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 topics of vallabha vedanta as explained by vallabha’s followers: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the sixth part in the series called the “the philosophy of vallabha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 6 - Topics of Vallabha Vedānta as explained by Vallabha’s followers

A number of papers, which deserve some notice, were written by the followers of Vallabha on the various topics of the Vedānta. According to the Bhāgavata-purāṇa (hi. 7, 10-11), as interpreted by Vallabha in his Subodhinī, error is regarded as wrong attribution of a quality or character to an entity to which it does not belong[1]. Taking his cue from Vallabha, Bālakṛṣṇa bhaṭṭa (otherwise called Dallū bhaṭṭa) tries to evolve a philosophic theory of illusion according to the Vallabha school. He says that in the first instance there is a contact of the eye (as associated with the manas) with the conch-shell, and thereby there arises an indeterminate knowledge (sāmāny ajñāna), which is prior to doubt and other specific cognitions; this indeterminate cognition rouses the sattvaguṇa of the buddhi and thereby produces right knowledge. It is therefore said in the Sarvanirṇaya that buddhi as associated with sattva is to be regarded as pramāṇa. In the Bhāgavata (111. 26. 30) doubt, error, definite knowledge, memory and dream are regarded as states of buddhi; so the defining character of cognition is to be regarded as a function of buddhi. Thus it is the manas and the senses that produce indeterminate knowledge, which later on becomes differentiated through the function of buddhi. When through the tamas quality of māyā the buddhi is obscured, the conch-shell with which the senses are in contact is not perceived; the buddhi, thus obscured, produces the notion of silver by its past impression of silver, roused by the shining characteristic of the conch-shell, which is similar to silver. In the Śaṅkara school of interpretation the false silver is created on the conch-shell, which is obscured by avidyā. The silver of the conch-shell-silver is thus an objective creation, and as such a relatively real object with which the visual sense comes in contact. According to Vallabha the conch-shell-silver is a mental creation of the buddhi[2].

The indefinite knowledge first produced by the contact of the senses of the manas is thus of the conch-shell, conch-shell-silver being a product of the buddhi ; in right knowledge the buddhi takes in that which is grasped by the senses. This view of illusion is called anyakhyāti, i.e., the apprehension of something other than that with which the sense was in contact. The Śaṅkara interpretation of illusion is false; for, if there was a conch-shell-silver created by the māyā, it is impossible to explain the notion of conch-shell; for there is nothing to destroy the conch-shell-silver which would have been created. The conch-shell-silver having obscured the conch-shell and the notion of conch-shell-silver not being destructible except without the notion of the conch-shell, nothing can explain how the conch-shell-silver may be destroyed. If it is suggested that the conch-shell-silver is produced by māyā and destroyed by māyā, then the notion of world-appearances produced by māyā may be regarded as destructible by māyā, and no effort can be made for the attainment of right knowledge. According to Vallabha the world is never false; it is our buddhi which creates false notions, which may be regarded as intermediate creation (antarālikī). In the case of transcendental illusion—when the Brahman is perceived as the manifold world—there is an apprehension of Him as being, which is of an indefinite nature. It is this being which is associated with characters and appearances, e.g., the jug and the pot, which are false notions created by buddhi. These false notions are removed when the defects are removed, and not by the intuition of the locus of the illusion; the intellectual creation of a jug and a pot may thus be false, though this does not involve the denial of a jug or a pot in the actual world[3].

So the notion of world-creation and world-destruction are false notions created by us. Th ejīva, being a part of God, is true; it is false only in so far as it is regarded as the subject of the cycle of birth and rebirth. The falsity of the reality of the world thus depends on the manner in which it is perceived[4]; so, when one perceives the world and knows it as Brahman, his intellectual notion of the real diversity of the world vanishes, though the actually perceived world may remain as it is[5]. The creation of māyā is thus not external, but internal. The visible world, therefore, as such is not false; only the notion of it as an independent reality, apart from God, is false. The word māyā is used in two senses, as the power of God to become all, and as the power of delusion; and the latter is a part of the former.

Puruṣottama, however, gives a different interpretation in his Khyātivāda. He says that the illusion of conch-shell-silver is produced by the objective and the external projection of knowledge as a mental state through the instrumentality of māyā ; the mental state thus projected is intuited as an object[6]. This external projection is associated with the rising of older impressions. It is wrong to suppose that it is the self which is the basis of illusion; for the self is the basis of self-consciousness and in the perception of the conch-shell-silver no one has the notion “I am silver.”

Speaking against the doctrine of the falsity of the world, Giridhara Gosvāmī says in his Prapañcavāda that the illusoriness of the world cannot be maintained. If the falsity of the perceived world is regarded as its negation in past, present and future, then it could not have been perceived at all; if this negation be of the nature of atyantābhāva, then, since that concept is dependent on the existence of the thing to be negated and since that thing also does not exist, the negation as atyantābhāva does not exist either. If the negation of the world means that it is a fabrication of illusion, then again there are serious objections; an illusion is an illusion only in comparison with a previous right knowledge; when no comparison with a previous right knowledge is possible, the world cannot be an illusion.

If the nature of the world be regarded as due to avidyā, one may naturally think, to whom does the avidyā belong? Brahman (according to the Śaṅkarites) being qualityless, avidyā cannot be a quality of Brahman. Brahman Himself cannot be avidyā, because avidyā is the cause of it. If avidyā is regarded as obscuring the right knowledge of anything, then the object of which the right knowledge is obscured must be demonstrated. Again, the Śaṅkarites hold that the jīva is a reflection of Brahman on avidyā. If that is so, then the qualities of the jīva are due to avidyā as the impurities of a reflection are due to the impurity of the mirror. If that is so, th e jīva being a product of the avidyā, the latter cannot belong to the former. In the Vallabha view the illusion of the individual is due to the will of God.

Again, the avidyā of the Śaṅkarites is defined as different from being and non-being; but no such category is known to anybody, because it involves self-contradiction. Now the Śaṅkarites say that the falsity of the world consists in its indefinableness; in reality this is not falsity—if it were so, Brahman Himself would have been false. The śruti texts say that He cannot be described by speech, thought or mind. It cannot be said that Brahman can be defined as being; for it is said in the text that He is neither being nor nonbeing (na sat tan nāsad ity ucyate). Again, the world cannot be regarded as transformation (vikāra) ; for, if it is a vikāra, one must point out that of which it is a vikāra ; it cannot be of Brahman, because Brahman is changeless; it cannot be of anything else, since everything except Brahman is changeable.

In the Vallabha view the world is not false, and God is regarded as the samavāyi and nimitta-kāraṇa of it, as has been described above. Samavāyi-kāraṇa is conceived as pervading all kinds of existence, just as earth pervades the jug; but, unlike the jug, there is no transformation or change (vikāra) of God, because, unlike the earth, God has will. The apparent contradiction, that the world possessed of quality and characters cannot be identified with Brahman, is invalid, because the nature of Brahman can only be determined from the scriptural texts, and they unquestionably declare that Brahman has the power of becoming everything.

In the Bhedābheda-svarūpa-nirṇaya Puruṣottama says that according to the satkāryavāda view of the Vedānta all things are existent in the Brahman from the beginning. The jīvas also, being the parts of God, exist in Him. The difference between the causal and the effect state is that in the latter certain qualities or characters become manifest. The duality that we perceive in the world does not contradict monism; for the apparent forms and characters which are mutually different cannot contradict their metaphysical character of identity with God[7]. So Brahman from one point of view may be regarded as partless, and from another point of view as having parts.

There is a difference, however, between the prapañca and the manifold world and saṃsāra, the cycle of births and rebirths. By the concept of saṃsāra we understand that God has rendered Himself into effects and the jīvas and the notion of their specific individuality as performers of actions and enjoyers of experience. Such a notion is false; there is in reality no cause and effect, no bondage and salvation, everything being of the nature of God. This idea has been explained in Vallabha Gosvāmī’s Prapañca-saṃsāra-bheda. Just as the sun and its rays are one and the same, so the qualities of God are dependent upon Him and identical with Him; the apparent contradiction is removed by the testimony of the scriptural texts[8].

Regarding the process of creation Puruṣottama, after refuting the various views of creation, says that Brahman as the identity of sat, cit, and ānanda manifests Himself as these qualities and thereby differentiates Himself as the power of being, intelligence and action, and He is the delusive māyā. These differentiated qualities show themselves as different; they produce also the notion of difference in the entities with which they are associated and express themselves in definite forms. Though they thus appear as different, they are united by God’s will. The part, as being associated with the power of action, manifests itself as matter. When the power of intelligence appears as confused it is th ejīva[9]. From the point of view of the world the Brahman is the vivartakāraṇa ; from the point of view of the self-creation of God, it is pariṇāma[10].

Footnotes and references:


yathā jale candramasaḥ pratibiṃbitasya tena jalena kṛto guṇaḥ kaṃpādi-dharmaḥ āsanno vidyamāno mithyaiva dṛśyate na vastutaścandrasya evam anātmano dehader dharmo jantna-bandha-duḥkhādirupo dṛaṣṭur ātmano jīvasya na īśvarasya.
III. 7. 11.


iad idaṃ bauddham eva rajataṃ buddḥyā viṣayī-kriyate. na tu sāmānya-jñāne cakṣur-viṣayī-bhūtam iti vivekaḥ.
p. 3.


atrāpi bauddha eva ghaṭo mithyā, na tu prapañcāntar-vartīti niṣkarṣaḥ.
p. 6.


tathā ca siddhaṃ viṣayatā-vaiśiṣṭyena prapañcasya satyatvaṃ mithyātvañca. evaṃ svamate prapañcasya pāramārthika-vicāre brahmātmakatvena satyatvam.
, p. 8.


tathātra cakṣuḥ-saṃyukta-prapañca-viṣayake brahmatva-jñāne utpanne bauddha eva prapañco naśyati. na tu cakṣur-gṛhīto'yam ity arthaḥ.
p. 8.


ataḥ śukti-rajatādi-sthale māyayā bahiḥ-kṣipta-buddhi-vṛtti-rūpaṃ jñānam eva arthākāreṇa khyāyata iti mantavyam.
p. 121.


sṛṣṭi-daśāyāṃ jagad-brahmaṇoḥ kārya-kāraṇa-bhāvāj jagajjīvayor aṃṣāṃśi-bhāvāc ca upacāriko bhavan nāpi na vāstavābhedaṃ nihanti. tenedānīm api bheda-sahiṣṇur evā’bhedaḥ.
p. 20.


vādakathā of Gopeśvarasvāmī in Vādāvali, p. 31.


See Puruṣottama’s Sṛṣṭibhedavāda, p. 115.


evaṃ ca antarā-sṛṣṭiṃ prati vivartopādānatvam ātma-sṛṣṭiṃ prati pariṇā-myupādānatvaṃ brahmaṇaḥ.
p. 113.

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