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 liberation (moksha): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twelfth part in the series called the “controversy between the dualists and the monists”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Bondage is due to attachment to worldly objects, and liberation is produced through the direct realization of God (aparokṣa-jñānaṃ Viṣṇoḥ). This is produced in various ways, viz.: Experience of the sorrows of worldly existence, association with good men, renunciation of all desires of enjoyment of pleasures, whether in this world or in some heavenly world, self-control and self-discipline, study, association with a good teacher, and study of the scriptures according to his instructions, realization of the truth of those scriptures, discussions on the proper meaning for strengthening one’s convictions, proper respectful attachment to the teacher, respectful attachment to God (paramātma-bhakti), kindness to one’s inferiors, love for one’s equals, respectful attachment to superiors, cessation from works that are likely to bring pleasure or pain, cessation from doing prohibited actions, complete resignation to God, realization of the five differences (between God and soul, soul and soul, soul and the world, God and the world and between one object of the world and another), realization of the difference between prakṛti and puruṣa, appreciation of the difference of stages of advancement among the various kinds of men and other higher and lower living beings, and proper worship (upāsanā). As regards the teachers here referred to, from whom instructions should be taken, two distinct types of them are mentioned: there are some who are permanent teachers (niyata guru) and others who are only occasional teachers (aniyata guru). The former are those who can understand the nature and needs of their pupils and give such suitable instructions to them as may enable them to realize that particular manifestation of Viṣṇu which they are fit to realize; the occasional teachers are those who merely instruct us concerning God. In another sense all those who are superior to us in knowledge and religious discipline are our teachers. As regards worship, it is said that worship (upāsanā) is of two kinds: worship as religious and philosophical study, and worship as meditation (dhyāna)[1]; for there are some who cannot by proper study of the scriptures attain a true and direct realization of the Lord, and there are others who attain it by meditation. Meditation or dhyāna means continual thinking of God, leaving all other things aside[2], and such a meditation on God as the spirit, as the existent, and as the possessor of pure consciousness and bliss is only possible when a thorough conviction has been generated by scriptural studies and rational thinking and discussions, so that all false ideas have been removed and all doubts have been dispelled.

God alone is the cause of all bondage, as well as of all liberation[3]. When one directly realizes the nature of God, there arises in him devotion (bhakti) to the Lord; for without personal, direct and immediate knowledge of Him there cannot be any devotion. Devotion (bhakti) consists of a continual flow of love for the Lord, which cannot be impaired or affected by thousands of obstacles, which is many times greater than love for one’s own self or love for what is generally regarded as one’s own, and which is preceded by a knowledge of the Lord as the possessor of an infinite number of good and benign qualities[4]. And when such a bhakti arises, the Lord is highly pleased (atyartha-prasāda), and it is when God is so pleased with us that we can attain salvation.

Though individual souls are self-luminous in themselves, yet through God’s will their self-luminous intelligence becomes veiled by ignorance (avidyā). When, as a modification of the mind or inner organ (antaḥkaraṇa), direct knowledge of God arises, such a modification serves to dispel the ignorance or avidyā; for, though avidyā is not directly associated with the mind, yet such a mental advancement can affect it, since they are both severally connected with the individual self. Ordinarily the rise of knowledge destroys only the deeds of unappointed fruition, whereas the deeds of appointed fruition (prārabdha-karma) remain and cause pleasure and pain, cognition and want of cognition. So ordinarily the realization of God serves to destroy the association of prakṛti and the guṇas with an individual, as also his karmas and subtle body (liṅga-deha), consisting of the senses, five prāṇas and manas, until the deeds of appointed fruition are exhausted by suffering or enjoyment[5]. During pralaya the liberated souls enter the womb of God and cannot have any enjoyment; but again after creation they begin to enjoy.

The enjoyment of liberated souls is of four kinds:

  1. sālokya,
  2. sāmīpya,
  3. sārūpya
  4. and sāyujya
    (sāṛṣṭi being counted as a species of sāyujya and not a fifth kind of liberation).

Sāyujya means the entrance of individual souls into the body of God and their identification of themselves with the enjoyment of God in His own body;

sāṛṣṭi-mokṣa, which is a species of sāyujya-mokṣa, means the enjoyment of the same powers that God possesses, which can only be done by entering into the body of God and by identifying oneself with the particular powers of God. Only deities or Gods deserve to have this kind of liberation; they can, of course, at their will come out of God as well and remain separate from Him;

sālokya-mokṣa means residence in heaven and being there with God to experience satisfaction and enjoyment by the continual sight of Him.

Sāmīpya-mokṣa means continuous residence near God, such as is enjoyed by the sages.

Sārūpya-mokṣa is enjoyed by God’s attendants, who have outward forms similar to that which God possesses[6].

The acceptance of difference amongst the liberated souls in the states of enjoyment and other privileges forms one of the cardinal doctrines of Madhva’s system; for, if it is not acknowledged, then the cardinal dualistic doctrine that all individual souls are always different from one another would fail[7]. It has already been said that liberation can be attained only by bhakti, involving continuous pure love (sneha)[8]. Only gods and superior men deserve it, whereas ordinary men deserve only to undergo rebirth, and the lowest men and the demons always suffer in hell. The Gods cannot go to hell, nor can the demons ever attain liberation, and ordinary persons neither obtain liberation nor go to hell[9].

As the imperative duties of all men upwards of eight years and up to eighty years of age, Madhva most strongly urges the fasting on the Ekādaśī (eleventh day of the moon), marking the forehead with the black vertical line characteristic of his followers even to the present day. One should constantly worship Lord Kṛṣṇa with great devotion (bhakti) and pray to Him to be saved from the sorrows of the world. One should think of the miseries of hell and try to keep oneself away from sins, and should always sing the name of Hari, the Lord, and make over to Him all the deeds that one performs, having no desire of fruits for them[10].

Footnotes and references:


upāsanā ca dvividhā, satataṃ śāstrābhyāsa-rūpā dhyāna-rūpā ca.
p. 500.


dhyānaṃ ca itara-tiraskāra-pūrvaka-bhagavad-viṣayakākhaṇḍa-smṛtiḥ.
p. 502.

This dhyāna is the same as nididhyāsana.


God maintains or keeps in existence all other entities, which are all wholly dependent on Him. He creates and destroys only the non-eternal and etemal-non-etemal entities. Again, with reference to all beings except Laksmī, it is He who holds up the veil of positive ignorance (bhāva-rūpā avidyā) of prakṛti, either as the first avidyā, the guṇas of sattva, rajas and tamas, or as the second avidyā of desire (kāma), or as the third avidyā of actions of appointed fruition (prārabdha-karma), or as the subtle body, or finally as His own will. It is the last, the power of Hari, which forms the real stuff of all ignorance; the avidyā is only an indirect agent (parameśvara-śaktir eva svarūpāvaraṇā mukhyā, avidyā tu nimitta-mātraṃ); for, even if avidyā is destroyed, there will not arise supreme bliss, unless God so desires it. It is again He who gives knowledge to the conscious entities, happiness to all except those demons who are by nature unfit for attaining it, and sorrow also to all except Laksmī, who is by nature without any touch of sorrow. Tattva-saṃkhyāna-vivaraṇa and Tattva-saṃkhyāna-ṭīppaṇa, pp. 43-7.


parameśvara-bhaktir nāma niravadhikānantānavadya-kalyāṇa-guṇatvā-jñānapūrvakaḥ svātmātmīya-samasta-vastubhyaḥ aneka-guṇādhikaḥ antarāya-sahasreṇāpi apratibaddhaḥ nirantara-prema-pravāḥaḥ.
on Anuvyākhyāna.



Bhāgavata-tātparya, I. 13, where a reference is made also to Brahma-tarka.


Jaya and Vijaya, the two porters of God, are said to enjoy Sārūpya-mokṣa.


muktānāṃ ca na hīyante tāratamyaṃ ca sarvadā.
p. 4.
      See also Nyāyāmṛta.


acchidra-sevā (faultless attendance) and niṣkāmatva (desirelessness) are also mentioned as defining the characteristic bhakti. Gifts, pilgrimage, tapas, etc., also are regarded as secondary accessories of attendance on, or sevā of, God. Ibid. p. 5.


Ibid. p. 5.



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