Sunday, June 17, 2012


[* This exceedingly instructive contribution from the pen of Mr. P. Ramanathan, K.C., C.M.G., appears as 'Foreword' to a florilegium of St. Vagisa's Psalms with a sketch of his life and philosophy, compiled by the late Mr. Balasubrahmanya Mudaliyar, M.A., and Mr. J. M. Nallasvami Pillai, B.A., B.L., a review of which will appear in a subsequent issue of this Journal. – Ed. L.T.]

    The two decades of hymns offered in this paper by the learned Translator1, [1
Mr. P. Ramanathan refers to the work mentioned in the previous note. – Ed. L.T.] for the consideration of those who take an active interest in spiritual life, are in the purest of Tamil, terse and sweet beyond measure, in every way worthy of the great Apostle's mission to the Tamils as "the kind of sacred (Tamil) diction" (Tirunavukkarasu). His sayings, like those of Tiru Valluva Nayanar, show how the deepest spiritual truths may be expressed in simple Tamil without the aid of Sanskrit words.

    Man's reclamation from the way of sorrow, called shortly in Sanskrit pravritti margam and in full duhkha pravritti margam, is the theme of both the hymns. Our saint calls it நடலை வாழ்வு (nadalai valvu), and desires to impress on those who have ears to hear that the scope of the Karma Kandam (work section) of the Vedas and Agamas is little understood by even the learned, and that it is of vital importance for every Karmadhikari to know the intent with which the Lord designed His great Karma Chakram. If the works known as yajna, dana and tapas are done with mind intent on the worldly rewards or bodily happiness with which they are usually associated as cause and effect, the doer of such works will abide in pravritti margam for the gratification of his wishes, donning and doffing bodies without number, and undergoing all the pains and penalties of repeated births and deaths. But if the doer enters upon those works with mind divorced from their material rewards, or with mind intent on God only as the protector and redeemer of the soul, - the framer of the universe and the ordainer of the works, - the doer will abide in nivritti margam, that is, duhkha nivritti margam, drawing nearer and nearer to God, and be at last like Him, pure spirit, devoid of all sorrow, immaculate and eternal.

    The average Karmadhikari is a dchavan, who thinks his body and his mind are himself, and who therefore believes that the joys and sorrows of which he is conscious are his very own, are forms of himself. He knows nothing of the spirit (atma) in the body, or the happiness germane to the spirit. To this corporeal man, the sensuous enjoyments of this world and of svarga loka are indispensable. His cravings for them being great, he would labor for them at any cost, and undertake every rite or ceremony prescribed, in the hope of gratifying them. The perishability of worldly happiness and its constant liability to wane and change wholly into sorrow do not strike him at all, or if they do occasionally, he soon forgets it all and works afresh for the same kind of bitter-sweet, misnamed happiness.

    In the Bhagavad Gita (ii. 43-45), the Bhagavan cautioned prince Arjuna against the mistakes of the short-sighted Karmaadhikari as follows: "Ignorant men who rejoice in the words of the Karma Kanda of the Vedas – who declare that there is nothing more valuable for men than works of worship, donation and austerity – who have set their hearts upon the attainment of sensuous enjoyments and lordly powers by such works – and who think that Svarga is the highest happiness, - quote flowery words from the Karma Kanda enjoining different kinds of works and praising the superior births ordained as the reward of such works. But, Arjuna, since the Karma Kanda is concerned with objects evolved from the fleeting phases of mind and matter (prakriti-gunas), you should forsake such objects and the dual conditions of the mind known as pleasure and pain. You should be established on what is unchangeable and true."

    This school of Vedic interpreters, whom the Bhagavan condemns for their belief that Svarga is the highest goal of life and must be labored for by the practice of yajnam, danam and tapas, are referred to in the Purva Mimamsa as Karmathah, which, Panini says, means Karmasurah, apt workers for sensuous happiness.

    The wise Karmadhikari is he who does his yajnam, danam and tapas, for their own sakes, and not through love of the sensuous enjoyable things that come of such works; or he who does such works through love of God and in grateful acknowledgement of His beneficent care.

    The Apostle of God, graciously sent into the land of the Tamils some two thousand years ago, asked his contemporaries, as he still asks their remote descendants, நடலை வாழ்வு கொண்டு என் செய்தீர் – what have ye gained by persisting in pravritti margam – the way that is steeped in heart-aches, notwithstanding all its pomp and gloss, throughout the trilokas named bhu, svar and naraka. In another hymn he confesses that in the days of the flesh – when its cravings were strong – he did many a dark deed in ignorance - கொடுமைபல செய்தனன், நான் அறியேன், - but that he clung day and night to God, Whom he had not before set high above all things in his heart, and obtained, as the result of his unflinching love and humility, the grace of the Lord, which freed his body from its long-standing ailments, and his spirit from corruption. Proclaiming his transcendent state of Jivan-mukti (spiritual freedom), in the psalm beginning with நாமார்க்கும் குடியல்லோம், நமனை அஞ்சோம், நரகத்தில் இடர்ப்படோம், he asks in one of the hymns before us, "are you not tired of the painful pleasures of the sense-ridden mind? Do you nor know the testimony of the Vedas that pravrittti margam leads unto death, and back again unto birth and death, with all their fears, fatigues and sorrows? நடலை வாழ்வு ………..நாணிலீர், சுடலை சேர்வது சொற் ப்ரமாணம்." Therefore the prudent man, buddhiman, should turn from this way of sorrow and love God above all. He should cling to God unceasingly in whatever line of duty he may be engaged and appeal for grace. Then will God admit him to the way of freedom from sorrow – duhkha nivritti margam.

    Hence the first song in the first decade of hymns here printed: மாசில் வீணையும் மாலை மதியமும், etc: the grace of God is as pacifying as the soft music of the vina, or the tender moon in the evening sky etc. The second stanza is , all learning and wisdom are for doing reverence unto God. The third, the worldly-minded will not hear the words of Sanctified Sages regarding the entanglements and dangers of pravritti margam. The fourth, pravritti margam is useless, for it is full of disguised sorrow and draws man farther and farther away from God. The fifth: in that way, man worships God and the devas out of regard for sensuous enjoyments. The sixth: Vedic texts, temples and other symbols, point to a different path, - nivritti margam – which the mind in bondage to sensuous enjoyments cannot appreciate. The seventh: God should be worshipped out of pure love, as the great benefactor who gave us the instruments of knowledge, speech and action for escape from destructive desires. The eighth: such desires are hard to conquer without the grace of God, for even me, who had abandoned the attractions of women, the mind at times tries to allure. The ninth: God rescues from the onslaughts of sensuous desires those whose hearts melt for Him. The tenth: He reveals Himself to those who love Him. The tenth: He reveals Himself to those who love Him above all things, when the [churn of the] heart is moved hard by [the staff of] love rolled on the cord of pure intelligence.

    The second decade of hymns opens with the teaching that they who would be free from sin and corruption should think of God deeply and continuously and with joy and that then He would be at one with them and grant them His grace. The second stanza is, freedom from sin and corruption is to those only who see Him in all things, and not to those who see Him only in particular places. The third: Freedom from sin and corruption is to those only who believe that the omnipresent and all-powerful Lord is their best friend, and not to those who are learned in, or learning, the Sastras, nor to those who give freely, nor to those who utter the eleven mantras. The fourth: spiritual freedom is to those only who meditate upon the omnipresent all-powerful Lord, and not to those who merely chant the Vedas, or hear the Sastras expounded, or learn the Dharma-Sastras and Vedangas. The fifth: spiritual freedom is to those only who crave for atonement with the omnipresent and all-powerful Lord, and not to those who bathe at dawn, nor to those who have at all times striven to be just, nor to those who make daily offerings to the Devas. The sixth: the blissful state of spiritual freedom is to those only who know the Lord to be boundless-in-love-and-light (ஞானன்) and not to those who roam in search of holy shrines, nor to those who practice severe austerities, nor to those who abstain from meat. The seventh: no gain of spiritual freedom is there to those who display the robes and other insignia of yogis and sannyasis, or to those who mortify the flesh: that gain is only to those who glorify Him as the Being who vibrates throughout the universe and in every soul. The eighth: spiritual freedom is only to those who feel that the omnipresent and all-powerful Lord is unchanging and eternal, and not to those who desire in myriads of sacred waters brings no real happiness, without love of God. And the tenth: nor any other work of austerity, without devotion to the Lord of al power.

    It remains only to add that the untiring efforts of my beloved friend, Sriman Nallasvami Pillai, amidst judicial duties, to smoothen the way of those who would learn of பக்தி நெறி (way of love) and முக்தி நெறி (way of spiritual freedom), prove that he is a true minister of God. For reminding us frequently of our true Father and our only Help, and so bringing us again and again to heart-felt worship of all that is Highest and Best, he deserves our unstinting gratitude.

    P. Ramanathan.

Monday, June 11, 2012


[Read before the Calcutta Convention of Religion, 1909.]

    All those who pay adoration to Siva as the Supreme Being are called Saivites and in their conception the word represents a Sentient Being which is all bliss and whose form is of pure love, transcending the nature of mind and matter. In this respect, Saivism differs widely from Vaishnavism, in that, the latter says that mind and matter, though real entities are one with Vishnu and that God Himself will assume human form now and then to extend His grace to His devotees. In this way, the worship of Rama and Krishna have become very prominent among Vaishnavites who insist that even God is born of earthly parents, His infinite nature is not thereby limited but is as pure and unstained as if he were not born. But with Saivites, though God is in his nature different from mind and matter, yet co-exists with them from all eternity in closest Adwaita relation and does not assume a human form merely for the sake of saving souls. He has pre-arranged everything with a settled plan and this would itself be quite sufficient to produce the desired result. This main principle distinguishes the one from the other and here the two lines of thought run in contrary directions. In other respects, the two bear so many things in common that one who has not carefully studied the two systems of thought will be inclined to think that they are, by no means, different except in mere naming God.

    2.    Saivism, on the whole, marks the depth of Philosophic knowledge, while Vaishnavism is characterized by profound imaginative flight of thoughts that best satisfy the cravings of a struggling soul. And the very symbolic representations of their respective gods will suffice to indicate the two different mental attitudes of the two Religions. Siva is worshipped in the form of a Guru or Saint, who having renounced all the evanescent pleasures of this world is absorbed in deep meditation of the eternal life principle that underlies all vanishing things. On the contrary Vishnu is set up with all the glorious adornments of a King that charms the imaginative mind of the worshipper with a dazzling effect.

    3.    Now coming to the subject, Veerasaiva which forms a specific class of the whole Religion, stands midway between Vaishnavism and other Sub-Divisions of Saiva Religion. Broadly speaking from a Philosophic point of view, Veerasaivism stands closely related to Vaishnavism, for it holds that mind and matter are not different, but are one with the innate force, i.e., Sakti of God Siva; and again like other Sects of Saiva Religion, it strongly contradicts Vaishnava Religious Theory that God would incarnate in human forms to save souls from misery and put down oppression. And thus it will be seen at the outset that Veerasaivism combines in itself the Philosophic element of Vaishnavism and the common religious principle of the Saiva Creeds.

    4.    The meaning of the very term Veerasaiva is full of significance. It means those staunch and exclusive worshipers of Siva whose creed does not permit the worship of any other deity. The Great Veda Vyasa gives a very simple definition of Veerasaiva as follows, in Sankara Samhita of the Skanda Purana:-

    5.    It may be mentioned that the Veerasaiva form an important Sub-Division among the Saivas. The chief Sub-Division among the Saivas are four in number according to Nijaguna Sivayogi, the Author of the well-known work in Kanarese "Viveka Chintamani", a work which is very popular and is translated into the Tamil and Telugu Languages. The four Sub-Divisions are:

        (1)    the Samanya Saivas

        (2)    the Misra Saivas

        (3)    the Suddha Saivas and

        (4)    the Veera Saivas.

    and the chief characteristics and differences are described in detail in Chapter II of the said work.

    6.    The Veerasaivas are sometimes known as Sivacharyas as opposed to Sivaradhyas, but the term is corrupted into Sivachars. They are also known as Lingayets or Lingavantas which is a name given to them perhaps by the Mahomedan Conquerors of India, who appear to have invented the name from the Lingam invariably worn by the Veerasaivas on their persons.

    7.    The numerical strength of the Veerasaivas is nearly 2½ million and are found in large numbers in the Bombay and the Madras Presidencies, the Mysore Province, the Nizam's Dominions, Berar and Kholapur States. They are also found in small numbers in Malabar, Goa, Benares, Kedar in the Himalayas and Nepal. As a Race, many of their Sub-Divisions are unmistakably Aryan in descent; and there is no admixture of the Dravidian element amongst them, just as in any other Hindu Community at the present time.

    8.    The Veerasaivas have shown considerable activity in the field of Literatures from very ancient times. They have used Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu Languages as their medium to express their Poetical ideas. Much credit is due to them for having preserved the purity of the highly polished Kanarese Language from ancient times; and many eminent Veerasaiva Poets could be named in the Literature of all the four Languages named above.

    9.    Trade and Agriculture are their chief occupations of the present day. They have in the van of Hindu Society, and they are shown that they are not inferior to any other Class of Hindus in point of business capacity or commercial enterprise. They are very slow to realize the benefits of Western Education and Western modes of thought and hence their obscurity.

    10.    The Orthodox Theory about the origin of the Veerasaivas may be briefly stated as follows:-

    "The Veerasaivas claim their descent from the Pramathas who belong to the Apprakrut Creation of Siva and contend that all the Non-Veerasaivas belong to the Prakrut Creation of Brahma. The Prakruts follow the Rules and Prescriptions of Brahma, whereas the Apprakruts follow those of Siva. Among the Prakruts who peopled the Earth, the ideas about God were still undeveloped and people worshipped Fire, Air, Earth and Water etc. As there was no hope of Salvation for the people without a Religion and a definite form of worship, Kasyapa, Attri, Bharadhwaja, Gautama and Vasishta obtained instructions from Siva and preached the Saiva Faith and established the Sthavaralinga form of worship i.e., worshipping the Linga as established in Temples etc. So the Prakruts began to build Temples and worshipped Sthavaralingas. But in this Religion, Karma was all important and Gnana or Wisdom was kept in the background; and Salvation was to be obtained only after three births. So Siva ordered a batch of Pramathas or devoted adherents, viz Renuka, Daruka and others who also belonged to the Apprakrut Creation to restore the Veerasaiva Faith. Accordingly, these Sages came to the Earth and established the Veerasaiva Religion on a strong basis. They also established important Religious Seats or Centers in five different parts of India and spread the Doctrines of Veerasaiva Religion. The Veerasaiva Religion progressed fairly well for a long time when it received a decisive check from the spreading influence of the Jain Religion. The power of the Jains increased and the Veerasaiva Faith began to decline again. During the period immediately preceding the age of the Great Reformer Basava, the Jains had become so powerful that the Veerasaivas had to find shelter in Hills, Forests and distant countries to avoid religious persecutions. Siva ordered a fresh batch of Pramathas, the most prominent among whom was Basava to proceed to the Earth and revive the Veerasaiva Faith. Basava strengthened and reformed the Veerasaiva Faith on a popular basis and the Religion acquired great popularity and rapidly spread from one end of the Country to the other."

    11.    I can quote numerous Authorities in support of the Orthodox Theory above described, but owing to want of time and space, I wish to make short references to some of them.

        (a)    The ninth Patala (Chapter) in Swayambhu Agama gives a complete description of the five renowned Acharyas in the Veerasaiva Religion and the Seats which they founded. The Panchacharyas are Ghanta Karna, Gaja Karna, Renuka, Daruka and Viswa Karna. These Sages are said to have acquired different names in different Yugas and their Seats are also named after their distinguished successors, who are Ekorama, Panditardhya, Revanaradhya, Marularadhya and Viswaradhya. The Seats which they founded are respectively.

        (i)    Kedar in the Himalayas.

        (ii)    Sri Saila in the Kurnool District of the Madras Presidency,

        (iii)    Balehonnur in the Kadur District of the Mysore Province

        (iv)    Ujjain in the Bellary District and

        (v)    Benares.

    The other Authorities are –

        (a)    Suprabhedagama, (b) Siddhanta Sikhamani, (c) Sanskrit Basava Purna by Sankararya and (d) Kriyasara.

    These five Acharyas are commonly known as the Founders of the Veerasaiva Religion. It may be stated that these are the five Great Canterbury's of the Veerasaivas of great antiquity situated in different parts of India and that all these Seats are occupied even now by the Veerasaiva Bishops, who exercise considerable Ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Veerasaivas.

        (2)    In the "Classical Essay on the Veerasaivas" written by the Great Telugu Scholar Mr. C. P. Brown, which is published in the XI Volume of the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, there is a description of these Acharyas and the Author also mentions the high reverence shown to the said Acharyas on all ceremonial occasions among the Veerasaivas.

        (3)    Professor H. H. Wilson mentions of the Veerasaiva Seats at Kedarnath, Benares and Sri Saila in his "Royal Asiatic Researches."

        (4)    Further, Mr. F. Kittel has actually studied Panchacharya Vamsavali in the Sanskrit Suprabhedagama and he has given us the benefit of his study in his "Introduction to Nagavarma's Prosody" in which he has shown that Revana Arya referred to by the Celebrated Poet Sadakshari in his "Rajasekhara Vilasa" was the first of the five Acharyas who are considered to be the Founders of the Veerasaiva Faith.

    12.    The Veerasaivas are the peaceful race of Hindu Puritans. They do not perform Yajnas in any form and do not believe in the efficacy of Shraddhas. They worship only one God Siva and in the opinion of Mr. Bhattacharya the Veerasaivas are the only Hindus who are to be called as pure Saivites.

        (2)    The Veerasaivas contend that Salvation could be obtained in a single birth instead of in three births according to the Saiva Faith and they have done away with the multiplicity of ceremonies, as their object is to obtain the maximum result or benefit by performing a minimum number of ceremonies. They claim these to be improvements on the Old Saiva Faith, and the following Agamic passage briefly points out some of the important differences between the Veerasaiva Faith and the Old Saiva faith:-

        (3)    The Veerasaivas bury their dead and this constitutes another difference between them and the Saivas, and it must be noted in this connection that such eminent Smrithi Writers as Manu, Bharadwaja and Satatapa prescribe that the Veerasaivas are to bury their dead and not to burn them.

        (4)    The most distinguishing feature among the Veerasaivas is the Linga which everyone wears on his person, he be man or woman, young or old, without any distinction. Every woman has got equal rights to obtain Salvation as every man in this Religion and every man, woman and child ought to wear the Linga from the moment of birth. Every person ought to worship the Linga as his or her God, and ought to sacrifice even the life in case of loss of the Linga under any circumstances.

        (5)    The Veerasaivas perform ten ceremonies known as the Dasa-Samskaras and of these, the most important is the Deeksha Ceremony at which the Doctrines of the Religion are formally initiated by a competent Guru or Teacher.

        The Pupil gets "Linga-Sambandha" or relation with Linga by means of Deeksha which destroys the three impurities. Hence it is called Deeksha.

    13.    It is to be added that the Veerasaiva Religion is an all-embracing proselytizing Religion "and it consists of representatives from all classes of Hindu Society."

    Our shastras prescribe different periods of probation for people of different castes and admission can be made after the probationary period, if the pupils seeking admission are found to possess real "Bhakti or Faith" in the Religion. The probationary period is

        (a)    three years for a Brahman,

        (b)    six years for a Kshatriya,

        (c)    nine years for a Vaisya, and

        (d)    twelve years for a Sudra.

    The following passage is taken from "Veerasaivachara Kaustubha"      which is a great authority on the subject:-

    14.    (a)    The Religious History of India shows that many powerful Kings and Rulers of Native States have embraced the tenets of the Veerasaiva Faith.

        (b)    There are numerous instances of Brahmans embracing the Veerasaiva Faith; and

        (1)     according to Censis Reports hitherto published, large numbers of Brahmans have joined the Veerasaiva Religion in recent times in the Bombay Presidency;

        (2)    the History of Kanada Literature of the 12th Century A.D. affords two such notable instances;

        (3)    the Brahman Poet "Tribhuvana Thata" embraced the Veerasaiva Faith and became the disciple of the Veerasaiva Poet Padmarasu (1165 A.D.), after being defeated by the latter in a religious and literary controversy.

    (4)    Similarly, the Vaishnava Poet "Chakpani Ranganatha," embraced the Veerasaiva Faith after being defeated by the famous poet "Palkurike Somanatha" (1195 A.D.)."

        (c)    The Puranic instance of the conversion of a Brahman into the Veerasaiva Religion may also be interesting. Veda Vyasa tells us in the "Sankara Samhita of the Skanda Purana" that the Brahman Pingala, son of Sweta, was converted into the Veerasaiva Faith by Sage Sadananda.

    15.    The Virasaivas acknowledge the supremacy of the Vedas, Agamas and Saiva Puranas. They do not perform Yajnas or Animal Sacrifices, but they perform the following "Pancha Siva Yajnas" insteas:-

    Besides, the performance of Yajnas relates to the attainment of desires such as, admission into svarga and so on. The Virasaivas discard all such desires and go one step higher, since their object is to attain oneness with the Deity. Hence they reject the Yajnas and perform such of the ceremonies only as relate to the attainment of Jnana or Knowledge.

    16.    The Virasaiva Religion is founded on the Jnana Kanda of the Vedas, and its founders have written learned Bhashyas on the Brahma Sutras. They contend that Lingadharana is authorized by the Vedas according to some celebrated passages in the rig Veda and the Yajur Veda which form the common field for literary activity and which have given rise to different Religions among the Hindus.

    The Svayambhuva Agama, Suprabheda Agama, Vira Agama, the Virasaiva Bhashyas, Kriyasara, Siddhanta-Sikhamani, Lingadharana-Chandrika and others clearly prove the unmistakable origin of the Virasaiva Religion.

    (2)    The Lingadharana-Chandrika shows that Lingadharana is a Vedic injunction and the recent commentary on this learned work by Mahamahopadhyaya Saiva Kumara Pandit of Benares repays perusal, and forms a valuable and instructive addition to the "Virasaiva Literature."

    (3)    Further, the interpretations of the Virasaivas are fully supported by Veda-Vyasa in unambiguous language in the Linga Purana and the Skanda Purana. It may be mentioned here that of all the representations of the Deity which India has conceived, the Linga is the least materialistic, and is a form devoid of all attributes, and hence, nearly approaching perfection; and the very choice of this symbol by the Virasaivas to the exclusion of every other, to represent the Supreme Being, reflects no small credit on their Founders.

    (4)    The following passage from the Yajur Veda also treats of the same subject:-

    (5)    Again, the learned Author of "Kriyasara" which is a Karika of the "Nilakantha Bhashya" on the Brahma Sutras of Vyasa, points out in Chapter XXIX of Part II of his work, that Lingadharana is prescribed by the Vedas, and that Virasaivas wear the Linga in the same way as the Saivas wear Yajnopavitam and with a better effect, in as much as it is a symbol which shows our constant touch with God.

    (6)    The same subject is also discussed in detail in the Sanskrit work known as the "Siddhanta Sikhamani.'

    (7)    Another Sanskrit work known as "Virasaiva Dharma Siromani" points out that each of the "Ashta-Avaranas" or eight accompaniments viz., Guru, Linga, Jangama, Vibhuti, Rudraksha, Prasada, Padodaka, and Mantra, is prescribed by the Vedas. These eight qualities are the characteristic marks of every pious Virasaiva and form the practical basis of his daily religious observances. Any devotee wanting in any one or more of these marks, cannot come within the pale of the Virasaivas.

    17.    Love is the most essential principle in the Virasaiva Religion, which teaches that there is Divinity in every Virasaiva. According to its Doctrines, we are in essence one with God. God alone is true, and His power is infinite. This Religion teaches the Doctrine of Renunciation, and the very Institution of Virakta Jangamas, the spiritual leaders in our community is based on this sacred Doctrine. Sankaracharya declared that oneness with the Deity is the great object to be attained, and the Virasaiva Religion assures that this Union is attainable in this life. The knowledge of the three things, viz., Linga (God), Anga (Body), and Samarasya (Union), is a great assistance to the attainment of Salvation. The union of Linga and the Anga is oneness with the Deity. It is explained in Sukshma-Agama, Chapter VII.

    18.    The Philosophy of the Virasaivas is called the "Sakti-Visichta-Adavaita", because, according to them, God is associated with Sakti which is the infinite divine Light or Power.

    The great exponent of the Philosophy of Saktivisishtadvaita is Nilakantha Sivacharya, one of the great commentators on the "Brahma-Sutras." Sankara makes many references to Nilakantha in his commentary and refutes his arguments. There is a wide-spread erroneous notion that Sankara was the Founder of "Adavaita," Ramanuja that of "Visishta-Advaita" and Madhvacharya of "Dvaita" and so on. On the other hand, these ideas were already prevalent and were undergoing a hard process of agitated discussion and disputation. But they acquired definite and settled characteristics of their own by the very clear and lucid interpretations of several Great Thinkers on whose name they have as a consequence been fathered, and to whom they owe their very existence in a sense. Sakti-Visishta-Advaita is essentially a branch of Advaita, or, more correctly, Advaita, qualified and conditioned. It differs from the idealistic philosophy of Sankara's Advaita in that it does not ignore the so-called illusory world of matter and the numberless beings that are found in it. The idealist says that all matter and mind are mere reflections of an underlying and intelligent Principle of Unity which alone is real. But for Brahman, there can come nothing into manifestation and therefore is it that the sacred Upanishats declare Ekam eva advitiyam brahma, that Brahman is THE ONE only without a second. The other finite beings and matter are mere nothings. But, it is very difficult to comprehend this ideal reality, ignoring entirely the fundamental knowledge we derive from sense-perceptions. Matter is a great receptacle and transmitter of Divine Force which the souls imbibe through this very matter. How then can we call our only medium of knowledge, an illusion, a Maya? Both mind and matter are inseparably bound up and the one is unintelligible without the aid of the other. Nobody has shown that the undeveloped soul can evolve apart from the body. The vital force underlying both matter and mind is not separable from substance. Science shows that wherever there is substance, there is force, and wherever there is force, there is substance, mentally or materially. If we want to understand the nature of force, we cannot do it without substance from which alone it emanates. Hence they are not separate entities, but are identical with each other. "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." The essence of the paddy grain is certainly in the rice and not in the husk; and to all appearance the one is separable and distinct from the other. But yet in order to raise a crop we cannot sow bare rice, solely on the pretext that it is the very essence of paddy removed from the husk; nor again can the mere husk without rice, show any sign of sprouting. The two are so united together that each is essential to the other. Similarly Sakti, the innate force, is inseparably associated with God through Whom It manifests Itself.

    All this philosophy is splendid but can only be considered as intellectual gymnastics for highly developed minds; but if it stops there, it is of no practical importance as Religion and does not bring any comfort or peace to an eager soul thirsting for highest bliss. The greatest merit of the Virasaiva Religion is that it has rendered this philosophy highly practical by what is called Shatsthalajnana, the practical side of our Religion. By this, our religious tenets become part and parcel of a Virasaiva's daily life and, without any effort or knowing, he lives his Religion in the same way we breathe without knowing that we do so, and that it is one of the most vital acts of life.

    The terms Shatsthala and Lingangasamarasya are pregnant with philosophical meaning among the Virasaivas. According to them Linga is of six kinds and Anga is of six kinds, and the union of each Linga with each Anga marks a stage known as sthala. The term Shatsthala denotes six such stages of spiritual development and the term "Lingangasamarasya" denotes oneness with the Deity in those several stages.

    The Six sthalas or stages are:-

    Bhakta, Mahesa, Prasada, Pranalinga, Sarana and Aikya.

    19.    The Philosophy of the Virasaivas may be said to resemble Sankara's Philosophy in certain respects, and it is frequently quoted for purposes of comparison in the Religious works of the Brahmins of which the following is an instance:-

From "Jnana-Sarvasva-Sangraha, Chapter VI, leaf 57, by Narasimha, Smarta Brahmin."

    20.    The Sankarin uses "Tat" for which the Virasaivas use "Linga". The former uses "Tvam" for which the latter use "Anga." The union of the two is denoted by the Smartas by "Asi", whereas the Virasaivas denote the same union by the expression "Samyoga or Samarasya" so that the Tattvamasi of Sankara corresponds to the Lingangasamyoga of the Virasaivas.

    21.    Mr. C. P. Brown is of opinion that there is some similarity between the Virasaiva Philosophy and the system of Philosophy of some of the ancient writers of Greece and Rome. He compares the two systems as follows:-

    "There is so remarkable an analogy between the Pythagorean Monad and the deity of Virasaivas that I cannot well avoid adducing the following brief deduction from the philosophic statements as represented in "Cudworth's Intellectual System." Second Edition, Chapter IV, pages 370 and 376. Pythagoras calls the four principles by numerical names, the Monad, Duad, Triad and Tetrad. A Virasaiva calls them by specific names. VIZ., the Lingam, Bhakta, Guru and Sivam i.e., the deity, the disciple, the teacher and the Supreme Spirit which pervades and unites all three."

    "The subordinate beings (gods, heroes and demons) of Pythagoras answer to the Virasaiva Saints; all of whom are supposed to be embodied forms of the prime existence or lingam which answers to the Monad who is also "Zen." The Duad is the passive principle or disciple, he whose mind is the field for impression. The link between these two is the third principle, the Guru or Teacher. In his creative office, the deity is mingled with nature by Pythagoras and is all nature in the creed of Virasaivas."

    "Love was the first orphic principle and so it is throughout the Virasaiva Creed. Yet it is a created Being; for it is a form or appearance of the deity. Thus the Lingam and the Sivam being the first and the fourth principles are one and the same. The Monas and the Tetractys are one."

    22.    Now I proceed to say a few words about the Great Reformer Basava, and no Thesis about the Virasaiva Religion can be said to be complete without a reference to this distinguished personage. It was hitherto supposed by some, that the Basava was the Founder of the Virasaiva Religion and that the Virasaivas have based their Religion on the Basava Purana. It needs no comment to state that both these theories are erroneous. Recent researches have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Basava was not the Founder of the Religion, that it existed long before he was born and that Basava embraced the Virasaiva Faith just as so many others did, before and after him.

    23.    It now remains to deal with the antiquity of the Virasaiva Religion. Recent researches have shown that the Religion existed long before Basava and there can be no doubt that the incorrect opinions hitherto entertained were all based on insufficient materials.

        (a)    There is sufficient internal evidence in the Basava Purana itself to show that the Religion existed before Basava. For instance, Virasaivas and Jangamas are said to have been invited and respected at the marriage ceremony of Basava. Basava relates to Bijjala, the superhuman powers of Virasaivas who lived in previous ages. Further, numerous Virasaivas are said to have gone to Kalyan to pay respects to Basava from distant countries.

    This shows that the Religion was not only existing before Basava, but had also spread over a large part of India. These visitors are described as wearing Linga in the palm of the hand, chest, head, neck and armpit (being the five authorised places), as having restrained the organs of sense, following the pure practices of the Virasaivas, kind to the Jangamas and well versed in the Vedas and Agamas.

        (b)    There is a good deal of external evidence to prove the antiquity of the Virasaiva Religion.

        (1)    In the first place, the principles of the Virasaiva Religion are described in the Vedas, Agamas and Puranas. The following story occurs in the Kamika-Agama:-

    "During their travels, one Ajamila and his wife, were attacked by a band of robbers and at the suggestion of his wife, Ajamila tied up in a kerchief, all the precious jewels he had in the form of a Linga and put it round his neck so as to make it appear that he was a Virasaiva wearing Linga. This stratagem succeeded very well, for the Robber Chieftain Mitra Gupta ordered at once the release of the two people, as he always had great respect and regard for Virasaivas, whom, as a rule, he did not molest."

    This certainly indicates the existence of the Religion before the composition of the Kamika-Agama, and also shows that the Virasaiva Viraktas had sometimes the rare privilege of commanding respect even from Robber Chiefs.

        (2)    In the next place, the discussion between Dharmaraja and Bhisma in the Anusasana Parva of the Mahabharata, shows that the Virasaiva Religion was existing at that time.

        (3)    Again, the writings of such reputed Scholars as Professor H. H. Wilson, Professor Monier Williams, Rev. F. Kittel, Rev. Barth, Mr. Edward Moore and Messer's. Deshpande and V. R. Katti, sufficiently show that the Virasaiva Religion is an ancient branch of the Hindu Religion, that it existed even before the rise of Buddhism and that it is a mistake to suppose that it was founded by Basava.

        (4)    Further, it is to be observed that the historical events related in the Basava Purana belongs to the 12th Century including the period of Basava's Ministry in the Kingdom of Bijjala. But the Inscriptions of Mysore and Captain Mackenzie's Memoirs of the Hassan District prove the existence of the Virasaiva Religion in the ninth century A. D. The Inscriptions of Sravana Belagola take us back to the middle of the ninth century while Dr. Fleet's Inscriptions of Aihola (Aryapura) clearly show that the Virasaiva Religion existed in the eighth century A. D. And recent researches in the Tamil Literature of South India have brought to light the interesting fact that the Great Tamil Saint Manikkavachakar (300 A. D.) and Tiruvalluva Nayanar (100 B. C.), author of the sacred Kural in Tamil, were Virasaivas in Religion.

        (5)    Lastly, the numerous unmistakable references to the Virasaiva Religion in the Sankara-Vijaya itself proves the existence of the Religion at the time of the great Sankaracharya. This fact is purely historical and is corroborated by the writings of both Professors H. H. Wilson and Monier Williams. In the Sankara-Vijaya, the Virasaivas are described as wearing the Linga on the head. The Virasaiva sect was one of the six Saiva sects in existence at the time of Sankaracharya who is said to have come into contact with them in the course of his religious controversies. It may be interesting to note the following fact in this connexion:

    "The Parents of the great Sankara had no children for a long time just as in the case of Basava's parents. They were also Saivas and they prayed to Siva who blessed the pair and Sankara was born. But the fact that Sankara's mother particularly selected Siva in his Jangama form for worship shows that the Jangamas were certainly in existence to the knowledge of Sankara's parents and that the Jangamas were universally respected at that time also by all classes of Hindus. The following is the text and is taken from the Second Sarga of the Sankara-Vijiya:-

    24.    Basava Purana is only a record of Basava's life and it is clear from the observations already made in the above paragraphs that the Virasaiva Religion is not based on the Basava Purana. It is nowhere to be found in the Basava Puranas that Basava founded the religion and that the Religion of the Virasaivas is based on his biography. Basava belongs to the Divine batch of Pramathas, and he is said to have come to the Earth as the Saviour of Mankind. He is always the inseparable companion of Siva; and it may be noticed that in every one of the thousands of Siva temples throughout India, Basava is invariably placed prominently in front of Siva. In fact, no Siva temple is built without Basava, and there is no Hindu does not attach some sacredness to Siva's vehicle. A certain amount of sacredness has gathered round the very name "Basava" and even to this day, it is commonest name made use of by the Virasaivas in every part of the country. Siva is known to have placed Basava nearest to His heart.

    While yet a boy, Basava showed much intelligence and soon acquired much knowledge in the Shastras. When he attained the age of eight years, his father wanted to invest him with the sacred thread. But the boy refused to be so invested on the ground that he was a Virasaiva and that he did not belong to the creation of Brahma i.e., Prakrita creation. Baladeva, the Prime Minister at the Court of Bijjala in Kalyana, was struck with the singular wisdom and piety of this boy who was his nephew (sister's son) and gave his daughter Gangambika in marriage. Basava's fame rapidly spread, and people admired his marvellous powers, and he eventually became the Prime Minister of Kalyan.

    Basava was a Historical personage and one of the noblest characters in Indian History. His views were very liberal, and he was far in advance of the age in which he lived. He had the courage of his convictions and boldly gave expression to his religious opinions, in spite of the persecutions of Brahmana and Jains. He was a great Reformer, and Western Scholars class him with Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha. He imparted a popular complexion to the Virasaiva Religion.

    The very essence of Basava's Reforms consists in the uplifting of the masses without any distinction of class or creed. While Sankara preached to the developed few and Ramanuja converted to his Faith the persons of even the lowest class and tried to transform them into Brahmans, Basava went a step higher and proclaimed to the world that "whatever profession a man may follow for his daily bread, it did not deter him from embracing a true Religion and trying to get Salvation."

    What Rousseau was to France, Basava was to Southern India; and what is remarkable is that so early as in the twelfth century A. D., Basava proclaimed that famous doctrine of the equality of mankind, which seven centuries later upset the whole of Europe and convulsed half of the modern world. But this great man has yet but been imperfectly understood. His teachings have yet to be rescued from obscurity; the good services which he has rendered to India and her Religion, and the noble and heroic struggle which he undertook in the sacred cause of the depressed classes, and the remarkable success which he achieved in his own life-time, have yet all to be properly recorded, judged and appreciated by posterity.

    25.    Gentlemen, I take this opportunity of thanking the Committee on behalf of the Virasaivas, for having allowed them to represent their Religion at this unique Convention. This humble thesis does not pretend to be an exhaustive exposition of the Virasaiva Religion. The details have been omitted along with many other matters intimately connected with the said Religion. This is placed before you by way of an introduction, and it is only intended to bring the existence of the Religion to your notice, with a few observations on its Origin, Nature, Development and Philosophy. Here is a vast field for historical investigation, and my chief aim is to awaken some active interest in the matter and stimulate further enquiry into this very ancient branch of the Saiva Religion.

H. K. V.


Thursday, June 7, 2012




[* A Paper read at a meeting of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society on Wednesday, August, 18th 1909, with His Excellency Sir Hugh Clifford, K.C.M.G., the Colonial Governor, in the chair. It is here reprinted with the kind permission of the Author, Hon. Mr P. Arunachalam, M.A., Camb., C.C.S., Vice President, R.A.S (C.B).- Ed. L.T.]



    The Jnana Vasishtam is a Tamil poem of authority in that collection of the spiritual traditions of Ancient India known as the Vedanta, and consists of a series of discourses said to have been delivered by the sage Vasishta to Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, the Liad of India. Seized in early youth with an aversion to worldly life, he longed to abandon his royal state and to retire as a hermit into the forest. By these discourses the sage persuaded him that, even amidst the pomp and temptations of royalty, it was possible to attain to the highest spiritual state. He showed the way to the goal, which the prince in due time reached. From the name of the sage (Vasishta) and from the fact that Jnanam,1 [1
Another form of a Greek expression meaning 'knowledge or wisdom' and of know-ledge, the root being jna, gno, to know.] or the spiritual science known of old as Wisdom, is the subject of the discourses, the work has been called Jnana Vassishtam.

    The original discourses were in Sanskrit, and are said to have been reported by Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, for the benefit of his pupil Bharadvaja in 100,000 stanzas, of which 36,000 are extant under the name of the Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana. They were reduced to 6,000 by Abhinandana, generally known as the Kashmir Pandit, whose abridgment passes under the name of Laghu (i.e., little) Yoga Vasishta.

    The Tamil work consists of 43 chapters of 2,055 quatrains, and was composed by Alavantar Madavappattar of Virai, a village near Vembattur in the Madura district of the Madras Presidency. I have not been able to ascertain his date. He probably lived about three hundred years ago. He is said to have belonged to a family distinguished in literature during many centuries and still holding lands and titles conferred on them by the Pandiyan kings in reward of their merit. A valuable commentary was made on the poem1 [1
The first edition of the Tamil poem and commentary appears to have been printed in 1843, having previously existed in MS. Palm leaf, and is very rare. The two next editions were of 1850 and 1851.] about eighty years ago by Arunachala Svami of Piraisai near Negapatam, who lived in Madras many years and had a great reputation as a teacher of philosophy. The Tamil author and commentator are regarded as no mere translators or commentators, but rather as men of spiritual insight confirming by their testimony the truth of the experiences related by Vasishta.

    Vedanta means the end of the Vedas, the most sacred books of the Hindus, and was so called because it taught the ultimate aim and scope of the Vedas. It was in short the Goal of the Law. The Vedanta, as Oriental scholars have pointed out, is the basis of the popular creed of the Hindus of the present day. Of the Vedanta Professor Max Muller, lecturing in March 1894, at the Royal Institution, London, said: "A philosopher so thoroughly acquainted with all the historical systems of philosophy as Schopenhauer, and certainly not a man given to deal in extravagant praise of any philosophy but his own, delivered his opinion of the Vedanta philosophy as contained in the Upanishads in the following words:- 'In the whole world there is no study as beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.' If (adds Professor Max Muller) these words of Schopenhauer's required any endorsement, I should willingly give it as the result of my own experience during a long life devoted to the study of many religions. If philosophy is meant to be a preparation for a happy death or euthanasia, I know of no better preparation for it than the Vedanta philosophy."

    This philosophy was at an early period systematized in certain sutras or aphorisms1 [1
Known variously as the Vedanta Sutras, Vyasa Sutras, Brahma Sutras, Uttaramimamsa Sutras or Sariraraka Mimamsa Sutras.] attributed to Badarayana alias Vyasa, which have been copiously interpreted and expounded. The best known exposition2 [2
Called after him Sankara Bashyam] is that of Sri Sankaracharya Svami, the Hindu philosopher, who lived about the sixth century of the Christian era. His writings and apostolic zeal were mainly responsible for the downfall of Buddhism in India. He founded the abbey of Sringeri (in Mysore), the abbot of which is still the spiritual head of many millions of Hindus. Sankaracharya's views are often erroneously identified, especially by European scholars, with the Vedanta, as if there were no other authoritative view. An earlier commentator was Sri Nilakantha Svami, who is of great repute and authority among the Saivas, or those who worship God under the name of Siva. Nilakantha's work3 [3
Called after him Nilakantha or Srikantha bhashyam, and also Saiva bashyam Suddahdvaita bashyam.] is so little known outside the circle of Saiva theologians that the learned Dr. Thibaut, who has translated the Vyasa Sutras and Sankaracharya's commentary for the Sacred Books of the East series of the Oxford Clarendon Press, was not aware that in some of the points in which Sankaracharya appeared to him to misunderstand the original, Nilakantha took a different and truer view. Another commentary4 [4
Called after him Ramanuja bashyam.] is that of Sri Ramanuja Svami, which enjoys great authority among the Vaishnavas, or those who worship God under the name of Vishnu. The three expositions5 [5
There are two other commentaries in current use, one by Madhavacharya and another by Vallabhacharya. Two others, little known and said to be older even than Nilakantha's, are attributed to Bodahyana and Bhaskara.] may briefly, if roughly, be thus distinguished in regard to their conception of the relations between God, soul, and matter. Sankaracharya is a Monist, Nilakantha a pure Non-dualist (Suddhadvaita), Ramanuja a qualified Non-dualist (Visishtadvaita). All take their stand on the Upanishads, while putting forward each his view to be the true one. The expositions are not easy to follow, and require the same effort of attention and study as Western students have no devote to the intricate arguments of Aristotle or Kant.

    Sankaracharya is sometimes described as a "a Monist or Non-dualist." But the terms are not regarded as a synonymous by the pure Non-dualists, especially by that school of pure Non-dualism, which is the glory of Tamil philosophy and is known as the Saiva Siddhanta. Its chief authority, the Sivajnana potham, draws this important distinction (ii., 2 and 3):-

    "One," say the Vedas. Behold, it is said of the One. The One is the Lord. Thou who sayest "One," are the soul. Lo, in bondage art thou. If the One were not,- If vowel A were not, letters there would be none. In this wise say the Vedas "One."

    Like song and its tune, like fruit and its flavour, the Lord's energy everywhere pervadeth, non-dual. Therefore say the great Vedas not "One," but "Not-two."

    The meaning is this: When the Vedas say "Ekam Sat," "All that is, is one," they do not mean the identity of God and the soul, but that God pervades and energizes the soul. The first sound uttered as the mouth opens is the sound of U in but, which sound is represented in Indian alphabets by their initial letter, the vowel A (Sanskrit , Tamil ). This sound exists in, and is indispensible to the formation of, the sound represented by every other letter. Thus the Indian letter A, while it may be said to pervade and energize every other letter, remains also a distinct and the chief letter. So God and the soul. All souls are pervaded and energized by God, as all letters by A, as a song by its tune, fruit by its flavor. Nevertheless, like A, God stands apart, Himself, of all things the source and the chief, "One," therefore, in the Vedas must be understood to mean not unity, but non-duality, of God and soul. The same argument is pithily expressed by the poet. Tiruvalluvar in his celebrated Kural:

        "All letters have for source the letter A,

        The world for source hath the Ancient One,

        The Adorable."


    This traditional illustration of the pure Non-dualists, prominently set forth in the very opening verse of the poem, shows that the author – who, in spite of his outcast birth, is "the venerated sage and law-giver of the Tamil people," whom every Hindu sect is proud to claim – was a Vedantist of the pure Non-dualist type.

    The study of the Vedanta is held in high esteem in India as the most effective cure of the disease ajnanam, or ignorance, which keeps the soul from God. The doctrines of the Vedanta are expounded in the Jnana Vasishtam mainly on the lines of Sankaracharya, with endless variety of illustration, in the form of stories which convey to the thoughtful reader, with all the interest of a romance, an easy understanding of the most difficult problems of philosophy – Who am I? Whence? Whither? It is no uncommon thing in the towns and villages of Tamil-land for groups of earnest seekers to meet in the quiet hours of the day or night to listen to the reading and exposition of the poem and ponder on the great questions. At such séances women are not the least interested of the listeners nor the least keen of the questioners.

    The Jnana Vasishtham not only explains the doctrines of the Vedanta as to the nature of God, the soul and the universe, but teaches the practical methods by which the soul may effects its union with God. The mode of effecting this union or 'yoking' is called Yoga, a word having the same root as the English yoke. It is treated here under two heads: Karma Yoga or the Way of Work, and Jnana Yoga or the Way of Knowledge. It is the latter form of Yoga of which the book mainly treats. Karma Yoga in its higher forms – work for work's sake, duty for duty's sake, without reference to any ulterior motive or reward – is given a prominent place and shown to have the same goal as Jnana Yoga. Four chapters – the stories of Uttalakan, Vitakavyan, Pusundan, and Sikitvasan – discuss Karma Yoga in its lower forms (bodily penances and mortifications), which are said to be rewarded with wonderful powers over nature called the Siddhis. But their pursuit is generally discouraged by the sages as likely to involve the soul in the bonds of desire and to perpetuate its ignorance and separation from God. Another and most important form of Yoga called Bhakti Yoga, the Way of Love, which is fostered by the ordinary worship of the temples and churches, is but lightly touched in this work.

    It is difficult to give an adequate idea of the Jnana Vasishtham in a summary or even in a translation. I have, however, attempted to summarize a few discourses and to translate a few others, adding to each some explanatory comments. One of the most memorable of the discourses, entitled "The Worship of God," is included in the translations.

    In reading them it should be borne in mind that interpretation from one language to another is seldom successful and never easy. The difficulty is in this case greatly increased by the nature of the subject, a metaphysical one so profound as confessedly to be beyond the reach of word or even thought. The Hindu system of metaphysics, moreover, is in many respects different from modern European systems, and suitable English equivalents are not found for its technical terms. For example, the word manas, though philologically the same as the Latin mens and the English mind, cannot be translated as mind without serious confusion of ideas. Mind, in modern European metaphysics, is understood to mean the sum-total of the intellectual, volitional, and emotional faculties of man and to be antithetical to matter. But manas is regarded by Hindu philosophers as a subtle form of matter, an organ by which the soul receives from the gates of the senses impressions of external objects, and is enabled to know them and thereby to experience pains and pleasures, which it utilizes for its development and progress to God. The antithesis of matter according to Hindu philosophers would thus be not mind, but the soul or spirit (atman), which is conscious of thought and for its salvation has to free itself from the fetters of thought.

    The great gulf between the two systems is the doctrine that consciousness may exist without thought, which to European philosophers, at least of modern times, appear to be an absurdity and an impossibility. However, Hindu sages declare, and declare not as a speculation but as actual experience, that when thought is completely suppressed and also it twin brother sleep, the pure consciousness or spirit long hidden begins to manifest itself.1 [1
See the writer's article on "Luminous Sleep" in the Westminster Review of November 1902, republished in 1903 by the Government Printer, Ceylon.] Free from the stain of thought and oblivion and truly pure in heart, the soul is blessed with the vision of God, wins the peace of God that passeth all understanding, realizes somewhat of the infinite power, glory, and bliss of the Divine Spirit, and finally is united to it.

    A kindered experience is thus described by Tennyson:-

        "For more than once when I

        Sat all alone, revolving in myself

        The word that is the symbol of myself,

        The mortal limit of the Self was loosed

        And past into the nameless, as a cloud

        Melts into Heaven. I touched my limbs, the limbs

        Were strange, not mine – and yet no shade of doubt

        But utter clearness, and thro' loss of Self

        The gain of such large life as match'd with ours

        Were Sun to spark – unshadowable in words,

        Themselves but shadows of a shadow-world."

                                The Ancient Sage.

    Notwithstanding the difficulties of interpreting such a work as the Jnana Vasishtham, the attempt has been made in the hope that, even in the garb in which it is here presented, a poem which has been of inestimable help to the best spirits among countless generations of Hindus will be of interest to Western students, and perhaps be of service to some among that large and increasing number of cultured men and women, in the West as in the East, who are sick of church or temple, sick of ritual and prayer, and are left stranded on the shore of atheism or agnosticism without hope or comfort. Here they will find, and perhaps have comfort in finding, what the sages of ancient India conceived, and their successors still conceive, to be the true worship of God, and as a preparation for which has been established the Hindu religious system with its diversity of methods, providing spiritual food for all according to their needs, and significantly called the Sopana Marga or "the ladder-way."


    The Vedanta is not taught indiscriminately to all, for, as Vasishta says, "The study of the great books is fraught with danger to persons of little understanding. It will breed degrading folly in them, no other books will breed so much," – an observation verified in the case of students who take to idle, useless, and even vicious lives, pleading the principles of the Vedanta. Hence, before admitting a pupil to these studies, the teacher is enjoined to test his moral and spiritual fitness. The pupil should be imbued with a sense of the impermanence of life and the worthlessness of all worldly things, all desire must have died in him for the so-called goods of this world or the next. He should be truly poor in spirit and hanker and thirst after wisdom, in the pursuit of which he must be ready to give up all else. Rama was the type of the qualified student, and the chapter called Vairagya prakaranam, or the Chapter of Renunciation, describes his spiritual condition just before his initiation.

    He was the heir to a great kingdom and had just returned from a pilgrimage, which in those days, as now, apart from its spiritual uses, is the popular form of travel in India and covers the face of the land with happy troops of pilgrims of all grades, ages, and sexes, for whose counterpart in England one must go back to the time of Chauccer. Rama was transformed on his return. His royal duties, the pleasures of the court and the chase, became irksome to him; he went through them mechanically for a time, and finally gave them up altogether. His religious duties, to which he had been devoted, had no interest for him. He neglected food and sleep, sought solitude and contemplation, and pine away until his attendants were filled with anxiety and reported his condition to his father who doted on him. The king sent for him and questioned him with much concern, but could get no clue to his troubles. Shortly afterwards the sage Visvamitra came on a visit to the king in order to obtain the help of Rama against some wild men who were molesting him in his forest retreat. With great reluctance the king consented to part with his son for the purpose. Rama being sent for comes to the king's presence and, instead of taking his usual place in the assembly, seats himself on the floor to the consternation of the king and his courtiers. Vasishta, the guru or spiritual preceptor of the royal family, who was present, and the visitor Visvamitra speak to Rama and beg him to explain the cause of his melancholy. Unable to disobey them, he breaks silence and answers:

    "Born of this king, reared by him, trained in the knowledge of various arts and sciences, I duly performed my religious and royal duties. I have now returned from a pilgrimage to sacred shrines, and straightway all desire for the things of the world hath ceased in me. There is no pleasure in them. We die but to be born, and are born but to die. All, all, are fleeting. What good is there in the fictitious things which constitute wealth? What good in worldly enjoyment, in royalty? Who are we? Whence this body? All false, false, false.1 [1
Bossuet: On trouve au fond de tout le vide et le neant.] One who reflects and asks himself 'Who hath obtained what?', will have no desire for them, even as a wayfarer desires not to drink water which he knows to be a mirage. I burn, I choke, seeking a way out of this delusion and sorrow."

    Rama then proceeds to analyse worldly things and makes them out, one and all, to be worthless. Wealth, he says like kings, favours its courtiers without regard to merit, dissipates energy by manifold acts, harbours the snakes "like" and "dislike" shuns the teaching of the wise and good. Whom doth wealth not corrupt? It is like the flower of a plant in a snake-encircled pit. Life is like a water-drop at the tip of a pendant leaf, a mad man rushing out at unexpected, unseasonable times, a flash of lightning in the cloud-desire, a stumbling-block to the unwise. Life is harder to guard than to cleave space, to grasp the air or to string the waves of the sea. Unstable as a rain cloud, as the light of an oil-less lamp, as a wave, life causeth pain to those who desire it, as the pearl is the death of its oyster-mother. The life, except of the wise man, the Jnani, is the life of an old donkey. No enemy so great as egoism. All acts, religious and other, mixed with it are false. As the ego-cloud grows, so doth the jasmine-creeper desire. The ego is the seed of desire, the breeding ground of fatal delusion and ignorance.

    Thought wanders in vain like a feather tossed in a storm or like an ownerless dog; it is like water flowing from a broken pot. Mind, a dog running after the bitch desire, tears me, says Rama, to pieces, drives me about as if I were possessed with a devil, entangles me in vain acts as though I tried with a rotten rope to pull a beam from the bottom of a well. The mind-devil is fiercer than fire, more impassable than mountains, harder to control than to pull the Himalayas by their roots, to dry up the ocean, or swallow the submarine fire. If thought dies, the universe dies. If thought springs, the universe springs. Gladness and sorrow thrive in the mind as forests on mountains, and with the mind disappear.

    These strictures on the mind may seem extravagant. But what is here condemned is not the use but the abuse of mind, the tyranny of thought of which we are the victims. What reflecting person but is conscious of the difficulty of the habit of undivided concentration on the thing in hand, conscious of the wandering of the mind, of its division and distraction, its openness to attack by brigand cares and anxieties? Man prides himself on mastery of sea and land and air, but how rare the mastery of the mind? The weary and care-worn faces of thousands, especially among the wealthy and educated classes, with their projects and plans and purposes, bear eloquent witness to the fever of thought by which man is dominated and over-ridden, a miserable prey to the bat-winged phantoms that flit through the corridors of his brain. Until one is able to expel a thought from his mind as easily as he would shake a pebble out of his boot, it is absurd to talk of man as the heir of all the ages and master of nature. A slave rather. But if while at work you can concentrate your thought absolutely on it, pounding away like a great engine, with great power and perfect economy, no wear and tear of friction, and then when the work is finished and there is no more occasion for the use of the machine, you can stop it equally absolutely, no worrying, as if a parcel of boys were allowed to play their devilments with a locomotive as soon as it was in the shed, - if you have gained this mastery over thought, only then would you be deemed by the sages of India on the way to freedom. But the effacement of thought does not mean it's giving place to sleep. This too must be conquered, a no less difficult conquest, and then according to them the veil lifts and you pass into that region of your consciousness where your true self dwells and where, in the words of Tennyson, is the gain of such large life as matched with ours were Sun to spark.    

    To return to our hero, he continues:- In the dark night, desire, the owls, lust, anger, and the rest haunt the sky of the soul. Good qualities are destroyed by desire, as the strings of a violin by mice. Caught in desire like a bird in a net, I faint, I burn. Desire makes cowards of heroes, blinds the clear-sighted, makes the wise tremble, is like a courtesan who runs in vain after men though her charms have long departed, or like a dancer attempting dances beyond her power, seeks things hard to get, is not satisfied even when they are got, is ever on the move like a monkey or a bee, traverseth earth and heaven in a second, is the root of all sorrow. Desire masters and ruins the greatest of men in a moment: its only cure is the riddance of thought.

    Nothing is so mean and worthless as this body, the dwelling place of the ego, with his wife desire, and handmaidens the organs of sense and action. Fleeting riches and royalty and body, are they worthy to be sought? In a little while they disappear. Rich and poor alike are subject to age, disease, death. What profiteth this body? Infancy is more restless than waves or lightning or woman's eye; it eats dirt, is easily moved to joy and sorrow, it calls to the moon, is the home of folly, ever breeds fear to parents and guardians. Passing from infancy to youth greater dangers wait. Youth is attacked by the demon lust in the cave of the heart. None so learned or wise but in youth is deluded and blinded. Youth is a mirage which torments the deer, mind, sinking in the slough of external objects. Only those rare ones, who cross the dangers of youth and in youth attain wisdom, are worthy to be called men.

    What is the attraction of woman's beauty? Analyse the component parts of her lovely body – flesh, bone, blood, mucus, and the rest – and then, if you think it beautiful, hanker after it. Women's breasts, once decked with strings of rarest pearl, become the food of dogs in the burial-ground. Her soft fragrant locks, her eyes that deal destruction, who can escape their power? Pleasant at first, painful in the end, she is Cupid's net to catch men, she is the bait by which the death-god catches them into hell. I seek not the pleasures of woman, that chest of love, jealousy, anger, locked with the lock of dire sorrow. Deliverance from sexual desire is the beginning of heavenly bliss.

    Old age, which follows on youth, is a time of greater sorrow still. Wisdom runs away from old age as love of first wife runs away from the heart of him who has married a second. Weakness of body, disease, excessive desire, inability to satisfy it, are the lot of the old. Their tottering gait, their failings, are the laughing-stock of children and women, of servants, kinsmen, and friends. Desire comes home to roost in old age, fear of the next world torments it. Grey heads are ripe fruit to feed the messengers of death. The king of death comes in state attended by an army of diseases and fanned with chouris1 [1
Tail of the Yak ( a wild ox of the mountains of Tibet) used by Eastern princes as fans and fly-flappers.] of grey hair. He lives in a palace washed with grey, and his wives are weakness, disease, danger. What availeth life so beset with pain and sorrow at every step, its string hourly gnawed by time?

    What thing in the universe can escape Time, which swallows all like the fire that dries up oceans? The greatest and the least he destroys – he will not grant a moment's grace. Oceans and mighty mountains yield to his power as a leaf or a gain of dust. Worlds resonant with the buzzing of countless gnats, are apples dropped by the tree of Time. With his eye, the sun, Time watches throughout the ancient garden of the universe and eats the fruit as they are ripe, to wit, the warders 2 [2
Regents or presiding deities appointed for the four cardinal and the four intermediate points of the compass by Brahma at each creation of the world.] of the world. He wears a necklace of world-clusters strung on the three strands of the gunas.3 [3
The gunas, the three ingredients or constituents of nature, corresponding pretty closely to the three principles of the soul according to Plato (Republic, IV. 441 E, 442 A):-

    (1)    Sattva (logos) – Purity or goodness, producing illumination and mildness, wisdom, grace, truth, &c.

    (2)    Rajas (thumos) – Passion or energy, producing activity, and variability, mental exertion, courage, learning, &c., and also worldly covetousness, pride, falsehood, sensual desire.

    (3)    Tamas (epithumia) – Darkness or ignorance, producing sluggishness, arrogance, lust and other depraved attachments.] He hunts game in the forest of the universe. He gathers into his death-chest falling worlds; at intervals of ages, at the great Kalpa1 [1
Kalpa, or the duration of the universe, is supposed to be 36,000 times a 432 million years, at the end of which it is destroyed, and after a pause again created.] time of destruction, he gambols in the oceans as in a pond. Time, too, yields to the power of the great Goddess of Destruction, who rangeth like a tigress through the universe, destroying all, the earth her drinking cup, the worlds flowers on her neck, her pets time and the terrible man-lion whose thunder-roar is death, the unreal her bow, pain her arrow, the celestial regions her tiara, the infernal worlds her anklets fastened with the cord of sin, the mountains Himavan and Mahameru her earrings with pendants sun and moon. She wears the heads of Brahmas, Vishnus, Rudras, and, terrible to herself, she danceth the peerless dance at the final dissolution of the universe.

    The universe, according to Hindu philosophers, has been created and destroyed times without number, and will be again and again created and destroyed, not in the sense of being created out of nothing and reduced to nothing, but in the sense of being projected or evolved (Srishti) out of cosmic stuff (mula prakriti) and of being involved or withdrawn into it (Samhara). The manifestation of the creating or evolving energy of God is called Brahma, of the preserving energy Vishnu, and of the destroying or involving energy Siva or Rudra. These three manifestations constitute the Hindu Trinity, and each has a time-limit counted by thousands of millions of years. At the end of the cycle they all withdraw into the absolute Godhead, to come forth again.

    The whole universe, continues Rama, is fleeting and unreal. It is born and dies, it dies and is born, without end. The deluded mind faints with desire. Youth wasted flies, the friendship of the wise unsought, freedom and truth far away. Attachment to the fleeting things of the world is the chain that binds to birth.2 [2
Reincarnation, to which the soul is subject until it becomes pure and ripe for union with God.] All living things perish. The names of countries change. Mighty mountains become dust. Oceans disappear. The quarters of the sky vanish. The starry worlds, the celestial hosts, the holy Rishis pass away. The lord of the polar star dies. Time, space, law cease. Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, merge in the One Reality, the pure substance ineffable. The whole universe is mean and naught by It.    

    Sunk in petty enjoyments, thinking them so wonderful, the world perisheth. If the day is not spent in treading in the footsteps of the wise, whence cometh sleep at night? Wives and children and gold are sought and loved as ambrosia. For them nothing is left undone. When the time of parting comes, they are more painful than deadly poison. Every foe overcome, surrounded by every prosperity, one liveth happily, sole emperor. Lo, from somewhere comes sudden death and cuts him off. Wife, children, and the rest are travellers meeting at a fair. The lives of Brahmas1 [1
A day of Brahma = 432 million years of man. 360 such days constitute a year of Brahma, and 100 such years his life-time, or a kalpa, which is equal to 36,000 times 432 million years, the duration of the world.] are but a second. The difference between long life and short life is a delusion. Mighty power and prosperity, learning, deeds all pass away and become mere fancies – so do we. Pain and pleasure, greatness and smallness, birth and death, all are for a moment. A hero is killed by a weakling, one man kills a hundred, the mighty become low and the low mighty. All goes round and round. "I care for none of these things. I care for neither life nor death. Grant me, O sages, calm and peace of mind. My heart yearns for union with its Lord, and is distressed as a woman parted from her beloved. What is that state without pain, fault, doubt, or delusion? What is the state incorruptible? Ye sages know it. Declare it unto me. I want neither food nor drink nor sleep. I will not perform religious rites nor royal duties. Come weal, come woe. I care not. I stand still, doing nothing. I welcome death."

    Such an appeal it was impossible to resist, and the discourses which constitute the Jnana Vasishtam were the answer.



[1 This is the Tamil form, in the honorific plural, of the Sanskrit Suka.]

    The first discourse is attributed to Visvamitra, who relates to Rama the story of Sukar and comments upon it. Though short, it is interesting in more respects than one. It shows that in those times, as now, though not generally known, the Brahmins were not the sole custodians of spiritual knowledge, but were even glad to seek it from men of other castes, as in this instance from one of the royal caste. Indeed it would appear from the Chandogya Upanishad, V, 3,7, that in ancient Vedic times a Brahmin was not deemed fit to receive instruction in the mysteries of spiritual knowledge. A Brahmin is there represented as seeking instruction from a king who tells him that no Brahmin was ever taught such knowledge, this being reserved for the Kshattriya or the royal caste. The king was, however, induced to make an exception in this instance. The fact that verses so prejudicial to the interest and dignity of the Brahmin-caste occur in writings, which now for three thousand years have been in their sole charge, is remarkable, and is strong testimony to the authenticity of this particular Upanishad.

    The term Brahmin had once a purely spiritual meaning, viz., one who had seen God (Brahm, or Supreme). Any one of whatever caste who had attained the vision or knowledge of God, was called Brahmin. The descendants of such men gradually crystallized into a caste, which after a time lost all spiritual culture and even came to be regarded as unfit to receive spiritual instruction. The Brahmins, as a caste, then became what they are now, ritual priests, whose duty is to conduct public worship in the temples and to perform the countless domestic ceremonies of the Hindus. The aim of this ritual is to develop spiritual life in the laity and prepare the soil for the seed of the spiritual priest. The relationship of the latter to his disciple is a purely personal one, and no caste, race, or sex-qualification is necessary either for teacher or pupil, for the Spirit has no caste, race, or sex. A person of a low caste, or even an outcast, may be a spiritual teacher. This rule has lightened the burden of the Sudra's lot, for it throws open to genius the highest of positions. The best known of modern Hindu sages, Ramakrishna Svami of Bengal, who died in 1886, and whose life was written by Professor Max Muller, had for his teacher a woman, who was for him what Diotima was to Socrates, and inspired in him the same devotion, love, and gratitude.

    It is related of Sankaracharya – the great Hindu philosopher and apostle, to whom I have already referred, - that on one occasion, while travelling with the pomp suitable to his dignity, he suddenly met on the road a Paria bearing a load of beef fresh slaughtered and dripping with blood. Shrinking from the sight with a holy Brahmin's horror, he called out imperiously to the outcast to move out of sight. "Whom dost thou order," answered the Paria with amazing boldness, "to move out of sight – the spirit or the flesh?" Sankaracharya, remembering that the flesh of his own body did not differ from that of the Paria or the beef, and realizing that the all-pervading Spirit of God was equally in Paria and Brahmin, recognized in this outcast his long-waited-for spiritual teacher, and descending from his palanquin prostrated himself at the Paria's feet. The Paria, who was (it is said) no other than the Lord Siva, vanished. Sankaracharya's conversion dates from this incident, and to him Hinduism owes more than to any other man.

    The story of Sukar also shows that to gain the knowledge of God and participate in the divine bliss, it is not necessary to abandon the world and retire into the solitude of a forest, nor is death of the body a condition precedent. King Janaka attained this high estate while still in the flesh and in the active exercise of royal power.

    Here, too, is briefly enunciated the fundamental doctrine of the Vedanta that the One and only Reality is the Spirit or pure consciousness, and that the universe is a differentiation and evolute of that one Reality resulting from the cosmic illusion called Maya. Students of modern science will recall Professor Huxley's definition of Matter as "a name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of certain states of our own consciousness" (Lat Sermons, p. 142). A learned Christian Professor, Dr. Sanday, not long ago wrote in this connexion:-

    All sure knowledge is knowledge of states of consciousness and nothing more. The moment we step outside those states of consciousness and begin to assign a cause to them, we pass into the region of hypothesis or assumption. The first effort of thought is to distinguish between "self" and "not-self," but neither of the "self" nor of the "not-self" have we any true knowledge, we do not even know that they exist, much less how they exist or what they are. We might as well call the one X and the other Y as give them the names we do. And if this holds good for a process of thought which seems so elementary, much more must it hold good for others which are more remote. When we call things about us and give them names, as Adam is described as doing, what we really name is only the states of our own consciousness, not the things themselves. Judged by the standard of strict logic, the world which we inhabit is a world of visions, of phantasms, of hypothetical existences, and hypothetical relations. All thought and all the objects of thought are at the bottom pure hypothesis. Its validity is only relative. The propositions which we call true are not true in themselves. When we call them true, all that we mean is that to assume them gives unity and harmony to the operations of the thinking mind. The belief that we can trust our memory, that one state of consciousness is like another preceding state of consciousness, that the ego is a centre of permanence, that nature is uniform, and that what has happened today will also happen tomorrow, all these beliefs stand upon the same footing. They are working hypotheses, assumptions which enable us to think coherently: we cannot say more.* [* Professor Sanday on "Professor Huxley as a theologian.]

    The great divine and philosopher, Bishop Berkeley, has said in terms which a Vedantist would have used:- "The physical universe which I see and feel and infer, is just my dream, and nothing else. That which you see is your dream, only it so happens that our dreams agree in many respects." The Vedanta goes further and declares that underlying this fiction of the universe there is a very real reality, not as the Bishop supposed, the mind, which is itself a fiction, but the Spirit which the Vedanta declares to be the One and Only Reality. This One Reality is called by many names, Brahm (the Supreme), Jnanam (wisdom), Atman (the Self), Sivam (auspicious), etc. It is also called Sat-chit-ananda as being sat,- pure and eternal being or truth, - pure knowledge (chit), pure bliss (ananda): pure in the sense of there being no distinction between subject and object. Being spirit as well as infinite, it is frequently called chit-akasa or jnanakasa, Spirit-space.

    It was of this chit or pure knowledge Plato spoke in the Phaedrus (247 p):- "Knowledge absolute, not in the form of created things or of things relative which men call existence, but knowledge absolute in existence absolute." It was of this sat, the One Reality or Truth, Jesus spoke to Pilate (John XVII. 37). "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I unto the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth. Every one that is of the Truth, hearth my voice." To Pilate's next question "What is Truth?" no answer was vouchsafed, probably because the question was a mocking one and because the infinite spirit is not to be described in words. "It can only be described," says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishat (IV. 515), "by no, no," i.e., by protesting against every attribute. The usual Vedantist illustration is that of a Hindu wife who, asked to point out her husband from among a number of men, said "no, no," to every person pointed out, until her husband was pointed out, and then she stood bashful and silent. In a dialogue reported by Sankaracharya Svami from an Upanishat, :Vashkali said, 'Sir, tell me Brahm.' Then Bhava became quite still. When Vashkali had asked a second and a third time, Bhava replied 'We are telling it, but thous dost not understand. That Brahm is quite still."

    In the absolute unconditioned infinity, the Spirit, there arises an energy whereby the Spirit seemingly becomes conditioned or limited and differentiates itself – as under a breeze the calm face of the ocean breaks into waves – into the universe, countless souls, infinite varieties of matter, endless growth of sun and satellite and planet, all passing from a state of latency to manifestation and vice versa. The task of the soul is to emancipate itself from the grasp of this cosmic illusion of Maya, under the influence of which the soul cherishes the idea of "I" and "mine" (as if each wave were to think itself a separate entity from other waves and from the ocean) and identifies its fictitious coats of mind and matter with itself. In other words, the soul has to go back from the unreal to the only real. What Maya is, how it originated, how and when it ceases, are explained in the story of Sukar.

    Having heard Rama's impassioned address which I have summarized in the last chapter –

    Visvamitra says: O Rama, by pure intellect thou hast seen all things free from fault. There remains naught else for thee to know clearly. The sage Suha and thou are peers. Even they who have attained the knowledge of the real and unreal, yearn for peace.

    Rama inquires: How happened it that Sukar, having attained the knowledge which destroys "I" , attained not peace at once but afterwards?

    Visvamitra replies as follows: Sukar, filled with the knowledge that cuts off birth, pondering like thee on the nature of the universe, grew in understanding and gained the knowledge that is without flaw. Yet doubt remained regarding it, and peace he had not. He sought his sire (Vyasa) who lives on the northern mountain (Meru) and asked: "Whence cometh this dangerous maya? How shall it perish? To whom does it belong? What is its measure? When did it appear?" The father made answer to these questions so that Sukar should understand. But Sukar replied: "What thou hast said was already known to me." Then his father, seeing that Sukar reached not the excellent state of peace, said: 'There is a king named Janaka, great in the knowledge that is without flaw. Seek and ask him." So saying, he graciously sent him, and Sukar departed. He reached the gate of the golden palace where Janaka dwelt. The king, hearing of his coming, came not to meet him, thinking to try him. Seven days tarried Sukar there, indifferent. Seven more days the king set him in another place, then he lodged him in the beautiful inner chambers of gold wherein the women dwell. Slender-waisted maidens served him with dainty food and pleasures. He bore with them, being like unto the cold full moon. Neither the pleasures provided by the king nor his previous insult touched the mind of Sukar. Can the gentle south wind shake Meru, the greatest of mountains? Seeing his state, the king worshipped and praised him and said: "O thou who art rid of the acts of the world and hast obtained all that is to be obtained, seeking what hast thou come hither?" He replied "Whence sprang maya? How grows it? How will it cease? Tell me truly." To the sage thus seeking the truth, the king spake as his father had spoken. The sage replied: "This have I already known by my understanding. Thou hast spoken even as my father spake. The perfect Scriptures all declare but one thing. If the differentiation that spring within ceases, maya ceases. There is nothing in maya. Such is its nature. Declare unto me the One Reality, O king who cures the infatuation of all."

    The king made answer. "O sage, what thou hast thyself ascertained, what thy father has declared to thee, again in doubt thou askest. That alone is true. Here is infinite Spirit, nothing else. That Spirit is fettered by thought, it is free when rid of thought. "Tis because thou knowest well that Spirit, thou art rid of desire and of all visible things. Thou hast attained all that is to be attained by a perfect mind. Thou inseparably blendest with the One that is beyond sight. Thou art free. Give up the doubt that troubleth thy mind."

    Thus when Janaka, king of kings, taught, the faultless Sukar, quenching his restlessness in the Supreme whose place is Itself, freed from fear, from sorrow, from agitation, from act, from doubt, went up on the golden mount Meru and, standing in the calm of undifferentiating abstraction (Samadhi) for twice 500 years by the sun's count, like unto the light of a lamp quenched with the burning out of oil and wick, became blended with Spirit-space. Rid of the stain of thought and become pure, the rising thought ceasing as water drops merge and become one with the sea, he became one with the Absolute. He was freed from delusion and desire and so from sorrow. That way will be thine, I Rama. The manner of the mind which knoweth all that should be known, is never to think that pleasures and pains are "mine."

    As the attachment to things which are not realities becometh established, the fetters riveted; as that attachment dwindles, the baleful fetters waste away. To crush the influence of outward objects, O Rama, is to be free; to sink in it is to be a slave. They who have overcome its might and, rid of desire, turn away from the enjoyments of the world, they alone have attained the high state of Jivan Mukti, of freedom while still in the flesh.

    The purport of this story appears to be that a man may by investigation and reflection understand what is real and what is unreal, and may reject the unreal and be rid of all desire, and yet not attain perfect peace, which is won only when by the intense abstraction of samadhi he has realized in actual experience the One Reality. So also Tiruvalluvar says:

    "Though the five senses are under control, still there is no gain to them who know not the One Reality" (Kural xxxiv. 4).

    "Wisdom is freedom from the delusion which is the cause of birth, and the vision of the One Reality, the supremely beautiful" (ibid. 8) The delusion here referred to is explained (ibid.1) as that which takes for real the unreal.

    Then turning to the assembly, Visvamitra says: What Rama has grasped with the mind, that is the reality, and nothing else. Who save Vasishtha can teach great Rama this? – Vasishtha who, having learnt it from the lips of the wise, hath won peace of mind and freedom from doubt, who knoweth time past, present, and future, who is the world's tracher, who looketh on, a witness to all things that have name and form.* [* i.e., the manifested universe] (Addressing Vasishtha: ) Rememberest thou, O Vasishtha, the words of wisdom which the Lotus-God Brahma spake to us to heal our enmity and to cure good men of their ancient karma and help them to be free. Declare it, I pray thee, to the learned Rama. The precious words spoken to the heart of the pupil that is free from desire, are indeed knowledge; they are the substance of the Scriptures, they alone are beautiful. The words spoken to a pupil in the bonds of desire, will become impure like precious milk poured into a black dog-skin vessel.

    In compliance with the request Vasishtha proceeds to deliver to Rama the discourses which form the bulk of this work. Vasishtha, it may be added, is believed by the Hindu to be still alive, inspiring and enlightening seekers after truth. Tradition has assigned him a perfect wife, Arundhati, who, translated to the skies, shines in the Pleiades. Among the interesting and picturesque ceremonies of a Hindu wedding is the leading of the bride into the court-yard to point out the star to her as the ideal to be cherished. Vasishtha himself is one of the seven stars of the Great Bear, called by the Hindus the Seven Sages.

P. Arunachalam.