9. God (Īśvara) | Śrī Vaishnavism

9. God (Īśvara)

Now (the category of) God (Īśvara) will be inquired into.

The characteristics of God are

- All-Lordship,
- All-Mastership,
- All-worshipfulness by work,
- All-fruit-givership,
- All-Support,
- All- energising,
- All-Word-indicated,
- All-knowledge- goal,
- All-bodiedness excepting His own body and consciousness.

God thus indicated

- is the Material (or Formal) Cause of the Universe by virtue of His aspect as the constituted of the Conscious and Non- Conscious (cid-acid-viśiṣta);

- is the Efficient (or Spiritual) Cause by virtue of His aspect as the Wilier; and

- is the Instrumental Cause by virtue of His immanence in Time etc.

The Material Cause is that which results as Effect by undergoing modification.
The Efficient Cause is that which causes modifications so as to result into Effect.
The Instrumental Cause is that which helps the resulting into Effect.

Or this wise:

- The Material Cause is that inevitable antecedent state adequate to effectuate the immediate consequent state; as illustrated by the consequent state of being the jar effected from the antecedent state of being the clod of earth.

The Effective Cause is that which is required to be different from the modification (or the modifying). In this case the Instrumental Cause is included in the Effective (cause).

Whichever be the position adopted, the three-foldness or the two-foldness of the Cause, the characteristics of Cause is evident, and this is found in the (Prime) Cause of the Universe, the Blessed All-God (Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa).

If it be asked how in Nārāyaṇa rests (or abides) the (ultimate) causality, the reply is:

- Such conclusion is arrived at after an examination of all the Vedanta Texts (bearing on the question), rationally argued out. Thus:

To begin with, matter cannot be the Cause of the Universe, for it is devoid of thinking etc.

In the Chāṇḍogya (-Upanishad) however, that which is indicated by the terms: Sat, Ākāśa (Ether), Prāṇa, is seen to be (stated as) the Cause of the Universe.

In the Vājasaneyī (Up), the term Brahman is discovered (to be so).

By the canon known as the “resultant import of all the branches (of the Veda)”, all the texts which relate to Cause (of the Universe) must be interpreted to signify one Specific Object.

Hence terms of general import such as Sat (Being) etc., must ultimately connote the specific Brahman, according to the (analogical) rule of “goat-animal”.

In the manner aforesaid, the term Brahman is next circumscribable into the (more specific) term Ātman found in the Aitareya (-Upanishad).

What then is indicated by this term Ātman,

- the Vedic celebrity Indra? Or Agni, of similar report? Or Surya, known as the adorable? Or Soma, said to be the Cause? Or Kubera, known to be the bestower of whatever is desired? Or Yama? Or Varuṇa?

When such doubt arises, they (deities or demigods) may be disposed of as incapable of being the Cause of the Universe, by reason of their being known to be subject to karma and possessed of limited affluence.

But in the Śvetāśvatara (-Upanishad), it is apparent that Śiva is (stated to be) the Cause (of the Universe).

Similarly in the Atharva- Śikhā (-Upanishad), the entity designated Śambhu is mentioned as the object of adoration and as Cause.

Likewise in the Atharva-Śiras (-Upanishad), the entity designated as Rudra is stated to be the Soul of all (things).

And in the Taittirīya, Hiraṇyagarbha is mentioned as the Cause of the Universe.

In all these cases, applying the canon (of interpretation) known as the “Generic-Specific” (sāmānya- viśeṣa-nyāya), the fact of the general terms Śiva, Śambhu and Rudra finding their specific significance in Hiraṇyagarbha will be clear.

Again if the radical (or etymological) sense of the term Śiva be considered, it means well or good (or auspicious) as may be seen from the usages:

Let it be well with all the Universe”,
Let the deed be good,”
Let thy path be good” etc.

Similarly Rudra signifies Agni-(fire):

Hence, judged by the etymological force of such common terms as Maheśvara, Śambhu etc., they find their particular significance in the Four-faced (entity, Hiraṇyagarbha).

But a protest may be entered why the terms Śiva etc., referred to as the Cause (of the Cosmos) should not through their primary significance, (be construed to) indicate Rudra?

This cannot be done, inasmuch as the origination of Rudra (Śiva) is narrated (in the Scriptures) as happening from the Four-faced (Demiurge), and Rudra is not free from (the taints of) sin; and therefore cannot constitute the Cause, (of the Universe).

Hence terms such as Śiva etc., receive their ultimate connotation as the Four-faced, severally designated as Hiraṇyagarbha, Prajāpati, Svāyambhu etc.

By a similar ratiocination, the terms Svāyambhu, Hiraṇyagarbha and Prajāpati may be traced up to (the Ultimate Source) Nārāyaṇa,

for Nārāyaṇa, as the Supreme Cause, as the Being that all terms connote, as the Saviour (moksha- prada), as the Cosmos-bodied etc.,

is proved in the Mahopanishat, Nārāyaṇa Upanishad, Subala Upanishad, Maitrāyaṇīya (-Upanishad), Purusha- Sūkta, Nārāyaṇa- Anuvāka, Antaryāmī-Brāhmaṇa etc.

Hence Nārāyaṇa alone is the Cause of all the Cosmos, and the Knowable of all sciences.

No doubt need arise that the Science (of God) called the Antar-Āditya-vidyā may relate to Rudra, for from a majority of authorities (Scriptures), it is proved that it relates to Vishnu.

The term Bhargā is not to be understood as (a masculine-indicating) termination: A (अ).

Nor need a doubt arise that in the Science, Dahara-vidyā, the term Ākāśa implying Nārāyaṇa, has Rudra for its In-dwelling (Antaryāmī), for the In-dwelling there referred to are the auspicious graces or perfections inhering in Nārāyaṇa.

In this same way the interpretations of all the Sciences (Vidyās) may be conceived.

The inference thus is that He

who is possessed of all Holy Graces, Perfections, Glories,
Who is distinct from matter (Prakṛti) and soul (Purusha),
Who is constituted of these, the Supreme Brahman,

i.e., Nārāyaṇa is the Cause of the Cosmos.

But it may be alleged that according to the monistic (advaita) texts, (of the Scriptures), Brahman alone is real and undifferentiated (=devoid of attributes);

what is fancied in it (Brahman) as the “being cognizer” (subject) and as the “being cognized“ (object) etc., is illusory: Brahman (itself) in consequence of nescience (avidyā) revolves in material life (samsāra);

the monistic knowledge gained from such texts as: “That thou art” dispels it (i. e. samsāra or avidyā).

When thus, views such as these held by other schools, go to establish the sense of the Vedānta (texts) to point to an undifferentiated Brahman, which is but consciousness absolute,

how could they connote Nārāyaṇa, and the discourse (hold) that He is possessed of all the Holy Graces (or Excellent Attributes)?

The reply to this is thus:

- From the texts referring to the Cause (of the Universe), Nārāyaṇa has been shown as the Cause;

the conflict that seems to exist between the dualistic and monistic texts is reconcilable by means of the reconciling (or arbitration, ghaṭaka) texts:

the texts that seem to import non-differentiation (or quality-lessness) are interpretable as meaning absence of evil qualities;

as there is no authority by which to suppose a nescience, consequent on which the notions “cognized” and the “cognizer” come to be fancied, the Effect (generating) from Brahman is real;

if by nescience, Brahman itself rolls into material life as Soul (Jīva), the faults pertaining to the Soul necessarily attach to Brahman, and no other agent (than Brahman) can be conceived as the banisher (of that material life).

As therefore the contention of monism cannot be sustained, no undifferentiated Brahman, as but mere consciousness is established;

ergo, Brahman is full of exquisite Graces, and is Nārāyaṇa, Who is the Source of the Cosmos, and Bestower of eternal bliss (Moksha) etc.

Brahman, as constituted of the Subtle, Conscious (Cit) and the Non- Conscious (Acit) alone is the Cause of the Cosmos; and as constituted of the Gross Conscious and Non- Conscious, alone is the Effect.

Thus the creed of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedāṅtins is that no Cause is different from its Effect.

As God (Īśvara) is admitted, the views of the Schools of God-less Sānkhya, the Mimāmsakas etc., are exploded.

As Material Causality is predicated (by us) of this same (God), the views of the Schools of Yoga, Pāśupata and Naiyāyikā are confuted, for their admission of God is confined to His Efficient Causation only.

In the same manner as Material as well as Efficient causation is ascribable to God, are ascribable to Him the faculties of action, stimulation, governance, illumination, permission, succour, neutrality and so forth.

In the same manner as the imperfections (known as) childhood, youth etc., pertain to the body (Śarīra), not the body-holder (Śarīri), the soul, so is it in the case of the All-Soul (Paramātman), the bodied of Soul (Cit) and Non-soul (Acit).

There is thus no conflict with the Śruti (Scriptures) which proclaims the un- modifiable (character of God).

As a rule, what is cognised as “body” in the world is what possesses the properties of being “sustained” (ādheyatva), “controlled” (vidheyatva), and “subordinated” (Śeṣatva) (by Soul);

the Cosmos is the “bodyof God; but the imperfections pertaining to the body do not affect Him;

This God (Īśvara) is infinitive (vibhu).
To be infinite is to be pervading. This (pervasion) is threefold:

(1) By essence,
(2) By attributive consciousness,
(3) By representation (vigraha)

He is called boundless (Ananta).
Boundless means the negation of the three kinds of limitations.
The three kinds of limitations are those:

(1) by space,
(2) by time and
(3) by thing.

- The qualities of Truth (satyatva), Holiness (amalatva), Illimitability (anantatva), betoken the essential nature of God;

- the qualities of Omniscience (Jñāna), Omnipotence (Śakti) etc., describe Him, on such (essential) characterisation.

- The qualities of Omniscience, Omnipotence etc., are requisite for purposes of Creation.

- The qualities of Love, Meekness, Accessibility etc., are requisite for suasion (to souls) to take shelter.

- The qualities of Mercy etc., are useful for purposes of protection.

The import of these qualities has been discussed in the Section on Consciousness, and no expatiation here is therefore called for.

This God first created the (Mundane) Egg; and then by His immanency in the Four-faced (Catur- mukha), Dakṣa, Time etc., continues creation.

He becomes the Protector by incarnating as Vishnu, abiding in Manu, Time etc., and directly Himself.

He is Destroyer by His indwelling in Rudra, Time, the destroyer (Yama) etc.

Hence He is the Creator, Protector and Destroyer.

God as thus depicted assumes five aspects:

(1) Para or the Transcendent,
(2) Vyūha or the Grouped,
(3) Vibhava or the Incarnated,
(4) Antaryāmī or the Immanent, and
(5) Arcā or the Iconic.

The Para is Nārāyaṇa, variously called by the names Parabrahma etc., Vāsudeva etc.,

Who, four-armed, and beaming with His beatific presence, is exalted on the throne poised on its eight supports Dharma etc., with Śeṣa over the seat, erected in the gemmed pavilion in the Divine Hall,

guarded by the sentries: Caṇḍa, Pracaṇḍa, Bhadra, Subhadra, Jaya, Vijaya, Dhātri, Vidhātri etc., in the Vaikuṇṭha-named- City of the Thrice-Magnificent Land,

protected by such city-keepers as Kumuda, Kumudākṣa, Puṇḍarīka, Vāmana, Śankukarṇa, Sarpanetra, Sumukha, Supratiṣtha etc., all divinely adorned and armed, with all the paraphernalia of servitors etc.;

- Who is supported by Śrī, Bhū, Nīla etc., armed with the divine weapons Conch, Discus etc., decked with the divine ornaments Crown etc.,

- Who is enjoyed by the “Eternals”: Ananta, Garuḍa, Viṣvaksena etc., ever chanting forth the Hymns of Sāma, and by other Liberated Souls (mukta)

- and Who is the Home of all the countless Holy Graces: Wisdom, Power etc.

Vyūha (the Grouped) is the fourfold aspect (of God) viz.,

(1) Vāsudeva,
(2) Sankarṣaṇa,
(3) Pradyumna, and
(4) Aniruddha,

designed for purposes of worship, creation of the worlds etc.

Of these, Vāsudeva has the full complement of the Six Qualities;
Sankarṣaṇa has Wisdom and Strength;
Pradyumna has Wealth and Power; and
Aniruddha - Energy and Lustre;

Thus are the (Six) Qualities distributed.
Each one of these four (aspects) hypostatize (avatarati) into three.
They (thus) number 12: Keśava etc.;

They are the Presiding Deities of the 12 Suns of the 12 months.
Their locations by vertical markings (on the body of the devotee) are fixed.

Amongst them (twelve),

(1) Keśava is gold-coloured and wears four Discuses;
(2) Nārāyaṇa, dark- coloured, wears four Conches;
(3) Mādhava, gem- coloured, wears four Clubs;
(4) Govinda, moon- coloured, wears four Bows;
(5) Vishnu, lotus- blossom-coloured, wears four Ploughs;
(6) Madhusūdana, lotus-coloured, wears four Maces;
(7) Trivikrama, fire-coloured, wears four Swords;
(8) Vāmana, young-Sun-coloured, wears four Vajras;
(9) Śrīdhara, lotus-coloured, wears four Shields;
(10) Hṛṣīkeśa, lightning-coloured, wears four Maces;
(11) Padmanābha, sun-coloured, wears the Five Weapons;
(12) Dāmodara, Indragopa-coloured bears four Cords.

Vibhava or Incarnate Manifestation (or objectification) is the assumption (by God) of Forms resembling those of the Order (of Creation, in which He wills to appear).

10 of them are reckoned as by far the most renowned. They are the unique incarnations: the Matsya, the Kurma etc. Of these:

Matsya or Fish Incarnation was undertaken in order to overcome the Daityas who stole the Vedas, and restore than (viz., the Authority) to Brahma.

Kūrma Incarnation was undertaken in order to extract ambrosia (amṛta), (from the Milk Sea), calculated to bestow (lasting) health and immortality on beings.

Varaha Incarnation was undertaken in order to raise His Consort (Earth from the ocean) that He may (thus) exemplify his power to) lift creatures drowned in the Ocean of worldliness (samsāra).

Narasiṁha or Lion-Faced Incarnation was undertaken -with a view to protect his protégé (Prahlāda) and kill the Āsura (Hiraṇyakaśipu), - by springing out of a pillar.

Vāmana Incarnation was undertaken in order to cleanse the worlds by means of water issuing from his lotus-feet (i.e. Gaṅgā), by the transfigured (from Vāmana) Trivikrama.

Paraśurāma Incarnation was taken for the purpose of exterminating the wicked Kshatriyas.

Rāma Incarnation was undertaken in order to establish the Law of Righteousness (Dharma).

Balabhadra (Balarāma) Incarnations Were Assumed hi Order to overthrow Pralamba etc.

Krishna Incarnation was donned with the object of pointing to men the Final Way (to blessedness).

Kalki Incarnation is intended to put an end to the irreligious, and establish Righteousness in all its plenitude.'*4 Ih this way, each one of these Ten Incarnations has countless varieties.

Padmanābha etc., have also 36 ramifications; Again are there (varieties of manifestations) such as Dadhibhakta, Hayagrīva, Nara- Nārāyaṇa etc.

Likewise there are such other modal diversities as the:

(1) Primary (Mukhya),
(2) Secondary (Gauṇa),
(3) Full (Pūrṇa),
(4) Partial (Amśa), and
(5) Obsessing (Āveśa).

Amongst these, the distinction of Worshipable and Non-Worshipable must be borne in mind.

The reason for incarnating, is (God’s own) Will, not Karma.
As for the motif (for incarnating), it is to protect the good, by destroying the wicked.

The Immanent (Antaryāmī) form is that, of abidance in the regions of the heart of the Soul through all its states of experience in heavens, hells etc., as the Souls’ (constant) Friend, and realisable by Yogis.

Though co-dwelling with the Soul, He is free of taints affecting it.

The Iconic Form (Arcā) is the species of Forms presented (for worship), in homes, hamlets, cities, selected hills etc., devoid of distances interposed by space and time;

deigning to descend with His immaterial (i.e., spiritual) Person into any material substance as may lovingly be chosen by the votary;

lending Himself to the sweet will of His worshipper in all details (of worship such as) bath, food, place and rest; All-forgiving; the All-sufficient God!

4 varieties of this (aspect) exist viz.,

(1) Self-manifest (Svayam-Vyakta),
(2) Superhuman or Celestial (Daiva),
(3) Saint-made (Saiddha) and
(4) Man-made (Mānusha).

In all the 5 manifested forms aforesaid, God is ever present with Śrī (or Grace, His Consort). So Śruti and other Authorities declare. And therefore the view of those one-sided partisans who contend for Śrī-lessness, is exploded.

(The Category of) God has thus been propounded.

Thus ends Chapter IX,
The treatment of God (Īśvara) in the
“Light of the School of Rāmānuja.”