Vedanta Sangraha by Sri Ramanujacharya
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Transcript of Vedanta Sangraha by Sri Ramanujacharya
Vedartha Sangraha of
English Translation by
S.S. Raghavachar, M.A.
With a foreword by
(Printed by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama Mysore 1978)
ri Ramanuja wrote nine works in Sanskrit1 on the philosophy of Visishtadvaita. Of these, the Vedartha-Sangraha occupies a unique place inasmuch as this work takes the place of a commentary on the Upanishads, though not in a conventional sense or
form. The work mirrors a total vision of the Upanishads, discussing all the controversial texts in a relevant, coherent manner. It is in fact an independent exposition of the philosophy of the Upanishads. Prof. M. Hiriyanna describes it as an independent treatise explaining in a masterly way his philosophic position, and pointing out the basis for it in the Upanishads. Sudarshana-suri, the celebrated commentator on the Sri-Bhashya and the Vedartha-sangraha, says that the work was expounded in the form of a lecture before Lord Srinivasa at Tirumalai. Thus it is his testament at the feet of the Lord whom he served throughout his life. Sri Ramanuja refers to this work more than once in his Sri-Bhashya. The Vedartha-sangraha is written in a lucid, vigorous prose without the usual divisions of chapters, but the structure of the thesis is developed in a scientific manner. Sri Ramanuja refers in this work to ancient teachers of theistic tradition, Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardin and Bharuci, besides his own teacher, Sri Yamunacarya. Tanka and Dramida are quoted profusely to support his interpretation. He takes abundant help from the Brahma-Sutras, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Vishnu-Purana, the Manusmrti and other genuine smrtis in the exposition of his philosophy. At the outset Sri Ramanuja states that the Upanishads, which lay down the welfare of the whole world, move around three fundamental notions: (1) A seeker must acquire a true knowledge of the individual self and the Supreme; (2) he must devote himself to meditation, worship and the adoration of the Supreme; (3) this knowledge with discipline leads him to the realization of the Supreme. To put it briefly, the first affirms the tattva or the nature of the Reality, the second declares the hita or the means, and the third states the Purushartha or the ideal of human endeavour. A chief difficulty in understanding the meaning of the Upanishads arises in determining the relation of Brahman to the individual self on the one hand, and to the non-sentient world on the other. There are some texts which declare that the world is only an appearance in the ultimate analysis. There are other texts which affirm that the world is not an appearance, but real and distinct. Bhartrprapanca, who was anterior to Sri Sankara, held that the self and the universe are identical with and different from Brahman, the triad constituting a unity in variety. That is to say, that the reality is at once one as Brahman and many as the self and the world. For example, an ocean consists of water, foam, waves, etc. As the water is real, so also are the foam, waves, etc. The world, which is a part and parcel of Brahman, is necessarily real. The import of all this is that according to this view the Upanishads teach the eternal difference and identity between Brahman on the one hand, and the self and the world on the other. 1 Vedartha Sangraha, Sri-Bhashya, Gita-Bhashya, Vedantadipa, Vedanta-sara, Sharanagati-gadya, Vaikuntha-gadya, Sriranga-gadya and Nitya-grantha.
Sri Sankara rejects the view of Bhatrprapanca, because mutually contradictory attributes cannot be predicated of one and the same thing. According to Sri Sankara the passages which affirm manifoldness and reality of the world do not embody the essential teaching of the Upanishads. It is a concession made to the empirical view that demands a real world having causal connection with time-space. Since variety is but an appearance having no foundation in the ultimate Reality, the true essential doctrine of the Upanishads, according to him, is only pure unity. The individual self is nothing but Brahman itself appearing as finite due to limiting adjuncts which are Superimposed on it. Sri Ramanuja also attempts to systematize the philosophy of the Upanishads, taking the cue from the ancient theistic philosophers. He recognises three lines of thought in the Upanishads concerning the relation between Brahman, the self and the world: (1) Passages which declare difference of nature between the world, the self and Brahman. Here the world is the non-sentient matter (acit) which is the object of experience, the self is the experiencing conscious subject (cit), and Brahman, the absolute ruling principle. These may be named analytical texts. (2) Passages which teach that Brahman is the inner self of all entities which constitute his body. For instance, He who dwells in the earth and within the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body the earth is, and who rules the earth within, he is thy Self, the ruler within, the immortal etc. (Br. 3:7:3-23). These are called ghataka-shrutis or mediating texts. (3) Passages which proclaim the unity of Brahman with the world in its causal as well as effected aspect. The famous text, That thou art, O Svetaketu (Chan. 6:2-8) comes under this category. These may be termed as synthetic passages. Sri Ramanuja lays down that the interpretation of the various passages must be such that they are not made to contradict each other, and not a single passage should be so interpreted as to be divested of its primary significance. The first group of texts distinguishes Brahman from the world and the individual selves. In a way it emphasizes the transcendent character of Brahman. The second group of texts declares Brahman to be the inner self of all entities. Neither the individual self nor the world can exist by itself. They are inseparably connected with Brahman as his body, and thus are controlled by him. These texts teach duality in so far as distinction is made between body and self, and unity in so far as the self, the substantive element, predominates over and controls the body, its attribute. The last group of texts aim at proclaiming the non-dual character of Brahman who alone constitutes the ultimate Reality. The self and the world, though distinct from each other and real, have a different value. They only exist as a mode or attribute of Brahman. They are comprehended in the reality of Brahman. They exist because Brahman exists. On this principle of interpretation, Sri Ramanuja recognizes that the passages declaring distinction between Brahman, the world and the self, and those affirming Brahman to be the same in the causal as well as effected aspects, do not in any way contradict the mediating passages which declare that the individual selves and the world form the body of Brahman, and they in their causal state do not admit the distinction of names and forms while in the effected state they possess distinct character. The notion of unity may be illustrated by the example, A purple robe. Here purpleness is quite different from robe. The latter is a substance while the former is an attribute. This
integral and essential relation is not found in the case of a man wearing a wrist-watch. If the former relation is inseparable (aprthaksiddhi), the latter is separable and external A word signifying attribute does not stop after denoting the usual meaning, but extends till it reaches the substantive. This is the true significance of an attribute. The individual selves and the world constitute the body of Brahman who is their inner self. Brahman is the integral principle without whom neither the self nor the world can exist. Hence all names finally denote him. The way in which Sri Ramanuja interprets the famous text, That thou art (Tat tvam asi) is unique. This is done by means of co-ordinate predication (samanadhikaranya). In a co-ordinate predication the identity of the substantive should not be established through the rejection of the natural significance of co-ordinate terms. The identical import of terms taken in their natural signification should be brought out. The Mahabhashya of Patanjali defines co-ordinate predication thus: The signification of an identical entity by several terms which are applied to that entity on different grounds is co-ordinate predication. In such a proposition the attributes not only should be distinct from each other but also different from the substance, though inseparable from it. In the illustration of a Purple robe, the basic substance is one and the same, though purpleness and robeness are different from it as well as from each other. That is how the unity of a Purple robe is established. In the co-ordinate predication asserting identity between that and thou, Brahman himself with the self as his mode, having the self as his body, is pointed out. The term thou which usually stands for the self here stands for Brahman (that) who is the indweller of the self and of whom the self is the mode as a constituent of his body. The term thou does not mean the physical body or the individual self. Since Brahman has interpenetrated all matter and self, thou signifies Brahman in the ultimate analysis. The term that signifies Brahman himself as the ground of the universe and the soul of all individual selves. Hence in the identity of that and thou there is no rejection of the specific connotation of the co-ordinate terms. The upshot of the dictum is that the individual selves and the world, which are distinct and real attributes, are comprehended in Brahman. Brahman as the inner self of the jiva-Brahman as the ground of the universe are one. The central principle is that whatever exists as an