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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -4




“In liberation the individual soul realises itself as the One (that is yet Many).  It may plunge into the one and merge or hide itself in its bosom—that is the laya of Advaita; it may feel its oneness and yet, as part of the Many that is the One, enjoy the Divine that is the Visistadvaitic liberation; it may lay stress on its Many aspect and go on playing with Krishna in the eternal Brindavan, that is the Dvaita liberation.  Or it may, even being liberated remain in the Lila or Manifestation, or descend into it as often as it likes.  The Divine is not bound by human philosophies—it is free in its play and free in its essence.”

Sri Aurobindo

             The test of a system in Indian thought is its capacity to grant liberation (moksa).  This test is inescapable and it is the differentia between Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy.  True love of wisdom which is the meaning of philosophy is to be had not in pursuing what is said to be truth but the wisdom that is life in freedom.  Thus whatever secures freedom for the self is philosophy and not merely an intellectual edifice erected by the logic of the finite mind or bondage and called a systematic presentation of Reality in terms of the intellect.  Once this is grasped it naturally follows that Vedanta is not a mere intellectual construction nor a dialectical display of system but a profound search for the final liberation which alone would present a Vision (darsana) the Ultimate Reality.  Such a darsana would not only be a synoptic Vision but an organic whole which could be called a harmony rather than a synthesis of standpoints.  The manysided nature of reality is well known but its oneness is also what is perceived in a measure and in a sense even in our ordinary life but to reason and still more to our intuitive apprehension.


            Sri Aurobindo may be said to follow the great leaders of Vedanta in so far as he has through his original approach of yogic anubhava and adhyatmic (introspective meditative) approach sought to arrive at his own synthesis of the knowledge in the Veda, Upanishads, and Gita. The prasthanatraya or threefold texts for Vedanta are recognised to be the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras and the Gita.  Sri Aurobindo has not attempted to comment on the Vedanta Sutras since its reference was to the Upanishads rather than to the Veda, and a direct awareness of the Upanishads provides all that is necessary for a fuller knowledge of the same.  The Vedanta Sutras are however valuable as a support for one’s interpretation of the Upanishads.  It is however Badarayana’s synthesis of the teachings of the Upanishads and worthy of respect and regard.  The question came up rather sharply when the same Sutras began to be considered as teaching as many divergent doctrines such as Advaita, Visistadvaita, Bhedabheda, Dvaita and so on and commentaries have been growing from time to time to defend one or other of these interpretations.  When in recent times efforts have been made by Western savants (supported indeed by some in India) to explain that the Advaita is the thesis of the Upanishads, whereas the Visistadvaita is that of the Vedanta Sutras, the matter required a different approach.  Indeed one has been forced to solve this divergency by an appeal to divine or intuitive experience if such could be got, and Sri Aurobindo instead of resorting to linguistic and other measures seriously took up the Yoganubhava for the knowing of the Vedic Knowledge from which obviously all the Upanishads as well as the Bramhanas were derived.  The parlous state to which the Bramhanas had arrived thanks to the purely ritualistic interpretation of its profound truth had made the problem still more critical as there had grown a rift between the Bramhanas and the Upanishads, very early—far earlier than Shankara himself.  Thus the need for an integral  approach to the problem of the Vedanta arose.  As it is well-known Vedanta means the philosophy of the Upanishads which form the concluding (anta) portion of the Vedic literature.  Sabda or scriptural valid truth applies to the whole literature—mantra, brahmana and Upanishad and not to any one of them.  The first integrality which Sri Aurobindo restored was the integrality of the triple (quadruple?) strands of the Veda which in one sense can be said to be the adhidaivic, adhibhautic and adhyatmic portions but which in another sense, applies to the totality of the Vedic literature.  It is however the adhyatmika approach that will prove fruitful in sadhana and attainment of liberation, not the others.  Sri T.V.Kapali Sastriar has beautifully shown the relationship between the ritualistic interpretations of Sayana and the psychological interpretations of Sri Aurobindo in his studies entitled - Lights on The Upanishads and Veda and other works.  Sri M.P. Pandit also has attempted to continue the gallant work of Sriman Kapali Sastry in his Mystic Approach to the Veda and the Upanishads.


            The Advaita approach claims to be based on the anubhava of oneness that comes to one who has strenuously contemplated on the basic sentences or propositions of the scripture such as (i) Tat tvam asi  (Thou art that); (ii) Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman); So’ham Asmi (He or That am I); (iii) Sarvam khailvidam Brahma (all this verily is Brahman), (iv) Ekamevadvitiyam (Only one without a second).  It may well be asked whether mere contemplation of Brahman passages such as the above will lead to realisation of the truths contained therein.  This sruti-janya jnana is not enough.  What is necessary is the attainment of the Brahman through devotion and grace.


            To substantiate this view some schools of Advaita have recourse to the doctrine of Maya or illusion of the world and the individual selves, since it is said that there is only One entity and that is Brahman.  This one being is to be known only through Scriptural teaching such being the nature of all other experiences which only show manyness and differences of all kinds.

 There is hardly any doubt that there are two ways of approaching Reality, one by positive knowledge and another by negative knowledge. The positive knowledge grants us the knowledge of the Ultimate Being and the Sruti does give us positive or definitive knowledge which is not capable of being given by other means of knowledge such as perception, inference or analogy and so on. The negative knowledge proceeds by a series of steps denying the characteristics of the perceived and inferred and compared objects of the Ultimate. The former is called saguna and latter nirguna approach. The Sruti contains both approaches.  Mayavada however exalts the nirguna over the saguna, and relegates the latter to the level of maya-covered Absolute Brahman or Asvara. The logic of negation dominates the whole approach and it is perhaps the climate of the times that this logic of the negative which was the Nihilistic Buddhists was used to refute it also. That the principle of Negation is not a satisfactory principle can be shown: it cannot give definite knowledge of anything and indeed all negation assumes positive existence and does not precede it. Thus the negative dialectic based on the finite logic cannot help to arrive at the goal of the Absolute and sole existence of Brahman, and it is with the help of a tour de force of psychologically doubtful value that the mayavada can be a solution. Nor is it the philosophy of the Upanishads taken as a whole or integrally. That Reality is one and that this Oneness is Brahman that is Spirit different indeed from everything that we know or see is the truth to which it calls attention. But it hardly explains the existence of the many and the different kinds of many such as the conscient souls and inconscient matter  (or atoms). To deny is not to explain. To grant even a phenomenal reality requires the explanation of their origin and illusion as such can explain nothing. The logic of abstract or absolute monism raises more problems not only for the finite mind but also for the Vedic mind, for the Vedic Mind did not deny plurality or manyness, nor hierarchy of the planes of existence, nor did it deny Oneness ( Ekam sat ). Thus the Advaita Mayavada is wrong but not Advaita, therefore thinkers have always striven to do justice to the twofold character of Absolute Reality.


Visistadvaita and Dvaita and Bhedabheda do not accept mayavada, whilst they accept the principle of One Sovereign existence, Brahman, who is One only without a second. There is no second principle of unity other than Brahman. That is why He is said to be the One and only Iswara or Godhead. Whilst Bhedabheda conceded that manyness is a passing affair, a temporary interlude when the Brahman is conditioned or self conditioned, in the state of freedom the manyness is lost. In the creative period manyness exists, in the dissolution oneness remains. The former is due to creational condition, and is of bondage. Since freedom is the goal of life, one should seek to move towards the dissolution for attaining oneness with Brahman. This however is not again quite adequate for the explanation of the Vedic Oneness-Manyness. There are obviously logical difficulties too in this makeshift arrangement of the zones of manyness and oneness, even in Mayavada. If we agree that Advaita need not be wedded to Mayavada or the refutation of Plurality, it follows that there can be other schools of advaita, which are more consistent expression of the Vedic Ekam-Sat.


Before we proceed let me state certain fundamental assumptions of all Vedantas:

1. There is one and only One Supreme Being or Existence. This is absolutely distinct in a sense from all that are seen also to exist, which are not supreme, divisible, divided and having the nature of dependents on something else for their being and Nature.


1a. The Supreme principle which is One however sustains and supports and manifests and withdraws all the others.


1b. This Supreme Principle is Vastness as well as Minutest. It is thus the internal and external principle of all that is vast and minute.


1c. If we definitely assert that the Substance is that which is all and as such all are dependent on it, in the relation of attributes or modes or bodies, then there is Only One substance. All the rest are included in it.


2.  That the Brahman can be known through a different method Of Upasana (devotional contemplation through knowledge ) and not through mere reciting, reading of scriptures, or works or charity or alms-giving, or mere sacrifice.


2a. This is possible but one requires the grace of God, that arises through establishing mental peace(prasada) or silence that is spiritual.


2b. To say that to be an object of knowledge is to be also inconscient is not necessary. To emphasise subjective knowing of the object or intuitive knowing of it is not the same as the objectification of the subjective or mental states. Advaita of Mayavada accepts this axiom which is not axiomatic.


2c. Nor can it be said that to be a knower is the condition of all things at all times. This is the prerogative of the Supreme Brahman. Brahman is the Object of all souls for attainment of Him alone means liberation. Thus the Objectivity of God cannot be denied. Nor can it be said of the individual souls who have the          dual capacity even like God of being objects of Grace of God and subjects of experience of Nature and God.


2d. The only question then is about the World or Nature or the Inconscient (acit). Its existence is said to be of the enjoyability or the enjoyable. It is in that sense objectivity.  But It is never without the Godhead and as such it derives a subjectivity of a peculiar kind of being enjoyable to the Divine. This subjectivity cannot be derived from the acceptance of its being conscious or animated by consciousness or entelechies or monads or jivasAll the universe being considered to be thus a college of souls or an aggregate of them, at different levels of consciousness.


2e. Thus Nature seems to be accepted as a triple threaded force or energy of sattva, rajas and tamas, rohita, sukla, krsna or tejas, ap and prithvi  which undergoes the modifications for the embodiment of the souls in manifestation.


2f. It is possible that the threefoldness is a reflection or correspondence or degradation or grossening of the primal spiritual triplicity of sat, cit and ananda.


3. The transcendence of the Nature and mere isolated soul of souls is the goal of Being and the restoration of Reality to the soul as well as the restoration of the imbalance of Nature.


3a. This is by a Return or nivritti to God beyond or above manifestation.


3b. The Return is a withdrawal from the manifestation or the gross manifestation or even a subtle manifestation, for it is a return into God or Absolute Reality.

The renunciation of the relative Reality follows as a consequence or the renunciation of attachment to whatever is offered by relative realities or some of them for the sake of higher and freer enjoyment of others, or it is the enlightened divine way of enjoyment of manifestation as the body of God which has been offered as the field of enjoyment.


3c. The assertion of a world of enjoyment of unalloyed bliss beyond the world of karma such as the world of lower Nature is also the assertion of a transcendent way of enjoyment through God-knowledge rather than ‘misery’ (enjoyment with attached or selfish enjoyment of the soul).


Thus we find that the assumptions of the Vedanta point out to the necessity of a person for loving and attaining God or absolute Reality-status.  This is the primary condition of all spiritual pursuit.  All Vedantins accept that the moral and spiritual or yogic preparation is the sine qua non of spiritual ascent.  The Causal Principle (karana) is to be attained (karanantu dhyeyah say the Vedanta sutras). The attainment of Brahman is a process of dedication or philosophy by which one grows into the being of Brahman.  Thus the famous statement that one who knows Brahman attains Brahman.  Being and Becoming become synonymous for the infinity of Being is such that it is a continuous becoming of oneself its Nature.  Frontal aspects (pratika) of Brahman are not Brahman, for the Brahman has to be known from within through surrender and dedication or self-offering or sacrifice (yajna).


            Mayawada we have shown does not recognise the Reality of the process or even attainment for ultimately it culminates in a kind of non-creationism (ajata).  The static Reality is said to be permanent and the Real.  However it is a radical intellectualism with the mystic concept of Unchanging Experience thrown in.


       The problem of Visistadvaita is not of the mechanical order of the dialectic.  It is of the organic order.  Reality is an organic unity in God of the souls (cit) and Nature (acit) with God as the Self of all.  The very growth of the soul from its low state of bondage to freedom is assured by this ascent of the soul in God through the 'living breath of Grace' which sustains all its embodied as also its disembodied condition.


            The problems raised by the Organic view are of a different kind.  It is of course futile to compare and contrast the mechanical and the organical for the two have two different kinds of logic.


            Metaphysical theories there have been which have explained the organic in terms of necessary relationships between the several parts of the organic whole which are necessary to each other.  The whole is shown to be necessarily sustaining the parts, and the parts are explainable only in terms of the whole and not in terms of other parts alone.  Indeed the principle of consistency yields place to the principle of coherence or inherence or implication.  The metaphysical idealists have thus made the organic just a variety of the necessary and have proceeded to reveal it in terms of the mechanical which is shown to be just an aggregate.


There have been other organicists who have claimed to show the organic nature of the Process or Reality bringing in concepts of ingression of elements into reality which makes and realises the unity of the whole.


Sri Ramanuja ' s organic theory does not explain reality by means of the principle of inseparable relationship (aprathaksiddha sambandha) alone, for he realises the need for the lower consciousness or mechanical to explain it.  It is perhaps his covert suggestion that the extraneous concept of samavaya (inherence should be better expressed as aprathaksiddha-sambandha).  There are so many entities in the organic which claim separability but there are some which are not.  The principle of inseparability is not so much between the substance and attribute as between a substance and its dependent substance.  Thus the souls become dependent on the substance of God absolutely even like the body on the soul.  The withdrawal of the soul from the body or material mansion means the death and disintegration of the latter, so too the withdrawal of God from the soul means its loss or disintegration of its consciousness.  Sri Ramanuja emphasizes the need to recognize the dynamic nature of this metaphysical union or Organic in one's own experience.


The second characteristic of the Organic which we have begun to realise is the principle of Growth, evolution, and this means that we come back to the empirical level about the organism.  This may be considered to be a set back and a return to empiricism from the scriptural transcendentalism.  However the problem is serious and in fact it is one of the most important for realisation means the attainment of that organic oneness with God so much so that one perceives that all that one does, sees, hears and experiences is all by the Divine Himself directly, and who carries the individual swiftly to the highest mansions of His being.  The problem of religions is not so much the worship of gods or God but the attainment of that truth of one's being with God, the All, and through God with all the rest.


That there is to be an ascent or call it growth, to the highest level is the philosophic impulse which is undeniably secret in the hearts of all.  That this ascent is seen to happen in some way by the passing of certain forms of life and organic existence into higher and more perfect types of life and existence is also clear.  Thus we have plant-life, animal-life and human-life broadly revealing the ascent of life-patterns and forms and the emergence of other forms of consciousness.  Indian thought did conceive of there being a continuity and in a sense a passing of one kind of soul through maturity or other factors to the higher kinds of bodies and life and mind.  Modern thought and science have put forward the theory of evolution as a principle of growth from form to form as well as the adaptation of forms to their changing environments which are constantly modifying themselves. Sri Aurobindo's Divine evolutionism realises the significance of the ancient intuition of progress through ascending births or re-births at different levels of consciousness ranging from the Absolute to the veriest concealed or veiled consciousness of the material called inconscient.  This is possible because of the original impulse to descend and ascend the ladder of manifestation.  If the first is called the descent (avidya), plunging into inconscient, ascent is the (vidya).  Together they complete the cycle of individual evolution.  But it is not a solitary soul that is involved in this descent-ascent.  It is the many of the One supreme Being who are in the throes of evolutionary descent and ascent.  The problems of the evolution are in a sense empirical but in another sense they furnish a metaphysical proof of the problem of oneness-manyness which seem to be so characteristic of all search for Oneness.  The Organic is one way of unity of one-many.  The evolutionary process is another form of the organic.  The organic form or pattern of reality rightly includes the reality of both the One and the Many.  The many are subordinated to the One and the One is the self of the many, in every sense of the term, whether the many are conceived as souls or intelligences, or atoms, or Matter of the higher luminous stuff or of the inferior stranded stuff.


Sri Aurobindo's organic conception through evolution gives concrete shape and meaning to the metaphysical form of the organic presented by Sri Ramanuja.  In this sense it is richer and more germane to our sadhana, approach to the Divine by a direct plunge into the centre of our being or the heart.  It is not enough to realise that one is a part or ray or many of Brahman's Organism, but it is necessary also to grow into Him to be in a sense filled by Him and be born of Him.  The Upanishads are not unaware of this birth of the soul of Brahman, of becoming filled with Brahman, or growing in the vastness of Brahman or moving in the Brahman according to the Supreme Law of Being (Rtam Brhat)


The logic of the mechanical or rectilinear logic is replaced by the dynamic logic of the Organic of growth, of ascent, of liberation and birth in Brahman, surpassing or transcending ignorance that is confined to the search for freedom in the dark interiors of it which are revealed by such concepts as realisation without ascent or transcendence which truly are possible without realising or ascending since all are maya or illusion or limitations on the unchanging and non-many or One.


Sri Aurobindo's exposition of the several vidyas (or rather as shown by Sriman Kapaly Sastry) show the absolute necessity for a dynamic conception of the Reality as a wonderful process of evolution which makes for the play of the Many in the One and of the One in the Many.  The Lila is then not merely a mirage play or miracle play but a supreme Act of creative Delight which has been said to be the heart of Brahman.  It is clear that Dvaita's supreme quality of differences together with the unifying doctrine of paratantrya or dependence lends itself to the play of the many in the One.  The profound question would yet arise as to whether the many and the one are of equal status, in which case the many would not be the souls or atoms, but Brahman Himself.


Sri Aurobindo therefore considers that the Eternal One is also eternally many.  This view is of course very basically different from the concept of many antaryamins since there will be the identification of the souls which are in evolution and involution in different levels and planes with the inner spirit immortal in all on the one hand and on the other with the incarnating deity in the heart of the Devotees.  This however explains the identity formula between the soul and God directly without the Ramanujaic concept of body (sarira).


Sri Aurobindo's Vedanta, if 'we may so speak of his interpretation of the Upanishads metaphysically, realises the organic view as also the peculiar kind of bhedabheda between the many and the one, not merely during the periods of creation and dissolution but eternally.  There is a profound play of the two at all times, perhaps with the shift of poises when oneness is dominant and when manyness is dominant with perhaps an intermediating oneness-manyness realising itself in all manifestation and liberation.


The question of questions is whether this approach to the Upanishads will yield the results of a coherent philosophy.  The answer to this question will be that it is only actual abhyasa or upasana of this profound psychological kind that will prove the rightness of this view.  Dialectical thought and mere interpretation based on finite logistics will fail to satisfy much less explain the profound seer-wisdom of the Vedic Rishis and the mystics of the South.  One has to enter into the practice or upasana, and psychological opening into the Ultimate Reality by intuition should naturally follow.  The intuition of the unity of the Creative principle with the reality of the Oneness-Manyness is one of the most important discoveries of Sri Aurobindo.  The further intuition that the above is the real amazing formula of the Vedic Rishis is of far-reaching importance.  The formula that Sri Aurobindo has given has wonderful efficacy in its capacity to explain almost all divergent facts of the different areas of human life and culture and growth.


It is not merely a synthesis but rather an intuitive analysis of the nature of Reality in its basic twofold poises or diunities.