Translated into English with notes by
Brahmasri A. Govindacharya Svamin, C.E., M.R.A.S., ETC.
We welcome this the latest production from the pen of Svami A. Govindacharya. The author Srinivasa is said to be the disciple of Doddarya or Mahacharya, a friend and contemporary of the great Appaya Dikshita, who is said to have lived between 1552-1624 and this gives an opportunity to our translator to introduce an apocryphal story about him tending to show the supremacy of the Vaishnava faith. It would have been well if such stories are omitted in such standard treatises which are to go before a larger public than the small sect for which the book was originally intended. For there are also stories which are in currency which show how this bosom friend of the Dikshata dealt by him and which we do not care to repeat here. We will request our friends not to relate such stories which savors of the miraculous in establishing the superiority of one religion over another. These are not the times when we will be guided by such stories but appeal should be made solely to human reasoning and the authority of admittedly old texts, in judging of the respective merits of these systems. We are sorry to note that the learned translator has more than once pointed out in foot notes (also once in his Artha-panchaka) that the Saiva system is condemned in the Vedanta Sutras under II. 2-35, by Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava (see p. 81 & 116). This is certainly no reason against the soundness of the Saiva system, as it will in no way go against the Pancharatra system if we point out that it is condemned by Sankara, Nilakantha, Srikara, Mahommedan and Christians and Buddhists etc. But it shows an amount of obtuseness on the part of the writer when he forgets that the Sutrakara condemns the Pancharatra system in the very next Adhikarana number 9 (II, 39 to 42). But there is this much of difference in the two arguments in the applicability thereof. Whereas there is no difference of opinion as to what the latter adhikarana denotes, Ramanuja and Sankara would seem to think that 8th adhikarana is directed against the Nakulisa or Lakulisa Pasupata system, and not against Saivism itself; and of course one has to learn that there are several systems which though recognizing Siva as the Deity yet are considered as heterodox by strict Agamanta Saivism. And Srikantha Sivacharya himself says the argument is directed against Hiranyagarbhagama theory. And in the foot note also, our Acharyasvami notes that Vallabha in his Anubhashya accuses Sivacharyas of Plagiarism from Ramanuja. We don't see the reason for the repetition of this and he could have heaped up here everything and anything which the enemies of Saivism had said; and as regards the statement of Appaya Dikshita in his Sivarkamani Dipika, when the Svami was asked for the reference he was good enough to refer to Mr. Halasyanatha Sastri's edition of which we were perfectly aware, and when he was asked for the particular reference, he has remained silent, and we presume that there is no such passage as he refers to in that work. And then why does he refer to the question of Ramanuja having borrowed from Srikantha at all? So far as we know no modern writer has done this, nor any ancient writer of any more. But it might be due to our writer's own awakened consciousness which could not but think when he reads Srikantha's and Ramanuja's Bhashyams* altogether. [* What brazen impudence characterized the author of the Life of Ramanuja in detailing the story of Goddess Saraswati herself, (The consort of the lying God Four-Faced Brahma) granting a certificate of merit for his commenting on Kapyasa will be evident when we note that the same interpretation was given of the text by Srikantha several centuries before. Vide Srikantha Bhashya under I.i.21.] We have gone into these little things at length, as though we have been ourselves anxious that the treasures of the Vaishnava literature should be placed before the larger public and we had induced our Acharya Svamin himself to devote himself to the Tamil Literature, on the subject we notice a tendency on the part of Vaishnava writers as in the Brahmavadin to rake up sectarian controversies. Our Svami's raking up of the natva Pratipataham controversy is also an instance of this sort. We remember reading a lot about this controversy in our youth in Tamil Journals and books and we then learnt that there was a learned treatise on the subject proving that the letter (n) did not stand in the way of interpreting the word Narayana as Siva. But we have certainly outgrown these times, we care the least for the learning that would turn and twist words and sentences all out of their proper meaning and sense and to mean just even the opposite. We do not care in the least to know whether the word Naryana denotes Siva or not, but we are quite certain that the thing connoted by these two words are quite distinct as we will presently show, though in the respective Sahasranama of these deities, the names of the one are applied to the other. Now as we go into the subject matter of the book we can promise the reader that it contains more than what we fancy Vaishnavism to be.
The first part of the book (advent I to III comprising 61 pages out of a total of 175) is devoted to the discussion of the Pramanas (Pratyaksha, Anumana and Sabda) or logical foundations of the system, and it will not interest the general reader and we however note that the Pancharatra Agamas and Vaikanasa Agamas are as authoritative as the Vedas, though all the Smritis, Itihasas and Puranas are only of secondary importance. After the treatment of Pramana, the Prameya is treated and this is divisible into the following.
Dravya or substance or A-dravya or non-substance.
The first into the following;
Prakriti or Matter 1; Kala or Time 2
Suddha-satva or Pure matter 3; Dharma-bhuta-Jnana or Attributive consciousness 4; Jiva or Soul 5; and God 6
The A-dravya is divided Satva, Rajas, tamas, Sound, Touch, Color, Savor, Odor, Samyoga (conjunction) and Force (Sakti).
And these are the different subjects treated of in the body of the work. In this, certain additions to the classification of Tatvatrayas would be at once perceived and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are quite new. Time though classed as Jada is not Prakriti (or Aprakrata) and this is an important Tatva,* [* See its place among the Vidya-tatvas in the Saiva cosmology.] which is usually omitted in the ordinary schools. But what are these Suddha-tatva and Dharma-bhuta Jnana. The last we never seem to have across in our Upanishats or Puranas or Ithihasas. It is translated as attributive consciousness and interpreted as conscious substance and as Ajada and self-luminous. In advent VII, it is further described as non-sentient which must mean non-intelligent or Jada and it is Vibhu and Dravya and Guna, though soul itself is Anu; and it is illuminant of objects, though non-sentient, and it is intellect or Intelligence (Buddhi), etc., and this is further said to be the eternal attribute of God and Soul. If the identification of it with Buddhi etc. is true, we then seem to spot it easily enough. It is the old Buddhi, the product of Prakriti, and the distinction draws between this non-sentient Ajada and the Jada-Prakrtiti is one without a difference, and the classification becomes certainly illogical. It is then pure Achit or Achaitanyam or Asat. "Like water issuing out of the hole of a leather bag, consciousness streams through the oneness of the senses, and contacts objects." And this is the same consciousness (Buddhi) which is eternal to both Jiva and to God, only in the case of the former it is obstructed, it does not flow out freely. But there is no difference at all in the substance of the intellect of God and the Soul. There are various terms synonymous with it, such as Mati, Prajna, Samvit, Dhishana, Dhith, Manisha, Semushi, Medha, Buddhi. It is this when affected by environment assumes the forms of Joy, grief, hate, desire and will, and such things as: Perception, Inference, Word, Memory, Doubt, Conclusion, Difference, Fancy, Discernment, Endeavor, Temptation, Attachment, Hostility, Pride, Envy, Carving, Ostentation, Cupidity, Anger, Dignity, Stupor, Deceit, Partiality, Sorrow, etc., and Wisdom, Folly, Love, Contentment, Discontent, Greatness, Fatigue, Fame, Renunciation, Enjoyment, Friendship, Compassion, Aspiration of Release (mumuksha), Bashfulness, Patience, Discrimination, Wish to Conquer, Softness, Forgival, Wish to do, Disgust, Imagination, Hypocrisy, Jealousy, Wish to kill, Cupidity, Vanity, Predilection, Prejudice, Dispute, (God-) Love (bhakti), Surrender (to God = prapatti), Lordship (or Power = Bhuti) etc., are but states of this Jnana or Consciousness; as also the attributes of God himself such as: Knowledge, Power, Strength, Glory, Might and Light, Freedom, Love, Gentleness, Rectitude, Friendliness, Impartiality, Compassion, Sweetness, Dignity, Magnanimity, Tactfulness, Patience, Courage, Valor, Bravery etc.
We have noted the fact that this consciousness is the same in both God and man, and after the enumeration of the different varieties as above, the conclusion is certainly warranted that God is but man idealized, shorn of his upadhis and bad qualities, and all the good qualities, his power and knowledge, and will and love increased, and this is but a species of glorious anthropomorphism. That this is a conclusion we have not come to with a light heart will be evident as we proceed. In this chapter is discussed the different kinds of Bhakti, and Karma and Yoga and the condemnation of Jnana margas including Saiva system is attempted. We will not proceed to enquire what this Suddha Satva is. Our learned translator calls it pure matter and Prakriti is matter and he attempts a distinction between the two by calling them respectively subjective matter and objective matter. What he means by this is not self-evident? Can it be it means subtle matter as opposed to gross matter. The author distinguished it from the Trigunatmaka Dravya (which our translator explains as meaning the Prakriti with the three gunas) but how it is not evident, except that Avidya is absent in the region of this Suddha Satva and it is this Suddha Satva that constitutes the Heaven, Bliss (Ananda) and objects, instruments, and places to both the Soul and God, such as fortune, etc. Perfumes, flowers, robes, compassions, ornaments, weapons, Terraces, Ramparts, Pavilions, Vimanams (air-cars), Parks and lotus decked ponds and the bodies of God and of the Nitya and Mukta souls. And it is heresy to declare (p. 94) that they have no such bodies formed of Suddha Satva, that is to say that you cannot conceive of God or the Freed souls except as embodied in this Suddha Satva or Pure matter and living and breathing in the region of Pure matter, and taking their pleasures (Ananda) from this Pure matter. We find this Suddha Satva though classed as Ajada described as non-conscient (p. 91) just as we found Dharma-bhuta Jnana call non-sentient before. And after all it is pure-matter, and we cannot avoid the conviction that it is the same as the Satva of the three gunas classed A-dravya, only it is not now mixed with the other two gunas Tamas and Rajas but it is all the same, matter, Asuddha maya or mala or Pasa as Saivites call it and the God and the Freed soul are clothed with it. And all these fore are said to Svayamprakasa or self-luminous, this matter and its product Buddhi and this God and this soul without a distinction, and as was well-observed elsewhere, we have to seek for a new definition of Svayam Prakasa.
But here there is not even the distinction between light and darkness, as the darkness (Pure Satva- Pure matter) is itself called light!
And do we not here see the real reason why the Pancharatris have a penchant for the word Saguna and why they call God Saguna, and all God's good qualities are compounded of this Pure matter. God is Saguna and Freed man is Saguna and where is the distinction between the two, except that one was already free, and one became freed, though both are lodged in the same region of Pure matter.
Now we go to the statements about Soul and God. Soul is self-luminous. It possesses chetanatva, which is to be the seat of consciousness, atmatva (translated as spiritiness) which is to be the antithesis of matter, and Kartritva (agency) which is to be seat of consciousness of the form of Will (Sankalpa) and to these are very characteristics of God also without a shade of difference (p. 117). And the special characteristics of the soul are Atomic cum cognoscitive, liegent cum congnoscitive, sustained, contingent, agent by delegation, which in its English (?) garb we confess we cannot make out at all. The souls are three-fold, Baddha, Mukta and Nitya. The Baddha include Brahma, Rudra to the worm, and Brahma sprang out of the navel-lotus of Sriman Narayana. We find the Divine Sita included in this class of Bhadda souls, though she was Ayonija like Draupadi, Drishtadhumna etc. The various sub-divisions of this class the curious can discover in these pages. Then the nature of the Mukta he can also read here, and the way they are conducted to the heavenly presence "A hundred damsels with garlands in hand etc., and is beautified by Brahma perfume etc., etc." The Nitya are such being as Ananta, (God's couch) Garudha (God's Vahana) and Visvaksena and others. In this passage, (p. 134) we find the sentence: "Who is installed there with His (Queens) Sri, Bhu, and Nila" which we note for future reference. Advent IX deals with God (Isvara). The characteristics of God are stated to be in what our Svami says is epigrammatic style. All-lordship, All-mastership, All-worshipfulness by work, All-fruit-givership, All-support, All-energising, All-word-indicated, All-knowledge-goal, All-bodiedness excepting His own body and consciousness. God is the efficient cause as He is the Willer; instrumental cause by Virtue of His immanence in Time etc. And here we expect how He is material cause but we meet the self-evident statement (p. 128) that material cause is that which results as EFFECT by undergoing modification! And Bhagavan Narayana is all these. And in p. 146, we meet with this para which probably is an explanation "Brahman as constituted of the subtle, conscient (Chit) and the non-conscient (Achit) alone is the cause of the cosmos; and as constituted of the gross conscient and non-conscient, alone is the Effect. Thus the creed of the Visishtadvaita Vedantins is that no cause is different from its Effect." And in a foot note, we have this luminous explanation of the Translator.
"This is the law of Correlation. Every Effect has its own antecedent Cause to which it is correlated as gross to subtle. This is also the great doctrine of Evolution (parinama-vada) which Ramanuja formulates and emphasizes. What is the evolute but its evolvent itself manifested in a different mode. No teak tree can be a product of a banyan seed. The Vedantic evolution its triform, i.e. of the whole Complex Entity: the Visishta-Brahman, i.e. God-Soul-Matter, vide pp. 49 ff of my Vade Mecum of Vedanta.
That is to say God-soul-matter in a subtle condition is Cause; and God-soul-matter in gross condition is the Effect. We remember meeting with proposition in Doctor Bain's works that mind-body is the cause of mind-body. That is to say one is not derived from the other but one cannot be thought of and cannot exist independent of the other. If this is the sort of Parinamavada that the Light of Ramanuja's School postulates we cannot cavil. But from the superior attitude assumed towards to pure Nimitta-karana-vadins, we were led to expect otherwise. God of the compound God-soul-matter is not the cause material of Soul-matter. If God of this God-soul-matter compound is either Bhagavan Sriman Narayana or not. If He is, then the Bhagavan Sriman Narayana is not the cause of Soul-matter, in which case, the refuter has to shake hands with the refuted. This involves the conclusion as we already suggested by our comparison of mind-body that the Blessed Bhagavan-Sriman Narayana cannot subsist apart from soul-matter. And this is the right conclusion is evident from His living and breathing and enjoying solely in the regions of Pure matter.
Then we have to deal next with the five-fold aspect of God namely (1) Para, (2) Vyuha, (3) Vibhava, (4) Antaryami, and (5) Archa. We have description of these and especially of Para or Parabrahma or Vasudeva, with four hands seated on a throne in Vaikuntha with all the attendants and ornaments and jewels, and supported by Sri, Bhu, and Nila etc. The Vyuha is divided into Vasudeva, Sankarashana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha, and though their powers, ornaments, weapons etc., are given a proper attempt is not made to define them; and for this we have to look elsewhere. We refer to the learned Editorial in the September number of the Brahmavadin (1912). Supreme Brahman is Narayana; He has four manifestations including Archa. Vasudeva is possessed of six qualities as Knowledge, Power, Strength, Heroism, Sovereignty and Splendor. Power is the condition of becoming Material Cause of Universe, out of this Vasudeva comes out the manifestation of Sankarshana who has the Form of an individual Soul. Out of Him also come out Pradyumna of the form of the internal (Buddhi) organ of the mind, and Aniruddha or the principle of Egoity or self-assertion (Ahankara). This is according to Pancharatragama. According to the Vaikhansa school, Supreme Brahman and individual Soul are one in reality, and Supreme Brahman is devoid of all characterizing attributes, and attributes are ascribed to Him, only as steps to reach Him, and He is the Lord of Goddess Lakshmi (Sri), and Rudra and Brahma are chief of individual Souls and form part of Brahman Himself. And souls are mere distinctions in the Supreme Brahman and arise out of certain limiting conditions. The editor adds that the views of Vaikanasas are akin to those of certain non-dualists and therefore do not find much favor with Sri Vaishnavas. But what after all is the conclusion of the Pancharatris who declare matter and Buddhi and Ahankara as manifestations of God. The Tantric School of the Saktas is essentially Mayavada or idealistic, and we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa Tantric Schools are also the same. The highest principle postulated by all these and other Hindu idealists is the One-Atma covered by Pure or Impure Matter and Avidya which results in manifestation and Samsara, and the One Atma, limited, bound is the Jivatma and there is no such separate thing as a Soul. The Idealists try to get over the absurdity of the Supreme Brhaman becoming bound, as an illusion and a myth, but the Vaishnavas admit the reality of the limiting condition and try to avoid the necessary conclusion by rising to a region of Pure Matter where Avidya does not enter, though curiously enough this Avidya is nothing else but Prakriti (matter) of which this Pure Matter is the essence.
Those who wish to appreciate the dialectics of this school had better go through pp. 141 to 144, in which all the texts which speak of Siva or Rudra as the Supreme Cause are whittled away. If, beyond all these texts, there is a text which relating to the Dahara Vidya, speaks of Rudra as the Antaryami dwelling in Akasa which Akasa is identified with Narayana, even here the indwelling Spirit, Siva, simply means the auspicious graces or perfections inhering in Narayana!
One more subject we will touch upon before we conclude this review. We have noted two passages where Sri, Bhu and Nila are spoken of as the supporters of Narayana. Who these are, their origin, nature or characteristics are nowhere set forth. It does not appear whether these are identical or different. On our Svami being referred to, he referred us to this and that and to his Arthapanchaka. Even in the last, the author does not discuss it at all and our Svami discusses it in a note (Appendix VIII). Sri is charis Grace, universal mediatrix, reconciler, peacemaker and mother. He points out further that there are not wanting those who equate or identify it with inert or inanimate (Jada) Prakriti or Nature; and observes that they forget that Sri-tatva is sentient or intelligent (Ajada) and he says It is the Goddess of nature itself and all the Sastras from Rig-Veda downwards bear it out, but he only quotes one passage from Skanda Purana, which is Ananthema marantha to all Vaishnavites. But there it is spoken of only as Para Prakriti and he identifies it with the Daiva-Prakriti of Gita. But what is the authority to explain what Para-Prakriti itself is and it is not subtle matter. Saivas take it as such and not as the Supreme Intelligence or Adisakti or Jnanasakti of the Lord. Vide a table giving all its synonyms, meaning merely Maya, at p. 68 of Sri Kasivasi Sentinathier's Vaidika Suddhadvaita Saiva Siddhanta Tatva Table Catechism where he gives the authorities bearing on the subject also. And we find Professor M. Rangacharya, M.A. of the Presidency College, Madras, ranging himself on the side of those who speak of Sri as Prakriti. (Vide Brahmavadin, Oct. Nov. 1912, p. 562). But even from all these references we fail to get any idea of who Bhu and Nila are and we will be thankful to any one including our Svamiji for throwing light on the subject. We are unable to trace the word Nila in any of the existing Tamil or Sanskrit Dictionaries and she cannot be Naripinnai as this literally means the good after born, namely Lakshmi, as distinguished from her elder-sister Jyeshtha or மூதேவி, born at the churning of the milky ocean. One thing more. After all the beast made about Ramanuja having thrown open the door of religion to all people irrespective of Caste, we find the author of the Light of the School of Sri Ramanuja denying even the path of Love (Bhakti) to Sudras! See para at the head of p. 128.
No one would deny that there are elements of great beauty in the Vaishnava system, but students of Comparative Religion cannot be satisfied with these alone; and every system must be judged as a whole on its sole merits in the bar of public reason. And we must confess this is the first time we had a glimpse of what Vaishnavism really was, and when we just take a peep behind its glorious veil, we find it hardly distinguishable from some of the school of Indian idealism. However, there are very few workers, as our Acharya Svamin, who have done such Yeoman's service in bringing to the front this Light of Vaishnava Philosophy, and his disinterested and devoted labors are deserving of the eternal gratitude of the Indian Public. The book has been printed at our own Press and it will speak for itself.