[Note: the following is a review of The Vedantasara in Sanskrit with the commentary of Nrishingha Saraswatee, and with English, Hindi and Bengali Translations. See Note 1 below.]
This journal owes an apology to the publisher of the Vedantasara for not noticing the book earlier, although it has been lying on the office table for over four months. But a sufficient excuse will be found in the fact that as the work begins with an undue personal praise of the Founders of the Theosophical Society individually, and admittedly contains some ideas taken from the Theosophist, it was a puzzling question how to review this able and useful work in these columns, without being forthwith accused by our “well-wishers” of labouring in a “mutual admiration club.” But that the silence of this magazine may not be mistaken for discourtesy, I now hasten to acknowledge receipt, by the Editor of, and to thank sincerely Babu Heeralal Dhole for the copy he has kindly sent us.
The work is in three languages and bound together in one volume. Each might be made to form a separate work, and it is to be regretted that the idea should not have struck the able Authors or the Editor, to place it thus before the public. It seems unfair to charge people acquainted with only one tongue for the other two languages they neither know, nor perhaps care to know, anything about. Had our learned colleague, Babu Dhole, issued each part separately, charging for it Rupees two, or so, for a copy in each language, no ground for complaint and dissatisfaction would have arisen in any quarter, as it has now in more than one. The views,—at any rate in its first English part,—being avowedly those expressed in the columns of our magazine, very little has to be said of this portion, except that the author has made uncommon good use of it and elaborated very cleverly the whole. One point, however, may be noticed, as it is found to be constantly contradicted and picked holes into, by the theists as well as by all the supporters of independent creation—viz., the “definition of matter.”
“Kapila defines matter to be eternal and co-existent with Spirit. It was never in a state of non-being, but always in a state of constant change, it is subtle and sentient,” &c., &c., (p. 2.)
This is what the Editor of this journal has all along maintained and can hardly repeat too often. The article: “What is Matter and what is Force?” in the Theosophist for September 1882, is sufficiently lucid in reference to this question. It is at the time pleasant to find that our learned friend and brother, Mr. T. Subba Row Garu, the great Adwaitee scholar, shares entirely with all of us these views, which every intuitional scholar, who comprehends the true spirit of the Sankhya philosophy, will ever maintain. This may be proved by the perusal of a recent work on “Yoga Philosophy” by the learned Sanskritist, Dr. Rajendra Lala Mittra, the Introduction to which has just appeared, showing clearly how every genuine scholar comprehends the Sankhya in the same spirit as we do.2 The ONE LIFE of the Buddhists, or the Parabrahm of the Vedantins, is omnipresent and eternal. Spirit and matter are but its manifestations. As the energising force—Purush of Kapila—it is Spirit—as undifferentiated cosmic matter, it is Mulaprakriti. As differentiated cosmic matter, the basis of phenomenal evolution, it is Prakriti. In its aspect of being the field of cosmic ideation, it is Chidakasam; as the germ of cosmic ideation it is Chinmatra; while in its characteristic of perception it is Pragna. Whoever presumes to deny these points denies the main basis of Hindu Philosophy and clings but to its exoteric, weather-beaten, fast fading out shell. The main point of the work under review seems to be to indicate how in this basic doctrine, upon which the whole structure of philosophy rests, both the Aryan and the Arhat tenets meet and are identical, in all, except in forms of expression, and how again Kapila’s Sankhya supports it. The author has in this respect admirably succeeded in condensing the whole spirit of the philosophy in a few short pages. And a close study of the same is sufficient to bring the intelligent reader to the same sense of perception. For a superficial reader, Dr. N. Dhole, the English translator, seems to hold that Spirit is something quite apart and distinct from Matter, and quite a different substance or no-substance, if you please. But such readers can only be referred to the following extract:—
“. . . And since the recognition of this First Principle, call it Prakriti, Purush, Parabrahma, or Matter, Spirit, the Absolute, or the Unknowable, clashes not with the cherished ideas of the most inveterate Freethinker.”. . .
The above passage clearly proves that like all true Adwaitees, the learned Doctor holds Spirit and Matter to be but different phases or aspects of the ONE LIFE which is every thing or NO thing, if you prefer. It would be a pertinent question to ask, how it is then that the author expresses himself a Dualist? The simple explanation will be found in the consideration that so far as the phenomenal, or the manifested world is concerned, the idea of duality is launched into the discussion to indicate the two aspects of THE ONE ETERNAL WHOLE, which together set the machinery of evolution into working order. But once turn from the manifested into the noumenal, the unmanifested LIFE and the erudite author will most probably cease to call himself a dualist, as is made very clear from the above quoted extract from his work. The article “What is Matter and what is Force?” already referred to above, will fit in here most appropriately. It is therefore inexplicable how a certain class of people presume to call the Vedantasara “a theistic book,” when it is far more:—a philosophical treatise. Before, however, pronouncing a final judgment, the terms theism, atheism, pantheism, materialism, must be clearly defined, every person understanding them in his own way. Some call themselves believers in an Impersonal deity, which, no sooner are their views analyzed, seems to grow into a gigantic human being with every thing of good in him, and when still further dissected every thing bad in him. It would be interesting to know their doctrine concerning the origin of evil in a universe under the control of a perfect, conscious, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent intelligent Creator. Whatever is illogical or unmathematical will have to be entirely rejected some day, since truth can never be opposed to logic or to mathematics—the only two exact sciences. The next question put in connection with the work under notice by its theistic reviewers in The Arya is as follows:—
“Nor do we see what analogy can there exist between Buddhism and Vedantism. We know that the great Shankarya was an implacable enemy of Buddhistic; and he, being the great propounder of Vedantic Advaitism, would not have supported the claims of Buddhism.”
A Daniel come to judgment! I challenge the irresponsible writer of the above lines to point out in what respect the esoteric doctrines of Gautama Buddha and Sankaracharya differ. It is hard to explain on any other ground but theological unscrupulous cunning the origin of the current false belief that Sankaracharya was an enemy of Buddhism. This is a separate line of study for one who devotes his special attention to the historical development of occultism. This point, however, does in no way detract from the value and importance of the fact that Sankaracharya throughout his works keeps wisely silent about the esoteric doctrine taught by Gautama Buddha. He who studies and reads between the lines the Brahmasutra Bhashyam, of the former, will practically find for himself that Vedantic Adwaitism is identical with esoteric Buddhistic Arhatism. In my turn, I moreover ask the writer of the above extract to show wherein lies the difference between Buddhism and Advaitism, and then it can be shown that this difference exists but in the imagination of a few wise-acres who do not care to study the subject thoroughly for themselves but depend upon the testimony of a few interested parties. Once that it is shown that there is no difference, the analogy is clearly established. The same writer promises us to prove further on that Adwaitism is the result of the distorted interpretations of the sacred VEDAS! As however the promised contribution has not yet appeared, I may just as well retort by reminding him of the fact that there are far wiser and abler persons who can prove that his interpretations will never stand the test of the “recognised Sciences of the day” as will what he calls the “distortions” of the Adwaitees. It must be remembered that these so called “distortions,” antedating as they do by innumerable ages the discoveries of the “recognised Sciences of the day,” cannot be said to have been copied from the latter to suit the times. We cannot however dismiss the writer without showing to our readers his ignorance of Adwaitism—a subject he so confidently presumes to criticize. Our (‘Adwaitees’) fourth argument, he says, (naming the so called Mahavakyams in order) rests upon the authority of the sentence Ekmevadvitiyam. He seems to be ignorant of the Atharvanaveda Mahavakya. “Ayam Atma Brahma” is the Mahavakyam in question which the writer very prudently refrains from interpreting from his own Dwaitee standpoint. The translations of our texts given in the Arya are equally absurd and extravagant. Pragnanam (प्रज्ञानम्) he interprets to mean “intellect”! Our readers who have studied carefully the learned articles on this subject by Mr. T. Subba Row, need no telling how grossly misunderstood and misrepresented are the Adwaitee tenets by this theistic self-called “Aryan” reviewer of the Vedanta-sara. It was necessary to answer here that Review since on the whole the philosophy of the work under notice, is in main what we consider to be Vedantic Adwaitism, which is precisely the same as Buddhistic Arhatism.
These somewhat lengthy remarks may be concluded with a hope that Babu Heera Lal Dhole will act up to the suggestion herein made to divide the work by issuing each text in a separate volume, thus making it within the easy means of all, as the present price is prohibitive for many. At the same time it is to be regretted that the learned author should have limited his researches mainly to the Theosophist. Had he searched more deeply into the lore of the ancient Aryan Literature, he would have increased immensely the value and the influence of his book and made our own case stronger too, since we could then have shown more forcibly that our doctrines are not the phantoms of our imagination, but are directly drawn from, and supported by, the ancient writings, within the reach of him who would search for them diligently and with necessary qualifications. It is needless to say again that every student of Adwaitism ought to possess himself of a copy of the work under review.
1. THE VEDANTASARA in Sanskrit with the commentary of Nrishingha Saraswatee, and with English, Hindi and Bengali Translations, Price Rs. 6-4 in India, and Rs. 7 in Foreign countries. THE PANCHADASI in English embodying the Vedanta and explaining the Aryan views of Cosmos, the Soul and the Parabrahma. In monthly parts. Annual subscription Rs. 6 in India; Rs. 7 in Ceylon, Straits Settlements, China, Japan and Australia; 14 Shillings in Africa, Europe, and U. S. America. Cash to accompany orders invariably. Drafts, hundis, and postal orders to credit of H. DHOLE, 127 Musjid Bari Street, Calcutta. Discounts of stamps must be remitted also.
2. In his Introduction to the above named work, the able Orientalist shows plainly the nearly perfect identity of Kapila’s Sankhya, Patanjali’s Yoga, Buddhism and, by indirect inference, of the Adwaitee or Upanishad philosophy. Moreover the author corroborates in it that which we have ever maintained, even against such a learned but rather too bigoted theist as the Pundit Dayanund—namely, that Kapila recognized no personal god, no more than did Patanjali. Says Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitra, L. L. D., C. I. E., . . . “Patanjali has contented himself by tacking a theistic appendage of no direct utility to a positively atheistic model (Kapila). . . . Hence it is that the Hindus call it Seśvara Sankhya or Sankhya cum deo (with god), as opposed to the former which is Nirisvara Sankhya, or Sankhya sine deo (without god)” (p. xxii). “And we have enough in these facts to infer that the Yoga text-book is posterior to the Sankhya text-book, and that both the text-books are later than Buddha; but that the doctrines of both are very old, and now these (Sankhya and Yoga philosophies) are the immediate ancient Hindu archetypes of the nihilist theory of Buddha, and indirectly of the Pessimism of Schopenhauer and Hartmann.” (p. xxiii. Preface.)