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Anubhava Grantha In Vaishnavism

Anubhava Grantha are works that expound the experience of God. In Sri Vaishnava manipravala prose (a style in which Tamil and Sanskrit are purposely mixed) there are works on tattvas (categories), and rahasyas (shastra or siddhanta) which are distinguished from the works of the mystic’s experience of God (anubhava). The poems of the Alvars, collected as the Arulicceyal, are lyrical compositions arising from bhagavad-anubhava (the fullness of the devotees’ experiences of Bhagavan); they are the testaments of seers who witness the ultimate truths of human existence.

Nammalvar’s Tiruvaymoli is hailed by all later acharyas as the overflow of emotional experiences of Bhagavan, a self-validating work of revelation uniquely vouchsafed to the Chosen One. Commentaries (in the nature of exhaustive and allusive expositions) by acharyas of the inspired utterances of the Alvars (and notably those of Nammalvar) being responses of the authors to the outpourings of the seers (embodying also the responses of the audiences) are also known as anubhava granthas. They interpret the experiences of the Alvars and bring out their nuances. One understands all shades of god-experience against the background of religion, philosophy and legends subject only to the well-understood framework of devotion and surrender.

While the theoretical works on the ‘categories’ and the ‘doctrines’ lay stress on consistent intellectual formulations, the accent in anubhava granthas is on individuality of response in expounding the mystic experiences and the realizations of the categories and doctrines by the seers. Both the doctrinal and the expository experiential works together form superb literature, giving devotional instruction and enjoyment to the Sri Vaishanva community. God’s glories can be enjoyed directly by each individual but this enjoyment is made manifold by going through the medium of the hymns of the Alvars and their expositions, notably by great acharyas, collectively called Bhagavad Vishayam.