A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of kasturi rangacarya: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twentieth part in the series called the “philosophy of the ramanuja school of thought”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Kastūrī Raṅgācārya, otherwise called Śrī Raṅgasūri, was a disciple of Saumya Jāmātṛ muni and probably lived late in the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century. Rāmānuja’s views do not seem to have undergone great changes of interpretation, and we do not find the emergence of different schools of interpretation as in the case of the philosophy of Śaṅkara. The followers of Rāmānuja throughout the succeeding centuries directed their efforts mostly to elucidating Rāmānuja’s views and adducing new arguments for his doctrines or refuting the arguments of his opponents and finding fault with the theories of other schools. A sectarian difference, however, arose with Veṅkaṭanātha’s efforts to explain the nature of devotion and the ultimate nature of emancipation and various other problems associated with it. Some external ritualistic differences can also be traced from his time. One sect[1] (Vaḍkalai or Uttara-kalārya) was led by Veṅkaṭanātha and the other school (called Teṅgalai or Dakṣiṇa-kalārya) by Lokācārya and Saumya Jāmātṛ muni.

Kastūrī Raṅgācārya wrote two works called Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-vāda and the Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-tattva, in which he discussed some of the most important differences of these two schools and lent his support to the Teṅgalai or the Dakṣiṇa-kalārya school. The discussion began on the occasion of the interpretation of Rāmānuja of a topic in the Brahma-sūtra (4.3.6-15) called the Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-vāda, in which some Upaniṣad texts raised certain difficulties regarding the attainment of absolute immortality as conditioned by wisdom or worship (upāsanā). Vādari says that the worship of Hiraṇyagarbha, the highest of the created beings, leads to absolute immortality; Jaimini says that only the worship of the highest Brahman can produce immortality. Bādarāyaṇa, however, rejects their views and holds that only those who regard their souls as naturally dissociated from Prakṛti and as parts of Brahman attain absolute immortality.

Those who cannot realize their essential difference from the material qualities with which they are seemingly associated cannot attain the highest immortality and have ultimately to follow the cycles of births and rebirths. Those alone who worship Brahman with a proper apprehension of their own nature in relation to it can attain the highest immortality. The nature of this worship has been described by Raṅgācārya in accordance with the Gītā which enjoins the worship of Brahman with śraddhā (śraddhā-pūrvakaṃ brahmo-pāsanam). The word śraddhā ordinarily means faith. This faith undergoes a special characterization at the hands of Raṅgācārya and other thinkers of the Teṅgalai school.

Thus it is said that

  1. the first stage is the full apprehension of the great and noble qualities of God;
  2. the second stage is the attachment produced by such apprehension;
  3. the third stage is to regard Him as the ultimate end and fulfilment of our nature;
  4. the fourth stage is to think of Him as the only dear object of our life;
  5. the fifth stage is the incapacity to bear separation from God through intense love for Him;
  6. the sixth stage is absolute faith in God as the only means of self-fulfilment ;
  7. the seventh and last stage is the enkindling of the spirit in its forward movement to hold fast to Him.

It is this last stage as associated with all the previous stages and as integrated with them which is called śraddhā. The worship of God with such faith (śraddhā) is also called devotion or bhakti. The worship of God again means intense joy in Him (prīti-rūpo-paśāntatva-lakṣaṇam). The mere realization of one’s self as dissociated from the material elements is not sufficient. Those who follow the process of Pañcāgni-vidyā rest only with self-discriminative wisdom and do not take to God as the final end of self-fulfilment.

The first point of dispute between the followers of Uttara-kalārya and Dakṣiṇa-kalārya concerns the nature of emancipation called kaivalya which consists in self-realization as the ultimate end (ātmā-nubhava-lakṣaṇa-kaivalyā-khya-puruṣā-rthaḥ). Veṅkaṭanātha, the leader of the Uttara-kalārya, thinks that those who attain such emancipation have again to come back, i.e. such an emancipation is destructible. The Dakṣiṇa-kalārya school, however, thinks that such an emancipation is eternal. Thus Veṅkaṭa, in his Nyāya-siddhā-ñjana, says that mere realization of self as distinguished from all material elements is not sufficient, for it should also be supplemented by the knowledge that that self is a part of God and is entirely subordinate to Him, and that this view is held in the Śrī-bhāṣya[2]. He draws a distinction between the realization of one’s own nature as bliss and the realization of the blissful nature of God. The former may happen without the latter.

It has to be admitted that in the state of kaivalya there is an association of materiality (acit-saṃsarga), since the karma in its entirety is not destroyed in this case; for to know one’s proper essence is to know oneself as a part of God and so long as this state is not attained one is under the influence of māyā. In the case of such a person the māyā obstructs his vision of God. Veṅkaṭa, however, cannot say anything definitely as to the ultimate destiny of those who attain kaivalya. He asserts only that they cannot attain the eternal Brahmahood. He is also uncertain as to whether they are associated with bodies or not. He is also aware that his interpretation of the nature of kaivalya is not in harmony with all the scriptural texts, but he feels that since some of the texts definitely support his views other texts also should be taken in that light.

Kastūrī Raṅgācārya, however, asserts that, according to the testimony of the old Drāvida texts and also of the Gītā and such other texts, those who attain emancipation through self-knowledge attain the state of absolute immortality.

The difference between liberation through self-knowledge and the liberation through one’s self-knowledge in association with God is only a difference in the richness and greatness of experience, the latter being higher than the former in this respect[3]. Other points of difference between the Uttara-kalāryas and the Dakṣiṇa-kalāryas are closely connected with the point discussed above.

They have been enumerated in the second chapter of Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-vāda and are as follows.

  1. The Uttara-kalāryas think that those who attain the emancipation of a self-realization as kaivalya pass to a higher world through other channels than those adopted by persons who attain ultimate emancipation. This is denied by the Dakṣiṇa-kalāryas.
  2. Secondly, the former hold that the absolute dissociation of all trace of the elements of prakṛti is the same as emancipation, but the latter deny it.
  3. Thirdly, the former hold that those who attain the kaivalya are associated with subtle material impurities and may still be regarded as attaining immortality in a remote sense; this is desired by the latter.
  4. Fourthly, the former hold that those who attain kaivalya remain in a place within the sphere of the material world and their state is therefore not unchangeable, but the latter deny it.
  5. Fifthly, the former hold that those who attain wisdom through the five sacrifices (pañcāgni-vidyā) are different from those that attain kaivalya, but the latter hold that they may or may not be so.
  6. Sixthly, the former hold that those who attain wisdom through the five sacrifices may remain within the sphere of the material world when they attain only self-knowledge, but when they realize the nature of their relation with Brahman they pass away beyond the sphere of the material world (prakṛti); the latter, however, deny this.
  7. Seventhly, the former hold that those who attain wisdom through pañcāgni-vidyā, those who realize the nature of their relation to God, have the same characteristics, but the latter deny it.
  8. Eighthly, the former hold that outside the sphere of the material world (prakṛti) there cannot be any difference in the nature of one’s highest experience, but this also is denied by the latter[4].

In his Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-tattva, Raṅgācārya only repeats the same arguments and the topic of discussion is also the same as that in Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-vāda.

Footnotes and references:


sarvāsu vipratipattiṣu purvā kakṣyā vedāntā-cārya-tad-nnuvandhinām uttara-kalārya-saṃjñānām uttarā tu lokācārya-tad-anubandīnnāṃ dakṣiṇa-kalārya-saṃjñānām iti viveko budhyaḥ.
8. 2.


parama-puruṣa-vibhūti-bhūtasya prāptur ātmanaḥ svarūpa-yāthātmya-veda-nant apavarga-sādhana-bhūta-parama-puruṣa-vedano-payogitayā āvaśyakam. na svata eva upāyatvena ity uktam.
p. 82.

Veṅkaṭa also refers to Varada Viṣṇumiśra in support of his views.

niḥśeṣa-karma-kṣayā-bhāvāt kaivalya-prāptau na muktiḥ

He refers to Saṅgati-mālā, where Śrī Viṣṇucitta says that a person wishing to attain Brahman may commit such errors of conception that instead of attaining the true Brahmahood he may attain only the lower state of kaivalya just as a man performing sacrifices to attain Heaven may commit errors for which he may become a brahma-rākṣasa instead of attaining Heaven. Ibid. p. 84.


Kāryā-dhi karaṇa-vāda, 3. 79. Kastūrī Raṅgācārya goes through a long course of references to scriptural texts, Dravidian and Sanskritic, in support of his views.


Kāryā-dhikaraṇa-vāda, 11. 7.

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