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Contribution of Vedanta desika to Visistadwaita

From: padmini ranganathan (pammi_r_at_yahoo.com)
Date: Wed Sep 22 1999 - 06:30:41 PDT

Dear AtmabandhUs,

(These are the excerpts of the lectures of  Dr.NSA on
the thirunakshattiram of Swami Desikar, at Andavan
Ashramam, Jayanagar).

Vedanta Desika is one of the greatest successors of
RAmAnuja. 

He gave a reformulation of the fundamentals of the
school incorporating all the elaborations that had
accumulated in the interval between himself and
BhagavAn RamAnuja.

 The very many technical details of the school were
articulated by VedAnta Desika. 

The significant contribution of Desika to
Vis~is~Tadwaita relates to very many areas. Some may
be noticed as follows.

1. CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS  THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ORIGINAL SAYINGS OF MASTERS LIKE
YAMUNA AND RAMANUJA:

His commentaries on stotraratna , chatushOlkI of
Yamuna and his commentary on "GitAbhAasya ,SrIbhAsya
and Gadyatraya of RamAnuja, commentary called
"sarvArthasiddhi" of his own work "tatvamuktAkalApa"
are landmarks to the history of the development of 
Vis~is~TAdwaitha. In these commentaries, Desika
expounds the profound meanings of the statements of
the AchAryAs and enables one to understand the
significance of the great works of the pUrvAchAryAs.

2. CONTRIBUTION TO THE ONTOLOGICAL DOCTRINE.

VedAnta DEsika wrote independent works known as
"prakaraNagranthA"s such as "nyAyasiddhAnjanam",
"nyAyaparis~uddhi" and "tatvamuktAkalApa" and
expounded the ontological  truths methodically,
following the method of  other s~astrakArAs. The
uddes`ya, vibhAga and lakshaNa---the proposition, the
classifications and definitions of different entities.

Desika has examined the true nature of every entity in
these works and if he had not written such works, many
concepts would have ever remained hazy. Desika
expounds "pramEya" in the 'nyAyasiddhAnjana' and
'pramANa' in 'nyAyaparus~uddhi'. The boundaries of
each have been well defined and established.
'tatvamuktAkalApa' is a unique work that expounds all
the essentials of Vis~is~Tadwaitha in a remarkable way
that it befits the glorification such as 'sArvaj~nam
tatvamuktAkalApE'.

3.    CONTRIBUTION TO EPISTEMOLOGY.

Desika has expounded the doctrine of knowledge
elaborately and has raised 12 objections in connection
with 'dharmabhUtaj~nAna' or attributive consciousness
and answered them  in his work 'nyAyasiddhAnjanam'.
According to the school, the theory of error is
explained. There is no illusion whatsoever in this
school. Error is a part of reality. Non-apprehension
of the determining characteristics of an object is the
cause of error.  The doctrine of 'yathArthasiddhi' is
established. Desika has expounded the doctrine of
pramANAs namely perception(pratyaksha),
inference(anumAna) and verbal testimony(sabda) in his
'nyAyaparis~uddhi'. In all these the visistadwaitic
conclusion is clearly drawn.

4.  SYNCRETISM (SAMANVAYA) BETWEEN THE TWO MIMAMSAS
AND SYNCRETISM BETWEEN NYAYA AND VEDANTA ETC.

Desika's work 'mImAmsA pAdukA' and 'sEshwara
mImAmsA'(incomplete) are devoted to the working of
unity between pUrvamImAmsA and uttaramImAmsA. These
two form one integral text as expounded by RamAnuja.
NyAyaparisuddhi works out syncretism between nyAya
sAstra and vEdAnta.






5. CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS RELIGION AND THEOLOGY.

The works 'pAncharAtrarakshA' and 'saccharitrarakshA'
are significant contributions towards the
consolidation of religious practices and principles.
'nikshEpa rakshA' is a unique work wherein the
spiritual discipline of 'prapatti' is strongly
defended and established.  Nine objections against
prapatti are raised and answered. The position of
RamAnuja as regards prapatti is vindicated in this
work.


The magnum opus of Desika,"rahasyatrayasAra" is the
finest fruit of his mature mind.  This is a land mark
in the history of srIvaishNava religion and
philosophy. All the essentials of vis~is~TAdwaita  are
taught in this work. There is an authentic exposition
of the doctrine of 'sAdhana' as related to  prapatti
and is Desikaa had not written this work, the doctrine
of prapatti would have ever remained hazy and
indefinite.

6. CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS THE UNDERSTANDING OF
DIVYAPRABANDHAMS.

Desika wrote 2 works in sanskrit verse form namely
'dramiDOpanishat tAtparyaratnAvaLI' and
'dramiDOpanishat sAra'. In these works Desika has
marvellously summarized the essence of Sri NammAzhvAr.
In the introduction to this work, Desika describes the
Azhwars as seers and  their works as upanishads.
Desika has summarized the teachings of the several
'adhikaraNA's of BrahmasUtrAs in his
'adhikaraNasArAvaLI'. His contribution to
ubhayavEdAnta is remarkable.

7. CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS THE PROPOGATION OF DEVOTION
TOWARDS GOD.

Vedanta Desika was a pious devotee of the Lord and he
has composed a number of stotrAs in praise of the
presiding dieties in several holy shrines. These
stotras are also teaching in a simple and direct
manner the truths of the school and propogate devotion
towards the Lord. These devotional lyrics are most
appealing and they inspire the young and the old to
have devotion towards the Lord. Some lyrics
specifically propound the doctrine of self surrender
also.

Vedanta Desika also composed a unique lyric 
containing 1008 verses, by name pAdukA sahasram, which
extols the pAdukA of Sri Rama. In other words, the
pAdukA represents the celebrated AchArya, that is, Sri
NammAzhvar.

8. CONTRIBUTION TO MANIPRAVALA LITERATURE.

Desika has written 32 'rahasyagranthAs' in
'manipravALa' style which is a mixture of sanskrit and
tamil. The ultimate truths of the school are described
in these works that are easily understood by even a
layman. Of these 32 rahasyAs, "RahasyatrayasAra' is
the most outstanding one. 'paramatabhangam' is one of
these 32 rahasyagranthAs, in which a critical
examination of the different schools of Indian
philosophy are systematically made.

9. CONTRIBUTIONS TOWARDS THE DEVELOPMENT OF
VISISTADWAITA DIALECTICS.

A unique and masterly work named 's~atadUshiNI' is
meant for demolishing the arguments of the advaitic
school. The logic that is employed here is most
rigorous and impossible of a rebuttal. 66 arguments
are available in this work.

10. ORIGINAL COMPOSITIONS IN TAMIL EXPOUNDING THE
DOCTRINE OF VISISTADWAITA.

Desika has composed in verse form 19 compositions in
Tamil and has taught the Supreme truths of the school
in these compositions.  

Vedanta Desika's contributions to Vis~is~Tadwaita is
so vast that it is impossible to describe it
exhaustively. We may say in one word that the system
propounded by RamAnuja gained unassailability on
account of him. In RamAnuja, we see the wholeness of
vision whereas in Desika we see the perfection of all
technical details.

Desikar thiruvaDihalE s~araNam
Pranamams
dAsI
Padmini




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