A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

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

Part 5 - Rāmānuja and Madhva

We know that the system of Madhva, being a defence of dualism and pluralism, regarded Śaṅkara and his followers as its principal opponents, and therefore directed its strongest criticism against them. Madhva flourished in the thirteenth century, and by that time many of the principal exponents of monism, like Vācaspati, Prakāśātman, Sureśvara and others, had written scholarly treatises in support of the monistic philosophy of Śaṅkara. Madhva and his followers, Jaya-tīrtha, Vyāsa-tīrtha and others, did their best to refute the monistic arguments for the falsity of the world, and to establish the reality and the plurality of the world and the difference between self and Brahman, which latter was conceived as a personal God. They in their turn were attacked by other writers of the Śaṅkara school, and we have a long history of attacks and counter-attacks between the members of these two important schools of thought. But readers may naturally be curious about the relation between the school of Madhva and the school of Rāmānuja. Madhva himself says little or nothing which may be interpreted as a direct attack upon his predecessor Rāmānuja; but in later times there is evidence of recondite disputes between the followers of the Rāmānuja school and those of the Madhva. For instance, Parakāla Yati, in the sixteenth century, wrote Vijayīndra-parājaya, which is evidently a treatise containing refutations of some of the most important doctrines of the Madhva philosophy. It seems desirable to give a short account of this treatise, which is rare and available only in a manuscript form.

Parakāla Yati takes his views from Venkata’s Tattva-muktā-kalāpa, and often quotes verses from it in support of his own views. His attack is made upon Madhva’s view which discards the Rāmānuja division of categories (dravya, “substance,” and adravya, “non-substance”) and his view of the qualities as constituents of the substance; and this forms the subject-matter of the first two sections of the Vijayīndra-parājaya.

In describing Madhva’s position upon the question of difference between substance and qualities, the writer says that the Madhvas think that the expression “the blue jug” is justified by the fact that the “blueness” enters into the “sufficient description” of the jug and has no separate existence from it. It is wrong, they say, to affirm that the qualities of the jug stood apart from the jug and entered into it at any particular moment; the conception of the jug carries with it all of its qualities, and these have no separate existence, that is, they are a-pṛthak-siddha from the jug. Parakāla Yati points out that, since we know that the unqualified jug assumes a blue colour by heat, the blue colour may be regarded as different from the jug[1]. The qualities, colour etc., have the substance as their support, and they may flow into it or not according to circumstances or conditions. It cannot be said that the determining condition for the influx of qualities is nothing but the nature of the substance, consisting of inseparability from the qualities; for the possibility of such an inseparable association is the matter under dispute and cannot therefore be taken as granted; moreover, the existence of an upādhi is relevant only when the entities are different and when the association of the hetu with the sādhya is true only under certain circumstances; in which case these circumstances are called the determining condition of association (upādhi)[2].

But, if the Madhvas argue that even the Rāmānujas admit the inseparable nature of substance and qualities, to this the reply would be that according to Rāmānuja a-pṛthak-siddhatva or “inseparability” only means that at the time of the union (of the quality and the substance) the constituent elements cannot be separated[3]. The mere fact that the expression “blue jug” apparently means the identity of the blueness and the jug without any qualifying suffix denoting “possession” should not be regarded as actually testifying to the identity of “blue” and the jug. The Madhvas themselves do not regard the blueness and jugness as the same and so they have to admit that blueness somehow qualifies the jug. Such an admission would repudiate their own theory[4]. If blueness as something different from blue be associated with lotus-ness, then the admission of the fact that, when the words blue and lotus are used adjectivally and substantively with the same suffix, they mean one and the same identical thing is by itself no sound logic. If they are understood as different, then one is substance and the other is not.

As a matter of fact our perceptual experience discloses a qualified character of all substances and qualities. No true follower of the Upaniṣads can believe that perception reveals the pure indeterminate nature of being. If no distinction can be made out between characters and substances, then it will not be possible to distinguish one substance from another; for one substance is distinguished from another only by reason of their characters.

Moreover, the distinction between substance and qualities is evident from other pramāṇas also. Thus a blind man can dispute about the touch-feeling of an object, but he cannot do so about the colour. So the colour and touch-feeling have to be regarded as distinct from the object itself. Moreover, we speak of a jug as having colour, but we do not say that a jug is colour. So it must be admitted that a denial on Madhva lines of the classification of categories as dravya and adravya is illogical; it must be held that the adravya, though entirely different from dravya, remains in association with it and expresses its nature as characters of qualities. Parakāla Yati then takes up a number of Upaniṣad passages and tries to show that, if distinction of qualities and substances is not admitted, then most of the śruti texts are inadmissible.

There are some Madhvas who hold that there is both difference and identity, and that even with careful observation the dravya and the adravya cannot be distinguished, and therefore no distinction can be made between dravya and adravya as the Rāmānujas make. To this Parakāla Yati replies that the rule that determines the reality of anything must be based upon the principle of non-contradiction and then unconditional invariability[5]. The expression “blue jug,” wherein the “jugness” and “blueness” may appear in one, may be contradicted by other equally valid expressions, such as “blueness in jug,” “blue-coloured jug,” and it would thus be ineffective to determine the nature of reality merely by following the indication of the expression “blue jug”, which may show an apparent identity between the blue and the jug. The very fact that the jug appears as qualified shows that it has a distinction in the quality that qualifies it. Nor can it be said that because a particular colour is always associated with a particular substance that colour and substance are one and the same; for a conch-shell associated with white colour may also sometimes appear as yellow. Moreover, when one substance carries with it many qualities, it cannot be regarded as being at the same time identical with all the manifold qualities[6]. The distinction of substances on the basis of qualities will also be erroneous, if, like qualities, the special natures of the substances be themselves naturally different[7]. If a thing can be at the same time identical with many qualities, then that involves acceptance of the Jaina view of saptabhaṅgī. Thus, from whatever point of view the Madhva attempt to refute the classification of dravya and adravya is examined, it is found to be faulty and invalid.

One of the important doctrines in which Madhva differs from others is that the experience in emancipation is not the same with all saints or emancipated persons. This view is supported by some of the Purāṇas and also accepted by the Vaiṣṇavas of the Gauḍīya school; but the Rāmānujas as well as the Śaṅkarites were strongly against it, and therefore the. followers of the Rāmānuja school criticized Madhva strongly on this point. Thus Śrīnivāsa Ācārya wrote a separate prakaraṇa work called Ānanda-tāratamya-khaṇḍana. But a much longer and more critical attempt in this direction was made by Parakāla Yati in the fourth chapter of his Viyajīndra-parājaya. Both these works exist in manuscript.

In the fourth chapter of the fourth book of the Brahma-sūtra the question of how the emancipated ones enjoy their experience after emancipation is discussed. It is said here that it is by entering into the nature of the supreme Lord that the emancipated beings participate in the blissful experiences by their mere desire (saṃ-kalpa). There are however others who hold that the emancipated enjoy the blissful experiences directly through themselves, through their bodies, as mere attempts of intelligence. It is because in the emancipated state one is entitled to all kinds of blissful experiences that one can regard it as a state of summum bonum or the highest good. But the emancipated persons cannot have all the enjoyable experiences that the supreme Lord has; each individual soul is limited by his own rights and abilities, within which alone his desires may be rewarded with spontaneous fruition. Thus each emancipated person is entitled to certain types of enjoyment, limited by his own capacity and rights.

Again, in the third chapter of the third book of the Brahma-sūtra different types of worship are prescribed for different people: and such a difference of worship must necessarily mean difference in the attainment of fruits also. Thus it must be admitted that in the state of emancipation there are grades of enjoyment, experienced by emancipated persons of different orders.

This view is challenged by the Rāmānujas, who refer to the textual quotations of the Upaniṣads. The passages in the Brahmā-nanda-vallī of the Taittirīya Upaniṣad, where different kinds of pleasures are associated with men, gandharvas and other beings, are not to be interpreted as different kinds of pleasures enjoyed by different kinds of emancipated beings. According to the Rāmānuja view individuals in an unemancipated state are under the complete control of the supreme Lord. But in the emancipated state, when they become free, they are all in harmony with God and share and participate in all His joys; they are parts of Him. The emancipated person is like a good wife who has no separate will from her husband and enjoys with her husband all that he does or feels. Thus the emancipated souls, being completely associated with God, enjoy and participate in all His joys: and there cannot be any degrees of enjoyment among the different emancipated persons[8]. Sense-enjoyment, however, is not possible, as such enjoyment of Brahman at the time of emancipation would have to be the experience of the nature of Brahman, and Brahman Himself also has the self-realizing experience; this enjoyment, therefore, being only of the nature of the self-realizing experience of Brahman, cannot have any degrees or grades in it. The enjoyment of ordinary men, being of a sensuous nature, is only the contraction and expansion of their intelligence, and is therefore distinguishable into higher or lower, greater or smaller grades or degrees of enjoyment. The Madhvas think that in the stage of emancipation there are many diverse kinds of experiences, and consequently that there are degrees or grades of enjoyment associated with such experience in accordance with the capacity of the saint; but all the scriptural texts indicate that at the time of salvation one has the experience of the nature of Brahman, and, if this were admitted, there could not possibly be degrees or grades in emancipation.

In the fifth chapter Parakāla Yati, continuing the discussion, says that there is no difference in the enjoyment attained at emancipation on the ground that the methods of approaching God may be different with different persons; for, however different the methods may be, the results attained are the same, viz., the realization of the nature of Brahman. There may be some beings who are capable of greater bhakti or devotion and some who are capable of less, but that does not make any difference in the attainment of the final mukti, and, mukti being the same for all, its enjoyment must also be the same. The analogy of

the different kinds of sacrifices leading to different results does not apply to this case; for these sacrifices are performed by external means and therefore their results may be different; but emancipation is attained by spiritual means, viz., bhakti. The argument that the bliss of the emancipated, being the bliss of an individual self, cannot be of the same nature is not valid either; for in the emancipated state the individuals enjoy the bliss of the realization of Brahman, which is homogeneous and ubiquitous. It is wrong too to argue that the bliss of the emancipated, being like the bliss that we experience in our worldly lives, must be capable of degrees of enjoyment. The argument that, since we have a sufficient description or definition of Brahman in regarding it as superlatively blissful, individuals cannot in the same sense be regarded as superlatively blissful, is invalid; for, since the Brahman is limitless (ananta), it will be wrong to limit it by such a definition as the above, since it is inapplicable to Him. The question of its conflict with the individuals who are superlatively blissful in the state of emancipation does not arise. It is also wrong to say that the bliss of Brahman, being possessed by Brahman, cannot be enjoyed by anybody else, since enjoyment (bhoga) really means favourable experience; the wife may thus enjoy the good qualities of her husband, the teacher of his pupil, the parents of their son. The emancipated person realizes the identity of Brahman in himself, and this realization of the nature of Brahman in himself is bliss in the superlative degree. It does not imply any decrease of qualities of Brahman, but it means that in realizing the qualities in oneself one may find supreme bliss[9].

Footnotes and references:


ghaṭe pākena nailyam utpannam ityananyathā-siddha-pratyakṣaṃ ca tatra pramāṇaṃ kiñca rūpādi svādhikaraṇād bhinnam svāśraye sphāre asya āgamopādhi-dharmatvāt.
p. 3 (MS.).


na ceha apṛthak-siddhatvam upādhīstasya sādhyarūpatve
sādhana-vyāpakatvād bheda-ghaṭito hi vyāpya-vyāpaka-bhāvaḥ.


rūpāder madīyam apṛthak-siddhatvaṃ saṃsaktaṃ paṭe anyatra netum aśakyatvam eva. tac ca tadrūpābhāve’pi rūpāntareṇa dharma-sattayā avirodhitayā na pṛthaksiddhatvena virudhyate.


tasya tvayā’pi akhaṇḍārthatvānabhyupagamāt viśiṣṭārthatve tvad-abhimata-siddheḥ.
p. 4.


yastu abādhito nānyathā-siddhaś ca pratyayaḥ sa evārthaṃ vyavasthāpayati.
p. 30.


kiñca paraspara-bhinnair guṇair ekasya guṇinaḥ. abḥedo’pi na ghaṭate iti tad-abḥedopajīvanena ity uktir api ayuktā....
p. 33.


guṇagata-bḥeda-vyavahāro nir-nibandhanaśca syāt yadi guṇavat guṇidharma-viśeṣah svata eva syāt.


pāratantryaṃ pare puṃsi prāpya nirgata-bandhanaḥ
svātantryam atulaṃ prāpya tenaiva saha modate

iti muktāh svadehātyaye karma-nāśāc ca svatantraśeṣ atvena śarīratayā bhoktur brahmaṇa eva icchām anusṛtya svānuṣaṅgika-tulya-bhoga phalaka-tad-bhaktyaivo-pakaraṇa-bhūtāḥ yathā patnī-vyāpārādayaḥ patyur evaṃ muktānāṃ śāstra-siddhāḥ parasparavyāpārā api brahmaṇa eva sarvaśarīrakatayā śarīriṇy eva śarīra-bhoga-nyāyāt.
p. 43.


yady atra tadīyatvena taccheṣatvaṃ tarhi rājapuruṣa-bhogye rājñi vyabhi-cāraḥ, bhogo hi svānukūlatva-prakāraka-sākṣātkāraḥ tadviṣayatv am eva bhogy-atvam, tac ca dāsam prati svāmini śiṣyaṃ praty ācārye putraṃ prati mātarai pitari ca sarvānubhava-siddham.
p. 124.

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