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

Re: AchArya paramparA and other

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_best.com)
Date: Mon May 03 1999 - 12:33:57 PDT

Srinath wrote:
> I am interested in learning about pUrvAcharyas that comprise the succession
> from bAdarAyaNa down to yAmunAchArya.  I am not aware of a record of those
> early AchAryas dating back to the Vedic era.

We do not know the names of the Vedic teachers before Nathamuni in
the tradition.  In fact, a very similar question is asked
in the 'vArttAmAlai'.  Why is it that essentially no acharyas
are remembered between Nammalvar and Nathamuni? The answer
is that just as we remember only the first few rishis for
a gotra (brahminical lineage), we remember only the most
significant acharyas in the intervening period.

The same is true here. Recall that Ubhaya Vedanta as a 
specific tradition exists only after Sri Nathamuni's time,  
after he recovered the Divya Prabandham from near-oblivion.
Previous scholars such as Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Bharuci,
etc., who are cited by Yamuna and Ramanuja, are known only
through their works; we do not know the acharya parampara
between these ancient seers and Sri Nathamuni. Even Yamuna
did not have access to Bodhayana's work; the only known manuscript
of this commentary on the Brahma Sutras was in Kashmir.  
Knowledge of a acharya-sishya tradition leading back to
Bodhayana either never existed or was forgotten. 

It is also important to note that the acharya paramparA of 
the Sri Vaishnava / Visishtadvaita tradition primarily records 
the succession of teachers who gave mantra upadeSam and taught 
the inner meaning of the rahasyas to their disciples.  Even
the vAkya guruparamparA, a single sloka in praise of acharyas
from Ramanuja up to the Lord, connects the sishya only to his 
primary acharya.  So for Nathamuni, his primary acharya is
Nammalvar himself, from whom he received the rahasyArtha-s
and the Divya Prabandham -- this is the single greatest
'upadesa' Nathamuni received.  For Ramanuja, the primary acharya
is Periya Nambi and through him Yamunacharya, even though
Ramanuja had five acharyas who taught him various different
aspects of the tradition.  

> What I do understand is that
> the guru-paramparA begins with PerumAL and the Vedic rishi vyAsar is his
> immediate disciple.

No, the guru-paramparA begins with PerumaaL and Thaayaar,
goes through Vishvaksena who gave upadesam to Nammalvar,
who in turn gave upadesam to Nathamuni while the latter
was engaged in yoga.  Vyasa does not come in our acharya
paramparA.

> Next, I think (correction?) that the AchArya budhAyana
> belonged to the Upanishadic period.

Bodhayana is considered by tradition to be a sishya of
Badarayana, the author of the Brahma Sutras.  Badarayana
is identified with Veda Vyasa.

> From then on, there is mention about the
> disciples of budhayana such as Tanka, Dramida in texts like yatIndramatadIpika.

Tanka, Dramida, etc., are later day Vedantins who espoused 
the Visishtadvaita interpretataion of the Upanishads.  Based
on stylistic and traditional evidence, these scholars are
dated to a period significantly before Sankaracharya.

> I also have another thought regarding the nature of ubhaya vedAnta.  As we
> all know, it entails approaching PerumAL through both Veda and the Prabandham.
> I am wondering as to why only the school of rAmAnujar encompasses this unique
> tradition. 

To be very frank, this is because only the Divya Prabandham is
special.  Only the Divya Prabandham among all the varied vernacular 
devotional literatures echoes the philosophical conclusions of the 
Upanishads in such unmistakable terms. 

> For instance, the Saiva tradition (in addition to its monastic
> school of advaita) also has nayanamArs, just as we have AzhwArs.
>  Also, the
> majority of madhwAchArya's (dvaita school) followers are either kannada or
> marAThi speaking, and they too have saints whose compositions were in the
> respective local languages. 

First, some corrections.  The school of Advaita is *not* a Saiva
tradition. It is a smArta tradition that worships many deities,
ultimately leading to a nameless, formless, attributeless absolute.
Second, the Saiva tradition has many branches; I presume you are
speaking of the Tamil Saiva Siddhanta tradition here.  The Saiva
Siddhanta tradition does not pay much attention to the Vedas.  
They are primarily concerned with interpreting and understanding
the Tamil poems of the Saiva saints.  There is no tradition of
extensive commentary on the Tamil Saiva canon, nor is there 
a tradition of exposing similarities between the Vedas and the
Tamil poems. Perhaps this is because no significant group of
brahmins associated themselves with this movement.  Whatever the case,
the development of the Tamil Vaishnava and Saiva traditions is 
markedly different, and their approach to the Vedas reflects
this difference.

The Dvaita school of Ananda Tirtha (Madhvacharya) has its own 
vernacular songs.  The songs, mostly in Kannada, were propagated 
by saints known as the Haridasas, who communicated and preached
bhakti by composing simple songs and singing them in the streets
to the common people.  (This tradition is somewhat loosely associated
with the smArta bhAgavata tradition).  It is important to note
two things: first, the Haridasas composed the songs much after
Ananda Tirtha had set down the tenets of the school in Sanskrit,
unlike the Alvars, who preceded Yamuna and Ramanuja.  Second,
the songs of the Haridasas contain much more popular bhakti 
than philosophy.  The songs of Purandara Dasa, for example, 
contain a great deal of wisdom and sentiment; but they simply
do not constitute a basis for a system of philosophy, unlike the
Tiruvaymoli.

Recall that Ramanuja gained many insights into the meaning of
the Upanishads by studying the Tiruvaymoli (see Acharya Hrdayam).  
Nothing even close is claimed by anyone of the songs of the Haridasas.  

Furthermore, it is not true that the Haridasa songs strictly
espouse Dvaita philosophy.  As I said before, most of it is
popular bhakti that is acceptable to any sect.  Some of them
may have had association with other Vaishnava traditions.
Kanaka Dasa in one of his songs, says that Ramanuja is his
refuge!

I request others who are knowledgable in these other traditions
to add to what I have written.

rAmAnuja dAsan
Mani