I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Small Pūrvapaksha

The Small Pūrvapaksha.

But--a further objection is urged--as that which has to precede the systematic enquiry into Brahman we should assign something which that enquiry necessarily presupposes. The enquiry into the nature of duty, however, does not form such a prerequisite, since a consideration of the Vedanta-texts may be undertaken by anyone who has read those texts, even if he is not acquainted with works.--But in the Vedanta-texts there are enjoined meditations on the Udgītha and the like which  matters auxiliary to works; and such meditations are not possible for him who is not acquainted with those works!--You who raise this objection clearly are ignorant of what kind of knowledge the Śarīraka Mīmāṁsā is concerned with! What that śāstra aims at is to destroy completely that wrong knowledge which is the root of all pain, for man, liable to birth, old age, and death, and all the numberless other evils connected with transmigratory existence--evils that spring from the view, due to beginningless Nescience, that there is plurality of existence; and to that end the śāstra endeavours to establish the knowledge of the unity of the Self. Now to this knowledge, the knowledge of works--which is based on the assumption of plurality of existence--is not only useless but even opposed. The consideration of the Udgītha and the like, which is supplementary to works only, finds a place in the Vedānta-texts, only because like them it is of the nature of knowledge; but it has no direct connexion with the true topic of those texts. Hence some prerequisite must be indicated which has reference to the principal topic of the śāstra.--Quite so; and this prerequisite is just the knowledge of works; for scripture declares that final release results from knowledge with works added. The Sūtra-writer himself says further on 'And there is need of all works, on account of the scriptural statement of sacrifices and the like' (Ve. Sū. III, 4, 26). And if the required works were not known, one could not determine which works have to be combined with knowledge and which not. Hence the knowledge of works is just the necessary prerequisite.--Not so, we reply. That which puts an end to Nescience is exclusively the knowledge of Brahman, which is pure intelligence and antagonistic to all plurality. For final release consists just in the cessation of Nescience; how then can works--to which there attach endless differences connected with caste, āśrama, object to be accomplished, means and mode of accomplishment, etc.--ever supply a means for the cessation of ignorance, which is essentially the cessation of the view that difference exists? That works, the results of which are transitory, are contrary to final release, and that such release can be effected through knowledge only, scripture declares in many places; compare all the passages quoted above (p. 7).

As to the assertion that knowledge requires sacrifices and other works, we remark that--as follows from the essential contrariety of knowledge and works, and as further appears from an accurate consideration of the words of scripture--pious works can contribute only towards the rise of the desire of knowledge, in so far namely as they clear the internal organ (of knowledge), but can have no influence on the production of the fruit, i.e. knowledge itself. For the scriptural passage concerned runs as follows Brāhmaṇas desire to know him by the study of the Veda, by sacrifice, by gifts,' etc. (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 22).

According to this passage, the desire only of knowledge springs up through works; while another text teaches that calmness, self-restraint, and so on, are the direct means for the origination of knowledge itself. (Having become tranquil, calm, subdued, satisfied, patient, and collected, he is to see the Self within the Self (Bri. Up. IV, 4,23).

The process thus is as follows. After the mind of a man has been cleaned of all impurities through works performed in many preceding states of existence, without a view to special forms of reward, there arises in him the desire of knowledge, and thereupon--through knowledge itself originated by certain scriptural texts--'Being only, this was in the beginning, one only without a second' (Kh. Up. VI, I, 2); 'Truth, Knowledge, the Infinite, is Brahman' (Taitt. Up. II, 1); 'Without parts, without actions, calm, without fault, without taint' (Svet. Up. VI, 19); 'This Self is Brahman' (Bri. Up. II, 5, 19); 'Thou art that' (Kh. Up. VI, 9, 7), Nescience comes to an end. Now, 'Hearing,' 'reflection,' and 'meditation,' are helpful towards cognising the sense of these Vedic texts. 'Hearing' (śravaṇa) means the apprehension of the sense of scripture, together with collateral arguments, from a teacher who possesses the true insight, viz. that the Vedānta-texts establish the doctrine of the unity of the Self. 'Reflection' (mananam) means the confirmation within oneself of the sense taught by the teacher, by means of arguments showing it alone to be suitable. 'Meditation' (nididhyāsanam) finally means the constant holding of thai sense before one's mind, so as to dispel thereby the antagonistic beginningless imagination of plurality. In the case of him who through 'hearing,' 'reflection,' and meditation,' has dis-dispelled the entire imagination of plurality, the knowledge of the sense of Vedānta-texts puts an end to Nescience; and what we therefore require is a statement of the indispensable prerequisites of such 'hearing,' 'reflection,' and so on. Now of such prerequisites there are four, viz. discrimination of what is permanent and what is non-permanent; the full possession of calmness of mind, self-restraint and similar means; the renunciation of all enjoyment of fruits here below as well as in the next world; and the desire of final release.

Without these the desire of knowledge cannot arise; and they are therefore known, from the very nature of the matter, to be necessary prerequisites. To sum up: The root of bondage is the unreal view of plurality which itself has its root in Nescience that conceals the true being of Brahman. Bondage itself thus is unreal, and is on that account cut short, together with its root, by mere knowledge. Such knowledge is originated by texts such as 'That art thou'; and work is of no help either towards its nature, or its origination, or its fruit (i.e. release). It is on the other hand helpful towards the desire of knowledge, which arises owing to an increase of the element of goodness (sattva) in the soul, due to the destruction of the elements of passion (ragas) and darkness (tamas) which are the root of all moral evil. This use is referred to in the text quoted above, 'Brāhmaṇas wish to know him,' etc. As, therefore, the knowledge of works is of no use towards the knowledge of Brahman, we must acknowledge as the prerequisite of the latter knowledge the four means mentioned above.