The Philosophy of Visistadvaita by P N. Srinivasachari lucidly lives a critical, clear and comprehensive exposition of the central features of the philosophy of Visistadvaita and its relation to other schools of Vedãnta. It accepts the reality of God, individual souls, and the universe. It has at the same time, a synthetic insight into the essentials of other Daráana-s and reconciles the opposition between monism and pluralism.
We are happy to make available again this work on Visistadvaita which has been much in demand.
Professor P. N. Srinivasachari in his Preface to the edition of 1943 states:
The main purpose of this work is to give a critical and comprehensive exposition of the central features of the philosophy of Visistadvaita and its relation to other schools of Vedãnta. Visistadvaita is not as widely known as Advaita among students of Philosophy. It has also suffered at the hands of its few expositors who use the misleading term “qualified monism” as its English equivalent and who in their interpretations identify it with the Bhedabheda system of Vedãnta and Hegelian thought. With a view to do justice to Visistadvaita and set the balance right so far as influence on modern thought is concerned, I published in 1928 Rãindnuja’s Idea of the Finite Self in a very concise form. My later work, The Philosophy of Bhedabheda, published in 1934, was designed to serve as an exhaustive introduction to the study of Ramanuja and the development of his system in the history of Indian Philosophy. The present work is a comprehensive but modest survey of the system of Visistãdvaita as outlined in a series of eight lectures delivered by me under the auspices of the University of Madras.
Visistadvaita maintains its position in the history of Indian thought by establishing its own siddhanta by a criticism of rival systems. It has, at the same time, a synthetic insight into the essentials of other Darana-s and accepts whatever in them is consistent with its own basic principles. It is a true philosophy of religion which reconciles the opposition between philosophy and religion and the conflict between monism and pluralism. If it is liberally interpreted in terms of contemporary philosophy and comparative religion without in any way sacrificing its foundational principles, it is capable of satisfying the demands of science and philosophy on the one hand, and of ethics and religion on the other; and an attempt is made in the following pages to give such an interpretation.
It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to all those who have helped me in the preparation of this book. I had the rare privilege of sitting at the feet of the late Mahamahopadhyaya Kapisthalam Desikachariar Swami, and being instructed by him in the essentials of the visistadvaita Darana. My thanks are due to my teacher, Sri S. Vasudevachariar, who warmly encouraged me in this venture by reading the typescript and offering valuable suggestions; to my esteemed friend, Professor M. Hiriyanna, for the great care with which he went through the MS. and for important and friendly counsel; to Dewan Bahadur V. K. Ramanujachariar, who, in spite of the infirmities of old age, read portions of the typescript and commended this labour of love “; and to Rao Bahadur K. V. Rangaswami Aiyangar who also read portions of the work and helped to secure its early publication. I record my gratitude to my friends, Rao Saheb M. R. Rajagopala Aiyangar, Sri G. K. Rangaswami Aiyangar and Sri K. R. Sarma for their continued and enthusiastic assistance in reading through the proofs and in the citation of authorities; I am also beholden to Dr. R. Nagaraja Sarma who willingly read portions and offered valuable criticism and to Sri D. Ramaswami Aiyangar for similar help on some of the concluding chapters. My thanks are due to Sri P. Sankaranarayanan for kindly preparing the Index. I take this opportunity of acknowledging my obligations to the Madras University for the kind permission to utilize my lectures on Ramãnuja in the preparation of this work.
THE Philosophy of Vedanta is enshrined in the Upanisad-s, the GIta and the Brahma-sutra-s, which together constitute its foundation and supreme authority. Its truths are true for ever and impersonal, and do not depend on the personality of a historic founder. The impersonal is embodied in the experience of seers, prophets and philosophers, who only discover the truth and do not create it tie novo. The Upanisad-s contain the wisdom of Vedanta; the Gita gives its cream; and the Sutra-s expound its philosophic value. The fundamental problem of Vedãnta is: ‘What is that by knowing which everything else is known?’ and its solution is that by realizing Brahman everything is realized. The solution is not merely metaphysically satisfactory, but also spiritually satisfying. When finite consciousness is purified and exalted, it can break through the confines of finiteness, intuit the Infinite or Brahman, and thus realize the supreme goal of experience. By an immanent criticism of the categories of experience and by spiritual induction, it is possible for the metaphysician as a mumuksu to renounce the ephemeral values of worldliness and reach his eternal home in the absolute. He then becomes a wise man or vidvan, and, with his philosophic illumination and moral exaltation, he becomes a pattern of perfection, and works for world welfare. Vedãnta is thus the highest exposition of Indian philosophy in its theoretical and practical aspects, and there is nothing good and true in the world more elevating and beneficial than Vedantic thought and life. It is therefore essential for a seeker after truth and eternal happiness to know and appreciate the meaning and value of Vedanta, the most precious gift of India to mankind.
The Vedanta-sutra-s of Badarayaa, identified with Vyasa, are, by common consent, regarded as the most authoritative and systematic exposition of the Upaniad-s and recognized as the best manual of Vedanta. On a superficial view, the Upanisad-s appear to be conflicting and self-contradictory without any trace of logical consistency. But the Sütrakara, with his genius (hr synoptic knowledge, affirms the continuity and unity of all the texts,’ and the Surtya—s string together the teachings of the Upanisad-s and present them as a systematic whole. The sutra is cryptic or laconic, and is defined as a clear, concise and comprehensive aphorism that should be faultless and free from repetition. The method of employing connected catchwords to arrive at systematic unity is planned and perfected in the Brahma-sutra-s. It is unrivalled for its metaphysical profundity and spiritual power. From the first sutra to the last, the arguments develop rhythmically step by step until the whole scheme is completed. The parts are so organically related with one another and with the whole, that, if a part is destroyed, the symmetry of the whole will also he destroyed. The central idea that pervades the constituent elements is the truth that Brahman is absolutely real and spiritually realizable. The aphorist is also a supreme artist and by the method of samanaya, he reconciles the apparently conflicting Upanisad-s, and harmonizes them into a coherent whole. The dominant motive of the Sutrakara is to combine philosophic speculation with spirituality and communicate the wisdom so gained to aspiring humanity.
The Sutra-s in their exposition start with the aspiration of the philosopher or mumuksu for brahmajñana and end with the attainment by the mukta of brahmanubhava.
The Vedanta-sutra-s consist of four chapters divided into sixteen sections or Pada-s, each of which is subdivided into Adhikarana-s or topics of Vedantic interest. While, according to Sarnkara, there are 555 aphorisms, and according to Puruaprajana, 564, Rãmanuja counts only 545. The first chapter expounds the nature of Brahman as the ultimate ground of the universe of acit and cit, in the light of the kJratzavdkja-s of the Upanisad-s, dealing with the cause or ground of the universe. The second chapter called the Avirodhadhyaya establishes the same truth negatively by refuting and rejecting non-Vedantic theories. The third chapter deals exhaustively with the sddhana-s or means of attaining Brahman in accordance with the Vedantic truth that the metaphysical ground of all beings is the goal of religious meditation.1 The last chapter known as the Phaladhyaya brings to light the nature of mukti as the fruition of the whole philosophical enquiry. The end and aim of the whole system is summed up in the first four sutra-s called the Catuhsutri. They assert that Brahman is the subject of enquiry in its philosophical and spiritual aspect and the supreme end of experience. The first sutra states that the ultimate question of philosophy which is also the quest of religion is the knowledge of Brahman, and thus identifies the metaphysician with the mumuksu. The second sutra solves the supreme problem of ontology by declaring that the supreme Reality 0f the universe is Brahman and that it is the One without a second. The third insists on the sastra as the supreme source of this knowledge on the ground that spiritual wisdom is the criterion and crown of all experience, and that it can only be spiritually discerned. Dialectics leads to endless disputations and ultimate doubts and cannot solve the quest of the mumuksu which is supra-sensuous and supra-rational. The fourth sutra, Sat tu samanvayat, establishes the comprehensive truth of Vedanta that the philosophic knowledge of Brahman also satisfies the spiritual quest and imparts the eternal bliss of brahmananda to the mukta. The true philosopher is thus a synoptic thinker and spiritual seer, who, by knowing Brahman, realizes everything else, and communicates his wisdom to others.
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