I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 11

The Vedāṅtin aiming to ascertain the nature of Brahman from Scripture, need not be disconcerted by the Mimāṁsa-theory of all speech having informing power with regard to actions only.

Here another prima facie view finally presents itself. The power of words to denote things cannot be ascertained in any way but by observing the speech and actions of experienced people. Now as such speech and action always implies the idea of something to be done (kārya), words are means of knowledge only with reference to things to be done; and hence the matter inculcated by the Veda also is only things to be done. From this it follows that the Vedānta-texts cannot claim the position of authoritative means of knowledge with regard to Brahman, which is (not a thing to be done but) an accomplished fact.--Against this view it must not be urged that in the case of sentences expressive of accomplished facts--as e.g. that a son is born to somebody--the idea of a particular thing may with certainty be inferred as the cause of certain outward signs--such as e.g. a pleased expression of countenance--which are generally due to the attainment of a desired object; for the possible causes of joy, past, present, and future, are infinite in number, and in the given case other causes of joy, as e.g. the birth having taken place in an auspicious moment, or having been an easy one, etc., may easily be imagined. Nor, again, can it be maintained that the denotative power of words with regard to accomplished things may be ascertained in the way of our inferring either the meaning of one word from the known meaning of other words, or the meaning of the radical part of a word from the known meaning of a formative element; for the fact is that we are only able to infer on the basis of a group of words known to denote a certain thing to be done, what the meaning of some particular constituent of that group may be.--Nor, again, when a person, afraid of what he thinks to be a snake, is observed to dismiss his fear on being told that the thing is not a snake but only a rope, can we determine thereby that what terminates his fear is the idea of the non-existence of a snake. For there are many other ideas which may account for the cessation of his fear--he may think, e.g., 'this is a thing incapable of moving, devoid of poison, without consciousness'--the particular idea present to his mind we are therefore not able to determine.--The truth is that from the fact of all activity being invariably dependent on the idea of something to be done, we learn that the meaning which words convey is something prompting activity. All words thus denoting something to be done, the several words of a sentence express only some particular action to be performed, and hence it is not possible to determine that they possess the power of denoting their own meaning only, in connexion with the meaning of the other words of the sentence.--(Nor must it be said that what moves to action is not the idea of the thing to be done, but the idea of the means to do it; for) the idea of the means to bring about the desired end causes action only through the idea of the thing to be done, not through itself; as is evident from the fact that the idea of means past, future, and even present (when divorced from the idea of an end to be accomplished), does not prompt to action. As long as a man does not reflect 'the means towards the desired end are not to be accomplished without an effort of mine; it must therefore be accomplished through my activity'; so long he does not begin to act. What causes activity is thus only the idea of things to be done; and as hence words denote such things only, the Veda also can tell us only about things to be done, and is not therefore in a position to give information about the attainment of an infinite and permanent result, such result being constituted by Brahman, which is (not a thing to be done, but) an accomplished entity. The Veda does, on the other hand, actually teach that mere works have a permanent result ('Imperishable is the merit of him who offers the cāturmāsya-sacrifices,' and so on); and hence it follows that to enter on an enquiry into Brahman for the reason that the knowledge of Brahman has an infinite and permanent result, while the result of works is limited and non-permanent, is an altogether unjustified proceeding.

To this we make the following reply.--To set aside the universally known mode of ascertaining the connexion of words and their meanings, and to assert that all words express only one non-worldly meaning (viz. those things to be done which the Veda inculcates), is a proceeding for which men paying due attention to the means of proof can have only a slight regard. A child avowedly learns the connexion of words and meanings in the following way. The father and mother and other people about him point with the finger at the child's mother, father, uncle, &c, as well as at various domestic and wild animals, birds, snakes, and so on, to the end that the child may at the same time pay attention to the terms they use and to the beings denoted thereby, and thus again and again make him understand that such and such words refer to such and such things. The child thus observing in course of time that these words of themselves give rise to certain ideas in his mind, and at the same time observing neither any different connexion of words and things, nor any person arbitrarily establishing such connexion, comes to the conclusion that the application of such and such words to such and such things is based on the denotative power of the words. And being taught later on by his elders that other words also, in addition to those learned first, have their definite meaning, he in the end becomes acquainted with the meanings of all words, and freely forms sentences conveying certain meanings for the purpose of imparting those meanings to other persons.

And there is another way also in which the connexion of words and things can easily be ascertained. Some person orders another, by means of some expressive gesture, to go and inform Devadatta that his father is doing well, and the man ordered goes and tells Devadatta 'Your father is doing well.' A bystander who is acquainted with the meaning of various gestures, and thus knows on what errand the messenger is sent, follows him and hears the words employed by him to deliver his message: he therefore readily infers that such and such words have such and such a meaning.--We thus see that the theory of words having a meaning only in relation to things to be done is baseless. The Vedānta-texts tell us about Brahman, which is an accomplished entity, and about meditation on Brahman as having an unlimited result, and hence it behoves us to undertake an enquiry into Brahman so as fully to ascertain its nature.

We further maintain that even on the supposition of the Veda relating only to things to be done, an enquiry into Brahman must be undertaken. For 'The Self is to be seen, to be heard, to be reflected on, to be meditated on' (Bri. Up. II, 4, 5); 'He is to be searched out, him we must try to understand' (Kh. Up. VIII, 7, 1); 'Let a Brāhmaṇa having known him practise wisdom' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 21); 'What is within that small ether, that is to be sought for, that is to be understood' (Kh. Up. VIII, 1,1); 'What is in that small ether, that is to be meditated upon' (Mahānār. Up. X, 7)--these and similar texts enjoin a certain action, viz. meditation on Brahman, and when we then read 'He who knows Brahman attains the highest,' we understand that the attainment of Brahman is meant as a reward for him who is qualified for and enters on such meditation. Brahman itself and its attributes are thus established thereby only--that they subserve a certain action, viz. meditation. There are analogous instances in the Karmakāṇda of the Veda. When an arthavāda-passage describes the heavenly world as a place where there is no heat, no frost, no grief, etc., this is done merely with a view to those texts which enjoin certain sacrifices on those who are desirous of the heavenly world. Where another arthavāda says that 'those who perform certain sattra-sacrifices are firmly established,' such 'firm establishment' is referred to only because it is meant as the reward for those acting on the text which enjoins those sattras, 'Let him perform the rātri- sattras' (Pū. Mī. Sū. IV, 3, 17). And where a text says that a person threatening a Brāhmaṇa is to be punished with a fine of one hundred gold pieces, this statement is made merely with reference to the prohibitory passage, 'Let him not threaten a Brāhmaṇa'(Pū. Mī. Sū. III, 4, 17).

We, however, really object to the whole theory of the meaning of words depending on their connexion with 'things to be done,' since this is not even the case in imperative clauses such as 'bring the cow.' For you are quite unable to give a satisfactory definition of your 'thing to be done '(kārya). You understand by 'kārya' that which follows on the existence of action (kriti) and is aimed at by action. Now to be aimed at by action is to be the object(karman) of action, and to be the object of action is to be that which it is most desired to obtain by action (according to the grammarian's definition). But what one desires most to obtain is pleasure or the cessation of pain. When a person desirous of some pleasure or cessation of pain is aware that his object is not to be accomplished without effort on his part, he resolves on effort and begins to act: in no case we observe an object of desire to be aimed at by action in any other sense than that of its accomplishment depending on activity. The prompting quality (prerakatva) also, which belongs to objects of desire, is nothing but the attribute of their accomplishment depending on activity; for it is this which moves to action.--Nor can it be said that 'to be aimed at by action' means to be that which is 'agreeable' (anukūla) to man; for it is pleasure only that is agreeable to man. The cessation of pain, on the other hand, is not what is 'agreeable' to man. The essential distinction between pleasure and pain is that the former is agreeable to man, and the latter disagreeable (pratikūla), and the cessation of pain is desired not because it is agreeable, but because pain is disagreeable: absence of pain means that a person is in his normal condition, affected neither with pain nor pleasure. Apart from pleasure, action cannot possibly be agreeable, nor does it become so by being subservient to pleasure; for its essential nature is pain. Its being helpful to pleasure merely causes the resolve of undertaking it.--Nor, again, can we define that which is aimed at by action as that to which action is auxiliary or supplementary (śeṣa), while itself it holds the position of something principal to be subserved by other things (śeṣin); for of the śeṣa and śeṣin also no proper definition can be given. It cannot be said that a śeṣa is that which is invariably accompanied by an activity proceeding with a view to something else, and that the correlate of such a śeṣa is the śeṣin; for on this definition the action is not a śeṣa, and hence that which is to be effected by the action cannot be the correlative śeṣin. And moreover a śeṣin may not be defined as what is correlative to an action proceeding with a view to--i. e. aiming at--something else; for it is just this 'being aimed at' of which we require a definition, and moreover we observe that also the śeṣin (or 'pradhāna') is capable of action proceeding with a view to the śeṣa, as when e.g. a master does something for--let us say, keeps or feeds--his servant. This last criticism you must not attempt to ward off by maintaining that the master in keeping his servant acts with a view to himself (to his own advantage); for the servant in serving the master likewise acts with a view to himself.--And as, further, we have no adequate definition of 'kārya,' it would be inappropriate to define śeṣa as that which is correlative to kārya, and śeṣin as that which is correlative to śeṣa.--Nor, finally, may we define 'that which is aimed at by action' as that which is the final end (prayojana) of action; for by the final end of an action we could only understand the end for which the agent undertakes the action, and this end is no other than the desired object. As thus 'what is aimed at by action' cannot be defined otherwise than what is desired, kārya cannot be defined as what is to be effected by action and stands to action in the relation of principal matter (pradhāna or śeṣin).

(Let it then be said that the 'niyoga,' i.e. what is commonly called the apūrva--the supersensuous result of an action which later on produces the sensible result--constitutes the prayojana--the final purpose--of the action.--But) the apūrva also can, as it is something different from the direct objects of desire, viz. pleasure and the cessation of pain, be viewed only as a means of bringing about these direct objects, and as something itself to be effected by the action; it is for this very reason that it is something different from the action, otherwise the action itself would be that which is effected by the action. The thing to be effected by the action-which is expressed by means of optative and imperative verbal forms such as yageta, 'let him sacrifice '--is, in accordance with the fact of its being connected with words such as svarga-kāmāḥ, 'he who is desirous of heaven', understood to be the means of bringing about (the enjoyment of) the heavenly world; and as the (sacrificial) action itself is transitory, there is assumed an altogether 'new' or 'unprecedented' (apūrva) effect of it which (later on) is to bring about the enjoyment of heaven. This so-called 'apūrva' can therefore be understood only with regard to its capability of bringing about the heavenly world. Now it certainly is ludicrous to assert that the apūrva, which is assumed to the end of firmly establishing the independent character of the effect of the action first recognised as such (i.e. independent), later on becomes the means of realising the heavenly world; for as the word expressing the result of the action (yagta) appears in syntactical connexion with 'svarga-kāmāḥ' (desirous of heaven), it does not, from the very beginning, denote an independent object of action, and moreover it is impossible to recognise an independent result of action other than either pleasure or cessation of pain, or the means to bring about these two results.--What, moreover, do you understand by the apūrva being a final end (prayojana)?-You will perhaps reply, 'its being agreeable like pleasure.'--Is then the apūrva a pleasure? It is pleasure alone which is agreeable!--Well, let us then define the apūrva as a kind of pleasure of a special nature, called by that name!--But what proof, we ask, have you for this? You will, in the first place, admit yourself that you do not directly experience any pleasure springing from consciousness of your apūrva, which could in any way be compared to the pleasure caused by the consciousness of the objects of the senses.--Well, let us say then that as authoritative doctrine gives us the notion of an apūrva as something beneficial to man, we conclude that it will be enjoyed later on.--But, we ask, what is the authoritative doctrine establishing such an apūrva beneficial to man? Not, in the first place, ordinary, i.e. non-Vedic doctrine; for such has for its object action only which always is essentially painful. Nor, in the next place, Vedic texts; for those also enjoin action only as the means to bring about certain results such as the heavenly world. Nor again the Smriti texts enjoining works of either permanent or occasional obligation; for those texts always convey the notion of an apūrva only on the basis of an antecedent knowledge of the apūrva as intimated by Vedic texts containing terms such as svarga-kāmāḥ. And we, moreover, do not observe that in the case of works having a definite result in this life, there is enjoyment of any special pleasure called apūrva, in addition to those advantages which constitute the special result of the work and are enjoyed here below, as e.g. abundance of food or freedom from sickness. Thus there is not any proof of the apūrva being a pleasure. The arthavāda-passages of the Veda also, while glorifying certain pleasurable results of works, as e.g. the heavenly world, do not anywhere exhibit a similar glorification of a pleasure called apūrva.

From all this we conclude that also in injunctory sentences that which is expressed by imperative and similar forms is only the idea that the meaning of the root--as known from grammar--is to be effected by the effort of the agent. And that what constitutes the meaning of roots, viz. the action of sacrificing and the like, possesses the quality of pleasing the highest Person, who is the inner ruler of Agni and other divinities (to whom the sacrifices are ostensibly offered), and that through the highest Person thus pleased the result of the sacrifice is accomplished, we shall show later on, under Sū. III, 2, 37--It is thus finally proved that the Vedānta-texts give information about an accomplished entity, viz. Brahman, and that the fruit of meditation on Brahman is something infinite and permanent. Where, on the other hand, Scripture refers to the fruit of mere works, such as the Chāturmāsya-sacrifices, as something imperishable, we have to understand this imperishableness in a merely relative sense, for Scripture definitely teaches that the fruit of all works is perishable.

We thus arrive at the settled conclusion that, since the fruit of mere works is limited and perishable, while that of the cognition of Brahman is infinite and permanent, there is good reason for entering on an enquiry into Brahman--the result of which enquiry will be the accurate determination of Brahman's nature.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'Enquiry.'

What then is that Brahman which is here said to be an object that should be enquired into?--To this question the second Sūtra gives a reply.