Saturday, December 27, 2008

Visishtadvaita of Ramanuja

Ramanuja's School of Visishtadvaita or "Qualified Monoism " came into being in the 12th/13th Century .
As per this school of thought , Brahman is the One Reality , in which the multiplicity of conscious souls exist , as well as unconscious material objects . Matter exists eternally in Brahman , from which is spun the material world (like a web a spider spins from its own body ).Individual souls are infinitely small , eternal , conscious , and self luminous , each endowed with a material body in accordance with its past karma . This confinement within a body constitutes bondage , release comes with the seperation of sould from body . Ignorance causes the soul to identify itself with the body and its desires , causing attachment and rebirth . The only object worthy of love and devotion is God , and comstant meditation on God liberates the Devotee . When liberated, the soul is similar to God but not identical , since that which is finite cannot become the infinite , but it still shares the same essential nature . Yet nothing exists outside God since both souls and matter are within God . The world and its creatures are as real as God , and hence this system is called monoism of the One qualified by the presence of the many parts . God is the infinite ocean , we are the creatures that live inside the ocean .
Visishtadvaita is based on the concept of a loving personal God with perfect attributes . The human spirit is seperate and different from the Supreme Spirit , because love requires a relationship between the lover and the loved .

To Ramanuja , Karma and Jnana are means to Bhakti which gives Moksha .
To Sankara , Karma and Bhakti are menas to Jnana which is Moksha .

To Ramanuja , Moksha is freedom from Samsara . To Sankara , Moksha is also freedom from the concept of a phenomenal world.

To Ramanuja , The Jiva or the individual soul is distinct and real although within God . To Sankara the Jiva is only relatively real its individuality lasts only as long as limiting conditions exist .

To Ramanuja the world is real . To Sankara the world is real only until the soul realises otherwise .

and so on .

But then, these debates are more for scholars . For ordinary people like us , God is there , and sincere efforts to move towards God will always bear fruit . (regardless of philosophical hairsplitting )

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