I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 10

Summary statement
how different scriptural texts are reconciled.

The whole matter may be summarily stated as follows. Some texts declare a distinction of nature between non-intelligent matter, intelligent beings, and Brahman, in so far as matter is the object of enjoyment, the souls the enjoying subjects, and Brahman the ruling principle. 'From that the Lord of Māyā creates all this; in that the other one is bound up through that Māyā' (Svet. Up. IV, 9); 'Know Prakriti to be Māyā, and the great Lord the ruler of Māyā' (10); 'What is perishable is the Pradhāna, the immortal and imperishable is Hara: the one God rules the Perishable and the Self' (Svet Up. I, 10)--In this last passage the clause 'the immortal and imperishable is Hara,' refers to the enjoying individual soul, which is called 'Hara,' because it draws (harati) towards itself the pradhāna as the object of its enjoyment.--' He is the cause, the lord of the lords of the organs, and there is of him neither parent nor lord' (Svet. Up. VI, 9); 'The master of the pradhāna and of the individual souls' (Svet. Up. VI, 16); 'The ruler of all, the lord of the Selfs, the eternal, blessed, undecaying one' (Mahānār. Up. XI, 3); 'There are two unborn ones, one knowing, the other not knowing, one a ruler, the other not a ruler' (Svet. Up. 1, 9); 'The eternal among the non-eternal, the intelligent one among the intelligent, who though one fulfils the desires of many' (Svet. Up. VI, 13); 'Knowing the enjoyer, the object of enjoyment and the Mover' (Svet. Up. I, 12); 'One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating' (Svet. Up. IV, 6); 'Thinking that the Self is different from the Mover, blessed by him he reaches Immortality' (Svet. Up. I, 6); 'There is one unborn female being, red, white, and black, uniform but producing manifold offspring. There is one unborn male being who loves her and lies by her; there is another who leaves her after he has enjoyed her' (Svet. Up. IV, 5). 'On the same tree man, immersed, bewildered, grieves on account of his impotence; but when he sees the other Lord contented and knows his glory, then his grief passes away' (Svet. Up. IV, 9).--Smriti expresses itself similarly.--'Thus eightfold is my nature divided. Lower is this Nature; other than this and higher know that Nature of mine which constitutes the individual soul, by which this world is supported' (Bha. Gī. VII, 4, 5). 'All beings at the end of a Kalpa return into my Nature, and again at the beginning of a Kalpa do I send them forth. Resting on my own Nature again and again do I send forth this entire body of beings, which has no power of its own. being subject to the power of nature' (Bha. Gī. IX, 7, 8); 'With me as supervisor Nature brings forth the movable and the immovable, and for this reason the world ever moves round' (Bha. Gī. IX, 10); 'Know thou both Nature and the Soul to be without beginning' (XIII, 19); 'The great Brahman is my womb, in which I place the embryo, and thence there is the origin of all beings' (XIV, 3). This last passage means-- the womb of the world is the great Brahman, i.e. non-intelligent matter in its subtle state, commonly called Prakriti; with this I connect the embryo, i.e. the intelligent principle. From this contact of the non- intelligent and the intelligent, due to my will, there ensues the origination of all beings from gods down to lifeless things.

Non-intelligent matter and intelligent beings--holding the relative positions of objects of enjoyment and enjoying subjects, and appearing in multifarious forms--other scriptural texts declare to be permanently connected with the highest Person in so far as they constitute his body, and thus are controlled by him; the highest Person thus constituting their Self. Compare the following passages: 'He who dwells in the earth and within the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body the earth is, and who rules the earth within, he is thy Self, the ruler within, the immortal,' etc. (Bri. Up. III, 7, 3-23); 'He who moves within the earth, whose body the earth is, etc.; he who moves within death, whose body death is,' etc. (Subāla Up. VII, 1). In this latter passage the word 'death' denotes what is also called 'darkness,' viz. non- intelligent matter in its subtle state; as appears from another passage in the same Upanishad, 'the Imperishable is merged in darkness.' And compare also 'Entered within, the ruler of creatures, the Self of all' (Taitt. Ār. III, 24).

Other texts, again, aim at teaching that the highest Self to whom non-intelligent and intelligent beings stand in the relation of body, and hence of modes, subsists in the form of the world, in its causal as well as in its effected aspect, and hence speak of the world in this its double aspect as that which is (the Real); so e.g. 'Being only this was in the beginning, one only without a second--it desired, may I be many, may I grow forth--it sent forth fire,' etc., up to 'all these creatures have their root in that which is,' etc., up to 'that art thou, O Śvetaketu' (Kh. Up. VI, 2-8); 'He wished, may I be many,' etc., up to 'it became the true and the untrue' (Taitt. Up. II, 6). These sections also refer to the essential distinction of nature between non-intelligent matter, intelligent beings, and the highest Self which is established by other scriptural texts; so in the Chāṇḍogya passage, 'Let me enter those three divine beings with this living Self, and let me then evolve names and forms'; and in the Taitt. passage, 'Having sent forth that he entered into it; having entered it he became sat and tyat, knowledge and (what is) without knowledge, the true and the untrue,' etc. These two passages evidently have the same purport, and hence the soul's having its Self in Brahman--which view is implied in the Kh. passage-- must be understood as resting thereon that the souls (together, with matter) constitute the body of Brahman as asserted in the Taitt. passage ('it became knowledge and that which is without knowledge,' i. e. souls and matter). The same process of evolution of names and forms is described elsewhere also, 'All this was then unevolved; it became evolved by form and name' (Bri. Up. I, 4, 7). The fact is that the highest Self is in its causal or in its 'effected' condition, according as it has for its body intelligent and non-intelligent beings either in their subtle or their gross state; the effect, then, being non-different from the cause, and hence being cognised through the cognition of the cause, the result is that the desired 'cognition of all things through one' can on our view be well established. In the clause 'I will enter into these three divine beings with this living Self,' etc., the term 'the three divine beings' denotes the entire aggregate of non-sentient matter, and as the text declares that the highest Self evolved names and forms by entering into matter by means of the living souls of which he is the Self, it follows that all terms whatsoever denote the highest Self as qualified by individual Selfs, the latter again being qualified by non-sentient matter. A term which denotes the highest Self in its causal condition may therefore be exhibited in co-ordination with another term denoting the highest Self in its 'effected' state, both terms being used in their primary senses. Brahman, having for its modes intelligent and non-intelligent things in their gross and subtle states, thus constitutes effect and cause, and the world thus has Brahman for its material cause (upādāna). Nor does this give rise to any confusion of the essential constituent elements of the great aggregate of things. Of some partly- coloured piece of cloth the material cause is threads white, red, black, etc.; all the same, each definite spot of the cloth is connected with one colour only white e.g., and thus there is no confusion of colours even in the 'effected' condition of the cloth. Analogously the combination of non-sentient matter, sentient beings, and the Lord constitutes the material cause of the world, but this does not imply any confusion of the essential characteristics of enjoying souls, objects of enjoyment, and the universal ruler, even in the world's 'effected' state. There is indeed a difference between the two cases, in so far as the threads are capable of existing apart from one another, and are only occasionally combined according to the volition of men, so that the web sometimes exists in its causal, sometimes in its effected state; while non-sentient matter and sentient beings in all their states form the body of the highest Self, and thus have a being only as the modes of that--on which account the highest Self may, in all cases, be denoted by any term whatsoever. But the two cases are analogous, in so far as there persists a distinction and absence of all confusion, on the part of the constituent elements of the aggregate. This being thus, it follows that the highest Brahman, although entering into the 'effected' condition, remains unchanged--for its essential nature does not become different--and we also understand what constitutes its 'effected' condition, viz. its abiding as the Self of non-intelligent and intelligent beings in their gross condition, distinguished by name and form. For becoming an effect means entering into another state of being.

Those texts, again, which speak of Brahman as devoid of qualities, explain themselves on the ground of Brahman being free from all touch of evil. For the passage, Kh. Up. VIII, 1, 5--which at first negatives all evil qualities 'free from sin, from old age, from death, from grief, from hunger and thirst', and after that affirms auspicious qualities 'whose wishes and purposes come true'--enables us to decide that in other places also the general denial of qualities really refers to evil qualities only.--Passages which declare knowledge to constitute the essential nature of Brahman explain themselves on the ground that of Brahman--which is all-knowing, all-powerful, antagonistic to all evil, a mass of auspicious qualities--the essential nature can be defined as knowledge (intelligence) only--which also follows from the 'self-luminousness' predicated of it. Texts, on the other hand, such as 'He who is all-knowing' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 9); 'His high power is revealed as manifold, as essential, acting as force and knowledge' (Svet. Up. VI, 8);; 'Whereby should he know the knower' (Bri. Up. II, 4, 14), teach the highest Self to be a knowing subject. Other texts, again, such as 'The True, knowledge, infinite is Brahman' (Taitt. Up. II, 1, 1), declare knowledge to constitute its nature, as it can be denned through knowledge only, and is self-luminous. And texts such as 'He desired, may I be many' (Taitt. Up. II, 6); 'It thought, may I be many; it evolved itself through name and form' (Kh. Up. VI, 2), teach that Brahman, through its mere wish, appears in manifold modes. Other texts, again, negative the opposite view, viz. that there is a plurality of things not having their Self in Brahman. 'From death to death goes he who sees here any plurality'; 'There is here not any plurality' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 19); 'For where there is duality as it were' (Bri. Up. II, 4, 14). But these texts in no way negative that plurality of modes--declared in passages such as 'May I be many, may I 'grow forth'--which springs from Brahman's will, and appears in the distinction of names and forms. This is proved by clauses in those 'negating' texts themselves, 'Whosoever looks for anything elsewhere than in the Self', 'from that great Being there has been breathed forth the Rig-Veda,' etc. (Bri. Up. II, 4, 6, 10).-- On this method of interpretation we find that the texts declaring the essential distinction and separation of non-sentient matter, sentient beings, and the Lord, and those declaring him to be the cause and the world to be the effect, and cause and effect to be identical, do not in any way conflict with other texts declaring that matter and souls form the body of the Lord, and that matter and souls in their causal condition are in a subtle state, not admitting of the distinction of names and forms while in their 'effected' gross state they are subject to that distinction. On the other hand, we do not see how there is any opening for theories maintaining the connexion of Brahman with Nescience, or distinctions in Brahman due to limiting adjuncts (upādhi)--such and similar doctrines rest on fallacious reasoning, and flatly contradict Scripture.

There is nothing contradictory in allowing that certain texts declare the essential distinction of matter, souls, and the Lord, and their mutual relation as modes and that to which the modes belong, and that other texts again represent them as standing in the relation of cause and effect, and teach cause and effect to be one. We may illustrate this by an analogous case from the Karmakāṇda. There six separate oblations to Agni, and so on, are enjoined by separate so-called originative injunctions; these are thereupon combined into two groups (viz. the new moon and the full-moon sacrifices) by a double clause referring to those groups, and finally a so-called injunction of qualification enjoins the entire sacrifice as something to be performed by persons entertaining a certain wish. In a similar way certain Vedānta-texts give instruction about matter, souls, and the Lord as separate entities ('Perishable is the pradhāna, imperishable and immortal Hara,' etc., Svet Up. I, 10; and others); then other texts teach that matter and souls in all their different states constitute the body of the highest Person, while the latter is their Self ('Whose body the earth is,' etc.); and finally another group of texts teaches--by means of words such as 'Being,' 'Brahman,' 'Self,' denoting the highest Self to which the body belongs--that the one highest Self in its causal and effected states comprises within itself the triad of entities which had been taught in separation ('Being only this was in the beginning'; 'In that all this has its Self; 'All this is Brahman').--That the highest Self with matter and souls for its body should be simply called the highest Self, is no more objectionable than that that particular form of Self which is invested with a human body should simply be spoken of as Self or soul--as when we say 'This is a happy soul.'

Nescience cannot be terminated by the simple act of cognising Brahman as the universal self.

The doctrine, again, that Nescience is put an end to by the cognition of Brahman being the Self of all can in no way be upheld; for as bondage is something real it cannot be put an end to by knowledge. How, we ask, can anyone assert that bondage--which consists in the experience of pleasure and pain caused by the connexion of souls with bodies of various kind, a connexion springing from good or evil actions--is something false, unreal? And that the cessation of such bondage is to be obtained only through the grace of the highest Self pleased by the devout meditation of the worshipper, we have already explained. As the cognition of universal oneness which you assume rests on a view of things directly contrary to reality, and therefore is false, the only effect it can have is to strengthen the ties of bondage. Moreover, texts such as 'But different is the highest Person' (Bha. Gī. XV, 17), and 'Having known the Self and the Mover as separate' (Svet. Up. I, 6), teach that it is the cognition of Brahman as the inward ruler different from the individual soul, that effects the highest aim of man, i.e. final release. And, further, as that 'bondage-terminating' knowledge which you assume is itself unreal, we should have to look out for another act of cognition to put an end to it.--But may it not be said that this terminating cognition, after having put an end to the whole aggregate of distinctions antagonistic to it, immediately passes away itself, because being of a merely instantaneous nature?--No, we reply. Since its nature, its origination, and its destruction are all alike fictitious, we have clearly to search for another agency capable of destroying that avidyā which is the cause of the fiction of its destruction!--Let us then say that the essential nature of Brahman itself is the destruction of that cognition!--From this it would follow, we reply, that such 'terminating' knowledge would not arise at all; for that the destruction of what is something permanent can clearly not originate!-- Who moreover should, according to you, be the cognising subject in a cognition which has for its object the negation of everything that is different from Brahman?--That cognising subject is himself something fictitiously superimposed on Brahman!--This may not be, we reply: he himself would in that case be something to be negated, and hence an object of the 'terminating' cognition; he could not therefore be the subject of cognition!--Well, then, let us assume that the essential nature of Brahman itself is the cognising subject!--Do you mean, we ask in reply, that Brahman's being the knowing subject in that 'terminating' cognition belongs to Brahman's essential nature, or that it is something fictitiously superimposed on Brahman? In the latter case that superimposition and the Nescience founded on it would persist, because they would not be objects of the terminating cognition, and if a further terminating act of knowledge were assumed, that also would possess a triple aspect (viz. knowledge, object known, and subject knowing), and we thus should be led to assume an infinite series of knowing subjects. If, on the other band, the essential nature of Brahman itself constitutes the knowing subject, your view really coincides with the one held by us. And if you should say that the terminating knowledge itself and the knowing subject in it are things separate from Brahman and themselves contained in the sphere of what is to be terminated by that knowledge, your statement would be no less absurd than if you were to say 'everything on the surface of the earth has been cut down by Devadatta with one stroke'--meaning thereby that Devadatta himself and the action of cutting down are comprised among the things cut down!--The second alternative, on the other hand--according to which the knowing subject is not Brahman itself, but a knower superimposed upon it--would imply that that subject is the agent in an act of knowledge resulting in his own destruction; and this is impossible since no person aims at destroying himself. And should it be said that the destruction of the knowing agent belongs to the very nature of Brahman itself, it would follow that we can assume neither plurality nor the erroneous view of plurality, nor avidyā as the root of that erroneous view.--All this confirms our theory, viz. that since bondage springs from ajñāna in the form of an eternal stream of karman, it can be destroyed only through knowledge of the kind maintained by us. Such knowledge is to be attained only through the due daily performance of religious duties as prescribed for a man's caste and āśrama, such performance being sanctified by the accompanying thought of the true nature of the Self, and having the character of propitiation of the highest Person. Now, that mere works produce limited and non-permanent results only, and that on the other hand works not aiming at an immediate result but meant to please the highest Person, bring about knowledge of the character of devout meditation, and thereby the unlimited and permanent result of the intuition of Brahman being the Self of all--these are points not to be known without an insight into the nature of works, and hence, without this, the attitude described--which is preceded by the abandonment of mere works--cannot be reached. For these reasons the enquiry into Brahman has to be entered upon after the enquiry into the nature of works.