Article by A. Govinda Charlu | Notes by H.P.B.
[Only the notes by H.P.B. are included here. Notes by A.G.C. are not included.]

For the last three and odd years that your Journal has been in existence, there has never been any contribution presenting consistently the philosophy of the Viśishtadvaita. Originated by Sri Ramanujacharya, it stands between the two extreme philosophies, respectively known as the Advaita and the Dvaita; and accepts all those passages in the Vedas which are admitted by either in support of its own views. There are many points, however, in the subjoined dialogue that both a Dvaitee and an Advaitee would call into question. The authors of the dialogue promise to answer the objections of the devotees of either sect. In the case of such emergency, the readers of the Magazine and our Brothers in Theosophy, of the Madras Presidency, are referred to Sriman S. Parthasarathy Iyengar, F.T.S., residing in Triplicane, Madras.


CATECHISM OF THE VISISHTADVAITA PHILOSOPHY

Q.

1.

What is man’s greatest aspiration?

A.

Moksha (final emancipation), called Purushártha (object of desire).

2.

What is Moksha?

Enjoyment of Brahma after disseverance or disenthralment from all material connection.

3.

What are the means of attaining Moksha?

Divine contemplation (Bhagavad-bhakti).

4.

What is Bhakti?

Gnána (Knowledge or wisdom) of Iswara, continuous, full of love, and commingling with no other than Brahma.

5.

What is it that reaches Moksha?

Jivatma or Jivan.

6.

What is the nature of Jivan?

Jivan partakes of the nature of Brahma in wisdom; is subservient to Brahma and is an indivisible (spiritual) particle (monad); can neither be created nor destroyed; per se is changeless and has no form; and yet distinct from Iswara.1

7.

What is the nature of Iswara?

It has no bad but only good qualities,2 it is ever lasting and universal wisdom; omnipotent, having truth as its principle and final purpose. It is the universal Master, omnipresent, having for its body chétana (animate) and achétana (or inaminate) nature; and it is quite distinct from Jivan.

8.

Define Achit? (matter).

It is non-intelligent; of infinite forms; and is of a triune aspect, viz. Suddha Sativa, Misra Sativa, and Sativa Súnya.

9.

Describe Suddha Sativa?

It is entirely composed of Sativa Gana (quality of goodness); is of a permanent nature; subject to Iswaea’s will; and is found in Vaikunt(h)a Loka.

10.

Describe Misra Sativa?

It is composed of all the Gunas, viz.—Sativa, Raja and Tama; is a mask (a veil of mist) to man’s gnana and ananda (knowledge and bliss); produces illusionary or false knowledge; is permanent; is a play thing to Iswara (?); has form; and is called Prakriti, Avidya and Maya:—Prakriti, because it has form and is therefore changeable. Avidya, because producing false knowledge. Maya, for being the cause of the wonderful objective Cosmos.

10B.

Describe Sativa Súnya?

Time, made up of seconds, etc.

11.

Describe the evolution of the objective cosmos out of primordial matter (mulaprakriti)?

As follows:—Mulaprakriti, Mahat, Ahamkaram, Subda tanmatram, Akasa, Spara tanmatram, Vayu(s), Rúpa tanmatram, Tejas, Rasa tanmatram, Apa(s), Gandha tanmatram, Prithivi, and Permutations and combinations of these.

12.

What is the method of Laya? (Relapsation of absorption)

Each of the differentiations merging back into its precedent cause, as Prithur relapsing into Apa(s), etc. Laya means the disappearance of all effects into the ultimate cause. This is expressed by saying that all effects attain the state of Aksharávastha (undifferentiation) in Mulaprakriti or Tamas, which dwells in unison with Paramatina.

13.

What do you mean by Ekíbháva (oneness-like, assimilation)?

It means that Tamas lies in Iswara in Súkshmárastha (undeveloped cause), undistinguishable by name, form, or division.

14.

Are Jiva, Iswara, Maya, real existences (truths or realities)?

All three are true.3

15.

What are cause and effect?

Cause is Iswara conraining all Chith and Achith in Súkshmávastha. Effect is Iswara containing them in Sthúlávastha. The combination of this trinity (Chith, Achith and Iswara) is the Upadana (materials of construction) of the Jagath (cosmos). In effect, the characteristics of each are different, those of the one not obtaining for the others.

16.

How? Explain.

For example, take a cloth woven of three different-coloured threads, white, black, and red. The three interwoven together make one harmonious whole, and still exist separately and having their own qualities, whiteness, blackness and redness (B). In effect there cannot be such a thing as blackness in white, and whiteness in black thread. (8). For Jagath, the triune combination is Upadana, and there is no interchangeableness or correlation among the three functions, viz. the enjoying (Bhoktritwa=experiencing) pertaining to Jivan (Chith), the enjoyed (Bhogjatwa) pertaining to Prakriti (Achith) and the dispensation or administration (Niyantritwa) pertaining to Iswara.

17.

Are Jiva and Praktiti the body of Iswara?

Yes.

18.

Do the terms used to designate the body (Sarira) denote also that which has the body (Sariri)?

Yes.

19.

Give an example.

When we say “cow,” we do not mean merely the cow’s “body,” by the cow as a living entity.

20.

But what do the following aphorisms mean in the Vedantasara? viz.:

a. Ayamatma Brahma.

b. Thathwamasi.

c. Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.

d. Aham Brahmasmi.

e. Aham manus (h).

f. Brahmaveda Brahmaivachavathi, etc., etc., etc.

The mean this:—Parabrahma has Jiva for his body; he has Prakriti for his body; Chit and Achit forming the body to the indweller, Iswara, as the primum mobile.4

21.

Does Jivan get moksha here, or what?

After travelling by the paths of light (Archiradi), breaking through the circle of matter, and being welcomed by the four-faced Brahma, shaking off the Linga Sarira, entering Vaikunt(h)a Loka, and assuming the same form as Iswara, it then enjoys Parabrahma.

22.

Is Mukta Jivan able to well in Vaikunt(h)a only or can he go elsewhere?

It can do both under Iswara Itcha (will of Iswara).

23.

Are Jivas any fixed number?

No; they are numberless.

24.

How does conditioned existence (Samsára) happen to Jiva?

Through eternal companionship with Achit.

25.

How does the connection arise?

Through Karma.

26.

What is Karma?

Iswara’s ordination or will.5

27.

What does Iswara ordain?

“Thou be’st happy,” “though be’st unahppy,” and so on.

28.

Why does Iswara so will?

On account of the good and bad acts of Jivan.6

29.

Since Jivan is subservient to Iswara and Jivan is able only to do that which he is ordered to do, how can Iswara punish him? And how does Iswara point out, by means of Sástras (Laws or Institutes) what is good and what bad, to subordinate Jivan?

Iswara gives to Jivan organs (body), etc., free will, and capability of knowledge, and a code explaining what must be avoided. Jivan is dependent, but has still enough independence given him to execute the work entrusted into his hands. Iswara deals out reward or punishment accordingly as Jivan uses the functions he is endowed with, in conformity with Sástras or not. (Consider the consequences of the use or abuse of power with which the king invests his premier).7

30.

Iswara being omnipresent, what is the meaning of Moksha-attainment in other Lokas?

As soon as full wisdom (Brahmagnana) is obtained, i.e. the state of complete illumination, Jivan shakes off his Sthúlasarira; being blessed by Iswara dwelling in his heart, it goes in Súkshma Sarira to Sprákrita Loka (non-material world); and dropping Súkshma Sarira becomes Mukta (emancipated).8

31.

How do you know all this is true?

From Sástras.

32.

What Sástra?

The Sacred Scriptures called “Veda9 which is Anadi (had no beginning), Apanrushéya (non-human), Nitya (unaffected by past, present, or future), and Nirdosha (pure).


Editor’s Note [H.P.B.]:

For various reasons we are unable to print, along with the above translation, its Sanskrit Text. It may be reserved for future use and portions of it published as occasion may require, to answer the possible objections that may be brought forward by our Adwaitee and Dwaitee brothers. In our humble opinion, since there cannot be but one and only Truth, the thousand and one interpretations by different sectarians of the same and one thing are simply the outward and evanescent appearances or aspects of that which is too dazzling (or perchance too dark and too profound) for mortal eye to correctly distinguish and describe. As already remarked by us in Isis Unveiled the multitudinous creeds and faiths have all been derived from one primitive source. TRUTH standing as the one white ray of light, it is decomposed by the prism into various and eye-deceiving colours of the solar spectrum. Combined, the aggregate of all those endless human interpretations—shoots and offshoots—represent one eternal truth; separate, they are but shades of human error and the signs of human blindness and imperfection. However, all such publications are useful, since they fill the arena of discussion with new combatants and that truth can be reached at but after the explosion of innumerable errors. We invite our Dvaitee and Advaitee Brothers to answer.


1. The monad or “Jivan” being “distinct from Iswara” and yet “changeless per se, uncreated and indestructible,” it must be forcibly admitted, in such a case, that there are, not only two but numberless distinct entities in our universe, that are infinite, uncreated, indestructible and immutable? If neither has created the other, then they are, to say the least, on a par, and both being infinite, we have thus two Infinites plus numberless fractions? The idea, if we understand it rightly, seems to us still less philosophical than that of the God of the Jews and Christians who, infinite and omnipresent, passes eternities in creating, out of himself, souls which, though created, become immortal, i.e., eternal and, having to be present somewhere, must either crowd off the Omnipresent Presence or become one with it, i.e., lose their individuality like a lesser absorbed by a larger flame. Again, if Jivan “partakes of the nature of Brahma in wisdom” and is also eternal, indestructible and immutable like the latter, then in what respect is it “distinct” from Brahma?—Ed. [H.P.B.]

2. If “Brahma, Parabrahma, Paramatma, Iswara, Bhagavanta denote the same principle,” and are all immutable, uncreated, indestructible, omnipotent, omnipresent; if again it has “truth as its principle and final purpose,” and if at the same time it “has no bad but only good qualities,” we beg to humbly enquire the origin and the existence of evil in that all-pervading and all-powerful goodness, according, to the Visishtadwaita Philosophy.—Ed. [H.P.B.]

3. This answer is incomplete, hence unsatisfactory. We would like to know in what sense is each of these three understood to have real existence?—Ed. [H.P.B.]

4. And if for “Iswara” we say the “One Life,” of the Buddhists, it will come to just the same thing. The “One Life” or “Parabrahma” is the primum mobile of every atom and is non-existent apart from it. Take away the chit and achit, the gunas, etc., and Iswara will be nowhere.—Ed. [H.P.B.]

5. In such case the Visishtadwaita philosophy either teaches that man is irresponsible and that a devotee of that sect can no more avert or change his fate than the Christian Predestinarian, or that he can do so by praying and trying to propitiate Iswara? In the first case Iswara becomes an unjust tyrant, in the second—a fickle deity capable of being entreated and of changing his mind.—Ed. [H.P.B.]

6. But since Karma is “Iswara’s ordination or will,” how can Jiva be made responsible for its acts? Iswara creating or willing the Karma of each man, and then punishing him for its badness, reminds us of the Lord God of Israel who creates man ignorant, allowing not a hair of his head to fall without his will, and then when man sins through ignorance and the temptation of God’s creature—the Serpent, he is eternally damned for it. We suspect the Visishtadvaita philosophy of being as full of incomprehensible mysteries which Iswara “has not so ordained” that they should be questioned—as missionary Christianity itself. Questions and answers from Nos. 24 to 27 are entirely incomprehensible to our limited conceptions. First of all we are told that the conditional existence of Jivan is “through its eternal companionship with Achit,” a state due to Karma, i.e. Iswara’s “ordination or will;” and yet further on it is said Iswara so wills “on account of the good and bad acts of Jiva.” These two propositions seem to us to be entirely irreconcilable. What “good or bad acts” Jivan had to do, and in what state of existence it was before Iswara ordained or willed it into its conditional existence, and whether even those acts were not due to Iswara’s “ordination,” are questions still clouded with a perfect mystery. We hope, however, that our Brother, the compiler of the above Catechism, will clear our doubts upon these delicate points.—Ed. [H.P.B.]

7. Precisely as in the Christian Catechism. Hence the latter as much as the former, to the strictly philosophical mind, are—unphilosophical and illogical. For either man is endowed with free will and then his Karma is his own creation and not at all the “ordination or will” of Iswara, or he is irresponsible and both reward and punishment become useless and unjust.—Ed. [H.P.B.]

8. “Emancipated” then from Iswara also? Since “Iswara is dwelling in his heart” and that the heart forms a portion of Sthúla Sarira which he has to “shake off” before he becomes emancipated and enters into the non-material world, there is every reason to believe that Iswara is “shaken off” at the same time as Súkshma Sarira, and with all the rest? A true Vedantin would say that Iswara or Brahma is “Parabrahman plus MAYA (or ignorance).”—Ed. [H.P.B.]

9. That is just what is denied by most of the Pandits who are not Visishtadvaitees. The Sástras can be regarded identical with the Vedas as little as the many hundred of conflicting commentaries upon the Gospels by the so-called Christian Fathers are identical with the Christianity of Christ. The Sástras are the repository of the many individual opinions of fallible men. And the fact alone that they do conflict in their endless and various interpretations with each other, prove that they must also conflict with the subject they comment upon. Hence—that they are distinct from, and not in the least identical with, the Vedas.—Ed. [H.P.B.]