Essentials of Visistadvaita

Item Code: NAC378
Author: Dr. M. A. Alwar
Publisher: Shri Kashi Sesha Sastri Religious Trust, Bangalore
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788183827642
Pages: 246
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.5 Inch
Weight 240 gm
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Book Description

Here is a manual on the philosophy of Visistadvaita and on Srivaisnavaism,, the religious part of Visistadvaita. Such manuals can fulfil a very important role, helping us understand the philosophical framework of different systems of philosophy. For instance, Tarka Sangraha of Annambhatta pertaining to Nyaya Vaisesika School, Artha Sangraha and Mimamsa paribhasa highlighting the basic tenets of Mimamsa School of philosophy are outstanding models of such manuals. Similarly Vedanta karikavali of Bucci Venkatacarya and Yatindra-mata-dipika have put forth outstanding efforts in producing such manuals on the philosophy of Visistadvaita.

At this Juncture we should not fail to recognize monumental manual of Visistadvaita and Srivaisnavaism viz. Tattvatrayam authored by the great genius Pillai-Lokacarya, which is often praised as Kuttibhasyam, or in other words a Mini- Sribhasyam since it provides the basic tenets of Visistadvaita in a nutshell, that too in a precise and perfect manner as are enshrined in Sribhasyam, a great commentary on the Brahmasutras of BAdarayai3a authored by Sri Ramanujacarya. Over a period of time things have changed. Indians have become alien to their own divine mother tongue, Sanskrit, which was capable of conveying any thought pertaining to Indian culture. In previous times, every person born in a Srivaisnava family was essentially a scholar in Visistadvaita and Srivaisnavism. However, Macaulay’s education system weaned away most of the Srivaisnavas from their culture. Sanskrit education took a back seat and slowly even the people belonging to the scholarly tradition forgot their divine mother tongue. All the while though, sporadic interest in understanding the traditional philosophical and cultural heritage has been expressed here and there.

To quench the curiosity of such seekers of knowledge, Sri U. Ve. Jayarama Venkatacharya of Melkote wrote an outstanding Manual on the philosophy of Visistadvaita called Visistadvaita Dipike in Kannada. For some time he was working as a professor of Sanskrit in Central College, Bangalore I am happy that my son Dr. Alwar has prepared a manual on the philosophy of Visistadvaita and Srivaisnavism following in the footsteps of Sri U. Ve. Jayarama Venkatacharya. This present manual, in English, caters to the modem seekers of knowledge as they are more conversant in English than in any other Indian language, though English is alien to our culture. I am happy that Dr. Alwar, an ardent devotee and disciple of Panditaratnam K.S.Varadacharya, who is an outstanding scholar in the field of Darsana-s, especially Visistadvaita Darsana, has effectively conveyed the point of view of his great Acarya in this manual. I am fully aware of the difficulties of expressing the valuable and wonderful thoughts contained in Sanskrit in an alien language like English. I am also happy to know the considerable efforts that have gone into preparing this manual. May God and my predecessors viz. Dasavidya chakravarti Alwar Swamy, Tarkatirtha Mahavidvan Lakshmithathacharya Swamy and Panditaraja Alwar Thirumalai Iyengar Swamy shower their choicest blessing on CM. Alwar to write more and more such works to quench the thirst of the seekers of knowledge in future also.

I also convey my sincere salutations to His Holiness Sri Sri-Rangapriya Mahadesika Swamiji, who inspired and commanded Chi. Alwar to compile the present work. It is only by the grace of such elderly scholars and saints that Chi. Alwar has been able to complete this work in a versatile manner. I sincerely hope that Chi. Alwar continues to be the recepient of the grace of such persons in future also so that he can lead a long life that is spiritually rewarding and in due course, attain fulfillment.



India has been the land of punya (virtue) from time immemorial. All souls born in this land have a heritage rich. in education and the pursuit of knowledge, of great devotion unto God and of rituals which are highly beneficial both in this life and the life hereafter. However, of late, due to certain undesirable influences and foreign invasions, both cultural and physical, there has been a great fall in human values which has resulted in people giving up the beneficial and virtuous rituals and this has led to anarchy in all spheres of human life, especially in the religious and spiritual spheres. One of the main reasons for this is the diminished knowledge of the culture, religion and philosophy that are the bedrock of Indian civilization. Though there have been certain concerted and sporadic efforts by different persons and organizations to address this decline, success has been hard to come by. The solution to this problem is quite difficult to understand or execute. However, one small step in this direction is to generate knowledge about our philosophy, culture and religion among those who are inclined to know more about these aspects. This publication is a small effort in that direction.

A few months ago, I happened to visit the ashram of His Holiness Sri Sri-Rangapriya Mahadesika Swamiji to pay my respects to him and solicit his blessings as I often do. At that time, by the grace of the Supreme Lord, Swamiji advised me to author a primer on the philosophy of Visistadvaita delineating the basic tenets in a simple language that could be readily understood by laypersons who are well-informed and who are interested in knowing more about this field. At that time, to be honest, my mind was quite blank and I was unsure of how, when or whether I would be able to accomplish this complicated and difficult task assigned to me by a great stalwart and revered scholar. However, without giving much thought I simply accepted the task, deeming it to be the divine will of the Lord conveyed through a scholar-devotee par excellence and my own guru. Initially, Swamiji gave me a very short span of a few weeks to complete this task, and I accepted the same, without thinking about the difficulties in putting together such a book in such a short period of time. Later, as I began to contemplate the contents of the book, I realised how difficult and vast was the task I had undertaken. A few months passed during which I was just referring to many books and thinking about the structure of the intended work. Once again, I happened to visit and pay my respects to Swamiji, when he not only enquired about the progress of the book, but also gave extremely valuable and necessary guidelines, apart from once again inspiring me with enthusiasm to go ahead with the task that I had earlier accepted. Swamiji also expressed the opinion that since I had traditionally studied the philosophy of Visistadvaita in detail under my illustrious acarya Mahamahopadhyaya Panditaratnam K.S. Varadacarya, and also was relatively well-versed in English language, I should undertake this service and he commanded that I do so. I then approached my Acarya and sought his permission to undertake this task. My Acarya was kind enough and readily permitted me to undertake the task.

Even as I was referring to various texts for finalizing the structure of the proposed book, my revered father and scholar par excellence Vidvan Professor M.A. Lakmitatacarya came to my aid by sifting through the library and procuring many valuable books that would be of great help in this endeavour. He suggested that the Visistadvaita Dipika authored by a great scholar called Jayarama Venkatacarya who flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a good model to follow. He also gave many invaluable insights regarding the task in hand and mentally prepared me to carry out the same.

Even as I was thinking about the modus operandi for authoring the text after assimilating all the required information, it seems, as though by the will of providence, emerged my close associate and friend Mr James R Boag, a sincere student of Sanskrit language and literature and Indian philosophy and an experienced editor of texts written in English language. I was very fortunate to have been helped by such a person also deeply interested in knowing the tenets of the Indian philosophical systems and having a good knowledge of Sanskrit. This helped me in conveying certain extremely complicated concepts, many of which have hitherto remained unexplained in English language, in a clear and easily understandable manner. I can surely say and acknowledge that but for the all-round help and association of Mr James Boag, this work would not have seen the light of day. I am extremely beholden to him and express my sincere gratitude for the invaluable association and help he has rendered in the preparation of the present work. I also pray to the Supreme Lord that he inspires Mr James Boag to undertake and execute such important tasks that will disseminate knowledge of various fields of traditional Indian learning for a long time to come. I am confident this will also help develop his own knowledge and culminate in his spiritual evolution.

All the information that is housed in this text is based on the texts of our predecessor Acaryas and hence it is felt that there are no factual errors as such. However, errors could have crept in due to the lack of expertise of the author in expressing the tenets of the philosophy of Visistadvaita. Therefore, any errors that are found in this work are to be attributed to the flaws of the author only and not to anything or anyone else.

I am extremely beholden to H.H. Sri Sri-Rangapriya Mahadesika Swamiji for inducing me to take up the task of authoring this work and also giving valuable guidance and inspiration. I offer my humble pranams to this towering, divine personality who is an outstanding scholar in innumerable disciplines apart from being a model sanyasin that all others should aspire to emulate.

I offer my humble pranams to my revered Guru Mahamahopadhyaya Panditaratnam K.S. Varadacarya, who taught me right from my childhood all the important works of different Sastras and has showered and continues to shower his benign grace on me in all aspects of my life. He has his own unique, comprehensive and holistic vision of the greatness of Ramanuja and his contribution to this world in various fields like philosophy, spirituality, social reform, temple reform. It would not be out of place to mention here that he has devoted a major portion of his entire life to knowing the precise and exact view of Ramanuja by not only going through Ramanuja’s works innumerable times and examining them in the finest detail, but also by scrutinizing many hitherto rather neglected passages that is Ramanuja has authored, but which previously have seldom been noted or seriously thought about by any worthy scholar with any amount of seriousness in assessing the exact intention of Ramanuja that made him author those particular passages. However, these aspects have not been specifically dealt with in this book since they require a very high level of scholarship, language skill and other associated expertise in properly presenting them in the right manner that does full justice to the issues being expounded. Further, another reason for not mentioning these aspects is that they are of too serious nature to be written in the form of a book. They are to be known only by a person who is totally dedicated, discerning and has an honest and sincere desire to know this particular subject directly from the great Guru himself. However, a small attempt is made here to present the problems that arise or have been raised with regard to the Visistadvaita system of philosophy. How far this attempt is successful, the readers themselves have to judge. What else can I do but offer my innumerable pranams to this great personality.

I also acknowledge with gratitude the help and guidance rendered by my father Vidwan Professor MA Lakshmithathacarya, and his invaluable suggestions in authoring this book. I convey my sincere regards and pral3Ams and solicit his blessings for a long, long time to come. I also convey my affectionate pranams to my mother Smt. Coda for her informal, inherent and constant support that has stood me in good stead through thick and thin. I also thank my wife Smt. Vidya for her help in typing out the Sanskrit quotations and the transliterated Sanskrit words with diacritical marks and her overall cooperation. As mentioned earlier, I am extremely grateful to Mr James Boag for his invaluable support that I have explained in detail earlier.

I convey my sincere gratitude to Sri Sadananda, the President o the Shri Kashi Sesha Sastri Religious Trust, Bangalore who has taken lot of pains to bring out this publication under the ‘Essentials of the three Vedantic schools’ series. I am also grateful to one and all who have helped me in the present endeavour.




  From the Publisher’s Desk v
  Foreword xii
  Preface xiii
  Introduction xxi
  Chapter 1: Introduction to Indian Philosophy 1
  Introduction 1
  Philosophy and Darsana 1
  Origin of philosophy or darsana 2
  Indian viewpoint 3
  Buddhi and jnana 3
  Vidyasthanas 6
  Vidyasthanas and darsana 8
  Classification of the system of philosophy 8
  Orthodox and heterodox systems 9
  Carvaka darsana 11
  Bauddha Darsana 13
  Vaibhasika darsana 14
  Sautrantrika Darsana 14
  Yogacara darsana 15
  Madhyamika darsana 16
  Jaina darsana 16
  Orthodox systems of Indian philosophy 18
  Nyaya-darsana 18
  Vaisesika darsana 20
  Sankhya darssana 21
  Yoga darsana 23
  Purva Mimamsa darsana 24
  The School of Prabhakara 25
  The School of Bhatta 26
  Vedanta or Uttara Mimamsa 27
  The School of Sri Sankara 28
  The School of Sri Ramanuja 29
  The School of Anandatirtha 30
  Chapter II: The Nature of Vidya, the Vedas and their divisions 32
  Chapter III: Epistemology of Visistadvaita 39
  Introduction 39
  Dharma-Dharmi Bhava (Attribute and substantive) 39
  Laksana and Laksya 40
  Fallacies of Laksana 41
  Ativyapti (Over-pervasion) 42
  Avyapti (Under-pervasion) 42
  Asambhava (Non-pervasion) 42
  Uses of knowing ‘Laksana’: Vyavrtti and Vyavahara 43
  Theory of Knowledge 43
  The Utility of ‘knowledge’ 45
  Pramanas – Number and definition etc 46
  The Division of the means of valid knowledge (Pramana’s) 49
  Sense Perception (Pratyaksa) 49
  Inference (Anumana) 52
  Pararthanumana 55
  Verbal Testimony (Sabda Pramana) 57
  Akanksa 59
  Yogyata 60
  Sannidhi 60
  Tatparya-jnana 61
  Chapter IV: Ontology of Visistadvaita 67
  Chapter V: The Individual Soul 71
  The Opinion of the Carvakas 71
  The refutation of the ‘Dehatmavada’ 74
  Refutation of the Indriyatmavada 76
  Refutation of the Mana-atmavada 77
  Refutation of Buddhyatmavada 77
  The Individual Soul is eternal 79
  The Individual Soul is self-effulgent (ajada) 80
  The Individual Soul is of the nature of bliss 81
  The Individual Soul is atomic in nature 81
  The Individual Soul is unmanifest 83
  The Individual Soul is devoid of parts 83
  The Individual Soul is nirvikara 83
  The Individual Soul is the repository of knowledge 84
  The Individual Soul is the doer (karta) 84
  The Individual Soul is enjoyer (bhokta) 85
  The Individual Soul is of the nature of knowledge  
  The Individual Soul is subservient to the Supreme Being 86
  Avidya 88
  Karma 90
  Vasana 90
  Ruci 90
  Prakrti sambandha 91
  Important aspects about the Individual Soul 91
  The definition of the Individual Soul 95
  Categories of Individual Soul 102
  Chapter VI: Acit  
  Categories of insentient beings 103
  Definition of primordial nature 104
  Ignorance (Avidya) 106
  Maya 106
  The evolution of Primordial Matter 107
  The definition of organs (Indriya’s) 111
  The division of organs (Indriya’s) 111
  Definition of Mind (manas) 112
  Definition of the sense organs 113
  Definition of the motor organs 115
  Chapter VII: The Supreme Lord  
  Supreme Self (Paramatma) 117
  The Supreme Self is the sole cause of the universe 119
  Different views in this regard 122
  The Supreme Lord is known as ‘akhila-heya-pratyanika’ 126
  The Supreme Lord is sakala-kalyana-Gunakara 129
  Vatsalya 131
  Svamittva 132
  Sausilya 132
  Saulabhya 133
  The Supreme Lord is the Protector of All 134
  Chapter VIII: The ‘Arthapancaka’  
  Svasvarupa 136
  Parasvarupa 140
  Purusarthasvarupa 142
  Upayasvarupa 144
  Virodhisvarupa 148
  Chapter IX: Adravya  
  Sound- (sabda) 152
  Touch – (sparsa) 152
  Colour – (rupa) 153
  Taste – (rasa) 154
  Smell – (gandha) 154
  Chapter X: Synthesis (Samanvaya) 160
  The conglomeration of the meaning of the Veda’s 160
  The categorization of the different passages of the Vedanta’s 162
  1. Bhedasruti 162
  2. Abhedasruti 163
  3. Ghatakasruti 163
  4. Karanasruti 164
  5. Sagunsruti 164
  6. Nirgunasruti 164
  7. Nirvikarasruti 165
  8. Sodhakasruti 165
  9. Bhedanisedhasruti 166
  10. Tattvaparasruti 167
  Resolution of the problems of partiality etc 167
  Meaning of the term ‘Visistadvaita’ 169
  Questions about Visistadvaita 171
  Reconciliation of Non-Dualism and Dualism 175
  Chapter XI: Liberation 181
  Concept of moksa (liberation) 181
  1. Cessation of all obstacles 181
  2. The procedure to be followed for theis 182
  3. Aprakrta (divine) 183
  4. Attainment of Vaikuntha 184
  5. Supreme Lord 184
  6. Experiencing the Supreme God 185
  7. Service of the Lord 185
  Chapter XII: The Divyaprabandha’s 190
  Chapter XIII: The Eighteen Ideological Viewpoints 195
  Conclusion 217
  Overall Conclusion 220

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