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Chapter XXI - The Nimbārka School of Philosophy

Teachers and Pupils of the Nimbārka School.

Nimbārka, Nimbāditya or Niyamānanda is said to have been a Telugu Brahmin who probably lived in Nimba or Nimbapura in the Bellary district. It is said in Harivyāsadeva’s commentary on Daśa-ślokī that his father’s name was Jagannātha and his mother’s name was Sarasvatī. But it is difficult to fix his exact date. Sir R. G. Bhandarkar, in his Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism and Minor Religious Systems, thinks that he lived shortly after Rāmānuja.

The argument that he adduces is as follows: Harivyāsadeva is counted in the Guru-paramparā list as the thirty-second teacher in succession from Nimbārka, and Bhandarkar discovered a manuscript containing this list which was written in Sam vat 1806 or A.D. 1750 when Dāmodara Gosvāmī was living. Allowing fifteen years for the life of Dāmodara Gosvāmī we have A.D. 1765. Now the thirty-third successor from Madhva died in A.D. 1876 and Madhva died in A.D. 1276. Thus thirty-three successive teachers, on the Madhva line, occupied 600 years. Applying the same test and deducting 600 years from A.D. 1765, the date of the thirty-third successor, we have 1165 as the date of Nimbārka. This, therefore, ought to be regarded as the date of Nimbārka’s death and it means that he died sometime after Rāmānuja and might have been his junior contemporary.

Bhandarkar would thus put roughly eighteen years as the pontifical period for each teacher. But Pandit Kiśoradāsa says that in the lives of teachers written by Pandit Anantarām Devā-cārya the twelfth teacher from Nimbārka was born in Samvat 1112 or A.D. 1056, and applying the same test of eighteen years for each teacher we have A.D. 868 as the date of Nimbārka, in which case he is to be credited with having lived long before Rāmānuja. But from the internal examination of the writings of Nimbārka and Śrīnivāsa this would appear to be hardly credible. Again, in the Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Private Libraries of the North Western Provinces, Part 1, Benares, 1874 (or N.W.P. Catalogue, MS. No. 274), Madhva-mukha-mardana, deposited in the Madan Mohan Library, Benares, is attributed to Nimbārka. This manuscript is not procurable on loan and has not been available to the present writer. But if the account of the authors of the Catalogue is to be believed, Nimbārka is to be placed after Madhva.

One argument in support of this later date is to be found in the fact that Mādhava who lived in the fourteenth century did not make any reference in his Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha, to Nimbārka’s system, though he referred to all important systems of thought known at the time. If Nimbārka had lived before the fourteenth century there would have been at least some reference to him in the Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha, or by some of the writers of that time. Dr Rajendra Lai Mitra, however, thinks that since Nimbārka refers to the schools (sampradāya) of Śrī, Brahmā and Sanaka, he lived later than Rāmānuja, Madhva and even Vallabha. While there is no positive, definite evidence that Nimbārka lived after Vallabha, yet from the long list of teachers of his school it probably would not be correct to attribute a very recent date to him. Again, on the assumption that the Madhva-mukha-mardana was really written by him as testified in the N. W.P. Catalogue, one would be inclined to place him towards the latter quarter of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Considering the fact that there have been up till now about forty-three teachers from the time of Nimbārka, this would mean that the pontifical period of each teacher was on the average about ten to twelve years, which is not improbable. An internal analysis of Nimbārka’s philosophy shows its great indebtedness to Rāmānuja’s system and even the style of Nimbārka’s bhāṣya in many places shows that it was modelled upon the style of approach adopted by Rāmānuja in his bhāṣya. This is an additional corroboration of the fact that Nimbārka must have lived after Rāmānuja.

The works attributed to him are as follows:

  1. Vedānta-pārijāta-saurabha.
  2. Daśa-śloki.
  3. Kṛṣṇa-stava-rāja.
  4. Guru-paramparā.
  5. Madhva-mukha-mardana.
  6. Vedānta-tattva-bodha.
  7. Vedānta-siddhānta-pradīpa.
  8. Sva-dharmā-dhva-bodha.
  9. Śrī-kṛṣṇa-stava.

But excepting the first three works all the rest exist in MS. most of which are not procurable[1]. Of these the present writer could secure only the Sva-dharmā-dhva-bodha, which is deposited with the Bengal Asiatic Society. It is difficult to say whether this work was actually written by Nimbārka. In any case it must have been considerably manipulated by some later followers of the Nimbārka school, since it contains several verses interspersed, in which Nimbārka is regarded as an avatāra and salutations are offered to him. He is also spoken of in the third person, and views are expressed as being Nimbārka-matam which could not have come from the pen of Nimbārka. The book contains reference to the Kevala-bheda-vādī which must be a reference to the Madhva school. It is a curious piece of work, containing various topics, partly related and partly unrelated, in a very unmethodical style. It contains references to the various schools of asceticism and religion.

In the Guru-paramparā list found in the Har-iguru-stava-mālā noted in Sir R. G. Bhandarkar’s Report of the Search for Sanskrit Manuscripts 1882-1883, we find that Hamsa, the unity of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, is regarded as the first teacher of the Nimbārka school. His pupil was Kumāra of the form of four vyūhas.

Kumāra’s pupil was Nārada, the teacher of prema-bhakti in the Tretā-yuga.

Nimbārka was the pupil of Nārada and the incarnation of the power (sudarśana) of Nārāyaṇa. He is supposed to have introduced the worship of Kṛṣṇa in Dvāpara-yuga. His pupil was Śrīnivāsa, who is supposed to be the incarnation of the conch-shell of Nārāyaṇa.

Śrīnivāsa’s pupil was Viśvācārya, whose pupil was Puruṣottama, who in turn had as his pupil Svarupācārya. These are all described as devotees.

Svarūpācārya’s pupil was Mādhavācārya, who had a pupil Balabhadrācārya, and his pupil was Padmācārya who is said to have been a great controversialist, who travelled over different parts of India defeating people in discussion.

Padmā-cārya’s pupil was Śyāmācārya, and his pupil was Gopālācārya, who is described as a great scholar of the Vedas and the Vedānta. He had as pupil Krpācārya, who taught Devācārya, who is described as a great controversialist.

Devācārya’s pupil was Sundara bhaṭṭa, and Sundara bhaṭṭa’s pupil was Padmanā Bhācārya.

His pupil was Upendra bhaṭṭa; the succession of pupils is in the following order:

  • Rāmacandra bhaṭṭa,
  • Kṛṣṇa bhaṭṭa,
  • Padmākara bhaṭṭa,
  • Śravaṇa bhaṭṭa,
  • Bhūri bhaṭṭa,
  • Madhva bhaṭṭa,
  • Śyāma bhaṭṭa,
  • Gopāla bhaṭṭa,
  • Valabhadra bhaṭṭa,
  • Gopīnātha bhaṭṭa (who is described as a great controversialist),
  • Keśava,
  • Gaṅgala bhaṭṭa,
  • Keśava Kāśmīrī,
  • Śrī bhaṭṭa
  • and Harivyāsadeva.

Up to Harivyāsadeva apparently all available lists of teachers agree with one another; but after him it seems that the school split into two and we have two different lists of teachers. Bhandarkar has fixed the date for Harivyāsadeva as the thirty-second teacher after Nimbārka. The date of Harivyāsadeva and his successor in one branch line, Dāmodara Gosvāmī, has been fixed as 1750-1755.

After Harivyāsadeva we have, according to some lists,

  • Paraśurāmadeva,
  • Harivamśadeva,
  • Nārāyaṇadeva,
  • Vrndāvanadeva
  • and Govindadeva.

According to another list we have Svabhūrāmadeva after Harivyāsadeva, and after him

  • Karmaharadeva,
  • Mathuradeva,
  • Śyāmadeva,
  • Sevadeva,
  • Naraharideva,
  • Dayārāmadeva,
  • Pūrṇadeva,
  • Maniṣīdeva,
  • Rādhā-kṛṣṇaśaraṇadeva,
  • Harideva
  • and Vrajabhūṣaṇasaraṇadeva who was living in 1924
  • and Santadāsa Vāvājī who died in 1935.

A study of the list of teachers gives fairly convincing proof that on the average the pontifical period of each teacher was about fourteen years. If Harivyāsadeva lived in 1750 and Śāntadāsa Vāvājī who was the thirteenth teacher from Harivyāsadeva died in 1935, the thirteen teachers occupied a period of 185 years. This would make the average pontifical period for each teacher about fourteen years. By backward calculation from Harivyāsadeva, putting a period of fourteen years for each teacher, we have for Nimbārka a date which would be roughly about the middle of the fourteenth century.

Nimbārka’s commentary of the Brahma-sūtras is called the Vedānta-pārijata-saurabha as has been already stated. A commentary on it, called the Vedānta-kaustubha, was written by his direct disciple Śrīnivāsa. Kesava-kāśmīrī bhaṭṭa, the disciple of Mukunda, wrote a commentary on the Vedānta-kaustubha, called the Vedānta-kaustubha-prabhā.

He also is said to have written

  • a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā, called the Tattva-prakāśikā,
  • a commentary on the tenth skanda of Bhāgavata-purāṇa called the Tattva-prakāśikā-veda-stuti-tlkā,
  • and a commentary on the Taittrīya Upaniṣad called the Taittrīya-prakāśikā.

He also wrote a work called Krama-dīpikā, which was commented upon by Govinda Bhattācārya[2]. The Krama-dīpikā is a work of eight chapters dealing mainly with the ritualistic parts of the Nimbārka school of religion. This work deals very largely with various kinds of Mantras and meditations on them. Śrīnivāsa also wrote a work called Laghu-stava-raja-stotra in which he praises his own teacher Nimbārka. It has been commented upon by Puruṣottama Prasāda, and the commentary is called Guru-bhakti-mandākinī.

The work Vedānta-siddhānta-pradīpa attributed to Nimbārka seems to be a spurious work so far as can be judged from the colophon of the work and from the summary of the contents given in R. L. Mitra’s Notices of Sanskrit Manuscripts (MS. No. 2826). It appears that the book is devoted to the elucidation of the doctrine of monistic Vedānta of the school of Śaṅkara.

Nimbārka’s Daśa-ślokī, called also Siddhānta-ratna, had at least three commentaries:

  1. Vedānta-ratna-mañjuṣā, by Puruṣottama Prasāda;
  2. Laghu-māñjuṣā, the author of which is unknown;
  3. and a commentary by Harivyāsa muni.

Puruṣottama Prasāda wrote a work called Vedānta-ratna-mañjuṣā as a commentary on the Daśa-ślokī of Nimbārka, and also Guru-bhakti-mandākinī commentary as already mentioned.

He wrote also a commentary on the Śrī-kṛṣṇa-stava of Nimbārka in twenty chapters called Śruty-anta-sura-druma, and also Stotra-trayī[3]. The discussions contained in the commentary are more or less of the same nature as those found in Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, which has been already described in a separate section. The polemic therein is mainly directed against Śaṅkara vedānta. Puruṣottama also strongly criticizes Rāmānuja’s view in which the impure cit and acit are regarded as parts of Brahman possessed of the highest and noblest qualities, and suggests the impossibility of this.

According to the Nimbārka school the individual selves are different from Brahman. Their identity is only in the remote sense inasmuch as the individual selves cannot have any separate existence apart from God. Puruṣottama also criticizes the dualists, the Madhvas. The dualistic texts have as much force as the identity texts, and therefore on the strength of the identity texts we have to admit that the world exists in Brahman, and on the strength of the duality texts we have to admit that the world is different from Brahman. The real meaning of the view that God is the material cause of the world is that though everything springs from Him, yet the nature of God remains the same in spite of all His productions. The energy of God exists in God and though He produces everything by the diverse kinds of manifestations of His energies, He remains unchanged in His Self[4].

Puruṣottama makes reference to Devācārya’s Siddhanta-jāhnavī, and therefore lived after him. According to Pandit Kiśoradāsa’s introduction to Śruty-anta-sura-druma, he was born in 1623 and was the son of Nārāyaṇa Śarmā. The present writer is unable to substantiate this view. According to Pandit Kiśoradāsa he was a pupil of Dharmadevācārya.[5] Devācārya wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sūtras called the Siddhānta-jāhnavī, on which Sundara bhaṭṭa wrote a commentary called the Siddhānta-setukā.


A General Idea of Nimbārka’s Philosophy.

According to Nimbārka, the inquiry into the nature of Brahman can take place only after one has studied the literature that deals with the Vedic duties leading to various kinds of beneficial results and discovered that they are all vitiated by enjoyment and cannot bring about a state of eternal bliss. After such a discovery, and after the seeker has learnt in a general manner from the various religious texts that the realization of Brahman leads to the unchangeable, eternal and ever-constant state of bliss, he becomes anxious to attain it through the grace of God and approaches his teacher with affection and reverence for instruction regarding the nature of Brahman.

The Brahman is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is omniscient, omnipotent, the ultimate cause, and the all-pervading Being. Such a Being can be realized only through a constant effort to permeate oneself with His nature by means of thought and devotion. The import of the first aphorism of the Brahma-sūtra consists in the imposition of such a duty on the devotee, namely, the constant effort at realizing the nature of Brahman[6]. The pupil listens to the instruction of his teacher who has a direct realization of the nature of Brahman and whose words are therefore pregnant with his concrete experience.

He tries to understand the import and meaning of the instruction of his teacher which is technically called śravaṇa. This is indeed different from the ordinary accepted meaning of the śravaṇa in the Śaṅkara literature where it is used in the sense of listening to the Upaniṣadic texts.

The next step is called manana — the process of organizing one’s thought so as to facilitate a favourable mental approach towards the truths communicated by the teacher in order to rouse a growing faith in it.

The third step is called nididhyāsana —the process of marshalling one’s inner psychical processes by constant meditation leading ultimately to a permanent conviction and experiences of the truths inspired and communicated by the teacher. It is the fruitful culmination of the last process that brings about the realization of the nature of Brahman.

The study of the nature of the Vedic duties, technically called dharma, and their inefficacy, rouses a desire for the knowledge of the nature of Brahman leading to eternal bliss. As a means to that end the pupil approaches the teacher who has a direct experience of the nature of Brahman. The revelation of the nature of the Brahman in the pupil is possible through a process of spiritual communication of w hich śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana are the three moments.

According to Nimbārka’s philosophy which is a type of Bhedā-bheda-vāda, that is, the theory of the Absolute as Unity-in-difference, Brahman or the Absolute has transformed itself into the world of matter and spirits. Just as the life-force or prāṇa manifests itself into the various conative and cognitive sense-functions, yet keeps its own independence, integrity and difference from them, so the Brahman also manifests itself through the numberless spirits and matter without losing itself in them. Just as the spider spins out of its own self its web and yet remains independent of it, so the Brahman also has split itself up into the numberless spirits and matter but remains in its fullness and purity. The very existence and movement of the spirits and indeed all their operations are said to depend upon Brahman (tad-āyatta-sthiti-pūrvikā) in the sense that the Brahman is both the material and the determining cause of them all[7].

In the scriptures we hear of dualistic and monistic texts, and the only way in which the claims of both these types of texts can be reconciled is by coming to a position of compromise that the Brahman is at once different from and identical with the world of spirits and matter. The nature of Brahman is regarded as such that it is at once one with and different from the world of spirits and matter, not by any imposition or supposition, but as the specific peculiarity of its spiritual nature. It is on this account that this Bhedā-bheda doctrine is called the svābhāvika bhedā-bheda-vāda. In the pure dualistic interpretation of the Vedānta the Brahman is to be regarded only as the determining cause and as such the claims of all texts that speak of the Brahman as the material cause or of the ultimate identity of the spirits with the Brahman are to be disregarded. The monistic view of the Vedānta is also untenable, for a pure differenceless qualityless consciousness as the ultimate reality is not amenable to perception, since it is super-sensible, nor to inference, since it is devoid of any distinctive marks, nor also to scriptural testimony, as no words can signify it.

The supposition that, just as one’s attention to the moon may be drawn in an indirect manner by perceiving the branch of a tree with which the moon may be in a line, so the nature of Brahman also may be expressed by demonstrating other concepts which are more or less contiguous or associated with it, is untenable; for in the above illustration the moon and the branch of the tree are both sensible objects, whereas Brahman is absolutely super-sensible. Again, if it is supposed that Brahman is amenable to logical proofs, then also this supposition would be false; for all that is amenable to proofs or subject to any demonstration is false. Further, if it is not amenable to any proof, the Brahman would be chimerical as the hare’s horn. If it is held that, Brahman being self-luminous, no proofs are required for its demonstration, then all the scriptural texts describing the nature of Brahman would be superfluous. Moreover, the pure qualityless Brahman being absolutely unassociated with any kind of impurity has to be regarded as being eternally free from any bondage, and thus all scriptural texts giving instruction in the methods for the attainment of salvation would be meaningless.

The reply of the Śaṅkarites, that all duality though false has yet an appearance and serves practical purposes, is untenable ; for when the scriptures speak of the destruction of bondage they mean that it was a real bondage and its dissolution is also a real one. Again, an illusion is possible in a locus only when it has some specific as well as some general characters, and the illusion takes place only when the object is known in a general manner without any of its specific attributes. But if the Brahman is absolutely qualityless, it is impossible that it should be the locus of any illusion. Again, since it is difficult to explain how the ajñāna should have any support or object (āśraya or viṣaya), the illusion itself becomes inexplicable. The Brahman being of the nature of pure knowledge can hardly be supposed to be the support or object of ajñāna. The jīva also being itself a product of ajñāna cannot be regarded as its support. Moreover, since Brahman is of the nature of pure illumination and ajñāna is darkness, the former cannot legitimately be regarded as the support of the latter, just as the sun cannot be regarded as the supporter of darkness.

The operation that results in the formation of illusion cannot be regarded as being due to the agency of ajñāna, for ajñāna is devoid of consciousness and cannot, therefore, be regarded as an agent. The agency cannot also be attributed to Brahman because it is pure and static. Again, the false appearance of Brahman as diverse undesirable phenomena such as a sinner, an animal, and the like, is inexplicable; for if the Brahman is always conscious and independent it cannot be admitted to allow itself to suffer through the undesirable states which one has to experience in various animal lives through rebirth. If the Brahman has no knowledge of such experiences, then it is to be regarded as ignorant and its claim to self-luminosity fails. Again, if ajñāna is regarded as an existent entity, there is the change to dualism, and if it is regarded as nonexistent then it cannot hide the nature of Brahman.

Further, if Brahman is self-luminous, how can it be hidden and how can there be any illusion about it? If the conch-shell shines forth in its own nature, there cannot be any misperception of its nature as a piece of silver. Again, if the nature of Brahman is admitted to be hidden by ajñāna, the question that naturally arises is whether the ajñāna veils the nature of the Brahman as a whole or in part. The former supposition is impossible, for then the world would be absolutely blind and dark(jagad-āndhya-prasaṅgāt), and the latter is impossible, for the Brahman is a homogeneous entity and has no characters or parts. It is admitted by the monists to be absolutely qualityless and partless. If it is held that ordinarily only the “bliss” part of the Brahman is hidden by ajñāna whereas the “being” part remains unveiled, then that would mean that Brahman is divisible in parts and the falsity of the Brahman would be demonstrable by such inferences as: Brahman is false, because it has parts like the jug (brahma mithyā sāṃśatvāt, ghaṭādivat).

In reply to the above objections it may be argued that the objections against ajñāna are inadmissible, for the ajñāna is absolutely false knowledge. Just as an owl perceives utter darkness, even in bright sunlight, so the intuitive perception “I am ignorant” is manifest to all. Anantarāma, a follower of the Nimbārka school, raises further objections against such a supposition in his Vedānta-tattva-bodha. He says that this intuitively felt “I” in “I am ignorant” cannot be pure knowledge, for pure knowledge cannot be felt as ignorant. It cannot be mere egoism, for then the experience would be “the egoism is ignorant.” If by “ego” one means the pure self, then such a self cannot be experienced before emancipation. The ego-entity cannot be something different from both pure consciousness and ajñāna, for such an entity must doubtless be an effect of ajñāna which cannot exist before the association of the ajñāna with Brahman.

The reply of the Śaṅkarites that ajñāna, being merely false imagination, cannot affect the nature of the Brahman, the abiding substratum (adhiṣṭḥāna), is also inadmissible; for if the ajñāna be regarded as false imagination there must be someone who imagines it. But such an imagination cannot be attributed to either of the two possible entities, Brahman or the ajñāna ; for the former is pure qualityless which cannot therefore imagine and the latter is inert and unconscious and therefore devoid of all imagination. It is also wrong to suppose that Brahman as pure consciousness has no intrinsic opposition to ajñāna, for there can be no knowledge which is not opposed to ignorance. Therefore the Śaṅkarites are not in a position to demonstrate any entity which they mean by the intuition “I” in “I am ignorant.” The final conclusion from the Nimbārka point of view therefore is that it is inadmissible to accept any ajñāna as a world-principle producing the world-appearance by working in co-operation with the Brahman. The ajñāna or ignorance is a quality of individual beings or selves who are by nature different from Brahman but are under its complete domination. They are eternal parts of it, atomic in nature, and are of limited powers. Being associated with beginningless chains of karma they are naturally largely blinded in their outlook on knowledge[8].

The Śaṅkarites affirm that, through habitual failure in distinguishing between the real nature of the self and the not-self, mis-perceptions, misapprehensions and illusions occur. The objection of Anantarāma against such an explanation is that such a failure cannot be attributed either to Brahman or to ajñāna. And since all other entities are but later products of illusion, they cannot be responsible for producing the illusion[9].

In his commentary Śaṅkara had said that the pure consciousness was not absolutely undemonstrable, since it was constantly being referred to by our ego-intuitions. To this the objection that naturallv arises is that the entity referred to by our ego-intuitions cannot be pure consciousness; for then the pure consciousness would have the characteristic of an ego—a view w'hich is favourable to the Nimbārka but absolutely unacceptable to the Śaṅkarites. If it is held to be illusory, then it has to be admitted that the ego-intuition appears when there is an illusion. But by supposition the illusion can only occur when there is an ego-intuition[10]. Here is then a reasoning in a circle. The defence that reasoning in a circle can be avoided on the supposition that the illusory imposition is beginningless is also unavailing. For the supposition that illusions as such are beginningless is false, as it is well known that illusions are possible only through the operation of the subconscious impressions of previous valid cognitions[11]. Again, the reflection of the pure consciousness in the ajñāna is impossible, for reflections can take place only between two entities which have the same order of existence. From other considerations also the illusion has to be regarded as illegitimate. Illusions take place as the result of certain physical conditions such as contact, defect of the organs of perception, the operation of the subconscious impressions, etc. These conditions are all absent in the supposed case of the illusion involved in the ego-intuition.

The Śaṅkarites described māyā as indefinable. By “indefinable ’ ’ they mean something that appears in perception but is ultimately contradicted. The Śaṅkarites define falsehood or non-existence as that which is liable to contradiction. The phenomena of māyā appear in experience and are therefore regarded as existent. They are liable to contradiction and are therefore regarded as nonexistent. It is this unity of existence and non-existence in māyā that constitutes its indefinability. To this Anantarāma’s objection is that contradiction does not imply non-existence. As a particular object, say a jug, may be destroyed by the stroke of a club, so one knowledge can destroy another. The destruction of the jug by the stroke of the club does not involve the supposition that the jug was nonexistent. So the contradiction of the prior knowledge by a later one does not involve the non-existence or falsity of the former.

All cognitions are true in themselves, though some of them may destroy another. This is what the Nimbārkists mean by the sat-khyāti of knowledge. The theory of sat-khyāti with them means that all knowledge (khyāti) is produced by some existent objects, which are to be regarded as its cause (sad-dhetukā khyāti, sat-khyāti). According to such a view, therefore, the illusory knowledge must have its basic cause in some existent object. It is wrong also to suppose that false or non-existent objects can produce effects on the analogy that the illusory cobra may produce fear and even death. For here it is not the illusory cobra that produces fear but the memory of a true snake. It is wrong therefore to suppose that the illusory world-appearance may be the cause of our bondage.

Since illusions are not possible, it is idle to suppose that all our perceptual, inferential, and other kinds of cognitions are produced as associated with an ego through sheer illusion. Right knowledge is to be regarded as a characteristic quality of the self and the production of knowledge does not need the intervention of a vṛtti. The ajñāna which prevents the flashing in of knowledge is our karma which is in accumulation from beginningless time. Through the operation of the sense-organs our selves expand outside us and are filled with the cognition of the sense-objects. It is for this reason that when the sense-organs are not in operation the sense-objects do not appear in cognition, as in the state of sleep. The self is thus a real knower (jñātā) and a real agent (kartā), and its experiences as a knower and as an agent should on no account be regarded as the result of a process of illusion[12].

The self is of the nature of pure consciousness, but it should yet be regarded as the real knower. The objection that what is knowledge cannot behave in a different aspect as a knower, just as water cannot be mixed with water and yet remain distinct from it, is regarded by the Nimbārkists as invalid. As an illustration vindicating the Nimbārka position, Puruṣottama, in his Vedānta-ratna-mañjuṣā, refers to the case of the sun which is both light and that from which light emanates. Even when a drop of water is mixed with another drop the distinction of the drops, both quantitative and qualitative, remains, though it may not be so apprehended. The mere non-apprehension of difference is no proof that the two drops have merged into identity. On the other hand, since the second drop has its parts distinct from the first one it must be regarded as having a separate existence, even when the two drops are mixed. The character as knower must be attributed to the self; for the other scheme proposed by the Śaṅkarites, that the character as knower is due to the reflection of the pure consciousness in the vṛtti, is inefficacious. The sun that is reflected in water as an image cannot be regarded as a glowing orb by itself. Moreover, reflection can only take place between two visible objects; neither pure consciousness nor the antaḥkaraṇa-vṛtti can be regarded as visible objects justifying the assumption of reflection.

The ego-intuition refers directly to the self and there is no illusion about it. The ego-intuition thus appears to be a continuous revelation of the nature of the self. After deep dreamless sleep one says “I slept so well that I did not know even myself.” But this should not be interpreted as the absence of the ego-intuition or the revelation of the self. The experience “I did not know myself” refers to the absence of the intuition of the body and the mental psychosis, but it does not indicate that the self-conscious self had ever ceased to shine by itself. The negation involved in the denial of the perception of one’s self during dreamless sleep refers to the negation of certain associations (say, of the body, etc.) with which the ego ordinarily links itself. Similar experience of negation can also be illustrated in such expressions as “I was not so long in the room,” “I did not live at that time,” etc., where negations refer to the associations of the ego and not to the ego. The self is not only to be regarded as expressed in the ego-intuition, but it is also to be regarded as distinct from the knowledge it has.

The perception of the self continues not only in the state of dreamless sleep but also in the state of emancipation, and even God in His absolute freedom is conscious of Himself in His super-ego intuition. He is also all-Merciful, the supreme Instructor, and the presiding deity of all our understanding. Like individual selves God is also the agent, the creator of the universe. If the Brahman were not an agent by nature, then He could not have been the creator of the universe, even with the association of the māyā conditions. Unlike Brahman the activity of the individual souls has to depend upon the operation of the conative organs for its manifestation. The self also really experiences the feelings of pleasure and pain. The existence and agency of the human souls, however, ultimately depend on the will of God. Yet there is no reason to suppose that God is partial or cruel because He makes some suffer and others enjoy ; for I Ie is like the grand master and Lord who directs different men differently and awards suffering and enjoyment according to their individual deserts.

The whole idea is that though God awards suffering and enjoyment to individuals and directs their actions according to their deserts, He is not ultimately bound by the law of karma, and may by His grace at any time free them from their bondage. The law of karma is a mechanical law and God as the superintendent decides each individual case. He is thus the dispenser of the laws of karma but is not bound by it[13]. The human souls are a part of thenature of God and as such are dependent on Him for their essence, existence, and activities (tad-āyatta-svarūpa-sthiti-pūrvikāḥ). God being the ultimate truth, both the human souls and inanimate nature attain their essence and existence by virtue of the fact that they are parts of Him and participate in His nature. They are therefore entirely dependent on Him for their existence and all their operations.

The individual souls are infinite in number and atomic in size. But though atomic in size they can at the same time cognize the various sensations in various parts of the body through all-pervading knowledge which exists in them as their attribute. Though atomic and partless in their nature, they are completely pervaded by God through His all-pervading nature. The atomic souls are associated with the beginningless girdle of karma which is the cause of the body, and are yet through the grace of God finally emancipated when their doubts are dissolved by listening to the instructions of the śāstras from the teachers, and by entering into a deep meditation regarding the true essence of God by which they are ultimately merged in Him.

God is absolutely free in extending His mercy and grace. But it so happens that He actually extends them to those who deserve them by their good deeds and devotion. God in His transcendence is beyond His three natures as souls, the world and even as God. In this His pure and transcendent nature He is absolutely unaffected by any changes, and He is the unity of pure being, bliss and consciousness. In His nature as God He realizes His own infinite joy through the infinite souls which are but constituent parts of Him. The experiences of individuals are therefore contained in Him as constituents of Him because it is by His own īkṣaṇa or self-perceiving activity that the experiences of the individual selves can be accounted for. The existence and the process of all human experience are therefore contained and controlled by Him.

The individual selves are thus in one sense different from Him and in another sense but constituent parts of Him. In Bhās-kara’s philosophy the emphasis was on the aspect of unity, since the differences were due to conditions (upādhi). But though Nimbārka’s system is to be counted as a type of Bhedā-bheda or Dvaitā-dvaita theory, the emphasis here is not merely on the part of the unity but on the difference as well. As a part cannot be different from the whole, so the individual souls can never be different from God. But, in the state of bondage the individuals are apt to forget their aspects of unity with God and feel themselves independent in all their actions and experiences. When by absolute self-abnegation springing from love the individual feels himself to be absolutely controlled and regulated by God and realizes himself to be a constituent of Him, he loses all his interests in his actions and is not affected by them. The ultimate ideal, therefore, is to realize the relation with God, to abnegate all actions, desires and motives, and to feel oneself as a constituent of Him.

Such a being never again comes within the grasp of mundane bondage and lives in eternal bliss in his devotional contemplation of God. The devotee in the state of his emancipation feels himself to be one with God and abides in Him as a part of His energy (tat-tādātmyā-nubha-va-pūrvakaṃ viśvarūpe bhagavati tac-chaktyā-tmanā avasthānam)[14].

Thus, even in the state of emancipation, there is a difference between the emancipated beings and God, though in this state they are filled with the utmost bliss. With the true realization of the nature of God and one’s relation with Him, all the three kinds of karma (saṅcita, kriyamāṇa and ārabdha) are destroyed[15]. Avidyā in this system means ignorance of one’s true nature and relationship with God which is the cause of his karma and his association with the body, senses and the subtle matter[16]. The prārabdha karma, or the karma which is in a state of fructification, may persist through the present life or through other lives if necessary, for until their fruits are reaped the bodiless emancipation cannot be attained[17].

Sainthood consists in the devotional state consisting of a continual and unflinching meditation on the nature of God (dhyāna-paripākena dhruva-smṛti-para-bhakty-ākhya-jñānā-dhigame). Such a saint becomes free from the tainting influence of all deeds committed and collected before and all good or bad actions that may be performed later on(tatra uttara-bhāvinaḥ kriyamāṇasya pāpasya āśleṣaḥ tat-prāg-bhūtasya saṅcitasya tasya nāśaḥ . Vedānta-kaustubha-prabhā, iv. 1. 13).

The regular caste duties and the duties of the various stages of life help the rise of wisdom and ought therefore always to be performed, even when the wisdom has arisen; for the flame of this light has always to be kept burning (tasmāt vidyo-dayāya svā-śrama-karmā-gnihotrā-di-rūpaṃ gṛhasthena, tapo-japā-dīni karmāṇi ūrdhva-retobhir anuṣṭheyāni iti siddham).

But the conglomeration of deeds which has started fructifying must fructify and the results of such deeds have to be reaped by the saint either in one life or in many lives as the case may be. The realization of Brahman consists in the unflinching meditation on the nature of God and the participation in Him as His constituent which is the same thing as the establishment of a continuous devotional relationship with Him. This is independent of the ontological fusion and return in Him which may happen as a result of the complete destruction of the fructifying deeds (prārabdha karma) through their experiences in the life of the saint (vidyā-yoni-śarīra) or in other lives that may follow.

A saint, after the exhaustion of his fructifying deeds, leaves his gross body through the suṣumnā nerve in his subtle body, and going beyond the material regions (prākṛta-maṇḍala) reaches the border region— the river virajā —between the material regions and the universe of Viṣṇu[18]. Here he leaves aside his subtle body in the supreme being and enters into the transcendent essence of God (Vedanta-kaustubha-prabhā, IV. 2. 15). The emancipated beings thus exist in God as His distinct energies and may again be employed by Him for His own purposes. Such emancipated beings, however, are never sent down by God for carrying on an earthly existence. Though the emancipated beings become one with God, they have no control over the affairs of the world, which are managed entirely by God Himself[19].

Though it is through the will of God that we enjoy the dream experiences and though He remains the controller and abides in us through all stages of our experiences, yet He is never tainted by the imperfections of our experiental existence (Vedānta-kaustubha and its commentary Prabha, HI. 2. 11). The objects of our experiences are not in themselves pleasurable or painful, but God makes them so to us in accordance with the reward and punishment due to us according to our good or bad deeds. In themselves the objects are but indifferent entities and are neither pleasurable nor painful (Vedānta-kaustubha-prabhā, iii. 2. 12). The relation of God and the world is like that of a snake and its coiled existence.

The coiled (kuṇḍala) condition of a snake is neither different from it nor absolutely identical with it. So God’s relation with the individuals also is like that of a lamp and its light (prabhā-tadvator iva) or like the sun and the illumination (prakāśa). God remains unchanged in Himself and only undergoes transformation through His energies as conscious (cic-chakti) and unconscious (acic-chakti)[20]. As the individuals cannot have any existence apart from Brahman, so the material world also cannot have any existence apart from him. It is in this sense that the material world is a part or constituent of God and is regarded as being one with God. But as the nature of the material world is different from the nature of God, it is regarded as different from Him[21].

The Vedic duties of caste and stages of life are to be performed for the production of the desire of wisdom (vividiṣā), but once the true wisdom is produced there is no further need of the performance of the duties (Ibid. in. 4. 9). The wise man is never affected by the deeds that he performs. But though ordinarily the performance of the duties is helpful to the attainment of wisdom, this is not indispensable, and there are many who achieve wisdom without going through the customary path of caste duties and the duties attached to stages of life.


Controversy with the Monists by Mādhava Mukunda.

(a) The Main Thesis and the Ultimate End in Advaita Vedānta are Untenable.

Mādhava Mukunda, supposed to be a native of the village of Aruṇaghatl, Bengal, wrote a work called Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra or Hārda-saṅcaya, in which he tried to show from various points of view the futility of the monistic interpretation of Vedānta by Śaṅkara and his followers.

He says that the Śaṅkarites are interested in demonstrating the identity of the individuals with Brahman (jīva-brahmai-kya) and this forms the principal subject-matter of all their discussions. This identity may be illusory or not. In the former case duality or plurality would be real, and in the latter case, i.e. if identity be real, then the duality presupposed in the identification must also be real[22]. It is not the case of the single point of an identity that Śaṅkarites are interested in, but in the demonstration of an identification of the individuals with Brahman. The demonstration of identity necessarily implies the reality of the negation of the duality. If such a negation is false, the identification must also be false, for it is on the reality of the negation that the reality of the identification depends. If the negation of duality be real, then the duality must also be real in some sense and the identification can imply the reality of the negation only in some particular aspect.

The objections levelled by the Śaṅkarites against the admission of “duality” or “difference” as a category are, firstly, that the category of difference (bheda) being by nature a relation involves two poles and hence it cannot be identical in nature with its locus in which it is supposed to subsist (bhedasya na adhikaraṇa-svarū-patvam). Secondly, that if “difference” is different in nature from its locus, then a second grade of “difference” has to be introduced and this would imply another grade of difference and so on ad infinitum. Thus we have a vicious infinite.

To the first objection, the reply is that “difference” is not relational’in nature with this or that individual locus, but with the concept of the locus as such (bhūtalatvā-dinā nirapekṣatve’pi adhikaraṇātmakatvena sāpeksatve kṣaterabhāvāt)[23].

The charge of vicious infinite by the introduction of differences of differences is invalid, for all differences are identical in nature with their locus. So in the case of a series of differences the nature of each difference becomes well defined and the viciousness of the infinite series vanishes. In the instance “there is a jug on the ground” the nature of the difference of the jug is jugness, whereas in the case of the difference of the difference, the second order of difference has a separate specification as a special order of dif-ferenceness. Moreover, since difference reveals only the particular modes of the objects, these difficulties cannot arise. In perceiving difference we do not perceive difference as an entity different from the two objects between which it is supposed to subsist[24]. One might equally well find such a fault of mutual dependence on the identification of Brahman with jīva, since it depends upon the identification of the jīva with the Brahman.

A further discussion of the subject shows that there cannot be any objections against “differences” on the score of their being produced, for they merely subsist and are not produced; or on the possibility of their being known, for if differences were never perceived the Śaṅkarites would not have been so anxious to remove the so-called illusions or mis-perception of differences, or to misspend their energies in trying to demonstrate that Brahman was different from all that was false, material and the like; and the saint also would not be able to distinguish between what was eternal and transitory. Again, it is held that there is a knowledge which contradicts the notion of difference. But if this knowledge itself involves difference it cannot contradict it. Whatever may signify anything must do so by restricting its signification to it, and all such restriction involves difference. Even the comprehension that demonstrates the illusoriness of “difference” (e.g. this is not difference, or there is no difference here, etc.) proves the existence of “difference.” Moreover, a question may be raised as to whether the notion that contradicts difference is itself comprehended as different from difference or not. In the former case the validity of the notion leaves “difference” unmolested and in the second case, i.e. if it is not comprehended as different from “difference,” it becomes identical with it and cannot contradict it.

If it is contended that in the above procedure an attempt has been made to establish the category of difference only in indirect manner and that nothing has been directly said in explanation of the concept of difference, the reply is that those who have sought to explain the concept of unity have fared no better. If it is urged that if ultimately the absolute unity or identity is not accepted then that would lead us to nihilism, then it may also be urged with the same force that, differences being but modes of the objects themselves, a denial of difference would mean the denial of the objects, and this would also land us in nihilism. It must, however, be noted that though difference is but a mode of the objects which differ, yet the terms of reference by which difference becomes intelligible (the table is different from the chair: here the difference of the table is but its mode, though it becomes intelligible by its difference from the chair) are by no means constituents of the objects in which the difference exists as their mode.

The Śaṅkarites believe in the refutation of dualism, as by such a refutation the unity is established. The thesis of unity is thus though, on the one hand dependent upon such refutation and yet on the other hand identical with it because all such refutations are believed to be imaginary. In the same manner it may be urged that the demonstration of difference involves with it a reference to other terms, but is yet identical in nature with the object of which it is a mode; the reference to the terms is necessary only for purposes of comprehension.

It must, however, be noted that since difference is but a mode of the object the comprehension of the latter necessarily means the comprehension of all differences existing in it. An object may be known in a particular manner, yet it may remain unknown in its differential aspects, just as the monists hold that pure consciousness is always flashing forth but yet its aspect as the unity of all things may remain unknown. In comprehending a difference between any two objects, no logical priority which could have led to a vicious circle is demanded. But the two are together taken in consciousness and the apprehension of the one is felt as its distinction from the other. The same sort of distinction has to be adduced by the monists also in explaining the comprehension of the identity of the individual souls with the Brahman, otherwise in their case too there would have been the charge of a vicious circle. For when one says “these two are not different,” their duality and difference depend upon a comprehension of their difference which, while present, prevents their identity from being established. If it is held that the duality is imaginary whereas the identity is real, then the two being of a different order of existence the contradiction of the one cannot lead to the affirmation of the other. The apology that in comprehending identity no two-term reference is needed is futile, for an identity is comprehended only as the negation of the two-term duality.

Thus, from the above considerations, the main thesis of the Śaṅkarites, that all things are identical with Brahman, falls to the ground.

According to Nimbārka the ideal of emancipation is participation in God’s nature (tad-bhāvā-patti). This is the ultimate end and summutn bonum of life (prayojana). According to the Śaṅkarites emancipation consists in the ultimate oneness or identity existing between individual souls and Brahman. The Brahman in reality is one with the individual souls, and the apparent difference noticed in our ordinary practical life is due to misconception and ignorance, which impose upon us a false notion of duality. Mādhava Mukunda urges that in such a view, since the individual souls are already one with Brahman, they have nothing to strive for. There is thus really no actual end (proyojana) as the goal of our strivings. Mādhava Mukunda, in attempting to emphasize the futility of the Śaṅkarite position, says that, if the ultimate consciousness be regarded as one, then it would be speckled with the various experiences of individuals. It cannot be held to be appearing as different in accordance with the variety of conditions through which it appears, for in our experiences we find that though through our various cognitive organs we have various experiences they are also emphasized as belonging to one being.

Variability of conditions does not necessarily imply a variety of the units of experience of individual beings, as is maintained by the Śaṅkarites. The pure and ubiquitous dif-ferenceless consciousness (nirviśeṣa-caitanya) cannot also be regarded as capable of being identified as one with the plurality of minds (antaḥkarana). Again, it is admitted by the Śaṅkarites that in dreamless sleep the mind is dissolved. If that were so and if pure consciousness is regarded as being capable of manifesting itself through false identification with minds, there would be no explanation of the continuity of consciousness from day to day in the form of memory. It cannot be urged that such a continuity is maintained by the fact that minds exist in a state of potency (saṃskārā-tmanā’ vasthitasya) in the deep dreamless sleep; for the mind in a potent state cannot be regarded as carrying impressions and memories, since in that case there would be memories even in dreamless sleep.

Further, if the experiences are supposed to belong to the states of ignorance, then emancipation, which refers only to pure consciousness, would refer to an entity different from that which was suffering from bondage. On the other hand, if the experiences belong to pure consciousness, then emancipation will be associated with diverse contradictory experiences at the same time according to the diversity of experiences.

The Śaṅkarites may urge that the conditions which bring about the experiences are associated with pure consciousness and hence in an indirect manner there is a continuity of the being that experiences and attains salvation. To this the reply is that the experiencing of sorrow is a sufficient description of the conditions. That being so, where the experiencing of sorrow does not exist, the conditions, of which it is a sufficient description, also do not exist. Thus, the discontinuity of the entities which suffer bondage and attain emancipation remains the same.

Again, since it is held that the conditions subsist in the pure consciousness, it may well be asked whether emancipation means the dissolution of one condition or many conditions. In the former case we should have emancipation always, for one or other of the conditions is being dissolved every moment, and in the latter case we might not have any emancipation at all, for all the conditions determining the experiences of infinite individuals can never be dissolved.

It may also be asked whether the conditions are associated with the pure consciousness in part or in whole. In the first alternative there would be a vicious infinite and in the second the differentiation of the pure consciousness in various units would be inadmissible.

Moreover, it may be asked whether conditions are associated with pure consciousness conditionally or unconditionally. In the former alternative there would be a vicious infinite and in the second case there would be no chance of emancipation. The theory of reflection cannot also explain the situation, for reflection is admitted only when the reflected image has the same order of existence as the object. The avidyā has a different order of existence from Brahman, and thus reflection of Brahman in avidyā cannot be justified. Again, in reflection that which is reflected and that in which the reflection takes place must be in two different places, whereas in the case of avidyā and Brahman the former is supposed to have Brahman as its support. The conditions (upādhi) cannot occupy a part of Brahman, for Brahman has no parts; nor can they occupy the whole of it, for in that case there will be no reflection.

In the Nimbārka system both the monistic and the dualistic texts have their full scope, the dualistic texts in demonstrating the difference that exists between souls and God, and the monistic texts showing the final goal in which the individuals realize themselves as constituents of Him and as such one with Him. But in the Śaṅkara system, where no duality is admitted, everything is selfrealized, there is nothing to be attained and even the process of instruction of the disciple by the preceptor is unavailable, as they are all but adumbrations of ignorance.


(b) Refutation of the Śaṅkara Theory of Illusion in its various Aspects.

The Śaṅkarite doctrine of illusion involves a supposition that the basis of illusion (adhiṣṭḥāna) is imperfectly or partly known. The illusion consists in the imposition of certain appearances upon the unknown part. The stump of a tree is perceived in part as an elongated thing but not in the other part as the stump of a tree, and it is in reference to this part that the mis-attribution of an illusory appearance, e.g. a man, is possible by virtue of which the elongated part is perceived as man. But Brahman is partless and no division of its part is conceivable. It must therefore be wholly known or wholly unknown, and hence there can be no illusion regarding it. Again, illusion implies that an illusory appearance has to be imposed upon an object. But the avidyā, which is beginningless, cannot itself be supposed to be an illusory appearance. Following the analogy of beginninglessness Brahman may be regarded as illusory.

The reply that Brahman being the basis cannot be illusory is meaningless; for though the basis is regarded as the ground of the imposition, there is no necessary implication that the basis must also be true. The objection that the basis has an independent reality because it is the basis associated with ignorance which can become the datum of illusion is futile; because the hasis may also be an unreal one in a serial process where at each stage it is associated with ignorance. In such a view it is not the pure Brahman which becomes the basis but the illusory Brahman which is associated with ignorance. Moreover, if the avidyā and its modifications were absolutely non-existent they could not be the subject of imposition. What really exists somewhere may be imposed elsewhere, but not that which does not exist at all. The pure chimericals like the hare’s horn can never be the subjects of imposition, for that which is absolutely non-existent cannot appear at all.

Again, illusions are supposed to happen through the operation of impressions (saṃskāra), but in the beginningless cosmic illusion the impressions must also be beginningless and co-existent with the basis (adhiṣṭḥāna) and therefore real. The impressions must exist prior to the illusion and as such they cannot themselves be illusory, and if they are not illusory they must be real. Again, the impressions cannot belong to Brahman, for then it could not be qualityless and pure; they cannot belong to individual souls, for these are produced as a result of illusory impositions which are again the products of the operation of impressions. Further, similarity plays an important part in all illusions, but Brahman as the ground or basis which is absolutely pure and qualityless has no similarity with anything. There cannot also be any imaginary similarity imposed upon the qualityless Brahman, for such an imaginary imposition presupposes a prior illusion. Again, all illusions are seen to have a beginning, whereas entities that are not illusory, such as the individual souls, are found to be beginningless. It is also erroneous to hold that the ego-substratum behaves as the basis of the illusion, for it is itself a product of the illusion.

Furthermore, the supposition that the world-appearance is a cosmic illusion which is related to pure consciousness in an illusory relation (ādhyāsika-sambandha) is unwarrantable. But the Śaṅkarites admit that the relation between the external world and the knower is brought about by the operation of the mind in modification, called vṛtti. Moreover, if the pure consciousness be admitted to be right knowledge or pramā, then its object or that which shines with it must also be right knowledge and as such it cannot be the basis of false knowledge. If the pure consciousness be false knowledge, it cannot obviously be the basis of false knowledge. The mere fact that some of the known relations, such as contact, inseparable inherence, do not hold between the object of knowledge and knowledge does not prove that their relation must be an illusory one, for other kinds of relations may subsist between them Knowledge-and-the-known may itself be regarded as a unique kind of relation.

It is also wrong to suppose that all relations are false because they are constituents of the false universe, for the universe is supposed to be false because the relations are false, and hence there would be a vicious infinite. Again, the objection that, if relations are admitted to establish connection between two relata, then further relations may be necessary to relate the relation to relata and that this would lead to a vicious infinite, and also that, if relations are identical in essence with the relata, then relations become useless, is futile. The same objections would be admissible in the case of illusory relations. If it is held that, since all relations are illusory, the above strictures do not apply, then it may be pointed out that if the order of the relations be subversed, then, instead of conceiving the jug to be a product of māyā, māyā may be taken as a product of the jug. Thus, not only the Śaṅkarites but even the Buddhists have to admit the orderly character of relations. In the Nimbārka view all relations are regarded as true, being the different modes of the manifestation of the energy of God. Even if the relations be denied, then the nature of Brahman cannot be described as this or that.


(c) Refutation of the Śaṇkarite View of Ajñāna.

Ajñāna is defined as a beginningless positive entity which is destructible by knowledge (anādi-bhāvatve satijñāna-niv arty atv am). The definition is unavailing as it does not apply to ignorance that hides an ordinary object before it is perceived. Nor does ajñāna apply to the ignorance regarding the negation of an object, since it is of a positive nature. Again, in the case of the ignorance that abides in the saint who has attained the knowledge of Brahman, the ajñāna is seen to persist even though knowledge has been attained ; hence the definition of ajñāna as that which is destructible by knowledge fails. In the case of the perception of red colour in the crystal through reflection, the ignorant perception of the white crystal as red persists even though it is known to be false and due to reflection. Here also the ignorance is not removed by knowledge.

It is also wrong to suppose that ajñāna, which is but the product of defect, should be regarded as beginningless. Moreover, it may be pointed out that all things (excluding negation) that are beginningless are also eternal like the souls and it is a curious assumption that there should be an entity called ajñāna which is beginningless and yet destructible. Again, ajñāna is often described as being different both from being and non-being, but has yet been defined as a positive entity. It is also difficult to imagine how, since negative entities are regarded as products of ajñāna, ajñāna may itself be regarded as a positive entity. Moreover, the error or illusion that takes place through absence of knowledge has to be admitted as a negative entity; but being an illusion it has to be regarded as a product of ajñāna.

There is no proof of the existence of ajñāna in the so-called perception “I am ignorant.” It cannot be the pure Brahman, for then that would have to be styled impure. It cannot be a positive knowledge by itself, for that is the very point which has to be proved. Further, if in establishing ajñāna (ignorance) one has to fall back upon jñāna or knowledge, and if in establishing the latter one has to fall back upon the former, then that would involve a vicious circle. It cannot be the ego-substratum (aham-artha), for that is itself a product of ajñāna and cannot be in existence as the datum of the perception of ajñāna. The ego itself cannot be perceived as ignorant, for it is itself a product of ignorance. The ego is never regarded as synonymous with ignorance, and thus there is no means of proving the supposition that ignorance is perceived as a positive entity either as a quality or as a substance.

Ignorance is thus nothing but “absence of knowledge” (jñānā-bhāva) and ought to be recognized by the Śaṅkarites, since they have to admit the validity of the experience “I do not know what you say” which is evidently nothing but a reference to the absence of knowledge which is admitted by the Śaṅkarites in other cases. There is no proof that the cases in point are in any way different from such cases of absence of knowledge. Again, if the ajñāna is regarded as hiding an object, then in the case of mediate knowledge (parokṣa-vṛtti —where according to the Śaṅkarites the vṛtti or the mental state does not remove the veil of ajñāna) one ought to feel that one is ignorant of the object of one’s mediate knowledge, for the veil of ajñāna remains here intact[25]. Moreover, all cases of the supposed perception of ignorance can be explained as the comprehension of the absence of knowledge.

In the above manner Mukunda criticizes the theories of ajñāna and of the illusion in their various aspects. But as the method of the dialectic followed in these logical refutations is substantially the same as that attempted by Veṅkaṭanātha and Vyāsatīrtha which have been examined in detail it is not necessary to give a detailed study of Mukunda’s treatment.


The Pramāṇas according to Mādhava Mukunda.

The followers of Nimbārka admit only three (perception, inference and testimony) out of the following eight pramāṇas, viz.

  1. perception (pratyakṣa),
  2. inference (anumāna),
  3. similarity (upamāna),
  4. scriptural testimony (śabda),
  5. implication (arthāpatti),
  6. non-perception (anupalabdhi),
  7. inclusion of the lower within the higher as of ten within a hundred (sambhava),
  8. and tradition (aitihya).

Perception is of two kinds, external and internal. The external perception is of five kinds according to the five cognitive senses. The mental perception called also the internal perception is of two kinds, ordinary (laukika) and transcendent (alaukika). The perception of pleasure and pain is a case of ordinary internal perception, whereas the perception of the nature of self, God and their qualities is a case of transcendent internal perception. This transcendent internal perception is again of two kinds, that which flashes forth through the meditation of an entity and that which comes out of meditation on the essence of a scriptural text. The scriptural reference that the ultimate truth cannot be perceived by the mind means either that the ultimate truth in its entirety cannot be perceived by the mind or that unless the mind is duly trained by a teacher or by the formation of right tendencies it cannot have a glimpse of the transcendent realities.

Knowledge is a beginningless, eternal and all-pervasive characteristic of individual selves. But in our state of bondage this knowledge is like the rays of a lamp in a closed place, in a state of contraction. Just as the rays of a lamp enclosed within a jug may go out through the hole into the room and straight through the door of the room and flood with light some object outside, so the knowledge in each individual may by the modification of the mind reach the senses and again through their modification reach the object and, having flood-lit it, may illuminate both the object and the knowledge. The ajñāna (ignorance) that ceases with the knowledge of an object is the partial cessation of a state of contraction leading to the flashing of knowledge. What is meant by the phrase “knowledge has an object” is that knowledge takes a particular form and illuminates it.

The objects remain as they are, but they are manifested through their association with knowledge and remain unmanifested without it. In the case of internal perception the operation of the senses is not required, and so pleasure and pain are directly perceived by the mind. In self-consciousness or the perception of the self, the self being itself self-luminous, the mental directions to the self remove the state of contraction and reveal the nature of the self. So God can be realized through His grace and the removal of obstruction through the meditative condition of the mind[26].

In inference the knowledge of the existence of the hetu (reason) in the minor (pakṣa) having a concomitance (vyāpti) with the pro-bandum (sādhya), otherwise called parāmarśa (vahni-vyāpya-dhūmavān ayam evaṃ-rūpaḥ), is regarded as the inferential process (anumāna) and from it comes the inference (e.g. “the hill is fiery”).

Two kinds of inference, i.e.

  1. for the conviction of one’s own self (svārthānumāna)
  2. and for convincing others (parārthānumāna),

are admitted here; and in the latter case only three propositions (the thesis, pratijñā, the reason, hetu, and the instance, udāhoraṇa) are regarded as necessary.

Three kinds of inference are admitted, namely

  1. kevalā-nvayi (argument from only positive instances, where negative instances are not available),
  2. kevala-vyatireki (argument from purely negative instances, where positive instances are not available),
  3. and anvaya-vyatireki (argument from both sets of positive and negative instances).

In addition to the well-known concomitance (vyāpti) arising from the above three ways, scriptural assertions are also regarded as cases of concomitance. Thus there is a scriptural passage to the following effect: The self is indestructible and it is never divested of its essential qualities (avināśī vā are ātma an-ucchitti-dharmā), and this is regarded as a vyāpti or concomitance, from which one may infer the indestructibility of the soul like the Brahman.[27] There are no other specially interesting features in the Nimbārka doctrine of inference.

Knowledge of similarity is regarded as being due to a separate pramāṇa called upamāna. Such a comprehension of similarity (sādrśya) may be due to perception or through a scriptural assertion of similarity. Thus a man may perceive the similarity of the face to the moon or he may learn from the scriptures that the self and God are similar in nature and thus comprehend such similarity. This may be included within the proposition of instance or illustration in an inference (upamānasya dṛṣṭānta-mātrā-ika-vigraha-tvenā'numānā-vayave udāharaṇe antarbhāvaḥ. Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, p. 254).

That from which there is a communication of the negation or non-existence of anything is regarded as the pramāṇa or anupalabdhi.

It is of four kinds:

  1. firstly, the negation that precedes a production, called prāg-abhāva;
  2. secondly, the negation of one entity in another, i.e. the negation as “otherness,” called anyonyā-bhāva;
  3. thirdly, the negation as the destruction of an entity, called dhvaṃ-sā-bhāva ;
  4. fourthly, the negation of an entity in all times (kālatraye’pi nasti’ti pratīti-viṣayaḥ atyantā-bhāvaḥ).

But it is unnecessary to admit abhāva or anupalabdhi as a separate pramāṇa, for according to the Nimbārkas negation is not admitted as a separate category. The perception of negation is nothing but the perception of the locus of the object of negation as unassociated with it. The negation-precedent (prāg-abhāva) of a jug is nothing but the lump of clay; the negation of destruction of a jug is nothing but the broken fragments of a jug; the negation of otherness (anyonyā-bhāva) is the entity that is perceived as the other of an another, and the negation existent in all times is nothing but the locus of a negation. Thus the pramāṇa of negation may best be included with perception. The pramāṇa of implication may well be taken as a species of inference. The pramāṇa of sambhava may well be regarded as a deductive piece of reasoning.

The Nimbārkas admit the self-validity of the pramāṇas (svataḥ-prāmāṇya) in the manner of the Śaṅkarites. Self-validity (svatastva) is defined as the fact that in the absence of any defect an assemblage forming the data of cognition produces a cognition that represents its nature as it is (doṣā-bhāvatve yāvat-svā-śraya-bhūta-pramā-grāhaka-sāmagrī-mātra-grāhyatvam)[28]. Just as the eye when it perceives a coloured object perceives also the colours and forms associated with it, so it takes with the cognition of an object also the validity of such a cognition.

The nature of God can, however, be expressed only by the scriptural texts, as the signifying powers of these texts directly originate from God. Indeed, all the powers of individual minds also are derived from God, but they cannot signify Him as they are tainted by the imperfections of the human mind. The Mīm-āmsists are wrong to think that the import of all parts of the Vedas consists in enjoining the performance of the Vedic duties, for the results of all deeds ultimately produce a desire for knowing Brahman and through it produce the fitness for the attainment of emancipation. Thus considered from this point of view the goal of the performance of all duties is the attainment of emancipation[29].

There cannot be any scope for the performance of duties for one who has realized the Brahman, for that is the ultimate fruit of all actions and the wise man has nothing else to attain by the performance of actions. Just as though different kinds of seeds may be sown, yet if there is no rain these different kinds of seeds cannot produce the different kinds of trees, so the actions by themselves cannot produce the fruits independently. It is through God’s grace that actions can produce their specific fruits. So though the obligatory duties are helpful in purifying the mind and in producing a desire for true knowledge, they cannot by themselves be regarded as the ultimate end, which consists in the production of a desire for true knowledge and the ultimate union with God.


Criticism of the views of Rāmānuja and Bhāskara.

The view of Rāmānuja and his followers is that the souls and the inanimate world are associated with God as His qualities. The function of qualities (viśeṣana) is that by their presence they distinguish an object from other similar objects. Thus, when one says “Rāmathesonof Daśaratha,” the adjective “son of Daśaratha” distinguishes this Rāma from the other two Rāmas, Balarāma and Paraśurāma. But no such purpose is served by styling the individual souls and the inanimate nature as being qualities of Brahman, for they do not distinguish Him from any other similar persons; for the Rāmānujists also do not admit any other category than the conscious souls, the unconscious world and God the controller of them both. Since there is nothing to differentiate, the concept of the souls and matter as quality or differentia also fails. Another function of qualities is that they help the substance to which they belong to become better known. The knowledge of souls and matter as qualities of God does not help us to know or comprehend Him better.

Again, if God be associated with matter and souls, He is found to be associated with their defects also. It may be argued whether the Brahman in which the souls and matter are held to abide is itself unqualified or qualified. In the former alternative the Rāmā-nujas like the Śaṅkarites have to admit the existence of an unqualified entity and a part in Brahman has to be admitted which exists in itself as an unqualified entity. If the Brahman be in part qualityless and in part associated with qualities, then it would in part be omniscient only in certain parts of itself. Again, if the pure unassociated Brahman be regarded as omniscient, then there would be one Brahman associated with omniscience and other qualities and another Brahman associated with matter and soul, and the doctrine of qualified monism would thus break down.

The pure Brahman being outside the souls and matter, these two would be without a controller inside them and would thus be independent of God. Moreover, God in this view would be in certain parts associated with the highest and purest qualities and in other parts with the defiled characters of the material world and the imperfect souls. In the other alternative, i.e. if Brahman as associated with matter and souls be the ultimate substance which is qualified with matter and souls, then there would be two composite entities and not one, and God will as before be associated with two opposite sets of pure and impure qualities. Again, if God be admitted to be a composite unity and if matter and souls which are regarded as mutually distinct and different are admitted to be constituents of Him though He is different in nature from them, it is difficult to imagine how under the circumstances those constituents can be at once one with God and yet different from Him[30].

In the Nimbārka view Śrī Ivṛṣṇa is the Lord, the ultimate Brahman and He is the support of the universe consisting of the souls and matter which are derivative parts of Him and are absolutely under His control and thus have a dependent existence only (para-tantra-sattva). Entities that have dependent existence are of two kinds, the souls which, though they pass through apparent birth and death, are yet eternal in their nature and the substance of the corporeal structure that supports them, the matter. The scriptural texts that speak of duality refer to this duality that subsists between the ultimate substance, the Brahman, which alone has the independent existence, and souls and matter which have only a dependent existence. The scriptural texts that deny duality refer to the ultimate entity which has independent existence which forms the common ground and basis of all kinds of existence. The texts that try to refer to Brahman by negations (neti, neti) signify how Brahman is different from all other things, or, in other words, how Brahman is different from matter and the souls which are limited by material conditions[31].

Brahman is thus the absolute Being, the abode of all good and noble qualities, which is different from all entities having only dependent existence. The monistic texts refer to the fact, as has already been noted, that the world of matter and the infinite number of souls having but dependent existence cannot exist independent of God (tad-apṛthak-siddha) and are, in that sense, one with Him. They also have the essence of their being in Brahman (brahmā-tmatva), are pervaded through and through by it (tad - vyāpyatva), are supported in it and held in it and are always being completely controlled and dominated by it[32]. Just as all individual objects, a jug, a stone, etc., may be said to have substantiality (dravyatva) permeating through them by virtue of their being substances, so the souls and the matter may be called God by virtue of the fact that God permeates through them as their inner essence. But just as none of these individual objects can be regarded as substance per se, so the souls and matter cannot also be identified with God as being one with Him[33].

The Bhāskarites are wrong in asserting that the individuals are false inasmuch as they have only a false appearance through the limitations (upādhi) imposed upon the pure Brahman. The nature of the imposition of Brahman by the so-called conditions is unintelligible. It may mean that the atomic individual is the iesult of the imposition of the conditions on Brahman by which the Brahman as a whole appears as the individual soul or by which the Brahman is split asunder, and being thus split appears as the individual self or the Brahman as qualified by the conditions or that the conditions themselves appear as the individuals. The Brahman being homogeneous and unchangeable cannot be split asunder. Even if it can be split asunder, the individual selves being the products of such a splitting would have a beginning in time and would not thus be eternal; and it has to be admitted that on such a view Brahman has to be split up into as many infinite parts as there are selves. If it is held that the parts of Brahman as limited by the conditions appear as individual souls, then Brahman would be subject to all the defects of the conditions which could so modify it as to resolve it into parts for the production of the individual selves. Moreover, owing to the shifting nature of the conditions the nature of the selves would vary and they might have in this way spontaneous bondage and salvation[34]. If with the shifting of the conditions Brahman also shifts, then Brahman would not be partless and all-pervasive.

If it is held that Brahman in its entirety becomes envisaged by the conditions, then, on the one hand, there will be no transcendent pure Brahman and, on the other, there will be one self in all the different bodies. Again, if the individuals are regarded as entirely different from Brahman, then the assertion that they are but the product of the conditioning of Brahman has to be given up. If it is held that the conditions themselves are the individuals, then it becomes a materialistic view like that of the Cārvākas. Again, it cannot be held that the conditions only cover up the natural qualities of Brahman such as omniscience, etc., for these being natural qualities of Brahman cannot be removed.

Further questions may arise as to whether these natural qualities of Brahman are different from Brahman or not, or whether this is a case of difference-in-identity. They cannot be absolutely different, for that would be an admission of duality. They cannot be identical with Brahman, for then they could not be regarded as qualities of Brahman. If it be its own essence, then it cannot be covered up, for in that case Brahman would lose all its omniscience. If it is held that it is a case of dif-ference-in-identity, then it comes to an acceptance of the Nimbārka creed.

Again, if it is held that the so-called natural qualities of omniscience, etc., are also due to conditions, it may be asked whether such conditions are different from or identical with Brahman. In the latter alternative they would have no capacity to produce any plurality in Brahman. In the former alternative, it may be asked whether they are moved by themselves into operation or by some other entity or by Brahman. The first view would be open to the criticism of self-dynamism, the second to that of a vicious infinite, and the third to a vicious circle. Moreover, in this view, Brahman being eternal, its dynamism would also be eternal; at no time would the conditions cease to operate, and thus there would be no emancipation. The conditions cannot be regarded as false, unreal or non-existent, for then that would be an acceptance of the Nimbārka creed[35].

It may further be asked whether the conditions are imposed by certain causes or whether they are without any cause. In the former alternative we have a vicious infinite and in the latter even emancipated beings may have further bondage. Again, it may be asked whether the qualities, e.g. omniscience, that belong to Brahman pervade the whole of Brahman or whether they belong only to particular parts of Brahman. In the former view, if there is entire veiling of the qualities of Brahman there cannot be any emancipation and the whole field of consciousness being veiled by ignorance there is absolute blindness or darkness (jagad-āndhya-prasaṅga). In the second view the omniscience of Brahman being only a quality or a part of it the importance of Brahman as a whole fails.

Following the Bhāskara line it may be asked whether the emancipated beings have separate existence or not. If the former alternative be admitted, and if after destruction of the conditions the individuals still retain their separate existence then the view that differences are created by the conditions has to be given up (aupādhika-bheda-vādo datta-jalāñjaliḥ syāt). If the distinctness of the souls is not preserved in their emancipation, then their very essence is destroyed, and this would almost be the same as the māyā doctrine of the Śaṅkarites, who hold that the essential nature of both God and souls is destructible.

It is wrong to suppose that individuals are but parts of which a structural Brahman is constituted, for in that case, being made up of parts, the Brahman would be itself destructible. When the scriptures speak of the universe and the souls as being but a part of Brahman, the main emphasis is on the fact that Brahman is infinite and the universe is but too small in comparison with it. It is also difficult to imagine how the minds or the antaḥkaraṇas can operate as conditions for limiting the nature of the Brahman. How should Brahman allow these so-called conditions to mutilate its nature? It could not have created these conditions for the production of individual souls, for these souls were not in existence before the conditions were in existence. Thus the Bhāskara doctrine that the concept of distinction and unity of Brahman is due to the operation of conditions (aupādhika-bhedābheda-vāda) is entirely false.

According to the Nimbārka view, therefore, the unity and difference that exist between the individuals and Brahman is natural (svābhāvika) and not due to conditions (aupādhika) as in the case of Bhāskara. The coiling posture (kuṇḍala) of a snake is different from the long snake as it is in itself and is yet identical with it in the sense that the coiling posture is an effect; it is dependent and under the absolute control of the snake as it is and it has no separate existence from the nature of the snake as it is. The coiled state of the snake exists in the elongated state but only in an undifferentiated, unperceivable way; and is nothing but the snake by which it is pervaded through and through and supported in its entirety. So this universe of matter and souls is also in one aspect absolutely identical with God, being supported entirely by Him, pervaded through and through by Him and entirely dependent on Him, and yet in another aspect different from Him in all its visible manifestations and operations[36].

The other analogy through which the Nim-bārkists try to explain the situation is that of the sun and its rays which are at once one with it and are also perceived as different from it. The difference of this view from that of the Rāmānujists is that while the latter consider that the souls and the matter qualify the nature of Brahman and are in that sense one with it, the former repudiate the concept of a permanent modification of the nature of Brahman by the souls and matter.


The Reality of the World.

The Śaṅkarites hold that if the world which is of the nature of effect were real it would not be liable to contradiction at the time of Brahma-knowledge; if it were chimerical it would not appear to our sense. The world, however, appears to our senses and is ultimately liable to contradiction; it has therefore an indefinable (anirvacanīya) nature which is the same thing as saying that the world is false[37]. But what is the meaning of this indefinability? It cannot mean the absolutely non-existent, like the chimerical entities of the hare’s horn; it cannot mean that which is absolutely non-existent, for then it would be the souls. But all things must be either existent or non-existent, for there is no third category which is different from the existent and the non-existent. It cannot also be that of which no definition can be given, for it has already been defined as indefinability (nā’pi nirvacanā-narhattvaṃ anenai’va nirucyamānatayā asambhavāt).

It cannot be said to be that which is not the locus of non-existence, for even the chi-mericals are not so, and even Brahman, which is regarded as existent and which is absolutely qualityless, is not the locus of any real existence; for Brahman is only existent in its own nature and is not the locus of any other existence. If it is said that Brahman is the locus of the existence of false appearances, then that may be said to be true as well of the so-called indefinable. Brahman is not the locus of any existence that has the same status as itself. It cannot be defined as that which is not the locus of either the existent or the non-existent, for there is nothing which is the locus of absolute non-existence, since even the chimerical is not the locus of its own non-existence. Moreover, since Brahman and the chimerical have the quality of being qualityless, they may themselves be regarded as the locus of that which is both existent and non-existent, and as such may themselves be regarded as indefinable.

It cannot also be said that indefinability is that of which no sufficient description can be given that “this is such” or that “this is not such,” for no such sufficient description can be given of Brahman itself. There wrould thus be little difference between Brahman and the indefinable. If it is held that “the indefinable” is that regarding the existence of which no evidence can be put forward, then the same may be said about Brahman, because the Brahman being the conceptless pure essence, it is not possible to prove its existence by any proof.

Again, when it is said that the indefinable is that which is neither existent nor non-existent, the meaning of the two terms “existence” and “non-existence” becomes somewhat unintelligible. For “existence” cannot mean only “being” as a class concept, for such a concept does not exist either in Brahman or in the world-appearance. Existence cannot be defined as causal efficiency (artha-kriyā - kāritva), nor as that which is never contradicted; nor non-existence as that which is contradicted, for the world-appearance which is liable to contradiction is not supposed to be non-existent; it is said to be that which is neither existent nor non-existent.

Existence and non-existence cannot also be defined as that which can or cannot be proved, for Brahman is an entity which is neither proved nor unproved. Moreover, the world-appearance cannot be said to be that which is different from all that which can be called “existent” or “non-existent,” for it is admitted to have a practical existence (vyavahārika-sattā). Again, it cannot be urged that if the nature of anything cannot be properly defined as existent or non-existent that it signifies that such an entity must be wholly unreal (avāstava). If a thing is not properly describable as existent or non-existent, that does not imply that it is unreal. The nature of the final dissolution of avidyā cannot be described as existent or not, but that does not imply that such a dissolution is itself unreal and indefinable (nā’nirvācyaśca tat-kṣayaḥ).

Again, from the simple assertion that the world is liable to dissolution through knowledge, its falsity does not necessarily follow. It is wrong to suppose that knowledge destroys only false ignorance, for knowledge destroys its own negation which has a content similar to that of itself; the knowledge of one thing, say that of a jug, is removed by the knowledge of another, the subconscious impression is removed by recognition, attachment is removed by the knowledge of the defects of all worldly things and so also virtuous actions destroy sins. In the case under discussion also it may well be supposed that it is not merely the knowledge of Brahman but meditation of its nature that removes all false notions about the world. Thus, even if the bondage is real, there cannot be any objection that it cannot be cut asunder through the meditation of the nature of Brahman if the scriptures so direct.

It does not follow from any legitimate assumption that what can be cut asunder or removed must necessarily be false. Again, it is well known in experience that what demolishes and what is demolished have the same status of existence; if the knowledge of Brahman can destroy our outlook of the world, that outlook must also be a real and true one. As the knowledge and the object of knowledge have the same status, the defects, as also the locus wherein the defects are imposed, have the same status; the Brahman and the ajñāna also have the same status and both are equally real.

Further, if what is called ajñāna is merely false knowledge, then even when it is removed by the realization, there is no reason why it should still persist in the stage of jlvanmukti or sainthood. The mere fact, therefore, that anything is removable by knowledge does not prove its falsity but only its antagonism to knowledge. So the world is real and the bondage also is real. The bondage is removed not by any kind of knowledge but by the grace of God[38]. The function of true knowledge is to awaken God to exert His grace to cut asunder the knots of bondage.

Again, all the scriptures agree in holding that the world we see around us is being protected and maintained by God. If the world were but a mere false appearance, there would be no meaning in saying that it is being maintained by God. For knowing the world-appearance to be false, He would not be tempted to make any effort for the protection and maintenance of that which is false and unreal. If God Himself is admitted to be under the influence of ignorance, He cannot be entitled to be called God at all.

Pursuing the old dialectical type of reasoning, Mādhava Mukunda urges that the sort of falsehood that is asserted of the world can never be proved or demonstrated. One of the reasons that is adduced in favour of the falsity of the world is that it is knowable or the object of an intellectual state (dṛśya). But if the Vedāntic texts refer to the nature of Brahman, the due comprehension and realization of the meaning of such texts must involve the concept of the nature of Brahman as its object, and thus Brahman itself would be the object of an intellectual state and therefore false. If it is urged that the Brahman can be the object of an intellectual state only in a conditioned form and that the conditioned Brahman is admitted to be false, then the reply is that since the Brahman in its pure form can never manifest itself its purity cannot be proved. If the Brahman does not express itself in its purity through an ideational state corresponding to scriptural texts describing the nature of Brahman, then it is not self-luminous; if it is expressed through such a state, then being expressible through a mental state it is false.

It cannot also be said that since all that is impure is known to be non-self-luminous it follows that all that is pure is self-luminous, for the pure being absolutely unrelationed cannot be referred to or known by way of a negative concomitance. Thus the impure is known only in itself as a positive entity and not as the opposite of the pure, for such a knowledge would imply the knowledge of purity. If, therefore, the predicate of self-luminosity is not denied of impurity as an opposite of “purity,” the predicate of self-luminosity cannot also be affirmed of “purity.” Moreover, if the pure Brahman is never intelligibly realizable, then there would be no emancipation, or there would be an emancipation only with the conditioned Brahman.

Moreover, if all objects are regarded as illusory impositions on pure Brahman, then in the comprehension of these objects the pure Brahman must also be comprehended.

The scriptures also say:

“Brahman is to be perceived with the mind and with the keen intellect”

(manasai’va nudraṣṭavyaṃ . . . dṛśyate tvagrayā buddhyā).

There are also scriptural passages which say that it is the pure Brahman which is the object of meditation (taṃ paśyati niṣkalaṃ dhyāyamānam).

Again, if perceivability or intelligibility determining falsehood is defined as relationing with consciousness, then since pure consciousness is supposed to have a relationing through illusion it also is liable to the charge of being perceivable. In this connection it is difficult to conceive how Brahman, which has no opposition to ajñāna, can have an opposing influence against it when it is in conjunction with a mental state or vṛtti. Instead of such an assumption it might as well be assumed that the object itself acquires an opposing influence to its own ignorance when it is in association with a mental state having the same content as itself. On such a supposition perceivability does not consist in relation with consciousness as conditioned by mental state, for the conditioning has a bearing on the object and not on the consciousness. Thus it may well be assumed that an object becomes perceivable by being conditioned by a mental state of its own content.

The assumption that the vṛtti or the mental state must be reflected on pure consciousness is unnecessary, for it may well be assumed that the ignorance is removed by the mental state itself. An object comes into awareness when it is represented by a mental state, and in order to be aware of anything it is not necessary that the mental state, idea or representation should be reflected in consciousness. Again, if Brahman cannot be its own object, it cannot also be termed self-luminous. For self-luminous means that it is manifest to itself independently, and this involves the implication that the Brahman is an object to itself. If that which is not an object to itself can be called self-luminous, then even material objects can be called self-luminous. Moreover, in the differenceless Brahman there cannot be any immediacy or self-luminousness apart from its nature (nirviśeṣe brahmaṇi svarūpa-bhinnā-parokṣasya abhāvena).

In the monistic view the self is regarded as pure knowledge which has neither a subject nor an object. But that which is subject-less and object-less can hardly be called knowledge, for knowledge is that which manifests objects. If that which does not manifest objects can be called knowledge, even a jug can be called knowledge. Again, the question naturally arises whether, if knowledge be regarded as identical with the self, such knowledge is valid or invalid; if it be valid, then the ajñāna which shines through it should also be valid, and if it be invalid, then that must be due to some defects and there are no such defects in the self. If it is neither false nor right knowledge, it would not be knowledge at all. Again, if the world-appearance is an illusion, then it must be an imposition on the Brahman.

If Brahman be the basis (adhiṣṭḥāna) of the illusory imposition, then it must be an entity that is known in a general manner but not in its details. But Brahman is not an entity of which we can have either any general or specific knowledge. Brahman cannot therefore be regarded as the basis of the imposition of any illusion. In this connection it has further to be borne in mind that if the world were non-existent then it could not have appeared in consciousness; the chimerical entities are never perceived by anyone. The argument that even the illusory snake can produce real fear is invalid, for it is not the illusory snake that produces fear but the real knowledge of snakes that produces it. The child is not afraid of handling even a real snake, for it has no knowledge of snakes and their injurious character. Even dreams are to be regarded as real creation by God and not illusory impositions. The argument that they are false since they can only be perceived by the dreamer and not by others who are near him is invalid, for even the feelings and ideas felt or known by a person cannot be perceived by others who are near him[39].

The world is thus not an illusory imposition on the pure Brahman, but a real transformation of the varied powers of God. The difference of this view from that of Sāṃkhya is that while the Sāṃkhya believes in the transformation of certain primary entities in their entirety, the Nimbārkists believe in the transformation of the various powers of God. God Himself remains unchanged and unmodified, and it is only His powers that suffer modification and thereby produce the visible world[40].

The explanation that the world is produced through the reflection of Brahman in māyā or by its limitation through it is invalid, for since the māyā is an entity of an entirely different order, there cannot be any reflection of Brahman in it or a limitation by it. It is not possible to bind down a thief with a dream-rope.


Vanamālī Miśra.

Vanamālī Miśra, a native of Triyaga, a village within two miles of Brindavan, of Bharadvāja lineage, in his Vedānta-siddhānta-saṃgraha, called also Śruti-siddhānta-saṃgraha, gives some of the important tenets of the Nimbārka school. The work is written in the form of Kārikās and a commentary on it and is based on the commentary on the Brahma-sūtra by Nimbārka and other commentaries on it.

He regards sorrow as being due to attachment to things that are outside one’s own self, and the opposite of it as happiness[41]. All actions performed with a view to securing any selfish end, all performance of actions prohibited by Vedic injunctions and nonperformance of duties rendered obligatory by Vedas produce sins. The opposite of this and all such actions as may please God are regarded as producing virtue. It is the power of God which is at the root of all virtue and vice which operates by veiling the qualities of God to us. This nescience (avidyā) is real and positive and different in different individuals. It produces the error or illusion which consists in regarding a thing as what it is not; and it is this false knowledge that is the cause of rebirth[42]. This avidyā is different with different individuals. It is through this avidyā that one gets attached to one’s possession as “mine” and has also the false experience of individual freedom. In reality all one’s actions are due to God, and when a person realizes this he ceases to have any attachment to anything and does not look forward for the fruits of his deeds.

The avidyā produces the mind and its experiences of sorrows and pleasures; it also produces the false attachment by which the self regards the experiences as its own and ceases to realize its own nature as pure knowledge and bliss. Only the videhi-muktas enjoy this state; those in the state oijīvanmukti or sainthood enjoy it only to a partial extent. It is on account of attachments produced by ignorance that man is stirred to be led by the will of God. But as the ignorance is a true ignorance, so the experience of sorrow is also a true experience. All our rebirths are due to our actions performed against the mandates of the Vedas or for the fulfilment of our desires[43]. The purity of the soul is attained by the realization of the idea that all our actions are induced by God and that the performer has no independence in anything.

When a person feels that it is through false association with other things, and by considering oneself as the real independent agent that one gets into trouble, one naturally loses all interest in one’s actions and experience of According to Vanamālī Miśra at death a person goes to Heaven or to Hell according to his deeds and then after enjoying the fruits of his actions or suffering therefrom he is born as plants and then as lower animals, then as Yavanas or mlecchas and then in lower castes and finally as Brahmins.

pleasure and pain, and regards all objects as being invested with harmful defects. It is this disinclination or detachment that pleases God. The process of attaining devotion is also described in the scriptures as listening to the Upaniṣads (śravaṇa), realizing their meaning with logical persuasion (manana), and continual meditation on the nature of God as an unceasing flow (nididhyāsana)[44]. The last can come only as a result of the first two; for meditation involves a direct realization which is not possible without the performance of śravaṇa and manana. It is only through the purification of the mind bv the above processes that God is pleased and makes Himself directly intuited (aparokṣa) by the devotee, just as one can intuit the musical melodies and tunes through musical discipline. This direct intuition is of the verv nature of one’s own self. For at this stage one has no functioning of the mind.

The destruction of experiential knowledge is identical with the intuition of God. This stage therefore implies the annihilation of avidyā or the mind[45]. It is in this wav that the nature of God as bliss is realized by man in his state of supreme emancipation; but even then it is not possible for him to know all the qualities of God, for even God Himself does not know all Ilis qualities. Such an emancipation can be realized only through the grace of God. In the state of emancipation, man exists in God just as the fish swims about in the ocean.

God creates because of the spontaneity of Ilis grace and not in order to increase His grace; so also emancipated souls dally in God out of the spontaneity of their essence as bliss and not in order to increase their bliss[46]. The nature of God is always within us, and it is only when it is directly intuited that we can attain salvation. Some people attain emancipation in this world while others attain it in the upper worlds through which they pass as a result of their deeds. But emancipation of all kinds may be defined as the existence of man in his own nature as a result of the destruction of nescience[47]. The jīvanmuktas or saints are those whose avidyā has been destroyed, but who have still to suffer the effects of their prārabdha karma. The realization of God can destroy the saṅcita and kriyamāṇa karma, i.e. previously collected karma and those that are performed in the present life, but not the prārabdha karma, i.e. the karma that is already in a state of fruition.

It is wrong to suppose that the attainment of a state of bliss can be desired by any person; the state desired can only be one in which a person enjoys unobstructed bliss[48]. In a state of deep dreamless sleep one can enjoy a little bliss, but not the full bliss, as the māyāvādins hold. There is but little difference between the māyā-vādins and the Buddhists; the difference is only in the mode of expression[49].

The self is regarded as atomic, but its existence is definitely proved by the notion of the ego (ahaṃ-pratyayavedya) who enjoys all his experiences. Even though he may be dependent upon God, yet he is a real and active agent who works through the influence of avidyā. The existence of the self is also proved by the continuity of experiences through all stages of life. The self-love manifested in all beings for selfish ends also shows that each person feels a self or soul within himself and that this self is also different in different individuals.

The difference between jīva and īśvara is that the former is of little power and little knowledge and always dependent, and the latter is omniscient, omnipotent and independent; He makes the jīvas work or assert their supposed independence by His avidyā-power. The jīvas are thus different from God, but as they exist in Him at the time of emancipation and as all their actions are guided by the avidyā-power of God, they are regarded also as being one with Him. The mind of the individual being a creation of God’s avidyā, all His world experience is also due to God’s activity. In His own nature as self the jīvas, the individuals, have the revelation of God’s nature which is pure bliss.

The existence of individuals in their own essential nature is therefore regarded as a state of salvation. The individuals in their essential nature are therefore of the nature of sat, cit and ātianda, and though atomic they can enjoy the experiences all over the body through their internal functioning just as a lamp illuminates the whole room bv rays. The experience of sorrow also is possible through the expansion or dilatation of the mind (antaḥ-karaṇa) through the various parts of the body and by means of the help of avidyā by which the jīva wrongly identifies himself with other objects. As the relation of the self with other objects takes place through the antaḥ-karaṇa of each person the sphere of experience of each of the jīvas is limited by the functioning of his own antaḥ-karaṇa. The antaḥ-karaṇa is different in different persons.

The Upaniṣads speak of God as the all (sarvaṃ khalv’idaṃ Brahma), and this is due to the fact that I Ie pervades all things and controls all things. It means that the souls are dependent on Him or maintained in Him (tad-ādhāratva), but it does not mean their identity with Him. God is Himself able to create all things by Himself; but for I Iis pleasure, for Ilis mere sportive dalliance, He takes the help of prakṛti and the destiny born out of the deeds of human beings as Ilis accessories. 'Though God makes all persons act in the manner in which they do act, yet I Iis directive control is regulated in accordance w ith the adṛṣṭa or the destiny of the human beings which is beginningless.

The theory of karma doctrine herein suggested is different from that propounded by Pataṅjali. According to I’atañjali and his commentators, the fruits of the deeds, i.e. pleasure or pain, are enjoyed by the persons w hile thev are free to act by themselves. I lere, however, the freedom of the individuals is controlled and limited by God in accordance with the previous good or bad deeds of the individual, which are beginningless. Thus in our ordinary life not only our pleasures and pains but also our power to do good or bad actions are determined by previous deeds and the consequent control of God.

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- Footnotes:


Vedānta-tattva-bodha exists in the Oudh Catalogue, 1877, 42 and vm. 24, compiled by Pandit Deviprasad.

Vedānta-siddhānta-pradīpa and Sva-dharmā-dhva-bodha occur in the Notices of Sanskrit Manuscripts, by R. L. Mitra, Nos. 2826 and 1216, and the Guru-paramparā in the Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Private Libraries of the N.W.P., Parts I-x, Allahabad, 1877-86.


This Keśava Kāśmīrl bhaṭṭa seems to be a very different person from the Keśava Kāśmīrī who is said to have had a discussion with Caitanya as described in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta.


The Śṛī-kṛṣṇa-stava had another commentary on it called Śruti-siddhānta-mañjarī, the writer of which is unknown.


yathā ca bhūmes tathā-bhūta-śakti-matyā oṣadhīnāṃ janma-mātraṃ tathā sarva-kāryo-tpādanā-rha-lakṣaṇā-cintyānnanta-sarva-śakter akṣara-padārthād brahmaṇo viśvam sambhavati’ti; yadā sva-svā-bhāvikā-lpā-dhika-sātiśaya-śaktimo-dbhyo’ cetanebhyas tat-tac-chaktya-nusāreṇa sva-sva-kārya-bhāvā-pattavapi apra-cyuta-sva-rūpatvaṃ pratyakṣa-pramāṇa-siddhaṃ, tarfiy acintya-sarvā-cintya-viśzākhya-kāryo-tpādanā-rha-śaktimato bhagavata ukta-rītyā jagad-bhāvā-puttavapya-pracyuta-sva-rūpatvarti kim aśakyam iti.. . . śakti-vikṣepa-saṃ-haraṇasya pariṇāma-śabda-vācyatvā-bhiprāyeṇa kvacit pariṇāmo-ktiḥ. sva-rūpa-pariṇāmā-bhāvaś ca pārvam eva nirūpitaḥ; śakteḥ śakti-matopṛthak-siddhatvāt.
, pp. 73—74.)


Pandit Kiśoradāsa contradicts himself in his introduction to Vedānta-mañjuṣā and it seems that the dates he gives are of a more or less fanciful character. Pandit Kiśoradāsa further says that Devācārya lived in A.D. 1055. This would place Nimbārka prior even to Rāmānuja, which seems very improbable.


As the nature of this duty is revealed through the text of the Brahma-sūtra, namely, that the Brahma-hood can be attained only by such a process of nididhyāsana, it is called the apūrva-vidhi.


Srinivasa’s commentary on Nimbārka’s Vedānta-pārijāta-saurabha on Brahma-sutm, I. i. 1-3.


paramā-tma-bhinno’lpa-śaktis tad-adḥīnaḥ scinātcinas tad-aṃśa-bḥūto’ nādi-karmā-tmikā-Tidyā-vṛta-dharma-bhūtā-jñāno jīva-kṣetrajñā-di-śabdā-bhi-dheyas tat-pratyayā-śraya iti.
p. 12.


Ibid. p. 13.


adḥyastattve tu adḥyāse sati bḥāsamānatvam, tasmin sati sa ity anyonyā-śraya-doṣaḥ.
Ibid. p. 14.


adhyāso nā’nādiḥ, pūrva-pramā-hita-saṃskñra-janyatvāt.
p. 14.


 Vedānta-tattva-bodha, p. 20.


na vayaṃ brahma-niyantṛtvasya karma-sāpekṣattvaṃ brūmaḥ, kintu punyā-di-karma-kārayitṛtve tat-phala-dātṛtve ca.
p. 14.


Para-paksa-giri-vajra, p. 591.


Ibid. p. 598.




viduṣo vidyā-māhātmyāt sañcita-kriyamāṇayor āśleṣa-rināśau, prārabdhasya tu karmaṇo bhogena vināśaḥ, tatra prārabdhasya etac charuena itara-śarīrair vā bhuktvā vināśān-mokṣa iti samkṣepaḥ.
p. 583.


para-loka-gamane dehād utsarpaṇa-samaye eva viduṣaḥ puṇya-pāpe nira-vaśeṣaṃ kṣīyate,. . . vidyā hi sva-sāmarthyād eva sva-phala-bhūta-brahma-prāpti-pratipādanāya. . . enaṃ deva-yānena pathā gamayituṃ sūkṣma-śarīraṃ sthāpayati.
, III. 3. 27.


muktasya tu para-brahma-sādharmye’pi nikhila-cetanā-cetana-patitva-tan-niyantrtva-tad-vidhārakatva-sarva-gatatvā-dy-asambhavāt jagad-vyāpāra-varjam aiśvaryam.
iv. 4. 20.


ananta-guṇa-śaktimato broḥmaṇaḥ pariṇāmi-svabhāvā-cic-chakteḥ sthulā-vasthāyāṃ satyāṃ tad-antarā-tmatvena tatrā’vasthāne'pi pariṇāmasya śakti-gatatvāt svarupe pariṇāmā-bhāvāt kuṇḍala-dṛṣṭānto na doṣā-zahaḥ apṛthak-siddhatvena abhede’pi bheda-jñāpanā-rthaḥ.
in. 2. 29.


jīvavat pṛthak-sthity-anarha-viśeṣaṇatvena acid-vastuno brahmā-ṃśatvaṃ viśiṣṭa-vastv-eka-deśatvena abheda-vyavahāro mukhyaḥ-viśeṣyayoḥ sva-rūpa-svabhāva-bhedena ca blieda-vyavaliāiro mukhyaḥ.
111. 2. 30.


dvitīye aikya-pratiyogika-bhedasya pāramārthikatva-prasaṅgāt.
p. 12.


Ibid. p. 14.


nā’py anyottyā-śrayaḥ bheda-pratyokṣe pratiyogitā-vacchedaka-stambhatvā-di-prakāraka-jñātiosyai’va hetutrāt na tāvad bheda-pratyakṣe bhedā-śrayād bhinnatvena pratiyogi-jñānaṃ etuḥ.
pp. 14, 15.


parokṣa-vṛtter riṣayā-varakā-jñāna-nivartakatvena parokṣato jñāte’pi na jānāmī’ty anubhavō-pātāc ca.
p. 76.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, pp. 203-206.


Ibid. p. 210.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, p. 253.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, pp. 279-280.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, p. 342.


vastutas tu ne’ti ne’tī’ti nañbhyāṃ prakṛta-sthūla-sūkṣmatvāṃ-di-dharmavat jaḍa-vastu-tad-avacchinna-jīva-vastu-vilakṣaṇaṃ brahme’ti pratipādyate.
p. 347.


tayoś ca brahmā-tmakatva-tan-niyamyatva-tad-vyāpyatva-tad-adhīna-sattva-tad-ādheyatva-di-yogena tad-apṛthak-siddhatvāt abhedo’pi svābhāvikaḥ.
p. 355.


yathā ghaṭo draryaṃ, pṛthirī-dravyam ity-ādau dravyatva-vacchinnena saha ghaṭatvā-vacchinna-pṛthivītvā-vacchinnayoḥ sāmānādhikaraṇyaṃ mukhyam eva viśeṣasva sāmānyā-bhinnatva-niyamāt evaṃ prakṛte’pi sārvajñyā-dy-anantā-chintvā-parimita-viseṣā-vacchinnenā’paricchinna-śakti-vibhūtikena tat-padārthena parn-bhrahmaṇā svā-tmaka-cetana-cetanatvā-vacchinyayos tad-ātma-rūpayos tvam-ādi-padārthayoḥ sāmānādhikaraṇyaṃ mukhyam eva.
pp. 355—356.


kiñ ca upādhau gacchati sati upādhinā svā-vacchinna-brahma-pradeśā-karṣanā-yogāt amukṣnṇam upādhi-saṃyukta-pradeśa-bhedāt kṣane kṣane bandha-mokṣau syātām.
, p. 357.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, p. 358.


yathā kuṇḍalā-vosthā-pannasyo aheḥ kuṇḍalaṃ vyaktā-pannatvāt pratyakṣa-pramāṇa-gocaraṃ tad-bhedasya srābhāx ikatvāt lambāyamānā-vasthāyāṃ tu sarpā-yutā-vacchinna-svarupeṇa kuṇḍalasya tatra sattve'pi aryakta-nāma-rupatā-pattyā pratyakṣā-gocaratvaṃ sarvā-tmakatva-tad-ādheyatva-tad-vyāpyatvā-dinā tad-apṛthak-siddhatvād abhedasyā’pi svābhāvikatvam.
p. 361.


asac cen na pratīyate sac cen na vādhyate, pratīyate vādhyate ca ataḥ sad-asad-vilakṣaṇaṃ hy anirvacanīyam eva abhyūpagantavyam.
P. 384.


vastutas tu bhagavat-prasādād eva bandha-nivṛttir na prakāra ntareṇa.
p. 388.


Para-pakṣa-giri-vajra, p. 420.


Ibid. p. 429.


Sruti-siddhānta-saṃgralia, I. 9, 10, 11.


prati-jīvaṃ vibhinnā syāt satyā ca bhāva-rūpiṇī |
a-tasmiṃs tad-dhiyo hetur nidānaṃ jīva-saṃsṛtau.
     Ibid. 1. 15.


ataḥ kāmyaṃ niṣiddhaṃ ca duḥkh-avījaṃ tyajed budhaḥ.
1. 63.


anyā-rtha-viṣayaḥ puro brahmā-kāra-dliiyāṃ sndā nididhyāsana-śabdā-rtho jāyate sudhiyāṃ hi saḥ.
n. 13.


brahma-gocarasya redāmta-vāsita-manasi utpannasya ā-parokṣyasya yah prāga-bhavaḥ tasya abhāvo dthaṃso jñāna-tad-dhvaṃsā-vyatara-rūpo jñāna-brahmaṇaḥ sambandhaḥ, saṃsāra-daśāyāṃ nāsti.
11. iq.


ānando-drekuto viṣṇoryathā sṛstyā-di-ceṣṭanam.
tathā mukta-citāṃ krīḍā na tv ānanda-vivṛddhaye.
11. 37.


sva-rupeṇa sthitir muktir ajñāna-dhvaṃsa-pūrvakam
(Ibid. 11. 58).

This mukti can be of four kinds:

  1. sārūpya, i.e. the same external form as Kṛṣṇa;
  2. sālokya, i.e. existence in the same sphere as God;
  3. sāyujya, as being merged in God;
  4. sāmīpya, as existence in proximity to God as associated with a particular form of Him.

The merging in God called sāyujya should not be regarded as being unified with God. This merging is like the animals roaming in the forest. The emancipated beings are different from God, but exist in Him (evaṃ muktvā harer bhinna ramante tatra modataḥ (Ibid. u. 61). They can thus come out of God also, and we hear of them as entering in succession the bodies of Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Samkarsana and Vāsudeva. Such emancipated beings are not associated with the creation and destruction of the worlds, but remain the same in spite of all cosmic changes. They are like the being of Śvetadvīpa referred to in the Nārāyanīya section of the Mahābhārata. But they are still always under the control of God and do not suffer any sorrow on account of such control.


puruṣā-rthaṃ sukhitvaṃ hi na tv ānanda-svarūpatā.
, u. 96.


meyato na viśeṣo’-sti māyi-saugatayor mate
bhaṅgī-mātra-bhidā tu syāt ekasminn api darśane.
11. 136.

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