Srivaishnavam Parambaryam, Traditions & The Culture that stands Class apart from othersEssence of Srivaishnavam Practices
The following are the brief introductory notes on the different sections and sects within the Sanadhana Dharma. Religion and Philosophy have been inseparable parts of Indian culture from time immemorial. The Rg-Veda, claimed to be the oldest religious literature in the world, contains profound philosophical thoughts which have remained the fountainhead of all religious systems in India. While philosophy may be considered as theory, religion may be considered as the practice of the same in our day-to-day lives.
There are many religious sects in India, although they all originate from the same Vedic source. Since the Hindu religion is essentially based on Sanatana Dharma – universal brotherhood, a number of schools (of thought) evolved, based on various interpretations, resulting in several religious-philosophical sects that suited the need of the hour. These sub-sects essentially need not follow the same path for salvation but the ultimate aim and goal is same among all, attaining a perfect unison with the Lord God – attainment of ultimate salvation, peace and mental happiness in the higher plane known as Moksha or Mukti etc.
Major Faiths within Religion – Sanadhana Dharma: Though all the major sections admit and prostrate Sriman NArayaNa as the supreme soul, each has a different ways and methods for their daily prayer & offerings. Here, irrespective alliance to a faith, all surrender their offerings to Lord Sri Maha Vishnu, by beginning with Achyutha & ending with “Narayanethi Samarpayami” or “Sarvam Sri KrishnaarpaNamasthu” literally meaning that they surrender their offerings to Sri Maha Vishnu!
Vaishnavism – Belief in Vishnu as the Supreme Being (Here, many sub-sects each following different methodical teachings by many Acharyas)
Saivism – Belief in Sriman Narayana as supreme being but faith follows worshipping Siva as the Supreme Being
Saktism – Belief in Shakti or Goddess as the Supreme Being Saura – Belief in the Sun God as the Supreme Being Ganapatya – Belief in Ganesa as the Supreme Being Kaumara – Belief in Kumara or Skanda-Kartikeya as the Supreme Being
Philosophies based on Vaishnavism
Visishtaathwaitham – Advocated by Sri Ramanujacharya
Adhwaitham – Advocated by Sri Adi Sankaracharya
Dwaitham – Advocated by Sri Madhvacharya
The above contentions of different sects, you will find in the articles that will be published in different pages under each heading with a clear philosophical readings. These pages will be published soon.
Of these, the first three sects have been well developed and have survived through the ages. The other three major religions of Indian origin are Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, but they do not owe any allegiance to the Vedas. It is customary to call the religion of the vast majority of Indians as Hinduism, as distinct from Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Parsees and Islam – the other major religions of the world.
One of the earliest proponents of the Hindu religion was Adi Sankara (eighth century), who propounded the Advaita Theory. This theory suggests that the Supreme Being or Paramatman is all pervading and not different from other sentient and insentient beings. He advocated the introspective approach to delve into oneself to identify the ‘So’ham’ or ‘I Am He.’
Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137 A.D.), the architect of the Visishtadvaita School, reaffirmed the Vedic lore that Paramatman (God) has both chit (sentient beings) and achit (inanimate objects) as His corpus. It would be beyond the scope of this introductory text to elucidate the theory any further. (The subsequent versions of this site, however, will carry more details.)
Another spiritual leader by name Sri Madhvacharya or Anandatirtha (born in 1238 A.D.), propounded the Dvaita theory, that suggested that the Paramatman and jeevatman are distinctly different entities.
The concept of devotion known as Bhakti – the core of Sanatana Dharma, which already existed during the period of the ‘Azhvars’ (the word in Tamil means a soul immersed in divine love), saw a sweeping revival all across India, during the period between Sankara and Ramanuja. Sankara had laid emphasis on Jnjna (or God-knowledge) alone as a means of attaining salvation.
Sri Ramanuja, on the other hand, influenced by alvars (saint hymnists) laid emphasis on Bhakti (God-love) in addition to Jnana and Karma. While Sri Sankara had postulated the Nirguna theory (the attributeless form) of Brahman, Ramanuja evolved a Being of beauteous form and figure, representing all the kalyana gunas or auspicious qualities. Sri Ramanuja, based on Smrutis (Vedic and Upanishadic statements), explained that the Supreme Being was both Saguna (form) and Nirguna (formless) in status, nirguna being taken to indicate absence of evil attributes and not an absence of form. While Brahman of the Advaita Siddhanta did, of course, possess qualities and answers somewhat to the description of the Saguna Brahman. Sri Ramanuja put forth the concept of a Being with a name, a form and attributes to the qualities – (six gunas) i.e.
Knowledge – Njana The Power (Sakti) Strength (Bhala) Lordship (Aisvarya) Valour (Veeryar) and Splendour (Tejas).
This approach is more tangible and the upasaka is presented with a more loveable and gracious God, so to say, taking the place of an abstract Brahman. Karma (or action) is transmuted into Kainkarya (divine service) and work sublimates into worship. Punya (good deeds) and Papa (sin) have no more value as far as the spiritual progress of the soul is concerned. Both are deemed to be chains, that keep us bound in Samsara (the cycle of births and deaths). Punya may bestow on us pleasure while papa may lead us to perdition. But, both punya and papa (leading to heaven or hell respectively) cannot redeem one from the cycle of births and deaths.
Ramanuja declared that the only true punya was to strive for union with God every moment of one’s life. His approach satisfied the intellectual quest of the human soul for God and at the same time, furnished food for that great human emotion, love. Contemplation on God became pleasant. The centre had shifted from the ‘Aham‘ or one’s own self to God, the Highest Self. ‘So’ham’ (I am He) gave place to ‘Daso’ham’ (I am His servant).
It is believed that in the present Kali Yuga, Lord Vishnu will incarnate as Kalki Avataara (saviour), when the world will discard all Dharma (righteousness) and chaos will reign supreme. This will be followed by the Great Deluge and Balaji will be seen once again floating on a leaf on the serene waters.
Who is a true SriVaishnava?
The following are the saying from the 44th Saint of the Srivaishnava Ahobila Mutt Sect, (Mukkur Azhagiyasingar) which again propagated by the present 45th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt on the attributes of a true Sri Vaishnava: “The most important quality of a Vaishnava is that one must have the quality of empathy with and sympathy for others. A true Vaishnava should feel with the same intensity the pain and sorrow of his fellow beings. Several scriptures including the Bhagavadvishaya emphasise this point. In fact, I stress that if one does not have this kind of empathy, he is not a true Vaishnava. To quote certain scriptures like the Vishnu Purana, a Vaishnava is one who does not covet others’ wealth. A Vaishnava must have patience and compassion. There are also other external symbols that he is required to wear like the tulasi mala, the sacred mark on his forehead, etc. But Atmaguna-s are definitely more important than merely being born a Vaishnava.
Reproduced below is a Song in Gujarathi, which explain the qualities of a true Sri Vaishnava that are enumerated by Saint Narsing Mehta, in his famous song in ‘Vaishnava Janato’.
Vaishnava Janato Vaishnava Janato theyney kahiyeh, Jeh peeda paravo janarey Para duke upkar karey thoyeh, Mana abhimana na aaneyrey. Sakala lokamam sahiney vandhey, Ninda na karey keyneerey Vacha-kacha maha nichchalarageh, Tantan jananeey theyneerey. Sama drishti ney trushna tyagi, Para stree kee jeyney mathare Jihvah thakee asathya na boley, Para dhana nava janey haatharey. Moha maya vyayeh nasi jeyney, Druda vairagya jeyna mana mamrey Rama nasaram thali lakhi, Sakala theeratha theyna thana mamrey. Vana loopee ney kapata rasithachey, Kama krodh nivaar yaarey Paney nara samyo theynum thara sana karatham, Kula eko theyra dharymrey.
The meaning of the above:
One who is a True Sri Vaishnava, knows the pain of others, who does good to others, especially to those ones who are in, sufferings, grief & misery, who does not let pride enter his mind or thoughts, He who tolerates and praises the entire world, does not say any bad things or gossip about anyone, keeps his/her words, actions and thoughts in simplistic pure. Oh, Vaishnava, your mother is blessed. A Vaishnav sees everything equally, rejects greed and avarice, considers some one else’s wife/daughter as his mother. The tongue may get tired, but will never speak lies. He who does not even touch someone else’s property. A Vaishnav does not succumb to earthly attachments. A Vaishnava Who has devoted himself to staunch detachment to worldly pleasures. He who has been edicted to the elixir coming by the name of Lord Sri Ram. For whom all the religious sites are in the mind, who has no greed and deceit. Who has renounced lust of all types and anger. The poet Narsi will like to see such a person, by who’s virtue, the entire family gets salvation.
Srimathe Ramanujaya Nama: Srimathe NikamAntha MahaDesikaya Nama: Srimathe SrivaNsatakopa Sri AadivaNsatakopa Yatheenthra Maha Desikaya Nama:
Born on Makara Uthiradam star, native of Mukkur and brought up in Ladavaram village near Arcot and now well settled in Mumbai for over five decades. Presently, at 70, trying to run this website without any commercial expectations or profit motive, just for the sake of our future generations to understand about Sanatana Dharma & Srivaishnavam sampradayam.Within my limited knowledge that I put it here, what I learnt from the world.