I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 3

Topic 3 - Brahman cognisable only through the scriptures

Sutra 1,1.3

शास्त्रयोनित्वात् ॥ ३ ॥

śāstrayonitvāt || 3 ||

śāstrayonitvāt—The scripture being the means of right knowledge.

3. The scriptures (alone) being the means of right knowledge (with regard to Brahman, the proposition laid in Sutra 2 becomes corroborated).

Because Brahman, being raised above all contact with the senses, is not an object of perception and the other means of proof, but to be known through Scripture only; therefore the text 'Whence these creatures are born,' etc., has to be accepted as instructing us regarding the true nature of Brahman.--But, our opponent points out, Scripture cannot be the source of our knowledge of Brahman, because Brahman is to be known through other means. For it is an acknowledged principle that Scripture has meaning only with regard to what is not established by other sources of knowledge.--But what, to raise a prima facie counter objection, are those other sources of knowledge? It cannot, in the first place, be Perception. Perception is twofold, being based either on the sense-organs or on extraordinary concentration of mind (yoga). Of Perception of the former kind there are again two sub-species, according as Perception takes place either through the outer sense- organs or the internal organ (manas). Now the outer sense-organs produce knowledge of their respective objects, in so far as the latter are in actual contact with the organs, but are quite unable to give rise to the knowledge of the special object constituted by a supreme Self that is capable of being conscious of and creating the whole aggregate of things. Nor can internal perception give rise to such knowledge; for only purely internal things, such as pleasure and pain, fall within its cognisance, and it is incapable of relating itself to external objects apart from the outer sense-organs. Nor, again, perception based on Yoga; for although such perception--which springs from intense imagination--implies a vivid presentation of things, it is, after all, nothing more than a reproduction of objects perceived previously, and does not therefore rank as an instrument of knowledge; for it has no means of applying itself to objects other than those perceived previously. And if, after all, it does so, it is (not a means of knowledge but) a source of error.--Nor also inference either of the kind which proceeds on the observation of special cases or of the kind which rests on generalizations (cp. Nyāya Sū. I, 1,5,). Not inference of the former kind, because such inference is not known to relate to anything lying beyond the reach of the senses. Nor inference of the latter kind, because we do not observe any characteristic feature that is invariably accompanied by the presence of a supreme Self capable of being conscious of, and constructing, the universe of things.-- But there is such a feature, viz. the world's being an effected thing; it being a matter of common experience that whatever is an effect or product, is due to an agent who possesses a knowledge of the material cause, the instrumental cause, the final end, and the person meant to make use of the thing produced. It further is matter of experience that whatever consists of non-sentient matter is dependent on, or ruled by, a single intelligent principle. The former generalization is exemplified by the case of jars and similar things, and the latter by a living body in good health, which consists of non-intelligent matter dependent on an intelligent principle. And that the body is an effected thing follows from its consisting of parts.--Against this argumentation also objections may be raised. What, it must be asked, do you understand by this dependence on an intelligent principle? Not, we suppose, that the origination and subsistence of the non-intelligent thing should be dependent on the intelligent principle; for in that case your example would not help to prove your contention. Neither the origin nor the subsistence of a person's healthy body depends on the intelligent soul of that person alone; they rather are brought about by the merit and demerit of all those souls which in any way share the fruition of that body--the wife, e.g. of that person, and others. Moreover, the existence of a body made up of parts means that body's being connected with its parts in the way of so-called intimate relation (sama-vāya), and this requires a certain combination of the parts but not a presiding intelligent principle. The existence of animated bodies, moreover, has for its characteristic mark the process of breathing, which is absent in the case of the earth, sea, mountains, etc.--all of which are included in the class of things concerning which you wish to prove something--, and we therefore miss a uniform kind of existence common to all those things.--Let us then understand by the dependence of a non-intelligent thing on an intelligent principle, the fact of the motion of the former depending on the latter!--This definition, we reply, would comprehend also those cases in which heavy things, such as carriages, masses of stone, trees, etc., are set in motion by several intelligent beings (while what you want to prove is the dependence of a moving thing on one intelligent principle). If, on the other hand, you mean to say that all motion depends on intelligence in general, you only prove what requires no proof.--Another alternative, moreover, here presents itself. As we both admit the existence of individual souls, it will be the more economical hypothesis to ascribe to them the agency implied in the construction of the world. Nor must you object to this view on the ground that such agency cannot belong to the individual souls because they do not possess the knowledge of material causes, etc., as specified above; for all intelligent beings are capable of direct knowledge of material causes, such as earth and so on, and instrumental causes, such as sacrifices and the like. Earth and other material substances, as well as sacrifices and the like, are directly perceived by individual intelligent beings at the present time (and were no doubt equally perceived so at a former time when this world had to be planned and constructed). Nor does the fact that intelligent beings are not capable of direct insight into the unseen principle--called 'apūrva,' or by similar names-- which resides in the form of a power in sacrifices and other instrumental causes, in any way preclude their being agents in the construction of the world. Direct insight into powers is nowhere required for undertaking work: what is required for that purpose is only direct presentative knowledge of the things endowed with power, while of power itself it suffices to have some kind of knowledge. Potters apply themselves to the task of making pots and jars on the strength of the direct knowledge they possess of the implements of their work--the wheel, the staff, etc.--without troubling about a similar knowledge of the powers inherent in those implements; and in the same way intelligent beings may apply themselves to their work (to be effected by means of sacrifices, etc.), if only they are assured by sacred tradition of the existence of the various powers possessed by sacrifices and the like.--Moreover, experience teaches that agents having a knowledge of the material and other causes must be inferred only in the case of those effects which can be produced, and the material and other causes of which can be known: such things, on the other hand, as the earth, mountains, and oceans, can neither be produced, nor can their material and other causes ever be known; we therefore have no right to infer for them intelligent producers. Hence the quality of being an effected thing can be used as an argument for proving the existence of an intelligent causal agent, only where that quality is found in things, the production of which, and the knowledge of the causes of which, is possible at all.-- Experience further teaches that earthen pots and similar things are produced by intelligent agents possessing material bodies, using implements, not endowed with the power of a Supreme Lord, limited in knowledge and so on; the quality of being an effect therefore supplies a reason for inferring an intelligent agent of the kind described only, and thus is opposed to the inference of attributes of a contrary nature, viz. omniscience, omnipotence, and those other attributes that belong--to the highest Soul, whose existence you wish to establish.--Nor does this (as might be objected) imply an abandonment of all inference. Where the thing to be inferred is known through other means of proof also, any qualities of an opposite nature which maybe suggested by the inferential mark (linga) are opposed by those other means of proof, and therefore must be dropped. In the case under discussion, however, the thine; to be inferred is something not guaranteed by any other means of proof, viz. a person capable of constructing the entire universe; here there is nothing to interfere with the ascription to such a person of all those qualities which, on the basis of methodical inference, necessarily belong to it.--The conclusion from all this is that, apart from Scripture, the existence of a Lord does not admit of proof.

Against all this the Pūrvapakshin now restates his case as follows:--It cannot be gainsaid that the world is something effected, for it is made up of parts. We may state this argument in various technical forms. 'The earth, mountains, etc., are things effected, because they consist of parts; in the same way as jars and similar things.' 'The earth, seas, mountains, etc., are effects, because, while being big; (i.e. non-atomic), they are capable of motion; just as jars and the like.' 'Bodies, the world, etc., are effects, because, while being big, they are solid (mūrtta); just as jars and the like.'--But, an objection is raised, in the case of things made up of parts we do not, in addition to this attribute of consisting of parts, observe any other aspect determining that the thing is an effect--so as to enable us to say 'this thing is effected, and that thing is not'; and, on the other hand, we do observe it as an indispensable condition of something being an effect, that there should be the possibility of such an effect being brought about, and of the existence of such knowledge of material causes, etc. (as the bringing about of the effect presupposes).-- Not so, we reply. In the case of a cause being inferred on the ground of an effect, the knowledge and power of the cause must be inferred in accordance with the nature of the effect. From the circumstance of a thing consisting of parts we know it to be an effect and on this basis we judge of the power and knowledge of the cause. A person recognises pots, jars and the like, as things produced, and therefrom infers the constructive skill and knowledge of their maker; when, after this, he sees for the first time a kingly palace with all its various wonderful parts and structures, he concludes from the special way in which the parts are joined that this also is an effected thing, and then makes an inference as to the architect's manifold knowledge and skill. Analogously, when a living body and the world have once been recognised to be effects, we infer--as their maker--some special intelligent being, possessing direct insight into their nature and skill to construct them.--Pleasure and pain, moreover, by which men are requited for their merit and demerit, are themselves of a non-intelligent nature, and hence cannot bring about their results unless they are controlled by an intelligent principle, and this also compels us to assume a being capable of allotting to each individual soul a fate corresponding to its deserts. For we do not observe that non-intelligent implements, such as axes and the like, however much they may be favoured by circumstances of time, place, and so on, are capable of producing posts and pillars unless they be handled by a carpenter. And to quote against the generalization on which we rely the instance of the seed and sprout and the like can only spring from an ignorance and stupidity which may be called truly demoniac. The same remark would apply to pleasure and pain if used as a counter instance. (For in all these cases the action which produces an effect must necessarily be guided by an intelligent principle.)--Nor may we assume, as a 'less complicated hypothesis,' that the guiding principle in the construction of the world is the individual souls, whose existence is acknowledged by both parties. For on the testimony of observation we must deny to those souls the power of seeing what is extremely subtle or remote in time or place (while such power must necessarily be ascribed to a world-constructing intelligence). On the other hand, we have no ground for concluding that the Lord is, like the individual souls, destitute of such power; hence it cannot be said that other means of knowledge make it impossible to infer such a Lord. The fact rather is that as his existence is proved by the argument that any definite effect presupposes a causal agent competent to produce that effect, he is proved at the same time as possessing the essential power of intuitively knowing and ruling all things in the universe.--The contention that from the world being an effect it follows that its maker does not possess lordly power and so on, so that the proving reason would prove something contrary to the special attributes (belonging to a supreme agent, viz. omnipotence, omniscience, etc.), is founded on evident ignorance of the nature of the inferential process. For the inference clearly does not prove that there exist in the thing inferred all the attributes belonging to the proving collateral instances, including even those attributes which stand in no causal relation to the effect. A certain effect which is produced by some agent presupposes just so much power and knowledge on the part of that agent as is requisite for the production of the effect, but in no way presupposes any incapability or ignorance on the part of that agent with regard to things other than the particular effect; for such incapability and ignorance do not stand towards that effect in any causal relation. If the origination of the effect can be accounted for on the basis of the agent's capability of bringing it about, and of his knowledge of the special material and instrumental causes, it would be unreasonable to ascribe causal agency to his (altogether irrelevant) incapabilities and ignorance with regard to other things, only because those incapabilities, etc., are observed to exist together with his special capability and knowledge. The question would arise moreover whether such want of capability and knowledge (with regard to things other than the one actually effected) would be helpful towards the bringing about of that one effect, in so far as extending to all other things or to some other things. The former alternative is excluded because no agent, a potter e.g., is quite ignorant of all other things but his own special work; and the second alternative is inadmissible because there is no definite rule indicating that there should be certain definite kinds of want of knowledge and skill in the case of all agents, and hence exceptions would arise with regard to every special case of want of knowledge and skill. From this it follows that the absence of lordly power and similar qualities which (indeed is observed in the case of ordinary agents but) in no way contributes towards the production of the effects (to which such agents give rise) is not proved in the case of that which we wish to prove (i.e. a Lord, creator of the world), and that hence Inference does not establish qualities contrary (to the qualities characteristic of a Lord).

A further objection will perhaps be raised, viz. that as experience teaches that potters and so on direct their implements through the mediation of their own bodies, we are not justified in holding that a bodiless Supreme Lord directs the material and instrumental causes of the universe.--But in reply to this we appeal to the fact of experience, that evil demons possessing men's bodies, and also venom, are driven or drawn out of those bodies by mere will power. Nor must you ask in what way the volition of a bodiless Lord can put other bodies in motion; for volition is not dependent on a body. The cause of volitions is not the body but the internal organ (manas), and such an organ we ascribe to the Lord also, since what proves the presence of an internal organ endowed with power and knowledge is just the presence of effects.--But volitions, even if directly springing from the internal organ, can belong to embodied beings only, such only possessing internal organs!--This objection also is founded on a mistaken generalization: the fact rather is that the internal organ is permanent, and exists also in separation from the body. The conclusion, therefore, is that--as the individual souls with their limited capacities and knowledge, and their dependence on merit and demerit, are incapable of giving rise to things so variously and wonderfully made as worlds and animated bodies are--inference directly leads us to the theory that there is a supreme intelligent agent, called the Lord, who possesses unfathomable, unlimited powers and wisdom, is capable of constructing the entire world, is without a body, and through his mere volition brings about the infinite expanse of this entire universe so variously and wonderfully planned. As Brahman may thus be ascertained by means of knowledge other than revelation, the text quoted under the preceding Sūtra cannot be taken to convey instruction as to Brahman. Since, moreover, experience demonstrates that material and instrumental causes always are things absolutely distinct from each other, as e.g. the clay and the potter with his implements; and since, further, there are substances not made up of parts, as e.g. ether, which therefore cannot be viewed as effects; we must object on these grounds also to any attempt to represent the one Brahman as the universal material and instrumental cause of the entire world.

Against all this we now argue as follows:--The Vedānta-text declaring the origination, etc., of the world does teach that there is a Brahman possessing the characteristics mentioned; since Scripture alone is a means for the knowledge of Brahman. That the world is an effected thing because it consists of parts; and that, as all effects are observed to have for their antecedents certain appropriate agents competent to produce them, we must infer a causal agent competent to plan and construct the universe, and standing towards it in the relation of material and operative cause--this would be a conclusion altogether unjustified. There is no proof to show that the earth, oceans, etc., although things produced, were created at one time by one creator. Nor can it be pleaded in favour of such a conclusion that all those things have one uniform character of being effects, and thus are analogous to one single jar; for we observe that various effects are distinguished by difference of time of production, and difference of producers. Nor again may you maintain the oneness of the creator on the ground that individual souls are incapable of the creation of this wonderful universe, and that if an additional principle be assumed to account for the world--which manifestly is a product--it would be illegitimate to assume more than one such principle. For we observe that individual beings acquire more and more extraordinary powers in consequence of an increase of religious merit; and as we may assume that through an eventual supreme degree of merit they may in the end qualify themselves for producing quite extraordinary effects, we have no right to assume a highest soul of infinite merit, different from all individual souls. Nor also can it be proved that all things are destroyed and produced all at once; for no such thing is observed to take place, while it is, on the other hand, observed that things are produced and destroyed in succession; and if we infer that all things are produced and destroyed because they are effects, there is no reason why this production and destruction should not take place in a way agreeing with ordinary experience. If, therefore, what it is desired to prove is the agency of one intelligent being, we are met by the difficulty that the proving reason (viz. the circumstance of something being an effect) is not invariably connected with what it is desired to prove; there, further, is the fault of qualities not met with in experience being attributed to the subject about which something has to be proved; and lastly there is the fault of the proving collateral instances being destitute of what has to be proved--for experience does not exhibit to us one agent capable of producing everything. If, on the other hand, what you wish to prove is merely the existence of an intelligent creative agent, you prove only what is proved already (not contested by any one).--Moreover, if you use the attribute of being an effect (which belongs to the totality of things) as a means to prove the existence of one omniscient and omnipotent creator, do you view this attribute as belonging to all things in so far as produced together, or in so far as produced in succession? In the former case the attribute of being an effect is not established (for experience does not show that all things are produced together); and in the latter case the attribute would really prove what is contrary to the hypothesis of one creator (for experience shows that things produced in succession have different causes). In attempting to prove the agency of one intelligent creative being only, we thus enter into conflict with Perception and Inference, and we moreover contradict Scripture, which says that 'the potter is born' and 'the cartwright is born' (and thus declares a plurality of intelligent agents). Moreover, as we observe that all effected things, such as living bodies and so on, are connected with pleasure and the like, which are the effects of sattva (goodness) and the other primary constituents of matter, we must conclude that effected things have sattva and so on for their causes. Sattva and so on--which constitute the distinctive elements of the causal substance--are the causes of the various nature of the effects. Now those effects can be connected with their causes only in so far as the internal organ of a person possessing sattva and so on undergoes modifications. And that a person possesses those qualities is due to karman. Thus, in order to account for the origination of different effects we must necessarily assume the connexion of an intelligent agent with karman, whereby alone he can become the cause of effects; and moreover the various character of knowledge and power (which the various effects presuppose) has its reason in karman. And if it be said that it is (not the various knowledge, etc., but) the mere wish of the agent that causes the origination of effects, we point out that the wish, as being specialised by its particular object, must be based on sattva and so on, and hence is necessarily connected with karman. From all this it follows that individual souls only can be causal agents: no legitimate inference leads to a Lord different from them in nature.--This admits of various expressions in technical form. 'Bodies, worlds, etc., are effects due to the causal energy of individual souls, just as pots are'; 'the Lord is not a causal agent, because he has no aims; just as the released souls have none'; 'the Lord is not an agent, because he has no body; just as the released souls have none.' (This last argumentation cannot be objected to on the ground that individual souls take possession of bodies; for in their case there exists a beginningless subtle body by means of which they enter into gross bodies).--'Time is never devoid of created worlds; because it is time, just like the present time (which has its created world).'

Consider the following point also. Does the Lord produce his effects, with his body or apart from his body? Not the latter; for we do not observe causal agency on the part of any bodiless being: even the activities of the internal organ are found only in beings having a body, and although the internal organ be eternal we do not know of its producing any effects in the case of released disembodied souls. Nor again is the former alternative admissible; for in that case the Lord's body would either be permanent or non-permanent. The former alternative would imply that something made up of parts is eternal; and if we once admit this we may as well admit that the world itself is eternal, and then there is no reason to infer a Lord. And the latter alternative is inadmissible because in that case there would be no cause of the body, different from it (which would account for the origination of the body). Nor could the Lord himself be assumed as the cause of the body, since a bodiless being cannot be the cause of a body. Nor could it be maintained that the Lord can be assumed to be 'embodied' by means of some other body; for this leads us into a regressus in infinitum.--Should we, moreover, represent to ourselves the Lord (when productive) as engaged in effort or not?--The former is inadmissible, because he is without a body. And the latter alternative is excluded because a being not making an effort does not produce effects. And if it be said that the effect, i.e. the world, has for its causal agent one whose activity consists in mere desire, this would be to ascribe to the subject of the conclusion (i.e. the world) qualities not known from experience; and moreover the attribute to be proved would be absent in the case of the proving instances (such as jars, etc., which are not the work of agents engaged in mere wishing). Thus the inference of a creative Lord which claims to be in agreement with observation is refuted by reasoning which itself is in agreement with observation, and we hence conclude that Scripture is the only source of knowledge with regard to a supreme soul that is the Lord of all and constitutes the highest Brahman. What Scripture tells us of is a being which comprehends within itself infinite, altogether unsurpassable excellences such as omnipotence and so on, is antagonistic to all evil, and totally different in character from whatever is cognised by the other means of knowledge: that to such a being there should attach even the slightest imperfection due to its similarity in nature to the things known by the ordinary means of knowledge, is thus altogether excluded.--The Pūrvapakshin had remarked that the oneness of the instrumental and the material cause is neither matter of observation nor capable of proof, and that the same holds good with regard to the theory that certain non-composite substances such as ether are created things; that these points also are in no way contrary to reason, we shall show later on under Sū. I, 4, 23, and Sū. II, 3, 1.

The conclusion meanwhile is that, since Brahman does not fall within the sphere of the other means of knowledge, and is the topic of Scripture only, the text 'from whence these creatures,' etc., does give authoritative information as to a Brahman possessing the characteristic qualities so often enumerated. Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'Scripture being the source.'

A new objection here presents itself.--Brahman does not indeed fall within the province of the other means of knowledge; but all the same Scripture does not give authoritative information regarding it: for Brahman is not something that has for its purport activity or cessation from activity, but is something fully established and accomplished within itself.--To this objection the following Sūtra replies.