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Kasturi Rangacharya – Interpreter Of Thenkalai School Of Vaishnavism

Kasturi Rangacharya (born in 1550 CE) is an interpreter of the Thenkalai School Of Vaishnavism. He was also known Sriranga Suri and was a disciple of Manavalamamuni. In two of his known works, Karyadhikarana Vada and Karyadhikarana Tattva, he discusses the important differences between these two schools and declares his support for the Thenkalai School.

Karyadhikarana Vada is based on Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya commentary on the Brahmasutra, (4.3.6 – 15) where there is a discussion relating to the attainment of immortality through worship of Hiranyagarbha. Here, Badarayana rejects the views of Badari and Jaimini who hold that the worship of the highest Brahman leads to accumulation of merits leading to immortality, and asserts that those who regard that the selves are distinct, worship Brahman with proper knowledge of the relationship of cita and acita with Ishwara.

Kasturi Ranga deals with such worship in accordance with the Bhagavad Gita dicta which talks of Shraddha (faith) as the measure of devotion.

From the position of Thenkalai tradition, he analyses Shraddha in seven stages. Shraddha stands for

  1. The full apprehension of the great and noble qualities of God.
  2. Getting attached to God with such knowledge
  3. Regarding God as the ultimate end and fulfillment of our nature
  4. Thinking of Him as the only dear object of life
  5. Intense love of God and incapacity to bear separation from Him
  6. Absolute faith in God as the only means of self fulfillment
  7. Worship of God with such faith (shraddha, which is devotion according to Kasturi Ranga).

Kasturi Rangacharya asserts that the testimony of the old Dravida texts and also of the Bhagavad Gita is that those who attain emancipation through self knowledge attain the state of absolute immortality, i.e., kaivalya. This relates to the concept of kaivalya which consists in self realization as the ultimate end (atma anubhavakhyah purusartha).

Vedanta Desika, on the other hand, asserts that those who attain such a state of kaivalya will have to come back. Kasturi Ranga says that such a state is eternal. For Desika, mere realization of self as distinguished from all material objects is not sufficient, as it should be supplemented by the knowledge that the self is a part of God and entirely subordinate to Him. He draws a distinction between the realization of one’s nature as bliss and realization of the blissful nature of God. The former may come about without the latter.