A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 5
Southern Schools of Śaivism
Part 5 - Śrīpati Paṇḍita’s Ideas on the Vedānta Philosophy called also the Śrīkara-bhāṣya
(which is accepted as the Fundamental Basis of Vīra-śaivism)
Śrīpati Paṇḍita lived towards the latter half of the fourteenth century and was one of the latest commentators on the Brahma-sūtra. Śrīpati Paṇḍita says that he got the inspiration of writing the commentary from a short treatise called the Agastyavṛtti on the Brahma-sūtra which is now not available. He also adores Revaṇa, who is regarded by him as a great saint of the sect, and also Manila who was supposed to have introduced the doctrine of six centres (ṣat-sthala). He adores also Rāma, who flourished in the Dvāpara-yuga, and who collected the main elements from the Mīmāṃsā and the Upaniṣads for the foundation of the Śaiva philosophy as it is being traditionally carried on.
The Srīkara-bhāsya should be regarded as a definite classification of the views of the different Śrutis and Smrtis, and for this our chief admiration should go to Rāma. But though this work keeps itself clear of the dualistic and non-dualistic views of Vedāntic interpretation, it holds fast to a doctrine which may be designated as Viśiṣādvaita, and the Śaivas, called Vīra-śaivas, would find support in the tenets of the doctrine herein propounded. It may be remembered that Śrīpati came long after Rāmānuja, and it was easy for him to derive some of his ideas from Rāmānuja.
Śaṅkara, in his interpretation of the present sūtra “Now then the inquiry about Brahman,” lays stress on the pre-condition leading to the necessity of inquiring about Brahman, and Rāmānuja also discusses the same question, and thinks that the Pūrva-mīmāmsā and the Vedānta form together one subject of study; but Śrīpati here avoids the question, and thinks that the sūtra is for introducing an inquiry as to the ultimate nature of Brahman, whether Brahman is being or non-being. According to him the sūtra is further interested in discovering the influence of Brahman over individuals.
He took for granted the unity of the two disciplines of Pūrva-mīmāmsā and Vedānta as forming one science, but he fervently opposes the view of the Cārvākas that life is the product of material combinations. He explains that the Cārvākas’ denial of Brahman is based on the supposition that no one has come from the other world to relate to us what happens after death. He also points out that there are other schools within the Vaidika fold which do not believe in the existence of God or His power over individual beings, and that the power of karma, technically called apūrva, can very well explain the sufferings and enjoyments of human beings. So, if one admits the body to be the same as the spirit, or if one thinks that there is no necessity to admit God for the proper fruition of one’s deeds, the twofold reason for the study of Vedānta could be explained away.
The doubt leading to an inquiry should therefore be located somewhere else, in the nature of God, Śiva, or in the nature of the individual soul. The existence of the God Śiva as being the only reality has been declared in a number of Vedic texts. The self, which shows itself in our ego-consciousness, is also known as a different entity. As such, how can the point of doubt arise? Moreover, we cannot know the nature of Brahman by discussion, for the self being finite it is not possible to understand the nature of the infinite Brahman by understanding the nature of such a soul. Moreover, the Upaniṣads have declared that the Brahman is of two kinds, consciousness and unconsciousness. So even when there is the Brahman knowledge, the knowledge of the unconscious Brahman should remain, and as such there would be no liberation.
Now the other point may arise, that the discussion is with regard to the attainment of a certitude as to whether the Brahman is identical with the self. There are many texts to that effect, but yet the contradiction arises from our own self-consciousness manifesting us as individual personalities. To this the ordinary reply is that the individuality of our ego-consciousness will always lead us to explain away the Upaniṣad texts which speak of their identity. But the reply, on the other side, may be that the Brahman may, through avidyā or nescience, create the appearance of our individuality, such as “I am a man.” For without such an all-pervading illusion the question of liberation cannot arise. Moreover, the pure Brahman and all the objects are as distinct from each other as light from darkness, and yet such an illusion has to be accepted. For otherwise the entire mundane behaviour would have to be stopped. So there is hardly scope for making an inquiry as to the exact nature of the Brahman, the souls and the world. For one has to accept the ultimate reality of the transcendent Brahman which cannot be described by words. Brahman is thus beyond all discussion.
In a situation like this Śrīpati first presses the question of the existence of God as being proved by the Upaniṣadic and Śruti texts, by perception and by inference. We know from experience that often people cannot attain their ends, even if they are endowed with talent, ability, riches and the like, while others may succeed, even if they have nothing. According to Śrīpati, this definitely proves the existence of an omniscient God and His relationship with human beings. In ordinary experience, when we see a temple, we can imagine that there was a builder who built it. So in the case of the world also, we can well imagine that this world must have had a builder. The Cārvāka argument, that the conglomeration of matter produces things out of itself, is untenable, because we have never seen any such conglomerations of matter capable of producing life as we find it in birds and animals. In the case of cow-dung, etc., some life may have been somehow implanted in them so that beetles and other flies may be born from them. It has also to be admitted that in accordance with one’s karma God awards punishments or rewards, and that the fruition of deeds does not take place automatically, but in accordance with the wishes of God.
In some of the Upaniṣadic texts it is said that there was nothing in the beginning, but this nothingness should be regarded as a subtle state of existence; for otherwise all things cannot come out of nothing. This non-being referred to in the Upaniṣads also does not mean mere negation or the mere chimerical nothing, like a lotus in the sky. Bādarāyaṇa in his Brahma-sūtra has also refuted this idea of pure negation (II. i. 7). In fact, the Vedas and the Āgamas declare God Śiva, with infinite powers, to be the cause of the world, whether it be subtle or gross. The individuals, however, are quite different from this Brahman, as they are always afflicted with their sins and sufferings. When the Upaniṣads assert that Brahman is one with jīva, the individual, naturally the inquiry (jijñāsā) comes, how is it possible that these two which are entirely different from each other should be regarded as identical?
Śrīpati thinks that the ‘identity’ texts of the Upaniṣads, declaring the identity of the individual and the Brahman, can well be explained by supposition of the analogy of rivers flowing into the ocean and becoming one with it. We need not assume that there is an illusion as Śaṅkara supposes, and that without such an illusion the problem of emancipation cannot arise, because we have a direct and immediate experience of ignorance when we say “we do not know.”
Śrīpati objects strongly to the view of Śaṅkara that there is a differenceless Brahman of the nature of pure consciousness, and that such a Brahman appears in manifold forms. The Brahman is of an entirely different nature from the individual souls. If such a Brahman is admitted to have avidyā or nescience as a quality, it would cease to be the Brahman. Moreover, no such avidyā could be attributed to Brahman, which is often described in the Śruti texts as pure and devoid of any thought or mind. If the avidyā is supposed to belong to Brahman, then one must suppose that there ought to be some other entity, by the action of which this factor of avidyā could be removed for liberation. Brahman cannot itself find it; being encased by the avidyā at one moment and free at another, it cannot then retain its absolute identity as one. It is also fallacious to think of the world as being made up of illusory perceptions like dreams, for there is a definite order and system in the world which cannot be transgressed. Bādarāyaṇa himself also refutes the idea of a non-existence of an external world (II. 2. 27, 28). Moreover, the differenceless Brahman can only be established by the authority of the scriptural texts or by inference, but as these two are included within our conceptual world of distinctions, they cannot lead us beyond them and establish a differenceless Brahman. Moreover, if the truth of the Vedas be admitted, then there will be duality, and if it is not admitted, then there is nothing to prove the one reality of the Brahman. Moreover, there is nothing that can establish the fact of world illusion. Avidyā itself cannot be regarded as a sufficient testimony, for the Brahman is regarded as self-illuminating. Moreover, the acceptance of such a Brahman would amount to a denial of a personal God, which is supported by so many scriptural texts including the Gītā.
Again, the Upaniṣad texts that speak of the world as being made up of names and forms do not necessarily lead to the view that the Brahman alone is true and that the world is false. For the same purpose can be achieved by regarding Śiva as the material cause of the world, which does not mean that the world is false. The whole idea is that, in whatsoever form the world may appear, it is in reality nothing but Śiva.
When Bādarāyaṇa says that the world cannot be distinguished as different from Brahman, it naturally means that the manifold world, which has come out of Brahman, is one with Him. The world cannot be regarded as the body of Brahman, and the scriptures declare that in the beginning only pure being existed. If anything else but Brahman is admitted, then the pure monism breaks. The two being entirely opposed to each other, one cannot be admitted as being a part of the other, and the two cannot be identified in any manner. So the normal course would be to interpret the texts as asserting both the duality and the non-duality of the Brahman. Thus the Brahman is both different from the world and identical with it.
Śrīpati thinks that on the evidence of the Śruti texts a Brahmin must take initiation in Śaiva form and bear with him the Śaiva sign, the liṅga, as much as he should, being initiated into Vedic rites. It is then that the person in question becomes entitled to the study of the nature of Brahman, for which the Brahma-sūtra has been written. The inquiry into the nature of Brahman necessarily introduces to us all kinds of discussions regarding the nature of Brahman.
Though Śrīpati emphasises the necessity of carrying the liṅga and of being initiated in the Śaiva form, yet that alone cannot bring salvation. Salvation can only come when we know the real nature of Brahman. In introducing further discussions on the nature of Brahman, Śrīpati says that wherever the scriptural texts describe Brahman as differenceless and qualityless, that always refers to the period before the creation. It is Śiva, the differenceless unity, that expands His energy and creates the world and makes it appear as it is, though He always remains the ultimate substratum. The world is thus not illusion but reality, and of the nature of Śiva Himself. This is the central idea which is most generally expanded, as we shall see. Brahman thus appears in two forms: as pure consciousness and as the unconscious material world, and this view is supported by the scriptural texts. Brahman is thus with form and without form. It is the pure Brahman that appears as this or that changing entity, as pleasure or pain, or as cause and effect. Such an explanation would fit in with our experience, and would also be perfectly reconcilable with the scriptural texts.
The suggestion of the opponents, that Īśvara or God is an illusory God, is also untenable, for no one is justified in trusting an illusory object for showing devotion to him. Such a God would seem to have the same status as any other object of illusion. Moreover, how can an illusory God bestow benefits when He is adored and worshipped by the devotee?
Śrīpati then tries to refute the idea of the pure differenceless Brahman, and summarises the arguments given by Rāmānuja as we have described them in the third volume of the present work; and we are thus introduced to the second sūtra, which describes Brahman as that from which the production of the world has come about.
Śiīpati, in commenting upon Brahma-sūtra I. 1. 2, says that the pure consciousness as the identity of being and bliss is the cause of the production and dissolution of the world, as well as its fundamental substratum. The Brahman, who is formless, can create all things without the help of any external instrument, just as the formless wind can shake the forest or the self can create the dreams. It is in the interest of the devotees that God takes all the forms in which we find Him. He also refers to some of the scriptural texts of the bhedābheda type, which considers the relation between God and the world as similar to the relation between the ocean and the waves. Only a part of God may be regarded as being transformed into the material world. In this way Śiva is both the instrumental and the material cause. A distinction has to be made between the concept that there is no difference between the instrumental and the material cause, and the concept that the two are the same. There is no question of false imposition.
The individual souls are spoken of in the Upaniṣads as being as eternal as God. The scriptural texts often describe the world as being a part of God. It is only when the powers of God are in a contractive form before the creation, that God can be spoken of as being devoid of qualities. There are many Upaniṣadic passages which describe the state of God as being engaged in the work of creation, and as the result thereof His powers seem to manifest. It is true that in many texts māyā is described as the material cause of the world and God the instrumental. This is well explained if we regard māyā as a part of God. Just as a spider weaves out of itself a whole web, so God creates out of Himself the whole world. For this reason it should be admitted that the material world and the pure consciousness have the same cause. In this connection Śrīpati takes great pains to refute the Śaṅkarite doctrine that the world is illusion or imposition. If we remember the arguments of Mādhva and his followers against the doctrine of illusion as expounded in the fourth volume of the present work, the criticisms of Śrīpati would be included in them in one form or another. We thus see that the views of Śaṅkara were challenged by Rāmānuja, Nimbārka and Mādhva.
Śrīpati says that the so-called falsity of the world cannot be explained either as indescribable (anirvācya) or as being liable to contradiction, for then that would apply even to the Vedas. The phrase “liable to contradiction” cannot be applied to the manifold world, for it exists and fulfils all our needs and gives scope for our actions. So far as we see, it is beginningless. It cannot therefore be asserted that at any time in the future or in the present the world will be discovered as false. It has often been said that falsehood consists in the appearance of a thing without there being any reality, just as a mirage is seen to be like water without being able to serve the purpose of water. But the world not only appears, it also serves all our purposes. All the passages in the Purāṇas and other texts where the world is described as being māyā are only delusive statements. So God alone is both the instrumental and the substantial cause of the world, and the world as such is not false as the Śaṅkarites suppose.
In the same way, the supposition that Īśvara or the jīva represents a being which is nothing else but Brahman as reflected through avidyā or māyā is also untenable. The so-called reflecting medium may be conditional or natural. Such a condition may be the māyā, avidyā or the antaḥkaraṇa. The condition cannot be gross, for in that case transmigration to the other world would not be possible. The idea of reflection is also untenable, for the Brahman has no colour and therefore it cannot be reflected and made into Īśvara. That which is formless cannot be reflected. Again if Īśvara or jīva is regarded as a reflection in māyā or avidyā, then the destruction of māyā or avidyā would mean the destruction of God and of the individual soul. In the same way Śrīpati tries to refute the theory of avaccheda or limitations, which holds that the pure consciousness as qualified or objectively limited by the mind would constitute the individual soul; for in that case any kind of limitation of consciousness such as we find in all material objects would entitle them to the position of being treated as individual souls.
The qualities of production and destruction, etc., belong to the world and not to Brahman. How then can the production and destruction of the world, of which God is the source, be described as being a defining characteristic of Brahman? The reply is that it cannot be regarded as an essential defining characteristic (svarūpa-lakṣaṇa), but only as indicative of Brahman as being the source of the world, so that even if there is no world, that would not in any way affect the reality of existence of God. This is what is meant by saying that the present definition (i. i. 2), is not a svarūpa-lakṣaṇa, but only tatastha-lakṣaṇa. Śiva alone is the creator of the world and the world is maintained in Him and it is dissolved back into Him.
In commenting upon the Brahma-sūtra I. 1. 3, Śnpati follows the traditional line, but holds that the Vedas were created by God, Śiva, and that all the texts of the Vedas are definitely intended for the glorification of Śiva. This is, of course, against the Mīmāṃsā view that the Vedas are eternal and uncreated, but it agrees with Śaṅkara’s interpretation that the Vedas were created by Īśvara. In Śaṅkara’s system Īśvara is only a super-illusion formed by the reflection of Brahman through māyā. We have already noticed that Śrīpati regards this view as entirely erroneous. With him Īśvara or Maheśvara means the supreme God. Śrīpati further says that the nature of Brahman cannot be understood merely by discussion or reasoning, but that He can be known only on the evidence and testimony of the Vedas. He further says that the Purāṇas were composed by Śiva even before the Vedas, and that of all the Purāṇas the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa is the most authentic one. Other Purāṇas which glorify Viṣṇu or Nārāyaṇa are of an inferior status.
In commenting on Brahma-sūtra I. i. 4, Śrīpati says that the Mīmāṃsā contention is that the Upaniṣadic descriptions of the nature of Brahman should not be interpreted as urging people to some kind of meditation. They simply describe the nature of Brahman. Knowledge of Brahman is their only end. In this interpretation Śiīpati shares more or less the view of Śaṅkara. He further says that the nature of Brahman can only be known through the Upaniṣads. No kind of inference or general agreement can prove the fact that there is one God who is the creator of the world. In all things made by human beings, such as temples, palaces, or stone structures, many people co-operate to produce the things. We cannot, therefore, argue from the fact that since certain things have been made, there is one creator who is responsible for their creations. This is a refutation of the Nyāya view or the view of many of the Śaivāgamas, that the existence of one God can be proved by inference.
He further says that the force that manifests itself, and has plurality or difference or oneness, is in Brahman. We cannot distinguish the force or energy from that which possesses the force. The Brahman thus may be regarded both as energy and as the repository of all energies. There cannot be any energy without there being a substance. So the Brahman works in a dual capacity as substance and as energy. It cannot be said that mere knowledge cannot stir us to action; for when one hears of the good or bad news of one’s son or relation, one may be stirred to action. Thus, even pure knowledge of Brahman may lead us to His meditation, so the Mīmāṃsā contention that the description of Brahman must imply an imperative to action, and that the mere description of an existing entity is of no practical value, is false.
Śrīpati makes fresh efforts to refute the Mīmāṃsā contention that the Vedas are not expected to give any instruction regarding a merely existing thing, for that has no practical value. Śrīpati says that a pure power of consciousness is hidden from us by avidyā. This avidyā is also a power of the nature of Brahman, and by the grace of Brahman this avidyā will vanish away into its cause. So the apparent duality of avidyā is false, and the instruction as regards the nature of Brahman has a real practical value in inducing us to seek the grace of God by which alone the bondage can be removed. The intuition of Brahman (brahma-sākṣātkāra) cannot be made merely by the study of the Upaniṣadic texts, but with the grace of God and the grace of one’s preceptor.
Śrīpati says that the nitya and the naimittika karma are obligatory, only the kāmya karma, that is, those actions performed for the attainment of a purpose, should be divested of any notion of the fulfilment of desire. Only then, when one listens to the Vedāntic texts and surrenders oneself entirely to Śiva, the heart becomes pure and the nature of Śiva is realised.
Śrīpati again returns to his charge against the doctrine of the falsity of the world. He says that since the Upaniṣadic texts declare that everything in the world is Brahman, the world is also Brahman and cannot be false. The entire field of bondage as we perceive it in the world before us would vanish when we know that we are one with Śiva. For in that case the appearance of the world as diverse and as consisting of this or that would vanish, for everything we perceive is Śiva. Brahman is thus both the substantial cause and the instrumental cause of the whole world, and there is nothing false anywhere. The world cannot be a mere illusion or mere nothing. It must have a substratum under it, and if the illusion is regarded as different from the substratum, one falls into the error of duality. If the so-called non-existence of the world merely meant that it was chimerical like the lotus in the sky, then anything could be regarded as the cause of the world underlying it.
It may be held that the Śaṅkarites do not think that the world is absolutely false, but that its truth has only a pragmatic value (vyavahārika-mātra-satyatvam). To this, however, one may relevantly ask the nature of such a character, which is merely pragmatic, for in such a case the Brahman would be beyond the pragmatic, and no one would ask a question about it or give a reply, but would remain merely dumb. If there were no substance behind the manifold appearances of the world, the world would be a mere panorama of paintings without any basic canvas. It has already been shown that the Upaniṣads cannot refer to a differenceless Brahman. If any experience that can be contradicted is called pragmatic (vyavahārika), then it will apply even to the ordinary illusions, such as the mirage which is called prātibhāsika. If it is held that to be contradicted in a pragmatic manner means that the contradiction comes only through the knowledge of Brahman, then all cases of contradiction of a first knowledge by a second knowledge would have to be regarded as being not cases of contradiction at all. The only reply that the Śaṅkarites can give is that in the case of a non-pragmatic knowledge one has the intuition of the differenceless Brahman and along with it there dawns the knowledge of the falsity of the world. But such an answer would be unacceptable, because to know Brahman as differenceless must necessarily imply the knowledge of that from which it is different. The notion of difference is a constituent of the notion of differencelessness.
Neither can the conception of the vyavahārika be made on the supposition that that which is not contradicted in three or four successive moments could be regarded as uncontradicted, for that supposition might apply to even an illusory perception. Brahman is that which is not contradicted at all, and this non-contradiction is not limited by time.
Again it is sometimes held that the world is false because it is knowable (drśya), but if that were so, Brahman must be either knowable or unknowable. In the first case it becomes false, in the second case one cannot talk about it or ask questions. In this way Śrīpati continues his criticism against the Śaṅkarite theory of the falsity of the world, more or less on the same lines which were followed by Vyāsatīrtha in his Nyāyā-mṛta. It is, therefore, unprofitable to repeat these, as they have already been discussed in the fourth volume of the present work. Śrīpati also continues his criticism against the view that Brahman is differenceless on the same lines as was done by Rāmānuja in the introductory portion of his bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra, and these have been fairly elaborately dealt with in the third volume of the present work.
To declare Brahman as differenceless and then to attempt to describe its characteristics, saying, for example, that the world comes into being from it and is ultimately dissolved in it, would be meaningless. According to the opponents, all that which is regarded as existent would be false, which under the supposition would be inadmissible. If the world as such is false, then it is meaningless to ascribe to it any pragmatic value.
The question may be raised, whether the Brahman is knowledge or absence of knowledge. In the first case it will be difficult for the opponent to describe the nature of the content of this knowledge. The other question is, whether the opponent is prepared to regard the distinction between the false objects (the appearance of the world) and the Brahman as real or not. If the distinction is real, then the theory of monism fails. There is no way of escape by affirming that both the ideas of difference and identity are false, for there is no alternative. Moreover, if Brahman was of the nature of knowledge, then we should be able to know the content of such knowledge, and this would be contradictory to the idea of Brahman as differenceless. There cannot be knowledge without a content; if there is a content, that content is as external as Brahman Himself, which means that the manifold world of appearance before us is as external as Brahman. There cannot be any knowledge without a definite content. Moreover, if the world appearance is regarded as having a pragmatic value, the real value must be in that something which is the ground of the appearance of the manifold world. In such a case that ground reality would be a rival to the Brahman and would challenge His oneness. In this way, Śrīpati refutes the interpretation of Śaṅkara that the Brahman is differenceless and that the world-appearance is false. He also asserts that human beings are inferior to God’s reality, and can have a glimpse of Him through His grace and by adoring Him.
The central idea of the Vīra-śaiva philosophy as propounded by Śrīpati is that God is indistinguishable from His energies, just as the sun cannot be distinguished from the rays of the sun. In the original state, when there was no world, God alone existed, and all the manifold world of matter and life existed in Him in a subtle form wholly indistinguishable from Him. Later on, when the idea of creation moved Him, He separated the living beings and made them different and associated them with different kinds of karma. He also manifested the material world in all the variety of forms. In most of the philosophies the material world has been a questionable reality. Thus, according to Śaṅkara, the world-appearance is false and has only a pragmatic value. In reality it does not exist, but only appears to do so. According to Rāmānuja the world is inseparably connected with God and is entirely dependent upon Him. According to Śrīkaṇtha the world has been created by the energy of God and in that sense it is an emanation from Him, but Śñpati refers to certain texts of the Upaniṣads in which it is said that the Brahman is both conscious and unconscious. Thus Śrīpati holds that everything we see in the world is real, and has Śiva or God as its substratum. It is only by His energy that He makes the world appear in so many diverse forms. He denounces the idea of any separation between the energy (śakti) and the possessor of it (śaktimān). Thus, if the world is a manifestation of the energy of God, that does not preclude it from being regarded as of the nature of Siva Himself. Thus Śnpati says that liberation can only come when God is worshipped in His twofold form, the physical and the spiritual. This makes him introduce the idea of a compulsory visible insignia of God, called the liṅga. Śrīpati also advocates the idea of gradation of liberation as held by Mādhva and his followers.
It must, however, be noted that, though God transforms Himself into the manifold world, He does not exhaust Himself in the creation, but the greater part of Him is transcendent. Thus, in some aspect God is immanent, forming the stuff of the world, and in another aspect he is transcendent and far beyond the range of this world. The so-called māyā is nothing but the energy of God, and God Himself is an identity of pure consciousness and will, or the energy of action and power.
Though, originally, all beings were associated with particular kinds of karma, yet when they were born into the material world and were expected to carry out their duties and actions, they were made to enjoy and to suffer in accordance to their deeds. God is neither partial nor cruel, but awards joy and suffering to man’s own karma in revolving cycles, though the original responsibility of association with karma belongs to God. In this Śrīpati thinks that he has been able to bridge the gulf between the almighty powers of God and the distribution of fruits of karma according to individual deeds, thus justifying the accepted theory of karma and reconciling it with the supreme powers of the Lord. He does not seem to realise that this is no solution, as at the time of original association the individuals were associated with various kinds of karma, and were thus placed in a state of inequality.
Śrīpati’s position is pantheistic and idealistically realistic. That being so, the status of dream experiences cannot be mere illusion. Śaṅkara had argued that the experiences of life are as illusory as the experiences of dreams. In reply to this Śrīpati tries to stress the view that the dream-experiences also are not illusory but real. It is true, indeed, that they cannot be originated by an individual by his personal effort of will. But all the same, Śñpati thinks that they are created by God, and this is further substantiated by the fact that the dreams are not wholly unrelated to actual objects of life, for we know that they often indicate various types of lucky and unlucky things in actual life. This shows that the dreams are somehow interconnected with the actual life of our waking experiences. Further, this fact demolishes the argument of Śaṅkara that the experiences of waking life are as illusory as the experiences of dreams.
In speaking of dreamless sleep, Śrīpati says that in that state our mind enters into the network of nerves inside the heart, particularly staying in the purītat, being covered by the quality of tamas, and this state is produced also by the will of God, so that when the individual returns to waking life by the will of God, this tamas quality is removed. This explains the state of suṣupti, which is distinguished from the stage of final liberation, when an individual becomes attuned to God and becomes free of all associations with the threefold guṇas of Prakṛti. He then finally enters into the transcendent reality of Śiva and does not return to any waking consciousness. So it must be noted that, according to Śnpati, both the dream state and the dreamless state are produced by God. Śrīpati’s description of suṣupti is thus entirely different from that of Śaṅkara, according to whom the soul is in Brahma-consciousness at the time of dreamless sleep.
Śrīpati supports his thesis that in dreamless sleep we, with all our mental functions, pass into the network of nerves in the heart, and do not become merged in Brahman, as Śaṅkara might lead us to suppose. For this reason, when we wake the next day, we have revived in our memory the experiences of the life before the sleep. This explains the continuity of our consciousness, punctuated by dreamless sleep every night. Otherwise if we had at any time merged into Brahman, it could not be possible for us to remember all our duties and responsibilities, as if there were no dreamless sleep and no break in our consciousness.
In discoursing on the nature of difference between swoon (mūṛcchā) and death, Śrīpati says that in the state of unconsciousness in swoon, the mind becomes partially paralysed so far as its different functions are concerned. But in death the mind is wholly dissociated from the external world. It is well to remember the definition of death as given in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as being absolute forgetfulness (mṛtyur atyanta-vismṛti).
According to the view of Śaṅkara, the Brahman is formless. Such a view does not suit the position of Vīrā-śaivism as propounded by Śrīpati. So he raises the question as to whether the Śiva, the formless, is the same as the Śiva with the form as found in many Śiva-liṅgas, and in reply Śrīpati emphasises the fact that Śiva exists in two states, as the formless and as being endowed with form. It is the business of the devotee to realise that Śiva is one identical being in and through all His forms and His formless aspect. It is in this way that the devotee merges himself into Śiva, as rivers merge into the sea. The individual or the jīva is not in any sense illusory or a limitation of the infinite and formless nature into an apparent entity as the Śaṅkarites would try to hold. The individual is real and the Brahman is real in both the aspects of form and formlessness. Through knowledge and devotion the individual merges into God, as rivers merge into the sea, into the reality which is both formless and endowed with manifold forms.
Vīra-śaivism indeed is a kind of bhedābheda interpretation of the Brahma-sūtra. We have, in the other volumes of the present work, dealt with the bhedābheda interpretation, as made by Rāmānuja and Bhāskara from different angles. In the bhedābheda interpretation Rāmānuja regards the world and the souls as being organically dependent on God, who transcends the world of our experience. According to Bhāskara, the reality is like the ocean of which the world of experience is a part, just as the waves are parts of the ocean. They are neither absolutely one with it nor different from it. The Vīra-śaivism is also a type of bhedābheda interpretation, and it regards the absolute reality of the world of experience and the transcendent being, which is beyond all experience. Śñpati sometimes adduces the illustration of a coiled snake which, in one state remains as a heap, and in another state appears as a long thick cord. So the world is, from one point of view different from God, and from another point of view one with God. This example has also been utilised by Vallabha for explaining the relationship between God and the world. The individual beings or jīvas may, through knowledge and devotion, purge themselves of all impurities, and with the grace of God ultimately return to the transcendent being and become merged with it. So things that appeared as different may ultimately show themselves to be one with Brahman.
Śrīpati points out that by the due performance of caste duties and the Vedic rites, the mind may become purified, so that the person may be fit for performing yoga concentration on Śiva, and offer his deep devotion to Him, and may thus ultimately receive the grace of God, which alone can bring salvation.
There has been a long discussion among the various commentators of the Brahma-sūtra as to whether the Vedic duties, caste-duties, and occasional duties form any necessary part of the true knowledge that leads to liberation. There have been some who had emphasised the necessity of the Vedic duties as being required as an indispensable element of the rise of the true knowledge. Others like Śaṅkara and his followers had totally denied the usefulness of Vedic duties for the acquisition of true knowledge. Śrīpati had all along stressed the importance of Vedic duties as an important means for purifying the mind, for making it fit for the highest knowledge attainable by devotion and thought. It may be noted in this connection that the present practice of the Liṅgāyats is wholly the concept of an extraneous social group and this anticaste attitude has been supported by some authors by misinterpretation of some Vīra-śaiva texts. But in commenting on the first topic of Brahma-sūtra III. 4, Śrīpati emphasises the independent claims of the knowledge of God and devotion to Him as leading to liberation, though he does not disallow the idea that the Vedic duties may have a contributory effect in cleansing the mind and purifying it, when the person performs Vedic duties by surrendering all his fruits to God. Śrīpati, however, denounces the action of any householder who leaves off his Vedic duties just out of his personal whim.
In commenting on Brahma-sūtra III. 4. 2, Śrīpati quotes many scriptural texts to show that the Vedic duties are compulsory even in the last stage of life, so that in no stage of life should these duties be regarded as optional. In this connection he also introduces incidentally the necessity of liṅga-dhārana. Though the Vedic duties are generally regarded as accessories for the attainment of right knowledge, they are not obligatory for the householder, who may perform the obligatory and occasional duties and yet attain a vision of God by his meditation and devotion.
The essential virtues, such as śama (inner control), dama (external control), titikṣā (endurance), uparati (cessation from all worldly pleasures), mumukṣutva (strong desire for liberation), etc., are indispensable for all, and as such the householders who have these qualities may expect to proceed forward for the vision of God. All injunctions and obligations are to be suspended for the preservation of life in times of danger. The Upaniṣads stress the necessity of the various virtues including concentration of mind leading to Brahma-vidyā. Śrīpati points out that every person has a right to pursue these virtues and attain Brahma-vidyā. This is done in the very best way by accepting the creed of Pāśupata Yoga.
The duties of a Śiva-yogin consist of his knowledge, disinclination, the possession of inner and outer control of passions, and cessation from egotism, pride, attachment and enmity to all persons. He should engage himself in listening to Vedāntic texts, in meditation, in thinking and all that goes with it in the yoga process, like dhyāna, dhāranāy and also in deep devotion to Śiva. But though he may be so elevated in his mind, he will not show or demonstrate any of these great qualities. He will behave like a child. Those that have become entirely one with Śiva need not waste time in listening to Vedāntic texts. That is only prescribed for those who are not very advanced. When a man is so advanced that he need not perform the Varṇāśrama duties or enter into samādhi, he is called jīvan-mukta in such a state; it depends upon the will of such a man whether he should enter into the jīvan-mukta state with or without his body. When a person’s mind is pure, he may obtain an intuitive knowledge of Śiva by devotion. A truly wise man may be liberated in the present life. Unlike the system of Śaṅkara, Śrīpati introduces the necessity of bhakti along with knowledge. He holds that with the rise of knowledge, all old bonds of karma are dissolved and no further karma would be attached to him.
Footnotes and references:
vācārambhaṇaṃ vikāro nāmadheyam mṛttikety eva satyam iti śrutau apavāḍa-darśanād adhyāso grāhya iti cen na vācārambhaṇa-śrutīṇāṃ śivopādā-natvāt prapañcasya tattādātmya-bodhakatvaṃ vidhīyate na ca mithyātvam.
Śrīkara-bhāṣya, p. 6.
Śrīkara-bhāṣya, p. 8. Śrīpati takes great pains to show on the evidence of scriptural texts the indispensable necessity of carrying the insignia of Śiva, the liṅga in a particular manner which is different from the methods of carrying the liṅga not approved by the Vedas, pp. 8-15.
Śrīpati points out that only the person, who is equipped with the four accessories called the sādhana-sampad consisting of śama, dama, titikṣā, uparati, mumukṣutva, etc., is fit to have the liṅga.
bhaktānugrahārthaṃ ghṛta-kāṭhinyavad-divya-maṅgala-vigraha-dharasya maheśvarasya mūrtāmūrta-prapañca-kalpane apy adoṣaḥ.
Śrīkara-bhāṣya, p. 30.
tasmād abhinna-nimttopādāna-kāraṇatvaṃ na tu eka-kāraṇatvaṃ.
Śrīkara-bhāṣya, p. 30.
Śakti-saṅkocatayā sṛṣṭeḥ prāk
Ibid. p. 31.
bhedābhedātmikā śaktir brahma-niṣṭhā sanātanī, iti smṛtau śakter vahni-śakter iva brahmādhiṣṭhānatvopadeśāt. niradhiṣṭhāna-śakter abhāvāt ca śakti-śaktimator abhedāc ca tatkartṛtvaṃ tadātmakatvaṃ tasyaivopapan-natvāt.
Śrīkara-bhāṣya, p. 45.
See Professor Sakhare’s Liṅga-dhāraṇa-candrikā (Introduction, pp. 666 et seq.) and also Vīra-śaivānanda-candrikā (Vādakāṇḍa, ch. 24, pp. 442 et seq.).