You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : January 1999

Re: On the nature of our faith...

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Mon Jan 18 1999 - 09:26:17 PST

Srinath Chakravarty wrote:
> But the fundamental divide [between Vadagalai and Thengalai]
> really, is the age-old issue of prefering samskRit vs. Tamil, 
> or vice-versa.  This 
> preference for language of composition resulted in rivalry between 
> piLLai lOkAchArya and vedAntha deSikan.

Dear Srinath,

This is not an accurate description of the origin of 
the split.  In fact, there is no evidence of any rivalry 
between Pillai Lokacharya and Vedanta Desika.  Both loved 
Tamil and Sanskrit, as both were scholars of the Ubhaya (dual) 
Vedanta system of Ramanuja.

[ Please see my article that describes the Vadagalai Thengalai
  genesis in brief:  

  There are other articles in the archives which talk about 
  the subtle philosophical differences between the sects. 
  The so-called "18 points of difference" are oversimplications
  that, in my opinion, do not do justice to the debate between
  the two sub-schools.

It all the more wrong to say that Sri Desika preferred
Sanskrit to Tamil.  Desika wrote profusely in both 
languages, composing philosophical and poetic works in
large quantities in Tamil and Sanskrit. To show his 
love of Tamil and Prabandham, one only need read his
description of himself in "Prabandha Saaram" as "candha migu
thamizh maraiyOn" -- as one belonging to the Tamil Veda of 
many meters.

If anything, one can say that Pillai Lokacharya and Vedanta
Desika were full of respect for one another. During the Muslim
invasion of Srirangam, they divided the duties of protecting
the sampradAya in a wonderful manner; Sri Lokacharya lead the
party that carried away Nam PerumaaL (Sri Ranganatha utsava
mUrti) to safety, and Sri Desika saved the manuscript of
the SrutaprakASika and protected the two sons of Sudarsana
Suri. Some accounts also have Desika constructing a wall 
in front of the mUlavar to prevent His desecration.

> The book "Srivaishnavism through the ages" by swAmi harsHAnanda of 
> the rAmakRisHna AsHrama describes the kalai differences in some detail.  

Generally, books written by Ramakrishna Ashrama swamis
on Sri Vaishnavism contain many misconceptions. The exception
to this rule was the late wami Adidevananda, whose 
translations and expositions of Visishtadvaita are outstanding.

To answer your question about samASrayaNam: samASrayaNam is
what makes someone formally a Sri Vaishnava.  One can be of
any caste, sex, or national origin; after samASrayaNam, one
is part of thondar kulam, the community of the Lord's servants.
samASrayaNam does not make one a brahmin, nor is it open only
to brahmins.  Brahmin-hood is a different thing entirely.