Ramanuja was born in Perumbudur in 1017 A.D, to Kesava Somayaji and Kantimathi. Ramanuja's Tamil name was Ilaya Perumal. Quite early in life, Ramanuja lost his father. Then he came to Kancheepuram to prosecute his study of the Vedas under one Yadavaprakasha, a teacher of Advaita philosophy.
One day while taking a massage, Yadavacarya was explaining to ramanuja a sutra "tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamaksini"(Chandogya 1.6.7), the two eyes of Pundariksa are like two lotuses which are red like the nates of a monkey.He thought it sinful to compare with the posterior of a monkey the eyes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead - who is endowed with all gracious qualities and who is the repository of all the beauty of the universe. Ramanuja analysed the word kapyasam to mean `blossomed by the sun' and the verse to mean "The eyes of that Golden Purusa are as lovely as lotuses blossomed by the rays of the sun."
Yamunacarya the formost exponent of Vaisnava philosophy o f the time, called for Sri Ramanuja with the intent of placing him in charge of the mission after his disappearance. Arriving at Srirangam, Ramanuja went to have his last darshana of that great soul. There he noticed three of Yamunacarya's fingers were clenched. Ramanuja then made three vows:
He would make the people surrender to God and initiate them by the pancasamskara.
He would write a commentary on the Vedantasutra which was later called Sri Bhashya.
He would perpetuate the name of Parasara Muni the aouthor of the Visnu Purana.
Ramanuja was the exponent of the Visishtadvaita philosophy or qualified non-dualism. Ramanuja’s Brahman is sa-visesha Brahman, i.e., Brahman with attributes. According to Ramanuja’s teachings, Lord Narayana or Bhagavan is the Supreme Being; the individual soul is Chit; matter is Achit. Ramanuja regards the attributes as real and permanent, but subject to the control of Brahman. The attributes are called Prakaras or modes. Lord Narayan is the Ruler and Lord of the universe. The Jiva is His servant and worshipper. The Jiva should completely surrender himself to the Lord. The oneness of God is quite consistent with the existence of attributes, as the attributes of Shaktis depend upon God for their existence.
Madhvacharya, a Tulu Brahmin was a great religious reformer and an orthodox commentator on the brahma Sutras and the ten Upanishads. He was born in 1199 A.D. at Velali, as Vasudeva.
Madhva distinguished himself in physical exercises and field games. He had a wonderful physique. So people gave him the nickname Bhima. Madhva took to the study of the Vedas and the Vedangas and became wellversed in them. He took Sannyasa in his twenty-fifth year and head of the Mutt. He built several temples at Udipi, the principal centre of the Madhva sect.
Madhvacharya is the great exponent of the Dvaita School of philosophy. His Vaishnavism is called Sad-Vaishnavism in order to distinguish it from the Sri-Vaishnavism of Ramanujacharya. According to his philosophy, the Supreme Being is Vishnu or Narayana. Every follower of the Madhva school should have a firm belief in the Pancha-bheda-five real and eternal distinctions-viz, the distinction between the Supreme Being and the individual soul, between spirit and matter, between one Jiva and. another Jiva between the Jiva and matter, between a one place of matter and another. The phenomenal world is real and eternal. The worship of Vishnu consists in (I) Ankana, marking the body with His symbols, (ii) Namakarana, giving the names of the Lord to children and (iii) Bhajana, singing His glories. Madhva laid much stress on constant practice of the remembrance of God (Smarana).
Renunciation, devotion and direct cognition of the Lord through meditation lead to the attainment of salvation. The aspirant should equip himself with the study of the Vedas, control of the senses, dispassion and perfect self-surrender, if he wants to have the vision of the Lord. These are some of the important teachings of Madhvacharya, the renowned exponent of the dualistic school of philosophy.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu from, West Bengal, became a spiritual master. Gaudiya Vaishnavas accept Sri Caitanya as nondifferent from Lord Krishna, in the form of a devotee. He taught that by chanting the holy names of the Lord, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, one could attain transcendental devotion to God. He taught the philosophy that the Supreme Lord and the individual souls are inconceivably and simultaneously one and different. He explained the direct meaning of the sastras (scriptures) as devotion (bhakti) to Lord Krishna.
Vallabhacharya, the founder of the Vaishnavite cult of Rajasthan and Gujarat, was born in 1479 A.D. at Champaranya, Raipur and a contemporary of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The important works of Vallabha are Vyasa Sutra Bhashya, Jaimini Sutra Bhasya, Bhagavata Tika Subodhini, Pushi Pravala Maryada and Siddhanta Rahasya. All these books are in Sanskrit. Vallabha has written many books in Brij Bhasha also.
Vallabhacharya was the exponent of pure Monism or the Shuddhadvaita school of philosophy. Sri Krishna is the highest Brahman. His body consists of Satchidananda. He is called Purushottama. Vallabha’s followers worship Bala Krishna (Vatsalya Bhava). Vallabha laid great stress on Pushti (grace) and Bhakti (devotion).
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