According to Ramanuja, God has five kinds of forms—(1) para, (2) vyuha, (3) vibhava, (4) antaryami, (5) arcavatara!
These have been explained as follows:
This is also called Vasudeva—svarupa. This is above the motion of time. This never has any product and in it there is undisturbed happiness. It is this form which is called sadgunyavigraha. The saints in heaven see it with their eyes.
It is the efficient cause of the drama of the universe. It is present in Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. It is for evincing love towards the worshippers and devotees and for protecting the worldly beings. In this form apparently there are only two characteristics. In Pradyumna there is excellence while in Vyuha and Anirudha there are strength and fire. Sankarsana leads to military preparation and destruction of the world. Pradyumna to religious preaching, Mann to the creation of the four varnas and other pure classes and Aniruddha to protection, award of metaphysical knowledge and the sustenance of temporal creation.
Even though it is of no end, it is of two types—primary and secondary. Mukhya (primary) Vibhava is a part of God and is conjoined to the body. Devotees worship this form. This is the manifestation of God. Secondary manifestation is the name given to “svarupavesa” “saktyavesa” manifestation. This manifestation of God takes place in order to punish the wicked, to establish religion and to reward the meritorious saints.
In this form, God enters into the souls of the jivas and controls all their tendencies. It is through the medium of this form that God helps the jivas in all situations in places like heaven and hell.
This is the adorable image of God who lives in the idol which suits the interest of the worshipper.
According to Ramanuja, the conscious and the unconscious elements are the bodies of God, but the difference between the body of God and its soul is not clear. Actually, if conscious and unconscious elements constitute the body of God, then He should be susceptible to pain, suffering, imperfections, defects, etc.
Ramanuja asserts that God is not influenced by the change of this world and by the sufferings or shortcomings of the body in the same manner in which the soul is not affected by the vicissitudes of the body. But in such a state, the soul becomes the soul of the universe and not of an individual body and it cannot therefore be considered to be many. The assertion that the soul of God is unchanging and perfect, while His body is changing and defective cannot be accepted as logical.
Ramanuja has sought to combine the Brahmanvada of the Upanishads with the theism of Pancaratra. But if God is pervading the entire universe, it is not clear how He can be the soul, of the universe at the same time when He is the supreme personality residing in heaven. Actually, the task of synthesizing theism with the Vedantic tradition is so difficult that it is inevitable that some difficulties should arise.
Ramanuja has also employed Vaishanava Purana, Pancaratra and Agama, etc., in addition to “prasthantraya.” But all the theories of the Vaishnava view cannot be synthesized with the monism of the Upanishads. One of the two must either be distorted or given a secondary position. Ramanuja tried to synthesize the two without modifying either.
It is no wonder, therefore, that he did not succeed, although any other philosopher attempting the same would have met with even greater failure. In his philosophy, Ramanuja tried to fulfil the demands of both religion and philosophy. As Samkara’s commentaries were already extant, he was compelled to refute them at every step in order to establish or strengthen his own views.
In fact, the only way of achieving a synthesis between Advaita and Vaishnava views is to accept the former as the transcendental truth and the latter as the empirical truth. This does not prove or imply the falsity of the empirical truth. It has only to be accepted as secondary and relative.
Sarvagyatma Muni has rightly said that Ramanuja’s Parinamavada is only an elementary stage of Samakara’s vivartavada and the two are not mutually contradictory. If Samkara’s view is studied from the viewpoint of a commentator like Kokileshwar Shastri then there would be no difficulty in accepting this statement.