Brahmasrii Dr K C Varadachari
That there has been an excessive bias towards the life of life-negation is clearly one of the fundamental charges that can be leveled against the Buddhist and Jaina views of life which more than any other for a millennium and more influenced Indian life. The monk-bhiksu-cult of renunciation was glorified; and in Vedanta, thank to the influences of this view, Sannyasa became the most exalted asrama state. Men sought to end up in Sannyasa and it was held up as the ideal of human life. Such an exaltation denied man’s life of its values and made it insignificant as compared to the life beyond man. Religion as the preoccupation with the future life became the sole and increasing concern, depleting all value from the life of man. Even the
service of man was for his transcending and going beyond to the life celestial or super-terrestrial.
The pessimism characteristic of this temperament is surely in respect of this world, the world of matter and man. The optimism is in respect of the other-world attainment where the problems of this world are said to be liquidated. The consciousness of men was educated to look forward to another world as the goal of our present endeavours. This surely leaves the field of our religious thinking mainly pessimistic in respect of our present condition. Could not change in the values of life work out a better prospect; man must be changed; his ego has to be modified and subordinated to the Overself or God; his nature itself undergo change in order to be able to see more than his senses see and his desires prompt; a new kind of desire free from ignorance and limitation is the satya-samkalpa or divine will that will be the feature of the greater man. It is not impossible to have such a being on this earth. If this is possible then the pessimism could be counteracted. But men are offering resistances and indeed one of the most optimistic experiments made has been to bring down heaven to
earth, to make or transform earth to the status of heaven dreamt of. The Kingdom of God on earth must be a compeer of that of His in Heaven – this dream is undoubtedly of capital importance in the hope of a new world and a new man. A survey of the whole range of Indian philosophical systems reveals that this great aspiration and dream is not held to be capable of being achieved in this earth-consciousness. This is surely pessimism. However the whole question is whether there is the possibility of transformation of the earth consciousness or earth itself into Heaven? We cannot produce milk out of petrol or silver out of silica or cloth out of air; then can we produce heaven out of earth? Can the laws of solids avail with liquids or gases? Is the disparity so great and opposed that one cannot produce the other? This is the question. If we answer in the affirmative there is pessimism, if in the negative, there is optimism.
Thanks to the genius of the Christian thinkers who have sought to make the impossible effort of making this earth safe for the Heaven-born, men like Jesus, it has become one of the major works of modern man to realise the Utopia, whatever its stature and
structure and function, in the context of this world. The approach to this transcendental realization on this earth for earth consciousness is undoubtedly the inspiration of much of our modern Indian thinking also. That it is not purely a western Christian concept of ideal is all that they have been at pains to shew. The life-negating philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism and Advaita mayavada Vedanta which have been most influential during the past two millennium have had wonderful success and their ‘optimism’ of lifting people away from the morass of this world had succeeded beyond all expectations. Many wonderful souls have achieved this liberation from this world.
However there have been men like Trisanku, Visvamitra and Rbhus and the great Ciranjivis eternally youthful or immortals in Indian traditional though and history who have sought to live the ideal life hereon this earth. Therefore this was reiterated and made the dominant note in recent Indian philosophy. This is but the recapitulation and remembrance of the Vedic optimism and alchemic promise of transformation of man into his divine nature and the founding of the Universal Sangha of liberated and divinized men whose
thought and action and emotion were integrated in an universal purpose of Harmony. The Vedic Prayer of living together, growing together, rejoicing and learning together is in terms of universal love and brotherhood and peace that is indivisible.
Sri Aurobindo’s message of integral Knowledge, a knowledge that rises from identity of thought-action-emotion, is a basic optimism of the Vedic kind and in a sense going beyond that in so far as it now concerns not man’s relation to the Gods but men everywhere. A new vision is a need, a new dynamis is necessary to make our optimism justifiable and not merely a dream. The world has need of that. Have our philosophers found that either in action or in thought?
It may be conceded that Indian Philosophico-spiritual thought has discovered that such a dynamic vision and change are incapable of being engineered by the rationality of the sensory and reflective projections of science. Today obviously many persons think that ‘optimism’ belongs to science which has not only discovered the know-how of things but also the know-why of things. A world view of the old and the
traditionalist being pre-scientific it is today clear that a world view of science in all its aspects also can be adequate. Here is science widening the horizons of man, having made man overcome the impediments and limitations to which his powers of the body have confined him. He is today cheered by the prospect of being the master of Nature. His indomitable courage and feeling of superiority over nature have made him the captain of his soul and the promise is that man shall not be creature of natural forces, waiting on nature for everything, neither sun nor moon nor rain nor mountains nor deserts can offer resistance for he can himself bring into being the conditions which those celestial powers create only when the seasons and daytimes and others come about. Man’s independence over this environment is a result of the scientific advance which has helped him to create them and control the according to his whim and fancy or according to the need of his race.
This is the ‘optimism’ of being not a creature of nature but a creator of Nature. Optimism then can be described not merely in terms of a hope but of a realization of ‘creatorship’ and abandoning or
discarding the sense of ‘creatureliness’ that has been the chief characteristic of religion.
Religions have always harped on the idea of ‘creatureliness’ of man, and the impossibility of man becoming ever the creator. Indeed at one stage it has transpired that man has been considered to be so much of a creature that it has been said that ‘not even a blade of grass moves but for the will of God’s and man’s helplessness has been taken as the very nature of his existence; call it ‘dasabhutatva’ or slavery to God, call it ‘waiting on God’, akincata (non-anythingness), all these religious attitudes deny man’s capacity to change anything in the Nature.
Science fights against this creatureliness of man. In this science is direct contradiction to the spirit of religion. However whilst this fact has been clearly recognized by Materialism (Russian dialectical materialism in the modern days), it is not faced by the European Countries which yet feel that science can be subordinated to religion, which is another way of saying that religion can be subordinated to science, and we may somehow be both creators in respect of world
shaping in respect of our needs and comforts and freedoms, and creatures in respect of transcendental goals, if needed we do relegate all that vast area of existence beyond the grave. Indeed we shall try our level best to postpone that departure from this area by developed science which will help conquest of death.
The ‘optimism’ in this direction has unlimited extension. We have conquered speeds and broken sound-barriers and light-barriers too presently: we have probed into the depths of space and matter: we have been able to understand and demonstrate the infinite possibilities of inter-atomic forces and energies. Indeed we have been able to turn each one of the discoveries into instrument of further probing and conquest of Nature. Nature’s yield up of knowledge has exceeded all our expectations. We have today the assurance of unlimited progress for man and his existence in this world. It is all for man and by man and all the world is in one area of opportunities for infinite exceeding.
No wonder Indian Philosophic thought centered round the ‘creatureliness’ doctrine with its
concomitance of fate and karma appears to be an altogether unrealistic and outmoded.
Indian philosophy however in some aspects never completely accepted the creatureliness doctrines of religion and bhakti. That is one of the main reasons why the Advaita Philosophy with its affirmation of the ‘creatorship’ principle of the individual showed attractiveness to minds who have been convinced that creatureliness is only one half of the reality whereas the creatorship is the other half of the reality of the individual. The double nature of the individual has been recognized by the ancient seers. However at one stage, they have insisted that ‘creatorship’ of the individual would be just expression of his imaginative thought that produces delusive creations or inventions which might involve the individual in bondage to them. Love of one’s own creations or inventions could be a bar to progress and might bind one more thoroughly than ever. Creatureliness however has the advantage of not getting into this cocoon of one’s own weaving. Man must achieve a stature which will make his creatorship immune from the bondage which the creations prepare for him. This appears to be one of
the possible meanings of the doctrine of bindingsness of all activity (which is creative or inventive). When however he can discover his oneness with the Supreme Creator of the Universe, then his activities become truly creative without reactiveness and bondage. It is the belief of the ancients in Indian thought that this connection with the Supreme which is man’s other aspect of being can be achieved immediately and now and here. Even creatureliness to the Creator and Creator only is helpful to this discovery and realization. This one-pointed dependence or creatureliness to God or the Spirit Universal links up the creature to the creator and helps creativeness that is New and ever expanding. This is the discovery of the optimum possibility of the individual and is that which justifies optimism.
It is when this possibility of Yoga with the Divine or Brahmasayujyam is denied that one is irrevocably a pessimist. The doctrine of jivanmukti shews in its dynamic aspect this realization of the oneness in all one’s parts with the Divine and yet it intimates the other aspect that the life beyond this body is not less creative than the life in this body; indeed one derives the
fullness of perfect creativity in God for God and till infinite possibility here and hereafter, on earth as also in heaven.
Thus it is not quite right to affirm that pessimism is the dominant note of Indian Philosophy. A restrained optimism has always been the note of Indian thought and it has never been its claim to affirm an uncritical optimism or an equally uncritical pessimism. It has been realistic enough to recognize that man’s immortal soul and self which is its reality will never be content to be a mere creature of circumstances and environments either of this world or of the other. Its yearning sense is for the Infinite creativity and mastery of self and all and its goal has been Infinite undiminishing bliss here and yonder.
It has known however that not by any other path than that of knowing the Supreme Purusa or Person of God can there be the attainment of creatorship that makes one pass beyond all limitations and grants to him the sense of right living and right doing which will not cast shadows on reality or on oneself or on others. By the sacrifice of oneself to the Divine, by one’s
integral offering of oneself to the Divine fully and subordinating and identifying one’s being and imagination and thought sense and ego with the creative Nature of the Divine does one really transcend the frightening prospect to the world doomed otherwise to self-destruction or suicide and worse.
Nanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate
BRIEF PHILOSOPHY OF SRI VEDANTA DESIKA’S BHAKTI1
Sri Ramanuja in the very opening verse of his Sri Bhasya expressed the content and function of bhakti by revealing it al the form of semusi: "semusi bhakti-rupa". Semusi as essential knowledge of the Divine takes the form of devotion to the Ultimate form of Brahman as Sri-nivasa the abode of Sreyas, the freedom and liberation personified as the Divine Mother. Sri Vedanta Desika in his Sri-stuti spoke of the Sri as Sreyo murtih, thus confirming the view of the Kathopanishad that the Ultimate Lord shows the path of Sreyas not preyas.
The Divine to be worshipped must be one who grants this supreme state of liberation and immortality and absolute santi which even the lighting of the Nachiketa fire cannot grant. Thus the devotion to the
1 * Reference: Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, Tatparya Chandrika, etc..
paramapurusa spoken of in the Srutis--Brahman as the dwelling place of Sreyas—Lord Narayana--Vishnu—is bhakti.
Bhakti is capable of being given to the Purusottama in his murta or amurta forms; the former are obviously the Archa and the Vibhava, whereas the amurta forms are the Antaryami or Harda and Vyuha and Para. Though to certain persons forms of the transcendental order were revealed yet generally they have been conceded as amurta. The Divine Lord in both these forms is saguna not nirguna. He has the supreme perfect qualities which are infinite in number. Those qualities are such as remove or abolish the evil and imperfections on the one hand and on the other grant supreme felicities to the devotee; Heyapratyanika and supremely subhasraya.
Bhakti can be sadvaraka or Advaraka--through or direct, mediated or unmediated. One may develop the association with God through any other means or persons or may gain it without mediation. This point is clearly further elucidated when Sri Vedanta Desika affirms that Bhakti can be practiced directly by oneself
(when, of course, any other person or guru is not available or unwilling) or through the mediation of an eminently qualified acharya (acharyanishta)
Similarly bhakti can be utilized as a subsidiary (anga) to the other yogas like Jnana or karma or this can be the angi and they could be made angas of this bhakti. Sri Vedanta Desika reveals an acute understanding- of the interdependence of the three modes of human consciousness, cognition, conation and affection. He reveals however that the other two modes culminate and find fulfilment in Bhakti (supreme devotion to God).
Even prapatti or Sharanagati is shown to be an anga of bhakti though again with an acute psychological understanding Sri Vedanta Desika points out that prapatti can become the end of those yogas, for human effort cannot avail and surrender is necessary to gain the grace of God.
Prapatti at the beginning need not have devotion but that becomes added to it when the Divine answers to the sharanagati. This is resulting bhakti (phala-
bhakti) arising spontaneously from the experience of the grace of God. This may occur not only from the prapatti-experience but also from the karma or jnana also. Devotion can arise in almost every way as the usual ordinary course of bhakti-sadhana followed by the Bhagavata, Narada and Shandilya schools show, and might be expressed in all ways of human relationships, dramatized in the life as if of reminiscence. The alvars had revelled in the popular mode of Bhakti sadhana. Kulasekhara is a supreme example. More spontaneous and less schematized have been the bhakti of the other Alvars. Though Sri Vedanta Desika fully participated in this, his bhakti is more of the 'amour intellectus' philosophical love or platonic love. His love was refined and sublimated and fully conformed to the view expressed by Sri Ramanuja as semushi bhakti.
Further this semushi bhakti can only arise when one has not merely realized oneself as the sesha of God but as the body of God (sarira-bhava). Sri Vedanta Desika emphatically stated2 that the differentiating doctrine of Visistadvaita is 'Sariri-sarira
sambandha between God and the soul. May that mean anything more than or less than living and moving and having one's being in the Parama Purusottama! It is true that Sri Ramanuja and Sri Vedanta Desika did not wish sarira to be understood in the sense of Naiyayikas or Vaisesikas or even other systems have maintained, but as that which the Divine supports, destines and enjoys for His own purposes. This definition applies equally to Prakriti or Nature ('achit'). The karmasarira of man is only partially under the control support and enjoyment. Therefore it is that one must seek the real sariri and depend upon Him, rather than on his own sarira or on himself. This is invaluable for realisation.
Above all bhakti is not a philosophy but a way of living in God, for God and by God. Sri Vedanta Desika wrote voluminously to impress on all aspirants for the highest Sreyas or nissreyas, the necessity to practice god-devotion in the fullest spirit that one is the body of God, living and moving and having his being in God and not merely a temple. The Sarira·Bhava had helped Sri Vedanta Desika to emphasize the panchakala-parayanata of the ekantins or parama-ekantins, giving a secondary place to the symbolisms of the temple. Sri
Vedanta Desika synthesized all the various currents of spiritual devotion and ordered them in such a way as to deny none their legitimate place. For Himself however he liked the 'amour intellectus dei’.
This is a truth we have tended to forget during the past seven centuries.
May this spirit be revived.
Om Tat Sat