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Book Review - CONTRIBUTION OF YAMUNACHARYA TO VISISHTADVAITA:

From: Mangala I. Kadaba (mik_at_unx.dec.com)
Date: Tue Jun 02 1998 - 09:57:32 PDT

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                       Tuesday, June 02, 1998
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            Core tenets of Visishtadvaita

            Date: 02-06-1998 :: Pg: 28 :: Col: d

            CONTRIBUTION OF YAMUNACHARYA TO VISISHTADVAITA: M.
            Narasimhachary: Sri Jayalakshmi Publications, Hyderabad.
            Distributors: Sri Gopal Publications, 3-3-860, Lane
            Opposite Arya Samaj Mandir, Kachiguda, Hyderabad-500027.
            Rs. 300.

            There is a pleasant irony in the title of this book
            which discusses Yamunacharya's contribution to
            Visishtadvaita. The term Visishtadvaita is never used
            either by Yamunacharya or Ramanuja. It is a
            post-Ramanuja expression coined, we do not know by whom,
            to bring out the distinctiveness of Srivaishnavism
            nurtured by the ecstatic outpourings of the
            God-intoxicated Azhvars.

            It was Nathamuni who collected the floating psalms of
            these mystics into the Nalayira Divya Prabandham, set it
            to music and introduced its recitation as an integral
            part of Srivaishnava temple worship in South India.
            Since none of the original works of Nathamuni himself
            has come down to us we have to consider his grandson,
            Yamuna, as the earliest Acharya who systematised the
            philosophy underlying Srivaishnavism. And on the solid
            foundation laid by Yamuna, his brilliant grand-disciple
            Ramanuja, raised an edifice that tantalises us by its
            exquisite format.

            The appellation of Visishtadvaita must have become
            necessary later on to underline the difference of
            Srivaishnava philosophy from those of monistic Advaita
            and pluralistic Dvaita. Visishtadvaita steers a smooth
            middle path between Advaita and Dvaita. But the term
            itself is not easy to translate into English. The usual
            translation, qualified monism, does not do justice to
            the subtlety of its insight into the organic unit of
            God, the individual soul and the universe.

            Scholars split the word in two ways. ``Visishtasya
            Advaitam'' means the non-duality of One who is
            qualified. The One is Lord Vishnu and His qualification
            or characteristic feature is that the sentient (Chit)
            and insentient (Achit) entities are His body. He
            supports, controls and makes use of them. Another
            interpretation would be ``Visishtayor Advaitam,'' the
            Oneness of the Lord, who exists in two different states
            - the causal state and the effect state. In the causal
            state, God has the subtle Chit and Achit as His body,
            whereas in the effect state He has the gross Chit and
            Achit as His body. Either way the ``Sarira- Sariri
            Bhava,'' the cornerstone of this philosophy, is
            forcefully presented. Yamuna, no less than Ramanuja,
            staunchly upholds this concept. So, though he does not
            use this term there is no denying the fact that Yamuna's
            contribution to the Visishtadvaitic view of life and
            Reality is substantial. ``A rose, called by any other
            name, would smell as sweet''.

            The amount of spade work the author has done to unearth
            the gems embedded in Yamuna's composition is quite
            remarkable. He has gone through all available writings
            of Yamuna with a fine tooth comb and wherever there are
            gaps he has tried to cement by reference to obiter dicta
            made by later commentators like Vedanta Desika. He has
            given a detailed analysis of the contents of Sristuti,
            Stotraratna, Gitarthasangraha, Agamapramanya and the
            Siddhitraya and traced the evolution of thought in these
            masterpieces. Visishtadvaithins take pride in declaring
            that theirs is not just Vaishnavism, but Srivaishnavism
            because of the unique position accorded to Sri or
            Lakshmi in their theology. This aspect is well brought
            out by Yamuna in his Chatussloki wherein he has
            explained the crucial role played by Sri, who is
            literally the bosom companion of the Lord. Eternally
            associated with the Supreme Being, Sri represents the
            most exalted quality of God - Daya or mercy. The Lord
            rules by law and Lakshmi by love. She wins the Lord by
            Her natural sweetness and beauty and acts as the
            compassionate mediator between God and the Jiva.

            The Stotraratna, the sequel to the Chatussloki,
            establishes Lord Narayana as the means (Upaaya), the end
            (Saadhya) and the goal (Praapya) of all human endeavour.
            Yamuna bows down in all humility before the paradox of
            the supremacy (Paratva) of the Lord riding in tandem
            with His easy accessibility (Saulabhya). This `gem of a
            hymn' highlights in a set of mellifluous verses the
            unfailing efficacy of total surrender to the Lord
            (Saranagati or Prapatti).

            The thirty-two verses of the Gitarthasangraha give an
            epitome of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita which in
            turn is the essence of the Upanishads. Ramanuja
            acknowledges that his own masterly commentary on the
            Gita was inspired and guided by this work of Yamuna, who
            stresses that loving devotion to the Lord (Bhakti) is
            the saadhya while karma and jnana, selfless service and
            realisation of one's subordination to the Lord, are the
            saadhanas.

            The Agamapramanya is devoted to establishing the
            revealed character (Apaurusheyatva) of the Pancharatra
            Agama literature. Yamuna revels in crossing swords with
            the Bhattas, Prabhakaras and Advaitins regarding the
            validity of Pancharatra.

            The Siddhitraya, the longest and most important of all
            the compositions of Yamuna, is the source book of
            Ramanuja's Sri Bhashya, for Ramanuja freely quotes or
            adapts many of the arguments and points of philosophic
            importance employed by Yamuna. The Atmasiddhi discusses
            and establishes the true nature of the Aham; the
            Isvarasiddhi establishes the existence of the Supreme
            Being; and the Samvitsiddhi refutes the Advaitic
            conception of Maya and the Buddhist conception of Samvit
            or consciousness.

            The author has thus succeeded in bringing out the
            immense impact of Yamuna's works in moulding the core
            tenets of the charming philosophy that has come to be
            known as Visishtadvaita.

            C. S. Ramakrishnan

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