Members of the Sri Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, especially the Iyengars (Sri Vaishnavas who are Brahmanas), are divided into two sub-sects, Thenkalais and Vadakalais. These two sub-sects both agree on the Visishtadvaita philosophy of Ramanujacharya that characterizes the Sri Vaishnava belief system, but they have several fine-grained but important doctrinal differences; my answer here lays out the main points of dispute. In this question, I asked about one such difference. Now I'd like to ask about another difference, described in this webpage:

  1. Regarding Kaivalya

    Vadakalai View

    • (i) Kaivalya is inferior to Paramapada

    • (ii) Kaivalya is not eternal

    • (iii) Kaivalya is situated Outside Paramapada

    Tenkalai View

    • (i) Accepted

    • (ii) Kaivalya is eternal

    • (iii) Kaivalya is within Paramapada but in its outermost parts.

This is also mentioned in this webpage quoting from a journal paper:

  1. Kaivalya (Isolation)-Moksa (or Soul-sight or Soul actualization; or the State of Atomic-aloofness).

    [Vadakalais] say that this state is temporary.

    [Thenkalais] say it is perennial. The soul wished for it, strove for it, and got it. What it got is eternal, by its own making. Where, then, is extrication from this state? Being a spiritual state, return to material planes is cut off. Being a soul-state, rising to Divine-planes or God-state is shut off.

For those who don't know, Kaivalya, AKA Ekatva, is a conception of Moksha where an individual completely realizes the nature of his Atma and achieves a state of abstract and impersonal self-actualization. It is the highest goal for followers of Adi Shankaracharya's Advaita Vedanta. Vaishnavas, in contrast, think that even higher than Kaivalya is the attainment of Vishnu in his abode of Paramapada. (According to Advaita, the individual's Atma is the same as Paramatma, but in Visistadvaita they're not the same, which means that an individual who tried to realize his Atma would fall short of attaining Vishnu.)

So the issue under consideration is, do souls who follow Advaita and attain Kaivalya ultimately return to the cycle of birth and death, or do they remain in Kaivalya eternally? Vadakalais say that Kaivalya is temporary and that souls ultimately return to Samsara where they'll have further opportunity to attain Paramapada. Thenkalais, on the other hand, say that souls who attain Kaivalya never leave it, and are thus unable to progress to the inner parts of Paramapada where Vishnu is.

So my questions are,

  • Why do Vadakalai Sri Vaishnavas believe that Kaivalya liberation is not eternal?
  • What arguments have Vadakalai Acharyas like Vedanta Desikan made on this subject?
  • Are there any scriptures that Vadakalais believe demonstrate the temporary nature of Kaivalya?
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    @Sai Well, it's different ways of saying the same thing. You could say that the Atma of the individual is the same as Paramatma, or you could say that there is no individual Atma apart from Paramatma. But either the core belief of Advaita is the notion of "Aham Brahmasmi" - if you look within yourself for the real Atma (as opposed to illusory selves), whatever that real Atma is, is Brahman. So Advaitins' goal is to realize the real Atma within them, since they believe that that Atma is Brahman. Mar 13, 2015 at 23:45
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    @Sai By the way, Advaitins don't dispute that Kaivalya is their notion of Moksha. They just don't believe that there is a greater state than Kaivalya. Visistadvaitins, on the other hand, believe that Advaita is wrong, and thus those that try to pursue the Advaitins' procedures of Jnana Yoga will succeed in attaining the real Atma within them, but it will turn out that that real Atma is not Paramatma. Mar 13, 2015 at 23:52
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    @Sai Well, according to Visistadvaitam, Advaitins will attain something they think is Paramatma, but it will turn out that it is not really Paramatma. So both Advaitins and Visistadvaitins agree that if you attain Kaivalya, then you will believe "I am Vishnu." The difference is that Advaitins think that that belief will be correct, and Visistadvaitins think that belief will be incorrect. Mar 14, 2015 at 0:09
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    @Sai OK, I added a parenthetical explanation as to how the difference between Advaita and Visistadvaita beliefs leads to differences about the nature of Kaivalya. You're right, considering that I'm asking a question about two Vaishnava sects and their disagreement about how bad the consequences are of following Advaita, it's important to ensure that I'm not offending followers of Advaita in the process. Mar 14, 2015 at 0:29
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    @iammilind I don't know what you mean by "perception is not ultimate". Are you making an epistemological claim about Pratyaksha Pramana? Or are you using the term "perception" to refer to some state an atma can attain to, or what? In any case, I'm not looking for the opinion of Advaitins like Jaggi Vasudev or Osho here. My question is about the Vadakalai sub-sect of Sri Vaishnavism. This is one of the subjects where Thenkalais and Vadakalis disagree, so in order to evaluate which side is right on this issue, I'm trying to find out what the arguments are for Kaivalya not being eternal. Oct 27, 2015 at 3:37


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