The Bhakti Movement: Rama Bhakti, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF - 20.9 2019

Laksmi Devi and Sri Ramanujacarya

A serial presentation of the Bhakti Movement's development in India.

Having described in our last segment the personality of Ramananda, a key figure in the 15th Century Bhakta Movement, today we'll look at how this branch of the Bhakti cult fits in the context of Vaisnava sampradaya.

Although the lineage of the Ramanandis is commonly referred to as the Ramananda Sampradaya, Ramananda Swami's line belongs to the Ramavat sect, a branch of the Shri Sampradaya. The Shri Sampradaya, more formally known as the Lakshmi Sampradaya, is one of the four main Vaishnava sampradayas.

It is also referred to as the Srivaishnava Sampradaya, and as the Ramanuja Sampradaya. In modern times, Ramanujacarya is known as the primary Sampradaya Acarya, having produced his Sri-bhasya commentary on Vedanta. This siddhanta is known as Visistadvaita-vada (specific monism).

Ramananda began his devotional life as a sannyasi in the Shri Sampradaya. While remaining loyal to the philosophy of Sri Ramanuja, Ramananda chose to promote the worship of Sri Sri Sita-Rama as the ultimate goal of bhakti, rather than the sampradaya's established form of worshipping Sri Sri Laksmi-Narayana.

In a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada explained:

"Everyone worships the Lord and His potency, spiritual potency. Just like we worship Radha-Krsna, similarly, the Ramanuja-sampradaya, they worship Laksmi-Narayana or Sita-Rama. So we should follow the sampradaya. Sampradaya - vihina ye mantras te viphala matah."
(Srimad Bhagavatam Lecture, Mayapur, Feb 25, 1976)

Srila Prabhupada provided further commentary on the Gaudiya Vaisnava position on the Ramanuja Sampradaya in this letter to VSR Chakravarti:

"...We Gaudiya Vaisnava follow Srila Ramanuja's philosophy almost in the same manner. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives the identification of jiva soul as the eternal servant of Krishna and is situated as marginal potency of the Lord based on the philosophy of acintya-bheda bheda-tattva. This is almost similar to Visistadvaita vada. Vaisnava philosophy is now being pushed on all over the world under the Hare Krishna movement, and we feel Sripada Ramanuja a great support for the Vaisnava philosophical understanding. It is like a combination of nyaya sruti and smrti prasthans. The Bhagavad-gita supports the Vedanta Sutra brahma-sutra-padais caiva. hetumadbhir viniscitaih. (BG. 13:5.)

To the jiva brahma identification is one part of acintya-bheda bheda-tattva. As spirit soul or identical brahma, or jiva brahma is identical with the Supreme Brahma or the param brahma. In this sense jiva soul is avheda or non-different from the param brahma. But on account of the param brahma being the supreme, the biggest, the identical brahma or jiva brahma being very minute, it is different from the param brahma. The summary is that the simultaneous one and different jiva brahma is simultaneously one with and different from the param brahma. Because it is appreciated simultaneously which is very difficult to comprehend by the common man, this philosophy is called acintya-bheda bheda tattva, inconceivable. This is supported by the Katho Upanisad 2.5.13 nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman. This is almost similar to the visista-dvaita vada.

So far I am personally concerned, following the footsteps of my guru maharaj Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, we accept the principles of all the acaryas, although officially we belong to the Madhva sampradaya. Our sampradaya is known as the Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya. We find great shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Ramanujacarya because his lotus feet are the strongest fort to combat the mayavadi philosophy."

Srila Prabhupada Letter to VSR Chakravarti, 11-22-74, Boston
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

The supremacy of the Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy over the siddhanta being promoted by the Ramanandi sect was established by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who defeated the Ramanandis at Galta (Jaipur), Rajasthan. In an excellent article written by Sriman Nayana-ranjana das, published in the Jan/Feb 1991 issue of Back to Godhead magazine, the author describes the life and pastimes of our Sampradaya Acarya, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and the events leading up to his presentation of Sri Govinda Bhasya to the Ramanandi scholars. The article provides a fascinating historical background for the Ramanandi's presence at Galta.

Ramananda Swami

Coming down from Ramananda, this branch of the Shri Sampradaya is represented by the successive Acaryas including Raghuvara Acharya, Rama-prapana Acharya, Rameshvara Acharya, etc.