Sarva Darshana Sangraha
by Madhava Vidyaranya,
Chief Of Sringeri Math and Author Of Panchadasi
14th Century AD.
A compendium of all thought and 16 belief – systems that men have lived with over extended period,
that they chose over others for obtaining a life and values perspective to guide themselves through …
Chapter IV : Ramanuj‘s Qualified Monism
Before elaborating on Ramanuj’s wonderful amalgamation of Madhvacharya’s Devotional Dualism and Shankar’s Absolute Monism, the “Sangraha” author – Madhava Vidyaranya – takes the opportunity to rationally condemn the Arhat’s doctrine. He says … The simultaneous co-existence of existence, non-existence and other modes in a plurality of really existing things is an impossibility. Nor should any one say : Granting the impossibility of the co-existence of existence and non-existence, which are reciprocally contradictory, why should there not be an alternation between existence and non-existenc, there being the rule that it is action that alternates. Nor let it be supposed that the whole universe is multiform, in reliance upon the examples of the elephant-headed Ganesa and of the incarnation of Vishnu as half man, half lion ; for the elephantine and the leonine nature existing in one part, and the human in another, and consequently there being no contradiction, those parts being different, these examples are inapplicable to the maintenance of a nature that is itself multiform, as being both existent and non-existent in one and the same part (or place).
Again, if any one urge : Let there be existence in one form, and non-existence in another, and thus both will be compatible ; we rejoin : Not so, for if you had said that at different times existence and non-existence may be the nature of anything, then indeed there would have been no vice in your procedure… And so the Sangraha author’s acute observations go on to demolish the Arhat belief construct. He even mocks … “you have not proved what you wished to prove, a multiform statement (as both existent and non-existent) proving nothing. In either case, there is rope for a noose for the neck of the Syad-Vadin.”
And : “An admirable author of institutes has the founder of the Arhata system, dear to gods (uninquiring pietist), proved himself to be … when he has not ascertained whether his result is the settling of nine or of seven principles, nor the investigator who settles them, nor his organon, the modes of evidence, nor the matter to be evidenced, whether it be nine-fold or not !
“In like manner if it be admitted that the soul has (as the Arhatas say), an extension equal to that of the body, it will follow that in the case of the souls of ascetics, who by the efficacy of asceticism assume a plurality of bodies, there is a differentiation of the soul for each of those bodies. A soul of the size of a human body would not (in the course of its transmigrations) be able to occupy the whole body of an elephant; and again, when it laid aside its elephantine body to enter into that of an ant, it would lose its capacity of filling its former frame. And it cannot be supposed that the soul resides successively in the human, elephantine, and other bodies, like the light of a lamp which is capable of contraction and expansion, according as it occupies the interior of a little station on the roadside in which travellers are supplied with water, or the interior of a stately mansion ; for it would follow (from such a supposition) that the soul being susceptible of modifications and consequently non-eternal, there would be a loss of merits and a fruition of good and evil unmerited.”
The author says : The Arhat doctrine, therefore, as repugnant to the eternal, infallible revelation, cannot be adopted. The venerated Vyasa accordingly propounded the aphorism (ii. 2, 33), ” Nay, because it is impossible in one ; ” and this same aphorism has been analysed by Ramanuja with the express purpose of shutting out the doctrine of the Jains. The tenets of Ramanuja are as follows : Three categories are established, as soul, not-soul, and Lord; or as subject, object, and supreme disposer. Thus it has been said, “Lord, soul, and not-soul are the triad of principles : Hari (Vishnu) is Lord ; individual spirits are souls ; and the visible world is not-soul.”
Next follows a very fine series of arguments and counterarguments over Ramanuj’s belief system and that of Adi Shankar. The author brings their respective core affirmations face to face.
Others, again (the followers of Sankaracharya), maintain that pure intelligence, exempt from all differences, the absolute, alone is really existent ; and that this absolute whose essence is eternal, pure, intelligent, and free, the identity of which with the individuated spirit is learnt from the “reference to the same object” (predication), ” That art thou,” undergoes bondage and emancipation. The universe of differences (or conditions), such as that of subject and object, is all illusorily imagined uner the spell of ignorance. Existent alone was this in the beginning, One only without a second, and so forth.
To the Pure Monists, Ramanuj replies : All of what you say is about as profitable as it would be for a ruminant animal to ruminate upon ether ; for an entitative primordial ignorance is not more supposable than an absence of knowledge. For (we would ask), is any self-conscious principle presented, as an object and as a subject of ignorance, as distinct from cognition ? If it is presented, how can the ignorance continue since ignorance of a thing is terminable by knowledge of its essence ? If on the other hand none such is presented, how can we be conscious of an ignorance which has no subject and no object ?
If you say : A pure manifestation of the spiritual essence is revealed only by the cognition opposed to ignorance (or illusion), and thus there is no absurdity in the consciousness of ignorance accompanied with a consciousness of its subject and object ; then we rejoin : Unfortunately for you, this (consciousness of subject) must arise equally in the absence of knowledge (for such we define illusion to be), notwithstanding your assertion to the contrary. It must, therefore, be acknowledged that the cognition, I am ignorant, I know not myself and other things, is conversant about an absence of cognition allowed by us both.
Well, then the Monists may contend, let the form of cognition evidentiary of illusion, which is under disputation, be inference, as follows : Right knowledge must have had for its antecedent another entity (such as, illusion), an entity different from mere prior non-existence of knowledge, which envelops the objects of knowledge, which is terminable by knowledge, which occupies the place of knowledge, in as much as it (the right knowledge) illuminates an object not before illuminated, like the light of a lamp springing up for the first time in the darkness.
This argument, Ramanuj replies, will not stand grinding (in the dialectic mill) ; for to prove the antecedent illusion, you will require an ulterior illusion which you do not admit, and a violation of your own tenets will ensue, while if you do not so prove it, it may or may not exist ; and, moreover, the example is incompatible with the argument, for it cannot be the lamp that illumines the hitherto unillumined object, since it is knowledge only that illumines ; and an illumination of objects may be effected by knowledge even without the lamp, while the light of the lamp is only ancillary to the visual organ which effectuates the cognition, ancillary mediately through the dispulsion of the obstruent darkness. We dismiss further prolixity.
The Veda never sets out an inexplicable illusion. Nor (is the cosmical illusion to be inferred from the “grand text,” That art thou), inasmuch as the words, That art thou, being incompetent to teach unity, and indicating a conditionate Supreme Spirit, we cannot understand by them the essential unity of the mutually exclusive supreme and individual spirits ; for such a supposition (as that they are identical) would violate the law of excluded middle. To explain this. The term “That” denotes the Supreme Spirit exempt from all imperfections, of illimitable excellence, a repository of innumerable auspicious attributes, to whom the emanation, sustentation, retractation of the universe is a pastime ; such being the Supreme Spirit, spoken of in such texts as, “That desired,” “let me be many,” “let me bring forth.” Perhaps the word “Thou,” referring to the same object (as the word “That”), denotes the Supreme Spirit characterised by consciousness, having all individual spirits as his body; for a “reference to the same object” designates one thing determined by two modes.
Here, perhaps, an Advaita-vadin may reply : Why is there an absurdity (as the Sankaras would say), on the hypothesis enunciatory of the reality of the universe, in affirming that by a cognition of one there is a cognition of all things : for it is easily evinced that the mundane egg, consisting of the primary cause (prakriti), intellect, self-position, the rudimentary elements, the gross elements, the organs (of sense and of action), and the fourteen worlds, and the gods, animals, men, immovable things, and so forth, that exist within it, constituting a complex of all forms, is all an effect, and that from the single cognition of absolute spirit as its (emanative) cause, when we recognise that all this is absolute spirit (there being a tautology between cause and effect), there arises cognition of all things, and thus by cognition of one cognition of all. Besides, if all else than absolute spirit were unreal, then all being non-existent, it would follow that by one cognition all cognition would be sublated.
But Ramanuj’s tenets have no cognition of an ideated dissolution of Illusory effects evident as mundane, which the Pure Monists affirm is the fruit experienced by anyone who has realised his true nature, that is Brahman. It is laid down by the Ramanujas that retractation into the universe (pralaya) is when the universe, the body whereof consists of souls and the originant (prakriti), returns to its imperceptible state, unsusceptible of division by names and forms, existing as absolute spirit – the emanative cause ; and that creation (or emanation) is the gross or perceptible condition of absolute spirit, the body whereof is soul, and not souls divided by diversity of names and forms, in the condition of the (emanative) effect of absolute spirit. In this way the identity of cause and effect laid down in the aphorism (of Vyasa) treating of origination, is easily explicable.
The statements that the Supreme Spirit is void of attributes, are intended (it is shown) to deny thereof phenomenal qualities which are to be escaped from by those that desire emancipation. The texts which deny plurality are explained as allowed to be employed for the denial of the real existence of things apart from the Supreme Spirit, which is identical with all things, it being Supreme Spirit which subsists under all forms as the soul of all, all things sentient and unsentient being forms as being the body of absolute Spirit.
What is the principle here involved, pluralism or monism, or a universe both one and more than one? Of these alternatives monism is admitted in saying that Supreme Spirit alone subsists in all forms as all is its body ; both unity and plurality are admitted in saying that one Supreme Spirit only subsists under a plurality of forms diverse as soul and not-soul ; and plurality is admitted in saying that the essential natures of soul, not-soul, and the Lord, are different, and not to be confounded.
Of these (soul, not-soul, and the Lord), individual spirits, or souls, consisting of uncontracted and unlimited pure knowledge, but enveloped in illusion, that is, in works from all eternity, undergo contraction and expansion of knowledge according to the degrees of their merits. Soul experiences fruition, and after reaping pleasures and pains proportionate to merits and demerits, there ensues knowledge of the Lord, or attainment of the sphere of the Lord.
Of things which are not-soul, and which are objects of fruition (or experience of pleasure and pain), unconsciousness, unconduciveness to the end of man, susceptibility of modification, and the like, are the properties.
Of the Supreme Lord the attributes are subsistence, as the internal controller (or animator) of both the subjects and the objects of fruition ; the boundless glory of illimitable knowledge, dominion, majesty, power, brightness, and the like, the countless multitude of auspicious qualities ; the generation at will of all things other than himself, whether spiritual or non-spiritual ; various and infinite adornment with unsurpassable excellence, singular, uniform, and divine.
Venkatanatha has given the following distribution of things :
” Those who know it have declared the principle to be twofold, substance and non-substance ; Substance is dichotomised as unsentient and sentient ; the former being the unevolved (avyakta), and time. The latter is the near and the distant ; the near being twofold, as either soul or the Lord ; The distant is eternal glory and intelligence.”
Of these ” Substance undergoes a plurality of conditions ; the origiuant is possessed of goodness and the other cords ; Time has the form of years, etc. ; soul is atomic and cognisant ; the other spirit is the Lord ; Eternal bliss has been declared as transcending the three cords (or modes of phenomenal existence), and also as characterised by goodness ; The cognisable manifestation of the cognisant is intelligence ; thus are the characteristics of substance summarily recounted.”
Of these (soul, not-soul, and the Lord), individual spirits, called souls, are different from the Supreme Spirit and eternal. Thus the text : Two birds, companions, friends, etc. (Rig-Veda, i. 164, 20). Accordingly it is stated (in the aphorisms of Kanada, iii. 2, 20), Souls are diverse by reason of diversity of conditions. The eternity of souls is often spoken of in revelation, “The soul is neither born, nor dies, nor having been shall it again cease to be ; Unborn, unchanging, eternal, this ancient of days is not killed when the body is killed ” (Bhagavad-gita, ii. 20).
Otherwise (were the soul not eternal) there would follow a failure of requital and a fruition (of pleasures and pains) unmerited. It has accordingly been said (in the aphorisms of Gautama, iii. 25) : Because no birth is seen of one who is devoid of desire. That the soul is atomic is well known from revelation, ” If the hundredth part of a hair be imagined to be divided a hundred times, the soul may be supposed a part of that, and yet it is capable of infinity.”
And again : ” Soul is of the size of the extremity of the spoke of a wheel. Spirit is to be recognised by the intelligence as atomic.”
The visible, unsentient world, designated by the term not-soul, is divided into three, as the object, the instrument, or the site of fruition. Of this world the efficient and substantial cause is the Deity, known under the names Purnshottama (best of spirits), Vasudeva (a patronymic of Krishna), and the like.
” Vasudeva is the supreme absolute spirit, endowed with auspicious attributes,
the substantial cause, the efficient of the worlds, the animator of spirits.”
The worship of the Deity is described in the Pancharatra as consisting of five elements, viz., (1) the access, (2) the preparation, (3) oblation, (4) recitation, (5) devotion. Of these, access is the sweeping, smearing, and so forth, of the way to the temple. The preparation is the provision of perfumes, flowers, and the like appliances of worship. Oblation is worship of the deities. Recitation is the muttered ejaculation of sacred texts, with attention to what they mean, the rehearsal of hymns and lauds of Vishnu, the commemoration of his names, and study of institutes which set forth the truth. Devotion is meditation on the Deity. When the vision of the visible world has been brought to a close by knowledge accumulated by the merit of such worship, the infinitely compassionate Supreme Spirit, tender to his votaries, bestows upon the votary devoted to his lord and absorbed in his lord, his own sphere – infinite and endless, and marked by consciousness of being like him, from which there is no future return to the sorrows of transmigratory existence.
So the traditionary text : “When they have come to me, the high-souled no longer undergo future “birth, a receptacle of pain, transitory, having attained to the supreme consummation.”
” Vasudeva, having found his votary, bestows upon him his own mansion, blissful,
undecaying, from whence there is no more return.”
After laying up all this in his heart, leaning upon the teaching of the great Upanishad, and finding the gloss – Brahmasutra – on the Vedanta aphorisms by the venerated Bodhayanacharya too prolix, Ramanuja composed a commentary on the Sariraka-mimansa (or Vedanta theosophy). In this the sense of the first aphorism, ” Then hence the absolute must be desired to be known,” is given as follows : The word then in this aphorism means, after understanding the hitherto-current sacred rites. Thus the glossator writes : ” After learning the sacred rites,” he desires to know the absolute. The word hence states the reason, viz., because one who has read the Veda and its appendages and understands its meaning is averse from sacred rites, their recompense being perishable. The wish to know the absolute springs up in one who longs for permanent liberation, as being the means of such liberation.
By the word absolute is designated the Supreme Spirit, from whom are essentially excluded all imperfections, who is of illimitable excellence, and of innumerable auspicious attributes. Since then the knowledge of sacred rites and the performance of those rites is mediately through engendering dispassionateness, and through putting away the defilement of the understanding, an instrument of the knowledge of the absolute; and knowledge of sacred rites and knowledge of the absolute being consequently cause and effect, the former and the latter Mimansa constitute one system of institutes.
On this account the glossator has described this system as one with the sixteen-fold system of Jaimini. That the fruit of sacred rites is perishable, and that of the knowledge of the absolute imperishable, has been laid down in virtue of Vedic texts, such as : Scanning the spheres gained by rites, let him become passionless ; Not wrought by the rite performed, accompanied with inference and disjunctive reasoning. Revelation, by censuring each when unaccompanied by the other, shows that it is knowledge together with works that is efficacious of emancipation, in the words : Blind darkness they enter who prefer illusion, and a greater darkness still do they enter who delight in knowledge only ; knowledge and illusion, he who knows both passes beyond death together with illusion, tastes immortality by knowledge. Conformably it is said in the Paficharatra-rahasya : “That ocean of compassion, the Lord, tender to his votaries for his worshipper’s sake, takes five embodiments upon him. These are styled Adoration, Emanation, Manifestation, the Subtile, the Internal Controller.”
And : ” Cut is his heart s knot, solved are all his doubts, and exhausted are all his works, when he has seen the Highest and Lowest,” because he becomes one with that Supreme.
- Matter to Consciousness (vamadevananda.wordpress.com)
- On Different Definitions of Monism (sureshemre.wordpress.com)