The Yatiraja Math and the Cheluvanarayanaswami Temple at Melkote in Karnataka were established by him. This theologian, philosopher and scriptural exegete have also restituted many ancient temples. According to the Sri Vaishnavism, he is the third and most important teacher of their tradition while the Hindus view him as the leading expounder of Vishishtadvaita who wrote many philosophical works and prophesied the oneness of mankind. Ramanuja’s philosophy is referred to Vishishtadvaita because it combines Advaita (oneness of God, which is the prophecy of Adi Shankara) with Vishesha.
Life of Ramanujacharya
Ramanuja was born at Ilaya Perumal to Kesava Perumal Somayaji Dikhsitar and Kanthimathi Ammal in a Hindu family at Sriperumpudur. Sage Vasishta on seeing the brilliance in the face of the child named him as ‘Lakshmana’. According to the traditional biographies, Ramanuja was born on 1017 and lived his life till 1137; a lifespan of 120 years, which is quite unusual. Several scholars have accepted the latest chronology which says that Ramanuja had a tentative lifetime of 1077-1157.
He was married at a very early age of 16 years to Rakshambal. After his father passed away, the family moved to Kanchipuram. Here he took initiation from Yadavaprakasha, an accomplished Advaitic scholar of the form of the Vedanta philosophy that has a strong attraction to Shankara’s Absolute Idealistic Monism.
Ramanuja travelled to Srirangam after renouncing the life of a house-holder to meet an aging Yamunacharya. As Yamunacharya had died prior to Ramanuja’s arrival, followers of Ramanuja associate the legend that Yamunacharya died with three fingerscurled. The meaning revealed to Ramanuja, Yamunacharya was concerned about three tasks. Ramanuja consecrated to complete these -
• As the means to Moksha, teach the doctrine of Saranagati (surrender) to God.
• For the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa, write a Vishishtadvaita Bhashya which had previously been taught orally to the disciples of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy.
• That the names of Parasara, the author of Vishnu Purana, and saint Sathakopa should be carried on.
Ramanuja accepted Yamunacharya as his ‘Manasika Acharya’ and after some time took the membership of the Sri Vaishnava school of thought. With the fright from the Chola rulers, Ramanuja and a few of his followers moved to the Hoysala kingdom of Jain King Bittideva and Queen Shantala Devi in Karnataka. After curing the daughter of the King, he took the name ‘Vishnu Vardhana’ meaning "one who grows the cult of Lord Vishnu". Bhagavad Ramanuja unwaveringly believed in the dogmas of Varnashrama Dharma even though he instructed his followers to highly respect all Sri Vaishnavas irrespective of caste.
Gurus of Swami Ramanujacharya
Swami Ramanuja incorporated teachings from 5 different people whom he considered to be his acharyas- Peria Nambigal who performed his samasrayana, Thirukkotiyur Nambigal who revealed the meaning of Charama slokam to swami on his 18th trip, Thirumalai Nambigal, Tirumalai Aandaan, Thirukachchi Nambigal.
Works of Ramanujacharya
Ramanuja have written 9 books which are also referred to as the nine precious gems, the "Navaratnas". They are Vedartha Sangraha, Sri Bhasya, Vedanta Saara, Vedanta Deepa, Gita Bhashya, Gadhya Thrayam, Sriranga Gadyam, Saranagati Gadhyam and Nithya Grantham. Kidambi Aachan, ThirukurugaiPiran Pillan, Nadadhur Azhwan, Mudaliyandan, Koorathazhwan and Anantazhwar are the disciples of Ramanujacharya.
Ramanujacharya in the Eyes of Modern Scholars
Many modern scholars have defined Swami Ramanujacharya from different aspects. Like, Harold Coward sees him as ‘the founding interpreter of Vaisnavite scripture’. J. A. B. van Buitenen says about him that Ramanujacharya, being highly influential, gave ‘bhakti’ an intellectual base. And for his efforts, ‘bhakti’ has been the prime force within different traditions of Hinduism. Wendy Doniger describes him as the most influential thinker of devotional Hinduism.