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Sri Ramanujacharya Teachings On Bliss

Sri Ramanujacharya, the teacher of Visishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), following Upanishads, says that reality (Brahman) is of the nature of bliss but differs from Adi Shankaracharya. He holds that this bliss is not Brahman itself but is one of its attributes. There is no such thing as attributeless Brahman or reality.

The individual selves, however, experience worldly pleasure or pain in accordance with their own stock of good or bad conduct, which in their turn result from conjunction with a physical body. This goes on until release, which is a blissful and beatific state.

The counterpart of Visishtadvaita philosophy speaks of the immense joy of the mystic union with God. Manavala Mamuni, one of the greatest Vaishnava saints and teachers, exclaims, “The joy that arises from the worldly objects for the ungodly, wells up in the same degree for the godly man. The intensity is the same in both but with opposite results (Dramidopanishad – Sangati). They mystic devotee cries to God as if he were mad with sensual love (kamuka vakya bhangi). This is conventionally termed bridal mysticism.

God is the only bridegroom and all others are brides, pining away in separation. Devotion has four aspects –

  1. The intense love for god
  2. The pain of separation
  3. The ecstasy of union
  4. The enjoyment of divine bliss

For this beloved of God, there is neither scripture, nor any regiment (naiva sastram na ca kramah).

Devotion, according to Ramanuja, is the royal road to release. The bliss that is the natural endowment of every self obscured by bondage to a body manifests itself fully in release. And this bliss is also at the same time the unexcellable enjoyment of God (niratisaya bhoga). In a rather popular imagery, the heaven is picturized as a paradise of unexcelled joys.