Philosophy of Sri Vaishnavam
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.
Question: Will 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).