Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lost: does Alvar mean anything?

The Period of the Alvars:
 Sri Vaisnavism does not, however, base its authority solely on the Sanskrit Vedas, Agamas and smrti texts, but also on the Tamil writings of the Alvars. The twelve Alvar saints were born in different parts of south India and appear to span the dates 200 AD to 800 AD. Orthodox tradition, however, places the earliest Alvar saints at 4203 BC and the latest at 2706 BC.

The Alvars were mystic saints who immersed themselves in devotional experiences and expressed their divine experiences in Tamil verses that have been collection into 4000 stanzas call the Divya-prabandha or Divine Hymns. These sacred writings contain rich philosophical and religious material taken from the Upanisads, the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas and are accepted by many Sri Vaisnavas to be on par with the Vedas themselves.

The main teachings of the Alvars assert 1) that Sri Visnu along Sridevi forms the basis of ultimate reality 2) that self-surrender (prapatti) through acts of devotion (bhakti) is the means to attain salvation (moksa) 3) that service to God and godly souls is an essential duty for Vaisnavas 4) and that moksa or salvation from rebirth is the supreme goal of life.

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