“Sri Ramanuja Acarya appeared around 1017 A.D in a pious brahmana family. He became the formost Acarya in the Sri Sampradaya and was reputed to be the incarnation of Laksmana, the younger brother of Lord Ramacandra.
He was a boy of extraordinary intelligence and placed himself under the charge of Yadavacarya, a renown Sankarite scholar. His guru was struck with his marvelous intellect and became very uncomfortable on account of his firm faith in Bhakti.
One day while taking a massage, Yadavacarya was explaining to Ramanuja a sutra “tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikamevamaksini” (Chandogya 1.6.7), saying that according to Sankara, the two eyes of Pundariksa are like two lotuses which are red like the nates of a monkey. On hearing this interpretation with the unbecoming and low simile, Ramanuja’s soft heart, tender by nature and softened by devotion, melted and as he was massaging, tears rolled down from the corners of his eyes like flames of fire and fell on the thigh of Yadava. Looking up at the touch of the hot tears, Yadava understood that something troubled his disciple. Ramanuja explained his dismay at hearing such an unbecoming explanation from his guru. 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. Yadava was angry at the boy’s audacity and told him to explain the verse if he could. 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.”
After a few more such incidents when Ramanuja corrected his guru, Yadavacarya thought him to be a threat to the Sankarite line and plotted to kill him. Later it came to pass that Yadavacarya was to become the disciple of Ramanuja.
Yamunacarya, the formost exponant of Vaisnava philosophy of the time, knowing of his extraordinary ability and purity, called for Ramanuja with the intent of placing him in charge of the mission after his disappearance. Ramanuja was on his way to see Yamunacarya when he received the news of Yamunacarya’s departure from the world. 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 Vedanta sutra which was later called Sri Bhashya – he would also write what is like an encyclopedia on the Puranas and would name one greatly learned Vaisnava after Parasara Muni who wrote the gem among the Puranas, the Visnu Purana.
Later Ramanuja took sannyasa and traveled throughout India vigorously defeating atheists and impersonalists by preaching the Vasistadvaita doctrine. He never failed to win over a rival in spiritual disputations.
His philosophy is visistadvaita. Brahman is Narayana -(cit-acit-isvara), Narayana with Laksmi – (transcendental form), Four Vyuha forms, Vaibhava forms. The qualities of Brahman are both nirguna and saguna. The soul is real, eternal, individual, not omnipresent, not independent of Isvara, but part. Isvara is the efficient cause of creation. It is from His will out of delight. The cause of bondage is beginningless karma. The process of release is Bhakti based on Pancaratra and Visnu purana followed by detached karma that brings jnana – Prapatti. The goal is to attain the same nature of Isvara and companionship with Him. He does not return and has no power of creation, etc.
Once while Ramanuja Acarya was staying in Jagannath Puri he offered prayers to Lord Jagannatha, who became very pleased. Lord Jagannatha appeared before Ramanuja and said, “Ramanuja, go and visit Sri Navadwipa, for very soon I shall appear there in the house of Jagannatha Misra. Sri Navadwipa is My most beloved abode and is a part of the spiritual sky manifest in this world. As my eternal servant and a leader amongst My devotees, you should go there. Let your students stay here, for they are absorbed in dasya rasa (servitorship in awe and reverence) and will not understand the advanced devotional mood, so travel there alone. Any living entity who does not go to see Sri Navadwipa has been born uselessly. Just one portion of Sri Navadwipa contains Ranga Ksetra, Venkatesvara and Yadava Acala. Therefore go to Sri Navadwipa and see My form of Gauranga. After gaining the Lord’s blessing go to Kurma Sthana and rejoin your disciples.”
Folding his hands, Ramanuja humbly requested Lord Jagannatha, “My dear Lord, You have mercifully told me something about Gauranga, but exactly who He is, I do not know?”
The Lord answered, “It is known to you that Lord Sri Krsna, the Lord of Goloka, is the Supreme Absolute Truth. That much is well known to My devotees. That same Supreme Personality of Godhead who resides in Sri Vrindavana is fully manifest as Gauranga, and His beloved abode, Sri Vrindavana, is manifest as the holy land of Sri Navadwipa. Navadwipa is the Supreme spiritual abode and it is transcendental to the influence of the material nature. In that divine land, Lord Gauranga eternally resides. By My mercy that holy abode has come to exist within the universe, but it remains completely unaffected by maya. This is the verdict of the scriptures. If anyone thinks that Sri Navadwipa is only a material location, then whatever devotion he has developed will wither and perish. By My will, My inconceivable energy preserves this transcendental abode within this material world. Simply by studying the scriptures, one will not be able to understand the Absolute Truth. Only by My mercy can My devotees understand.”
Hearing these words of Lord Jagannatha, Ramanuja was filled with love. “My dear Lord,” he said, “Your pastimes are truly astounding. The scriptures cannot fully describe Your opulences. Why is Gauranga-lila not described in the scriptures? Upon reflection, I find some hint of Gauranga tattva in the srutis and puranas. Now, however, all my doubts are gone and I am ready to execute Your will. If it is Your desire, I will go to Sri Navadwipa and from there, I will set out to preach about Lord Gauranga throughout the three worlds, giving evidences from the scriptures to all, converting them to the devotional service of Gauranga. Please instruct me. You have just to give me Your order.”
Lord Jagannatha replied, “Ramanuja, do not broadcast in this way. Keep these secrets of Lord Gauranga’s pastimes as they are for the present. Only after He has concluded His pastimes will the people in general come to understand them. Preach about me on the level of dasya rasa as you have always done, but within your heart, worship Lord Gauranga constantly.”
Following Lord Jagannatha’s order, Ramanuja secretly cultivated his attraction for Sri Navadwipa. Being very merciful, Lord Narayana led him to Vaikunthapura and showed him His transcendental form, worshipped by manifestations of His different energies. Ramanuja felt himself most fortunate to see this, but, as he watched, the Lord manifested His form as Gauranga, the son of Jagannatha Misra. Ramanuja’s mind became stunned by the brilliance of His shining golden form. Lord Gauranga then placed His two lotus feet upon Ramanuja’s head and Ramanuja, filled with inspiration, began to offer prayers.
Ramanuja said, “I must see Your pastimes when You appear here in Navadwipa My Lord. I shall never leave this place.”
Lord Gauranga replied, “Your wish will be fulfilled, O son of Kesava. When My Navadwipa lila is revealed you will again take your birth here.”
Lord Gauranga then disappeared. Greatly satisfied by the Lord’s promise, Ramanuja returned to Kurma Sthana, where he joined his disciples. During his life he preached devotional service to the Lord in the mood of dasya rasa, or servitorship throughout the south of India, whilst internally he was absorbed in meditating on the pastimes of Lord Gauranga. By Lord Gauranga’s mercy, he was born again in Sri Navadwipa as a devotee named Ananta to assist in the Lord’s pastimes. When Lord Caitanya made His appearance in Sri Navadwipa, Ananta Vipra was already quite old, He lived in a cottage which was situated beneath a huge old banyan tree. There, within his humble abode, he would worship his Deities of Laxmi-Narayana. None could describe the pure way in which he worshipped Them.