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Books > Hindu > Vedas > Visistadvaita Vedanta: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volume XX)
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Visistadvaita Vedanta: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volume XX)
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Visistadvaita Vedanta: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volume XX)
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About the Book

The most famous name associated with the Visistadvaita philosophy of the Srivaisnavas is Ramanuja (1017-1137). The present volume of this Encyclopedia summarizes Ramanuja's philosophical writings, along with providing summaries and other information about the philosophical works of 134 other authors of the Visinadvaita system, both prior and posterior to Ramanuja.

About the Author

KARL H. POTTER is Professor of philosophy and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is the General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Series containing 28 volumes.

STEPHEN PHILLIPS is professor of philosophy and Asian studies, and has been visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He received a PhD from Harvard University after having attended Harvard College and an ashram school in India. He is the author of seven books, including Epistemology in Classical India: The Knowledge Sources of the Nyaya School, 2011; Epistemology of Perception: Gangesa's Tattvacintamani, Vol. I, pratyaksa-khanda, introduction, translation, and commentary (with N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya), 2004 (Revised Indian edition, MLBD, 2009); Yoga;' Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, 2009; Gangesa on the Upadhi, "The Inferential Undercutting Condition," introduction, translation, and explanation (with N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya), 2002; Classical Indian Metaphysics: Refutations of Realism and the

Introduction
Stephen H. Phillips

I. Visistadvaita Vedanta within Classical Indian Schools Visistadvaita Vedanta is commonly misunderstood as a modification of Advaita Vedanta, a later, derivative interpretation of Vedantic literature. The truth is - as argued by Georg Thibaut in his introduction to his English translation of the commentary of Samkara, the Advaitin, on the Brahmasutra - that the commentary by the Visistadvait in, Ramanuja, although about two centuries later, more accurately renders the meaning of the earlier sutras in those relatively few places where the two Vedantins are at odds. Vedanta as a classical school of philosophy, a darsana, begins-as is the case with several other schools-in a sutra text, a text of aphorisms that together encapsulate principal teachings, in this case the Brahmasutra. At least, this is the professional beginning, so to say, the unsystematic commencement lying in much older texts called Upanisads. Upanisadic views about Brahman, the Absolute, as well as teachings about the self or soul, atman, and ways, yoga, to know or discover Brahman are systematized in relation to competing world views in the Brahmasutra, which is attributed to Badarayana and is possibly as old as 100 C.E. The Brahmasutra commentary of Ramanuja (1017-1137) is commonly taken to be the foundational text for Visistadvaita Vedanta. This, however, needs qualification. Ramanuja refers to several authors-whose works are not extant, with one exception-as helpful in interpreting this or that sutra, authors in a Bhagavata or more -broadly Vaisnava lineage, or lineages, predating Samkara and his Brahmasutra commentary which happens to be the oldest we have. In particular, Ramanuja says, in his opening statement, that he follows a vrtti or "notes" copied by Bodhayana, whose work is lost but whom some scholars believe is also mentioned by Samkara as the commentator Upavarsa.' This may be a dubious identification, but there is overwhelming evidence nonetheless that Vaisnava Vedantic lineages are very early, long predating Samkara, who belongs to the eighth century by best estimate. For Samkara, the Absolute is transcendent and "without qualities," nirguna, not even the superlative, qualities of a supreme being. For Vaisnavism, in contrast, the Brahman or Absolute of the Upanisads is a personal Lord, Isvara (Visnu = Narayana). Now great Tamil poets and saints within Vaisnavism, called Alvars, rhapsodized about God and bhakti, loving devotion, enlivening Vedantic theism in South India during the eighth and ninth centuries according to scholarly chronology (the, elegant, some times ecstatic poems of the Alvars are traditionally taken to be thousands of years more ancient). Ramanuja writes in the midst of-and in line with-an apparently thriving religious movement.' To repeat, by his own record he was not the first with a philosophical bent to do so or even to write a theistic commentary on the Brahmasutra-albeit Bodhayana, . his vrttikara, apparently did not write very extensive "notes," as concluded by the scholar Van Buitenen who collects seven fragments present in Ramanuja's Sribhasya.

Another Brahmasutra commentator quoted by Ramanuja even more extensively is Dramida. Van Buitenen collects more than a dozen fragments from Dramida, a post-Badarayana teacher also quoted favorably in a few places by Samkara, who, as Van Buitenen remarks, nonetheless probably overlooked lots of passages interpreted by Dramida theistically.' Then there is Yamuna (916-1041), approximately one hundred years before Ramanuja, whom Ramanuja often follows and sometimes quotes, whose work we do have (although some is lost) and who pointedly disputes the Advaita of Samkara, using the best philosophical tools of his time. Philosophy in India had developed by the time of Yamuna a range of positions in just about all the major areas that are identified as philosophic in the West, and preceding Yamuna there was about a thousand years of philosophic inquiry and interschool eristics with dozens of central texts in eight or nine major schools, texts replete with fine-edged arguments. Ramanuja is clearly not the first Vedantic theist to master this literature and to contend the Advaita reading of the Upanisads using dialectic directed to showing the absurdity of an opposing position or view. Especially noteworthy is that Yamuna not only attacks Advaita but also explains the right way to read a set of sutras of the Brahmasutras (2.2.42-45) crucial to his disagreement with Samkara.' Indeed, Yamuna seems to pioneer many of the arguments and indeed exegetical moves made by Ramanuja who may have been his grandson and who in any case is traditionally viewed as a later preceptor in the same lineage with Yamuna who was an earlier guru.

There are still other references on Ramanuja's part to Vedantic theistic philosophers, one Nathamuni in particular, who is presumably also of a Vaisnava lineage. What we know from references and quotations by later authors in later works combined with the evidence from especially Ramanuja suggests that there was a living lineage of theistic philosophy tracing back to Badarayana's Brahmasutra. Nevertheless, all of our philosophers are aware of Advaita, and it is practically definitive of Visistadvaita to take issue with Advaita ideas and authors, Samkara in particular. However, there are also other wrong readings that command attention, for example, the Bhedabheda of Bhaskara (c. 750), which Ramanuja dismantles," and several others taken up by Yamuna, Ramanuja. or a later author in the schools.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

























Visistadvaita Vedanta: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volume XX)

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About the Book

The most famous name associated with the Visistadvaita philosophy of the Srivaisnavas is Ramanuja (1017-1137). The present volume of this Encyclopedia summarizes Ramanuja's philosophical writings, along with providing summaries and other information about the philosophical works of 134 other authors of the Visinadvaita system, both prior and posterior to Ramanuja.

About the Author

KARL H. POTTER is Professor of philosophy and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is the General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Series containing 28 volumes.

STEPHEN PHILLIPS is professor of philosophy and Asian studies, and has been visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He received a PhD from Harvard University after having attended Harvard College and an ashram school in India. He is the author of seven books, including Epistemology in Classical India: The Knowledge Sources of the Nyaya School, 2011; Epistemology of Perception: Gangesa's Tattvacintamani, Vol. I, pratyaksa-khanda, introduction, translation, and commentary (with N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya), 2004 (Revised Indian edition, MLBD, 2009); Yoga;' Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, 2009; Gangesa on the Upadhi, "The Inferential Undercutting Condition," introduction, translation, and explanation (with N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya), 2002; Classical Indian Metaphysics: Refutations of Realism and the

Introduction
Stephen H. Phillips

I. Visistadvaita Vedanta within Classical Indian Schools Visistadvaita Vedanta is commonly misunderstood as a modification of Advaita Vedanta, a later, derivative interpretation of Vedantic literature. The truth is - as argued by Georg Thibaut in his introduction to his English translation of the commentary of Samkara, the Advaitin, on the Brahmasutra - that the commentary by the Visistadvait in, Ramanuja, although about two centuries later, more accurately renders the meaning of the earlier sutras in those relatively few places where the two Vedantins are at odds. Vedanta as a classical school of philosophy, a darsana, begins-as is the case with several other schools-in a sutra text, a text of aphorisms that together encapsulate principal teachings, in this case the Brahmasutra. At least, this is the professional beginning, so to say, the unsystematic commencement lying in much older texts called Upanisads. Upanisadic views about Brahman, the Absolute, as well as teachings about the self or soul, atman, and ways, yoga, to know or discover Brahman are systematized in relation to competing world views in the Brahmasutra, which is attributed to Badarayana and is possibly as old as 100 C.E. The Brahmasutra commentary of Ramanuja (1017-1137) is commonly taken to be the foundational text for Visistadvaita Vedanta. This, however, needs qualification. Ramanuja refers to several authors-whose works are not extant, with one exception-as helpful in interpreting this or that sutra, authors in a Bhagavata or more -broadly Vaisnava lineage, or lineages, predating Samkara and his Brahmasutra commentary which happens to be the oldest we have. In particular, Ramanuja says, in his opening statement, that he follows a vrtti or "notes" copied by Bodhayana, whose work is lost but whom some scholars believe is also mentioned by Samkara as the commentator Upavarsa.' This may be a dubious identification, but there is overwhelming evidence nonetheless that Vaisnava Vedantic lineages are very early, long predating Samkara, who belongs to the eighth century by best estimate. For Samkara, the Absolute is transcendent and "without qualities," nirguna, not even the superlative, qualities of a supreme being. For Vaisnavism, in contrast, the Brahman or Absolute of the Upanisads is a personal Lord, Isvara (Visnu = Narayana). Now great Tamil poets and saints within Vaisnavism, called Alvars, rhapsodized about God and bhakti, loving devotion, enlivening Vedantic theism in South India during the eighth and ninth centuries according to scholarly chronology (the, elegant, some times ecstatic poems of the Alvars are traditionally taken to be thousands of years more ancient). Ramanuja writes in the midst of-and in line with-an apparently thriving religious movement.' To repeat, by his own record he was not the first with a philosophical bent to do so or even to write a theistic commentary on the Brahmasutra-albeit Bodhayana, . his vrttikara, apparently did not write very extensive "notes," as concluded by the scholar Van Buitenen who collects seven fragments present in Ramanuja's Sribhasya.

Another Brahmasutra commentator quoted by Ramanuja even more extensively is Dramida. Van Buitenen collects more than a dozen fragments from Dramida, a post-Badarayana teacher also quoted favorably in a few places by Samkara, who, as Van Buitenen remarks, nonetheless probably overlooked lots of passages interpreted by Dramida theistically.' Then there is Yamuna (916-1041), approximately one hundred years before Ramanuja, whom Ramanuja often follows and sometimes quotes, whose work we do have (although some is lost) and who pointedly disputes the Advaita of Samkara, using the best philosophical tools of his time. Philosophy in India had developed by the time of Yamuna a range of positions in just about all the major areas that are identified as philosophic in the West, and preceding Yamuna there was about a thousand years of philosophic inquiry and interschool eristics with dozens of central texts in eight or nine major schools, texts replete with fine-edged arguments. Ramanuja is clearly not the first Vedantic theist to master this literature and to contend the Advaita reading of the Upanisads using dialectic directed to showing the absurdity of an opposing position or view. Especially noteworthy is that Yamuna not only attacks Advaita but also explains the right way to read a set of sutras of the Brahmasutras (2.2.42-45) crucial to his disagreement with Samkara.' Indeed, Yamuna seems to pioneer many of the arguments and indeed exegetical moves made by Ramanuja who may have been his grandson and who in any case is traditionally viewed as a later preceptor in the same lineage with Yamuna who was an earlier guru.

There are still other references on Ramanuja's part to Vedantic theistic philosophers, one Nathamuni in particular, who is presumably also of a Vaisnava lineage. What we know from references and quotations by later authors in later works combined with the evidence from especially Ramanuja suggests that there was a living lineage of theistic philosophy tracing back to Badarayana's Brahmasutra. Nevertheless, all of our philosophers are aware of Advaita, and it is practically definitive of Visistadvaita to take issue with Advaita ideas and authors, Samkara in particular. However, there are also other wrong readings that command attention, for example, the Bhedabheda of Bhaskara (c. 750), which Ramanuja dismantles," and several others taken up by Yamuna, Ramanuja. or a later author in the schools.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

























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