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Tengalai and Vadagalai Sampradaya of SriVaishnavas are well know and prevalent in India. There is one more coined by Ubhaya Vedantin Sri Rama Ramanuja Acharya (www.srimatham.com) of Australia to describe the different points of view of 'Doctrinal Differences'. We find resonance with these differences and accept the 'Metgalai' Point of View.
अष्ट दश भेद (18 differences)
1. The Nature of God’s All-Pervasion:
· Vadagalai: Everything in the universe is comprised of atoms which are the smallest particles of matter. What we mean by God being omnipresent or “all-pervasive” is that God pervades everything in the entire Universe except the jiva. The jiva is atomic in that it is the smallest particle of consciousness and subtle and as such cannot be permeated by God. If it were so, the jiva would no longer be subtle and would pertain to the category of a gross object.
· Tengalai: Not so ! God’s ability to permeate and pervade surpasses the human ability to conceptualise and to understand. God is the greatest of the great and therefore pervades the entire universe. He is also the subtlest of the subtle and can therefore inter-penetrate even the jiva. The power of pervasion is like that of genera which co-inheres in every individual of a particular species. For example “cowness” is present in every member of the species.
· Metgalai: We accept the Tengalai position as being more reasonable
2. The Nature of Lakshmi (Sri):
· Vadagalai: Sri has essential pervasion (svarupa vyapti), the same as Narayana. They are coeval in that they both share the same essential nature and together they form a dual entity with a co-operative identity. Lakshmi is completely Divine as per the teachings of Lakshmi Tantra, and the personification of the Mercy of Narayana.
· Tengalai: Sri has attributive pervasion (guna-vyapti) and corporeal pervasion (vigrahavyapti) — in other words she shares the same qualities or attributes as Narayana and shares the same manifest iconic form and pervades the universe. She does not have essential pervasion (svarupa vyapti). This means that Sri does not have essential divinity by nature as she is a jiva, but has the divine function of Mediatrix as a gift from God. The Mother-hood differs from the Father-hood and again differs from the child-hood. The jiva is the child who has attributive pervasion only; this means that the jiva shares the qualities of bliss, consciousness, existence, purity and eternality with Sriman Narayana. Sri is the mother who has attributive pervasion as well as corporeal pervasion — which is physical pervasion of the universe. The father is Narayana who has attributive, corporeal and essential pervasion — which means that everything in the cosmos is a projection of Sriman Narayana and as such is pervaded by Him from within and without. It is this pervasive character which differentiates between these three principles. The function of Sri is to mediate (purushakara) between the jivas and God. She is of the same nature as the other jivas but is Immaculate and without Karma, she is not subjected to Ignorance (avidya) and being such she is in a perfect position to act as the Mediatrix.
Metgalai: We accept the Vadagalai position as being more in accordance with Scripture (The Pancharatra Lakshmi Tantra). It is very hard to find Scriptural support for the Tengalai position on Lakshmi. There is a Puranic account of the birth of Lakshmi from the ocean of milk — being a descendant of the Bhrigu clan which would indicate her being merely a jiva who was accepted as consort by Narayana. But there is also abundant textual evidence of her being the Supreme Goddess, the Mother of the Universe the Primordial Being etc. The Tengalai position leads to “Spiritual Chauvanism” denying the inherently female aspect of the Divine. The Vadagalai position retains the concept of the Divine being a combination of both male and female principles which is more in accordance with common sense.
3. Powers of Sri:
· Vadagalai: Lakshmi has equal power with Sriman Narayana to grant liberation. In other words she too can serve as the Goal and the Means, one can therefore surrender to Sri only.
· Tengalai: Sriman Narayana alone has the power to grant liberation. Sri is the Universal Reconciler, the Mediatrix between the jivas and Sriman Narayana. She is not fully divine and therefore being a jiva herself, she has a natural affinity and compassion for the jiva. She also has an intimate relationship with the Lord and therefore is in a position to influence Him to grant liberation but she herself cannot do it.
· Metgalai: We again lean more towards the Vadagalai position on this. Perhaps Sri chooses not to act on her own behalf, but the Tengalai position is hard to support from Scripture.
4. Concerning God’s Grace (Prasada):
· Vadagalai: Divine Grace is co-operative, that is; it is earned through the performance of acts of merit (punya), it comes as a reward for the self-initiated efforts made by the spiritual aspirant. Sriman Narayana can use any excuse He chooses for bestowing Grace, but it does not come completely freely without some good deed on the part of the individual, however slight it may be.
· Tengalai: Divine Grace is irresistible it is the free gift from Sriman Narayana given to whomsoever He may choose. It cannot be earned in anyway through any form of spiritual or worldly practice such as good works, charity, sacrifice, worship, study etc. But we do agree that Sriman Narayana does use yadrccha sukrta (accidental good works*) as an excuse for bestowing Grace. *Accidental good works are deeds that have unintentional positive effects. For example weary travellers may use one’s veranda without permission for a rest. Or a man chasing a cow around a temple in order to catch it, is considered to have piously undertaken to circumambulate the shrine.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position.
5. Concerning God’s “Maternal” Love (vatsalya):
The term “vatsalya” which describes one of the qualities of the Lord, conveys the idea of the love of a cow for it’s calf. The cow in the stall bellows for it’s calf and out of natural love and concern allows the milk to ooze out even though the calf may not yet be sucking.
· Vadagalai: Sriman Narayana’s maternal love (vatsalya) for the jiva means that He turns a blind eye to one’s faults and ignores the transgressions one has committed (dosha-adarshitvam). Although He also continues to ignores all the transgressions committed after Prapatti, He still requires some atonement and administers some form of light punishment to the errant Prapanna.
· Tengalai: The maternal love of Sriman Narayana is so overpowering that He actually relishes (as it were) the faults and errors of the jiva (dosha-bhogyatvam), because they present Him with a pretext (vyaja) for showing more compassion and forgiveness. There is no need for atonement for transgressions committed after Prapatti.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position but caution against neglect of one’s spiritual practice and socio-religious duties (anti-nomianism) which is a possibility inherent in the Tengalai position.
6. Concerning God’s Compassion (daya) :
· Vadagalai: Sriman Narayana’s compassion is such that it produces in Him a desire to relieve the suffering of the creatures (para-dukha-nicakshire).
· Tengalai: Sriman Narayana’s compassion is such that He cannot bear to see suffering and it actually causes a vicarious suffering in Him.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Vadagalai position, because the idea of God experiencing any kind of suffering is anathema to his inherent perfection.
7. Works (karma yoga) and Gnosis (jñana yoga):
· Vadagalai: These two paths taught in the Bhagavad Gita are not a direct means (upaya) to God, they are ancillary to the path of Devotion (bhakti yoga), which is the principle means to Liberation. They are integral accessories to Bhakti Yoga.
· Tengalai: Any of these three means (karma yoga, jñana yoga or bhakti yoga) may lead directly to liberation if done in the spirit of Self-surrender (Prapatti). In each case it is the motivation and mind-set of the individual which is the determining factor.
8. Taking Refuge in God. (Prapatti):
· Vadagalai: Prapatti is a self-initiated act (upaya) like bhakti, jñana and karma Yogas and is therefore one among four ways or returning to Godhead, although it is the best.
· Tengalai: Prapatti is the method par-excellence and the only valid means. It is the means and the end and therefore not a ‘method’ like other Yogas (upayas).
· Metgalai: We agree with the Vadagalai position as again being more in accordance with the general spirit of the Gita.
Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position as this is more in accordance with the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.
9. Who should resort to Prapatti?
· Vadagalai: Those who are incapable of following Bhakti Yoga and other means because of caste restrictions or gender (women), or sheer helplessness or despair should resort to Prapatti.
· Tengalai: Prapatti is for everyone, be they capable or incapable of other means. Prapatti is the sine-qua-non of Salvation. To attempt to qualify it as better or worse and to compare it to the other means derogates from its greatness.
· Metgalai: Both positions are equally defensible
10. Conditions for taking Refuge: Bhagavad Gita chap 18: 66
Sarva dharmam parityajya mamekam saranam vraja |
aham tva sarva-papebhyo mokshayishyami ma suca˙ ||
· Vadagalai: This verse means: “If you are incapable of following other paths (dharma) as ordained by the Scriptures (Sastra), then give them up and surrender to me, I shall liberate you from the effects of all sins (Karma), fear not"!
· Tengalai: Not so ! It means: “If you are capable of following other paths (dharma) try as hard as you can. It is not capability alone that will save you. So why not lean on Me, rather than depend upon your own strength, deficient as it is"! The former is an attitude of self-assertion and self-perpetuation, the latter is one of selfeffacement and self-sacrifice.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position because the term used is sarva dharman parityajya — an injunction to abandon all self initiated attempts to achieve liberation.
11. Qualifications of Prapatti:
· Question: Does the development of qualifications (virtues) required for the other paths of Jñana, Karma & Bhakti Yogas also apply to Prapatti? * These virtues or characteristics to be developed are enumerated in Gita chapters 12 and 13.
· Vadagalai: Yes indeed
· Tengalai: No ! In fact they disqualify. The only qualification that is required is the feeling of complete helplessness and despair and the realisation of the jiva’s natural and essential intimate relationship with Sriman Narayana (Lakshmi Tantra chap 17; 70). This spiritual relationship is one of dependency on the part of the jiva and paramountcy on the part of Sriman Narayana
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position.
12. The Components of Prapatti:
· Vadagalai: The sixfold components of Prapatti are preliminaries for the reception of Divine Grace.They are: 1. A vow to live in harmony with the will of God. 2. Avoidance of unfavourable actions. 3. Implicit faith in the providence of God. 4. Supplicatory attitude. 5. Self-surrender. 6. Humility (destitution of means).
· Tengalai: Genuine Prapatti stands in no need of any prelude. It is the substantive per-se which engenders the afore mentioned six components. They are therefore not postulates but corollaries of Prapatti — in other words they follow Prapatti, they do not come before. The mere fact that one even considers taking refuge is indicative of the Grace of God.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position, the desire to surrender comes first, prompted by feelings of dejection and helplessness, and this can be done by anyone at any time or place without any regulation whatsoever. The Prapanna then undertakes to live in harmony with the will of God and to avoid all unfavourable actions etc. Over time one’s faith naturally increases.
13. Does Prapatti earn Grace?
· Vadagalai: Yes! In Karma Mimamsa portion of the Vedas, all actions are taught as having an imperceptible residual seed (apurva). So in the path of Knowledge (jñana yoga), Prapatti being the “seed” corresponds to apurva and matures to produce fruit in the form of Liberation. The Prapanna requests the Lord’s Grace through the act of Prapatti and Sriman Narayana accepts and responds to that request (svagata-svikara).
· Tengalai: Regarding Prapatti as a means of compelling Grace is tantamount to bartering with God! (“I will surrender to you if you will Liberate me!”) Prapatti is an act of complete and unconditional surrender and resignation which leaves God the master of the situation. Sriman Narayana accepts the Prapanna of His own free will, uncompelled and unasked (paragatasvikara). The so-called seed of Apurva is none other than the Grace of God.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position.
14. Penalty for a lapsed Prapanna:
· Vadagalai: If a Prapanna, subsequent to the act of Taking Refuge, lapses into error, the atonement consists of repeating the act of Prapatti again and again, as often as one backslides. Or one may also perform one of the several forms of atonement that are mentioned in the Dharma Sastras in order to propitiate the Lord and elicit His forgiveness.
· Tengalai: Not so! Prapatti is the act of Taking Refuge and freely and completely surrendering oneself to Sriman Narayana. It is done once and for all. This one act contains all the potential for redemption and therefore cannot be cancelled by a moral lapse, or subsequent acts of folly! The atonement for lapses consists of recalling to mind the saving Grace of the first efficacious act of Prapatti. This contrite repentance is enough, and the act of Prapatti remains in tact and unabrogated. There is no need for penances or atonement.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position
15. Varna-asrama — Caste and Social Duties
· Vadagalai: The duties and vocations (karma) prescribed in the Dharma Sastras and Agamas for each of the four castes (varna) and four stages of life (ashrama) are to be followed by the Prapanna in accordance with his or her birth in order to please Sriman Narayana and should therefore be strictly adhered to with that end in mind.
· Tengalai: It is presumptuous to think that the activities of the Prapanna such as caste or social duties actually
16. Concerning Caste Status and the Prapanna:
· Vadagalai: Even after Prapatti, the caste distinctions as per the Dharma Sastras are to be retained in respect of all Prapannas. A low caste Prapanna is to be given only verbal respect by Prapannas of the higher castes and they should never actually be treated like Brahmins. Sudras who become Vaishnavas are to be treated with greater respect than non-Vaishnava Sudras but never on a par with brahmin Vaishnavas.
· Tengalai: All distinctions of caste are to be disregarded after Prapatti and all Prapannas are to be given equal respect and treated with complete equality. There are no divisions of caste or status amongst the Prapannas — all are to be treated with equality.
· Metgalai: We most strongly agree with the Tengalai position on this one!please Sriman Narayana. They may or they may not, it is not for us to judge the effects on Sriman Narayana of actions initiated by ourselves. Prescribed caste duties and Dharma should be done as a way of setting an example to others and simply as service to God! Philanthropy — the welfare of all sentient beings (Loka-sangraha) should be the motive behind our actions and not the pleasing of God, which is audacity on the part of the Prapanna. We agree with the Tengalai position.
17. Concerning Grades of Bliss in Liberation (Moksha):
· Vadagalai: There are no grades of bliss whatsoever in Moksha.
· Tengalai: Some variation does exist, but it is not qualitative or quantitative. The variation arises in respect of the duties assigned to various Liberated Jivas (muktas).
· Metgalai: We agree with the Vadagalai position.
18. The Nature of Kaivalya Moksha:
· Vadagalai: This state of isolated Self-Realisation or state of Solipsistic Bliss achieved by the Yogis who follow the doctrines of Advaita and other impersonalist schools such as the Jains and Buddhists is temporary and can be a stage on the way to Final Beatitude consisting of dwelling in the Vision of the Divine.
· Tengalai: Not so! It is a permanent state. The individual yogi considered it, desired it, strove for it and actualised it. It is also accepted as a form of Final Liberation and there is no more rebirth for one who has attained Kaivalya Moksha be they Jain, Buddhist or Advaiti.
· Metgalai: We agree with the Tengalai position.