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 interpretation of brahma-sutra i. 1. 1: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “madhva’s interpretation of the brahma-sutras”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - Madhva’s interpretation of Brahma-sūtra I. 1. 1

In commenting on the first sūtra of Bādarāyaṇa’s Brahma-sūtra (athātobrahma-jijñāsā, “now therefore Brahma-enquiry”), Śaṅkara holds that the word “now” (atha in Sanskrit) does not refer to any indispensable necessity for previous ritualistic performances of Vedic observances in accordance with Vedic injunctions as interpreted by the Mīmāṃsā canons, but that it refers only to the previous possession of moral qualifications, such as self-control, etc., after which one becomes fit for the study of Vedānta. The word “therefore” refers to the reason, consisting in the fact that the knowledge of Brahman alone brings about the superior painless state of all-blessedness, and justifies the enquiry of Brahman. As Brahman is the self, and as the self stands immediately revealed in all our perceptions, Brahman is also always directly known to us. But, as there are divergences of opinion regarding the nature of self, there is scope for Brahma-enquiry. So, though by the general knowledge of self, Brahman is known, the enquiry is necessary for the special knowledge of Brahman or the nature of self.

Madhva explains the reason (ataḥ) for Brahma-enquiry as being the grace of the Lord Viṣṇu—as greater favours from the Lord Viṣṇu can be acquired only by proper knowledge of Him, Brahma-enquiry, as a source of Brahma-knowledge, is indispensable for securing His favours. Brahma-enquiry is due to the grace of the great Lord; for He alone is the mover of all our mental states[1]. There are, according to Madhva, three stages of fitness for the study of Vedānta. A studious person devoted to the Lord Viṣṇu is in the third, a person endowed with the sixfold moral qualifications of self-control, etc., is in the second, and the person who is solely attached to the Lord and, considering the whole world to be transitory, is wholly unattached to it, is in the first stage of fitness[2]. Again, the performance of the Vedic observances can entitle us only to the inferior grace of the Lord, listening to the scriptural texts to a little higher degree of grace; but the highest grace of the Lord, leading to mukti, can be secured only through knowledge[3]. Right knowledge can be secured only through listening to scriptural texts (śravaṇa), reflection (manana), meditation (nididhyāsana) and devotion (bhakti) ; no one acquires right knowledge without these. The word “Brahman”, Madhva holds, means the great Lord Viṣṇu.

One of the most important points which Madhva wishes to emphasize against Śaṅkara in regard to the first sūtra, as he brings out clearly in his Nyāya-vivaraṇa, consists in his belief that even the root meaning of Brahman means “the great” or “endowed with all qualities of perfection”, and hence it cannot be identified with the imperfect individual souls, since we know from the Upaniṣads that the world sprang forth from it[4]. Our object in getting ourselves employed in Brahma-enquiry is the attainment of knowledge of Viṣṇu as the all-perfect One, from whom we imperfect beings are in a sense so different; Lord Viṣṇu will be pleased by this our knowledge of Him, and He will release us from our bondage. In the Anuvyākhyāna Madhva tries to emphasize the fact that our bondage is real, and that the release is also real, as effected by the grace of the Lord Viṣṇu. Madhva argues that, if sorrow, pain, etc.—all that constitutes bondage—were false and unreal, there would be some proof (pramāṇa) by which this is established. If such a proof exists, the system naturally becomes dualistic. The form-less and difference-less Brahman (according to Śaṅkara’s view) cannot itself participate in any demonstration of proof. Also the falsehood of the world-appearance cannot be defined as that which is contradicted by knowledge (jñāna-bādhyatva) ; for, if the concept of Brahman is pure and differenceless intelligence, it cannot involve within it the notion that it is different from the world-appearance (anyathātva) or that it negates it, which is necessary if the Brahma-knowledge is said to contradict the world-appearance. When the Brahman is considered to stand always self-revealed, what is the ajñāna of Śaṅkara going to hide? If it is said that it hides the false differences of an objective world, then a further difficulty arises—that the false differences owe their existence to ajñāna, but, in order that ajñāna might hide them, they must be proved to have a separate existence independent of ajñāna, so that it may hide them.

Here is then a clear case of a vicious circle; the very name ajñāna shows that it can yield no knowledge of itself and it is therefore false; but even then such a false entity cannot have any existence, as the want of knowledge and ajñāna are so related that we have either a vicious infinite (i anavasthā) or a vicious circle (anyonyāśraya); for in any specific case ignorance of any entity is due to its ajñāna, and that ajñāna is due to a particular ignorance, and so on. Śaṅkara’s interpretation thus being false, it is clear that our sorrow and bondage are real, and the Vedas do not hold that the Brahman and the individual souls are identical—for such an explanation would openly contradict our experience[5].

The Tātparya-candrikā, a recondite commentary by Vyāsa Yati on the Tattva-prakāśikā of Jaya-tīrtha, not only explains the purport of the Bhāṣya of Madhva, but always refers to and tries to refute the views of opponents on most of the disputed points[6]. It raises a few important philosophical problems, in which it criticizes the views of the followers of Śaṅkara—Vācaspati, Prakāśātman and others—which could hardly be overlooked. Thus it refers to the point raised by Vācaspati in his Bhāmatī, a commentary on the Bhāṣya of Śaṅkara, viz., that there is no validity in the objection that there is no necessity of any Brahma-enquiry on the ground that the individual soul, which is identical with Brahman, is directly and immediately experienced by us, and that even the extinction of nescience (avidyā) cannot be considered as the desired end, since, though the self is always experienced as self revealed, such an experience does not remove the avidyā ; and that, since the notion of the ego is implied even in studying and understanding Vedāntic texts, the Vedāntic passages which seem to describe Brahman as the pure identity of subject-objectless intelligence, being and blessedness, have to be otherwise explained to suit our ordinary experience. For it is certain that the self-revealed Vedānta passages denote the Brahman of the above description, and, since these cannot have any other meaning, our so-called experience, which may easily be subject to error, has to be disbelieved. The result arrived at according to the Bhāmatī then is that the unmistakable purport of the Vedānta texts is the differenceless reality, the Brahman, and that, since this pure Brahman is not directly revealed in experience (śuddho na bhāti), an enquiry regarding the nature of pure Brahman is justified[7].

The objection which Vyāsa-tīrtha raises against the above view of Vācaspati is that, if in our ordinary experience the “pure” does not reveal itself, what could this mean? Does it mean that that which does not reveal itself is a difference from the body, the negation of our character as doer and enjoyer, or non-difference between Brahman and ātman, or the negation of mere duality? But is this non-revealing entity different from the self? If so, then it is contrary to the general monistic Vedāntic conclusion; and, if it is urged that the existence of a negative entity will not involve a sacrifice of the monistic principle, it can be pointed out that such a view of negation has already been refuted in the work called Nyāyāmṛta. If such a non-revealing entity is false, then it cannot for the scriptures be the subject of instruction. If, again, it is held that it is the self (ātman) that does not reveal itself in experience, then this can be held only in the sense that ātman has two parts, that one part is revealed while the other is not, and that there is some imaginary or supposed difference (kalpita-bheda) between the two, such that, though the self is revealed (gṛhita), its non-revealing (abhāsamāna) part (aṃśa) does not seem to have been revealed and experienced (agṛhīta iva bhāti). But, if even this is the case, it is acknowledged that there is no real difference between any two supposed parts of the self; the non-appearing part must be endowed with an unreal and illusory difference (kalpita-bheda), and no Vedānta can undertake the task of instructing in the nature of such an illusory and non-appearing self. The non-appearing part may be either real or unreal; if it is unreal, as it must be on such a supposition, it cannot be an object of the Vedānta to instruct about its nature. For, if the illusory non-appearing remains even when the self is known, this illusion can never break; for all illusory images break with the true knowledge of the locus or the support (adhiṣṭhāna) of such illusions (e.g. with the knowledge of the conch-shell the illusory image of silver vanishes)[8].

Moreover, the ātman is self-revealed, and so it cannot be said that it does not appear in experience as self-revealed (svaprakāśatvena bhāvayogāt). If it is argued that, though selfrevealed, yet it may be covered by avidyā, the answer to such an objection is that, if the avidyā could cover the revelation of the self, the avidyā itself and its products such as pain, sorrow, etc., could not be revealed by it; for it is acknowledged that the revelation of these is effected by the self-revealing self[9]. It is also evident that intelligence (cit) or the being self-revealed (sphurati) cannot also remain not-revealed (asphuratī). Nor can it be held that, though pure intelligence is itself in its purity self-revealed (sva-prakāśa), yet, since it is opposed to ajñāna only through the mental states (vṛtti) and not by itself, and since ordinarily there is no vṛtti for itself, it can lie covered by the ajñāna and, being thus hidden in spite of its self-revealing character, can become a fit subject of enquiry. Such a supposition is not true; for, if the pure intelligence is not opposed to nescience (ajñāna), the sorrow, etc. which are directly known by pure intelligence should have remained covered by ajñāna. The view is that pleasure, pain, etc. cannot be considered to have a reality even while they are not perceived.

A mental state or vṛtti of the form of an object is only possible when the object is already existent; for according to Vedānta epistemology the antaḥkaraṇa or mind must rush out through the senses and get itself transformed into the form of the object, and for this the object must exist previously; but feelings such as pleasure, pain, etc., have no existence except when they are felt; and, if it is said that a vṛtti is necessary to apprehend it, then it must be admitted to have a previous objective existence, which is impossible[10]. It must be admitted, therefore, that feelings are directly known by pure intelligence, without the intervention of a vṛtti or mind-state, and that would be impossible if the cit had no opposition of ajñāna ; for then the cit by itself would always have remained hidden, and there could not have been any apprehension of pain, etc.[11] Another point also arises in this connection in our consideration of the theory of perception of ordinary objects according to the Śaṅkara school of Vedānta. For it is held there that even in the mincj-states corresponding to the perception of objects (such as “this jug”) there is the revelation of pure intelligence as qualified by the mind-state-form of a jug; but if this is so, if our perception of jug means only the shining of pure intelligence (cit) with the mind-state-form of a jug added to it, then it cannot be denied that this complex percept necessarily involves the self-revelation of pure intelligence[12].

Further, it cannot be suggested that there is an appearance of an element of non-self (anātman) and that this justifies our enquiry; for, if this non-self shines forth as an extraneous and additional entity along with the self-revealing intelligence, then, since that does not interfere with the revelation of this pure intelligence, there is no occasion for such an enquiry. It is evident that this non-self cannot appear as identical (tādātmya) with the self; for, when the pure intelligence shines as such, there is no room for the appearance of any element of non-self in this manner (adhiṣṭhāne tattvataḥ sphurati anātmāropāyogāc ca). An analogy has been put forth by Vācaspati in his Bhāmatī, where he wishes to suggest that, just as the various primary musical tones, though intuitively apprehended in our ordinary untutored musical perception, can only be properly manifested by a close study of musical science (gandharva-śāstra), so the true Brahma-knowledge can dawn only after the mind is prepared by realizing the purport of the Vedānta texts and their discussions, and so, though in the first instance in our ordinary experience there is the manifestation of the self-revealing cit, yet the Brahma-enquiry is needed for the fuller realization of the nature of Brahman. But this analogy does not apply; for in the case of our knowledge of music it is possible to have a general apprehension which becomes gradually more and more differentiated and specially manifested with the close study of the musical science; but in the case of our knowledge of Brahman, the self-revealing intelligence, the self, this is not possible; for it is absolutely homogeneous, simple and differenceless—it is not possible to have a general and a special knowledge. It is the flash of simple selfrevelation, absolutely without content, and so there cannot be any greater or lesser knowledge. For the very same reason there is no truth in the assertion contained in the Bhāmatī, that, though by a right understanding of the great Vedāntic text “that art thou” one may understand one’s identity with Brahman, yet owing to the objections of disputants there may be doubt about Brahman which might justify a Brahma-enquiry. For, when the simple contentless pure intelligence is once known, how can there be any room for doubt? So, since the pure monistic interpretations of certain Upaniṣad texts are directly contradicted by ordinary experience, some other kinds of suitable interpretations have to be made which will be in consonance with our direct experience.

The general result of all these subtle discussions is that the Śaṅkara point of view (that we are all identical with Brahma, the self-revealing cit) is not correct; for, had it been so, this self-revealing must be always immediately and directly known to us, and hence there would have been no occasion for the Brahma-enquiry ; for, if the Brahman or the self is always directly known to us, there is no need for enquiry about it. As against the Śaṅkara point of view, the Madhva point of view is that the individual souls are never identical with Brahman; the various ordinary concepts of life are also real, the world is also real, and therefore no right knowledge can destroy these notions. If we were identical with Brahman, there would be no necessity for any Brahma-enquiry; it is only because we are not identical with Brahman that His nature is a fit subject of enquiry, because it is only by such knowledge that we can qualify ourselves for receiving His favour and grace, and through these attain emancipation. If the self is identical with Brahman, then, such a self being always self-revealed, there is no need of enquiry for determining the meaning of the Brahma part (Brahma-kāṇḍa) of the Vedas, as there is for determining the meaning of the karma part (karma-kāṇḍa) of the Vedas; for the meaning of the Brahma-kāṇḍa does not depend on anything else for its right comprehension (dharmavad brahma-kāṇḍārthasyātmanaḥ paraprakāśyatvābhāvāt)[13].

Though such a Brahman is always self-revealed in our experience, yet, since by the realization of such a Brahman we are not in any way nearer to liberation (mokṣa), no benefit can be gained by this Brahma-enquiry. So the explanations of this sūtra, as given by Śaṅkara, are quite out of place. By Brahman is meant here the fullness of qualities (guṇa-pūrtti), which is therefore different from jīva, which is felt as imperfect and deficient in qualities (apūrṇa)[14].

Madhva also disapproves of the view of Śaṅkara that Brahma-enquiry must be preceded by the distinction of eternal and noneternal substances, disinclination from enjoyments of this life or of the other life, the sixfold means of salvation, such as self-control, etc., and desire for liberation. For, if we follow the Bhāmatī, and the eternal (nitya) and not-etemal (anitya) be understood as truth and falsehood, and their distinction, the right comprehension of Brahman, as the truth, and everything else as false (brahmaiva satyam anyad anṛtam iti vivekaḥ ), then it may very well be objected that this requirement is almost the ultimate thing that can be attained—and, if this is already realized, what is the use of Brahma-enquiry? Or, if the self is understood as nitya and the non-self as anitya, then again, if this distinction is once realized, the non-self vanishes for good and there is no need to employ ourselves in discussions on the nature of Self. The explanation of the Pañcapādikā-vivaraṇa is that the word nityānitya-viveka means the comprehension that the result of Brahma-knowledge is indestructible, whereas the result of karma, etc. is destructible (dhvaṃsa-pratiyogi). But this is not justifiable either; for the appearance of silver in the conch-shell being always non-existent (atyantābhāva), the word “destructible” is hardly applicable to it. If it is said that in reality the conch-shell-silver is non-existent (pāramārthikatvākāreṇa atyantābhāvaḥ ), but in its manifested form it may be said to be destroyed (svarūpeṇa tu dhvaṃsaḥ), this is not possible either; for no definite meaning can be attached to the word “in reality” (pāramārthika), which is explained as being “non-contradiction” (abādhyatva); “non-contradiction” means “in reality”; and thus we have an argument in a circle (anyonyāśraya). Brahma, being formless (nirākāra), might itself be considered as non-existent (atyantābhāva-pratiyogitvasya nirākāre brahmaṇy api saṃbhavāt)[15].

Again, if, as the Vivaraṇa has it, even sense-objects (viṣaya) serve only to manifest pleasure, which is but the essence of self (ātma-svarūpa), then there is no reason why the enjoyment of sense-objects should be considered different from the enjoyment of liberation. Again, the desire for liberation is also considered as a necessary requirement. But whose is this desire for liberation (mumukṣutva)? It cannot belong to the entity denoted by ego (aham-artha) ; for this entity does not remain in liberation (aham-arthasya muktāv ananvayāt). It cannot be of the pure intelligence (cit) ; for that cannot have any desire. Thus the interpretations of the word “now” (atha), the first word of the sūtra, were objected to by the thinkers of the Madhva school. Their own interpretation, in accordance with the Bhāṣya of Madhva as further elaborated by Jaya-tīrtha, Vyāsa-tlrtha, Rāghavendra Yati and others, is that the word atha has, on the one hand, an auspicious influence, and is also a name of Nārāyaṇa[16]. The other meaning of the word atha is that the enquiry is possible only after the desired fitness (adhikārānan-taryārthaḥ)[17]. But this fitness for Brahma-enquiry is somewhat different from that demanded by the Śaṅkara school, the views of which I have already criticized from the Madhva point of view. Madhva and his followers dispense with the qualifications of nityānitya-vastu-viveka, and they also hold that desire for liberation must be illogical, if one follows the interpretation of Śaṅkara, which identifies jīva and Brahman. The mere desire for liberation is not enough either; for the sūtras themselves deny the right of Brahma-enquiry to the Śūdras[18]. So, though any one filled with the desire for liberation may engage himself in Brahma-enquiry, this ought properly to be done only by those who have studied the Upaniṣads with devotion, and who also possess the proper moral qualities of selfcontrol, etc. and are disinclined to ordinary mundane enjoyments[19].

The word “therefore” (ataḥ) in the sūtra means “through the grace or kindness of the Lord Viṣṇu”; for without His grace the bondage of the world, which is real, cannot be broken or liberation attained. Jaya-tīrtha in his Nyāya-sudhā on the Anuvyākhyāna of Madhva here anticipates an objection, viz., since liberation can be attained in the natural course through right knowledge, as explained by Śaṅkara and his followers on the one hand and the Nyāya-sūtra on the other, what is the usefulness of the intervention of Īśvara for producing liberation? All sorrow is due to the darkness of ignorance, and, once there is the light of knowledge, this darkness is removed, and it cannot therefore wait for the grace of any supposed Lord[20]. The simplest answer to such an objection, as given in the Nyāya-sudhā, is that, the bondage being real, mere knowledge is not sufficient to remove it. The value of knowledge consists in this, that its acquirement pleases the Lord and He. being pleased, favours us by His grace so as to remove the bondage[21].

The word “Brahman” (which according to Śaṅkara is derived from the root bṛhati-, “to exceed” ( atiśayana), and means eternity, purity and intelligence) means according to the Madhva school the person in whom there is the fullness of qualities (bṛhanto hy asmin guṇāḥ). The argument that acceptance of the difference of Brahman and the souls would make Brahman limited is not sound; for the objects of the world are not considered to be identical with Brahman nor yet as limiting the infinitude of Brahman; and the same sort of answer can serve in accepting the infinitude of Brahman as well as in accepting His difference from the souls[22]. The infinitude of Brahman should not therefore be considered only in the negative way, as not being limited by difference, but as being fullness in time, space and qualities; for otherwise even the Buddhist momentary knowledge would have to be considered as equal to Brahman, since it is limited neither by time nor by space[23].

Coming to the formation of the compound Brahma-enquiry (brahma-jijñāsā), the Candrikā points out that neither Śaṅkara nor his followers are justified in explaining Brahman as being in the objective case with reference to the verb implied in “enquiry” (jijñāsā); for Brahma—being pure and absolute intelligence, open only to direct intuition—cannot be the fit object of any enquiry which involves discussions and [24]. But, of course, in the Madhva view there cannot be any objection to Brahma being taken as the object of enquiry. According to both the Nyāya-sudhā and the Tātparya-candrikā the word “enquiry” (jijñāsā) in Brahma-enquiry (brahma-jijñāsā) means directly (rūḍhi) argumentative reasoning (manana) and not desire to know, as the followers of Śaṅkara would suggest[25]. The object of Brahma-enquiry involving reasoned discussions is the determination of the nature of Brahman, whether He possesses the full perception of all qualities, or has only some qualities, or whether He has no qualities at all[26].

Not only did the followers of Madhva try to refute almost all the points of the interpretation of this sūtra by Śaṅkara and his followers, but Madhva in his Anuvyākhyāna, as interpreted in the Nyāya-sudhā and Nyāya-sudhā-parimala, raised many other important points for consideration, which seem to strike the position of Śaṅkara at its very root. A detailed enumeration of these discussions cannot be given within the scope of a single chapter like the present; and I can refer to some only of the important points. Thus the very possibility of illusion, as described by Śaṅkara, is challenged by Jaya-tīrtha, following the Anuvyākhyāna. He says that the individual is by nature free in himself in all his works and enjoyments, and is dependent only on God. That such an individual should feel at any time that he was being determined by some other agent is certainly due to ignorance (avidyā)[27]. Ignorance, so far as it may be said to be existent as such in the self, has real being (avidyādikaṃ ca svarūpeṇātma-saṃbandhitvena sad eva). So the intellect (buddhi), the senses, the body and external sense-objects (viṣaya) are really existent in themselves under the control of God; but, when through ignorance they are conceived as parts of my self, there is error and illusion (avidyādi-vaśād ātmīyatayā adhyāsyaṇte). The error does not consist in their not having any existence; on the contrary, they are truly existent entities, and sorrow is one of their characteristics. The error consists in the fact that what belongs distinctly to them is considered as belonging to an individual self.

When through ignorance such a false identification takes place, the individual thinks himself to be under their influence and seems to suffer the changes which actually belong to them; and, being thus subject to passions and antipathy, suffers rebirth and cannot get himself absolutely released except by the worship of God. Those who believe in the māyā doctrine, like Śaṅkara and his followers, however, hold that the sorrow does not exist in itself and is false in its very nature (duḥkhādikaṃ svarūpeṇāpi mithyā). Śaṅkara says that we falsely identify the self with the non-self in various ways; that may be true, but how does that fact prove that non-self is false? It may have real existence and yet there may be its false identification with the self through ignorance. If the very fact that this non-self is being falsely identified with the self renders it false, then the false identification, on the other side, of the self with the non-self ought to prove that the self also is false[28]. As the selves, which are bound, are real, so the sense-objects, etc., which bind them, are also real; their false identification through ignorance is the chain of bondage, and this also is real, and can be removed only through knowledge by the grace of God.

The idea suggested by the Śaṅkara school, that the notion of an individual as free agent or as one enjoying his experiences is inherent in the ego (ahaṃ-kāra), and is simply associated with the self, is also incorrect; for the notion of ego (ahaṃ-kāra) really belongs to the self and it is present as such even during deep sleep (suṣupti), when nothing else shines forth excepting the self, and we know that the experience of this state is “I sleep happily”. This notion “I,” or the ego, therefore belongs to the self[29].

If everything is false, then the very scriptures by which Śaṅkara would seek to prove it would be false. The answer to such an objection, as given by Śaṅkarites, is that even that which is false may serve to show its own falsehood and the truth of something else, just as in the case of acquired perception, e.g. in the case of surabhi-candana, “fragrant sandal,” the sense of sight may reveal the smell as well as the colour. But the counter-reply to this answer naturally raises the question whether the false scriptures or other proofs are really existent or not; if they are, then unqualified monism fails; for their existence would necessarily mean dualism. If, on the other hand, they do not exist at all, then they cannot prove anything. The answer of Śaṅkara, that even the false can prove the true, just as a line (a unit) by the side of zeros might signify various numbers, is incorrect; for the line is like the alphabet signs in a word and like them can recall the number for which it is conventionally accepted (saṅketita), and is therefore not false (rekhāpi varṇe padāmīva arthe saṅketite taṃ smārayatīti no kiṃcid atra mithyā asti)[30].

Nor can it be maintained that the bondage of sorrow, etc. is not real; for it is felt to be so through the direct testimony of the experience of the spirit (sākṣin)[31]. Its unreality or falsehood cannot be proved by the opponent; for with him truth is differenceless (nirviśeṣa): but any attempt to prove anything involves duality between that which is to be proved and that whereby it is to be proved, and that a differenceless entity may be the proof cannot be established by the differenceless entity itself; for this would involve a vicious circle. If the world were false, then all proofs whereby this could be established would also by the same statement be false; and how then could the statement itself be proved?

As has just been said, the opponents, since they also enter into discussions, must admit the validity of the means of proof (pramāṇa or vyavahṛti); for without these there cannot be any discussion (kathā) ; and, if the proofs are admitted as valid, then what is proved by them as valid (prameya or vyāvahārika) is also valid[32]. In this connection Jaya-tīrtha raises the points contained in the preliminary part of the Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya of Śrīharṣa, where he says that it is, of course, true that no discussions are preceded by an open non-acceptance of the reality of logical proofs, but neither is it necessary to accept the validity of any proof before beginning any discussion. Those who begin any discussion do so without any previous forethought on the subject; they simply do not pay any attention to the ultimate existence or non-existence of all proofs, but simply begin a discussion as if such a question did not need any enquiry at the time[33]. In a discussion what is necessary is the temporary agreement (samaya-bandha) or the acceptance for the purpose of the discussion of certain canons of argument and proofs; for that alone is sufficient for it. It is not necessary in these cases that one should go into the very nature of the validity or invalidity, existence or non-existence of the proofs themselves[34]. So even without accepting the ultimate existence and validity of the pramāṇas it is possible to carry on a discussion, simply through a temporary mutual acceptance of them as if they did exist and were valid. So it is wrong to say that those who do not believe in their existence cannot legitimately enter into a proper discussion.

After referring to the above method of safeguarding the interests of the upholders of the māyā doctrine, Jaya-tīrtha says that, whatever may be mutual agreement in a discussion, it remains an undeniable fact that, if the proofs do not exist, nothing at all can be proved by such non-existing entities. Either the pramāṇas exist or they do not; there is no middle course. If they are not admitted to be existent, they cannot prove anything. You cannot say that you will be indifferent with regard to the existence or non-existence of pramāṇas and still carry on a discussion merely as a passive debater; for our very form of thought is such that they have either to be admitted as existent or not. You cannot continue to suspend your judgment regarding their existence or non-existence and still deal with them in carrying a discussion[35]. You may not have thought of it before starting the discussion; but, when you are carrying on a discussion, the position is such that it is easy to raise the point, and then you are bound to admit it or to give up the discussion. Dealing with the pramāṇas by mutual agreement necessarily means a previous admission of their existence[36].

The Śaṅkarites generally speak of three kinds of being, real (pāramārthika), apparent (vyāvahārika) and illusory (prātibhāsika). This apparent being of world-appearance (jagat-prapañca) is neither existent nor non-existent (sad-asad-vilakṣaṇa). The scriptures call this false, because it is not existent; and yet, since it is not absolutely non-existent, the proofs, etc. which are held within its conception can demonstrate its own falsehood and the absolute character of the real[37]. Such a supposition would indeed seem to have some force, if it could be proved that the world-appearance is neither existent nor non-existent; which cannot be done, since non-existence is nothing but the simple negation of existence (tasya sattvābhāvāvya tirekāt). So that which is different from existent must be nonexistent, and that which is different from non-existent must be existent; there is no middle way. Even the scriptures do not maintain that the world-appearance has a character which is different from what is existent and what is non-existent (sad-asad-vilakṣaṇa).

With regard to the question what may be the meaning of the phrase “different from existents” (sad-vilakṣaṇa), after suggesting numerous meanings and their refutations, Jaya-tīrtha suggests an alternative interpretation, that the phrase might mean “difference (vailakṣaṇya) from existence in general (sattā-sāmānya)”. But surely this cannot be accepted by the opponent; for the acceptance of one general existence would imply the acceptance of different existents, from which the abstraction can be made[38]. This cannot be accepted by a Śaṅkarite, and, as for himself, he does not accept any general existence apart from the individual existents (dravyādy-atirikta-sattva-sāmānyasyaiva anaṅgīkārāt). The Śaṅkarites say that the indefinable nature of this world-appearance is apparent from the fact that it is ultimately destructible by right knowledge and that this world-appearance is destructible by right knowledge and that this world-appearance is destructible is admitted even by the Madhvas.

To this objection Jaya-tīrtha replies that, when the Madhvas say that the world is destroyed by the Lord, it is in the same sense in which a jug is reduced to dust by the stroke of a heavy club[39]. But even such a destruction, in our view, is not possible with regard to prakṛti; and this destruction is entirely different from what a Śaṅkarite would understand by the cessation (bādha) through knowledge (jñāna). For that, as Prakāśātman writes in his Vivaraṇa, means that the nescience (ajñāna) ceases with all its effects through knowledge (ajñānasya sva-kāryeṇa vartamānena pravilīnena vā saha jñānena nivṛttir bādhaḥ). Cessation (bādha), according to the Madhvas, proceeds through right knowledge (samyag-jñāna) regarding something about which there was a different knowledge (anyathā-jñāna). The existence of any such category as “different-from-existent and non-existent” (sadasad-vilakṣaṇa) cannot be defined as corresponding to that which ceases through right knowledge; only that which you falsely know about anything can cease through right knowledge: the example of conch-shell-silver does not prove anything; for we do not admit that there is anything like conch-shell-silver which existed and was destroyed through right knowledge, since in fact it never existed at all. Not only in the case of conch-shell-silver, but in the case of the ākāśa, etc., too, the assertion that it is sad-asad-vilakṣaṇa is utterly wrong; for, being eternal, it can never cease.

Error or illusion consists in knowing a thing differently from what it is (anyathā-vijñānam eva bhrāntiḥ). Now conch-shell-silver is a simple case of anyathā-vijñāna or anyathā-khyāti, and there is nothing here of sad-asad-vilakṣaṇatva or jñāna-nivartyatva (possibility of being removed by knowledge); for it does not exist. It may be objected that, if it did not exist, one could not have the notion (pratīti) of it: no one can have any notion of that which does not exist; but the conch-shell-silver is to all appearance directly perceived. The answer to this is that even the opponent does not admit that there is any such concomitance that what does not exist cannot yield any notion of it; for when the opponent speaks of anything as being asad-vilakṣaṇa, i.e. different-from-the-non-existent, he must have a notion of what is non-existent; for, if any one is to know anything (e.g., a jug) as being different from some other thing (e.g., a piece of cloth), then, previously to this, in order to know this difference he must have known what that thing (a jug) is[40]. This again raises the epistemological problem, whether it is possible to have knowledge of the non-existent. Thus it may be asked whether the sentence “There are horns on the head of the man” conveys any meaning; and, if it does, whether it is of any existing or of a non-existing entity. It cannot be the first; for then we should have actually seen the horns; there must be notion of the non-existent entity of the horn, and so it has to be admitted that we can know non-existent entities. It cannot be said that this is not nonexistent, but only that it is indefinable (anirvacanīya); for, if even entities like the hare’s horn or man’s horn should not be regarded as non-existent, then from what is it intended to distinguish conch-shell-silver? for asad-vilakṣaṇa must be admitted to have some meaning; asat cannot mean “indefinable”; for in that case conch-shell-silver, which is described as being different from asat, would be definable[41]. Not only can the non-existent be the object of knowledge, but it can also be the subject or the object of a verb. Thus, when it is said “the jug is being produced, ghaṭo jāyate,” this refers to the non-existent jug, as being the subject of the verb “to be produced, jāyate”; for it will be shown later that Śaṅkara’s theory of the previous or simultaneous existence of effects, even before the causal operation (sat-kārya-vāda), is false. Therefore, since the nonexistent may be known, the objection that conch-shell-silver cannot be non-existent, because it is known, is invalid.

But a further objection is raised, that, while it is not denied that the non-existent may be known, it is denied that the non-existent cannot appear as directly perceived and as existent (aparokṣatayā sattvena ca) ; as if one should find horns on the head of a man, as he finds them on the head of a cow. But in the case of the conch-shell-silver what is perceived is directly perceived as existent; so the conch-shell-silver must be non-existent. In answer to this the following may be urged: those who do not regard conch-shell-silver as non-existent, but as indefinable (anirvacanīya), have to accept the appearance of identity of “this” and the silver (idaṃ-rajatayoḥ). Illusion, according to these Śaṅkarites, is the appearance of something in that which is not so (atasmiṃs tad iti pratyaya iti). This is not, of course, anyathā-khyāti (a different appearance from the real); for the basis of the illusion (adhiṣṭhāna, as the conch-shell of the illusory silver) is not here false in itself, but only false in its appearance as silvery or associated with a false appearance (saṃsṛṣṭa-rūpā) ; but the illusory appearance (adhyāsta) is false both in itself (svarūpa) and also as associated with the object before the observer; this is admitted by the holders of the māyā doctrine. The holders of the anyathā-khyāti view of illusion think that both the conch-shell and the silver are real, only the appearances of identity of conch-shell with silver and of silver with conch-shell are false[42].

This appearance of the false or the non-existent is both immediate (aparokṣa), as is well known to experience, and endowed with real existence; for otherwise no one could be moved by it (sattvenā-pratītāu pravṛttyanupapatteś ca). Until the illusion is broken this association of the non-existent silver with the “this” does not differ in the least from the perception of real silver before the observer. The opponents would say that this is not a false and non-existent association (anyathātvaṃ yady asat syāt), as the Madhvas hold; but it is difficult to understand what they can mean by such an objection; for such an association of silver with the conch-shell cannot be real (sat), since, if it was so, why should it appear only in the case of illusions (bhrānti), where the first perception is contradicted, as in “this is not silver”? Again, those who think that in the case of illusion the silver is indefinable (anirvacanīya) may be asked what is the nature of that which appears as indefinable. Does it appear as non-existent or as illusory? It cannot be so; for then no one would trouble about it and try to pick it up, knowing it to be nonexistent or illusory. So it has to be admitted that it appears as existent. This agrees with our experience of the illusion (“this silver”). The mere notion of silver is not enough to draw us towards it, apart from our notion of it as existing. But this has no real existence, since then it cannot be indefinable; if this is nonexistent, then it has to be admitted that the non-existent appears in immediate perceptual experience and as endowed with existence. The opponents however may point out that this is not a right analysis of the situation as they understand it. For in their view the true “this” in the conch-shell and its association with silver is as indefinable as the indefinable silver itself, and so the silver in the appearance of silver is indefinable, and so their mutual connection also is indefinable. It is the reality in the conch-shell that becomes indefinably associated with the silver.

The answer to this is that such a view is open to the serious defect of what is known as the vicious infinite (anavasthā). For, when it is said that the mutual association (saṃsarga) of “thisness” and “silverness” and the association of the reality of the conch-shell with the silver are both indefinable, it may be asked what exactly is meant by calling them indefinable. It is not of the nature of ordinary phenomenal experience (vyāvahārika); for the illusory silver is not of any ordinary use. If it is illusory (prātibhāsika), does it appear to be so or does it appear as if it was of the nature of ordinary phenomenal experience? If it did appear as illusory, no one would be deluded by it, when he knows it to be illusory, and he would not trouble to stoop down to pick it up. If it did appear as if it was of the nature of ordinary phenomenal experience, then it could not be really so; for then it could not be illusory. If it was not so and still appeared to be so, then the old point, that the non-existent can appear to immediate perception as existent, has to be admitted. If this appearance of silver as being of the nature of an object of ordinary phenomenal experience is itself considered as being indefinable, then the same sorts of questions may again be asked about it, and the series will be infinite; this would be a true case of a vicious infinite, and not like the harmless infinite of the seed and the shoot; for here, unless the previous series is satisfactorily taken as giving a definite solution, the succeeding series cannot be solved, and that again depends in a similar way on another, and that on another and so on, and so no solution is possible at any stage[43]. Therefore the old view that even the unreal and the non-existent may appear as the real and the existent has to be accepted; and the world-appearance should not be considered as indefinable (anirvacanīya).

Footnotes and references:


atha-śabdasyātaḥ-śabdo hetv-arthe samudīritaḥ.
parasya brahmaṇo Viṣṇoḥ prasādād iti vā bhavet.
sa hi sarva-mano-vṛtti-prerakaḥ samudāhṛtaḥ.
I. 1. 1.




karmaṇātrādhamaḥ proktaḥ
prasādaḥ śravaṇādibhir
madhyamo jñāna-sampattyā
prasādas tūttamo mataḥ.


Brahma-śabdena pūrṇa-guṇatvoktenānubhava-siddhālpaguṇo jīvābhedaḥ.
of Madhva, I. 1. 1.


satyatvāt tena duḥkhādeḥ pratyakṣeṇa virodhataḥ
na brahmatvaṃ vaded vedo jīvasya hi kathaṃcana.
I. 1. 1.


prati-sūtraṃ prakāśyeta ghaṭanāghaṭane mayā
svīyānya-pakṣayoḥ samyag vidāṃkurvantu sūrayaḥ.
Op. cit. verse 10.


Ibid. pp. 15-17.


adhiṣṭhāna-jñānasyaiva bhrama-virodhitayā tasmin saty api bheda-bhramasya tan-nimittakāgṛhītāropasya vā abkyupagame nirvartakāntarasyābhāvāt tad-anivṛtti-prasaṅgāt. yad uktam abhāsamāno’ṃśa ātmātiriktaś cet satyo mithyā vā iti tatra mithyā-bhūta iti brūmaḥ.
p. 18.


sva-prakāśasyāpi avidyā-vaśād abhāne avidyāder duḥkhādeś ca prakāśo na syāt, tasya caitanyaprakāśādhīnaprakāśāc copagamāt.
p. 19.


sukhāder jñātaikasattvābhāvāpātāt.
      Op. cit.
p. 20.


sva-rūpa-cito’jñāna-virodhitve tad-vedye duḥkhādāv ajñāna-prasaṅgāt.
p. 20.


tvan-mate ayaṃ ghaṭa ityādy-aparokṣa-vṛtterapi ghaṭādyavatchinna-cid-viṣayatvāc ca.


Tātparya-candrikā, p. 36.


jijñāsya-brahma-śabdena guṇa-pūrty-abhidhāyinā
apūrṇatvenānubhūtāj jīvād bhinnaṃ pratīyate.
p. 46.


Tātparya-candrikā, p. 69.


evaṃ ca atha-śabdo maṅgalārtha iti bhāṣyasya atha-śabdo vighnotsāraṇa-sādhāraṇakaram ātmakānanuṣṭheya-viṣṇu-smaraṇāthaśabdoccāraṇarūpa-maṅgala-prayojanakaḥ praśastarūpānanuṣṭheya-rūpa-viṣṇv-abhidhāyakaś ca iti artha-dvayaṃ draṣṭavyam.
p. 77.

The same view is also expressed in the Tattva-pradīpa, a commentary on Madhva’s Bhāṣya by Trivikrama Paṇḍitācārya.




Brahma-sūtra, I. 3. 34-8.


mukti-yogyatva-bhakti-pūrvakādhyayana-śama-damādi-vairāgya-saṃpatti-rūpādhikārārpaṇena, etc.
, p. 12.


tathā ca jñāna-svabhāva-labhyāyāṃ muktau kim īśvara-prasādena; na hi andhakāra-nibandhana-duḥkha-nivṛttaye pradīpam upādadānāḥ kasyacit prabhoḥ prasādam apekṣante.
p. 18.


The Tattva-prakāśikā says that the letter a means Viṣṇu, and ataḥ therefore means through the grace of Viṣṇu: akāra-vācyād viṣṇos tat-prasādāt, p. 4.

The Bhāmatī, however, following Śaṅkara, explains the word ataḥ as meaning

“since the Vedas themselves say that the fruits of sacrifices are short-lived, whereas the fruits of Brahma-knowledge are indestructible and eternal”.

So that through the Vedas we have disinclination from mundane and heavenly joys (ihāmutra-phala-bhoga-virāgaḥ ), and these through Brahma-enquiry. But the Candrikā points out that such a connection with vairāgya, as signified by ataḥ, is remote and, moreover, the connection with vairāgya was already expressed by the word atha.


Tātparya-ṭīkā, pp. 89-93.


bauddhābhimata-kṣaṇika-vijñānāder api vastutaḥ kālādy abhāvena aparicchinnatva-prasaṅgāc ca; tasmād deśataḥ kālataś caiva guṇataś cāpi pūrṇatā brahmatā, na tu bhedasya rāhityaṃ brahmateṣyate.
p. 94.


para-pakṣe vicāra-janya-jñāna-karmaṇo brahmaṇo vicāra-karmatvāyogāt, aporokṣa-vṛtti-vyāpyasya phala-vyāpyatva-niyamāc ca.
p. 95.


The Bhāmatī, however, holds that the primary meaning of the word jijñāsā is “desire to know”; but, since desire to know can only be with reference to an object which is not definitely known (jñātum icchā hi saṇdigdha-viṣaye nirṇayāya bhavati), it means by implication reasoned discussion (vicāra), which is necessary for coming to any decided conclusion.


tasmād vedāntādinā’pāta-pratīte brahmaṇi saguṇa-nirguṇālpaguṇatvādinā vipratipatter jijñāsyatvam.
p. 109.


tasya parāyattatvāvabhāso’vidyā-nimittako bhramaḥ.
p. 26.


atra hi pramātṛ-pramāṇa-prameya-kartṛ-karma-kārya-bhoktṛ-bhoga-lakṣaṇa-vyavahāra-trayasya śārirendriyādiṣu ahaṃ-mamādhyāsa-puraḥsaratva-pradarśanena vyavahāra-kārya-liṅgakam anumānam vyavahārānyathānupapattir vā adhyāse pramāṇam uktam. na cānenāntaḥkaraṇa-śarīrendriya-viṣayāṇāṃ tad-dharmāṇāṃ duḥkhādīnāṃ ca mithyātvaṃ sidhyati svarūpa-satām api tādātmya-tatsambandhitvābhyām āropeṇaiva vyavahāropapatter. na ca āropitatvamātreṇa mithyātvam; ātmano’pi antaḥkaraṇādiṣu āropitatvena mithyātva-prasaṅgāt.


ahaṃ-pratyayasya ātma-viṣayatvāt.
p. 27.

It also distinguishes two words of the same form, aham, though one is an avyaya word and the other the nominative singular of the word asmad. It is the former that is used to denote an evolutionary product of prakṛti, whereas the latter denotes the self.


Several other examples of this type furnished by Śaṅkara and his followers are here given and refuted in the same manner.


duḥkhādi-bandha-satyatāyāṃ sākṣi-pratyakṣam eva upanyastam.
p. 30.


vyavahārikaṃ vyavahāra-viṣayo duḥkhādi.
p. 31.


na brūmo vayaṃ na santi pramāṇādīni iti svīkṛtya kathārabhyeti kiṃ nāma santi na santi pramāṇādīni ityasyāṃ cintāyāṃ udāsīnaiḥ yathā svīkṛtya tāni bhavatā vyavahriyante tathā vyavahāribhir eva kathā pravartyatām.
p. 32.


tac ca vyavahāra-niyama-bandhād eva...sa ca pramāṇena tarkeṇa ca vyavahartavyam ityādi-rūpaḥ; na ca pramāṇādīnāṃ sattāpi ittham eva tubhyam aṅgīkartum ucitā, tādṛśa-vyavahāra-niyama-mātreṇaiva kathā-pravṛtteḥ. Ibid.


sattvāsattve vihāya pramāṇa-svarūpasya buddhau āropayitum aśakyatvena udāsīnasya tat-svīkārānupapatteḥ.
p. 34.


pramāṇair vyavahartavyam iti ca niyama-bandhanaṃ pramā-karaṇa-bhāvasya niyamāntarbhāvān niyata-pūrva-sattva-rūpaṃ karaṇatvam pramāṇānām anādāya na paryavasyati.
p. 34.


tatra vyāvahārikasya prapañcasya sad-asad-vilakṣaṇasya sad-vilakṣaṇatvād upapannaṃ śrutyādinā mithyātva-samarthanam asad-vilakṣaṇatvāt tad-antargatasya pramāṇādeḥ sādhakatvaṃ ca iti.
p. 35.


sattā-sāmānyāṅgikāre ca sad-bhedo durvāra eva; na hy ekāśrayaṃ sāmānyam asti.
p. 38.


mudgara-prahārādinā ghaṭasyeva īśvarasya jñānecchā-prayatna-vyāpārair vināśa eva.
p. 39.


yo yadvilakṣaṇaṃ pratyeti sa tat-pratītimān yathā ghaṭa-vilakṣaṇaḥ paṭa iti pratītimān devadatto ghaṭa-pratītimān ityanumūnāt.
p. 57.


nirupākhyād iti cet tarhi tad-vailakṣaṇyaṃ nāma sopākhyānatvam eva.
p. 58.


anyathā-khyāti-vādibhir adhiṣṭhānāropyayor ubhayor api saṃsṛṣṭa-rūpeṇaiva asattvaṃ svarūpeṇa tu sattvam ity aṅgīkṛtam.
p. 58.


Nyāya-sudhā, p. 59.

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