by E. Sowmya Narayanan | 2008 | 30,562 words
This page is entitled “introduction” contained in the Siddhanta Sangraha (English translation and critical edition). The Siddhanta Samgraha is a Sanskrit philosophical text dealing with Vishishtadvaita in five hundred Sanskrit verses. It was written by Shri Shailacarya (18th century) and closely follows the philosophy of Vedanta Deshika (13th century).
1. The teachings of Ālvārs and Ācāryas.
One of the popular systems of Vedanta philosophy, namely, Viśiṣṭādvaita was propagated by Śrī Rāmānujā, who was well known as Śrī Bhāṣyakāra. He systamatised the teachings of the ṛṣis and the Ālvārs as expounded by Nāthamuni and Ālavandār. The spiritual experiences of the Ālvārs and the Ācāryas recorded in the guruparamparas become the root cause for the advent of Shri Vaisnavism. The prophecy of the Śrīmad Bhāgavata that in the Kali Yuga, the ṛṣis devoted to Nārāyaṇa would be born in on the banks of rivers Kāveri, Tāmraparṇī and the Pālār in Drāviḍadeśa or in the land of Agastya was fulfilled in the lives and teachings of the Ālvārs. The only aim of the Ālvārs was to contact God in His beauteous aprākṛta form and to communicate the joy of their communion with Him to humanity. They were all messengers of God who spread the Viśiṣṭādvaita gospel that Brahman, the śarīri of all, has the chief quality of saulabhya even on the perceptual level and that by rooting out ahaṃkāra and by self-surrender to His love; every man can attain mukti.
2. The Ubhaya Vedānta System
The experience of the ṛṣis, the Bhāgavatas and the Ālvārs paved the way for the formulation of the Visistadvaitic system and the truths laid down traditionally by the ṛṣis and the Ālvārs are embodied in the system are known as Ubhaya Vedānta.
3. The origin of Divya Prabandha
The hymns of the Ālvārs, four thousand in number were collected and collated by Nāthamuni in the manner of the four Vedas arranged by Vyāsa and are called the Divya Prabandha or Tamil Veda and they contain the quintessence of the Upaniṣads.
4. The founder of Ubhaya Vedānta School
The founder of Ubhaya Vedānta school of Shri Vaisnavism was Nāthamuni and he was a decendant of the Bhāgavata immigrants from the Gangetic Valley. He was born at Kattu Mannar Kovil in the South Arcot
District in 824 A.D. Tradition ascribes to him the miraculous discovery of the entire Tamil Prabandha in Tirunagari which was revealed to him by the Madurakavi Alvār after reciting the verses in praise of Nammālvar. Nāthamuni devoted all his time in his old age to the practice of samādhi and reached the eternal abode of God in 920 A.D. He was succeeded by Uyyakkondār or Puṇḍarikākṣa and he by Maṇakkālnambi or Rāma Miśra.
5. A short narration about Yāmunācārya
The next Ācārya, who spread the principles of Shri Vaisnavism is, Ālavandar or Yāmunācārya, the grandson of Nāthamuni. His masterly summary in the Gitārtha Saṅgraha of the truths of the Gītā in about thirty verses of the nature of Prakṛti, Puruṣa and Puruṣottama and of the need for bhakti and prapatti as the supreme means to mokṣa. This was later developed by Rāmānujā and further elaborated by Vedānta Deśika.
6. Rāmānuja and his contribution
Rāmānujā, who followed Yāmunācārya, was born in Śrīperumbūdūr near Kāñcī in the year 1017 A.D. as the son of Āsuri Keśava Somayāji and Kantimati, sister of Śrī Śailapūrṇa, the grandson of Yāmunācārya. He has systematised the entire teachings of Viśiṣṭādvaita, expounded by his predecessors through his works. He did a great service in spreading the Visistadvaitic literature till the end of his life which lasted for 120 years.
7. Vedānta Deśika and his efforts in spreading the principles of Viśiṣṭādvaita
Three centuries after Rāmānujā, arose another great teacher of Viśiṣṭādvaita, Vedānta Deśika, who, by his unrivalled jñāna and vairāgya, established the teachings of Ubhaya Vedānta and spread the gospel of prapatti as a Vedantic means to the attainment of Brahman. He was born in 1268 A.D. at Tūpppul in Kāñcī, to the couple Anantasūri and Totāramba and named as Venkatanatha. His main contribution to Visistadvaitic literature was the further elucidation of the Visistadvaitic teachings of Rāmānujā by his works. He lived 101 years and established the system on a firm footing. Thus, the system that was popularised and established by Śrī Rāmānujā was known as Viśiṣṭādvaita, which was later spread by Śrī Vedānta Deśika and his followers.
8. The doctrine of Viśiṣṭādvaita
The Viśiṣṭādvaita maintains its position in the history of Indian thought by establishing its own siddhānta by a criticism of rival systems. It has, at the same time, a synthetic insight into the essentials of other darśanas and accepts whatever in them is consistent with its own basic principles. The word Viśiṣṭādvaita can be explained through the compounds ‘bahuvrīhi’ as well ‘ṣaṣṭhī tatpuruṣa’ that is ‘Viśiṣṭam Advaitam yat tat’ or ‘Viśiṣṭasya Advaitam’. According to the Viśiṣṭādvaita system of philosophy, the Brahman who is identified with the personal God, who is none other than Nārāyaṇa is endowed with all auspicious attributes. He is the sole cause of the Universe that is constituted of sentient and insentient entities. The relation between the world and the Brahman is that of the body and the soul. The Supreme Brahman being the inner self controls the Universe. Thus, the Brahman is qualified by the sentient and the insentient entities of the world and is inseparably united.
9. Siddhānta Saṅgraha
As noted earlier, these principles were well explained in the works of Śrī Vedānta Deśika. Śrī Vedānta Deśika served as a model for the later writers and thus there where a number of works explaining the basic tenets of this system. One such important work is Siddhānta Saṅgraha of Śrī Śailācārya, who belonged to the Eighteenth Century.
Footnotes and references:
See The Philosophy of Viśiṣṭādvaita, p.506. Also see Book XI, Chapter-V, verses 38-40 as quoted also by Śrī Vedānta Deśika in the introductory chapter of Rahasyatrayā Sāra.
See The Philosophy of Viśiṣṭādvaita, p.519.
This concludes Introduction according to Vishishtadvaita philosophy explained by Shri Shailacarya. This book follows the model of Vedanta Deshika although the Vishishta Advaita school was originally expounded by Shri Ramanuja. Vishishta-Advaita is one of the various sub-schools of Vedanta which itself represents one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu Philosophy. They highlight the importance of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras.