II-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 3

Topic 3 - Brahman, though of a different nature from the world, can yet be its cause

Sutra 2,1.4

न विलक्षणत्वादस्य, तथात्वं च शब्दात् ॥ ४ ॥

na vilakṣaṇatvādasya, tathātvaṃ ca śabdāt || 4 ||

na—Not; vilakṣaṇatvāt—because of the contrary nature; asya—of this; tathātvaṃ—its being so; ca—and; śabdāt—from Śruti.

4. (Brahman is) not (the cause of the world) because this (world) is of a contrary nature (from Brahman); and its being so, (i. e. different from Brahman) (is known) from the scriptures.

The same opponent who laid stress on the conflict between Scripture and Smriti now again comes forward, relying this time (not on Smriti but) on simple reasoning. Your doctrine, he says, as to the world being an effect of Brahman which you attempted to prove by a refutation of the Sānkhya Smriti shows itself to be irrational for the following reason. Perception and the other means of knowledge show this world with all its sentient and non-sentient beings to be of a non-intelligent and impure nature, to possess none of the qualities of the Lord, and to have pain for its very essence; and such a world totally differs in nature from the Brahman, postulated by you, which is said to be all-knowing, of supreme lordly power, antagonistic to all evil, enjoying unbroken uniform blessedness. This difference in character of the world from Brahman is, moreover, not only known through Perception, and so on, but is seen to be directly stated in Scripture itself; compare 'Knowledge and non-knowledge' (Taitt. Up. II, 6, 1); 'Thus are these objects placed on the subjects, and the subjects on the prāṇa' (Kau. Up. III, 9); 'On the same tree man sits grieving, immersed, bewildered by his own impotence' (Svet. Up. IV, 7); 'The soul not being a Lord is bound because he has to enjoy' (Svet. Up. I, 8); and so on; all which texts refer to the effect, i.e. the world as being non-intelligent, of the essence of pain, and so on. The general rule is that an effect is non- different in character from its cause; as e.g. pots and bracelets are non-different in character from their material causes--clay and gold. The world cannot, therefore, be the effect of Brahman from which it differs in character, and we hence conclude that, in agreement with the Sānkhya Smriti, the Pradhāna which resembles the actual world in character must be assumed to be the general cause. Scripture, although not dependent on anything else and concerned with super-sensuous objects, must all the same come to terms with ratiocination (tarka); for all the different means of knowledge can in many cases help us to arrive at a decisive conclusion, only if they are supported by ratiocination. For by tarka we understand that kind of knowledge (intellectual activity) which in the case of any given matter, by means of an investigation either into the essential nature of that matter or into collateral (auxiliary) factors, determines what possesses proving power, and what are the special details of the matter under consideration: this kind of cognitional activity is also called ūha. All means of knowledge equally stand in need of tarka; Scripture however, the authoritative character of which specially depends on expectancy (ākānkṣā), proximity (Sannidhi), and compatibility (yogyatā), throughout requires to be assisted by tarka. In accordance with this Manu says, ‘He who investigates by means of reasoning, he only knows religious duty, and none other.' It is with a view to such confirmation of the sense of Scripture by means of Reasoning that the texts declare that certain topics such as the Self must be 'reflected on' (mantavya).--Now here it might possibly be said that as Brahman is ascertained from Scripture to be the sole cause of the world, it must be admitted that intelligence exists in the world also, which is an effect of Brahman. In the same way as the consciousness of an intelligent being is not perceived when it is in the states of deep sleep, swoon, etc., so the intelligent nature of jars and the like also is not observed, although it really exists; and it is this very difference of manifestation and non- manifestation of intelligence on which the distinction of intelligent and non-intelligent beings depends.-- But to this we reply that permanent non-perception of intelligence proves its non-existence. This consideration also refutes the hypothesis of things commonly called non-intelligent possessing the power, or potentiality, of consciousness. For if you maintain that a thing possesses the power of producing an effect while yet that effect is never and nowhere seen to be produced by it, you may as well proclaim at a meeting of sons of barren women that their mothers possess eminent procreative power! Moreover, to prove at first from the Vedānta-texts that Brahman is the material cause of the world, and from this that pots and the like possess potential consciousness, and therefrom the existence of non-manifested consciousness; and then, on the other hand, to start from the last principle as proved and to deduce therefrom that the Vedānta-texts prove Brahman to be the material cause of the world, is simply to argue in a circle; for that the relation of cause and effect should exist between things different in character is just what cannot be proved.--What sameness of character, again, of causal substance and effects, have you in mind when you maintain that from the absence of such sameness it follows that Brahman cannot be proved to be the material cause of the world? It cannot be complete sameness of all attributes, because in that case the relation of cause and effect (which after all requires some difference) could not be established. For we do not observe that in pots and jars which are fashioned out of a lump of clay there persists the quality of 'being a lump' which belongs to the causal substance. And should you say that it suffices that there should be equality in some or any attribute, we point out that such is actually the case with regard to Brahman and the world, both of which have the attribute of 'existence' and others. The true state of the case rather is as follows. There is equality of nature between an effect and a cause, in that sense that those essential characteristics by which the causal substance distinguishes itself from other things persist in its effects also: those characteristic features, e.g., which distinguish gold from clay and other materials, persist also in things made of gold-bracelets and the like. But applying this consideration to Brahman and the world we find that Brahman's essential nature is to be antagonistic to all evil, and to consist of knowledge, bliss and power, while the world's essential nature is to be the opposite of all this. Brahman cannot, therefore, be the material cause of the world.

But, it may be objected, we observe that even things of different essential characteristics stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect. From man, e.g., who is a sentient being, there spring nails, teeth, and hair, which are non-sentient things; the sentient scorpion springs from non-sentient dung; and non- sentient threads proceed from the sentient spider.--This objection, we reply, is not valid; for in the instances quoted the relation of cause and effect rests on the non-sentient elements only (i.e. it is only the non-sentient matter of the body which produces nails, etc.).

But, a further objection is raised, Scripture itself declares in many places that things generally held to be non-sentient really possess intelligence; compare 'to him the earth said'; 'the water desired'; 'the prāṇas quarrelling among themselves as to their relative pre-eminence went to Brahman.' And the writers of the Purāṇas ako attribute consciousness to rivers, hills, the sea, and so on. Hence there is after all no essential difference in nature between sentient and so-called non-sentient beings.--To this objection the Pūrvapakshin replies in the next Sūtra.

Sutra 2,1.5

अभिमानिव्यपदेशस्तु विशेषानुगतिभ्याम् ॥ ५ ॥

abhimānivyapadeśastu viśeṣānugatibhyām || 5 ||

abhimānivyapadeśaḥ—The reference (is) to the presiding deities; tu—but; viśeṣa-anugatibhyām—because of the special characterization and the fact of being so presided.

5. But the reference is to the presiding deities (of the organs) on account of the special characterization (as ‘deities’) and also from the fact of a deity so presiding (over the functions of an organ being approved by the Śruti in other texts).

The word 'but' is meant to set aside the objection started. In texts such as 'to him the earth said,' the terms 'earth' and so on, denote the divinities presiding over earth and the rest.--How is this known?--' Through distinction and connexion.' For earth and so on are denoted by the distinctive term 'divinities'; so e.g. 'Let me enter into those three divinities' (Kh. Up. VI, 3, 2), where fire, water, and earth are called divinities; and Kau. Up. II, 14, 'All divinities contending with each other as to pre-eminence,' and 'all these divinities having recognised pre-eminence in prāṇa.' The 'entering' of the Sūtra refers to Ait. Ar. II, 4, 2, 4, 'Agni having become speech entered into the mouth; Āditya having become sight entered into the eyes,' etc., where the text declares that Agni and other divine beings entered into the sense-organs as their superintendents.

We therefore adhere to our conclusion that the world, being non-intelligent and hence essentially different in nature from Brahman, cannot be the effect of Brahman; and that therefore, in agreement with Smriti confirmed by reasoning, the Vedānta-texts must be held to teach that the Pradhāna is the universal material cause. This prima facie view is met by the following Sūtra.

Sutra 2,1.6

दृश्यते तु ॥ ६ ॥

dṛśyate tu || 6 ||

dṛśyate—Is seen; tu—but.

6. But it is seen.

The 'but' indicates the change of view (introduced in the present Sūtra).

The assertion that Brahman cannot be the material cause of the world because the latter differs from it in essential nature, is unfounded; since it is a matter of observation that even things of different nature stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect. For it is observed that from honey and similar substances there originate worms and other little animals.--But it has been said above that in those cases there is sameness of nature, in so far as the relation of cause and effect holds good only between the non-intelligent elements in both!--This assertion was indeed made, but it does not suffice to prove that equality of character between cause and effect which you have in view. For, being apprehensive that from the demand of equality of character in some point or other only it would follow that, as all things have certain characteristics in common, anything might originate from anything, you have declared that the equality of character necessary for the relation of cause and effect is constituted by the persistence, in the effect, of those characteristic points which differentiate the cause from other things. But it is evident that this restrictive rule does not hold good in the case of the origination of worms and the like from honey and so on; and hence it is not unreasonable to assume that the world also, although differing in character from Brahman, may originate from the latter. For in the case of worms originating from honey, scorpions from dung, etc., we do not observe--what indeed we do observe in certain other cases, as of pots made of clay, ornaments made of gold--that the special characteristics distinguishing the causal substance from other things persist in the effects also.

Sutra 2,1.7

असदिति, चेत्, न, प्रतिषेधमात्रत्वात् ॥ ७ ॥

asaditi, cet, na, pratiṣedhamātratvāt || 7 ||

asat—Non-existent; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; pratiṣedhamātratvāt—for it is merely a negation.

7. If it be said (that- the world, the effect, would then be) non-existent (before creation), (we say) no, for it is merely a negation (without any basis).

But, an objection is raised, if Brahman, the cause, differs in nature from the effect, viz. the world, this means that cause and effect are separate things and that hence the effect does not exist in the cause, i.e. Brahman; and this again implies that the world originates from what has no existence!--Not so, we reply. For what the preceding Sūtra has laid down is merely the denial of an absolute rule demanding that cause and effect should be of the same nature; it was not asserted that the effect is a thing altogether different and separate from the cause. We by no means abandon our tenet that Brahman the cause modifies itself so as to assume the form of a world differing from it in character. For such is the case with the honey and the worms also. There is difference of characteristics, but--as in the case of gold and golden bracelets--there is oneness of substance.--An objection is raised.

Sutra 2,1.8

अपीतौ तद्वत्प्रसङ्गादसमञ्जसम् ॥ ८ ॥

apītau tadvatprasaṅgādasamañjasam || 8 ||

apītau—At the time of dissolution; tadvat—like that; prasaṅgāt—on account of the fact; asamañjasam—is absurd.

8. On account of the fact that at the time of dissolution (the cause becomes) like that (i. e., like the effect) (the doctrine of Brahman being the cause of the world) is absurd.

The term 'reabsorption' here stands as an instance of all the states of Brahman, reabsorption, creation, and so on--among which it is the first as appears from the texts giving instruction about those several states 'Being only was this in the beginning'; 'The Self only was this in the beginning.' If we accept the doctrine of the oneness of substance of cause and effect, then, absorption, creation, etc. of the world all being in Brahman, the different states of the world would connect themselves with Brahman, and the latter would thus be affected by all the imperfections of its effect; in the same way as all the attributes of the bracelet are present in the gold also. And the undesirable consequence of this would be that contradictory attributes as predicated in different Vedānta-texts would have to be attributed to one and the same substance; cp. 'He who is all-knowing' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 9); 'Free from sin, free from old age and death' (Kh. Up. VIII, 1, 5); 'Of him there is known neither cause nor effect' (Svet. Up. VI, 8); 'Of these two one eats the sweet fruit' (Svet. Up. IV, 6); 'The Self that is not a Lord is bound because he has to enjoy' (Svet. Up. I, 8); 'On account of his impotence he laments, bewildered' (Svet. Up. IV, 7).--Nor can we accept the explanation that, as Brahman in its causal as well as its effected state has all sentient and non-sentient beings for its body; and as all imperfections inhere in that body only, they do not touch Brahman in either its causal or effected state. For it is not possible that the world and Brahman should stand to each other in the relation of effect and cause, and if it were possible, the imperfections due to connexion with a body would necessarily cling to Brahman. It is not, we say, possible that the intelligent and non-ntelligent beings together should constitute the body of Brahman. For a body is a particular aggregate of earth and the other elements, depending for its subsistence on vital breath with its five modifications, and serving as an abode to the sense-organs which mediate the experiences of pleasure and pain retributive of former works: such is in Vedic and worldly speech the sense connected with the term 'body.' But numerous Vedic texts--'Free from sin, from old age and death' (Kh. Up. VIII, 1); 'Without eating the other one looks on' (Svet. Up. IV, 6); 'Grasping without hands, hasting without feet, he sees without eyes, he hears without ears' (Svet. Up. III, 19); 'Without breath, without mind' (Mu. Up. II, 1, 2)--declare that the highest Self is free from karman and the enjoyment of its fruits, is not capable of enjoyment dependent on sense-organs, and has no life dependent on breath: whence it follows that he cannot have a body constituted by all the non-sentient and sentient beings. Nor can either non-sentient beings in their individual forms such as grass, trees, etc., or the aggregate of all the elements in their subtle state be viewed as the abode of sense-activity (without which they cannot constitute a body); nor are the elements in their subtle state combined into earth and the other gross elements (which again would be required for a body). And sentient beings which consist of mere intelligence are of course incapable of all this, and hence even less fit to constitute a body. Nor may it be said that to have a body merely means to be the abode of fruition, and that Brahman may possess a body in this latter sense; for there are abodes of fruition, such as palaces and the like, which are not considered to be bodies. Nor will it avail, narrowing the last definition, to say that that only is an abode of enjoyment directly abiding in which a being enjoys pain and pleasure; for if a soul enters a body other than its own, that body is indeed the abode in which it enjoys the pains and pleasures due to such entering, but is not admitted to be in the proper sense of the word the body of the soul thus entered. In the case of the Lord, on the other hand, who is in the enjoyment of self-established supreme bliss, it can in no way be maintained that he must be joined to a body, consisting of all sentient and non-sentient beings, for the purpose of enjoyment.--That view also according to which a 'body' means no more than a means of enjoyment is refuted hereby.

You will now possibly try another definition, viz. that the body of a being is constituted by that, the nature, subsistence and activity of which depend on the will of that being, and that hence a body may be ascribed to the Lord in so far as the essential nature, subsistence, and activity of all depend on him.--But this also is objectionable; since in the first place it is not a fact that the nature of a body depends on the will of the intelligent soul joined with it; since, further, an injured body does not obey in its movements the will of its possessor; and since the persistence of a dead body does not depend on the soul that tenanted it. Dancing puppets and the like, on the other hand, are things the nature, subsistence, and motions of which depend on the will of intelligent beings, but we do not on that account consider them to be the bodies of those beings. As, moreover, the nature of an eternal intelligent soul does not depend on the will of the Lord, it cannot be its body under the present definition.--Nor again can it be said that the body of a being is constituted by that which is exclusively ruled and supported by that being and stands towards it in an exclusive subservient relation (śeṣa); for this definition would include actions also. And finally it is a fact that several texts definitely declare that the Lord is without a body, 'Without hands and feet he grasps and hastens' etc.

As thus the relation of embodied being and body cannot subsist between Brahman and the world, and as if it did subsist, all the imperfections of the world would cling to Brahman; the Vedānta--texts are wrong in teaching that Brahman is the material cause of the world.

To this prima facie view the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 2,1.9

न तु, दृष्टान्तभावात् ॥ ९ ॥

na tu, dṛṣṭāntabhāvāt || 9 ||

na—Not; tu—but; dṛṣṭānta-bhāvāt—on account of the existence of illustrations.

9. But not (so) on account of the existence of illustrations.

The teaching of the Vedānta-texts is not inappropriate, since there are instances of good and bad qualities being separate in the case of one thing connected with two different states. The 'but' in the Sūtra indicates the impossibility of Brahman being connected with even a shadow of what is evil. The meaning is as follows. As Brahman has all sentient and non-sentient things for its body, and constitutes the Self of that body, there is nothing contrary to reason in Brahman being connected with two states, a causal and an effected one, the essential characteristics of which are expansion on the one hand and contraction on the other; for this expansion and contraction belong (not to Brahman itself, but) to the sentient and non-sentient beings. The imperfections adhering to the body do not affect Brahman, and the good qualities belonging to the Self do not extend to the body; in the same way as youth, childhood, and old age, which are attributes of embodied beings, such as gods or men, belong to the body only, not to the embodied Self; while knowledge, pleasure and so on belong to the conscious Self only, not to the body. On this understanding there is no objection to expressions such as 'he is born as a god or as a man' and 'the same person is a child, and then a youth, and then an old man' That the character of a god or man belongs to the individual soul only in so far as it has a body, will be shown under III, 1, 1.

The assertion made by the Pūrvapakshin as to the impossibility of the world, comprising matter and souls and being either in its subtle or its gross condition, standing to Brahman in the relation of a body, we declare to be the vain outcome of altogether vicious reasoning springing from the idle fancies of persons who have never fully considered the meaning of the whole body of Vedānta-texts as supported by legitimate argumentation. For as a matter of fact all Vedānta-texts distinctly declare that the entire world, subtle or gross, material or spiritual, stands to the highest Self in the relation of a body. Compare e.g. the Antaryāmin-brāhmaṇa, in the Kāṇva as well as the Mādhyandina-text, where it is said first of non- sentient things ('he who dwells within the earth, whose body the earth is' etc.), and afterwards separately of the intelligent soul ('he who dwells in understanding,' according to the Kānvas; 'he who dwells within the Self,' according to the Mādhyandinas) that they constitute the body of the highest Self. Similarly the Subāla-Upanishad declares that matter and souls in all their states constitute the body of the highest Self ('He who dwells within the earth' etc.), and concludes by saying that that Self is the soul of all those beings ('He is the inner Self of all' etc.). Similarly Smriti, 'The whole world is thy body'; 'Water is the body of Vishnu'; 'All this is the body of Hari'; 'All these things are his body'; 'He having reflected sent forth from his body'--where the 'body' means the elements in their subtle state. In ordinary language the word 'body' is not, like words such as jar , limited in its denotation to things of one definite make or character, but is observed to be applied directly (not only secondarily or metaphorically) to things of altogether different make and characteristics--such as worms, insects, moths, snakes, men, four-footed animals, and so on. We must therefore aim at giving a definition of the word that is in agreement with general use. The definitions given by the Pūrvapakshin--'a body is that which causes the enjoyment of the fruit of actions' etc.--do not fulfil this requirement; for they do not take in such things as earth and the like which the texts declare to be the body of the Lord. And further they do not take in those bodily forms which the Lord assumes according to his wish, nor the bodily forms released souls may assume, according to 'He is one' etc. (Kh. Up. VII, 36, 2); for none of those embodiments subserve the fruition of the results of actions. And further, the bodily forms which the Supreme Person assumes at wish are not special combinations of earth and the other elements; for Smriti says, 'The body of that highest Self is not made from a combination of the elements.' It thus appears that it is also too narrow a definition to say that a body is a combination of the different elements. Again, to say that a body is that, the life of which depends on the vital breath with its five modifications is also too narrow, i.e. in respect of plants; for although vital air is present in plants, it does not in them support the body by appearing in five special forms. Nor again does it answer to define a body as either the abode of the sense-organs or as the cause of pleasure and pain; for neither of these definitions takes in the bodies of stone or wood which were bestowed on Ahalyā and other persons in accordance with their deeds. We are thus led to adopt the following definition--Any substance which a sentient soul is capable of completely controlling and supporting for its own purposes, and which stands to the soul in an entirely subordinate relation, is the body of that soul. In the case of bodies injured, paralysed, etc., control and so on are not actually perceived because the power of control, although existing, is obstructed; in the same way as, owing to some obstruction, the powers of fire, heat,and so on may not be actually perceived. A dead body again begins to decay at the very moment in which the soul departs from it, and is actually dissolved shortly after; it (thus strictly speaking is not a body at all but) is spoken of as a body because it is a part of the aggregate of matter which previously constituted a body. In this sense, then, all sentient and non-sentient beings together constitute the body of the Supreme Person, for they are completely controlled and supported by him for his own ends, and are absolutely subordinate to him. Texts which speak of the highest Self as 'bodiless among bodies' (e.g. Ka. Up. I. 2, 22), only mean to deny of the Self a body due to karman; for as we have seen, Scripture declares that the Universe is his body. This point will be fully established in subsequent Adhikaraṇas also. The two preceding Sūtras (8 and 9) merely suggest the matter proved in the Adhikaraṇa beginning with II, 1, 21.

Sutra 2,1.10

स्वपक्षदोषाच्च ॥ १० ॥

svapakṣadoṣācca || 10 ||

svapakṣa-doṣāt—Because of the objections to his own view; ca—and.

10. And because of the objections (cited) (being applicable) to his own (Sānkhya’s) view (also).

The theory of Brahman being the universal cause has to be accepted not only because it is itself free from objections, but also because the pradhāna theory is open to objections, and hence must be abandoned. For on this latter theory the origination of the world cannot be accounted for. The Sānkhyas hold that owing to the soul's approximation to Prakriti the attributes of the latter are fictitiously superimposed upon the soul which in itself consists entirely of pure intelligence free from all change, and that thereon depends the origination of the empirical world. Now here we must raise the question as to the nature of that approximation or nearness of Prakriti which causes the superimposition on the changeless soul of the attributes of Prakriti. Does that nearness mean merely the existence of Prakriti or some change in Prakriti? or does it mean some change in the soul?--Not the latter; for the soul is assumed to be incapable of change.--Nor again a change in Prakriti; for changes in Prakriti are supposed, in the system, to be the effects of superimposition, and cannot therefore be its cause. And if, finally, the nearness of Prakriti means no more than its existence, it follows that even the released soul would be liable to that superimposition (for Prakriti exists always).--The Sānkhya is thus unable to give a rational account of the origination of the world. This same point will be treated of fully in connexion with the special refutation of the Sānkhya theory. (II, 2, 6.)

Sutra 2,1.11

तर्काप्रतिष्ठानादपि; अन्यथानुमेयमिति चेत्,
एवमप्यनिर्मोक्षप्रसङ्गः ॥ ११ ॥

tarkāpratiṣṭhānādapi; anyathānumeyamiti cet,
evamapyanirmokṣaprasaṅgaḥ || 11 ||

tarka-pratiṣṭhānāt—Because reasoning has no sure basis; api—also; anyathā—otherwise; anumeyam—should be inferred or reasoned; iti cet—if it be said; evam—so; api—even; anirmokṣa-prasaṅgaḥ—there will result the contingency of non-release.

11. Also because reasoning has no sure basis (it cannot upset the conclusions of Vedānta). If it be said that it should be reasoned otherwise (so as to get over this defect), (we say) even so there will result the contingency of non-release (from this defect, with respect to the matter in question).

The theory, resting on Scripture, of Brahman being the universal cause must be accepted, and the theory of the Pradhāna must be abandoned, because all (mere) reasoning is ill-founded. This latter point is proved by the fact that the arguments set forth by Buddha, Kaṇāda, Akṣapāda, Jaina, Kapila and Patañjali respectively are all mutually contradictory.

Should it be said that inference is to be carried on in a different way; (we reply that) thus also it follows that (the objection raised) is not got rid of.

Let us then view the matter as follows. The arguments actually set forth by Buddha and others may have to be considered as invalid, but all the same we may arrive at the Pradhāna theory through other lines of reasoning by which the objections raised against the theory are refuted.--But, we reply, this also is of no avail. A theory which rests exclusively on arguments derived from human reason may, at some other time or place, be disestablished by arguments devised by people more skilful than you in reasoning; and thus there is no getting over the objection founded on the invalidity of all mere argumentation. The conclusion from all this is that, with regard to supersensuous matters, Scripture alone is authoritative, and that reasoning is to be applied only to the support of Scripture. In agreement herewith Manu says, 'He who supports the teaching of the Rishis and the doctrine as to sacred duty with arguments not conflicting with the Veda, he alone truly knows sacred duty' (Manu XII, 106). The teaching of the Sānkhyas which conflicts with the Veda cannot therefore be used for the purpose of confirming and elucidating the meaning of the Veda.--Here finishes the section treating of 'difference of nature.'