A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of meghanadari: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the sixteenth part in the series called the “philosophy of the ramanuja school of thought”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Meghanādāri, son of Ātreyanātha sūri, seems to be one of the earliest members of the Rāmānuja school. He wrote at least two books, Naya-prakāśikā and Naya-dyu-maṇi, both of which are still in manuscript and only the latter has been available to the present writer. Most of the important contributions of Meghanādāri on the subject of the Rāmānuja theory of the pramāṇas have already been discussed in some detail in connection with the treatment of that subject under Veṅkaṭanātha. Only a few of his views on other topics of Rāmānuja philosophy will therefore be given here.


Veṅkaṭa, in his Tattva-muktā-kalāpa and Sarvārtha-siddhi, says that all knowledge manifests the objects as they are. Even errors are true at least so far as they point to the object of the error. The erroneousness or error is due to the existence of certain vitiating conditions[1]. When there is knowledge that there is a jug, the existence of the object is the validity (prām-āṇya) of it and this is made known by the very knowledge that the jug exists[2]. Even where there is the knowledge of silver in a conch-shell, there is the knowledge of the existence of the objective silver implied in that very knowledge, and thus even in erroneous knowledge there is the self-validity so far as it carries with it the existence of the object of perception[3].

Meghanādāri however, who in all probability preceded Veṅkaṭa, gives a somewhat different account of the doctrine of svataḥ-prāmāṇya. He says that validity (prāmāṇya) proceeds from the apprehension of cognition (prāmāṇyaṃjñāna-sattā-pratīti-kāraṇād eva), for the validity must have a cause and no other cause is traceable[4].

The Naiyāyikas, arguing against the svataḥ-prāmāṇya doctrine of the Mīmāṃsakas, are supposed to say that the self-validity cannot be regarded as being produced in every case of knowledge, for the Mīmāṃsakas hold that the Vedas are eternal and thus their selfvalidity cannot be regarded as being produced. Self-validity cannot be regarded as produced in some cases only, for if that were the case the thesis that all cognitions are self-valid cannot stand. Therefore the proper view is that only that knowledge is self-valid which is uncontradicted in experience (abādhita-vyavahāra-hetutvam eva jñānasya prāmāṇyam)[5]. Self-validity cannot be regarded as a special potency, for such a potency is non-sensible and has therefore to be known by inference or some other means; neither can it be regarded as being one (svarūpa) with the sense-organs by which knowledge is acquired, for the existence of such sense-organs is itself inferred from mere knowledge and not from what is only true knowledge.

Arguing against the Śaṅkarites, the Naiyāyikas are supposed to say that in their view knowledge being self-luminous, there would be no way of determining validity either from uncontradicted experience or by any other means; and since, according to them, everything is false, the distinction of validity and invalidity also ought to have no place in their system, for if such distinctions are admitted it would land them in dualism. To this Meghanādāri says that if self-validity is not admitted, then the whole idea of validity has to be given up; for if validity is said to be produced from a knowledge of the proper conditions of knowledge or the absence of defects, such a knowledge has to be regarded as self-valid, for it would have to depend on some other knowledge and that again on some other knowledge, which would mean a vicious infinite. So knowledge is to be regarded as self-valid by nature and its invalidity occurs only when the defects and vitiating contributions of the causes of knowledge are known by some other means. But the method of establishing self-validity according to the followers of Kumārila is liable to criticism, for according to that system the existence of knowledge is only inferred from the fact of the revelation of the objects, and that implication cannot also further lead to the self-validity of knowledge.

The theory of self-validity that it is caused by the same constituents which produce the knowledge is also inadmissible, for the senses have also to be regarded as the cause of knowledge and these may be defective. Again, it is held that knowledge which corresponds with the object (tathā-bhūta) is valid and that which does not correspond with the object is invalid and that such validity and invalidity are therefore directly manifested by the knowledge itself. Meghanādāri replies that if such correspondence be a quality of the object, then that does not establish the validity of knowledge; if it is a quality of knowledge, then memory has also to be regarded as self-valid, for there is correspondence in it also. Again, the question arises whether the self-validity is merely produced or also known. In the former case the self-manifestation of self-validity has to be given up, and in the latter case the Kumārila view is indefensible for by it knowledge being itself an implication from the revelation of objects its selfvalidity cannot obviously be self-manifested.

Meghanādāri, therefore, contends that an intuition (anubhūti) carries with it its own validity; in revealing the knowledge it also carries with it the conviction of its own validity. The invalidity, on the other hand, is suggested by other sources. This intuition is in itself different from memory[6]. The whole emphasis of this contention is on his view that each cognition of an object carries with it its cognizability as true, and since this is manifested along with the cognition, all cognitions are self-valid in this sense. Such a selfvalidity is therefore not produced since it is practically identical with the knowledge itself. Meghanādāri points out that this view is in apparent contradiction with Rāmānuja’s own definition of svataḥ-prāmāṇya as that which is produced by the cause of knowledge; but Rāmānuja’s statement in this connection has to be interpreted differently, for the knowledge of God and the emancipated beings being eternal and unproduced any view which defines selfvalidity as a production from the same source from which knowledge is produced would be inapplicable to them[7].

Time. Time according to Meghanādāri is not to be regarded as a separate entity. He takes great pains to show that Rāmānuja has himself discarded the view that time is a separate entity in his commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, the Vedānta-dīpa and the Vedānta-sāra. The notion of time originates from the relative position of the sun in the zodiac with reference to earth. It is the varying earth-space that appears as time, being conditioned by the relative positions of the Sun[8]. This view is entirely different from that of Veṅkaṭa which will be described later on.

Karma and its fruits.

According to Meghanādāri deeds produce their fruits through the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of God. Though ordinarily deeds are regarded as virtuous or vicious, yet strictly speaking virtue and vice should be regarded as the fruits of actions and these fruits are nothing but the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of God. The performance of good deeds in the past determines the performance of similar deeds in the future by producing helpful tendencies, capacities and circumstances in his favour, and the performance of bad deeds forces a man to take a vicious line of action in the future. At the time of dissolution also there is no separate dharma and adharma, but God’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction produced by the individual’s deeds determine the nature and extent of his sufferings and enjoyment as well as his tendencies towards virtue or vice at the time of the next creation. The fruits of actions are experienced in the Heaven and Hell and also in the mundane life, but not while the individual is passing from Heaven or Hell to earth, for at that time there is no experience of pleasure or pain, it being merely a state of transition. Again, except in the case of those sacrifices which are performed for injuring or molesting other fellow beings, there is no sin in the killing of animals in sacrifices which are performed for the attainment of Heaven or such other pleasurable purposes[9].

Vātsya Varada.

Regarding the doctrine of Vedic injunction that one should study the Vedas, Vātsya Varada in his Prameya-mālā holds the view, in contradistinction to the Śabara Bhāṣya, that Vedic injunction is satisfied only in the actual reading of the Vedic texts and that the Vedic injunction does not imply an inquiry into the meaning of those texts. Such an inquiry proceeds from the normal inquisitive spirit and the desire to know the various applications in the practical performances of sacrifices. These do not form a part of the Vedic injunction (vidhi).

Vātsya Varada holds that the study of the Vedic injunction and the inquiry relating to Brahman form the parts of one unified scripture, i.e. the latter follows or is a continuation of the former; and he mentions Bodhāyana in his support.

Śaṅkara had thought that the study of the Mīmāṃsā was intended for a class of people but not necessarily for those who would inquire into the nature of Brahman. The Pūrva-mīmāmsā and the Uttara-mīmāmsā were intended for different purposes and were written by different authors. These should not therefore be regarded as integrally related as two parts of a unified work. To this Vātsya Varada, following Bodhāyana, takes exception, for he thinks that though the Pūrva-mīmāmsā and Uttara-mīmāmsā are written by different authors yet the two together uphold one common view and the two may be regarded as two chapters of one whole book.

Vātsya Varada also, in referring to Śaṅkara’s view that the Pūrva-mīmāmsā assumes the existence of a real world, whereas the purport of the Brahma-sūtra is to deny it and therefore the two cannot be regarded as having the same end in view, challenges it by affirming the reality of the world. Śaṅkara’s argument, that all which is cognizable is false, would imply that even the self is false; for many Upaniṣads speak of the perceptibility of the self. His declaration of the falsity of the world would also imply that the falsehood itself is f?lse, for it is a part of the world. Such an argument ought to be acceptable to Śaṅkara, for he himself utilized it in refuting the nihilists.

Regarding the denial of the category of difference by the Śaṅkarites Vātsya Varada says that the opponent cannot by any means deny that difference is perceived, for all his arguments are based on the assumption of the existence of difference. If there were no difference, there would be no party and no view to be refuted. If it is admitted that the category of difference is perceived, then the opponent has also to admit that such a perception must have its own peculiar and proper cause. The real point in the conception of difference is that it constitutes its other as a part of itself. An object in its own nature has twofold characteristics, the characteristic of its universal similarity with other things of its class and the characteristic in which it differs from others. In its second characteristic it holds its others in itself. When it is said that a thing is different it does not mean that the difference is identical with the thing or but another name for the thing, but what is meant is that a thing known as different has an outside reference to other entities. This outside reference to other entities, when conceived along with the object, produces the perception of difference.

The conception of difference involves the conception of negation as involved in the notion of otherness. If this negation is different in nature from the object which is conceived as “different” or as the “other” of other objects, then since this negation cannot be directly known by perception “difference” also cannot be known directly by perception. The Viśiṣṭā-dvaita theory admits that “difference” can be directly perceived. In order to prove this point Vātsya Varada gives a special interpretation of “negation” (abhāva). He holds that the notion of negation of an entity in another entity is due to the latter’s being endowed with a special character as involving a reference to the former. The notion of negation thus proceeds from a special modified character of an object in which the negation is affirmed.

There are many Śaṅkarites who regard negation as positive, but in their case it is held to be a special category by itself which is perceived in the locus of the negation by the special pramāṇa of non-perception. Though positive its notion is not produced according to them by the special modified nature of the object perceived in which the negation is affirmed. But Vātsya Varada holds that the notion of negation is due to the perception of a special modified nature of the entity in which the negation is affirmed[10]. The negation revealed to us in one object as the otherness of another object means that the latter is included in a special character of the former which makes the reference as the otherness possible.

Vātsya Varada also emphasizes the view that the tests referring to Brahman as satya, jñāna, ananta, etc., indicate the fact of the possession of these qualities by God and that the monistic interpretation that these together refer to one identical being, the Brahman, is false. He also describes the infinite and unlimited nature of Brahman and explains the exact sense in which the world and the individuals may be regarded as the body of God and that the individuals exist for God who is their final end. He also deals in this work with certain topics regarding the external rituals, such as shaving of the head, wearing the holy thread, etc., by ascetics.

Varada, in his Tattva-sāra, collects some of the specially interesting points of the Bhāṣya of Rāmānuja and interprets them in prose and verse.

Some of these points are as follows:

  1. The view that the existence of God cannot be logically proved, but can be accepted only from scriptural testimony,
  2. The special interpretation of some of the important Upaniṣadic texts such as the Kapyāsa text,
  3. The results of the discussions of the important adhikaraṇas of Vedānta according to Rāmānuja.
  4. The doctrine that negation is only a kind of position,
  5. The interpretation of the apparent dualistic and monistic texts,
  6. The discussion regarding the reality of the world, etc.

This Tattva-sāra provoked a further commentary on it called Ratna-sārinī by Vīra-rāghava-dāsa, a son of Bādhūla Narasiṃha Guru, disciple of Bādhūla Varada Guru, son of Bādhūla Veṅkatācārya.

Some of Vātsya Varada’s other works are:

Footnotes and references:


jñānāñāṃ yathā-vasthitā-rtha-prakāśakatvaṃ sāmānyam eva bhrāntasyā’pi jñānasya dharmiṇy abhrāntatvāt ato vahnyā-der dāhakatvavaj jñānānāṃ prārn-āṇyam svābhāvikam eva upādher maṇi-mantravad doṣo-pādhi-vaśād apramāṇatvaṃ bhramāṃśe.
p. 554.


ghaṭo’stī’ ti jñānam utpadyate tatra viṣayā-stitvam eva prāmāṇyaṃ tat tu tenaiva jñānena pratīyate ataḥ svataḥ-prāmāṇyam.


See Ibid.


Naya-dyu-maṇi, p. 21 (MS.).


Ibid. p. 22.


anubhūtitvaṃ vā prāmāṇyam astu; tac ca jñānā-vāntara-jātiḥ; sā ca smṛti-jñāna-jātitaḥ pṛthaktayā lokatoḥ eva siddhā; anubhūteḥ svasattayā eva sphūrteḥ.
, p. 31.


Ibid. p. 38.


sūryā-di-sambandha-viśeṣo-pādhitaḥ pṛthivyā-dideśānām eva kāla-saṃjñā.
p. 168.


Ibid. pp. 243-246.


pratiyogi-buddhau vastu-viśeṣa-dhīr evo’petā nāstī’ ti vyavahāra-hetuḥ.
     Varada, Prameya-mālā, p. 35 (MS.).


In his Tattva-nirṇaya he tries to prove that all the important Śruti texts prove that Nārāyaṇa is the highest God. He refers in this work to his Puruṣa-nirṇaya where, he says, he has discussed the subject in more detail.

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