SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
The discourse begins from here. We will consider the essence of each passage with comments. At the outset of his discourse, Svāmī Rāmānuja states the essential meaning of the Vedas in brief.
Essence of Passage 3:
- The purpose of the Vedas and its highlight, the Vedānta is to teach the discipline necessary for welfare of the entire world.
Through this, Svāmī Rāmānuja asserts that the purpose of the scripture is the welfare of the entire world without any exception.
2. A definite meaning can be well understood by the study of Vedānta.
Svāmī Rāmānuja rejects the view that the Vedānta can be understood in different ways.
3. The essence of the individual soul and Supreme soul must be understood accurately. Then, one must perform actions appropriate to one’s class and station in life with the mindset emerging from the clear knowledge of the individual soul and Supreme soul. This action is a means to devotional love or bhakti.
Svāmī Rāmānuja recognizes that the Vedānta, whose purpose is the welfare of the entire world, does not push people into extreme asceticism or pessimistic abandonment. If that were so, then the world would not function. It is important to recognize that practical life has a meaning and value. Even an ascetic cannot survive without subsisting on the alms of others who lead practical lives. Some philosophers like Sri Sankara see two different lives – a practical one which deals with surviving in the world, and a spiritual one which deals with liberation from bondage. Obviously, the former is a lower stage of living, and the latter is a higher stage.
Svāmī Rāmānuja does not accept this partitioned or layered view of life. Instead, he teaches harmony where practical and spiritual life are one and the same thing. One does not have to relinquish practical life to be liberated. To the contrary, one must verily live practically and act. The difference between life as a Vedanti and as an ignorant person lies only in the mindset. While a Vedanti acts with the exact understanding of the individual soul and the Supreme soul, the ignorant person acts from passions, desires and confusion. The very act of living a righteous and appropriate practical life with the larger picture of the soul and God in view leads to the cultivation of devotional love or bhakti towards God.
4. Bhakti is the final message of the Vedānta. It is intense love directed towards the lotus feet of God who is the Supreme Person. This love takes the various forms of meditation, worship, salutation etc.
In Svāmī Rāmānuja’s system, Bhakti or devotional love is not uninformed love for an unknown entity. Certain philosophers see the paths of love and knowledge to be vastly different. Some of them consider knowledge to be superior to love largely drawing from the practical experience of the usefulness of knowing. Others consider love to be superior to knowledge, and urge people to know only through love. To Svāmī Rāmānuja, knowledge and love are one path. The exact understanding of the individual soul and God from the Vedānta, and the consequent performance of all actions as a service to God – not out of rule but as a natural progression of the understanding – leads to the cultivation of love. Knowledge itself transforms into love, which in turn leads to the greater knowledge of the Lord. Love is a consequence of knowing God, and it leads to knowing God better. As it arises from knowledge and leads to greater knowledge, love itself is a form of knowledge. There are not two different paths but only one. The result of knowledge is to love, and the result of love is to know better. Knowing better leads to greater love, and the greater love leads to intense love for God. When the intense love fructifies, the soul is liberated from bondage and becomes united with her Lord in love.
5. Attaining the lotus feet of God is the welfare taught by the Vedānta.
By insisting on the “lotus feet” in his statements, Svāmī Rāmānuja reveals the subordinate nature of the individual soul to God. Liberation from bondage is the performance of service to God without interruption in all ways. The joy of love is in service. Service is defined as the action which is performed to another without expectation of reward, with the only intention of causing pleasure. The experience of God leads to great desire to serve, so as to please Him. Service is not enforced but emerges naturally out of the experience of God. In these statements, Svāmī Rāmānuja integrates action into spirituality with ease. After all, one acts from what one knows and what one experiences. If one’s knowledge is nurtured to be exact, and if one’s experience is the complete experience of God, action is not to be feared or abandoned. Hence, both life in bondage, and life in liberation are active lives to Svāmī Rāmānuja, and do not involve complete abandonment or passivity.
Through these initial statements, Svāmī Rāmānuja beautifully reconciles the concepts of soul, God, bondage, liberation, love, knowledge, action and service in a single framework where they are all naturally related.
6. The individual souls are in fear of physical existence. This fear arises due to the embodied experiences as divinities, humans and other organisms – moving and stationary. The embodied experience is such that it makes the body to be mistaken for the soul. This error is the cause of suffering. Svāmī Rāmānuja clarifies that the identification of the soul with the body is the root cause of physical existence which leads to suffering. As there is suffering, there is fear.
7. The passages of Vedānta have their origin in removing this fear. They remove this by teaching the true essence of individual souls, the true essence of God, the process of worshipping God and the fruit of this worship. The fruit consists of blossoming of the true essence of the soul, and the matchless blissful experience of God or Brahman.
Svāmī Rāmānuja initially explained that the purpose of Vedānta is the welfare of all. This welfare is achieved by the Vedānta by teaching the spiritual science through which the fear of physical existence and suffering are removed. The fruit of Vedānta wisdom is not merely negation of suffering but also positive experience of matchless bliss through the experience of God.
8. All passages of Vedānta serve this purpose. Examples are “tattvamasi”, “ayamātmā brahma”,
“ya ātmani tiṣṭhannātmano~ntaro yamātmā na veda, yasya ātmā śarīraṃ ya ātmānamantaro yamayati sa ta ātmā antaryāmyamṛtaḥ”,
“eṣa sarvabhūtāntarātmā~~pahatapāpmā divyo deva eko nārāyaṇaḥ”,
“tametaṃ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti yajñena dānena tapasā~~nāśakena”,
“brahmavid-apnoti param” and
“tamevaṃ vidvān amṛta iha bhavati nānyaḥ panthā ayanāya vidyate”.
The quotes are chosen in such a way that they cover all parts of the Vedānta. Some parts talk of oneness of God and the soul. Other parts talk of difference. But, the parts which show that God and soul are inseparably related reconcile the teaching of both oneness and difference. The Vedānta speaks of God as being transcendental with respect to our world of experience but still possessing divine attributes. It assures that the knower and worshipper of Brahman attains the highest bliss of God.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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