I-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 8
Topic 8 - The right of the gods to the study of the Vedas
तदुपर्यपि बादरायणः संभवात् ॥ २६ ॥
taduparyapi bādarāyaṇaḥ saṃbhavāt || 26 ||
tadupari—Above them; api—also; bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa; saṃbhavāt—because (it is) possible.
26. (Beings) above them (men) also (are entitled to the study of the Vedas) because (it is) possible (for them also to attain Knowledge according to) Bādarāyaṇa.
In order to prove that the highest Brahman may be viewed as having the size of a thumb, it has been declared that the scriptural texts enjoining meditation on Brahman are the concern of men. This offers an opportunity for the discussion of the question whether also other classes of individual souls, such as devas, are qualified for knowledge of Brahman. The Pūrvapakshin denies this qualification in the case of gods and other beings, on the ground of absence of capability. For, he says, bodiless beings, such as gods, are incapable of the accomplishment of meditation on Brahman, which requires as its auxiliaries the seven means enumerated above -- This must not be objected to on the ground of the devas, and so on, having bodies; for there is no means of proof establishing such embodiment. We have indeed proved above that the Vedānta-texts may intimate accomplished things, and hence are an authoritative means for the cognition of Brahman; but we do not meet with any Vedānta-text, the purport of which is to teach that the devas, and so on, possess bodies. Nor can this point be established through mantras and arthavāda texts; for these are merely supplementary to the injunctions of actions (sacrificial, and so on), and therefore have a different aim. And the injunctions themselves prove nothing with regard to Devas, except that the latter are that with a view to which those actions are performed. In the same way it also cannot be shown that the gods have any desires or wants (to fulfil or supply which they might enter on meditation of Brahman). For the two reasons above we therefore conclude that the devas, and so on, are not qualified for meditation on Brahman.--This view is contradicted by the Sūtra. Such meditation is possible in the case of higher beings also Bādarāyaṇa thinks; on account of the possibility of want and capacity on their part also. Want and wish exist in their case since they also are liable to suffering, springing from the assaults, hard to be endured, of the different kinds of pain, and since they also know that supreme enjoyment is to be found in the highest Brahman, which is untouched by the shadow even of imperfection, and is a mass of auspicious qualities in their highest perfection.
'Capability', on the other hand, depends on the possession of a body and sense-organs of whatever degree of tenuity; and that the devas, from Brahma downward, possess a body and sense- organs, is declared in all the Upanishads, in the chapters treating of creation and the chapters enjoining meditation. In the Chāṇḍogya, e.g. it is related how the highest Being having resolved on creation, evolved the aggregate of non-sentient matter with its different kinds, and then produced the fourfold multitude of living creatures, each having a material body corresponding to its karman, and a suitable name of its own. Similarly, all the other scriptural accounts of creation declare that there are four classes of creatures--devas, men, animals, and non-moving beings, such as plants--and the difference of these classes depends on the individual Selves being joined to various bodies capacitating them to experience the results of their works, each in that one of the fourteen worlds--beginning with the world of Brahmā-- which is the suitable place for retribution. For in themselves, apart from bodies, the individual Selves are not distinguished as men, gods, and so on. In the same way the story of the devas and Asuras approaching Prajāpati with fuel in their hands, staying with him as pupils for thirty-two years, etc. (Kh. Up. VIII, 7 ff.), clearly shows that the devas possess bodies and sense-organs. Analogously, mantras and arthavādas, which are complementary to injunctions of works, contain unmistakeable references to the corporeal nature of the gods ('Indra holding in his hand the thunderbolt'; 'Indra lifted the thunderbolt', etc.); and as the latter is not contradicted by any other means of proof it must be accepted on the authority stated. Nor can it be said that those mantras and arthavādas are really meant to express something else (than those details mentioned above), in so far, namely, as they aim at proclaiming or glorifying the action with which they are connected; for those very details subserve the purpose of glorification, and so on, and without them glorification is not possible. For we praise or glorify a thing by declaring its qualities; if such qualities do not exist all glorification lapses. It cannot by any means be maintained that anything may be glorified by the proclamation of its qualities, even if such qualities do not really exist. Hence the arthavādas which glorify a certain action, just thereby intimate the real existence of the qualities and details of the action. The mantras again, which are prescribed in connexion with the actions, serve the purpose of throwing light on the use to be derived from the performance of the actions, and this they accomplish by making statements as to the particular qualities, such as embodiment and the like, which belong to the devas and other classes of beings. Otherwise Indra, and so on, would not be remembered at the time of performance; for the idea of a divinity presents itself to the mind only in connexion with the special attributes of that divinity. In the case of such qualities as are not established by other means of proof, the primary statement is made by the arthavāda or the mantra: the former thereby glorifies the action, and the latter proclaims it as possessing certain qualities or details; and both these ends are accomplished by making statements as to the gods, etc., possessing certain qualities, such as embodiment and the like. In the case, again, of certain qualities being already established by other means of proof, the mantras and arthavādas merely refer to them (as something already known), and in this way perform their function of glorification and elucidation. And where, thirdly, there is a contradiction between the other means of knowledge and what mantras and arthavādas state (as when, e.g. a text of the latter kind says that 'the sacrificial post is the sun'), the intention of the text is metaphorically to denote, by means of those apparently unmeaning terms, certain other qualities which are not excluded by the other means of knowledge; and in this way the function of glorification and elucidation is again accomplished. Now what the injunction of a sacrificial action demands as its supplement, is a statement as to the power of the divinity to whom the sacrifice is offered; for the performance which scripture enjoins on men desirous of certain results, is itself of a merely transitory nature, and hence requires some agent capable of bringing about, at some future time, the result desired as, e.g. the heavenly world. 'Vāyu is the swiftest god; he (the sacrificer) approaches Vāyu with his own share; the god then leads him to prosperity' (Taitt. Samh. I, 2, 1); 'What he seeks by means of that offering, may he obtain that, may he prosper therein, may the gods favourably grant him that' (Taitt. Br. III, 5, 10, 5); these and similar arthavādas and mantras intimate that the gods when propitiated by certain sacrificial works, give certain rewards and possess the power to do so; and they thus connect themselves with the general context of scripture as supplying an evidently required item of information. Moreover, the mere verb 'to sacrifice' (Yāg), as denoting worship of the gods, intimates the presence of a deity which is to be propitiated by the action called sacrifice, and thus constitutes the main element of that action. A careful consideration of the whole context thus reveals that everything which is wanted for the due accomplishment of the action enjoined is to be learned from the text itself, and that hence we need not have recourse to such entities as the 'unseen principle' (apūrva), assumed to be denoted by, or to be imagined in connexion with, the passages enjoining certain actions. Hence the dharma śāstras, Itihāsas, and Purāṇas also, which are founded on the different brāhmaṇas, mantras and arthavādas, clearly teach that Brahma and the other gods, as well as the Asuras and other superhuman beings, have bodies and sense-organs, constitutions of different kinds, different abodes, enjoyments, and functions.--Owing to their having bodies, the gods therefore are also qualified for meditation on Brahman.
विरोधः कर्मणीति चेत्, न, अनेकप्रतिपत्तेर्दर्शनात् ॥ २७ ॥
virodhaḥ karmaṇīti cet, na, anekapratipatterdarśanāt || 27 ||
virodhaḥ—Contradiction; karmaṇi—to sacrifices; iti cet—if it be said; na—not; aneka-pratipatteḥ—the assumption of many (forms); darśanāt—because it is found (in the scriptures).
27. If it be said (that the corporeality of the gods would involve) a contradiction to sacrifices; (we say) no, because we find (in the scriptures) the assumption (by the, gods) of many (forms at one and the same time).
An objection here presents itself. If we admit the gods to have bodies, a difficulty arises at the sacrifices, as it is impossible that one and the same corporeal Indra--who is at the same time invited by many sacrificers 'come, O Indra', 'come, O Lord of the red horses,' etc.--should be present at all those places. And that the gods, Agni and so on, really do come to the sacrifices is proved by the following scriptural text: 'To whose sacrifice do the gods go, and to whose not? He who first receives the gods, sacrifices to them on the following day' (Taitt. Samh. I, 6, 7, 1). In refutation of this objection the Sūtra points out that there is seen, i.e. recorded, the assumption of several bodies at the same time, on the part of beings endowed with special powers, such as Saubhari.
शब्द इति चेत्, न, अतः प्रभवात् प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम् ॥ २८ ॥
śabda iti cet, na, ataḥ prabhavāt pratyakṣānumānābhyām || 28 ||
śabde—With regard to (Vedic) words; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; ataḥ—from these (words); prabhavāt—because of the creation; pratyakṣa-anumānābhyām—from direct perception.
28. If it be said (that the corporeality of the gods would involve a contradiction) with regard to (Vedic) words, (we say) no, because of the creation (of the world together with the gods) from these (words), (as is known) from direct perception (Śruti) and inference (Smriti).
Well then let us admit that there is no difficulty as far as sacrifices are concerned, for the reason stated in the preceding Sūtra. But another difficulty presents itself with regard to the words of which the Veda consists. For if Indra and the other gods are corporeal beings, it follows that they are made up of parts and hence non-permanent. This implies either that the Vedic words denoting them--not differing therein from common worldly words such as Devadatta--are totally devoid of meaning during all those periods which precede the origination of the beings called Indra and so on, or follow on their destruction; or else that the Veda itself is non-permanent, non-eternal.--This objection is not valid, the Sūtra points out, for the reason that those beings, viz. Indra and so on, again and again originate from the Vedic words. To explain Vedic words, such as Indra and so on, do not, like the word Devadatta and the like, denote, on the basis of convention, one particular individual only: they rather denote by their own power particular species of beings, just as the word 'cow' denotes a particular species of animals. When therefore a special individual of the class called Indra has perished, the creator, apprehending from the Vedic word 'Indra' which is present to his mind the class characteristics of the beings denoted by that word, creates another Indra possessing those very same characteristics; just as the potter fashions a new jar, on the basis of the word 'jar' which is stirring in his mind.--But how is this known?--'Through perception and inference,' i.e. through Scripture and Smriti. Scripture says, e.g. 'By means of the Veda Prajāpati evolved names and forms, the being and the non-being'; and 'Saying "Bhūḥ" (earth) he created the earth; saying "Bhuvaḥ" he created the air,' and so on; which passages teach that the creator at first bethinks himself of the characteristic make of a thing, in connexion with the word denoting it, and thereupon creates an individual thing characterised by that make. Smriti makes similar statements; compare, e.g. 'In the beginning there was sent forth by the creator, divine speech--beginningless and endless--in the form of the Veda, and from it there originated all creatures'; and 'He, in the beginning, separately created from the words of the Veda the names and works and shapes of all things'; and 'The names and forms of beings, and all the multiplicity of works He in the beginning created from the Veda.' This proves that from the corporeality of the gods, and so on, it follows neither that the words of the Veda are unmeaning nor that the Veda itself is non-eternal.
अत एव च नित्यत्वम् ॥ २९ ॥
ata eva ca nityatvam || 29 ||
ata-eva—From this very reason; ca—also; nityatvam—the eternity.
29. From this very reason also (results) the eternity (of the Vedas).
As words such as Indra and Vāsishṭha, which denote gods and Rishis, denote (not individuals only, but) classes, and as the creation of those beings is preceded by their being suggested to the creative mind through those words; for this reason the eternity of the Veda admits of being reconciled with what scripture says about the mantras and kānḍas (sections) of the sacred text having 'makers' and about Rishis seeing the hymns; cp. such passages as 'He chooses the makers of mantras'; 'Reverence to the Rishis who are the makers of mantras'; 'That is Agni; this is a hymn of Viśvāmitra.' For by means of these very texts Prajāpati presents to his own mind the characteristics and powers of the different Rishis who make the different sections, hymns, and mantras, thereupon creates them endowed with those characteristics and powers, and appoints them to remember the very same sections, hymns, etc. The Rishis being thus gifted by Prajāpati with the requisite powers, undergo suitable preparatory austerities and finally see the mantras, and so on, proclaimed by the Vasiṣṭhas and other Rishis of former ages of the world, perfect in all their sounds and accents, without having learned them from the recitation of a teacher. There is thus no conflict between the eternity of the Veda and the fact that the Rishis are the makers of its sections, hymns, and so on. A further objection is raised. Let it be admitted that after each pralaya of the kind called 'contingent' (naimittika), Prajāpati may proceed to create new Indras, and so on, in the way of remembering on the basis of the Veda the Indras, and so on, of preceding periods. In the case, on the other hand, of a pralaya of the kind called elemental (Prākṛtika), in which the creator, Prajāpati himself, and words--which are the effects of the elemental Ahaṁkāra--pass away, what possibility is there of Prajāpati undertaking a new creation on the basis of Vedic words, and how can we speak of the permanency of a Veda which perishes? He who maintains the eternity of the Veda and the corporeality of gods, and so on, is thus really driven to the hypothesis of the course of mundane existence being without a beginning (i.e. not preceded by a pralaya).--Of this difficulty the next Sūtra disposes.
समाननामरूपत्वाच्चावृत्तावप्यविरोधो दर्शनात् स्मृतेश्च ॥ ३० ॥
samānanāmarūpatvāccāvṛttāvapyavirodho darśanāt smṛteśca || 30 ||
samāna-nāmarūpatvāt—Because of similar names and forms; ca—and; āvṛttau—in the revolving of the world cycles; api—even; avirodhaḥ—no contradiction; darśanāt—from the Śruti; smṛteḥ—from the Smriti; ca—and.
30. And because of the sameness of names and forms (in every fresh cycle) there is no contradiction (to the eternity of the Vedic words) even in the revolving of the world cycles, as is seen from the Śruti and the Smriti.
On account of the sameness of names and forms, as stated before, there is no difficulty in the way of the origination of the world, even in the case of total pralayas. For what actually takes place is as follows. When the period of a great pralaya draws towards its close, the divine supreme Person, remembering the constitution of the world previous to the pralaya, and forming the volition 'May I become manifold' separates into its constituent elements the whole mass of enjoying souls and objects of enjoyment which, during the pralaya state, had been merged in him so as to possess a separate existence (not actual but) potential only, and then emits the entire world just as it had been before, from the so-called Mahat down to the Brahman-egg, and Hiraṇyagarbha (Prajāpati). Having thereupon manifested the Vedas in exactly the same order and arrangement they had had before, and having taught them to Hiraṇyagarbha, he entrusts to him the new creation of the different classes of beings, gods, and so on, just as it was before; and at the same time abides himself within the world so created as its inner Self and Ruler. This view of the process removes all difficulties. The superhuman origin and the eternity of the Veda really mean that intelligent agents having received in their minds an impression due to previous recitations of the Veda in a fixed order of words, chapters, and so on, remember and again recite it in that very same order of succession. This holds good both with regard to us men and to the highest Lord of all; there however is that difference between the two cases that the representations of the Veda which the supreme Person forms in his own mind are spontaneous, not dependent on an impression previously made.
To the question whence all this is known, the Sūtra replies 'from Scripture and Smriti.' The scriptural passage is 'He who first creates Brahmā and delivers the Vedas to him' (Svet. Up. VI, 18). And as to Smriti we have the following statement in Manu, 'This universe existed in the shape of darkness, etc.-- He desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters and placed his seed in them. That seed became a golden egg equal to the sun in brilliancy; in that he himself was born as Brahmā, the progenitor of the whole world' (Manu I, 5; 8-9). To the same effect are the texts of the Paurāṇikas, 'From the navel of the sleeping divinity there sprung up a lotus, and in that lotus there was born Brahma fully knowing all Vedas and Vedāngas. And then Brahmā was told by him (the highest Divinity), 'Do thou create all beings, O Great-minded one'; and the following passage, 'From the highest Nārāyaṇa there was born the Four-faced one.'--And in the section which begins 'I will tell the original creation,' we read 'Because having created water (nāra) I abide within it, therefore my name shall be Nārāyaṇa. There I lie asleep in every Kalpa, and as I am sleeping there springs from my navel a lotus, and in that lotus there is born the Four-faced one, and I tell him "Do thou, Great-minded one, create all beings."'
--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the deities.'
मध्वादिष्वसम्भवादनधिकारं जैमिनिः ॥ ३१ ॥
madhvādiṣvasambhavādanadhikāraṃ jaiminiḥ || 31 ||
madhvādiṣu—In Madhu Vidyâ etc.; asambhavāt—on account of the impossibility; anadhikāraṃ—disqualification; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini (is of opinion).
31. On account of the impossibility (of the gods) being qualified for Madhu Vidyā etc. Jaimini (is of opinion that the gods) are not qualified (either for Upāsanās or for the knowledge of Brahman).
So far it has been proved that also the gods, and so on, are qualified for the knowledge of Brahman. But a further point here presents itself for consideration, viz. whether the gods are qualified or not to undertake those meditations of which they themselves are the objects. The Sūtra states as a pūrva pakṣa view held by Jaimini, that they are not so qualified, for the reason that there are no other Ādityas, Vasus, and so on, who could be meditated on by the Ādityas and Vasus themselves; and that moreover for the Ādityas and Vasus the qualities and position of those classes of deities cannot be objects of desire, considering that they possess them already. The so-called Madhuvidyā (Kh. Up. III) represents as objects of devout meditation certain parts of the sun which are being enjoyed by the different classes of divine beings, Vasus, Ādityas, and so on--the sun being there called 'madhu.' i.e. honey or nectar, on account of his being the abode of a certain nectar to be brought about by certain sacrificial works to be known from the Rig-Veda, and so on; and as the reward of such meditation the text names the attainment of the position of the Vasus, Ādityas, and so on.
योतिषि भावाच्च ॥ ३२॥
jyotiṣi bhāvācca || 3२ ||
jyotiṣi—As mere spheres of light; bhāvāt—because (used) in the sense; ca—and.
32. And (the gods are not qualified for Vidyās) because (the words ‘sun’, ‘moon’, etc., spoken of as gods) are used in the sense of mere spheres of light.
'Him the devas meditate upon as the light of lights, as immortal time' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 16). This text declares that the meditation of the gods has for its object the Light, i.e. the highest Brahman. Now this express declaration as to the gods being meditating devotees with regard to meditations on Brahman which are common to men and gods, implies a denial of the gods being qualified for meditations on other objects. The conclusion therefore is that the Vasus, and so on, are not qualified for meditations on the Vasus and other classes of deities.
भावं तु बादरायणः, अस्ति हि ॥ ३३ ॥
bhāvaṃ tu bādarāyaṇaḥ, asti hi || 3३ ||
bhāvaṃ—The existence (of qualification); tu—but; vādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa (maintains); asti—does exist; hi—because.
33. But Bādarāyaṇa (maintains) the existence (of qualification on the part of the gods for the knowledge of Brahman), because (all those causes like body, desires, etc., which qualify one for such knowledge) do exist (in the case of the gods).
The Reverend Bādarāyaṇa thinks that the Ādityas, Vasus, and so on, are also qualified for meditations on divinities. For it is in their case also possible that their attainment of Brahman should be viewed as preceded by their attainment of Vasu-hood or Āditya-hood, in so far, namely, as they meditate on Brahman as abiding within themselves. They may be Vasus and Ādityas in the present age of the world, but at the same time be desirous of holding the same position in future ages also. In the Madhuvidyā we have to distinguish two sections, concerned respectively with Brahman in its causal and its effected state. The former section, extending from the beginning up to 'when from thence he has risen upwards,' enjoins meditation on Brahman in its condition as effect, i.e. as appearing in the form of creatures such as the Vasus, and so on; while the latter section enjoins meditation on the causal Brahman viewed as abiding within the sun as its inner Self. The purport of the whole vidyā is that he who meditates on Brahman in this its twofold form will in a future age of the world enjoy Vasu-hood, and will finally attain Brahman in its causal aspect, i.e. the very highest Brahman. From the fact that the text, 'And indeed to him who thus knows the Brahma-Upanishad. the sun does not rise and does not set; for him there is day once and for all,' calls the whole Madhuvidyā a 'Brahma'--Upanishad, and that the reward declared is the attainment of Vasu-hood, and so on, leading up to the attainment of Brahman, we clearly are entitled to infer that the meditations which the text enjoins, viz. on the different parts of the sun viewed as objects of enjoyment for the Vasus, and so on, really are meant as meditations on Brahman as abiding in those different forms. Meditation on the Vasus and similar beings is thus seen to be possible for the Vasus themselves. And as Brahman really constitutes the only object of meditation, we also see the appropriateness of the text discussed above, 'On him the gods meditate as the light of lights.' The Vrittikāra expresses the same opinion, 'For there is possibility with regard to the Madhu-vidyā, and so on, Brahman only being the object of meditation everywhere.'--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'honey.'
The Sūtras now enter on a discussion of the question whether the Śūdras also are qualified for the knowledge of Brahman.
The Pūrvapakshin maintains that they are so qualified; for qualification, he says, depends on want and capacity, and both these are possible in the case of Śūdras also. The Śūdra is not indeed qualified for any works depending on a knowledge of the sacred fires, for from such knowledge he is debarred; but he possesses qualification for meditation on Brahman, which after all is nothing but a certain mental energy. The only works prerequisite for meditation are those works which are incumbent on a man as a member of a caste or āśrama, and these consist, in the Śūdra’s case, in obedience to the higher castes. And when we read 'therefore the Śūdra is not qualified for sacrifices,' the purport of this passage is only to make a confirmatory reference to something already settled by reason, viz. that the Śūdra is not qualified for the performance of sacrifices which cannot be accomplished by one not acquainted with the sacred fires (and not to deny the Śūdra’s competence for devout meditation).--But how can meditation on Brahman be undertaken by a man who has not studied the Vedas, inclusive of the Vedānta, and hence knows nothing about the nature of Brahman and the proper modes of meditation?--Those also, we reply, who do not study Veda and Vedānta may acquire the requisite knowledge by hearing Itihāsas and Purāṇas; and there are texts which allow Śūdras to become acquainted with texts of that kind; cp. e.g. 'one is to make the four castes to hear texts, the Brāhmaṇa coming first.' Moreover, those Purāṇas and Itihāsas make mention of Śūdras, such as Vidura, who had a knowledge of Brahman. And the Upanishads themselves, viz. in the so-called Samvarga-vidyā, show that a Śūdra is qualified for the knowledge of Brahman; for there the teacher Raikva addresses Jānaśruti, who wishes to learn from him, as Śūdra, and thereupon instructs him in the knowledge of Brahman (Kh. Up. IV, 2, 3). All this proves that Śūdras also have a claim to the knowledge of Brahman.
This conclusion we deny, on the ground of the absence of capability. It is impossible that the capability of performing meditations on Brahman should belong to a person not knowing the nature of Brahman and the due modes of meditation, and not qualified by the knowledge of the requisite preliminaries of such meditation, viz. recitation of the Veda, sacrifices, and so on. Mere want or desire does not impart qualification to a person destitute of the required capability. And this absence of capability is due, in the Śūdra’s case, to absence of legitimate study of the Veda. The injunctions of sacrificial works naturally connect themselves with the knowledge and the means of knowledge (i.e. religious ceremonies and the like) that belong to the three higher castes, for these castes actually possess the knowledge (required for the sacrifices), owing to their studying the Veda in agreement with the injunction which prescribes such study for the higher castes; the same injunctions do not, on the other hand, connect themselves with the knowledge and means of knowledge belonging to others (than members of the three higher castes). And the same naturally holds good with regard to the injunctions of meditation on Brahman. And as thus only such knowledge as is acquired by study prompted by the Vedic injunction of study supplies a means for meditation on Brahman, it follows that the Śūdra for whom that injunction is not meant is incapable of such meditation. Itihāsas and Purāṇas hold the position of being helpful means towards meditation in so far only as they confirm or support the Veda, not independently of the Veda. And that Śūdras are allowed to hear Itihāsas and Purāṇas is meant only for the end of destroying their sins, not to prepare them for meditation on Brahman. The case of Vidura and other Śūdras having been 'founded on Brahman,' explains itself as follows:--Owing to the effect of former actions, which had not yet worked themselves out, they were born in a low caste, while at the same time they possessed wisdom owing to the fact that the knowledge acquired by them in former births had not yet quite vanished.
(On these general grounds we object to Śūdras being viewed as qualified for meditation on Brahman.) The Sūtra now refutes that argument, which the Pūrvapakshin derives from the use of the word 'Śūdra' in the Samvarga-vidyā.