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Pillai Lokacharya’s magnum opus


SRIVACHANABHUSHANAM OF PILLAI LOKACHARYA—Translation and Commentary of Manavala Mamuni; Critical Evaluation of the Theo-Philosophy of the Post-Ramanuja Srivaishnavism: J. Rangaswami; Sharada Publishing House, 2094/165, Ganeshpura, Tri Nagar, Delhi-110035. Rs.1950.

Srivaishnava philosophy of the post-Ramanuja period had an interesting growth. What was adumbrated by Ramanuja in his Gadyas received a detailed and categorical exposition at the hands of great teachers like Pillai Lokacharya and Vedanta Desika. The compositions of the mystic saints Azhvars received greatest attention during this period. Works highlighting the essential doctrines under the name Rahasya were composed in Manipravala (Sanskritised Tamil). This may be describe d as the golden period of the Manipravala style. Since many Sanskrit words do not have a correct parallel in Tamil, ancient writers resorted to this method of blending Sanskrit and Tamil. This gave the Tamil language, a rare charm and dignity. Pillai Lokacharya wrote 18 Rahasyas. Of these, the Srivachanabhushana, Tattvatraya and the Mumukshuppadi are important, and among them the first work is the magnum opus of the great writer. The credit of commenting on this important Rahasya text goes to Manavala Mamuni (1370-1444).


It has to be pointed out in this context that the Srivaishnava writings are in Sanskrit, Tamil and Manipravala. Understanding this literature requires special training. The present work embodying the Srivachanabhushana contains 466 pithy aphoristic statements. But for the commentary of Manavala Mamuni, this work would have remained unintelligible with its subtle layers of meaning. The central teachings of this work may be summarised as follows: the soul does not need anything but knowledge about its essential nature. It is always subservient to and dependent upon the Lord. It has to do eternal service through the mediation of the preceptors. It is the grace of preceptors that ultimately helps the soul to attain liberation.


The credit of providing an excellent, reliable and readable English rendition for this monumental work goes to J. Rangaswami. Here the original aphorisms of Pillai Lokacharya are given in Roman transliteration, using diacritical marks. This is followed by verbal (word-to-word) translation. Then comes the translation; this is followed by introduction (to the topic) and then a detailed commentary.

The translator has admirably succeeded in bringing out the essence of the original text along with the flavour of the commentary of Manavala Mamuni.

The value of the text is enhanced by the large number of useful indexes which include the original text of Srivachanabhushana in Grantha script; glossary of all the technical words, and index of works and authors.

We congratulate the translator J. Rangaswami for this commendable publication.

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