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A rare, miniature copper statue of Acharya Ramanuja.
Acharya Ramanuja is seen seated in his traditional pose with folded-palms and his Danda (staff) held in place in his folded arm. Being a devotee of Vishnu, his image is found in the sanctum of many Vishnu temples of South India and also at the home-temple altars of majority of Sri Vaishnavas (followers of Acharya Ramanuja’s philosophy).
Sri Ramanuja was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu and a Vedantic scholar of 11th Century. His Vishishtadvaita philosophy is one of the three major Indian Vedantic schools, other two being the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya and Dvaita Vedanta of Madhvacharya. He identified with Sri Sampradaya (philosophical sect) which was an established sect under Yamunacharya, another great Vaishnava acharya of those times. It is believed that Goddess Sri (another name for Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort) herself is the authoress of Sri Sampradaya which extols Vishnu or Narayana. Ramanuja later succeeded Yamunacharya as head of Srirangam Mutt, which at that time was and still is, the biggest centre of Sri Sampradaya thought and philosophy. It was here that Ramanuja lived the most and composed his magnum opus The Sri Bhasya.
According to Acharya Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita philosophy, Prakriti (matter), Jiva (self) and Brahman (supreme) are three distinct realities. Brahman is the cause of both Prakriti and Jiva, which are dependent on him just like body depends on soul. So while both Prakriti and Jiva are Brahman in essence, they are also distinct, eternal realities which have Brahman for their substratum and they are his attributes. Ramanuja holds that deep devotion and complete surrender to Vishnu alone can liberate Jiva.
Vishishtadvaita stands in direct opposition to Shankaracharya’s Advaita philosophy and Sri Ramanuja was the first contending philosopher who offered an alternative interpretation of Vedantic texts and also established a separate philosophy in opposition to that of Shankara’s. Ramanuja bases his philosophy on the same scriptures as Shankara based his, that is the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads and Bhagvad Geeta. Ramanuja is held in high esteem due to his profound intellect and known as Yatiraja (king among Yogis).
Acharya Ramanuja lived a full life of 120 years and there are nine major and minor literary works that are attributed to him. Among these his major works are:
Vedarthasamgraha (collection of Vedantic meanings)
Sri Bhashya (commentary on Brahma Sutras)
Bhagvad Geeta Bhashya (commentary on Bhagvad Geeta)
Ramanuja is her widely by Sri Vaishnavites to be an incarnation of Adi Sesha (the cosmic serpent that serves as Vishnu’s couch). So deep was Ramanuja’s devotion to Vishnu that he is also identified with Lakshmana, Sri Rama’s brother. The two thoughts are quite consistent since according to Ramayana, Adi Sesha was born as Lakshmana to serve Sri Rama who was none other than Vishnu.