SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
From here starts a criticism of Advaita followed by criticisms of the two Bhedābheda schools.
In the first of interpretations presented (namely that of Advaita), careful scholars of the Vedas identify difficult problems.
In the statement of “tattvamasi”, the word ‘tat’ signifies the Brahman. The statement is made in the context of explaining that the Brahman is capable of creating, sustaining and dissolving the universe by means of mere will. The passages starting “tadaikṣata bahusyām prajāyeya” [The Brahman resolved to become many] and ending
“sanmūlāḥ somyemā sarvāḥ prajāh sadāyatanāḥ sat-pratiṣṭhāḥ” [All this (universe) has Sat for its source; they have Sat for their abode and basis]
Passages in other texts explain that the Brahman is omniscient, omnipotent, the Lord of all, one who has everything has His modes, without an equal or superior, completely fulfilled and of true will. The Brahman of these passages is complete with countless auspicious attributes. Passages such as “apahatapāpmā …” inform us that the Brahman is without any blemish.
These pronouncements are unfavorable to the position of Advaita.
The position of Advaita is shown to be inconsistent with the message of Vedas on three counts. (1) The point of “tattvamasi” is to explain the causal relationship of the Brahman to the universe, and not the literal identity of individual soul and God, (2) The conception of an attribute-less Brahman puts to waste countless passages in the Vedas that reveal a Brahman that is full of auspicious attributes, (3) Identifying Brahman with the soul exposes the Brahman to defects such as suffering in bondage which are explicitly denied by passages that teach that the Brahman is beyond all blemish.
The Advaitin replies:
The discussion started off with the claim that by knowing one (Brahman), everything else can be known. By using the illustration of clay and pot, it was shown that the cause alone is real while its effects or modifications are unreal. This causal Brahman was then declared to be devoid of all differences – both within and outside its class – through the statement “sadeva somya idamagra āsīt, ekamevādvitīyam” [ In the beginning there was only Sat, one alone without a second.]
Passages in other texts such as “satyaṃ jñānam anantaṃ brahma”, “niṣkalam”, “niṣkriyam”, “nirguṇam”, “nirañjanam”, “vijñānam”, “ānandam”, etc. emphasize the point that the Brahman is devoid of any quality.
If different words such as ‘truth’, ‘bliss’ and ‘infinite’ explain the same point about a Brahman lacking in all qualities, would it not lead to the absurdity of their being synonyms? No, it wouldn’t. These words must not be interpreted positively, but only as negations of their opposite. “Truth” conveys that Brahman is not false. “Infinite” informs that the Brahman is not finite. They must be read only as rejections of some quality.
The Advaitin attempts to explain his position by acknowledging that the discourse is about causality. But he introduces a view that the cause alone is real, whereas the effects are unreal. Using this view, he concludes that the entire universe must be unreal, and that all differences and qualities are false. Nothing positively can be said of the Brahman. Positive language in the Vedas must be interpreted as negations of their opposite quality.
Svāmī Rāmānuja responds.
The Advaitin’s view about reality of the cause and unreality of the effects is unfounded and contradictory to the claim that by knowing Brahman (the cause), everything (the effects) can be known.
(1) If the effects are unreal, then there is nothing to know about them. (2) It is illogical that by knowing the real, one can know the unreal. There can be no equivalence between the real and the unreal.
The correct way to understand the Vedic statement is to recognize that the Brahman is the soul of everything.
The author refutes the view of the Advaitin that effects are unreal. He argues that the view flies in the face of the claim that “by knowing Brahman everything can be known in the same way as one knows of the effects by knowing the cause”.
If the effects are unreal, then there is nothing to know about them for the reason that they do not exist. How can one attain any useful knowledge of the unreal? Also, how can the knowledge of something that is real lead to the knowledge of something that is unreal, unless the real and unreal are connected in some coherent respect? It is illogical to assume that there is any positive relation between the real and the unreal. Unless one wishes to alter the definitions of these words, “unreal” is the direct antonym of “real”; the former supplies a negation of the latter. It is inconceivable that entities that are negations of one another are either ontologically or epistemologically related.
The correct view of the statement is that the Brahman is the soul and essence of the universe as clay is the essence of all its modifications like pots. Both the cause and the effects are real. By realizing this meaning, one regards the universe as having the Brahman for its soul.
Śvetaketu’s father asked this to his son – “You look proud and appear to be fulfilled. Have you learned of the ādeśa? Have you asked your masters about the ādeśa?” The word ādeśa means that by which everything is controlled. ādiśyate anena iti ādeśaḥ. It conveys the meaning of “ruler”. The Brahman is called ‘ādeśa’ because He is the ruler of the universe. He is ‘praśasitāraṃ sarveśām’ or the ruler of all. It is also said, ‘etasya vā akṣarasya praśāne gārgi sūryacandramasau vidhṛtau tiṣṭhataḥ’ – Gārgi! It is in this indestructible ruler that the sun and the moon stand supported. In ‘ekameva advitīyam’, ekam refers to the fact that there is only one material cause of the universe. The word ‘advitīyam’ indicates that there is no other support of the universe than the Brahman.
Father Uddālaka asks Śvetaketu, “Have you learned about the ruler of the universe who is also its material cause? By hearing about that Brahman, what is unheard becomes heard. By thinking about that Brahman, what was not thought becomes thought. By understanding about that Brahman, what was not understood becomes understood.”
The father’s intention is to find out if Śvetaketu has learned about the Brahman which is the cause of the origin, sustenance and dissolution of the universe, which is omniscient, perfect and of unfailing will, which is full of limitless and wonderful auspicious attributes.
The Brahman is the cause of all. It is the cause that appears in different forms which are known as effects or modifications. The Brahman, which has for its body the sentient and non-sentient entities in subtle form, becomes the Brahman, which has for its body the sentient and non-sentient entities in manifest form. It is with this intention that Uddālaka says that by knowing the Brahman everything can be known, by hearing about it everything can be heard, by understanding the Brahman everything can be understood.
But the innocent son, Śvetaketu does not understand this intention of his father. He does not comprehend how by knowing one entity – the Brahman, the universe which is different from the Brahman comes to be known. He asks his father, “Honorable sir, what is this ādeśa?’
The father understands there is no difference between the cause and its effects. The Brahman in which sentient and non-sentient entities are in subtle (sūkṣma) form become manifest (sthūla) as the universe of sentient (cetana) and non-sentient (acetana) entities. All sentient and non-sentient forms are the body (śarīra) of the Brahman. The universe has the Brahman as its soul (ātmā) and controller (ādeśa). The Brahman is the controller of all beings.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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