Seeing through Texts: Doing Theology among the Srivaisnavas of South India


Examines texts and commentaries in the Tamil-language SArivastradition of South India; about the general issues of text, vision, and narrative that such texts raise, and about the implications of these for a particular style of comparative theology.
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Examines texts and commentaries in the Tamil-language SArivastradition of South India; about the general issues of text, vision, and narrative that such texts raise, and about the implications of these for a particular style of comparative theology.
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Editorial Reviews

An analysis of the Tamil language songs of Satakopan in the 9th century and the commentaries by teachers in the 12th to 14th century Hindu tradition, combined with a considerate appraisal of comparative theology at the end of the 20th century. And though that description of the volume is accurate it does not convey the fascinating meditation on which Clooney embarks in the process of his writing; that is, what does an American, Roman Catholic priest have in common with the ecstatic poetry of India's 9th century. The journey to discovery is as interesting as the fine scholarship. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents



Chapter One:
Taking a First Look

I. Some Opening Questions

II. Getting Inside Tiruvaymoli

III. Pondering the Author: Sifting the Multiple Contexts

1. Locating Satakopan Historically

2. Finding Satakopan in his Songs

3. Satakopan Under the Tamarind Tree: Learning from


IV. Joining the Conversation: Tiruvaymoli and its Acaryas

1. Introducing the Acaryas and What They Thought

2. The Commentarial Conversation

V. Being a Reader of Tiruvaymoli, Now

1. Comparative, Theological Commitments

2. This Particular Venture: Seeing Christianity and

Srivaisnavism Together

3. This Theologian

VI. Where All of This Leads

Chapter Two:
Getting Inside Tiruvaymoli

I. Listening to the Songs

1. A Dubious Beginning

2. On (Not) Knowing Tamil

II. Thematic Resources

1. Some Major Themes

a. The Transcendent Perfection of God

b. The Gracious Acts of Divine Nearness

c. Holy Places where God Chooses to Dwell

d. The Beauty of God

e. Moral and Religious Appeals

f. Love Songs in an Ancient Genre

g. The Self-Understanding of the Poet

h. Expanding and Exceeding the Described Religious


III. Some Formal Components of Tiruvaymoli

1. How the Themes are Located

a. The Litany Effect

b. Form as Frame

2. Antati

3. The Formal Contribution of the Eleventh Verses

IV. Understanding Tiruvaymoli

1. The Direction of the Text

2. Understanding Tiruvaymoli: Reading Across the Text

a. Finding a Context: "Tall One"

b. Finding a Context: "With No Place to Enter, I Have

Entered Right Beneath Your Feet"

c. Finding a Context: Total Surrender

V. Theologizing Tiruvaymoli

1. Boundaries

2. Tiruvaymoli as Map

3. Desire in the Text

a. The Desire to Serve

b. The Desire to See

VI. Reading, Alone or with Others

Chapter Three:
Tiruvaymoli as Meditation, Narrative and Drama: Reading with the Acaryas

I. Satakopan:Anguished Soul, Best of Theologians

1. The Plight of Satakopan

2. The Perfect Theologian

II. The Theological Problem of Vision

1. Ramanuja on the (Indirect) Experience of God

2. The Acaryas' Reading of the Problem of Vision in Tiruvaymoli

a. Looking for God

b. On Not Quite Seeing God: Some Examples

c. Visualization

d. As Near as One Can Get to Vision

III. Tiruvaymoli as Meditation

1. Tiruvaymoli as the Act of Meditation

IV. Tiruvaymoli as Dramatic Narrative

1. The Preliminaries

2. Interpreting the Divine Silence: A Brief Theodicy

3. Resolution and Union

Chapter Four:
Five Ways to Think about Tiruvaymoli Following the Acaryas' Practical Response

I. The First Way: Tiruvaymoli in Correlation with the Three Holy Mantras

1. Smaller Correlations

2. Larger Correlations

3. Correlations with the Whole

II. The Second Way: Tiruvaymoli as a Guidebook to the Right Means to Union with God

III. The Third Way: Satakopan as Exemplar and Teacher of Surrender

1. I.1

2. I.2

3. V.7-10

4. VI.10.10

5. X.4

IV. The Fourth Way: Imagining the Ramayana and Tiruvaymoli as a Moral Scenario

1. Paralleling Tiruvaymoli and the Ramayana

2. Characters in Parallel: The Alvar and his Soulmates

3. Parallel Lives: Satakopan and Laksmana

4. Multiple Dramas, One Ending

V. The Fifth Way: Living Tiruvaymoli in the Community .

VI. On the Threshold of Participation

Chapter Five:
Seeing through Texts: Some Marginal Insights, Presented in Reflections

I. The Prospect from Here

1. What We Have Seen

2. Did the Acaryas Notice Everything?

II. Doing Things with Texts: Composing a Biblio/Biographical Self

1. The Desires of the Song of Songs

2. Encountering the Word in the Gospel According to St. John

3. Travelling the Journey of the Mind to God

4. Working Through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola

5. Hans Urs von Balthasar's Prayer

6. Contexts on the Other Side: Mimamsa and Vedanta

7. In Conclusion

III. Learning to See

1. Making Comparisons, Possibly

2. Toward a Systematic Theology—But Not There Yet

3. Telling New Stories: A New Story

4. The End of this Venture: Seeing It Through, Seeing Through It


Selected Bibliography

Index of Full Verses Cited from Tiruvaymoli

Index of Names and Subjects

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