A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

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

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

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[1]. 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[2]. 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[3]. 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)[4]. 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[5]. 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[6]. 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[7]. 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[8]. 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[9].

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.

Footnotes and references:


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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