Narach Philosophy

VEDANTA IN THE SUTRAS


We have examined the theory of Vedanta, its relation to Vishnu and Vayu, and the character of the Soul and its vehicle Prana or breath, and we have now to see how far all that we have observed agrees with the system of Vedanta as it is in the Sacred Books.

The Sutras and Their Interpretation: The great systems of Hindu Philosophy are composed in the form of Sutras or Aphorisms brief, cryptic utterances, often difficult to understand. They have had their commentators from early times who have claimed the utmost latitude in their task, and all later expositions of the systems are commonly based on their explanation. But either the early commentators understood the real significance of each system, or so deep rooted was the tradition in respect of each, that the original idea has persisted, and their explanation is correct in the main. We shall follow their orthodox point of view. Our method of Letter-analysis, explained in the First Volume, might leave some room for doubt in the minds of the uninitiated; but the explanation of the early commentators can hardly fail to convince.

The Evolution Theory: As we have pointed out, the different systems of Hindu Philosophy are but different points of view in regard to the five great problems of life God, Nature or Prakrti, the individual soul, and knowledge and action as the goals of man; and, taken together, they constitute a great body of thought, where each is consistent with the basic energy of life to which it refers, and also correlated to the rest.

Of these Vedanta and Sankhya at the two ends are unambiguous and complete, one holding that God, and the other that Nature or Prakrti, is the sole creator of the universe. Between them lie Yoga, Vaisesika, and Nyaya, based on the idea that God and Nature are joint creators of life, with different shares in bringing it into being. This is the orthodox arrangement of the systems, and Vedanta, Yoga, Vaisesika, Nyaya and Sankhya follow each other in succession according to the descending order of the energies upon which they are based, viz., the Soul, Buddhi, Mind, and the senses of knowledge and action the last being connected with Food or the vital fluid in man.

But there are some modern writers, who believe that these systems have evolved from one another, and, finding in the Sankhya a fuller and a more complete treatment of Nature or Prakrti than in the Vaisesika or Nyaya, would regard the former as a subsequent development, and so change the order of the systems. But the original arrangement has a significance of its own; and the idea of Nature or Prakti is more developed in the Sankhya than the other systems because Prakti is regarded as the sole creator of life in this system. We have in these schemes of thought a division rather than an evolution of the idea of the great creative energies of life; and all of them taken together give us a picture of life as complete as it is possible to imagine.

Vedanta in the Sutras: We have now to examine the character of Vedanta as it is described in the Sutras, and see how far it agrees with the theory we have outlined whether (1) God is regarded as the sole supreme creator of the universe, (2) Nature or Prakrti conceived to be his handiwork, (3) the individual soul believed to be characterised not only by self- consciousness but by unceasing action too, and (4 and 5) knowledge and action regarded but as one goal of life, where each is a counterpart of the other, completing and making it whole.

In examining the character of the different systems of Hindu Philosophy, as given in the Sutras, we shall confine ourselves to quotations from the works of two recent writers, Professor Das Gupta and Sir S. Radhakrishnan, whose books have the merit of being based on the original texts and the early commentators.

God and Nature: According to the theory of Vedanta, God is conceived as the sole creator of the universe, and Nature or Prakrti is but his handiwork. Corresponding to this we are told as follows:

"According to the Vedanta Sutra, Purusha and Prakrti (God and Nature) are not independent substances, but modifications of a single reality a plurality of true infinites is not possible. The one infinite substance, Brahman (God), is identified with the highest reality set forth in the Upanishads. He is the origin, support and end of the world, the efficient and the material cause of the universe. He creates without implements. He is the cosmic light, the golden person in the Sun, the cosmic space or Akasa, and the cosmic breath or air or prana. He is also the light in the soul. He is to be contemplated as residing in the heart of man. The ultimate ground of things is a single supreme spirit, which is the source of everything".

"Brahman is the material cause as well as the instrumental cause of the world. Brahman is the creator of all things, and transforms himself into all things. Brahman and the world are not different, even as the clay pot is not different from clay. Finite things are real as determinations of Brahman. The statement that Brahman is the material cause of the world suggests that the world is a modification of the substance of Brahman. The world is not an illusion or a dreamlike structure, but a real, positive something which has its origination, existence and absorption into Brahman. Badarayana4 believes that the power of creation belongs to the pure, stainless Brahman, even as heat belongs to fire. Brahman, for its own sport, develops itself into the world without undergoing the least change and without ceasing to be itself. Badarayana does not care to explain how this is possible".

The Individual Soul: According to our theory, the individual soul in Vedanta as well as other systems is similar in nature to God, and so it is characterised by both knowledge and action in this system. Corresponding to this we have the following:

"Badarayana says that the soul is jna, which Sankara interprets as intelligence, while Ramanuja6 takes it as an intelligent knower. ... The individual soul is an agent (karta, lit, actor) ... It is eternal. ... Badarayana holds that Brahman is in the individual soul, though the nature of Brahman is not touched by the character of the soul. ... The embodied soul acts and enjoys, acquires merit and demerit, and is affected by pleasure and pain, while the highest self has an opposite nature and is free from evil. The statements, "That art you" and "This Atman (soul) is Brahman", attempt to show that the two, Brahman and atman, God and man, are in reality one. If Brahman be the cause of everything, it must be the cause of the individual soul as well. The absolute divine essence is present in all its Manifestations. Every individual shares in the spirit of God".

Knowledge and Action: According to our theory knowledge and action are but two aspects of the same energy of the soul or its vehicle Praia in Vedanta, and corresponding to this we have the following:

"The author finds that active service and renunciation of the world get equal support from the scriptures, and is himself inclined towards combining of the spirit of renunciation with strenuous life. Action done out of ignorance, but not all action, impede the rise of spiritual perception or jnana. Whatever freedom we might have after attaining release, on earth, even in the jivanmukta (perfectly free) condition, action is enjoined".

Conclusion: Thus we see that our theory of Vedanta agrees entirely with its statement in the Sutras.