The book makers in seven chapters a comparative study of the Visistavaita and Dvaita schools of Vedanta. The first chapter makes an introductory comparison of the two traditions including brief biographies of Ramanuja [1017-1137 CE] and Madhva [1238-1317 CE] Chapters two through seven compare the two Vedantic traditions in the areas of epistemology, ontology, theology, cosmology, psychology and soteriology. Interspersed among these chapters are five special topics, presented in debate style, which focus on the important differences of opinion between the two schools on issues such as the material causality of the Universe by God, Substance-attribute relationship, gradation in the experience of bliss by saved souls in Heaven, etc. Two appendices in the end briefly describe some of the differences in ecclesiastical organization and ritual matters among the two traditions.
B.N. Hebbar completed his sastraic education in India and studied in the USA. He has a doctorate in Indology from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, He is academic advisor to the Washington DC area International Buddhist Committee and teaches at the universities of the area.
There are five schools of thought within the aegis of the VaisnavaVedanta Sampradaya (tradition). These are: the Sri- Vaisnava Sampradaya of Ramanuja, the Brahma- Vaisnava Sampradaya of Madhva, the Sanakadi- Vaisnava Sampradaya of Nimbarka, the Rudra-Vaisnava Sampradaya of Vallabha and the Gaudiya-Vaisnava Sampradaya of Caitanya. Firmly wedded to the philosophical viewpoint of theistic realism, they all unanimously reject and revile the monistic idealism of Sarnkara which believes in the reality of God alone and the falsity of the world. But amongst themselves these five schools have their differences too as they subscribe to various shades of theistic realism. Further, these five traditions can be classified in various ways. Firstly, the traditions of Ramanuja and Madhva are South Indian, while the traditions of Nimbarka, Vallabha and Caitanya are North Indian. Secondly, the traditions of Ramanuja and Madhva subscribe to what might be described as the "Laksmi-Narayana" concept of Vaisnavism (which upholds the supremacy of Visnu and Sri as the Sovereign Lord and Lady of the Universe) with its corollary concept of "Aisvarya bhakti" characterized by the Master-servant relationship between the Deity and the devotee. Whereas, the traditions of Nimbarka, Vallabha and Caitanya subscribe to what might be called as the "Radha-Krsna" concept of Vaisnavisrn (which upholds the supremacy of Krsna and Radha as the Sovereign Lord and Lady of the Universe) with its corollary concept of "Madhurya bhakti" characterized by the Lover-beloved relationship between the Deity and the devotee. Thirdly, the traditions of Ramanuja and Madhya tend h) be more intellectual in their orientation than their Northern Indian Vaisnava counterparts. This might be due to the fact that the traditions of Ramanuja and Madhva were chronologically earlier and hence had to intellectually fortify themselves against the onslaughts of the earlier systems like the Nyaya-Vaisesika, Samkhya-Yoga, the two schools of Mimamsa and Samkara's Vedanta, which were all well-established by then and already had long and glorious intellectual and scholastic traditions. Thus' it became contingent upon these new traditions to bring their systems on an intellectual parity with the established schools of Classical Hindu thought if they were to gain any sense of respectability in scholastic circles. The effect of this can be clearly seen to this day. Thus when people talk of the Vedantic system of Hindu thought, scholars or lay-folk tend to talk of the three major versions of Vedanta as the traditions of Samkara (Advaita), Ramanuja (Visistadvaita) and Madhva (Dvaita). Even within the aegis of the three schools of Vedanta, it has been observed that "the Visistadvaita philosophy was not a source of perennial inspiration for the development of ever never shades of thought, and that the logical and dialectical thinkers of this school were decidedly inferior to the prominent thinkers of the Samkara and the Madhva school. There is hardly anyone in the whole history of the development of the school of Ramanuja whose logical acuteness can be compared with that of Sriharsa or Citsukha, or with that of Jayatirtha or Vyasatlrtha. Venkatanatha, Meghanadari, Vadiharpsa were some of the most prominent writers of this school; but even with them philosophic criticism does not always reach the highest level. Thus leaving aside the tradition of Samkara and his followers for a moment, and taking into consideration just the five schools of Vaisnava Vedanta, we can see that the school of Madhva is clearly head and shoulders above the other four Vaisnava schools in tenus of intellectual orientationand achievement. In fact, it has been observed that the two great systematizers of post-Madhya Dvaita thought, "Jayatirtha and Vyasattrtha present the highest dialectical skill in Indian thought." As one reads through the works of Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha one realizes "the strength and uncompromising impressiveness of the dualistic position. The logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasatirtha stands almost unrivaled in the whole field of Indian thought." This clearly puts a final nail into the coffin which holds the theory that the Vaisnava schools were purely religious in orientation and had nothing to offer in terms of philosophy. In- fact, the grand battle between realism and idealism which previously was between the Hindu Realists represented by the Nyaya-Vaisesika system and the two schools of Mtmamsa on the one hand and the Buddhist idealists represented by the Vijnanavada on the other, now came to be fought within Hinduism itself under the guise of the two great rival Vedantic schools of Advaita and Dvaita. This "penchant for dialectics instilled by Jayatirtha came to have a powerful hold on the imagination of the followers of Madhva which encouraged them, to take the next step of measuring swords with the Advaitic dialecticians and challenge the metaphysical suzerainty of the Advaita. As a result of this new phase of intellectual development in the history of the Dvaita school, a battle royal began to be fought between the great dialecticians of either side. A series of controversial classics of great subtlety of thought and incisive logic came to be exchanged between distinguished champions of these two schools. No others dared to intervene or had the necessary equipment to take part in it. The followers of Ramanuja, who, in an earlier age, had been invited to arbitrate between the two parties, now found themselves completely out- stripped and left far behind, by the dialecticians of the Dvaita and Advaita schools. Anyway, the whole purpose of all this is to show that it was the school of Madhva that was the great champion of orthodox realism and the grand defender of Vaisnava Theism and not the school of Ramanuja as is supposed by many.
In terms of religious practices, the schools of Ramanuja and Madhva stand together against their three North Indian Vaisnava counterparts on the issue of the Taptamudra sacrament where the accouterments of Visnu are burnt on the skin with hot mettalic seals. While the two South Indian schools subscribe to this sacrament, the Northern Indian ones do not. However, on the issue of wearing the gopicandana (yellow clay) paste on the 12 parts of the body, the sects of Madhva, Nimbarka and Caitanya do so while those of Ramanuja and Vallabha do not. Also, over the issue of treating the Bhagavata Purana as the fourth prasthana (source) text of Vedanta, all the sects of Vaisnava Vedanta do so with the sole exception of Ramanuja's sect. Also, on the issue of monasticism, the monks of the Ramanuja, Nimbarka and Caitanya sects are trident sannyasins (triple-staved monks), while those of the Madhva tradition are ekadandi sannyasins (uni-staved monks). The tradition of Vallabha rejects institutional monasticism altogether even though they accept the principle of the renunciation.
The main purpose of this dissertation is to make a comparative study of the traditions of Ramanuja and Madhva, i.e. Visistadvaita and Dvaita. This dissertation will principally focus .on the philosophical issues and present in a systematic manner the viewpoints of both the schools and at times present the polemical disputations on certain key issues between the two schools. Some differences with regard to religious practices will be dealt with briefly toward the end of the dissertation.
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