A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

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

This page describes the philosophy of ramanujacarya ii alias vadi-hamsa-navamvuda: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the seventeenth part in the series called the “philosophy of the ramanuja school of thought”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 17 - Rāmānujācārya II alias Vādi-Haṃsa-Navāmvuda

Rāmānujācārya II, the son of Padmanābhārya, belonged to the Atri lineage. He was the maternal uncle of Veṅkaṭanātha, the famous writer of the Rāmānuja school. He wrote the Nyāya-kuliśa which has often been referred to in Veṅkaṭa’s Sarvārtha-siddhi. He also wrote another work called Mokṣa-siddhi. Some of his interpretations of Rāmānuja’s ideas have already been referred to in dealing with the Rāmānuja theory of knowledge as explained by Veṅkaṭa. Other contributions by him are mentioned in brief below.


Negation as a separate category is denied by Rāmānujācārya II. He thinks that negation of an entity means only another entity different from it. The negation of a jug thus means the existence of some other entity different from it. The real notion of negation is thus only “difference.” A negation is described as that which is antagonistic to a positive entity and there is thus no way in which a negation can be conceived by itself without reference to a positive entity. But a positive entity never stands in need of its specification through a reference to negation[1]. It is also well known that the negation of a negation is nothing else than the existence of positive entity. The existence of negation cannot be known either by perception, inference, or by implication.

Veṅkaṭa, in further explaining this idea, says that the idea of absence in negation is derived from the association of the object of negation with a different kind of temporal or spatial character[2]. Thus, when it is said that there is no jug here, it merely means that the jug exists in another place. It is argued that negation cannot be regarded as the existence of positive entity, and it may be asked if negation cannot be regarded as negation, how can negation of negation be regarded as the existence of positive entity. Just as those who admit negation regard negation and existence of positive entity as mutually denying each other, so the Rāmānujas also regard the existence of positive entities and negations as denying each other in their different spatial and temporal characters. Thus it is not necessary to admit negation as a separate category. When an existing entity is said to be destroyed, what happens is that there is a change of state.

Negation-precedent-to-production (prāga-bhāva) and the negation of destruction do not mean anything more than two positive states succeeding each other, and there may be an infinite series of such states. If this view is not admitted, and if the negation of destruction (pradhvaṃsā-bhāva) and the negation-precedent-to-production (prāg-abhāva) be regarded as separate categories of negation, then the destruction of negation-precedent-to-production and negation-precedent-to-production of destruction will depend upon an infinite series of negations which would lead to a vicious infinite. It is the succession of a new state that is regarded as the destruction of the old state, the former being a different state from the latter. It is sometimes held that negation is mere vacuity and has no reference to the existence of positive entity. If that were so, then on the one hand negation would be causeless and on the other it could not be the cause of anything; and so negations would thus be both beginningless and eternal. In that case the whole world w'ould be within the grasp of negation and everything in the world would be non-existing. Thus it is unnecessary to admit negation as a separate category. The difference of one positive entity from another is regarded as negation.

Another problem that arises in this connection is that if negation is not admitted as a separate category how can negative causes be admitted. It is well known that when certain collocations of causes can produce an effect they can do so only when there are no negative causes to counteract their productive capacity. This capacity (śakti) is admitted in the Rāmānuja school as the collocation of accessories which helps a cause to produce the effect (kāraṇasya kāryo-payogt sahakāri-kalāpah śaktir ity ucyate)[3]. To this Rāmānujacārya’s reply is that the absence of counteracting agents is not regarded as a separate cause, but the presence of the counteracting agents along with the other accessory collocations is regarded as making those accessory collocations unfit for producing the effect. Thus there are two sets of collocations where the effect is or is not produced, and it is the difference of two collocations that accounts for the production of the effect in one case and its nonproduction in another; but this does not imply that absence or negation of the obstructive factors should be regarded as contributing to the causation. In one case there was the capacity for production and in another case there was no such capacity[4].

Capacity (śakti) is not regarded by Rāmānujācārya as a separate non-sensible (atīndriya) entity, but as an abstract specification of that which produces any effect

(śakti-gata-jāty-anabhyupagame tad-abhāvāt śaktasya’iva jātiḥ kārya-niyāmikā na tu śakti-jātir iti)[5].

Jāti (universal). Rāmānujācārya does not admit any jāti or universal in the sense of any abstract generality of individuals. According to him any unified assemblage of parts similar to such other assemblages of parts (susadṛśa-saṃsthāna) is called a universal[6].

Veṅkaṭa, a follower of Rāmānujācārya, defines jāti as mere similarity (sausādṛśya). Criticizing the Naiyāyika theory of jāti he says that if that which manifests universals is itself manifested through universals, then these universals should have to be manifested by others which have to be manifested by further universals and this would lead to a vicious infinite. If to avoid such a vicious infinite it is held that the second grade parts that manifest a jāti (universal) do not require a further jāti for their manifestation, then it is better to say that it is the similar individuals that represent the notion of jāti and that it is not necessary to admit any separate category as jāti.

It is clear that the notion of universals proceeds from qualities or characters in which certain individuals agree, and if that is so it should be enough to explain the notion of universals. It is these characters, the similarity of which with the similar characters of other individuals is remembered, that produce the notion of universals[7]. When some parts or qualities are perceived in some things they of themselves naturally remind us of other similar parts in other things and it is this fact, that the two mutually stand, one beside the other, in the mind, which is called similarity[8]. It is inexplicable why certain qualities or characters remind us of others and it can only be said that they do so naturally; and it is this fact that they stand beside each other in the mind which constitutes their similarity as well as their universal. There is no other separate category which may either be called similarity (sādṛśya) or universal.

There is not, however, much difference between Rāmā-nujācārya’s definition of universals and Veṅkaṭa’s definition of it, for though the former defines it as any assemblages that are similar and the latter as similarity, yet the very conception of similarity of Veṅkaṭa involves within it the assemblage of parts as its constituent; for the notion of similarity according to Veṅkaṭa is not anything abstract, but it means the concrete assemblages of parts that stand beside one another in memory. Veṅkaṭa, however, points out that the notion of “universal” does not necessarily mean that it can be with regard to assemblages of parts only, for in case of those partless entities, such as qualities, there cannot be any assemblage of parts, yet the notion of universals is still quite applicable. It is for this reason that Veṅkaṭa makes “similarity” only as the condition of “universals” and does not include assemblages of parts (saṃsthāna) as is done by Rāmānujācārya.

Svataḥ-prāmāṇya (self-validity).

It is sometimes argued that as in all things so in the determination of validity and invalidity the application of the methods of agreement and difference is to be regarded as the decisive test. The presence of qualities that contribute to validity and the absence of defects that make any perception invalid is to be regarded as deciding the validity or invalidity of any perception. To this Rāmānujācārya says that the ascertainment of qualities that contribute to validity cannot be determined without an assurance that there are no defects, and the absence of defects cannot also be known without the knowledge of the presence of qualities that contribute towards validity; and so, since they mutually depend upon each other, their independent determination is impossible. Thus the suggestion is that there is neither the determination of validity nor invalidity, but there is doubt. To this the reply is that unless something is known there cannot be any doubt.

So there is a middle stage before the determination of validity or invalidity. Before it is known that the knowledge corresponds with the object or does not do so, there must be the manifestation of the object (artha-prakāśa) which, so far as it itself is concerned, is self-valid and does not depend for its validity upon the application of any other method; for it is the basis of all future determinations of its nature as true or false. So this part of knowledge—the basic part—the manifestation of objects—is self-valid. It is wrong to say that this knowledge is in itself characterless (niḥsvabhāva), for it is of the nature of the manifestation of an objective entity like the determination of tree-ness before its specific nature as a mango or a pine tree[9]. The knowledge of the contributory qualities is not the cause of validity, but when validity is determined they may be regarded as having contributed to the validity. The self-validity is of the knowledge (jñāna) and not of its correspondence (tathātva). If the correspondence were also directly revealed, then there can never be any doubt regarding such correspondence.

When the followers of Kumārila say that knowledge is self-valid, they cannot mean that knowledge itself imparts the fact that there has been a true correspondence, for they do not admit that knowledge is self-revealing. They have therefore admitted that there are some other means by which the notion of such validity is imparted. The validity of those will again have to depend upon the validity of other imparting agents, and there will thus be a vicious infinite. For the determination of validity one is bound to depend on the ascertainment by corroboration and causal efficiency. If validity thus depends upon the ascertainment of contributory qualities, then there is no self-validity. The Vedas also cannot be self-valid in this view. If there are no defects in them because they have not proceeded from any erring mortals, then they have no contributory qualities also because they have not proceeded (according to the Mīmāṃsā view) from any trustworthy person.

So there may legitimately be a doubt regarding their validity. The truth of any correspondence depends upon something other than the knowledge itself, e.g. the falsehood of any mis-correspondence. If it depended merely on the cause of the knowledge, then even a false knowledge would be right. For establishing the validity of the Vedas, therefore, it has to be admitted that they have been uttered by an absolutely trustworthy person. Knowledge does not manifest merely objectivity but a particular thing or entity and it is valid so far as that particular thing has been manifested in knowledge[10]. The validity of knowledge thus refers to the thing in its general character as the manifestation of a particular thing and not regarding its specific details in character[11]. Such a validity, however, refers only to the form of the knowledge itself and not to objective corroboration[12]. Whatever may be doubtful in it is to be ascertained by contributory qualities, corroboration and the like, and when the chances of error are eliminated by other sources the original validity stands uncontradicted.

Saprakāśatva (self-luminosity).

Rāmānujācārya first states the Naiyāvika objection against self-luminosity. The Naiyāyikas are supposed to argue that things are existent but they become know-able only under certain conditions and this shows that existence (sattā) is different from cognition or its self-illumination (prakāśa). Arguing from the same position it may be said that knowledge as an existent entity is different from its illumination as such[13].

If knowledge itself were self-revealing, then it would not depend upon any conditioning of it by its contiguity or relationing with objects and as such any individual cognition would mean universal cognition. If, on the other hand, knowledge requires a further conditioning through its relationing with objects, then knowledge would not be self-revealing. Further, knowledge being partless, there cannot be any such conception that one part of it reveals the other. In the case of partless entities it is not possible to conceive that knowledge should be self-revealing, for it cannot be both an agent and an object at the same time. Again, if knowledge were self-revealing, then the difference between consciousness and its re-perception through introspection cannot be accounted for. Further, it must be remembered that the difference between one cognition and another depends upon the difference of its objective content. Apart from this there is no difference between one cognition and another. If the objective content was not a constituent of knowledge, then there would be no difference between the illumination of knowledge as such and the illumination of an object.

If knowledge were by itself self-illuminating, then there w ould be no place for objects outside it and this would bring us to absolute idealism. So the solution may be either on the Mīmāṃsā lines that knowledge produces such a character in the objective entity that by that cognized character of objects cognition may be inferred, or it may be on Nyāyā lines that knowledge manifests the objects. Thus it has to be admitted that there must be some kind of cognitive relation between the object and its knowledge, and it w'ould be the specific nature of these relations that would determine the cognitive character in each case. Now it may again be asked whether this cognitive relation is only object-pointing or whether it is object-knowledge-pointing. In the former case the object alone would be manifested and in the latter case knowledge would be its own object, which is again absurd. If knowledge manifested the object without any specific relation, then any knowledge might manifest any object or all objects. Knowledge implies a cognitive operation and if such an operation is not admitted knowledge cannot be manifested, for the very objectivity of knowledge implies such an operation. Hence the conclusion is that as knowledge manifests other objects so it is also manifested by a further cognition of re-perception. When one says “I perceive it,” it is not a case of mere knowledge-manifestation but a re-perception of having perceived that particular object. So knowledge is manifested by a further re-perception and not by itself.

To this Rāmānujācārya raises an objection: it may be asked whether this reperception of knowledge takes place in spite of the absence of any desire to re-perceive on the part of the knower or as the result of any such desire. In the former case, since the re-perception takes place automatically, there will be an infinite series of such automatic re-perceptions. In the latter case, i.e. when the re-perception takes place in consequence of a desire to do so, then such a desire must be produced out of previous knowledge and that would again presuppose another desire, and that another knowledge, and there would thus be a vicious infinite. To this the Naiyāyika reply is that the general re-perception takes place without any desire, but the specific re-perception occurs as a result of a desire to that effect. This ordinary re-perception of a general nature follows as a natural course, for all mundane people have always some knowledge or other throughout the course of their experience. It is only when there is a desire to know some specific details that there is a specific mental intuition (mānasa-pratyakṣa) to that effect.

To this Rāmānujācārya’s reply is that in the case of an ordinary existent thing there is a difference between its existence as such and its manifestation of knowledge, for it always depends upon specific relations between itself and knowledge; but in the case of a self-luminous entity where no such relations are needed there is no difference between its existence and its manifestation. The fire illuminates other objects but it does not need any other assistance to manifest itself. It is this that is meant by self-luminosity. Just as no entity depends upon any other entity of its own class for its manifestation, so knowledge also does not need assistance from knowledge for its manifestation. The relations that are needed for the manifestation of other objects are not needed for the manifestation of knowledge itself[14]. Knowledge thus being self-luminous helps our behaviour directly but does not depend upon anything else for lending such assistance.

It is against all experience that knowledge for its manifestation requires some other knowledge, and if it has no support in our experience there is no justification for making such an extraordinary theory that any knowledge for its manifestation should require the operation of another knowledge. That only can be called an object of knowledge which though existent remains unmanifested. But it cannot be said that there was knowledge which was not known, for a cognition would not last like other objective entities awaiting the time when it might be manifested. In the case of a past knowledge which is merely inferred now, there is no notion of that knowledge, so one can always draw a distinction between the known and the unknown. If only the object were illuminated and not the knowledge of it, no one would fail for a moment to perceive that.

If knowledge were merely inferred from its effect, everyone would have so experienced it, but no one has a moment’s hesitation in discriminating between what is known and unknown. It is again wrong to say that knowledge arises only after inquiry, for in the present knowledge whatever is sought to be known is known directly, and in the past knowledge also there is no such inference that there was knowledge because it is remembered, but the past knowledge directly appears as memory; for if that is called an inference, then even re-perception may be regarded as an inference from memory.

Again, a thing that exists without being an object of knowledge at the same time is liable to erroneous manifestation on account of the presence of defects in the collocation conditioning the knowledge, but knowledge itself is never liable to error, and consequently it has no existence apart from being known. Just as there cannot be any doubt whether a pleasure or a pain is experienced, so there cannot be any doubt about knowledge, and this shows that whenever there is knowledge it is self-manifested. When one knows an object one is also sure about one’s knowledge of it. Again, it is wrong to suppose that if knowledge is self-manifested then there would be no difference between itself and its objective content, for the difference is obvious; knowledge in itself is formless, while the object supplies the content. Two entities which appear in the same manifestation, such as quality and substance, things and their number, are not on that account identical. It cannot also be said that knowledge and its object are identical because they are simultaneously manifested, for the very fact that they are simultaneously manifested shows that they are two different things. Knowledge and the object shine forth in the same manifestation and it is impossible to determine which of them shines before or after.

The self also is to be regarded as being of the nature of knowledge from the testimony of the scriptures. Self being of the nature of knowledge is also self-luminous, and it is not therefore to be supposed that it is cognized by mental intuition (mānasa-pratyakṣa).

Footnotes and references:


athā’bhāvasya tad-rūpaṃ yad-bhāva-pratipakṣatā nai’vam adyā'py asau yasmād bhāvo-ttīrṇena sādhitaḥ.


tat-tat-pratiyogi-bhāva-sphuraṇa-sahakṛto deśa-kālā-di-bheda eva svabhāvāt nañ-prayogam api sahate.
p. 714.


Sarvārtha-siddhi, p. 685.


siddha-vastu-virodhī ghātakaḥ sādhya-vastu-virodhī pratibandhakaḥ, kat-haṃ vadi kōrye tad-viruddhatvam iti cen na; itthaṃ kāryaṃ karaṇa-pauṣkalye bhavati, tad-apauṣkalye na bhavati, apauṣkalyaṃ ca kvacit kāraṇānām anyatama-vaikalyāt kvacit śakti-vaikalyāt iti bhidyate, yadyapi śaktir na kāraṇaṃ tathā’pi śaktasyai’va kāraṇatvāt viśeṣaṇā-bhāve’pi viśiṣṭō-bhāva-nyāyena kāraṇā-bhāvaḥ. tad-ubhaya-kāraṇena prāg-abhāva-sthitī-karaṇāt kārya-virodhī’ti pratibandhako bhavati; tatra yathā kāraṇa-vaikalya-dṛṣṭa-rūpeṇa kurvato’bhāvah kāraṇaṃ na syāt; tathā śakti-vighnitaḥ yo hi nāma pratibandhakaḥ kāraṇaṃ kiñcid vināśya kāryam pratibadhnāti na tasyā’bhāvah kāranam iti siddham.




Nyāya-kuliśa. MS.


kecid dhī-saṃsthāna-bhedāḥ kvacana khalu mithas sādṛśyarūpa bhānti yair bhavadīyam sāmānyam abhivyajyate ta eva sausādṛśya-vyavahāra-viṣaya-bhūtāḥ sāmānya-vyavahāraṃ nirvahantu; tasmāt teṣāṃ sarveṣām anyonya-sāpekṣai-ka-smrti-viṣayatayā tat-tad-ekāvamarśas tat-tajjātīyatvā-vamarśaḥ.
p. 704.


yady apy ekaikasthaṃ sāsnā-di-dharma-svarupaṃ tathā'pi tan-nirupadhi-niyataiḥ svabhāvato niyataiḥ tais tais sāsnā-dibhir anya-niṣṭḥais sa-pratidvand-vikaṃ syāt; idam eva anvonya-sa-pratidvandvika-rūpaṃ sāḍṛśya-śabda-vācyam abhidhīyate.


yathā-rtha-paricchedaḥ prāmāṇyam ayatliā-rtha-paricchedaḥ oprāmāṇyani kathaṃ tad-ubḥaya-parityāge artha-pariccheda-siddhiḥ iti cen na, aparityājyatvā-bhyupagamāt. tayoḥ sādhāraṇam eva hy artha-paricchedaṃ brūmaḥ śiṃśapā-palāśā-diṣu iva vṛkṣatvam.


yad dhijñāne vidyate tad eva tasya lakṣaṇam ucitaṃ vastu-prakāśatvam eva jñāne vidyate na tu viṣaya-prakāśatvaṃ yato vijñāne samutpanne viṣayo’ yam iti nā’ bhāti kintu ghaṭo’ yam iti.


jñānānāṃ sāmānya-rupani eva prāmāṇyaṃ na vaiśeṣikaṃ rūpam.


tasmād bodhā’tmakatvena prāptā buddheḥ pramāṇatā.


sarrasya hi svataḥ sva-gocara-jñānā-dhīnaḥ prakāśaḥ saṃvidām api tathai’va abḥyupagantum ucitaḥ.


 jñānam ananyā-dhīna-prakāśam artha-prakāśakatvāt dīpavat.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: