Life HistoryTaniansHinduism



Hinduism is a major world religion that originated on the Indian subcontinent and is believed to be the oldest living religion on Earth. It is a complex and diverse system of beliefs, rituals, and philosophies that has evolved over thousands of years. Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no single set of religious laws. Instead, it is a collection of diverse traditions and practices that have been shaped by different historical, social, and cultural contexts ¹. Hinduism is characterized by a belief in reincarnation, karma, and dharma, and the worship of many gods and goddesses. It has had a profound impact on Indian society and culture, and has influenced many other religions and spiritual practices around the world.


Vaishnavism is one of the major denominations of Hinduism, along with Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. It is also known as Vishnuism, as it considers Lord Vishnu as the supreme being who leads all other Hindu deities. The followers of Vaishnavism are called Vaishnavites or Vaishnavas, and they worship Lord Vishnu and his avatars, such as Rama and Krishna, as the highest gods. Vaishnavism has its roots in the ancient Bhagavata cults of Vāsudeva-Krishna, Gopala-Krishna, and Narayana, which developed between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE. It was later integrated with the Vedic God Vishnu in the early centuries CE, and finalized as Vaishnavism when it developed the avatar doctrine, wherein the various non-Vedic deities are revered as distinct incarnations of the supreme God Vishnu. Vaishnavism has four schools of numerous denominations, namely the medieval-era Vishishtadvaita school of Ramanuja, the Dvaita school of Madhvacharya, the Dvaitadvaita school of Nimbarkacharya, and the Shuddhadvaita of Vallabhacharya. The Vaishnavite tradition is known for the loving devotion to an avatar of Vishnu, often Krishna, and as such was key to the spread of the Bhakti movement in the Indian subcontinent in the 2nd millennium C. The key texts in Vaishnavism include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pancharatra (Agama) texts, Naalayira Divya Prabhandham, and the Bhagavata Purana


**Vishishtadvaita** is a school of Hindu philosophy that belongs to the Vedanta tradition. It is also known as qualified non-dualism, which means non-dualism with differentiation. This philosophy recognizes Brahman as the supreme reality while also acknowledging its multiplicity. It upholds the belief that all diversity ultimately stems from a fundamental underlying unity. Ramanuja, the 11th-12th century philosopher and the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy, contends that the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras are to be interpreted in a way that shows this unity in diversity, for any other way would violate their consistency. The key texts in Vishishtadvaita include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pancharatra (Agama) texts, Naalayira Divya Prabhandham, and the Bhagavata Purana. The philosophy of Vishishtadvaita has had a long history, with its earliest works no longer available. The school grew out of the Vaishnava movement prominent in South India from the 7th century CE onwards. The followers of Vishishtadvaita believe that Brahman is the Absolute Reality and the soul is a part of it. It is a path to moksha or liberation that combines knowledge and devotion.


**Ramanuja** (1017 CE - 1137 CE) was an Indian philosopher, theologian, and social reformer who is considered one of the most important exponents of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism. He was born into a Tamil Brahmin community in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Ramanuja's philosophical foundations for devotionalism were influential to the Bhakti movement. He is famous as the chief proponent of **Vishishtadvaita** subschool of Vedanta. Ramanuja presented the epistemic and soteriological importance of bhakti, or the devotion to a personal God (Vishnu in Ramanuja's case) as a means to spiritual liberation. His theories assert that there exists a plurality and distinction between Ātman (soul) and Brahman (metaphysical, ultimate reality), while he also affirmed that there is unity of all souls and that the individual soul has the potential to realize identity with the Brahman. Ramanuja wrote influential texts, such as bhāsya on the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, all in Sanskrit. His philosophy has competed with the Dvaita (theistic dualism) philosophy of Madhvāchārya, and Advaita (non-dualism) philosophy of Ādi Shankara, together the three most influential Vedantic philosophies of the 2nd millennium.


Ramanuja had many disciples who continued to propagate his teachings and philosophy after his death. Some of his prominent disciples include Embar, Kuresa, Dasarathi, Sudarsana Suri, and Tirukkottiyur Nambi. They were instrumental in spreading the philosophy of Vishishtadvaita and establishing it as a major school of Hindu philosophy.