View Full Version : Visistadvaita before Ramanuja

28 May 2013, 12:08 AM
Just recently I read a post questioning the origins of VA that VA did not exist before Ramanuja. This got me curious and after a bit of research found something that might be helpful.

In the book called 'Fundamentals of Visistadvaita Vedanta' Dr. S.M. Chari sheds scholarly light on the origins of Visistadvaita. On page 2, under 'Development of Visistadvaita as a system of Philosophy' Chari explains that even though Ramanuja may be regarded as the founder of the Visistadvaita system due to his formulation of the Visistadvaita principles, he himself never claimed to be the founder. In fact, Ramanuja says in Sri bhasya that he is writing a commentary on the sutras in accordance with the views contained in an elaborate vritti or glossary written by Bodhayana which has been abridged by earlier teachers.

In the scholarly circles there seems to be ample evidence to show from the quotations cited by Ramanuja that there were great exponents of Visistadvaita Vedanta such as Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bharuci before his time.

According to Vedanta Desika Nathamuni who lived in the 10th century was the first exponent of Visistadvaita as a system of philosophy (Nathopajnam pravrttam). He wrote two important works viz. Nyaya tattva and yoga rahasya.

After Nathamuni, Alavandar, known as Yamuna who lived sometime between 916 to 1036 C.E. developed the system. Teachings of Yamuna greatly influenced both Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika as they used the logical arguments advanced by him in the refutation of Advaita. Ramanuja who came after Yamuna (born in 1017 C.E.) further developed the philosophy of Visistadvaita system.

Reference: Fundamentals of Visistadvaita Vedanta, S.M. Chari, ISBN 81-208-0266-7

28 May 2013, 02:46 AM
Dear Satay,

Yes VA existed well before Ramanuja(maybe the name was not coined until late 12th century), recently I heard that Vishal Agarwal of the University of Minnesota discovered the ancient manuscripts of Tanka (Brahma sutra bhashya and ChandogyaUpanishad bhashya).

28 May 2013, 09:54 AM

recently I heard that Vishal Agarwal of the University of Minnesota discovered the ancient manuscripts of Tanka (Brahma sutra bhashya and ChandogyaUpanishad bhashya).

Interesting. I would like to know more about this. Where can people look this up and follow up? Is Vishal's contact info available?

28 May 2013, 03:30 PM

I found the following:

HOMEPAGE OF VISHAL AGARWAL - I am positive this is the same person:


Some of his articles includes commentary such as shown below ...
There a lots of articles on many subjects on his homepage, you may read at your desire.

Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 C.E.), in his Vedarthasamgraha [ref. 1, pg. 250-251], states: �This path which is shown in all the srutis whose meaning is very lucidly explained by the ancient commentaries composed by Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi, Bharuchi etc., and accepted by all those who are competent to judge, is only arrived at by Bhakti that has developed along the above lines.� From this passage, it appears that Ramanujacharya acknowledges these 6 teachers as ancient authorities whose views are acceptable to him.

Srinivasadasa (17th Cent. C.E.), in the introduction of his Yatindramatadipika [ref. 2, pg. 2], gives a list of teachers who, in his opinion, were the predecessors of Ramanujacharya in propounding the Visishtadvaita Vedanta: Bhagavan Bodhayana, Guhadeva, Bharuchi, Brahmanandin (Tanka), Dramida, Sri Parankusa (Nammalvara Sathakopa), Nathamuni, Yamunamuni. Srivivasadasa was a teacher of the Visishtadvaita Vedanta, and the Yatindramatadipika is one of the most lucid compendiums of this school of Hindu philosophy.

n the epilogue of the same work, Srinivasadasa mentions a list of works (in chronological order), which he had referred to compose the Yatindramatadipika. �Dramidabhasya�, followed by works of Nathamuni and so on, heads the list. Again, no work of Guhadeva, Bharuchi or Tanka is mentioned in the list. Bhagavad Datta [ref. 3] suggests that the list is chronological, but gives no reason for the suggestion.

Since the Vedarthasamgraha and the Yatindramatadipika are both works on Vedanta, the above quotations would indicate that Bharuchi was an ancient teacher of Vedanta whose views were considered authoritative by the followers of Visishtadvaita Vedanta. Unfortunately however, neither Ramanujacharya nor any of his successors, ever quote Bharuchi�s views on Vedanta. This contrasts with the numerous citations from the compositions of Bodhayana, Vakyakara Tanka, Dramidacharya and Kapardi in the works of Ramanujacharya and his followers. This silence is true not only of the Sanskrit works of the Visishtadvaita Vedanta tradition, but also of the Tamil works [ref. 7]

None of his works on Vedanta or any quotation from any of these works has been traced till now, to my knowledge. Also, nothing is definitely known about his Vedantic views. His name also does not occur in numerous other lists of teachers of Vedanta found in medieval literature. Yamunacharya, a predecessor of Ramanujacharya in the Visishtadvaita Vedanta tradition, also gives a long list of names of commentators of Vedantic texts in his Atmasiddhi [ref. 8]. But this list too does not mention Bharuchi. Sesha, the commentator on the Madhva Vijaya of Narayana Bhatta, states that Madhvacharya, the founder of Dvaita Vedanta School of philosophy, refuted 21 commentaries on the Brahmasutras that were written by teachers before him [ref. 9]. Sesha then names the 21 commentators, omitting Bharuchi in the list.

Fortunately, several works of Bharuchi on dharma are referred to in the dharmashastra literature. One such quotation also occurs in the commentary composed on the Apastamba grhyasutra by Sudarshana Suri, another teacher of Visishtadvaita Vedanta. In this article, we will largely ignore the views of Bharuchi concerning dharmashastra, since these have been dealt with elsewhere [ref. 4] and do not form a part of our discussion.

Om Namah Sivaya

Sri Vaishnava
28 May 2013, 04:54 PM
There is a reason why nAthamuni and others' works are lost. In the 1300s, muslims invaded srirangam and my acharyas did whatever they could to save the precious works from them. SrI pillai lOkAchAryA protected Namperumal (Bhagavan), whereas vedAnta desikA saved the SrI bhAshya. If it wasn't for the courage and devotion of these great achAryAs, much damage would have been inflicted on sri vaishnava/vishishtadvaita siddhAnthA. The places where these achAryAs hid can be visited today - satyagalam forest near melkote for a temple of vedAnta desika and jyotishkudi for a temple of pillai lOkAchAryA in madurai.

During this invasion, works of nAthamuni like yoga rahasyam and yAmuna muni's 'mAyavAda khAndaNam' (one of the earliest attacks on advaita and used by rAmAnuja muni as a base for his arguments in sri bhAshya) were lost.

I would recommend anyone who wants to know more about Vishishtadvaita to read 'yatIndramatadIpika' of srinivAsAchArya, a great achArya who came a bit late.

It lucidly explains my tradition and also is devoid of all the nonsensical '18 differences between vadakalai and thenkalai' (which are the imaginations of later day scholars). SrinivAsAchAryA was a disciple of sholingur mahAchArya, who in turn has written two famous works - chandamArutam, a commentary on vedAnta desikan's sata dhushani and rahasya traya mimAmsa bhAshya, a tikA on the mumukkshupadi commentary of manavAla mAmuni.

28 May 2013, 06:13 PM
Namaste Sri Vaishnava

Sri Vaishnava: "There is a reason why nAthamuni and others' works are lost. In the 1300s, muslims invaded srirangam and my acharyas did whatever they could to save the precious works from them."

Yes, this is one of so many examples even into today's time and news cycle of the Muslims destroying temples and building a mosque on top of the temple site, taking materials from the temples to build mosques which were treasures for all the world and looting them, burning books and destroying sacred texts.

My own beloved Varanasi was a victim to this.

Thank you to your Acharyas for saving the precious works that were saved, and thank the "hear and listen and memorize" tradition of Hinduism from saving so much of sacred knowledge.

Om Namah Sivaya

29 May 2013, 12:26 AM

Interesting. I would like to know more about this. Where can people look this up and follow up? Is Vishal's contact info available?


Vishal Agrwal's unpublished book "The Ancient Commentators of Prasthana Trayi." has this information as per the people who accessed it .

29 May 2013, 07:45 AM
Vaishvism very much existed in Chera, Chola and Pandia kingdoms. All the Azhwars lived between 7 th and 9th Century AD. Ramanuja came much later in 11th Century AD.

There was no conflict among Saivites and Vaishnavites during Azhwar/Nayanmar period. Both the faiths co-existed peacefully.

Infact there are Vaishnava Divyadesams inside important Shiva temples like Chidambaram Nataraja & Kanchi Ekampareswarar temple.

Probably Ramanuja would have named Vaishnava worship as Vishistadvaitha philosophy.

06 August 2014, 04:03 PM
Hi Satay.,

There are two version of history and Dr Chari may not have mentioned about the "Tradtional" faith as most of the "acedemic" authors tend to present the general information rather than the "traditional" one!

This is the traditional line....

Parabrahman, Sriman Narayana- Maha Lakshmi - Visvaksena

Nammalvar - He is the original seer of this tradition and also the philosophy and the list you have mentioned are not as old as Nammalvar (Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bharuci etc.) His time is calculated by tradition as Sandya of Dvapara and Kali! ( Not sure if there are any record for the time line of Bodhayana etc. so the Parampara does not record them as VA practitioners or Gurus/Guardians in strict sense)

------ strictly historical parampara begins here

Naathamuni (c. 900 A.D.)

UyyakkoNDaar (pundarIkaaksha)

Rama Misra

Yaamunaacaarya (Alavandaar) (c. 900-1000 AD)

Periya Nambi (MahaapUrNa)

Ramanuja (emberumaanaar, udaiyavar, bhaashyaakaara) - (1017 - 1137 A.D.)

Hare Krshna