Speakers hail medieval social reformer Ramanujan

. IGNCA holds day long seminar on 1000 years on the saint philosopher

New Delhi, Oct 10:  The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) held on Friday a one day long seminar on Sri Ramanuja - the 11th century saint philosopher, who popularised the reformist Bhakti movement of Hinduism, which originated from south India to north India, and eventually turned it into a pan-India phenomenon.

The seminar “Ramanujeeyam - The World of Sri Ramanujacharya’ organised here as part of the Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabdi Mahotsava, was an attempt to engage with the issues and challenges of the contemporary world and to focus on the Indian thought and Sri Ramanuja’s contribution to India’s world view.

The Bhakti movement uplifted the morale of Indians and provided them rationality, confidence and self-esteem at a time when they were faced with numerous social, religious and cultural challenges.

Ramanuja lived in what was called as the golden period when there was prevalence of rich religious diversity of Jainism, Buddhism, Smarts, and Shaivism etc. in the country.  

Welcoming eminent scholars for the one day seminar, Sacchidanand Joshi, member-secretary of the IGNCA said that despite so many differing sects and religions, coupled with strong disagreements, there was an environment of healthy dialogue (samvaad), and not of bickering (vad-vivad), that has become a common feature these days.

Sreevats Goswami, the priest of the Radharaman Mandir, Vrindavan, who had been an accomplished speaker on Indian religion and philosophy, said, “One thousand years back, Ramanuja had qualitatively changed religious, social and intellectual lives of Indians. He put the Bhakti in the centre of the philosophical discourse of the period which was mainly dominated by Dwait (theistic dualism) and Adwait (absolute monism). He reconciled the two in his Vishishtadvait”.

Goswami pointed out that Ramanuja had adopted Tamil to propagate his philosophical, religious and reformist ideas in place of Sanskrit which was nothing short of crossing the Line of Control of prevalent Indian culture. He also lauded Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for the same, for adopting the Odiya, Brijbhasha and Bengali in place of Sanskrit.

Ramanuja introduced music, dance, theatre, painting etc. as vehicles of spreading Bhakti movement and thus helped to effect social, cultural and national integration.

He was instrumental in uncovering Bhakti from the pretensions of the Gyan and Karma and making it a part of philosophical discourse. In Indian philosophy, Dharma, Artha, Kaam, Moksha are called four Purusharthas; Ramanuja established Bhakti as the fifth Purushartha.

Coming to some contemporary social concerns, Goswami talked of the ultimate concern of the human beings - happiness. People relate it with money, goodies, people and relationship. But the contemporary concern is about broken relationship. He said ‘relationship is sustained and strengthened by seva (service)’. But the service that is rendered out of love gives happiness and not the one that is given out of compulsion.

He said, ‘There are so many challenges today, religious, social, cultural, political; and values are at stake. Human behaviour is controlled by egos’. According to him religious, social and philosophical ideas of Sri Ramanuj can give solutions. Goswami asserted that Ramanujam should not be taken as the eleventh century phenomenon but the one of the 21st century.

Kaushalendra Das, assistant professor of Rajasthan Sanskrit University, Jaipur said that Ramanujan provided a powerful rationality to the Bhakti. He initiated the Bhakti ganga from the South and flowed it across Rajasthan, Haryana, UP, Bihar and eventually to the whole of the country.  

The scholars in the seminar dwelt upon Ramanuja’s enormous contribution in the realm of religious philosophy.

M A Alwar speaking on ‘The foundational doctrines of Sri Ramanuja’s philosophy’ explained that the Indian society was entangled in the confusion created by diametrical opposite views of the Dvaita (Dualism) and Advaita (Monism). The latter insisted on existence of the Brahman (God) as the supreme soul and non-existence of the individual soul while the Dvaita recognised the individual soul as part of the supreme soul. Sri Ramanuja reconciled the two viewpoints and created Vishishtadvait, which propounded that with Gyan, Bhakti and Sadhana, the individual soul may also become like the supreme soul. He thus eliminated the critical philosophical void.

Islam and Christianism have no philosophical moorings. The philosophical stream flows independent of the religion in the West. But without religion, philosophy is vain, said Alwar.

Narsimhan spoke of how Ramanuja did not refute or dishonor other philosophical and religious Acharyas but only reconciled the differing views and refined them. He was not against the Vedas, he interpreted Vedas in his ‘Sri Bhashya’.  

In his interesting discourse on ‘The Samanvaya: the methodology and philosophy of Sri Ramanuja’ A Krishnamachariar told that along with reconciliation of various differing religious and philosophical tenets, he introduced music, dance, prasadam also in religious practice as he was conscious of the basic needs of the people.  



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