by Nisikanta Sanyal | 1933 | 274,022 words | ISBN-10: 818919500X
The present work is an attempt to offer a theistic account in the English language of the career and teachings of Sri Chaitanya (representing the Absolute Truth in His full manifestation). Sri Chaitanya came into this world to make all people understand that in reference to their eternal existence they should have nothing to do with non-Godhead. A...
Sri Ramanuja made his appearance in the year 938 of the Saka era in the village of Sriparambattur or Sri Mahabhutapuri about twenty-six miles to the west of Madras, in the family of a Dravida Brahmana. His name, before he became an ascetic of the triple staff (tridandi sannyasin), as Lakshmana. Lakshmana Desika accepted renunciation (sannyasa) on the bank of Anantasar at Conjeeveram invoking grace of Sri Yamunacharya. He soon became the head of the Sri community (sampradaya), which had its headquarters at Sri Rangam. He travelled all over India visiting Kashmir, Benares, Puri, etc., and established the pancharatrika view (the system of fivefold knowledge) at all the important centers of religion. We do not intend to enter further into the details of his wonderful career at this place.
In the Ramanuja community every one is required to undergo purification by the method of the fivefold purificatory process (pancha-samskara). Even a highborn Brahmana, according to the Ramanujis, who has not gone through the above purificatory process, is as much an untouchable as the lowest of the Chandalas, and a Chandala so purified is held to possess the highest sanctity. In the Ramanuja community Vishnu is exclusively worshipped and the worship of all other gods is absolutely forbidden. In this community there is also the institution of renunciation of the triple staff (tridanda sannyasa).
Sri Ramanuja is the propounder of the view which is known as Distinctive Monotheism (Vishishtadvaitavada). This view is formally established scripturally in his commentary on the Brahma-sutra known as Sri Bhashya. The system of Sri Ramanuja may be set forth as follows: The Nature of the Supreme Brahman is unitary. Brahman who is without a second is, however, possessed of quality. The cognitive principle (chit) and the principle of nescience (achit) are His quality and body. The cognitive principle (chit) and nescience (achit) are each of them of two kinds according as they happen to be either gross or subtle. The subtle cognitive (chit) and non-cognitive principle (achit), in the causal state, are transformed into the gross cognition and noncognition as effect. Brahman Who is non-bifurcial knowledge being the sole Cause, both efficient and material, there exist in Him qualities corresponding to such activities. The qualities must be considered as qualifying the possessor of them. Therefore, self-consciousness (chit) and unconsciousness (achit) are the qualities corresponding to the activities of Brahman as the Cause. The body is dependent on, is enjoyed and regulated by, its possessor and is also that by which the latter is known. Self-consciousness and unconsciousness depend upon, are enjoyed and regulated by, non-bifurcial Brahman, and, as effect, are the manifestations of Brahman as Cause. There is no such difference in the individual (jiva) soul as deva, man, etc. It is the soul obtaining enjoyable bodies, as the appropriate result of his own activities, that makes the effect known in terms of such bodies. Therefore, devas, men, etc., are only indications of different activities of the soul. The bodies such as those of devas, men, etc., are thus modifications or qualities of the soul. The relation in which the body stands to the individual (jiva) soul is also that in which the individual (jiva) soul stands to the Supreme Soul.
In Distinctive Non-dualism three categories are admitted, viz.,
- the self-conscious principle (chit) which means the individual (jiva),
- the non-conscious principle (achit) or matter, and
- Godhead (Iswara), the Regulator of spirit (chit) and matter (achit), Who is the highest Personality of Narayana.
The self-conscious principle (chit) or individual (jiva) soul is infinitesimal (anu) as opposed to the greatness of Brahman and is an integral part (amsa) of the Integer (amsi) or Possessor of the part, viz., the Brahman. This littleness of the individual (jiva) soul is directly and explicitly stated in the Scriptures as his specific characteristic. It is an integral part of Brahman, just as his body is an integral part of the individual soul or as His glow is an integral part or quality of the fire or the Sun; or as the quality is an integral part of the substance.
The individual soul is of three kinds, viz.,
His proper nature is existence and bliss and he is cognisable to himself.
As regards the non-conscious (achit), according to Ramanuja it is devoid of cognition and liable to transformation. It is of three kinds, viz.,
- pure, e.g., objects in Vaikuntha,
- mixed, i.e., constituted of the triple mundane qualities, and
- insubstantial or time.
Sri Narayana is Godhead. He is distinct from the principle of consciousness (chit) and non-consciousness (achit) as substance from quality. He is the only cause of the origin, continuance and destruction of the spiritual (chit) and material (achit) worlds and of cessation of the cycle of births. He is free from every imperfection, full of infinite beneficent qualities, the soul of all, the transcendental Brahman, the transcendental Light, the transcendental Entity, the Supreme Soul, the only Subject of all Scriptures and the Guide of all hearts.
The nature of Godhead is five-fold, viz.,
(1) the ultimate Reality (para tattva),
(5) the principle of symbolic manifestation (archa avatara) as Conglomerate Embodiment (Sri Vigraha), Name, Form, etc., worshipped by His servants in accordance with their respective aptitudes. He seems as if ignorant although All-knowing, as if powerless although Allpowerful, as if needing help although His wish is ever fully realized, as if needing protection although the Protector, and as if serving His devotees although their Master.
Devotion is the proper method of worshipping Godhead, is extremely pleasing, the only thing needful and is of the nature of a particular kind of knowledge which produces a distaste for every other thing. Godhead is attainable by the soul imbued with devotion.