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Re: Sri Vaishnava tradition

From: Venkatesh K. Elayavalli (
Date: Thu Aug 05 1999 - 08:21:11 PDT

Dear Sri Al,

>I am currently reading books on basic Hinduism.  Is there anything like

>"Dancing With Siva"  for westerners from a Vaishnavite perspective?

There are many books on the subject of Vaishnavam, But for starters
I would recommend "A dialogue on Hinduism" which gives a very
basic outline of Vaishnavam, in particular the Sri Vaishnava
Philosophy and Theology. A more philosophical work is by
Sri S. M. S. Chari "Vaishnavam" published by Motilal Banarsidas
publications, available from Vedanta Book Store in San Francisco.

>I'm dismayed you think Siva is just a second rate "tosser" ,  incapable
>conferring moksha -- what good is Siva to me if he can't do that?  I'm
>dismayed the Hindu religion might not agree with itself on fundamental
>issues like whether God (by any other name) is capable of granting

The term Hindu religion is, in my opinion, is a western term and
has no real roots in India. If you look at ancient India, there
were three main religions, Vishnavam, Shaivam, shakta. They have
their own temples, and you can rarely see shiva's idol in
Vishnu's temple and vice versa (there are exceptions here, but
you can take that as a general fact). If you pay close attention
to each of these traditions, they all believe in one Supreme GOD.

>Didn't the Saivites, Sankara, etc. all read the same Vedas too?

Yes, But the alignment of Saivaites with shankara's philosophy
came much later. In fact it due to the theological emphasis of
Ramanuja, that prompted the Saivaites in Tamil Nadu and other
southern states to align with Shankar Mutts. The Saiva Siddanata
in South evolved after the writing of Alvars and their papularity
started to increase. BTW, the TIME almanac says that out of 786
Million Hindus, in India, 70% are vaishnavaites, 25% are saivaites
and rest are neo-hindus and reform Hindus.

I myself was under the impression that all three, Vishnu, Siva
and brahma are equal. This  is true for many who believe that
tollerance is nothing but belief in equality among Gods. Which
is not what our Acharyas say.

The Advaitic followers agree that Vishnu is the Supreme GOD.
The main difference between followers of Sankara and Ramanuja
is the relationship between the Supreme and the Jiva (soul),
which then leads to a complete list (about 60 according to
Swami Desika) of flaws with the Advaitic position.

>How, I
>wonder, did all those brilliant pious souls miss something as important
>this?   If the Vedic tradition is so ambiguous it leads to such
>different conclusions (ie. Siva is or isn't equal to Visnu) then what
>of infallible guide can it be to me?

As I mentioned earlier, it is a corrupted view that Hinduism is
a three GOD theological system that supports equality among the
three. IT IS PLAINLY NOT TRUE. Hinduism is a western term to
collectively refer to a group of people who have almsot similar
cultural practices.

>Please don't think I'm complaining about you or your tradition because
>not.  I'm complaining about my difficulty trying to assess what is and
>isn't essential and I know that's my problem not anyone else.  Just try
>imagine how this all might seem to someone encountering it for the
>time and don't loose patience -- I'm trying my best.

Yes, I totally agree with you. A whole lot, I mean millions, in
India are confused about this (I can say that I was one of them,
until i go into the bhakti list and started talking about the
philosophy and theology with my father). So you are not the only
one, and you will not be the last one.

All I can say that, please talk to some one in your area on
vaishnavam as preached by Ramanuja (All other vaishnava schools
have taken off, in some ways, from Ramanuja's teachings).

Also, I am not, in anyway dis-respecting siva, or ganaesha or
any other secondary GODs. Iam just upset with the political
correctness that has come to dominate the basics of the
vaishnava religion.

Venkatesh K. Elayavalli             Cypress Semiconductor
Data Communications Division        3901 N. First St. MS 4
Phone: (408) 456 1858               San Jose CA 95134
Fax:   (408) 943 2949

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