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Re: Sri. Mani's Response to Sankara Response

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Fri Jul 09 1999 - 18:31:37 PDT

I thank Venkat and Anand for their thoughtful and devout
responses. I tend to approach these issues from a less
dogmatic perspective, so please bear with me.

I wholeheartedly agree with Anand's statement that Ramanuja's
commentaries represent the best systemization of Vedanta
philosophy, and can only echo his praise of the bhAshyakAra:

> The core philosophical
> part is eternal and was only "re-established" with a sound
> footing by bAshyakArar [sic], 

I think the key phrase is that the "core" of Ramanuja's philosophy
is eternal; the various supporting formulations, however, have
evolved over time as an interplay and as outgrowth of debate
between scholars of Advaita, Visishtadvaita, Dvaita, and
non-Vedantic thinkers.

It is clear that Ramanuja bases his thoughts on ancient, 
pre-Sankaran writers such as Dramida, Tanka, and the venerable
Bodhayana, all of whom probably lived in the first few
centuries A.D. at the latest. However, these great authorities
even influenced Sankara and later Advaitins to some degree, as
some of them are quoted as authorities in Advaitic works. 
This was possible because these early writers' works were
incomplete, and it was possible for different thinkers to 
selectively extrapolate some concepts. [Impartial scholars
generally agree, however, that these early philsophers are
clearly closer to Visishtadvaita than Advaita.]

I personally do not attribute the greatness of Ramanuja's philosophy
to his being a "nitya-sUri", a pre-anointed perfect being. I think
of him as someone who carefully and critically studied all the religious 
philosophies of his time, finally concluding that only Yamuna's
ideas came close to the original intention of the Vedas.  

I find Ramanuja very interesting because, like any great thinker,
he *does* borrow ideas, taking what he thinks makes sense and 
using others' ideas against them. 

Clearly Ramanuja was unique -- his life and work spell this out
-- but what was the source of his greatness, one may ask. This is
an unanswerable question, clearly it is in large part to God's
grace, but I think it unnecessary to posit that his authority 
or uniqueness stems from his being an "avatAra" of sorts (in fact, 
neither Desika, Maamunigal, or even Amudanaar assert this).  

rAmAnuja dAsan,
Mani