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Re: Ramanuja Siddhantham Questions

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Tue Aug 25 1998 - 14:35:27 PDT

Balaraman Sriram wrote:
> Dear Sri Mani
> 
> With ref to the recent posting on Sri Ramanuja Siddhantham, I have the 
> following doubts:
> 
> >Sriman naaraayaNA is the Para Brahman (God).  Equal in every
> >respect to Him is "Sri" (Lakshmi).  This means that Lakshmi is also full
> >of unlimited auspicious qualities and is omnipresent (i.e. exists
> >everywhere or vibhu).  These two are the ParamaatmAs
> 
> How can there be two paramatmAs  ?. So far I understood that 
> Sriman Narayana is the 
> only God and everyone else are lesser than him.

The operative word here is "SrIman" nArAyaNa.  nArAyaNa with
Sri constitutes the Godhead. They are inseparable, as the rays
of light are from the source of the light.  And at the same time,
according to the SAstra, SrImad azhagiya singar says, they are
both Infinite.

This is naturally a difficult concept to understand, and I
must admit I also share some of your confusion.  I do not
fully understand this issue and its complexities.  SrI
and nArAyaNa are inseparable, and are spoken of in the 
SAstras as being equal; therefore they are both Infinite.
I am not sure, however, if one can claim that SrI and nArAyaNa
are two aspects of God and therefore naturally fully Infinite.
I believe Vedanta Desika controverts this position in his
catuh-SlokI-bhAshya. 

There is also significant debate among Sri Vaishnavas about 
the nature of "Sri", and whether or not the Goddess is Infinite 
in Her essential nature, like nArAyaNa.  The topics have been
debated in the time of Vedanta Desika himself.  Desika took
the position expressed by SrImad azhagiya singar in the
previous post.  Others, notably nAyanAr AccAn piLLai, son
of "vyAkhyAna cakravarti" periyavAccaan piLLai, took the
position that the Goddess is a finite self.  Each side 
quotes from SAstra and has its own philosophical details
to wrangle through.

> >The living entity (jIvAtmA) is the smallest thing that exists.
> >It is therefore infinitesimal.  The number of jIvAtmAs is so large that it
> >is said that even the ParamaatmA cannot keep count of their number.
> 
> How come that even paramaatmA cannot keep count of thier number ? 
> This defies the definiton of God as All-Knower.

This may be figurative; however, it also can be non-figurative.
When it is said that God knows all, the conclusion must be He
knows everything that can possibly be known.  He cannot know
impossibilities, which by their very proposition are logically
incapable of being comprehended.  For example, can God know
how to make 2+2 = 5? Or, what the largest number is? No, because
there is no largest number, nor can 2+2 = 5.  Similarly, there
is no limit to the number of jIva-s, so even God cannot count
them to their limit.

> >The second category of jIvaatmAs called muktAs are the ones who seeked 
> >BhagavAn's forgiveness of their sins & got released from this jail called
> >death and went to their home Sri VaikuNTam wherein they stay forever
> >without separation from Bhagavaan (God) and experience infinite bliss
> 
> "Went to thier home" indicates that they must have come from Home.
> 
> "without separation from Bhagavaan" indicates that they are seperated from Bhagavan
> in this world.What about the paramatma in us ? , world-body philosophy ?

This is also a question that I have pondered about.
But recognize that even though the paramAtmA is within us,
we are incapable of recognizing or seeing It due to our
karma.  SrI vaikuNTham is etymologically the place where
our consciousness operates unobstructed, unlike this realm.
vaikuNTham, therefore, is at once a place, but more importantly
a _state of consciousness_.  At this time, released from the
bonds of karma through the grace of the Lord, the jIva 
perceives the paramAtmA in every part of the universe, both
in the material universe, and in the states beyond.

With this in mind, I think "without separation from bhagavAn"
means "without any obstruction from the continuous blissful
contemplation and service of bhagavAn", which is only possible
upon attaining moksha.

> I would also like to know about the "kArya vaikuNTha you were  referring to in
> your post. 
> What is the significance/ necessity of such a vaikuNTha ? 

According to the purANa-s and related texts, the kArya vaikuNTha
is there to provide some elevated souls in samsAra with a similar
vision of God that is possible in the Supreme Abode or State.
This is for maharshis and deva-s to come approach the Lord and
petition Him, as we read about so often in our stories.

> How many VaikuNTha's are there ?. 
> How can there be a  vaikuNTha  in the
> material realm ?

I do not know how many vaikuNThas there are. Does it really
matter? There is only one actual vaikuNTha that is true to
its meaning.  I surmise that this place is called vaikuNTha
because it is an "image" of the actual state, meant for the
purpose described above.

> Where can I
> find more information on this ?

Perhaps in the vishnu purANa, wherein one can also find
information about the nature of SrI and nArAyaNa.

I request other members to correct my mistakes and fill
in the blanks.

Mani