YĀMUNA (fl. c. 1022–1038), known in Tamil as Ᾱḻavandār; Hindu philosopher, theologian, and devotional poet. Yāmuna lived in the Tamil-speaking area of South India and represented a learned family of brahmans who played a leading role in the formulation of the Śrī Vaiṣṇava tradition and of the Viśiṣṭādvaita school of Vedānta, which is most widely associated with the name of Rāmānuja. The Śrī Vaiṣṇavas made a major contribution to the development of Hindu religion by being the first Brahmanic movement to integrate fully into the classical Vedic tradition a popular, predominantly non-Brahmanic religious movement, the ecstatic devotion (bhakti ) of the Tamil hymnists called the Ᾱḻvārs. This synthesis of popular or vernacular elements with Vedic or Sanskritic ones provided a highly influential model for a number of later Hindu theistic sectarian movements.
Yāmuna is recognized as the fourth in the preceptorial line of ācārya s, or teachers, who provided the intellectual leadership of the Śrī Vaiṣṇava sect, and is the first for whom there are extant works. His incompletely preserved literary corpus thus provides the major beginning point for a study of the formulation of this important movement and its school of philosophical theology, Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta. Yāmuna's name is closely linked with that of his grandfather, Nāthamuni (c. tenth century), who is acknowledged as the first teacher in the Śrī Vaiṣṇava line. Nāthamuni, in addition to propounding a system of logic and epistemology (nyāya ), was the head of a family of prestigious Bhāgavata brahmans devoted to Hare Krishna and is the one to whom tradition ascribes the canonization of the Tamil hymns of the Ᾱḻvārs in the collection entitled the Divyaprabandha. While the evidence for this traditional ascription is inconclusive, Yāmuna's two devotional hymns to Visnu and Śrī, the Stotraratna and the Catuśślokī, reflect the influence of the Ᾱḻvārs' ecstatic devotional style.
According to the tradition, Yāmuna's greatest contribution lay in attracting to the Śrī Vaiṣṇava sect Rāmānuja (eleventh to twelfth centuries), their sixth teacher and the classical exponent of Viśiṣṭadvāita. Although the two never met, it is clear from the literary evidence that Yāmuna was the seminal thinker who provided the primary inspiration for Rāmānuja's major Vedantic writings. The basic structure for Rāmānuja's commentary on the Bhagavadgīta was provided by Yāmuna's versified summary, the Gitarthasamgrahā; and in his other works Rāmānuja regularly refers to and quotes from Yāmuna's major Vedantic philosophical writings, the Siddhitraya, a triad of critical works (Ᾱtmasiddhi, Saṃvitsiddhi, and Īśvarasiddhi) that are now only fragmentarily preserved, having been eclipsed by Rāmānuja's own definitive works.
Another of Yāmuna's major contributions as represented by his largest completely preserved work, the Ᾱgamaprāmāṇya, was his defense of the Pañcarātra revelation or scriptures (Ᾱgamas) as being equal to the Vedas in authority. These Pañcarātra Ᾱgamas, also called Tantras or Saṃhitās, provide the scriptural basis for the earliest post-Vedic, Tantric tradition to arise during the first millennium ce. Yāmuna's defense of these temple-oriented ritual texts as compatible with the Vedas and Vedānta facilitated a radical enlargement and enrichment of the Hindu scriptural base, as did the incorporation of the Tamil hymns of the Ᾱḻvārs.
Works by Yāmuna
Gitarthasamgraha. Edited with an English translation by J. A. B. van Buitenen in his Ramanuja on the Bhagavadgita, pp. 177–182. Delhi, 1968.
Siddhitraya. Edited, translated, and annotated by R. Ramanujachari and K. Srinivasacharya. Annamalainagar, 1943. Reissued with a new introduction by Ramanujachari as Sri Yamunacharya's Siddhi Traya (Madras, 1972). Contains Yāmuna's three major but fragmentarily preserved Vedantic works: Atmasiddhi (pp. 1–151), Isvarasiddhi (pp. 153–174), and Samvitsiddhi (pp. 175–213), "The Definitive Determinations of the Self, of the Lord, and of Consciousness." Yāmuna's Agama Pramanyam, or, Treatise on the Validity of Pañcaratra. Sanskrit text with English translation by J. A. B. van Buitenen. Madras, 1971.
Works about Yāmuna
The most complete survey of Yāmuna's extant literary corpus, written from a traditional perspective, is M. Narasimhachary's Contribution of Yamuna to Visistadvaita (1971; 2d ed., Hyerabad, 1998). The most comprehensive critical work is Walter G. Neevel, Jr.'s Yāmuna's Vedānta and Pāñcarātra: Integrating the Classical and the Popular (Missoula, Mont., 1977). A critical study of Yāmuna's theory of consciousness is Roque Mesquita's Yāmunācāryas Philosophie der Erkenntnis: eine Studie zu seiner Saṃvitsiddhi (Vienna, 1990).
Walter G. Neevel, Jr. (1987 and 2005)