About the Author
Sr. Mary John Kattikatt belongs to the order to Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. She has been working in Stella Maris College since , 1972 in various capacities as Lecturer in History. Head of the Department of History. Dean of Students, Vice-Principal and Principal-in-charge. Interested in the inter disciplinary topic of History and Philosophy, she made research in the fields of Visistadvaita and Saiva Siddhanta the result of the study forms the content of the present book. Sr. Mary John has deep respect and love for the great spiritual traditions of India. A staunch Christian and an admirer of Indian spiritual traditions she firmly believes in and earnestly works towards inter. faith harmony. It is her desire that all that is good and beautiful in every tradition must be appreciated by all and must become accesible to all.
The Cola dynasty was known for preserving the Tamil Culture and patronising Hindu religious traditions. Since religions bring inner peace and harmony, there is no wonder in the attitude of the emperors in showing tolerance and treating all religions alike.
The present book by Sister Mary John, which formed her doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Madras contains valuable information regarding the overall contributions of the Cole Kings to Tamil Culture and particularly to religion and philosophy. They had realized that a society would become perfect when I religion and philosophy are fused together, for religion without philosophical analysis will land in superstitions and blind observances; similarly, philosophy without any scope for religious practice will culminate In dogmatism and dry Intellectualism.
Hence the Cola Kings, besides fostering Saiva and Vaishnava religions, encouraged the development of the." philosophical side viz. Saiva Siddhantha and Visistadvaita respectively. The author has excellently elucidated the salient features of these two philosophical traditions and has portrayed, the significant contributions of the acaryas to exemplify each concept. She has also remarkably pointed out the situations such as social, economic and political under which these two philosophical traditions survived and grew.
The readers of this book will really be benefited by the vast information from a historical perspective about ancient Tamil Country, the dynasty, which ruled it, as welt as the religio-philosophical traditions etc.,
I owe the theme of the present book to my long standing desire to learn the spiritual, the philosophical and the cultural heritage of India and especially of Tamil Nadu. As a student of Indian History and of Indian Philosophy. I was particularly interested in the inter - connections between philosophical trends and historical circumstances. The findings of my studies as given in the following pages show that certain developments in the two religious philosophies of Visistadvaita and Saiva Siddhanta can be interpreted and explained partly in terms of historical factors. the material of this book originally formed the dissertation for Ph. D. submitted to the University of Madras and I do not pretend that the limitations of a thesis have been totally eliminated In the book.
There is a host of intellectual benefactors and friends to whom I am indebted in shaping this book. Apart from the professors of the University who guided in writing the original work. I record my appreciation and gratitude to Prof. Dr. N. Subbu Reddiar. M.A., B.Sc., L.T., Vidvan Ph.D., Professor Emeritus. Department of Tamil, Literature, University of Madras, who made the publication of this book possible by his invaluable assistances from the beginning to the end. I am thankful to Dr. Gopalakrishnan, Director-in-charge, the Dr Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras, for enriching my work with his foreword. My sincere thanks to the management, the Principal and Staff of Stella Maris college for their constant support in both big and small ways. I acknowledge with gratitude the financial assistance received from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams under their scheme Aid to publish Religious Books.
I hope that this book will be of some value to those interested in inter disciplinary studies.
Historical Dimensions of Philosophical Thought: Human thought can be analysed and interpreted in terms of its origin, development and the impact it leaves on on society. The origin of a thought presupposes an individual, as well as the circumstances under which the thought germinated. In certain cases the individual ingenuity seems to be the chief factor that gave rise to a thought while in other cases historical circumstances seem to figure more prominently. Whatever may be the relative importance of the individual and the circumstances in given cases, neither factor can be overlooked in analysing the background of a thought system. Among the circumstances the political, economic and social factors often seem to play a major role.
It is fairly impossible to identify all the external factors that contribute to the development of a specific trend of thought. What can be attempted is to indicate in a broad way, that certain aspects of a given society have either retarded or facilitated the growth of certain philosophical ideas. It is also possible to identify certain guiding forces that gave direction to a trend of thought. The helpful factors can, therefore, be categorised as growth-facilitating and direction-pointing. It is somewhat perplexing to see that sometimes philosophical ideas germinate and flourish under stable conditions in society and other times under conditions of great instability. Therefore, there seems to be no general rule about the conditions of original and growth of philosophical ideas. Every case has to be analysed in terms of specific period of time and locale.
Interconnections between Religion and Philosophy: In India as elsewhere, the beginnings of philosophical thought are to be found in the religious aspirations of man the primitive man was filled with awe, adoration and supplication before the 'mystery' with which he was surrounded. These sentiments, together with a spirit of inquiry, gradually led him to speculate on the origin of the world, the destiny of man etc. I n this process of growth, in the West, religion and philosophy followed distinct paths; though they influenced each other, they never merged , In India also there was a tendency for religion and philosophy to become distinct, but the link was progressively re- established. However, closeness with religion did not in any way minimise the strong intellectuality of the Indian mind. 'The intellectual impulse continued to thrive and as a Jesuit every system made persistent effort at systematic thinking. However, the link has made philosophy intensely spiritual since each system incorporated in it strong theistic beliefs and well defined ethical codes.
The Social Dimensions of Religious Philosophies ; The systems which arose as a result of the alliance between religion and philosophy had firm historical foundations since they were based on the authoritative texts of the land and on the experience of the saints and seers. At the same time, these religious philosophies were potentially relevant to the needs of the contemporary society because they were capable of accommodating the various segments of the society by retaining speculative thought on the one hand, and on the other presenting these thoughts in terms under- standable to the common man, 'Though it is difficult to say to what extent the acaryas of these systems intended them to be reform movements, yet looking back across the centuries, one sees that the circumstances leading to the formulation of these systems, especially of Visistadvaita and Saiva-Siddhanta as well as their doctrinal contents depict the struggles, the hopes and the aspirations of the contemporary society.
The Scope of the Study: This study deals with the theistic systems of Visistadvaita and saiva-siddhanta within the Cola empire from the tenth to the thirteenth century. It also deals with the historical circumstances which have either directly or indirectly contributed to the rise of Visistadvaita and Saiva-Siddhanta.
The period from the tenth to the thirteenth century witnessed the heyday of the Cola empire. 'This was also the time when a concerted effort was made to synthesise the devotional and speculative aspects of the Hindu thought. It was under these favourable circumstances that the theistic systems evolved. This period also represents a time when the North and the South happened to depict contrasting situations both politically and culturally. A consideration of this contrasting picture is important because it shows that the political situation in the North hindered the growth of religion and philosophy. while in the South, the sympathetic attitude of kings helped the growth of the same.
The Purpose of the Study: 'Though it is accepted on princlple that philosophical systems do not arise in a social vacuum, the general belief is that Indian Philosophy is far removed from the day to day life of the society, to be affected by outsaide forces. The assumption here seems to be that the philosophical systems arise through the efforts of certain philosophers, who are mostly engaged in speculations about the nature of Reality and pre-occupied with the liberation of souls from the shackles of samsara. As such, the study of the various philosophical systems usually centres around an investigation of the way they reveal reality in its various aspects, for example, the relation- ship of Reality to the world and the individual souls, and the means of attaining final goal according to each system.
This approach is, of course, valid. However, a study situating the various systems in their many-sided historical circumstances can make the knowledge about the systems much deeper. This is precisely the aim of this study.
I n particular, an attempt is made to establish the link between the economic and social factors on the one hand. and the theistic systems on the other. In one or two instances the link is established through an interpretation of the medieval situation from a twentieth century standpoint. Thus, for example, the group oriented set-up in the economic situation is viewed as a limitation on the possibilities of free choice on the part of the individuals. Similarly, stratification of society into the elite and non-elite groups has been interpreted as an antecedent for the alienation of masses. These interpretations have been employed since they provide a rationale for the alliance between speculative philosophy and popular devotions, seeking to unite the higher and the lower castes on the common forum of religious philosophies. At the same time, such Interpretations relate to the pattern of thought development in the two systems: both recognised the individuality and permanency of the soul; both made philosophy intelligible to common man through their personalistic approach to Reality.
Sources: Inscriptions have been one of the most 'reliable, primary sources of this study, especially for the historical aspect Though an abundance of information of all types is available from the inscriptions, considering the nature of the thesis, a judicious selection had to be made. Obviously. inscriptions pertaining to the religious activities, such as, endowments for religious studies and temple worship, were found valuable. From among the other categories, some of the inscriptions on the village set-up, trade. industry and social stratification, which either directly or indirectly, relate to the rise of religious philosophies, were also selected.
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