Presentation of the internet edition


Neo-Vedanta and Modernity

 (by Bithika Mukerji)

Pr Bithika Mukerji taught philosophy at the Banaras Hindu University.  She wrote the present book as a research work at McMaster University in Canada in 1973-77. She insists in it on the need not to reduce Vedanta to a rationalistic and intellectual ontology, but to see it fully as connected to Bliss and the spiritual experience per se.  This is also the difference between the western philosophical approach and the Indian one.  In fact, herself a Bengali, she was disciple of the great Bengali woman sage, Ma Anandamayi whom she met as far back as in the thirties. This name “Anandamayi” means "permeated with bliss", so it is not so astonishing  that Bithika develops this subject in the present book. Her reflections on modernity are well documented and deep, they will stimulate a renewed point of view with the readers, both Westerners and Indians.

There are three forms of Vedanta which spread in the West:

- The Neo-Vedanta inspired by Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Mission, and also developed by Aldous Huxley in the last twenty years of his life before his passing away in 1963.

- The recent Vedanta teachers which are keen to come back to the essentials and to speak very simply to the western audience.  In this endeavour, they may end up far away from the Indian roots of Advaita; still, they communicate a message important for the West still recovering of two thousand years of a forcible dualist religion.

- the Vedanta of academicians, more interested in comparative philosophy and Sanskrit.

In Indian Universities during the 20th century, a Neo-Vedanta of its own has developed.  It wanted to express the traditional Vedanta within the Western notions of ontology and epistemology. It was also an apology to defend this tradition against the accusations of missionaries and western indologists, who were criticizing it as being out of the word, without ethical preoccupation and not really rational, since the base of it was direct spiritual experience. Unfortunately, this Neo-Vedanta failed to change in a noticeable way either the western philosophy or the traditional Vedanta. Bithika Mukerji explains why, and restore the timelessness of Vedanta beyond these quarrels which came in a very particular historical context.  May her message  first be understood, and then meditated upon by the reader!

  The retyping of this book for internet has been possible thanks to the financial contributions of the readers of the French quarterly on Ma Anandamayi, Jay Ma. Dipu Banwal, a student from Ma Anandamayi Ashram in Almora did this painstaking work in its entirety, May he and the readers of Jay Ma be thanked for their help in the transmission to the world of the best of the Indian tradition.

Dr Jacques Vigne , hermitage of Dhaulchina,

Almora, Himalayas    11-1-2005




I am ignorant; out to my ignorance I ask the seers for enlightenment. (Rig-Véda 1-164-6)








                                                         BITHIKA MUKERJI


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ DEDICATION




Ankul Chandra Mukhopadhyaya (A.C.Mukerji)








Preface and acknowledgements



Chapter One: The Framework for modernity:

      The Western tradition

Chapter two: Science, Technology and Automation

Chapter Three: the Indian Response to the Western Tradition

Chapter Four: English neo-Hegelianism and Indian Scholarship

Chapter Five: Neo-Vedanta as the Philosophy of Contemporary India

Chapter Six: intuition as a Category of thought in Vedanta: A.C. Mukerji

Chapter Seven: The World as real in Vedanta:,

Chapter Eight: Neo-Vedanta as a Rational Philosophy and a ‘Gospel of Life’

Chapter Nine: the Lack of Soteriological Awareness in neo-Vedanta

Chapter Ten: Renunciation and Bliss

Chapter Eleven: The Ontology of Bliss

Chapter Twelve: Renunciation as the Precondition of Realisation

Chapter thirteen: Being as Bliss

Chapter Fourteen: On Ananda (Bliss)






The translation of the Taittiriyaka-vidya-prakash with an

Introduction, verse analyses and notes


Index of words and names

List of Abbreviations









                     Preface and acknowledgements


 As College students we were reared on Neo-Vedanta and the Indian brand of Neo-Kantianism. Kant was the most important philosopher of the West for us because he seemed to have stated clearly the limitations of reason, vis-a-vis the region of the transcendent. As the Indian philosophical heritage was preoccupied with the effort of delimiting the scope of rationality in the sphere of ontology, Kant was hailed as a kindred spirit. We were not to know that Kant was one of the most important turning points in the history of Western philosophy and that he in fact, was perhaps, nowhere near the thoughts the Indians ascribed to him.

A.C.   Mukerji, a leading exponent of the critical philosophy of his time, was my teacher and guide. His lectures on Vedanta were extremely popular. We could not entertain the thought that his rendering of the western tradition as paralleling the quest for the ‘unmediated knower’ was anything but true to the facts. For him the only worthwhile question (with which he sought to inspire every generation of students) in philosophy worth meditating upon was “how to know the self or the ‘unmediated knower’?”

My understanding of philosophy as a ground on which all people seized with similar concerns may meet and help each other was undermined, when I went to Geneva in 1972 for one year, to lead a seminar on Hinduism and Christianity. For the first time I was made aware of the many dimensions which go into the makeup of the West. The student were from many countries and form many denominations and all of them very well trained in theology.  It was an exacting task for me to understand their problems and deal with them meaningfully. A philosophical discourse on ‘The One Reality’ seemed out of place because the problem haunting the Graduate School at Bossey from the beginning was:  how to enter into a dialogue with ‘the other’. I write all this because this was an occasion for me to live and work together with people of dedication, who made me feel very welcome, although my presence called into question, for, many of them, much of what they stood for.

I learnt much more about the western tradition from Prof. George P. Grant at McMaster during the years1973-77. Whatever is right and perceptive about the West, in this book, I have gathered from him and what is partial or wrong is my own interpretation of it.

It is a strange fact but I also came to a greater understanding of Advaita philosophy at McMaster. I can not say enough about the dedicated work being done there by Drs. J,S.Arapura and K. Sivaraman. My understanding of the ontology of Bliss owes very much to Dr. Agrapura’s writings on the subjects of maya and gnosis. The difficult subject of my thesis which is now being printed as a book, was made interesting and a worthwhile proposition for me by Dr. K. Sivaraman. Without the many discussions we have had on the topic I would not have been able to develop the theme at all. The problem that I chose for study is, therefore, my way of acknowledging all that I had the opportunity of learning at McMaster.

I have great pleasure in recording my appreciation of the sustained encouragement extended to me by Dr. Peter George, during my absence from McMaster and also Dr. Chauncy Wood, who made it possible for me to return and defend the thesis.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge my indebtedness to my friends in Canada Ms Grace Gorden, Mc Marftha Frohlinger, Dr. Ivan Kocmarek and Wayne Barody who made this work not only possible but also enjoyable.

My grateful thanks are due to Dr. Sudhakar Malaviya who assumed the responsibility of printing the book and also Sri Rajendra Tiwari for this help in publishing it. 







It is both an honour and a pleasure to write a foreword to Dr, Bithika Mukerji’s book. But it is more than that, because the central issue which is always present in this book is of such great importance for the West: What is the relation between modernity (call it if you will “technology”) and the great truths of the religious and philosophical traditions from before the age of progress? Dr. Mukerji looks at this issue in terms of India, but it is clearly of equal importance in Europe, China, Russia and the Arab world. Perhaps it is most pressing in North America (from where I write) because we are the only civilization that has no history from before the age of progress.

Many people in the world believe that technology is an instrument which human beings can use for their own purpose. Technology is believed to be external to the human purpose which are given in philosophic and religious traditions. It is believed that these traditions are not radically put into question by technology. This is contradicted by the fact that such countries as Russia and China have used Marxist forms of government to technologies their societies quickly. Of course, Marxism is not a philosophy which stands above technology, but a system of thought which is but an aspect of what was given in that great western emergence which we call “modernity” or “technology”. Also of course that capitalist “liberalism”, or which is an alternative system of government for the modernizing of societies, is also but part what came forth form the primal affirmation of the modern West. The difference between capitalism and communism is a subsidiary difference to that between modern and pre-modern civilizations. As Heidegger, the greatest western philosopher of our era, has written; communism are both predicates of the subject technology. It is a vain delusion to believe that technology is an instrument that human beings can use as they choose. It is an affirmation about being and as such penetrates every aspect of a civilization. In the light of that oblivion of eternity which so characterizes the dynamic civilization of the West, it is well for Dr. Mukerji to ask what happens to the apprehension of the ontology of the Vedanta in the context of modernity. 

Dr. Mukerji has made herself enormously qualified to write about such a subject. She had taught the truth of the Vedanta for many years in India. She then came for a time to the West. She did not study western thought form the safe distance of India or form the pleasant confines of an Oxford college, as did Radhakrishnan. She first came to Geneva and then to a heartland of modernity, the great Lakes region of North America. She came to a steel town and worked in a university dominated by the computer. Steel and computers are after all two central substance of modernity; steel of an earlier era, computers of the latest region of cybernetics. She studied such great makers of modernity as Hobbes and Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger. That is, she lived modernity in her daily flesh and bones, and thought it in her studies. She therefore has the right to speak of it not in some abstract way, but at it is in itself. She is greatly qualified to understand what it means in the context of the Vedantic ontology of bliss.

To a westerner such as myself, uneducated in the truth of the Vedanta but with knowledge of what has happened to Christianity in the face of the modern, Dr. Mukerji’s chapters on the thought of A.C. Mukerji and Kokileshvar Shstri are of the greatest interest. I am not qualified to speak with authority on Indian thought, but having read these chapters with close attention, I can affirm that Dr. Mukerji’s argument is beautifully expounded. The thesis of that argument is that the impact of westernization on Indian thought has resulted on obscuring what was meant by “bliss” in the Vedanta, and therefore distorting that philosophy. Certainly, ever since I listened to the lectures of Radhakrishnan, it has appeared to me that he greatly distorted the “idealism” of Kant and Hegel to make them seem to be at one with the Vedanta and at the expense of eliminating that mastering modernity which makes them both so revolutionary.

Indeed the English world “ideal” has had much influence in leading to that misunderstanding. It is a modern word and cannot well be used by anybody who takes the ancient traditions seriously. This is seen in the fact that its opposite is the modern world “real”. But to Plato—that western thinker who has most in common with the Vedanta, the distinction “ideal-real” would be a distortion. The “idea” was the true reality; idea was not ideal.

Above all, what is particularly wonderful in Dr. Mukerji’s book in her enucleation of the ontology of Ananda. This is breathtaking for any western listener. How right it is that the word “Ananda” be translated as bliss. The word “joy” would be too subjective and miss the knowledge that what is spoken of here concerns Being. What has come to be in the dynamic civilization of North America-indeed in all these societies which express in themselves the thoughts of Locke and Marx, Rousseau or Darwin or Hume—is the restless search for bliss which escape one because it cannot be know as being itself. Modern life has become the joyless pursuit of joy. One of the truly great stories of the English-speaking world is called “Bliss”. (It is also written by a woman). The story recognizes beautifully the crying need that bliss be more than the subjectivity of feeling but rooted in the Being of being. What is more pressing for us westerners than the understanding that there is an ontology of bliss? That this should be unthinkable is perhaps the greatest price that we have paid for modernity. For those of us who are Christians, it is the elimination of the understanding of the Trinity as bliss which leaves Christianity floundering in the midst of the modernity it so much made. What is sad in the western world is the deep desire to participate in bliss, for instance thought the detached pursuit of the orgasm which because it is outside any ontological understanding of bliss result in the good of the pursuit often being blackly negated.

Much silliness has been written in the modern world about the meeting of East and West, by both westerners and easterners. Such a meeting must note sacrifice the greatness of either side—Dr. Mukerji’s book understands that the true and authentic Vedanta must not be obscured (albeit temporarily) to make possible that meeting.  Both westerners and easterners should read the book with close attention.



                                                               GEORGE GRANT


Dalhousie University

Halifax, CANADA












Toward an understanding of the ontology of Bliss

in the Context of modernity







‘How shall I know the supreme unspeakable Bliss which

 they realize directly as “This”? Is it self-effulgent-

or it is seen to be shining distinctly ?’

Katha ll. 2-14




It is said very often that Advaita philosophy reflects the general mood of the Indian people. Even when they do not intellectually subscribe to this school of thought, they are drawn into using its terminology as most expressive of all understanding regarding life in the world is formulated in the light of a dichotomy obtaining between what is merely pleasing (preyas) and what is good (śreyas).

This separation runs through all modes of thought, such as monistic or dualistic. The sense of distinction between ‘what should be preferred’ pervades the ethos of India and can be recognized immediately in the mood of detachment, or withdrawal, or renunciation, which characterizes it. It can be readily understood that a demand for discrimination comes with the built-in implication that one sphere is to be given up in order to appropriate the other.

The ideal of renunciation as a form of knowledge, has been thematized only in the Advaita philosophy of Samkaracarya, the well-known ascetic thinker and writer of the 8th/9th century A.D. All other schools of thought subscribe to it as a high ideal, but it is not integral to their philosophy. Samkaracarya, on the other hand, has placed it in the very heart of his writings on the unity of Self (ātman) with Ultimate Reality (Brahman). The sphere of the world, together with its knowing subject, the I-consciousness is, as if superimposed on this unity and needs to be ‘cancelled’ before Brahman as bliss may be realized as an existential experience.

This supreme discrimination between that which is the area of the not-self and that which leads towards true knowledge or self-realization, is called renunciation. It should not be an act of physical withdrawal from the world, which any way, is not perhaps the best mode of denying the world. The very demand of the world to be considered real and final is called māyā in Advaita philosophy; this dimension of non-reality or māyā can be offset only by an equally powerful process of meta-physical cancellation, a renouncing of layers of false identification, so that the veil may be sat at naught. The inspiration for this trans-natural way of understanding the human condition comes from the Upanishads which speak in the language of poetry to recall man’s attention dispersed in the world in search of happiness, to focus it on the quest for the very source of Bliss itself. This is how Samkaracarya has developed his exegeses on the Upanishads and his major work the Commentary on the Vedanta-Sūtra. {A collection of aphorisms beginning with, ‘Now commences the enquiry into Brahman’. This work is variously known as Bādarāyaņa sūtra, Brahma Sūtra or Śarīraka Sūtra.}

In neo-Vedanta, that is, contemporary interpretations of Samkaracarya’s thought, we meet with a very different understanding of ‘māyā’ as well as of the philosophical grounding of the Texts of the Upanishads. It will not be perhaps out of place, if Samkaracarya’s theory of māyā is explained a little here, since, I am going to develop the idea that this very concept has undergone almost a total transformation in the writing of modern thinkers.

The commonly known theory of māyā is presented by Samkaracarya in a short Preamble to the Commentary on the Vedanta Sūtra. Samkaracarya begins by delineating clearly two disparate spheres: consciousness and the object of consciousness. It is well-known, he writes, that the knower and the known which have for their spheres or contents the notions of ‘I’ and what is given to it from without, so to speak as ‘you’ (as the other) respectively, are totally opposed to each other, as light is to darkness. Yet in ordinary usage they are being constantly fused together, as for example, in the statements, ‘It is I’ or ‘It is mine’. That this coupling together is intelligible at all is due to the (unconscious) operation of a kind of superimposition of one on the other which obliterates, phenomenally speaking, the discontinuity altogether. The body and the I-consciousness, become one or even there is identification with persons in the world, like son etc. to take an obvious example of superimposition: a piece of rope is mistaken as a snake, evoking fear in the heart of the observer. This illusion, which will be known as error only upon its cancellation, is a case of superimposition of one thing on another. Thus is the Self hidden under the identity of the I-consciousness. This obscuration is not apparent but the identification of the I- consciousness with its body (‘It is I’) or with things in the world (‘It is mine’) are matters of common experience. It is an error which pervades all human experience. Samkaracarya’s definition of this error may be translated into these words.

The  cognition  into  an  object  of   something

            Different which is of the nature of memory of

            Something  which  has  been  seen   elsewhere. 

In other words, the real object is ‘falsely’ cognized in terms of something previously seen; this cognition is subsequently cancelled when recognition takes place of the real object. The nature off this error is thus indeterminable in the sense that it can be called neither real (because of the possibility of cancellation) nor unreal (because something as such is certainly cognized). Samkaracarya at this point in his writing makes a passing reference to other theories of error, as inadequate. The reason for grouping together very divergent theories regarding the nature of error is that the admission of this distinction itself is reason enough for stating that error is indeterminable. The aim of the author has been to underscore the presence of two levels within the cognitive structure, one real and the other unreal; this is sufficient reason for the argument in favour of a process of superimposition. The author suggests that it seems almost natural for the natural of the real to remain hidden because the unreal, as it were, makes it determinable in its own from of unreality. This figurative ascription (in the form of ‘as if’) may be called māyā which simultaneously hides the real and projects the unreal.

Samkaracarya’s intention here in the Preamble is to given an explanation of the experience of a diverse world since the Vedanta sūtra is going to propound Brahman as the one and only Reality. On Brahman is superimposed the dimension of the unreal world which appears as a reality by itself. On the cognitive scale, Brahman as the ever abiding Witness-Self remains hidden because the ‘I-consciousness’ is superimposed on it. The relevance of this entire discussion about the cognitive structure may be questioned by an opponent who ask: ‘If the Witness-Self is aloof from the entire range of the categories of thought as a non-object then how can it be superimposed upon? Moreover if you also say that the Witness-Self is self-evident then where is the possibility of confounding it with something else?’

Samkaracarya’s resolution of this problem brings him to the core of his Preamble. He writes, ‘but, the Witness-Self (ātman) is not entirely a non-object. It is the object of consciousness, but only in the sense that it is the ground, which is given in immediate apprehension. Therefore the nature of superimposition or māyā, the stuff of which it is, so to speak, made, is ignorance. Due to ignorance a veiling takes place. The way to knowledge is by way of removing this veil of ignorance which is called avidyā {For the purpose of a general exposition of the intended views of Samkaracarya attempted here, the subtle distinctions that are made by later Vedanta between māya and avidyā or between avidyā or ajaña and mithyājñāna are glossed over.}

 We can now see the implication of the doctrine of superimposition. It stands as a prelude to the first aphorism of the Vedanta Sutra which states: ‘Now commences the enquiry into Brahman’. Superimposition is coeval with being-in-the-world, as natural and unquestioned as the statements ‘it is I’ which lies at the core of life-in the-world. It is completely simultaneous with it, yet it is not a necessary obstruction which then would so inhere in experience as not to be given to removal. It is a metaphysical predicament. Which in fact can be overcome. So the characteristic of superimposition is that it is natural but amenable to “cancellation’.

  According to Samkaracarya, then, the self or ātman is the foundational self-luminous reality as opposed to such relational categories knowing, enjoying, etc. superimposition in the false attribution of the relational categories which are applicable only in the sphere of the not-self. Nescience or avidyā is primarily this principal of relationality which upholds the superstructure of superimposition created by māyā. Brahman, the non-relational ground of all relations is revealed only when the relational structure ceases to be operative. Thus there is a close connection between a metaphysical withdrawal on the part of the I-consciousness and the discovery of its ontological ground in immediate apprehension. This explains the Upanishadic statement that Brahman is to be known through knowledge only, because knowledge reveals that which is already there as Reality, by simply canceling the veil as veil. The dissipation of duality is simultaneous with the realization of the true nature of ātman as the Real, the Conscious, Infinite and Bliss Supreme. (Satyam, jñānam, anantam, ānandam brahma).

Samkaracarya’s Preamble to the Vedanta Sūtra Bhāşya sets the stage for demonstrating the non-reality of anything other than Brahman. Māyā, therefore, is integral to the Advaita of Samkaracarya because the concept of māyā holds together the ideals of renunciation and Bliss.

It is well known that Samkaracarya’s theory of māyā did not go to unchallenged. Severe criticisms came from the philosophical standpoint of dualism. The great Vaişņava teachers of the Middle ages emphasized the creature-hood of man, living in a world created by Good. Parallel traditions in Vedanta philosophy started by Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya and other flourished along with the Advaita of Samkaracarya.

In the nineteenth century, India was brought very close to the Western world through the medium of English education which was welcomed by the leaders of society, Indian scholars were much influenced by the metaphysical speculations of the West, especially by Kant who seemed close to the philosophic position of Vedanta regarding Noumenon which lay behind the categories of thought.

Contemporary philosophical orientations in India show a resurgence of Advaita philosophy. The Advaita of Samkaracarya was presented to the world as the best philosophical achievement of India. The ‘modernisation’ of Indian thought lies in its being presented in terms of Western Philosophy. Many Indian scholars undertook to define Advaita philosophy in such language as could render it intelligible from the perspective of the Western world. The most popular method of doing this was to write on comparative philosophy. The idea behind this bran of writing seems to be that a familiarity with one dimension of thought would open up possibilities of understanding problems inhering in other modes of thinking. Comparative philosophy as methodology for neo-vedanta has come to stay in India.

The point of the present study is that the acceptance of comparative philosophy as a valid methodology is based on a disregard for the crucial and irreducible difference between two traditions, as shaped by philosophers in these traditions. There is yet another aspect which is still more crucial for an understanding of an ancient philosophical tradition such as Advaita Vedanta. Indian scholars in seeking to make their heritage commensurable with the Western outlook on life are already placed in a position of losing hold over it, because they have not first examined the ground on which such changes in their traditions could take place if at all.

This book is devoted to the problem of the westernization of Advaita Vedanta which as neo-Vedanta prevails as the philosophy of our own times in India. Neo-Vedanta seeks to give a realistic interpretation of Advaita and also to make it self-sufficient as a philosophy, without recourse to Scriptural texts. According to contemporary Indian thinkers, modernity can be appropriated easily to the universalism of Advaita. Without jettisoning the hard core of the tradition, Advaita could very well be re-stated in terms of modern demands for active participation in the ongoing concerns of the world.

Without calling into question the right of any philosopher to interpret Advaita according to his own understanding of it, this study seeks to establish that the process of Westernization has obscured the core of this school of thought. The basic correlation of renunciation and Bliss has been lost slight of in the attempts to underscore the cognitive structure and the realistic structure which according to Samkaracarya should both belong to, and indeed constitute the realm of māyā.

An analysis of this process of obscuration forms the subject matter of this book. The first three chapters are devoted to the study of modernism as it is understood as such by Indian thinkers who seeks to revitalize their heritage in the light of ‘modernity’. Consequently, all attempts at approximating to the west are riddled by this basic confounding of fundamental values.  We can see this very clearly in the fact that the concept of renunciation plays no part in the writings of neo-Vedantins: and also that there is no awareness of the advent of secularism as an inevitable corollary to the movement of thought from Kant to Nietzsche in the West. Neo-Vedantins have emphasized concepts of Brahman as Real (sat) and Brahman as Consciousness (cit), but not Brahman as bliss (ananda) although the three terms together from the common definition of Brahman, that is: Saccidānanda. 

The influence of Western education on Indian scholars has been profound. An attempt has been made to put this impact in perspective in Chapters Four and Five. In the next three Chapters the writings of two eminent scholars are taken up for detailed study to validate my point that added emphasis has been laid by neo-Vedantins on the concept of Brahman as Reality and consciousness to the exclusion of bliss. Both men, A.C. Mukerji and Kokileshvar Bhattacharya were recognized in their own times as accredited spokesmen for Advaita. Both were well-versed in western Philosophy as teachers of it in the Universities of Allahabad and Calcutta respectively. Both fellow in general the guidelines of traditional exegesis but individually develop their own particular points of view. A.C. Mukerji favoured a rationalistic approach to Advaita and Kokilesvar Bhattacharya a realistic’ approach. Their relevance for this study lies in the fact that according to their own understanding of Advaita it is quite commensurable with concepts to be found in western thought. It is not that they thematized their exegeses as such but they did attempt to relate Advaita ontology to modern thought.

The point I wish to develop is that the entire intellectual movement, was for contemporary Indian thought, a process of alienation rather than the recovery of an ancient heritage. The Ninth and Tenth Chapters take up the study of this process of transformation of Indian philosophy towards an integration of its understanding of reality with all the new values of our times. Renunciation is nowadays understood by Indian scholars to mean a physical withdrawal from the world, a turning away from involvement and thus leading to moral apathy. Their evaluation of a traditional Indian value can in no way be distinguished from the charge leveled against Indian thought by the indologists of the nineteenth century.

To demonstrate my point that a total reversal has taken place of the fundamental standpoint of Advaita Vedanta, I have undertaken a study of the Taittirīya Upanişad in the last Chapter of the book. In this text, we meet with an understanding of man and his world. The text also brings out the uniqueness of man as seeker of the supreme knowledge of Brahman as Bliss. I have followed the Commentary of Samkaracarya on this Text so that it mat be seen clearly how the neo-Vedantins have traversed a different path altogether in staying away from the central teaching of Advaita regarding the non-dual Brahman.

I have sought to reinforce my point by adding as Part ii of this book the translation of a small text on Advaita written in the fourteenth century by a well-known author in this field. I have write an introduction and commentary on this work, which so far has not been translated into English or into any of the Indian languages. This text, called the Taittirīyaka-vidya-prakāśah, is a commentary on the Taittirīyake-Upanişad the Text examined in the last two chapters of part I. A study of author’s time reveals the fact that the main streams of exegeses were continuing to uphold the tradition as enunciated by Samkaracarya. This may be seen to be in direct contrast to the modern interpreters of Vedanta who seemed to have uncritically envisaged the possibility of revitalizing their tradition by incorporating new ideas in order to be in tune with the demands of the times.

It is a well known fact that attempts at re-interpreting the Upanishadic tradition in the light of modern Western thought have not resulted in any major contribution towards meaningful living in our contemporary world. In the following pages an assessment of these attempts is given with a view to clarifying the process of ‘modernization’ of Indian thought. The study of these exegeses suggests that the emerging scene is of Westernized thought rather than either modern or Indian. This would also explain the reason behind the dearth of new philosophical schools in our country. This book, in effect, seeks to highlight the question, namely, is it right to say that renunciation has been central to the teaching of the Upanishads; and if so, in what way, or if at all, this teaching can be related to the contemporary way of life in India?





                                      CHAPTER ONE


The Framework for modernity: The Western Tradition


A. Modernisation and Westernisation


In Eastern countries and especially in India, the term ‘modernity’ in used very often to denote to progress-oriented ethos of our times. ‘Modernisation’ is accepted as integral to life at present and a matter of coming to terms with Western modes of thinking and living in the fact changing world of scientific and technological innovations. ‘Modernisation’, therefore is almost a synonym for Westernisation. The West is admired for its air of success in all aspects of human endeavour and its ideal of constant striving toward better achievements. The marvelous invention of science evoke nothing but a strong spirit of emulation and the desire to bring about such changes in the existing way of life as would make it possible for all viable cultural and social transformations to take place to accommodate them. In contrast with the very tangible ills which plague the lives of people elsewhere the progressive affluence of the West appears nothing but a good in itself. For a people who are fighting for sheer survival, or freedom, or human rights, the West could symbolize Utopia. ‘Modernisation’, in this sense merely means the free exercise of an option toward greater mechanisation for the sake of economic development. Its main sphere of influence, which admittedly is secular, is seen to lie only in the region of praxis. No anxiety is felt about a possible radicalization of the theories which sustain our tradition.

To an outsider to Western Civilization therefore, the following question would sound merely rhetorical:

Why, in our time have societies  well-endowed

with  industrial  plenty  and   scientific  genius

turned  uglier  with  totalitarian  violence  than

any  barbarous  people?…… Why  do nihilism

and   neuroses  brood  over  what  we please to

call the  ‘developed’  societies,  taking as great

a  toll  of  human  happiness  as  gross physical

privation in the third world ?{Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and transcendence in post industrial Society (London: Faber & Faber 1973), p xxviii.}

No such misgivings, regarding our own future in following the West is in evidence in the writings of Indian thinkers. No doubts regarding encounter with science from within the tradition to the contrary; science and religion are accepted as complementary disciplines,which can be “combined harmoniously…………(for) an all-round expression of human genius and total fulfillment.”{Swami Ranganathananda, science and religion (Calcutta Advaita Ashram, 1978), p3. (Inaugural Address for the Lecture Series on “Science, Society and the Scientific Attitude,” University of Bangalore, August 5, 1976).

The two terms ‘Modernization’ and ‘Westernization’, are used interchangeably in India, but the different in meaning is so crucial that any slurring over could lead only to meaninglessness. At this point in time, Westernization is a global event, but Modernization so far is a Western experience. In order to understand what modernity means to people who are obliged to be modern, it is necessary to understand the paradox of a life of affluence overcast by the shadow of ‘nothingness’.

It would seem to the East that the rapidly proliferating advances of modern sciences are so many steps in the right direction. The technological discoveries which are the marvels of our day, are surely of great benefit to human society. It is true that some hazards are created by the growing techniques, but then, the technicians are never at a loss for adequate solutions to the problems. When such is our present situation, how should we understand a passage like this:

People everywhere trace, and record the decay,

the  destruction,  the  imminent annihilation of

the  world……The world, men find, is not just

out  of  joint  but   tumbling   away    into    the

nothingness  of absurdity. Nietzsche, who from

his  supreme  peak  saw  far  ahead  of  it all, as

early  as  the   eighteen-eighties  had  for  it the

simple  because  thoughtful  words :          ‘The

Wasteland grows….’{Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking, tr. J. Clenn Gray (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p.29.}

There are many brilliant writers in the West who have in varied measure, made the theme of ‘nothingness’ their central concern. The poignant words of Nietzsche have been echoing and re-echoing in such writings as these:

………there is nothing to express, nothing with

            which  to  express, nothing from which to

express,  no  power  to  express,   no   desire   to

express,   together   with    the     obligation    to

express……{Samuel Beckett, in Twentieth Century Views, ed. M. Esslin, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc, 1965), p.17.}


The greatest mystery is not that we have been

flung  at  random  between  the  profusion  of

matter  and  of  the  stars,  but  that within this

prison  we  can  draw  from ourselves images

powerful  enough  to  deny our nothingness.{Andre Malraux, Anti-Memoirs(New York : The Modern Library), p. 21.}

The question arises why should a progressive civilization find itself facing ‘nothingness’ in the present age. This question becomes supremely significant for all such societies who are eagerly following in the footsteps of the West. The East would reject the idea outright that it is trying to inherit ‘a growing Wasteland’, but western contemporary literature is clearly held in a tension between an awareness of crisis which is overtaking their civilization and a fearful sense of responsibility that its last sweeping technological conquest of the world will be final and irrevocable. They can only watch helplessly, the eager march toward the same existential nausea {‘Existential nausea has always worried the rich; democracy has now put it within the reach of all’. Dennis Gabor, ‘Fighting Existential Nausea’, Technology and Human Values (California: Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1966), p.13.

John Wilkinson, in his introduction to the same book writes that in justice to American Students it must be pointed out that ‘the progressive assimilation to the machine of human values (and even of religion in the sense of a deus in machina) is a function of a decisive unforeseen and unforeseeable turn of western Culture in its successive passage through mercantilism, industrialism, automation, and cybernation, and that as these mutations take place elsewhere in the world the same pathology of value is manifested’on the part of the East from which the West is beginning to suffer now. ( Ibid., p. 3.)

The important with regard to modernity, therefore, is the kind of awareness it awakens in man by which he understands himself in relation to his world. The term implies an evaluation of the situation in which Western man finds himself today. The primary demand of modernity, then, is to provide meaning to living in the age which has destroyed the region of transcendence that had sustained man over the centuries. To a lot of people this contingency may sound immensely preferable to any kind of historicism (whether theological, philosophical or humanistic) as it seems to grant freedom to bring about such condition as are needed for the well-being of society and also for building the future of our dreams. The thinkers who are aware of the implications of modernity, however, understand that this prospect is likely to be an ever-receding horizon unless one is dreaming of a totally man-made world replacing the given natural one of today. The very nature of technology creates its own autonomous sphere of action. Decisions are necessarily a-moral in a situation where techniques and expertise have to be given preference. Modernity accepts the fact that a new state of affairs has come into being with technology, because ‘the moral discourse of ‘values’ and ‘freedom’ is not independent of the will to technology, but a language fashioned in the same forge together with the will to technology. To try to think them separately is to move more deeply into their common origin.’ {George Grant, Technology and Empire (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1969(, p. 32.}

This would seem to mean that our future will be determined by technology which cannot but he indifferent to those qualities which we knew so far to be peculiarly ‘human’. Philosophy as a mode of questioning the beliefs which guide our life, requires a separation of man from his environment. Modernity spells out the end of philosophy because technology now is closing this crucial gap. Modernity is self-conscious about moving into this region of unification from whence no questioning may arise. Heidegger writes clearly:

Philosophy is ending in the present age. It has

found  its  place  in  the  scientific  attitude  of

socially active humanity. But the fundamental

characteristic  of  this  scientific  attitude is its

cybernetic. That is, its technological character.

The need to ask about technological is  presu-

mably  dying  out  to   the   same  extent   that

technology  more  definitely characterizes and

regulates  the  appearance of the totality of the

world and the position of man in it. {Martin Heidegger,  On Time and Being , tr. Joan Stambaugh (new York: Harper &Row, 1972), P. 58.}

Modernity means an awareness of technology as a mode of knowing which seems to be replacing familiar moulds of thought. These problems are not present in the East, because so far it has not progressed beyond asking first-order questions, regarding methodology and scientific procedure. We therefore, cannot understand what it is to be modern; or to be obliged to fact the possibility of the annihilation of man. We are at the stage of a commonsense understanding of technology as the latest development in the process of scientific discovery while the occasional opposition it evokes is dismissed as nothing but the natural tendency towards conservatism in us. Outcry against innovation is nothing new; the timid are always wary of radical changes, always convinced that nothing but disaster can result from total transformations. Against this negative attitude one hears the enthusiastic approval of those who hail every new breakthrough in technology as another landmark in human achievement. The question for us is not, whether to be cautioned by the first group or reassured by the second, but to realize that to enter this debate at all is already not to understand the nature of technology.

In this chapter, an attempt is made to enter into the concerns of Western philosophers who seek to bring home to us the implication of being obliged to live in the age of technology. In order to do so, we need to familiarize ourselves with the formative influences within the Western tradition which has culminated in the age of technology; only thus can we hope to realize what it means to be modern, or what Rene Guenon means when he writes:

….however far away the state of mind which has been

specifically designed as ‘Modern’ may have  spread,

especially  in  recent  years,  and  however      strong

may  be   the  hold  which  it  has  taken  and  which

it    exercises   ever     more    completely    at     least

externally,  over   the   whole  world,   this   state  of

mind     remains   nevertheless   purely  Western   in

origin:   in   the   west   it   had   its   birth,   and  the

West  was  for  a  long  time   its  exclusive   domain.

In the  East  its  influence  will  never  be  any  thing

but a Westernization.{Réné Guénon, Writings tr. and ed, by Lord Northbourne (London: Luzac and Company, Ltd., 1952), p. 15}.

It is necessary for us to understand the Western tradition in order to begin to see how integral science and technology are to its culture, and may be also understand the reason why the East remained untouched by this form of quest for knowledge. This survey of the Western tradition is necessarily brief and therefore very partial. However, it is hoped that the simplified nature of the presentation highlights the point of departure which should be studied carefully by those thinkers in the East, who are interested in comparative studies.


B. Formative Factors Influencing Western Civilization:

            The cradle of Western tradition is ancient Greece {Frederick s. j. Copleston, A History of philosophy, Vol. I, part I (New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1962), p. 29.} which brought forth great men of noble deeds and brilliant thought. The understanding this ancient society had of itself cannot be recorded as part of the history of the times. {Karl Loewith Meaning in History (The University Chicago Press, 1949), pp. 4-5.} The ancient world had its own way of understanding the occurrences which commanded attention, such as events of great significance in the lives of heroic men. Their achievements were landmarks which served to inspire and encourage other men to emulation. Celebration of those deeds by recounting them in poetry and drama made them moral imponderables; imponderable, because nobility was closely allied to tragedy. The mystique of ‘man’s relationship with nature’s inscrutable way was perpetuated in the recounting of the tales of antiquity. This ‘history’ is almost a reliving of the past and a continuation of the order of nature in human affairs. Nature, according to tradition, was good and man, as the measure of all things was a natural event, albeit the most exalted one. The inheritors of the Greek heritage agree that:

Through  and  through,  the  ideal  is  unity.  To

make  the  individual  at  one with the state, the

real  with  the  ideal,  the  inner  with  the outer,

art  with  moral,  finally  to  bring  all phases of

life  under  the  empire  of  a single idea, which

with Goethe, we may call, an we will, the good,

the beautiful, or the whole-this was the

aim, and, to a great extent, the achievement{ G. Lowes Dickinson The Greek View of life (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 155. }

The west has experienced many exhilarating moments of emancipation from its past, not the least among them is the overcoming of the religious mythology which had combined nature and man in a harmonious whole. Nature, as we now understand the world was ‘discovered’ by philosophers in ancient Greece. Nature was found not to be full of spirits and thus mysterious and inscrutable but rather, obedient to knowable and predictable laws. {The phrase ‘discovery of nature’ was used by F. M. Cornford, who explains it thus: “The Ionian cosmogonists assume…that the whole universe is natural and potentially within the reach of knowledge as ordinary and rational as our knowledge that fire burns and water drowns. That is what I meant by the discovery of Nature….The Supernatural, as fashioned by mythology, simply disappears; all that really exists is natural.” Before and After Socrates (Cambridge: The University Press, 1964), p. 15.} This was the beginning of that separation of man and nature which subsequently divided them completely into the two orders of the knower and the known and later of the maker and the made.

The spirit of scientific inquiry did not develop unimpeded; the quest for the ever-fading region of transcendence sometimes eclipsed it. The platonic separation of the regions of appearance and reality, inaugurated a new line of enquiry which continues to parallel the tradition of questioning nature to its furthest limits. In other words, Plato’s line of separation was drawn differently from that of the nature cosmogonists preceding him. Man, for Plato, was possessed of that reason which could lead him to the vision of the Real and the Good. Nature, therefore, was not exhausted in discovering causes for events, it remained grounded in the eternal order of Forms. The soul of man was activated by the same principle which activated nature. Nature was not merely a neutral object of enquiry but necessarily related to the well-being of man. By focusing on the unchanging ground behind the changing order of existence, the platonic tradition had acted as a break on the process of alienation between man and nature. {Benjamin Jowett writes: “nature in the aspect which she presented to a Greek philosopher of the fourth century before Christ is not easily reproduced to modern eyes. The associations of mythology and poetry have to be added and the unconscious influence of science has to be subtracted, before we can behold the heavens or the earth as they appeared to the Greek.” Introduction: Timaeus, The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. Iii (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), p. 38}. 

The other source of western civilization is held to be Hebraism, specifically in the form of Christianity. According to Mathew Arnold, in some ways Hellenism and Hebraism were rival forces, ‘diving the empire of the world between them.’ He writes that ‘between these two points of influence moves our world. {Mathew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, ed. J. Doyer Wilson (Cambridge: The University Press, 1935), p. 12}.They remained rivals because reason and faith were never quite reconciled in the history of succeeding generations. The advent of Christianity in the West changed the understanding of nature in relation to man. The dimension of historical consciousness replaced the idea of the manifestations of the natural order in recurring cycles. The ‘Christian reversal’ as Hannah Aredt calls it, introduced a new quality of self-centeredness.

……….in Christianity neither  the  world  nor  the

recurring cycle of life  is immortal, only the single

living individual. It is the world which will to pass

away; men will live forever. {Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (New York:  The Viking Press, 1961), p. 52}.

Inevitably, perhaps, the eschatological dimension of life minimized the importance of nature. The emphasis was now on man, not only as the measure of all things but as one to whom in effect, is given the world to world to enjoy and also to inherit the Kingdom of God, {E. Troeltsh, Protestantism and progress (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), pp. 160-163}. The fast rise and spared of Western powers strengthened the sense of density and an unquestioning faith in the goodness of Providence. This new quality of self-centredness introduced by Christianity created a suitable atmosphere for questioning the workings of nature. Answers could be wrested from nature for the betterment of mankind. Quite paradoxically, therefore, it was Christianity which created a milieu for the conquest of nature although apparently it was opposed to the scientific spirit of inquiry into the working of nature. The paradox may be explained if we consider, opposition came from reverence for dogma rather than for nature. The ancient philosophers who had asked the first questions and who had remained eclipsed by the Platonic tradition, now stood vindicated. It can be said further that the opposition between science and religion was resolved in a strange way by philosophy. It may be a simplification, but not entirely farfetched, to say that the two great philosophers, Kant and Hegel, mediated between science and religion in a fashion which has definitively affected the course of Western thought science their time.

The first major step in the coming of the Age of Reason could be said to be the refutation of the traditional proofs of God’s existence by Kant and the establishment of the supremacy of the moral law as the only object of reverence. According to Kant, man alone, amongst all other creatures, prescribes for himself a law of conduct which is good; it is good not only because it is obeyed out to reverence for the law itself, but because it is the only law which can act as a safeguard against the evil propensities inherent in the nature of man. If man were devoid of reason, he would not be in conflict regarding the “ought”. If on the other hand he were purely a rational being, them the “ought” would resolve itself into the “must” of natural laws. Virtue lies in becoming so attuned to the command of moral law that obedience becomes akin to an upholding of the law in one’s behaviour. In other words, man’s disposition is to be changed by the moral law. This alone can make men worthy of happiness. This law, it is true, commands without promise of reward, but it is unthinkable, indeed irrational, to suppose that virtue will not bring out a state of happiness, the union of virtue and happiness is the highest good envisaged by reason and the demand for this comes from the moral law itself. Nature is indifferent to this concomitance; therefore, the sole source of this happiness is God. In the worlds of Kant “…….It is morally necessary to assume the existence of God” {The Critique of practical Reason, Book ii Chapter ii, tr. by L. Beck (The Library of Liberal Arts, 1956), p. 130}.

Kant has here reversed the traditional relation between morality and religion. The result of this re-orientation of the argument for God’s existence has been far reaching in Western tradition. {After Kant” the proud name of an ontology which presumed to give in a systematic doctrine, synthetic knowledge a priori of things in general, must give place to the modest name of a mere analysis of pure understanding.” Ernst Cassirer, Roussean, Kant and Goethe (New York: Harper Torch books. 1963), p. 95}. E. L. Fackenheim writes that the peaceful co-existence of reason and Revelation was upset by Kant’s revolutionary theory. Moral autonomy is brought at a price. “This same act which appropriates the God-given moral law reduces its God-givenness to irrelevance”. {E. L. Fackenheim, “The Reveled Morality of Judaism and Modern Thought: A Confrontation with Kant. Quest for past and future(London and Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968), p. 215}. In other words, in a world made vulnerable to secularity by scientific discoveries, Kant provided the clue to moral independence. By granting him a self-legislating will, he made possible the phenomenon of man, master of his own destiny and standing alone at the crossroads of history.

Kant had upset the balance between reason and Revelation. Hegel by combining them, in an unprecedented way finally ushered in that age of secularity, which has come to stay in Western tradition. I the wonderful architectonic of Hegelian philosophy, the eschatological fulfillment of Christianity is transformed into the dialectical movement of the world-spirit, moving inevitable toward self-realization in the future. History itself is divinised and made to lead up to the historical situation in which Hegel found himself, and which, for him was the peak of cultural advancement.{Karl Loewith, form Hegel to Nietzsche, tr. David E. Green (New York: Doubleday &Co., Inc., 1967), pp.32-33}. “In this last stage of the history of the European spirit pure free will, is finally produced, which itself both will, knows what it wills,” writes Karl Loewith.{Ibid., p. 32}.

Hegel’s understanding of history is of the greatest importance because for almost one century it was he who set the tone for European philosophy either through his followers or his critics. In him was completed the substitution of Christianity by an overriding faith in the historical destiny of European man. History, therefore, was not entirely what has happened but what could be made to happen. This secularization of the religious vision of salvation, brought into vogue the many philosophies of history which supplanted Biblical faith. Western civilization for centuries had been sustained by faith in the past; the message of charity towards all fellow man as we hope for mercy from God; and a hope for the further in which was promised salvation. For religion to be meaningful, a teleological setting was necessary. By conferring fluidity to the dimension of truth {H. H. Berger, progressive and Conservative Man (Pittsburgh Duquesne University Press, 1971), p. 34}, Hegel guaranteed that a quality of religiosity would pervade all theories of progress which became current since his time.{Quoting Prof. Bury, Carl Becker writes‘……however formulated with whatever apparatus of philosophic or scientific terminology defended, the doctrine (of progress) was in essence an emotional conviction, a species of religion-a religion which according to Prof. Bury, served as a substitute for the declining faith in the Christian doctrine of Salvation.’ Progress and Power (New York: Random House, 1965), p.7}.

The nineteenth century saw the dislodgement of religion from its pivotal role in human life, and an upsurge of confidence in progressive involvement in life of the world. Man, for the first time, knew himself to be the creator and maker of the future. The material well being made possible by scientific discoveries and actualized by the Industrial Revolution was not unwelcome to the men of an age of expanding horizons. This manner of good life could be easily aligned to a life of obedience to the Divine Will because men saw themselves as the chosen liberators of the entire would. According to Carl Becker:

The  long  treasured  vision  of a Golden Age

once identified with the creation of the world

by  capricious,  inscrutable  gods,  and    then

transferred  to  the  beatific  life after death in

the  Heavenly  City,  is  at last identified with

the progressive amelioration of man’s earthly

state  by  the  application  of  his  intelligence

to  the  mastery  of  the  outer world of things

and to the conscious and rational direction of

social activities.  { Carl Becker, The Heavenly City (New Haven: Yale UniversityPress, 1947), p. 85}.

          The nineteenth century, flew by on the wings of a great enthusiasm in the various fields of human enterprise. It is recognized as the age of progress; {The idea of progress, first explicitly stated by Condorcet in the eighteenth century, viewed material well-being as essential to individual liberty and peace. “In the course of the nineteenth century, when man could see about them concrete evidence of advance in liberty and material goods, the idea of progress became an accepted part of our value system.”

Melvin Kranzberg, “Technology and Human Values,” Virginia Quarterly Review, XL, No.4, 1964, p. 589}.as the age when Utopia was felt to be within grasp; {Herbert J. Mueller writes: “In our civilization the idea of progress led to a novel utopianism, the conviction that the ideal society was positively going to be established on earth.

The Children of Frankenstein (Bloomington and London, Indiana University Press, 1971), p. 369.}as the age of reason which set man free from the tyranny of religious dogma; and as the age of humanism, when for  the first time man knew himself to be the measure of all things, not because he was given this position by nature or God but because he had discovered it for himself and had accepted the full responsibility of such an exalted state.

The dissipation of this self-reliance marks the advent of the present century. The crucial fact of contemporary Western would is a loss of faith in the ideals which had guided previous generations. Christopher Dawson writes:

Of all the changes that the twentieth  century

has  brought,  none goes deeper than the dis-

appearance of that unquestioning faith in the

future  and  the  absolute  value of our civili-

zation  which  has  the  dominant note of the

nineteenth century. {Caristopher Dawson, The Dynamics of world History (London:Sheed and Ward, 1957), p. 54.}

Those who seek to understand Nietzsche are not puzzled by the quick dissipation of the euphoric optimism of the nineteenth century. The inherent contradiction in holding together A belief in God as the supreme dispenser of Grace and an over-riding confidence in one’s will to conquer, had been foreseen clearly by Nietzsche. He knew that in due course the will to create would replace a ‘waiting upon’; that the divinising of history as the progressive destiny of mankind would lead to the jettisoning of God as irrelevant to this process. Just as the spreading wasteland swallows up definitive paths, so must the human will overcome that region of knowing which forms a part of receiving from the ‘Other’. The philosopher who had given this power to human will, was of course, Immanuel Kant. {Contrasting the placid outward life of Kant with “his world destroying thought”, the poet Heine wrote “Of a truth, if the citizens of Konigsberg had had any inkling of the meaning of that thought, they would have shuddered before him as before an executioner.”

Quoted by E. W. F. Tomlin. The Western philosophers (London: Hutchinson& Co., (Publishers) Ltd., 1968) p. 202.}

How recognizable, how familiar  to  us,  is   the

man so beautifully  portrayed in  the    Grundle-

gung, who confronted  even  with  Christ,  turns

away  to  consider  the   judgment   of  his  own

conscience  and  to  hear the voice  of  his  own

reason…this man is with us still, free, indepen-

dent, lonely,  powerfull,  Rational,  responsible,

brave,  the  hero  of so  many novels and books

of moral philosophy. {Iris Murdoch. The Sovereignity of Good (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 80.}.

The question which demands attention here is why should living in the twentieth century be an experience of alienation for Western man when paradoxically, he has all the means for increasing affluence and power, as well as a strongly institutionalized religion which can act as a unifying force for the entire Christian World?

As stated earlier, it is important for us to understand this question because we now are a part of Western civilization. An attempt to answer this question is made in the next Chapter.




                                            CHAPTER TWO


Science, Technology and Automation

The crucial factor which separates this century from the previous one, in the West is the failure of history. During the years when science was bringing in more and more mechanisation, man knew himself to be alienated from nature. After the world wars man felt alienated from history as well.

The failure of history in the West is to be understood as an experience of the greatest moment. A belief in history meant the possibility of sustenance from a region which the beyond human fallibility, a faith in Providence which ordained events for mankind, ensured the continuity of moral values and added to the meaningfulness of striving for the goal of establishing prefect justice on earth. The two world wars, in their total irrationality, destroyed, in a most dramatic fashion, all the expectations which had been built up over the previous centuries. An expression of this post-war mood can be read in the following lines:

Our Godhead, History ha stilled a tomb for us,

From which there is no resurrection. {Ingeborg Bachmann, “Message” tr. M. L. Mandelson, Modern Eruopean Potery (New York: Bantam Books, 1966), p. 175.}

The dissipation of the dimension of transcendence which had sustained man after he had separated from nature and had alienated himself from religion, is described as the “over-coming of chance” by Leo Strauss. By chance is meant the possibility of an interference which remains beyond human control. We may call it, Fate, Providence, Grace or by any other name. The future remains shrouded in mystery if chance reigns supreme, otherwise past, present and future become linked together by necessity. Strauss identifies the quality of ‘chanceless existence’ with the reality of modernity. Specifically, modernity is understood as the secularization of Christian eschatology. According to Strauss this was accomplished in three stages, which he calls the three waves of modernity. In classical thought justice is compliance with the natural order. Later the element of chance is provided for in the benign inscrutability of Providence. The complete overcoming of chance came with Machiavelli, Hobbes and Kant. The fallibility of human order could be transformed by (i) judicious manipulations, (ii) exercise of the rights of self-preservation, and (iii) complete obedience to the moral law. The dependence on Divine Grace is totally suspended as unnecessary; man’s creativity supersedes inspiration; nature is conquered by science and human efforts are enough to bring about perfectibility:

………eventually we arrive at the view that uni-

versal affluence and peace is the necessary and

sufficent condition of perfect justice.{ Leo Strauss, “The Three Waves of Modernity”. Political Philosophy, ed Hilail Gildin (New York : The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1975), pp. 88-89.)

The perfectibility of man and the establishment of peace and justice on earth continued to suffice as ideals (as they still do) for those humanists of the twentieth century who had not reckoned with the means for the attainment of this end.

A new factor was introduced by the advent of science which started to created an ‘unnatural’ order of existence. There is, therefore, in the West now a brand of literature devoted to propounding the problem of the means of achieving felicity as being sufficient ends in themselves. This brings us to a possible of anxiety in the present century in the West. The modern era is the subject of many kinds of analyses but all agree on the important of technology as the most commanding influence at work in all societies. Although we are familiar with the phenomenon of technology, it is always understood in its full significance. Jacques Ellul writes :

No social, human or spiritual fact is so impor-

tant as the fact  of technique  in  the  modern

world.  And  yet   no   subject is  so   little   under-

stood. {Jacque Sllul, The Technological Society (New York : knopf, 1964), p. 3}.

Ellul’s judgement is only too true because technology is so complex and vast a subject that a comprehensive understanding of its ramifications would be a formidable task. A brief account is undertaken here only with a view to highlighting certain notions which are important for the thesis being presented here.

It is a generally felt impression that technology is the newest development in the growth of scientific knowledge. It is only a tendency toward conservatism which make us look askance at the sudden spate of new inventions. This reactionary attitude is common both to the East as well as to the West and E. G. Mesthene describes it very clearly in these terms :

Why not stop it all ?  Stop  automation :  Stop

tampering with  life  and  heredity :  Stop  the

senseless race into space : The cry  is  an  old

one. It was heard  no doubt  when  the  wheel

was invented. The technologies of  the  bomb,

the  automobile,  the  spinning    jenny,   gun-

powder, printing, all provoked social disloca-

tions accompanied by similar cries of ‘Stop’….{E. G. Mesthene, “Technology and Wisdom;” in Philosophy and Technology, ed. C. Mitcham and R. Mackey (New York : The Free Press, 1972) p. 113}.

The author E. G. Mesthene compares the twentieth century with the early time of Greek civilization. The scientific exploration of the first Cosmologists had not been developed properly because they had lacked courage to follow up the sudden glimpses into the unknown which had rewarded their efforts. Gilbert Murray wrote that it was a failure of nerve on the part of the early Greeks which prevented them from pushing ahead with their study of nature. {Gilbert Murray, The Five Stage of Greek Religion (New York : Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1951), pp. 119-165}.

Mesthene cites the phrase, “the failure of nerve,’ used by Gilbert Murray in order to warn the twentieth century against becoming open to the same charge. He thinks, we are now given the same choice of either proceeding with the quest for greater knowledge or to stop midway from a want of courage to face the unknown.

We are convinced again, for the first time since

the Greeks of the essential intelligibility of   the

universe : there is nothing in it  that  in  principle

is unknowable. {E. G. Mesthene, “Technology and Wisdom,” in Philosophy and Technology, op cit., p. 114}.

Mesthene voices the opinion of many who think that with proper control and good management toward beneficial ends, technology may be used for the betterment of society; that, it is a-moral neutral power, which can be used to good purpose by a responsible government.

According to Bertrand de Jouvenal, membership in a technologically advanced and advancing society is a privilege. It is characteristic of all privileges that they may be put to good use or bad use. {Bertrand de Jouvenal “Some Musings,” Technology and Human Values (California : Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1966), p. 23.}.

With a sense of collective responsibility, therefore, technology could be used in the best interests of mankind. Most people in the West and nearly all in the East could be convinced by Mesthene’s arguments against harboring any undue fear to change, and easily identify with the idea that the answer to the problem of the technological take-over does not lie in crying a halt to it but in getting better control of the world as a technological system. M. W. Thring writes :

We are well aware, now, that……..the wider

development  of  the  nineteenth  century In-

dustrial Revolution, has been a bolting horse

out  of  control,  and   that  we  are  all  on its

back.   We   know   that   we   are   all  on  its

grasp  the  reins  and  control  the  steed,  and

make     it    trot,     rather     gallop,    in    the

direction we need to go.{ Man, Machines and Tomorrow (London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), pp. 117-18}

This attitude easily aligns technology on the side of progress. And does not consider that man’s  autonomy is threatened by it. It finds ready support with the majority of people because we are used to the idea of bettering ourselves in every possible way. As a matter of fact the need for a defense of technology itself would not have arisen had it not “created a battered landscape of eroded soil, broken bottles and automobile tires which tells another story of technology from that dream of a thriving industrial world set within a barely tamed wilderness that spurred on our ancestors.” {William Kuhns, The Post-Industrial Prophets (New York : Weybright and Tulley, 1971), p. 2.}

The problem of waste, pollution and devastation which comes as an aftermath to technological proliferation provides no doubt some urgency to the pleas and suggestions for greater control over new invention, but there is here a core of optimism in direct continuation with the nineteenth century belief in progress. Those who have so far “sustained by a profound belief in the doctrine of progress”. {Carl Beeker, Progress and Power (New York : Random House, 1965), p.6.} extend it to encompass technology as well. The idea of continuous innovation is so familiar, writes Demczynske, that we can hardly imagine life in a static society. We try to make every thing better, whether it is our industrial wares, standards of living or social institution. {S. Demczynske, Automation and the Future of man (London : George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1964), p. 162. This rush toward betterment is describe by Theodore Roszak from another perspective:” We have a name for the short of human activity that absorbs people in the orderly pursuit of arbitrary……….usually competitive…goals according to arbitrary rules. We call it a ‘game’. Why must an economy grow, Why must profit be maximized, Why must every bureaucracy expand and organizational efficiency and industrial productivity be ceaselessly elaborated?”  Roszak writes that these questions have no rational explanation just as there are no logical reasons about the rules of games which must be accepted as ultimate in case the game is going to be played. “Forbidpen Games”, Technology and human Values. California: Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1966), p. 26} it is true that twentieth century optimism is very tempered as compared to that of the earlier century, yet it remains a force to be reckoned with, because it is a force which provides sustenance to developing countries and feeds the opinion which maintains the neutrality of technology. Since the time that Prometheus stole fire from the gods, any act of daring for the sake of knowledge and power has acquired an aura of nobility in the West. It is in this context that one can appreciate Mesthene’s urging us against a failure of nerves at this moment in history.

The question to be considered here is whether this commonly prevailing opinion regarding technology should be seen in the light of a different perspective altogether or not. In a way it is a reassuring theory that technology brings ability from society, in order that this tremendous force may be harnessed for the good of mankind. {A typical opinion would be: “ The transferred technology structure of countries everywhere. This has been so in the past, and it will continue to be true in the future. The problem is one of coming to terms with the new technology and of better organizing the world as a technological system. {Spencer, Daniel L. Technology Gap in Perspective :Strategy of International Technology Transfer (New York : Spartan Books, 1970), p. 162.} Yet this theory has been countered very pressingly by thinkers; who do not subscribe to the view that technology is just the practical aspect of science. Sociologists for one, have pointed out that man was a technician before he was a scientist. {Lewis Mumford, “Technics and the Nature of Man,” Philosophy and Technology, op cit., pp. 77-79} Man was aware of, and could work with techniques before he discovered the universal laws which governed them. In the fashioning of crude stone implements lay the seed of future technology; but this manipulative behaviour was a part of a natural struggle for existence, not radically different from the use of claws and tooth by an animal. Lewis Mumford distinguishes between the crude means of self-preservation fro sophisticated techniques which aim at greater comfort and are production-oriented rather than life-oriented :

At its  point  of  origin,  then, Technics   was

related to the whole nature of man. Primitive

techniques were life-centred, not narrowly work-

centred, still less productive-centred. {Ibid., p. 81.}

Science came later and supplied greater power to the already existing technological pattern of man’s manipulative behaviour. Feibleman goes further to say that the preoccupation with technology has done a lot of harm to the development of science, because more often science gas to engage itself with matters arising out of the uses of machines. According to him the role of science has been to improve instruments and techniques and vastly accelerate efficiency, thus helping technology to become a branch of applied science; but this rapidly growing branch is hardly conductive to the progress of pure science. {J. K. Feibleman, ‘Pure Science, Applied Science and Technology,” Philosophy & Technology, op cit., pp. 36-39.} 

 The argument regarding the relation of science to technology is of interest, because, not only is a wedge being driven here between what is considered worthwhile in itself and what is of practical use only, but it is being felt as an ever-widening gulf which is developing a dynamics of its own. Pure science now seems as wary of technology as are the humanities. The reason are not far to seek. The scientist looks upon himself as an enquirer after truth. His methodology is distinct, but according to a few scientists, not very different from the speculative, contemplative, or even insightful ways of the humanities and is essentially an extension of the same desire for knowledge which started the first philosophers on the path of metaphysics. Andrew G. Van Melsen writes:

…….knowing and making lie in the same line;

both mean man’s  self-realization,  one,  in  an

imminent  way  and  the other   in  a   transient

fashion.  Both  go  out  to  the  world  but both

also  revert  to  man.  For  in  knowledge  man

appropriates the world to himself  immanently

as an enrichment of his spirit; in technological

making  he  appropriates  the  same  world   to

himself to humanize it,  and  at  the same  time

he learns to know himself in a new way….{Andrew G. Van Melsen, Science & Technology (Pittsburg : Duquesne University Press, 1961), p. 319.}

To take into consideration another view which says that “knowing and making” lie in the same line, we may cite from the writings of Friedrich Dessauer. According to Dessauer, the inventor mediates between two realms, one of man’s intellectual structure and conceptualities arising out of his needs and the other of the mysterious world of natural laws. The essence of invention lies in finding that which was not manifest before in the world of actuality, as for example like or a picture created by a poet or an artist.

The  inventor  does  not  view what has been

gained from his creation (thought not from it

alone) with the feeling “I have made you”….

But, rather with an “I have found you……..{Friedrich Dessauer, “Technology in the Proper Sphere,” Philosophy & technology, op cit., p. 323.}

There are other eminent architects and engineers who do not care for the distinction between the natural and the artificial ; R. Buckminster Fuller, writes in a poetic from on the subject of the new profiles of the universe where nature and artifice merge into each other. { R. Buckminster Fuller, No More Secondhand God, (New York : Anchor Books, 1971).}

Taking the new image of the world into consideration some scientists plead for a closer relation {“knowledge is an integral entity and cannot be definitely divided without finally becoming meaningless and useless……..The balance between science and humanities must be maintained throughout,” S. Demczynski Automation & the Future of Man (London. George, Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1964), pp. 207-209.} between science and philosophy. P. W. Bridgman, in an oft-printed article. { P.W. Bridgman, “Quo Vadis,” Science and Ideas, ed. A. B. Arons and A. M. Bork (New Jersey : Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964).

Also in Science & the Modern Mind, ed G. Holton (New York : Books for Libraries Press, 1977), p. 323.} reject the view that there is a radical difference between science and the humanities, even going to the extent of maintaining that although values are not definitive for science, concern for values  is as important to the scientist as to any philosopher. Bridgman thinks that science can save the humanities from much dissipation of energy in speculating about regions which clearly lie beyond the thinking power of man. {Ibid., p. 277.} It is time we learn to look to the future which will be dominated by technology rather than try to effort any “return” to the insights of the past, because,

The insight that there is any problem  here  at

all  is  devastatingly new in human history. The

science and  the  humanities   find  themselves

facing the problem together; it is  too  difficult

and too  pressing  to   permit  the  luxury  of  a

division of force. { Ibid., p. 278.}

The exegetical value of following these interpretations add to our understanding that “knowing” and “making” lie in one line for science and technology, an interpretation which is being questioned by philosophers. Moreover, speaking specifically the call for a closing of ranks against technology, hardly means a new dimension of understanding because science would like to change the humanities into its own  image before they could be made useful for modern students. Max Black considers such presuppositions as ‘man has an essential nature’, or that ‘this human essence is good’, outdated and other such maxims in need of substantial revision. He goes on to say that new perspectives have to be created before the two languages of science and the humanities can become commensurable, because “the personal equation’, which is crucial to the one is sought to be neutralized by the other. {Max Black, “Some Tasks for the Humanities, “Technology as Institutionally Related to Human Values, ed. Philip C. Rotterkush (Washington, D. C. : Acropolis Books, Ltd. 1974), pp. 84-85.} Further, for science, as Van Melsen pointed out “knowing” and “making” lie in the same line, and this would seem to be the crucial point of departure for philosophy.

Science which has made technology possible, cannot perhaps contemplate fruitfully its own effectiveness. We may however appreciate the point that the science being the study of the real and the natural are closer to the humanities than to technology which sets its sights, at least in a minimal sense, on creating the artificial. Our increasingly man-made environment, which is the devastatingly new situation facing man, demands a new orientation toward it because the familiar attitude of doing one’s utmost and hoping for the best, becomes irrelevant in a situation where all factors can be controlled and no element of uncertainty left to chance; we seem to have no option but to go forward in discovering greater powers for creating the artificial, which is automation, the central core of technology.

Let us now consider the nature of automation. Speaking on the subject, John Diebold said :

If automation means anything  at  all  it  means

something    more  than  a  mere  extension   of

mechanization…It implies  a  basic  change  in

our attitude toward the manner  of  performing

work……...though the  systematic  application

of the principle called feed back, machines can

be built  which  control  their  own  operations,

so   that    productive process  do   not    have 

 to     be  designed  to take   into   account    the

human limitations of a human worker. {Statement of John Diebold before the Joint Economic Committee, Sub-Committee, on Automation and Energy Resources, 86th Congress and Session, reported in The New Technology & Human Values, ed. John G. Burke (California : Wadsworth Publishing Co. Inc., 1966), pp. 109-110.}

From these reported it is for the lay person to understand that the new element of automation is far from being a neutral force for the use of man, and that in its essence it is different from the humanities. Automation is not an extension to human powers but a medium of replacement of human element. A great step was taken instantaneous changes in communications, overcoming the obstacles of mass, time and space. In the west the phenomenon of automation is being called the Cybernetic Revolution which, will eventually exercise greater power than the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century. J. Rose explains :

While mechanical power of the First Industrial

Revolution   formed   an   extension   of  man’s

muscles ….hence its description as the Age of

Mechanisation…...the computer is an extension

Of his mind and is the ‘brain’ of the automatic

System, hence the Cybernetic Revolution is also

known as the Age of Automation. {J. Rose, The Cybernetic Revolution (London : Elek Science, 1974), p. 16.}

To understand the nature of Cybernetics is to comprehend the grounds for apprehension of an end of the age of man. Machines had added to the power of man in bringing about man changes in his environment. Cybernetics is capable of changing man himself  and putting him in the same electrical circuit as his surrounding.{Norbert Wiener writes : “This is an idea with which I have toyed before…..that it is conceptually possible for a human being to be sent over a telegraph line.” God & Golem Inc. (Cambridge : The M.I.T. Press, Inc. 1964), p. 36.} Technology is not a power which is handled by man but the very medium in which he lives.  {Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York : Knopf, 1964), p. 6. Also Marshal Mcluhan’s definitive work Understanding Media (New York : McGraw-Hill, 1964.} By medium is meant that by which and in which we have our existence. Nature is now in the process of being completely made over into a man-made environment, which in turn can be seen as an extension of the central nervous system of human beings. It is an ironic fact that scientifically man has truly identified himself with his world and achieved a startling unity with it.

The technology era is therefore qualitatively different from the previous mechanical age. The discovery that mass can be changed into energy was a lesser radicalization of our standing of the world than the present total transformation of mass and energy into the region of electronics where all barriers of time, space and mass disappear. This situation could only be a-moral as all standards of living and behaviour must  remain fluid; it is also ambivalent, science all technological projects create their own problems which need solutions. In this way a society could come into being which would be governed by technology and not by a value-system or an ideology. It is this situation which in interesting. No physical annihilation of man is envisaged here. The point is, that man may give up his choice for freedom in favour of scientific determinism. The inner dynamics of this mode of determinism creates a particular level of existence which can be called a state of computerized automation. Just as the human nervous system has sensory-motor nerves at one end and the brain at the other, so also automation is the feed back extremity of a continuum beginning with a computer. {Donald N. Michael, Cybernation : The Silent Conquest (California : Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1962) pp. 5-6.} By hooking this on to other computers, a near-infinity of possibilities is obtained. It becomes a self-sustaining process almost like nature, but with no precise end in view. Set in this frame of reference, according to Ellul the question, ‘can man control his own techniques ?’ is meaningless, because a computer technique forestalls such an option. Here, that which was supposed to be instrumental is seen to be the master. It is an irreversible process but not an inevitable choice. Ellul refers to the ancient Greeks who did in fact refuse and a choice which was condemned by Gilbert Murray as a ‘failure of nerve’.

We have come now to the heart of the reason behind the pessimistic tone of the writing coming out of the West. Norbert Wiener, the father of Cybernetics, has called it, in effect, the magic wand which is capable of granting any wish but does not tell us what to wish for or whether the granting of the wish will be agreeable to the receiver. Humanity now is in the position of the sailor with the ‘monkey’s paw’, {An old soldier returned from India to visit a friend. He had with him a talisman that he said had the ability to grant three wishes to each of three people. The first owner of the talisman had taken the first set of three wishes, two unknown to the soldier, but the third one for death. That is how the soldier had become the owner. The soldier took the second set of wishes for himself, but declined to talk about them. His experiences were too terrible. One set of wishes remained. With considerable reluctance the soldier yields to his friend’s request for the talisman. The friend’s first wish is for £ 200. Soon after an official of the company where his son was employed came to tell him that his son had been crushed to death. As a solatium, but without any admission of responsibility, the company granted the father £ 200. His next wish was that the boy come back, and so his mutilated ghost came knocking at the door and so his last wish was that the ghost go away. W.W. Jacob’s well-known story retold by Norbert Wiener, “The monkey’s Paw”, The New Technology and Human Values. Ed. John G. Burke (California: Wadsworth Publishing Co., Inc., 1966) p. 132.} because it is now within the bonds of conceptual possibility that a machine may be set to “generate’ another machine or ‘learn” to play an ‘intelligent’ game of chess.{ Norbert Wiener, God & Golem, Inc. (Cambridge : The M.I.T. Press, 1964), pp. 21 & 36. } What we may understand from this is that the power of technical programming is virtually limitless and the mystique of the barrier between life and matter is in the process of being exploded. {Dennis Gabor. Inaugural Lecture (Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London, March 3, 1959), p. 47.} This technological future which seems inescapable to the West, is proving to be the ultimate catalyst precipitating all meaning from life and the ideals of hope and justice which were integral to it so far. Michael Harrington writes:

……(the) conscious  revolutionists  of the past

proposed visions which outstripped reality,  the

unconscious revolutionists of the present create

realities  which   outstrip  their  vision.   In   the

first case, it is history that is sad, in the second

man. {Michael Harrington, The Accidental Century (Baltimor4: Penguin Books, Inc., 1969), p. 16.}

If we may restate the arguments we may say that the failure of history, not only alienated man from his past, but has suddenly catapulted him into the future totally neutralizing the quest for justice.{Marshall Mcluhan describe the difference between the previous mechanical age and our electric age as being that of exercising greater emphasis on process and transformation, rather than on the material that changes. Electricity is a single field of experience which is capable of co-ordinating every kind of diversity and multiplicity. This process takes place by remote control. The fact of speeded up change effects time barriers also. The past can be conserved and the present encapsulated. This requires new ways of thinking of the past, the present and the future. The Futurists, ed. With an Introduction by Alvin Toffler (New York: Random House, 1972) pp. 62-63.)} The future which by definition should be unknown to the present, has lost this quality for modern man. Technology now brings the entire range of actuality. The process of the overcoming of chance is well on its way to completion. It is true that there are as yet many unknown spheres of investigations which could engage the attention of scientists for years to come. The point about technology is that it is able to make its own solutions to questions; it brings into being that which was not in nature before and thereby transforms totally the ways of human adjustments in life. The new creation plays a definitive role by making it possible and therefore inevitable for other related techniques to come into existence which in their turn add to the proliferating process. Thus, it is said that, in principle, the future is already here, because technology is process of mechanical development, a growth which follows its own self-regulative compulsions. To look to the future in any form that is theological, philosophical or even humanistic would mean an acknowledgement to the possibility of reciprocity between the natural process and human activity. {John Baillie makes this distinction between development and progress. The Belief in Progress (The Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 122-132.} At present the future is at hand as programmed into machines and the past is dissociated because it has no formative role to play in this act. In modern terminology, therefore, the word ‘progress’ loses its meaning. Instead of “progress’, it is now suggested that we understand changes in terms of the Principle of Acceleration which is non-dialectical and non evaluative. In substantiation of his point, the author of the idea cites the example of an African student studying the most advanced course in Western Universities. The gap between the African bush and the modern city can be closed speedily with adequate facilities and proper methodology.{Folke Dovering, “The Principle of Acceleration: A non dialectical theory of progress,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (England: The Cambridge University Press, 1969), Vol. Ii, p. 95.}

The paradox of affluence and despair is precisely this fact, that given the future, man does not know how to relate himself to it. Just as the African student who, uprooted from the bush is not accepted by the West which taught him to differentiate himself from his background, Western man, experiences the same silence of indifference from the world which he has created and chosen for himself. He cannot see at present what exactly can save him from the swiftly growing phenomenon of technology becoming the last court of appeal in every sphere of life. There are no moral imponderables now to contemplate; one is only to keep abreast of the newest level of technical expertise in all matters requiring decisions. Freedom of action on cherished principles become irrelevant in a controlled situation where statistics, techniques and expertise override individual preference. The history of civilizations has been, so far, a history of the fight for freedom. To give up this freedom voluntarily in the name of establishing a just society, could only lead to a novel kind of self-annihilation. Moreover, this mode of self-annihilation is already prefigured in the manufacture of ‘Cyborgs’, creatures who combine in them qualities of the human being and the machine.

That this prospect of self-annihilation is very much within the bonds of possibility (in principle) has entered the consciousness of Western thinkers. Arthur C. Clarke writes ironically that the machine-animals. {The inventors of the machine-animals called ‘a Cyborg’ are Drs. Manfred Clyne and Nathan Cline of the Rockford State Hospital, New York.} which are being created today many even be an improvement on the race of man because they would  be devoid of such crudities and hostilities as men are heir to. Consequently they would lead a more civilized and peaceful life. Then he writes almost an epitaph for man :

No individual exists forever, why should we

expect our species to be immortal. Man, said

Nietzsche, is  a  rope  stretched  between  the

Animal and the Superman…a rope across the

Abyss….That will be a noble purpose to have

Served. {Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future ; An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible (New York: Harper & Raw, 1973), p. 229.}

Reason has been the guiding start of the Western genius for very long. It has been its pride and its prerogative. In following the dictates of reason, it has discarded other ideals as of lesser importance, but this has resulted in a paradoxical situation :

……..the experience of the twentieth century

showed that an alliance could  exist  between

science   and  irrationality.  This  indeed  was

something new. The general  assumption  had

been that a scientist was a rational man…..{The Environment of change, ed. A. W. Warner (New York : Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 9.}

The “terrifying alliance” {Ibid., p. 9.} between science and irrationality in the name of supreme felicity for mankind, grew out of a coupling together of knowability and mechanization, propounded so forcefully by Bacon, at the beginning of the modern era. Paolo Rossi writes :

What  radically   and    primarily    distinguishes

every “modern” ideal of knowledge is precisely

the renunciation of  the  concept  of  knowledge

as contemplation…….knowledge, according  to

Bacon,  is  not  the product of  the  intuitions  of

solitaries,   but  the  fruit of    a   through  and

radical  reform  respecting  man’s  mode    of

thinking  and  speaking  and  which  concerns

the very structures of his societal co-existence. {Paolo Rossi, Philosophy, Technology and the Arts in the Early Modern Era (New York : Harper& Row, 1970), p. 181.}

With “the renunciation of the concept of knowledge as contemplation”, modern man understands that we do not live in a mechanical age because of technology; we live in a technological society because we are being thrust towards greater mechanization and automation everyday. Critics as well as technologists are agreed today that in effect :

……....automation (i.e., self correcting machines

that feed back information and adjust

themselves) and cybernation (i.e., making the

automated machine capable or  responding  to

a near infinity  of  contingencies,  by  hooking

them up  to  computers)  possess  the  scientific

capacity to  accomplish  the  ancient  myth  of


The quotation refers to Homer’s story of Daedalus, a statue which of its own motion entered the conclave of gods on Olympus; the story is rejected outright by Aristotle who writes dismissingly : as if “the shuttle would weaves and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand which guides them…..{ Politica, 1253 b. 35. tr. by Benjamin Jowett.} ]

It seems Homer was right and Aristotle was wrong.


                                    CHAPTER THREE


The Indian Response to the Western Tradition


A. Science and Philosophical Thinking:


It was stated in the previous Chapter that modernity is closely related to the phenomenon of automation, toward which technology is headed inescapably, and it also seems, irrevocably. It should be made clear that all modern writers on this problem are not necessarily pessimistic; neither are they devoid of a sense of wonderment for the vast universe opening out in front of their fascinated gaze. It is also undeniable that expanding knowledge could be considered by some, to be its own reward. What then, is at stake here, which is so vital as to engage the attention of some of the best mind of the West?

The main point at issue now, it has always been, is the freedom of man. All traditions, in their own fashion, have nurtured ideals of personal freedom, social justice and reverence for God. The shadow of nothingness hangs over all these ideals because ‘thinking’ itself is being replace or forestalled by statistics and computerized planning in every aspect of human life. The right to make decisions, good, bad or indifferent, is an inalienable prerogative. Without this freedom there can be no morality, no quest for justice on earth or hope for the supreme fulfillment of human life in self-realization. No political system or economic pressure has so much power to take away freedom from man, as the scientific plannings being used by modernized disciplines. Technical know-how is a-moral. A society guided by the latest techniques in necessarily secular. In the modern age, faith in God endures in spite of science and not because science subscribes to it.

We have now come to the main issue between philosophers and scientists. The philosophical implication of separating the regions of ‘knowing’ and ‘making’ are profound. For the scientist ‘to know’ is ‘to create’. In this connection a point must be raised against the arguments that the inventions of science are akin to the creations of artists. {See Above p. 35} It can be seen easily that technological inventions add new dimensions to our world, thus transforming all existing structures of meaning by which life is sustained in society. This element of total radicalization does not belong with the creative arts of music and painting. These creations do not change what they seek to understand. A piece of brilliant music, or a masterpiece may be copied a hundred times without effecting the pristine purity of the original work. Repetition, here is only celebration of the uniqueness of the first vision. The mystery of the dialogue between the artist and nature is preserved in this way, for succeeding generations. With scientific invitations, we can proceed only by way of discarding the obsolete. The former conquers time, the latter is defeated by time. The future is ever possible with the arts and humanities, whereas for the sciences it is already nothing because any thematisation of problems, here, opens the way to discovery of the solution. The future in principle belongs to the present given in the form of plannings and programmings. To say that all plans are tentative, subject to the pressures of as yet unknown factors, is not to deny the knowability in principle, of all that may happen.

For the philosopher, therefore, to know is not to make but to be in readiness to receive. Philosophical thinking may operate only between a seeking for knowledge and an experience of receiving form, the other, which may be called “a waiting upon’. Freedom may survive only in this twilight zone of “a waiting upon’. For the philosopher, questions are more important than their answers, because, in formulating a question, he precludes himself from providing the answer and yet the asking of the question is crucial since it is the only form of preparedness which may bring about a vision of Truth. Philosophical Truth cannot be created but only received, seen, realized of experienced as immediate apprehension.

The question is, in a technological society how should the mystery of this twilight zone be preserved so that, philosophical thinking may sustain the relevancy of self-enquiry? Philosophers, in the West are fully aware of their predicament. Hans Jonas writes:

In  any  case,  the   idea of making over Man is

no  longer   fantastic,   nor   interdicted   by  an

inviolable    taboo.    If      and     when       that

technological revolution occurs,  reflection  on

what  is  humanly  desirable  and  what should

determine   the   choice-on   “the    image    of

man,”   in   short-becomes    an       imperative

more  urgent  than  any  ever  inflicted  on  the

understanding  of  moral  man.  Philosophy,  it

must be confessed, is sadly unprepared for this,

its first cosmic task. {Hans Jonas, “The Scientific and Technological Society,’ Philosophy Today,  Issue on Toward a philosophy of Technology, Vol. XV, No, 2/4 Summer 1971, p. 98.}

The inadequacy of philosophy belongs with the will toward the changing atmosphere of automation. Philosophical thinking can be merely irrelevant, where cognition is deployed totally into channels of expeditious maneuverability. This is to say that Philosophical thinking cannot be legitimate mode of knowability.

So far, in India, we are not called upon to evaluate the potential of contemporary scientific knowledge. The terms ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ are not interchangeable. Western civilization is modern, but the East as yet, is only in the process of becoming Westernised. We must now examine our own understanding of the demands of contemporary times.


B. ‘Modernisation’ of Indian Thought:


In India any thematisation of concerns regarding our past, present or future is necessarily done in Western terms at present. This era of developing economy makes us look at ourselves as belonging to the third world. The technological milieu is not an outcome of our own traditions; it is a foreign element in our midst. Any degree of appropriation or interiorization will make us Westernized and not modern. According to some Indian thinkers, this is an advantage we have over the West. {Vedanta and Modern science : Correspondence between Sir Julian Huxley and Swami Ranganathananda on “The Message of the Upanishads” (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, 1971).} India is in a position to take the technical know-how and make use of it in its own way, without falling a prey to the evils which have stalked its advance in the West. We can learn from their mistakes and not commit them. {M. S. Iyengar, “Can we Transform into a Post-Industrial Society ?” The Futurists, ed. With an Introduction by Alvin Toffler (New York: Random House, 1972), pp. 190-192.

(Mr. Iyengar at that time was Director, Regional Research Lab. Jorhat, India, Incharge of Developing Micro-Technology for Village-Scale Industrialization.)} To take this attitude is to subscribe to the view that technology is a neutral factor and means nothing more than a viable option for the poorer countries. Its main sphere of influence is the area of practical projects and its encroachment on other aspects of human life can be contained if such is desired. It is a means towards an end and need not dictate what values are to be cherished as far as our moral and religious behaviour is concerned. That, in India “modernisation’ in another name for Westernization is made clear by such statements as these:

Modernization  consists  of a composite set of

processes  each   entwined  with  a  variety  of

contextual  meanings  in  which  elements   of

history,  cultural  structures,   and   existential

factors  each   assume  boundary  maintaining

functions…….The autonomy of moral values

over the instrumental values (Modernity) can,

therefore, be logically postulated at all  stages

of modernization in all societies. {Yogendra Sing, “Historicity of Modernization,’ Tradition and Modernization, ed. S. k. Srivastava (Allahabad, India: Indian International Publications, 1976), pp.54, 67.}

From this definition of ‘modernization’ it can be assumed that we in India are not yet open to the real significance of technology. At a seminar on The Concept of Progress, the consensus of opinion veered round to the point that with proper checks on the forces of secularization, technology could be made useful for Indian conditions. It was left for a Westerner living in India to see with clear eyes the ambiguity latent in the idea which tries to hold together the concepts of “progress’ and the non-secular dimension of reverence. Arthur Osborne said that in Nineteenth-century Europe, man become homocentric rather than theocentric, and this was the age of progress for him. He added:

The same process  is  now  taking  place  in  the

east and the same results will follow………...It

will be strange indeed if the time comes   when

the mechanized materialistic East begins to talk

about the mystic West: {Arthur Osborne, “The Concept of Progress,” Indian Philosophical Annual, Vol. III (University of Madras 1967), p. 13.}

The question that is being raised is, whether the technological inadequacy of India is only a matter of time-lag, or is there something of fundamental difference here; whether the technological gap between the East and the West will lesson as time goes on, and if so will the present thrust toward scientific advancement in the East meet with the same fate as it has done in the West. The writings coming out of contemporary India show no apprehension regarding the overpowering role of technology. The underlying thought seems to be that the tradition which has withstood many other conquests is eminently suited to the task of appropriating modernity and thereby transcending it. We shall examine this understanding on the part of Indian thinkers who seek thus to interpret the bases of the tradition in Western terminology. In such writings no indications of an inner conflict between modernity and the religious consciousness of India are to be detected. First, an attempt is made here to bring the quality of this unawareness into focus, so that it may be seen in the light of Upanishadic thought which has its own dimension of involvement in the world. To be westernized is not to be “modern’. A modern man is a man made aware of his predicament in a society which provides him with no clue for the understanding of his own state of existence in the world. This itself is precisely the category of thought which relates him to his environment. 

The term “modernity” then, is being used in this book to mean the self-awareness of philosophical thought since the days that mechanization became a category of cognition. The question which should impinge itself upon the consciousness of people belonging to other traditions, at this point in time, is whether they fully understand the mode of this grasp on the world, and whether it is consonant with their own tradition, which, so far, has not know “the renunciation of the concept of knowledge as contemplation,” Knowledge in India has been nothing but the “product of the intuitions of solitaries” who have thought not only of man’s “societal co-existence” but also of the very essence of his being. {See above p. 45.} In order to bring out the nature of the difference between the two modes of thinking, a brief account of the Indian tradition is given below.

The separation between the changing world-order and that which remains hidden and unchanging, is very crucial to Indian thought. Everything which changes is a presentation of that which does not change. The whole range of Indian thought, it may be said, is an accounting for the unchanging which underlies the given changing order of existence. This idea of ‘separation’ pervades the ethos of India. A demand for discrimination between that which is of the nature of transience and its opposite is implied in this separation; and inevitably, one is urged to strive toward a progressive disengagement from involvements which are pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying in order that attention may focus on the veil of truth.

The unavoidable usage of negative terms in this context, unfortunately creates a wrong impression, but the reference here is to ontology and it is a legitimate way of calling attention to that essential discontinuity which precisely is the mode of relating to the ground of all existence. In the Upanishads, renunciation and the Bliss of fulfillment are held together in an unique unity. {Iśāvāsyamidam sarvam yatkimcajagatyām jagat tena tyaktena bhunjīthā māgŗdhah kasyasviddhanam. (know that) all this, whatever moves in this moving world, is enveloped by God. Therefore find enjoyment by renunciation. Do not covet what belongs to others. (Īśā. 1)}

It is usual to say that the main thrust of Upanishadic thought is toward establishing the unity of Brahman as the one ontological ground of all that there is. It would be appropriate to say that together with this an equally major effort can be detected toward engaging man’s attention to the enquiry into the reality of this unitive ground.

The sacred texts are considered  indispensable to the enquiry; they awaken the questioning spirit. The enquiry into the ground of our bring does not follow naturally from man’s given in experience. Without the texts, there would be no indication of knowledge of any other thing than our experience in the world. The texts, therefore, are the sole indicators toward an enquiry into a region which is said to be of supreme significance for man.

The tradition does not primarily speak of the reality of the world and all that it means for a successful adjustment therein, because, this involvement is inescapable. The world is our only known sphere of activity, and there is here no need to underscore the obvious. It is man’s nature to take delight in the world and to feel all the emotions which keep him involved with his fellow man. The environment of nature is an extension of his field of concerns. In the tradition, the forest is an important as the city, but life in the city is a preparation for life in the forest.

Indian thought has seen no separation of religious mythology, and questionings into the factual nature of things. It has been preoccupied with keeping the possibility open for a more crucial discrimination. It is, therefore, not an accident that science did not arise in India. Science needs that focusing on the material world which was of limited use only for traditional thought. In India thinking was kept mobilized toward understanding the human condition within the parameters of rationality and morality. It is to be remembered here that time belongs with the world and therefore the viability of the quest for truth may always remain a living issue for man. That is to say, that the tradition is not a perpetuation of meaningless reiterations of aging principle. The tradition seeks to preserve the purity of the indicators toward a life which while being lived in this world may become capable of that blessedness which is the receiving of truth.

At this point in time of our world-history we do not have much choice in the matter of industrialization, but this is not to say that India can be technicised with no loss to her tradition; the very nature of technology precludes such an eventuality. If culture is the means by which is preserved a people’s grasp of the essence of the meaning of life then to try and hold together technology and Indian thought is to do less than justice to either the tradition or to technology.

The impact of the Western tradition was felt by India thought the medium of education in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. The well wishers of India, native-born, as well as foreigners worked toward bringing about an age of enlightenment to dispel “the darkness of ages”. Those who wished not to bring about changes in their tradition, did not know how to deal with the overwhelming forces of radicalizations of the time; they took refuge is an aggressive form of fundamentalism, which was not effective in stemming the tide.

In the field of academic philosophy, the encounter between Western thought and Eastern heritage, has not yielded any fruitful results. The attempts at reinterpreting Upanishadic teachings, in the light of Western philosophy have not inaugurated any living schools of thought which may guide the intellectual questioning of contemporary India. 

Before we undertake an analysis of this situation, we need put the encounter of two different traditions in perspective. The next Chapter seeks to bring out the formative factors of contemporary philosophical thought in India.




                                    CHAPTER FOUR



English Neo-Hegelianism and Indian Scholarship


A. The Meeting of Horizons:


Early in the nineteenth century, the philosophical thought of India found a world audience thought the series of Essays on Hindu Philosophy published in the proceedings of the Royal Asiatic Society of England and Ireland, by H. T. Colebrooke during the years 1824-32. {Hegel in his Lectures on Indian Philosophy referred to these essays as his main source of information. Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy, tr. E. S. Haldane, (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), vol. I, pp. 125-147.} Other Indologists did pioneer work in translating and editing Sanskrit texts into European languages. {For example: Text of the Rg Veda became available to scholars with the publication of the Sacred Books of the East series by Max Mueller from Oxford (1849-1875).

The Bibliotheca Indica series was started by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1847. The Society had been established on January 1, 1784, under the Presidentship of William Jones (1746-1794), generally regarded as the founder of European Indology.} It has been said that the nineteenth century saw the “flowering of Oriental Scholarship” {J. N. Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements in India. The Harford Lamson Lectures of 1913, (published by Munshiram Manoharal, New Delhi, 1967), p. 2.} and it did indeed prove to be a period of widening horizons, not only for the West, but the East as well. Many Colleges imparting Western education to Indian students were established in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The three Universities at these places came into existence in 1857 with the avowed policy of promoting secular learning only, as a change from the previous frankly evangelical method of teaching. {Macaulay, the chief architect of the educational policy in India, wrote to his farther, ‘It is my firm belief that it our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence; and this will be effected without efforts to proselytize, without the smallest interference with religious liberty merely by the material operation of knowledge and reflection. Quoted by K. M. Panikkar, Hinduism and the West, (Chandigarh, Panjab University Publication Bureau. 1964), p.24.}

These Colleges and Universities became for Indian students the gateway to the wider would of Western civilization. The teachers who came from Scotland and England were greatly admired for their learning, simplicity and piety. Generations of young academicians cherished grateful memories of their pupilage with these kindly men who sought to inspire their students with their own ideals of education. {‘………The greatest academic influence on me,’ writes Haridas Bhattacharya, ‘came from the saintly Professor Henry Stephen who taught three generations of young men in Bengal Successively in the Duff College, the Scottish Churches College and the Calcutta University.’ Contemporary Indian Philosophy, eds, S. Radhakrishnan and J. H. Muirhead, (London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., (1936), 3 rd impr4ession 1958), p. 68.

Many other contributors to the volume, express similar sentiments: A. K. Wadia mentions Fr. Devine of the St. Xavier’s High School and J. R. Cuthbert at Wilson College; V. Subrahmanya Iyer, who was taught at the Madras Christian College, writes, ‘I commenced my studies under Dr. Charles Cooper………….who kindled in me a passionate love for metaphysics.’ Ibid., p. 593.} Many students at this time were able to go to England and thus came in direct contact with eminent scholars Oxford and Cambridge, such as John Mctaggart (1866-1925), C. C. J. Webb, (b. 1865), A. S. Pringle-Pattison, (1856-1931), F. H. Bradley (1846-1924), H. H. Joachim (b. 1868), and James Ward (1843-1925). {G. C. Chatterji (p.129), S. N. Dasgupta (p.252), A. R. Wadia (p.624), etc. Contemporary Indian Philosophy, op. cit. Nearly all of them at one time or another came under the influence of neo-Hegelianism. Hiralal Haldar writes (p. 216), “The philosophical movement known as Neo-Hegelianism was in my student days gathering strength in Great Britain and I was one of the very few, not improbably the only one, who then felt its power in India.”}

The British University in the last years of the previous century, came under the influence of Idealism imported from Germany. The flowering of German philosophy on the insular soil of England was more of an enigma than its subsequent invasion of Indian Universities. It cannot be said that it was more congenital to the English mind than the utilitarianism it supplanted; neither had there been any opportunities for pursuing how “without adequate training in Kant, England acquired such a firm grasp of the new problems’, because, “it is not a matter of a few isolated  thinkers, but a whole host’ and further, this movement was not imitative but “stamped unmistakably with the seal of the English intellect’. {A. Ruggiero, Modern Philosophy, (London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1920); p. 261.} Rudolf Metz highlights four contributing factors which may have brought about this renaissance of  Idealism in England:

(a)   The prevalence of romantic literature pioneered by Coleridge and Carlyle. Carlyle’s writings were greatly  influenced by German idealism.

(b)   A few isolated works by individual philosophers (such as Hamilton and Ferrier) created the right atmosphere for  bringing about a change.

(c)    Theological interests were sustained by Hegel’s divinization of history at a time when evolutionists were to be contended with at home.

(d)   Benjamin Jowett’ s (1817-93) careful husbanding of classical literature and his translations of Plato brought the idealistic tradition in the Greek heritage within the grasp of all English-speaking centers of learning.

{Rudolf Metz, A hundred Years of British Philosophy, (London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd.) p. 249. ff.}

Anglo–Hegelianism was frankly eschatological in nature. Max Mueller, then a new-comer to Oxford, (1846) expressed his great astonishment at the theological atmosphere prevailing in England at a time when Germany and France were adopting an historical approach to textual exegeses. {He writes, “I had been at a German University and the historical study of Christianity was to me as familiar as the study of Roman history. Professor whom I had looked up to as great authorities, implicitly to be trusted, such as Lotze and Weisse at Leipsic, Schelling and Michelet at Berlin,……….left me with the firm conviction that the Old and  New Testament were historical books, and to be treated according to the critical principles as any other ancient books, particularly the Sacred Books of the East of which so little was then known….a belief that these books had been verbally communicated by the deity or that what seemed miraculous in them was to be accepted as historically real, simply because it was recorded in these sacred books, was to me a standpoint long left behind.” My Autobiography, (Delhi, Hind Pocket Books (P) Ltd., 1976), pp. 164-165.}

The British University at this time were engaged in holding together the demands of the new science, and the philosophical thoughts arising out of them, with their own heritage of an institutionalized religion. British philosophers felt themselves hedged in, on the one hand, by Darwinists who emphasized the animalism in man and, on the other, by Hume, who exclaims, “I am affrighted and confounded with that forlorn solitude in which I am placed by my philosophy, and fancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who not being able to mingle and unite in society has been expelled all human converse and left utterly abandoned and disconsolate………… .” This uncompromising skeptical spirit of David Hume still brooded over the philosophical  world of the Universities. Kant, to a certain extent had dispelled this intellectual despair, but his expulsion of reverence from the cognitive structure was not fully acceptable to English philosophers.

The coming of Hegel opened a new dimension in the understanding of the fast changing world of the nineteenth century. Hegel was presented in a language which brought theology and naturalism together and Anglo-Hegelianism continued to be a movement toward such a synthesis. We may gauge the power of this synthesis from the following two statements, which were written not at the same time, but almost half a century apart:

Hegel’s views conciliate themselves admirably

with the revelation of the New Testament. {J. H. Stirling, The Secret of Hegel, (1865) p. 100.}


I have never disguised it from myself that when

I speak of the ‘Absolute’ I mean  by  the  world

Precisely  that  simple  absolutely  transcendent,

source of all things  which  the   great  Christian

scholastics call God. {A. E. Taylor, Elements of Metaphysics, (7th ed., Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1924), p. xiii.}

The first quotation is from J. H. Stirling, who pioneered the study of Hegel in England and the second is from A. E. Taylor’s popular work on Metaphysics. Hegel convinced a generation of scholars that the Absolute synthesized within it Thouught and Being, Logos and Metaphysics, and therefore that ‘an unthinkable reality’ is a contradiction in terms. The identification of causal evolution with the deductive processes of logic led to the inexorable development of pulling together science, philosophy and religion. It was perhaps inevitable that his triadic eschatology in which were reconciled thought and reality, history and evolution determinism and the freedom of the world-spirit reaching full self-awareness in the Absolute Idea, should carry within it the seeds of its dissolution. The exclusive choices of Marx and Kierkegaard, writes Karl Loewith, “separates precisely what Hegel had unified.” {Karl Loewith, From Hegel to Nietzsche, tr., David E. Green, (New York, Doubleday and co. Inc., 1967), p. 135.} For Marx the choice to revolution was necessary for the making of history and for Kierkegaard the choice to existential despair which alone could lead to authentic living. Yet another note of dissension came from a new generation of philologists who attempted to divest history of its epic aspect, making it much less mysterious and much more similar to the present.” {Emile Brehier, Contemporary Philosophy, The History Philosophy, vol. VIII, tr. Wade Bashin. (The University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 5.} They believed that philology also had a crucial role to play in the understanding of the world process.

England, due perhaps to its theological bias, remained relatively untouched by these reactions which were overtaking Hegelianism on the Continent. English scholars concerned themselves with the concrete ‘other’ of thought rather than its assimilation within thought. T. H. Green (1836-82) attempted to recover the Kantian notion of a synthetic unity of apperception from that of an ideal totality as postulated by Hegel, in which it had become one with its ‘other’ and hence was no longer transcendent. Green accepted the Hegelian position that the highest knowledge was mediated knowledge but did not in effect give up the Kantian thesis of an ultimate unity of apperception which as constitutive of nature and as eternal consciousness is both impersonal and universal. Green was appreciated in India as a critic of the dualism inherent in Kant. According to Green, man is primarily a knower; he is a self-conscious being—perhaps much more else but that at least, and that genuinely—conscious of himself always over against a not-self, which is co-existent and co-real and always simultaneous with self-consciousness.

F. H. Bradley’s ontological distinction between appearance and reality was studied eagerly in India and appreciated as an improvement upon Green’s idealistic position. In Bradley’s absolution anti-intellectualism had reached its zenith. Hegel’s position seemed to have been totally reversed. The unthinkable is a contradiction according to Hegel. Bradley states that reality is unapproachable by thought or rather, that thought is transmuted in entering the whole of reality. Every particular is an integral part of the whole. Knowledge, according to Bradley, is an immediate experience of the coherent whole. Fragmentation of this concrete universal in individual experience is the inescapable outcome of discursive reason. This uneasy partnership of coherence and immediacy was a philosophical problem of considerable interest and held the attention of Indian scholars for a long time. Bradley was hailed as a philosopher who could envisage the possibility of superseding a cognitive approach to the problem of reality.

It is an acknowledged fact that the movement of thought from Kant to Hegel was of primary importance for England and that Kant was viewed thought Hegelian spectacles. {R. Metz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, op. cit., p. 253.}Oxford and Cambridge imparted to Hegelianism a religious aura and made it peculiarly their own. The wholeness of the Universal was centrally quartered by the horizontal line of terrestrial existence and the vertical line of divine intervention, so that,

Within  the  circle  of  the  Absolute,  it is “the

dove descending”…that by its vertical decent

into and  intersection  with,  the  linear   order

of times establishes the cross as at that centre

of all absoluteness. { Anne C.  Bolgan, “The Philosophy of Bradley and the Mind and Art of Eliot”, English Literature and British Philosophy (Chicago: The University of Chicago  Press, 1971).}

All this was of great interest to Indian scholars. The rise and fall of Anglo-Hegelianism in all its phases continued to influence the philosophical thinking of India.

It is true that much of Kant and Hegel remained alien to Indians. The secularity inherent in the Hegelian system remained hidden in its British version and therefore, was not understood by its Indian inheritors who gave it a metaphysical colouring which could not and did not endure for long in India. The situation prevailing in India Universities was radically different from that of the British Universities. Indian Universities were innocent of any theological need to come to terms with theories of evolutions. For this reason, although Western philosophy came to India in the garb of neo-Hegelianism, it can be said that the major difference between Anglo-Hegelianism and Indian Hegelianism lay in the importance given to Kant rather than to Hegel in the movement of thought from Kant to Hegel.

Modern scholars tend to deprecate the flowering of neo-Hegelianism of Indian soil especially as Hegel had nothing but abuse and contempt for Indian philosophy, and because historically it remains a fact that Indian scholarship did not influence or add to the pool of English works on Kant and Hegel.

In order to understand the foundations of contemporary neo-Vedantism, it is necessary to enter into the philosophic mood of India at the beginning of the century. At this point in time it should be possible to gain a perspective on the situation obtaining at the Universities then the formulate an explanation for this strange phenomenon.

The outstanding students who were selected for higher studies at that time came from cultured families where they had received an adequate grounding in their own tradition. Many of them had the good fortune to study with Pandits who were active in their own sphere of Sanskrit learning. {The following scholars can be considered as exercising a formative influence on future teachers at Indian Universities : Mahamahopadhyaya Vamacharan Bhattacharya, MM. Ananta Krishna Shastri (Varanasi) MM. Kalivara Vedantavagisha (Calcutta, who edited and published the Brahma Sutra with Bhamti in 1887), MM. Lakshman Shastri Dravid, (who initiated a generation of dedicated scholars notably Jogendra N. Bagchi), MM Panchanan Takaratna (Varanasi), MM. Chandrakanta Tarkalankar (Calcutta, who delivered the Ist Sree Gopal Basu-Mullick Lectures), also Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya of Sringeri. (From the biographical notes given in Contemporary Indian Philosophy, op. cit).}Due to this background in traditional philosophy, which in effect was their religion as well, they found nothing exciting in Christian theology, which was the first concern of missionary schools imparting the basic of Western education to Indian students.{ Even so it is true that Western influence had triggered off what has been called “the Indian Reformation Movement’ and ‘the Age of Renaissance.’ (D. S. Sarma: Hinduism Though the Ages, Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawam, 1956, p. 64.

The Reformists sought to jettison the Pauranic tradition as an exegesis of the Vedic Texts, while the fundamentalists adhered to it strictly. A few scholars continued to maintain the tradition of interpretative exegeses which  was all the more remarkable because they were now doing it in an alien language which did not readily lend itself to the translation of Sanskrit terms.}

Their interest, however, was quickened by Kant and Hegel. Christianity held no special appeal for the scholarly Indian who shied away from even a hint of an exclusive claim to truth which for him was contrary to the spirit of philosophy; whereas they felt that they could easily enter into the metaphysical and epistemological concerns of like-minded philosophers. Epistemology had always played a crucial role in the formulation of Indian philosophical thought. The opponent’s view was important in the development of one’s own thesis. A high standard was maintained in the tradition regarding the fair apprehension and presentation of the critic’s point of view. {See the Preface to Sarva Darśan Samgraha: Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy, E. B. Cowell and A. E. Gough (Delhi, Cosmo Publications, 1976).  They could, in the same strain, welcome a confrontation with a philosophical position which at once challenged then presuppositions of their tradition and yet, as it seemed to them, fall far short of the many insights which enriched it.

For Indian Philosophy, if one may generalize, the crux of the matter has always been to know the transcendent from within the dimension of the world; to grasp the unrelational through that which is relational, to thematise that which reveals itself as transcendent as well as immanent; in other words, to make possible the intelligibility of Pure Being, ‘beyond all duality and difference”.

Hegel, therefore, was perceived as a challenge, but Kant’s transcendental deduction of categories seemed at once close and yet removed from the heart of the problem. The limit set upon the categories by Kant was acceptable but not the unknowability of noumenon because the problem of the knowability of the unmediated knower-the ‘noumenon’ according to the Vedanta had long been debated in the Indian tradition. Thus they welcomed the Kantian epistemology as the meeting ground for a common enterprise. Pre-Kantian and post-Hegelian theology never acquired relevance in the Indian context; but Kant and Hegel were greeted as metaphysicians, the former as a kindred spirit and the latter as a challenge and both were treated as such. It was felt that an exchange of thoughts on this level was possible. K. C. Bhattacharya’s crucial article “The Concept of Philosophy” brings this out very clearly. He writes :

With  regard  to  the  knowability  of the  self

as a metaphysical entity Kant  holds  that  the

self is a necessity of thought and is the object

of moral  faith,  but is not in-itself  knowable.

My position is, on the one hand, that the self

is unthinkable and  on  the  other  that   while

actually is not known…we have  to  admit  the

possibility of knowing it without thinking….{ K. C. Bhattacharya: “The concept of  Philosophy” (in Contemporary Indian philosophy, op. cit.) pp. 105-125.}  

Other eminent scholars continued to write, pulling together such terms as seemed commensurable to them :

Vedantism  sets  it  face   against   all   forms  of

ontological argument,  the  Rationalist’s  device

of deriving existence from  a  specific  concept-

Perfect      Being     (Descartes  &  others),     or

from  a   system   of   concept-Reason   (Hegel).

Existence is not conceivable; we can only intuit

it.  If  Hegel’s  is  a  logic  of  ideas  or concepts,

the Vedanta’s is a logic of existence. {T. R. V. Murti, “The Two Definitions of Brahman in the Advaita”. (K. C. Bhattacharya Memorial Volume, Amalner, Indian institute of Philosophy, 1958),  pp. 135-150.}

From these reference it can be seen how Kant and Hegel were situated in the scheme of philosophical speculation in India. Other thinkers continued to compare and contrast both systems of thought, while developing their own thinking with regard to their own tradition.


B. The Beginning of Comparative Studies.


The first outcome of this intellectual encounter took the form of a series of comparative studies. {Hiralal Haldar. Neo- Hegelianism, Health Cranston, 1927. D. M. Datta. The Chief Currents of contemporary Philosophy (European, American and Indian), Calcutta, Art Press, n. d.

R. V. Das. The Philosophy of Whitehead, James Clarke & Co., 1937.

U. C. Bhattacharya. “Space, Time and Brahma”, Jha Commemorative Volume, Poona Oriental Book Agency, 1937.}

Haridas Bhattacharya inaugurated at the Calcutta University, the prestigious Stephanos Nirmalendu Ghosh Lectures in Comparative Religion in 1933-34. (Published by the Calcutta University in 1938 entitled Foundation of living Faiths).} Swami Abhedananda, one of the first Indians to interpret Vedanta Philosophy for the West, writes that he was impressed by the lectures on Hindu Philosophy delivered by Pundit Sasadhar Takacudamani in 1883 at the Albert Hall, in which he dealt with the ancient Greek Philosophers as well as modern theories of evolution. {Contemporary Indian Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 49-50.} Studies in comparative philosophy continued to be the main concern of academicians for the greater part of the present century. Probably the first public acknowledgement of the demands of the time was the inauguration of the Sree Gopal Basu-Mallick Lectures on Vedanta Philosophy by Calcutta University in 1898. The aim was to state the relevance of Vedanta Philosophy in the fast changing world of the nineteenth century. The first speaker was the highly respected M. M. Chandrakanta Tarkalankar who devoted himself to this undertaking form five years between 1898 and 1905. Other speakers who addressed themselves to the task were variously required to indicate the place of Vedanta in the economy of Modern Western thought and to “estimate its value” {Pramatha Nath Mukhopadhyaya. Introduction to Vedanta Philosophy. (Lecture of 1927, published by the Book Co. Ltd., Calcutta, 1928).} or to speak on “the place occupied by the Vedanta in the Philosophical systems of the civilized world and of its merits as compared with Western Schools of Thought”. {S. K. Belvalkar. Vedanta Philosophy (Lecture of 1925, published by Bilvakunja Publishing House, Poona, 1929).

Other speakers in the Series are:

N. K. Datta. The Vedanta: Its Place as a System of Metaphysics (Lecture of 1926, Calcutta University, 1931).

 R. D. Ranade. Vedanta, the Culmination of Indian Thought (Lecture of 1928).

S. K. Das. A Study of the Vedanta, (Lecture of 1929, Calcutta University, 1937).

Kokileshwar Bhattacharya Sree Gopal Basu-Mullick Lectures on the Vedanta (Lectures of 1930-31).}

At about this time{The Indian Philosophical Review was first Published from Baroda in July, 1917 under the joint editorship of A. G. Widgery and R. D. Ranade. This journal was discontinued after about four years. It was resuscitated again as the Journal of the Academy of Philosophy and Religion, an Institution Founded by Ranade in 1924, under the name of Review of Philosophy and Religion.

Vedanta Kesari was first Published in 1913 from Madras. The Journal of the Indian institute of philosophy, Amalner was inaugurated in January 1918.

The philosophic Quarterly was first published from Calcutta in April, 1925.

Kalyan Kalpataru in 1934 from Gorakhpur.} Some Journals were founded with the same ideals in mind. The Indian institute of Philosophy at Amalner (1916) became a centre for study and research in Vedanta Philosophy and a place where many eminent scholars developed their own philosophies.

From the writings of this period, it can be seen clearly that Indian philosophers saw themselves undertaking a double task: along with the appropriation of the best thoughts of the paramount quality of the Upanishadic heritage for the contemporary philosophical scene in India. They learnt to look at their own tradition objectively and thematise it in the language of Western metaphysics. Parallels were drawn and similarities emphasized with a view to establishing a common platform for philosophical debate. Pre-war writing abounds in such passages as these:

……….We  might  note  the  great  resemblance

between  the    ancient  metaphysical   system of

India and  the  present  metaphysical  system  of

The West. The absolute of Bradley  has numer-

ous   points  of  contact  with  the  Advaitism  of

Samkaracarya.      Both     suppose      that     the

Absolute  is  the only  ultimate  real.  With  both,

            God is different from the Absolute…...{R. D. Rande, quoted by the author from an earlier paper, ‘Contemporary Indian Philosophy’ op cit., p. 545. Rande goes on to compare Ramanuja and James Ward and Mctaggart’ s non-theistic idealism with the Sāmkhya nirīśvaravāda.


According to the Vedanta, Brahman is not only

the first but also the highest reality. According

to  Alexander,  the  first and ultimate reality is

Space-Time, out  of   which     eventually  the

quality of deity will emerge. For the  Vedanta,

Brahma  is  the  beginning  and  the end of the

World - its Alpha and its Omega. But according

Alexander, Brahma,  if  that  one  could  stand

for  the  highest  reality,  would  only   be   the

unattained end of the world - its Omega, but not

its beginning  which was only Space-Time. {U. C. Bhattacharya, “Space Time and Brahma”, Jha Commemorative Volume, (Poona, Oriental Book Agency, 1937), p. 83.}.

It remains a historical fact that the comparative method advocated by Indian philosophers found no echo in the Western world which at best remained indifferent to the entire issue. {The more recent phenomenon of “East-centricism, of the West operates at a level of, and in answer to, a quest for trans-Western universalism. This has been taken up for discussion in a later Chapter.} No Sustained acadmic interest in contemporary Indian thought was evinced by the thinkers of other countries. {There were rare exceptions like B. Faddegon”s The Vaisesika System, (Amsterdam: 1918) wherein he maintained that there was no fundamental difference between Eastern and Western systems of thought from the point of view of comparative study.}  Looking back at the first encounter between these two disparate tradition we find them talking, to a great extent, at cross-purpose. Although individual scholars on both sides expressed their admiration of each other, even so there was no confluence of philosophic thought, which could contribute to a greater understanding of either system.





                                           CHAPTER FIVE


Neo- Vedanta as the Philosophy of Contemporary India


A.   The Lack of Mutuality between Indian Thought and Western Philosophy.


In trying to understand the abysmal lack of communication between Eastern thought and Western philosophy, a few factors reveal themselves as possible contributing conditions. The phenomenon must be approached from both sides if we are to appreciate the attitude of twentieth century philosophy on India, toward their own tradition.

The severest encounter was with regard to eschatology. Open could say that the central theme of the Western tradition, after the advent of Christianity, is time, time is the arena of God’s providential action which we must reconcile with the conception of time as history made by man. The present is such now because of how the beginning was, and the future will be as the present is modified to become, which means that, that which was not before, can be made to happen in the future. A high sense of responsibility for processes occurring in time characterises every mode of philosophical thought in the West from the most severely pragmatic and utilitarian to the seemingly opposite idealistic extreme. For Western thinkers the language of the will had expressed some of the loftiest thoughts about the great future of humanity-and ‘humanity’ was the watch word of the nineteenth century. Throughout Europe, the freedom of man from bondage to institutionalized religion or to oppressive political control, was the main theme engaging the attention of philosophers. Since religion was inextricably bound with the history of Europe, they could not readily appreciate a separation of the two in another tradition. From their point of view philosophical statements emptied of all historical content were limited in cognitive value. Their objection was that logos seemed to be still embedded in mythos in India. {“No where in ancient Near Eastern thought do we find the emancipation of the logos from the mythos which characterises the development in Greece.”

Joachim Wach. Types of Religious Experience, (The University of Chicago Press, 1951, 5th Impression, 1972),p. 70.} 

Europe scholars were thus repelled as well as fascinated by the heterogeneous conglomeration (as it looked to them) of ideas which was made available to them by Indian Pundits as well as by conscientious Indologists. Situated in their own tradition, the Western scholars who were trying, at that time to unravel the tangled skeins of Indian thought, could not appreciate the philosophic significances of the concept of time studiedly kept in abeyance with regard to metaphysical questions. A religion which had no eschatology could only be primitively animistic or anthropomorphic, or at best pantheistic, and pantheism in the West was not a viable philosophical position. {Marvin Farber. Basic Issues of Philosophy (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1968), p, 179 ff. (For a standard criticism of the pantheism of Vedanta, see Kirtikar, Studies in Vedanta (Bombay: 1924) Ch. ii).} 

This basic misunderstanding gave rise to many criticisms of Indian thought. The severest criticism fro the West centred around the trivialization of the world as a sphere of human endeavour for the betterment of the future of mankind. The ever recurring theme of world-negative, in the texts created the indelible impression in the Western mind that Indian thought was pessimistic in the extreme. Describing dissolution of karma and final deliverance, Barth Writes :

The practical consequence of such a doctrine

as this can be only a morality of renunciation,

and  to   underrate,   if   not   to   scorn,  every

very   little   mention   of   positive   duties  in

the   Upanishads.  The  essential  matter  is  to

stifle  desire,  and  the  ideal of the devout life

is  that  led  by  the   Sannyasin………{A. Barth, The Religions of Indian, tr. Rev. J. Wood (Varanasi), (The Chowkhambha Sanskrit Series, Vol. XXX, 1963, first published, 1921), p. 79.}

Some Western scholars, very soon found reasons for this attitude of “complete quiescence” to be an inferior type of heredity, and the hot climate which indisposed “the organization for active exertion” and predisposed it toward contemplative life. {A. E. Gough The Philosophy of the Upanishads and Ancient Indian  Metaphysics (London : 1882), p. 6.}

The tragedy of nineteenth century Indology lay in the fact that sympathetic European scholars were embarrassed by the very same concept which the Indian tradition put forward as its highest achievement in the philosophical understanding of the texts. In monism, was seen the failure of thought to rise to the concept of one God as creator and redeemer of mankind. The Theistic West which gives high regard to ethical considerations could admire only “a clear summit” {“Hinduism as religion will remain theistic with the tendency persisting to view all theories and forms as aspects of one eternal truth and substance, even though Hindu religion has never yet disclosed within itself a cloudless summit to which its many paths may lead……” The author concludes optimistically that Hinduism may still achieve this in future ! John C. Archer (Yale), “Hinduism”. The Great Religions of Modern World ed., E. J. Jurji (New Jersey : Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 89.} rising uncompromisingly above many cloudy pinnacles. It felt that where everything is possible nothing can be predicated, and this position can only lead to the worst kind of relativising of good and evil. A few grieved over what they considered to be an arrestment in the development of Vedic religion. They surmised that had the mythology of Varuna been pursued to its logical end, Hinduism could have purged itself of its idolatry : 

….From these comparisons we see, how near

Varuna  came  to  being  a Rigvedic Yahweh,

“full  of  compassion  and  gracious,  slow  to

anger     and  plenteous  in  mercy”   (Exodus

XXXIV-6).  The   great    catastrophe  of  the

Babylonian Exile (586 B. C.) alone cured Israel

of polytheism and idolatry……{The authors regret that the promising start made in the Vedas came to nothing as Varuna subsequently dwindled into oblivion. The Religious Quest of India, eds. J. N. Farquhar and H. D. Griswold (Oxford University Press, 1923) pp. 350-335.}

The theistic West could not be expected to be patient with a tradition which countenanced on open-ended dialogue, lasting centuries, between the theism advocated by certain schools of thought and the Absolutism of Advaita. From the perspective of the tradition itself, however, such a debate was necessary in order to understand the central theme of the Upanishads. The best opinion, therefore, of Indian thought in the West at that time, was that the Sanskritic tradition had at times reached sublime heights of spirituality, as had other classical or pagan cultures, but that it had essentially remained untouched by the dimension of charity and thus unaware that “the Grace of God is still available to our undeserving,” {Charles Morgan, “The word Serenity”, The Writer and his world (London : Macmillan & Co. Ltd.,), p. 44. 

On the Indian side, because of their own traditional background, scholars were led to read such trends of thought into neo-Hegelianism or rather neo-Kantianism, which could not be sustained for long. The secularism inherent in German idealism was congenial neither to British theologians nor to Indian thinkers; yet the former attempted a compromise and the latter sought to build upon it as a means of communication in the realm of philosophical inquiry. The region of the sacred had proved to be divisive and recalcitrant material for philosophers to work on. Metaphysical speculations, on the other hand, were opening up undreamt of horizons so that every thinker could share in the same perspective and speak in a communicable language or so they thought.

The term ‘metaphysics’ in used here in the sense in which Kant was understood to have used it, that is to say, the region of the a priori which lies beyond the pale of any part of the constitutionality of human understanding. {Immarunel Kant. Critique of Pure Reason, tr. by Norman Kemp Smith. Preface to Second Edition B XXX, ff.} The Critique of Pure Reason was understood in India to be a refutation of skepticism and not of metaphysics. The noumenon was the antithesis of the phenomenal series and could not be brought into the series. It remains the Unknown which spurs the intellect to greater efforts. Kant had said that the ideas of reason were regulative and therefore, the quest for the Unknown (but not the Unknowable) was not closed. The efforts toward circumventing Kant’s agnosticism (which British idealism had re-affirmed) seemed a legitimate occupation for philosophers; Kant had confined contradiction to the antinomies of reason. This was congenial to Indian thought. Hegel, on the other hand, needed to be denied because he broke open the antinomies and posited the contradiction within the heart of reality itself.

What the Indian thinkers failed to see, in which they were by no means alone, was overcoming of metaphysics which ay concealed in the core of German idealism. Once Kant had transferred ontology to the region of the will from the realm of knowability, the beginning of the end of metaphysics was stated. The well-known restrictions which Kant explained, conditioned reason, in order that a faith beyond reason may prevail, only created a gap which was filled by the will of man complying to the ‘categorical imperative’ of an ethical life, making faith superfluous. The results of the tremendous supremacy given to human will can be assessed by a review of the Kantian studies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the West. The West in a way, lived out the full explication of all that lay implicit in Kent’s critical philosophy and considered him to be the father of modern liberalism. As Kantian studies began to draw their own logical conclusions, Indian scholars came to a parting of the ways because the destruction of metaphysics, had neither been foreseen nor could be appropriated by them. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and also Existentialism and Phenomenology which followed in the wake of Kant and Hegel, were faithfully included in course of studied, but cannot be said to have acquired relevance in the Indian context.


B.   Neo-Vedanta as a Dimension of Apologetics.


A parting of the ways came about in more ways than one. The utter lack of understanding evinced in the West of the best thoughts of India, awakened the awareness of a closer connection between tradition and philosophy than had been so far allowed should have given rise to a new dimension in the understanding of their own text not in the context of Western metaphysics but in the context of the Westernization which was taking place. One cannot say that this happened in India. Instead what look place was in a sense a second phase in the development of comparative studies brought about by the realization that Indian philosophy was being misinterpreted by its Western exponents. S. Radhakrishnan pioneered the attitude of polemical defense which had the merit of bringing Eastern thought to the notice of Western Universities in an unprecedented manner. {C. E. M. Joad. Counter Attack from the East, A Philosophy of Radhakrishnan (London : George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1938). In this book the author described the immense popularity of Radhakrishnan’s lectures in England and how the halls where he delivered them were crowed to overflowing.} His vigorous self-analysis also commended itself to the younger generation of Indian scholars who without leaving the anchorage of the tradition wished to move with the times. Writing in the History of Philosophy, Eastern and Western, sponsored by Radhakrishnan as the Vice-President of India, P. T. Raju and K. A. Hakim maintained that :

India now is not merely reviving but reflecting

upon  and  re-interpreting  its  past, its religion,

its  philosophy,   its  social   and  ethical forms;

some  of   which   it   is  discarding,  some  it is

explaining  away,  and  the  rest  it is reshaping.

It  is  thus   showing its  great  potentialities for

progress, which is ultimately due to  the plastic

nature   of   its    spiritual    culture   capable of

change and adaptation. This  is what  Macnicol

calls  the   ‘omnivorous capacity’ of  Hinduism,

which  has   eluded   the  grasp   of most  of  its

Western   critics,   who  try   to  identify  it with

some  of   its   external   and   accidental  forms,

without  understanding  its  essential spirituality

which  has  assumed   divergent  external  forms

to  suit  changing  circumstance.  Many    writes,

both   historians  and  philosophers wonder  how

Indian   culture  could   have  survived   impacts,

attacks,   conflicts   and   convulsions  of    more

than   four  thousand years.  The  reason   lies   in

the  adaptable  nature  of  its  essentially   plastic

Spiritual basis. {History of Philosophy, Eastern & Western, eds. S. Radhakrishnan, et al., (1952), 1967, pp. 526-545, p. 526.}

The quotation given at length above is fairly representative of what has come to stay as the philosophic mood of the era. A will to cut away the deadwood of the tree of tradition and allow it to flourish again in the changed milieu of contemporary India is evident from the writings which profess a hard core of spiritual grounding together with an ongoing concern for the needs of the time. {The Proceeding of the All-Indian Philosophical Congress reflect this will toward a re-orientation. Almost every speech and every paper situates itself in the framework of Western thought, the rare exception being K. C. Bhattacharya’s Presidential Address to the Ninth Congress, “Concept of the Absolute and its Alternative Forms”, 1933-34, pp. 1-27.}

From the vantage point of the decades of the sixties and seventies, one can clearly see that although India did not consciously tread the path of the West’s experience of anguish and alienation foretold by Nietzsche, she did, by contrast, begin to take note of her own spiritual heritage and sought to incorporate it in her understanding of these increasingly secular times. Metaphysics came closer to religion. Many books promoting “The Contemporary Thought of India” included such figures as Swami Vivekananda, Shri Ramakrishna, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Ravindra Natha Tagore, etc., who had not previously affected the academic life of the Universities. {P. Nagaraga Rao, Contemporary Indian Philosophy (Bombay: Bharatiya Bhawan, 1970). (The author writes about Raja Rammohun Roy, Shri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, B. G. Tilak, R. Tagor, J. Nehru, S. Radhakrishnan, Vinoba Bhave and The Gita.)

Benoy Gopal Ray’s Contemporary Indian Philosophers (Allahabad, Kitabistan, 1947), mentions Raja Rammohun Roy, D. Tagore, K. C. Sen, Sri Ramakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda, R. Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo.

S. Radhakrishnan’s Great Indians (New Delhi: Kalyani Paperbacks, 1973) includes Maharishi Raman, Sri Paramhansa, Mahatma Gandhi and Ravindranath Tagore.} This could also be a response to the need for a new spiritual dimension in the West. We come across the phenomenon of a more broad-based enunciation of what philosophy is in India synchronizing with a loss of faith in its own tradition and religious philosophy in the West.

 India’s conscious emulation of the British tradition, on the other hand, remained unbroken in the Universities. Without a Moore and a Russell to lend meaning to the over throw of idealism, Indian Universities loyally followed the trends set by them and engaged in the problem of linguistic analysis and logical positivism. In England, a logical sequence can be seen in the progression of thought from neo-Hegelianism, through Bradley to Moore and Russell, Wittgenstein and Ayer; but with Indian scholars it was more a matter of taste and opportunity to study these philosophers rather than a logical development of thought, thus isolating them in a coterie which necessarily subsisted on itself without affecting the mainstream of philosophical enterprise either at home or abroad. This is so, not because of any serious lack in the quality of Indian scholarship but because linguistic problems are also rooted in the language which is the voice of tradition and thus are not easily appropriated by philosophers used to a different language-structure. {See Current Trends in Indian Philosophy, ed., K. Satchidananda Murty and K. Ramakrishna Rao. (Waltair: Andhra University Press, 1971). (The editors offer this book as the sequel to the contemporary Indian Philosophy published in 1936 by S. Radhakrishnan and J. H. Muirhead.) The articles in this volume are on Structuralism, Phenomenology Scientific humanism, Axionotics and other current topics in philosophy. The single article on Advaita Vedanta is by N. V. Banerji, who writes:

“In a way it (the Advaita Vedanta) dismisses the world of nature; and as already indicated, it admits the expansion of the ghost in the machine to the extent of infinity in the name of reaching absolute Truth (Brahman). In consequence science is lost to its antithesis nescience and man with all his problem disappears into a state where he is a stranger to name and form (nāma-rūpa) and indeed non-human {p. 35. (“Foundation of Advaita Vedanta”, pp. 23-36).}

So it would not be grossly mistaken to say that, in general the twentieth century in India is a period marked by a singular lack of authentic philosophic enterprise. Various thinkers admit this with regret, as for example, the group of eminent scholars, writing on the occasion of the beginning of a new Journal, acknowledged that “our contributions to Philosophy in recent times, barring a very few exceptions, have not at all been very significant”. {Editorial, Jijñāsā: The Journal of the Indian Academy of Philosophy (Calcutta: July 1961), vol. I, no. 1, p. 1 ed. By N. V. Banerji, Kalidas Bhattacharya, J. N. Chubb, R. Das, T. M. P. Mahadevan, T. R. V. Murti and N. A. Nikam. (The Academy was in existence for about seven years. It was started in order to fulfill the need of contributing to the contemporary world of philosophical thinking. There is a preponderance of article on Nyaya, Logic, The meaning of Meaning.(vol. II, 1963) and critical expositions of the philosophies of the West, e.g., de Chardin Spinoza, Rousseau, Husserl and Wittgenstein. (vol. IV & V, 1966, 1967). The fact of its discontinuity is self-explanatory.}

The philosophical scene of modern India despite such avowals continues to be in disarray to say the least. The rich tradition of hermeneutical exegeses of Sanskrit philosophical texts remains with Sanskrit scholars without finding a significant place in the intellectual life of the people still being trained by a secularized system of education which is kept studiedly secular for political reason. No appropriate methodology has been evolved in this country for understanding the ancient heritage. The historical or philological methods in use are applied with no clear methodological circumspection yielding the same type of result as were obtained by European Indologists a century ago. The tragic overtone of this misadventure in self-understanding lies in the fact that, in effect, Indian scholars are to this day trying to answer the charges laid against their tradition by Indologists of the nineteenth century. All these charge are summarized in Radhakrishnan’s masterly parse:

It (Hinduism) is intellectually incoherent and

 ethically unsound. {“The Spirit of man”, Contemporary Indian Philosophy, op. cit., p. 475. Resent publications from Indian Universities on subjects of philosophy and religion generally reflect this trend and a scrutiny of doctoral dissertations specifically from the Departments of Sanskrit and Philosophy recent decades will support the critique made here.}

The charge of intellectual incoherence arose largely out of unfamiliarity with the methodology of the treatises in Sanskrit and the meeting of it was a matter of making available to the English speaking world the details of the philosophical literature in its breadth and depth. Such a necessity for highlighting the epistemological core of Vedanta thought was felt keenly and many scholars, notably A. C. Mukerji of the Allahabad  University, made it their life’s work to state it in a language not lacking in cognitive value for the understanding of those not belonging to the tradition. A. C. Mukerji and other like minded men, coming across the writings of the Western philosophers, saw no reason to fear that their rendering of their own thoughts would be considered less than adequate in Western Universities. It was his conviction that the epistemological base of Advaita philosophy would make it comprehensible to philosophers belonging to different traditions of other languages.

The second charge, viz., ethical unsoundness, was based upon a basic problem. Any philosophy extolling a separation of ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ must necessarily lead to a trivializing of the world and thus a lessening of the sense of involvement in it. The West could not but hold in abhorrence an ideal of renunciation in which they saw a syndrome of apathy, moral ineptitude and defeatism. Indian scholars with one voice contested this interpretation by illustrating that the world was not negated in Vedanta philosophy but only denied ontological priority. Kokileshvar Bhattacharya, of the Calcutta University, was one of the first Neo-Vedantins who made a systematic attempt to give a realistic interpretation to Advaita philosophy to contain such criticisms against the Vedanta Philosophy. This reversal of the classical theory of māyā made a great impact on other scholars, notably S. Radhakrishnan.

Thus we see that Neo-Vedanta came into existence almost as an apology for and a defense of classical Vedanta. Nowhere is to be found a voice asking for a disengagement of issues at this stage. All eminent scholars of the time set themselves to the task of interpreting Vedanta in Western terminology. A. C. Mukerji writes,

By Neo-Vedantism we  mean  here  to   character-

ize   an    important   tendency  in  Indian  thought

which has arisen  for  the  attempt  to   re-interpret 

Sankara’s  absolute   monism  in   the   light  of

modern   idealistic  or    absolutist    thought.  It

consists essentially in so interpreting Sankara’s

thought  as  to  make it  less  obnoxious  to   the

           charge that Sankara’s absolutism  is  vitiated  by

the fallacy of bare identity. {A. C. Mukerji, Self, thought and Reality (Allahabad: The Juvenile Press, 1933) p. 388.}

Thus we see that the necessity of defending Vedanta against the attack of Indologists who were interpreting it to the West brought into existence the school of thought known as Neo-Vedanta. The two major charges which implied other minor ones, were that Indian philosophy was akin to mysticism and that it was devoid of an ethical foundation, the best minds of the time became preoccupied with the task of setting aside these criticisms. It is apparent that they felt the need for a reevaluation of Vedanta in the light of the demands of reason and morality as stated by the West.

Chapter Six and Seven are devoted to detailed analyses of Neo-Vedantic presentations by A. C. Mukerji and Kokileshwar Bhattacharya. The former was reputed to have given a cogent rationalistic basis to Vedanta and the latter a very plausible realistic one. These Scholars although not as well known as for example, Radhakrishnan are nevertheless important as pioneering a new school of philosophy for contemporary India. A study of their writings is very rewarding because we may see now in perspective very clearly, that the freedom (mokşa)-oriented philosophy of Advaita was eclipsed under a vein of apologetics which added nothing to the traditional mode of understanding this school of thought. In trying to present Vedanta to the West in a form which would be acceptable to it, the best type of the scholarly mind in India was tempted into following a path which tragically lead nowhere, because the classical description of Brahman as Sat (Reality), Cit (Consciousness) and Ānanda (Bliss) was fragmented here. There were other such exegeses on Consciousness and Reality but no attempt to bring in Bliss as rounding off the soteriology of Vedanta. This step in self-forgetfulness was never retraced by Indian scholars.





                                          CHAPTER SIX


Intuitions as a Category of thought in Vedanta: A. C. Mukerji



Intuitions as a Category of thought in Vedanta: A. C. Mukerji {The following abbreviations are used in this Chapter for citing from the writings of A. C. Mukerji ;

Bl “British Idealism”, History of Philosophy, Eastern and Western, Vol. II, ed. S.

       Radhakrishnan et al. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1953) pp. 299-316.

CM “The Crux of Monism”, The Philosophical, Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1965, pp, 1-14.

HP “Human Personality,” Human Personality,” Presidential Address: The Twenty-Sixth

       Indian Philosophical Congress Poona, 1951.

Idealistic Trends, “Idealistic Trends of Contemporary India,” The Philosophical Quarterly,

       Vol. 33, No.2, 1960, pp. 111-12.

N of S The nature of Self, (Allahabad: The Indian Press, 1938), 1943.

Some Aspects, “Some Aspect of the Absolutism of Shankaracharya (a comparison between  

                   Shankara and Hegel)” The University of Allahabad Studies Vol. IV, 1928, pp. 375-429.}

S’S Theory, “Shankara’s Theory of Consciousness,” The University of Allahabad Studies,

       Vol. XIII 1937, pp. 43-59.

STR Self, Thought and Reality (Allahabad: The Juvenile Press, 1933, 1957).

The U &  PN “The Unconditioned and Pure Nothing,” The University of Allahabad Studies,

      Vol. XXVII, 1951, pp. 1-21.}

A.C. Mukerji’s sensitivity to what was taking place in the academic field in India, is very apparent in his writings. Like many other men of his time and position, he was vulnerable to the numerous unthinking evaluations of Indian thought and yet he did not allow this to affect his openness to the Philosophical insights of men of other countries. {“I am fully aware of the general attitude of scorn and contempt, of distrust and discouragement, that has brought discredit upon the contemporary India thinkers from within and outside India ………” HP p. 1.} He had very deep appreciation of his own tradition which he sought to express in the contemporary language of academic philosophy. His main interests centred round the problem of the Self. He wrote:

In India specially where life  and  philosophy

were  never  separated  from each other,   the

attainment   of   the   ultimate   Purpose     of

Existence  was  made  conditional on a  right

solution  of  this supreme problem, while  all

other  philosophical  discussions  owed  their

value  to  the  right  they  could  throw on the

nature  of  self  and the method of self-know-

ledge. {N of S, p. 5.}

A. C. Mukerji believed further that a critical appraisal of Vedanta philosophy was required for the modern age rather than a continuation of the tradition of exegeses. {Indian philosophy has only succeeded in rousing antiquarian interest, and, even when admired, the admiration is almost like what is excited by the mummies in a museum. Yet, like most of the Indian systems, Samkara’s analysis of experience if approached in the critical rather than the exegetic spirit, would throw a flood of light on some of the perennial issues of epistemology and metaphysics……..” N of S. p. viii (Preface to the 2nd edition, 1943).}

He was impatient of the ‘so called lovers of” the ancient indigenous wisdom of the forest sages “who deplored modern rendering of this wisdom” and thought that “(they) should be made aware of the similar insights of others outside their country,” {The U & PN, p. 8.}

It was his conviction that inspiration could be drawn from all such thinkers of the past, who had grappled with the problem of the Self. A modern reconstruction of the problem, as far as he was concerned, could not fail to take into account the contributions of past thinkers, Eastern, as well as Western. “I am not one of those” he wrote, “who believes that Indian Philosophy contain wisdom which is unsurpassed and unsurpassable.” {CM, p.1.}

On account of this independent approach to Advaita philosophy,,, it becomes rather difficult to define A. C. Mukerji’s philosophical standpoint because, firstly, although he did not object to the term ‘idealist’, {“Now idealism, as we understand it and shall try to defend here, is the belief or doctrine according to which thought is the medium of the self-expression of Reality; or, to put it from the other side, Reality is such as must necessarily express itself through the ideal or ideals that are organic to the knower’s intellectual equipment which may be called thought or reason.” STR, p. 35.} His critique of idealistic trends, Eastern as well as Western, remained very sustained over a period of more than forty years. Secondly, his most distinguishing contribution to the philosophy of contemporary India can be said to be his vindication of intuition as indispensable to knowledge. It is therefore, perhaps better to say that he followed a rather solitary course, going neither with the traditionalists, nor with those neo-Vedantins, who sought to give the kind of new image to Advaita philosophy which could be more in keeping with the realistic trends of the time. {STR, p.371.}

A. C. Mukerji’s distinctly polemical style of writing is without doubt the outcome of the demands of his age. He was caught up between two different types of contemporary interpretation of the Vedanta, and neither was acceptable to him. He could not agree with those, who following the lead of Paul Deussen understood Vedanta, in the light of neo-Kantianism; {“The Advaita Absolute, it is generally believed, is something unknowable and inconceivable, and falls entirely beyond the ambit of ordinary experience, and so far it is supposed to be analogous to the ‘thing-in itself’ of Kant. This agnostic interpretation of Samkra was started by no less an authority than Paul Deussen who did so much for the spread and appreciation of the Advaita speculations, and whose work on the Upanishads and the Advaita Vedanta are justly regarded as pioneer works in the field of Indian philosophy……Dr. S. N. Dasgupta remarks that ‘if we look at Greek philosophy in Parmenides and Plato, or at modern philosophy in Kant, we find the same tendency towards glorifying one unspeakable entity as the Reality or the Essence. N of S. pp. 370-371. Quote from S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy Vol. I, p. 42.} and he was totally out of sympathy with such Indian scholars who attempted, what to him, amounted to reconciliation with criticisms. { A. C. Mukerji refers to Radhakrishnan’s early views regarding māyā in Advaita. Some Aspects pp. 420-423. Also to Kokileshvar Bhattacharya’s realistic interpretation of Vedanta. STR, P. 371.}


A. The Aim and Method of A. c. Mukerji’s Philosophy :


The things that he desired most was the development of a common platform where philosophical problems could be discussed with understanding and mutual benefit. At one stage of his philosophical development, he wrote with some optimism :

The  days   have  certainly  gone when a country

could  profitable   limit  itself  within its geogra-

phical   frontiers  even  in the matter of philoso-

phical  speculations.  We  have all to realize that

the  physical  boundaries and welded the nations

into  one  concrete whole in which every culture

has made and is still capable of making valuable

                        contribution. {Idealistic Trends, p. 11.}

This optimism, however, gradually gave way in the face of the total indifference to Indian thought he met with in his professional career. He came to feel almost a despair regarding philosophical understanding amongst reasonable man of disparate cultures. He has given expression to this awareness of isolation as far as Indian philosophy is concerned in one of his later papers. “The Crux of Monism”. {“The Crux of Monism,” Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 38, No.2 1965, pp. 1-14.}

He had also came to realize that he was pleading the cause of philosophical thought in a world which was fast becoming responsive only to anti-intellectualisms. He kept in touch wit European thought and kept his mind open to the new trends of Existentialism and Phenomenology. {“University, Genuine Versus Suppositious”, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 4, 1966. And “The Empirical Legacy of British Idealism,” The Journal of the Indian Academy of Philosophy, Vol. V, 1966.}

This is reflected in his later writings which show an increasing awareness of the impossibility of the task he had set himself, namely, the establishment of a common pool of philosophical knowledge for the East and the west. It must be understood very clearly, however that he had not at any time advocated the comparative method in Philosophy. He was always very conscious of the dangers of facile comparisons between Eastern thought and Western philosophy. He wrote as early as in 1928 :

If he want to profit by thinking modern   problems

of  European  philosophy  in India terms,  without

misrepresentation  of  either  and yet with a consi-

derable  clarification  of both methods of  thought,

we must give up the practice of finding Kant  and

Hegel,  for  instance, in the Upanishads; there  are

misrepresentations  which  do not clarify  but con-

found problems……...The problems of  epistemo-

logy  and  the methods   of  proof  which came  to

prominence  with  Kant and  Hegel,  was  evolved

under  the  pressure  of   circumstance     radically

different from any that could exist in India. { Some Aspects, p. 379.}

This opinion remained unchanged throughout his career and he continued to express his doubts regarding attempts at comparative studies. {Idealistic Trends, pp. 113-114 (See his criticisms of P. N. Srivastava and P.T. Raju).} It may seem surprising that A.C. Mukerji should have depreciated the comparative method, when he himself constantly drew parallels from the writings of Kant., Bradley, T. H. Green, and others, to illustrate various points of his own rendering of monistic thought. This seeming inconsistency, one may observe, is not quite un-amenable to an explanation. He thought he detected in the history of Western philosophy, which had reached its high-water mark, according to him, in the philosophy of Kant, the same quest for a  knowledge of the Self (albeit not consciously) which was the activating principle for Indian philosophy. {N of S, p. 328} What he attempted to do was to look at the history of Western metaphysics from the perspective peculiar to Vedanta philosophy, which, obviously was not how Western philosophy understood itself. It was his conviction that many thinkers of the West in pursuing the demands of coherent thought had come close to the awareness of the non-relational Self; but this position according to him, had never come to be stabilized as it were, due to an initial distrust of the “Unknown” which was supposed to be identical with “Unknowable” and Hegel’s insistence that all meaning was mediated. It was his modest ambition to make explicit this implication in Western thought. In T. H. Green’s “unconditioned conscious principle” he saw a shadow of the concept of Self as described in Indian texts. {Ibid., p. 323.} Similarly, according to him Caird by admitting that the correlativity of the object and subject is a correlativity for the subject, pointed to the over-reaching Self beyond this duality. {N of S, p.332.} He interpreted the thoughts of Haldane also in this manner. {Ibid., p. 326.} It must not be supposed however that A. C. Mukerji was arguing for parallelism or a convergence of the two trends of thought. He was careful to point out the divergences inherent in either system. He wrote:

Problems  of  philosophy,  it is   important     to

realize, are intimately connected with the  spirit

of  the  age  and  the  intellectual  tradition  of a

nation. {Some Aspects, p. 376.}

He also would not have subscribe to the claims of a Perennial Philosophy which according to him would have belonged more naturally to the region of mysticism. So he used the comparative method (with the above proviso in mind) because he did believe in “the essential identity of dialectical processes in different words of thought.” {Ibid., p. 376.} He did not doubt the unitary character of our contemporary world and on the Indian side pleaded for the recognition of the epistemology of Vedanta as epistemology in its own right. He took great pain to establish that it was neither a brand of agnosticism nor mysticism {Ibid., p. 377.} but that it was perfectly in accord with the demands of coherent thinking which would repay the study of contemplative minds. He did not doubt that knowledge of Vedanta philosophy could enrich the intellectual life of the West, just as Western metaphysics had stimulated the thinking of the East. He was aiming at reciprocity and mutual understanding, which he felt was justified under the circumstances. He wrote.

The   object of   comparative   study in   philosophy,

we   believe,    is     to    discover       the     dialectic

movements    of    universal  thought;  but  this   will

remain  a far-off dream  or  a  mere  pious  wish   till

the   different   interpretations  are  dragged  out   of

their  subjective  seclusion  in  the  enjoyment of  an

oracular prestige {A reference, no doubt, to Hegel.}

into the region of objective criticism…….what is

wanted is a spirit of cooperation……..{Some Aspects, p. 375.}

His task as understood by himself, therefore, was twofold : firstly to creatively interpret the history of Western metaphysics as developing toward an uncovering of the Self as the ultimate knower and secondly, to interpret the methodology of the Vedanta in accordance with the demands of rational thought alone. He envisaged his enterprise as the lying bare of what lay implicit in Western as well as Eastern thought. The self as ultimate knower lay concealed in Western philosophical thought; similarly the crucial role of reason in India speculations was overlaid by constant reference to the sacred texts. The thematising of both possibilities, A. C. Mukerji felt could not but create a commensurable language adequate for an exchange of philosophical thought. When his task is thus understood the parallelisms with which his writings abound and which are disconcerting in their range and profusion {As, for example: William James and the Mādhyamikā philosophers. N of S., pp. 121 ff.

Ramanuja and Pringle-Pattison. Ibid., p.148.

Samkara, Kant, Green and Suresvara on Memory. Ibid, p. 209, etc.} begin to acquire some meaning and significance. His aim was to acquaint the Western reader with concepts in Eastern thought. He was in effect trying to follow a methodology which proceeded from the familiar to the less familiar. He did not wish to minimize the historical context of any of the thinkers, but only to highlight the insights of great philosophic minds so that a greater light may be thrown on the problem of Self-knowledge. If the aim of philosophy is to establish the ultimate, with the help of relational knowledge then all efforts toward it, he felt could not but be mutually profitable.

In the following pages, I shall attempt an account of his basic position regarding the lying of a secure epistemological foundation for a theory of the Self. {STR, p. 6.} Firstly, I shall summarize his evaluation of the Kantian position and then state his understanding of the Advaita philosophy.


B. A.C. Mukerji’s Understanding of the Critical Philosophy:


A. C. Mukerji attached the greatest importance to the history of Western philosophy, especially the movement of thought from Hume to Kant. This epitomized for him a definitive answer to every kind of inductive procedure which sought to objectify the Self in order to explain the knowledge-situation. Hume’s critique of skepticism and Kant’s resolution of it, in his opinion, had established the irrepressible character of Self as knower. {STR, p. 20.} The naturalistic, empirical psychological or other realistic revivals of his day, he considered to be pale imitations of Hume who had touched the nadir of the matter, as it were, by reducing the Self to a series of impressions and causation to belief in the conjunction of events, Hume had developed to the full the methodology, according to him of arbitrary abstraction which did not do justice to the unitary character of our knowing process. It was his opinion that Hume in the West, had brought to a head the implications of all such theories which did not subscribe to the a priori nature of consciousness. A. C. Mukerji wrote: 

His (Hume’s)  method is everywhere the same.

He  picks   out  the   momentary  aspects of the

concrete  reality,    considers them  apart  from

each  other,   and   emphasizes  them  in  their

obstruct   character   to  such  an  extent   as  to

reduce   their  relation  and  unity   into  mere

illusion  or  words  without  meaning.     Hence

his  injunction  that  if  in  philosophy a    word

in  used  without  meaning,  the best  course  to

expose  it  is  to  ask  for  the impression   from

which the idea has been derived,.  Nominalism,

solipsism,    individualism,   and      scepticism,

which are  so  characteristic  of  Hume’s  works

are  but   the  natural  results  of  this    original

abstraction.{STR, pp. 16-22 Quoting Hume from Treatise, Sec. V, p. 222.}

According to A. C. Mukerji, all contemporary anti-idealistic tendencies derived their original inspiration (consciously or not) from Hume. All forms of presentationism which decentralized the knowing Self were variations of the basic Humean position. He maintained that nothing new was being said which was not to be found directly or by implication in Hume.{“The semblance of advance which they are generally supposed to have made is due to our not realizing the exact nature of Kant’s answer to Hume, the consequence being a repetition of the Humean fallacy,” STR, p. 13} To him it seemed amazing that, with the Critique of Pure Reason, staring them in the face, as it were, contemporary writers could hark back to imitations of Hume at best, because, nobody in the West in his opinion could improve upon Hume as a realist and a sceptic. He wrote:

The    general   impression   that   Hume’s  was  a

sensationalistic   philosophy    and     that     Kant

laid   bare   the   fallacy   of   the    philosophy  of

abstract    feeling    has    had     its        disastrous

consequence.   Unconscious    of     the      deeper

foundation   of  empiricism,  and       interpreting

Kant’s   criticism as  a  mere  intellectual    retort

to  sensationalistic  exaggeration,  contemporary

thinkers  have  fallen victim to the same  realistic

dogma which Hume thought it beyond his power

 to abandon and which Kant found  it beyond his

 power to accept.{STR, p. 15.}

Kant had pointed out that connections obtaining between atomic existence, entered into their intrinsic nature and were not external to them; “that each existence possessed a being not in its Self-seclusion or unrelatedness but in its Self-transcendence or relatedness to existence beyond itself,” {STR, p. 25.}

Kant had clearly distinguished the subject-object relation from all inter-objective relations. The subject is the ultimate presupposition of every object of knowledge. The spontaneity of Self-consciousness is established as a unity by the multiplicity of object which otherwise would be just chaos. The data of experience is sufficient to establish the a priori givenness of the Self as the knowing subject. The late appearance of Self-consciousness in a knowledge situation cannot take away form its logical priority. Self-consciousness is not a matter of temporal relation between one stage of development and another. {N of S, p. 56.} The truth is that no description can be made intelligible except in terms of these necessary principles of thought, i. e. categories. What he wished to stress here was (as Kant had pointed out) that there can be no comprehensible, recognizable or acceptable account of the presentations of facts of conscious knowledge without presupposing an extra-sensuous “unity of apperception”. Following Kant he agrees that there can be no knowledge without conceptual constructs, even if they are indefinite or obscure.

Kant’s account of the transcendental conditions of experience, must form, according to A. C. Mukerji, the only necessary conclusion of any theory of knowledge which begins with the separation of a subject and an object of knowledge. All genetic theories regarding the concepts of knowledge, therefore, should be considered refuted by Kant’s famous transcendental deduction of the categories. He totally endorsed the view that the categories are those constitutive principle of experience which necessarily make-up the frame work of human knowledge. {Some Aspects, p. 398.}

It must be clear that A. C. Mukerji continued to believe in the ultimately rational nature of man, despite all psychological, realistic and existential denouncements (of his day) to the country. He did not seek to avoid these challenges but devoted many pages to detailed analyses in refutation of all theories which sought thus to “decentralize” the Self from its position of the inescapable ultimate knower in any knowledge situation. His appreciation of the trends of his age are reflected in these words:

Our  age  in spite  of its love of Catholicism and

humanitarianism is in many respects essentially

individualistic………. In politics, it leads to the

theory  of   “natural right’,   which    essentially

undermines    the    foundation    of      political

obligation; in ethics, it  leads to individualistic

hedonism which ultimately dissolves morality

into  selfish  pursuit of pleasure;  in  religion  it

leads  to  pietism  which spurns all creeds and

insists on a non-ecclesiastical  or private form

of religion; and finally, in philosophy, it leads

to   skepticism   and   distrust   of  reason, thus

over-throwing   the   ultimate   principle      of

knowledge    and experience.     {STR, p. 11.}

He was also very conscious that these tendencies would not remain peculiar to the West for long. To him, the overthrow of the primary nature of thinking spelt a disaster could not be maximized because it would ultimately affect which the concept of human freedom. He wrote :

The only difference between the disaster which

is   awaiting  us  in  the near  future  and that of

an   earlier  age  appears  to  be  this  that  while

the  latter  affected  Europe alone, the effects of

the   present   ‘Aufklarung’   are   likely   to   be

coextensive   with  the    world.    {STR, p. 10.}

A. C. Mukerji, therefore quite openly subscribed to the so-called ‘Ego-centric Paradox’ and wrote that ego centricity was inescapable for men who must think their way through all that might befall them.{“Through man has, like every other thing of the world, a particular origin and history of his own, yet there is a sense in which all the barriers of time and space break down for him in so far as he is connected cognitively with the world as a whole which evidently includes and goes beyond the limited period and history of his earthly existence. In this sense, through historical through and through, he is the possessor of all eternity and of all reality.” N of S., p. 6.} His arguments against all experimental and inductive theories regarding the Self can be summarized in these words : All such theories must bring the Self forward as an object of study and interpretation. The Self must be substantiated in order to be studied. In other words the genesis of self-consciousness was post-experiential. Experience disclosed a subject and object and the awareness of the self as subject constituted self-consciousness. What was missed here was the fact, in his opinion, that self-consciousness was also a unity of thought, without which nothing would become intelligible. He wrote :

When, for instance, knowledge is reduced to  a

peculiar characteristic of the total process from

stimulus   to   reaction,   or    when  the self   is

described as the causal nexus among a series of

events, it is entirely forgotten that the  stimulus,

the  reaction or  the events  are  intelligible only

in   so   far  as his own  relation to  them  is  not

reducible  to   any  of   the   relations  that   may

be obtained  between  the  stimulus  and  the reaction,

and  in  so  far  as  he  himself  is  not the causal

nexus  of  events. {N of S, p. 13.}

A. C. Mukerji till the last remained convinced that a fair analysis of the knowledge-situation could not leave any reasonable man under any doubts as to the “presence in man of an unconditioned conscious principle that militates against the basic assumptions of naturalistic explanations.” The inescapable priority of thought, according to him, rendered futile all anti-intellectual trends which were beginning to gain currency in his time. They, at the very least, must satisfy the condition of conceivability. For this all inter-objective relations must be viewed as differing from the object-subject relationship. A series of particulars could not be resolved into knowledge of and about something which was not known to a knower.

So far according to A. C. Mukerji, one could easily employ the critical philosophy in refuting subjectivistic analyses of the self but thereafter a question could be raised whether the unity of apperception was conscious of its own identity or not; in other words, self-consciousness must presuppose a consciousness which was foundational and which could never be objectified. Kant, however, did not raise this point and so post-Kantian philosophy veered away in different directions which according to A. C. Mukerji did not quite do justice to his thought in this matter. The problem can be stated in these words as understood by A. C. Mukerji: If the unity of apperception was to remain irrevocably correlated to the objects of knowledge then nothing beyond an irreducible polarity had been established; if it was said that self-identity was beyond all categories then the first step towards agnosticism at best or infinite regress at worst was taken. Either consequence, that is, self-consciousness as a mediated unity, or as an unmediated thing-in-itself according to A.C. Mukerji, was gratuitous and need not follow from the Kantian position.

A. C. Mukerji interpreted Kant’s statement that unity of consciousness was not the category of unity to mean that he was here indicating the presence of a foundational awareness not exhausted in the self-consciousness of “I think.” {Idealistic Trends, p. 117.} It is of course a matter of common knowledge that Kant did not do more than state the unity as a possibility. A. C. Mukerji chose to see it, as the presupposition of a ground for self-identity. It was his endeavour to show that this region of possibility in Kant was the point of greatest convergence as well as divergence from Vedanta philosophy. It was also the only point of such convergence, because no other philosopher in the West, according to him, had so clearly come close to the positing of the transcendental Self which was beyond the categories of thought. As interpreted by A. C. Mukerji, Kant’s greatest contribution lay in the establishment of the possibility of the unconditioned. Kant’s successor’s, according to him, instead of developing this aspect of the critical philosophy proceeded in directions which set at naught the real insight of the philosophers. He pin-pointed the problem of Self-identity in this way: the problem would seem to arise from the attempt to hold together the knowability here of all categories; otherwise the supreme subject would at once become objectified, abandoning its foundational character.

The main reason for the transformation of the Kantian position, as is well known, lay in the Hegelian criticism of abstract identity. In the opinion of A. C. Mukerji, therefore, Hegel stood as the greatest contrast. {In this respect A. C. Mukerji differed from other Indian scholars who were influenced by the Hegelian philosophy in their enunciation of the Vedanta philosophy.} from the Indian position of ‘knowing’ the unmediated ground of all knowing. {“The relation between Hegel and Shankara in respect of their philosophical views, it has been our endeavour to make clear, is one of irreconcilable opposition.” Some Aspects, p. 420.} According to Hegel, he wrote, pure being is “the isolation of an abstraction which result from Being and Nothing being placed out of touch with each other………and to speak of a thing which is essentially inconceivable, is for him an indirect admission that it is not within the universe of reality,” {Ibid., p. 412.}

It will not be perhaps quite improper to say that Hegel’s legacy to the history of metaphysics is the dictum that “the essentially inconceivable is absolutely non-existent, for that which cannot stand as the subject of a significant proposition is a mere naught or void, and so when we indulge in the agnostic’s talks about the Real, we only amuse ourselves with empty words,” {Ibid., p. 413. it was the aim of A. C. Mukerji to highlight Hegel’s total rejection of an unmediated pure being in order to suggest to his colleagues that any attempts at reconciliation as, for example, the theory of a restored unity, would be futile. Ibid., pp. 420-23.}

In order to clarify A. C. Mukerji position, it may be said that he agreed with Kant that the ultimate knower was beyond all relational categories but disagreed with what became a logical corollary to the Kantian position that such a knower could only be a thing-in itself and therefore at best an agnostic’s enigma. Agnosticism, according to A. C. Mukerji, was an unacceptable philosophical position because it set limits to thought and left open every kind of possibility for mysticism. { C M, p. 3.} A. C. Mukerji was very emphatic in his rejection of agnosticism and the mysticism which may follow in its wake. He wrote : “…………..a complete discontinuity between the knowable and the unknowable the thinkable and the unthinkable, is an impossible and unprofitable contrivance……...” {U & P N, p. 5.}




C.  “The Role of Reasoning in Advaita Philosophy”


“The Role of Reasoning in Advaita Philosophy” {this is the title of a paper contributed to The Allahabad University Studies, Vol. XII, 1936, pp. 117-129.} In view of the fact agnosticism and mysticism are more naturally associated with Indian thought, A. C. Mukerji’s main aim was precisely to prepare the ground for an exposition of the place of reason in Advaita philosophy.

According to A. C. Mukerji, the most significant contribution of Indian epistemology was to the effect that “the unmediated is not in every case, an abstraction”, {C M, p. 8.} or rather, in one unique case, it is the ultimate reality. For him, the peculiarity of Upanishadic thought consisted in its offer of a “reasoned solution of an irrational problem”. {C M, p. 2.}  He saw reasoned understanding as the inescapable propaedeutic toward the final vision of self-realization. He formulated the problem of Upanishadic thought in these words :

The problem of the Upanishads is…..of establishing

 by means of  reasoning  of  reasoning that which is

yet     taken     to     be     beyond     the     processes     of

reasoning.      How    can    three   be    reasoned     know-

ledge   of    the     supra-rational    principle ?     How    is  

philosophy       of      the        unconditioned      possible ? 

The      answer      to     this      apparently      paradoxical

question     constitutes      the       Upanishadic       contri-

bution   of     the    world.    {C M, p. 2.}

A. C. Mukerji saw the problem of epistemology as an attempt at establishing the ground of the possibility of all knowledge without polarizing it into a subject-object relationalship; to envisage a pure consciousness which is beyond self-consciousness. His understanding of the cognitive situation is mainly derived from an interpretative analysis of the following Upanishadic text : {N of S, p. 24.}

Yenedam sarvam vijānati tam kena vijānīyāt;

Vijñātāram are kena vijānīyāt.

                                              Br. II. 4-14; III. 8. 11.

(who can know that, be which everything is known;

My dear, how should the Knower be known?)

This text, he held it to be the crux of the matter. The role of epistemology was to establish the cogency of the all-knowing, unknowable Self, a unity by which diversity was repelled and yet was made possible . The entire thrust of the Advaita epistemology, according to A. C. Mukerji, was directed toward establishing the foundational character of consciousness which was indirectly envisaged by the metaphysics  ‘I’ or subject. The self, therefore, occupied a pivotal place “in as much as all objects owe their meaning and significance to the relations in which they stand to the Self that essentially is consciousness”. {.N of S, p.120.} Further, “the Self is consciousness,” {Ibid., p. 271.} so that the question of the bifurcation and yet undeniable {ibid., p. 270.} because it was the ultimate pre-supposition of all knowable objects. {ibid., p. 271.} A. C. Mukerji quoting from Samkaracarya’s commentary on Chhāndogya-Upanişad VIII, 12.5., wrote: The Self…….is not an agent of the activity of knowledge; on the country, it is essentially knowledge, knowledge, that is, is its very essence.” {ibid., p. 232.} he continues :

This whole passage, when literally  translated,

would   run  as  follow :  The self’s agency of

knowledge is  its mere  existence, and  not  its

activity; just as the Sun’s agency of revelation

is its mere existence, and not a function. {ibid., p. 232.}

A. C. Mukerji emphasized the centrality of consciousness as the most important point of Advaita epistemology Consciousness was the prius of reality in as much as there could be no object of knowledge which remained unrelated to it. Quoting from the commentary of Samkaracarya on Praśñopişad VI. 2., he wrote that changes in the objects do not preclude the fact of an unchanging consciousness and even, that something is not known cannot be proved in the absence of knowledge. He cited the following passages : ‘None can prove something that is not known, and the attempt to prove it would be as absurd as to maintain that there is no eye though from is apprehended,’ Further, ‘Even when something is supposed to be non-existent, this very non-existent cannot be proved in the absence of knowledge.’{S, s Theory, pp. 44-45.}

The presence of an all-encompassing consciousness must, therefore, be carefully distinguished from the order of the known. The crux of monism was to hold together the centralitiy of consciousness together with its totally unobjectifiable nature. Referring to Samkaracarya’s commentary on Kenopanişad 12, A. C. Mukerji brought the two characteristics together and emphasized that they must always remain so. He wrote:

It   is   from   this   stand-point  the  Self  is  also

Describe   as   the   Sākşi   which   witnesses  all

objects and all changes in the objects, it is sarva

 pratyayadarśī and citsākşisvarūpamātra………

This  is   excellently  expressed  by     Sureśvara

(Naişkarmyasiddhi IV. 3)  when  he remarks that

the  self  and  the not-self  are  established in  the

world  through  perception  and  other means  of

knowledge  but  the  not-self  is  in   every   case

established  only  on  the  presupposition  of  the

existence  of  the  self. {S’s Theory, p. 46.}

A. C. Mukerji followed the lead of Samkaracarya in order to establish the cogency of the unobjectifiable Self, the supreme reality which was the ground of all knowledge. There was a continuity between coherent thought and its presupposition which was not an “other” but the very heart of the matter. The foundational reality, therefore, inseparable from thinking which flowed from it, could not be appended at the other end of the explanation. That which made all explanations possible, that itself could not be made the object of explanation. He wrote:

A  Reality  literally  beyond   all  thought  and

speech  as  the  critics  of   agnosticism    have

repeatedly urged, may be anything you please,

and therefore, nothing at all…………..It is not

through bifurcating the world into the  rational

and  superrational  or  the  intellectual  and the

ultra-intellectual   that   a   philosophy  of   the

unconditioned  can  find  a  secure basis for its

construction………..{The  U &  PN,  pp. 2-3.}

The ground of all knowledge was not related to the order of the known, as the objects were related to each other, {‘The unity of the whole is not dissipated or destructed through its manifestation in the parts. On the country, their plurality or internal difference is preserved through and on account of the unity of the whole.’ The U & PN, p. 12.} and therefore could not be brought under the jurisdiction of discursive thought (buddhi) which according to Samkaracarya was the category hiding the tripartite division of ‘knower, known and knowledge’. Knowledge was not a matter of comprehension between two entities, it was rather the unity within which inter-objective relations became meaningful.

Now the question which naturally arises here is how may discursive thinking overreach itself to disclose the ground on which it stands? A. C. Mukerji followed Samkaracarya’s commentary on Brahma Sūtra 1. 1. 12 and Chhāndogya Upanişad VII. 1. 3. {N of S, pp. 337-38.} to elucidate the method of adhyāropāpavāda of Vedanta literature. He wrote:

This  method  of  aiding  the  discursive  under-

standing to  form a tolerably  clear  idea  of  the

unconditioned    principle   is    known    in  the

Advaita literature as the method  of  adhyāropā

pavāda  or  that  of  figurative  superimposition,

followed  by  subsequent  negation.  { N of S, p. 338.}

Samkaracarya gave the example of a king’s invisible presence, indicated by his visible insignia; so may the presence of the Self be indicated by attributing functions to it as ‘knowing’ etc. Only in the sense of ‘as if ’ {Ibid., p. 338.} The “knowing” is not really a function of the Self. The knowing by transforming itself into a discriminatory process may, by the negative method, become an indicator to the actual presence of the Self. The ‘knowledge” of self is an intuitive realization, rather than a matter of discursive reasoning.

Thought, for Samkaracarya, according to A. C. Mukerji is not an organ of Truth but is the indispensable and necessary generative condition of the ultimate intuition and consequently indispensable as a discipline which sets limits to itself. {Some Aspect, p. 389.}

It will not be out of place here, to cite, somewhat at length A. C. Mukerji’s own words as to what he considered to be the real core of the difference between Western philosophy and Upanishadic thought:

The  conclusion  then  appears  to  be inevitable

that  the real  strength  of the  orthodox systems

of  philosophy in general and that of Vedantism

in   particular    lies    in    certain    types    of 

intuitional experiences which furnish the actual

foundation  of   knowledge   and  belief.     And 

here   we  come  upon    the   most    deep-lying  

contrast   between Indian  philosophy  and  that 

aspect  of  Western speculation which,  inaugu-

rated  by  the  anti-scholastic  respect for reason 

as   the   Supreme  court of appeal in  matters of  

knowledge crystallized into the epistemological

doctrine  of   Kant,   and   Hegel   and   all other

subsequent  philosophers  of   the West.  Judged 

from  this  standpoint,  we must candidly  admit

that the appeal to  the  Vedas   does  involve    a 

reference,  to   an  extra-philosophical  standard.

Of  course,  every  man is  free   to  define philo-

sophy   in  his  own way, and  we should  not be 

denied the  right of   so  conceiving   philosophy 

as to  place  intuitional  experience  in  the  very

centre    of  our  metaphysical   adventures.  But 

then we  must   be   careful   not   to  impair  the

centrality of  these  experience by the  desire  to

find  for  them  a place in  a rational  scheme  of

the universe. {Some Aspects, pp. 383-94.}

These words, in effect, summarize his own philosophical position. He was not attempting a rational justification of Advaita thought. He was trying to establish a continuity of thought between reason and intuition, and here he saw the possibility of mutual help deriving from Eastern and Western traditions. The West has a long history of the emergence of the Noumenon as the unknowable, culminating in Kant. The East according to him began with the givenness of the Unknown but not the unknowable, Noumenon which it subsequently sought to appropriate by reasoned understanding and contemplative intuition. He believed that the passage from self-consciousness to Consciousness, (which as he understood the matter, in the West was broken by agnosticism or blocked by phenomenology) was kept open in the Indian tradition by the Vedantic position of monism or complete identity of knowledge and experience. He demonstrated in detail, in his various writings that this position could be defended against criticism from the points of view which advocated some form or other of identity-in difference. Briefly, he saw Samkaracarya’s position as a reasoned justification of intuition as a necessary and unavoidable step toward the experience of Self-Knowledge. He believed that the epistemological foundation of idealistic thought in the West could open the way to a greater understanding of the Upanishadic heritage as a system of thought and not merely as a piece of mythological literature.



                                                               CHAPTER SEVEN


The World as Real in Vedanta


RE-Interpreting Samkara


Re-Interpreting Samkara {It is to be noted that this author uses the shortened ‘Samkara’ rather than Samkaracarya. Since this name is used by very often, I have used it in this variation for this Chapter to avoid confusion.

Some of the works of Bhattacharya have been abbreviated in this and in the following Chapter as follows:

An Intro—an Introduction to Vedanta Philosophy (Calcutta: n. d.)

Divine Purpose—‘Divine Purpose in Samkara-Vedanta”, (Calcutta Oriental Journal, Vol. II, no. 9. 1935), pp. 205-214.

Interpretation— ‘An Interpretation of Samkara’s Doctrine of Māyā, K. B. Pathak Commemoration

                            Volume (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1934) pp. 159-165.                       

MSV—‘Maya in Samkara-Vedanta, its objectivity’, (Poona Oriental Society Journal, no. 37, 1939) pp.


SVL—Sree Gopal   Basu-Mallick Lectures  (1930-31), (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1932).

Vidya—‘Vidya and Avidya’, (Calcutta Oriental Journal, Vol. I no. 12, 1934) pp. 351-358.

WSP—‘Was Samkara a Pantheist?’  (Review of Philosophy and Religion, Vol. III no., 1 1932) pp. 1-12.}

Kokileshwar Bhattacharya came to the study of Vedanta through Sanskrit. He belonged to an earlier generation of scholars and was one of those who felt called upon to face squarely the challenge to his own tradition. He sets forth the aim of his works in the clearest words:

Most of the writers on   Samkara-Vedanta have

dwelt almost exclusively upon the    traditional

illusory aspect and have tended to  relegate  its

realistic  aspect   to  the  background.  I    have

found   it  necessary  to  refuse  to  aspect    the

traditional  ascetic interpretation  alone  to  the

entire neglect and inexcusable exclusion of the

realistic;  because  it  seemed  to  me  that   the 

realistic side was very prominent in Samkara’s

own mind  and  I  have conceived  it  to  be my

duty  to  try  to  present  a concise  account   of

his  philosophy  in  its   realistic  and  objective

truthfulness   with  constant   reference   to  the

original   sources. {SBL, p. 5.}

Bhattacharya states that his aim is to refute the charge that in the Advaita system, the world is treated as illusory, as mere appearance, {An Intro., p. 86.} that Brahma(n) is a ‘difference less pantheistic empty  void ’; that it has nothing to contribute toward conduct of life in human society.

{Ibid., p. 127.} Elsewhere in this context he refers to Paul Deussen’ s opinion that Samkara’s exegesis of the following well-known text led to the theory of illusionism. ‘Just as, my dear by one clod of clay all that is made of clay becomes known, the modifications being only a name arising from speech while the truth is that it is just clay.’ (Chh. VI. 1. 4). He writes:

This  at  least  is Deussen’ s interpretation and

he   sees   here  in  this celebrated  passage the

germ of illusion-theory which has become the

basis  through its adoption by Samkara, of the

orthodox Vedanta system. {Interpretation, p. 159.}

Bhattacharya agrees with Deussen in this opinion but seeks to show that Samkara’s writings on this Text as well as other like passages can be construed differently thereby doing greater justice to the acharya’s philosophy. According to him the reason for inaccuracy in modern interpretations of the great māyā-vāda, both in India as well as in Europe, lies in imperfect knowledge of the writings of Samkara. {SBL, p. 7.} He writes:

It has also been held by some that the Māyā-

Vādaas is found in the Samkara System was

the creation  of  his  own fertile brain and it

has  no  sanction  and  support  in  the   most

ancient Upanishads and in the Brahma-Sutra. {Ibid., p.3.}

it is the aim of Bhattacharya to establish the fact that although it is true that the idea of the ideality of the world could be derived from Samkara’s writings, careful scrutiny would reveal it not to be his intended meaning-“It is most erroneous to suppose as has been done my many,” he says, “that in order to retain the unity of Brahman, Samkara has abolished the world as false.” {Ibid., p. 198 ff.} It would be equally unfair to ascribe pantheism to his philosophy as has been done by many critics. {WSP. Pp. 2-4. (The quotations are not documented by the author.) } He quotes Dr. Galloway:

Even    the   distinction   of   worshipper   and

worshipped  dwindles  and  fades,  till  Hindu

thinker   recognized   that  he   was  one  with

All,  with Brahman.  The  very appearance of

difference is explained away, it is the product

of  illusion. The  Vedanta is a strict Pantheism.

Also, Dr. Flint,

Along with he affirmation of an impersonal

God ,  there is  the negative of the reality of

the worlds-both of sense and consciousness.

In  other words,  the issue  of  this  kind   of

pantheism  is  a-cosmism.  But pantheism is

just     as    likely    to     issue     in     theism.

It becomes clear form reading such introductory remarks to his writings that his interpretation of Vedanta took shape out of the need to answer these criticisms. All exegeses written in his time, it may be said, were in fact answers to the charges of pantheism on the one hand and world-negation on the other. It is interesting to note in this context that Indian authors seemed to have accepted the criticisms as valid, since they chose to defend Vedanta. There is, for example, no attempt at understanding the implications of Vedanta in the light of these criticisms which perhaps could have yielded more fruitful results.


Brahman as ultimate reality.

The supreme reality of the Vedanta philosophy, writes Bhattacharya {All reference to Samkara’s works are incorporated in the text. Bhattacharya’s own writings are document in footnotes.} is Brahman which is the essence of all conscious and unconscious phenomena and “it abides independently of and transcends, the relation of subject and object.” (Br. Up. Bh. 5. 5. 2 ). {SBL, p. 9.}

Although the ground of these manifestations, it remains unchanged and unaffected by the change. The technical term employed for Brahman by Vedantins is ‘nirguņa’. Nirguņa. According to Bhattacharya (lit. quality-less) does not mean an abstraction from which naturally three could be no passage to the actual world of many. {Ibid., p. 15.} “Nirguņa means that anything phenomenal does not constitutively belong to Brahma (n)”. (Gita Bh. 13.2). {Ibid., p. 9.}

Bhattacharya writes that Brahman, far from being an abstraction has a nature (svarūpa) which is Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Saccidānanda). These are not attributes but in their inseparable identity they are Brahman itself. Being of Brahman is presupposed in all forms of existence and we ourselves are witnesses to existence which is conscious and hence Being is identical with consciousness, (Mun. Up. Bh. 2.2.10). {Ibid., pp. 9-10.} According to Samkara, “consciousness which has no existence cannot be admitted”. (V.S. Bh. 3.2.21.). {Ibid., p. 10.} Bliss is inseparable from consciousness and existence and eternally belongs with them (Br. Up. Svabhāva of Brahman. {Ibid., p. 12, (emphasis in text). Brahman is also stated to be the highest good (kalyāņatama) in its positive aspect. {Vidya, p. 356.}.

The world, then, according to Bhattacharya, is the manifestation of this nature of Brahman. Brahman as Being, Consciousness and Bliss is present continuously through all transformations of names and forms in the world. Bhattacharya writes, that according to Samkara:

The   ether  the   like  are  accompanied   by   the

being  of   Brahman   (n)   which   is   its  charact-

eristic nature; and as  knowledge   is   an    accom-

paniment   of   all

objects everywhere,  everything  has  knowledge

as its swarūpa (nature); further

The   Bliss   Divine    is   present  behind  all  the

 joys   connected   with   the  mutually  exclusive

objects of the world.

brahmaņo’pi sattālakşaņah svabhāvah ākāśādişu

anuvartamāno dŗśyate (V. S. Bh. 2. 1.6).

cinmātrānugamat sarvatra citsvarūpata gamyate

(Br. Up. Bh. 2. 4. 7. ).

ānandena vyāvŗtta vişayabuddhigamya ānandah

anugantum śakyte, (Samkarabhāşya on Tait. II.7.). {Ibid., p. 13.}

Brahman, in order to realize its own nature creates the world which is moving from the lowest to the highest stages. It is not that the world is logically deduced from Brahman, writes Bhattacharya, but it is to be taken as it is. (yathāprāpta. Br. Up. Bh. 2. 1. 20. ). He quotes the following passage to illustrate his point:

Already  in  existence  as  the  Self  is  before

Creation,    it   causes   itself   to        undergo

Modifications, as the Self of the modification.

      pūrvasiddho’pihi    sannātmā     vīśeşeņa,

     vikārātmanā parināmayamāsa ātmānamiti.

                                                   ( V. S. Bh. 1.4. 26.) {An Intro., p. 123.}




He writes further that this movement has become possible for the world because behind each stage, the eternal principle (pūrvasiddhah ātmā) is present, which is gradually expressing itself in and through these stages or changes. Brahman is not remote to the world but the very ground on which it stands. Creation moreover, is continuous. It is perpetually going on since its goal of diversification to this day is not exhausted. (nādyāpi bahubhāvanāmprayojanam nivŗttam, Chh. Up. Bh. VI. 3.2.) {Ibid., p. 17.}

Brahman, according to him, therefore, is the material as well as efficient cause of the world. (V. S. Bh. 1-4. 23-26). {Ibid., pp. 4-5.}It cannot be separated from its manifestation, that is, the world. It will be seen at once that a realistic diversification of Brahman may not be distinguishable from pantheism. Bhattacharya is aware of this possibility and refers to Samkara’s own refutation of the philosophy of one Vŗttikāra mentioned by him in his commentaries, and who seems to have advocated a pantheistic position. The unity that Samkara maintains is not affected by the multiplicity or it does not become a composite in creation. The relation is not that of extension in space or succession in time. The essential nature of Brahman as One only does not change with its manifestations of the world. Bhattacharya quotes from the following sources in support of this contention: “The one Brahman cannot be support of many qualities.” (Br. Up. Bh. 2. 1. 14); “The One Reality cannot become diversified.” (Samkarabhasya on Tait. Bh. 1. 12.), etc.

Bhattacharya concludes, therefore, that the absurdity of holding together unity and multiplicity cannot arise. {WSP, p. 7.}. The One remains self-sufficient, independent and ever retains its own uniform nature. It takes upon itself the various forms of nāma-rūpa (name and form) to reveal the inexhaustible treasure which is its nature. {Ibid., p. 4. the author quotes the gloss of Anandagiri, ‘na hi srşta sŗaş : tasyaiva tena tena rūpeņa māyāvīvat avasthānam. Br. Up. Bh. 1.3.5. (There is no difference between the creation and the creator: (the creator) abides like a magician assuming other forms).}. Quoting form Br. Bh.2.1.20 in support of his statement, Bhattacharya writes:

His  unity  does not become  composite  by the

production of nāma-rūpa, like a tree composed

of its  branches,  flowers, etc., and a cloth dyed

with  variegated colours. Then Brahman would

not have been described as of uniform nature. {ibid., p. 9. }.

The unique character of this relationship is brought out by Bhattacharya in his writings on vital energy (prāña) as the world-seed of creation. Brahman, in its undifferentiated stage is called unmanifest (avyakta) wherein resides the primordial energy in its latent forms as the seed of vital energy (prāna-bīja) and in this form it is also called māya. He writes:

Samkara informs us that the prāñabija exists

in pralaya dissolution of this world, and also

in suşupti deep slumber of finite self, in un-

developed or avyākŗta condition…..(pr. Up.

Bh. VI. 1.) {SBL, p. 7.}.

The vital energy (prāņa-śakti) in the unmanifest form is synonymous with māya. Brahman is the substrate for māya which cannot be explained without reference to the “Being of Brahman whose energy it is” (V. S. Bh. 1.4.3).{Ibid., p.71.}.The seed as vital energy remains undifferentiated but distinct in Brahman; it distributes itself gradually, at the time of creation, into three forms, the gross, the subtle and the causal. He quotes from Upadeśasāhasrī in corroboration of this statement:

That  one  seed, called    Māyā,  evolve   into the

three states which  come one  after another again

Māya, through one only and immutable, appears

to  be  many  like  reflections  of the sun in water.

(XVII. 27) { Upadeśasāhasrī. Tr. by Swami Jagadananda (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1973).}.

There is thus, according to Bhattacharya a relation of identity between latent vital energy (avyākŗta-prāņa) and Brahman; the former is submerged in the latter, but not obliterated. {SBL, p. 73.} in all its successive form but in identity with Brahman. {Ibid., p. 73.}

Prāņa in its manifest from is called the sūtra (thread), because “it passes through all, it sustains all, it sustains all, as a piece of thread passes through and contains in it, all the flowers of a garland,” {Ibid., p. 75. The Text quoted is from Br. Up. Bh. 5. 5. 1.} Prāņa, then may be understood as the creative energy of Brahman. It has no distinct nature of its own and therefore cannot be linked to the Pradhāna or material principle of the Samkhya philosophy.{Ibid., p. 80.} All creative difference begin with the vibrations initiated in this vital energy:

It is the vibration of Prāņa which is contained

in  the  Cosmic  Fire  etc.,  and  in  the Psychic

Speech etc. (Br. Up. Bh. I. 5. 23.) {Ibid., p. 81.}

The creation of the world, therefore, is a fulfillment of the purpose of Brahman itself. According to Bhattacharya, Samkara has stressed the fact that the created world—the emerging changes-always carry with them the idea of a purpose as yet unrealized. (V. S. Bh. 4.3.14). The creation, therefore, has a final purpose which is to realize the purpose of Brahman (V. S. Bh. 1. 1. 1.).{An Intro., p. 41.}Bhattacharya writes, citing from the Gīta-Bhāşya 13. 17 as well.

Jñeyameva    jrātam    sat      jñānaphalamiti

jñānagamyamucyate.   Brahman is the  phala,

i.e., the final End. Hence it is that in Vedanta,

it is called as paryantam i. e., the lost or final


avagati paryantam jñānam, nātahparam kimcit

jñātavyamasti’.   When   this   end   is    realized,

three  remains   no-further   end   for   realization

and  our   desires     and     aspirations   get   their

fulfillment. (V. S. Bh. 1. 1. 1. ).{Ibid ., p. 41, footnote 1.}.

Bhattacharya goes on to maintain that according to Samkara the entire creation is a graded dispersion of the creative force of Brahman, which always remains as the substrate for it. All individuals are interwoven in the Infinite Self realized unconsciously. “it is only in man that the Infinite is present and is being realized consciously.” {Ibid., p. 42-43}


The Supreme Objective of Human Life.


Bhattacharya then undertakes to explain what is meant by the Supreme End of human life. This, he maintains, is to realize the Divine Purpose of Brahman. It is to be noted that in this context, Bhattacharya uses the term God for Brahman. He writes:

The  manifested   nāma-rpa  are   to  be  taken  as

a    means   for  the   realization   of  the   purpose

(Samkalpas)  of  God……...These Samkalpas are

but  Divine  Ideas  existing   as  potential  powers

in   Brahman - but   they   realize   themselves    in

the    particular  individual   objects   which   they

evolve   and   sustain.   The  phenomenal   objects

are   expressions in  time  of  the  Ideas  which  are

not  in  time  and the ideas can  express themselves

freely   in   time. (Br. Up. Bh. 2.4.10). {Divine Purpose, p. 206.}


On   the   production   of   the   particular,   the

universal ākrtis or Ideas are constantly present.

(Br. Up. Bh. 1-3.28). {Ibid., p, 207.}

Every individual thing, writes Bhattacharya therefore, in this system has a dual aspect, one Divine or infinite and the other finite. In so far as the conscious finite self can bring itself in tune with the Divine Purpose, it may transcend its limiting aspect. On the plane of the mundane, perfection remains an ideal only, and therefore the goal of human life is ever toward transcendence of the state of imperfection. Bhattacharya goes on to say that the purpose which activates the manifested world has been called ‘goes’ by Samkara:

The word ‘good’ signifying the cause extends

to  the  effects  in  the  shape  of  to world just

as  clay  does  to  its  modifications-jar and the

rest. Just as wherever we have a notion of the

jar, it is always accompanied by the notion of

clay, so in the same manner, the notion of the

world is always accompanied by the notion of

the “Good’. (Chh. Up. Bh. 2.21). {Sādhuśabhavācya ‘rtho’ brahma    sarvathāpi lokādikārye anugatam: yathā ghatādidŗşţirmŗdādidŗşţyānygataiva……..sādhvārthasya lokādikāryeşu kāranasya anugatatvāt, mŗdādivat ghatādivikāreşu.}.

Since ‘good’ permeates the world, it is actually attainable in the life of man. According to Bhattacharya, this exactly is the teaching of the Gita, wherein God asks man to engage in good works for the greater stability of ‘dharma’ and the eradication of evil. “We must identify ourselves with the Good Purpose (sādhvartham) operating within the as well as in us.” {Ibid., p. 213}.

After emphasizing the indispensable role of good action in the world, the takes up for consideration the more familiar repudiation of karma as means of knowledge, known to have been enunciated by Samkara. He writes that the prevalent opinion about Samkara’s system  is that he has left no place for action in it. He says “To our mind, this is an idea which cannot be accepted and which must be condemned as erroneous, with all the emphasis which we can command,” {An Intro., p. 147}. Bhattacharya adduces many arguments to substantiate his point that Samkara made a gradation of the types of work which are necessary for the purification of the mind and as such are indispensable to self-realization. Samkara, as in evident from his commentary on the Gita, rejected only the works performed with a view to selfish ends. He advocated the performance of nitya-karmas and all such action which may lead to the spiritual regeneration of the mind.

Works  are meant for the purification of the

mind .  Selfish    desires   and   passions  are

impediments   to  self-realisation. Unselfish,

prescribed  duties  when not done, with self-

seeking motives, remove these impediments,

effect purification of the mind, and thus help

the final realisation. {Ibid., p. 140}.

Bhattacharya then makes the point that action being enjoined for the spiritual uplift of man it cannot be said that there is no place for moral striving in the Vedanta  system. Man’s place is in society and he cannot escape his obligations toward his fellow human being. Moreover, it is not also a case of blind obedience to rituals that is advocated by Samkara, who writes:

Man chooses his end  according  to  his  own

light. The Shastras only  present  before  him

the lower and higher lines of conduct, but do

not compel him to select a  particular  course

of action. (Br. Up. Bh. 2. 1. 20). {Ibid., p. 158}.

In this way the sphere of moral endeavour is given due importance and cannot be said to have been neglected by the older Vedanta, least of all by Samkara. Bhattacharya interprets Samkara’s statements about action and knowledge, as referring to separate achievements; to mean a gradation of higher and lower ends. Karma must be “superceded and included”. {Ibid., p. 150.} in the final aim of life which is knowledge of the Self. “All works” he maintains, “are organic to this one central purpose.” {Ibid., p. 159}.

Pulling together all the threads of his arguments, we may see that Bhattacharya combined various statements from difference books in order to present his case of a realistic interpretation of Samkara-Vedanta. His view can be summarised as follows: Brahman transcends the world but does not exclude the world. The supreme aim of human life is to achieve an attunement to the good which is immanent in the world, fulfilling thereby the Divine Purpose of Realization.


Bhattacharya’s refutation of the traditional mode of understanding Vedanta.


According to Bhattacharya māyā instead of being the principle of non-reality is the creative energy of Brahman, radiating into the diversities of forms and names but never leaving the anchorage of its groundedness in the ultimate Reality. This dispersion of the power of Brahman cannot be called false and Samkara is misunderstood when he is charged with saying so. The question then arises as to what does Samkara mean when he says, for example:

The  objects  perceived  to  exist in the waking

state  are unreal  for  this reason also, that they

do  not  really  exist  either at the beginning or

at  the  end.  Such  objects  (of experience)  as

mirage,  etc.,  do  not  really exist either at the

beginning  or  at  the  end.  Therefore  they do

not  (really)  exist  in  the  middle  either. This

is   the   decided   opinion  of  the  world.  The

several  objects  perceived  to  exist  really   in

the  waking  state  are  also of the same nature.

Thought  they  (the objects of experience)  are

of the same nature as illusory objects, such  as

mirage, etc., on account of their non-existence

at  the  beginning  and at the end, still they are

regarded  as  real  by  the  ignorant, that is, the

persons that do not know Ātman. {Samkara’s commentary on Māndūkya-Kārika, II. 6 (tr. by Swami Nikhilananda).

According to Bhattacharya such passages have leant colour to the theory of illusionness which he is in effect trying to set aside. For his interpretation of māyā he boldly goes to the most crucial definition given by Samkara in this regard in his opening statements for the commentary on the Vedanta Sūtra. To bring out the point of Bhattacharya’s interpretation he may be quoted at length.

In   the   famous    introduction  appended   to   the

Brahma-Sūtras”,     Samkara   has,   at   the   very

commencement of his  immortal  work,  discussed

and  given  us  the sense in which he  will  use  the

term avidyā throughout his system;…………..The

Introduction  clearly   points    out   in     whatever

connection   Samkara   would   use    the     world

Avidyā,  he would  always   mean   this that¾  ¾

under the  influence  of  the  Avidyā,   the   people

forget  or   ignore  the  Svarūpa   or  the    distinct

nature of  the  Self  or  the causal reality, and it is

entirely     resolved     into   or      identified   with

its   emerging   effects   or   states. And  the states

or   effect   are   erroneously   looked  upon as the

‘nature’ or Svarūpa of the Self. {An intro., p. 108. See Introduction to this book p. 2-5}.

Working with this interpretation, Bhattacharya writes that falsity may obtain in Samkara in two sense: firstly, if Brahman or Ātman is considered resolved entirely into its manifestations which would be a kind of pantheism; and secondly, if the diversification of the world is separated from its ground and looked upon as self-sufficient. This is to say that neither should the prior causal reality be made to lose its unity in the multiplicity of the world nor should the multiplicity be given independent status,

Samkara calls such  a world (i.  e.,  separated

from Brahman) unreal, false, asatya.   Every-

where he has held the world and the changes,

Vikāras to be unreal and false  in  this  sense

Only. {Ibid., pp. 103-104. (emphasis in text.)}.

Bhattacharya himself carefully adduces reasons for the prevalent mode of  understanding the Vedanta of Samkara. He writes that Samkara’s frequent use of the terms ‘rabbit-horns’ (śaśa –vişāņa),

‘ barren woman’s son (vandhyā-putra), ‘sky-flower’ (akāśa-kusuma), etc., have created the impression that such is our world also.

……the critics…from the mere mention of the

terms in the Bhasyas, like Śaśa-Vişaņa (rabbit-

horn)  maricika  (mirage)  etc., etc.,  jumped at

once  at  the  conclusion  that the world is false

in  the  Vedanta.  {Ibid., p. 93}.

Another reason according to him, for adducing a mirage-like quality to the world, is Samkara’s usage of dream imagery, mainly in the context of the discourse between Ajātaśatru and bālāki occurring in the Brhadāraņyaka Upanişhad (II. 1. 15-18). It is his contention that Samkara’s lead to “the idea of the falsity of our world-experiences”. {Ibid., p. 96}. In substantiation of his interpretation, Sastri, firstly gives his own rending of Samkara’s commentaries on such crucial texts as ‘All this verily is Brahman’ (Sarvam Khalvidam brahma), {Ibid., p. 105-106}. ‘All this is Ātman alone’ (ātmaivedam Sarvam), {Ibid.,}. ‘There is no vestige of diversity here (neha nānā’ sti kimcana). {Ibid., p. 111}. Secondly, he comments upon the methodology involved in the ‘not this, not this’ (neti neti) texts. {Ibid., p. 337}.Thirdly, the author gives his own explanation of Samkara’s total rejection of action (Karma) as means for Self-realization. In his view Samkara neither repudiated the active life nor did he advocate a withdrawal from the world. {SBL, p. 145}. He emphasizes that nowhere has Samkara negated or abolished the world and its changing forms. {An Intro., p. 103-104}. The world is always to be known as grounded in Brahman and not existing by itself in which case alone, it will be false. Similarly, in the context of the Self, it is declared to be false only, when it is resolved entirely into its experiencing states, when these are taken to be of the nature of the Self. {Ibid., pp. 97-98}.

With this criterion of falsity, Bhattacharya construes the meanings of the texts mentioned above, such as ‘All this verily is Brahman’ (sarvam Khalvidam brahma) and ‘there is no vestige of diversity here’ (neha nānā’sti kimcana), to mean that Brahman is not to be totally reduced to its manifestations. Wherever  the Upanishads deny the actuality of the world process, the meaning, according to Bhattacharya is that Brahman is stated to be a unity which deny in dependent status to the name-form structure of the world. They point to the fact that it is Brahman, which has dispersed itself into the manifestations, and therefore they are not real in themselves but in Brahman only. {Ibid., pp. 101-102}.

It is the same sense in which Samkara has denied the ultimate supremacy of action, then he is working with a falsehood. When action is subsumed to a life of religious endeavour, it becomes moral and uplifting and becomes capable of raising man to the highest pinnacle of Self-realization.

Bhattacharya’s interpretation of Samkara-Vedanta had a great impact on the educated people of India. His philosophy was hailed as a real contribution toward modernizing the ancient heritage; the editors, Vedānta Kesari wrote to him:

Your   interpretation has  shown  that  Advaita

is  not  simply a philosophy of asceticism but

a  gospel  of  life  that  can  form  the basis of

dynamic activism……Advaita, as interpreted 

by  you,  can  again  become  a living force in

our  national life,  and  form not only a matter

for  the intellectual satisfaction of  Pandits but

a  gospel  of  life that can  insprire  and sustain

the  youth   of  land  in  fields  of  life  that  are

open to them. { From a letter written to the author by the editors of Vadanta Kesri, Madras. (Quoted by the author, Sreegopal Basu Mallick Fellowship Lectures, Calcutta 1931, p. vii)}.

An evaluation of Bhattacharya’s contribution is given in the next Chapter following that of A. C. Mukerji. After the passage of nearly half a century, we are in a better position to see these efforts in a better perspective than was possible for the contemporaries of the philosophers themselves.



                                                            CHAPTER EIGHT



NEO-Vedanta as ‘a Rational Philosophy’ and a ‘Gospel of Life’


 A.  A. C. Mukerji:


The importance of the two new orientations introduced in the previous two Chapters may be now examined. First the contribution of A. C. Mukerji is taken up for consideration and then that of Bhattacharya.

It is rather difficult to make a fair assessment of A. C. Mukerji’s contribution to the philosophy of Advaita, because firstly he has not deviated from the classical exegeses regarding Samkaracarya’s thought on intuition and secondly his understanding of the bare essentials of the Kantian epistemology also seems legitimate. What may be questioned here is the soundness of the juxtaposition of the two.

A. C. Mukerji saw a common problem arising out of all knowledge situations. If the object of thought is completely external to it then no knowledge of it is possible; if on the other hand, it is already a part of the process or if thought is constitutive of reality, then any inquiry regarding reality becomes gratuitous. {Reality & Ideality, p. 216}. To say that contemplative thinking is a process of progressive clarification of the vague prefigurations given to us, is only to push the problem one step back, because “philosophy does not represent a passage from ignorance to knowledge nor does it stultify itself by aiming at what is already an accomplished fact.” {Ibid.}. 

A. C. Mukerji identified and accepted this paradox, enunciated in this manner, as the almost intractable problem of revelation and reason, or alternately, as being the initial step toward agnosticism leading the way to mysticism, because the unknowable of the agnostic stood self-revealed only in mystical experience. {CM, p.3}. According to A. C. Mukerji, the Upanishadic formulation of man’s desire for knowledge and his eligibility for it, falls outside this polarity of reason and mystical intuition{CM, p. 3}.

Reality, therefore, as understood by A. C. Mukerki, was neither anti-rational nor altogether beyond reason. Yet rational analysis of experience was indispensable to an enquiry regarding our knowledge situation. A. C. Mukerji tended to use the words ‘reason’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘thought’ almost interchangeably. He used these words as corresponding to the Sanskrit words ‘buddhi’, {CM, p. 4.; N of S, p. 310.} and as signifying a mode of direct apprehension of the object (of knowledge) carrying with it the inescapable possibility of an indirect envisagement of the foundation which made all knowledge possible.

Reason  possesses   the  power  of  a  kind  of

introspective visualization which as universal

support  of  the  definable  entities,  cannot be

discursively apprehended in the  same  way in

which   a   particular   entity   is    known,   by

distinguishing  it  from  that  by  which   it   is

limited. {CM, p. 3}.

With the distinction between direct apprehension and indirect envisagement, we come to A. C. Mukerji’s own understanding of Upanishadic thought. The quest for Truth demands that human thinking be transcended. In order to envisage the region of this transcended, reason must see to the breaking off of links between words and meaning by which our ordinary thinking is controlled. The mind must cut loose from the memory of this chain of terminology which is our anchorage to the world. This is what the Yoga tradition calls the process of Śabdasanketasmŗtipari-śuddhi, {Ibid., p. 4.} which literally means, cleansing of memory of the impurity of linguistic conventionality.

The inner demand of thought takes the form of citing the Scriptures as an indication for opening up an extralogical dimension of the search for Truth. This special dimension of anti-intellectualism, he agrees, is integral to Advaita thought, (which may not be different from all modes of Western thinking) and he insists that this “is nothing short of an extra-philosophical criterion” {Some Aspects, p. 383.} of  Knowledge. It is a kind of envisagement, intuition, extraordinary experience, direct apprehension and so on, that is, a mode of understanding where meaning and experience are one. Neither sense nor reason (each by itself) can reproduce the content of this extraordinary experience. {Ibid., p. 388}. The identity of the Self and Brahman, the goal of Vedanta philosophy, cannot be established by perception, or reason, because these are inalienably subject-object oriented. Thus we are inevitably and inescapably led toward that intuitive experience of immediacy spoken of by the texts. A. C. Mukerji thinks : “This intuition is then the ultimate criterion, of which reasoning, even when it is supported by the sacred texts, is a subordinate auxiliary.” {Ibid., p. 389}.

In raising reason to the plane of mediation between experience and that by which all meaning is made possible, he has given it a new role which is quite different to the one it previously enjoyed. The place of reason in Vedanta philosophy was always considered to be indispensable but not a sufficient condition for the unveiling of Truth contained in the text. The aim of the traditional mode of exegesis was to hold together in a coherent unity, revelation, reason and experience. Revelation is unique to the Texts but it is to be appropriated by reason and realized and realized by direct experience. All philosophies must start and end in  experience. The direct experience of the world can be cancelled only by another ‘direct experience’ or realization of Truth. The role of reason, therefore, is interpretative and never constitutive of values. Reason, as a matter of fact, in its inferential mode, is restricted by many systems because being experience-based, it cannot speak for the extra-mundane dimension which forms the subject matter of religious philosophy. Vedanta rejects analogy as well, as a method of demonstrating that which lies beyond worldly experience. The leap of intuitive reason, necessary for validating the argument can be useful only between similar objects, belonging to the same dimension for experience. Analogy, by virtue of this leap can yield a very high degree of probability but must always remain short of certainty. Reason, therefore is called “ ‘yukti’ or ‘tarka’, that is, of no independent logical value but as ancillary to scriptural testimony’ (V. S. II. i. ii.)”. {Ibid., p.16}. It may be added that the Texts also are sources of mediate knowledge (for the ordinary person) {An exception is always made for those seekers who may ‘receive’ enlightenment, not because they have qualified themselves, but because the dimension of Grace (kŗ) is non-causal (ahetuka).} and like reason, necessary but not sufficient condition for the down of Knowledge. The task in front of the interpreter, therefore, is to press reason to the service of understanding the mystery of experience in the world, so that one may become desirous of ‘experiencing’ that ultimate felicity which texts indicate to be the supreme goal of human life.

In the Vedanta system, we find experience forming the parameters of the scale of knowability in the world. Reason seeks to make clear the enigmatic continuity, which obtain between everyday experience and the ‘experience’ which forms the subject matter of Śŗuti, Texts. Thus, reason is not given the role of unravelling the mystique of revelation; but to awaken the yearning; the initial movement toward Self-realization, or rather to help in understanding this movement as the stirrings of discrimination between what the scriputes talk about and experience held in a close unity, seek to preclude, dogma on the one hand and mysticism on the rather.

It is possible to say that reason is even superfluous where Truth is Self-revealed; but in the ‘absence’ of Grace (ahetukakŗ), reason lends plausibility to the utterly unexampled, non-paralled message of the texts. Reason, therefore, in this view would seem to be indispensable, but not instrumental in revealing truth. {Naişkarmya Siddhi, III, ślokas 5 & 53}.

If the core of the tradition is understood in this fashion, then such attempts as A. C. Mukerji’s to bring the Kantian  “What can I know?” alongside the Vedantic first premise, “Why should I know Brahman?” seems less than fruitful. Western idealism aimed at establishing the epistemic priority of reason. In the Indian context the focus had been on distinguishing between not the knower and the known (dŗasţŗ and dŗśya) but betwen knowledge and the known, (dŗk and dŗśya), that is the self and the not-self.

A. C. Mukerji and other such scholars who wanted to emphasize the traditional elements in Vedanta philosophy, did not allow for the crucial fact that epistemology in the west had developed as a retreat from ontology. In trying to compare reason in its triadic setting of revelation-reason-experience, with reason as an independent arbiter of meaning, they leant themselves to a blurring of issues. They did not realize that the West had long since broken with its Greek tradition and the Upanishadic “Know Thyself” had no parallel in the idealistic systems they were interested in. This is apparent in the use of the words “soul” and “self ” almost interchangeably by many and especially by A. C. Mukerji. {“The Natural of Soul”, The Cultural Heritage of India 2nd ed. Calcutta.The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Calcutta; 2nd ed., pp. 475-493. The word used by him for ‘soul’ is ātman in this essay}.

This slurring over the difference is basic to the understanding of Neo-Vedantic thought. If we understood ‘soul’ to mean ‘creaturehood’ than the counterpart of this concept could be connoted by the term ‘jīva’ of Indian philosophy. In Western thought it was the human dimension of being created by God and the soul’s destiny in fulfilling the divine promise of salvation, which was at stake. The epistemological inquiry centering around the Kantian position was primarily concerned not with containing reasons (as declared by Kant) but with legitimising its constitutionality so that a scientific grounding may be provided to our experience in the world and to the goodness of the moral will. If Kant had not proceeded beyond stating the unity of apperception, it was because this “beyond” did not arise from within the setting of his philosophic understanding. What appears ‘svayam-prakāśa’, ‘svayam-siddha’ (self-luminous, self-evident) to A. C. Mukerji, does so by virtue of the long heritage of Vedantic thought. Further, this self-evident self is the sole ‘unspoken’ but eminently “speakable’ topic of total concern for Vedanta. In appending it at the end of the scale of the cogitational framework, it becomes a pedagogical device only for overcoming agnosticism. Kant, being the great philosopher that he was could hardly have leant himself to it. For Indian thinkers to take up the question at this stage, in order to indicate the possibility of an analogy could only indicate a certain lack of appreciation of the task that Kant had set himself. Having entered the stream, they could only be carried forward on the waves of the idealistic-realistic debate, as can be seen from the present day studies in Departments of Philosophy.

A. C. Mukerji’s justification of Upanishadic thought as a system of philosophy, then, can be called, a step toward its Westernization because with the raising of epistemology to the primary position, a major transition towards the ‘secularisation’ of these studies was effected. A.C. Mukerji had sought to meet the charge of  “intellectual incoherence” but the criterion for defence used by him namely the thematisation of the ‘unknown’ but not the ‘unknowable’ precisely had provided the bases for condemnation. He had realize that he had not been able to build the much cherished bridge between discursive knowing and intuitive knowing.

By pursuing the details of A. C. Mukerji’s philosophical thought, we can discover for ourselves the spirit of the times in which these scholars had lives and worked. The question at issue here, as elsewhere, is one of the adequacy of the method of estimating Vedanta in ways other than the given mode of its explication. Traditional exegeses held together the triad of revelation, reason and experience. By emphasizing reason in its epistemological setting, a shift in perspective was effected which was perhaps not seen its full implication by the author. Together with the demand for “intellectual coherence”, went the need to assert the reality of the world as the only sphere of morally responsible action. In Bhattacharya’s philosophy we encounter Advaita as a gospel of life. We cannot but raise the question whether this interpretation can be held together with Samkaracarya’s mokşa-orientated philosophy regarding the realization of ātman as Brahman.


B. Kokilesvar Bhattacharya :

By following Bhattacharya along the path of realistic interpretation it can be seen clearly that he has not given due importance to the structure of veiling, which forms the central core of Samkaracarya’s exegesis. Samkaracarya has raised the question of the necessity of the principle of unreality as basic to the understanding of the human condition. The predicament is precisely this, that the world is never questioned by us. Given the experience of this world, whence can comes the thought of its cancellation unless the possibility of it is made reasonable by analogical examples from experience itself. The “illusion” that Samkaracarya is propounding, does not obtain it is true, in respect simply of the world, but as to the meaning derives from the Ground. The world is real because the Base is real. The manifestations are, admittedly, not real-in-themselves.

The traditional Advaita point of view has been that the meaning given to the world is of pragamatic value only and must stand cancelled by the knowledge of the One Reality. Just as the directions of East, West, North and South do not obtain anywhere but in the realm of praxis, and as such they are intelligible as experiences inescapably vulnerable to cancellation; similarly the world is a necessary presence for us. Samkaracarya, therefore, propounds the reason for this mystery in experiencing the unreal as the real just as one may seek to explain why the limitless horizon should be quartered off as East West, South and North.

It would seem that Bhattacharya has confined himself to the description of Brahman as causal-seed without stating the further crucial Advaitic position that the causal manifestation itself is also at once eminently a case of concealment. In other words it belongs within the realm of māya. It is due to māyā that Brahman appears as the cause of the world.

Māyā is the principle of holding together the revelation of Truth as one only, and our experiences to the contrary. Bhattacharya evidently does not wish to join with the theistic criticism of Samkaracarya and speak in the language of religion which understands Brahman as creator and the world as created by him. He seeks only to condition the reality of the world. Samkaracarya in fact, does not demand any further concession that an acknowledgment of this conditional reality of the world because his aim is to establish ātman as the sole, unconditional reality. {Prtayojanam cāsya brahma vidyāyā avidyānivŗttistata atyantikah samsārābhavah. Samkaracarya on Tait. 2.11}.

Disregarding Samkaracarya’s clear lead in this matter, neo-Vedantins have relied heavily on the second aphorism of the Vedānta-Sūtras and as we saw with Bhattacharya on such passages in the Upanishads, which speak of Brahman as being the material cause of the world. {Chh. 6.1.4. Br. 1.1.7}. Kokileshvar Bhattacharya has repeatedly pointed out that since Brahman is real, the world is also real. It is only “unreal ’ to the extent that we think it to be self-sufficient and not deriving from Brahman. These is progressive development in the world and this is still in the process of being itself out in creation, sustaining it till the time it will reabsorb it in itself.

It may be said here that there could be no clearer example of the entry of time as history in Indian thought other than this realistic interpretation of Samkaracarya’s Vedanta as a philosophy which propounds creation. The question must arise as to the necessity or legitimacy of this realistic interpretation. In other words, we have to see why Samkarcarya did not construe the 2nd aphorism along the lines of a causal argument.

The 2nd aphorism {Janmādyasya Yatah, V. S. I.I.2. (Brahman is that) from which the origin, etc., (i. e., the origin, subsistence, and dissolution) of this (world proceed.)} states that Brahman is cause of the world. It, therefore, seems to endorse a theory of ‘creation in time’ but an expansion of its meaning brings out the basic tenet of Vedanta which is to affirm not only the reality of Brahman, but also Brahman as the One Reality.

Samkaracarya points out that the Vedanta aphorisms are not to be treated as the premises of an argument, but that they are like the co-ordinating thread which strings different blooms together into a garland of flowers. {Vedāntavākyakusumgrathanārthavātsūtrānām. (V. S. bh. 1.1.2)}. The flowers are the Texts and by tradition the Śruti Texts for the 2nd (janmādi) aphorism is stated to be from the Taittiriya Upanishad, 3.1.

Seek to know that from which all these beings

Take birth, that which they live after being

born, that towards which they move and into

which they merge, that is Brahman. {yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante yena jātāni īvanti yatpra-yānti abhisamviśanti tad vijijrāsasva; tad brahma. (Tait. 3.1)}

Brahman, then is that from which the world proceeds, in which it lives, by which it is sustained, into which it dissolves. By gathering together the different aspects of the coming into being of the world, the Text is understood to have stated ultimacy of Brahman; in saying Brahman is the material as well as efficient cause of the world, all dualities are in effect denied. The world cannot be said to have an independent material existence or it cannot be said to have been brought into existence by a creator. The causality that seems imputed to Brahman, therefore, is of the nature of an appearance only. It seems as if the world proceeds from Brahman. This interpretation is borne out by the usage of present participles in the Text : take birth (jāyante), live (jivanti), move (prayānti) and merge (abhisamviśanti). The crucial point to be taken cognizance of in the passage is, therefore, the absence of a activity of creation. This inseparability of the world from Brahman, thus expounded in the Text by means of these concepts of continuity, namely coming into existence living in it, finding sustenance from it and going back to it in dissolution, is confirmed by the concluding phrases : “enquire into that; that is Brahman” (tad vijijñāsasva; tad brahma). {This interpretation is based mainly upon The Discourses on Brahma Sūtra by Swami Akhandananda Saraswati; (Bombay : Satsahitya prakashan Trust, 1976), Vol. II (in Hindi), pp. 203-327}.

The term ‘enquiry’ pertains to that which is close at hand, as distinguished from the injunction to seek, or to meditate upon, or even to aspire after realization. Enquiry leads to the removal of the veil which prevents discovery. In words vijijñāsasva is to be construed to mean ātmābhedena vijānīhi iti vijijñāsasva’, that is, “know Brahman to be not other than the Self,’ or ‘know Brahman to be the Self itself.’

In order to demonstrate further that no causal arguments are being resorted to here, the reference to the Text from the Taittirīya Upanişad is concluded by citing the passage describing the discovery of the nature of Brahman : “He knew bliss as Brahman; for from Bliss, indeed, all these beings originate; having been born, they are sustained by Bliss; they move towards and merge in Bliss”. (Tait. 3. 6.)

According to the tradition of Samkaracarya’s exop[sition of these passages, Brahman, therefore, may be described firstly as if, it is the material and efficient cause of the world. This description is to be subjected to enquiry because it cannot be a final description since these categories belong naturally with the world rather than with Brahman. Brahman being the One and Only Reality, is as if the material and efficient cause of the world; in reality it is of the nature of Bliss and only as such should be discovered in order to know its identity with the Self. Both the sūtra and the Text from the Upanishad are suggestive of Brahman, the first is in the nature of a quality which appears to belongs to it, and the latter as indicative of the very nature of Brahman. There is not the semblance of duality here.

If Samkaracarya had in principle allowed for the existence of any reality other than Brahman, then he would not stand in opposition to philosophies professing categories of dependent realities such as Viśişţādvaita or the Madhva system of Vedanta. The neo-Vedantins, however, seek to find in Samkaracarya a reversal of his own position by adducing a real status to the world. Samkaracarya did not aim at destroying the world which exactly is the sphere of māyā. One may, and is most likely to continue to dwell in the realm of māyā for all time to come. The ‘non-reality’ or ‘falsity’ that he talks about pertains to the semblances of reality which are actualities for us. Falsity resides in experiencing many when there is one Reality only; in experiencing matter where no material principle obtains; in ascribing transience to the Eternal; in missing the Unity behind the fragmentations and in being unaware of the Self hidden by the not-Self. The truth is that māyā is not only illusion but it is “the cosmic condition”, which makes illusion appear as inescapable reality. {J. G. Arapura, “Māyā and the Discourse about Brahman”, The Problem of Two Truth in Buddhism and Vedanta, ed Mervyn Sprung (Boston U. S. A.: Reidel publishing Company, 1973), pp. 109-121}.

We have seen that Indian scholars made sustained efforts at giving rationalistic interpretations to the Vedanta philosophy. The question which is indispensable here, is whether these points of view uncovered such meanings as were hidden in the philosophy or did they move away from the main sense of its inspiration? With A. C. Mukerji, it may be recalled, the bringing together of Kant and the Vedanta seemed not to have enhanced the significance of either. The realistic interpretation of Bhattacaharya, on the other hand, is a different proposition because it tends by its exaggeration of the de facto reality of the world in Samkaracarya, to distort the total vision or picture of Vedanta. The constructions that he has put on some of the texts are farfetched and cannot, indeed, be justified in the light of the well-known intention of the entire body of literature on this point. The “nonreality’ of the world obtains nowhere else in the corpus of Vedanta literature but in the Vedānta of Samkaracarya. The originality of the concept of mithyā in Samkaracarya’s formulation of Advaita Vedānta is in contradistinction to rival interpretations of Vedanta that preceded and succeeded him in the history of Vedanta tradition as such. It is, of course, well-known that Samkaracarya himself was not uninfluenced in arriving at the conceptualisation, as for example by Gaudapada, and Mahāyāna Schools of Buddhism, though he freely reconstructs it as the supreme implication of the Upanishadic understanding of Reality as ‘non-dual’. To say to the contrary is not to state Samkaracarya’s point of view but one’s own, regarding the classical Advaita philosophy.

We are now in a position to assess the merits of neo-Vedantic contributions to Advaita philosophy in general. Two points seem to emerge in this context, which draw our attention to their importance. Firstly, in the quest for rehabilitating Vedanta, as it were, its main thesis of renunciation of the involvements of the I-consciousness is forgotten completely; secondly, and arising out of the first point, we see that the quest for Self-realization also has lost its primary place from within the scheme of things. The Upanishadic texts teach how to appropriate bliss by renouncing activity at what is living and dynamic in the tradition seems nothing but a reversal of the original position. In the next chapters, the factors of this process of reversal will be stated so that we may examine the long road which has been traversed by Indian scholars in their attempts to held together Vedanta and the forces of Westernization. The philosophies of A. C. Mukerji and Kokilesvar Bhattacharya can be regarded as two pointers towards the general trend of neo-Vedanta.




                                     CHAPTER NINE


The lack of Soteriological Awareness in neo-Vedanta


As stated by A. C. Mukerji, neo-Vedanta indicates that class of academic writing which sought to interpret Samkaracarya thought in the language of Western philosophy. {See above p. 83}. This body of literature, as we have seen in the last few chapters, arose out of the need of the times. One author wrote:

The main battle which the Vedanta   had   to

fight was against the forces released by the

secular   English  education  sponsored   by

“orthodox” Hindus. {Niranjan Dhar, Vedanta and the Bengal Renaissance (Calcutta :

Minerva Associates, 1977), p. 169}.

In this connection the latter written by Raja Rammohun Roy, to Lord Amherst in 1823. protesting against the decision to set up Sanskrit college, in Calcutta, is very pertinent.

If   it  had  been   intended   to  keep   the  British

nation    in   ignorance  of  real  knowledge,   the

Baconian   Philosophy   would  not   have    been

allowed  to   displace  the  system of the School-

man ,  which     was    the    best     calculated    to

perpetuate ignorance. In the same   manner  the

Sanskrit System of education would be the  best

calculated  to  keep this  country in darkness,   if

such  had   been   the   policy   of   the      British

legislature.   But   as  the  improvement   of    the

native     population     is    the    object   of     the

Government,   it   will   consequently     promote

a   more   liberal   and  enlightened   system   of

instruction   embracing   Mathematics,    Natural

Philosophy,   Chemistry,   Anatomy,  with  other

useful science…….{S. D. Collet, The Life and Letters of Raja Rammohun Roy, eds. D.

K. Bishwas and P. C. Ganguly, (Calcutta, 1962), Appendix II, pp. 457-458}. 

It is the clear that the scholars of early nineteenth century wanted to enter the stream of Western education quickly and they also felt called upon the defend and justify their ancient philosophical heritage. What is not so clear is the fact that a century of such preoccupation shows no signs of yielding place to any other from of philosophic writing. Although dearth of creative writing is sometimes noted in India, by far the most usual form of research is still grounded in apologetics as worthwhile academic work. {The following two books have been written more than 50 years apart but they refute almost the same charge: V. J. Kirtikar, in his Studies in Vedanta (Bombay, 1924) answers the following criticisms against Vedanta: that it is revolting to common sense, and blasphemous; that is does violence to Christian ethics; that it is mystic and quietistic etc. R. G. Garg (Upanishadic Challenge to Science, Delhi: 1978). Pp. 241-280, covers almost the same ground in his eight-fold classification of the charges:

(a) pessimism (Urquhart: Upanishads and life, Calcutta 1916, pp. 69-70).

(b) abstractionism (A. E. Gough, Philosophy of the Upanishads, London, 1882, p. 268, which 

     Hegel called a “region of unbridled madness”).


(c) Blasphemy (John Caird: An Introduction to Philosophy of Religion, pp. 74-75).


(d) fictitiousness of the Individual Soul (Hertel’s Introduction to Kenopanishad Schweitzer

     Indian Thought, London, 1956, p. 47).


(e) Pantheism (Monier-Willams, Indian Wisdom, 1963, p. 38). A. S. Pringle-Pattison, The idea

     of God, p. 219


(f ) a-Moralism (Farquhar Hibbert Journal, Oct. 1921, p. 24, Upton, Hibbert Lectures

     for 1893    pp. 241-42).


(g) asceticism, escapism, inactivism ( Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.

     12, p. 548).


(h) mysticism (Urquhart, Indian Thought, p. 43)}. This phenomenon successfully hides the ground on which this particular type of literature takes its stand. In order to discover the reason for this continuing trend in defensive writing we may take up with profit the study of contemporary neo-Vedanta as a whole as background for the two typical points of view we considered in two previous chapters.

A very pertinent question may be raised here as to why should neo-Vedanta choose to situate itself within the framework of apologetics? Indian philosophy, has for long, developed on the lines of critical appraisals and clarifications. All systems of Indian philosophy are required to answer penetrating questionings raised from within as well as outside the tradition. Theories are, as is well known, propounded with a view to meeting the possible objections which may be raised against what is being stated. Such being the case, the conditions which precludes a continuation of this tradition of dialogical exegeses acquire some importance in the understanding of contemporary Indian philosophy.

The first point which srikes one very forcibley is that the Indian scholars did not distinguish between refutation and rejection of the very ground on which contemporary can thrive. Vedanta in the twentieth century did not have to contend with refutations, regarding the nature of ultimate truth as previously from the Buddhistic or dualistic points of view; or meet the challenge of searching questions from the orthodox system, or the charge of doctrinal radicality from the orthodox system of pūrva-mīmāmsā. {All Histories of Indian Philosophy have documented the arguments and counter-arguments between various schools of thought down the centuries}. It had to contend only against an external critique which came from the vantage point of a superior developed culture or so they were told. The Indian scholars seem to have accepted the judgment the Indian philosophy was suffering from arrested “growth” and dynamism, whereas the West had progressed beyond to an age of enlightenment. That the West is superior in all aspects of human life is a conviction we meet with pulsating through the writings of the early neo-Vedantins. The language of constant approximation of ideas to Western concepts, leaves one in no doubt of the tacit acceptance of its criteria as ultimate. That the Western world had forged ahead because of their dynamic religion and India had been left behind because of its non-worldly orientation was accepted by those who were educated by Western scholars. A genuine dissatisfaction with their own tradition is apparent in the chain reaction set off by the introduction of the Western mode of intellectual appraisal of all past heritage. The ‘educated’ could fine no answer from within at this time because the historical, philological and psychological methodologies applied to the body of textual literature had found the guardians of this lore almost totally at a loss. The Pundits learned in Sanskrit could do no better than take up a fundamentalist position which further alienated those who wished to forge ahead. The air of a rational emancipation from the trammels of dogma therefore, was all the more pleasing to Indian scholars at this tone. {“By the beginning of the nineteenth century the works of Voltaire, Hume, Locke, Tom Paine etc. began to be imported to Calcutta. Advertisements of those books appeared in the Calcutta Gazette, post, Calcutta Chronicle and other magazines. Of these, the most popular were Tom Paine’s Age of Reason and Rights of Man.

Nemai Sadhan Bose : The Indian Awakening and Bengal (Calcutta : Firma K. K. Mukhopadhyaya, 1969) p. 65}.  Unless due notice is taken of this historical background, one would fail to appreciate the importance of the overthrow (in effect) of the traditional mode of exegeses at this time and its replacement by Westernized criteria of hermeneutics.

From the perspective of the last quarter of the twentieth century, it becomes possible to delineate the almost imperceptible pathways of this transition. The body of literature under consideration, however seems to lend itself naturally to a four-fold scheme by which it sought to span the bridge between India’s ancient heritage and Western education. A convenient way of understanding this movement of thought, if it may be called that, therefore, could be by following the idea on rationality and morality. These may be considered as direct responses to the challenge of the West. The question of rationality belongs with the status of philosophy as being independent of religion; and morality, with the status of the empirical reality of the world.


A. The new Role of Reason in Indian Philosophy 


Indian thought, over the centuries had built up a careful distinction between the rational and that which seems ‘irrational’ but may be presented as reasonable. This distinction is necessary,  irreplaceable and of supreme importance if one were to seek to understand the message of the Upanishads.

The Upanishads address themselves not to be rational principle in man but toward his power of appreciation of that which may be admitted as cogent, reasonable, worthy of further investigation etc. admittedly it is man who bust seek self-realization but how is he to be brought to the awareness of the desirability of this goal of human life? Man knows only the world in which he lives and the mode of this knowing is inescapably rational. To whatever limit this knowing may be pushed it will unavoidably carry the world along with it.

The Upanishads teach that it is possible to put a wedge in this mould of rationality not from outside but by an inwardisation of the same faculties which give the world to us. {The Kaţhopanişad (I. 3. 2-10) asks one to imagine the body to be a chariot driven by the intellect as its charioteer steeds. The Master (the Self or ātman) sits quietly watching the charioteer driving skillfully and purposefully, or wildly and erratically as the case may be. He could be seen if the charioteer were to turn around, otherwise the driver may continue to feel that it is he who is the Master}.

The Upanishads are neither substitutes for rational thought, nor are they are a contrast to it. Their authority lies in engendering conviction before any form of reference can be applied. This authority is a hidden authority because it may speak only to an openness for it.

It may be said, in other words, that the Vedanta, without its function as soteriology, must lose much of its relevance for the inquirer. The need felt for shrouding soteriology in order to answer an epistemological question inverts the order of priorities and distorts the meanings of epistemology and of the quest for Freedom as autonomous issue. At any rate the new role of reason created in response to such needs, by the Indian scholars at this time did not yield any results which could said to have depended our understanding of Vedanta. Even if it can be said that a rationalist like A. C. Mukerji did not do great violence to Vedantic thought in isolating its epistemology from its mokşa-oriented thought, the point of the whole enterprise remains open to question because, on the one hand Vedanta does not gain anything by the idealistic epistemology and on the other, Western Idealism cannot appropriate the Witness-Consciousness (sākşi-caitanya) without radicalizing itself out of recognition.

The significance of the Vedantic intuition depends on the circularly of the Revelation-reason- experience (Śruti-yuktianubhava) scheme; Kant’s metaphysics could not impart to it a scientific grounding without also engendering the possibility of the superfluity of the religious quest. It did not lie within the power of Indian scholars at this time to gauge the devastating influence of the crucial thought. Therefore the attempt at placing the religious category of intuition within the rubric of metaphysical arguments has, one may say, a quality of the tragic about it.


B. The Reality of the World and the Place of Ethics in Vedanta


The shift in perspective toward Westernization becomes more pronounced with the Indian defense calculated to establish the reality of the world from within the philosophy of Vedanta itself. They were moved to criticise the concept of māyā as unrealistic and opposed to a useful way of life in the world. Thus the principle of negation was interpreted by neo-Vedantins as delimiting the value of the world of for human beings. It can be seen easily that here a tacit appropriation of the ultimate desirability of the progress-oriented ethos of the West took place. To think that moral values are at ethical behaviour is to agree that the discriminatory ‘cancellation’ is a denial of the world’s actual existence for man. {It is interesting to note that this mistake is not made by Paul Deussen, who wrote: ‘And so this Vedanta, in its pure and unfalsified form, is the strongest support for pure morality’. Outlines of Indian Philosophy (New Delhi: 1976), p. 65}. It is not only true but a truism to state that man and the world belong together. Human existence is obviously and necessarily in and of the world and nothing is gained by trivializing it. Samkaracarya was too astute a philosopher to have attempted any such absurdity. In fact he repeatedly disengages himself from entering into discourses on the world and man’s engagements therein, on the plea that such matter fall under the scope of the literature pertaining to good conduct and so are not under dispute at all. According to Samkaracarya the Dharma Śastra and the Mimamsa Sūtra should be consulted in these matters.   

Māyā as the principle which veils Brahman, the real, and projects in lieu of it the world as reality would be superfluous to any system which accepts the given world as ultimate i.e. ontologically real. In Vedanta the world is not diffused of its importance as the only known sphere of human activity but in its fullness it is regarded as a veil to be penetrated. Māyā in fact symbolizes this very demand on the part of the world to be considered the only reality for man. Samsāra (the world) remains very much as it is until it is cancelled as the veil and discovery of Brahman takes place. {na tu smasaradasayam badhah : (Br. Up. Bh. IV.  5-15)}. A man who feels fear on perceiving a ‘snake’ in his path, can be rid of it only on perceiving the rope and in no other way; there is, therefore, no need to emphasize the world of praxis in Vedanta. This is exactly the human condition to which it is addressing itself.

It is therefore, not clear, what the realists would like to achieve by bringing into focus the reality of the world, which in a way, is the premise on which Vedanta bases its concept of māyā. Ethical questions, therefore, fall outside the scope of Vedanta, since it is not calling into question a life of obedience to moral laws in the world.

Samkaracarya, beyond affirming totally the obligatoriness of enjoined duties on man by the scriptures, does not enter into questions of ethical import as such. {‘…….Nothing enjoined by the scripture can be unworthy of performance’ Śamkarabhāşya on Īśopanişad 8}. Wherever such discussions are demanded by the nature of the textual matter, he follows the lead of the accepted code of moral behaviour as can be seen from the various precepts he quotes from the Smritis and the traditional illustrations that he uses. The authority of the different manuals of the good life are endorsed and used by him in his discourse on the Vedanta. Since he is speaking specifically to man who are engaged in worldly activities, he does not need top enter into disputes regarding the legitimacy or cogency of their behaviour. The world comes with its own demand for involvements for human beings; it cannot be denied or refused attention. Samkaracarya addresses himself to the question of the possibility of cancellation of this sphere of engagement in its entirely, that is, the ego-consciousness as well as the world it engages in, both, according to Vedanta, belonging to the sphere to the not-self.

Such being the case, the rationalistic questions regarding the priority of the subject as knower, of realistic problems regarding the status of the world being the real region where men may participate in Divine purpose and so on, become slightly out of focus because these matters are not being contested here. The soteriology being expounded by Samkaracarya is grounded in the central theme of the Upanishads which is to indicate the non-dual nature of Ultimate Reality. His aim is to make the promise of Supreme Joy {brahmavit āpnoti param, Tait. Up. II. 1.} contained in the Texts, a question of palpable significance for men living an ordinary everyday life in the world.

The neo-Vedantins did not choose to stay with an evaluation of human life which gives it importance only to the extent that in man alone, may burgeon a yearning for enquiring into the nature of Ultimate Reality. In the sphere of ethical concerns, we come across the greatest step in veering round to the assimilation of Western influence. The individual had gained importance in the West in the nineteenth century. The status of man in the world, his duties towards social institutions, the legitimacy of his personal experience were topics of debate in Western thought. Although the question of salvation remained with religion, Christian values and virtues so permeated in the West that they found experience in philosophical system as ethical questions. One of the primary question for Western philosophy continues to be, “How to be a good man in an increasingly man-made world?”

In the Indian context ethical questions were brought to the central position in debates because the good way of life was not a matter of choice but always a matter of upholding, by way of appropriation, the eternal laws of the dharma. Ethical conduct is one of conformity to Dharma, exhorting man to understand himself less in terms of his role as a self-defining subject but more as exemplifying in his behaviour, as an integral part of an ordered nature, that which is ‘good’ or just. Justice already obtains in the world autonomously (so to speak) and impersonally. It is not left to man’s will to impart it. To recover it from the obscuring effects of the ego-motives of the human individual is the function of ethical life which avowedly aims at ‘purifying’ the mind, so that it, truly comes to self-presence in relation to the cosmic order.

The experience of alienation from nature or man’s own philosophic heritage gives real edge to the ‘ethical’ question of modern man. In antiquity there was no such experience and consequently there is no posing of the modern man’s  questions, like ‘what can I know, what can I do, or what may I hope for’. When neo-Vedantins sought, uncritically, to rise and answer those very questions vis-à-vis Vedanta they were in effect doing little more than aligning themselves along the thought-processes of the moderns and had consequently, nothing to add about Vedanta itself. Contemporary Indian philosophy, therefore has nothing significant to contribute to what it imitates or parallels.

The unique nature of the philosophy enunciated by Samkaracarya lies in his denying efficacy metaphysically to action as means of the highest attainment. One of the longest expositions regarding this is given in the first section of the Taittirīya Upanişad. It is to be noted that regarding this very section Bhattacharya in his commentary on this Upanişhad remarks:

Since this chapter is unsuited to the requirements of the present age, it is omitted here.

{Upanishader Upadesa, Vol. III (in Bengali) (Calcutta 1910), P. 202}.

This is a clear example of choosing sections from Samkaracarya’s works according to the requirement of the interpreter, instead of taking the entirety of it under consideration. We are obliged to acknowledge the fact that morality is world-oriented was learnt from the modernized West rather than from Vedanta. To identify good behaviour with greater involvements along the same line that one already involved in, in his natural life cannot be sustained by the Vedanta philosophy which identifies good with the attainment of Ultimate Joy in mokşa. It is a moot question whether a quality of detachment may not be found to be a sounder base for moral behaviour rather than a thirst for active reorganization of the world, especially when the future aimed at brings whit it greater ills than could be imagined. This question, however does not belong with Vedanta, which without denying the peremptory nature of the world seeks to isolate the dynamics of it. This perspective is brought out clearly by one of the eminent Pundits in Vedanta of this century, who writes in Bengali :

I  was  asked  by   Rameshchandra  Mitra,  ‘Sir,

tell me why was Samkaracarya exercised about

establishing  the  Vedanta ?  Of   what  possible

use  is  it ?  You  will  talk  of  mokşa  or things

metaphysical.   That  is  not  my   question.   My

question is, does it have any visible benefits to

confer on us?

To this question I replied as follows :

It  must  be  said  that  it  is  of  none    benefit   to

those who seek to appear learned in it, or   those

who  study  it out of curiosity or seek   entertain-

ment  from  it;  but  for all those who   engage in

its  study  in  order  to follow its precepts  are no

doubt  benefited  (as  to  their  way of  life in the

world)……  Other  ethical   system   teach  how

society  may   be  organized;   but   these   moral

lessons  teach  man  how  to live (not only in the

society,  but)  in his  own  body and the world in

which  he  finds  himself  and  through  which  he

sojourns………..{Kalivara Vedantavagisa, Samkaracarya and Sakyamuni (in Bengali) (Calcutta, Bengiya Sahitya Parishad Partrika Monograph, 1307, 1893), pp. 14-15}.

The world and morality must belong together; but if the world is not, then the behavioural pattern which is relevant to life in the world also ceases to be the focus of concern.




                                          CHAPTER TEN


Renunciation and Bliss


On examining the emerging patterns of neo-vedanta as enunciated by scholars like K. Bhattacharya,  A. C. Mukerji, and others, one is drawn to the conclusion that they were all concerned with bringing the world into primary focus for man and updating the ancient heritage in the light of this new understanding of human values. The question must be raised if Samkaracarya can be so translated without a number of stipulations safeguarding his position. This is not deny the right of any philosopher to radicalize the position of Samkaracarya, but the present day interpretators render his thought without this hermeneutical awareness. They think that they are truly uncovering his original intention. It is interesting to note that with the exception of a few only, nearly all modern expositors refer to Samkaracarya’s renderings of the Textual material as clinching the inner meaning of Vedanta. The important point is whether Samkaracarya can be approached apart from or aside of the centrality of the soteriological intentions that lie at the basis of his thinking. That he is purporting to expound Vedanta  mokşaśāştra without the slightest equivocation cannot be seriously doubted by any reader of his works. This aspect of his thought, however, seems in complete abeyance in recent expositions of his philosophy obviously because modern man is not interested in the question of mokşa even if it is stated to be of nature of Bliss.  

  This omission is all the more remarkable because Samkaracarya himself, in his commentaries, is repeatedly questioned regarding his separation of worldly pursuits and the state of renunciation he is advocating for those who would know Brahman. In one such passage the objection in effect is as follows :

Performance of duties as well, to aim at the

knowledge of the Self are enjoined by the

Scriptures. Why do you deny the former for

those who seek the latter ? {Śamkarabhāsya, Perface to Aitareya Upanişad.}

Samkaracarya’s answer consists in explaining that the different passages referred to are contradictory and therefore cannot be said to apply to the same situation, as opposing qualities cannot belongs to the same object. Action in the world is only for those who are not yet seized with the quest for knowledge. For a seeker after Truth, all actions in the world are left behind. The division of the two regions is very subtle and tenuous. To highlight this factor Samkaracarya remarks, in a lighter vein :

Not that any question can be raised as to why

a person, who was (once) enveloped in dark-

ness,  does  not   fall  into  a  pit,  swamp,  or

brambles  after  the  down  of  light.  {Ibid.}

Action, as a means of felicity in the world or beyond it, exercises a great hold on philosophical thinking. As against Samkaracarya, the second verse of the Īśopanişad is often cited by those who wish to emphasize the role of karma in Upanishaddic thought, which is as follows :

By doing karma, indeed  should  one  wish to

live here for a hundred years. For a man, such

                       as  you   (who wants to live thus),  there  is no

                       way other than this, whereby karma may not

           cling to you.

Samkaracarya in his commentary on the verse, accepts it as descriptive of the way of karma for those who are thus engaged in the world. He continues, saying that of the two paths of karma and of renunciation, the latter is the more excellent, for, this leads to knowledge. He says emphatically ‘Do you not remember what was pointed out, that the anti-thesis between knowledge and karma is irremovable like a mountain ?’ { Śamkarabhāşya, on  Īśopanişad 2.}

He is equally clear on the subject of karma in his commentary on the opening verse of the Taittirīya Upanişad. ‘Now’ he says, ‘is commenced the knowledge of Brahman with a view  to eschewing the causes that lead to the performance of karma’. In other numerous similar passages he has emphasized the discontinuity between the way of karma and the way of knowledge. Karma in the world is productive of evils or merits as the case may be. The highest heaven may be achieved by karma, but it may not engender the Bliss of Brahman-knowledge (brahma-jñāna). Ultimate knowledge is not something to be brought into existence by any means, but it is to become of the nature of Bliss. The Enlightenment which is Bliss is simultaneous with the falling away of the sense of duality. This is how renunciation and Bliss is held together in Adavaita philosophy.

Admittedly, it is a difficult point to grasp, for, we are used to living with thoughts to the contrary. Even Anandagiri, the most excellent of commentators on the writings of Samkaracarya fails at times to remain with his preceptor’s uncompromising attitude toward renunciation. Anandagiri points out that renunciation cannot be a requirement because the Vedas mention the god Indra, the emperor Janaka and the woman Gargi as knowers of Brahman. {Anandagiri’s Gloss on Mund. Up. Bh. III. 2-4}

Samkaracarya, however, should not be understood to have been refuted by this example of Janaka and other such brahmavit (knowers of Brahman) propounders of Vidyā (knowledge). The renunciation that he is talking about is not sufficient reason for it. Renunciation does not bring about knowledge but rather the state of ‘knowing’ must be indicated by the relinquishing of the entire dimension of the ‘as if’. In other words renunciation is the symbol (liņga) of knowledge, {Mund. Up. Bh. III. 2-4} not its substance.

The separation of worldly activity from the state of enlightenment lies at the heart of Samkaracarya’s exposition of the Upanishads; it is clear that this separation is not thus presented by the neo-Vedantins. The jettisoning of the main thesis of the Adavita lies in this shift in emphasis from the other-woldly stance to this worldly attitude effected by contemporary thinkers of the Vedanta philosophy. Some have gone to the extent of saying that Gaudapada and Samkaracarya are alien inroads in orthodox thinking, that they were influenced by Samkhya and Buddhism and introduced foreign elements in the stream of Upanishadic thought. {S. G. Mudgal, Advaita of Sankara : A Reppraisal (Motilal Banarasidass, 1975), p. 61}

S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri writes :

The observance of Karma need not be merely a

preliminary  discipline,  as     held      Samkara-

carya  and  his  strict  adherents,    disappearing

with   onset   of  knowledge,  like  clouds  when

the  rainy  season  is  over; that discipline, when

perfected, may  itself be  the  self-transcendence

knows  as  Brahman-realization;  it may,  in  the

alternative  be  a  useful  aid  to  knowledge…{Samkaracarya, Madras, C. A. natesan & Co., n. d. p. 73}

The fact is that Samkaracarya himself is quite aware of the enormity of the task he has set himself; this is made apparent by him in his inimitable style of expressing the gravest ideas in the mildest language :

At this point someone may say : ‘If this be so,

I  am  afraid  of  liberation,  consisting  in  be-

coming the self of all (that  is,  losing  my indi

viduality). ‘Let  my   worldly   existence   itself

continue…..’ (The answer is)  Do not entertain

such   a   fear,   for  the  enjoyment  of  all  the

            desirable  things  falls  within   the   range   of

relative existence……..(For the man of know-

ledge) there exists nothing separately of which

he  can  be afraid   because being in possession

of  all  he  is  totally  happy).   Hence   there  is

nothing   to   be   afraid   of   in   liberation. {Sankarabhāşya on Tait. III. 10, 5-6 (emphasis added)}.

Samkaracarya, therefore, must be understood to have set himself the difficult task of explaining to his audience, why they should look beyond the world for that supreme happiness which is only foreshadowed in the pleasures of everyday life; why this semblance of that joy must be given up for the enjoyment of its real plenitude.

Samkaracarya’s task is difficult because he has to take into account the fact that the realisation of the limitations of the human condition itself, does not lead to the transcendence of it. He therefore, does not speak to the element of tragedy in man’s life as something to be overcome. It would be a gross trivialization to interpret Samkaracarya to mean that he is merely to show up the short-comings of  a worldly existence. He is rather trying to focus on a metaphysical predicament which precisely is not grasped as a predicament of all. In answer to the question, in what does the pre-eminence of man reside, he says :

In  his  competence for Karma and knowledge.

For man  alone is  qualified for rites and duties

as alone for knowledge, by virtue of his ability,

craving  (for results),    and     non-indifference

(to results)……….The intention here (the text),

is   to   make   that   very  human   being   enter

into the innermost Brahman knowledge. {Sankarabhāşya on Tait. II. 1.1}

The man of work is pre-eminently qualified for engaging in the enquiry about Brahman….but not, and this is the crucial point, not through or by the mode of greater activity in the world; man is always faced with a choice. His candidature for enjoyment of the world is the natural corollary to his existence in the world; his way is also open toward the acquiring of knowledge by mokşa-śāstra. The most important point, therefore, for Vedanta is to render help toward the awakening of the desire to know Brahman; or in other words to answer the question, ‘Why should I know Brahman ?’

S. Radhakrishnan’s forceful enunciation of the philosophy of Samkaracarya, attracted to it only educated Indians but also drew the attention of the world to it. Yet to understand Samkaracarya’s philosophy as the grounding for a dynamic outlook toward life or alternately, a denial of the world, is to disregard his finely worked out arguments for the loosening of the ties of the world. He has nowhere professed his competence to speak toward the problems of the world of praxis. Vedanta, therefore, does not primarily concern itself with adding more power to the mode of living in the world. According to Samkaracarya, the dynamics of activity itself work toward greater usefulness and competence in the world. It is necessary, on the other hand, to open up the possibility of the desire to know Brahman. The sustenance of this ‘unnatural’ movement in thought, is the region of competence for the Vedantist.

It is to be seen, however, that neo-Vedantists have presented the Advaita philosophy, not as an exclusive perspective on the human condition but as an universal spiritualism for the modern world. At the beginning of the century the confrontation with Christian Theology, awoke a pride in the non-dogmatic character of their own philosophy which could be expounded to all men of understanding without demanding that they give up their own religion in order to understand the message of the Upanishads. The final form that neo-Vedanta has assumed in our own time is, therefore, that of an universal spiritualism; it is believed that Vedanta, instead of being in conflict with modern times, provides the only clue toward a healthy balancing of the forces of secularism and a sense of the religious.

It is true that the latter half of twentieth century has seen a flowering of Eastern-centrism in the West which is unprecedented. {“It appears that today a universal connections is being initiated in the spiritual sense in a new confrontation of the East and the West, such as never perhaps occurred in history.” E. Frauwallner, History of Indian Philosophy (Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass, 1973), p. XXXIX.}. it is said that we are today entering an era of newfound understanding between the East and the West, that in the region of perennial philosophy {Aldous Huxley  writes : “Philosophia perennis—the phrase was coined by Leibnitz but the thing— metaphysic that recognises a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds, the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to or even identical with divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transendent Ground of all being– –the thing is immemorial and universal.” The perennial Philosophy (London : Chatto and Windus), p.1.} The horizons of East and West have met  and become one. A new type of literature is coming into existence which heralds the coming of the integral consciousness which will not know the confines of regional boundaries. One author writes :

It is to be that Asia and the west will

mutually assist one another in order to help

awaken this new consciousness. {P. J. Saher, Eastern Wisdom and Western Thought, The Psycho-Cybernatics of comparative Ideas in Religion and Philosophy (London Allen & Unwin, 1969), p. 12.}

The question may be raised if this is what was aimed at when Indian scholars eagerly tried to participate in the thought-life of the West. It is quite conceivable that they were on the other hand rather appalled to see the transformation of the Indian concept of Monism into the universalism of a perennial philosophy. It is to be noted that it remains more of an Western enterprise than Indian. Spiritualism is the philosophy of a secular society and Indian if alive to the spirit of its heritage can hardly acclaim it as a description of its genious. The swelling tide of the East-West confluence on the level of spiritual consciousness follows, therefore, a course of its own without adding to the metaphysical thinking necessary for the understanding of the Indian tradition.

It is also true that many East-West conference are taking place where it is hoped that a new awakening will take place. {The  proceedings of the four conference held in 1939, 1949, 1959 and 1964 have been published as follows :

(a)  Philosophy—East and West (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1944).

(b)  Essays in East-West Philosophy (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, 1951).

(c)  Philosophy and Culture—East and West (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press,


(d)  Status of the Individual : East and West (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press,

       1967).           The acceptance of the philosophy of Vedanta at the level of World Conference however, seems a very remote possibility when it is not accepted as such by those who apparently advocate its thoughts. To say this, is not at all, to deny the universal character of Vedanta, On the contrary; Samkaracarya is without doubt speaking to all who would care to engage in a dialogue with him. Painstakingly, he takes his interlocutors along the path of renunciation which they are as wary of travelling as any modern man. The hold of the world on man is not less gripping in our time than in Samkaracarya’s. The objections to his teaching are numerous and cover, in effect, the same ground that any modern critics may level against him. To loosen the familiar ties with which we are bound to the world is neither easy nor a natural process; moreover it does not seem to lead to any end which could appear as immediately meaningful and worth-while.

So, from whence comes the appeal of Advaita and who is affected by it ? It may be said, in answer, that the inspiration is derived from the vision of Bliss Supreme as the goal of human life, seen by the Upanishadic seers; this vision is relevant to those only who are seeking not the fragmentation of bliss in the world but the totality of it in mokşa (Liberation).

It is clearly to be seen in the last seventy years or so, few attempts have been made to describe Brahman as ānanda as central to the teachings of the Upanishads. {N. A. Nikam’s The Delight of Being, is one the recent attempts addressed to this task}. This is not suprising because in this context of ānanda must be stated the ideal of renunciation. The contemporary writes who seek to interpret Vedanta for the modern world, have emphasized sat (reality) and cit (consciousness) but not ānanda (bliss) and have thus taken apart the integrated unity of Brahman as Saccidananda. We may even say that a veiling of Brahman as ānanda, is exemplified in the writings of neo-Vedantins. Instead of the plenitude of bliss promised by the Upanishads,  they chose to stay with the infinitesimal part of this Bliss which sustains the entire world :

………..this  is  its  (Brahman’s)  Supreme  bliss.  On  a

particle   of   this  very   bliss   other   beings   live.   {Br.  Up.  IV.  111.32}.

The exclusivity demanded, regarding the teaching as well as the willingness to hearken to the teaching of Adavita is not incompatible with its universality. The enquiry into Brahman knowledge could be the concern of anyone, anywhere and at any time. The Samkaracarya’s philosophy may be termed, universal and relevant to all modes of living, ancient or modern; yet it must be emphasized that he is uniformly and exclusively addressing himself toward the unravelling of ‘that knot of the heart’ {Mund. II. 2.8.} which remains so unequivocally obdurate to all worldly measures. As a matter of fact the universality which obtains in Samkaracarya’s philosophy is at a deeper level than is maintained by his interpreters.

In following the paths which neo-Vedanta followed, one can conclude without being unduly harsh that it has not opened up any new avenues of understanding with regard to our heritage, since the modes of interpretations employed relate it exclusively to the demands of Westernization. The Indian scholars, considered ‘the age of man’ to be the desirable end to be endorsed for their own country. The problem delineated in the beginning of this work pertained to the emergence of neo-Vedanta as a contemporary way of understanding the tradition of Upanishadic thought. It is understandable that at the first encounter of disparate cultures a veilling of crucial issues would take place. The veiling however persists in the implied new self-understanding of Vedantic thought as entailing a discontinuity with tradition.

The discontinuity with tradition perhaps lies not so much in extolling the values of humanity but in thinking that these lay at variance with Vedantic thought.  Hence was felt the need for the construction of neo-Vedanta. The exclusive region of Vedanta however stands in no conflict with worldly concern, and it was a tragic mistake to think that this was so. The phrase used by Gilbert Murray in a different context, seems apt to the Indian situation. There was here ‘a failure of nerves’ on the part of thinkers to keep to the teaching of renunciation in the face of rising tides of secularism. Neo-Vedanta, therefore, developed as a mode of compromise, where there was no need for such attempts. Moreover, as long as a complete break with tradition remained outside the scope of existential experience, all attempts at reconstituting the indigenous philosophy were bound to fail. It is therefore, not surprising that neo-Vedanta did not succeed in taking roots in the soil of India.

The crux of the matter is that the unity of the Self and Brahman is revealed in and only in the Upanishads. If one wishes to be led toward the understanding of this teaching one must follow the guideline provided by of the tradition united in its concern to underscore the heart and essence of Upanishadic revelation. By this teaching a transformation of the very structure of man’s being in the world was sought to be effected. The attempts at seeking to place it in a different setting bespeaking a different orientation of spirit cannot be considered a continuation of the tradition.

It is a very nice conceit on the part of man in our contemporary world, to think the world needs to be underscored as the region of human fulfillment. As a matter of fact the grip of the world was felt as strongly by man in the time of Samkaracarya as at any other time before or since; otherwise he would not have felt called upon to (as referred to above) reassure his pupils regarding liberation. So we see that there is no special line of demarcation for distinguishing between either an ancient or a contemporary desire which makes a man cry ‘let the world be’ (astu samsāra eva).

We who are inescapably Westernized, may engage in an academic pursuit of Vedantic knowledge only in the mode of what the ancients, called the logic of ‘the lamp at the threshold’ (dehali-deepa-nyāya). The lamp if placed at the threshold, illuminates the room as well as the courtyard; and as such leaves open the choice to ‘astu samsāra eva’ (let the world be) or toward the unknown and therefore fearful path to ‘mokşa’ And this after all, is where all students of the Upanishads, have always stood and must always stand in the future as well.

The question which are thematised in the Upanishds belong with the Textual statements presented for appropriation by enquiry and meditation. Without an inquiry there is no answer; in preserving this methodology the Upanishads have touched the innermost chord in all human hearts. In this alone perhaps can be found the secret of that universalism which is generally sought to be propagated at a different level altogether.

To grasp the meaning of Samkaracarya, one must see him as holding up the lamp which illuminates the threshold. He is addressing those who would venture out into the shadowy world which can be glimpsed from where they are but not know. The world including time, plays no important part here because the human condition is precisely this predicament of being in the world, where man finds himself, and where he may choose to be, but from whence he may also start on a quest which would transform his entire way of understanding the world.

According to the point view taken up here, it is possible to construe tradition as being of uniform significance throughout the ages because it is based on a view of man which is not only that of the age of modernity. To the question whether we had the choice to stay clear of the forces of modernity, the answer would seem to be that it was both necessary and desirable to have ‘thought’ the tradition on its own terms.

The point of this Chapter could be stated differently : The epistemological and ethical framework of Western philosophy could have been studied and appreciated as a contrast to the traditional mode of thinking about the statements of the Upanishads. It is possible that this line of approach to the encounter would have resulted in a deepening on understanding of both systems of thought. As it is, the deeper hermeneutical dimension of the exegetical literature is almost lost to the world of academics. It must be emphasized that the hermeneutical task before Samkaracarya was one of uncovering the one ultimate question which the Upanishads answer. By the very nature of the case it could not be of the nature of open-ended questions which could depend upon experience in the world for their resolution. In order to enter into the stream of Upanishadic tradition a task which exegesis intends to facilitate, we must bring ourselves to see the profound significance of the following question, or even to ask it.

I ask you, of that Being who is to be known

only from the Upanishads, who definitely

projects those (all) beings and withdraws them

into Himself, and who is at the same time

transcendent. {Sa yestān puruşān niruhya pratyuhyātyakrāmat, tamtavāunişadam purusam prcchāmi. Br Up III. 9.26.}.

At the end of the critique of neo-Vedanta we must go back to the source material for all interpretative philosophies. The next Chapters are devoted to the study of the Taittiriya Upanishad with a view to substantiating the critique. Although all Upanishads expound, in effect, the non-dual Brahman, the Tattiriya, especially and unquestionably discourses on the ideal of renunciation, holding it together with the concept of a plenitude of Bliss. The study of this Upanishad, in the light of Samkaracarya’s commentary reveals the yawning chasm between the tradition and its modernised forms. The latter attempts, however, must be regarded as an important chapter in the history of Indian philosophy because it reflects the polarisation of values which was a living experience for the creators of neo-Vedanta.


                                                           CHAPTER ELEVEN


The Ontology of Bliss


In the next four Chapters, we go back to one of the major sources of Vedanta philosophy, namely the Taittirīya Upanişad. It is hoped that this very efforts towards recovering an understanding of tradition in thought in terms of its own premises may be viewed as a step one may take in the direction of loosening the stranglehold of modernity as an ideology. Regarding the Upanishads, N. A. Nikam, has written:

In  the   Upanishads,   philosophy  arises   as  a

question  and  lives  as a dialogue…There is no

inquiry  if  there  is  no  question.  A    dialogue

arises  not  because  a  question is asked and  is

answered but  because a question is questioned.

And  the  dialogue is between one who “knows”

and one who “inquires”…..Ā teacher belongs to

a  galaxy,  and  falls  in  lines  with  others  who

preceded  him.  But  the  line  is  not completed.

The line is the tradition of  teachers who  guard

The  tradition  what  produces  them……....The

Upanishads are a  demonstration of the fact that

man  can bring about  a revolution  in his nature

through dialogue. The Upanişhads are, therefore,

dialogue  of  the   civilization  of  man. {N. A. Nikam Ten Principle Upanishads (Bombay, 1974, pp. 1-5)}

the following rendering of the Taittirya Upanişhad has, been schematized into such topics as could be related easily to what has already been stated in the earlier Chapters. Firstly, the Text is introduced and its contents are described; next, an account of disciplines propounded for the students is summarised with a view to bringing out the Upanishadic understanding of the nature of man to see what may be expected of his in and away from the world. Finally, the dimension of this transition is described: a transformation which is of the nature of a finding or realization only. The final Chapter concludes with the question of this desirability as well as the necessity for renunciation.


A. The Text :

The Taittitīya Upanişad is regarded by tradition as one of the major texts, containing not only the ‘essential’ definition of Brahman but also by implication what may be describes as an analysis of the nature of man. It sets forth the mode of proceeding on the way to Brahman-knowledge and then culminates in describing the ecstasy of the aspirant who has realized Brahman. A unity of subject characterises this small Text which belongs to the Kŗşņa- yajurveda, It comprises of three chapters called vallīs (entwining creepers) which are divided into twelve, nine and ten sections, respectively, called anuvākas (lessons). Thus the entire Upanişad contains thirty-one short passages only. {Some section are further divided into verses, but different editions have different numbers for these verses. I have followed the numbering given in the Gita Press edition. In the Anandashrama edition, the second and and third vallis are divided into khandas and not anuvākas. (Sanskrit Granthāvali, no. 12)}.

The Taittitīya has many claims toward distinction even amongst the major Upanishads. It is one of the few Upanishads which has merited the commentary of the famous Vedic annotator Sayanacarya (Sayana). Sayana had confined himself to the earlier three sections of the Vedas and had not proceeded to the fourth section which in general comprises of the Upanishads. The three chapters of the Taittrīyopanişad the Śikşā-vallī, the Ānanda-vallī and the Bhargu-vallī, actually from the seventh, eighth and the ninth chapters of the Āraņyaka (3rd section) of the Kŗşņa-yajurveda, and as such were treated by Sayana in his Vedic commentary.

According to Sayana, the first chapter of the Taittirīya can by called an Upanişad in its on right. His classification, therefore, is as follows: the Śikşā-valli is called Sāmhitī-Upanişad; the Ānanda-vallī and the Bhrgu-vallī are together called the Vāruņi-Upanişad. Sayana writies that the latter is more significant than the former,  because it contains the main teaching of the Taittirīya Upanişad. The first chapter, called  Sāmhitī discoursing on rituals and other disciplines related to Vedic study, is also important as no student may hope to come to the central teaching without qualifying himself by the study of the first vallī. {Fāsyāmadhikārasiddhaye sāmhityāh prathamany pathitavyatvāt.’  Sāyana, p. 4 (Taittirīya Āranyaka, propātlaka 7, anuvāka 1).

The first vallī propounding the disciplines to be followed by students, has not been separted by any of the classical commentators from the main body of the Text. { In this connection the modern attitude of considering it irrelevant to the issue becomes self-revealing as a departure from the traditional way of understanding the Upanişad. Supra p. 160}. It is so integral to the structure of the Āraņyaka that Sayana actually has raised it to the status of an Upanişad.  Its importance lies creating the groundwork for the imparting of knowledge contained in the next two chapters. Without a study of the śikşā-vallī, the message of the Ānanda and Bhrgu vallī could not be understood in any appreciable measure.

The naming of the Upanishads or their sections , in general, are done by reference to the Teacher  (as for example, Māndukya, Katha, Kauşītaki and Śvetāśvatara) or even by the first word of the Text, (Īśa, Kena) or the name is merely descriptive (Praśna, Chhāndogya, Bŗhadā-raņyaka, Muņdaka, Aitereya and kaivalya). Of all the major Upanishads, {Traditionally 13 Upanişads are considered major works in Vedanta; the eleven commented upon by Samkaracarya and two from which he has quoted in his writings. Out of the names given above, the Kauşītaki and the Kaivalya do not have Samkarabhasya on them. The commentary on the Śvetaśvatura is open to some doubt as to whether it was written by Samkaracarya.} the Taittirīya alone has also a symbolic meaning given to its name. The legend perpetuated regarding its name states :

It is said that Saint Vaisampayana got annoyed

with a prominent disciple of  his,  Yajnavalkya

and   the  guru  ordered  the  disciple  to  return

all    the   knowledge   so   far   taught  to   him.

Yajnavalkya   ‘vomitted’  the entire knowledge

Acquired, seeing which Vaisampayana ordered

his   other   disciples  to    take    the   from    of

partridges    (Tittiri birds)    and   consume   the

learnings. { Discourses on Taittirīya Upanişad by Swami Chinmaya (Madras : 1955), p. 71}.

The Taittirīya comes to us, therefore, shrouded in the mystery of a mythical legend yet it foreshadows the main thrust of the Text in at least one respect. The great sage Yajnavalkya who is the knower of Brahman (Brahmavit), in the Bŗhadāroņyaka, here in the legend, on being debarred from this knowledge, goes away and by proper austerities and mediation again acquires the knowledge by his own efforts and the grace of the great god Savitā.{Visņupurāņa, III. 5}. We see a repetition of this motif in Bhrigu’s anxiety for knowledge, his efforts towards it and his final success in acquiring it, in the vicinity of the Teacher as it were, but not actually being ‘taught’ by him. The mystery of Brahman-knowledge, therefore, cannot become a subject for discourse or a part of a teaching regimen; it is a ‘seeing’ for those who seek and who make supreme efforts toward it and the worth-whileness alone of such efforts may be learnt from the Teacher.

The most distinguishing feature of the Taittirīyopanişad is its opening hymn whichnrather unexpectely is taken from the Rg Veda (I. 90. 9). The Taittirīya, belonging to the Krsna-Yajurveda, should have been prefaced by the hymn : Sah nau avatu, etc; instead this hymn is appended at the end of the hymn from the Rg Veda. {In the Muktikopanişads is to be found the classification of the 108 Upanişads acording to their opening peace chants. As far as the major Upanishads are concerned the list is as follows.

(a)    Aitareya, kauşītaki beginning with ‘Vanme manasi,’ etc., belonging to Rgveda;

(b)   Īśa, Bŗhadāraņyaka, beginning with ‘pūrņamadah’, etc., belonging to Sukla-yajurveda;

(c)    Kaţha,Tittiti, Kaivalya, śvetaśvatara, beginning to kŗşņa-yajur-veda.

(d)   Kena, Chhandogya, beginning with ‘apyayantu’, etc.,  belonging to Sāmaveda;

(e)    Praśņa, Muņdaka, Māndukya beginning  with ‘bhadram karņebhih’, etc., belonging to Atharvaveda}. The hymn is :

May    Mitra,    Varuna,    Aryaman,   Indra,

Brihaspati  and  Vishnu  of  wide  strides be

propitious  to  us  and  grant  us welfare and

bliss.  I  salute Brahman in loving reverence.

O  Vayu,  I  bow  down to thee in  adoration.

Thou  verily art Brahman perceptible. I shall

declare:   Thou art  the  right:   Thou  art  the

true and the good. May that Universal Being

entitled Vayu preserve me. May He preserve

the  teacher.  Me, may  Brahman protect; my

teacher, may  He protect.  Om,  peace, Peace

Peace.  {Taittiriyopanişad,   invocation   verse}.

With this opening verse of the Text we indeed come to the subject matter of the upanişad, because again most unusually the peace chant itself forms the first lesson (anuvāka) of the first chapter (vallī). Samkaracarya’s commentary on the chant marks it out as indicative of the subject of the Upanişad. 

Sayana, in his Bhāşya writes {Sayana, pp. 2-8} that it is meet that the gods like Mitra, Veruna etc., should be propitiated by man because by seeking to acquire Brahman-knowledge he is prepartying to forsake the region of the influence of the gods. Just as responsible shepherds guard their flock against night marauders like tigers, etc., so do the gods seek to preserve human beings against the possibility of the transcendence of the human condition. Gods are sustained by human beings and therefore men are zealously guarded by their spiritual protectors. Thus, unless the gods become kind and remove such obstacles as may impede the progress of the scholar, he cannot hope to strike out for freedom. By this invocatory chant, therefore, the Upanişad indicates that the main thrust of the Text is toward imparting Brahman-knowledge alone, by which man is to proceed on a path unknown to and unchartered by worldly wisdom.


B. The Four-fold Scheme of interpretative Analysis :


Following the classical mode of the exgesis, Sayana brings the entire material under the four-fold scheme of interpretative analysis known as the anubandha catusţaya. The contents of a book under consideration is sought to be understood with reference to these four questions, namely, (i) What is the subject of the work in question, (ii) how is the work proposing to deal with the subject or how is it related to its subject, (iii) what can be the outcome of the work; and lastly, (iv) for whom is the work meant ? {Vişayah kah phalam kim kah sambandhah ko’ dhikārayah ityākāmkşānivŗtyartham catuşţayamudiryate. Sayana, Introduction, p. 2}.

Sayana’s definition of subject is, ‘the material which is not available anywhere else’ (ananyalabhyo vişaya itihi vişayasya lakşaņam). {Sayama, Introduction, p. 2}. The uniquencess of the content of this Text according to him is indicated by the opening verse and hence its peculiar relevance in combining invocation with presaging the subject matter of the following sections.

To approach the question in a different way: all Upanishads propound the knowledge of the unity of the Self and Brahman, which is called Brahman-knowledge, or brahmavidyā. Brahmavidyā is that supreme knowledg, ‘on knowing which everything else may be known.’ The Mundakopanishad raises ans answers this question. (kashminnu bhagavo vijāta sarvam idham vijñātam bhavatīti? Mund. I. 1.3), This is the crucial question sought to be answered by all Upanishads. The Upanishads are discoirses about that ‘Person’ who being the source of all, may not be known from any other source of knowledge than himself. It is stated in the Texts that this supreme knowledge may not be acquired through sense-experience, or by the mind by medititation, or speech by discourse. {The eye does not go there, nor speech, nor mind. We do not know (Brahman to be such and such), hence we are not aware of any method of teaching it. (kena 1.3.)}.

The Upanishads must, therefore, play a double role. The knowing of the scriptural knowledge is the necessary penultimate step toward qualigfying oneself toward the acquiring of the transcendent (parā vidyā) illumination by which all else is lighted up. Any ground which gives rise to a knowledge of the good must also yield to a lnowledge of its absence as evil. Therfore, scriptural knowledge which brings about a sense of the duite4s to be performed in the world, the virtues to be inclcated, the obligations to be discarged the rights to bge enjoyed, etc., must also indicate the way of this discursiveness toward the unity which being realised all fragmentations stand dissolved. To talk about this fulfiment and man’s eligibility for it is the subject matter for all Upanishads and especially so far the Taittirīyopanişad. In the Tasittirīya is given the details of both aspect of Brahman-knowledge and this in its indicated by the opening verse, which is, therefore, crucial in its impart.

The question of subject-matter; namely Brahman-knowledge thus, must be understood to have been settled by the anlysis of the opening verse itself. This is also the reason why the commentators have treated it as the first lesson of the first chapters of the Text. The peace-chant of the Kŗşņa-Yajurveda which opens all other Texts is also given which confirms the interpretation that the verse from Rgeveda is to be understood especially with reference to the gods who guard the affairs of earthly beings.

The second question regarding the fruit of the study of the Upanişad must now be considered. The Text does not promise an enhancement of worldly goods, or success in human affairs. It is, in fact, pointing away from the usual preoccupations which hold the attention of human beings. It is not reasonable to expect anyone to forsake the concrete world of pleasure and, not doubt some pain, for the sake of a nebulous region of uncertainty. Sayana here refers to the very beautiful śloka from Mundakopanişad which has been a favourite quote for commentators down the centures, as indicating the fruit to be achieved : “The knot of the heart is penetrated, all doubts are resolved, all bondages are destroyed, on seeing Him who is here and beyond. {bhidyate hŗdayagranthiścchidyante sarvasamśayah ksīyante cāsya karmāņi tasmindrsţe parāvare. Muņdakopaniśşad II. 2.8. Sayana, p. 9}.

The world ‘knot’ suggests recalcitrance; a problem which stays and is not amenable to the methodology of whence and wherefore. Im general. If a problem can be traced to its cause, even if the removal of the cause is not possible, a lessening of its power for unhappiness is experienced. A knot, however, does not denote any concrete problem as such, but a tightening of the chords of the heart in hurt which may seem irrational and is mostly inarticulate but nevertheless, real. This knot of the heart is surrounded by doubts which feed and sustain it. How is this knot to be overcome—not by slow unravelling but by the piercing of it to the core so that it stands annulled. On seeing Brahman all doubts disperse, just as the shining sun puts to rute the clouds by which the sky was overcast.

It is to be noted here that the Text chosen by commentators does not say that everthying will vanish as māyā. The emphasis is on true knowledge.

Then comes the consideration of the third point regarding the structer of a book under study, namely. How does the work propose to bring about the fruit promised to the reader. In other words, how is the book related to the subject matter in hand. To take the definition of this requirement (anubandha) also from Sayana : “The relation between the discourse on knowledge and the discourse on action is that of the end and the means thereof.” {Jñānakāndasya karmakāndena saha sāddyasādhanabhāvalaksaņah sambandhah. Sayana, p. 18}.

The subject of the Upanishad being Brahman-knowledge or the knowledge of the unity of the self with Brahman the yearning for this knowledge can be awakened by actions performed in accordance with scriptural injunctions. The Vedantic tradition of Samkaracarya maintains clearly that tha continuity between action in the world and knowledge of Brahman lies in the former creating a situation where the wish to know Brahman may awaken. Paradoxically therefore, the relation is non-existent because the tradition must become nothing after the efect is in evidence, and this is how it is brought out by the Upanişad under consideration here, according to Samkaracarya’s commentary on the Text.

Samkaracarya very clearly classifies the possible points of view which may be put forward by the interrogator as to the suffciency of action, for acquiring ultimate felicity. It may be said that (i) karma alone may bring about this ultimate state, or (ii) karma aided by jñāna knowledge or (iii) that karma and jñāna (knowledge) together may do so, or even (iv) knowledge aided by karma or (v) lastly by jñāna alone.

In summation of Samkaracarya’s arguments, which are stated in other Upanishad-bhasyas {Kena Up. Bh., Intriduction and IV. 1., and Īśopanisadbhāsya Introduction.} also in great detail it  may be said : Liberation is beginningless and endless and all inclusive. It is not a state to be brought about at the cessation of a process. The Self is eternally liberated. It does not know that this is so; The ‘Real’ can be known only and not brought into existence in the form of a new accomplishment. Liberation, therefore, does not answer to any aspect of Karma (action) because by karma we mean precisely what is capable of bringing about changes, namely, beginnings, modifications, transformations and destructions. Liberation is ever beyond these modes of process; even a touch of karma, therfore, cannot be alloewed to remain in the dimension of yearning which is directed toward knowledge of the Self. Action cannot bring about something which is already there; on the contrary, it can actually facilitate its non-revelation by drawing attention away fron it.

What, then, is the role of moral disciplines in life, which the first chapters of Taittrīyaponişad seta forth in great detail for the pupil and which is conscientiously and insightfully annotated upon by Samkaracarya?

The place of dutiful action in the world is of supreme importance. This can be seen from the fact that all aspects of such an education are incorporated in the scriptures. Whatever concern human life is not extraneous to Vedic literature; therefore, the pupil are to be taught properly in the ways of conduct that will be demanded of them by the world in which they will be required to live.

The first chapter of Taittirīyopanişad is called Sisā-valli, that is, the chapter in which are treated such matters as must be learnt by the pupil for an adequate education, namely, the rule of correct pronunciation, without which the real meanings of worls may not be appreciated; the categories of relationships which obtain in the physical world; then the supreme principle ‘Om’ which symbolises all reality. Though these teachings the pupil is instructed in the ways of acquiring all enjoyments from progeny to the higest heavens and all qualities of the head and heart conducive to a good and prosperous living in the world (I, 1-IV).

Thereupon the meditation on Brahman is taught. (I V-VII) Brahman is described in many ways as subject of meditation and also as the symbol Om (I.VIII). All these lessons are in the form of aphorisms; it can be understood easily that herew the guidence of a knowledge teacher is indispensable. The ninth leson talks about the over-riding concerns which must impel the student: as, for example, righteousness (ŗţam), learning (svādhyāya),  teuth (satyam), austerity (tapas), control, of inner and outer organs, duties in the world, entertainment of the stranger as guest, social good conduct, family life and its sustenance till the birth of a grandson (i. e. ensuring the continuity of family life).   

The tenth lesson descring the ectacy of a man of realization is in the form of a mantram to be borne in mind, so that the world can be kept in its proper perspective. In the eleventh leson the sphere of activity is described in the detailing of duties to the student who is about to leave the academy of the teacher and is to take up his position in the world. This is one of the longer lessons and spoken by the teacher to the student on the eve of his departure. The very first injuction is that truth is to be spoken and practiced, no deviation from truth must take place; righteousness must be cultivated. The pupil must discharge his obligation to his teacher (before entering the world) and also to his family by getting married. Carelessness in anything is not allowable; without being cruel to other; he must observe the right of self-protection; he must discharge all duties of the house-holder; be specially respectful toward his mother, his father and his teacher; the guest is to be honoured; all actions which are praiseworthy are to be resorted to but not others.

The lesson then lays down what can be called a remarkable criterion for ethical judgements : it saya that when in doubt, look about your self and see how good men of the highest intergrity of character, the highly respected brahmans “who are not cruel”, behave, and take your cur from them. The keynote of this lesson in good conduct is, therefore, a kindness toward all and the inculcation of a spirit of rendering service to those to whom it is due. Even for “acused people” the same rule holds good. It does not spek of meeting out justice to wrondoers, but again the criterion is to be guide by the judgment of those who are wellversed in such matters and who are good and righteous and not cruel and are desirous of acquiring merit for their actions (deliberations in this case). Morality, therefore, seems squarely based upon good precepts rather than one’s own evaluations of a situation.

It conjures up a picture of a well-ordered society, a society which is free to follow in the pursuit of all the agreeable aims of life and also of life and also to devote itself to the acquiring of learning and wisdom. Even so, there is the unmistakble refrain or an exhortation toward a higher life. The śikşā-vallī concludes with the opening peace chant as its twelfth lesson. If we are to be guided by Samkaracarya, and the tradition of exegesis he started, we must follow hin in saying that the world which is taught in this vallī is to be taken as a halting place, a ‘caravansarai’ and not to ultimate sphere of human achievement. We cannot escape this conlusion because to the commentary on the eleventh anuvāka itself he attaches his most devastating arguments against the possibility of action leading to the knowledge of Brahman. Action can accomplish and achieve every kind of happiness from the satisfaction of the sense to the felicity of the highest heavens; but this entire range of values still belongs to the realm igonorance, because the self as Brahman is not known. Unity cannot be polarised into any kind of duality, doer and the done by, knower and the known, enjoyer and the enjoyed or the experinencer and the experienced. To rid the Self of these falsities which give rise to doubts, sorrows and fear of deprivations, knowledge itself must prevail, nature of Bliss and on the occurrence of which, nothing else remains to be done, known acquiredm or feared. And hence the fact of the first chapter concluding with the opening chant as its twelfth lesson. As we see, this bracketing of the teaching regarding the world by the invocation for Brahman-knowledge, separates karma from jñāna as a means there of but establishes the sphere of action as the take-off point for that transnatural dimension which is only thus tenuously related to it. The book then proceeds to deal with the question of Brahman-knowledge as the main subject after establishing this crucial discontinuity.

The last question to be answred is, for whom is the work made available? Sayana following Samkaracarya saya : the seeker of knowledge  is adressed here and not the man wgo is engaged in activity. {Sayana, p. 26}. The candidate for liberation is one who realise that he must be seized with the yearinng for freedom to the exclusion of all else which determines his behaviour. Since, ordinarily nobady is thus seized, or alternately, everbody although entertaining reservations is open to conviction, it may be said that in principle the Upanişad is meant for all who care to follow its lesons toward Self-realization.

The tradition of Vedanta, maintains that a man possessed of (1) the power of discrimination (to distinguish between the real and the transient), (20 detachment, (3) the 6 treasures of good conduct, (quietude, restraint, allofness, fortitude, reverence and certitude) and (4) the yearning for liberation,  is qualified to enter into an enquiry toward Brahman-knowledge. The natural theatre of activity for man is thus the preparing ground for bringing about the state of yearning; as such all are qualified (or not qualified as the case may be ) for asking the crucial question regarding the message of the Upanishads. The exclusivity demanded here, pertains to human nature as such; to choose the transnatural, forsaking the security of the natural is to be very peculiar indeed; but this ‘peculiarity’ is sought to be made a desirable option for those who wish to travel toward the realisation of the ultimate aim of human life.

Summing up the four-fold scheme (anubandha-catuştaya) it may be said that the unity of Self and Brahman which is expounded in the Upanisad, is done so by showing up the utter disassociation of the Self from the determinations of its worldly experiences; the result of this discrimination is supreme happiness which man is ever in search of and this being so that Upanisad is addressed to all who may choose to attend to its message.


The Nature of Man

The Ānanda-vallī opens with the statement : ‘brahmavidāpnoti param’ (the knower of Brahman attains the supreme) and goes on to define ‘param’ as ‘satyam’ (real)  jñānam’ (consciousness) and ‘anantam, (infinite).

The teacher in his exegesis here,k is held up by the first crucial question, namely, how can the infinite Brahman be attained by man who is definitely finite. To this question is addressed the description of man as nothing but the eternal Self hidden by many layers of functional identifications  with which he is ordinarily preoccupied. The Self is nothing but Brahman itself and by the world “attainment’ is meant Self-realisation.

The Text in five lesson (anuvākas) describes the nature of man in the imagery of a bird. A bird always signifies a creatures who is able to bring together earth and heaven by its flight; a creature of the world, yet which is not bound totally to it. It seems, therefore, almost natural for man to be described in the structural likeness of a bird. The description is form the most gross elements in man’s make up to its most subtle elements, but all are of equal importance because it is Brahman who is manifest in all names and forms which make up the world our experience. The Text states :

From  that  Brahman,  which  is  the Self, was

produced  space.   From  space  emerged   air.

From air was born fire. From fire was created

water.  From  water  sprang  up   earth.   From

earth  were  born  herbs.  From  the  herbs was

produced  food.  From  food  was   born   man.

That  man,  such  as  he  is,  is a product of the

essence   of  food :  of  him  this, indeed, is the

head;  this  is  the  southern  side;  this   is   the

northern  side;  this   is   the   Self;   this  is  the

supporting    base.    {Tait. II.1.1}

describing the gross form of flesh and bllod, the Text proceeds, in the same manner, to describe the subtle forms of the vital air which is found to be breathing in the body (II. ii); the mind which gives sentience to the entire body (II. iii); knowledge (vijñāna) which permeates the mind of man (II. iv) and lastly the innermost sheath of pleasure which man knows as joyousness, enjoyment, felicity, esctacy and bliss (II. v) which is the  ultimate condition making it possible to live, to think and to know. {Who indeed could live, (and) who indeed could breathe, were there no delight in (this vast and spreading) sky? Tait. II. vii}.

These are the five sheaths which hide the self from knowing itself as Brahman. It identifies itself with its body which is sustained by the food it ingests and food in turn consumes the body it has created. The gross body sustain the body of the vital airs again which supports the mental body. Without the mind the knowing faculties could not function and in the knowledge structure creating the conditions which are peculiar to human life. To strive for joy and to seek to avoid pain makes the human being belong to the world of all creatures and also sets him apart from his fe;;ow beings, because he alone is capable of actualising the promise of joy, a future in joyousness or the possibility of a pure joy, unalloyed by sorrow. This, then is the supreme incentive (pravartaka) towards the trans-natural region of Textual discourse. {Śureśvara Vartikam. II.31}.

The self is to be taught discrimination between Itself and the not-self. The self is so identified with the body, breath, mind and confciousness that it understands the entire words as given to experiences of the I or ego-consciousness. The ‘I’ knows itself to be short or tall, black or fair, etc., as living and willing, as feeling various emotions and as knowing and striving in the world for fruits od actions. Just as the logic of the “moon on the bought” {śureśvara Vārtikam, II. 232. Attention is first drawn to the object which is clerly visible, a branch of a tree and it is said “look carefully, the new moon is just above the branch”. Needless to say that three is no connection between the moon and the tree.} is used for indicating the presence of an all but invisible moon, the five sheath of the Self are poiunted out in order to reveal the presence of the self-evident Self by a progressive disassociation from all false identities.

Paradoxically, the five sheath which effectively keep the self, as it were, preoccupied on these planes, are also the conditions which give man his precedence over other living beings. By engaging in karma, he is able to acquire that state of mental attitude which proples him toward theyearning for knowledge. { Samkaracarya on Tait. II, 1,1. Samkaracarya cites here, the following Aitareya-Āranyaka Text (II.iii 2,5), ‘In man alone is the self  most manifest. He speak what he knows; he sees what he knows; he knows what will happen tomarrow; he knows the higher and lower worlds; he aspires to achieve immortality through mortal things. He is thus endowed (with discrimination) while other beings have consciousness of hunger and thirst only’. (Swami Gambhirananda’s translation Eight Upanisads Vol. 1, p. 3 4.). his experience of happiness in the world sets him on the path to a greater happiness. No other fruit can works as sufficient incentive for man for this purpose.

Samkaracarya’s exegesis of these Textual lessons follows a pattern which leads on to a demarcation of the first chapter of the Upanisad from the other two. In the first chapter, the Text has with great clarity defined man’s duties in the world, given him guidelines on good conduct and described him the innermost structure of his nature which draws him apart from the realm of other beings and sets him in a class by himself as the being who may inquire into the nature of the highest truth, namely Brahman. It is true that man seeks happiness; Brahman beings of the nature of Bliss, is the natural quest for man’s ultimate fulfilment. The question which must be answered here, is why should this quest for Brahman-knowledge, require man to engege in the process of cancellation of the five planes of existence before he can relize the self-evident Self.





                                CHAPTER TWELVE


Renunciation As the pre-condition of Realization.


The question which was posed at the end of the previous Chapter may he stated in different words: Why should Bliss be related to renunciation and not simply to a deepening of the experience of ananda which is already at the care of human experience. Samkaracarya, however, is clear on this point:

The Upanişad are teaching the highest aim in

life for man; the teaching is about knowledge

of  Brahman. They aim at freeing man from

bondage to the world………….

                                                      (Tait. I. 11).

Śureśvara writes more uncompromisingly:

The   renunciation  of  all  action   is  the  only

means for liberation. Brahman is known  only

by   those  who   have   renounced    all.    For

the  renunciate  alone  is the realization of the

highest. { Śureśvara Vārtikam, II. 10}.

The greatest opposition to this statement comes from within tradition itself which may be supposed to be drawing its support from the first chapter of the Taittiriyopanisad. The five-sheath (pañca-kośa) analysis of the human condition, seems to support the injunction laid on man for the living of a fruitful and useful life in the world. If Brahman is itself manifest in the succeeding planes of goes to subtle metrical, the it can certainly be realized as the highest God (paramātman) pervading all certain. In fact how is it at all possible to depart the realm of Brahman? In the language of the traditionalists, which is summmarised by Anandagiri in his gloss on this section of the Vartika, it is said in effect: Injunctions about action is stated in the earlier part of the Vedas and so are injunctions given for pursuing the path of knowledge in the later portions (Vedanta). From this a transition alone is called for and not a cancellation for the sake of liberation which may be attained by the man of knowledge following the precepts of the Vedas. {Anandagiri  on Śureśvara Vārtikam, II. 10-16}.

With the question we come to the heart of the matter. Indian philosophy is not identical with Samkaracarya’s philosophy; Samkaracarya is not acceptable to Mimamsakas (those who stay with the injunctions regarding (ritual) action in the world in the Vedas), on the one hand, and dvaitavādins (those who would stay with the crucial difference between God and creation allowing it to determine all attitudes), on the other. In Samkaracarya himself one cannot detect any deviation from the position of absolute cancellation of action. Śureśvara brings out this position in Samkaracarya very clearly when he states:

No  Vedic  injunctions  are   to  be  treated   as

dogma;  they  are for the removal of ignorance

only regarding the means of attainments of the

aims    of      human   life.   That   heaven   and

other  such  felicities  are  to be aspired for one

already  knows,  the  means  there  of  only  are

pointed  out in  the  scriptures, because without

such  knowledge,  man  would  not  know, how

to  achieve  heaven.  Similarly  in  the  Vedanta

portion  of  the  Veda,  the  identity of Brahman

and  Atman  is  pointed   out,  which  cannot  be

known   by   any  other   source  of   knowledge.

The  Text  saying    ‘Try to know that Brahman’

(Tait.    III. 1)    is   an    incentive   toward   the

acquiring   of   that    knowledge   and    not   an

injunction which must be obeyed. {Śureśvara Vartikam. II, 16-17}.

When we come to the second chapter of the Upanishad, we are to see clearly, according to this tradition, that the five sheaths are the different planes of activity which make up the world of experience for man. Every human being identifies himself with his body and behaves accordingly; so he identified with life, without which the body is nothing; both body and life are made meaningful only by the mind’s activity. All there are within the scope of vijñana or the agent-sheath. The inner-most sheath of bliss is the enjoyer sheath. The ego which feels. Knows will and enjoys moves from plane to plane; this succession is the ‘cave’ {The Pañcadaśī, by Vidaraņya. III. 1 & 2.} which hides the ātman (Self) effectively in Self-forgetfulness amidst all these ego activites. 

By naming all possible fields of experience, attention is directed toward that underlying principle which remains all of from all these diversifications. As stated earlier, by the logic of the ‘moon on the bought’ the presence of ātman is indicated as that to which all these activities refer. Nobody experience or knows of anything beyond the bliss of deep sleep; yet, asks, the Pañcadaśī  ‘who can deny that by which these are experienced?’ The ātman is unknown, not because it does not exist but precisely because of its self-luminous nature. How should that by which everything else to known, be known itself? Only the total abeyance of the non-self would leave ātman shining by its own light. The entire region of ‘you’ (yusmat) and as such only by complete dissipation of itself is capable of revealing the presence of ātman as the one without a second. {śureśvara Varitikam. II.234-235}.

The five sheaths are the region, therefore, of ignorance. The Self wrongly think itself as the doer, enjoyer, etc. the Upanisad by stating that ‘the knower of Brahman attains the highest’ inculcates a desire to know {Ibid., II. 27-31.}.It is nothing more than an indicator toward a search for the ultimate reality. It is a pointer to the fact of the finitude of the I-consciousness. The ego-consciousness in juxtaposition with the promise of Infinitude, must face the fact of its ignorance and a doubt about the real nature of its own experience of the world. The possibility of transcendence is meaningful to those only who are desirous of liberation. To desire liberation means an awareness of the state of bondage and ignorance. To awaken this awareness is the aim of the Text so that the seeker may start on the path of enquiry. Without the Upanishad, how should man know that he is in bondage and must learn to see though the five veils of ignorance in order to achieve liberation.

The crucial point of the discourse regarding the five sheath lies in the fact of its including bliss as one of the veils. Infinity repels any kind of fragmentation; the highest achievement within the realm of finitude will be a pale shadow of the  ‘experience of the fullness of Brahman’. In other words, the five-veil analysis would be pointless, if it is not taken to signify a concealment of Reality. According to Samkaracarya the concealing itself could not be known without the Upanishadic statement regarding the ultimate nature of Brahman. If the finite is to be attained by the Self, than the Self itself is nothing but the Infinite in ignorant forgetfulness of its nature. The rest of the discourse on the definition of Brahman and the mode of approaching the question of its realisation is in order with the explication of man being in ignorance of his true nature. The separation, therefore, of the spheres of action and knowledge is by virtue of this very nature of man. The I-consciousness is the doer and enjoyer and knower; as such it is aware of its own limitation. In playing heed to the message of the Upanishads, he is made aware of the possibility of transcendence. Since ‘an experiencing’ (direct knowledge) of Brahman, will bring about the dissolution of limitations, this is what he wills, when he accepts the desirability of aspiring for bliss. The language of will in this context has a limited use only. Since the ego-consciousness known itself as the doer, it must know itself as the rencuncer as well. The world of praxis gives meaning to both extremes in the range of human activity. A loosening of the ties of the world, therefore, must characterise the aspirant for bliss. The question, here, is not about the world, or even whether to renounce it or not. This is a meaningless question to raise in this context. The world actually cannot be renounced; it can only lose its significance for the aspirant for bliss. Renunciation is only in the nature of a waiting upon the possibility of an ‘experience’, on the occurrence of which, nothing else will remain to be attained.    

The world, then, is not antagonistic but only irrelevant to the issue. Liberation cannot be ‘brought about’, ‘modified’ ‘changed’ or ‘destroyed’ etc. {These four movements are associated with actions brought about willingly}. It can be realized as truth only. There are differences in the qualitative and quantitative evaluations of action because such gradatations obtain in the feelings of joys and sorrows which are related to these action. No questions regarding willing knowing, knowing, or feeling can arise where a measureless plenum of joyous reality is being posited by the Upanişad.

Put in other words, it may be said, that two different orders of separation can be distinguished: One is to regard the world as trivial and discard it; the other is to see through it as the not-self and thus experience an inwardness of the earstwhile outgoing faculties. This ‘transnatural’ movements, is the beginning of that yearning for knowledge which takes its from in a mind denuded of other desires. Liberation cannot be brought about by the mind; but to the sphere of willing belongs the purification of the mind. The movements which is called yearning for knowledge, stirs in an unclouded and uncluttered mind alone. Action in the world can only prolong the world; it cannot suddenly reveal Brahman in the world because the world is precisely what veils Brahman. Knowledge alone must rise to the challenge of the mystery so carefully delineated and preserved by the Upanishads.   


The Mode of Imparting Knowledge of Brahman


If it is accepted that the first stage in the acquiring of Brahman-knowledge is an enquiry which is capable of evoking a response from a Teacher, then the next question is, how is the Teacher to impart a knowledge which is stated to be almost beyond human intelligibility. A variety of procedures are to be found in the Upanishads. Every Teacher has his own way of imparting instruction. It can even be seen that those who are not alert enough to persist after, perhaps, the first lesson are not prevented from resuming their previous positions in life, well satisfied with the little knowledge that they had acquired. In this mutuality of the Teacher and the taught, the fact which emerges clearly is the spirit of freedom which permeates the dialogues. Unless the relevance of the knowledge sought to be imparted is acceptable to the pupil as such, he does not quality as a pupil.

The Taittiriīya Upanişad epitomizes in its small compact from all that has been said so far. As we have seen, it begins by describing the range of activities, worthy of a good man wishing to lead a prosperous life in the world. The point of the Text is that there is a second chapter as well as a third, and so also it is with man’s life. Men desire, all along, happiness but this is so fragmented in the world  as frequently not to be worthwhile at all. It is to be seen easily that the best of worlds is not enough for the satiety of man’s desires which are legion. This is so because the desires themselves are seeds which give rise to other desires. How then to contain these waves of ceaseless activity which could prove to be ultimately self defeating as sheer boredom. It nothing else.

To this man of unending desire for happiness the Upanishad promises an all-encompassing joy which being attained, he will be in possession in its entirely of all that there is; and thus alone can be free from the possibility of any break in the continuous state of happiness which he desires (The knower of Brahman attains the supreme).{Tait. II. 1-1}. The question here is, how should the plausibility of this ‘promise’ be made clear to the pupil? Samkaracarya writes that to be established in one’s on very nature (Self) is after all supreme felicity, and this is easily accepted by everyone. Recovery of one’s own Self is Self-realization, since the Self itself is Brahman which is to be known.    (svātmanyāvathānam  paraprāptīh¾ Samkaracarya on Tait. I. 1.1.}. The enquiry into Brahman knowledge, then, belongs closer to the heart of the seeker than was perhaps realized earlier.

 Since the nature of one’s own Self is to be understood, first the Upanişhad engage the attention of the pupil toward the hiddenness of this Self under sheath of extraneous coverings. The veiling of the Self consists in its identifying itself with the gross and fine functions which reflect the light from within. The ego-consciousness thinks, it has a body, a mind, an intellect and that it enjoys things of the world. This identification is the life of ignorance which needs to be penetrated one by one, because the Self in reality lies beyond the reach of the five sheaths. {Tait. II. 2-7. It is generally acknowledge that the major theme of the entire Śruti literature is to state the unity of ātman (Self) and brahman. This is considered exemplified in the fore Great Statements (mahāvākyas) occurring in the four Vedas. These are the key concepts which irradiate the meaning of the Upanishads in which they are located, In the dialogues where these statements occur, the ‘thou’ of the pupil (or alternately the ‘I’ of the seeker) is sought to be unified with the ‘that’ of all discourse, namely with brahman, which is named as such in three of the statements. It may be said that, the analysis of the five sheaths (kośas) in the Taittirīya Upanisad is a thematisation of the ‘tvam’ principle of the Text That Thou Art (tattvamasi). Chh. VI. 10.3}. 

The graded description of the nature of man shows up his range of activities in the world. While he is actively employed in the world, his spiritual aspirations are in abeyance, and the Self lies hidden in the innermost recesses of the heart, designated for that reason as a ‘cave’ (guhā). The Self is the ultimate referent for all activities, physical, mental or intellectual, undertaken by man. To the extent it is disengaged, the mind reflects its peace end tranquitity. We can see a daily example of this in the condition of deep sleep from which a man awakes refreshed and happy. In deep sleep, the Self shines in its own light just like the lamp in the banquet hall when the party is over and it is emptied of all participants. {The pañcadaśī, X. 11.,}s

To the pupil must be conveyed the idea of the constant presence of the Self, although it is not obviously knows as such to him. Sheath-analysis (kośa) was initiated with a view to drawing his attention away from the gross toward the subtle/. He is familiarised with the idea of a separation of the Self from its planes of activities where, then does the Self reside? To this question the Text says: In the cave of the great sky (Tait. II.1-1).

According to Samkaracarya, the world ‘cave’ (guhā) indicates a hiding of diversification; {Samkaracarya on Tait. II. 1. 1.} it denotes therefore the intellect which hides the triad of knower-known-knowledge or alternately, the two disparate aims of human life, namely, enjoyment and liberation. It is the intellect which is the subtlest covering which hides effectively the Self from the egoity of man. This ‘cave’ is situated  in the great sky of the heart, so the Self may be said to reside  in the innermost recesses of ones being itself.

The imagery of the cave is frequently used in the Upanishads. The world evokes an image of hiddenness; of not being available to superficial perceptions. This idea is utilized where the Self is being especially described. We find the following passage in the Brahdāraņyaka Upanişad.

That great birthless Self  which identified with

the  intellect  and is  in the midst of  the organs,

lies  in  the  space  that  is within the heart. It is

the  controller  of  all,  the lord of all,  the  ruler

of  all. It  does  not  grow  better  through  good

work  not  worse  through  bad  work.  {Br. IV 22}.

Samkaracarya, commenting on this passage, writes that the space within the lotus of the heart is the seat of the intellect. The Self is said to be residing as if, in the intellect, that is the space within the heart. The usage of the term ‘space’ opens up before the mind the idea of the Self as boundless and ethereal and all-pervading, which is not so realized because the intellect imposes its own limitations on it, just as the space within the pot is identical with the space outside it and is one with it in its pervasiveness of the entire world, so the Self hidden in the ‘cave’ of heart is one with Brahman, the one Reality which excludes nothing at all.

Another well-known passage makes this idea quite clear:

That  which  is(designated) Brahman, even that

Is  this  ākāśa  outside  the  body. That which is

the   ākāśa   inside   the   body, even that  is this

ākāśa   within   the  (lotus of the)   heart.     This

brahman is all-filling and unchanging. He   who

knows   (brahman)  thus, gets  all  fulfilling and

unchanging   prosperity. {Chh. Up. III.12. 9}.

In these, and such other statements, {“The Self is surely in the heart”, praśna Upanişhad III. 6. “prajna is in the space within the heart”, Māndkya-Kārikā, I. 2. Also Kaţha Upanişad I. 2. 12.} we may see that the heart is given a crucial meaning; it is in the nature of a threshold, which allows one to enter, or it may also mark the limit which precludes entry, Following Samkaracarya in his commentaries on these various, passages the imagery of the heart as the seat of the supreme may be construed in this manner:

It is not at all remarkable that man should identify himself with his physical body and the principle of life which animates it. Without life the body would be an inter mass of matter. It is also possible to see that the mind controls or indulges arising out of the fact of this life pulsating through out body. Further, the intellect can contemplate the graded levels of this unity which is called a human being and which we know as ourselves. The body arises out of the gross elements of nature and the vital functions are their subtle forms. The intellect is the most subtle and in being able to reflect the light coming from within, in seen to be functioning independently. Just as we ascribe the glow to the moon which actually comes from the Sun, we mistakenly think of the ‘I’ as an entity by itself. Beyond these fore levels of existence lies in the plane of the heart which enjoys happiness and also had to suffer sorrows. This condition especially makes us vulnerably human; it is our weakness as well as our strength. It can be presumed that gods and other celestial beings do not suffer or enjoy as we do. The heart then is the gateway to the sphere of sorrows and enjoyments, accomplishments and all other polarities which make up the universe of our living in the world. Yet  it is also the threshold to the other dimension of life, because it is intolerant of sorrow and is forever searching for happiness. It is stated in the scriptures that Brahman is of the nature of delight itself;

That is of the flavour of delight alone, a taste

of which makes a man happy; it is that delight

which radiates happiness through everyone. {Tait. II. 7.}.

The heart in search of happiness cr4eates the last barrier as it were, to the glimpsing of the Self which resides hidden within it. It is a barrier because for the sake of the fragmented enjoyments of the world the plenum of joy which is almost within reach is not looked for or thus appreciated; therefore, the most  recalcitrant veiling is the veiling of the heart. Yet, by virtue of this very thirst for happiness, it can transform itself into a ‘bridge’ (setu) to the realization of the Self within. {Mund. II. 2. 5. “know that Self alone that is one without a second, on which are strung heaven, the earth and the interspace, the mind and the vital forces together with all the other organs; and give up al other talks. This is the bridge leading to immortality.”}

The imagery of the heart emphasized the importance of the inwardisation of attention which is dispersed in the outside world. The pupil has been brought to a point which is crucial because it is here that a transformation should be effected. From this point of view, we may appreciate the fact that greater interiorization is said to lie in the region of awareness, rather than is intellection: We see that the sheath of bliss (ānanadmaya kośa) is more inner than the sheath of the intellect (vijñamaya kośa).

The demand for a transition comes from the fact that the sheath of bliss (ānanadmaya kośa) is also a veil for Brahman. How, then, should one go beyond these coverings which hide the reality of Brahman, or in other words how should one know that Brahman is known? The text states clearly:

He    who    realize    Brahman    the    highest.

With   reference   to  that very fact  it has been

declared: “Brahman is Reality, Consciousness,

Infinitude;  he  who  realizes  Him treasured in

the cave, in the highest space, even as Brahman

the omniscient, fulfills all wants at once. {Tait. II. 1. 1}.

The above passage is justly famous for comprising in its pithy saying the entire teaching of the Advaita philosophy. This is the text which defines Brahman as Reality, Consciousness and Infinity. Leaving this definition aside for the time being, we may consider the last phrase which says that on knowing Brahman every want id fulfilled, one by one in the world but all together and all at once. {Samkarabhasya on Tait. II. 1. 1}. That is, on knowing Brahman, everything is achieved and nothing at all remains undone or unknown, and, therefore it is a state of joyous tranquility.

According to Samkaracarya, the purport of the entire second chapter of the Upanishad is to guide the pupil to the awareness of Brahman by knowledge alone. How is a man to become aware of the innermost truth lodged in his heart, a truth which is quite unlike anything he is familiar with in the world? How can he be guided to this notion of freedom, after a suspension as it were of all supportive ideas which are aids to his thinking. The Text, like a mother guiding the tottering step of her child, takes the seeker of knowledge by hand and slowly moves him on from one plane to another till he reaches the limit of the joyful state of the enjoyer. The I-consciousness which knows itself as knower, agent and enjoyer is capable of making the leap in thought by which it may envisage the possibility of arriving at the unity of Self and Brahman, a superlative gain, on the acquisition of which everything else is automatically obtained at the same time. The desire for happiness finds its supreme fulfilment in the acquiring of Brahman knowledge. The self which stands by implication in the relation of the ultimate for all activities  of the body, mind and intellect is to be seen as the Witness-consciousness by whom everything is illuminated. The supreme truth to be realized is the identity of the Witness-Self with Brahman.  





                                                   CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Being as Bliss


A. What can be known about Brahman?


This is a crucial question, because many important statements regarding Brahman, in the Upanishads seem carefully emptied of cognitive value. As a matter of fact, a plethora of paradoxes can be culled from the Texts regarding the nature of Brahman:

Remaining   Stationary,   It   outruns  all  other

runners.                                          Īśopanişad 4.

That  moves,   that  does  not   move;  that is far

Off, That is  very   near; That  is  inside all, and

That is outside.                              Īśopanişad 5.

It is known  to  him to whom it is unknown; he

does  not  known   to  whom   It  is known. It is

unknown to those who known well, and known

to those who do not know.     Kaţhopanişad II. 3.

While sitting, it travels far away; while

sleeping, It goes everywhere.  Kaţhopanişad I. 2-21.

If we work with the idea that these paradoxes are not aimed at creating confusion but only to break the mould of rational thought with which we are familiar, then we begin to understand the significance of this pattern of writing. The language of paradox seems to give a wider horizon to the region of discourse than is possible by other linguistic structures. The individual is required to stretch his imagination to the utmost limit, and yet at the end he finds himself in confrontation with a mystery only. Under the rubric than this usage of language, which is for a veiling rather than a revealing, may be classed all those passages which speak of the unknowability of Brahman by any scale of human reckoning:

Failing  to reach  (Brahman)  words  with  mind

Turn back ¾ ¾ ¾                           Tait. II. 4.1

This   self  is  not  attained  through   study,  nor

Through the intellect, nor through much hearing

                                                    Mund. III. 2.34.

The   eye  does  not  go  there,  nor   speech,  nor

mind.                                                     Kena I. 3.

It may be supposed that those Texts help to tighten the veil of impenetrability bruited by the paradoxical statements; but it is also possible to consider these difficult passages as annotations to the paradoxes. Their relevance should not be seen to lie in annihilating thought but in providing it with a challenge toward a different kind of effort, the language of a ‘beyond’, however negatively stated, does indicate a way; it affirms a continuity with one’s measure of understanding. These passages hold together, the hiddenness of Brahman together with its ‘speakability’. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that all Upanishadic discourses, in general, seem to fall short of pentrating the veil of mystery which surrounds the subject of the conversation.

The necessity for an insistence on the factor of veiling arises because man does not know that he does not know. How should a man, who is sleeping, know that he is asleep? We know ourselves as agents in the world, as knowers and as enjoyers as well; we do not know that these are layers and not-self of that Self which in its true state of being is one with Brahman; {Svayam cātma param brahmetyuktam. Samkarabhasya on Tait. I. 1.} that is to say, a state of realization of unity with Brahman would be a state of liberation. Short of that, ignorance is encompassing; it stretches across the entire spectrum of human understanding. It pervades the entire sphere of human activity and endeavour. In order to create an opening in this all-enveloping state of ignorance, the Upanishads use the strange language of paradoxes and ‘unknowability’. This language, naturally, could not be used for any discussion pertaining to the world. Its aim is to loosen the meaning from worlds and dislodge their hold on our minds; it raises the dialogue to a trans-natural sphere, whence a questioning into the nature of the aupanişadam puruşam (The Being spoken of in the Upanishads alone) could arise.

It becomes clear that with the veiling of the subject of Brahman, we also come to the awareness of the irrelevance of the world’s sphere of activates. The Upanishadic language aims at creating the requisite attitude for a relinquishing of the familiar structures of support with which we hold on to the world. To ask a question regarding the nature of Brahman, is already to renounce the world a little; or, in other worlds, a distancing from the world alone qualifies a seeker of truth to engage in any dialogue concerning Brahman.

B. The Desire for knowledge

As stated earlier, the meaning of renunciation, then, is a burning desire for knowledge which cannot be quenched by anything short of that realization, and on the occurrence of which nothing else remains to be achieved anymore. This desire is positive, it is not a negative disillusionment with the world; it is evoked by a glimmering of an idea that perhaps something more needs to be understood of the self than is seen by its activities in the world. This desire to know, this yearning to overcome the state of ignorance, cannot be compared to an intellectual curiosity about the nature of things, because the latter does not demand a renunciation of all other props to human existence. Moreover, no specific pattern of behaviour or stations in life, no age, or sex, or state of learning is especially related to the awakening of the yearning for knowledge nor is it held as bar to knowledge. The world, in short, must be set at naught by the person who would unlock the door to the mystery of the dialogue between Teacher and pupil. Nārada, {Chh. VII. 1. 1-5.} the celestial being, the old king Bŗhadŗatha, {maitreyi Upanişad, I.  1-15.}, the young boy Naciketā {Kaţha. I. 3 ff.}the six ascetic pupils of the sage Pippalada {Praśna Upanişad I. I. ff.} and Maitreyi {Br. II. IV. 1-14.} the beloved wife of the sage Yajravakkya, amongst others, have figured in the Upanishads as interlocuters, whose question have brought forth the much treasured and closely guarded teaching about Brahma.

From this perspective we see that the role of the desire for knowledge is crucial in the context of the Upanishads. It may be said that an incipient awareness of the veil, brought to the forefront of the enquiring mind becomes an yearning for true knowledge. In this context alone we may appreciate the unusual linguistic structure of Upanishadic statements which are not mere pedagogical devices for awakening ordinary curiosity. The questioning, the Upanishads seek to awake, has to do with the deepest yearning of the Self which is required to be in evidence before any conversation regarding the ultimate Reality can be initiated. The paradox, and the ‘unknowable’ Texts by helping to stir the hidden yearning for knowledge in man, become indicative of the dimension of Grace (prasāda) without which not even a minimal sense of separation from the not-self can take pace:


He is to be attained only by the one whom the

(Self) chooses. To such a one the Self reveals

his own nature. {Yamevea viņute, tena labhyas tasyaa ātmā vivŗņute tanūm svām. Kaţha. I. 2. 23}.

The main point which emerges clearly from a reading of the Texts is that Brahman-knowledge is a response to a seeking, a seeking which transcends the demands of the world. This can be seem from the initial reluctance on the part of the Teachers to impart their knowledge unless convinced of the pupil’s disassociation with the world. In some cases the pupils are held off by promises of earthly riches, {Naciketā in Kaţhopanişad, I. 1. ff.} but those who persistently return again and again to the posing of the crucial question regarding ātman and Brahman, do in the end quality themselves for enlightenment. {The story of six ascetics is related in the Pruśnopanīad I. 1. ff, they are required to abide in the forest retreat for lengths of time before the teacher undertook to answer the questions put by them}.

The question to be considered now is, what is the nature of this Brahman? The text cannot take recourse to paradoxes here because the seeker is already awakened to the fact of the desirability of this Supreme Knowledge. The Sruti therefore gives a definition of Brahman, or that is what it looks like at first glance:

Brahman is of the nature of Reality, Consciousness, Infinity.  (Tait. II. 1.)

Samkaracarya points out that no definition as such is possible of Brahman because it is the One Reality which can have neither a higher genus nor a distinguishing quality which would differentiate it from other items of like nature, as for example the term ‘a blue lotus’ identifies the object as lotus and distinguishes it from other pink or yellow coloured lotuses. The above Text, therefore, should not be construed as a definition but as indicative of characteristics.


C. The Difference Between Definition and Characterisation :


 The line of tradition started by Samkaracarya has given great thought to this question of the characteristics of Brahman. Brahman being Ultimate reality no definition is possible and on this account it is called as being beyond speech etc. there is however an oblique way of referring to this foundational reality. This is to give it such characteristics (lakśaņa) as would difference it from all else, but not subsume if under another; neither should the characteristics determine the nature of Brahman as is done by the qualities (guņa) which qualify objects, as for example, ‘a blue lotus’, where blueness is seen to inhere in the object ‘lotus’,

The characteristics are of descriptive value only; these descriptions are further divided into two groups. Some descriptions touch the periphery of the matter alone, whereas some characteristics refer to the essence of the thing itself. As regards Brahman, the Vedanta tradition considers such characteristics as ‘cause of the world’ etc. as secondary characteristics (ţaţaastha) and ‘Reality’, Consciousness, infinity, as primary or essential characteristics (svarūpa lakşaņa). 




Samkaracarya defines reality as that which does not change in its essential determinations, (satyamīti yadrūpena yanniśchitam tadrūpam na vyabhicarati tatsatyam). If an object were to undergo changes, than these changes could not be essential to its nature. By the world Reality, the Upanişad seeks to establish the utter changelessness of Brahman. It may be said that the transformations are unreal but the substate is real, as for example, gold remains uniformly the same object, even when it assumes different shapes as ornaments. According to Samkaracarya, if we use this analogy here then Brahman would stand in the relation of material cause to the world, but this is untenable because Brahman in neither material nor cause of the world. In order to 0ff-set the possibility of so understanding Brahman, the śruti adds t5he world Consciousness to Reality. 



Brahman is real and it is of the nature of consciousness, itself. The Text does not say ‘Knower’ but Consciousness or jñānam. If Brahman were to be knower, then the first wood would qualify the second. In this phrase the three words together with Brahman have the same case ending, which makes it clear that they should be individually employed with Brahman, as, for example, Reality is Brahman, (satyam brahma), Consciousness is Brahman (jñānam brahma), and Infinity is Brahman (anantam brama). Moreover, Brahman cannot be designated as knower because the knower is one of a triad, that is, knower-known-knowledge. This diversification will take away from its changeless character of Reality on the one hand, and also from Infinity on the other. Brahman then is of the homogeneous nature of Consciousness which negates all possibilities of it being mistaken as the material ground of the world. The world Reality (satyam) used first ensures the ‘beingness’ of Brahman. It is not an ideality and it is not a material ground.



The world Infinity signifies the unending nature of Reality and the non-intermittent character of Consciousness Without the concept of Infinity the other two words would not repel the meanings which in general are given to them in ordinary discourse. In the words of Samkaracarya :

To say  knowledge (is)  Brahman,  is t o give rise

to  the  possibility  of its being within limitations,

because  knowledge is  thus  experienced  in   the

world; to negate this possibility the word Infinity

is added. {Samkarabharya on Tait. II.1.1}.

All the three terms are independent of each other and yet they are related in the manner stated above, they enhance the meaning of each by negating the possibility of the opposite meaning being ascribed to them. These characteristics aimed at describing Brahman are to be understood as precluding the least trace of duality in the Ultimate Reality. In a way, then, these term have a negative force rather than positive. It is, therefore, in according with the Text which states “from where speech turns back with the mind, being unsuccessful”. {Tait. II.iv}.

A question may arise here, if Samkaracarya is well within his rights to construe the above ‘definition’ of Brahman to signify a complete cessation of dualities. In the Upanişad itself there are further Texts which do not seen to accord with Samkaracarya’s exegeses of these passages. In the 6th passage of the second chapter, the Text says regarding creation;

‘I shall become many; He practised austerities;

Thereupon   whatever    is    here   He   created.

After creating He entered into it. {Tait II. 6. bahu syām prajāyeyeti. sa tapo’ tapyata, Sa ţaopastaptvā idam sarnamśrjat yadidamikimca. tatsrşvā tadevanupra vişāt.}

It seems that the Text ascribes not only the function of creation to Brahman but the desire for creation; further, a contemplation of the function to be undertaken and lastly his own immanence in the world he had created. This seems to set aside the non-dual nature of Brahman. There is a separation here of the creator and the created, also in the creator himself, is a duality because he experiences a desire for creation, contemplates the action to be performed, engages in the action itself and participates in the work accomplished, in the mode of being immanent in it.

Samkaracarya in one of his most telling pieces of writing, in his usual and inimitable style of pleasant but profound (prasannagambhīra) prose, gives his own rendering of the above Text. The context of the above Text, he points out, is the persistent doubt in the mind of man regarding the actuality of Brahman. The Text is addressed to that state of doubt; it reminds man that the whole range of diversification must be the manifestation of something which underlies it and that this is Brahman. The ‘desire’ for creation, the ‘contemplation’ undertaken toward creation and ‘creation’, itself, are to be understood as the arising of manifestations; the dispersal of the appearances of Brahman. The freedom of the being-without-a-second cannot be gainsaid by any desire for action etc. This is more evident when we consider the Text: ‘He entered into the creation’.

Samkaracarya reminds us that this passage comes at the end of the analysis of the five sheaths. The self is said to reside in the inner-most sanctum of the heart. This Text may said to have concretized for the seeker the presence of Brahman within the texture of his being. It propounds the proximity and the accessibility of Brahman to every individual. The two phrases ‘the knower of Brahman attains the Supreme’ (brahmavidāpnoti param) and ‘in that, he entered’ (tadevānuprāvişat) are to be understood in juxtaposition to each other. After all how can the individual soul ‘attain’ the supreme? The world ‘attain’, therefore, means a realization of identity rather then an achievement of possession. Similarly the world ‘enters’ (anuprāvişat) signifies a presence within the grasp of human understanding. If the first is a point of rapprochement from the side of the Self (tvam) then the other is the descent of Brahman (tat) toward the same focal identity. In effect these are not two movements but just the one moment of realization. Samkaracarya refers to the story of the ten man, (daśamastu) to clarify his point about the coming together of the Self and Brahman in the same act of realization. Any language creating the impression of movement, or achievement etc. is inappropriate here. It is approximated most in the language of a recovery, a sudden realization of something which was already accomplished but somehow not experienced as reality. It is like the realization of the tenth man who was puzzled a moment ago and now everything is clear in a flash as it were. There is nothing new achieved here. He has not become the tenth man, he was already that, only he did not know that he was so. When the Teacher pronounces the identity of you (tvam) and that (tat) it is possible that such realization may take place and great joy by experienced.


                                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN


On Ananda (Bliss)


Ānanda is the language of realization. In ananda, there is neither Self nor Brahman but it is one homogeneous, unbroken, undiversified joyousness (akahandanaikarasah) which in its all-pervasiveness touches everyone. Every life is enriched to the extent it appropriates this delight of being. {Tait. II. 7.}. The truth of this statement is the experience of every individual. Ralher than sorrow, a delight in living is the fact of life. Sorrow comes from the other, whereas delight if self-located. In the anxiety for the other, (also expectations from the other, hopes for the other, disappointments, bereavements, etc.) lies the fear which constantly haunts the natural surge of joy which is the nature of man. In this he is identical with Brahman the great reality and thus he in turn is in touch with the entirety of the world. Who can be an “other’ to him, who belongs everywhere because no one is without a spark of the delight of Brahman, to the expansive heart which can welcome the entire would and takes delight in it, there can be no question of sorrow.

The question of ānanda touches the real knot in the heart of man. One is not in doubt about the actuality of his existence, and thus is able to imagine Brahman as sat. He is also conscious of himself and can understand the tenuous an experience in life that it is difficult to hold it together with the concept of the supreme Brahman. For this reason, the tradition develops the view that sat and cit are revelatory of Brahman but ānanda is the veil of concealment, but the veil is not any the less indicative of the presence of Brahman.

The term ānanda is used as a synonum for ananta (infinity) of the definition, because that which is finite cannot be of the nature of bliss. Only the Infinite, where there is no trace of or shadow of the ‘other’ can be identified with supreme delight. The Upanishad says:

It is of the nature of flavour, on enjoying

which (man) becomes supremely ecstatic. {Tait. Ii. 8.1.}.

To the pupil, then, is explained that in him self lies the actuality of that supreme happiness which in its intermittent and complex from is already experience by him. He is required only to follow the Teacher in his enunciation of the nature of Brahman in the from of the Witness—Consciousness lies hidden in the cave of his own heart. On the direct confrontation with this “man in the heart’ who is the same as the ‘Man in the Sun,’ everything is attained at once; {Ch. I. 7. 5.} there is the utter tranquility of complete fulfillment, and the experience of Supreme Bliss of being Oneself. {Tait. III. 9.1.}.


The Mode of Teaching By Example


The Upanishad does not propound any course of action to the student for the appropriation of the answer given at the end of the discourse. What is given is an example of an actual quest and subsequent fulfillment in Brahman-realization. This methodology, if it may be so called is common myths and ancient legends are dimensions in the demonstration of truth, which although necessarily arising out of this world, seek to go beyond it. This final teaching forms the subject matter of the last chapter and is called Bhŗguvalli because it relates to the quest and attainment of Bhŗgu for Brahman-knowledge. The teacher is his father the Lord of  the Seas. Varuna. To Bhŗgu in answer to his question is given the famous Text regarding Brahman:

     That from which everything emerges, by which

     they live and are sustained and into which they

     are dissolved, know that to be Brahman. {Tait. III. 2-1.}.

The pupil is asked to contemplate this Text and discover its truth for himself. Bgu then in his efforts to know Brahman goes through the five sheaths of ignorance successively. First he identifies Brahman with food. Surely, he meditates, it is food out of which everything comes, by which they live and are sustained and into which again they are transformed. Satisfied, he comes to his father to report his discovery of the truth. Varuna repeats his original statements, signifying thereby that the answer is not correct and that the pupil should renew his efforts toward knowledge. The Teacher patiently and sympathetically takes the pupil through the stage of his identification of Brahman with life, mind, intellect and bliss.

Bliss, as has been stated earlier, is the closest and yet the farthest off form Brahman. It is truly of the nature of Brahman, but not in its worldly frame of reference. It requires great courage to relinquish the obvious and concrete joys of the world for that plenum of bliss which would mean a total transformation. It is not the aim to be blissful or to be joyous, all of which are proximate to the ultimate state which is Bliss, itself. To be ānandamaya is still to remain under a trace of ignorance; the text requires one to become of the nature of ānanda itself.

In pursuance of the final repetition of the statement Bhŗgu goes back to his life of contemplation and achieves the liberating knowledge of Brahman as ānanda. He knows Brahman as ānanda, ānando brahmeti vyajānāt. {Tail. III. 6.1.}. Hen returns no more to the Teacher but goes around singing paens of joy celebrating his identity with the world and the delight of Supreme fulfillment. The presence of such a man of ānanda amidst ordinary folk, would be a living source of inspiration, yet another link, in the continuing chain of Brahman knowledge.

The Upanişad then summarises its own teaching in this passage: The enquiry into Brahman knowledge begins with Bhŗgu’s question and concludes with his realization of the Vāruņī vidyā (the teaching of Varuņa). The discovery of the supreme knowledge which lies well hidden in the heart is the culminating point of the search for Brahman. Any person who proceeds in the same manner from the most gross to the subtle elements in his being will also realize this highest state and attain to the Bliss of Brahman-knowledge.

Words such as transformation, attainment, liberation, create an impression that the seeker after knowledge is lost to the world; this evidently is not so. The Upanişad very clearly describes the enriched life of this man who by his way of existence and his utterance out of the joyousness of his experience of fulfillment is of great benefit to his fellow man and perhaps continues to live in it in compassionate sympathy with the world. Thus we see that the brahmavit (Knower of Brahman) can be anybody anywhere, like the Emperor Janaka, or a sage like Yājņavalkya, or a woman like Gārgi or a youth like Sanatkumāra. {Samkarabhasya on III. 105 lokānugrahārţham”}. We see, therefore, that this teaching is highly selective and yet completely universal in that anyone may become a seeker (jijnāsu) and thus quality himself as a suitable disciple for the lesson in Brahman-knowledge. Also, the question of the passage of time is not irrelevant to the issue. Dialogues regarding Brahman-knowledge necessarily must relate to specific situations; however, the dynamism required for adjusting with the march of time falls within the structure of created time. Reflective analysis and appropriation of the teaching which indicates the presence of Brahman as Bliss supreme is required in every case to hearken, meditate and realize for himself the Truth and thus although he may belong to one particular time and place, he is in a position to overcome all such limitations. 

The question of unbroken continuity of this tradition is necessarily related, therefore, to the mode of teaching envisaged in the Vedic literature. The definitive injunctions to be found in the Vedas pertain to life in the world and felicity after death. A good life of earth in necessary both for attainment of heaven after death, as well as for an awakening toward Jijñasa (yearning for knowledge). Renunciation, then forms the core of the Vedic tradition. Renunciation to this way of thinking, is a dimension of knowledge, a power of discrimination between the changing world-order and that which remains hidden and unchanging. The enquiry into the ground of our being does not follow naturally from man’s given status in the world. Without the Texts there would be no indication of knowledge of anything other than that which is given in our experience of the world. The emphasis on continuity, therefore, does not seek a perpetuation of meaningless reiteration of aging principles. The tradition seek to preserve the purity of the indicators towards a life of blessedness because man, says śruti is capable of attaining the highest knowledge. 

We find in the Text of the Taittiriya  a summation of all these themes, treated in an exemplary fashion. It preserves a well-knit unity of enquiry, knowledge and realization. It makes a beginning with the world and relates this knowledge back to the world in a special way because the man of enlightenment returns to the world speaking in joy of his ‘discovery’.




The Veda says:

     The  Self  that is subtler  than  the subtler and

     greater than the great is lodged in the heart of

     (every)   creature.   A    desireless   man   that

     glory of the Self by the grace of the  Ultimate

     One    and   thereby   he  becomes   free  from

     all sorrows. {Taittirīya-āraņyaka 10.10 (Sāyaņa-bhāşya)}.  

The ontology of Bliss as Being itself is enunciated by the Taittirīya Upanişad. It teaches that in the heart of man Truth lies hidden overcast by veils of ignorance. By a mode of contemplative focusing on the problem of ignorance, the truth of the identity of the Witness-Self with Brahman may be realized, as was done by Bhrigu of ancient times. Thus we see that the Upanishadic literature,  is preeminently devoted to the raising of questions. It delineates, it describes, it refers to, it characterises, the region in the proximity of the heart but it never circumscribes it in definitive language. The unspoken is always the root form where the relevance of the utterance must be understood. This is the secret of its continued relevance. It is not the answer which lends unity to generations of the same tradition; but it is the question which is held sacred and which exercise innermost thinking.

The highest truth is preserved in concealment. There is no will to truth here or a rationalizing; what is sought to be preserved is the relevance of a yearning towards truth.





If by conclusion is meant a definitive answer to a specific problem, then this book may only reiterate plea for a greater understanding of the problem which it seeks to emphasize as being of paramount interest not only for the East but for the West as well. In this age of acceleration rather than progress all things are made possible in principle at all times. There are no concerns which are not global in their implications at this time. We have studied modernity and we find that the Western world is held in a tension between a sense and an anguish that it is treading a path of no return. We have seen also that the attempts at Westernization of the language of Advaita moved beyond the orbit of the traditional understanding of how life should be lived in the city as well as in the forest. Contemporary India in choosing the city certainly opted for ‘what is pleasing’ rather then ‘what should be preferred’; but is it possible to speak of renunciation in a world which professes to make it possible for all men to find fulfillment in and not away from it?

Shall we say here, that māyā is exactly this predicament of remaining in thrall to the given order, with almost a metaphysical complacency regarding its ultimacy? Vedanta philosophy states that this is so, but also that the prefiguration for overcoming the jurisdiction of māyā is given in the transient experience of pleasures in the world. It is said that one’s existence (sat) and consciousness (cit) establish a continuum with Brahman. With bliss (ananda) we come to a separation of the realm of māyā and Brahman. There is no continuity in the experience of delight; each experience is a totality in itself. It leaves nothing behind to sustain it from one moment of pleasure to anther. It disappears without a trace, leaving a craving for yet another such experience. The real importance of pleasures in the world, therefore, lies in focus on what precisely it is not. The fragmentation of delight inevitably must move toward completion and plenitude. Let the world therefore, be where it is (astu samsāra eva) because it alone can show the way to the Bliss of Being; but in forgetting the lesson to discriminate, we stand in fear of forgetting as well. The message calling us to a homecoming in ānanda (Bliss).





Neo-Vedanta and Modernity


Part II

















With an introduction, Explanatory Notes,

Translation and Text in Roman



The study of a text in Sanskrit, written in the fourteenth century by an accedited exponent of Advaita, {Mahadevan T.M. P.., “Vidyaranya”, Preceptors of Advaita (Seceunderabad : Sri Kanchikamakoti Samkara Mandir, 1968) pp. 182-189.} is undertaken with a view to substantiaating the main point of the book, presented earlier that contemporary academic interpretations of this school of thought are far removed from the hard core of Vidyaranya is valuable as a normative interpretation recapturing the core of the tradition.

The work is special significance because of the quality of its approach to the central teaching of the Upanishad on which it is focussed. The thinkers of this tradition in classical as well as in contemporary times{The easily available commentaries on the Upanishads of the traditional genre are as follows:

(i)            Kārikā on theMāndukyopanişad by Gaudapada (C. 5th Century A. D.).

(ii)          Bhāşya on Ten Upanishads by Samkaracarya (8th  Century).

(iii)         Dipaikā on a few principal Upanishads and some minor ones by Samkarananda (14th Century) and Sri Nityanandasrama (15 century).

(iv)        Mitākşara on Bŗhadāraņyaka and Chhāndogya by Nityanandasrama (20th Century).

(v)          Maņiprabhā on eleven Upanishads by Amardasa (20th Century).

            (vi)   Bhāşya on all principal andf a few minor Upanishads by Upanishadbrahmayogin (20th  Century).} have generally contented themselves by writing glosses on the works of the cel ebrated commentator Samkaracarya. What Vidyaranya has accomplished in the independent work (of which a relevant part is here translated and studied) is best described as a ‘meta-commentary’ being not a mere gloss on the existing commentary, but an independent exercise in interpretation of the Upanishads themselves guided at every step by the turns in the commentary of Samkaracarya, in sum it may be viewed as the medieval counterpart of modern academic interpretations of the Upanishads vis-a-vis the exegesis of Samkaracarya. The difference, of course, is that it defines stringently the parameters of the tradition within which the interpretative task is to be accomplished.

From a persual of this text, we see clearly that all fundamental tents of Adavita had been crystallised into living precepts for its adherents by the time of its author, Vidyaranya, from this point of view also the book may be of some interest to us because the fourteenth century  was marked by the growing influence of Musilm power in India. It is perhaps not too far-fetched to see some similarity between the historical background of Vidyaranya and that of the modern Indian scholars, who also were contending with an alien culture. It is interesting to note that the politically disturbed condition prevailing in his time finds no echo in his writings on the Vedanta. Is there a metaphysical basis for this interesting omission ? One may well conclude that there is an obvious basis. Whatever the world was to Vidyaranya, the active and powerful minister, to him as the Vedantic thinker it remained the sphere of the not-self which was to be discriminated against as such by the seeker of Truth. The importance of this relevant point may become more clear it we take into account the meagre details of Vidyaranya’s biography.




I may be sais that in the fourteenth century, Vedic scholarship rose to a new marked by the stupendous annotative work of the great Sayana, without which much of the meaning of the ancient texts would be lost to us. Some scholars believe that Vidayaranya and Sayana are identical. One reason for this opinion is that Sayana’s bhāsya on the Taittirīyopanişad is also known as the Dīpikā by Vidyaranya. { kŗanayajurvedīyām Taittirīyāraņyakam  (Anandasrama edition, 1969. vol. 36), p. 1.}. A. Mahadeva Sastry has translated the introductory portion of this bhāsya as introduction to the Upanishad by Vidyaranya. {A. Mahadeva Sastry, The Taittirīya Upanişad (Madras : Samata Books, 1980). Also Vasudeva Sharma, Introduction to Jīvanmuktiviveka (Anandasrama Granthavali 20).

The more prevalent view, acceptable to this philosophic tradition is that Vidyaranya and Sayana were brother and the former may have written some parts of the bhāşya on the Vedas. It is further believed that ‘Vidyaranya’ (lit. forest of learning) is the ascetic name of Madhavacharya, the very powerful minister in the Kingdam of Vijayanagar which came into esixtence under his aegis in 1336 A.D. History recognises him as a sage and scholar who guided two young princes in their when they campaigns against the Muslims and supported them when they re-established Hindu sovereignity over South India. {Advanced History of India, K. A. N. Sastry and G. Srinivasacari (Bombay, Allied Publishers, 1971), p. 417.}.

Vidyaranya introduced many measures of good administration in the Kingdom and was a parton of learning countenancing all shades of religious belief which his area of influnce. After many years of successfyl ministerial rule, he elected to retire from public life. Imprevious to the pleadings of his Royal proteages, he recounced the world when yet at the height of his worldly powers and became an ascetic. {Sri pañcadaşī by Vidayarnya, tr. (in Hindi) by Pitambar Pandit (Bombay : Nirnaya Sagar Press, 1897), Introduction, p. 10.}. He, however, gained greater renown as such, because he became the thirty-third occupant of the prestigious seat of Samkaracarya at Sringeri. {Sri pañcadaşī, op. cit. p. 11.}. Thus we see that Vidayaranya was one of those preceptors who lived his teachings and so kept alive the tradition of discourses on the Aupanişadam Puruşam (The one who is spoken of in all the Upanishads ). {Br. III. 9-26.}.

It is, thetre,  safe to conclude that Vidayaranya’s construction of the Advaita is both authoritative and true to the hear tof its teachings. He is accepted as an accrediated spokesman for Vedanta by later scholars right up to the twentieth century. {Mahadevan, T.M.P. The Pañcadşī (Madras : Centre for Advanced study in Philosophy, 1975), pp. xv-xviii.}. He is also accorded the highest respect, at present by all Vedantins belonging to the ascetic order to India. {maheshananda Giri : Mānasollāsmādhurī (in Hindi, Dakshinamuthi Math, 1961), p. 4.}. Indeed the brothers Sayana, and Vidyranya seem to have been at the crossroads of Indian philosophic thought; their writings are important links joining the ancient heritage to the contemporary writings on the Vedanta.

A question seems pertinent to the issue here, namely, whether this lack of radicalization demonastrates a death of creative thinking on the part of those who sought to keep alive a tradition of the quest for knowledge as the highest aim in life. In other words, how should we understand Vidyaranya’s faithful rendering of the tents of Advaita irrespective of the many insistent demands of the time upon him to which he did give his undivided attention as well ?

An attempt has already been made in the book to show that the above question is not is fact relevant to the issue. There is no tension between the world and the individual in Advaita. The opposotion is only between the Self and its ignorance regarding its own nature. As long as man unaware of his truer identity continues to regard himself as a knower, a doer and a enjoyer, only so long may he relate himself to the world and his life may be described as one of being or living in the world. Teachers of Advaita in succeeding generations feel called upon to reiterate and explain again and again the possibility of sublating the sphere of ignorance which threatens to engulf the Self and keep it unaware ot its true nature. Vedanta operaters not within the polarity of the world and Self  but rather within a dialectic, as it were, between yearning for Self-knowedge (Vividişā){ The expression Vividişā (like anubhūti) is that of the Upanishads : Cf. Br. 4, 4, 22.}, and Self-realization (anubhūti). If there is no desire for knowledge, then the question of realization also does not arise. The world is, in fact, indispensable in the sense that it instigates the desire for knowledge. The role of Vedanta, therefore, is not only limited but highly selective also in that it addresses itself strictly to the one who has the call, i.e., one is whom has arisen linging for self-knowledge. Yet it is most universal, in that anyone irrespective of external considerations may have such a desire to know his self which remains hidden by the very things which it illumines.

Just as green scum which is born out of water,

hides  it  form  view  by  covering  it, so is the

‘ātman’ hidden by layers of the not-self which

are  its  own  projections. {Vivekacūdāmaņi, 151.}.

The objective in front of the Vedantic tradition, therefore, is to keep alive the spirit of intimate communciation between teacher and pupils. Within this rubic, there is scope for the widest diversification. The question and the answers that constitute the teaching will nesessarily be different from one situation to another but the content of it transmitted through such a mode will remains the same. It will be the same in so far as Vedanta is but a reflective appropriation of what is understood as eternally revealed. The synoptic progression from age to age reflected in the transmission of doctrine by teaching (as embodied in treatises) is of a different order than the dynamism required for adjusting and moving with the times. In this context it is hoped that the study of Vidyaranya’s commentary on the Taittirīyopanişad will be of some value to us as endorsement of what has been said earlier in Part I of this book. He was undeniably involved in the world for many years but the emphasis on nyāsa (renunciation) in his writings ia also quite unmistakable.




In any historical survey of the writings on Advaita, Vidyaranya’s  Pañcadaśī (The Pañcadaśī: tr. by Swami Swahananda (Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1967). Also : tr. hari aprasad Sastri (London, Shanti Sadan 1965).} and the Bŗhadāraņyaka-vārtika-sārah {Bŗhadāraņyaka-vārtika-sārah (Varanasi : Acyutagrantha-mala Series, 1941).} would merit important places. The author’s other writings also were are well known many of these have been published and translated into English as well.

{ (i) Sarva-Darśana-Samgratha ; tr. by E.B. Cowell and A.E. Gough (New Delhi : Cosmo Pumlications, 1976).

(ii) Dŗg-Dŗśya-Viveka : tr. by Swami nikhilananda (Musore : Sri Ramakrishna Ashram,


(iii) Vivaraņa Prameya Samgratha : (Varanasi : Motilal Banarasidass, 1967).

(iv) Jivanmuktiviveka : (Anandasrama Sanskrita Granthavali no. 20), new numbering.

(v) Dīpikā on Nŗsimhottaratāpani Upanişad (Anandasrama Sanskrit Granthavali no. 30).

       Old numbering.

           (vi) Śsi Śankara Digvijayah : tr. Baladeva Upadhyaya (Hardwar : Shri Sravannath Jnana Mandir, 1967).}. The text under study is included in an anthology of commentaries, entitled Anubhūtiprakāsh. { Anubhūtiprakāsh (Bombay : Nirnaya Sagar Press, 1926)}. This book has not been translated into any of the Indian languages or into English so far. Before we take up the study of the Taittitīyakavidyāprakāśah, which forms the second chapter of the anthology, we may consider the Title and the format of the anthology itself.

The word ‘Anubhūtiprakāsh’ may be translated as ‘The Exposition on Realization’. In other words, the title indicates that the contents will throw light on the nature of enlightenment. It is difficult to translate the word ‘anubhūti’. Already to words have been used, namely ‘realization’ and ‘enlightenment’. We may also describe it as “immediate awareness or insught’, or ‘an instant recollection’,. This state of Knowledge is said to be non-indirect (aparokşa) as distinguished from direct (pratyakşa) and indirect  (parokşa). We have direct  knowledge of sensible objects and indirect knowledge about many matters through inferences or from  scriptural authority. The non-indirect knowledge is a unique (and in the one ideal case, unparalleled) juxtaposition of  two direct experiences where one is instantly cancelled by the other. The classical example which is ciated in explanation of this knowledge is about ‘the tenth man’ (daśamo’sīti). {Śamkarabhāşya on Tait. 11. 1; upadeśasāhasrī 18, 172. Tem men are obliged to swim a river in the dark. Reaching the other shore, one of them takes a tally to see if anybody is missing. He counts nine and there is great anguish at the loss of one companion. A compassionate passerby seeing their predicament, taps the shoulder of the man who is counting saying, “You are the tenth man” There is great rejoicing at this ‘recovery’. It is not that he did not know himself as a man or that he achieved a new status; but he was made aware by a ‘teacher’ that his state of loss itself was an error which being dispelled he could regain his original state of tranquility.}

Vidyaranya has also writen a commentary on Samkaracarya’s minor work ‘Aparokşānubhūti, in which that this non-indirect knowledge is synonymous with Self-realization. {Vidyaranya’s Dīpikā on Aparokşānubhūti, verse 2.}. The Self is not directly percieved by the mind, {Tait. II. 9.1.} because the mind may not go further then the I-consciousness evident in the waking as well as dreaming states; nor is it to be inferred by reason, which could only start a process of infinite regress. {Br. II. 4. 14.}. Scriptural testimony can give indirect knowledge only which must be begin  with, like the belief in heaven and hell, etc., but this is not experienced directly . Then how should the Self be known ?

Samkaracarya’s answer which has become classic in the tradition is that the Self is already known. {Cf. his reference to Self as Pratyagātman in his celebrated preamble to V. S. bh.}. It is known as the Witness-Self, which makes possible the phenomenon of the I-or ego-consciousness, because there is memory of its continuity through the hiatus of consciousness in dreamles sleep. {According to the Upadeśa-sāhasri. (1.2.93) Teacher to the disciple, “you contradict yourself by saying  that you are not conscious (in deep sleep) when, as a matter of fact, you are so,………For you deny the objects of knowledge (in that state) but not lnowledge………The  consciousness owing to whose presence you deny the existence of thing (in deep sleep) by saying, ‘I was conscious of nothing’, is the knowledge, the consciousness which is your Self.” Tr. by Swami Jagadananda (Madras, Sri Ramkrishna Math, 1975), p. 53.

Also : Ātmajñanopadeśavidhi IV. 9-10 & Mānasollāsa VI-21.} The ego-consciousness is subject, as Vidyaranya elaborates elsewhere {Dŗg Dśŗśya Viveka, verse 8.} to there forms of mistaken identities which are4 called (1) natural, (2) due to past karma and (3) due to nescience. The proximity of the Witness-Self, so to speak, caste its reflections on the I-consciousness. Deluded naturally by this a man saya ‘I-Consciousness. Deluded naturally by this a man saya ‘I Know’ ‘I enjoy’. The ‘I-consciousness’ is associated with a particular body due to past karms, so a man says ‘I am this body’. Due to nescience a man though consious of the I as knowing,  doing or enjoying is not aware of the Witness-Self. He evinces an awareness of it when he awakens from a dreamless sleep and says ‘I did not know anything, I was happyily asleep’. {Upadeśasāhasrī, op. cit., p. 50 ff.}. This ‘existence’ which he implicitly asserts is due to the hidden Witness-Self which the ground of all existence, knowing and feeling. It is the Witness-Self  Alone, which makes it possible for the ‘I’ to exist, know and enjoy.

This (Self) is the one unbroken witness of the

dance of every intellect, verily, itself eternal, it

views the passing without the act of looking as if

though half-closed eyes. {Naişkarmyasiddhī 2.58 Tr. by A. J. Alston; The Realization of the Absolute (London : Shanti Sadan, 1971).

 The dissolution of nescience is simultaneous with the realization of the Witness-Self which is of the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss. This realization is called aparokşanubhūti, that is, immediate experience of Truth.

The role of Vedanta is to throw light on the state of ignorance and indicate the way to knowledge. {Vedāntasāra of Sadananda, tr. by Swami Nikhilanand (Calcutta, Adavita Ashrama, 1974), p. 15.} Thgis is a crucial role because ignorance of The Self  is not known as such but as knowledge which mistakes what is not self for the Self. In following the teachings of the upanishads, the seeker of Trith is introduced to the idea of Witness-Self : How is he to discriminate between the Witness-Self and the layers of not-self ? This he must learn from the Teacher. The reasonableness of this lesson being accepted (yukti), he must engage in meditative practices and prove to himself, the ultimacy of the Self by the experience of realization. {Ātmajñānopadeśavidhi, IV. 12-14, Vivekacūdāmaņi, 475.}

All expositary treatises on the Vedanta in gernal foolow a similar pattern of exegesis and so many can be seen to uphold the adoption of vividişā (desire for knowledge) as the point of departure and anubhūti (realization) as its destined goal. The repettive theme has gained in considerable clarity and depth in Vidyaranya’s treatment of it in his Anubhūtiprakāśah. Separte commentaries on twelve upanishads have been subsumed under the rubic of this general theme. {Pitamber Pandit, the weelmknown commentator in Hindi on the Pañcadaśi (Bombay, Nirnay Sagar Press, 1897) mantions that Anubhūtiprakāśah consists of 3000 verses (p. 12). There are 2805 verses only in the available edition of the book at Visvanath Library, Laita Ghat, varanasi.}. Each  Section or Chapter is complete in itself with an opening verse and a concluding colophon. The author’s selection of Upanishads in as follows :

1.   Aitareya from Ŗgvedā

2.   Taittirīya from Yajurveda

3.   Chhāndologya frm Sāmveda

4.    Muņdaka and praśna from Atharvaveda

5.   Kauşītakī from Ŗgvedā

6.   Maittrāyaņi from Sāmveda

7.   Kaţha from Yujurveda

8.   Śvetāśvatara from Yujurvrda

9.   Bŗhadāraņyaka from Yujurveda

10. Talavakāŗa from Sāmavada

11. Nŗsimhottaratāpānī from Atharvavada.

The list leaves out the Iśopanişad, a conspicuous ommission noted by Max Mueller. {Muller, Max The Upanishads (New York : Dover Publications, 1962), Part I, PLXVIII.}. The inclusion of Nŗsimhottaratāpāņi also is unusual because it is generally not listed with the major Upanishads. It must be noted here that the tradition of Sanskrit scholarship is not guided by the historical method. Times also does not add anything to the venerability od a Text. In trying to recover the meaning of ancient treatises, scholars, follow the method of mīmāmsā { Akhandananda Sarswati, Muņdaka Sudhā (Bombay : Satsahitya Prakashan Trust, 1967) p. 10.}, that is, a co-ordinating assessment of the subject matter. Reverence, is therefore necessary for the guidance of reason in a sphere of understanding where the teaching is about the identity of ātman and Brahman. This unique subject-matter determines the status of a Vedic treatise as a Upanishad {Bŗhadāraņyakavārtika-Sārah. I.3.}; as such all are of equal importance for the seeker of Truth.

  Vidyaranya, therefore, is well within his right to choose a selection of Upanishads for his purpose, which is to give the widest possible coverage to the Vedic traditions. In accordance with the method followed by Samkaracarya, the Muņdaka and the Praśņa are treated in continuation and may be regarded as one; so the first five represent the teachings of the four Vedas. The last seven are selected from different recensions of the Śruti literature.





The ‘commentary’ on the Taittirīyopanişad is entitled Taittryaka-vidyā-prakāśah, that is ‘the exposition of the teaching of the Taittirīyopanişad’. In 150 verses in the form of couplets Vidyaranya has summarized manily the second section of the Upanishad, adding a few verses for the first and the third sections. It is to be seen that almost all Upanishads propund the unity of the Self with Brahman in two ways, firstly by negation {“Not this, nor this” Br. IV 4.22, III. 9.26.} and secondly by the mode of indicative descriptions {Ait. V. 3 (prajñānam Brahma) ch. III.14 1 (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma). Br.I 4.10. (brahma vā idamagra āsit) Kaţha 5.6. (guhyam brahma sanātanam) Mānd., 2.2.2. (tadetedaksaram brahma); mānd. 2. ayāmatmā brahma) etc.}. Both these methods are to be met with in the Taittirīyopanişad. Indeed this Upanishad is the fountainhead for both methods which coverge to the same point in the famous declaration : ‘brahmavidāpnoti param,’ (Known of Brahman attains the supreme) {Tait II. 1. 1.}.

The layers of the not-self which hide the Self are stated to be five and are described in the image of a bird in the Upanishad. A bird symbolises the flight from the earth to the skies, a soaring, an uplifting of the spirit toward the unknown. Another explation is that in the Upanishadic tradition, the teaching is sometimes related to the Teacher, as for example. In the ņdūkyopanişad Brahman is described as four-legged. Similary the Taittitīya originating from the Tattiri birds, as it were, is moulded in the imagery of a bird. {Father Gispert-Sauch SJ, has perceptively detailed a parrallel of the imagery for the bird with the Vedic retualism of building an alter for sacrifice, he finds that the background of the Taittirīya-Upanishad lies in the sacrifice-rituals of the Vedas. Bliss in the Upanishads (New Delhi : Oriental Publishers & Distributers, 1977). Pp. 21-37}.

The five sheaths are, the body, the vita; air as breath, the mind, the intellect which is the consciousness of agency or will and lastly consciousness as enjoying. The first two are the material because the body and life-breath seem coterminious with the I-consciousness which is the shadow  of Self within us. The more subtle sheaths are (i) the world of mental projections, (ii) the sphere of action where changes are brought about and the ‘I’ knows itself as a ‘do-er’, (iii) the field of enjoyments (or pains) where the ‘I’ knows itself as the ‘enjoyer’.

These are caled sheaths or, ‘coats’ { The term sheath (kośa) does not occur in this Vallī. It has been used by Samkaracarya in his commentary on II 2.1. He evidently has elaborated Gaudapada’s usage of the word and reference to Taittitīya in Māndūkyopanişad kārikā III. 11. The five sheaths are treated as such in Savopanişad 2. The symbolism of ‘sheath’ imparts the sense of concealment and implies the possibility of unsheathing i.e., unveilment of what lies hidden.}which envelop the Self, that is, the self identifies itself with onr or the other of these layers and does  nor know Itseld as the supreme Brahman. The desire for this knowledge being awakened at the ‘right’ time the pupil is required to approach a teacher for instruction. This awakening or vividişā is indispensable, and the one and only instrigation (prayojaka) toward a life of spiritual endeavour. All texts agree that the desire for knowledge comes to the man who is rich in qualities of the head and heart summarized as the four-fold scheme of good conduct{The four qualities given in Vedantasāra (op cit.) are as follows : (i)  Nityānityavastuviveka (Discrimination between things permanent and transient). (ii) ihāmutrārtha-phalabhogavirāgah (Renunciation of the enjoymant of the fruits of actions in this world and hereafter). (iii) şatsampattih (to be possessed of six treasures, viz., Sama-dama, restrain in mental propensities and physical sense-organs; uparati, abstinence, titikşā forbearance, samādhāna, tranquility and sraddhā reverence), (iv) mumukşutva (yearning for liberation or Self-realization) Vedanta-sāra, 14-25.} (Sādhana catuşţaya).}

Vividişā, then, automatically nust lead to nyāsa or renuciation, because the pupil being instructed by the Teacher, will be involved in meditative prectices in order to bring his mind intellect and feelings to bear upon the teaching till he meets with success in the form of Self realization. It could be asked why the yearning for knowledge together with the reading  of the Upanishads, should not suffice for Enlightenment. This brings us to one of the main points of all writings on the Vedanta. It has already been said that the knowledge of Brahman reaches the dimension of “non-indirect’ knowledge, that is, a state where knoeldge and experience are one. Heaven, etc may be promised to man for good conduct, but this will always remain as far as the do-er is concerned in the realm of indirect knowledge (parokşa jñāna); but in engaging in an existential dialouge  with a precepter who is brahmavit  (knower of Brahman) he is in touch with the living pulsating sphere of bliss. It is the burning lamp which enkindless other lamps. A description of the lamp may be pleasing but it cannot light the way for the way-farer. We see, therefore that the living example of a Teacher runs like a thread through different Upanishads.

Specifically, the Teacher’s role is to guide the seeker through his medatitative investigation into the nature of the five sheaths. Starting from the outemost, that is, the body, the intellect must discard all layers as “not this Self which is being meditated upon’. The last barriers are the three sheaths of consciousness, willing and feelings. Being in close proximity to the Witness Self, the intellect seems luminous by itself whereas this is reflected light only. The nagative method teaches discrimination between the real Self and all that which appears real but is not so. What is being taught is not a denial of the not-self but rather a separation from it (pŗthak sattā). The basis for this distinction lies in the positive descriptions of Brahman and its identity with ātman. Brahman, is of the nature of ‘Reality, Consciousness, Infinity’, {Tait II. 1. 1.}  Unspeakable Supreme Delight, {Gauda 3.48.} ‘Unchanging, Immortal Delight and Fearless’, {Br. 4.4.25.} ‘the One without a second’ {Chh. 6.2.1.}, ‘all pervasive, consciousness, bliss and unparalleled, {Kaivalya 8.} etc. If this  supreme is the ātman itself, then the ātman cannot be identified with the body, life, breath, will or feelings or consciousness. So these outer coverings are to be discarded one by one till the ātman is revealed in its unique resplendent nature as Brahman.

Until the goal is reached, the seeker must follow a strict ethical code of conduct; but when he achieves the ultimate stage of Oneness, there are no duties or right as such for him because there is nothing which is not He Himself. { “And no duty remains for a Yogin who has accomplished his object whi is satiated by nectar―like wisdom; if there be, he is not the knower of the true nature of the Brahman”. Uttaragita 23, tr. by S. V. Oka (Poona Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1957).

The Gaudapādīya Dipikā on this verse clarifies that the Yogin who is established in the one-flavoured Bliss does not engage in action for benefit to Society. Uttaragita, (Bombay Gujrati Press, 1912).}. Moreover are permeated by goodness. {Naişkarmyasiddhi, IV. 69. Also, Vedāntasāra, 224.}. This is the final stage of celebration of the state of Bliss. At the end of his commentary on the Taittrīyopanişad Vidyaranya refers to the song of Self-realization by Bhŗgu in the third valli of the text. He concludes with a prayer to his Teacher ‘the great Lord Vidyatirtha’, invoking his blessings for all seekers of knowledge.








[ 1 ]

brahma-vallyām brahma-vidyām Tittiŗh prāha yāmimām /

vaksye    sukhāvabodhāya     krīdantvatra   mumukşavah //


This knowledge of Brahman, which has been described by Tittiri {The name of the seer who iss believed to have founded that Branch of Yajurveda to which the Taittirīyopaniśad, belongs.} in the Brahmavallī, I shall state for easy assimilation. May the seekers of Liberation disport themselves in it (enjoy the discourse).

In the opening stanza Vidyaranya gives a title to his work and declares his intention of commenting upon the second chapter of the Taittirīya Samkaracarya and Suresvaracarya have given importance to the First Statement of the Brahmavallī, as comprising the whole intent of the Upanishad. {“Sarvaeva vallyartho……..sūtritah”, Samkarabhāşya on Tait. II. 1-1 also Vārttikam, II.43}.Vidyaranya also treats this as the major statements and relates other teachings contained in the Upanishad to it as its corollaries; hence the importance of the Brahmavallī.



           darśadi Pitŗmedhāntaih karmabhir bahujanmasu /

anuşţhitair-vividişa            jāyate’ntima-janmani //


By performing all enjoined rites from darśa to pitŗmedha, {Fire-sacrifics enjoined on householders as dutiful conduct toward family and siciety. For detailes about Darśpūraņamāsa offerings under different listings see Kane, History of Dharmaśāatra 11, pt. II p.p. 1297-98. likewise for piţŗmedha performed as daily ritual see Kane, Ibid., p. 748.} ranging over many lives, (thereathar) is generated the longing for knowledge in the last birth. {The desire knowledge is itself an outcome of good conduct in life. Once the longing for the knowledge of Brahman is aroused, the seeker is led toward the goal of liberation by the grace of the Teacher, who will instruct him regrading soiritual exercises, meditation and discrimination. Liberation thus being assured the life in which the desire for knowledge is generated would be the last on earth}.




                                              tato  yogam  sambhyasy   Samhitopāsanādibhih /

ekāgraya sādhite’thāsya vidyām strayati srutih //


Thereupon ,  one-pointedness (concentration of the mind) being achived by paractising spiritual exercises and upāsanā (worship) such as reading of Scriptures etc. (for him) the śruti (Veda) aphoristically indicates the knowledge (of Brahman).

In verses 2 and 3 the auther mentions the qualities r the pupil who may approach the Teacher for knowledge of Brahman. The reference here is to the First Chapter of the Upanishad which has already described sphere of work for the householder. The thirst for knowledge is the prime requisite for the seeker of Truth; this longing comes to those who have finished with the world as a necessary field of action According to the author, therefore, the life of enquiry will turn out to be the last life before total freedom. There are parallel traditions which quest for knowledge as well; {Mīmāmsaka Sūtra I. ii. 1 and Īśopanişad 2, discussed in detail by Suresvaracarya, Naiskarmyasiddhi, 17-98. Also by Vidyaranya in Bŗhadāranyakavārtika sārah I. 2.92-106.} but vidyaranya here cleraly follows the Samkarabhāşya which says : “That man should attain the stste of fearlessness (total freedom)…..while the world (fraught with duality) abides for him, is utterly untenable.” {Śamkarbhāşya on Tait. II. 1.}. Good conduct in the world therefore, would engender the desire for knowledge but it cannot bring about knowledge itself.



sūtrāt     pūrvam  shimantro    japāyātropavarņitah /

japena vighnā dveşādyāh samyanti manasi sthitāh //


Before the aphorisms, the peace-chant is here stated, for the purpose of repetitive practice (japa) (because) by its japa such obstruction as animosity etc. pervading the mind are eradicated. { The reference here is to the opening verse of  of the Upanishad a peace-chant seeking to invoke blessings on both Teacher and pupil, so that the dialogue on knowledge of brahman may take place unhindered. This peace chant is common to all the Upanishads of this branch  of the Vajurveda namely :

“May Brtahman protect us both (Teacher and pupil) together; may He sustain us both together; may we work together with great energy; may our study be vigorous and effective; may we not wrangle with (hate) each other; let there be peace (anr) peace (and) peace.” Peace Chant; Tait. II}.

The dialogue between the Teacher and the qualified pupil, starts with the recitation of the Peace-Chant. A discourse on Brahman is possible only under conditions, external as well as internal; the participants must be at peace withy themselves and with each other and should be assured of being free from obstructions from outside. By refering to the Peace-Chant of the Upanishad the author situates himself and his reader within the tradition of dialogue  on Brahma-vidyā. This repetition of the pattern is like the forging of another link to the chain of such discourses.



                                    brahmavit   parametiti    stram   sarvārtha-sūcanāţ /

jneyam jñānam phalam ceti sarrve’rthah sūcitāiha //


The aphorism, “the knower of Brahman attains the Supreme” {This aphorism is form the First Statement of Brahmavallī : ‘Brahmavidāpnoti param’, Tait. II.1.1 (a).} (brahmavit parameti) being indicative of the entirety of meaning, namely, the object of knowledge, knowing and the result thereof, all these implications are indicated hereby.

This stanza refers to the opening aphorism in the Upanishad, namely, ‘brahmavitāpnoti param’, (the knower of Brahman attains the Supreme). Apparently there is an enumeration of a triad here, the knower, attainment, and Brahman as the Supreme, but in actualitym there is the one only. Attainment is to be nderstood as realization on the part of the seeker of his own Brahmanhood, and as such it is not a case of becoming something which was in existence before merely a recollection of true identity. {Tait.1. 1 (a-g)}.



                                   jņeyam brahma tadīyā dhīr-jrānam syahmatā-phalam/

sūtra-vyākhyānarūpāyām-ŗcyetad             visad kŗtam //


Brahman is the object of knowledge, theintellect merged in Brahman is knowing, and (the attainment of) Brahman-state is its outcome. A detailed explanation of this is given in the stanza containing descriptive analysis of the aphorism.

Vidyarna takes the above interpretation for granted and proceeds onwards to clarify the traid in a different way. He identifies the knower with Brahman, so that the term ‘brahmavit’ stands for both; since the ‘knower’ would realize himself as Brahman and Brahman is to be propounded as the One unfragmented whole, No duality of the knower and the known is admitted here. So that traid is Brahman as object of knowledge as realization and the resulting experience of this realization. Thw author indicates that triadic aphorism contains the full meaning of the entire First Statement, or rather the whole of the Upanishad itself. As this First Statement of the Second Chapter of the Upanishad is being elucidated by vidyaranya, it will be useful to quote it in full here :


(a)            The knower of Brahman attains the Supreme;

(b)            With reference to that very fact, it has been declared : Brahman is Real, knowledge. Infinite;

(c)            He knows him treasured in the highest space in the cave;

(d)            (He) enjoys all pleasures simultaneously as the omniscient Brahman;

(e)            from that very Ātman space originated; from space, air; from air, fire ; from fire; water; from water, earth, from earth, herbs; from herbs, food; from food, man; he indeed is this man consisting of food and rasa.

This indeed is his head, this, his right wing, this his left wing, this is his Self (the middle portion and this is tha tail (for) support.

This is the śoka (verse) on this subject.

Taittriyopanşad II. 1.1.) {The passage is sub-divided into msections here for easy reference}.

In the aphorism ‘brahmavit āpnoti param’,  according to Vidyaranya, is given the (1) subject of the discourse, (2) the means of acquiring knowledge regarding it, and (3) the gain accruing from this enterprise. Firstly, the identity of the “brahmavit’ (knower of brahman) and “param’ (the Supreme, that is Brahman) is the object of enquiry; secondly the mode of gaining this knowledge (āpnoti) is by discrimination between that which is real and that which is merely superimposed on it. Thirdly this text apparently goes beyond another which saya “Anyone who knows that Supreme Brahman become Brahman indeed” {Mund. III.2.9} or “ The knower of Brahman reaches Brahman”{Kauśitaki, 1. 4.}. In describing the result of the knowing of Brahman, Vidyaranya emphasizes therefore the ‘phala’ or result as the third corner of the triad. He commences on the task of reducing this traid to the establishment of the One only by taking up the definition of Brahman given in the second verse of the First Statement or anuvāka. (Section b)



                               jñātavyām  brahma     yat-tat-kimiti  cet-tasya    lakşaņam /

satyam  jñānam-anantam yat-tad-brahmetyavagamyatām //


If (you are) desirous of knowing this object of knowledge, which is Brahman, know that to be Brahman which has the characteristics, Reality, Knowledge, Infinity. {The three characteristics separately are used thoughout the Upanishad literature for designating Brahman, namely, (i) Br. II. 1. 20, Ait. 1. 1. 1., Chh. 6. 2. 1; (ii) Ait. 5. 3, Br. IV-3; Mund. II. 11-10; (iii) Katha 3. 15; Maritri 2. 4, Bŗihadāraņyaka 2. 4. 12 etc. The three together as a description in unique to Taittirīya. In later works the description coalesces into one term, Saccidānanda Brahman, mostly used for God : Ramottaratāpani, 47; Nŗsimhottaratāpani. 7. the use of it in secondary literature is too, profouse and well-known to be cited here.



                                       ākāśdi      jagat-sarvamanŗtam      māyikatvatah /

nānŗtam brahma tenaitat-satyamityabhidhīyate //


Being illusory, the entire world consisting of space etc. is unrea. {The category of the ‘illusory’ defined infra verse 11 is here distingished from the ‘unreal’ while also identified ontologically speaking. Cf. Vidyaranyas distinctions elsewhere regarding māyā for the man in the street, for the logician and for the follower of scriptures, Pañcadaśī VI. 130.}. Brahman is not non-existent, therefore, it is indicated as Reality. {The term Reality means that wjich is never sublated and remains always as it is. Lest it be mistaken as something unmoving, static and therefore material, the next verse proceeds to describe it as knowledge.}.



                  jagaj-jadam svatah sphūrtirāhityād brahma tu svayam /

sphuratītyajadam         tena      jñanam-ityabhidhīyate //


The world not being pulsating is material. Brahman being self-vibrant is not material, therefore, it is called (it is of the nature of) Knowledge.



                   jadam  ghaţadyantavat   syad  deśakalādi-vostubhih /

na deśadikŗtointo’sya brahmānantam tatah smŗtam //


Material things (such as) pots et6s. being limited by space, time, objectness, and so on, are finite. Since Brahman is not limited by space etc., it is stated to be Infinite.

What, then is this Brahman ? IT is Real. It is Knowledge, It is Infinite. These words are not adjectives qualifying a substance, but they are characteristics by which one may recognize that which is indicated by them. In stanzas 8, 9 and 10, the author explains that the Real or Reality means not non-existence, Knowledge means it is not a material thing and Infinite means it is an unfragmented  whole. The three limitions with which we are familiar in the words, time, space and thing-hood, are in operative with regard to Brahman, therefore it is said to be Infinite.



                                   deśakālādyanya-vastutrayam                    māyā-viŗmbhitam/

brahma satyam māyikaistaih paricchinnam katham bhavet //


The three (limitions) space, time and the other one viz objects are the emanations of māyā. {The world māyā is used to signify an order of existence which is neither true nor false, namely, an ‘illusion’. Something is ecperienced, which cancels itself to reveal its real prop, as it were. The classical example is the illusion of a snake in a piece of rope. On perceiving the snake, there may be reactions of fear etc., but on the cancellation of the illusion the true nature of the rope is revealed. Māyā, therefore, performs a dual role of hiding the real as well as projecting the unreal. Compare DDV, 13 : Two powers, undoubtedly, are predicated  of Māyā, viz., those of projecting and veiling. The projecting power creates everything from the subtle body to the gross universe.}. Brahman is Reality. How can it be limited by those illusory emanations ?




                                 jadānŗta-paricchinna-vyāvŗtyaiva               pasatrayam /

lakşakam syādakhaņlasya yat-tad-brahmeti budhyatām //


The three terms (Reality, Knowledge, Infinity) being free from materiality, falsity and fragmantation, are indicative of the part-less whole which should be understood as Brahman.

To the very relevent question implied here as to the nature of the visible world which is experienced in time, spaca ans as objects, Vidyaranya replies that it is due to “māyā’. The world ‘māyā’ does not occur in the Text. Moreover the process of creation seemingly reads like an actual process in time. (See e). the answer given is, that were indeed so understood then the rest of the Upanishad would become meaningless, because the latter staements are devoted toward cancelling the world from the very gross to the most subtle. The Upanishad is going to teach the cancellation of the sheaths or layers of false knowing itself as Brahman. Therefore, this apparent creation is like a magic show due to māyā. {See Verse 35 of Text}. Brahman remains untouched by the name-from creation and revelation is what is implied in the conceptualisation of māyā and its emanations. The concept of māyā as developed by Samkara and his school is accepted here by the author.




  Tādrg     brahman    katham    vidyāditi     cedabhidhīyate /

                  Guhāyām parame vyomani sthitam brahma tu veda yah //


If it is said ‘how to know Brahman of that nature ?’ Then whoever knows Brahman dwelling in the Supreme sky of the cave (really knows). {Tait. II. 1. 1.}.



                              dehādabhyantarah   prāņah prānādabhyantaram   manah /

tatah   kartā    tato   bhoktā guhā    seyam     paramparā //


within the physical body is the vital air; still ithin is the doer (intellect) then the enjoyer. This succession is the cave. {The Paņcadasī, inone similar (III.1) and one identical śloka (III.2) describes the cave of sheath :

(i)  It is possible to know Brahman which is “hidden in the cave”, (i.

      e. of the five sheath) by differentiating. It from them. Hence the

      five sheaths are now being considered. (III. 1).

(ii) Within the ‘physical  sheath’ is the vital sheath’, within the

     ‘vital sheath”s is the mental sheath’ or the ‘agent sheath”, and

      still within is the ‘blissful sheath” or the enjoyer sheath”. This

      succession (of one within the other) is the “cave’ Othat covers

      the Atman). III-2. Tr. by Swami Swahananda (Madras : Sri

      Ramkrishna Math, 1967).}.

A question may be raised here as to how this Brahman is to be known at all. If it is Infinite and beyond ll modes of thought etc., and veiled by ‘māyā’ then how should its reality becomes a matter of fact to knowledge ? The solution to this problem is said to be given in the third verse of the First Statements (Sec e). This  verse is construed by Samkaracarya to mean the establishment  of Brahman as the innermost, indubitable “atman” itself. The “atman’ is situated within the “heart” of man, as it were, so that by this verse is established its immediacy. {Śamkarabhāşya on Tait II. 1.1c See also Suresvara Vārtikam II. 80.}. This identification of ‘atman’ and Brahman, according to Vidyaranya is the object of knowledge, already indicate by the term “brahman’ (the knower of Brahman) of the aphorism. The Text of the Upanishad states that Brahman lies hidden in the cave of the sky, veiled by nescience. The concept of the ‘cave’ is common to the Upanishads. {Katha I. 14, II. 12; Mund. 2.1.  10, Mahanārāyanīya 2.4., etc.}. According to Samkaracarya the idea of the cave signifies the inttractable and impenetrable barrier of the intellect which refuse to go beyond the I-consciousness. {Śamkarabhāşya on Tait. II. 1-1}.





                  Pañca-kośa-guhāyām  yadajñanam   kāraņam   sthitam /

Tad vyoma paramam   tasminnigūdham brahma tişţhati //


Nescience (is to be known) as cause rewsiding in the cave of five sheaths which is the supreme sky wherein dwells Brahman well hidden.



                   Jīva     caitanyam-evātra     nigūdham-iti      cet-tadā /

                                         Tasyavia brahmatām                 vidyājjivatava-bhrānti-hānaye //


If it is so understood that consciousness itself is here hidden in the creature then consider its Brahmanhood (that it is of the nature of Brahman) for the removal of the illusion of creaturehood. {The Jīva, the locus of I-consciousness is describes as “creature’ in the sense of one debvoid of freedom or lordship. The Upanishadisc synonymus used for it are aniśā (non-lord), paśu (one that is teathered and therefore restricted in its freedom).}.

The innermost recesse of the cave is surrounded by grosser and still grosser laysers of the not-self called sheaths. The space within the heart is the same as the supreme sky where Brahman as Self lies hidden, and where the last obstruction (to realization) in the form of nescience, the root cause of all projections, is to be encountered Vidyaranya has follwed the lead of Sanlarabhāşya for this interpretation. Samkaracarya writes :

It is reasonable that the space as heart should be the supreme sky because it is intended here that the (significance of the) Supreme sky should be part of the knowing process (being described here)……In this space of the heart is the cave of the intellect where Brahman lies hidden, that is, It is known as different from the sphere of the intellect, otherwise Brahman is not related to any particular space or time as It is all-pervasive and totally unqualified. {Śamkarabhāşya on Tait. II. 1-1.}.



          svato brahmaiva caitanyam    jīvatvam prāņa-dhāraņāt /

ko a-tādātmya-vibhrāntyā bhātyasya prāņa-dhāraņam //


In itself Brahman is consciousness. (Its) creaturehood is due to assuming life. Due to the illusion of identification with the sheaths (It) appears as assuming life (living).

‘Māyā’ hides Brahman by creating the falsehood of I-consciousness. Initially the pupil is obliged to begin here because consciousness is the last undeniable self-identity for him.

The author concedes the point that one may begin by thinking of Brahman residing inside as I-consciousness; that is, a duality of creaturehood and the Supreme as the in dwelling Lord within. This knowledge is tentative and needs to be over-come by the mode of discrimination about to be propounded by the Upanishad. Self-discipline and yoga are required for a turning around from the world to the dimension of deeper understanding. The seeker with his eyes turned inward may begain on the task of recovering his Self from its dispersal amongst the layers of not-self. This may be named the meaning of the term ‘aāponoti’ of the aphorism.



vakşyamāņa-vivekena tat-tādāmuamapohyate /

brahma-sakşātkŗtis-tvīdrg-bodheniva   na   cānyathā. //


That identification is dissipated by the discrimination being propunded (here). By such knowledge alone comes the realization of Brahman as immediacy and in no other way (is this possible).

Discrimination necessarily is an intellectual process. By this meditative analysis the seeker is required to grasp the inescapable nature of immediacy which belongs with the knowledge of ‘ātman’ or Self.



Bāhyam jagat pañca-kośāñścāpohyāntarmukhāsya dhīh /

                                        Brahma           sākşāt-karotyeva    sarvopādhi-vivarjitam //


Eliminating the external world and the five sheaths (the seeker’s) inward-turned intellect does indeed see (realise) Brahman who is devoid of all determinations.

The five sheaths are described in detail later in verses 41-86. these levels are the dimensions of not-self against which discrimination is to be used.




Sopādhyeva bahir-dŗşţyā bhāti brahma na tāvātā /

                                    apaiti  jinatā tasmād-antardŗşţyaiva budhyatām //


To the outward-turned vision, Brahman appears with determinations only (therefore) it cannot dissipate (the sense of) creaturehood; understand, therefore, by the inner vision only creaturehood is dissipated.



Bahir-dŗşţir-jagad-bhānam               tasya satyatva –dhiropi /

Vivekāt   satyatā’paiti    jagad-bhānam    tu yogatah //


The outwoard-turned vision consists of world-appearance and also the intellection of its reality. By discrimination is removed the (false) reality of the world; by yoga is removed the world-appearance.

Intellectual appreciation of the fact of falsity is disciplines are required. By thinking one may not remove the world which is an experiential reality for us. An experiential realization of the One Reality alone may dissipate the sphere of not-self.  ‘Yoga’ therefore, is necessary for bringing about the possibility of this realization.



bahir-dŗşţāvapetayamantar-dŗşţ            yadīkşyate /

nigūdhhm jiva-caitanyam mtad brahmeti prapaśyati //


On the removal of the outward-turned vision, that which is seen by the inward-turned vision is the treasured mysterious I-consciousness which is seen as Brahman.



dŗşţe tasmin paraprāptyā viduşo‘tiāayo’tra kah /

iti    ced-yugapat-sarvakāmāptiradhikā  bhavet //


On its being seen, if it is asked ‘By the gain of the Ultimate, what is (so) special (unique) on the part of the knower; then achievent of all fulfilment simultaneously would be the the speciality. {Tait. II-1.1d}.

What is the result of this Self-realization ? The attainment of all desires, totally and simultaneously. The realization of Brahman is the attainment of “param’ which therefore can be nothing else than supreme Mliss. This statement of about the result of Self-realization also answers the implied question, “Why should anyone desire to turn away from the world ?” The answer given is, since everyone desires pleasures, why should he not be interested in a course of action which reasults in totally fulfilment, a state of bliss, when all desires are satisfied simultaneously ? {Śāmkarabhāşya on Tait. II. 1. 1d.}.



kamyante vişayānandāh nikhilaih pranibhih sadā /

brahmānandasya   te  serve  leśā  ityoparā  śrutih //


All living creatures forever desire pleasures (arising out) of objects. All these object-pleasures are impressions only of the Bliss of Brahman-this is stated by a different Text. {Br. IV.3.32.}.



ānandahetavobāhyā      vişayā     iti      vibhramāt /

kāmayante bahir-dŗşţyā vişayām prāņino‘khilah’ //


‘The externalobjects are sources of bliss’ : On account of this illusion, all living beings by (their) out-ward turned vision desire objects.

The quest for pleasure is quite inescapable and yet bliss is unrealizable in the world, but not so in life. The finitude of fragmentary pleasures can be made whole and complete in the bliss of Brahman.



abhīśta-vişaye    labhde    dhīh   pratyāvŗtya    hŗdgatam /

brahmānandam kşaņam bhuktvā bāhyam kayate punah //


On realizing its desired object the intellect returning, enjoys the Bliss of Brahman for a moment in the heart, and (after that moment) agains beings to yearn for the external.



kşaņikatvāl-leśatā’sya         pūrņasyāpyupacaryate /

vişayānandatā bhrāatyā brahmānando hi vastutah //


On account of momentariness traceness (of bliss) is imposed even on this perfection. Plesure in object is due to illusion; in facr there is only the Bliss of Brahman. {Brahman as ānanda is stated in many Texts : Tait. II. 4.1., II.5.1, II.7.1, III.6.1.ff. Br., II.1.19, II.4.11; etc. Maitrī, 6.13, Kaivalya 15, Mahānārāyanīya  23.1, Kauşītakī 3.8. etc.}.

All pleasures in the world are mere traces of the plenum of bliss in Brahman; due to ignorance one thinks of objects as sources of pleasure.

Knowledge of Brahman, therefore, means to be established in the bliss of Brahman.


antar-dŗştyā vtvekī tu brahmānandam sadekşate /

antar-bhavanti kşaņikā; sarve tasmin-nirantare //


The discering one, verily, with inward-turned vision continually contemplates that Bliss of Brahman. All momentary (experience of Bliss) merge into that continuity.



tattvaidbrahmarūpeņa          sarvān        sahāşunte /

ityeşo’tiśayo brahmaprāptirūpam phalam śrutam //


The knower of Reality simulataneously enjoys all desires in the the form of Brahman; (we have) heard of this special gain in the form of the attainment of Brahman. {Tait. II.1. 1d}.

The description of the traid mantoied by the author in Verse 6, namely, Brahman as object of knowledge is completed here.



sūtra-vyāhhuāna-rūpāyām-ŗcyanantamitīritam /

tadānantya-prasiddhyarttham jagatkāraņntocyate //


(Brahman) is stated to be Infinite in the explicative verse of the aphorism. {Tait. II.1.1.b-e.}. World-causality is stated for its being renowned as Infinite.

After thua explaining the aphorism, Vidyaranya takes up for consideration the process of creation and its subsequent cancallation. The visible world is only an appearance of Brahman, skifully and magically presented by ‘māyā’. World causality is imputed to Brahman to demonstrate that Brahman is Infinite. Brahman may share ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ with its many manifestations but as Infinite it supports the entirety  of creation but is not limited by it.



yatsatyam brahma   kośākhya-guhāyām vuomanāmake /

                 ajñāne      kāraņe    gūdham    tasmādākāśa    udgatah //


The Real Brahman which is hidden in nescience as cause in the cave entitled sheath; know as the supreme sky, from that (Brahman) emanates space (ākāśa).

The Term ‘ākāśa’ (space) has been mentioned in many Texts as the first evolute and this Brahman Itself {Chh. I. 9-1; Br. III. 9. 13; III. 9. 13; Tait. III.10.3; Nris. 3.1; etc.} : In this Upanishads as well as others, the supreme sky is identified with the space in the heart, a statement construed to mean the immediacy of Brahman as ‘ātman’, the innermost Self. {Gaud. 1-2; Maitri. VI.28; Br. II. 1-17; Chh.III. 12.9. etc.}.



kham vāyvagni-jalorvyoşadhynna-deheşu kāraņam /

pūrvam pūrvam bhavet kāryam param-itīkşyatām //


It should be understood that amongst (in the series of) space, breath, fire, water, earth, herbs, grains and body, the former is cause and the latter is effect.

All efects are grounded on Brahman as cause. Brahman as Ultimate Cause remains Infinite because it is unfragmented by space which is an emanation and so on. All along the series.



indro mābhir-abhavadbhahurūpa iti śruteh /

āsan māyikarūpāņi khādīni brahmagāni hi //


‘India became multiform through ‘māyā’ {Br. II. V-19}; (we know) from this Text these illusory manifestations of space etc. arise out of Brahman alone.



parāsya śaktir-vividhetyevam śrytuantareraņāt /

vividhā brahmaņah śaktih sā ca māyānŗtatvtah //


From another Text ‘Its (Brahman’s) transcendental power is many-feceted {śwetās. 6. 8.} (is known that ) Brahman has multiform power and on account of falseness it is māyā.



satyasva      brahmarūpatvāc-chakter-anŗtatocitā /

nistattvā  bhāsate  yā’sau māyā  syād-Indrajalvat //


Reality being the nature of Brahman, the falsity of powers is appropriate. That insubstantial (enity) which appears (substantial) is māyā (performing) like a magic show.



māyāyā    vividhatvena   tasyāh    kāryeşu   khādişu /

nāmarūpeşvanekatvam bhātyanyonya-vilakşaņam //


On account of the manifoldness of māya, there appears among its name-form manifestations, such as space etc, a veriety mutual distinctions.



bhāti sarveşusatyatvam-ekam yad brahmagam hi tat /

sarvādhişţā-dharmatvāt     tat    sarvatrānugacchati //


The reality which is perceived in all (space etc.), that is verily of Brahman only. Being of the nature of the ground of all, it pervades all.



sarpa-dhārā-daņha-mālā rajjvām yāh parikalpitah /

etāsu rajjugam dairghyam sarvāsvanugatam yathā //


I he manner in which the ‘length’ of rope inheres in all such superimpositions as snake, a line of flowing water, stick, garland on a rope.



vyomādyā  dehaparyantāh  satye  brahmaņi  kalpitah /

sarveşvanugatam brahma satyatvam tasya susthitam //


(In like manner) on Real Brahman are superimposed (enerything) from sky etc. to body. Brahman pervades all. Its Reality is truly positive.

The process of creation is nothing but an expansion of the network of ‘māyā’. The process is described as tranformation of the most subtle elements into the very gross bodies of creatures. This entire world-appearance, arranged in layers as it were, is just superimposed on the immutable and unchanging Brahman, just as the illusions of a snake or a garland, or a line of water, or a crack in the ground may be superimposed on a piece of rope. Just as the ‘length’ of the rope pervades all these superimpositions so does Brahman pervade the world.



adyāropāpavādābhyām nişpropañcom prapañcyate /

iti     nyāyena      dehānta       ārope     khādirīritah //


The A-cosmic “becomes’ (the cosmos of) becoming. This, however is (to be understood) as ‘super-imposition and subsequent cancellation’ {Cf Śamkarabhaşya on Gītā VIII, 13; XVIII 66 for both the use and the mention of this strategy. Also V. S. Bh. IV. 1.2.}. According to this logic, superimposition is said to be (of everything) from space to body.

A man is sad or joyful when his son or wife is sad or joyful. The distinction between a man and his son or wife is clear enough. Sorrows and joys of the body, mind and intellect are closer and progressively more Intimate, yet they do not trouble the ‘ātman’ which remains untouched by them in deep sleep. These states, therefore, are as if superimposed and do not belong with “ātman’. Similarly the whole of creation is superimposed on Brahman.



athāpavādo jagatah khathyate brahma-buddhaye /

tatrādau   putramitradi-nuttyai   dehātmatocyate //


Now is being stated (the process of) cancellation of the world for (gainning ) knowledge of Brahman. In this context first is stated self-identification with body in order to remove (identity with) sons and friends.

After describes the process of superimposition the reverse mode of cancallation is discoursed upon in verse 41-86. one is urged to consider that a sense of belonging with progeny, with the body, the vital air, the mind, the I-consciousness, as well as I as enjoying in the world, is not tenable, because all these are determined by “time, space and onjects’ whereas “ātman’ is Immortal and Infinite, and of the nature of Bliss. The identification with the five sheaths of the not-self should be taken up one-by-one in progressive order each as a working hypothesis and discarded by sublating the outer by the inner veil which hides the Witness-Self.

This is in keeping with the described nature of ‘māyā’ that until the veil is removed, this magic order of reality is not experienced as an illusion; each level can become so only on its being sublated by a finer and thus a more insistent layer of unreality.



ātmā vai putrahāmāsityevamātmaiva-vibhramah /

laykiko’nūdyate  putre  śrutyā  yuktiśca  vidyate //


The illusion of self-identity with son in the world, is etablished by the Text ātmā itself assumes the name of son. {Kauşītakī II. 11.}.



śākalyam putra-bhāryāder-vaikalyam cātmanīkşyate /

ityāha   bhāşyakŗt-tena   putre’sti  svātmatābhramah //


Felicity and infelicity affecting son, wife, etc, are perceived in oneself. This is why says the commentator (Samkaracarya) there is the illusion of self-identity with the son.



so’syāyamātmā puņyebhyah pratidhīyata ityadah /

vaco  vaktyaitareyo’tah   svātmatā-bhrama eva hi //


The Aitereya states that his (the fathe’s) very self is substituted (as the son) for deeds of merit (rites etc.). {Aitareya II. 1.4. The one Self, itself, continues in the father-son series.} therefore self-identification (with son etc.), is verily an illusion. {Śamkarabhāşya on Aitereya II. 14.}.



evam    vyudasitum     dehasyaivātmatvam-ihocyate /

yo deho’nnamayah so’yamavātmānyo na kaścana //


Thus for abandoning (self-identification with son etc.), the body itself is here being stated to be one with the Self : the food (gross) body is itself the Self and no other.

To diflect attention away from the Self as son, wife, etc., it is being focussed on the body and urged toward gradual in wardisation.



madīyah  putra-bhāryādir-iti bhedāvabhāsanāt /

ganņī ātmatā  putra  bhŗtyādau  simhatā yathā //


“Son, wife, etc. are mine’, because of the perception of such distinction, self-identification with son is secondary, as lionness of the servant etc. (that is, when it is said that the servant or some other person is brave as a lion).



pūrva-vāssanayā   putre  svātmatā  bhāti  cet  punah /

tad vāsanāpanuttyartham dehātmatvam-upāsyatām //


If due to previous desires the son is percieved as identified with Self, to remove that desire one must engage in meditation of identity with the body.

Samkaracarya writes that the teaching aims at reaching the innermost Truth in the heart of man; but the intellect and mind are so preoccupied with external things that they cannot suddenly be re-called toward an inwardisation without some kind of support for thought. The body is visible to everyone so by the logic of the “moon on the branch’ {The sliver of the new moon is not at once visible in the sky. Attention may be drawn to the branch of a tree and then directed toward the faintly visible moon on top of it. The branch is just instrumental in directing attention toward something with which it has no real connection. Such is the case with the five sheaths.} the teaching moves gradually from the body to the innermost identity of the I-Consciousness.




śirah  pakşau  madhyapucche  iti  dehasya  pakşitām /

dhyātvā tan-nişţhatām prāpya tyajet purātmā-śrutim //


Mediatating on the body in the likness of a bird (as) head, wings (arms)  the middle portion and tail, thereby achieving certainly of that identity (with the body) one should give up (move beyond) the Text stating self-identification with son.

The first name-from unit is the body which is described in the imagery of a bird {Neither the Text, nor Samkaracarya uses specifically the imagery of a bird. Both describes the form of a man. The world pakşa could mean ‘side’ as well as “wing’. Suresvaracarya (T.B.V.II, 243)refers to the bird-like construction for purpose of a sacrifice in this connection; this is confirmed in Sāyana-bhāşya (on Taittirīya II. 1. 1g). Anandagiri clearly puts forward the idea of the imagery of the bird (Gloss on śamkaracarya on Tait. II. 1. 1g).} and this imagery is maintained throughout the descriptive analysis of finer layers of the not-self. The body of man has five important sections : the head, the right side, the left side, the middle portion and the nether limbs which support the body.



dhīr-manuşyo’hamityasti   putro’ham-iti nāsti dhīh /

vikāro’sti parivaājo   na   putra-sukha-duhkhayoh //


The modifications (changing conditions of sorrow and joy) pertain to the traveller, {See Sankarananda’s Dīpikā on the Kauşitakī text cited above.} ( the man who returns home and greets his son) and not because of the son’s joy and sorrow (because) ‘I am a man’, such an awareness is known, but not the awareness, ‘I am a son’.

The reference here seems to be to to ‘Kausitaki’ II, 11, ‘Now when one has been away, on returning home he should kiss his son’s head saying ‘you are born form every limb of mine, you are brn from the heart, you, my son, are myself indeed’. This is stated here as a critique of the notion of the identity of oneself  with one’s son that is implied in the cited text and also in the ‘Aitareya’ II, 1.4 referred to earlier. The joy of the father on greeting his son inot one of identification with the son’s joy but he is happy himself on seeing his son. A distinction is implied here between father and son.



annajo  deha  evātmā   tadannam   brahma-buddhitah /

upāsya sarvamapyannam svābhīşţam labhate pumān //


The body created out of food is Brahman, therefore, foos is Brahman’ {Tait III. 1.1.} by such knowledge meditating on the totality of food man attains his desires.

This section anticipates the teaching of Chapter III of the Upanishad. It summarises the maditative his father Varuna, as a disciple and asked, “Reverned said, instruct me about Brahman.” Varuna said, “Seek to know that from which all beingshere are born, having been born, by which they remain alive, and into which on departing, they enter. That is Brahman.” {Tait. III, 2.1}.

The first medation of Bhrigu brings him to the conclusion that since by food and sep everything is produced and sustained and also into which everything is transformed, food is Brahman.



vivekādvā   dhyānato vā        putrādyātmatvanihmutau /

tathā dehātmatām tyaktvā prāņātmatvam vicintyatām //


On removal of the sense of self-identification with son etc., by discrimination, (and) discarding, the sense of self-identification with the body, vital air as self is to be reflected upon.



na   dehasyātmatā    yuktā  pūrva-janmanyabhāvatah /

purāttmā dehadam karma kŗtvā prāpnotyado vapuh //


on account of its absence in the previous birth, it is not proper (for) this body  to be thought of as Self. Performing bodly action previously, the self attains this body; (of this birth).

The pupil’s further reflection brings him to the tentative conclusion that since the body itself is an effect, it cannot be the ultimate cause.



āyur-maraņayor-hetau    prāņe     jīvātmatocitā /

sthite prāņe bhavatyāyuh prāņāpāye tu hīyate //


Being cause of life and death, it is proper to consider vital air as the living Self, because life remains while vital air lasts; with the cessation of vital air, (life) also lapses. {Tait. III. 3.1.}.

Conffronted by the answer that food or the body made of food is Brahman the Teacher again repeats his lesson. The pupil realizes, that the lesson is about that which is the Infinite griound of all. Theraupon Bhrigu gradually comes up with more subtle identification with Brahman. His meditative analysis tells hin that since the vital air is the cause of life, its sustenance and its absence means dissolution. Breath itself is Brahman. {Ibid., 3-1.}.



dehātma-vāsanā-nuttyai prāņātmatvamupāsyatām /

prāņo brahmotyupāsīnah sarvam-āyuh samaśnute //


To remove the desire for self-identification with vital air. Such (a one) who practice medation believing vital air to be Brahman, attains the entirety of life. {A full life generally stated to be of one hundred years. Chh. II. 11-20. IV. 11-13.}.


prāņo’pānah samānaścodāna-vyānau ca vŗttayah /

etāsu   pūrvavat-pakşa-mūrdhādin    parikalpayet //


prāņa, apāna, samāna, udāna and and vyāna are functions. In these one should ascribe wings, head, etc, as given above.



śvāso’dhogamanam  kŗtsne dehe’nnasya   sarīkŗtih /

udgārādiŗbalam  dehe  kriyāstāsām  kramādimāh //


Breathing, the passage of air downward, the absorption of food in the whole body, belching etc., and strength in the body, consecutively these are their (of the five functions) activities.



vŗttisamgham prāņamayam dhyātvā dehātmavāsanām /

samtyajyātha   prāņamaye   tyajed-dehavad-ātmatām //


After meditating on the entire functions pervaded by vital air, one should given up the desire for self-identification with body and thereafter, like the body should be given up self-identification with the pervading vital air.


prāņo  nātmā  jadatvena  cetanasyātmatocitā /

manastu cetanatvena sarvasya pratibhāsanāt //


Vital air cannot be the Self because of its materiality. It is proper that consciousness should be the Self. Thus is the mind on account of its appearing as conscious to everyone.

This answer, like the previous one evokes the repitition of the lesson from the Teacher. Bhrigu, then thinks it must be the Mind (mānas) or consciousness without which there is nothing at all {Tait. III. 4.1.}. it is the mind which grasps the meaning of the scriptures and is instrumental in obeying all injuctions toward moral conduct. So mind is Brahman.


cakşurādyakşa-sāpekşam mano bāhyārtha-sādhakam /

nirapekşeņa    manasā     sukhādyantara-bhāsanam //


The mind conditioned by the senses (like) eyes etc. is instrument of (the knowledge of ) external objects and by the unconditioned mind is experienced internal pleasure etc.

Bhrigu is obliged to abandon this identification because there are lapses of consciousness and it cannot sustain the entirely of creation.

In verse 59-64 the pupil reflects on the factors which make him believe that mind is Brahman and also on the indispensable reason which makes him discard this notion.




ātmatvam manaso buddhvā tyaktum prāņātamavāsanām /

upāsīta         anas-tac-ca          vŗttyākhyāvayavairyutam //


In order to relinquish the desire for self-identification with vital air (one) should mediate knowing (holding) the mind as Self, that (mind) is characterized by parts known as functions.



yajurādyāś-caturvedā   ādeśas-tadgato    vidhih /

tad-bhāsake manovŗtti-pañcake pakşi-kalpanā //


There are four vedas, Yajauh etc; the ruling they contain is injuction. The five mental functions by which their knowledge is acquired, in them (is ascribed) the imagery of the bird.



avān-manasa-gamyasya        brahmaņo’pyovabodhane /

śaktam bhaven-manas-tac-ca mano brahmeti knlpanā //


So that the mind should be capable of knowing that Brahman which is beyond speech and mind, mins is to be thought of itself, as Brahman. {Tait. III. 4.1.}.



na brahmaņi manojanya-sphūrtis-tasmād-agamyatā /

manasyantarmukhe    naśyed-avidyā   tena   śaktitā //


In Brahman there is no pulsation arising out of the mind, therefore it is inccessible (to the mind). [But] nescience is to be destroyed, on mind becoming inward seeing, therefore it (the mind) has capability. {The mind has potentiality for starting on the process of inwardisation but it may not penetrate beyond the barrier of I-consciousness}.



prāņātma-vāsanā’e       manaso’pyātmatām       tyejet /

karttur-ātmatvam-ucitam mano’ntah-karaņam khalu //


On the destruction of the desire for self-identification with vital air, (one) should relinquish the selfhood of mind also. The selfhood is proper to the agent, the mind is only the internal organ.



aham kartetyado’ jñānam viśişţam bhāsakam /

tat-kartŗrūpam vijñam-ātmatvenāvagamyatām //


That Agent-form of consciousness, of which the characteristic appearance is such specific ignorance as ‘I am the doer’, is to be understood as Self itself. {This is a form of Ignorance because the I-consciousness is not the true Self}.

In verses 65-73 the seeker after knowledge identifies ‘ātman’ with the ego-consciousness by which man actively participates in the world. Man knows no separation fro his own will –power and knows himself as the do-er in the world. Yet reflection brings forth the notion that nwilling is the outside husk of ‘enjoying’. The pupil, then arrives At the innermost layer hiding the ātman, namely enjoyment.



ahamkriyata    ityeşo”hamkārākhyah    sa  vigrahe /

ānakhāgrām-abhivyāpya athito jāgaraņe sphutah //


The ego-consciousness (in) ‘I am doing’ fully pervades the body up to the tip of the nails (which is) manifest in the waking state.



tena  cetanved-deho  bhāti  suptau  tu  tal-layāt /

bhavet kāşhasamo dehas-tenāhamkāra ātmatā //


Due to that (ego-consciousness) the body appears to be conscious. On its abeyance in the state of sleep the body becomes like deadwood, therefore (there is ascription of) selfhood in ego-consciousness.



madīyam mana ityukter-ātmanah karaņam manah /

ityātmānam          vivicyātha        tamupāsīta        pakşivat //


On account of this statement, ‘mu mind,’ mind is (seen to be) instrument of the Self, therefore, distinquishing the self be meditated upon in the image of the bird.




śraddhādyā pañca tatrasthāh  kalpyā  mūrdhādirūpatah /

śraddhāstikyam-ŗtam buddhau yathāvastvanucintanam //



yathārtha-bhāşaņam   satyam   yoga   ekāgratā   dhiyah /

mahastu yogajam jñānam cintyāh śraddhādayo’khilāh //


The five (traits), reverence etc. should be imagined exsiting therein as head etc. Reverence is faith, the intellect contemplating Reality is Rta, speaking exactly is truth, the one pointedness of intelligence is yoga, the knowledge arising out of yoga is mahah; Thus are to be contemplated the entirety of (the traites) reverence etc.



laukike  vaidike   kartŗ-vijñānam   brahma   vetti   cet /

tyajed āmaraņam no ced brahmaloke shkham vrajet //


In secular as well as ritualistic (performances) if (one) knows the agency-consciousness to be Brahman and does not give up (such knowledge) untill death, (he) goes happily  to the region of Brahman (after) death.



vijñāna-dhyānato naśyen-manasyātmatva-vāsanā /

vijñānatmatvam-apyeşa  tyajecchoka-yutatvatah //


By meditating on consciousness the mind’s desire for self-identification world be destroyed. (one) should give up self-identification with consciousness also because that is conjoined with sorrow.



śokam taratyātma-bodhāditi śrutyantare jagau /

śokasāgar-magno’yam kartā tasyātmatā na hi //


Another Text states that ‘the knower of self goes beyond sorrow’ {Chh. 7.1.3.} therefore, (as) this agent is immersed in the ocean os sorrow, its self-hood verily is not proper.


ānandasyātmatā  yuktā so’trāsti prīti-darśanāt /

sadā bhūyāsam-eveti nityam premātmankşyate //


It is proper for Bliss to be self. It is in this (self) because there is, seen attachment (for self); “May I be for ever’ from such (statements) is seen adiding love for the self.



ānandaika-svabhāvo’pi  kartŗ-vijñāna-sañgamāt /

nijānandam tiraskŗtya kadācic-chokam-āpnuyāt //


Although Bliss alone is its natural states, even so some times due to association with agency-consciousness, it attains to sorrow repudiating its own Bliss.



samādhi-supti-mūcchāsu     vijñānasya      laye     sati /

nirtyānanda-svarūpe’smin-choko’lpo’pi na vīkşyate //


No vestige of sorrow is seen in this essentially abiding blissfulness on the cessation of consciousness in the states of samādhi, deep sleep and fainting.

This “ānandamāyā-kośa’ (the sheath of bliss also has to be sublated because its from is due to the result of action. It is true that it is the most subtle of the forms and is known only upon awalening from a deep refreshing sleep. In verses 78-84 the process of cancellation is given. Attention now being fixed upon this innermost layer which covers the witness-Self, the next state would be its simultaneous removal and the realization of Truth.



mūrcchā-suptyor-yadajñānam bhāti tat-karaņam dhiyah /

kāraņe     buddhi-vŗttau   ca    svānandah   pratibimbati //


The nescience ‘I did not know’ which is apparent in the states of fainting and deep sleep is that of the intellect. The bliss of Self is reflected in the intellectual modes (which are) of the nature of instrumentality.



duhkham rājas-dhī-vŗttau sāttvikyām tatsukham bhavet /

priyam modah pramodaścetyucyate dhī-sukham tridha //


Sorrow belongs with the mode of active intellect, plesure happens in the mode of tranquil intellect. There are three kinds of pleasures of the intellect; love; joy and delight.



işţasya darśamāl-lābhād bhogac-ca syuh priyādayah /

te   trayah   kāraņānanda    ātmānandaśca  pañca   te //


Through the sight of the beloved, gain and enjoyment, love etc., take place. Those there are causal Bliss. The Bliss of self is five-fold.



pakşiņo’vayavāh pañca mūrdhādyas-teşu kalpitāh /

ānandamayo-kośo’yam-upāsyah    pūrva-kośavat //


In these, the five parts, head etc., of the bird are imagined. Meditation should be of this sheath of Bliss as of the previous sheath.



anna-prāņa-mano-vijñānamdair-janitā          ime /

kaśās-teşu krameņa syur-uttarottaram-āntarāh //


These sheaths originate from food, vital air, mind, consciousness and bliss, amoongst these the latter sheaths, consecutively, are increasingly internal (more subtle than the former sheaths).


vijñāna-kośa-nyāyena                phalam-unnīyatām-iha /

tad-upāsti-phalam cāathāt-tattvabodha-phalam bhavet //


Here, result should be derived by the logic of the sheath of consciousness. The result of such meditation, in effect, will be the knowledge of Reality.


ānandam brāhma vijñāya tyajed-āmaraņam na cet /

śarīre   pāpmano   hitvā   sarvānkamān-avāpnuyāt //


Knowing Bliss to be Brahman if (one) does not give up (that knowiedge) till death, shedding off all demerits in the body (he) attains fulfilment of all desires.



ānandamaya-kośe’smin      pañcamāvayavah     śrutah /

brahma-śabdena tad brahma svātmānanda itīkşyatām //


In this sheath of bliss is the fifth part states the Text. {Sarvopanişad 6.} From the term Brahman one should understand that Brahman is the Bliss of Self.


upāsanāc-cittaśuddhau brahma-tattvam:avekaşate /

guhāhita-brahma-bodhāt               sarvakāptieīrtā //


The mind being purified by meditation there is vision of the Reality of Brahman. On knowing that Brahman treasured in the cave, all desire are attained; thus it is said. {Tait II. 1. 1d}.



guhāhitām brahma yat-tat-satyam jñānum-iti śrutam /

tasya  ñānasya  dŗśyās-te  kośāh  sarvam  jagat-tathā //


The Text states thus, that which is treasured in the cave is of the nature of Reality and knowledge. These are the visible sheaths of that knowledge as well as of the entire world.

The imsgery of the bird used for the process of superimposition and cancallation can be diagrammed as on next page :


The gross body of food :­­­­­­­­­                  head         

                                            ê                                     ê                  

                                            right wing   ātmā  left wing  

                                            ê                                               ê              

                                                               Lower limbs   



Breath of life                                     prāņa          

                                                            ê                                                ê

                                                   Vyāna    space of heart     apāna

                                                            ê                                                ê                        

                                                                                       the earth      


Conscious mind                               yajuh            

                                                               ê                                    ê                                                                                              

                                                ŗk   injunctions   sāma

                                                                   ê                                    ê                                                         



the sphere of willing :             reverence―  

                                                            ê                                 ê                                                                                                                     

                                          ŗtam      yoga   satyam

                                             ê                        ê




the sphere of enjoying             priyam     

                                                        ê                                       ê

                                       moda   ānanda   pramoda

                                           ê                            ê



From the digram, it becomes clear that the lesson teaches that the ātman which is in ‘the space of the heart’ inside the body is to be known as Brahman. The seeker bust proceed by way of restrainment of propensities, active engagements in moral duties and yogic practice for achieving one-pointedness of the mind.



jagat-kośāś ca dŗśyatvāt vasanti brahma na dŗśyate /

ato  nāstītyāha  mūdhas-tatsttām  vakti  buddhimān //


The sheaths of the world exist on account of beeing seen, but Brahman is not seen; therefore, the insensitive one says ‘it is not’ But the intelligent one acknowledge its Reality.

Vidyaranya refers to the sceptic’s question in the Samkara-bhāşya at this point. A sceptic may retort, “If one were to say that a barren woman’s son, having bathed in the waters of a mirage, is possing by with a crown of sky—flowers on his head and a bow and arrow made of hare’s horns in his hands, he would be as plausible as you about the reality of Brahman as the witness Self is thus hidden in the sheaths then it in simply a non-entity. The author reiterates here the classical answer based on an ancient Text, {Br. IV. 1. 14.} that even the denial of Self needs must establish that knower which can never be known as an object of knowledge. All knowing is made possible by it, just as the Sun makes it possible for the eye to see objects. How would the sun be proved ? It can be realized as Truth of Reality. {Mund. II. 2;10 and 11; Swetaswatara, VI. 14.}.



brahma nāstiti ced-veda svayam-eva bhaved asat /

kośātmātā  şitā  cen-nānya   ātmāst   tan-mate //


If anybody thinks thus that ‘Brahman is not’, then he himself would be proven unreal. {The dential of that by which everything else is made possible is stated to be self-destructive. The line of argument being followed here maintains that the true Self can be posited only by the process of cancellation of all false identification including the ego-consciousness.}. If the self-identification with sheath is erroneous then according to him there can not be any other Self.



ānandamaya-kośe’pi      priyādyā      naśvarās-trayah /

ajñanam ca jñāna-nāśyam na brahmāñg karotyasau //


The three transients love etc. are in the sheath of Bliss as well. Igonarance capable of being destroyed by knowledge does not admit in it (the reality of ) Brahman.



asti brahmeti ced-veda svayam-evātra sambhavet /

adŗśyasyāpi sattā syāt svaprakāśatva-sambhavāt //


If (one) admits ‘Brahman exists’ then his existence itself may be here established. On account of its self-luminousity the existence of the unseen (hidden) would be established.



gauņātmā putra-bhāryādir-mithyātmānnamayādhikh /

brahmānando   mukhya  ātmā krameņaite  vivecitāh //


Sons, wife etc. are secondary Self. The Self of food etc. is unreal-self. Bliss of Brahman is primary Self. These have been discoursed upon in order.



Uttarātma-viveke’sya purvātmā dehatām vrajet /

                                     tenottareņa    pūrvasya  pūrņatvād-dehi-dehatā //


Knowledge being gained of the letter self, (in a series) the former self is transformed into the state of body. Because the former attains completion due to the latter, therefore, there is relationship of body and indweller between the two.



satyevam nikhilam  pūravam  śarīam  hyantimātmanah /

brahmānandas-tu  āśārīrah   pūrvasyātmeti   nirņayah //


In this situation all the previous selfs are the body of the last self. The Bliss of Brahman alone being the self of the former is the indweller of body, this is the conclusion.



sravaņam mananam cobhe tatva-jñānasya sādhane /

ukta-nirņaya-paryantam vijñānam śrvaņād bhavet //


Hearkening and meditation are the two instruments to knowledge of reality. These may be knowledge hearkening untill the aforesaid conclusion (is reached).

The beginning of enquiry into the realms of superimposition, therefore, must start with śravaņa, that is  listening or heakining to the śruti. After listening to the words of the Teacher, the student may still have doubts and for dispelling this state of the mind the discipline of meditative understanding is recommended. These doubts are not the rejections of the sceptic but question which are likely to trouble the mind of the seeker. Vidyāraņya mentions three doubts : (1) regarding the reality of Brahman itself, (2) the liberation of the believer, and (3) the liberation of the nonbeliever.



atha  sva-buddhi-doşeņa  yatah  saņdeha-sambhavah /

ato’sau mananam kuryāt saņdehāh syus-trayo’sya hi //


Subsequently due to the short-coming of one’s intellect, doubts may arise, therefore, he should meditate. He may have three diubts.


brahmāsti no vetyekah syād-ajñānī mucyate na vā /

tattvavin-mucyate no vetyaparau samśayāvubhau //


Whether Brahman exists or not-is the first. If (It) exists then can the ignorant be liberated or not. Whether the knower of Reality attains to liberation or not; these are the other two doubts.



yad-asti  nāna-rūpābhyām  vyātam  tad  viyadādikam /

brahma nirnāma-rūpatavān-nāstīyāha vimūdha-dhīh //


That which is pervaded by name-form, namely, space ets., exists; because Brahman is devoid of name-form, it does not exist, such is said very deluded people.


vivekī    brahmaņah    sattam     sŗşţi-kāmādi-hetubhih /

sādhayam bahudhā mūdham bodhayen-moha-nuttaye //


The man of discernment proving the existence of Brahman by such causes as the desire for creation etc., should advise the ignorant repeatedly for dispelling delusions. {The created world affirms the Reality of Brahman as it comes into existence due only to the desire for creation on the part of Brahman.}

The first question is raised regarding the real nature of Brahman. So far Brahman has been described as Infinite, of the entire world. It has also been stated that this Brahman is in the innermost recesses of the heart. Now the neurtality of Brahman is being personified, as it were, by reference to His desire for creation.



akāmayata sŗşţyādau paramātmā sva-māyayā /

bahusyām-aham-evātah prajāyeyeti kāmanā //


At the beginning of creation God expressed desire that He Himself by his māyā would become many. Hence the desire for Self-procreation. {Tait. II. 6.1.}.



svasyaiva bahudhā cokter-upādānam mŗdādivat /

tathā    kāmayitŗtvena    nimittatvam   kulālavat //


On account of this manifold material cause. And although desiring, there is no instrumentality like the potter etc.



nirdharmake’pyātma-tattve nimittatvam svamāyayā /

upādānatva-sahitam         māyā        durghāţa-kāriņī //


On account  of His māyā, in the unqualified reality of Self there is instrumentality together with materiality. Maya creates imponderables.



asambhāvyam na māyāyām-upalambham na sārhati /

tato    vedo   yathā    brūte   sŗşţreşā     tatheşyatām //


There is nothing impossible in māyā, therefore, it is not to be taken cognisance of. Therefore, this creation is to be understood as is stated by the Vedas.

Thetext indicates that is not a fruitful process to question the work of ‘māyā’. Thw world is to be accepted as it is presented by ‘māyā’. Or, in other words, the world is, because ‘māyā’ is, They are simultaneous.



sŗjyam-ālocayam sarvam-asŗjat paromeāvarah /

sŗsţvātha   jīvarūpeņa   praviveśa   vapuşyayam//


Reflection on whatever is to be created, God created everything. Threafter (He) entered into the body in the shape of the creature. {Tait. II. 6. 1.}.

Brahman, who is named God with reference to creation is not the instrumental cause like the potter; both materiality and instrumentality belong with ‘māyā.’ God’s desire “Let Me become many” is itself the actuality of creation. God’s creation is for His enjoyment alone. He as enjoyer into his creation and thus becomes the object of enjoyment as well.



yovijñānamayas-tasmihścaitanyam pratibimbitam /

tac-ca  dhayati  prāņāñ  jīvākhām  labhate  tatah //


Consciousness is reflected in that which is of the nature of intellect, which support the vital air. Thus it gets the designation of creation.



bhoktā bhūtvesvaras-tadvad bhogyarūpo’pi so’bhavat /

bhogyam  ca  bahudhā  sac-ca tyac-cetyādivibhedatah //


God, on being the enjouer, likewise become the object of enjoyment also. On account of the distinctions of this and that etc. the object of enjoyment is of many kinds.



sat pratyakşam paroksam tyat tadabhāvāvubhau tathā /

vaktum śakyamaśakyam cetyādi dvandve’sti bhogyatā //


The real is sensible and ‘that’ denotes the indirect  and in the same manner also the absence od both. It is speakble and is not speakble; in this opposition there is enjoyablencess.



kāmitvam-ālockatvam ca praveşţrtvam ca praveşţŗtā /

bhogyākāraśca panceite brahma-sadbhāvahetavah //


The nature of desirer, the nature of contemplater, the nature of creator, the nature of penetrator, and the form of the object of enjoyment-these five are causes of (showing) Brahman’s reality.

Wesee that Brahman, desires, then contemplates, creates, enters into the creations and becomes the object of enjoyment as well. By these five characterisations we may know of the reality of Brahman, not as an inferred entity but directly as so knowable by the wise.



sadrūpah paramātmā syāt kāmitvāt svargakāmivat /

ālocanān-mantrivat  san   sraşţŗtvāc-ca   kulālavat //


On account of being the desirer, God would be of the nature of reality like one desirous of heaven. On account of reflection he is real like a minister; being creator, he is like the potter.



praveşţŗtvāt sarpavat san bgogyatvāc-codanādivat /

nānumānaireva   kintu  vidyat-pratyakşato’pi  san //


Being the penetrator he is like the snake (within the scale) and being the object of enjoyment is like the grain of rice etc. not verily by inference but on acoount of the direct perception of the knowledgeable He is real.


yat  satyam  brahma   pūrovoktam   tadeva  jagdātmanā /

bhāti bhrāntyā tatah sarvam brahmetyācakşate budhāh //


That which is of the nature of reqality has been statep earlier, that very Brahman appears as would-soul due to illusion; therefore, the wise speak of everything as Brahman.



sarpa-dhārādikā bhrāntyā kalpitā tattva-darśane /

rajjureva yathā tadvad brahmaiva sakalam jagat //


The way in which snake, line of water etc. appearing so on account of illusion are (transformed to) rope itself on gaining the vision of reality, so Brahman alone is the entire world.



nāmarūpayutatvena    jagat    sad-brahma     nati     yat /

pūrvapakşimatam  tan-na brahmasattvam tadīkşyatām //


‘The world is real being connected with name-form and Brahman is not’, such an opinion of the critic is not correct, therefore, Brahman should be understood as real.



rajjudarighyam yathā sarpadhārādişvanugacchati /

brahmasattvam tathā voymavāyvādişvanugacchati //


The manner in which the ‘length’ of rope is pervasive in snake, line of water etc., similarly the reality of Brahman is pervasive in sky, wind etc.



asadevedamagre’bhān          nāmarīpmakam         jagat /

paścāt-tu brahmaņā sŗşţam sadabhud brahmasattvatah //


This world of the nature of name-form formely was verily non-existing. Later being created by Brahman, became real on account of the reality of Brahman. {Chh. 3.119.1.}.

In verse 114-125 the author deals with the first doubt. The world created by Brahman is pervaded by his indicative qualities, namely reality, consciousness and bliss. We experience the reality of things and are conscious, but the Infinity of Brahman cannot be experienced directly, but only as pleasures of the moment. This fragmentation of bliss-experience sours us toward the ‘Infinite’ therefore is used interchangeably with Bliss in other Texts also {Vajrasūcikopanişad 9; Adhyātmopanişad 32; Akşyupanişad 48, Mund. II. 2. 7; Sarvopanişad 3.}.



tad-brahmātmānam-evemam saccidānandalakşaņam /

akārşījjagadākāram      svayameva        svamāyanyā //


That Brahman-Self of the nature of, reality, consciousness, bliss, Itself with Its māyā transformed into the form of the world.


asti  bhāti  priyam  ceti    prativastvavabhāsate /

ta ete saccidānandā brahmagā bhānti vastuşu //


‘It is real’, ‘It is cognizable’, ‘It is enjoyable’, this is how every object is apprehended. These are the Reality, Consciousness and Bliss of Brahman, manifested in the objects. {Dŗg-Dŗśyam Viveka, 20.}

Every entity has five characteristics, viz., existence, cognizability, attractiveness, form and matter. Of these, the first three belong to Brahman and the next two to the world, on ‘māyā’.


nāmarūpe  ghaādīnam      prāgabhāvayute   tatah /

abhāvatvam  ca  bhāvatam paryāyeņekşyte tayah //


The name-form of pot etc.were previously of the nature of non-existence, therefore their non-existence ans existence are seen consecutively.



āgamāpāyidharmau yau na tayor-dharmi-rūptā /

śayanotthānayor-nāsti       dehavastusvarūpatā //


Those two qualities of being momentary and being finite cannot be of that (which is) qualified. Lying down and arising, are not (simultneously) of the nature of the reality of the body.





sattvāsattve’nyadīye          bhāsete         narupayah /

māyārūpam-asattvam  syāt sattāyā  brahmarūpatā //


The reality and unreality of the other things are manifest in the form of name-form. Unreality is of the nature of māyā and reality of the nature of Brahman.


jāhyduhkhe  māyike   sto  bhānānandau  parātmagau /

laukikāh saccidānandā brahmagāś-ced asatkatham //


Materiality and sorrow belong to mā and consciousness and bliss belongs to God. If these worldly realities, consciousness and bliss, are of Brahman, how can they be unreal ?



bhavet-tu brahmasattā’sminnānando’sti katham śiņu /

ānando’trābhyupetavyo      rasavān     madhurādivat //



muahasya madhurādih syād raso brahma vivekinah /

madhurādibhug-ānandī   brahmavic-ca tathā sukhi //


How can there be reality of Brahman in this, if it is asked, but no bliss, then listen to this : Just as that which is od sweet flavour is understood to be sweet etc., similarly here bliss in this is to ge understood. For the undiscerning sweetness etc. are taste but for the discerning it is Brahman. The enjoyer of sweetness etc. is blissful and the knower of Brahman is happy.



brahmānando na ced-atra deham ko nāma ceşţayet /

prāņākşāņām    ceştalatvam  na  tatra karaņatvatah //


If there is no bliss of Brahman here then who would uas the body for striving ? For, prāņa, eye etc. being mere instruments cannot have agency in striving . {Tait. II. 7.1}.



na    kevalam    ceştakaţvam     vişayānanda-hetutā /

apyapla-viśayālabdhvā svānande majjati  kşaņam //


Just exertion alone is not to be cause of the pleasure of objects. From acquiring a few objects also (he, the knower) immerses in his own bliss for a moment.



vişayānandaparyantaih           kāma-sŗşţyādihetubhih /

brahmasattve  sthite  muktiś-cintyate vidvad-ajñayoh //


Starting from the creation by desire upto the pleasure of objects etc. the reality of Brahman being established, theresfter the liberation of the knower and the ignorant is (next) considered.



vidvān brahmeti muktaś-cet mucyetājño’pyabhijñavat /

brahmarūpo’pi  baddhaś-cedajño’bhijño’pi  badhyate //


If the knower on account of being Brahman is liberated, then the ignorant like the knower also would be free. If even on being of the nature of Brahman, the ignorant is in bondage, then the knower is also in bondage.

Verse 126-130 answer the other two questions. The second and third doubts are two aspects of the same question. It is knowledge which liberates, neither belief nor disbelief. The desire for knowledge and its fulfilment is liberation; therefore neither is anyone specially entitled (including the gods) nor is anyone debarred from it. Moreover, the world does not ever dissipate into nothingness, it only cases to affect the knower of Brahman. A man will react with fear to the sudden appearance of a threatening figure in the dark, but he will not be disturbed if he knows it to be stump of a tree.



maivam brahmātmaikyabodha evaiko moşakāraņam /

aikyadarśi    mucyate’to   bhedadarśī   na   mucyate //


(To say this) is not correct because the knowledge of the one-ness of Self and Brahman is the (one and) only cause of liberation. Therefore the knower of one-ness is liberated and the knower of differences is not liberated. {It is knowledge which liberates, neither belief nor disbelief. See also kaţha 4.11.}.


ūrdhvākāre    same’pyasminścoradarśī    bibheti    hi /

sthaņadarśī    nirbhayo’tas-tattvabodhah prayojakah //


Because of the form of height etc., if somebody sees the form of a thief then he is afraid; but one who sees it as a dead stump remains fearless. Therefore knowledge of reality alone is the instigating factor.



jate’pi karmakāņdārthe vedāntārtham-ajānatah /

janmādibhir-bhavatyava vāyvād nām yathā tathā //


Evan after knowing the meaning of rituals, there does remain the fear of birth etc. as in the case of the wind etc., for those ignorant of the meaning of Vedanta. {Kaţha 63; Tait. II. 8.1.}.



vāyah śuryo  vahnir-Indro  mŗtyuś-cāītajanmani /

dharmajñā apyatattvajñā idānīm bibhyatīśvarāt //


Wind, Sun, Fire, Indra and Death although knowers of dharma in (their) previous birth, are now in fear of God because of not being knowers of Reality (Brahman).



jñanī    kāmān-eti    sarvaso    vai     sa      iti      śrutam /

brahmānandam sphuţīkartum mīmāmsā’nandagocyate //


The knower achieves all desires. He is flavour itself, thus says the Text {Tait. . 6.1.}. To clarify the bliss of Brahman is being stated the reflective exegesis leading to bliss.

In the next 10 verses Vidyaranya describes the state of desirelessness or complete blissfulness of the knower of Brahman. Actually the knower can not be said to be blisfullbeacuse he is of the  nature of the flavour (of bliss) itself. This one flavour pervades the entirety of creation. All those who are satisfied with their portions of this bliss do not look for the source of it but the true seeker, does not rest till he attains to it. There is no differentiation in this state of fulfilment; all who attain liberation experience the Oneness of this homogenous flavour of bliss.

It may be recalled that Bhrigu’s meditative analysis and usterities had brought him to the conclusion that Brahma id food. He had approached his Teacher with his ‘tapasyā’ (meditation in silent retreat from the world) Bhrigu, there after, progressed from identifying Brahman with food (the body) to vital air, the mind, the intellect, and the enjoying-self. Lastly, discarding even the identity of his “Ātman’ with Brahman as Bliss Supreme. He had not return to his father anymore with this answer but went around singing joyously of the experience of Oneness :

He  knew  Bliss  to  be      Brahman;

verily all  beings  here   are   indeed

born, from Bliss;  having been born

they  are   sustained   in   Bliss   and

on  departing   they   reenter    Bliss.

                  This  same  knowledge   of   Bhrigu

and  Varuna   is  established  in  the

cosmic   sky  (the  innermost  space

in  the heart). {Tait. . 6-1}.



samprņo  mşānandah   sārvabhaume   guņair-yute /

hiraņyagarbhe sampūrņo devānando’vadhī hi tau//


In cosmic Hiranyagarbha possessed of many qualities is internalized the bliss of the whole of mankind and the bliss of the gods. These two are to be understood. {Br. 4.3.33; Tait.II. 8. 1-4.}.



madhyasthe prvapuņyānām-utkarşād vardhate sukham /

sarveşām  yat   sukham   tattu   nişkāme   jñāninīşyate //


For the one in the middle (of the path) due to the increase of previouly acquried merit, happiness increase. Verily that which is the happiness of all is desired in the desireless knower. (The yogin desires the happiness of all).




sarvakāmāptireşātha        rasākhyānanda       ucyate /

adhyātmam-adhibhūtam cādhidaivam caika eva sah //


Therafter the gain of all desiresis the bliss called rasa (flavour0. That residing in the Self, that residing in the elements and that belonging to the divinities are (in fact) that one (rasa) only. {Tait. II. 7.1.}.


sarve svasvapade tŗptāh kāmayante na tatpadam /

jñānī tu doşadŗşţyātra nişkāmas-taih samastatah //


Satisfied in their own positions they do not desire that status-(of Brahman). But finding fault here the knower id free from all that.



bhdhutsau puruşe’nyeşu manuşyeşu ca yo’sti yah /

āditye    cānyadeveşu   sa   ānando  na  bhidyate //


The bliss which is in the seeker of knowledge and the bliss in other men, in the Sun and the bliss in other gods is not different. {Tait. II. 8.5.}.



parapremāspadatvasya       lakşaņasyaikarūpatah /

lakşyānando na bhinnah akhaņdaikaraso hyatah //


The characteristic of that which is the most beloved being identity, the bliss of attainment og goal is not defferent. Therefore flavour is partless (whole) and homogeneous.


evam vidvān svaputrādeh kośaşaţkāt prakalpiāt /

vyutthāyākhaņdaikarase svānande pretitiişţhati //


Thus the knower rising above the imagined six sheaths of one’s own son etc. is established in this bliss of Self which is whole and of homogeneous flavour. {Br. 4. 3. 32.}.



sārvabhaumādikānandah pūrvebhyah śatasamkhyayā /

pare’dhilāste   tu   leśa   brahmānandasya   binduvat //


Thw universal bliss etc, are hundred times more than the previous (types of) bliss, but they also are like drops, mere impressions, of the bliss of Brahman. {Br. 4. 3. 32.}.



tasādiyattā nivāsya vaktum dhyātum ca śakyate /

na   bibhetyeva    tam   janmahetoh   kutaścana //


Therefore, its limit (measure) cannot be stated and cannot be thought. The knower of that is never in fear of the cause of birth or anything else.




puņyam nākaravam kasmāt pāpam tu kŗtvān kutah /

iti    cintā  tapatyajñam   jyāninam   na tapatyasau //


Why did I not acquire merit, why did I commit sin, such thoughts scorch the ignorant but do not scroch the Knower. {Tait. II. 9. 1.}

Wrongness and righteousness pertion to the world of duality. In the state of peaceful self-identity with the whole of creation, there is no ‘other’ to be confronted in pain or pleasure. A state of contemplative ‘self-joy’ is to be imagined unbroken by demands as well as rewards from the world. This state of reaching beyond good and evil is for the knower of Brahman only who sings aloud in an ecstacy of joy his experience of identity with all, like Bhrigu.



iāpakatvam tayor-vidvān-upekşānuşţhitam tvayoh /

ātmānam prīņayan bodhāt sudŗdhīkurute dhiyam //


Knowing the scorching nature of both and knowing with indifference the rituals realeted to both, thus making the self happy (he) makes his intellect steadfast with understanding. {Tait. II. 9. 1.}.



dehendriyakŗte      puņyapāpe     cātmatayā          sadā /

paśyan sarvātmatām svasya gāyam sāmnā’vatişţhate //


Knowing both virtue and sin to be products of body and bodily organs only, seeing all things as oneself and oneself as all things, (the wise man) abides singing the hymns of the Sāma-veda.



ahamannam tathānnādah śiokakccetaro’pyaham /

                           iti   sarvātmatām  gāyam  jivaumukta    irīyyate //


‘I am food, I am the enjoyer, I am the mediator distinct also am I’, so singing the universality of Self (he) is known to be liberated in this life. {Tait. III. 10. 6.}



jīvanmuktyavasānāyā    vidyāyā  mukhyasādhanam /

vicāro brahmaņastena bhŗgurbrahmāvabuddhavān //


Contemplation on Brahman is the principle means of attaining liberation in this life; by this (contemplation) Bhŗgu realized Brahman. {Tait. III. 1-10 Sankarabhasya on Tait III. 10-6.}.

Vidyaranya refers to the modes of self-discipline leading upto renunciation to forestall  any idea that the Bliss of Brahman is a state of irrepressible enjoyment. There is here no denial or trivializaing of moral values, but an indication irrelevant. All such questions are with regard to the duality of the I-consciousness and ‘It’ or ‘they’ the irreducible ‘other’. If the I-consciousness were to include the entirety of creation and  go beyond it as well then all would be as it should be and in no way could it be different from how it is and thus exactly it is celebrated by the Knower of Brahman. According to the philosophy which is being expounded here, gradation is recognized in the demension of pleasure and pain and also in that of rightousness and evil. There are subjective to the doer and the scriptures respectively; knowledge is objective and self-evident, it is not brought about either by efforts of the doer or injunctions from the Scriptures. Both are, however, conducive to the awakening of the longing for Knowledge. Knowledge shines by its own light.




satyam tapo damah śāntirdānam dharmah prajāgnayāh /

agnihotram      yāgayogau      nyāsaścaitairbubhutsatā //


Truth, austerities, self-control, tranquility, charity, righteousness, sacrifice, attending to fire, rituals yoga, and renunciation, these verily are for the seeker of truth. {According to Vidyaranya Bhŗgu’s liberation is due to Vividişā (yearning for Knowledge); he mentions further the possibilities of liberation for the ascetic yogi as well.}.



nyāso’adhikam nyāsī tapo     yuñjitāmānamomiti /

yoginastasya dehāmśa yāgāñgairakhilaih samāy //



ahorātrādikālāstu        samā       darśādiyāgakiah /

jīvanam satratulyam syānmucyate yogisevakah //


Renunciation is supreme austerity; the ascetic (renunciate) should identify his self with (the mantra) Om. {The practice of praņava-upāsanā (meditation on the four stages of the mind) is indicated here by the author which could leads to liberation also and is called Vidvatsamnyāsa. Anubhūtiprakāśah Chapter 20 (on Praņava-upāsanā and Javanmuktiviveka, 5). }. The limbs of the yogi is equal to all the constituents of a sacrifice. For him time as day and night, is like the Darśa etc. (and) whose life a sacrifice. Such an one admired as yogi is indeed liberated.




sa  cottarāya