The traditional method of studying Vishishtadvaita
philosophy is referred to in Hinduism as Prasthana Chatushtaya. It is a fourfold
path of study. Though there are numerous books written by sages, devotees and
scholars, only a few of them are considered basic source materials. Other books
are considered expositions of the ideas contained in these books or secondary
literature based on these. The fundamentals of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy
have to do with Ishwara (God), chit (the selves) and achit (the world).
The ideas about these are presented in a pentad of concepts
called arthapanchakam. It consists of the knowledge of the self and God, the
obstacles on the path of realization, the method of achieving the goal and
finally the goal itself.
|Konark Temple in Odisha|
It is said that these are set out clearly and comprehensively
on Brahmasutra; Bhasya of Ramanuja on the Bhagavad Gita, the traditional Tamil
commentary on the Tiruvaymoli of Nammalvar (Tamil hymn literature); and rahasya
granth (esoteric texts).
These are referred to as bhashya prasthana (Bhashya life of
study), Gita Prasthana (study of the Bhagavad Gita), prabandha prasthana (study
of Tamil hymnal literature) and rahasya prasthana (study of esoteric texts).
Savants such as Kurukai Piran Pillan, Nami Pillai and
Krishna Suri have written commentaries on Thiruvaimozhi, and Vedanta Desika and
Pillai Lokacharya on rahasyams. One of these texts in each prasthana is followed
by people according to the inherited traditions. They recite and recall the
names of the lineage of preceptors both before the commencement and after the
completion of study.
The texts are studied on prescribed days and not on anadhyayana
(non-study) days. Commentaries, expositions and independent works on these
texts and subjects are read as general study works. Since the four books are
studied in such a traditional way, these are called prasthana chautstaya or
grantha chautstaya to be more specific.