A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

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

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


A follower of Śaṅkara named Umā-Maheśvara wrote a work named Virodha-varūthinl in which he proposed to show one hundred contradictions in Rāmānuja’s bhāṣya and other cognate literature of the school, such as Śatadūsaṇī, etc., but through illness he lost his tongue and could offer criticisms on only twenty-seven points[2]. As a refutation of that work Raṅgācārya wrote his Ku-dṛṣṭi-dhvānta-mārtaṇḍa. It also appears that Annayārya’s grandson and Śñnivāsa-tāyārya’s son, Śrīnivāsa-dīkṣita, also wrote a work called Virodha-varūthinī-pramāthini as a refutation of Virodha-varūthinī. The first chapter of Ku-dṛṣṭi-dhvānta-mārtaṇḍa is also called Virodha-varūthinī-pramāthinī.

Umā-Maheśvara says that according to the view of Rāmānuja the manifold world and the individual souls (acit and cit) exist in an undivided and subtle state in Brahman, the original cause. In the state of actualized transformation, as the manifested manifold worlds and the experiencing selves, we have thus a change of state, and as Brahman holds within Himself as qualifying Him this gross transformation of the world He is associated with them. He must, therefore, be supposed to have Himself undergone change. But again Rāmānuja refers to many scriptural texts in which Brahman is regarded as unchanging.

To this the reply is that the mode in which the cit and the acit undergo transformation is different from the mode in w'hich the allcontrolling Brahman produces those changes in them. For this reason the causality of Brahman remains unaffected by the changes through which the cit and the acit pass. It is this unaffectedness of Brahma-causality that has often been described as the changelessness of Brahman. In the Śaṅkara view, the manifested world being the transformation of māyā, Brahman cannot on any account be regarded as a material cause of it. The Brahman of Śaṅkara being only pure consciousness, no instrumental agencies (nimitta-kāranatā) can be attributed to it. If Brahman cannot undergo any change in any manner and if it always remains absolutely changeless it can never be regarded as cause.

Causality implies power of producing change or undergoing change. If both these are impossible in Brahman it cannot consistently be regarded as the cause. According to the Rāmānuja view, however, Brahman is not absolutely changeless; for, as producer of change it also itself undergoes a change homogeneous (brahma-samasattāka-vikārā-ṅgīkārāt) with it. As the change is of a homogeneous nature, it may also be regarded as unchanged. The Brahman is the ultimate upholder of the world; though the worldly things have their intermediate causes, in which they may be regarded as subsisting, yet since Brahman is the ultimate and absolute locus of subsistence all things are said to be upheld in it.

Causation may be defined as unconditional, invariable antecedence (ananyathā-siddha-niyata-pūrva-vartitā). Brahman is certainly the ultimate antecedent entity of all things, and its unconditional character is testified by all scriptural texts. The fact that it determines the changes in cit and acit and is therefore to be regarded as the instrumental agent does not divest it of its right to be regarded as the material cause; for it alone is the ultimate antecedent substance. Brahman originally holds within itself the cit and the acit in their subtle nature as undivided in itself, and later on undergoes within itself such changes by its own will as to allow the transformation of cit and acit in their gross manifested forms. It leaves its pristine homogeneous character and adopts an altered state at least with reference to its true parts, the cit and the acit, which in their subtle state remained undivided in themselves. It is this change of Brahman’s nature that is regarded as the pariṇāma of Brahman. Since Brahman is thus admitted to be undergoing change of state (pariṇāma), it can consistently be regarded as the material cause of the world.

The illustration of the ocean and the waves is also consistent with such an explanation. Just as mud transforms itself into earthen jugs or earthen pots, and yet in spite of all its changes into jugs or pots really remains nothing but mud, so Brahman also undergoes changes in the form of the manifested world with which it can always be regarded as one[3]. As the jug and the pot are not false, so the world also is not false. But the true conception of the world will be to consider it as one with Brahman. The upper and the lower parts of a jug may appear to be different when they are not regarded as parts of the jug, and in that condition to consider them as two would be false; for they attain their meaning only when they are taken as the parts of one whole jug. When the Upaniṣads say that plurality is false, the import of the text is that plurality attains its full meaning only in its unified conception as parts of God, the Absolute.

The Śaṅkarites do not admit the theory of illusion as one thing appearing as another (anyathā-khyāti). According to them illusion consists in the production of an indefinable illusory object. Such an object appears to a person only at a particular moment when he commits an error of perception. It cannot be proved that the illusory object was not present at the time of the commission of illusory perception. Under the circumstances the absence of that object at other times cannot prove its falsity; for an object present at one time and not present at another cannot indicate its false nature.

Falsity has then to be defined as relative to the perceiver at the time of perception. When the perceiver has knowledge of the true object, and knows also that one object is being perceived as another object, he is aware of the falsity of his perception. But if at the time of perception he has only one kind of knowledge and he is not aware of any contradiction, his perception at any time cannot be regarded as false. But since the dream experiences are not known to be self-contradictory in the same stage, the experience of conch-shell-silver is not known to be illusory at the time of the illusion; and as the world experience is uncontradicted at the time of our waking consciousness, it cannot be regarded as false in the respective stages of experience.

The falsehood of the dream experiences therefore is only relative to the experience of another stage at another time. In such a view of the Śaṅkarites everything becomes relative, and there is no positive certainty regarding the experience of any stage. According to the Buddhists and their scriptures, the notion of Brahman is also false; and thus, if we consider their experience, the notion of Brahman is also relatively true. In such a view we are necessarily landed in a state of uncertainty from w'hich there is no escape[4].

Footnotes and references:


śrī-rāmānuja-yogi-pāda-kamala-sthānā-bhiṣekaṃ gato jīyāt so’yam
śrī-rar.ga-sūriḥ śrīśaile tasya siṃhāsane sthitah
Ku-dṛṣṭi-dhvānta-mārtaṇḍaṃ prakāśayati samprati.

He was thus a disciple of Anantārya of the middle of the nineteenth century. At the end of his San-mārga-dīpa he says that it was written in refutation of Rāma Miśra’s work on thesubject. Rāma Miśra lived late in the nineteenth century and wrote Sneha-pūrti.


Umā-Maheśvara is said to have written other works also, i.e.

  • Tattva-candrikā,
  • Advaita-kāmadhenu,
  • Tapta-mudrā-vidrāvaṇa,
  • Prasaṅga-ratmīkara,
  • and Rāmāyana-ṭīkā.


vahu syāṃ prajāyeye'tyā-di-śrutibhiḥ sṛṣṭefi prāñ nāma-rūpa-vibhāgā-bhāvena ekatvā-vasthāpannasya sūkṣma-cid-acid-viśiṣṭa-brahmaṇaḥ paścān-nāma-rūpa-vibhāgena ekatvā-vasthā-prahāṇa-pūrvakainsthūla-cid-acid-vaiśiṣṭya-lakṣaṇa-vahutvā-pattir-hi prasphuṭaṃ pratipādyate; sai’va hi brahmaṇah pariṇāmo nāma; prāg-avasthā-prahāṇenā’ vasthā-ntara-prāpter eva pariṇāma-sabdā-rthatvāt. . . . yathā sarvaṃ mṛd-dravya-vikṛti-bhūtaṃ ghatā-di-kārya-jātaṃ kāraṇa-bhūta-mṛd-dravyā-bhinnaṃe va na tu dravyā-ntaraṃ tathā brahmā’pi jagataḥ abhinnam eva.
p. 66.


Raṅgācārya wrote at least one other work called San-mārga-dīpa which, being of a ritualistic nature, does not warrant any treatment in this work.

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