classic is a classic because it engenders multiple meanings. The most lasting truths are found in the least reductive configurations of the largest possible number of conflicting interpretations. In other words, the most useful interpretation may well be one that takes into account as many previous interpretations as possible and attempts to disclose the ways in which these earlier readings made sense, both to the interpretative scholar and to his or her readers . . . .

Every reading of a text–including, of course, the most carefully contextualized and historicized readings–will, in some ways, be unavoidably determined by some set of prejudgments. The choice is, therefore, not between good readings, undetermined by irrelevant considerations, and bad readings, rendered inaccurate by interpretive prejudice. The choice between one reading and an even better reading is a difference in degree and not in kind.

Within any set of rules for what counts as a desirable interpretation, choices between more and less preferable readings of texts can and will be made. And a study such as this suggests that our conventionally agreed-on rules of interpretation–the rules that tell us what is relevant, and what sorts of judgments are harmfully prejudiced–are anything but constant. Our preferences in regard to what constitutes a good interpretation are just as determined as our readings themselves… . Nagarjuna’s celebrated warnings about the perils of wrongly understanding sunyata [… ] or holding this non-position as if it constituted a philosophical view in itself (“Those for whom sunyata is itself a theory, I call incurable.” ch. 13, v. 8) thus become doubly important in the new Western climate of skepticism about philosophical theorizing.

Nagarjuna … did not intend to substitute his theory for those of his opponents. His only intention…was to cure others of the philosophical illness … . Nagarjuna was convinced, as a Buddhist, that the salvation of all living beings was at issue … .

This study offers neither an indictment of the comparative enterprise nor a suggestion that any new interpretive perspective…will offer anything like a ‘final and infallible,’ or even a wholly satisfying, interpretation. A new interpretation is often a response to a new set of critical concerns, not a solution to a formerly unsolved or poorly solved puzzle.

Looked at in this way, the post-Wittgensteinian [Western philosopher,1889 – 1951] fondness for Madhyamika Buddhism is not less determined by contemporary trends than was the late-nineteenth-century fascination with Advaita Vedanta [a Hindu school of non-dualism]. What we do seem to have is a collection of intelligent misreadings, and that may be enough … . We should not be surprised that interpretation is not an exact science. After all, translation is not an exact science. Science is not an exact science.”

~ Tuck, Andrew P. Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship: On the Western Interpretation of Nagarjuna. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. (v-vii, 92, 99-100.)

Tuck cites (mainly) the Introductions of:

Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika. Oxford U P, 1995.

Inada, Kenneth. Nagarjuna: A Translation of his Mulamadhyamakakarika. Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1970.

Sprung, Mervyn. Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way. Boulder: Prajna Press, 1979.

Streng, Frederick J. Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967.

Wayman, Alex. “The Tathagata chapter of Nagarjuna’s Mula-Madhyamaka-karika.” Philosophy East and West 38.1 (Jan. 1988)

Source: Khandro

See Nagarjuna I

 nagarjuna-buddhist-yogi

Biography of Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna (Klu-grub), together with Asanga (Thogs-med), were the two great pioneers of the Mahayana tradition. Nagarjuna transmitted the lineage teachings of the profound view of voidness from Manjushri, while Asanga transmitted the lineage teachings of the extensive bodhisattva practices from Maitreya.

Nagarjuna was born into a brahmin family probably around the mid-second century C.E. in South India in Vidarbha, a kingdom lying in present-day Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. He was predicted in various sutras, such as The Descent into Lanka Sutra (Lan-kar gshegs-pa’i mdo, Skt. Lankavatara Sutra). At birth, a soothsayer predicted he would live only seven days, but if his parents made offerings to a hundred monks, he could live to be seven years old. Fearing for his life, at age seven, his parents sent Nagarjuna to Nalanda Monastic University in North India, where he met the Buddhist master Saraha. Saraha told him that if he became a renunciate and recited the Amitabha mantra, he would lead a long life. Nagarjuna did so and then joined the monastery, receiving the name “Shrimanta.”

At Nalanda, Nagarjuna studied sutra and tantra with Ratnamati – an emanation of Manjushri – and, with Saraha, especially The Guhyasamaja Tantra (dPal gsang-ba ‘dus-pa’i rgyud). In addition, he learned alchemy from a brahmin, and gained the ability to transmute iron into gold. Using this ability, he was able to feed the Nalanda monks during famine. Eventually, Nagarjuna became the abbot of Nalanda. There, he expelled eight thousand monks who were not keeping the vinaya monastic rules of discipline properly. He also defeated five hundred non-Buddhists in debate.

Two youths, who were emanations of the sons of the naga king, came to Nalanda. They had about them the natural fragrance of sandalwood. Nagarjuna asked how this was so and they confessed to him who they were. Nagarjuna then asked for sandalwood scent for a statue of Tara and the nagas’ help in constructing temples. They returned to the naga realm and asked their father, who said he could help only if Nagarjuna came to their realm beneath the sea to teach them. Nagarjuna went, made many offerings, and taught the nagas.

Nagarjuna had known that the nagas had The Hundred Thousand Verse Prajnaparamita Sutra (Shes-rab-kyi pha-rol-tu phyin-pa stong-pa brgya-pa, Skt. Shatasahasrika-prajnaparamita Sutra) and requested a copy. When Buddha had taught Prajnaparamita, far-reaching discriminating awareness (the perfection of wisdom), the nagas had taken one version of it back to their realm for safekeeping, the gods another, and the yaksha lords of wealth yet another. Nagarjuna brought back the hundred thousand verse version, although the nagas kept the last two chapters to ensure that he would return and teach them further. Later, the last two chapters were filled in with the last two chapters of The Eight Thousand Verse Prajnaparamita Sutra (Shes-rab-kyi pha-rol-tu phyin-pa brgyad stong-pa, Skt. Ashtasahasrika-prajnaparamita Sutra) . This is why the last two chapters of these two recensions are the same. Nagarjuna also brought back naga clay and built many temples and stupas with it.

Once, when Nagarjuna was teaching Prajnaparamita, six nagas came and formed an umbrella over his head to protect him from the sun. Because of this, the iconographic representation of Nagarjuna has the six nagas over his head. From this event, he got the name Naga. And from the fact that his skill in teaching Dharma went straight to the point, like the arrows of the famous archer Arjuna (the name of the hero in the Hindu classic, Bhagavad Gita), he got the name Arjuna. Thus, he became called “Nagarjuna.”

Nagarjuna later traveled to the Northern Island (Northern Continent) to teach. On the way, he met some children playing on the road. He prophesied that one of them, named Jetaka, would become a king. When Nagarjuna returned from the Northern Island, the boy had in fact grown up and become the king of a large kingdom in South India. Nagarjuna stayed with him for three years, teaching him, and then spent his last years elsewhere in his kingdom, at Shri Parvata, the holy mountain overlooking modern-day Nagarjunakonda. Nagarjuna wrote for the King A Precious Garland (Rin-chen ‘phreng-ba, Skt. Ratnavali). This was the same king to whom Nagarjuna wrote A Letter to a Friend (bShes-pa’i spring-yig, Skt. Suhrllekha), namely King Udayibhadra (bDe-spyod bzang-po).

Some Western scholars identify King Udayibhadra with King Gautamiputra Shatakarni (ruled 106 – 130 C.E.) of the Shatavahana Dynasty (230 B.C.E. – 199 C.E.) in present-day Andhra Pradesh. Some identify him with the next king, Vashishtiputra Pulumayi (130 – 158 C.E.). It is difficult to identify him exactly. The Shatavahanas were patrons of the stupa in Amaravati, where Buddha had first taught The Kalachakra Tantra and which was close to Shri Parvata.

King Udayibhadra had a son, Kumara Shaktiman, who wanted to become king. His mother told him that he could never become king until Nagarjuna died, since Nagarjuna and the King have the same lifespan. His mother said to ask Nagarjuna for his head and since Nagarjuna was so compassionate, he would undoubtedly agree to give it to him. Nagarjuna did in fact agree, but Kumara could not cut his head off with a sword. Nagarjuna said in a previous life, he had killed an ant while cutting grass. As a karmic result, his head could only be cut off with a blade of kusha grass. Kumara did this and Nagarjuna died. The blood from the severed head turned into milk and the head said, “Now I will go to Sukhavati Pure Land, but I will enter this body again.” Kumara took the head far away from the body, but it is said that the head and the body are coming closer together each year. When they join, Nagarjuna will return and teach again. All in all, Nagarjuna lived six hundred years.

Among the many texts on sutra topics that Nagarjuna wrote are his Collections of Reasoning (Rigs-pa’i tshogs), Collections of Praises (bsTod-pa’i tshogs), and Collections of Didactic Explanations (gTam-pa’i tshogs).

The Six Collections of Reasoning (Rigs-tshogs drug) are:

    Root Verses on Madhyamaka, called “Discriminating Awareness” (dBu-ma rtsa-ba shes-rab, Skt. Prajna-nama- mulamadhyamaka-karika),
    Precious Garland (Rin-chen ‘phreng-ba, Skt. Ratnavali),
    Refutation of Objections (rTsod-pa zlog-pa, Skt. Vigrahavyavarti).
    Seventy Verses on Voidness (sTong-nyid bdun-bcu-pa, Skt. Shunyatasaptati),
    Sutra Called “Finely Woven” (Zhib-mo rnam-‘thag zhes-bya-ba’i mdo, Skt. Vaidalya-sutra-nama),
    Sixty Verses of Reasoning (Rigs-pa drug-cu-pa, Skt. Yuktishashtika),

Included among his Collections of Praise are:

    Praise to the Sphere of Reality (Chos-dbyings bstod-pa, Skt. Dharmadhatu-stava),
    Praise to the Deepest Truth (Don-dam-par bstod-pa, Skt. Paramartha-stava),
    Praise to the Supramundane (Buddha) (‘ Jig-rten-las ‘das-par bstod-pa, Skt. Lokatita-stava).

Included among Nagarjuna’s Collections of Didactic Explanations are:

    A Commentary on (the Two) Bodhichittas (Byang-chub sems-kyi ‘grel-ba, Skt. Bodhichittavivarana),
    Anthology of Sutras (mDo kun-las btus-pa, Skt. Sutrasamuccaya),
    Letter to a Friend (bShes-pa’i spring-yig, Skt. Suhrllekha).

Also attributed to Nagarjuna are several two commentaries to The Guhyasamaja Tantra, including:

    Abbreviated Means for Actualization (sGrub-thabs mdor-byas, Skt. Pindikrta-sadhana),
    Method for Meditating on the Generation Stage of the Mahayoga Tantra Guhyasamaja Mixed with Its Textual (Sources) (rNal-‘byor chen-po’i rgyud dpal gsang-ba ‘dus-pa’i bskyed-pa’i rim-pa’i bsgom-pa’I thabs mdo-dang bsres-pa, Mdo-bsres, Skt. Shri-guhyasamaja-mahayogatantra-utpattikrama-sadhana-sutra- melapaka).
    The Five Stage (Complete Stage) (Rim-pa lnga-pa, Skt. Pancakrama).

Nagarjuna’s most famous disciple was Aryadeva (‘ Phags-pa lha), author of Four Hundred Verse Treatise on the Actions of a Bodhisattva’s Yoga (Byang-chub sems-dpa’i rnal-‘byor spyod-pa bzhi-brgya-pa’i bstan-bcos kyi tshig-le’ur byas-pa, Skt. Bodhisattvayogacarya-catu:shatakashastra-karika) and several commentaries on The Guhyasamaja Tantra.

Alexander Berzin

See Nagarjuna II

Here you can see 200 Ganesha pictures

ramanuja

In the year 1017 A.D., Ramanuja was born in the village of Perumbudur, about twenty-five miles west of Madras. His father was Kesava Somayaji and his mother was Kantimathi, a very pious and virtuous lady.

Ramanuja’s Tamil name was Ilaya Perumal. Quite early in life, Ramanuja lost his father. Then he came to Kancheepuram to prosecute his study of the Vedas under one Yadavaprakasha, a teacher of Advaita philosophy.

Ramanuja was a very brilliant student. Yadavaprakasha’s interpretations of Vedic texts were not quite up to his satisfaction. Ramanuja pointed out many mistakes in the exposition of his master. Sometimes he gave his own interpretations which were much liked by all the co-students. This made Yadavaprakasha very jealous of Ramanuja.

Yadavaprakasha made a plan to take away the life of Ramanuja. He arranged for Ramanuja and his cousin Govinda Bhatta–a fellow student–a pilgrimage to Varanasi. Govinda Bhatta, being a favourite student of Yadavaprakasha, came to know of the latter’s plan while they were travelling. He at once apprised Ramanuja of the danger and helped him to escape. By the grace of God, Ramanuja escaped with the help of a hunter and his wife whom he accidentally met on the way.

About the end of the tenth century, the Visishtadvaita system of philosophy was well established in Southern India and the followers of this creed were in charge of important Vaishnavite temples at Kancheepuram, Srirangam, Tirupathi and other important places. The head of the important Vaishnavite institution was Yamunacharya, a great sage and profound scholar; and he was also the head of the Mutt at Srirangam. One of his disciples, by name Kanchipurna, was serving in the temple at Kancheepuram.

Although a Sudra, Kanchipurna was so very pious and good that the people of the place had great respect and reverence for him. At present, there is a temple at Kancheepuram where Kanchipurna’s image has been installed and where he is worshipped as a saint.

Young Ramanuja came under Kanchipurna’s influence and had such reverence for him that he invited him to dinner in his house. Ramanuja’s intention was to attend on Kanchipurna and personally serve him at dinner and himself take meals afterwards. Unfortunately, Kanchipurna came to dinner when Ramanuja was not at home, and took his meals being served by Ramanuja’s wife. When Ramanuja returned home, he found the house washed and his wife bathing for having served meals to a Sudra. This irritated Ramanuja very much and turned him against his wife who was an orthodox lady of a different social ideal. After a few incidents of this nature, Ramanuja abandoned the life of a householder and became a Sannyasin.

About this time, Yamunacharya being very old was on the look-out for a young person of good ability and character to take his place as head of the Mutt at Srirangam. He had already heard of Ramanuja through his disciples and made up his mind to instal Ramanuja in his place. He now sent for Ramanuja.

By the time Ramanuja reached Srirangam, Yamunacharya was dead; and Ramanuja saw his body being taken by his followers to the cremation ground outside the village. Ramanuja followed them to the cremation ground. There he was informed that Yamunacharya, before his death, had left instructions that he had three wishes which Ramanuja was to be requested to fulfil, viz., that a Visishtadvaita Bhashya should be written for the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa which hitherto had been taught orally to the disciples of the Visishtadvaita philosophy and that the names of Parasara, the author of Vishnu Purana, and saint Sadagopa should be perpetuated. Ramanuja was deeply touched, and in the cremation ground itself, before the dead body of Yamunacharya, he made a solemn promise that, God willing, he would fulfil all the three wishes of Yamunacharya. Ramanuja lived for 120 years, and in the course of his long life, fully redeemed his promise by fulfilling all the three wishes of Yamunacharya.

After the death of Yamuna, his disciples at Srirangam and other places wanted Ramanuja to take Yamuna’s place as the head of the Mutt at Srirangam. This was also the expressed wish of Yamuna.
Accordingly, Ramanuja took his place and was duly installed with all the attendant ceremonies and celebrations as the head of the Visishtadvaita Mutt at Srirangam.

Ramanuja then proceeded to Thirukottiyur to take initiation from Nambi for Japa of the sacred Mantra of eight letters Om Namo Narayanaya. Somehow, Nambi was not willing to initiate Ramanuja easily. He made Ramanuja travel all the way from Srirangam to Madurai nearly eighteen times before he made up his mind to initiate him, and that too, only after exacting solemn promises of secrecy. Then Nambi duly initiated Ramanuja and said: “Ramanuja! Keep this Mantra a secret. This Mantra is a powerful one. Those who repeat this Mantra will attain salvation. Give it only to a worthy disciple previously tried”. But Ramanuja had a very large heart. He was extremely compassionate and his love for humanity was unbounded. He wanted that every man should enjoy the eternal bliss of Lord Narayana. He realised that the Mantra was very powerful. He immediately called all people, irrespective of caste and creed, to assemble before the temple. He stood on top of the tower above the front gate of the temple, and shouted out the sacred Mantra to all of them at the top of his voice. Nambi, his Guru, came to know of this. He became furious. Ramanuja said: “O my beloved Guru! Please prescribe a suitable punishment for my wrong action”. Ramanuja said: “I will gladly suffer the tortures of hell myself if millions of people could get salvation by hearing the Mantra through me”. Nambi was very much pleased with Ramanuja and found out that he had a very large heart full of compassion. He embraced Ramanuja and blessed him. Having thus equipped himself with the necessary qualifications, Ramanuja succeeded Yamuna.

By this time, Ramanuja’s fame had spread far and wide. He became a good controversialist. Then he wrote his commentary on the Brahma Sutras known as the Sri Bhashya. The Visishtadvaita system is an ancient one. It was expounded by Bodhayana in his Vritti, written about 400 B.C. It is the same as that expounded by Ramanuja; and Ramanuja followed Bodhayana in his interpretations of the Brahma Sutras. Ramanuja’s sect of Vaishnavas is called by the name Sri Sampradaya. Ramanuja wrote also three other books–Vedanta Sara (essence of Vedanta), Vedanta Sangraha (a resume of Vedanta) and Vedanta Deepa (the light of Vedanta).

Ramanuja travelled throughout the length and breadth of India to disseminate the path of devotion. He visited all the sacred places throughout India including Kashi, Kashmir and Badrinath. On his way back he visited the Tirupathi hills. There he found the Saivites and the Vaishnavites quarrelling with one another, one party contending that the image of the Lord in the Tirupathi hills was a Saivite one and the other party saying that it was a Vaishnavite one. Ramanuja proposed that they should leave it to the Lord Himself to decide the dispute. So they left the emblems of both Siva and Vishnu at the feet of the Lord, and after locking the door of the temple, both parties stayed outside on guard. In the morning, when they opened the doors, it was found that the image of the Lord was wearing the emblems of Vishnu, while the emblems of Siva were lying at its feet as left there the evening before. This decided that the temple was a Vaishnavite one and it has remained so ever since.

Ramanuja then visited all the Vaishnavite shrines in South India and finally reached Srirangam. Here he settled himself permanently and continued his labours of preaching the Visishtadvaita philosophy and writing books. Thousands of people flocked to him everyday to hear his lectures. He cleansed the temples, settled the rituals to be observed in them, and rectified many social evils which had crept into the community. He had a congregation of 700 Sannyasins, 74 dignitaries who held special offices of ministry, and thousands of holy men and women, who revered him as God. He converted lakhs of people to the path of Bhakti. He gave initiation even to washermen. He was now seventy years old, but was destined to live many more years, establish more Mutts, construct more temples and convert many more thousands of people.

The Chola king about this time was Kulothunga I and he was a staunch Saivite. He ordered Ramanuja to subscribe to his faith in Siva and acknowledge Siva as the Supreme Lord.

Two of the disciples of Ramanuja, Kuresa and Mahapurna, donned the orange robes of Sannyasins and visited the court of Kulothunga I in place of Ramanuja. They argued there for the superiority of Vishnu. The monarch refused to hear them and had their eyes put out.

The two unfortunate people started for Srirangam–their native place. Mahapurna was a very old man, and unable to bear the pain, died on the way. Kuresa alone returned to Srirangam.

Meanwhile, Ramanuja, with a few followers, by rapid marches through day and night, reached the foot-hills of the Western Ghats, about forty miles west of Mysore. There, after great difficulties, he established himself and spent some years in preaching and converting people to the Visishtadvaita philosophy.

The king of the place was Bhatti Deva of the Hoysala dynasty. The Raja’s daughter was possessed of some devil and nobody was able to cure her. Ramanuja succeeded in exorcizing the devil and the princess was restored to her former health. The king was very much pleased with Ramanuja and readily became his disciple and he was converted by Ramanuja into a Vaishnavite. Thereafter Ramanuja firmly established himself in the Mysore king’s dominions, constructed a temple at Melkote, and created a strong Vaishnavite community there. The Pariahs or depressed classes (now called Harijans) of the place were of great service to Ramanuja; and Ramanuja gave them the right of entry inside the temple which he constructed at Melkote–on some fixed days and with some limited privileges–which they enjoy to this day.

Ramanuja constructed a few more Vishnu temples in and about Mysore, set up a strong Vaishnavite community and put them in charge of his disciples to continue his work and spread the Visishtadvaita philosophy and Vishnu worship throughout the king’s dominions. Thus he continued his labours here for nearly twenty years and his followers numbered several thousands.

Meanwhile, Kulothunga Chola 1, who persecuted Ramanuja, died. The followers of Ramanuja immediately communicated the news to Ramanuja and requested him to come back to Srirangam. Ramanuja himself longed to go back to his followers in Srirangam and worship in the temple there. But his new disciples and followers at Melkote and other places in Mysore would not let him go. So he constructed a temple for himself, installed therein his own image for worship by his disciples and followers, and left the place for Srirangam. He was welcomed by his friends and disciples at Srirangam. The successor to Kulothunga Chola I was a pro-Vaishnavite and Ramanuja was left undisturbed. Ramanuja continued his labours for thirty years more and closed his long active career after attaining the remarkable age of 120 years.

Ramanuja was the exponent of the Visishtadvaita philosophy or qualified non-dualism. Ramanuja’s Brahman is Sa-visesha Brahman, i.e., Brahman with attributes. According to Ramanuja’s teachings, Lord Narayana or Bhagavan is the Supreme Being; the individual soul is Chit; matter is Achit. Ramanuja regards the attributes as real and permanent, but subject to the control of Brahman. The attributes are called Prakaras or modes. Lord Narayana is the Ruler and Lord of the universe. The Jiva is His servant and worshipper. The Jiva should completely surrender himself to the Lord. The oneness of God is quite consistent with the existence of attributes, as the attributes or Shaktis depend upon God for their existence.

Sri Sivananda

    O Adorable Lord of Mercy and Love!
    Salutations and prostrations unto Thee.
    Thou art Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient;
    Thou art Satchidananda.
    Thou art the Indweller of all beings.

    Grant us an understanding heart,
    Equal vision, balanced mind,
    Faith, devotion and wisdom.
    Grant us inner spiritual strength
    To resist temptations and to control the mind.
    Free us from egoism, lust, greed, hatred, anger and jealousy.
    Fill our hearts with divine virtues.

    Let us behold Thee in all these names and forms.
    Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms.
    Let us ever remember Thee.
    Let us ever sing Thy Glories.
    Let Thy Name be ever on our lips.
    Let us abide in Thee for ever and ever.

    Swami Sivananda