As part of the continuing celebrations of the 1000th birth anniversary of Sri Ramanuja (1017 CE – 1137 CE), an international seminar on his philosophy, social reforms and contributions towards society was organised on the days of 3rd, 4th 5th and 6th of August 2018. The purpose of the seminar is to discuss, enable people to take interest in, and understand the key message of Ramanuja – that all of humanity is equal, under the Divine, and we all should live harmoniously serving God, and serving each other.
Almost 40 scholars from many parts of India, and 3 distinguished professors from USA were chosen and invited to the seminar, and they all participated with great enthusiasm. Among the participants are 5 Vice chancellors or former Vice Chancellors of Universities/Institutions, 12 professors and heads of departments from various universities in India, more than a dozen traditional scholars, and many budding young scholars in Ramanuja’s philosophy. 3 professors from USA, including Francis Clooney, Parkman Professor of Divinity at Harvard University, Jon Paul Sydnor – Chairman of the Department of Theological studies at Emmanuel University, and Professor Gopal Gupta, Associate Professor at University of Evansville also participated and conveyed their depth of knowledge about Ramanuja’s contributions.
Various speakers talked about many topics, including
The relevance of Ramanuja’s philosophy and teachings in today’s world – particularly in bringing about peace and harmony among all human beings; in safeguarding the environment; and in bringing about equality among all human beings
How Ramanuja’s philosophy appeals to the true seeker, regardless of the religious traditions they practice. 2 professors from USA, both of them ordained Christian priests/ministers, talked about how as seekers of truth, they learnt from, and appreciated various aspects of Ramanuja’s philosophy and traditions. They particularly emphasised the universal view point of Ramanuja that allows them to accept many of his teachings, and apply them and become better in their practice as Christians. As one professor mentioned “Ramanuja’s philosophy and what I learn from that allows me to become a better Christian”.
- Several technical topics were discussed at great length by great scholars, professors and budding students.
Hundreds of people observed and learnt from the proceedings, held under the auspices of Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Chinna Srimannarayana Ramanuja Jeeyar Swami, Sri Sri Sri Ahobila Ramanuja Jeeyar Swami, Sri Sri Sri Devanatha Ramanuja Jeeaya Swami and Sriman S.V. Ranga Ramanujacharyulu, Director of JIVA research and publications.
Several questions were raised by the audience and the scholars answered them and helped them learn and utilize ramanuja’s philosophy to lead a more productive and peaceful life.
Here’s a reaction from a participant sent to our Co-ordinator, Sri Varadan ji,
Another reaction shared with Sriman Hariji –
Detailed highlights of the program are below
The first day started with an inauguration ceremony, inaugural address and Mangalasanam by HH Chinna Jeeyar Swami. The distinguished invitees spoke about the relevance of Ramanuja’s contributions and how important this seminar is, to inculcate the study and practice of Ramanuja’s teachings. Professor Clooney particularly talked about how deeply relevant Ramanuja’s thought and message is in today’s world of chaos, and how the concepts and practice as taught by Ramanuja can be used to build a more harmonious and peaceful world.
The first session was a fantastic session, where Prof M.A. Laksmitatachar swami, founder director of Academy of Sanskrit Research in Melkote and winner of several government awards, talked about how Ramanuja’s teachings is also relevant for taking care of the environment, in addition to philosophy and spiritual advancement. He showed several examples as to how. Prof. M.A. Venkatakrishna, Former head of department of Vaishnavism in University of Madras talked eloquently about how RAmanuja’s thoughts and reforms were appreciated by people from many walks of lives – including Swami Vivekannda, leaders of opposing philosophies, and even a very well known self-declared atheist poet in Tamilnadu Bharatidasan, who very proudly talked about how great it is that TamilNadu is for being the place of birth of Ramanuja who declared and brought the possibility of liberation and God to everyone regardless of caste and birth. In addition to these, there were scholarly discussion/presentations on the impact of the great Yamunacharya on Ramanuja’s thought and works – this was a treat to the interested students and scholars present
The second session was a technical session, where deep discussions on various aspects of RAmanuja’s philosophy were discussed by eminent people, including Professor K E Devanathan, former Vice Chancellor of Sri Venkateswara Vedic University. Professor MA Alwar, professor of Sanskrit in Maharajah Sanskrit College in Mysore talked about how Ramanuja explained and synthesised the concept of Bhakti. It is relevant to note here that Ramanuja is the origin of all bhakti movements across India. A budding Scholar, Sriman Ranganathan talked in depth about a deeply technical topic in this session.
On 4th august, the first session had wonderful information to be shared. Sri Ayee Narasimhan talked about how Ramanuja was influenced by the great works of the Alwars while formalizing his philosophy and how he brought those to practice. Dr K. Anantha of Lal Bahadur Samskrit University, talked about the commentaries written on Sri Bhashya, the commentary written by Ramanuja on Vyasa’s Bramha Sutras. Professor Penna Madhushudhan eloquently talked about the influence of Ramanuja’s thought on Jnana Deva, or Jnaneswhar, a great saint of Maharashtra.
In the second session, Professor Jon Paul Sydnor, a ordained minister in his church, and a scholar in comparative religion, talked very beautifully about how God can be felt in one’s life in 6 ways, following Ramanuja’s philosophy and teachings. He also talked about how this is very similar to some of the teachings/practices he follows. This was a wonderful speech that emphasised on the commonality between all seekers of truth in various religious traditions, and how it is important for seeker to learn the best from other traditions. There was a speech on how God encompasses the entire Universe as we know, and in addition how he is beyond just the Universe. Another talk traced the influence of the work of Yamunacharya on one of Ramanuja’s earliest works.
Second session was headed by Sripada Subramanyam, a renowned scholar who talked in depth about a technical aspect. This session was mostly a technical session, and a brilliant young scholar, Sriman MAnivannan captivated the audience and scholars through his wonderful mastery of a deeply complex work – in fact, the learned professors commented that his speech had so much depth that it could even be a thesis for an advanced degree.
The first session of the third day was a fantasic session – Professor Francis Clooney of Harvard University eloquently talked about the Nitya grantha, a manual for daily worship, written by Ramanuja. He had translated it in English, and he talked about how this manual brings worship, ritual, meditation, surrender, community all together. Professor Clooney is a Catholic minister, and he talked about the commonalities between his mode of worship, and that present in the Nithya Grantha. In a Q&A session afterwards, he eloquently talked about how one should study other traditions, adopt whatever is acceptable to one’s own path, and respect whatever is different. These sessions also included a talk on the nature of Sri Vaikunta, or Paramapada by a couple of speakers. Professor Bhagavat Sharan Shukla beautifully pointed out the influence of Ramanuja and the similarities between the thoughts of various sampradayas like Madhvacharya sampradaya, Nimbarka Sampradaya, Ramananda Sapmradaya, Chaitanya Sampradaya, and others, with Ramanuja Sampradaya.
The third session on 5th august dealt with a beautiful explanation of the place of the Universe we inhabit, in Ramanuja’s philosophy by Professor Gopal Gupta of University of Evansville in Indiana, USA. There was a specific speech on the relevance of Ramanuja’s philosophy in today’s world by (retd)Professor K Varadharajan, where he presented how Ramanuja’s teachings are relevant to harmony among all human beings, ecology, administration, politics etc. Professor Jaikant Singh Sharma talked about how Ramanuja influenced Ramananda, and there was another talk on the unique manipravala (2 language) tradition of Ramanuja.
– Research and Publications Team, JIVA asram!