What happened at the beginnings of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta?—Part 2

Several distinct component are constitutive of what we now know to be Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta and are not present at the time of Rāmānuja:

  1. 1. The inclusion of the Āḻvār’s theology in Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta
  2. 2. The Pāñcarātra orientation of both subschools of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta
  3. 3. The two sub-schools
  4. 4. The Vedāntisation of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta
  5. 5. The impact of other schools

What happened at the beginnings of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta?—Part 1

The starting point of the present investigation is the fact that between Rāmānuja and Veṅkaṭanātha a significant change appears to have occurred in the scenario of what was later known as Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta (the term is only found after Sudarśana Sūri). The Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta as we know it was more or less there by the time of Veṅkaṭanātha, whereas in order to detect it in the oeuvre of Rāmānuja one needs to retrospectively interpret it in the light of its successive developments. This holds true even more, although in a different way, for Rāmānuja’s predecessors, such as Yāmuna, Nāthamuni and the semi-mythical Dramiḍācārya etc.

16th World Sanskrit Conference: A panel on the development of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta

Last week took place one of the main (or the main?) conferences for Sanskrit scholars, namely the 16th edition of the World Sanskrit Conference, of which you can read a short summary by McComas Taylor on Indology (look for it here). Marcus Schmücker and I organised a panel called One God—One Śāstra, Philosophical developments towards and within Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta between Nāthamuni and Veṅkaṭanātha. You can read the initial call for papers here.

Free will in Rāmānuja

As frequently observed, free will was not a main topic in Indian philosophy, and discussions about it need rather to be looked for either at partly unexpected places (e.g., within logical discussions about agency) or in texts which are not primarily philosophical and in their commentaries, most notably the Mahābhārata and especially the Bhagavadgītā. Nonetheless, a precious exception is offered by a passage in a 11th c. theologian and philosopher, namely in Rāmānuja’s Vedārthasaṅgraha, which focuses on a constellation of topics quite similar to the one Western readers are accustomed to.

Ontology is a moot point if you are a theist

A philosopher might end up having a double affiliation, to the philosophical standpoints shared by one’s fellow philosophers, and to the religious program of one’s faith.
This can lead to difficult reinterpretations (such as that of Christ with the Neoplatonic Nous, or that of God with the Aristotelic primum movens immobile), or just to juxtapositions (the addition of angels to the list of possible living beings).

A Vaiṣṇava who starts doing philosophy after centuries of religious texts speaking of Viṣṇu’s manifestations (vibhūti), of His qualities and His spouse Lakṣmī (or Śrī or other names), is in a similar difficult situation.

Anand Venkatkrishnan on Vedānta, bhakti and Mīmāṃsā through the history of the family of Āpadeva and Anantadeva in 16th–17th c. Banaras

When, where and how did bhakti become acceptable within the Indian intellectual élites?

Christianocentrism?

I am often inclined to think that some battles have been won and that people will, like Brian Leiter notes, ignore Indian philosophy, but probably also feel they should not. Then, sometimes I am brought back to reality, in this case by the introduction of an otherwise interesting book about the function of images in Christian theology. The blurb says that

“None other among the great religions has ever had a comparably deep relation to the images of God as the Christian faith […]”

(Nessuna delle grandi religioni ha intrattenuto con l’immagine un rapporto così stretto come quella cristiana, fede in un Dio trascendente e incarnato, eterno e storico, che, per questo e da subito si è posta come essenziale la domanda su come e dove vedere il «Dio invisibile».)

None, really? What about the so-called Hinduism? What about the importance of the localisation of deities in a precise icon in which God is not only re-presented, but actually present? Could not we stop using comparison to enhance the value of what we are doing? Could not we start saying that “Christian faith has had a deep relation to the images of God” without claiming what we do not know?

Theology in a community of believers in methodology? (On Ram-Prasad 2014)

Can one speak of theology without partaking a given faith and belonging to a given community of believers? Religious texts can be read as historical or literary documents, but can they also be read as theological ones outside a community of believers?