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By far the most famous commentary on Nammalwar's Thiruvaimozhi is the Eedu, aka the 36000 Padi, which was composed by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai, father of Pillai Lokacharya. Now in the introduction to the Eedu, Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai lists 17 schools of Indian philosophy which either reject the Vedas or misinterpret the Vedas in his view. The first 16 are recognizable: the Charvaka school, Jainism, Vaibashika Buddhism, Sautrantika Buddhism, Yogachara Buddhism, Madhyamika Buddhism, the Nyaya school, the Vaisheshika school, the Pashupata Shaivite sect, the Samkhya school, the Yoga school, the Bhatta school of Purva Mimamsa, the Prabhakara school of Purva Mimamsa, Advaita, Aupadhika Bhedabheda, and Svabhavika Bhedabheda. But here is what he says about the 17th one:

These [last three] systems have accepted Brahman as the cause of the creation of the Lord and they accept the Vedas as authoritative. The system of the Ekayana (who accepts Narayana only without Lakshmi to be the Highest) holds that Brahman is associated with certain energies (responsible for creation etc., and not with Lakshmi as the creative energy). And that is its peculiarity.

Thus all these seventeen systems are outside (the authority of) the Vedas, or they have interpreted the Vedas in a wrong manner. And they are all futile.

My question is, what is this Ekayana sect or school criticized by Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai? And what were its beliefs?

Was it a Vaishnava sect which believed that Lakshmi was a Jiva as opposed to Paramatma? The Sri Vaishnava sect itself does not have a unified view on this issue; Thenkalais believe Lakshmi is a Jiva (a Nitya Suri to be precise), where Vadakalais believe she is Paramatma just like Vishnu. Now Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai lived before the Thenkalai-Vadakalai split, but he seems to have subscribed to the Vadakalai position on Lakshmi. So was he criticizing people who viewed Lakshmi as a Jiva?

Could this have some connection to the Ekayana Shakha of the Shukla Yajur Veda? That is the Shakha associated with the Pancharatra Agamas, which Sri Vaishnavas follow, so it would be odd if Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai was criticizing members of the Ekayana Shakha.

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  • If you l count the philosophies you have listed, Svābhāvika bhedābheda stands out as the 17th philosophy and Ekayana as the 18th. My opinion is that the translation and the lines in the brackets are incorrect.
    – dev
    Feb 4, 2021 at 5:19

1 Answer 1

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Namaskaram,

In my view it is a misconception to percieve Ekayana as Shakha of Yajur Veda. If that would really be the case, than issue with refutine of its doctrine by Vedic orthodoxy would never arise at all. Also there have been statements that Ekayana is even higher to Vedas considering aims. This means that Ekayana originally stood apart from four Vedas and its elements have been later incorporated to mainstream Vedic lore, just as in case of some other sampradayas.

In Vedic lore Ekayana Veda refers to Avesta of rishi Zarathushtra who discarded worshiping of many gods and established Ahura Mazda as only Lord worthy to be praised. Sanskrit renderings of Avesta is made known and currently utilized in reasearch.

Interesting to note, Romesh Chunder Dutt in his "A history of civilisation in ancient India" p.178 "Epic period. Book 2" translates "ekayana" as "ethics". Mazdayasna sometimes have been acknowledged as "ethical dualism" due to fact that fight between Good and Evil Spirits and man's free will to choose is one of central themes to a teaching.

You may search further information about Maga-Brotherhood, Sun temples and Samba narrative from Samba purana, and how all this relates to region of Kashmir to trace Avestan influence across Bharatavarsha. But this would require to apply kinda broader perspective to a subject. Also book named "Atharvan Zarathustra: The Foremost Prophet" by bengali brahmin Jatindra Mohan Chatterjee may help to clarify some issues.

Answering Your question, features of this tradition was, to name a few:

  1. There is one Lord to be worshipped, that can be aproached personally.
  2. Discarding compex Vedic ritualism which is incompehensible to common people and also forbiden to them to perform.
  3. Surrender one's will to that of Lord, resulting in expiriencing Bliss.
  4. Five-part everyday ritual.
  5. Inclusive approach - all classes were fit to worship.
  6. Ultimate reality is beyond compehension but has six qualities through which it can be aproached.
  7. Liberation as one and ultimate aim of life.

So answering Your another question "How Pancharatra tradition relates to Ekayana" - it seems that Pancharatra tradition stems from Ekayana Veda, by inheriting its core teachings and rendering it to Indian fold, later had been brought into accord with and assimilated within orthodox brahmanic context by Vedantic acharyas.

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