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Traditional Method Of Studying Vishishtadvaita

The traditional method of studying Vishishtadvaita philosophy is referred to in Hinduism as Prasthana Chatushtaya. It is a fourfold path of study. Though there are numerous books written by sages, devotees and scholars, only a few of them are considered basic source materials. Other books are considered expositions of the ideas contained in these books or secondary literature based on these. The fundamentals of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy have to do with Ishwara (God), chit (the selves) and achit (the world).

The ideas about these are presented in a pentad of concepts called arthapanchakam. It consists of the knowledge of the self and God, the obstacles on the path of realization, the method of achieving the goal and finally the goal itself.

Konark Temple in Odisha

It is said that these are set out clearly and comprehensively on Brahmasutra; Bhasya of Ramanuja on the Bhagavad Gita, the traditional Tamil commentary on the Tiruvaymoli of Nammalvar (Tamil hymn literature); and rahasya granth (esoteric texts).

These are referred to as bhashya prasthana (Bhashya life of study), Gita Prasthana (study of the Bhagavad Gita), prabandha prasthana (study of Tamil hymnal literature) and rahasya prasthana (study of esoteric texts).

Savants such as Kurukai Piran Pillan, Nami Pillai and Krishna Suri have written commentaries on Thiruvaimozhi, and Vedanta Desika and Pillai Lokacharya on rahasyams. One of these texts in each prasthana is followed by people according to the inherited traditions. They recite and recall the names of the lineage of preceptors both before the commencement and after the completion of study.

The texts are studied on prescribed days and not on anadhyayana (non-study) days. Commentaries, expositions and independent works on these texts and subjects are read as general study works. Since the four books are studied in such a traditional way, these are called prasthana chautstaya or grantha chautstaya to be more specific.