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Re: Part II Acharyas- Section 3.5

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Tue Apr 23 1996 - 11:56:13 PDT

I wish to make a very important emendation to Sri Ramaswamy's
otherwise informative article. Sri Ramanuja, although born in a 
Vadama smaarta family, was in a vamsa that was piously
Vaishnavite.  Even today, there are large sections of Vadamas 
who, while smaartas, are almost exclusively Vaishnavas.  
Ramanuja's father's name was Asuri Kesavacharya, and his 
paternal aunts were named Sridevi and Bhudevi.  The names 
themselves indicate a leaning towards devout Vaishnavism.  
It is quite clear that he was essentially from a 
Vaishnava family. This is further elucidated in a recent 
article by Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan of Madras.

I mention this because it is impossible that such a pious
Vaishnava family would have sent their budding prodigy
to a Saiva acharya.  In fact, Yadava Prakasa, was *not*
a Saiva, though he was probably a smaarta of some variety.
This is probably just an oversight on Sri Ramaswamy's
part, as it is well known that Saivas and smaartas are
two very distinct religious groups.

All accounts indicate that Yadava Prakasa was either a 
votary of Sankaracharya's Advaita (which is not strictly
Saiva or Vaishnava) or a votary of an independent Vedanta
philosophy known as Bheda-abheda. In fact, the very fact
that his name was ``Yadava Prakasa'' (a Vaishnava name)
dictates against his being a strict Saiva.

Ramanuja never had disagreements with Yadava Prakasa over
issues such as Siva vs. Vishnu.  In fact, the disagreements
were over philosophical and interpretational issues of
Vedanta.  The two cases which are colorfully recorded in
the biographies are:

	1) The Taittiriya Upanishad text that defines
	   the Supreme Being as ``satyam jnaanam anantam brahma''
	   -- Brahman is Real, Knowledge, and Infinite.

	   Yadava Prakasa interpreted in an Advaitic fashion,
	   deny the Supreme the qualities of Infinitude, etc.

	   Ramanuja respectfully disagreed, saying that 
	   the text is saying that Supreme Being is endowed 
	   with the glorious attributes of being unconditionally
	   existent, having infinite knowledge, and being
	   unconditioned by time and space in His infinitude.

	   Yadava Prakasa was enraged that Ramanuja, young
	   as he was, could give a superior interpretation,
           and scolded the boy for his impudence.

	   [This is a rather technical issue.]

	2) The Chhandogya Upanishad text which states:
	   ``tasya yatha kapyaasam pundarikam evam akshini.''
	   The Upanishad is colorfully comparing the eyes
	   of the Supreme Lord to a lotus.  

	   However, there is also the word ``kapyaasam''.
	   Yadava Prakasa, not understanding the finer 
	   sensibilities of the Upanishad, interpreted this
	   as ``The Lord has lotus-like eyes, similar to the
	   ass of a monkey.''

	   Ramanuja, his heart filled with love of God and of
	   His beauty, could not brook such an interpretation,
	   as he felt it was not in line with the style of the
	   Vedas.  He shed tears upon hearing this. Yadava saw
	   this and once again angrily asked the young student
	   to give his own interpretation.

	   Ramanuja replied, ``Swami, kapi comes from kam pibati,
	   which means the sun.  The Upanishad would not use as
	   crude a standard of comparison as a monkey's behind.
	   So, the meaning is `He has eyes, beautiful like a lotus that
	   has just begun to bloom under the influence of the 
	   sun.' ''  

	   Needless to say, Yadava once again was jealous of this
	   superior interpretation, shortly thereafter, the
	   teacher and student parted company.

	   This interpretation has been held up as a superior
	   one even by impartial western scholars such as 
	   Dr. J.A.B. van Buitenen.

Such was the insight of our acharya Ramanuja.

I point these things out to show that Ramanuja disagreed
with his teacher on strictly philosophical issues, and
not on anything of lesser importance.

I am writing this to the list as a whole as well, as I
feel that this one point about Ramanuja's studentship will
be of interest to all.

emberumaanaar thiruvadigaLE saraNam

	tasmai raamanujaaryaaya nama: paramayogine |
	ya: Sruti smRti sUtraanaam antarjvaram aSiSamat ||

	Salutations to that best of yogis Sri Ramanuja,
	who removed the inner fever of the Vedas,
	smritis, and Brahma-Sutras (by restoring their
	correct understanding to us).