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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 6

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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.  

Passage 9

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.

Passage 10

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.

Passage 11

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.

Passage 12

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.

Passage 13

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.

Passage 14

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.

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 5

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Rival Interpretations

Having explained the import of Vedānta in brief through the initial passages, Svāmī Rāmānuja divides the rest of the text into two sections:

(i) criticism of rival interpretations, and

(ii) explanation of his own position.

Passages 6 to 8 summarize the key positions of rival schools while exposing the contradiction inherent in them.

Passage 6

  1. The ideas from various schools of Advaita including those of Śrī Śaṅkara are presented first.  
  2. The members of this school fully ignore (paying only lip-service to) the statements which teach difference between Brahman and other entities, and take refuge in those verses which use Samānādhikaraṇya by interpreting them as teaching identity.
  3. Their conclusions are as follows:
    1. The Brahman is mere knowledge without any attributes.
    2. The Brahman is eternally free, and self-revealing. Yet, through the passages that use Samānādhikaraṇya such as ‘tattvamasi’, one must understand the Brahman to be the same as the individual soul.
    3. In the absence of any other entity, our conception of ignorance, bondage and liberation should apply to the Brahman itself.
    4. Brahman, which is of the form of pure knowledge, alone is true. The entire universe including differences such as those between ruler and the ruled are false.
    5. It is impossible to have a system that reckons some soul as bound, and some others as liberated.
    6. To understand that some souls have already attained liberation in the past is incorrect.
    7. Only one body has the soul. All other bodies do not have souls. But, nobody knows in which body the soul resides.
    8. The teacher who teaches the knowledge of scripture is an illusion. The authority on scripture is an illusion. The scripture is an illusion. The knowledge of identity known from the scripture is an illusion.
    9. All the above conclusions can be known only through scripture which is an illusion itself.


Let us take a critical view of the above principles and implications of Advaita.

The Advaitins provide prominence only to the verses which appear to teach identity of the Brahman and the soul, while disregarding the verses which teach difference. They understand the Vedānta as teaching difference and then denying it by teaching identity. But, there is no reason for the Vedānta to teach difference which is already known through practical experience. The Vedānta could have directly refuted difference and taught identity – which it doesn’t.

The Advaitins also think that the Brahman has no attributes at all, and is merely pure consciousness. This again rejects several passages which predicate attributes for the Brahman. Understanding the Brahman at Saguṇa and Nirguṇa levels is not taught by the Vedānta. Also, the Vedānta never uses the simple definition of the Advaitin as ‘only pure consciousness’ anywhere.

Since the Brahman in the Advaita system has no attributes, it has to be understood outside all relations. It has to be eternally free and self-revealing. The Brahman is the same as the individual soul in its purest form. Since there is nothing other than the Brahman, the only entity that undergoes bondage and liberation has to be the Brahman (from a phenomenal view). Again, since there is nothing other than the Brahman, we cannot say that one is bound while another is liberated, or that great saints have attained liberation previously (from the absolute view). In the state of liberation, there is nothing but the Brahman. So, nobody is liberated. Or, the Brahman itself has now become liberated in some forms while still being bound in other forms. It depends on the view from which we are talking about the Brahman.

Even the gateway to liberation is an illusion

The entire universe is an illusion, and there are no differences in reality. The teacher who teaches Advaita is an illusion. The disciple who learns is an illusion. The scripture and its import are all illusions. Great saints who are authorities on the scripture are illusions. When the teacher teaches, he is teaching to an illusion. When a disciple listens, he is listening to an illusion. The act of teaching and listening, and the content of the instruction, are also illusions. One would think that a teacher who has realized Advaita has no reason to teach because there is nothing other than him to be taught. The very institution of Advaita seems to promote duality in the form of teacher-disciple relationship. The teacher, who takes renunciation from all actions which are connected to duality, will now spend the rest of his life nurturing the duality of teacher and disciple!  

Descent into solipsism

If one is taught Advaita, then one must think that one’s entire experience consisting of not only insentient but even sentient beings is an illusion. One can be sure of only one’s own consciousness. Then only (what appears to be) one’s own body has sentience; nobody else has. But, everyone else who learns Advaita would think the same way. So, nobody knows who the real consciousness is, and who is part of illusion. It results in a comical situation where everyone is an illusion to everybody else.

The absurdity of layered reality

Modern Advaitins try to reconcile this by always resolving reality as absolute and phenomenal, and answering a question in the absolute view from the phenomenal and vice versa. But, this is a word trick. Reality, itself, is a concept or an idea, and is part of the duality of real and unreal – notions known only through experience. So, an entity without any attributes and beyond all duality of experience cannot even be real! Also, layers of reality constitute a form of difference which the Advaitin seeks to deny. In which reality are the resolved levels of reality sustained? They cannot be in the absolute which permits no such gradation. They cannot be in the phenomenal too because then, the absolute becomes sustained on phenomenal illusion, and what is sustained on an illusion must be an illusion. In either case, an attribute-less being cannot exist, and is the only true illusion. Likewise, one can see that consciousness is part of the duality of conscious-unconscious; infinitude is part of the duality of finite-infinite. The Advaitin cherry-picks some ideas from duality, while rejecting others using word-play. If every idea that is part of a duality were rejected, then the Brahman of Advaita would only be a figment of imagination (can it even be that?), and the grandest of all illusions.

Passage 7

  1. The position of Bhāskara’s Bhedābheda is summarized next.
  2. Though the Brahman is taught to be devoid of all blemish, the identity of individual soul and Brahman is also taught in verses like ‘tattvamasi’. So, it must be understood that the Brahman becomes the basis of various forms of change and suffering due to some limiting factors. It then undergoes bondage and liberation.


Bhāskara realizes the problems in Advaita’s grand illusion theory. So, he advocates real transformation of the Brahman due to some limiting factors. But, in this case, the Brahman directly becomes subject to blemish – a condition the Advaitin tried to avoid using the notion of illusion. The view of Bhāskara, while solving the absurdities stemming from the illusion theory, suffers the drawback of subjecting the Brahman to blemish (which is not consistent with the scripture).

Passage 8

  1. The position of Yādavaprakāśa is summarized here.
  2. Misled like the others by words that appear to teach identity, this school concludes that the Brahman, which is the ocean of exalted attributes, has the nature of becoming the soul and takes various states like those of divine beings, humans, plants, animals, residents of hell & heaven and the liberated.
  3. The very nature of Brahman is both different from, and non-different from everything else.
  4. The Brahman is subject to modifications such as space, etc.


Bhāskara’s idea of limiting factors leads to the question if these factors are external to and superior to the Brahman. Then what is the greatness of the Brahman which is easily overpowered by such limiting factors, and is unable to liberate itself. Yādavaprakāśa sees no need to posit additional limiting factors, nor does he believe that the Advaitin’s theory of illusions is sound. He suggests that the Brahman, itself, undergoes modification and becoming sentient and insentient entities is in its very nature.

We notice a directed change from the Advaitin to Yādavaprakāśa. The Brahman is increasingly subject to defects. The Advaitin tries to call the corruption of Brahman an illusion. He only appears to save the Brahman from blemish; the trouble is in the details leading to several absurdities. Bhāskara tries to work around these problems by conceding that the Brahman is affected by limiting factors. Yādavaprakāśa removes even these factors, and directly endows the Brahman with defects and modifications. An underlying tension between arriving at a reasonable theory, and removing the Brahman from blemish is apparent. Metaphysicians concede one of these two objectives to varying degrees in their thesis. It appears to be very hard to be both reasonable, and consistent with scripture.

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 4

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

True Character of Individual soul and God

Having stated the essence of the Vedas, Bhagavad Rāmānuja explains the
true character of the individual soul and God in the next two passages.

Passage 4
1. The true character of the individual soul does not contain the manifold differences found
in the bodies of celestial beings, humans, animals, plants and in other objects which are
transformations of Nature (Prakṛti).
2. The individual soul is characterized by (or has for its attributes) only knowledge and
3. When the differences due to the body are destroyed, the difference between one soul
and the other cannot be defined through words. Each soul can know the difference only
through self-experience.
4. Knowledge or consciousness is the core character of all souls. This is equal in all souls.


The Ācārya teaches that the soul is different from and superior to the body and physical objects.

The soul is not made of elements which make up the body and other objects, and cause them to undergo constant change. Consciousness is the core character of the soul; consciousness and bliss are its attributes. The core consciousness is equal in all souls. Bondage causes the
expansion or contraction of the attribute-consciousness. This produces a temporary difference.
When the differences due to the bodies are destroyed, no difference can be described between
one soul and the next. They will all be exactly the same. The difference can only be known by
one’s own experience of oneself.

Through this description, the opinion of atheists that the body is the soul, either directly or
indirectly, is denied. By noting the difference between the core-consciousness (svarūpa/dharmi
jñāna) and the attribute-consciousness (dharma-bhūta- jñāna), the opinion of Advaitins that the
soul is consciousness without attributes is also denied. The opinion of some schools that there
is inherent difference in the essential character of the souls by which they can be distinguished
has been rejected.

Passage 5
1. This universe is constituted of sentient souls and non-sentient Nature.

2. God is defined as Antaryāmin who controls everything by being within everything.

3. God is the sole cause of creation, protection and destruction of the universe, and the
liberation of souls from bondage.

4. God is full of endless auspiciousness, and is the opposite of all blemish.

5. The true character of God is unique and incomparable with that of anything else.

6. He is the repository of countless, supremely excellent auspicious attributes.

7. He is known through the Vedānta through words like Sarvātma, Paraṃ Brahma, Paraṃ
Jyotiḥ, Paratattva, Paramātma, Sat, etc.

8. He is Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa who is the Supreme Person.

9. The purpose of Vedas is to sing His greatness.

10. The Bheda Śṛti sings His greatness by referring to His position as indwelling controller of
all sentient and non-sentient entities. They refer to all other entities as His potencies, His
aspects, His wealth, His form, His mode, His body etc. since He is the Supreme Soul
and Controller of all.

11.The Abheda Śṛti also sings His greatness, but by using Samānādhikaraṇya with respect
to the sentient and non-sentient entities.


Bhagavad Rāmānuja asserts that the purpose of Vedānta is to explain the greatness of
Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa, who is the Supreme Person. The word ‘Brahman’ denotes the entity which
is excellent in its character and attributes, and which is capable of conferring excellence on
others. The purpose of scripture is to sing His greatness.
God is distinguished from everything else. The Māyāvādins hold that the Brahman is essentially
the same as the soul. This view is denied here. The true character of God transcends
everything including the character of the soul. Unlike the soul, which undergoes bondage in the
form of birth and death due to Karma, the true character of God is untouched by any such
blemish. It is full of supremely excellent auspicious attributes like compassion, beauty, strength,
etc. The Vedānta employs various words to describe Him – Sarvātman (the Soul of all), Paraṃ
Brahman (The Highest Excellence), Paraṃ Jyotiḥ (The Supreme Radiance), Paratattvam (The
Supreme Real), and Sat (The (ultimate) Truth).
The verses are in the Vedānta can be seen to be of two key categories: Bheda and Abheda.
The Bheda (difference) verses clearly bring out the difference between God and other entities.
They identify Him as the inner controller of all. They call other entities as His potencies, His
aspects, His forms, His modes, His wealth or His bodies. Through this they celebrate and
communicate His ability to direct and control other entities. They teach that all entities – sentient and non-sentient – are paratantra or subordinate to the will of God. He creates, sustains destroys the composite universe made of sentient and non-sentient entities solely in accordance to His will. He is also the liberator of the souls from bondage. Though this ability to liberate is also an auspicious attribute, it deserves separate mention since it is relevant to students of Vedānta.
The Abheda verses recognize that all entities are inseparably related to God. So, they employ
Samānādhikaraṇya with respect to other entities, while talking about God. Samānādhikaraṇya is
the employment of words with different meanings in the same case in coordination. For example in ‘the bird is blue’, the word ‘blue’ refers only to the color. But ‘blue bird’ does not refer to the bird which is the same as color blue. It refers to the bird whose form has the color blue for its attribute. In the same way, the Vedānta says, ‘the universe is God’, ‘God is the individual soul’, etc. In these cases, it does not mean that God is exactly the same as the universe or the soul,

but that God has for His body or form or mode, the universe and the individual soul. They are
always one since all entities are inseparably related to God, as may be thought of the bird and
color blue, it becomes possible to use words implying one to refer to the other.
The purpose of Bheda Śṛti is to explain the transcendental glory of God. The purpose of Abheda
Śṛti is to explain that everything has this glorious and excellent being for its Soul. God is both
great and related to the universe. He is both transcendental and immanent. In this manner, the
two types of verses complement each other to explain the complex reality of the universe.
The opinion of some schools which declare one set of verses to be more important than the
other set miss this point completely. There is no justification in the Vedānta itself which favors
one set of verses over another. Scholars concoct some reason and argue that the verses
desirable to them are the better ones, and that verses undesirable to them provide only primitive understanding. Bhagavad Rāmānuja effortlessly solves this problem by providing a framework in which all verses of the Vedānta can be understood equally and consistently.

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 3

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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.

Swami Ramanuja at Thirumalai

Essence of Passage 3:

  1. 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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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 2

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Opening Verses

[2] paraṃ-brahmaivājñaṃ bhramaparigataṃ saṃsarati tat

paropādhyālīḍhaṃ vivaśam-aśubhasyāspadamiti |

śṛti-nyāyāpetaṃ jagati vitataṃ mohanamidam

tamo yenāpāstaṃ sa hi vijayate yāmunamuniḥ ||

The verse is dedicated to praise Svāmī Yāmunācārya. The importance of Svāmī Yāmunācārya is emphasized by noting his role in removing the confusion prevalent during his times in understanding the import of Vedas. Svāmī Yāmunācārya authored several texts such as Siddhitrayam and Āgamaprāmaṇyam to clarify the position of Vedas.

[Svāmī Āḷavandār at Kāṭṭumannārkoil]

In this verse, Svāmī Rāmānuja identifies three popular schools of thought in Vedānta from his times. He briefly mentions the biggest problems in subscribing to each of the three schools. In this way, he provides a short criticism of his rival schools.

[i] paraṃ-brahmaivājñaṃ bhramaparigataṃ saṃsarati

In the system of Advaita, the Highest Brahman itself is deluded and undergoes saṃsāra.

[Bhagavatpāda Ādi Śaṅkarācārya at Samādhi in Kedārnāth]

The word ‘param’ indicates excellence.  The excellence of Brahman is explained in the Vedas. The Brahman is full of auspiciousness and is devoid of all blemish. This is why it is called Brahman or The Excellent, and is deemed worthy of knowing. The Brahman fulfills the welfare of all those who submit to It, and removes their suffering.

There are two contradictions in Advaita: (i) If the most excellent Brahman itself becomes shrouded in ignorance, then what is its excellence for which it is called Brahman? and (ii) If the Brahman, which is the saviour of all, becomes deluded, who else will save the Brahman?

The word ‘eva’ emphasizes the above contradictions.

On account of becoming ignorant (ājñam), the Brahman is trapped in an illusion (bhramaparigatam). The illusion is the perception of difference. The sustained experience of difference is saṃsāra.

Since the Brahman is the only consciousness accepted in Advaita, the conscious experience of difference has to be the Brahman’s own experience. The Advaitin cannot argue that the Brahman does not experience the illusion, but something else does. Everything other than the Brahman is a product of illusion. It is a contradiction for a product of illusion to initiate the experience of illusion. A product of illusion cannot produce the illusion which originally produces it.

The illusion should already exist for the products of illusion to be produced and to experience it. Therefore, the Brahman itself must experience the illusion first.

[ii] tat paropādhyālīḍhaṃ vivaśam

The Brahman is constrained by modifying qualifiers and becomes entrapped.

This deals with the account of Bhāskara. Bhāskara realized the difficulties of a logically unsustainable ontological position of avidyā, which somehow deludes the Brahman which is the only real entity. So, he advocates real qualifiers called upādhi. The word ‘para’ indicates that the qualifiers are independent and real. The qualifiers are different from the Brahman. Constrained by these qualifiers, the Brahman becomes entrapped in the cycle of karma.

Again, this description involves the contradiction of an excellent Brahman gets constrained and undergoing suffering itself.

(iii) aśubhasyāspadam

The Brahman becomes the abode of inauspiciousness.

This deals with the account of Yādava Prakāśa.

Since Yādava Prakāśa considers that the Brahman itself diversifies into sentient and non-sentient entities, the Brahman becomes the abode of inauspiciousness. The inauspiciousness of non-sentient entities lies in their constant change and modifications. The inauspiciousness of sentient entities other than the Brahman lies in their vulnerability to become bound in the cycle of karma and undergo suffering. The Brahman of the Vedas is  svetara-samasta-vastu-vilakṣaṇa – absolutely distinct and unique from all other entities, and is free of all inauspiciousness. It is the abode of all auspiciousness. But, in Yādava Prakāśa’s system, the Brahman itself becomes the abode of inauspiciousness which is a contradiction with the  Vedic account.

The words ‘paraṃ-brahmaiva’ are to be considered for all the three systems. These words intend to convey the contradiction that the highest, most excellent and blissful entity, which is untouched by defects, and perfect in all auspiciousness, becomes subject to ignorance, suffering and inauspiciousness in the systems of Śaṅkara, Bhāskara and Yādava Prakāśa.

[iv] śṛti-nyāyāpetaṃ jagati vitataṃ mohanamidam tamaḥ

As there is a contradiction in understanding the Brahman as both perfect and imperfect, understanding the Brahman in the light of these schools amount to misunderstanding or ignorance. This is referred by ‘idam tamaḥ’ – ‘this darkness (of ignorance)’.  

The understanding is against the authoritative scriptures or śṛti, and also against the logical method used to understand the scriptures, nyāya. Question: Let all this be misunderstanding, and also be against scriptures and the logical apparatus that serves it. Why should you set out to criticize them?

Answer: Because they are also ‘jagati vitatam’ – They are well spread across the world. Owing to their strange conception, many people get excited by these ideas.

Question: So be it! Let the ideas be wrong, and opposed to the intent of scriptures. Let them be full of logical contradictions and be followed by several people.  Why should you set out to criticize them?

Answer: Because, by following these paths, one can only get deluded. The ideas are mohanam or deluding. Therefore, this darkness of ignorance deserves to be criticized.

Through this characterization, the author establishes motivation for himself to criticize these philosophies. We are led to understand that it is an act of grace of Svāmī Rāmānuja to deny incorrect interpretations of scriptures. An enlightened person should act out of grace to uplift other beings from ignorance. However, while disciples might take this opinion, the author himself is resting this act at the lotus feet of his preceptor Svāmī Yāmunācārya.

[v] yenāpāstaṃ sa hi vijayate yāmunamuniḥ

May Yāmuna Muni be victorious who dispels the (aforementioned) darkness!

Svāmī Rāmānuja recognizes the role of his preceptor in refuting ideas which do not subscribe to scripture and logic. He sings benediction to his preceptor that his act of enlightening the people may remain victorious forever.

[Anantasvarūpa Vijayī-Rāmānujācārya at Thoṇḍanūr]

It can also be understood that Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ is an act through which the victory of Yāmuna Muni is made everlasting. Instead of merely singing victory to his master, the disciple makes it meaningful by writing an entire treatise explaining his master’s position.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 1

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

Full series

Opening Verses

It is customary for ācāryas to commence their teaching with prayers to the Lord and the preceptor. Svāmi Rāmānuja commences his book with two such prayers, the first addressed to the Lord and the second to his preceptor, Svāmi Yāmunācārya.

[1] aśeṣa-ciḍ-acid-vastu-śeṣiṇe śeṣaśāyine |

nirmalānanta-kalyāṇa-nidhaye viṣṇave namaḥ ||

In the first prayer, Svāmi Rāmānuja submits himself to Lord Viṣṇu, who is the core message of the Vedas. Lord Kṛṣṇa asserted this in the Gitā: ”sarvaiḥ vedaiḥ ahameva vedyaḥ” [I, alone, am known through all the Vedas].  Since Lord Viṣṇu is the core message of the Vedas, Svāmi Rāmānuja submits to Him at the outset. By including this submission in his book, he makes all his disciples and readers to submit to Lord Viṣṇu through chanting this prayer. In one stroke, he imparts the essence of the Vedas while also guiding his disciples.

Lord Viṣṇu as Veṅkaṭeśa in Tirumalai

Lord Viṣṇu is characterized in three ways:

[i] aśeṣa-ciḍ-acid-vastu-śeṣin

He is the Master of all entities, without exception. The entities mastered by Him include those that have consciousness and those that do not have consciousness. He is the Master of the sentient and the non-sentient. We clearly see in our experience that all sentient and non-sentient entities are governed and mastered by certain relations and laws. They are not independent. They obtain their respective states only in accordance to certain laws. So, all sentient and non-sentient entities are subordinate to a Higher Principle. Hence, they are called śeṣabhūtas or mastered-beings. The Independent One who masters them to suit His purpose is called śeṣī.

[ii] śeṣaśāyin

He reclines on Ādiśeṣa, the divine serpent. Ādiśeṣa is an eternally free devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. On account of his permanent emancipation from the bonds of saṃsāra, he is called nitya-sūri or eternal sage. This characterization reveals that the Lord’s mastery is a true relationship experienced correctly by the eternal sages such as Ādiśeṣa. In this state of emancipation from saṃsāra, the sentient being, Ādiśeṣa, serves the Lord, who is His master. Through this, it is conveyed that in the enlightened state, one realizes one’s relationship to God as His subordinate. The relationship is called śeṣa-śeṣī-saṃbandha.

Through the first characterization, Svāmi Rāmānuja reveals the true relationship between Lord Viṣṇu and all entities as one between Master and sub-ordinate. Through the second characterization, he shows that an enlightened liberated person is one who realizes this relationship.

But would a state of being mastered by another not be a form of suffering? Then, one would like to delay the realization for as long as possible to avoid succumbing to the mastery of another.

The above objection can be partly answered by noting that the relationship is true and hence, it acts even when the individual does not realize it. So, there is no way to escape the relationship. The full answer to the objection is offered by showing that being mastered by God is not a form of suffering, but of limitless bliss. This is explained by Svāmi Rāmānuja through the third characterization.

[iii] nirmalānanta-kalyāṇa-nidhiḥ

Lord Viṣṇu is the possessor of pure and endless auspiciousness. In this way, He is unique. Even the eternal sages enjoy permanent bliss only due to Him. Everyone else experiences substandard pleasures and pain. The sentient entity is prone to contamination through association with the force of saṃsāra. But, the Lord is utterly pure. He is never tainted. His incarnations are untainted and divine. He is not only a transcendental being, but also capable of liberating the sentient souls.  His possesses limitless auspicious potencies that reveal Him as the liberator. Therefore, it is justified that one submits to Him and attains liberation.

Since He is blemishless and full of auspiciousness and beauty, the experience of Lord Viṣṇu is supremely blissful. By realizing one’s relationship to Lord Viṣṇu and submitting to Him, one experiences bliss. His mastery is of a blissful kind. He does not master by force. Rather, the enlightened souls such as the eternal sages experience the Lord correctly and are filled with intense love due to that experience. Service to God arises from the love kindled through His experience. Therefore, in serving the Lord’s purpose, one attains bliss and fulfillment. Bondage to saṃsāra is transitory and painful. The relationship to Lord Viṣṇu is true and blissful.

His limitless auspiciousness also shows His supreme perfection. He is not imperfect, even in His mastery. He masters perfectly. His laws are not enforced in accordance with His exertion. They are enforced perfectly. In this perfection, lies the hope of redemption and liberation.

He is Lord Viṣṇu. He is not distant and afar. He is omnipresent, which is meaning of the word ‘Viṣṇu’. He pervades everything and is available in all sentient and non-sentient entities. Despite His complete pervasion, He is untainted and transcendent as the rays of the Sun are not dirtied by the mud which is illuminated by them.

We submit to Lord Viṣṇu.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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