Sri Ramanujacharya expounded the Vishistadvaita system of philosophy. Acharyas like Adi Shankara, Vallabhacharya, Madhavacharya systemically explicated philosophical truths while the Alwars being saints and poets became the fountain-heads of bhakti or devotion.
Vishishtadvaita concept of Srivaishnavism advocates philosophy of a personal God characterised by certain attributes (Vishishta). Nature and the individual souls stand complementary to Him. This nature is achit that is non-sentient and is devoid of consciousness. The system of sentient nature that is chit consists of living beings, plants, animal and human beings. Chit and achit are the two prakaras that are modes in which God manifests Himself in the visible universe. The tatva traya of Vishishtadvaita system are the three entities of chit, achit and Ishwara.
Ramanuja was born sometime around 1017 AD at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. It is said that he was born after his Vaishnavite parents performed putra kameshti yajna to beget a noble child. As a child Ramanuja had phenomenal memory. Any shloka or song he would once hear would get ingrained in his memory. Yadava Prakasa was a renowned scholar of advaita. Ramanuja was put in his gurukul. To everyone'ssurprise, Ramanuja could interpret the Vedas not even requiring his teacher'shelp. He even surpassed his guru. Yadava Prakasa got terribly enraged at Ramanuja'swisdom and even decided to kill him. Ramanuja however came to know of the sinister plot and somehow escaped to Kanchipuram. There he took tutelage from Thirukachi Nambi. Though he was a mere flower seller and not a Brahmin, he exuded true learning and wisdom. Ramanuja maintained rites and rituals were not integral to humanity. The shastras taught us human values to adhere to. In due time, Ramanuja was married. But he had strained relations with his wife that ultimately compelled him to take-up sanyasa at the temple of Kanchipuram.
Sri Yamunacharya, the head of legendary Srirangam Math had nominated Ramanuja as his successor. In his dying wishes, he had entrusted three tasks upon Ramanuja. First, he had to write a new treatise upon the Brahma Sutras to bolster the philosophic principles of Vishishtadvaita. Second, he had to explicate Bhagvata Gita anew with a commentary, Sri Bhashyam. Third, Ramanuja had to profess Vaishnavism highlighting the sublime delight of sharanagati that is complete submission to the Lord. While Ramanuja was spreading Vishishtadvaita at Srirangam, the Chola king went on persecuting non-Shaivas to convert them into Advaitism. Sri Ramanuja as well as several of his disciples had to flee in the neighbouring kingdom of the Hoyasala (present Karnataka) and remained there for twenty long years. During his extensive tours, Ramanuja had been to Sharada Pitham in Kashmir to consult the Bodhyana Vritti that enthused him ideas for his Sri Bhashyam, the sheet anchor of Srivaishnavism.
Thereafter, Ramanuja craved to get initiated by a great sage Thirrukoltiyun Nambi and acquire the Astakshara Mantra. It is said that the Lord in the guise of sage tried to assay Ramanuja'searnestness, tenacity and his steadfastness towards him. For eighteen times, Ramanuja was turned away from his door on some trivial reason or other. Ramanuja relentlessly trudged up and down to Thirukkoltiyun eighteen times. On the nineteenth round, the sage initiated him with the esoteric mantra that guaranteed eternal peace and liberation. He was warned not to leak out the mantra to anyone, failing that would entail dire consequences of going to hell. Ramanuja now felt, his utmost duty was to liberate aspiring souls of the people to the Lord'sLotus Feet. And thus convinced, Ramanuja clambered upon the tall gopuram of Thirukkoltiyun. His clarion call assembled people. He shouted, ?you all can partake my sacred mantra to attain salvation. Invoke it and you shall attain the bliss? from atop the turret. Sage Nambi got infuriated at this misdemeanor of Ramanuja and lambasted him. Ramanuja confessed with full humility, ?I know the comeuppance of vindicating your injunction. But even if I am destined to be languishing in hell forever, I would be recompensed for ennobling thousands of derelict souls to Liberation.? This mellowed down the guru and he was let-off without any curse upon him.
Ramanuja was an illumined mind. He extensively gave discourses and people swarmed in droves. Ramanuja castigated the caste ridden Hindu society that tore it asunder. Ramanuja advocated bhakti for liberation. He lauded the Alwars and held their songs in high esteem. Before the advent of Ramanuja, the great Vishnu temples in the southern part were in shambles and had ceased to attract spiritual seekers. So he set priority to reform temple worship. Ramanuja extensively toured different temples to lay down the right regimen for pujas and temple administration. To this day, his injunctions are complied by these temples of Srirangam, Tirupati, Kanchipuram and Melkote. Ramanuja was instrumental in establishing Vishishtadvaita in India. Vishishtadvaita exalts Sriman Narayan as the supreme being. Ramanuja lived up to a ripe old age of 120.