Monday, June 29, 2009

Prameya Three-The world is real

Brahman being real, the visible world must be real

Different philosophical schools follow one out of two main threads regarding the theory of the constitution of the manifested material world. Some accept the concept of sat-karya-vada, according to which the effect exists in its cause before its manifestation, and is therefore as real as its cause. The Sankhya system, for example, supports the theory of sat-karya-vada with the following arguments:

asad akaranad upadanagrahanat sarvasambhavabhavat
saktasya saktyakaranat karanabhavac ca sat karyam

“The effect is ever existent, 1) because what is nonexistent can by no means be brought into existence; 2) because effects take adequate material causes; 3)because all effects are not producible from all causes; 4) because en efficient cause can produce only that for which it is efficient; 5)because the effect is of the same essence as the cause.” (Sankhya-karika, text 9)

Gaudiya vaisnavism also accepts the theory of parinama sat-karya-vada, for the Supreme Lord’s existence being true, naturally everything that emanates from him is also true. There is plenty of evidence that God wished to create the material world and manifested it through the agency of His energies. The energies of the Lord are also as real as He Himself, therefore the emanations manifested by them are also real. To give a few examples:

ya eko'varno bahudha-sakti-yogad
varnan anekan nihitartho dadhati

The Svetasvatara Upanisad (4.1) explains: "The Absolute Truth, who is one without a second, and who possesses no material attributes, desired to manifest the material world, and created the different classes of human beings, animals and demigods by the agency of His multifarious energies."

ekadesa-sthitastagner jyotsna vistarini yatha
parasya brahmanah saktis tathedam akhilam jagat

The Visnu Purana explains:

"Whatever we see in this world is simply an expansion of different energies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is exactly like a fire which spreads illumination for a long distance, although it is situated in one place."

brahma satyam tapah satyam satyam caiva prajapatih
satyad bhutani jatani satyam bhutam ayam jagat

The Mahabharata explains: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, is real. Austerities are real, and Lord Brahma is also real. Because the living entities and the material world have taken birth from the supreme reality, they are also real."

Some may argue that the scriptures say that there is nothing besides atma, so to think that there is a material world besides the spirit would be just like mistaking a rope to be a snake. The answer to this is that indeed ultimately there is only spirit, but as we saw above, the Supreme Spirit can manifest anything from Himself through His potencies and still remain aloof. This is thus corroborated:

maya tatam idam sarvam jagad avyakta-murtina
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani na caham tesv avasthitah

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 9.4

The philosophy proposed here is diversity in unity, thus the material world is not a superimposition as in the given analogy, but it can be better comprehended by the analogy of the green bird that entered a tree, for they are both existent, distinct beings, although sharing the same place, and only an inattentive observer would not perceive them to be so. In other words, the material and spiritual worlds are two parallel realities that are eternal and concomitant.

It may also be objected that the scriptures often affirm that this universe is ‘asat’. Here ‘asat’ does not mean that it is nonexistent, but that the material world is a temporary manifestation and it is so made to lead the jivas to develop detachment. By analysing the temporary nature of everything that exists in this world, one may eventually realize the transient constitution of all material objects and situations and thus give up attachment for them. Otherwise, if we take the word ‘asat’ to mean that the material world does not exist at all, the scriptures would be meaningless, since they are full of statements that particularly deal with material situations such as social organisation, politics, etc., and therefore would be self-contradictory, for if the world does not exist, it would not be possible for the jivas to live in it, so what to speak of the need of any scripture to guide them! Moreover, a fundament established by Madhva Acarya is that the scriptures should be understood on the light of the other pramanas too. In other words, the sabda-pramana should also be corroborated by pratyaksa as far as possible, even because pratyksa is the primary medium for sabda, for unless one uses his ears, there is no question of hearing anything. In the present context, the perception of the external world and its existence is common to all sentient beings, be they conditioned or liberated. This view also matches with the Cartesian pattern of thought , according to which one who thinks must definitely exist. Thus Baladeva’s conclusion that the phenomenal world is temporary, but not unreal is thoroughly backed up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prameya Two - He is to be known by the Vedas

A manuscript page of the "Tattva-dipa" of Baladeva Vidyabhusana

The word ‘Veda’ comes from the verbal root ‘vid’, ‘to know’, thus Veda means knowledge in general, but particularly it refers to the four Samhitas called Rg, Atharva, Yajur and Sama. Knowledge is eternal and it is manifested again and again at the time of every universal creation, being transmitted by Lord Narayana and received by Lord Brahma:

purvasyadau parardhasya brahmo nama mahan abhut
kalpo yatrabhavad brahma sabda-brahmeti yam viduh

“In the beginning of the first half of Brahma's life, there was a millennium called Brahma-kalpa, wherein Lord Brahma appeared. The birth of the Vedas was simultaneous with Brahma's birth.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 3.11.35

Therefore, Lord Brahma is the greatest authority testify what is the ultimate goal of knowledge:

bhagavan brahma kartsnyena trir anviksya manisaya
tad adhyavasyat kuta-stho ratir atman yato bhavet

“The great personality Brahma, with great attention and concentration of the mind, studied the Vedas three times, and after scrutinizingly examining them, he ascertained that attraction for the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna is the highest perfection of religion.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 2.2.34

This is corroborated by Lord Krishna Himself:

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 15.15

There is an intrinsic relation between the Vedas and dharma, for the Vedas propagate dharma and dharma is essential to comprehend the Vedas. Manu-samhita, 2.6, states that the Vedas are one of the fundaments of dharma:

vedo’ akhilo dharmamulam smrtisile ca tadvidam
acarascaiva sadhunamatmanastustireva ca

“The whole Veda is the first source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the Veda further, also the customs of holy men, and finally, self-satisfaction.”

Thus, it is natural to conclude that the goal of the Vedas and that of dharma is one and the same. This conclusion is thus substantiated:

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam visvaksena-kathasu yah
notpadayed yadi ratim srama eva hi kevalam

“The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 1.2.8

The Gopala-tapani Upanisad confirms :

yo 'sau sarvair vedair giyate

"All the Vedas proclaim the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

And the Katha Upanisad (1.2.15) also confirms it:

sarve veda yat-padam amananti tapamsi sarvani ca yad vadanti

"All the Vedas worship the Supreme Lord's lotus feet, and all austerities proclaim His glories."

And in the Hari-vamsa it is affirmed:

vede ramayane caiva purane bharate tatha
adav ante ca madhye ca harih sarvatra giyate

"In the Vedic literature, including the Ramayana, Puranas ad Mahabharata, from the very beginning (adau), to the end (ante ca), as well as within the middle (madhye ca), only Hari, the supreme Personality of Godhead, is explained."

There is an old discussion regarding the knowableness of God and the capacity to express it through words. In the sastras, the Supreme is sometimes referred to as ‘avacyam’, ‘indescribable’, but this should be understood in the sense that the Lord’s attributes are unlimited and cannot be fully conceived by the living entities, otherwise if we take it in the sense that the Supreme cannot be described at all, the whole sastra would be meaningless. Rather, both sruti and smrti largely describe the Supreme Lord’s transcendental qualities, names, forms, associates, paraphernalia, abodes, etc. The example given is that the Himalaya mountains can eventually also be referred to as invisible in the sense that it cannot be thoroughly seen, and not that they cannot be seen at all. Similarly, Lord Govinda’s transcendental qualities, etc. can be partially seen by those who are favoured by His mercy, but even Ananta Sesa Himself fails to fully appreciate them.
Some may argue that when the Vedas refer to Brahman, they are just expressing the nature of Brahman in a secondary, indirect way, for the direct meaning of words are used to describe only objects that possess an origin, qualities, activities, names, etc., while Brahman is devoid of all these. So, in this sense, Brahman is not really describable by the Vedas. However, the fact is that a secondary meaning is only possible when a direct meaning exits, thus if the direct meaning of the Vedic words are not valid knowledge, their indirect meaning would be futile and again the whole Veda would be useless for comprehending God and the soul and would contradict Vyasadeva’s conclusion in the Vedanta-sutra, 1.1.3 :


“Because He may only be known by the revelation of the Vedic scriptures.”

Therefore, the conclusion is that the Vedas are the via-media for acquiring knowledge about God, He being the end of all knowledge.