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Re: superstitions

Vijay Pai makes a few assertions regarding some apparent
similarities between Ramanujacharya's (c.1017-1137) and
Madhvacharya's (12th-13th centuries) philosophies.  On the
surface, this may appear to be true, but a deeper analysis
clearly demonstrates this to be a very erroneous assumption. I
have personally heard scholars of Ramanuja's school tell me that
while Madhva is a Vaishnava, the basis for his philosophy and his
strange form of Vedanta are entirely different from that of the
rest of us, i.e., the Visishtadvaitins and the Advaitins.  I will
try to make this clear in the following article.

Vijay Sadananda Pai (vijaypai@rice.edu) writes
> vidya@cco.caltech.edu (Vidyasankar Sundaresan) writes:
> |> Again you show your general ignorance of the philosophical issues  
> |> involved. Madhva and Ramanuja agree on philosophy?!! So is that why the

> 1) Both accept the supremacy of Lord Vishnu

Agreed. But the conception of Vishnu (in fact, Ramanuja's school
much prefers the term 'Narayana') is in many ways significantly 
different. Simply having the same name for God does not mean as 
much as it seems.

> 2) Neither accepts the quantitative equality of jiva and Paramatma

Yes, but why does Madhva deny the statements of unity contained in
the Upanishads? Why does he resort to distorting sentences such 
as (from the Chhandogya Upanishad):

    aitad aatmyam idam sarvam ... sa atma, tat tvam asi

    aitad aatmyam idam sarvam ... sa atma, atat tvam asi
doing complete violence to the text and philosophical tradition?
Why can he not fully accept that Brahman (God) is the material
*and* efficient cause of the Universe? This last concept is the
fundamental tenet of Ramanuja's metaphysics, and was accepted
by *all* Vedantins, save Madhva who consequently disagreed 
and discarded all previous established rules of Vedic exegesis.

> 4) Both accept the material world as real, but temporary
> 5) Both accept distinctions between matter and matter,
> 	matter and jiva, jiva and jiva, matter and Paramatma,
> 	and jiva and Paramatma.

But, is the 'material world' eternally pervaded in its very 
essence by Brahman? Is it in its essence inseparable ('aprthak')
from Brahman because it is a mode of His existence? Yes, 
according to Ramanuja; No, according to Madhva. Please do not
downplay this difference.  Madhva's uncompromising dualism,
wherein Brahman does not include all existence in His Being, 
is thoroughly at odds with Vedantic statements expressing
unity.  It is this *unity*, this knowledge that Brahman 
constitutes everything and *is* everything as their all-pervader,
that distinguishes Ramanuja's system from Madhva's, and makes
the former's philosophy so much more eminent in its grandeur.  

Ramanuja and his followers do not glorify difference like 
Madhva does.  We want to be 'Brahmanized', to realize that
each jivaatma is a spilling from the plenitude of Being that
is Brahman. Madhva and other dualists simply cannot accept 
this tenet.

> 7) Both accept the doctrine of spiritual variegatedness and
> 	the existence of transcendental qualities

There is a crucial point to be made here regarding the 
'spiritual variegatedness' of Madhva's. His glorification
of duality extends to even the 'svarupa' of the individual soul
in moksha! Realize the consequences of this -- even in salvation,
the Dvaita philosophy postulates that there are inherent 
inequalities between the jivas' knowledge and enjoyment of bliss.
Not differences in their *modes* of enjoyment, mind you, but
actually *grades of bliss* in salvation!

This flies against the face of so many statements in the Vedanta
that in moksha, the jiva attains the 'highest similarity to Brahman'
('paramam saamyam', 'taadrik eva bhavati', etc.)

Incredulously, I once asked a Madhva sannyasi if the jivaatma is
a 'sarvajna' (infinitely wise one) in moksha, since statements
to that effect abound in the Upanishads. The sannyasi replied,
"Of course not!" After he said this, I came away with the distinct
feeling that Madhvacharya's philosophy is one of the cruelest jokes 
ever perpetrated in the name of Vedanta.

The point I wish to make is that Ramanuja very strongly affirms
that the jivas are inherently 'jnaana-ananda-aika svarupa', 
essentially of the nature of consciousness and bliss, and once they
become Brahmanized by their clear loving consciousness of Brahman, 
they attain the highest similarity to Him, and realize the truth of
such statements as 'tat tvam asi', 'aham brahma asmi', etc., i.e.,
that they are simply modes of His Infinitude of existence, since
He is their indwelling controller.

> 8) Both consider scriptural evidence superior to evidence
> 	gained by sensory observation or by argument

This is a very wrong conclusion. I do not know about Madhva's
ideas here, but Ramanuja very forcefully argues in his Mahasiddhanta
(commentary on Brahma-sutra 1.1.1) that in cases of scripture
conflicting with perception, scripture is *not* stronger. 

> 9) Both accept the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, & Itihasas

But in what manner? Ramanuja restricts himself first to the Veda
and the Upanishads in his commentaries. After he has exhausted 
these, he uses the Gita as the primary supporting text.
He also uses what was the only authoritative puraana from
the Vedantic standpoint, the Vishnu Purana, once again in a 
supporting role. Then he very sparingly uses the Ramayana 
and Mahabharata.

He *never* uses the Garuda Purana, the Bhagavata Purana, the Padma
Purana, various Agama texts, the Brahma Samhita, and other such
spurious and non-spurious texts. These simply had no authoritative
standing from the traditional Vedantic perspective.

This is in sharp contrast to Madhva, who in fact concocts Sruti
texts and uses obscure Puranas to support his point of view!

> Shall I continue? Note that they also agree on many other
> issues, but these are the primary issues that most
> distinguish them from non-Vaisnava groups. 

Please do continue if you wish, but please take care to understand 
Ramanuja's philosophy before you paint him with the same brush
as you do Madhva. It is insulting to Ramanuja to do so!


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