THE NATURE OF THE DIVINE PERSONALITY.
'Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma.' Tait. Up. ii. I
'Bliss is Brahman.' Tait. Up. iii. 6.
'There is one Rudra only, - they do not allow a second - who rules all the words by his powers.' - Atharva Siras. 'God is Love.'
We begin where we left off in our last; and in discussing the nature of Saguna and Nirguna God, we will discuss the article of the Rev. Father Bartoli on 'God, a Personal Being' which appeared in our last two issues, and the Editorial 'God and the Brahman' of the 'Brahmavadin' of 16th ultimo, and the lecture of Swami Vivekananda, published in the last November number of the same magazine. These two parties occupy positions which seem almost distant as the poles, and altogether irreconcilable. The Rev. Father asks, 'Why this mockery? Say with the fool that there is no God: that the existence of God is a sham, a bubble, a false show, a cheat, a day dream, a chimera: because an Impersonal God is all this.' The learned Svami on the other hand says "The monistic theory has this merit that it is the nearest to a demonstrable truth in theology we can get. The idea that the Impersonal Being is in nature, and that nature is the evolution of that Impersonal, is the nearest that we can get to any truth that is demonstrable, and every conception of God which is partial and little and Personal is comparatively not rational." In the editorial note on 'God and Brahman,' a novel and a very presumptuous and misleading distinction in the use of the words God and Brahman is attempted, and the article concludes by saying that the worship of God, in all truth and in all love will never lead one to Moksha. "God is for such, and the Brahman is for those whose goal is perfect rest in perfect freedom." The presumption is in supposing that all other religionists, except those of our learned brother's ilk, do not postulate a Brahman, and that their path, not being the 'Soham' path (Paramahamsa) will not lead one to Moksha; and it is also an unwarranted presumption in trying to restrict the use of the word God to what these people were till now calling the lower Brahman or Saguna Brahman or Personal God. The so-called Vedantists have an insidious way of recommending themselves to the favor of other people by bestowing judiciously, a panegyric here and a panegyric there, and, at the same time, they try to raise themselves above the shoulders of these others, and at the latter's expense.
They profess to be full of the milk of human kindness to professors of all creeds and sects, and would willingly take them under their folds, what for? Only, so that these people may see that what they profess to teach is the only true path containing the only truth, and that the other paths are - well - only no paths at all - only it will bring them to the same point of birth and death, containing a so-called - a phenomenal truth. And then what is the truth of these people worth after all? In itself, it is so shaky, or they maul it so badly in their attempt to please every body that their truth (substance) becomes indistinguishable from untruth (phenomena); and this is exactly what the Svami's Guru, the Paramahamsa, the Mahatman says. God - the Saguna - the Personal God is Maya or Sakti, indistinguishable as heat from fire and this God or Maya is as such one with Brahman, and so the distinction of Personal and Impersonal God is a distinction without a difference. (Prabhudda Bharata p. 109)!! It will be seen from a reading of the Rev. Father's article, and from how these words are used in the Brahmavadin and the Prabhudda Bharata, that all these parties use the word Saguna as fully equivalent to Personal, and Nirguna as equivalent to Impersonal Being; and a shade has never crossed these learned people's minds whether such rendering is quite the truth.
In our last we quoted a Swetasvatara Mantra in which the One God is called Nirguna. To-day we quote a Gita verse in which God is called Nirguna. "Beginingless, without qualities (Nirguna) the Supreme Self (Paramatman) Imperishable, though seated in the body, O Kaunteya, worketh not, nor is soiled." *And the whole of chapters 13 and 14 have to be read to know the precise meanings of Guna, Saguna and Nirguna. Verses 5 to 18 (chap. 14) define and describe the Gunas and their varieties - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The three Gunas are Prakriti born. (14. 5., and 13. 19) from which are all action, causes and effects (13. 23) and from where are all bodies produced (14. 20). Sattva is simply bodily (and mental) purity leading one to the desire of wisdom and bliss, (14.6), wisdom light streameth forth from the Sattvic Man; and when he dies, he goes to the worlds of the Gods (Vijnanaloka) and he rises upwards. The Sattvic Man is still clothed in the material (Prakratic) body, and is not yet released from his bonds, not a Mukta. He is simply what the world esteems as a wise and great man.
On the other hand Rajas engenders passion, engenders thirst for life and is united to action - greed, out-going energy, undertaking of actions, restlessness, desire - and he is again and again born among people attached to action. Tamas engenders ignorance, delusion, sloth, indolence, darkness, negligence &c., and he is born and enveloped in the vilest qualities. From this Prakriti and the three Gunas born of Prakriti, is distinguished the Purusha. † Prakriti is the cause of causes and effects and instruments; and Purusha is the origin of pleasure and pain i.e., experiences, and is attached to the qualities (guna) born of Prakriti, and by this attachment or Pasa undergoes birth and death. So the reason for its undergoing birth and death is its attachment to the Gunas, Sattva included.
[* Chap. xiii. 31,
† In page 582. Brahmavadin, Purusha, Brahman, and Spirit are called synonymous terms. In page 247, Mr. Mahadeva Sastri's Gita translation, Sankara says, Purusha, Jiva, Kshetrajna, Bhokta, are; all synonymous terms. So Brahman and jiva are synonymous!!!]
And the only way, this Purusha (our Brahmavadin's Brahman),the Dweller in the body, can be freed from death unto everlasting life is by crossing over the three Gunas, (14. 20) and by realizing that all action and change is the result of the three Gunas, (14. 19), and that he himself (Purusha) is action less or flawless (13. 29) and that there is One higher than the three Gunas (Prakriti),, (14. 19), other than himself. The Highest Purusha, the Paramatman, He who pervadeth and sustaineth the three worlds, the indestructible Isvara, (15. 17). the Spectator, and Permitter, Supporter, Enjoyer, the Maheswara, and this Beginingless, Nirguna Paramatman cannot perish though he is also seated in the body, as the Purusha or Atma is seated, and is not attached to the three Gunas of which the bodies are created, and is not tainted nor soiled, as the Purusha was declared to be in verse (19, 20 and 21 of 13th chapter), just as Akasa is not soiled, though present in each and every thing.
The Purusha (the Brahmavadin's Brahman, and our Jivatma) has also to realize, for effecting his freedom, that he and Prakriti are all rooted in this One and proceed from it, (13. 30) and though the One is neither rooted in Prakriti nor Purusha, being their efficient cause (9. 5); This one God, the Svetasvatara says, (the passage will bear repetition) is "hid in every Bhuta, pervading all, the inner Atma of every atma, Inspector of all deeds (spectator) in whom every thing dwells, (the support), the Witness, the Pure Intelligence and Nirguna Being; The Isvara of Isvaras, the Mahesvara, the God Supreme of God's; the king of kings, the Supreme of the Supreme, the Isa of the Universe." "The eternal of Eternals, the consciousness which every being's consciousness contains, who, one, of many, the desires dispenses - The cause." "There shines not the sun nor moon and stars, nor do these lightnings shine, much less this fire. When He shines forth all things shine after Him; By Brahman's shining, shines all here below. "This same Being is described below as the all creator and protector, the refuge of all, who created Brahma himself and taught him his craft.
This same Being is described by the Taittiriya Upanishad, as the only true and endless Intelligence, whose head is surely Love, joy His right wing. Delight his left; Bliss his very self; and who is other than the Atman whom we know to be also Sat, Chit and Ananda. The Gita expressly speaks of God as being other than Purusha and Prakriti. The Swetasvatara also does the same. The Vedanta sutras sum up the teaching of the Upanishats beyond all doubt in sutras 17 and 21 of first pada of first chapter; and in the preceding sutras, God is described as Love, Intelligence, the-inside-of (antas) of everything, the Light, the Person, the Powerful One. It is of Him, it is said by the Mundaka, that He perceives all, knows all, whose penance consists of knowledge; of whom the Svetasvatara and Gita speak of having hands and feet on all sides, eyes and faces on all sides. Now this is the God, Who is described as the creator, protector and destroyer and the refuge, the Truth, the Intelligence, and Love and Bliss, Who is described as the supporter, spectator, seer and person, and Who is declared at the same time to be Nirguna, transcending both Prakriti and Purusha and Gods and Ishwaras.
Now we will ask our Reverend Father Bartoli if he will accept this Nirguna Being as the true God or the Saguna God or Isvara (the lower one referred to in Mantra 7, section vi of Swetasvatara; whom we showed in our table as forming the Sakala jivas). And, in fact, the personal God whom our learned contributor defines and describes is in fact none other than this Nirguna Being. The Christian ideal of God is also that He is the Creator of heaven and earth, the only one Truth and Light and Intelligence and changeless Substance who loves and cherishes His creatures and who is the bridge to immortality and who is different from His creatures. The Personal God of the Christian Theology does not mean a Being who under goes change, is clothed in a material body as ourselves, who is born and dies (though they speak of one incarnation for all time to come) ever and anon, who has eyes, hands and senses as we have, and whose intelligence and will and power is finite and limited as ours is. Of course, we have to point out also, that we do not agree with those who falsely suppose that of the Nirguna Being, even Sachchidananda cannot be predicated (if so where is the Being itself and what remains of it at all, and all our Reverend Father's denunciations on the Impersonal God will apply even with greater force), that It is not Knowledge (consciousness) and Power (Jnana, Kriya Svarupam), and that It is not the author of creation and destruction and grace, and that this Nirguna God can neither know and love us ; nor can we love and know Him either.
All these and more are no doubt stated as an article of faith by the so-called Vedantists but the Editor of the Light of the East (a staunch Vedantist) ranks them as gross materialists and atheists; and we have quoted direct texts to show otherwise. Some of these so-called Vedantists also; claim to have reached the knowledge of the highest by merely learning to speak of God in the neuter, as 'It,' 'That' and 'Brahman' and by regarding Him as formless and nameless. Nothing can be a greater delusion than this. This 'It' of theirs is nothing but Jiva after all and one with the Universe. Says the Svami, "so the whole is the absolute, but within it, every particle is in a constant state of flux and change, unchangeable and changeable at the same time, Impersonal and Personal in one. This is our conception of the Universe, of motion and of God and this is what is meant by 'Thou art That." This may be what the Svami holds as true, but this is what we hold to be Pasa and Pasugnanam, Materialism and Anthropomorphism. The Svami glibly enough talks of the absolute and its particles and the unchangeable and changeable Brahman. But did he forget the Vedic mantra that God is "partless, actionless and tranquil." And the Svami's guru fitly enough talks of Maya and Brahman to be one.
And what is Materialism pray? And then what is this much vaunted attribute of Achala and Nirchala (unchangeability) worth, when its every particle is undergoing change? Man is seated and at perfect rest. Yet so many of his muscles and nerves are in the utmost active condition, and undergoing change and destruction, and the particles of his whole body are also undergoing change, destruction and reconstruction, and his thoughts may wander and wander and create waste in the animal tissues. A pool of water may be at perfect rest but a single breath of wind can cause motion in every particle, and we do not call water a stable element; and we do not aspire ourselves to the condition of rest and freedom described above. This is only a make-believe rest and stability. So, we must rate the Brahman (unchangeable and changing, of the Svami as only a being, (every chalana being undergoes rest at short or long intervals, out of sheer exhaustion) wilful, inconstant and unstable, the mere toy of every passing whim, every passing breath.
The Infinite and Limitless God whom the Brahmavadin portrays in such glowing colors to mislead the credulous few, whose throne is Space, and whose queen is Time, and who is limitless and infinite as space and time are limitless, must also share a similar ignoble fate. We never thought that we would have to correct our learned brother in regard to such a simple thing, as that, the very notion of time and space implies both limitation and finiteness. We have no need to turn over big treatises to find authorities for this statement. There is lying before us, a small and well written pamphlet of Dr. Peebles of America, entitled 'The Soul'. In the very opening paragraph, we find the following lines, we quote it only to what a trite notion it has now become. "All beginnings in show, time and space necessarily have their endings. A creature which has its beginning in time is incapable of perpetuating itself or of being perpetuated through eternity. A line projected from a point in space has a further limit which no logic can carry to infinity." We have, on another occasion, pointed out that Infinite space and limitless time are contradictions in words. The absolute can never involve itself in space and time. If it does, there is no use of calling it the absolute and unconditioned.
And our brother is quite right in saying that Knowledge of This Brahman is only a misnomer (a myth we should say). Then again (in the same page 587), our brother says that 'the Brahman (It) is formless, for all forms imply a boundary'.
Vainest of delusions! But, does formlessness imply no boundary? So many things in nature are invisible and have no form. If, by formless is meant unextended, such as mind &c., we know mind as a product of Maya is also limited. But by formless, they generally mean 'Arupi,' 'invisible'; and invisibility is no great attribute after all, as matter can also be formless and invisible. We have elsewhere pointed out the mistake of taking Form and formless as being respectively equivalent to Personal and Impersonal. To deny to God that he can take form is to deny his Omnipotence and limit his nature. The distinction is from our standpoint. When we begin to identify him with anything we know, from the lowest tattva to ourselves (Atma), then this is Anthropomorphic. The distinction does not rest on calling the supreme, as 'Siva', or 'Sivah or 'Sivam.' 'He,' 'She' or 'It.' God has form. The Srutis declare so. God is formless, so also the Srutis say. He has form and has no form. This is because, His body is not formed of matter, but is pure Chit, or Intelligence. It is when we make God enter a material body, and say that he is born and dies, then it is we blaspheme Him and humanize Him and our conception becomes Anthropomorphic. Some of the so-called Vedantists who are unable to distinguish between what constitutes God's real nature and Anthropomorphism and Hindu symbolism mistake the ideal of God according to Saiva Siddhanta. Do they care to understand why when describing God, they say He is neither male nor female nor neuter, neither he, she nor it, neither Rupi, Arupi nor Ruparupi, and yet when they address God,, He is called Siva, Sivah or Sivam, 'Rupam Krishna Pingalam,' and worshipped as the invisible air and Akas. Professor Max Muller points out how with bewildering perplexity the gender varies frequently from the masculine to the neuter in the Svetasvatara. Well, in the passage 'it has feet and hands everywhere, 'if the neuter Brahman can have feet, why could not the Being with the feet &c. be described as He also.
We describe all inanimate creation as it, and when we proceed to call the Supreme as It also, we transcend from Saguna to Nirguna!!! We have already cautioned against mistaking the Sakti of Saiva-Siddhanta to be Maya. It is this mistake that has been the fruitful source of all the degradation and vice of the northern Vamachara. This Sakti is called most frequently in Tamil 'Arul Sakti' (God's manifestation as Love or Grace) and the greatness of this 'Arul is thus beautifully described by Tirumular. –
"Who knows the Power of this Arul by which Omnipresence is secured?
Who understands that this Love transmuted Herself into tasteful ambrosia?
Who thinks that this Love - permeates subtly the five great operations (Panchakritya)?
Who knows that this Love has eyes on all sides (is Omniscient)?"
"அருளிற் பிறந்திட டருளில் வளர்ந்திட்டு
அருளி லழிந்திளைப் பாறி, மறைந்திட்டு,
அருளான வானந்தத் தாரமுதூட்டி
"Born in Love, Bred up in Love,
Changing, and resting in Love,
Fed in the Supreme ambrosia like Love,
The Nandi entered me as Love."
He says elsewhere that none knows that Love and God are the same. To go and identify this Supreme Love of God, which, like the emerald, covers everything with Her own Love, and imparts to each and every one its own peculiar beauty and power and grace and will, to Maya which, like darkness, plunges everything into ignorance and death, is real blasphemy and prostitution indeed. We will stop here the discussion so far as Saguna and Nirguna is concerned, and glance at the controversy as regards Personal and Impersonal God, It is not very easy to get at the precise definition of these terms, and the quarrel seems to be more often a quarrel over words. One author for instance says that by Personality is implied and involved mortality, corporeality (material,) human volitionality. Another says that personality involves limitation. Is this so, and is this the proper connotation and denotation of the word? If so, nobody need pause that God cannot be personal. But eminent men like Emerson and others say that it does not mean any such thing.
To quote again Dr. Peebles, "Personality in its common and outward acceptation is usually associated with appearance and outward character; but to such writers as Emerson, James Freeman Clarke, Frohschammer, Elisha Mulford, Lotze etc., Personality has a far deeper meaning. The Latins used Person to signify personating, counterfeiting or wearing a mask. But personality in the sense in which Emerson employs it, signifies true Being both concrete and spiritual. It alone is original Being. It is not limited. Personality is that universal element that pervades every human soul and which is at once its continent and fount of Being. Distinction from others and Limitation by them results from Individuality, not Personality…….
Personality therefore pertains to the substance of the soul and individuality to its form. And the Rev. J. Iverach also controverts very ably in his work, 'Is God knowable' the idea of personality as at first stated, and argues that to say that the absolute and the unconditioned Being is personal, is not a contradiction in terms, such as a round square, but that it will be true, as when we say, a white or crimson square. "When we speak of the absolute, we speak of it as a predicate of Pure Being, and what we mean simply is that the absolute is complete in itself, it has no conditions save the conditions contained in itself. When we speak of personality, we ascribe to it, Being, regarded as pure spiritual Being; and we simply mean that absolute personal being is and must be self-conscious, rational and ethical; must answer to the idea of spirit. Why may not the absolute Being be self-conscious? To deny this to Him would be to deny to Him, one of the perfections which even finite beings may have?" And Saint Meykanda Deva asked the same question several centuries before. (Sivajnana-both-am, XI. Sutra I b). And our Saint Tirumular also states the question in similar terms.
"நானறிந்தன்றே யிருக்க்கின்ற தீசனை
வானறிந்தா ரறியாது மயங்கினர்
ஊனறிந்துள்ளே உயிர்க்கின்ற வொண்சுடர்
"That day I knew my God; the same was not understood by the Devas. The Bright Effulgence, lighting inside my body and soul, it is said, does not know. Who else can know them?"
We will stop here for the present. We accept the view of Personality as set forth by Emerson and others, in which case we must reject the notion of an impersonal, unintelligent and unconscious, unknown, unknowable, unloveable, and unloving nothing. The Christians and Mahomedans (there are some Sagunavatis among them also) have no need to fall shy of the Nirguna conception, though the Ramanujas and the Madhwas whose God being identified with Prakriti itself (Vasudeva Para Prakriti) never rise above the Saguna Sattvic conception. Some of the Vedantists halting between two stools contrive to fall most miserably, and their view of a God, both Nirguna and Saguna, Personal and Impersonal is what, we have no good language to describe. None need be ashamed to proclaim truth, if it is truth. Why undertake the trouble of praising Krishna and his teaching to the skies, to say, after all, that Krishna (the late Mr. T. Subba Rao stated more plainly that he cannot be the incarnation of the absolute) is only for such who wish to be born again and again, and who consider the service of God as their Highest Felicity, and Brahman is for those whose goal is perfect rest in freedom. These very people will raise a howl, if the Saiva were to state the same truth, which by the way was stated long ago by Sri-Krishna himself that worship of Siva or Sivam alone would secure Sayujya (Moksha) and the worship of other gods (Isvara, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, &c.), would only secure their respective worlds (Pada). There are some more questions which arise out of this discussion, and we reserve them for a future occasion.