I-4 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 1


Topic 1 - The Mahat and Avyakta of the Katha Upanishad do not refer to the Sānkhya’s categories

Sutra 1,4.1

आनुमानिकमप्येकेषामिति चेत्, न, शरीररूपकविन्यस्तगृहीतेः, दर्शयति च ॥ १ ॥

ānumānikamapyekeṣāmiti cet, na, śarīrarūpakavinyastagṛhīteḥ, darśayati ca || 1 ||

ānumānikam—That which is inferred (i.e. the Pradhāna); api—also; ekeṣām—in some (recensions of the texts); iti cet—if it be said; na—no; śarīra-rūpaka-vinyasta-gṛhīteḥ—because it is mentioned in a simile referring to the body; darśayati—(the Śruti) explains; ca—too.

1. If it be said that in some (recensions of the Vedas) that which is inferred (i.e. the Pradhāna) (is) also (mentioned), (we say) no,

because (the word ‘Avyakta’ occurring in the Katha Upanishad) is mentioned in a simile referring to the body (and means the body itself and not the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas); (the Śruti) too explains (it).

So far the Sūtras have given instruction about a Brahman, the enquiry into which serves as a means to obtain what is the highest good of man, viz. final release; which is the cause of the origination, and so on, of the world; which differs in nature from all non-sentient things such as the Pradhāna, and from all intelligent beings whether in the state of bondage or of release; which is free from all shadow of imperfection; which is all knowing, all powerful, has the power of realising all its purposes, comprises within itself all blessed qualities, is the inner Self of all, and possesses unbounded power and might. But here a new special objection presents itself. In order to establish the theory maintained by Kapila, viz. of there being a Pradhāna and individual souls which do not have their Self in Brahman, it is pointed out by some that in certain branches of the Veda there are met with certain passages which appear to adumbrate the doctrine of the Pradhāna being the universal cause. The Sūtras now apply themselves to the refutation of this view, in order thereby to confirm the theory of Brahman being the only cause of all.

We read in the Katha-Upanishad, 'Beyond the senses there are the objects, beyond the objects there is the mind, beyond the mind there is the intellect, the great Self is beyond the intellect. Beyond the Great there is the Unevolved, beyond the Unevolved there is the Person. Beyond the Person there is nothing-- this is the goal, the highest road' (Ka. Up. I, 3, 11). The question here arises whether by the 'Unevolved' be or be not meant the Pradhāna, as established by Kapila's theory, of which Brahman is not the Self.--The Pūrvapakshin maintains the former alternative. For, he says, in the clause 'beyond the Great is the Unevolved, beyond the Unevolved is the Person,' we recognise the arrangement of entities as established by the Sānkhya-system, and hence must take the 'Unevolved' to be the Pradhāna. This is further confirmed by the additional clause 'beyond the Person there is nothing,' which (in agreement with Sānkhya principles) denies that there is any being beyond the soul, which itself is the twenty-fifth and last of the principles recognised by the Sānkhyas. This prima facie view is expressed in the former part of the Sūtra, 'If it be said that in the śākhās of some that which rests on Inference, i.e. the Pradhāna, is stated as the universal cause.'

The latter part of the Sūtra refutes this view. The word 'Unevolved' does not denote a Pradhāna independent of Brahman; it rather denotes the body represented as a chariot in the simile of the body, i.e. in the passage instituting a comparison between the Self, body, intellect, and so on, on the one side, and the charioteer, chariot, &c. on the other side.--The details are as follows. The text at first--in the section beginning 'Know the Self to be the person driving,' &c., and ending 'he reaches the end of the journey, and that is the highest place of Vishnu' (I, 3, 3-9)--compares the devotee desirous of reaching the goal of his journey through the samsāra, i.e. the abode of Vishnu, to a man driving in a chariot; and his body, senses, and so on, to the chariot and parts of the chariot; the meaning of the whole comparison being that he only reaches the goal who has the chariot, &c. in his control. It thereupon proceeds to declare which of the different beings enumerated and compared to a chariot, and so on, occupy a superior position to the others in so far, namely, as they are that which requires to be controlled--'higher than the senses are the objects,' and so on. Higher than the senses compared to the horses--are the objects--compared to roads,--because even a man who generally controls his senses finds it difficult to master them when they are in contact with their objects; higher than the objects is the mind-compared to the reins--because when the mind inclines towards the objects even the non-proximity of the latter does not make much difference; higher than the mind (manas) is the intellect (buddhi)--compared to the charioteer--because in the absence of decision (which is the characteristic quality of buddhi) the mind also has little power; higher than the intellect again is the (individual) Self, for that Self is the agent whom the intellect serves. And as all this is subject to the wishes of the Self, the text characterises it as the 'great Self.' Superior to that Self again is the body, compared to the chariot, for all activity whereby the individual Self strives to bring about what is of advantage to itself depends on the body. And higher finally than the body is the highest Person, the inner Ruler and Self of all, the term and goal of the journey of the individual soul; for the activities of all the beings enumerated depend on the wishes of that highest Self. As the universal inner Ruler that Self brings about the meditation of the Devotee also; for the Sūtra (II, 3, 41) expressly declares that the activity of the individual soul depends on the Supreme Person. Being the means for bringing about the meditation and the goal of meditation, that same Self is the highest object to be attained; hence the text says 'Higher than the Person there is nothing--that is the goal, the highest road.' Analogously scripture, in the Antaryāmi -Brāhmaṇa, at first declares that the highest Self within witnesses and rules everything, and thereupon negatives the existence of any further ruling principle 'There is no other seer but he,' &c. Similarly, in the Bhagavad Gītā, 'The abode, the agent, the various senses, the different and manifold functions, and fifth the Divinity (i.e. the highest Person)' (XVIII, 14); and 'I dwell within the heart of all; memory and perception, as well as their loss, come from me' (XV, 15). And if, as in the explanation of the text under discussion, we speak of that highest Self being 'controlled,' we must understand thereby the soul's taking refuge with it; compare the passage Bha. Gī. XVIII, 61-62, 'The Lord dwells in the heart of all creatures, whirling them round as if mounted on a machine; to Him go for refuge.' Now all the beings, senses, and so on, which had been mentioned in the simile, are recognised in the passage 'higher than the senses are the objects,' &c., being designated there by their proper names; but there is no mention made of the body which previously had been compared to the chariot; we therefore conclude that it is the body which is denoted by the term 'the Unevolved.' Hence there is no reason to see here a reference to the Pradhāna as established in the theory of Kapila. Nor do we recognise, in the text under discussion, the general system of Kapila. The text declares the objects, i.e. sounds and so on, to be superior to the senses; but in Kapila's system the objects are not viewed as the causes of the senses. For the same reason the statement that the manas is higher than the objects does not agree with Kapila's doctrine. Nor is this the case with regard to the clause 'higher than the buddhi is the great one, the Self; for with Kapila the 'great one' (mahat) is the buddhi, and it would not do to say 'higher than the great one is the great one.' And finally the 'great one,' according to Kapila, cannot be called the 'Self.' The text under discussion thus refers only to those entities which had previously appeared in the simile. The text itself further on proves this, when saying 'That Self is hidden in all beings and does not shine forth, but it is seen by subtle seers through their sharp and subtle intellect. A wise man should keep down speech in the mind, he should keep that within knowledge (which is) within the Self; he should keep knowledge within the great Self, and that he should keep within the quiet Self.' For this passage, after having stated that the highest Self is difficult to see with the inner and outer organs of knowledge, describes the mode in which the sense-organs, and so on, are to be held in control. The wise man should restrain the sense- organs and the organs of activity within the mind; he should restrain that (i.e. the mind) within knowledge, i.e. within the intellect (buddhi), which abides within the Self; he should further restrain the intellect within the great Self, i.e. the active individual Self; and that Self finally he should restrain within the quiet Self, i.e. the highest Brahman, which is the inner ruler of all; i.e. he should reach, with his individual Self so qualified, the place of Vishnu, i.e. Brahman.--But how can the term 'the Unevolved' denote the evolved body?--To this question the next Sūtra furnishes a reply.

Sutra 1,4.2

सूक्ष्मं तु तदर्हत्वात् ॥ २ ॥

sūkṣmaṃ tu tadarhatvāt || 2 ||

sūkṣmaṃ—Subtle; tu—but; tadarhatvāt—because it can be properly so designated.

2. But the subtle (cause of the body is meant by the term ‘Avyakta’) because it can be properly so designated.

The elements in their fine state are what is called the 'Unevolved,' and this entering into a particular condition becomes the body. It is the 'Unevolved' in the particular condition of the body, which in the text under discussion is called the 'Unevolved.' 'On account of its capability,' i.e. because Unevolved non- sentient matter, when assuming certain states and forms, is capable of entering on activities promoting the interest of man. But, an objection is raised, if the 'Unevolved' is taken to be matter in its subtle state, what objection is there to our accepting for the explanation of our text that which is established in the Sānkhya-system? for there also the 'Unevolved' means nothing else but matter in its subtle state.

To this the next Sūtra replies—

Sutra 1,4.3

तदधीनत्वादर्थवत् ॥ ३ ॥

tadadhīnatvādarthavat || 3 ||

tadadhīnatvāt—On account of its dependence; arthavat—is fitting.

3. On account of its dependence (on the Lord), it fits in (with our theory).

Matter in its subtle state subserves ends, in so far only as it is dependent on the Supreme Person who is the cause of all. We by no means wish to deny unevolved matter and all its effects in themselves, but in so far only as they are maintained not to have their Self in the Supreme Person. For the fact is that they constitute his body and He thus constitutes their Self; and it is only through this their relation to him that the Pradhāna, and so on, are capable of accomplishing their several ends. Otherwise the different essential natures of them all could never exist,--nor persist, nor act. It is just on the ground of this dependence on the Lord not being acknowledged by the Sānkhyas that their system is disproved by us. In Scripture and Smriti alike, wherever the origination and destruction of the world are described, or the greatness of the Supreme Person is glorified, the Pradhāna and all its effects, no less than the individual souls, are declared to have their Self in that Supreme Person. Compare, e.g. the text which first says that the earth is merged in water, and further on 'the elements are merged in the Mahat, the Mahat in the Unevolved, the Unevolved in the Imperishable, the Imperishable in Darkness; Darkness becomes one with the highest divinity.' And 'He of whom the earth is the body,' &c. up to 'he of whom the Unevolved is the body; of whom the Imperishable is the body; of whom death is the body; he the inner Self of all beings, free from all evil, the divine one, the one God Nārāyana." And Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, egoity--thus eightfold is my nature divided. Lower is this nature; other than this and higher know that nature of mine which has become the individual soul by which this world is supported. Remember that all beings spring from this; I am the origin and the dissolution of the whole Universe. Higher than I there is none else; all this is strung on me as pearls on a thread' (Bha. Gī VII, 4-7). And 'the Evolved is Vishnu, and the Unevolved, he is the Person and time.--The nature (Prakriti) declared by me, having the double form of the Evolved and the Unevolved, and the soul-both these are merged in the highest Self. That Self is the support of all, the Supreme Person who under the name of Vishnu is glorified in the Vedas and the Vedānta books.'

Sutra 1,4.4

ज्ञेयत्वावचनाच्च ॥ ४ ॥

jñeyatvāvacanācca || 4 ||

jñeyatvāvacanāt—Because it is not mentioned (as something) to be known; ca—and.

4. And because it is not mentioned (that the Avyakta) is to be known (it cannot be the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas).

If the text meant the Non-evolved as understood by the Sānkhyas it would refer to it as something to be known; for the Sānkhyas, who hold the theory of Release resulting from the discriminative knowledge of the Evolved, the  [paragraph continues] Non-evolved, and the soul, admit that all these are objects of knowledge. Now our text does not refer to the Un-evolved as an object of knowledge, and it cannot therefore be the Pradhāna assumed by the Sānkhyas.

 Sutra 1,4.5

वदतीति चेत्, न, प्राज्ञो हि प्रकरणात् ॥ ५ ॥

vadatīti cet, na, prājño hi prakaraṇāt || 5 ||

vadati—Does state; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; prājñaḥ—inelligent self; hi—for; prakaraṇāt—from the context.

5. If it be said (that the Śruti) does state (that the Avyakta has to be known and therefore it is the Pradhāna); (we say) no, for (it is) the intelligent (Supreme) Self (which is meant), since that is the topic.

'He who has meditated on that which is without sound, without touch, without form, without decay, without taste, eternal, without smell, without beginning, without end, beyond the Great, unchangeable; is freed from the jaws of death' (Ka. Up. II, 3,15), this scriptural text, closely following on the text under discussion, represents the 'Unevolved' as the object of knowledge!--Not so, we reply. What that śloka represents as the object of meditation is (not the Unevolved but) the intelligent Self, i.e. the Supreme Person. For it is the latter who forms the general subject-matter, as we infer from two preceding passages, viz. 'He who has knowledge for his charioteer, and who holds the reins of the mind, he reaches the end of his journey, the highest place of Vishnu'; and 'That Self is hidden in all beings and does not shine forth, but it is seen by subtle seers through their sharp and subtle intellect.' For this reason, also, the clause 'Higher than the person there is nothing' cannot be taken as meant to deny the existence of an entity beyond the 'Purusha' in the Sānkhya sense. That the highest Self possesses the qualities of being without sound, &c., we moreover know from other scriptural texts, such as Mu. Up. I, 1, 6 'That which is not to be seen, not to be grasped,' &c. And the qualification 'beyond the Great, unchangeable' is meant to declare that the highest Self is beyond the individual Self which had been called 'the Great' in a previous passage 'beyond the intellect is the Great Self.'

 Sutra 1,4.6

त्रयाणामेव चैवमुपन्यासः प्रश्नश्च ॥ ६ ॥

trayāṇāmeva caivamupanyāsaḥ praśnaśca || 6 ||

trayāṇām—Of three; eva—only; ca—and; evaṃ—thus; upanyāsaḥ—introduction; praśnaḥ—question; na—and;

6. And thus the question and elucidation with reference to three only (of which the Pradhāna is not one) (is consistent).

In the Upanishad under discussion there is mention made of three things only as objects of knowledge--the three standing to one another in the relation of means, end to be realised by those means, and persons realising,--and questions are asked as to those three only. There is no mention of, nor question referring to, the Unevolved.--Nachikētas desirous of Release having been allowed by Death to choose three boons, chooses for his first boon that his father should be well disposed towards him--without which he could not hope for spiritual welfare. For his second boon he chooses the knowledge of the Nachikēta-fire, which is a means towards final Release. 'Thou knowest, O Death, the fire-sacrifice which leads to heaven; tell it to me, full of faith. Those who live in the heaven-world reach Immortality--this I ask as my second boon.' The term 'heaven-world' here denotes the highest aim of man, i.e. Release, as appears from the declaration that those who live there enjoy freedom from old age and death; from the fact that further on (I, 1, 26) works leading to perishable results are disparaged; and from what Yama says in reply to the second demand 'He who thrice performs this Nachikēta-rite overcomes birth and death.' As his third boon he, in the form of a question referring to final release, actually enquires about three things, viz. 'the nature of the end to be reached, i.e. Release; the nature of him who wishes to reach that end; and the nature of the means to reach it, i.e. of meditation assisted by certain works. Yama, having tested Nachikētas' fitness to receive the desired instruction, thereupon begins to teach him. 'The Ancient who is difficult to be seen, who has entered into the dark, who is hidden in the cave, who dwells in the abyss; having known him as God, by means of meditation on his Self, the wise one leaves joy and sorrow behind.' Here the clause 'having known the God,' points to the divine Being that is to be meditated upon; the clause 'by means of meditation on his Self points to the attaining agent, i.e. the individual soul as an object of knowledge; and the clause 'having known him the wise ones leave joy and sorrow behind' points to the meditation through which Brahman is to be reached. Nachikētas, pleased with the general instruction received, questions again in order to receive clearer information on those three matters, 'What thou seest as different from dharma and different from adharma, as different from that, from that which is done and not done, as different from what is past or future, tell me that'; a question referring to three things, viz. an object to be effected, a means to effect it, and an effecting agent--each of which is to be different from anything else past, present, or future. Yama thereupon at first instructs him as to the Pranava, 'That word which all the Vedas record, which all penances proclaim, desiring which men become religious students; that word I tell thee briefly--it is Om'--an instruction which implies praise of the Pranava, and in a general way sets forth that which the Pranava expresses, e.g. the nature of the object to be reached, the nature of the person reaching it, and the means for reaching it, such means here consisting in the word 'Om,' which denotes the object to be reached 2. He then continues to glorify the Pranava (I, a, 16-17), and thereupon gives special information in the first place about the nature of the attaining subject, i.e., the individual soul, 'The knowing Self is not born, it dies not,' &c. Next he teaches Nachikētas as to the true nature of the object to be attained, viz. the highest Brahman or Vishnu, in the section beginning 'The Self smaller than small,' and ending 'Who then knows where he is?' (I, 2, 20-25). Part of this section, viz. 'That Self cannot be gained by the Veda,' &c., at the same time teaches that the meditation through which Brahman is attained is of the nature of devotion (bhakti). Next the śloka I, 3, 1 'There are the two drinking their reward' shows that, as the object of devout meditation and the devotee abide together, meditation is easily performed. Then the section beginning 'Know the Self to be him who drives in the chariot,' and ending 'the wise say the path is hard' (I, 3, 3-14), teaches the true mode of meditation, and how the devotee reaches the highest abode of Vishnu; and then there is a final reference to the object to be reached in I, 3,15, 'That which is without sound, without touch,' &c. It thus appears that there are references and questions regarding those three matters only; and hence the 'Un-evolved' cannot mean the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas.

Sutra 1,4.7

महद्वच्च ॥ ७ ॥

mahadvacca || 7 ||

mahadvat—Like Mahat; ca—and.

7. And like Mahat (the word ‘Avyakta’ does not refer to any Sānkhya’s category).

In the case of the passage 'Higher than the intellect is the Great Self,' we conclude from the coordination of 'the Great' with the Self that what the text means is not the 'Great' principle of the Sānkhyas; analogously we conclude that the 'Unevolved,' which is said to be higher than the Self, cannot be the Pradhāna of Kapila's system.