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Harmony of Religions- Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasam of Tayumanavar (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAZ729
Author: Thomas Manninezhath C.M.I.
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publications, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 1993
ISBN: 8120810015
Pages: 193
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description

About the Book
The present work is an in-depth study of Tayumanavar, a seventeenth century poet-philosopher, mystic and saint of Tamilnadu. His profoundly philosophical hymns were the poet's creative response to the contesting creeds of his time, reflecting his own intimate religious and mystical experience of God, siva (sivanubhava).

The present study of Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasam as God-experienced by Dr. Thomas Manninezhath will no doubt; awaken a new interest in the hymns of Tayumanavar and the legacy of religious experience they bequeath to us. Religious experience (anubhava), supported by reason and enriched by reflection, has to be the meeting ground for the followers of World Religions today.

It is fascinating to see how Tayumanavar sought to bring about the harmony of two opposed traditions through a re-reading of his own tradition and a re-interpretation of the scholastic Advaita in favour of a more religiously inspiring popular Advaita.

The work illustrates how many of our contemporary concerns enshrined in such concepts as Comparative Religion, Ecumenism Religious Dialogue etc. were also a concern within the 'household' of Hinduism even as early as seventeenth century A.D. The author's interpretation of Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasam of Tayumanavar offers a unique basis for religious tolerance and co-existence even in our present-day context of plurality of religions and creeds. That, indeed, speaks: volumes for the actuality and relevance of the work.

About the Author
Dr. Thomas Manninezhath was born in Shertallay, Kerala, India in 1950. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Arts from the University of Bangalore. He took Master's Degree in Theology (M.Th) from Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram (DVK), Bangalore and secured a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from McMaster University, Canada.

At present he teaches Philosophy at DVK. He is the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy; Director of Centre for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) of DVK and the Editor-in-Chief of the international quarterly Journal of Dharma published by the CSWR, Bangalore.

Various religious traditions and philosophical systems have claimed the allegiance of mankind, both in the East and the West, in the centuries preceeding the Christian era and the centuries starting from it. More often than not, and most of the time, the tendency has been to oppose rival traditions and systems. Whether the mystery of life and existence is treated as a religious problem, or as a philosophical one, claims and counter-claims are made. The common endeavour has been to show not only that one's tradition or system is right, but also to deny the validity and value of other traditions or systems. However, sensitivity to the value of other systems in an incipient way is not altogether absent. The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed a change in the attitude of seekers of truth, whether in the field of religion or of philosophy. Dialogue is gradually taking the place of confrontation. The recognition of alternative standpoints in the realm of philosophy makes for a friendly approach.

In the present work, Harmony of Religions: Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasam of Tayumanavar, Dr. Thomas Manninezhath offers the findings of his deep study of Tayumanavar, a 17th century poet-saint of Tamilnadu. Observing that etymologically 'ecumenism' is derived from the Greek word 'oikos' meaning 'household' and is used to refer to the attempt to recapture the sense of one-ness among Christian Churches, he takes the word samarasam to be equivalent to ecumenism, as providing "a basis for intra-religious understanding and mutual acceptance within the 'household' of Hinduism, particularly between saiva Siddhanta and Advaita Vedanta". He contrasts scholastic Advaita and Saiva Siddhanta with these two in the context of religious experience. The term ‘Advaita' is significant as standing for 'unity-experience'. We may note that when this experience is sought to be set forth in words, perhaps it becomes almost inevitable to stress the One to the subordination or exclusion of the many or to see the many as irradiated by the One. Advaita is kevala (pure) or visista (qualified). Perhaps, it is wise not to revive controversies regarding the definition of terms like puma. Definitions are all right up to a point.

When Pope John Paul II visited India in 1986, a meeting of various religious leaders was held at Rajaji Hall in Madras (February 5th, 1986). At that meeting, the Pope earnestly talked about the momentous need for the meeting of religions and for a dialogue between them. He called for an encounter where religions come together in their quest for the Unknown, which transcends all comprehension. A true knowledge of the abyss surrounding the One is the goal of such religious encounter. In the soul-stirring religious poetry of Tayumanavar, the 17th century Indian mystic, poet-saint and philosopher, we can see a similar call for experiential knowledge of the one Reality as the point of convergence of various religious traditions.

To be successful, the meeting of religions and inter-religious dialogue need a definite penetration into the depth of the original source. In other words, religions meet, where religions take their foundations. Tayumanavar's call for religious harmony is authentic as it is an appeal to delve into that original vision of the Sacred Scripture and to dwell with the 'seers' of Truth, which alone is the basis for religious encounter. The meeting of religions is not a mere intellectual endeavour, but, a religious experience in itself. It is in this broader and deeper experiential perspective that I see the theme of Vedanta Siddhanta samarasam in the religious poetry of Tayumanavar.

Tayumanavar's perception of the unity of Vedanta and Siddhanta at the point of samarasam is described in this work as 'ecumenical', because the state of samarasam provides a basis for intra-religious understanding and mutual acceptance within the `household' of Hinduism, particularly between saiva Siddhanta and Advaita Vedanta. Etymologically, the term ecumenism is derived from the Greek word oikos meaning 'household' and the term has usually been used to refer to the theological and ecclesiological precepts and doctrines which attempt to re-capture the sense of oneness among Christian Churches. The terms ecumenism and ecumenical are used here in a descriptive sense to mean the spirit of openness which potentially also pro-vides for inclusiveness between religions.

The ecumenical theme of Vedanta Siddhanta samarasam is here studied by way of analyzing Tayumanavar's religious, mystical and philosophical hymns. The first two chapters are introductory. While Chapter One gives a brief biographical account of the poet-saint, Chapter Two examines the political, social and religious situation of Tamil Nadu, and other possible formative factors, which could possibly have influenced the life and thought of the poet-saint. A general analysis of his hymns is made in Chapter Three. Chapters Four and Five deal with Tayumanavar's understanding of Vedanta and Siddhanta. The most important point here is that his understanding of both Vedanta and Siddhanta is based on their original meaning as found in the Sacred Scriptures: the Veda, the Upanisads, the saivasamas and the Tirumurai (mystical and canonical works of saiva Tradition). The way, and the process, which this under-standing of both Vedanta and Siddhanta in the original sense as the personal mystical experience of the 'seers' of Truth leads Tayumanavar to interpret these two well-known traditions in terms of unity-experience which is discussed in Chapter Six. The bringing together of Vedanta and Siddhanta at the converging point of samarasam has vital significance for today's religious traditions. This idea, together with other observations resulting from this research, is spelled out in the concluding section of the work.

This study was made possible through the encouragement and support I received from my Religious Congregation (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate), Kerala, India, and the Diocese of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and my teachers and friends. I would like to express special thanks to my supervisor Professor Krishna Sivaraman, the distinguished scholar of saiva Siddhanta tradition, for sharing his expertise, beliefs and insights, and for generously giving me his time and attention to help complete this work. I am very much thankful to Professor John G. Arapura for his friendly accessibility and scholarly suggestions. A special word of gratitude goes to Professors Paul Younger and Gerard Vallee for their supervisory assistance and constructive comments.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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