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Re: The term "Srivaishnava"

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Tue Oct 10 2000 - 10:39:48 PDT

madhav.vasudevan@sg.abb.com writes:
> I have always been under the impression that Srivaishnava sampradayam refers to
> devotees (of any caste) of Emperumaan sriya: Pathi sriman Narayanan as
> BhAgawatha" and I have not heard even once, BhAgawata means one who is not a
> brahmin, but belongs to Ramanuja sampradaya. Perhaps, I am ignorant.
> 
> Also, Vaishnava- devotee of Vishnu (, but of any philosophy- be it Dwaita,
> Advaitha or Gaudiya whatever), while Srivaishnava is the one belonging to Sri
> Ramanuja Sampradayam (Sri Sampradayam). This is what I have been told. Again, I
> ma be wrong.

Sri Madhavakkannan,

You are definitely correct.  The primary use of the respectful terms 'bhAgavata', 
'vaishNava', and 'SrI vaishNava' are exactly as you describe. This is also how 
many Vaishnavas understand and use the terms.  In particular, our pUrvAchAryas such 
as Swami Nampillai,  Sri Pillai Lokacharya, Sri Vedanta Desika, etc., use bhAgavata 
as a common term for any devotee who belongs to Bhagavan, irrespective of birth,
and we also generally follow this usage when we say 'bhAgavata-kainkaryam',
'bhAgavata-Seshatvam', etc.

But in some circles, particularly around Divya Desams and maThams, 'bhAgavata' is
used specifically to refer a 'sAttAda' Sri Vaishnava, a devotee without a sacred 
thread.  This term is not used derisively. On the contrary, it started off as a 
sign of special respect for these devotees, and continues to be used by many
in the same manner.  The older alternative, 'SUdra', which is used by other
brahmin communities, is facially offensive, and was specifically avoided for
that reason.

The authority for this is the vAkya from the Mahabharata, 
'na bhagavad-bhakto SUdra:' -- 'a devotee of Bhagavan cannot be considered 
a SUdra' (ASvamedhika parva, 118.32).  As our pUrvAchAryas uniformly write, 
despite differences in birth, respect to devotees must be the same.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,
Mani


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