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SRIMATHE RAMANUJAYA NAMAHA

SRIMATHE NIGHAMANTHA MAHADESIKAYA NAMAHA







NINE ARTICLES

By

T.V.Padmanabhan







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CONTENTS

Page No.
1. Vaishnavism 2
2. Vedanta Philosophy and Vaishnava Religion 11
3. Visishtadvaita Philosophy of Sri Ramanuja
(1017- 1137)
17
4. What is Philosophy and What is Religion ? 24
5. Hindu Traditional Calendar 35
6. Creation of the Universe 38
7. Hindu Traditions – Chapter 1 41
8. Hindu Traditions – Chapter 2 45
9. Hindu Traditions – Chapter 3 48

Sri:
Sri Ranganatha Parabrahmane Namaha
Sri Ranganatha Divya Mani Padhukaabyam Namaha
Azhwar Emberumanar Desikan Thiruvadigale Saranam
Srimathe Sri Ranganatha Mahadesikaya Namaha
Srimathe Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikaya Namaha
Srimathe Sri Ranga Ramanuja Mahadesikaya Namaha


INTRODUCTION

This book contains nine articles written by me on various dates between
2005 and 2008 at various places in response to my inner call. I was
motivated to put in writing what I have learnt till now from my father, elders,
teachers and acharyas from their oral discourses and writings which have
inspired me a great deal. I thought I can leave this legacy for my children
and other family members and close relatives and friends who may be
interested to know what kind of life one should lead especially if one feels
attracted towards spiritual goals. It is not that all these writings give a
complete picture of all that need to be known and that there is no more to
learn. I am still in the learning process and continue to take lessons from
teachers and elders as I am convinced that there is lot more to learn in the
spiritual realm. I pray for God’s Grace and Acharyas’ blessings in my efforts
in the learning process, and to everyone who happens to read these writings.

THESE WRITINGS ARE REVERENTIALLY DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF MY PARENTS, SRI TENPARAI TIRUMALAI EECHAMBADI

T. S. VIRARAGHAVACHARIAR (1902-1969)
SRIMATHI RUKMANI AMMAL (1911-1980)

Srimathe Sri Viraraghavarya Mahadesikaya Namaha


A 20 Arcot Terrace, 160 Arcot Road, VEDANTA RAMANUJAN (alias)
Vadapalani, Chennai 600026 T V PADMANABHAN
Tel: 91-44-23650911; 91-9840052787

September 9, 2008

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VAISHNAVISM

Vaishnavism is the way of life followed by Sri Vaishnavites and this religion is
also known as the Visishtadvaita Philosophy. The roots for this philosophy lie
in the Vedas and more particularly, in the Upanishads which are popularly
referred to as the Vedanta. In order to help a layman understand the
various Upanishads that outwardly seem to contradict each other, the ancient
Maharishis have written Sutras on these Upanishads. The Sutras accepted by
Advaitins, Visishtadvaitins and Dvaitins (the three branches of Hindu
Dharma) are primarily the Vedanta Sutras or Brahma Sutras written by Sri
Veda Vyasa, the great Sage of repute, the son of Parasara Maharishi and the
great grandson of Sage Vasishta. Veda Vyasa is the same Sage who codified
the Vedas and gave them to the posterity as Rik, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana
Vedas.

Sri Adi Sankara (788-820) wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutras and
the conclusion drawn from that commentary gave birth to Advaita Religion.
Sri Ramanuja, aka Emberumanar (1017-1137) wrote his commentary called
Sri Bashyam and the conclusion drawn from that commentary gave birth to
Visishtadvaita Religion or Sri Vaishnavism. Several other religious leaders
wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and the conclusion drawn from
the commentary of Sri Madhwachariar (1238-1317) gave birth to Dvaita
religion. Needless to say that all these religions owe their origin to the
Brahma Sutras of Sri Veda Vyasa and these Sutras themselves owe their
origin to the Upanishads in Vedas as given to us by Sri Veda Vyasa himself.

The principles of Advaita, Visishtadvaita and Dvaita religions which are
prevalent today amongst the Hindus emanate from the ancient scriptural
texts of various religious authors even prior to the advent of Sri Adi Sankara,
Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhvachariar and these great luminaries had referred
to their writings in their own commentaries and works. However, from the
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th
century (which was the period of vedic renaissance) onwards, the origins
of the three religions are respectively attributed to these three Icons.

In Sri Bashyam, Ramanuja relied on the commentaries written on the
Brahma Sutras by earlier Maharishis like Bodayana and others and also he
relied on Vishnu Puranam, the Purana Ratnam written by Sage Vyasa’s father
Parasara Maharishi. Ramanuja also relied on the Bhagavad Gita and the two
Ithihasas, viz. Srimad Ramayanam and Srimad Mahabharatham, the
Bhagavatha Purana and the like. Ramanuja examined the Upanishads in
greater detail and convincingly related the various meanings of the Bheda,
Abheda and Gataka Sruthis in the Upanishadic Mantras and Upanishadic

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Prose. He did not omit any command or injunction or statement or
declaration made in any of the Upanishads. He accepted all the Upanishads
and all the sruthis found therein and reconciled all of them in his own
inimitable style and rendered the famous Sri Bashyam, the foundation of
modern Vaishnavism since the 11
th
century. Sri Ramanuja wrote the
Vedhartha Sangraham, Vedanta Saram, Vedanta Deepam, Gadhyathrayam,
Sri Gita Bhashyam and Nitya Grantham. In these granthas or works, he has
popularized the great vaishnavite ideal, namely that Lord Narayana is the
only Goal, and the only means to attain that Goal is Lord Narayana Himself.
Means and Ends coincide in the feet of Lord Narayana for a vaishnavite
desirous of spiritual progress and final liberation from this universe.

As noted earlier, Vaishnavism was in vogue even before Sri Ramanuja, but it
is Sri Ramanuja who simplified this philosophy and spread it widely amongst
all classes of people in his days during his life time. Many Advaitins got
converted on account of this philosophy of Ramanuja and Sri Vaishnavism
has now come to stay as the only religion which does not repudiate any
statement made in any of the Upanishads.

Sri Vedanta Desika (1268-1369), an Acharya of par excellence next only to
Ramanuja, and Sri Manavala Mamunigal (1370-1444), an equally great
Acharya propagated the Sri Vaishnavism Religion as propounded by Sri
Ramanuja and spread its awareness among more and more people during
their days. Sri Ramanuja’s philosophy is therefore widely spread and
accepted amongst the people who understand the Vedas and the
Upanishads.

In the pre-Ramanuja period, in vaishnavite thought and philosophy, mention
should be made of the great roles played by the Azhwars (pre Kali Yuga and
immediately after the advent of Kali Yuga, which began in 3100 B.C.E.) and
other great Acharyas like Sri Nathamunigal (824-920), Sri Alavandar (916-
1036), etc.

Azhwars’ works (Divya Prabhandams) inspired Bhakthi and Saranagathi, the
two vehicles for attaining moksha. The Bhakthi and Saranagathi concepts
are advocated by the Upanishads as well. Upanishads and Divya
Prabhandams are combined in the evolution of Ubhaya Vedanta Vaishnavite
Philosophy. It has been said by our Acharyas that they complement each
other well.

A person resorts to philosophy if he is interested in spiritual pursuits and
liberation of his soul, the ultimate purushartha of an individual (a Jivatma).

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The other purusharthas are Dharmam, Artham and Kamam. These three
purusharthas are not rejected by the Sri Vaishnavism religion but are upheld
with esteem provided these purusharthas are aimed for achievement through
the dharmic path advocated by the Vedas and the Upanishads. These
scriptures do advise us elaborately on how to achieve the four purusharthas
including Moksham. Moksham is liberation from the Lila Vibhuthi or the
Prakriti Mandalam (the Universe as we see it and hear about) and reaching
the Nithya Vibhuthi to enjoy unlimited Knowledge (Jnana) and Bliss
(Anandam) on par with the Almighty God, Narayana. However, the
difference between the liberated soul and Sriman Narayana, the Almighty,
Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent will continue to be there in the Nithya
Vibhuthi too. The liberated soul will not get the powers of Creation,
Sustenance and Destruction and the power of granting Moksham or
Liberation which are in the Almighty’s domain only as per the Vedas,
Upanishads and Sastras. This shows that there is eternal difference between
the Eternal Isvara (the Paramatma or the Almighty God) and the Eternal
individual souls (Atmas other than the Paramatma).

Lord Narayana is the consort of Goddess Mahalakshmi and the two are
inseparable and enjoy all the powers equally and in tandem with each other,
the Mahalakshmi residing in the chest region of Lord Narayana. In the Sri
Vaishnavite philosophy, the Lord has a Thirumeni made of Suddha Satva,
unlike the thirumenis of all others including other gods, deities and devas
which are a combination of the three gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Thamas born
out of the Moolaprakriti or the Primordial Nature.

The three gunas are born out of Ahankara Tattva which itself is born out of
Mahat which comes out of Prakriti at the time of creation by God’s
Sankalpam. Prakriti, Mahat, Ahankara, 11 Indriyas (born out of Satva
Guna), 10 thanmaththirais and pancha bhutas (born out of Thamo guna)
constitue the Universe which is activated by the Rajo Guna. Hence, it is the
Thriguna (3 gunas) that is the Universe in reality.

The Sri Vaishnavism philosophy acknowledges and reiterates the three
Tattvas, viz. Chit (the soul which is always knowledgeable), Achit (Matter
which is always non-knowledgeable) and Iswara (the Lord of all Chits and
Achits). The purusharthas are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. The
recommended paths leading to the four purusharthas are known as Hitha. In
Hitha, those leading to the Moksha Purushartha are exclusively either
Bhakthi (devotion) or Prapatti (absolute surrender or saranagathi).
Knowledge in Tattva, Hitha and Purusharthas is necessary for a vaishnavite
in spiritual quest.

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Chit is Soul or Atma whose inherent attributes are Jnana, Bliss and the
Seshatvam to Lord Narayana and Lord Narayana only. Forgetting its own
real inherent attributes, practically it combines with Achit (the body or sarira)
and while it is supposed to rule over the Achit, it gets ruled by the Achit and
thereby enjoys and suffers. Achit is the bhogyam and the Chit is the bhoktha
in this relationship. In this process, life after life, it accumulates various
Karma Vasanas (pleasure and pain) from which it finds it extremely difficult
to pull out. Thus, the atma is perennially in darkness or Ajnana (ignorance)
of its inherent attributes and being bound by karmas and their vasanas goes
after pleasure and pain born out of desires which are inspired by the Prakriti
(the three gunas). When it relieves itself from this Ajnana and realizes its
true nature as Jnana and Anandham and as the Seshan of Lord Narayana
primarily, it attains Moksha. It then gets eternally settled in the Nithya
Vibhuthi worshipping the Almighty and rendering service to the Almighty all
through. Bhagavath Kainkaryam is the ultimate purushartha even in the
Paramapada (Sri Vaikuntam or Nithya Vibhuthi). No doubt it is the desired
Purushartha even in the Lila Vibhuthi for a spiritual passenger. Our Acharyas
have taught us that God’s Grace is absolutely necessary and has to be
prayed for in every step in the spiritual journey.

Atmas are classified as Jivatma, Muktatma, Nithyathma and Paramatma.
While Jivatmas struggle in the Lila Vibhuthi, Muktatmas are realized souls
and are in attendance and kainkaryam to the Paramatma in Sri Vaikuntam.
Nithyathma are Nithyasuris who are eternally doing kainkaryam to
Paramatma in Sri Vaikuntam. Nithyasuris never had mortal lives in the Lila
Vibhuthi arising out of Karmas. Paramatma is the Supreme Soul or Being
and it is Sriman Narayana with his consort Goddess Mahalakshmi. In Sri
Vaikuntam, Prakriti has no role to play and everything there is Suddha Satva.

The Universe or the Prakriti Mandalam (Lila Vibhuthi) is perishable at the
time of the great Deluge (Pralaya Kalam) and this area is one fourth of the
Lord Sriman Narayanan’s Sarira. The remaining three fourths sarira of the
Lord Sriman Narayana is the Nitya Vibhuthi or Paramapadam or Sri
Vaikuntam which is imperishable and eternal. Both the Vibhuthis constitute
the Sarira of the Lord in His Virat Svarupa.

Bhagavan takes avatars in suddha satva thirumenis only in Lila Vibhuthi, and
these avatars having nothing to do with karmas have also nothing to do with
Prakriti or Thrigunas. Such Avatars include Archa Avatars or Archa Moorthies
in Temples consecrated according to the Agama Sastras and the Vedas.
Worship in temples is just like worshipping God in Sri Vaikuntam. It is

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immaterial whether the Idols revealing the Archa Moorthies are made of
Stone, wood, etc. They are Gods Thirumenis consecrated by Vedic and
Agama rituals.

Achit (Matter), again by Bhagavad Sankalpam, takes all forms, shapes and
names and is available for enjoyment of Atmas who take bodies and who
manipulate the achits for their enjoyment and get benefited by Achits.
Eventually, the Jivatmas forgetting that they are slaves (Seshans) of Sriman
Narayana (the only Seshi) fall as slaves to these Achits (Prakriti and its
various permutations and combinations) and become victims in the process
carrying the vasanas of delight, enjoyment, desire and pain, and inviting
births and deaths repeatedly till the vasanas get exhausted. The karma
vasanas will come to an end only by God’s Grace when the Jivatma
surrenders at His feet and appeals for His Mercy, thereby trying to reduce His
ire with the Jivatma for having gone astray and for having lived lives
forgetting his Seshatvam to the Bhagavan.

All things other than the Atma, and all materials which have no knowledge in
themselves and which cannot function by themselves like the Atma in a
body, are achits in various forms, shapes and names.

Iswara is the Master of all Chits and Achits and the relationship of an
individual soul with Iswara is that of a Servant and Master. Iswara being the
Antaryami within the Jivatma is the inner controller but He is not affected by
the actions or inactions of the Jivatma through the body. Only Jivatma is
affected by such actions and inactions. The Sesha Seshi Bhavam must be
realized by the Jivatma before God could shower His Grace for the Jivatma
to liberate itself or attain Moksha. All Chits and Achits constitute the Body of
Iswara, and for this Body, the Soul is the Supreme Soul or Paramatma or the
Almighty. In effect, the Lord only functions and it is not the Chits and Achits
(which constitute His body) and Chits (Jivatmas) are always dependent on
Him. Chits or Jivatmas can never be independent of Him even in the
liberated world of Paramapadam or Sri Vaikuntam. Only Iswara is
Swathanthran and all other atmas including in the bodies of various devas or
deities are Parathanthrans, viz., dependents on Iswara who is Lord Narayana
as the Vedas proclaim.

Chits and Achits in Sookshma (at the pralayam stage) and Sthula (at the
creation stage) positions constitute the sarira of Sriman Narayana. This
Sarira of the Lord contracts at the time of pralayam and expands at the time
of creation purely by the Lord’s Sankalpa. Sriman Narayana remains the

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same un-affected by the activities of Creation, Sustenance and Destruction.
It is His Sankalpa which throws up these activities.

There comes a pralayam at the end of each Kalpa which consists of 4.32
billion human years and all chits and achits are withdrawn by the Almighty
and kept safe and protected in a subtle or sukshma form and after another
Kalpam of 4.32 billion human years, the creation starts again. The Chits and
Achits are released from the body of the Almighty God and given names,
forms with shapes and attributes. Simultaneously, He enters into all His
creation of Chits and Achits to control and direct them in their lives without
Himself being un-affected in any way.

Brahma’s one day is one Kalpam (there are 6 Kalpams going in a cycle) and
in this one day, 14 Manvantaras take over each manvantara taking about
308.57 million human years. One Kalpam is 1000 Chathur (4) Yugas and
each Chathur Yuga consists of 4.32 million years. One Chathur Yuga means
Kritha Yuga (1.728 million years), Thretha Yuga (1.296 million years),
Dwapara Yuga (0.864 million years) and Kali Yuga (0.432 million years). Our
time cycle is based on Kalpam, Manvantharas, Yugas, Samvatsaras (years),
Ayanams (Utharayanam and Dakshinayanam), Rithus (6 rithus in a year),
Months (The Rasis in which the Sun is based during a period), Pakshams
(two in a month, viz. Sukla paksham and Krishna Paksham), Thithis (dates),
days and Stars ruling over each date. This is our calendar. This is a human
calendar in vogue in Bhulokam. In Deva Lokams, these numbers will have to
be divided by 360 to know their calendar, as one human year is considered
one celestial day. We now know what is one day in Bhulokam, one day in
Devalokam and one day in Brahmalokam. In Sri Vaikuntam (Paramapadam),
this time cycle is absent and there, the only time is first and next. It is as if
for Kainkaryams to the Lord who rules over the paramapadam, first you do
this, next do this and next do this, etc. This is the only time concept. The
Lord not only rules over this Nithya Vibhuthi but also rules over the Lila
Vibhuthi.

In Sri Vaishnava religion, stress is always given to Bhagavatha Kainkaryam
first before Bhagavath Kainkaryam. We have therefore to understand the
greatness of our Acharyas.

Acharya Paramparai

For understanding God (Paramatma or the Supreme Soul), the individual soul
(Jivatma) and all Achits (Knowledgeless materials) and the relationships inter
se (among these three Tattvas), one has to approach an Acharya for

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knowledge and guidance. The Acharya will also teach the paths of Bhakthi
and Prapatti and will on behalf of his disciple and for him, do prapatti before
the Lord’s feet so that the individual soul gets liberated at the end of its life.
How a prapanna (a person having done the prapatti) should lead his life after
prapatti will also be taught by the Acharya. Acharya is considered superior
to even God in this respect as without the guidance of a proper Acharya, one
cannot attain the ultimate purushartha of Moksham or liberation from the
cycle of births and deaths. It may be stated that ultimately it is God’s Grace
only that can sanction Moksham to a Jivatma. By prapatti, Jivatma makes
his attempts to mitigate the ire of the Lord on him for having gone away
from Him and living the lives of sinners over several births and deaths.
God’s ire over a prapanna having gone by His accepting the Prapatti, the
Jivatma’s sins are condoned and destroyed for all time to come and therefore
the effects of sins are nullified by His Grace.

Let us recall our Poorvacharyas with respect and regard to every one of
them.

Let us go back to Sri Ramanuja and his period and post-Ramanuja periods
and recall the Vaishnavite traditions established by them. Some of the
Ramanuja’s disciples and contemporaries were - Koorath Azhwan (1010-
1116), Embar (1026-1131), Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan (1073 – and this
Acharya wrote commentary on Nammazhwar’s Tiruvoimozhi, which is called
Aarayiraththuppadi and Bhagavad Vishyam and this work was praised by
Ramanuja and other great Acharyas and is still the basis for understanding
the Tiruvoimozhi), Parasara Bhattar (son of Koorath Azhwan) and Nanjeeyar.
Nadathur Ammal (1165-1275), Periavachan Pillai (1157-1262) - aka
Vyakarna Chakravarthy who for the first time wrote commentaries on all the
4000 Divya Prabhandams), Nampillai, Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai, Kidambi
Appullar (1220-1295), Pillai Lokachariar (1264-1329) and Kumara
Varadachariar, son of Sri Vedanta Desika (1316-1401) are some of the great
post-Ramanuja Acharyas.

It was Brahma Thanthra Swathantra Jeer (1286-1386) who established in
1360 the oldest Mutt, which is known as the Parakala Mutt. He was the
disciple of Sri Vedanta Desika and his son Sri Kumara Varadachariar. In
1398, Sri Athivan Satakopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan established the Ahobila
Mutt. He was the disciple of Ghatikasatham Ammal, who is the disciple of
Brahma Thanthra Swathanthra Jeer. In 1440, Vanamamalai Mutt was
founded by Sri Vanamamalai Jeer. In 1783 was established the Periasramam
of Srimad Andavan in Srirangam by Sri Vazhuthur Andavan/Sri
Thiruthuraipoondi Andavan. Sri Vazhuthur Andavan (1743) is the disciple of

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Sri Gopalarya Mahadesikan, aka Thirukkudanthai Desikan (1700-1782). Sri
Srinivasa Mahadesikan (1847-1934 - Poundrikapuram Andavan, a disciple of
Velianallur Andavan) founded the Poundrikapuram Andavan Branch at
Srirangam. The lives and works of these great Acharyas are so inspiring and
will live for ever so long as Sri Vaishnavism continues to influence the people.

In the Sri Vaishnavism Religion, Emberuman Sriman Narayanan is the first
Acharya followed by Goddess Mahalakshmi. Senai Mudaliar or Vishvaksenar
is the next Acharya and these Acharyas have permanent abode in Sri
Vaikuntam, aka Nithya Vibhuthi which is imperishable. All the worlds other
than Sri Vaikuntam are called Lila Vibhuthis and these are perishable at the
time of Great Deluge. Brahma Lokam, Siva Lokam, Indra Lokam (Swarga
lokam) are all part of Lila Vibhuthis only. We live in Bhulokam and in
Bhulokam the first and foremost Vaishnavite Acharya presently being
worshipped is the Nammazhwar, said to be the Avatar of Sri Vishvaksenar.

Azhwars are 12 in number and their works collectively called Nalayira Divya
Prabhandam were chanted in Temples and were popular for a long period
since the birth of these Azhwars, but they being in Tamil were opposed by
the extremist Sanskrit Vedic Scholars and gradually these prabhandams
faded away little by little. It was Sri Natha Munigal (824-920) who literally
retrieved these Prabhandams by his tapas and yogic power.

The twelve Azhwars are –

• Sri Poigai Azhwar (pre Kali Yuga)
• Sri Bhuthath Azhwar (pre Kali Yuga)
• Sri Peyazhwar (pre Kali Yuga)
• Sri Tirumazhisai Azhwar (pre Kali Yuga)
• Sri Madurakavi Azhwar (pre Kali Yuga)
• Sri Nammazhwar (born on the 43rd day of the advent of Kali Yuga)
• Sri Kulasekhara Azhwar
• Sri Periazhwar
• Sri Andal
• Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar
• Sri Thiruppanazhwar
• Sri Thirumangai Azhwar

Sri Thiruvarangath Amudanar (Ramanuja’s period) wrote Ramanuja
Nootranthathi (108 pasurams) and these are included in the works of the
twelve Azhwars to constitute the Nalayira Divya Prabhandams. The details of
the Nalayira Divya Prabhandams are given below:

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Particulars of Prabhandams No. of pasurams
1. Periazhwar Thirumozhi (including Thiruppallandu) 473
2. Thiruppavai by Andal 30
3. Nachiyar Thirumozhi by Andal 143
4. Perumal Thirumozhi by Kulasekara Azhwar 105
5. Thiruchchanda Virutham by Thirumazhisai Azhwar 120
6. Thirumaalai by Thondaradipodi Azhwar 45
7. Thiruppalliezhuchi by Thondaradipodi Azhwar 10
8. Amalanathipiran by Thiruppanazhwar 11
9. Kanninun Siruththambu by Madurakavi Azhwar 10
MUDHALAYIRAM 947

1. Peria Thirumozhi by Thirumangai Azhwar 1084
2. Thirukkuranthandakam by Thirumangai Azhwar 20
3. Thirunedunthandakam by Thirumangai Azhwar 30
IRANDAM AAYIRAM 1134

1. Mudhal Thiruvanthathi by Poigai Azhwar ` 100
2. Irandam Thiruvanthathi by Bhuthath Azhwar 100
3. Moonram Thiruvanthathi by Peyazhwar 100
4. Nanmugan Thiruvanthathi by Thirumazhisai Azhwa 96
5. Thiruviruththam by Nammazhwar 100
6. Thiruvasiriyam by Nammazhwar 7
7. Peria Thiruvanthathi by Nammazhwar 87
8. Thiruvezhukootrirukkai by Thirumangai Azhwar 1
9. Siriya Thirumadal by Thirumangai Azhwar 40
10.Peria Thirumadal by Thirumangai Azhwar 78
11.Ramanuja Nootranthathi by Thiruvarangath Amudhanar 108
IYARPA 817
THIRUVOIMOZHI by Nammazhwar 1102
Grand total of all pasurams 4000

It is said that we must go to three places for spiritual knowledge (Prasthana
thraya). These are Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras. In the
Sri Vedanta Desika sampradayam, emphasis for knowledge is laid on Grantha
Chathushtyas (4 scriptures) and these are Sri Bashyam, Gita Bashyam by
Bhagavat Ramanuja, Bhagavath Vishayam (Thiruvoimozhi) and Rahasya
Thraya Saram by Sri Vedanta Desika (his (magnum opus). All knowledge in
the pursuit of spiritual path for attaining moksham are available in these 4
Granthas (Works). They take the cake among all Vaishnavite literature.

Chennai, January 11, 2008

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Vedanta philosophy and Vaishnava Religion

Six great philosophers explained Hindu religion in the ancient days. They are
– Gautama (Nyaya philosophy), Jaimini (Mimamsa philosophy), Kapila
(Samkhya philosophy), Patanjali (Yoga philosophy), Kanada (Vaiseshika
philosophy) and Vyasa (Vedanta philosophy). Among these schools of
thought of Vedic Religion (which subsequently came to be known as Hindu
religion without any acceptable provocation), what predominantly survives
today is the Vedanta school of thought.

Vedanta School owes its origin to Brahma Sutras written by Sage Vedavyasa
who composed and compiled the till then unwritten Vedas into four – Rig,
Yajur, Sama and Atharvana. Traditionally, it is believed that Vedas are there
from time immemorial as revelations of God. But modern historians attribute
them to a few thousands of years before the Common Era. We are not
concerned here about the age of the Vedas but concerned about what they
teach. Each Veda at its end contains the Upanishads, which are said to
number more than 200 from the four Vedas. 108 were earlier identified as
important ones and later 10 were identified as the Principal Upanishads.
Some have added to this 10, a few more. Be that as it may, the essence of
Upanishads is revelation of Knowledge about Brahmam or the Ultimate,
about how the universe was created and how living beings were born and the
relationships of all the creation inter se and with the Creator. These Sutras
are intended to have a bird’s eye view of the Vedas including the Upanishads
and especially about the Brahmam and its relationship with the universe that
we see around. While the Upanishads are difficult to understand in the sense
they talk of various gods and elements each as Supreme in different
contexts, and identify the Souls of individuals as the Brahmam in some
context, simultaneously attributing the creation, protection and destruction of
the universe to the Supreme Being in some other context attributing various
auspicious qualities to the Brahmam, the Sutras which virtually summarise
all the Upanishads into brief or short aphorisms are equally difficult and not
simple or easy to understand for a layman without the assistance of expert
philosophers.

Adi Sankara (788-820), Ramanuja (1017-1137) and Madhvacharya (1238-
1317) wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and these now teach the
layman about the Vedantha philosophy. Even prior to Adi Sankara, there
were commentaries on the Sutras and they are now practically extinct or
unavailable to the layman, and they were of course relied upon by these
great Acharyas and commented upon by them in their own commentaries.
Based on these three popular commentaries, Vedantha philosophy got

12


divided into three subsections, viz., Advaita (monism), Visishta Advaita
(qualified monism) and Dvaita (dualism). The gap in time between these
great Acharyas may be seen as about 200 years between Adi Sankara and
Ramanuja and about 100 years between Ramanuja and Madhvacharya.
Whether the efflux of time as noted here had anything to do with the change
in thinking of the Vedantha philosophy by these Icons is anybody’s guess.
The fundamentals of all the three sub divisions of this philosophy are the
same and they all rely on and accept the same original documents, viz.
Upanishads and Brahma Sutras.

In brief, Advaita focuses on One Reality alone, the rest being Maya or illusion
saying that the one reality is the Brahmam. According to Advaita, the
Brahmam is Nirguna Brahmam (without any form or attribute). On the other
hand, the word ‘Dvaita’ itself denotes two aspects, Man and God and says
that Man is ever subservient to God and he should always be devoted to God.

Visishta Advaita accepts the One Reality as the Brahmam, but qualifies it by
saying that that Brahmam pervades all living beings (Chits) and matter
(Achits), which are also real. They focus on Tattva Thrayam (3 realities –
Chit, Achit and Iswaran), and four Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama and
Moksha). Without Brahmam, the universe consisting of Chits and Achits only
cannot survive, and they are separate from Iswaran, but form part of the
Brahmam, which pervades them and which is the material and instrumental
cause for the creation, protection and the destruction of the universe (which
consists of chits (Jivatmas), and achits (Matter – in its various permutations
and combinations called modifications of the Premordial matter or
Moolaprakrithi), and eventually the cycle of births, deaths and rebirths of
both chits and achits continues for ever and ever. Chits (Jivatmas) who do
not want to be reborn have to adopt certain measures to please the
Brahmam so that they attain the feet of Brahmam after which there is no
return for them to the world of beings and matter. They would become
Mukthas after liberation and would be rendering eternal service to the Lord,
Master of the Universe.

Brahmam is called Lord Sriman Narayana or Mahavishnu (with more than
thousand names) and He has all the good and auspicious attributes.
Jnanam, Balam, Aiswaryam, Veeryam, Sakthi and Thejas constitute the
Bhagavan and He is the Brahmam or Sriman Narayana with His consort, Sri
Devi who adores His Chest. He is personalistic with all divine weapons and
ornaments to adore Him and He is Suddha Satva, and nothing bad or ill is
capable of affecting His attributes, Form and Auspicious qualities although he
pervades or is part and parcel of all chits and achits who/which have both

13


good and bad qualities and attributes. The salvation is for the individual
souls (Jivatmas) to attain Lord’s feet recognising His mastery over them and
realising that whatever they do or do not do is based only on the Sankalpam
(Decision or Determination) of Lord Narayana or Bhagavan.

This does not mean that the Jivatmas are deprived of initiatives. In fact,
they are expected to take initiatives in various directions in which they want
to proceed, grow and prosper for attaining various purusharthas (goals).
They should of course realise that their initiatives would not succeed without
Divine or Bhagavan’s blessings and they should always be seized of this
thought in all their endeavours. While their actions or karmas would bind
them in the ordinary course, they can free themselves from this bondage if
they dedicate all their actions and their fruits to the Bhagavan without caring
for and getting attached to the fruits or working only for the fruits or the
desired results. And being devotees of the Lord and surrendering at His feet
realising their own helplessness to be independent of the Lord.

Sources of knowledge are Direct Perception (prathyaksham), Inference
(anumanam) and Scriptures (Sounds meaning thereby Vedas, Upanishads,
Ithihasas, Puranas and Bhagavad Gita and other Smritis including Agama and
Dharma Sastras). Knowledge about God and human relationships with God
can only be attained through Scriptures and this knowledge revealed by
Scriptures is to be known from the Acharyas, who practice what they preach.
The foremost Acharyas are Sriman Narayana, Goddess Mahalakshmi (Sri
Devi) and Vishvaksenar (the Chief of Staff of Sriman Narayana). They are in
Srivaikuntam or Parama Padam where the nature (the three gunas of Sattva,
Rajas and Thamas and their various combinations which emanate from
Moolaprakrithi) that we witness in the universe is absent and therefore
cannot have any influence. Man is suffering or enjoying because he is in
combination with the Moolaprakrithi with all its evolutes such as the three
gunas, tanmatras, elements, indriyas and manas. Freed from Prakriti he can
enjoy liberation in Sri Vaikuntam where Prakriti has no place.

Prior to the Acharyas, in the Vaishnavite religion, there were Azhwars (12 in
number) and they inculcated Bhakthi amongst the human beings, themselves
being Embodiments of Bhakthi. Their writings are collectively known as
Divya Prabhandams and they are 4000 in number. These are in Tamil and
are called Dravida or Tamil Vedas as what they contain is what Vedas and
Upanishads tell us. They focus on Lord Narayana and Goddess Mahalakshmi,
Bhakthi and Prapathi (Absolute surrender to God) towards Them. The Chief
of the Azhwars (though not in chronology) is Nammazhwar who is said to be
the Avatar in the Bhulokam of Vishvaksenar in Srivaikuntam. Azhwars’ 4000

14


divya prabhandams are given the same status of Vedas and Upanishads in
the worship in Temples where the Archa Moorthys are worshipped as
Bhagavan in the Suddha Satva Thirumenis. List of Azhwars and their Works
are given in an Annexure.

In short, it is said that there are three places to go for knowledge and these
are Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita (the Prasthanathraya).
This is also to be supplemented by a study of Ramayana and Mahabharatha
(the Epics or Ithihasas), Puranas and Sastras including Agama and Dharma
Sastras. While Vedas and Upanishads are called Srutis (those which have
been heard but were not authored by anyone being revelations of God first
revealed to the Brahma, the Creator and then to others through the
Brahma), the rest are known as Smritis (those which have been written by
various authors or remembered). Vedas are therefore above board and any
test, and can never be faulted as they are not the works of any human being.
Whereever the Smritis are inconsistent with Vedas, Vedas alone are to be
relied and they are the ultimate authority (Pramanam). Vedas are also
considered as God’s breath and therefore as God Himself.

What the above scriptures reveal have been mastered, analysed and are
explained to us in simple manner by means of prose and poetry or a
combination of both, written by Azhwars and Acharyas in Tamil, Sanskrit and
Manipravalam (both Sanskrit and Tamil being employed side by side to
explain the Tattvas and the Rahasyas). These works by Acharyas are the
result of not only their research into all Scriptures, knowledge born out of
tapas and meditation, but are also products of debates and discussions
amongst them repudiating or asserting one or the other theory in philosophy
or in interpreting the Vedas and Upanishads. They are no doubt based on
the teachings of their own Acharyas too.

There are innumerable Acharyas owing allegiance to Adi Sankara, Ramanuja
and Madhvacharya and these Acharyas have been giving life to the Vedantha
philosophy without interruption for several centuries now (since the 8
th

century) and will continue to do so for several more centuries to come.

In the Vaishnavite religion, we worship Lord Sriman Narayana, Goddess
Mahalakshmi, Vishvaksenar and Nammazhwar and other Azhwars as the
foremost Acharyas in that sequence. The Vaishnavite Acharyas who followed
the teachings of the Azhwars (besides of Vedas and Upanishads) and whom
Ramanuja followed and those who subsequently followed Ramanuja are
chronologically as under:


15


Approximate Period (CE) Name of the Acharya

824 – 920 Nathamunigal
826 – 931 Uyyakkondar (Pundarikakshar)
832 - 941 Manakkal Nambi (Ramamisrar)
NA Kurukaikavalarappan
916 – 1036 Alavandar (Yamunacharya)
Approximate period (CE) Name of the Acharya
973 Thirumalai Nambigal
987 Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal
NA Thirukachi Nambigal
997 Peria Nambi
NA Thiruvarangaperumal Araiyar
NA Thirumalai andan
1017 – 1137 Ramanujar
1027 – 1133 Mudhali andan (1)
1010 – 1116 Koorath Azhwan (2)
1028 Nadathur Azhwan (3)
1026 – 1131 Embar (4)
1052 Kidambi Achan (5)
1073 Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan (6)
NA Arulala Perumal Emberumanar (7)
1028 Vaduga Nambi (8)
1074 Parasara Bhattar (9)
NA Nanjeer
1106 Engal Azhwan
1157 – 1262 Peria Vachan Pillai
1165 – 1275 Nadathur Ammal
1207 Nampillai
NA Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai
1220 – 1295 Kidambi Appullar
1264 – 1329 Pillai Lokachariyar
1268 - 1369 Sri Vedanta Desikan (Venkatanathan)
1286 – 1386 Brahma Thanthra Swathanthra Jeeyar (who
established the Parakala Mutt)
NA Thiruvoimozhi Pillai
1316 – 1401 Kumara Varadachariar (Nainachariyar)
NA Ghatikasatham Ammal
1370 – 1444 Sri Manavala Mamunigal
1379 – 1459 Athivan Satagopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan
. (whoestablished the Ahobila Matam)


16


1400 – to the present day Number of Acharyas and Branches flowing
out from the earlier Acharyas including
Swayamacharyas, and all their paramparais
continue to this day under various names
and forms.

Munithraya (Srimad Andavan) Sampradayam/Periasramam Andavan
Paramparai
1700 – 1782 Sri Gopalarya Mahadesikan (who established
the
Munithraya Sampradayam as HH was the
preceptor of Vazhuthur Andavan)
1743 1. Vazhuthur Andavan (In 1783, Andavan
Asramam was established)
NA 2. Thiruthuraipoondi Andavan
1801 – 1884 3. Periandavan
1824 – 1900 Sri Narayana Mahadesikan (Velianallur
Andavan)*
1828 – 1895 4. Chinnandavan
NA 5. Kadanthethi Andavan
1847 – 1934 Srinivasa Mahadesikan (who established the
Poundrikapuram Andavan Branch)**
1871 – 1932 6. Therezhundur Andavan
1880 – 1946 7. Akkur Andavan
1886 – 1963 8. Tenparai Andavan
1907 – 1989 9. Thirukkudanthai Andavan
1989 10. Mysore Andavan
1934 – present 11. Sri Mushnam Andavan (who took over
the Peetam in 1990)
* He originated the Poundrikapuram Andavan Branch
** He was the Sishya of Velianallur Andavan

Srimad Andavan Periasramam Paramparai is given above and there is a
separate paramparai for the Poundrikapuram Andavan Branch also which is
not given here.
Note: (1) to (9) indicated in brackets after the names of certain Acharyas
show their seniority in the Discipleships of Ramanujar.
The above list is not exhaustive but indicative of the Acharya Paramparai in
the grand Lineage of Vaishnavite Acharyas.


New Delhi, April 24, 2007

17


VISISHTADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI RAMANUJA (1017-1137)

• Sources of Knowledge are – Pratyaksham (what one sees), Anumanam
(inference) and Sabdham (sounds meaning Vedas or Sruthis).
• What cannot be known from Pratyaksham and Anumanam can only be
known through Vedas.
• Vedas were not written by anyone. They are God’s own words existing
in space as sounds. Great Maharishis of the ancient days, through
meditation and prayers were able to grasp these sounds and gave
them oral expressions. They taught these to their disciples and the
disciples in turn taught their disciples and so on. They are therefore
called Sruthis, those that are heard. About 5000 years before, Sage
Vyasa is said to have codified these Vedas in writing in four categories
called Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharvana Veda.
• Vedas are divided into two parts – Karma Kandam and Jnana Kandam.
• Karma Kandam is again sub divided into – Samhitas (Mantras) and
Brahmanas (Rituals). Jnana Kandam is sub divided into – Aranyakas
(forest life situation) and Upanishads (Knowledge of Brahmam).
• As Upanishads are at the end of the Vedas, they are also called
Vedantha and the knowledge indicated here is the Vedantha
philosophy.
• In Hindu religion, 6 philosophies (schools of thought) were in vogue in
the ancient days and these are – Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Yoga,
Mimamsa (Poorva Mimamsa) and Vedantha (Uttara Mimamsa).
Gradually, the earlier four became extinct mostly and the fifth and
sixth are in vogue now. But even the fifth (which talks of doing
yagnams and yagas to please the various Gods and attain material
benefits and punyams) are not faithfully followed as such following had
become difficult and what mostly is prevalent today is the sixth, viz.
Vedantha philosophy (Knowledge based).
• Vedantha philosophy owing its origin to Sanskrit Vedas are not
accessible for learning by everyone and those authorized to learn (only
Brahmacharis) have to undergo rigid disciplines from the age of 7
through Guru Kulam studies for 12 years. Sage Vyasa therefore wrote
a crisp and short summary of the important Upanishads in the form of
Sutras (aphorisms or short statements) and these are called the
Vedantha Sutras or Brahma Sutras (the object of study being to
enquire about Brahmam). These Sutras are a literature in themselves
and can be accessed by all. Brahmam is not Brahma, the well known
Creator, but is the Supreme God known as Sriman Narayana and/or
Lord Vishnu.

18


• In the southern India, the Vaishnavite Azhwars (12) sang hymns in
Tamil which were compiled in later days by Sage Nathamuni (824-920)
as Nalayira Divya Prabhandam. These Tamil hymns are called the
Tamil Vedas as they reflect nothing but Vedic thoughts and they are
considered equivalent to Sanskrit Vedas. These hymns are accessible
to everyone without restriction and no rigorous discipline is prescribed
for their study like Sanskrit Vedas. These establish the supremacy of
Lord Vishnu over all other Gods and are born out of Bhakthi of the
Azhwars towards Lord Vishnu/Sriman Narayana.
• Our Acharyas (Preceptors) have therefore combined the knowledge of
the Vedas and Divya Prabhandams and called the philosophy thus
emanating as the Ubhaya Vedantha Philosophy.
• Any person who accepts the Supremacy of Lord Vishnu as the
Paramatma (the Supreme Soul or the Supreme Being or the Almighty
God) and follows the teachings of the Vedas and/or Divya
Prabhandams is called Vaishnavite and his philosophy is known as
Visishtadvaita philosophy.
• The other philosophy is Advaita philosophy which says that everything
other than Brahmam is illusion or Maya (they only appear to exist and
really they do not exist at all) and everyone is Brahmam and when
that realization or knowledge is attained, the living person becomes
Jeevan Muktha and he can carry on his life’s activities even after
becoming Jeevan Muktha and when he relinquishes his body, he is one
with Brahmam. There is only one Reality and that is Brahmam and
there is no second.
• The third and the youngest philosophy is Dvaita philosophy according
to which there are two eternals – Jivatma (living persons) and the
Paramatma (the Supreme Being). The Jivatma should know the
differences between him and the Paramatma. The Jivatma should
constantly worship Lord Vishnu only.
• Sri Ramanuja’s (Visishtadvaita) philosophy says that Reality is three –
Chit (or Soul that is knowledgeable), Achit (matter which has no
knowledge) and Iswaran (Sriman Narayanan).
• All the above three are eternal and real.
• A vaishnavite has to learn the three realities and the relationships inter
se in order to understand Brahmam and reach Moksha, a state from
which there is no rebirth and a state which is identical with God but
not the same as God and from which state he continues to serve God
with devotion.
• Until you attain Moksham, you are born again and again in this
Universe in some form or the other depending upon your karmas and
in order to experience the results of the Punyas and the Papams that

19


one earns in each life. Moksham is the deliverance from all these
Punyas and Papams which cause repeated births.
• Sri Adi Sankara (788-820), the founder of the Advaita philosophy,
relies for his conclusions on the sruthis which point out that there is
one Reality. According to him, these are primary sruthis and the other
sruthis which point out more than one Reality and the differences
between one and the other are all secondary sruthis and these are
meant to be followed till one gets rid of ignorance and attains true
knowledge that one is Brahmam. The sruthis he relies on as primary
are Abheda Sruthis.
• Sri Madhwacharya (1238-1317), the founder of the Dvaita philosophy
relies for his conclusions on the sruthis which point out that Jivatma
and Paramatma are not one and the same but are different (Bheda
sruthis) and says that all other sruthis other than Bheda Sruthis are
secondary in nature and are only meant to understand that there are
only two and not one or more.
• Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137) relies for his conclusions on all the sruthis
without omission (all the Upanishads literally) and says that there are
Abheda Sruthis, Bheda Sruthis and Ghataka Sruthis (pointing out
relationships interse between Jivatma, Matter and God) and all these
have to be understood in conjunction and in co-ordination with each
other and no sruthi can be called primary or secondary saying that no
sruthi can be ignored or be treated in a diluted manner.
• As sruthis are the Pramanams (authority) to know about ourselves and
God and the related issues which cannot be known through
Pratyaksham or Anumanam and all the sruthis have to be integrated
and understood as a whole, the Visishtadvaita philosophy he founded
seems readily acceptable as it is more scientific than the other two.
• In the days of Sri Adi Sankara, there were onslaughts on Vedas and
God by Buddhists and Jains who maintained that there was no God
and Vedas teach rituals which had no meaning. Their stand seemed to
be that nothing exists in reality. Sri Adi Sankara had therefore to re-
establish the supremacy of the Vedas and the supremacy of Brahmam
and therefore propagated the theory that as against nothing exists,
only one thing exists and that is Brahmam and the rest are illusion and
knowledge of this will lead to abandonment of the rituals prescribed in
the Vedas. Insistence on practice of Vedic rituals and the difficulties in
such practices resulting in non-practice or partial practice probably
resulted in easy conversion of Hindus to Buddhism and Jainism which
said no rituals were necessary. Sri Adi Sankara by saying that rituals
are not all that important and that they are secondary and are valid
only upto one gaining knowledge that he is Brahmam and there is no

20


second entity at all even as per the Vedas, succeeded in fighting these
onslaughts and could prevent the spread of Buddhism and Jainism
which opposed the Vedas and the God. Sri Adi Sankara’s theory was
called Monism. According to him Brahmam is Nirguna Brahmam (no
gunas or qualities).

• In the days of Sri Ramanuja, he repudiated the theory of Sri Adi
Sankara and pointed out that Brahmam has qualities (Saguna
Brahmam, all good qualities unlimited in extent) and the qualities of
Jivatma are not the same as Brahmam and essentially they are
different but Jivatma emanated from the Paramatma and the
Paramatma stays within Jivatma as the Inner Controller. All the
matter gets different forms and stages due to the Sankalpam of the
Paramatma and thus the world is said to be created by the
Paramatma, which is what the Vedas say. All the Jivatmas and all the
Matter form the body of the Paramatma who is the Supreme Soul in
that Body and therefore He is the controller of the various limbs of His
body, namely the Jivatmas and all the Matter and He decides on their
creation, existence and protection. He gives them the different
qualities and helps them in their activities according to their own
Punyas and Papams. He protects and sustains them and guides
them. All the Jivatmas and all the Matter are subservient to Him.
This theory is known as Qualified Monism.

Jivatmas and the Matter (Chit and Achit) are Sesha Bhuthas (servants and
subservient) to Iswara, the God who is the Seshin (Sarva seshin). Jivatmas
and the matter are not independent in Svarupa (form) and Svabhava
(qualities) but are dependent on God’s own Svarupa (form) and Svabhava
(qualities) and Sankalpa.

According to Sri Ramanuja that is what Vedas preach and the Brahma
Sutras preach and he has written all these in his works – Sri Bashyam
(commentary on the Brahma Sutras) and Gita Bashyam (commentary on
the Bhagavat Gita), the three Gadyas (Saranagadhi Gadyam, Sri Vaikunta
Gadyam and Sri Ranga Gadyam), Vedartha Sangraha (Meanings of the
Vedas in abbreviated form), Vedanta Saram (the essence of the Vedanta),
Vedanta Deepam (Light shown by the Vedanta) and Nityam.






21


Vaishnavite Acharyas – A Chronology

Period Acharya/Event
788- 820 Adi Shankarar (NON VAISHNAVITE ACHARYA)
824- 920 Nathamunigal
826- 931 Uyyakkondar (Pundarikakshar)
832- 941 Manakkal Nambi (Ramamisrar)
916-1036 Alavandar
973 Thirumalai Nambi (Ramanujar’s Maternal Uncle)
987 Thirukkoshtiyur Nambi
997 Peria Nambi
1018-1092 Thirukkachchi Nambi
Thiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar
1017-1137 Ramanujar
1010-1116 Koorath Azhwar (Srivathsangar)
1026-1131 Embar (Govinda Bhattar) Ramanujar’s cousin
1027-1133 B Mudaliyandan (Ramanujar’s sister’s son)
1028 B Nadathur Azhwan (Varadavishnumisrar) Ramanujar’s
another sister’s son
1052 R/B Kidambi Achan (Thirumalai Nambi’s wife’s brother’s son)
1028 Vaduga Nambi
1073 BV/R/B Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan (son of Thirumalai Nambi)
Gnanaputhra forRamanujar
1074 Parasara Bhattar, son of Koorath Azhwar (successor to
Ramanujar in Srirangam Temple Admn.) Also a disciple of
EmbarArulalaperumal Emberumanar
Nanjeer (Parasara Bhattar’s disciple)
1106 Engal Azhwan (Vishnu Chithar) successor to Thirukkurugai Piran
Pillan
1165-1275 Nadathur Ammal (Varadavishnu) grandson of Nadathur Azhwan
Successor to Engal Azhwan
1157-1262 Periavachan Pillai (Vyakyana Chakravarthy) Nampillai’s disciple
1207 Nampillai (Nanjeer’s successor)
Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai (Nampillai’s successor)
1220-1295 Kidambi Appullar (Ramanujan) great grandson of Kidambi
Achan, Nadathur Ammal’s successor and Desikan’s maternal
uncle.
1238-1317 Madhwachariar (ESTABLISHED MADHWA MADHAM – DUALISM)
1264-1329 Pillai Lokachariyar (son of Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai)
1268-1369 Sri Vedanta Desikan (Kidambi Appullar’s nephew and successor)
Thiruvoimozhi Pillai (Pillai Lokachariar’s successor)

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1286-1386 Brahma Thanthra Swathanthra Jeer (Disciple of Sri Vedanta
Desikan and Sri Kumara Varadachariar, Desikan’s son)
1300-1410 Sri Prathivathi Bhayangaram Annan Swami
1316-1401 Kumara Varadachariar, son of Sri Vedanta Desikan.
Ghatikasatham Ammal, disciple of Brahma Thanthra Swathathra
Jeer
1360 Parakala Mutt was established in Kanchi by Brahma
Thanthra Swathanthra Jeer
1370-1444 Sri Manavala Mamunigal (Thiruvoimozhi Pillai’s disciple)
1379 Parakala Mutt shifted to Tirupati
1379 Sri Athivan Satakopa Yatheendra Mahadesikan (disciple of
Ghatikasatham Ammal
1398 Ahobila Mutt was established by Sri Athivan Satakopa
Yatheendra Mahadesikan
1440 Vanamamalai Mutt was founded by Sri Vanamamalai Jeer
Sri Ranga Ramanuja Muni (Upanishad Bhashyakarar)
Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan (Sakshat Swami)
1700-1782 Sri Gopalarya Mahadesikan (Thirukkudanthai Desikan) Sakshat
Swami’s disciple (also 15
th
generation from Kidambi Appullar,
Desikan’s maternal uncle and Acharya
1743 Vazhuthur Andavan (Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
1783 Srimad Andavan Asramam was established in Srirangam
Thiruthuraipundi Andavan (Srinivasa Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
1801-1884 Periandavan (Sri Srinivasa Mahadesikan) – Vatthal Swami
1824-1900 Sri Narayana Mahadesikan (Velianallur Andavan)
1828-1895 Chinnandavan (Sri Paduka Sevaka Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
(Periasramam Branch came to be known as such)
Kadanthethi Andavan (Sri Srinivasa Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
1847-1934 Sri Srinivasa Mahadesikan (Poundarikapuram Andavan
Branch was founded by this Poundarikapuram Andavan, a
disciple of Velianallur Andavan)
1871-1932 TherezhundurAndavan
(Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan/Nammandavan)
1880-1946 Akkur Andavan (Srinivasa Mahadesikan/Engal Andavan)
1882 Sri Ranga Ramanuja Mahadesikan (Kozhialam Swami)
1886-1963 Tenparai Andavan (Sri Ranganatha Mahadesikan)
(Sanyasam years 1947-1964)
1891-1983 Sri Prathivathi Bhayangaram Annangarachariar Swami
1897-1983 Sri Uthamur Viraraghavacharya Mahadesikan
1907-1989 ThirukkudanthaiAndavan(Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
(Sanyasam years 1964-1989)
Mysore Andavan (Srinivasa Ramanuja Mahadesikan)

23


(Sanyasam Year 1989)
1934- Srimushnam Andavan (Sri Ranga Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
(Sanyasam years 1990- ) Present Andavan

Notes: 1) Ramanujar established 74 Simhasanathipadhis out of whom
he named four of his disciples as Sri Bashya simhasanapadhi
(B), Rahasya Simhasanathipadhi ® and Bhagavat Vishaya
simhasanathipadhi (BV)

2) There were other great Acharyas and what are given above
are those
who signify a paramparai (in succession to each other)

3) After Sakshat Swami, there were so many other religious
heads who were also Acharyas and their paramparais are not
given above.






Chennai, December 25, 2006




















24


For Padmanabhan Family:

What is philosophy and what is religion?
Philosophy is an enquiry into the realms of Unknown and a school of thought
based on enquiries already made by philosophers into what is known and
what is unknown and what is to be known is known as a philosophy.
Sometimes, while interpreting the scriptures he chooses to explore during
the course of his enquiry, he comes out with his own thoughts and
repudiates the scriptures or he develops his own thoughts based on his own
understanding of the scriptures stating that he relies on scriptures and this is
what he says that the scriptures teach or preach.
Religion (code of conduct) is the practice followed by a group of persons
called a community, caste, etc., based on customs, traditions and values of a
family or inherited by the family or in a region/s or nation/s. While the
western philosophy is not linked to a religion, in India, in Hindu religion,
religious practice is generally dictated by the philosophy one believes in or
one inherits from one’s ancestors. Philosophy and religion are therefore
linked together and co-exist in Hindu systems.
In ancient days, there were six schools of thought (Philosophies) and today,
the common school is Vedantic school (philosophical thoughts based on
Vedantas. Vedantas mean that which are at the end of the four Vedas, and
these are Upanishads). Our Vedantic school is based on Upanishads. In the
south, there were Azwars in Dravida Nadu (3102 BC to almost early few
centuries AD). What they sang were revealed to Sri Nathamuni (in the early
9
th
century AD) who compiled it as Nalayira Dhivya Prabhandam consisting of
4000 tamil songs sung by 12 Azhwars (Mudal Azhwargal (3) – Poigai Azhwar,
Bhuthath Azhwar and Peyazwar -, Tirumazhisai Azhwar, Nammalwar (the
chief amongst them), Madura Kavi Azhwar, Kulasekara Azhwar (who was a
reigning monarch in south in the ancient days), Periazhwar, Andal,
Thondaradipodi Azhwar, Tiruppanazhwar and Tirumangai Azhwar). These
Prabhandams are considered Dravida Vedas (Tamil Vedas). Those who
follow the Sanskrit Vedas (Upanishads) and Tamil Vedas (Divya
Prabhandams) jointly and severally are called Ubhaya Vedantis. These two
Vedas teach the philosophy as well as religious practices to be followed based
on the philosophy taught.
What is our School of thought (philosophy)?
We follow Ramanuja’s philosophy called Visishtadvaita (qualified Monism)
philosophy named as Sri Vaishnavism which is Ubhaya Vedanta Philosophy

25


(taught by both Upanishads and Nalayira Divya Prabhandams). It has been
established by our Acharyas that Upanishads and Divya Prabhandams say the
very same thing and there is no conflict at all between them and both can be
relied upon and practiced together or separately for the ultimate objective of
attaining liberation. Divya Prabhandams are expressions of one’s (Azhwar’s)
personal experiences and therefore they are inspirational poems inducing
bhakthi in the readers towards Sriman Narayana and these prabhandams
teach that only Vishnu is the Ultimate God and repudiate the supremacy of
the other gods like Brahma, Sivan, Indran, etc. who are all servants of
Vishnu (Sriman Narayana) only. According to Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137),
Upanishads also teach that Vishnu (Sriman Narayana) is the Ultimate God
(Bhagavan, Paramatma, Brahmam, Iswaran etc.). He has in his writings and
in debates established this position of Upanishads and has tremendously
succeeded in raising his followers who all worshipped him as God (with
Vigraha Prathishtam in temples). Sri Ramanuja established 74
Simhasanathipadhis, religious heads, to continue his work and teachings.
Our family owes its origin to one of these 74 Simhasanathipadis (at Tenparai)
and that is why we are called Swayam Acharya Purushals as we are his
descendants/disciples. These religious heads/mutts have now culminated
into Parakala Mutt followers, Ahobila Mutt followers, Sri Andavan followers,
Vanamamalai mutt followers, Tirupathi Mutt, Ethiraja Mutt followers, Swayam
Acharya Purushals and so on. There are quite a few Acharyas heading both
organized mutts and unorganized entities. They all have one thing in
common, that is – Sriman Narayana along with Goddess Mahalakshmi are
the divine couple to be worshipped and all Jivatmas should surrender at their
feet and Prapatthi or Bhakthi are the only means of attaining the abode of
the divine couple (Moksha Lokam or Sri Vaikuntam). Further, no other God
is equal to or greater than Mahavishnu or Sriman Narayana. A true
Vaishnivite (follower of Vishnu) should resent other Gods and not go to them
for worship.

What is this philosophy?

• Valid sources of knowledge are – prathyaksham, anumanam
(inference) and Sabdhas (Sounds meaning Vedas & Upanishads and
Sabdhas in this context also include smrutis (codes of conduct and
rules and regulations laid down by the Maharishis like Manu,
Yagnavalkya and others), epics (Ithihasas), Puranas, Bhagavad Gita,
etc. which are not inconsistent with what have been stated in the
Vedas). If there is a conflict between a literature and the Vedas,
Vedas alone shall prevail. There are four Vedas – Rig, Yajur (Sukla

26


yajur, Krishna yajur), Sama and Atharvana. We are Krishna Yajur
Veda followers.

• Realities are three – chit (Jivatma), achit (Nature or Matter) and
Iswaran (Paramatma or God). There is no other Reality or Truth.
Jivatmas include all Gods from Brahma, Sivan and downwards. We
should understand the relationships amongst these three realities in
order to understand the spiritual path laid down in this philosophy.
Chits
• Chit (Being) is knowledgeable and that which can realize and
understand what is seen or heard or felt and it always exists in a body
– be it the body of the god or deity or deva, or the gandharva, asura,
man, woman, child, etc. or the animal, bird, insect, worm, etc. or
plant, tree, etc. which can breathe and grow. What body a Jivatma
takes is decided on Punyas and Papams which are collectively called
Karma (actions, past and present). Brahma and Sivan and other gods
have their divine bodies with divine powers vested in them by virtue of
their karma. The Swarupa (form) of a Jivatma is an Atom in form and
is the full embodiment of Knowledge and Bliss (Gnanam and
Aanandam). Its inherent nature includes Dharmabootha gnanam
which means it can identify all things external to it and in cases of
jivatmas who have developed spiritual talents to an extent, it helps
identify (realize) itself too. The degree of the presence of this gnanam
varies from one Jivatma to another and also the body it lives in.
Brahma, Sivan and other gods do have enormous divine powers to
bestow boons and give grants and answer the prayers of their
devotees, but all these benefits are short-lived in the sense that they
have an end and they add to the karmas meaning more and more
bodies to live in in the future. It will be a cycle of births and deaths
(samsara sagaram). ‘Aham’ or ‘I’ means Jivatma and not the body
that houses the Jivatma. Bodies die and Jivatmas being eternal do not
die at all. They were never born at all. None can harm and injure
them. All harms and injuries are caused only to the bodies which are
perishable. First understanding should be that body is not the atma or
jivan or man and that atma and body are two separate things. While
Atma is eternal, body is born out of Achit (Moola Prakrithi or three
gunas) and is perishable.

• Jivatmas constitute the body of Paramatma. At the time of great
deluge (mahapralayam), Jivatmas in sukshma bodies are consumed
by the Paramatma who let them out at the start of the next creation
by first creating the creator, Brahma from his Navel.

27



• Jivatmas being a constituent of Paramatma, Paramatma decides their
Swarupas (forms) and Swaroopams (characteristics or gunas).
Jivatma is therefore considered a slave or servant (Seshan) and
Paramatma is the master (Seshi). As the Paramatma is the master of
everyone and everything, he is Sarvaseshin. This relationship is a
reality and cannot be shied away from. The palans (consequences of
actions or inactions) of a Jivatma, while binding the Jivatma for ever in
Samsara sagaram, belong to Paramatma who therefore through his
Sankalpam (determination) decides the course of life of a Jivatma in a
body that He gives to that during a life. In other words, the form and
characteristics of a Jivatma in a body and the course of its life are the
Bhagavat Sankalpam (God’s decision). All these will lead to the
knowledge that Jivatma is not a Swathanthran (independent) and is
only a Parathanthran (dependent on Paramatma). Since these things
are true and common to all Jivatmas, it comes to that that between
Brahma/Sivan etc. and a man or woman, there is no essential
difference. The only apparent difference is that Brahma/Sivan etc.
have far superior powers vested in them only by the Paramatma and
due to the illusion that they are Masters and Gods, devotees go to
them and worship them only for material benefits in this world.
• There are four Purusharthas (goals) – dharma, artha, kamam and
moksha. For achieving the first three goals, one can resort to any
god. For achieving the last goal, namely moksham, one should resort
only to the Paramatma as He alone has the inherent power to grant
moksham (liberation). When a Jivatma attains moksham, it does not
come back to the samsara sagaram (worldly living). Worldly living
includes living in celestial areas of other seven Lokas like Surya
Lokam, Chandra Lokam, Siva Lokam, Sathya (Brahma) Lokam, etc.
above the Earth and another seven Lokas (Athala, Vithala, etc. called
Narakas) below the Earth. There are 14 Lokas or worlds.
• Paramatma or the Supreme Being or the Supreme Soul is none other
than Vishnu, called Vasudeva, Narayana, etc. He always desires that
all Jivatmas should ultimately and as soon as they can reach Him in Sri
Vaikuntam (Moksha Lokam) to be on par with Him in all respects
except in having the powers of Creation, Protection and Destruction of
the World which always stand vested in Him and Him alone. He being
the first Acharya (Guru), wants the Jivatmas to come to Him at the
end of their lives through the Grace of an Acharya who would teach
him the Truth and the Path that would lead Jivatmas to God ultimately.
Acharyas are of even greater importance than God Himself according
to God, He being the first Acharya to everyone.

28


• There are three Rahasya Mantras which are called Ashtaksharam,
Dvayam and Charama slokam to be chanted millions of times during
one’s life after one is initiated into that by an Acharya, with full belief
and faith (Mahaviswasam) and in all humility without offending any
other being (chit or achit) and considering that he is the Seshan and
the God is the Seshi and he has no independence of his own to protect
himself and that his protection is the privilege and prerogative of God.
He should further pray that he does what he does believing in that his
action is the action of God and the consequences of his actions, being
God’s own actions, go only to God and that he has nothing to gain or
lose. He has nothing to offer to God as he, Jivatma, is itself the
property of God (Saathveeka Thyagam). The feelings of “I” or “Me”
or “Mine” (collectively called Ahamkara or Mamakara) should go and
the feeling of Seshatvam (subservient to God) all the time should
settle in.
• Attainment of all the four Purusharthas and the means of such
attainment are there in the Vedas which are divided into Karma
Kandams and Gnana Kandams. Karma will lead to Gnanam and
Gnanam will lead to Bhakthi and Prapatthi (surrender) and in this
order only one should strive for. It means we cannot give up our
Nithya Karmas or Naimittika Karmas ordained on us as per Sastras
even if we are solely interested in Moksham following the Gnana and
Bhakthi or Prapatthi paths.
• Technically, Karma, Gnanam and Bhakthi paths can lead to Moksham,
but their practice as ordained for that purpose being very complicated
and difficult to practice, ordinary men cannot resort to them as means
to Moksham and the path for them is the Prapatthi (surrender to God).
Prapatthi is generally done through an Acharya and the angams of
prapatthi have to be followed like Mahaviswasam, abandoning all gods
other than Sriman Narayana, doing actions desirable by Him and
abandoning actions not desirable by Him, cultivating the spirit of utter
helplessness and humility in one’s course of life and realizing that he
has no other way or path but to surrender to God and having
surrendered to Him at His feet, he is fearless and he is doing only
Bhagavat and Bhagavata Kainkaryams and nothing else during the rest
of his life.
• Prapatthi can be done by any Jivatma in any Body.
• Moksham means destruction of all past karmas (which alone gives
repeated births and deaths) until the Jivatma leaves its body in the
final stage and ultimate Liberation for the service of God eternally in
Sri Vaikuntam (Moksha Lokam). As long as the Jivatma is bound by

29


Karma, it can never hope to attain Moksham. To shed the karma, the
means is Prapatthi or Surrender at Lord’s feet.

Achits
Achit is not knowledgeable and it is called Jadam (no knowledge). It is
meant to exist only for the benefit of Chits or Jivatmas. It is also
Seshan and its masters are Jivatmas and Paramatma. Achits also
constitute the body of Paramatma and are dependent on Him, being
Seshans to Him.

Achit originates from the primary Achit called Moola Prakrithi
(primordial matter). From Moola Prakrithi, 24 substances are evolved
and these substances give the Jivatmas their bodies and offer
themselves as help for the lives of Jivatmas and Jivatmas realizing the
help, benefits from their association with these 24 evolutes, always
desire to continue to enjoy what all the Achits (Everything in the Earth
or the World minus the Jivatmas) are capable of giving them for
enjoyments. Commonly, the association with Prakriti (Achit) gives
enjoyment to a Jivatma who considers himself as the body only and
that atma and body are one and the same (which is not true). He
wants to enjoy and continues to enjoy without realizing his true self,
which is the Atma for which these enjoyments are no good as they
would bind the Atma for ever in the Prakrithi Mandalam, depriving the
Atma from attaining liberation.

The 24 evolutes are – Moola Prakrithi, Mahan (intermediary stage of
evolution), and Ahamkaram (final stage of evolution) are the primary
three Evolutes of the 24. From Ahamkaram, the three Gunas are
formed (Sattva, Rajas and Thamas) and an inter-action of these three
gunas results in the formation of Indriyas (limbs) of the body and
senses. The five limbs (karmendriyas) are hands, legs, the two organs
which excrete the waste and the mouth (speech). The five senses are
seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. Manas or the mind is
the 11
th
sense in a human body. The trigunas are considered as the
Prakrithi as they alone are ultimately responsible for all worldly
substances in the actual sense.

Apart from the 3 plus 11 stated above, five Tanmatras
(characteristics) called sound, feeling, form, taste and smell are
created and these respectively fructify in what are called the five
pancha boothas, namely, Akasa (space), Vayu (wind), Light (including
fire), Water and Earth. The 5 Tanmatras and 5 Pancha boothas with 3

30


plus 11 stated earlier will total up to 24 evolutes. Jivatma is
considered as the 25
th
principle and God is the 26
th
principle. There is
none other than these in reality. Whatever we see are the
modifications of one or the other of these principles only.

Everything or anything that is witnessed in the Earth is a change of the
form of one or the other 24 evolutes mentioned above and they are all
modifications of the Premordial nature or the Moola Prakrithi in the
ultimate sense. Moola Prakrithi alone is the Reality and the rest are
its various modifications and forms. Moola Prakrithi again has the
power to change its form to modify into another and again repeat such
changes and modifications only because of the Bhagavat Sankalpam
as it cannot on its own do such things as it is bereft of any knowledge.
Moola Prakrithi (Achit) is also a Seshan and Paramatma (Bhagavan) is
the Seshi for that also. In time of Great Deluge all perish and the
moola prakrithi (achit) in a subtle form is consumed by the Paramatma
along with Chits and they are conserved or kept in custody in subtle
forms by God in his smallest body (an infant in a leaf of a tree in the
midst of water, which alone exists at the time of Maha Pralayam) who
protects them all until they are again re-created through his Navel and
Brahma after the Deluge dies.


Iswaran
From a reading of the above, Iswaran is known as the Supreme Soul
having the entire Universe (consisting of chits and achits) as his
Sareera or Body and therefore just as the soul controls the body, he is
the Controller of all chits and achits in the Universe, both this world
and the upper/lower worlds.

He is called Bhagavan, Brahmam (different from Brahma),
Parabrahmam, Sriman Narayana, etc.

He has five forms to carry on various functions – Para, Vyuha,
Vibhava, Archa and Antaryami.

Para is the form in Sri Vaikuntam – Para Vasudeva and unless one
attains moksham it is not possible to view this form of His.

Vyuha is the other forms – Vasudeva, Samkharshana, Pradyumna and
Aniruddha and in these forms he conducts all the affairs of the Worlds
{Prakriti Mandalam).

31



Vibhava is the Avataar of Sriman Narayana in the Prakriti Mandalam
for destroying evil and protecting the good from time to time. He has
taken innumerable Avataars and we only know certain Avataars from
the Puranas and the Epics. Elders had listed 10 Avatars of His as the
important Avatars – Mathsya, Koorma, Varaha, Nrusimha, Vamanan
(also Trivikraman in the same Avataar), Parasuraman, Dasaratha
Raman, Bala Raman, Krishnan and Kalki (yet to come). His Avataar as
Hayagriva is very important to Sri Vaishnavites, as Hayagriva was the
redeemer of Vedas and is the embodiment and source of all Knowledge
(Sarva Vidhyas) although this is not listed in the Ten.

Archa is the Moorthy in Temples consecrated according to Vedas,
Agamas and Sastras where the daily rituals take place as ordained in
the Sastras governing worship in Temples. 108 such Temples were
temples where the 12 Azhwars had personal experiences of seeing God
and enjoying His Anugraham or Blessings. They are called Vaishnavite
Divya Desas and two of them are not in Prakriti Mandalam. One is Sri
Vaikuntam and the other is Thirupparkadal.

Antaryami is the Paramatma inside the Jivatma in the body of the
Jivatma and very few yogis have realized the Paramatma as the
Antaryamin and surrendered to him in that form.

Sriman Narayana is mostly worshipped in Archa Form and the
surrender or prapatthi is done at the feet of the Archa Moorthy.
The other forms are difficult to comprehend.

Other than Sri Vaikuntam (His abode) which is called Nitya Vibhuthi
(eternal place), all other worlds are called Lila Vibhuthi (Prakriti
Mandalam, perishable places which are called his playing field) and Lila
Vibhuthi is Sport for Him.

In the Nitya Vibhuthi, there are Nithyas (eternal souls like Adisesha,
Vishvaksena, Garuda, etc.), Mukthas (liberated souls who had reached
moksham through bhakthi and/or prapatthi) and Goddess
Mahalakshmi along with Sri Bhudevi and Sri Neela Devi.

Goddess Mahalakshmi is inseparable from Him as she adorns his chest
and He always works in conjunction with His Consort (Mahalakshmi or
Sri Devi) and there is absolutely no difference between the Two of
them. They are One in Two.

32



Goddess Mahalakshmi helps Jivatmas in their pleas to Paramatma in
the matter of attaining moksham or relief from their sufferings and
this help is called Purushakaratvam (recommendation to God about
servant’s pleas).

One who worships Sriman Narayana for attaining Moksha without
seeking any other benefits from Him after surrendering to Him at His
feet also gets all the material and spiritual benefits necessary for him
until his life comes to an end in the Prakriti Mandalam. Sriman
Narayana is the Sarvagnan (knows everyone and everything).

Acharyas
Acharyas are Preceptors and they only teach us the scriptures and help
us to know God and work on the means to attain God. They have
therefore to be worshipped first before God is worshipped. We always
recite the Thaniyans (prayers) of Acharyas first in Temples and also
before commencing our daily worship in the houses. It is believed that
the recital of Acharyan’s Thanian leads one to God through Acharya’s
feet and blessings.
Our Acharya Lineage starts from Sriman Narayana in the following
order:

o Goddess Mahalakshmi or Thirumagal
o Sri Vishvaksenar or Senainathan (Commander in Chief in Sri
Vaikuntam who with his stick helps God to rule the world)
o Sri Nammazhwar or Satakopan (considered to be an avatar of
Sri Vishvaksenar himself in the world to help the Jivatmas to
know the Truth and the Realities)
o Sri Natha Munigal (824-920)
o Sri Uyyakkondar (826-931)
o Sri Manakkal Nambi (832-941)
o Sri Alavandar (916-1036)
o Sri Peria Nambi (born in 997)
o Sri Ramanujar (1017-1137), considered as the founder of the
Sri Vaishnavism.

The above is the primary Acharya Paramparai common to
everybody and the secondary Acharya Paramparai for our
family as per our traditions is as follows:


33


o Sri Vedanta Desikan or Nikamantha Mahadesikan (1268-
1369)
o Sri Gopalarya Mahadesikan or Thirukkudanthai Desikan
((1700-1782)
o Srimad Vazhuthoor Andavan, Sri Vedanta Ramanuja
Mahadesikan ((born in 1743) SRIMAD ANDAVAN ASRAMAM
WAS ESTABLISHED IN SRIRANGAM IN 1783
o Thiruthuraipoondi Andavan, Srinivasa Ramanuja
Mahadesikan
o Sri Periandavan, Sri Srinivasa Mahadesikan (1801-1884)
o Sri Chinnandavan, Sri Paduka Sevaka Ramanuja
Mahadesikan (1828-1895)
o Sri Kadaththedhi Andavan
o Therezhundur Andavan, Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan
(aka Nammandavan) (1871-1932), Acharya for my father
Late Sri T S Viraraghavachariar, my and amma’s
Samasrayanam Acharya.
o Sri Akkur Andavan, Sri Srinivasa Mahadesikan, aka Engal
Andavan (1880-1946)
o Sri Tenparai Andavan, Sri Ranganatha Mahadesikan (1886-
1963), my bharanyasam (prapatthi) acharya (He was
Andavan for 17 years)
o Sri Thirukkudanthai Andavan, Sri Vedanta Ramanuja
Mahadesikan (1907-1989), samasrayanam and bharanyasam
acharya for krishnan and balaji and bharanyasam acharya for
amma. (He was Andavan for 25 years)
o Sri Mysore Andavan (Sri Srinivasa Ramanuja Mahadesikan)
for one year in 1989)
o Srimushnam Andavan, Sri Ranga Ramanuja Mahadesikan
(1934-present). He took over in 1990.

We should constantly be reciting our Acharya’s thanians
In the other file, I am mailing, I have given a summary in general and
chronology of our and other Acharya Paramparais compiled to the best of my
knowledge. All Acharyas are worthy of worship irrespective of which Acharya
we worship as per our family tradition.

According to our Acharyas, a Sri Vaishnavite has to study the following four
texts (grantha chathushtyas) –


34


1. Sri Bashyam (a commentary on Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras
written by Vyasa Maharishi (this text in Sanskrit has been translated in
English by George Thibaut)
2. Gita Bashyam (a commentary on Bhagavat Gita written by Sri
Ramanuja)
3. Bhagavat Vishayam (a commentary on Tiruvoimozhi, consisting of
1000 tamil poems or songs out of 4000 such poems called Nalayira
Divya Prabhandam written by Tirukkurugaipiran Pillan, a primary
disciple of Sri Ramanuja. After this, other commentaries on
Tiruvoimozhi were written by other illustrious Acharyas and a Mahan
by name Peria Vachan Pillai (who is called Vyakyana Chakravarthi) has
written commentary on all the 4000 divya prabhandams.
4. Srimad Rahasya Thrayasaram (written by Sri Vedanta Desikan)

If one is unable to read all the four above, at least he is supposed to read the
last one, viz., Srimad Rahasya Thrayasaram.

The above reading is intended to acquire knowledge of our philosophy and
religious practice and the need to follow that practice in our spiritual
endeavour.




East Hanover, NJ 07936, USA, August 9, 2006





35


HINDU TRADITIONAL CALENDAR

Hindu traditions are millions of years old. They draw their beginnings from
the Vedas and the Upanishads, which defy their own dates of origin.
Western Philosophers have given dates of origin to them, but Hindu faith
does not accept them. Neither Hindus nor the Western Philosophers have
authentic authority to quote for their respective positions. Be it so. Vedas
are called Srutis meaning that they are heard and are not written. Vyasa
only codified and compiled what were already heard and spread over by
Maharishis to their disciples and these disciples to their own disciples, etc.
The 29
th
Vyasa known as Krishna Dvaipayana codified the Vedas into four
(Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas) approximately 5000 years ago,
probably at the advent of Kali Yuga.
YUGAS
Hindu calendar has the Yuga cycles as its base. There are four Yugas, viz.
Krutha Yuga, Thretha Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. A cycle of
these four yugas is called a Chathur Yuga (block of 4 yugas). Krutha Yuga
has 4800 celestial years; Thretha 3600 celestial years; Dwapara 2400
celestial years and the Kali 1200 celestial years. One human year in this
Earth is one day for the celestials or devas. In other words, 360 human
years will be one celestial year. Reckoned on this formula, Krutha would be
1728,000 human years; Thretha 1296,000 human years; Dwapara 864,000
human years and Kali 432,000 human years. The aggregate for one
Chathur yuga reckoned in terms of human years will be 4320,000 years or
4.32 million years, a mind boggling figure.
KALPAM
1000 such Chathur Yugas form one Kalpam. A Kalpam therefore consists of
4320 million years or 4.32 billion years. One Kalpam is said to be one day
for Brahma, the Creator. Kalpams are 6 and these are
1. Koormam
2. Parthibam
3. Savithri
4. Pralayam
5. Varaham
6. Brahmam
MANVANTARAS
In each Kalpam, the Universe is ruled by 14 Manus, the term of office of each
Manu being 71 Chathur Yugas. Manus are appointed by Brahma, the
Creator. The period ruled by a Manu is called a Manvantara after his name.
There are therefore 14 Manvantaras in one Kalpam.
The 14 Manvantaras are
1. Svayambhuvamanu

36


2. Svarosishamanu
3. Uthamamanu
4. Thapasamanu
5. Raivathamanu
6. Chakshushamanu
7. Vaivasvathamanu
8. Savarnimanu
9. Dakshasavarnimanu
10.Brahmasavarnimanu
11.Dharmasavarnimanu
12.Rudrasavarnimanu
13.Devasavarnimanu
14.Indrasavarnimanu
THE PRESENT KALPA, MANVANTARA AND YUGA
We are now in Svethavarahakalpa and Vaivasvatha Manvantara in Kali Yuga.
Kali Yuga commenced in the English year 3100 B.C. The present English
year 2005 means Kali Yuga Year 5105. Kali yuga has a total of 432,000
human years or 1200 celestial years. Imagine the long way that we have to
go to see the end of Kali Yuga.
DAY, NAKSHATRAM, THITHI AND PAKSHAM
A day consists of 24 hours, as we understand now. In our tradition, it
consists of sixty (60) nazhikais. Each hour is therefore equal to 2.5
nazhikais. Each day has a Nakshatram and a Thithi and each of these two
lasts in each day for a period of nazhikais specified for each, and is then
followed by the subsequent Nakshatram and Thithi in the same day, and this
information is available in our Panchangam. We have to convert the
nazhikais into hours and minutes, and reckon them from the time of sunrise
each day to find out the time upto which one nakshatra or thithi lasts in a
day and when the next nakshatra and thithi start in a day.
While there are 27 nakshatras, there are 15 thithis. Thithis are only
numerals to indicate the first day, the second day, etc. upto 14 days and the
fifteenth day is known as either the new moon day (Amavasai) or full moon
day (Pournami). The thithis come in a cycle and the first day of the thithi
that is known as Prathamai is the day following the New Moon Day or the Full
Moon Day as the case may be. The fifteen-day period before the New Moon
Day is called Krishna Paksham or the Thei Pirai and the fifteen-day period
before the Full Moon Day is called Sukla Paksham or the Valar Pirai.
MONTHS
Our Hindu calendar year (as followed in South India mostly) commences
from the mid April each year with the first month known as Chiththirai in
Tamil. The day Sun enters Mesha Rasi in the Zodiac is the day of
commencement of Chiththirai. The Sun stays in one Rasi for one month and

37


takes 12 months to complete its round of 12 Rasis in a cycle. Each month is
therefore known in Sanskrit in the name of the Rasi the Sun occupies in
that month. (namely, Mesha, Rishaba, Mithuna, Kataka, Simha, Kanya,
Thula, Vrischika, Dhanus, Makara, Kumba and Meena).
RUTHUS (SEASONS)
Every two months block starting from Chiththirai is termed as a Ruthu.
There are six Ruthus (bi-monthly periods) in a year and these are
Vasantharuthu, Greeshmaruthu, Varusharuthu, Saradruthu, Hemantharuthu
and Sisiraruthu.
AYANAMS (HALF YEARLY PERIODS)
A block of 6 months commencing January middle upto July middle is called
the Utharayana, namely when the Sun takes its northern course. The other
block of 6 months stretching from July middle to January middle is called the
Dakshinayana, namely when the Sun takes its southern course.
Utharayana is the daytime for the celestials or the devas and
Dakshinayana is the night time for the celestials.
SAMVATHSARAMS (YEARS)
A year in Sanskrit is called Samvathsaram. Each year has a Sanskrit name
and there are sixty names to denote a cycle of sixty years. These years keep
coming in rotation starting from Prabhava.The present year is called Dharana
and Parthibha will commence on the coming Tamil New Year Day in April
2005.
DAYS
Each day is known by a particular name in Sanskrit which name denotes the
planet ruling on the day concerned. Sunday is Bhanuvasaram; Monday is
Induvasaram; Tuesday is Bhaumavasaram; Wednesday is Saumyavasaram;
Thursday is Guruvasaram; Friday is Bhruguvasaram and Saturday is
Sthiravasaram.

It may therefore be noted that in Hindu tradition, we have our own
days, dates (thithis and Pakshams coming in cycles), months, bi-
months (Ruthus denoting seasons), half years (Ayanams) and years
(Samvathsarams).




Apex, North Carolina, USA, February 18, 2005




38


CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE

God is the centre of the Hindu faith. God's breath is said to be the Vedas.
The Vedas are the only source of knowledge. Everything is contained in the
Vedas. Vedas say that the God has no beginning or end. He is the
Ultimate. One may call him as the Supreme Being or Brahman. Vaishnavites
call him as Narayana. He pervades the Universe and there is nothing in the
Universe, which does not have Him as its part. In human beings, he is the
Antaryami or the Inner Soul or the Paramatma. Every human being has a
body with a soul (Jivatma). Paramatma resides inside the Jivatma. All
individual souls and matter (world or nature and everything that forms part
of them) are amsas (parts or modes) of the Supreme Brahman. While they
are distinct from the Brahman, they are inseparable from Him, as they
constitute His body. This is the theory according to our philosophy and
based on this theory, one has to approach the subject of the creation of the
Universe for easy understanding.

The Vedas (especially the Upanishads which form the latter part of the
Vedas) speak of the creation in various ways. It is difficult to understand,
comprehend and reconcile what all is spoken about creation in these
Upanishads unless one is fully well versed in the Vedas and the secondary
scriptures like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, Agamas,
Dharma Sastras, etc. While there could be differences in one's approach and
understanding what the Vedas ultimately reveal about the creation, one thing
is for sure, and that is God created the world as part of his manifestation.
Creation is said to begin after a Mahapralayam and when God takes a
Sankalpa to create again. Mahapralayam comes after a Brahma's lifetime,
which is one hundred years (4.32 billion multiplied by 360 multiplied by 100
human years) to be calculated based on chathur yuga formula detailed in the
first write up of the author, viz. Hindu Traditional Calendar.

The Purushasuktham speaks of the glories of the God. The Purushasuktham
contains in itself the three different constituents of the Vedas, namely
Samhita (Manthras - Prayers), Brahmanam (Yagnams - Karma Kandam) and
Aranyakam (Upanishads - Gnana Kandam). We have a splendid account of
the creation of the Universe in this Purushasuktham and it is narrated below.

The Universe, as it appears to us, is only one fourth of God's manifestation
and three fourths are unmanifest. Creation is a big Yagnam. The creation is
in two parts. In the first part, God manifested Himself as Brahma and from
Brahma as various beings. In the second part, God became food and other
essentials for the created beings to enable them live.

39



In the first part, God manifested Himself into a Brahmandam and from it,
appeared the Brahma, the Creator who created individuals. In the second
part, a sacrifice or Yagna was performed by the Devas, the first that was
created by Brahma. Brahma permitted himself to be used by the Devas as
the Holy Cow for sacrifice into the Homam in this Yagna. From this Yagna
came birds, deer, animals, cows and other similar creations. Then came the
Rig-Veda, the Sama Veda, Gayathri, and Yajur Veda. Then horses, other
animals, goats, sheep etc. came out. Brahma's face became a Brahmin,
hands became a Kshatriya, thighs became a Vaisya and feet became a
Sudra.(*) From his mind appeared Moon, from his eyes appeared Sun.
From his face appeared Indra and Agni. From his breath appeared Air. From
his navel appeared Space. From the head, the heaven, from the feet the
earth, from the ears the directions (east, west, south and north) came out.
Thus was created all the worlds (Sastras say that there are fourteen worlds
in all). The devas through this yagna worshipped the God, the Creator. The
dharma was then established in the form of worship and prayer.

It will be seen that from God, Brahma appeared and from Brahma, all other
beings appeared, Devas being the first. God thus pervades his creation.
God works ceaselessly in the universe through his amsas or parts, namely
chits and achits by being their inner soul, controller and director.

The Purushasuktham worships Him as having thousands of heads, thousands
of eyes, thousands of feet and states that his vast figure spreads and
pervades the entire Universe in a symbolic ten inches height.

In the Aitareya Upanishad, it is said that God first created Ambalokam (water
world), Marichilokam (world of light), Maralokam (world of immortals) and
Apalokam (world of water) . Ambalokam is above the Heaven, Marichilokam
is the Space in between the Heaven and the Earth, Maralokam is the Earth
and Apalokam is below the Earth. He then created the Brahma from out of
water to be the guardian of all these lokas (worlds). At God's behest,
Brahma opened his mouth and from the mouth came the speech. From the
speech came fire. At God's behest again a nose appeared for the Brahma
and from its nostrils, came the air. Similarly, from eyes, vision came and
from vision, came the Sun. From ears, sounds and hearing came and from
them came the directions (east, west, south and north). From the skin,
came hair and from the hair came herbs and plants. From the heart came
the mind and from the mind came the Moon. From the navel, came Apanan
and from that came death. From the genitals, came the fluid and from it
came water.

40



The above then fell in the water. Brahma created hunger and thirst for them.
The created ones wondered where would they reside. Brahma brought them
a cow first and on their expressing inadequacy, brought them a horse. They
still felt it inadequate. Then Brahma gave them Man. (Obviously woman
too). They appreciated Man as the best creation. Then Brahma ordered all
of them to get into their respective places within the Man. Fire became
speech and entered the mouth. Air became Pranan and entered the nostrils.
Sun became vision and entered the eyes. The directions in the form of
hearing entered the ears. Herbs and plants became hair and entered the
skin. Moon became Mind and entered the heart. Death became Apanan and
entered the navel. Water became fluid and entered the genitals. Hunger
and Thirst asked for places from the Brahma. He gave them places in the
Devas (who were first created) and made them share in their food. (If we
offer food to the devas, hunger and thirst share in that food.) Having
created Man, Brahma proceeded to create food out of water. Food ran away
and the man wanted to take the food by speech, and failing that, by smell,
and failing that by vision, and failing that by hearing, and failing that by
touch, and failing that by mind, and again failing that by genitals. He failed
in all his attempts. He then tried through the Apanan and he could reach the
food. Therefore it is the Apanan that bears the life through food. God then
thought as to how the man could function. He then entered the Man
opening a gate in the head. Man then got his life and realized that the
Paramatma is inside him. Man and Woman then had their union and they
got a child, which is said to be the representative of the Man. It is said that
the child gets life from father and body from mother. God enters the child as
the Paramatma and protects the child. Thus the creation continues forever
and ever.

Though I had given two accounts of the creation as per the Vedas and the
Upanishads (there are other accounts of creation too), we have to read them
together to conclude that God created the worlds, Brahma, the Devas, man
and woman and made them to pursue further creation Himself being part of
the never ending process. We believe that it is God's Sport.


*These divisions were more for the performance of various duties and
dharmas as ordained in the Shastras for the good of the world.
Apex, NC, USA, 22nd March 2005

(This article was written in response to a request from a friend who stated
that in other religions, they have their versions of the Creation of the
Universe and when that is so, what is our version of the Creation of the
Universe. Our version is always what our Vedas state.)



41


HINDU TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 1

Hindu Traditions have been upheld from time immemorial despite onslaughts
on them by various persons whose faith for their own religions and cultures
prompted them to spread their own and destroy Hindu faith. None of them
had succeeded although they inflicted some injuries and wounds on the
Hindu faith. Everytime such things are done, the faith becomes stronger and
stronger. We have seen that in the last five decades, in Tamilnadu, atheists
started attacking Hindu faith in 1950s, but in the later decades, such attacks
became thinner and thinner. We now see quite an enormous increase in the
number of people asserting their faith in Hindu traditions, customs and
practices and the onslaught on them is minimal and invisible. Every year,
people want to construct temples in various places dedicated to their own
Gods and Goddesses (the faith takes into account 33 crores of Gods and
Goddesses) and also patronise the ancient and modern temples with frequent
visits, pilgrimages, prayers and offerings. The faith stays for ever and ever,
whatever politicians or others might otherwise say or do.

The Vedas, Upanishads (part of Vedas only), Epics, Dharma Sastrams ,
Puranas, Stotras etc. are the unshakeable foundation on which the
superstructure of the Hindu faith was built and is ever growing. The Hindu
faith takes into account respect for all other faiths and we have no craze to
convert anyone to our faith as we believe the same God resides in everyone
and no one needs to be convinced or converted. Even the Hindu faith
acknowledges the different paths to God and different Hindu sections of
people worship different Gods and Goddesses. The strength of the faith lies
in unity in diversity as the faith rests on the same foundation.

In Bhagavad Gita, in reply to a question by Arjuna, Lord Krishna says, "I am
the Time". "I create, protect as well as I destroy." He further says
"BAHUUNAM JANMANAMANTHE GNANAVAN MAM PRAPADYATHE.
VASUDEVAHA SARVAMITHI SA MAHATMA SUDHURLABAHA" (At the end of
innumerable births, the man of knowledge finds refuge in Me knowing that all
this is Vasudeva. It is very hard to find such a great souled person). To
understand God it takes many many births. God is beyond easy human
comprehension and it requires Yoga powers to understand Him and realise
Him. All the three Yogas taught in the Bhagavad Gita, viz. Karma Yoga,
Gnana Yoga and Bhakthi Yoga all leading to Prapatthi or surrender to God
have to be practised during our many lives to realise God.

There is a view that having done prapatthi, one is sure of reaching
Vaikuntam and nothing more needs to be done. It is a valuable lesson

42


taught to us by our Ancestors to demonstrate the power of the Mantras, but
one should not have any wrong and simplistic notion in this regard. After
doing Prapatthi, how we live, act and behave is of the maximum concern to
determine whether we would get the results meant for people who have done
the prapatthi. We are witnessing a situation where people who have done
prapatthi are still self centred, afflicted with hatred for others and their faith
and feelings, and are not following the disciplines expected of them after
their Acharyas had performed the Saranagadhi on their behalf and prayed to
God to absolve them of all sins committed and that may later on be
committed unintentionally.

Our faith urges us to have a universal approach and to see everyone as
ourselves, as what we have to see is the 'soul' and not the 'body' and the
'soul' is the same in everyone without any distinction whatsoever.

Our Ancestors were Sages, Maharishis, Saints and Yogis. Our form of self-
introduction to elders by the "Abhivadhaye' method will illustrate this. In
order that we do not forget our traditions and practices, Azhwars and
Acharyas appear from time to time and exhort us in our beliefs and faith to
enable us to continue doing our Karma, Gnana and Bhakthi Yogas and
Prapatthi more and more effectively and without discouragement emanating
from sorrows, disappointments and sufferings that we experience in our
lives.

Approximately around 5000 B.C., after the Dwapara Yuga ended with Lord
Krishna ascending to Vaikuntam, and around the time of Kali Yuga beginning,
Krishna Dvaipayana known as Sage Vyasa is said to have codified the till
then unwritten but heard Veda Mantras (Srutis) into four categories of the
Vedas. To enable us understand the contents of the Vedas Sage Vyasa also
wrote Brahma Sutras, Mahabharatham and eighteen Puranas. The oldest
Hindu religious literature, the Ramayana, the Adhi Kavya written by Sage
Valmiki very much before these times contains the essence of Vedas and it
itself is also called a Veda. No other literature has outbeaten or excelled this
time immemorial Epic in the form of 24000 songs. Sage Valmiki and the
Ramayana written by him will live as long as there is life in the Earth and
none can erase them according to our belief and faith. Picking up from all
these scriptures, the following Azhwars and Acharyas were holding the flag of
Hindu faith over thousands of years and handed over the legacy to us to
maintain.




43


B.C.
4302 Muthal Azhwargal - Poigai Azhwar, born at Kancheepuram as an
avatar of Pancha Janyam of Lord Vishnu; Bhoothathazhwar born
at Mamallapuram as an Avatar of Gadhai; and Peyazhwar born
at Mylapore as an avatar of the Sword.
4202 Thirumazhisai Azhwar born at Thirumazhisai as an avatar of
Sudarsana Chakram of Lord Vishnu
3224 Madhura Kavi Azhwar born as an avatar of Kumudar
3102 Nammazhwar born as an Avatar of Satari at Azhwarthirunagari
on the 43
rd
day from the commencement of Kali Yuga
3102 Kulasekhara Azhwar born as an avatar of Kausthubam
3056 Periazhwar was born
3005 Andaal was born
Not known Thondaradippodiazhwar was born
400 Sage Bodhayana wrote Vrithi Grantham explaining the Brahma
Sutras and establishing the Visishtadvaitha philosophy of
thought and worship

A.D.
788-820 Adi Sankarar
800 Thirumangai Azhwar
825-918 Natha Munigal
916-1042 Alavandar (Yamunacharya)
Not known Kooraththazhwar
1017-1137 Ramanuja
1238-1317 Madhwacharya
1268-1369 Vedanta Desikar
1370-1443 Manavala Mamunigal
1762-1827 Shyama Sastri - Music Icon, a Bhakthi Yogi
1767-1847 Thiagaraja - Rama Bhaktha and Music Legend
1776-1827 Muthuswamy Dikshitar - Music Icon, a Bhakthi Yogi

There are innumerable other Acharyas, Scholars and Pundits during the
above periods and omission of their names does not mean that their
contributions were not great. In fact some of the Acharyas left out in the
above list have contributed immeasurably to the Hindu faith and thought and
have even exceeded their own Acharyas.

All the above Icons and Legends have upheld Hindu thought and faith and
have held the flag very high and have handed over a very rich tradition to us
to protect and preserve in our own interests. We have to draw inspiration

44


from their lives, works and preachings and be benefited by their words of
wisdom.

While noting the years mentioned above, let us not confuse ourselves with
some inevitable controversies around those dates and years, as records and
history writing were of such recent origin that they cannot correctly reflect
what happened several thousands of years ago although palm leaf writings
were in vogue in the ancient times in our country. Further, western authors
have done their own research based on their own data and information, and
such data and information have neither been verified for accuracy or
completeness nor approved as authentic by our religious leaders. The basis
of their writings does not rest on faith about what is written, and that
explains a lot of inaccuracies. Our faith will tell us that dates and years are
not so important as the events and lessons that have been taught to us.



------------------------------------------------------------------




Apex, North Carolina, USA, 19th February, 2005


45


HINDU TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 2

HARMONY BETWEEN VARIOUS SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
Our traditions solidly rest on the unshakeable foundation of the Srutis, which
are called Vedas and Upanishads. In a way of sort, their condensed form is
the Brahma Sutras written by Sage Vyasa in order to explain in a nutshell
about Brahmam whom the Vedas and the Upanishads eulogise, preach and
explain. Bhagavad Gita is called the essence of the Upanishads.
Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and the Gita are called Prasthana Thraya. This
Prasthana Thraya is also known as Vedanta school of thought. Other schools
of thought are Nyaya, Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga and Vaiseshika founded by
Sages Gautama, Jaimini, Kapila, Patanjali and Kanada respectively. From the
ancient days, it may be noted that there are different schools of thought.
VEDANTIC SCHOOL
Various scholars wrote commentaries on Vyasa's Brahma Sutras. The
earliest known one is the commentary of Sage Bodhayana known as Vritti
Grantham written in or about 400 B.C. Some scholars preceding Bodhayana
seem to have also written commentaries on these sutras. None of these is
presently available in original. Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhwacharya have
written commentaries on Brahma Sutras drawing mainly from the writings of
Sage Bodhayana (during their periods, the book written by Sage Bodhayana
was obviously available to them). But they differ in their approach to the
Sutras as their commentaries preach Monism, Qualified Monism and Dualism.
Followers of these three great Acharyas are called advaitis, visishtadvaitis
and dwaitis. There are various other sects and sub sects, but they are all
mostly divided between dualism and non-dualism. Every sect in support of
its own philosophy quotes Brahma Sutras only. It is therefore clear that
interpretations of sutras were done based on the writer's own perceptions of
what the sutras say in relation to their exposition of the Vedas and the
Upanishads. While interpreting the sutras, the writers have quoted and
relied upon Upanishads in various stages for their own reasoning and
arguments.
Whatever it may be, a few common things emerge. These are; there is God,
He is the creator, protector and destroyer, there is a soul inside each body
and the soul reincarnates itself after leaving a body until it is liberated. The
difference between Advaita and Visishtadvaita schools lies in what happens
to the soul after liberation and whether Brahman has qualities or not.
'Nirguna' and 'Maya' are the arguments of Advaitins. Saguna (auspicious
qualities), Personal God with attributes and various modes, the inner self
(paramatma as Antaryamin) directs the self (individual soul or the jivatma)
in a Sarira and all souls and bodies form the body of the Paramatma, are the
arguments of Visishtadvaitins.

46



Sometimes, Vedantic school as relating to Visishtadvaita is called as Ubhaya
Vedanta school, implying Tamil Prabhandams and Vedas as the two pillars of
thought and guidance in this school. Another less known view about Ubhaya
Vedanta is that it combines in itself both the advaita and visishtadvaita
philosophies.

"The Dwaita philosophy or Dualism says that the universe is a playfield of
God. According to it, 'Man is only a tool in His hands'. "For him, world is not
an illusion. It is a school, meant to study God's greatness."

VISISHTADVAITA
The Supreme Reality (the God) is personalistic, with countless auspicious
attributes, and it is a qualified Whole of which Iswara is the Soul, and the
Jiva and the Jagat (the individual soul and material nature), form the body in
inseparable relation with the Whole. It is non-dual as a Whole, but there are
internal divisions of the nature of modes in it. This doctrine is known as Pan-
Organistic Non-dualism or Visishtadvaita. Ramanuja did not coin the word
'Visishtadvaita' but others later on described Ramanuja's philosophy as such.
This doctrine further states that the Jiva or the individual self is different
from Isvara, though indissolubly connected with Him as His mode. In short,
it is Tattvathrayam - Chit, Achit and Iswaran. These three entities are real
and not illusions. The individual soul is eternal. Of course, after a pralayam,
all chits and achits merge with Iswaran and later on at the commencement of
another cycle, they are brought forth from Him to experience their Prarabdha
Karmas. This is the Bhagawan's Leela and everything happens according to
Bhaghavath sankalpam. (Narayana is the Iswaran or the Bhaghawan and He
has five forms, viz. Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Archa and Antaryamin forms.)

While philosophers differ in their philosophies as above in intrepreting God,
the universe and the individual soul, laymen like us who are not philosophers
or academicians or researchers have to follow the teachings of the Acharyas
in so far as they relate to doing our Karmas, worshipping God and trying our
best to control our minds and senses so that we rise above desires and their
afflictions and do karmas for the sake of God and offer the fruits of our
actions or karmas to God and does not resort to an action or Karma for the
sake of enjoying its fruits or results or for inflicting sufferings or sorrows on
others. By and large, Hindus do follow this path except that they find it
difficult and challenging to rise above senses and sense objects which is
because the body is subject to the three gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas)
which emanate from the Nature. To fight the Nature is naturally difficult for
laymen like us.

47



ULTIMATE GOAL
Since the ultimate goal should be to liberate the soul from bondage and seek
an end to the phenomenon of repeated births and deaths in this world, at
some stage one has to rise above one's senses and desires and all karmas
that one does should become Nishkama karmas and not kamya karmas, so
that karma will not affect the soul in the sense of causing its repeated
bondage in the Ocean of Samsara. Towards this, one has to practise
Devotion to God (Bhakthi Yoga) and surrender at the Feet of the God
(Prapathi). Bhakthi will lead to Prapathi and vice versa. Instead of
concentrating on Bhakthi and Prapathi, the only paths for laymen leading to
liberation of their souls, let us not waste our time and energies in what
Swami Vivekananda once called 'bull fights' in Varanasi about, which one
amongst the Advaita, Visishtadvaita, or Dwaitha is true and supreme and
stand higher or greater than the other. All the Acharyas have shown us
different paths with one ultimate goal only, and in this all Hindus have a
common heritage and a challenge.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Apex, North Carolina, USA, 22nd February, 2005























48



HINDU TRADITIONS - CHAPTER 3

LIBERATION OF SOUL (MOKSHAM)

There are different paths to attain liberation. As bodies come to an end in
this earth itself, and the individual souls are eternal, liberation is for the souls
so that they are not subject to pangs of repeated births and deaths due to
prarabdha karma (commonly understood as destiny). Jnana (knowledge),
Karma (action), Bhakthi (devotion) and Prapatthi (Saranagathi or surrender)
are the various means to liberation as taught to us by the scriptures and
acharyas. Knowledge refers to knowledge of God, the Universe, the
individual soul, the matter (nature) and their relationships inter se. As is
popularly known to everyone, Rajaji has said that "knowledge is bhakthi. If
it doesn't transform itself into bhakthi, such knowledge is useless tinsel".
Karma, as a means of liberation of the soul, has to be practised in such a
way that all actions are dedicated to God, the feeling of doership should be
attributed to God, the results of actions should be surrendered to God and
actions should be desireless, but prompted by obligatory duties depending
upon one's station in life and the stages he undergoes (brahmacharya,
grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa) and all karmas, as noticed in the
previous chapter, should only be nishkama karmas and not kamya karmas.

One can therefore note that Jnana and Karma paths are difficult to practise
for liberation, but nevertheless, they should be practised as best as possible.
While some may ignore Jnana (spiritual knowledge) for various reasons, no
one can afford to ignore Karma as without karma, existence itself becomes
impossible. We witness people indulging in various karmas for material
pursuits, happiness and prosperity but not for spiritual enlightenment or for
liberation of the soul.

The above discussion leaves us to the remaining two alternatives that will
lead us to liberation, viz. Bhakthi and Prapatthi. (Saranagathi).


ACHARYAS' TEACHINGS
Alavandar (Yamunacharya) (916-1042) whom Ramanujar considered and
revered as his Guru and whose three unfulfilled wishes were carried out by
Ramanujar, wrote among other works Stothra Ratnam (jewel among
stotras). In this, bhakthi and prapatthi are reflected in no small measure.
Ramanujar ((1017-1137), the great Acharya, Scholar and Philosopher and
above all, the earliest social reformer has elaborated on the principles of

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bhakthi and prapatthi propounded by Alavandar. If one were to summarise
Ramanujar's teachings as revealed by his own conduct and practice during
his lifetime, one would find that in God's creation, all are equals and God
protects everyone and God loves his devotees. A devotee calls himself as
'Adiyen' and/or 'Dasan' while mentioning or signing his names to show that
he is a humble servant of God. Ramanujar lived for others and his life shows
that one should not be selfish but serve God's creation with love and
humility. Vedantha Desikar (1268-1369) and Manavala Mamunigal
(1370-1443) who came next to Ramanujar re-established and promoted
Ramanujar's teachings and spread Vaishnavism. Any of the Stothras or
Slokams (verses) written by Desikar if read and understood clearly in the
appropriate context will invoke Bhakthi in one's mind and heart.
Let us see what Lord Krishna, the Parama Guru (the ultimate Acharya)
says in the Bhagavad Gita.
Chapter 9 Verse 29
I am the same to all creation. There is none hateful or dear to Me. But
those who worship me with devotion (bhakthi) abide in Me and I do abide in
them.
Chapter 9 Verse 30
If even the most sinful man worships Me with undivided devotion, he must
be regarded as holy, for he has rightly resolved.
Chapter 9 Verse 34
Focus your mind on Me, be my devotee, be my worshipper, bow down to me.
Engaging your mind in this manner and regarding Me as the supreme goal,
you will come to Me.


Chapater 11 Verses 53 & 54
Neither by the Vedas, nor by the austerities, nor by gifts, nor by sacrifices,
am I visible in this form (Viswaroopam) as you have seen me. But by
undivided devotion, can I in this form be known and realised in truth and
entered into.
Chapter 11 Verse 55
Whosoever works for Me, looks upon Me as the highest and is devoted to Me,
free from attachment and without enmity towards any creature, he comes to
me.
Chapter 18 Verse 65
Focus your mind on Me. Be My devotee. Be My worshipper. Prostrate
before Me. You shall come to Me alone. I promise you truly, for you are
dear to Me.


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Let us now see what Yamunacharya (Alavandar) (916-1042) says in his
work, Stothra Rathnam (jewel among the Stothras)
Verse 23
There is not a single despicable deed in the world which has not been
committed by me thousands of times. O Mukunda, now, when those deeds
are fructifying, I cry out helplessly before Thee.
Verse 26
O Supreme Lord, even if Thou drivest me away, I cannot relinquish Thy Lotus
Feet. A suckling does not at all desire to leave its mother's feet at any time,
even though she has rejected it in anger.
Verse 53
What shall I offer Thee, O Lord, being awakened to the consciousness that
whatever I have, whatever I am, all these verily are thine own fixed
property, Madhava.
Let us now see what Vedantha Desikar taught us in the following stothras.
Dayasathakam Verse 30
O Daya, I am the emperor among the sinners and You, the Empress of all
virtues. O Knowledgeable one, knowing this situation, You, of Your own
accord, come and place me at the feet of the Lord.

Nyasathilakam Verse 28
When You, Mukunda, the embodiment of auspiciousness and the beloved of
Kamala, who become a servant just for a gesture of folded hands (anjali) and
who bear with all the sins of living beings without any motive are here, my
tongue becomes ashamed to prattle words such as - "O Master, protect me!
Be kind! Give me what I ask for. May you live long in good health. O lord,
consider me as yours!" before people who are puffed up with arrogance.

The verses quoted above are just brief illustrations of the teachings of the
Acharyas to cultivate bhakthi. There can be cited any number of Slokas of
Vedantha Desikar and others that inspire us into bhakthi or one pointed
devotion to God.

According to Ramanujar's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Bhakthi or the
loving devotion is the only means of liberation. He explains that Saranagathi
(surrender to God) is auxiliary to Bhakthi itself.

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Apex, NC, USA, 20th March, 2005