I-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | Great Siddhānta 1


This entire theory rests on a fictitious foundation of altogether hollow and vicious arguments, incapable of being stated in definite logical alternatives, and devised by men who are destitute of those particular qualities which cause individuals to be chosen by the Supreme Person revealed in the Upanishads; whose intellects are darkened by the impression of beginningless evil; and who thus have no insight into the nature of words and sentences, into the real purport conveyed by them, and into the procedure of sound argumentation, with all its methods depending on perception and the other instruments of right knowledge. The theory therefore must be rejected by all those who, through texts, perception and the other means of knowledge--assisted by sound reasoning--have an insight into the true nature of things.

There is no proof of non-differenced substance.

To enter into details.--Those who maintain the doctrine of a substance devoid of all difference have no right to assert that this or that is a proof of such a substance; for all means of right knowledge have for their object things affected with difference.--Should any one taking his stand on the received views of his sect, assert that the theory of a substance free from all difference (does not require any further means of proof but) is immediately established by one's own consciousness; we reply that he also is refuted by the fact, warranted by the witness of the Self, that all consciousness implies difference: all states of consciousness have for their object something that is marked by some difference, as appears in the case of judgments like 'I saw this.' And should a state of consciousness--although directly apprehended as implying difference--be determined by some fallacious reasoning to be devoid of difference, this determination could be effected only by means of some special attributes additional to the quality of mere Being; and owing to these special qualities on which the determination depends, that state of consciousness would clearly again be characterised by difference. The meaning of the mentioned determination could thus only be that of a thing affected with certain differences some other differences are denied; but manifestly this would not prove the existence of a thing free from all difference. To thought there at any rate belongs the quality of being thought and self-illumination, for the knowing principle is observed to have for its essential nature the illumining (making to shine forth) of objects. And that also in the states of deep sleep, swoon, etc., consciousness is affected with difference we shall prove, in its proper place, in greater detail. Moreover you yourself admit that to consciousness there actually belong different attributes such as permanency (oneness, self-luminousness, etc.), and of these it cannot be shown that they are only Being in general. And even if the latter point were admitted, we observe that there takes place a discussion of different views, and you yourself attempt to prove your theory by means of the differences between those views and your own. It therefore must be admitted that reality is affected with difference well established by valid means of proof.

Śabda proves difference.

As to sound (speech; śabda) it is specially apparent that it possesses the power of denoting only such things as are affected with difference. Speech operates with words and sentences. Now a word (padā) originates from the combination of a radical element and a suffix, and as these two elements have different meanings it necessarily follows that the word itself can convey only a sense affected with difference. And further, the plurality of words is based on plurality of meanings; the sentence therefore which is an aggregate of words expresses some special combination of things (meanings of words), and hence has no power to denote a thing devoid of all difference.--The conclusion is that sound cannot be a means of knowledge for a thing devoid of all difference.

Pratyakṣa--even of the nirvikalpaka kind--proves difference.

Perception in the next place--with its two subdivisions of non-determinate (nirvikalpaka) and determinate (savikalpaka) perception--also cannot be a means of knowledge for things devoid of difference. Determinate perception clearly has for its object things affected with difference; for it relates to that which is distinguished by generic difference and so on. But also non-determinate perception has for its object only what is marked with difference; for it is on the basis of non-determinate perception that the object distinguished by generic character and so on is recognised in the act of determinate perception. Non-determinate perception is the apprehension of the object in so far as destitute of some differences but not of all difference. Apprehension of the latter kind is in the first place not observed ever to take place, and is in the second place impossible: for all apprehension by consciousness takes place by means of some distinction 'This is such and such.' Nothing can be apprehended apart from some special feature of make or structure, as e.g. the triangularly shaped dewlap in the case of cows. The true distinction between non-determinate and determinate perception is that the former is the apprehension of the first individual among a number of things belonging to the same class, while the latter is the apprehension of the second, third, and so on, individuals. On the apprehension of the first individual cow the perceiving person is not conscious of the fact that the special shape which constitutes the generic character of the class 'cows' extends to the present individual also; while this special consciousness arises in the case of the perception of the second and third cow. The perception of the second individual thus is 'determinate' in so far as it is determined by a special attribute, viz. the extension, to the perception, of the generic character of a class--manifested in a certain outward shape--which connects this act of perception with the earlier perception (of the first individual); such determination being ascertained only on the apprehension of the second individual. Such extension or continuance of a certain generic character is, on the other hand, not apprehended on the apprehension of the first individual, and perception of the latter kind thence is 'non-determinate.' That it is such is not due to non-apprehension of structure, colour, generic character and so on, for all these attributes are equally objects of sensuous perception (and hence perceived as belonging to the first individual also). Moreover that which possesses structure cannot be perceived apart from the structure, and hence in the case of the apprehension of the first individual there is already perception of structure, giving rise to the judgment 'The thing is such and such.' In the case of the second, third, etc., individuals, on the other hand, we apprehend, in addition to the thing possessing structure and to the structure itself, the special attribute of the persistence of the generic character, and hence the perception is 'determinate.' From all this it follows that perception never has for its object that which is devoid of all difference.

The bhedābheda view is untenable.

The same arguments tend to refute the view that there is difference and absence of difference at the same time (the so-called bhedābheda view). Take the judgment 'This is such and such'; how can we realise here the non-difference of 'being this' and 'being such and such'? The 'such and such' denotes a peculiar make characterised, e.g. by a dewlap, the 'this' denotes the thing distinguished by that peculiar make; the non-difference of these two is thus contradicted by immediate consciousness. At the outset the thing perceived is perceived as separate from all other things, and this separation is founded on the fact that the thing is distinguished by a special constitution, let us say the generic characteristics of a cow, expressed by the term 'such and such.' In general, wherever we cognise the relation of distinguishing attribute and thing distinguished thereby, the two clearly present themselves to our mind as absolutely different. Some things--e.g. staffs and bracelets--appear sometimes as having a separate, independent existence of their own; at other times they present themselves as distinguishing attributes of other things or beings (i.e. of the persons carrying staffs or wearing bracelets). Other entities--e.g. the generic character of cows--have a being only in so far as they constitute the form of substances, and thus always present themselves as distinguishing attributes of those substances. In both cases there is the same relation of distinguishing attribute and thing distinguished thereby, and these two are apprehended as absolutely different. The difference between the two classes of entities is only that staffs, bracelets, and similar things are capable of being apprehended in separation from other things, while the generic characteristics of a species are absolutely incapable thereof. The assertion, therefore, that the difference of things is refuted by immediate consciousness, is based on the plain denial of a certain form of consciousness, the one namely--admitted by everyone--which is expressed in the judgment 'This thing is such and such.'--This same point is clearly expounded by the Sūtrakāra in II, 2, 33.

Inference also teaches difference.

Perception thus having for its object only what is marked by difference, inference also is in the same case; for its object is only what is distinguished by connexion with things known through perception and other means of knowledge. And thus, even in the case of disagreement as to the number of the different instruments of knowledge, a thing devoid of difference could not be established by any of them since the instruments of knowledge acknowledged by all have only one and the same object, viz. what is marked by difference. And a person who maintains the existence of a thing devoid of difference on the ground of differences affecting that very thing simply contradicts himself without knowing what he does; he is in fact no better than a man who asserts that his own mother never had any children.

Perception does not reveal mere being.

In reply to the assertion that perception causes the apprehension of pure Being only, and therefore cannot have difference for its object; and that 'difference' cannot be defined because it does not admit of being set forth in definite alternatives; we point out that these charges are completely refuted by the fact that the only objects of perception are things distinguished by generic character and so on, and that generic character and so on--as being relative things--give at once rise to the judgment as to the distinction between themselves and the things in which they inhere. You yourself admit that in the case of knowledge and in that of colour and other qualities this relation holds good, viz. that something which gives rise to a judgment about another thing at the same time gives rise to a judgment about itself; the same may therefore be admitted with regard to difference.

For this reason the charge of a regressus in infinitum and a logical seesaw cannot be upheld. For even if perceptive cognition takes place within one moment, we apprehend within that moment the generic character which constitutes on the one hand the difference of the thing from others, and on the other hand the peculiar character of the thing itself; and thus there remains nothing to be apprehended in a second moment.

Moreover, if perception made us apprehend only pure Being judgments clearly referring to different objects--such as 'Here is a jar,' 'There is a piece of cloth'--would be devoid of all meaning. And if through perception we did not apprehend difference--as marked by generic character, etc., constituting the structure or make of a thing, why should a man searching for a horse not be satisfied with finding a buffalo? And if mere Being only were the object of all our cognitions, why should we not remember, in the case of each particular cognition, all the words which are connected with all our cognitions? And further, if the cognition of a horse and that of an elephant had one object only, the later cognition would cause us to apprehend only what was apprehended before, and there being thus no difference (of object of cognition) there would be nothing to distinguish the later state of cognition from remembrance. If on the other hand a difference is admitted for each state of consciousness, we admit thereby that perception has for its objects things affected with difference.

If all acts of cognition had one and the same object only, everything would be apprehended by one act of cognition; and from this it would follow that there are no persons either deaf or blind!

Nor does, as a matter of fact, the eye apprehend mere Being only; for what it does apprehend is colour and the coloured thing, and those other qualities (viz. extension, etc.), which inhere in the thing together with colour. Nor does feeling do so; for it has for its objects things palpable. Nor have the ear and the other senses mere Being for their object; but they relate to what is distinguished by a special sound or taste or smell. Hence there is not any source of knowledge causing us to apprehend mere Being. If moreover the senses had for their object mere Being free from all difference, it would follow that Scripture which has the same object would (not be originative of knowledge but) perform the function of a mere anuvāda, i.e. it would merely make statements about something, the knowledge of which is already established by some other means. And further, according to your own doctrine, mere Being, i.e. Brahman, would hold the position of an object with regard to the instruments of knowledge; and thus there would cling to it all the imperfections indicated by yourself--non-intelligent nature, perishableness and so on.--From all this we conclude that perception has for its object only what is distinguished by difference manifesting itself in generic character and so on, which constitute the make or structure of a thing. (That the generic character of a thing is nothing else but its particular structure follows) from the fact that we do not perceive anything, different from structure, which could be claimed as constituting the object of the cognition that several individuals possess one and the same general form. And as our theory sufficiently accounts for the ordinary notions as to generic character, and as moreover even those who hold generic character to be something different from structure admit that there is such a thing as (common) structure, we adhere to the conclusion that generic character is nothing but structure. By 'structure' we understand special or distinctive form; and we acknowledge different forms of that kind according to the different classes of things. And as the current judgments as to things being different from one another can be explained on the basis of the apprehension of generic character, and as no additional entity is observed to exist, and as even those who maintain the existence of such an additional thing admit the existence of generic character, we further conclude that difference (bheda) is nothing but generic character (jāti).--But if this were so, the judgment as to difference would immediately follow from the judgment as to generic character, as soon as the latter is apprehended! Quite true, we reply. As a matter of fact the judgment of difference is immediately formulated on the basis of the judgment as to generic character. For 'the generic character' of a cow, e.g., means just the exclusion of everything else: as soon as that character is apprehended all thought and speech referring to other creatures belonging to the same wider genus (which includes buffaloes and so on also) come to an end. It is through the apprehension of difference only that the idea of non-difference comes to an end.