A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 5

Southern Schools of Śaivism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1955 | 79,816 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of moral responsibility and the grace of god: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the third part in the series called the “philosophy of shrikantha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 3 - Moral Responsibility and the Grace of God

The question is, why did the supreme Lord create the whole universe? He is always self-realised and self-satisfied, and He has no attachment and no antipathy. He is absolutely neutral and impartial. How is it, then, that He should create a world which is so full of happiness to some (e.g. the gods) and so full of sorrow and misery to others? This will naturally lead us to the charge of partiality and cruelty. Moreover, since before the creation there must have been destruction, it will necessarily be argued that God Himself is so cruel as to indulge in universal destruction out of simple cruelty. So one may naturally argue that what purpose should God have in creating a world which is not a field for the attainment of our own desires and values. The reply given to this is that God indulges in the creation and destruction of the world in accordance with the diversity of human deeds and their results (karma and karmaphala).

It cannot be argued that before the creation there were no souls, for we know from the Upaniṣadic texts that the souls and God both exist eternally. As the souls have no beginning in time, so their deeds also are beginningless. This may lead to an infinite regress, but this infinite regress is not vicious. The series of births and deaths in the world in different bodies is within the stream of beginningless karma. Since God in His omniscience directly knows by intuition the various kinds of deeds that the individual would perform, He arranges suitable bodies and circumstances for the enjoyment or suffering of such deeds already anticipated by Him. So the difference in creation is due to the diversity of one’s deeds. The time of destruction comes when the souls become tired and fatigued by the process of birth and death, and require some rest in dreamless sleep. So the effectuation of dissolution does not prove the cruelty of God.

Now, since the pleasures and sorrows of all beings depend upon their deeds (karma), what is the necessity of admitting any God at all? The reply is that the law of karma depends upon the will of God and it does not operate in an autonomous manner, nor does it curb the freedom or independence of God. This, however, would lead us in a circular way to the same position, for while the pleasures and sorrows of men depend upon the deeds of men and the law of karma, and since the law of karma depends upon the will of God, it actually means that the pleasures and sorrows of beings are due indirectly to the partiality of God.

Again, since the karma and the law of karma are both unintelligent, they must be operated by the intelligence of God. But how could God before the creation, when beings were devoid of the miseries of death and birth, were not endowed with any bodies, and were therefore in a state of enjoyment, associate them with bodies, lead them to the cycle of birth and rebirth, and expose them to so much sorrow? The reply is that God extends His grace to all (sarvānugrāhaka parameśvara); and thus, since without the fruition of one’s deeds (karmapākam antareṇa) there cannot be pure knowledge, and since without pure knowledge there cannot be the liberation of enjoying bliss in a superlative manner, and since also without the fruition of karma through enjoyment and suffering there cannot be the relevant bodies through which the souls could enjoy or suffer the fruits of karma, bodies have necessarily to be associated with all the souls which were lying idle at the time of the dissolution. So when in this manner the deeds of a person are exhausted through enjoyment or suffering, and the minds of beings become pure, it is only then that there may arise self-knowledge leading to the supreme bliss of liberation.

It may again be asked that, if God is absolutely merciful, why could not He arrange for the fruition of the deeds of all persons at one and the same time and allow them to enjoy the bliss of liberation? The reply is that, even if God would have extended His grace uniformly to all persons, then those whose impurities have been burnt up would be liberated and those whose impurities still remained could only attain salvation through the process of time. Thus, though God is always self-contented, He operates only for the benefit of all beings.

From the interpretation of Appaya it appears that the word grace (annugraha) is taken by him in the sense of justice. So God does not merely extend His mercy, but His mercy is an extension of justice in accordance with the deeds of persons, and therefore He cannot be regarded as partial or cruel[1]. Appaya anticipates the objection that in such a view there is no scope for the absolute lordship of God, for He only awards happiness and misery in accordance with the law of karma. It is therefore meaningless to say that it is He, the Lord, that makes one commit sins or perform good deeds merely as He wishes to lower a person or to elevate him. For God does not on His own will make one do bad or good deeds, but the persons themselves perform good or bad actions according to their own inclinations as acquired in past creations, and it is in accordance with those deeds that the new creation is made for the fulfilment of the law of karma[2]. Appaya further says that the good and bad deeds are but the qualities of the mind (antaḥkaraṇa) of the persons. At the time of dissolution these minds are also dissolved in the māyā and remain there as unconscious impressions or tendencies (vāsānā), and being there they are reproduced in the next creation as individual bodies and their actions in such a way that, though they were dissolved in the māyā, they do not commingle, and each one is associated with his own specific mind and deeds at the next birth[3]. In the Āgamas, where thirty-six categories (tattva) are counted, the law of karma called niyati is also counted as one of the categories. Though the category of niyati is admitted, it cannot operate blindly, but only under the superintendence of God, so that the actions or fruits of action of one may not be usurped by another. Pure niyati or the law of karma could not have done it. The view supported here is that when, at the time of dissolution, all karmas are in a state of profound slumber, God awakens them and helps the formation of bodies in accordance with them, and associates the bodies with the respective souls, and makes them suffer or enjoy according to their own deeds.

The problem still remains unexplained as to how we are to reconcile the freedom of will of all persons with the determinism by God. If God is regarded as being responsible for making us act in the way of good or of evil, then deferring God’s determination to beginningless lives does not help the solution of the difficulty. If God determines that we shall behave in a particular manner in this life, and if that manner is determined by the actions of our past lives ad infinitum, then when we seek for the original determination we are bound to confess that God is partial; for He must have determined us to act differently at some distant period and He is making us act and suffer and enjoy accordingly. So the ultimate responsibility lies with God. In reply to this it is held by Appaya, interpreting the commentary of Śrīkaṇtlia, that we were all born with impurities. Our bondage lies in the veil that covers our wisdom and action, and God, who possesses infinite and manifold powers, is always trying to make us act in such a manner that we may ultimately purify ourselves and make ourselves similar to Him. The dissolution of our impurities through natural transformation is like that of a boil or wound in the body which disappears only after giving some pain. The Vedic duties which are obligatory and occasional help to cure us of these impurities, just as medicine helps to cure a wound, and this may necessarily cause misery of birth and death. It is only when our deeds fructify that knowledge can spring from them. So also by the performance of obligatory and occasional deeds as prescribed in the Vedas, our karmas become mature and there arises in us a spirit of disinclination (vairāgya), devotion to Śiva and an inquiry after Him, which ultimately produces in us the wisdom that leads to liberation. The fruition of one’s karma cannot take place without the environment of the world such as we have it. Thus, for the ultimate liberation we must perform certain actions. God makes us perform these actions, and according to the manifold character of our deeds He creates different kinds of bodies, making us do such actions as we may suffer from, and thereby gradually advance towards the ultimate goal of liberation. In accordance with the diversity of our original impurities and actions, we are made to perform different kinds of deeds, just as a medical adviser would prescribe different kinds of remedies for different diseases. All this is due to the supreme grace of God. Śrīkaṇṭha’s usage of the word karma means that by which the cycle of birth and death is made possible through the agency of God[4]. In the dissolution, of course, there cannot be any process for the fulfilment or fruition of action, so that state is supposed to be brought about only for giving a rest to all beings.

In Brahma-sūtra II. 3. 41 Śrīkaṇṭha seems to make it definitely clear that the individual souls themselves do things which may be regarded as the cause of their acting in a particular way, or desisting from a particular way of action, in accordance with the nature of the fruition of their past deeds. It is further said that God only helps a person when he wishes to act in a particular way, or to desist from a particular action. So a man is ultimately responsible for his own volition, which he can follow by the will of God in the practical field of the world. The responsibility of man rests in the assertion of his will and the carrying of the will into action, and the will of God helps us to carry out our will in the external world around us. Man performs his actions in accordance with the way in which he can best satisfy his interests. He is therefore responsible for his actions, though in the actual carrying out of the will he is dependent on God. God thus cannot be charged with partiality or cruelty, for God only leads the individual souls to action in accordance with His own will and inner effort[5].

It is curious to note, however, that Appaya thinks that, even allowing for the inner human effort of will, the individual is wholly dominated by God. Appaya thus leaves no scope for the freedom of the will[6].

In Brahma-sūtra II. 2. 36-8 Śrīkaṇṭha makes a special effort to repudiate the view of Śaṅkara, that the Śaivas believed in a doctrine that God was the instrumental cause of the world, and could be known as such through inference. He also repudiates the view that the Brahman or Siva had entered into the prakṛti or the primal matter, and thereby superintended the course of its evolution and transformation into the universe. For in that case He should be open to the enjoyment and suffering associated with the prakṛti. Śrīkaṇṭha therefore holds that according to the Śaiva view the Brahman is both the material and the efficient cause of the universe, and that He cannot be known merely by reason, but by the testimony of the Vedic scriptures. There is here apparently an oscillation of view on the subject as propounded by Śrīkaṇṭha. Here and in the earlier parts of his work, as has been pointed out, Śrīkaṇṭha asserts that, though God is the material cause of the universe, He is somehow unaffected by the changes of the world[7]. The ultimate Brahman or Śiva is associated with a subtle energy of consciousness and materiality which together are called cicchakti, and as associated with the cicchakti, God Siva is one and beyond everything. When in the beginning of creation there comes out from this supreme māyā or cicchakti the creative māyā which has a serpentine motion, then that energy becomes the material cause of the entire world. It is from this that four categories evolve, namely as śakti, Sadāśiva, Maheśvara, and Śuddha-vidyā. After that comes the lower māyā of a mixed character, which is in reality the direct material cause of the world and the bodies. Then comes time (kāla), destiny (niyati), knowledge (vidyā), attachment (rāga), and the souls. In another line there comes from the impure māyā the entire universe and the bodies of living beings. From that comes intelligence (buddhi), egotism (ahaṅkāra), manas, the fivefold cognitive senses, the fivefold conative senses, the fivefold subtle causes of gross matter called tanmātra, and also the fivefold elements of matter. Thus are the twenty-three categories. Counting the previous categories, we get thirty-six categories altogether. These are well known in the Śaiva texts and they have been established there both logically and by reference to the testimony of the scriptural texts. A distinction is made, as has been shown above, between the pure māyā and the impure māyā. The impure māyā includes within itself all the effects such as time and the impure souls. The word vyakta is used to denote the material cause or the purely material world, including the mental psychosis called buddhi.

The category of Siva is also sometimes denoted by the term śakti or energy[8]. The word śiva-tattva has also been used as merely Siva in the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā.

We have seen before that Śaṅkara explained this topic of the Brahma-sūtra as refuting the view of the different schools of Śaivas or Maheśvaras who regard God as being the instrumental cause of the universe. Śrīkaṇṭha has tried to show that God is both the material cause and the instrumental cause of the universe. In his support he addresses texts from the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā of the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa to show that, according to the Vedic authority, God is both the material and the instrumental cause of the universe. But Śrīkaṇṭha says that, though the Āgamas and the Vedic view of Śaivism are one and the same, since both of them were composed by Siva, in some of the Āgamas, such as the Kāmika, the instrumental side is more emphasised; but that emphasis should not be interpreted as a refutation of the view that God is also the material cause of the universe. It is true that in some sects of Śaivism, such as the Kāpalikas or Kālamukhas, some of the religious practices are of an impure character and so far they may be regarded as non-Vedic; and it is possible that for that reason, in the Mahābhārata and elsewhere, some sects of Śaivism have been described as non-Vedic. Yet from the testimony of the Varāha-purāṇa and other Purāṇas, Śaivism or the Pāśupata-yoga has been regarded as Vedic. Śrīkaṇṭha and Appaya took great pains to bridge the gulf between the vernacular Śaivism and the Sanskritic, that is, those forms of Śaivism which were based on the authority of the Vedas and were open to the first three castes (varṇa), and those which are open to all castes. Both try to make out that the present topic was not directed against the views propounded in the Śaivāgamas as Śaṅkara explained, but against other views which do not form any part of the Śaiva philosophy.

In some texts of the Kalpa-sūtras we hear of objections against the valid authority of some of the texts, but these objections do not apply to the Agamas composed by Siva. It is said that Śiva cannot be the material cause of the universe, because the Upaniṣads hold that the Brahman is changeless, and in this way an attempt is made to refute the, pariṇāma doctrine. Pariṇāma means “change from a former state to a latter state.” It is further held that śakti or energy is in itself changeless. Even if that śakti be of the nature of consciousness, then such a change would also be inadmissible. Against this view it is held that there may be change in the spiritual power or energy (cicchakti) on the occasion of a desire for creation or a desire for destruction. The cicchakti which is within us goes out and comes into contact, in association with the senses, with the external objects, and this explains our perception of things. So, since we have to admit the theory of the functional expansion (vṛtti) of the cicchakti, it is easy to admit that the original śakti has also its functional expansion or contraction[9].

According to the Śaiva school as propounded by Śrīkaṇṭha, the individual souls have not emanated from God, but they are coexistent with Him. The apparent scriptural texts that affirm that souls came out of Brahman like sparks from a fire are interpreted as meaning only the later association of souls with buddhi and manas, and also with the different bodies. It must also be said that the souls are the conscious knowers, both by way of senses and by the manas. The manas is explained as a special property or quality of knowledge which the soul possesses and by virtue of which it is a knower. This manas must be differentiated from a lower type of manas which is a product of prakṛti, and which becomes associated with the soul in the process of birth and rebirth through association with the power of māyā. This power gives it a special character as a knower, by which it can enjoy or suffer pleasure and pain, and which is limited to the body and the egoism. It is by virtue of this manas that the soul is called a jīva. When through Brahma-knowledge its threefold association with impurities is removed, then it becomes like Brahman, and its self-knowledge in a liberated state manifests itself. This knowledge is almost like Brahma-knowledge. In this state the individual soul may enjoy its own natural joy without the association of any of the internal organs, merely by the manas. The manas there is the only internal organ for the enjoyment of bliss and there is no necessity of any external organs. The difference between the individual soul and God is that the latter is omniscient and the former knows things only particularly during the process of birth and rebirth. But in the actual state of liberation the souls also become omniscient[10]. Śrīkaṇṭha also holds that the souls are all atomic in size, and that they are not of the nature of pure consciousness, but they all possess knowledge as their permanent quality. In all these points Śrīkaṇṭha differs from Śaṅkara and is in partial agreement with Rāmānuja. Knowledge as consciousness is not an acquired quality of the soul as with the Naiyāyikas or the Vaiśeṣikas, but it is always invariably co-existent in the nature of the selves. The individual souls are also regarded as the real agents of their actions, and not merely illusory agents, as some philosophical theories hold. Thus Sāṃkhya maintains that the prakṛti is the real agent and also the real enjoyer of joys and sorrows, which are falsely attributed to the individual souls. According to Śrīkaṇṭha, however, the souls are both real agents and real enjoyers of their deeds. It is by the individual will that a soul performs an action, and there is no misattribution of the sense of agency as is supposed by Sāṃkhya or other schools of thought. The souls are ultimately regarded as parts of Brahman, and Śrīkaṇṭha tries to repudiate the monistic view that God falsely appears as an individual soul through the limitations of causes and conditions (upādhi)[11].

Regarding the view that karmas or deeds produce their own effects directly, or through the intermediary of certain effects called apūrva, Śrīkaṇṭha holds that the karmas being without any intelligence (acetana) cannot be expected to produce the manifold effects running through various births and various bodies. It has therefore to be admitted that, as the karmas can be performed only by the will of God operating in consonance with the original free will of man, or as determined in later stages by his own karma, so the prints of all the karmas are also distributed in the proper order by the grace of God. In this way God is ultimately responsible on the one hand for our actions, and on the other for the enjoyment and suffering in accordance with our karmas, without any prejudice to our moral responsibility as expressed in our original free inclination or as determined later by our own deeds.[12]

In the state of liberation the liberated soul does not become one with the Brahman in its state of being without any qualities. The Upaniṣadic texts that affirm that the Brahman is without any qualities do so only with the view to affirm that Brahman has none of the undesirable qualities, and that He is endowed with all excellent qualities which are consistent with our notion of God. When in the state of liberation the liberated souls become one with the Brahman, it only means that they share with God all His excellent qualities, but they never become divested of all qualities, as the monistic interpretation of Śaṅkara likes to explain. It has been pointed out before that God may have many attributes at one and the same time, and that such a conception is not self-contradictory if it is not affirmed that he has many qualities of a contradictory character at one and the same time. Thus, we can speak of a lotus as being white, fragrant and big, but we cannot speak of it as being both blue and white at the same time.[13]

Śrīkaṇṭha holds that only those karmas which are ripe for producing fruits (prārabdha-karma) will continue to give fruits, and will do so until the present body falls away. No amount of knowledge or intuition can save us from enjoying or suffering the fruits of karma that we have earned, but if we attain true knowledge by continuing our meditation on the nature of Siva as being one with ourselves, we shall not have to suffer birth and rebirth of the accumulated karmas which had not yet ripened to the stage of giving their fruits of enjoyment or suffering[14].

When all the impurities (mala) are removed and a person is liberated, he can in that state of liberation enjoy all blissful experiences and all kinds of powers, except the power of creating the universe. He can remain without a body and enjoy all happiness through his mind alone, or he can at one and the same time animate or recreate many spiritual bodies which transcend the laws of prakṛti, and through them enjoy any happiness that he wishes to have. In no case, however, is he at that stage brought under the law of karma to suffer the cycles of birth and rebirth, but remains absolutely free in himself in tune with the Lord Siva, with whom he may participate in all kinds of pleasurable experiences. He thus retains his personality and power of enjoying pleasures. He does this only through his mind or through his immaterial body and senses. His experiences would no longer be of the type of the experiences of normal persons, who utilise experiences for attaining particular ends. His experience of the world would be a vision of it as being of the nature of Brahman[15].

Footnotes and references:


evaṃ ca yathā narapatiḥ prajānāṃ vyavahāra-darśane tadīya-yuktāyukta-vacanānusāreṇa anugraha-nigraha-viśeṣaṃ kurvan pakṣapātitva-lakṣaṇam vaiṣamyaṃ na pratipaḍyate evam īśvaro’pi taḍīya-karma-viśeṣā-nusāreṇa viṣama-sṛṣṭiṃ kurvan na tatpratipadyate.
      Appaya Dīkṣita’s commentary, Vol. II, p. 47.


parameśvaro na svayam sādhvasādhūni karmāṇi kārayati, tais sukha-duḥkhādīni ca notpādayati, yenatasya vaiṣamyam āpatet. kin tu prārdna eva tathābhūtāni karmāṇi yām sva-sva-rucyanusāreṇa pūrva-sargeṣu kurvanti tāny eva punas-sargeṣu viṣama-sṛṣṭi-hetavo bhavanti.
Vol. II, p. 48.


parmeśvarastu pūrva-sarga-kṛtānām tat-tad-antaḥkaraṇa-dharmarūpāṇāṃ sadhva-asādhu-karmanāṃ prataye sarvāntaḥ-karaṇānām vihnatayā māyāyām eva vāsanā-rūpatayā lagnānāṃ kevalam asaṅkareṇa phala-vyavasthāpakaḥ. anyathā māyāyām saṅkirṇeṣu karma-phalam anyo gṛhṇīyāt.
      Appaya Dīkṣita’s commentary, Vol. 11, p. 48.


bhāṣyekarma-pakam antareṇe'tyāḍi-vākyeṣu karma-śabdaḥ kriyatenena sarnsāra iti karana-vyutpattyā vū paratneśvareṇa pakvaḥ kriyata iti kartna-vyutpattyā vā malāvaraṇaparo draṣṭavyaḥ.
      Appaya Dīkṣita’s commentary, Vol. II, p. 50.


ato jīva-kṛta-prayatnāpekṣatvāt karmasu jīvasya pravartaka īśvaro na vaiṣamyabhāk. tasyāpi svādhāna-pravṛtti-sadbhāvāt vidhi-niṣedhādi-vaiyarthaṃ ca na sambhavatīti siddham.
      Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra II. 3. 41, P. 157.


tathā ca parameśvara-kārita-pūrva-karma-mūla-svecchādhīne yatne, para-meśvarāḍhīnatvan na ḥīyate.
      Appaya’s commentary, Vol. II, p. 156.


jagad-upādana-nimitta-bhūtasyāpi parameśvarasya “niṣkalam niṣkriyam” ityādi-śrutibḥir nirvikāratvcan apy upapadyate.
      Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra II. 2. 38, p. iog.


śiva-tattva-śabdena tu śiva evocyate. na tu atra śiva-tattva-śabdah para-śaktiparaḥ. śakti-śabḍas tat-kārya-dvitīya-tattva-rūpa-śaktiparaḥ.
      Appaya Dīkṣita’s commentary, Vol. n, p. 110.


teṣvapi sisṛkṣā-saṃjihīrṣādi-vyavahāreṇa śiva-ciccḥakteḥ “cicchaktir artha-saṃyogo-ḍhyakṣam iṇḍriya-mārgataiti ciccḥakti-vṛtti-nirgama-vyavahāreṇa jīva-ciccḥakteś ca pariṇāmitvam āviṣkṛtam eveti bhāvaḥ. 
      Appaya Dīkṣita’s commentary, Vol. II, p. 112.


tat-sadṛśa-guṇatvāt apagata-saṃsārasya jīvasya svarūpānandānubhava-sādhanaṃ manorūpam antaḥ-karaṇam anapekṣita-bāhya-karaṇam asti iti gamy ate. jñājñau iti jīvasya ajñatvam kiṃcij jñatvam eva. asaṃsāriṇaḥ parameśvarasya tu sarvajñatvam ucyate. ataḥ saṃsāre kiṃcij jñatvam muktau sarvajñatvam iti jñātā eva ātmā.
      Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, II. 3. 19, pp. 142-3.


Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, II, 3. 42-52.


Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, III. 2. 37-40.


Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, III. 3. 40.


Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, IV. i. 19.


Śrīkaṇṭha’s bhāṣya on Brahma-sūtra, IV. 4. 17-22.

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