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Philosophy of Sri Vaishnavam

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Unlike in the west, in our time- tested culture, philosophy and theology go hand in hand. Only the degree of integration of the two varies between different schools of thought. With Sri Sanakarcharya, the stress is more on philosophy whereas, it is more on theology, in the sace of Sri Vallabhacharya. It is in SRI  VAISHNAVAM,as propoundednbsp; and practised by Sri Ramanujacharya and his disciples and followers, that we meet with a FINE DYNAMIC EQUILLIBRIUM bertween philosophy and theology, between reason and faith.

The philosphy structure of Sri Vaishnavam was greatly and expertly formulated by Sri Ramaujacharya, unparalleled in the Histiry of world religions.  It is called Visishtadvaita,  in Sanskrit,  meaning  ``non-duality  of Reality, the qualified whole, as characterized by attributes''.  Sri Ramauja asserts that JivAthmAs are real, the world is real, only that they have no  separate  existence  apart from Brahman Sriman Narayanan  (Narayana -- He in whom all beings rest).  Theirs is a dependent  reality.  To  explain  further,  Sri  Ramanuja  has  recourse  to the metaphor of "sarira sariri" nexus1.

The soul  indwells  the body  which can not exist  without  the  soul.  Likewise Brahman, Sriman Narayanan is the Indweller,  antharyaami, of evrything  created. both chit(sentient,  jIvAs) and achit (insentient,  Jagat).  Brhamn qualified by jIvAs and Jagat is the whole non-dual.  It must be remembered that the essential nature of Sarira is to be under the Absolute  control of the Sariri and subserve the purpose of the Sariri.  In other words, the Sariri  (Brahman-  Narayanan) is the Master or Lord (Seshi) and JivAs and Jagat are His servants (Seshan).

The  relationship  that exists between Brahman  (Narayanan)  and the Universe of sentient souls and insentient entities, is INSEPARABLE and IRREVOCABLE, known as "aprthaksiddha".  As a classical  expression of Vedanta (the philosophical basis for much of Hinduism),  the goal of  Visishtadvaita  philosophy is to understand and experience Brahman, the One Blissful Reality who is the all-pervasive ground and  sustenance of the universe -- the string upon whom all pearls are threaded. The ``pearls'', individual beings and matter, are inseparable  attributes of the Supreme Person, modes of Its existence2.

QuestionWill not the  sufferings  of the Cosmic  Body of God  affect  Him and sully His perfection?

Answer:  No.  Absolutely  Not.  Vaishnava  Acharyas have explained that (also as assertively  vouched by Sri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita) in the case of Jivas it is the hold of oppressive karma that generates  impurity,  whereas God is UNTOUCHED by  Karma  and  is  there  as  "amalan",   absolutely   PURE.  Perhaps,  a  more easy-to-understand  (for dull  headed  fellows  like me) simili is:  We wash our hands with soap and water after we eat sweets  saoked with Oil/  Butter or Ghee, while we leave the mouth untouched by soapy waters, even though both  contribute to our  enjoyment  of the said  sweet.  Being also an admirer  of  Mathematician Ramanujam,  his  mathematical  principles  come  to my  rescue  to  explain  Sri Ramanujacharya's  Philosophy.  Whatecevr  you  do to  infinity-  subtract,  add, multiply,  divide-  infinity is still infinity and continues to be.  NOTHING CAN TAKE AWAY BRAHMAN'S  INFINITUDE AND  ABSOLUTENESS.  This also has been explained by the Upanishads:  Poornasya  Poornam adaya Poornam eva  avasishyate.  - Remove infiity from infinity and what remains is still infinity.

The historical  references to Sri Vaishnavam is right from the monotheis, of Rig veda, the Upanishads, Ithihasas,  BrhamasUthram,  Puranas, Agamas- which tell us how  ancient  and  persistent  the  Vaishnavic  idea is.  The  contributions  of AzhwArs, Sri  Nathamuni,  Sri  Yamunamuni,  Sri  Ramanujacharya,  Swami  Vedanta Desika, Sri  Pillailokacharya,  Sri  Manavala  Mamunigal  are all great and deep reverberating unilaterally and unambisuously the doctrine of Sri Vaishnavam.    


1. Extract From a book review by Sri C.S Ramakrishnan (appeared in "The    Hindu" dated April 1, 1995 on Vaishnavism by S.M.Srinivasa Chari.

2. From Sri Vaishnava Home page (by Sri Mani Varadarajan).