Article by : DR.A. Thiruvengadathan, source from 2003 edition Nrushimapriya English Magazine.
Indian Philosophy is a composite Philosophy made up of many systems of thought which though appearing mutually exclusive rest on a common base. All these systems follow a discipline of utilizing the Triple Books of Authority (Prasthanatraya) viz. the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavadgita. Srivaishnava (Visishtadvaita) Philosophy despite following this method enjoys a unique distinction of being called the Ubhayavedanta system – a system that draws its source and sustenance not only from the Sanskrit Tradition represented by Prasthanatraya but also the Tamil tradition represented by the Divyaprabandha or a collection of divine hymns of the Alvars. Though all the twelve Alvars are the contributors to the latter tradition, Svami Nammalvar is given greater attention as he is not only the central figure among the Alvars, but in a unique manner he has conveyed the essence of the four Vedas in his four works – Tiruviruttam, Tiruvasiriyam, Periya Tiruvantadi and Tiruvaymozhi. The last work enjoys a special status. Nathamuni respects it as Dravidaveda and as equivalent to the Chandogya Upanishad, theessenceoftheSamaVeda. Sri Ramanuja wrote a brilliant commentary on Vyasa’s Brahmasutras. This commentary known as Sribhashyais not only a homage to Vyasa but also to Sri Nammalvar, as Sri Ramanuja was literally guided by the hymns of the Alvar. (The view of Dr. Thibaut that Sri Ramanuja’s Sribhashya exposes the mind of Vyasa effectively is worth remembering in this context). In the Guruparampara tradition Sri Nammalvar represents the first enlightened and elevated soul after the Lord and the Goddess. The Alvar is thus rightly hailed as Prapannajana -Kutastha. Among the Acharyas Sri Ramanuja remains closest to us assuring us the grace of the Divine Couple.
Within the limited space a few examples can be cited to show how Sri Ramanuja built up the Visishtadvaita Darsana, first propounded by Bodhayana and his followers ofyore to its present form taking cues from the utterances of Sri Nammalvar. The crucial point in this Darsana is the Sarira – Sariribhava (the bodyandsoulrelationship).TheSupreme Lord is the in-dweller of the individual soul which in turn, is encased in the physical body. The in-dwelling Lord permeates the entire body and in a larger sense, the entire creation of His without let or hindrance, be it a mustard or a mountain. This feature called “parisamapya-vartitva” subscribed to by Sri Ramanuja is traceable to the hymns of the Alvar (Tiruvaimozhi (TVM) 1.1.78~10)
Sri Ramanuja fell out with his teacher Yadavaprakasaas his interpretatioin of the term ‘Kapyasam’ (Chandogya Upanishad 1-6) apart from being indecent ran counter to the views of the Alvar regarding the Lord as the abode of all lovely and lovable qualities. Sri Ramanuja emphasizes both in Sribhashya and in Gitabhashya that the protection of the virtuous (Sadhuparitrana) through personal appearance is the Lord’s prime concern, reflecting the views of the Alvar (TVM.3.19). That subservience (seshatva) to the Lord is the dominant quality of the soul pushing aside Knowledge and Bliss was the message of the Alvar (TVM 8.8.2) which Sri Ramanuja learnt from his teacher Sri Goshthipurna.
It was this deep indebtedness to the Alvar that prompted Sri Ramanuja bid his disciple Sri Kurukesa to write the first commentary on Tiruvaymozhi. Amudanar, an ardent admirer of Sri Ramanuja declares in his eulogium on him that Sri Ramanuja got enlightened only by paying homage to the holy feet of Sri Nammalvar.