SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
What does it mean for the Brahman to be the self of all? Is the Brahman essentially identified with everything else or is it related in the way of soul and body?
If it is identity, the attributes of the Brahman such as trueness of will which are known from the passages like “It resolved, ‘May I become manifold.’” become nullified (since such trueness of will is not found in anything other than the Brahman).
Therefore, the relation is that of soul and body where the Brahman is the soul of all sentient and non-sentient beings, and in that sense it is the self of all. The passage that says, “The self of all has entered into all people as the ruler” confirms that the Brahman rules over all by “ruling” them as their soul, and by being within them. In this sense, He is the self of all. It is known that He has the entire spectrum of existence for His body while being their soul.
Specifically, we also come to know that the Brahman is the soul of the individual soul also through the passage – “He stands within the individual soul, He controls the individual soul from within, He is your soul, He is the inner controller, He is beyond death.”
Since the Brahman has all sentient and non-sentient entities for its body, and is the self of all, it is denoted by all words. This is the way to understand the passage ‘tattvamasi’.
The individual soul, who is indicated by ‘tvam’ and is known already to be the controller of the body, is a mode of the Brahman since he is the body of the Brahman. Since the individual soul is incapable of separate existence or action, the word ‘tvam’ extends till the Brahman who is his inner controller. The scripture clarifies the position of the Brahman as the in-dwelling controller of the individual soul by also saying, “By entering into matter through the individual soul, the Brahman creates names and forms.”
Both words ‘tat’ and ‘tvam’ refer only to the Brahman. The word ‘tat’ refers to the Brahman which has been introduced as the cause of the universe, the abode of all auspiciousness, the blemishless and changeless. The word ‘tvam’ refers to the state of the Brahman where it has the individual soul for its mode and is the inner controller of the individual soul.
On account of the difference in activity – ‘tat’ signifying the Brahman’s causal aspect and ‘tvam’ signifying the Brahman’s ruling aspect – both words are reconciled in the same Brahman. It conveys the message that the Brahman’s auspicious attributes, causality, freedom from blemish and change are unaffected by the Brahman’s being the inner ruler of the individual soul. This clarification is useful because it distinguishes the Brahman from the individual soul which loses its true nature when it controls a body in this world. This controller (or ādeśa) is the cause of all by knowing which everything else is known.
Those who are unread in scripture do not comprehend that the Brahman is the inner self of all – all objects and all individual souls. They understand that words only narrowly signify specific objects, and end in their import locally. But, those who have studied the scripture comprehend that the Brahman is the self of all since the Brahman is both the cause of all, and the inner controller of all. They also recognize that all words ultimately denote the Brahman since the objects denoted by them are all inseparable modes of the Brahman.
But does this not destroy the meaning of all words? The word ‘cow’ has no significance because it denotes the Brahman as much as the word ‘deer’!
No, it does not. It is only said that all words attain completion of meaning only by denoting the Highest Self who has objects and souls for His body. This is the import of the scriptural passage: “I will divide them into names and forms”.
As the Highest Self is not comprehended by simple perception or measurement, the people of this world use words to signify objects as separate entities and assume that the meaning of those words has been fulfilled. However, those versed in the scripture realize that the words, while signifying different objects, attain fulfillment of meaning only by denoting the Brahman. The Vedic knowledge completes the understanding of the import of words, and does not deny their significance.
Thus, all words ultimately signify the Brahman. It is the Brahman who creates the universe of objects (as they were during the previous creation), and applies the words of the Vedas as the names of these objects. The names of these objects are derived from the Vedas or from the Brahman. They denote the Brahman alone.
Manu says, “From the words of the Vedas, the Creator assigned the names, different actions and separate forms.”
Bhagavān Parāśara says, “The Brahman created the names, actions and forms of all beings including the divinities from the words of the Vedas.”
Even the Veda says, “He created the Sun and the Moon as before, and assigned the same names as before.”
Thus, the inseparable nature of the universe and Brahman is conveyed. It makes sense why the knowledge of one Brahman is equivalent to the knowledge of all. The passage ‘tatsatyam’ conveys that everything is true only because the objects and souls are the effects of the Brahman and have the Brahman for their self. All objects made of clay exist only because they have clay for their self.
Determinate propositions concerning the Brahman (śodhaka-vākya) determine a Brahman that is without blemish and is the abode of auspicious attributes.
Even if it is thought that the Vedic passages only determine/characterize the Brahman by saying what it is not, it must still be admitted that the Brahman is something positive. It is a positive entity which is characterized in some passages through negation. The Vedic passages convey a uniquely positive entity that is like no other, and beautifully distinguished in its attributes. They do not teach an attribute-less entity.
The Advaitin interprets everything in negation and concludes that the Brahman has no attributes. This view is criticized. First, there is no reason to interpret ‘knowledge’ as ‘not insentient’ negatively, or ‘truth’ as ‘not being false like the world’. They can be interpreted directly for what they convey instead of obfuscating in negations. This is childish word play. What is then the meaning of “insentient” than “not being sentient”, the meaning of “false” than “not being true”! We would be forever stuck in defining things as negations of each other, and the Vedic passages will convey no useful meaning.
Even if it is argued that the meaning must be understood only as negations, we are still talking about a positive quantity. We simply lack the language to describe this unique entity called the Brahman, and try to describe it in terms of negations of entities comprehended by our language. This establishes only that the Brahman is a uniquely distinguished entity; not that it is devoid of all attributes as the Advaitin hastily concludes.
Let us take the common example of quantum physics where the behavior of entities is understood at the quantum scale as wave behavior and as particle behavior. We know that the entity is neither exclusively wave as any other wave known to us, nor exclusively particle like any classical particle. Yet, we use a language to describe what appears to be beyond our conventional experience. We do not rush to the conclusion that the entities are without any properties because they are neither like classical particles or waves known to conventional experience. Instead, we recognize that we are describing something positive and unique.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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