THE THEISTIC ASPECT OF SAIVA SIDDHANTA
Pandit R. S. Vedachalam Pillai
The philosophy or Theism has assumed different forms of argument in the different systems of philosophy and in the different kinds of religion, from the crudest of the primitive race to the refined type of the twentieth century men. Of these varied forms of argument, the one of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy and religion constitutes the subject of this lecture. But before proceeding to consider the argument of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, it is deemed necessary to examine some of the important arguments put forward by other systems of philosophy and religion, and disclose their comparative merit in lifting up the veil that hides from our view the profound question of the existence of the Supreme Being. For, all our knowledge consists in the subtle mental process of comparison and discrimination.
The belief in the existence of an intelligent Being all powerful arose with the very dawn of human race. The fear of being hurt by venomous reptiles and wild animals, the fear of being subjected to danger and loss of life by the terrible phenomena of Nature: roaring storm, pealing thunder, heavy rain, and scorching heat, the fear of mortal disease that saps up the vital elements of the human body - all tended to implant in the mind of the primitive man an idea of his helpless condition and to seek for help in the forces of Nature that are manifested in its varied phenomena. In this way sprang up the worship of Maruts, Rudras, Indra and Sun and other innumerable Gods. And we find mention made of this polytheistic worship in the oldest Aryan record, Rig Veda.
"Of one accord, with Indra, O ye Rudra come borne on your golden car for our prosperity."
An offering from us, this hymn is brought to you, as, unto one who thirsts for water, heavenly springs.
Armed with your daggers full of wisdom, armed with spears, armed with your quivers, armed with arrows, with good bows.
Good horses and good cars have ye O Prisni's sons; ye Maruts, with good weapons go to victory (M.V.H 57)
"Thou art great, O Indra! To thee alone has the Earth and Heaven willingly yielded dominion. When thou hadst struck down Vritra with might, thou lettest loose the streams which the dragon has swallowed. (M. IV)
'Whatever we have committed against the heavenly host through thoughtlessness, through weakness, through pride, through our human nature, let us be guiltless here, O Savitar, before gods and man." (M. IV)
These passages taken from the hymns of the 5th and 4th mandalas of the Rig Veda will be quite sufficient to show the polytheistic worship paid by the early ancestors of our Aryan brethren.
But gradually with the advance of civilisation and the introspective attitude of mind, men of subsequent epochs began to feel the existence of an underlying force which gives life and light to all the different phenomena of Nature. The development of men's inner though aims at discovering the law of unity behind the various objects of the universe. All the different experimental Sciences of Modern times minimise the disagreements among substances and educe from them the law of unity. So long as there exists a want of recognition of this Supreme law the progress of human thought, the progress of Social happiness is retarded,
Now, by one class of thinkers the prevalence of this belief in a Supernatural Being is attested as a proof of its existence. But, whatsoever may have been the merit of this belief which is, of course, shared by all human beings all over the world, still it cannot be admitted by rational thinkers until its validity is tested by stringent logical methods. The belief of a single nation or all the nations together assumed at random without the slightest tinge of reason will not affect the intellectual build of a sane thinker. On such a high pinnacle of reason is he placed that the weak nestling of belief is unable to reach him. If this proof is presented to his consideration, he at once traces it to the mingled feelings of terror and awe experienced by the primitive man as a result of his ignorance to recognise the relation in which he stands to the outer world and the power with which he is endowed to control things of Nature and make them subservient to his purpose. Thus, the traced-out belief embraced eagerly by the primitive man as a consolation of his helpless condition, has not the least claim over the thoughtful minds of the present generation.
Leaving then this form of argument behind us, we may go forth to take up another of a more important kind.
This is the design argument. This is put forward by another class of thinkers to prove the existence of God from the various intelligent designs exhibited in the arrangements of Natural products. They argue that when a magnificent building furnished with splendid furniture, is seen in a uninhabited island, it will clearly indicate the hand of an architect who made it there, although it were then impossible to find out who that architect was or why he made it there. Just so, this wonderful universe, with its sex difference, its growth and decay, its proportionate combination of such fundamental elements as fire, air, and water, its careful adjustment of different order of things to produce a desired result, its centrifugal and centripetal forces that keep the planets constantly moving in their undeviated heavenly paths, - all testify to the existence of a mighty intelligent power that subsists within it.
Though this form of argument has an air of conviction in itself, yet its correctness of reasoning is not unquestionable. This is based upon pure analogy. Why that which is found in the analogy should be applicable as well to that which is to be proved, is not at all inquired into. The most important link that connects the premises with the conclusion is missing in this argument. What necessity is there that the same law observed in the analogy must be found also in the proposition? Further, everybody has seen an architect constructing a building and knows that, without his aid, no mansion can be reared up. In like manner, did anybody see God at the time when he was creating this vast and wonderful universe? Or, can it be said that the finite knowledge of an architect will bear resemblance to the infinite wisdom of the Supreme Being? Or does God require instruments with which to create this world, just as an architect stands in extreme need of them? If it be urged that the instrumental cause is absolutely necessary in the production of effects, then it may be asked what kind of instruments was used by God in originating this universe? As natural products present difficulties to a proper execution of his work, the architect seeks for suitable instruments to overcome them. If as the Almighty, too the same difficulties to overcome? These and similar objections do come in our way to accept the design argument as based upon pure analogy.
Again there are others who assert that God is not a subject to be inferred from the manifestations of cosmos, but an intelligent principle of unity which underlies all that is tangible, all that is heard and seen, all that is smelled and tested, and all that is thought and felt. And this underlying principle alone is essentially real and all except this are illusory and have no real existence of their own. The seen material world and the numberless lives that are found in it, are vivified by this supreme vital principle. All matter and mind are pure reflections of this one reality. But for this Brahman, there can come nothing into manifestation and therefore it is that the sacred Upanishads declare "Ekam Evadvitiyam Brahma" that Brahman is one only without a second. The other finite Beings and matter are mere nothings.
How this argument of the extreme idealists can be reconciled with the formulations of physical science does not seem to have been proved with the least pretence of reason. How it is possible for us to arrive at this stupendous conclusions of belief in an ideal reality ignoring the fundamental knowledge we derive from sense perceptions, has not been tested and proved by them. How matter the receptacle and transmitter of Divine force, how souls that imbibe this force through matter can be thought of as illusory is not at all a fact imaginable. Mind and Matter are quite inseparably bound up; and for the evolution of the one the other is immensely important. Whether apart from the body the undeveloped soul can exist and evolve of itself, nobody has shown, nor any form of argument will, we believe, lead us to such an assumption. Though the susceptibility to the impressions produced by Matter is inherent in the Soul yet it cannot develop of itself that power without coming into closest relation with the non-intelligent Nature. That spark of intelligence lies latent in it awaiting the contact of Nature to be kindled into an ethereal flame. Of course, it is true that when the Soul has attained a certain stage in which the splendour of its intelligence will have grown up into perfection, it does stand independently of matter requiring its assistance no longer. But this will not prove that matter is illusory.
Possibly it may be objected that just as one vibrant energy when it affects two different organs, produces two different sensations as sight and hearing, so the one universal force in its widely different functions splits up into mind and matter, while essentially there is little difference between them. But this law of one vibrant energy affecting two different organs cannot be applied to the variety of distinct forces that are proved by physical science to exist in the universe beyond the pale of doubt. Is it reasonable to think that one unlimited intelligent force vibrated in two different directions in two entirely different manners one crystallising into dead matter and another into a limited intelligent Being? If it were so what is there to prove it?
Further, what is force? Is it a substance in itself or one which is inseparable from it? So far as our experience and knowledge go, Force cannot be said to have a separate existence from substance. Whenever there is substance, there is force, and wherever there is force there is substance either visible or invisible, mental or material. If we want to accurately determine the nature and amount of forces, we cannot do it but with a study of the relation of substances from which they emanate and into which they go. The speed of a long Railway train will clearly indicate the exact amount of steam-force generated by the engine. Though the steam-force is present everywhere in the universe in a latent form yet it does not appear until the relationship of the substances in which it inheres comes into actual play. From this it will be manifest that Force and Substance are not two distinct things but one that is identical with the other. And to understand the nature of the one a study of the other is highly indispensable. Therefore it seems to me extremely absurd to say that every substance in this world can be reduced to mere force, and in the end there will exist nothing but one single force.
Moreover one only force cannot send forth different vibrations conflicting within each other; one kind of force will always vibrate in one definite manner. The sparkling diamond, the melodious harp, the blown-out rose, the ripe olive, the glossy silk-all send forth different vibrations that affect us in different manners. One sort of vibration is never seen to have been produced by a substance of another sort. And while we are actually seeing before us different kinds of vibrations that are being thrown out by substance widely differing among themselves, how dares the idealist to assert that all these various substances are the outcome of one principal source and that they will in the long run be reduced to that same undifferentiated principle of a single force.
Seeing therefore, the inconsistency of the argument brought forward by the idealistic school of thinkers, we are quite justified in saying that this vast and wonderful universe is not, as they assert, a sheer nothing but a tangible reality, and that, because they identity the intangible, invisible and intelligent Supreme Self which pervades this universe with the tangible, visible and non-intelligent universe, they do not rise up higher than the Materialists who declare that there exists nothing beyond this dead matter. And the theistic position which they uphold is not much better than the atheistic one upheld by the materialistic class of thinkers.
Now coming to consider the aspect which the theistic argument has assumed in the philosophy of Saiva Siddhanta, I find it there discussed from two points of view. They are the cosmical and the Ideal.
To take up first the cosmical point of view. The law of vital activity in the cosmos is, in spite of all reasoning to the contrary, making itself felt in all minds with an ever-flowing continuity. All animate and inanimate things are being quickened by this indwelling creative elements. And by this are manifested unlimited power and intelligence in the interrelation of natural objects so wisely and beautifully fitted up and arranged that a thoughtful mind in its serene moments cannot but feel its presence.
Here, we are not forgetful of the Atomic theory of the Vaiseshikas who explain away creation by an ultimate coherence of atoms, and the variety of arrangements they attribute to the selective power which is an inborn quality of these atoms. Whether this selective power is intelligent or non-intelligent they have not stated clearly.
If it be an intelligent action on the part of atoms to stick together and produce this world of manifold difference, then we must find uniform intelligence in the organic as well as in the inorganic substances. Why at all is there so much variation in the degree of intelligence manifested in them? If each individual atom possesses a degree of intellectual power as a quality of its own, then each and every aggregate body should, as a matter of course, evince a proportionate amount of intelligent force, whereas such is not seen in the case of a dead body. What is the difference between a dead body and a living frame? The same constitutional arrangement in the two but with a lack of vitality in the former. If you say that in the dead body, the destructive action of a different kind of atoms has set in and upset the harmony of vital parts, then I would ask, while in the living frame constructive atoms are constantly moving on with a wonderful unity of intelligence, what let into it the destructive current of an opposite character? Oh! It is a mystery you say! But no, it is a deep-hidden Life of marvellous power that is ever at work in composing and decomposing this vehicle of mortal clay to suit the development of finite Beings. - Oriental Mystic Myna.