I-4 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 2

Topic 2 - The Tri-coloured Ajā of the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad is not the Sānkhya’s Pradhāna

 Sutra 1,4.8

चमसवदविशेषात् ॥ ८ ॥

camasavadaviśeṣāt || 8 ||

camasavat—Like the bowl; aviśeṣāt—for want of special characteristics.

8. (The word ‘Ajā’ cannot be asserted to mean the Pradhāna) for want of special characteristics, as in the case of the bowl.

In the discussion of the following passages also we aim only at refuting the system of the Sānkhyas; not at disproving the existence and nature of Prakriti, the 'great' principle, the ahaṁkāra, and so on, viewed as dependent on Brahman. For that they exist in this latter relation is proved by Scripture as well as Smriti.--A text of the followers of the Atharvan runs as follows: 'Her who produces all effects, the non- knowing one, the unborn one, wearing eight forms, the firm one--she is known (by the Lord) and ruled by him, she is spread out and incited and ruled by him, gives birth to the world for the benefit of the souls. A cow she is without beginning and end, a mother producing all beings; white, black, and red, milking all wishes for the Lord. Many babes unknown drink her. the impartial one; but one God only, following his own will, drinks her submitting to him. By his own thought and work the mighty God strongly enjoys her, who is common to all, the milk-giver, who is pressed by the sacrifices. The Non-evolved when being counted by twenty-four is called the Evolved.' This passage evidently describes the nature of Prakriti, and so on, and the same Upanishad also teaches the Supreme Person who constitutes the Self of Prakriti, and so on. 'Him they call the twenty-sixth or also the twenty- seventh; as the Person devoid of all qualities of the Sānkhyas he is known by the followers of the Atharvan.'--Other followers of the Atharvan read in their text that there are sixteen originating principles (Prakriti) and eight effected things (vikāra; Garbha Up. 3).--The Śvetāśvatara again set forth the nature of Prakriti, the soul and the Lord as follows. 'The Lord supports all this together, the Perishable and the Imperishable, the Evolved and the Unevolved; the other one is in bondage, since he is an enjoyer; but having known the God he is free from all fetters. There are two unborn ones, the one knowing and a Lord, the other without knowledge and lordly power; there is the one unborn female on whom the enjoyment of all enjoyers depends; and there is the infinite Self appearing in all shapes, but itself inactive. When a man finds out these three, that is Brahman. The Perishable is the Pradhāna, the Immortal and Imperishable is Hara; the one God rules the Perishable and the Self. From meditation on him, from union with him, from becoming one with him there is in the end cessation of all Māyā' (Svet. Up. I, 8-10). And 'The sacred verses, the offerings, the sacrifices, the vows, the past, the future, and all that the Vedas declare--from that the Ruler of Māyā creates all this; and in this the other one is bound up through Māyā. Know then Prakriti to be Māyā and the great Lord the ruler of Māyā; with his members this whole world is filled' (Svet. Up. V, 9-10). And, further on, 'The master of Pradhāna and the soul, the lord of the gunas, the cause of the bondage, existence, and release of worldly existence' (VI, 16). Thus likewise in Smriti, 'Do thou know both Nature and the soul to be without beginning, and know all effects and qualities to have sprung from Nature. Nature is declared to be the cause of the activity of causes and effects, whilst the soul is the cause of there being enjoyment of pleasure and pain. For the soul abiding in Nature experiences the qualities derived from Nature, the reason being its connexion with the qualities, in its births in good and evil wombs' (Bha. Gī. XIII, 19-21). And 'Goodness, Passion, and Darkness-- these are the qualities which, issuing from nature, bind in the body the embodied soul, the undecaying one' (XIV, 5). And 'All beings at the end of a Kalpa return into my Nature, and again, at the beginning of a Kalpa, do I send them forth. Presiding over my own nature again and again do I send forth this vast body of beings which has no freedom of its own, being subject to Nature.--With me as ruler Nature brings forth all moving and non-moving things, and for this reason the world does ever go round' (Bha. Gī. IX, 7, 8, 10). What we therefore refuse to accept are a Prakriti, and so on, of the kind assumed by Kapila, i.e. not having their Self in Brahman.--We now proceed to explain the Sūtra.

We read in the Śvetāśvatara-Upanishad 'There is one ajā, red, white, and black, producing manifold offspring of the same nature. One ajā loves her and lies by her; another leaves her after having enjoyed her.' A doubt arises here whether this mantra declares a mere Prakriti as assumed in Kapila's system, or a Prakriti having its Self in Brahman.

The Pūrvapakshin maintains the former alternative. For, he points out, the text refers to the non- originatedness of Prakriti, calling her ajā, i.e. unborn, and further says that she by herself independently produces manifold offspring resembling herself. This view is rejected by the Sūtra, on the ground that there is no intimation of a special circumstance determining the acceptance of the Prakriti as assumed by the Sānkhyas, i.e. independent of Brahman; for that she is ajā, i. e. not born, is not a sufficiently special characteristic. The case is analogous to that of the 'cup.' In the mantra 'There is a cup having its mouth below and its bottom above' (Bri. Up. II, 2, 3), the word kamasa conveys to us only the idea of some implement used in eating, but we are unable to see what special kind of kamasa is meant; for in the case of words the meaning of which is ascertained on the ground of their derivation (as 'kamasa' from 'kam,' to eat or drink), the special sense of the word in any place cannot be ascertained without the help of considerations of general possibility, general subject-matter, and so on. Now in the case of the cup we are able to ascertain that the cup meant is the head, because there is a complementary passage 'What is called the cup with its mouth below and its bottom above is the head'; but if we look out for a similar help to determine the special meaning of ajā, we find nothing to convince us that the ajā, i. e. the 'unborn' principle, is the Prakriti of the Sānkhyas. Nor is there anything in the text to convey the idea of that ajā having the power of independent creation; for the clause 'giving birth to manifold offspring' declares only that she creates, not that she creates unaided. The mantra does not therefore tell us about an 'unborn' principle independent of Brahman.--There moreover is a special reason for understanding by the ajā something that depends on Brahman. This the following Sūtra states.

Sutra 1,4.9

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ ९ ॥

jyotirupakramā tu, tathā hyadhīyata eke || 9 ||

jyotirupakramā—(Elements) beginning with light; tu—but; tathā—so; hi—because; adhīyata—read; eke—some.

9. But (the elements) beginning with light (are meant by the word Ajā), because some read so.

The 'but' has assertory force. 'Light' in the Sūtra means Brahman, in accordance with the meaning of the term as known from texts such as 'On him the gods meditate, the light of lights' (Bri. Up. X, 4, 16); 'That light which shines beyond heaven' (Kh. Up. III, 13, 7). 'She begins with light' thus means 'she has Brahman for her cause.'--'For thus some read in their text,' i.e. because the members of one Śākhā, viz the Taittirīya read in their text that this 'ajā' has Brahman for her cause. The Mahānārāyaṇa-Upanishad (of the Taittirīya) at first refers to Brahman abiding in the hollow of the heart as the object of meditation. 'Smaller than the small, greater than the great, the Self placed in the hollow of this creature'; next declares that all the worlds and Brahma and the other gods originated from that Self; and then says that there sprung from it also this ajā which is the cause of all 'The one ajā (goat), red, white and black, which gives birth to numerous offspring of the same shape, one ajā (he-goat) loves and lies by her; another one forsakes her after having enjoyed her.' The subject-matter of the entire section evidently is to give instruction as to the whole aggregate of things other than Brahman originating from Brahman and thus having its Self in it; hence we conclude that also the ajā which gives birth to manifold creatures like her, and is enjoyed by the soul controlled by karman, while she is abandoned by the soul possessing true knowledge is, no less than vital airs, seas, mountains, &c., a creature of Brahman, and hence has its Self in Brahman. We then apply to the interpretation of the Śvetāśvatara-text the meaning of the analogous Mahānārāyaṇa-text, as determined by the complementary passages, and thus arrive at the conclusion that the ajā in the former text also is a being having its Self in Brahman. That this is so, moreover, appears from the Śvetāśvatara itself. For in the early part of that Upanishad, we have after the introductory question, 'Is Brahman the cause?' the passage 'The sages devoted to meditation and concentration have seen the person whose Self is the divinity, hidden in its own qualities' (I, 1, 3); which evidently refers to the ajā. as being of the nature of a power of the highest Brahman. And as further on also (viz. in the passages 'From that the Māyin creates all this, and in this the other is bound up through Māyā'; 'Know then Prakriti to be Māyā and the Great Lord the ruler of Māyā'; and 'he who rules every place of birth,' V, 9-11) the very same being is referred to, there remains not even a shadow of proof for the assertion that the mantra under discussion refers to an independent Prakriti as assumed by the Sānkhyas.

But a further objection is raised, if the Prakriti denoted by ajā begins with, i.e. is caused by Brahman, how can it be called ajā, i.e. the non-produced one; or, if it is non-produced, how can it be originated by Brahman? To this the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 1,4.10

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ १० ॥

kalpanopadeśācca madhvādivadavirodhaḥ || 10 ||

kalpanopadeśāt—Instruction having been given through; ca—and imagery; madhvādivat—as in the case of ‘honey’ etc.; avirodhaḥ—no incongruity.

10. And instruction having been given through the imagery (of a goat) (there is) no incongruity, (even) as in the case of ‘honey’ (standing for the sun in Madhuvidyā for the purpose of devout meditation) and such other cases.

The 'and' expresses disposal of a doubt that had arisen. There is no contradiction between the Prakriti being ajā and originating from light. On account of instruction being given about the formation (Kalpanā), i.e. creation of the world. This interpretation of 'Kalpanā' is in agreement with the use of the verb klip in the text, 'as formerly the creator made (akalpayat) sun and moon.'

In our text the śloka 'from that the Lord of Māyā creates all this' gives instruction about the creation of the world. From that, i.e. from matter in its subtle causal state when it is not yet divided, the Lord of all creates the entire Universe. From this statement about creation we understand that Prakriti exists in a twofold state according as it is either cause or effect. During a pralaya it unites itself with Brahman and abides in its subtle state, without any distinction of names and forms; it then is called the 'Unevolved,' and by other similar names. At the time of creation, on the other hand, there reveal themselves in Prakriti Goodness and the other gunas, it divides itself according to names and forms, and then is called the 'Evolved,' and so on, and, transforming itself into fire, water, and earth, it appears as red, white, and black. In its causal condition it is ajā, i.e. unborn, in its effected condition it is 'caused by light, i.e. Brahman'; hence there is no contradiction. The case is analogous to that of the 'honey.' The sun in his causal state is one only, but in his effected state the Lord makes him into honey in so far namely as he then, for the purpose of enjoyment on the part of the Vasus and other gods, is the abode of nectar brought about by sacrificial works to be learned from the Rik and the other Vedas; and further makes him to rise and to set. And between these two conditions there is no contradiction. This is declared in the Madhuvidyā (Ch. Up. III), from 'The sun is indeed the honey of the Devas,' down to 'when from thence he has risen upwards he neither rises nor sets; being one he stands in the centre'--'one' here means 'of one nature.'--The conclusion therefore is that the Śvetāśvatara mantra under discussion refers to Prakriti as having her Self in Brahman, not to the Prakriti assumed by the Sānkhyas.

Others, however, are of opinion that the one ajā of which the mantra speaks has for its characteristics light, water, and earth. To them we address the following questions. Do you mean that by what the text speaks of as an ajā, consisting of fire, water, and earth, we have to understand those three elements only; or Brahman in the form of those three elements; or some power or principle which is the cause of the three elements? The first alternative is in conflict with the circumstance that, while fire, water, and earth are several things, the text explicitly refers to one Ajā. Nor may it be urged that fire, water, and earth, although several, become one, by being made tripartite (Ch. Up. VI, 3, 3); for this making them tripartite, does not take away their being several; the text clearly showing that each several element becomes tripartite, 'Let me make each of these three divine beings tripartite.'--The second alternative again divides itself into two alternatives. Is the one ajā Brahman in so far as having passed over into fire, water, and earth; or Brahman in so far as abiding within itself and not passing over into effects? The former alternative is excluded by the consideration that it does not remove plurality (which cannot be reconciled with the one ajā). The second alternative is contradicted by the text calling that ajā red, white, and black; and moreover Brahman viewed as abiding within itself cannot be characterised by fire, water, and earth. On the third alternative it has to be assumed that the text denotes by the term 'ajā' the three elements, and that on this basis there is imagined a causal condition of these elements; but better than this assumption it evidently is to accept the term 'ajā' as directly denoting the causal state of those three elements as known from scripture.

Nor can we admit the contention that the term 'ajā' is meant to teach that Prakriti should metaphorically be viewed as a she-goat; for such a view would be altogether purposeless. Where--in the passage 'Know the Self to be him who drives in the chariot'--the body, and so on, are compared to a chariot, and so on, the object is to set forth the means of attaining Brahman; where the sun is compared to honey, the object is to illustrate the enjoyment of the Vasus and other gods; but what similar object could possibly be attained by directing us to view Prakriti as a goat? Such a metaphorical view would in fact be not merely useless; it would be downright irrational. Prakriti is a non-intelligent principle, the causal substance of the entire material Universe, and constituting the means for the experience of pleasure and pain, and for the final release, of all intelligent souls which are connected with it from all eternity. Now it would be simply contrary to good sense, metaphorically to transfer to Prakriti such as described the nature of a she-goat--which is a sentient being that gives birth to very few creatures only, enters only occasionally into connexion with others, is of small use only, is not the cause of herself being abandoned by others, and is capable of abandoning those connected with her. Nor does it recommend itself to take the word ajā. (understood to mean 'she-goat') in a sense different from that in which we understand the term 'ajā' which occurs twice in the same mantra.--Let then all three terms be taken in the same metaphorical sense (ajā meaning he-goat).--It would be altogether senseless, we reply, to compare the soul which absolutely dissociates itself from Prakriti ('Another ajā leaves her after having enjoyed her') to a he-goat which is able to enter again into connexion with what he has abandoned, or with anything else.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the cup.'