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The "real" Ramanuja (excerpts from Sri Bhasya)

Date: Tue Mar 12 1996 - 09:34:56 PST

I have included some excerpt from Ramanuja's Sri Bhasya
(english translation from  RK Mutt) to reflect Ramanuja's views on
some of the "social" and "dogmatic" issues we  have discussed over the
past few months on the net.

The two subjects I have chosen are his views on caste and his
viewpoint on hell. The latter I chose simply because it was dicussed
more recently; the first, because, it reflects his view on the society.

I have included the Sutra numbers for reference.  I have only
included Ramanuja's commentary where I felt that the translation of
the Sutra by itself was not clear of its meaning. It should be noted
that the translation itself reflects Ramanuja's viewpoint since
on a number of points Ramanujacharya and Sankaracharaya differ.


Ramanuja on caste:

[1.3.33] Grief arose in him (Janasruti) on hearing the contemptuous
words (of the Rsi in the form of the flamingo); owing to his
approaching him (Raikva with) that (grief) (Raikva Called him a
Sudra); because it (the grief) is referred to (by Raikva)

Commentary: In the last topic it has been shown that the gods are
entitled to Brahma-vidya. This topic disucsses whether Sudras are
entitled to it. SInce like gods, the Sudras also are possessed of a
body, capacity and desire for final liberation, it naturally follows
that they too are entitled to Brahmavidya.

[A long passage Deleted]

This Sutra refutes this view and denies to Sudras by caste, the right
to Brahmavidya. Though meditation is only a mental activity yet the
intellectual knowledge required as a means to the Upasana it not
possible with the study of the Vedas, as in the casee of ritualistoc
action. As Sudras are barred from Vedic studies they cannot therefore
have the necessary qualifications for such Upasanas.

[Another long passage deleted]

[1.3.36] Because purificatory ceremonies are mentioned (before the
study of the Vedas) and their absence declared (in the case of the

In the scriptures we find purificatory ceremonies like Upanayana etc.
prescribed as prerequisites to the study of the Veas and the vidyas.
Vide Cha IV. iv. 5. These ceremonies are for the three higher castes
and not for the Sudra. Their absence in the case of the Sudra is
repeatedly declared in the scriptures. "Sudras do not incur sin, nor
have they any purifactory rites" (Manu XIII. 126); " The fourth caste
is once born and not fit for any ceremony" (Manu X. 4). So they are
not entitled to  the study of the Vedas or to the vidyas.

Ramanuja's view of  Hell:

[3.1.8] On the exhaustion of (good) work (the soul) with the residual
karma (descends to this earth), as is known from Sruti and Smrti,
along the path (it) went by (from here) and differently too.

[3.1.9] If it be said that on acccount of conduct (the assumption of
residual karma is unnecessary), (we say) not so, (for the word conduct
is used) to denote indirectly (karma). Thus (thinks) Karsnajini

[3.1.12] The Sruti declares (the going to the lunar sphere) of those
also who do not perform sacrifices etc. 

[3.1.13] But of others (i.e. the evil doers), after having enjoyed
(the results of thier evil works) in the abode of Yama, there is
ascent and descent (from the lunar world); for such a course is
declared (for the evil-doers) by the sruti.

Commentary: For the evil-doers also, there is ascent and descent from
the lunar world, but with this difference, that is, they first go to
the abode of Yama, where they suffer punishment for their evil works.
"The  hereafter never rises before an ignorant person,...thus he falls
againa and again under my sway" (Ka I, ii 6)

[3.1.14] The Smrtis also declre thus

[3.1.15] Moreover, there are seven hells.

Commentary: Seven hells like Raurava etc. are mentioned by Smritis, to
which evil-doers go to expiate their sins through suffering

[3.1.15] And on account of his (Yama's) control even there (in those
hells), there is no contradiction.

Commentary: As the evil-doers are sent to the seven hells by the
command of Yama, there is no contradiction. So the evil-doers, after
undergoing punishment for their evil actions, ascend to themoon and
again descend from there.