Śrī Vaiṣṇavism

Śrī Vaiṣṇavism is rooted in the teachings of the Āḻvārs - a group of Tamil Vaiṣṇava Saints who attained the Ultimate Reality & Sainthood through a deep devotion to the Lord Śrīman Nārāyaṇa.

The Lords deep compassion to sentient beings is represented by Šrī – the Mother Lakṣmī. And hence - Nārāyaṇa is known as Śrīman Nārāyaṇa: Śrīman means – the Lord of Śrī and together they are known as Divine couple – Šrī & Nārāyaṇa.

Surrendering to the Lord in utter devotion or Bhakti is the simple means advocated by the Āḻvārs.

Nālāyira Divya Prabandham or otherwise called - Drāviḍa Veda – are very important holy scriptures in the tradition of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism.

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Śrī Vaiṣṇavism

Śrī Vaiṣṇavism

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Śrī Vaiṣṇavism
Nārāyaṇa & Śrī

According to Vedanta, the Absolute Reality or Godhead known as Brahman is the unitary source from which all manifestation proceeds.

Brahman is a Personal Being in terms of being characterised by infinite and expansive auspicious qualities and devoid of all imperfections. His nature consists of consciousness, existence, eternality, purity and bliss absolute.

This Supreme Being or Brahman is referred to in the Vedas by many names but the most prominent of them is Nārāyaṇa. It means The Ground of all Being.

In Śrī Vaiṣṇava theology the God expresses Itself assuming a dual Spiritual Form - Nārāyaṇa & Śrī Lakṣmī:

Nārāyaṇa with perfect justice rules the universe as Father, but Śrī (Lakṣmī) resides within His heart as the embodiment of Saving Grace - the Universal Mother.

Śrī Rāmānuja affirms:-

God has a divine form, which is both pleasing and appropriate. His form is inconceivable, indescribable, divine, eternal and immaculate.

Qualities of Brahman

In the Upanishads 5 attributes are revealed which define the essential nature of the Supreme known as Brahman:

1. Satya - Truth - The Godhead is not subjected to any form of change or modification, nor is It dependent upon anything whatsoever.

2. Cit - Omniscience - God knows the universe as it exists in Its own mind as an Idea before it came into being. It is absolute omniscience; perfect and unobstructed knowledge of everything as it is – past present and future.

3. Ananta - Infinitude - the Supreme Being is not subjected to any limitations of time or space; It is omnipresent or present everywhere at once. He is all-pervading.

4.  Ānanda - Beatitude - the Godhead possesses unsurpassable indescribable bliss and is also the essence of bliss.

5.  Amala - Purity - the Godhead is pure and immaculate and eternally free from all taints and imperfections.

3 & 5 Articles

Those who desire Mokṣa (Eternal Liberation) must understand the fundamental 3 Principles  and 5 Articles of Viśiṣṭādvaita doctrine.

The 3 Principles (Tattvatraya) are:

1. Cit – Sentient Beings;
2. Acit – Non-Sentient or Material Things;
3. Īśvara – the Blessed Lord, Bhagavān, Controller of All.

The 5 Articles are

1. the Lord or Supreme Brahman,
2. the Soul that must gain Him,
3. the Way to attaining Him,
4. the Goal of attainment and
5. the Hindrances on the way.

Whenever we think of this Nārāyaṇa, we must envision Him in the company of His consort Lakṣmī who is inseparable from Him and as one who is full of infinite knowledge and Ānanda (Bliss).

3 Mantras

3 fundamental Mantras of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism are –

1. Tirumantra /Oṁ Namo Nārāyaṇāya/ - the fundamental Mantra for devotional practice in Śrī Vaiṣṇavism;

2. Dvaya Mantra – - the Mantra for taking Refuge or Śaraṇāgati in Lord Śrīman Nārāyaṇa and His Divine consort Mother Lakshmi.

/ Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Chāraṇau Śaranam Prapadye
Śrīmate Nārāyaṇāya Namaḥ

3. and so called Charama Śloka Mantra – for Surrendering oneself and all his life to the Supreme Godhead – according to the verse of Bhāgavad Gītā, 18:66

sarvadharmānparityajya māmekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja |
ahaṃ tvāṃ sarvapāpebhyo mokṣyayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ ||

Giving up all duties, take refuge in Me alone.
I will liberate you from all sins, do not grieve.

5 Manifestations

The Divine Nature is not normally perceptible to the senses, but theologically manifests Itself in 5 forms;

1. The transcendental form: Para
2. Functional manifestation: Vyūha
3. Incarnations: Avatāra
4. Iconic descent: Arca
5. Indwelling witness: Antaryāmin

Para-Vāsudeva, The transcendental form of the Divine Nature is absolute, unconditioned and unlimited. It is self-existent and is not the result of anything else.

In the Bhagavad Gītā 11:52 the Blessed Lord said:

It is extremely difficult to behold this form of Mine which you have seen; Even the gods ever long to behold this form.  /BG 11:52/

It is impossible to describe this transcendent nature of the Godhead. The nearest description we can give is to refer to the Godhead as “an ocean of perfection and bliss.”

This form is located in a supreme transcendental realm called Parama-pāda (‘the Supreme Abode’) or Vaikuṇṭha (‘the unobstructed state’).

7-fold Practice

7-fold Practice consists of:

1. Viveka (discrimination)
2. Vimoka (non-attachment)
3. Abhyāsa (practice) –
4. Kriyā (ritual) –
5. Kalyāṇa (virtues) –

The moral virtues are:

5.1 satyam - Truthfulness.
5.2 ārjavam - Straightforwardness, honesty.
5.3 dayā - Compassion to all living beings.
5.4 dāna - philanthropy - the active form of compassion where an attempt is made to alleviate the sufferings of others with whatever resources we may have.
5.5 ahiṁsā - Non-violence in word, deed or thought to any living being.
5.6 indriya nigrāha - Control of the senses.
5.7 Kṣamā - Forgiveness.
5.8 tapas - Self-discipline.

6. an-avasadhana (cheerfulness)
7. an-uddharshana (non-exultation).


Šrī Rāmānuja was a great social reformer and he rejected social caste differences when it came to other Vaishnavas.

Garuda Purāṇa 219:6-11 says:

One in whom the 8 kinds of devotion are found, even if he be a westerner (Mleccha), is the best of Brahmins, a sage, illustrious, an ascetic, a Paṇḍit.

But I do not respect a Vedic scholar who worships Me without devotion.

One who is devoted to Me, even if he is a dog-eater (chaṇḍāla) is one whom I respect. He is to be given to and received from; indeed he is to be worshipped as Myself.

The great teacher Manavalamamuni quotes passages from the Mahābhārata to substantiate this:-

Those who have devotion to the Lord are not Śūdras; all devotees are known as Brahmins. In all castes those without devotion to Kṛṣṇa are Śūdras. One who looks upon a devotee of the Lord as a Śūdra, aborigine or outcaste because of their birth, will go to hell.