At a time when south India was witnessing the dark days of turbulence, disunity, mutual hatred and rituals having no relevance to daily life, came Sri Ramanuja with a synoptic outlook to remind of the degenerating practices and justify all aspects of reality and life.
This book under review lays stress on the historicity of Sri Ramanujacharya'svisit to Melukote in Karnataka and makes a reasonable estimate of the Acharya'scontribution to Indian thought.
Ramanuja was born in AD 1017 in Sriperumbudur, some 50 km from the modern Chennai, near Kanchipuram. It was his uncle Nambi who, on seeing the child Ramanuja, named him so as he had features possessed by Lakshman in the Ramayana. The child was given Brahmanical initiation at the right age and basic education by his father. The family was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Ramanuja learnt the Vedas, the auxillary sciences and other useful Sutras while still young, but his higher education by initiation into the mysteries of the Upanishads, the Sutras and the Gita was not pursued at home as he had lost his father at this stage. So he had to seek the guidance from others.
Ramanuja turned to a scholar named Yadavaprakasha who was running an academy for instructing pupils in higher lore. Though belonging to the Advaita School this guru was unhappy with it and replaced it with Bhadabhedic system. Ramanuja'sintention was to reconcile the multiplicity of experiences with the unity of it after his predecessor Bhaskara failed to do so.
In spiritual and philosophical matters, he conceived of God, in the true Vedic spirit. He disliked Shankara'sdistinctions between saguna and nirguna aspects of Brahman and misinterpreted as mutually exclusive. He disagreed with the classification of Sruti texts as of high export and low import on any arbitrary and opportunistic basis. He never set logic against intuition, or texts as above logic, or intuition as above all means of verification or harmonisation.
The charge against him and his community that he was a founder of a narrow sect and that his men practiced sectarianism is baseless and mischievous, says the author. He also says that he conceived of God as being all-pervasive, all-inclusive, all-potent, all-merciful. The symbol for this was not his invention by any pervert imagination, but an inheritance from the Vedas and Agamas and through the epics, Puranas and Smriti texts.
This is a book meant for those who do not subscribe to mayavada or illusionism, just as Ramanujacharya did not.
(Kautilya Institute of National Studies, 977 Geetha Road, Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha Krupa, Chamarajapuram, Mysore-570 005.)