The Philosophy of Visistadvaita Vedanta (A Study Based on Vedanta Desika’s Adhikarana-Saravali)

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Item Code: NAB751
Author: S.M. Srinivasa Chari
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788120831803
Pages: 436
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 inch X 5.8 inch
Weight 680 gm
Book Description
From the Jacket

The school of Vedanta designated as Visistadvaita was expounded by Sri Ramanuja in the classic Sri-Bhasya, which were developed by Sri Vedanta Desika in his two philosophical treatises titled Tattva-mukta-kalapa and Adhikrana-saravali.

This scholarly work of Dr. S.M.S. Chari deals with the Adhikarana- saravali. The variety of theories related to Vedanta which are discussed in the 156 Adhikaranas of the Vedanta—sutras are consolidated and presented in a sequential order under five major headings: the doctrine of Brahman, the doctrine of universe and Brahman, the doctrine of jiva and Brahman, the doctrine of sadhana and the doctrine of Paramapurusartha. In the concluding chapter on General Evaluation, Dr. Chari discusses dispassionately the differing views of Samkara, Ramanuja and Madhva on the fundamental controversial theories of Vedanta. This volume along with the author's other books on Vedanta would be invaluable for a fuller understanding of Visistadvaita in all its aspects.

S.M. Srinivasa Chari is a distinguished scholar trained up by eminent teachers. He did his Ph.D. from the University of Madras.



The Brahma-sutra Bhasya of Sri Ramanuja, traditionally revered as Sri—Bhasya, is a monumental commentary on the Vedanta-sutras of sage Badarayana. In this work, Ramanuja has expounded in detail the doctrines of Visistadvaita Vedanta with adequate support of the Upanisads. Vedanta Desika, an illustrious successor to Ramanuja wrote two independent philosophical treatises, Tattva—mukta—kalapa and Adhikaraa—saravali with the main objective of establishing Visistadvaita as a sound and most acceptable system of Vedanta. Both these works are written in the form of verses containing 500 and 562 verses respectively, composed in the rhythmic sragdhara metre.

he Tattva—mukta-kalapa discusses comprehensively all the theories of Visistadvaita — epistemological, ontological, cosmological and eschatological — and establishes their soundness by examining critically the corresponding theories of rival schools of thought including Advaita Vedanta. The Adhikarana-saravali, on the other hand, is confined to the study of the Brahma—sutra Bhasya of Ramanuja and it presents the essential teachings of each adhikarana, or section dealing with specific topics of Brahma- sutra, as interpreted by Ramanuja. In the Tattva—mukta— kalapa, Vedanta Desika does not enter into the discussion of the Scriptural texts for the obvious reason that he wanted to prove the soundness of the Visistadvaita theory more on a logical basis than on the Scriptural authority. But in the Adhikarana-saravali, which directly deals with the Sri- Bhasya, he attempts to establish that the doctrines of Visistadvaita are in full accord with the Upanisadic teachings and the Vedanta-sutras. These two classics are complementary and are comparable, in the words of Vedanta Desika, to the two hands supporting each other (anyonyahastapradam). A study of both these works is considered essential for a fuller understanding of Visistadvaita Vedanta in all its aspects.

My book "Fundamentals of Visistadvaita", published earlier covers the study of the Tattva—mukta-kalapa and attempts to show that Visistadvaita is a sound philosophical system. In order to justify that Visistadvaita Vedanta also conforms fully to the Upanisads and Vedanta-sutras, unlike Advaita Vedanta, I have now undertaken the present work on the basis of an in—depth study of Adhikarulya—saravali.

This book does not attempt to render into English the 562 verses with explanatory notes nor does it deal with the 156 adhikaranas in the same order as it is found in the original text. Its scope is confined to enunciate the doctrines of Visistadvaita Vedanta as outlined in the adhikaranas of the Brahma-sutras. For this purpose the selected adhikaranas which have direct bearing on the philosophical doctrines of Visistadvaita are discussed in a logical sequence and presented as a coherent system of philosophy.

In the preparation of this book, I have drawn material mostly from the original texts ‘Adhikarana-saravali and the two learned commentaries on it titled Adhikarana-cintamani contributed by Sri Kumara Varadacarya, the son of Vedanta Desika and Padayojana, written by 5ri Satakopa Ramanuja— yati, the 34 pontiff of Ahobila Matham. Among the contemporary traditional scholars, Sri Uttamur Veeraraghavacharya has also written a detailed commentary named Sariraka Rutnaprabha. Another book under the title Sarirka Adhikarana Ratnamala by Mm. Kapisthalam Desikacharya presents in lucid Sanskrit the essential teachings of the adhikaranas with a statement of purvapaksa and siddhanta. I have made use of these works. For purposes of elucidation, wherever necessary, I have also taken material from the Sri—Bhasya of Ramanuja and the earned commentary on it titled Srutaprakasika, by Sudarsana Suri and also Vedanta Desika’s Tattva—mukta— kalapa and Satadusani.

It is for the first time, such an attempt is made to publish in English an authentic treatise on Visistadvaita Vedanta based on original source books. It is hoped that this volume will be found useful for an in-depth study of Visistadvaita Vedanta as expounded in the Sri—Bhasya and the Adhikarana-saravali.

I must pay my respects to my revered Acharya, the late Sri Gostipuram Sowmyanarayanacharya Swami to whom I owe my knowledge of Vedanta. I must also pay my respects to the late Sri Madhurantakam Veeraraghava— charya Swami and the late Mm. Saragur Madabhushi Varadacharya Swami, under whom I studied Sri-Bhasya, Tattva-mukta-kalapa and Adhikarana—saravali in the traditional manner. I am deeply indebted to them. I have derived help and guidance for understanding the crucial adhikaranas of the Vedanta-sutras from traditional scholars Mm. N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya, Mm. V. Srivatsankacharya and Mm. K.S. Varadacharya. I express my grateful thanks to them. I should also thank my esteemed friends Sri Ananthanarasimhachar, Dr. N.S. Anantharangachar and Sri S. Srinivasachar who have gone through the major part of the typescript and offered useful suggestions for improvement. I also express my grateful thanks to the eminent scholar Mm. K.S. Varadacharya for writing a foreword to the book.


Meaning of the term Visistadvaita

The system of Vedanta as expounded by Sri Ramanuja is designated as Visistadvaita. The term Visistadvaita signifies that the Ultimate Reality, named Brahman in the Upanisads is one as organically related to the sentient jivas (cit) and the non-sentient cosmic matter (acit). On the basis of the Upanisadic teachings, this school of thought acknowledges three real ontological entities namely, Brahman or Isvara, the jivatman or the' individual self and the prakrti or the primordial cosmic matter. Though all the three are different from each other, Brahman being inseparably related to the sentient souls as well as non-sentient matter is ultimately one as a qualified Reality. As Vedanta Desika states, though there is absolute difference between Isvara and the two other ontological entities and also among the individual selves and cosmic matter, the ultimate Reality is considered as one from the standpoint of its being a Visista tattva: (visitstasya advaitam).

Historical Development of Visistadvaita

Though all the schools of Vedanta owe their origin to the Upanisads, Brahma-sutras and the Bhagavadgita, the three basic source books, Visistadvaita as a well formulated philosophical system or darsana, with properly developed epistemology and ontology on logical ground as well as on the basis of correct interpretation of the Scriptural statements and allied texts, was expounded by Ramanuja in his monumental commentary on the Vedanta-sutras known as Sri-Bhasya. In view of this, Ramanuja may be regarded as the founder of the Visistadvaita system. But Ramanuja himself does not claim this distinction. In the opening para of the Sri-Bhasya, he says that he is writing a commentary on the sutras in accordance with the views contained in an elaborate and extensive vrtti or glossary written by Bodhayana which was abridged by earlier teachers. Though Bodhayanavrtti as well as the works of these ancient teachers are not extant, there is ample internal evidence to show from the quotations cited by Rarnanuja that there were already eminent exponents of Visistadvaita Vedanta such as Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bharuci". In his Veddrtha Sangraha, Ramanuja mentions the names of all these ancient exponents. He also quotes a few statements of Bodhayana who is also known as vrttikara and also by the name of Upavarsa, according to Samkara. This establishes beyond any doubt that the system of Vedanta developed by Ramanuja follows faithfully an ancient tradition (sista-parigrhita-puratana-veda-vedanta- vyakhyana). Such evidence is not forthcoming either in the Samkara's Sutra-bhasya or Madhva's Brahmasutra-bhasya.

According to Vedanta Desika, Nathamuni, who lived in the tenth century was the first exponent of Visistadvaita as a system of Philosophy (nathopajnam pravritam). He wrote two important works: Nyaya tattva and Yoga-rahasya, but both these are not extant. However it is evident from the numerous quotations cited by Vedanta Desika in his Nyaya-siddhanjana, that Nyaya-tattva is regarded as an important philosophical treatise which had considerable influence on both Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika". According to Yaisnava tradition, Nathamuni inherited his knowledge of Visistadvaita Vedanta from a long line of preceptors commencing from Nammalvar, the renowned Tamil saint, who is claimed to have lived in the beginning of Kaliyuga 2803 B.c.

After Nathamuni, Alavandar, also known as Yamuna, who lived sometime between AD 916-1036 developed the system by contributing a few independent philosophic works (bahubhih. yamuneya prabhandhaih upcitam). He wrote six works and of these the most important is Siddhitraya consisting of three parts - Atmasiddhi, Isvarasiddhi and Samvitsiddhi, each one being devoted to one of three fundamental doctrines of Visistadvaita. The teachings of Yamuna have greatly influenced both Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika as they have extensively used the logical arguments advanced by him in the refutation of Advaita doctrines.

Ramanuja, who came after Yamuna, was born in AD 1017. Though he could not become a direct disciple of Yamuna, he was orally instructed by four of his disciples - Mahapurna, Tirukkottiyur Nambi, Tirumalai Nambi and Tirumalai Andan. The works of Yamuna and the teachings received from his disciples enabled Ramanuja to further develop and re-establish the Visistadvaita as a full fledged system of Vedanta on strong foundation (tratum samyag yatindraih).

From the foregoing brief account, it may be observed that Visistadvaita Vedanta was not a new system founded by Ramanuja. On the contrary, it was already in existence from the time of Badarayana who compiled the Vedanta sutras on the basis of the Upanisadic teachings and also sage Bodhayana, who wrote the first authoritative glossary on it. At the time Ramanuja was born, there was a long felt need for consolidation and systematization of the apparently conflicting interpretations of the Upanisads. Earlier than Ramanuja, Samkara, Bhaskara and Yadavaprakasa, among the extant schools of Vedanta, had attempted to interpret the Upanisads and the Vedanta-sutras through scholarly Bhasyas. But the doctrines presented by them were not found acceptable. Sarnkara's doctrine of Maya on the basis of which the Nirvisesa Brahmadvaita with the denial of reality to the individual souls and the universe is developed was not found philosophically sustainable. The Bhedabheda vada of Bhaskara and Yadava was also not tenable since this concept conceived by them involved self- contradiction. It therefore became necessary for Ramanuja to develop a more rational system of Vedanta by properly interpreting the Vedanta-sutras and the connected Upanisadic texts and by refuting the doctrines which were opposed to the main tenets of Visistadvaita. He successfully accomplished this task assigned to him by writing the monumental Bhasya on the Brahma-sutras. He also wrote several other works. These are Vedanta-dipa, Vedanta-sara, which are brief commentaries on Vedanta Sutras, vedartha- samgraha, containing the quintessence of the Upanisads, the Gita Bhasya, a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, three lyrics named as Saranagati-gadya, Sriranga-gadya and Vaikuntha-gadya and lastly Nitya-grantha mainly dealing with the mode of worship of the image of God. Of these works, the commentary on Brahma-sutra, named Sri-Bhasya is the magnum opus of Ramanuja in which the Visistadvaita doctrines are thoroughly discussed. This will mainly engage our attention in the present book.

For nearly two centuries after Ramanuja, there was no significant contribution to the Visistadvaita system by way of major philosophical works. The acaryas who succeeded Ramanuja, though some of them were eminent vedantins such as Parasara Bhatta, Visnucitta, Vatsya Varada, Sudarsana Suri and Atreya Ramanuja, confined their attention primarily to the dissemination of the philosophy of Ramanuja by teaching Sri-Bhasya or writing further glossaries on it. The Sruiaprakasika, written by Sudarsana Suri is an outstanding commentary on Sri-Bhasya. Some of the Acaryas, such as Pillan, Nanjiyar, Periavaccan Pillai, Vadakkutiruvidi Pillai, who were attracted by the devotional hymns of the Alvars in Tamil engaged themselves in writing elaborate commentaries on them. During this period the theological aspect of Visistadvaita received much greater emphasis and importance than its philosophy.

Besides, the Visistadvaita system itself seems to have been exposed to the criticism by rival schools of thought and in particular from the Advaitins. Though Ramanuja had vigorously attacked Mayavada of Samkara in his Sri-Bhasya, the Advaita scholars of post-Ramanuja period had attempted to defend their doctrines against the criticisms of Ramanuja. Thus there was a clearly felt need for another great philosopher to consolidate the teachings of Ramanuja and establish the Visistadvaita system of philosophy on a stable foundation.

This need was fulfilled by Venkatanatha, popularly known as Vedanta Desika and also Vedanta Acarya, who was born in the year 1268. It is said that Vedanta Desika's future role as the re-establisher of Ramanuja's philosophy was prophesied even when he was a child of five by Vatsya Varadacarya, a spiritual descendent of Ramanuja. The story goes that when the child accompanied by his maternal uncle met the acarya for the first time, the latter was so attracted by the extraordinary intelligence of the boy, that he blessed him in the following words: "May you establish the Vedanta on a firm basis, vanquishing the theories of rival schools of thought; may you become the respected of the orthodox Vedantins and the abode of abundant auspiciousness. Vedanta Desika himself acknowledges with gratitude the blessings received from his spiritual guru in the opening verses of Tattva-mukta-kalapa and Adhikarana-saravali, the two major philosophical treatises devoted to the exposition of Visistadvaita Vedanta on a solid foundation".

Vedanta Desika was a prolific writer and he wrote more than hundred works not only in the realm of philosophy and religion but also in the field of poetry and drama. His chief philosophical works are: Nyaya-parisuddhi, Nyaya- siddhanjana, Tattva-mukta-kalapa along with Sarvarthasiddhi (his own commentary), Adhikarana-saravali, Sesvara- mimamsa, Mimamsa-paduka, Satadusani. His other philosophical works which are in the form of commentaries are Tattva-tika (an incomplete commentary on Sri-Bhasya), Tatparya-candrika (a gloss on Ramanuja's Gita-bhasya), Isavasyopanisad-bhasya (a commentary on Isavasyopanisad), Gitartha-samgraha-raksa (a commentary on Yamuna's Gitartha-samgraha), Rahasyaraksa, a commentary on Yamuna's Stotra-ratna, Catuhsloki and Ramanuja’s Gadyatraya.

Among the philosophical works, Nyaya-parisuddhi, Nyaya-siddhanjana, Satadusani, Tattva-mukta-kalapa and Adhikarana-saravali are important since in these works the doctrines of Visistadvaita are expounded. Nyaya-parisuddhi is an epistemological work devoted primarily to the discussion of the nature of the pramanas and other epistemological theories of Visistadvaita. In the Nyaya- siddhanjana, the ontological theories of Visistadvaita are presented in detail. The Satadusani, which is a polemical work (vada-grantha) is devoted to the refutation of the doctrines of Samkara's Advaita Vedanta by adopting dialectical arguments with a view to establishing the soundness of the theories of Visistadvaita. The Tattvamuktakalapa, which is written in verse containing 500 verses composed in sragdhara metre is intended primarily to present the Visistadvaita doctrines by critically evaluating the corresponding theories of rival schools of thought. Unlike Nyaya-siddhanjana, it is a comprehensive philosophical classic of Visistadvaita Vedanta covering all topics in the realms of Metaphysics, Ontology, Theology, Epistemology, Cosmology and Eschatology. As Vedanta Desika claims, there is no topic in Philosophy which is not covered in this work and what is not considered here cannot be found elsewhere (yannasmin kvapi naiatat). It is indeed the magnum opus of Vedanta Desika.

The Adhikarana-saravali, is an equally important philosophical treatise written in the same style as Tattva- mukta-kalapa in sragdhara metre. It is primarily devoted to the discussion of the different adhikaranas or sectional topics of Brahma-sutras as interpreted by Ramanuja in his classical Sri-Bhasya. In this work Vedanta Desika, while summarizing the contents of each adhikarana, attempts to establish that the doctrines of Visistadvaita as developed by Ramanuja are philosophically sound and well rooted in the Upanisads. While the main objective of Tattva-mukta- kalapa is to establish the soundness of the Visistadvaita theories on a logical basis by way of proving the untenability of the corresponding theories of rival schools of thought, the main focus of the Adhikarana-saravali is to establish that Visistadvaita fully conforms to the Upanisadic teachings and the Vedanta-sutras, unlike the Advaita of Samkara. In view of this, Vedanta Desika states that the two philosophical treatises are complementary, comparable to the two hands supporting each other (anyonyahasta- pradam). Thus, among the philosophical works of Vedanta Desika, the Tattva-mukta-kalapa and Adhikarana-saravali constitute the outstanding Vedanta classics which provide a comprehensive knowledge of Visistadvaita system.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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