Acharya Ramanuja's Qualified Monism

There is an interesting anecdote about Ramanuja. His guru gave him a mantra and asked him not to disclose it to any one, otherwise he would suffer in hell. Ramanuja asked the guru about the efficacy of the mantra on those who hear it. It would lead them to salvation, said the guru. Ramanuja immediately shouted to gather a crowd and told them the mantra.

Birth and Early Life

This compassionate man was born in the town of Sriperumbudur in south India, in the year 1017 A.D. Though Ramanuja got married at a young age, he renounced worldly ties and took monastic vows. Ramanuja’s doctrine of qualified monism, tweaked Shankara’s rather dry concept of reality, and made it more approachable for the average person. He traveled across India giving sermons and lectures, engaging in discussions and debates, and spreading his thoughts about the scriptures.

Ramanuja’s Philosophy

Ramanuja advocated that human beings should show devotion to God and all his creatures. He opined that an individual’s soul is distinct from Brahman (universal consciousness). But, Brahman is the basis for the existence of the individual soul. Ramanuja shed his mortal coil at the age of 120 years, in the year 1137 A.D.

Ramanuja’s Qualified Monism

According to Ramanuja, God personifies benevolent qualities such as compassion and grace. He also has the ability to create, preserve and destroy. Ramanuja advised that one should surrender oneself to God. His philosophy qualifies Advaita (non-dualism), as it separates matter from soul.

Ramanuja’s philosophy is one of devotion and love. He advocated bhakti yoga as the way to reach realization. Ramanuja says bias and cruelty have no place in God’s divine nature. If you suffer hardship it is due to your past actions. You reap what you sow. But, Ramanuja goes further and says that God’s grace rules supreme. So, he advocates faith, worship and devotion to God. His Brahman is the repository of good qualities.

Ramanuja’s Precepts

Ramanuja taught the following precepts to spiritual aspirants:

  1. Acquire knowledge with humility from the guru.
  2. Give up worldly attachments.
  3. Pray to God for his grace, and study the scriptures as well.
  4. Do spiritual practices such as meditation regularly.

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