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Today’s question is Chinna Jeeyar installed the statue of Ramanuja in Hyderabad. Is this a good thing?
Good question. Chinna Jeeyar is an Indian ascetic following the tradition of vaishnavism, a group dedicated to god Vishnu. He designed and built the Statue of Equality, a statue dedicated to Ramanuja in Hyderabad, India.
Statue: the statue was built to commemorate 1000 years since Ramanuja’s birth. It is 216 foot tall and cost 1000 crores. It was built by Aerosun Corporation in China. There are many great sculptors in India but the swami gave the job to the Chinese.
Be that as it may, India is in the grip of a statue fever. Everybody wants a big statue to make a statement. Prime minister Modi built a huge statue of unity of Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat. It is the world’s tallest statue, costing billions of dollars. Not long ago, he unveiled Shankaracharya’s statue in Kedarnath. It seems to me that Chinna Jeeyar got inspired from his friend Narendra Modi. He calls this statue ‘Statue of Equality’. Where is equality in statue construction? All statues you have been building belong to one religion. If you believe in equality, where are the statues for Christian saints like Apostle Thomas, who brought the gospel to India? Where is the statue for William Carey, who played a pivotal role in the Bengal Renaissance? Where is the statue for Buddha? He did more for equality in India than any other Hindu guru. Buddhism lost its appeal to India’s elite for its teachings against the caste system.
Chinna Jeeyar should show his ideology in his words and actions. The politicians have divided Indian society along religious and caste lines. He never condemns the politicians in power for their communal rhetoric. Every election cycle, they divide people along religious and caste lines. Mr.Chinna Jeeyar would not take upon himself to criticize any of these politicians. If you truly believe in equality, ask Mr. Modi to give equal freedom to Christians.
In India, 99% of money is concentrated in the hands of a few people. Can this Swamy call to donate money to the poorest of India? 99% of political power is concentrated in the hands of a few castes. Can this Swamy call to distribute power to all castes? Almost all priests belong to one caste. Can this Swamy call to distribute priesthood to people of all castes? We don’t see calls for equality in the pronouncements of this Swamy. If you really believe in equality, it must also show up in your actions.
Take a look at the Global Hunger Index. UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund highlighted that India reported the most number of deaths of children below five years. Almost a million children die in India every year due to hunger. Doesn’t that prick your conscience? The big statue of Ramanuja was not enough for him. He made another statue of 120 kg of gold inside the meditation hall. When we have a million children a year dying of starvation, why are you obsessed with building statues wasting billions of dollars? We have millions of homeless people. We don’t have enough hospitals to take care of the sick. But we are so eager to build gigantic statues to say ‘we have the world’s biggest statue of this or that’. The world is not impressed with this.
Chinna Jeeyar calls Ramanuja’s statue the ‘statue of equality’. Who was this Ramanuja? Ramanuja was an Indian philosopher and a Hindu theologian. What is the nature of reality? Hinduism gave us three different, contradictory answers.
Advaita, Dvaita, and Vishishtsdvaita.
Advaita is non-dualism. It was taught by Shankaracharya, an 8th century Hindu guru. He copied a lot of ideas from Buddha. He said there is no difference between God and his creation. They are all united in one supreme consciousness.
Then there is Vishishtadvaida taught by Ramanuja. He was highly critical of Shankaracharya and his Advaita philosophy. Unlike Shankaracharya, he said the material world is real, it provides real knowledge. He thought there is no room for a personal god in Advaita philosophy. Shankaracharya’s Brahman is impersonal. Ramanuja did not like that. He agreed with the non-dualism to some extent. There are three ontological realities: matter, soul and God. They are identical and united. But God alone is modified or qualified. Vishishta literally means qualified. Thus it opposes the unqualified nonduality of Shankaracharya.
What is modifying what? Ramanuja used the analogy of body and soul. Body is different from the soul but has no separate existence. Yet the body modifies the soul.
Similarly, matter and soul are like God’s body. They modify God. The body serves the soul. Human soul must serve God.
Our goal must be unity with a personal god Vishnu. So, we must worship a personal god. Our soul should unite with him. This philosophy is called Vishishtadvaita or qualified non-dualism. ‘Everything is one, but let us give some room for a personal god’. It was a smart move on his part. He made devotional worship a part of salvation. This Bhakti devotionalism later spread all over India. Ramanuja allowed only Brahmins to be the priests. In fact, he allowed only a sub caste of Brahmins called Shrivaishnavas to be the leaders of his Bhakti movement. So, much for equality!
Then there is Dvaita. It was taught by Madhavacharya, a 12th century guru. We have to wait for his statue. He criticized both Shankaracharya and Ramanuja. He criticized both of their philosophies.
He said there is a fundamental difference between the human soul and God. They are not identical. They are two different unchanging realities. Human soul is dependent on God, not Vice versa. Only way to salvation is the grace of God. He basically taught dualism, something similar to dualism we see in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Not surprisingly, Madhava’s philosophy did not get much traction in India. He did not gain many followers. I doubt there would be a big statue for him. But let us wait and see.
Lord Jesus did more for human equality than all these three gurus put together. He said, ‘For God so loved the world’. Bible introduces a God who loves all people. This God came to save us from our sins.
There is a story that says when Ramanuja’s life was in danger, some Dalits saved his life and after that experience, out of gratitude, he gave them some freedom to enter temples. That is reactionary activism. While that is a good thing, that is not the grounds for equality before God. Today, God is calling all of us to put our faith in Jesus, join in the family of God and then treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Note those words: there is no difference between a Jew and a Gentile, between a slave and a free person; between a male and a female, we are all one in Jesus Christ.
Those words were written by the Apostle Paul two thousand years ago. They brought so much equality and social justice to our world. Apostle Paul influenced social justice much more than Ramanuja. Where is a statue for Apostle Paul?
Jesus died for our sins. That means your sins and my sins. When we put our faith in his blood, he saves us from our sins. Then we become one in Christ.
That is the true ground for equality. There is no other ground for equality before God.
I hope Chinna Jeeyar will come to the knowledge of Christ. Thank you.