Fundamental thought of the Vedanta
§ 1. The fundamental thought of the Vedânta, most briefly expressed by the Vedic words: tat tvam asi, “that art thou” (Chand. 6, 8, 7) and aham brahma asmi, “I am Brahman” (Brih. 4, 10), is The Identity of Brahman and the Soul; this means that Brahman, i.e., the eternal principle of all Being, the power which creates, sustains and again absorbs into itself all worlds, is identical with the Âtman, the Self or the Soul, i.e., that in us which we recognize, when we see things rightly, as our very self and true essence. This soul of each one of us is not a part, an emanation of Brahman, but wholly and absolutely the eternal, indivisible Brahman Himself.
Contradiction by experience.
§ 2. The statement contradicts experience (vyavahâra), which shows us not that unity, but a plurality (nânâtvam), an extension (prapañca) of names and forms (nâma-rûpe, i.e., impressions of ear and eye, sense-impressions) and as a part of them our own Self in the form of our created and perishable body.
Contradiction by the law of works.
§ 3. But the fundamental dogma of the Vedânta is equally in contradiction with the canon of Vedic ritual; this it is true teaches the continued existence (vyatireka) of the soul after the body, but it assumes a plurality of individual souls different from Brahman; they are entangled in unceasing transmigration (samsâra) and at the death of each body pass into a new body; in this process the works (karman) of any one life condition inexorably the succeeding life and its nature.
Ignorance and Knowledge.
§ 4. Both experience, as a result of worldly means of cognition (pramânam)—perception (pratyaksham), inference (anumânam) etc.—, and the canon of the Vedic ritual with its commands and prohibitions, promises and threats rest on false knowledge (mithyâ-jñânam), an innate illusion (bhrânti), which is called Avidyâ, Ignorance; what it tells us is, like the pictures of a dream, only true till the awakening comes. This innate Avidyâ is more accurately described by saying that the Âtman, the Soul, the Self is unable to distinguish itself from the Upâdhis or limitations (i.e., the body, the psychic organs and works) with which the Soul is clad, and of which only a part—the body—is annihilated in death, the rest accompanying the Soul on its migrations.—This Avidyâ is the contrary of Vidyâ, knowledge, also called perfect knowledge (samyagdarshanam), by virtue of which the Âtman distinguishes itself from the Upadhis, and recognises that they are dependent on Avidyâ, a glamour (mâyâ) or an illusion (abhimâna); while it is itself identical with the one Brahman, without a second, who comprehends all things in Himself.
Source of Knowledge.
§ 5. Samyagdarshanam, perfect knowledge can neither be produced by worldly means of knowledge (pratyaksham, anumânam, etc.), nor commanded by the canon of the Veda as a duty, because both are rooted in Avidyâ and do not lead beyond it. The only source of Vidyâ is revelation, Shruti (which we, not quite correctly, generally term “Scripture”) i.e., the Veda, and of this in particular the part of knowledge (jñâna-kânda) which exists side by side with the part of works (karma-kânda); and contains certain texts scattered through the Mantras and Brâhmanas; but more especially formed in the concluding chapter of the latter, the Vedânta (end of the Veda), known as the Upanishads.—The whole of the Veda without distinction, that is the whole body of Mantras (Hymns and formulas) and Brâhmanas (theological explanations) together with the Upanishads is of divine origin; it was “breathed out” by Brahman and only “beheld” by the human authors (rishis). The world and the Gods with it pass away but the Veda is eternal; it outlasts the destruction of the world and continues to exist in the spirit of Brahman; in accordance with the words of the Veda, which contain the eternal archetypes of things, gods, men, animals, etc. are created by Brahman at the beginning of each world period; thereupon the Veda is revealed to them by “Expiration”—the part of works as a canon of actions which have happiness (abhyudaya) as their object, the part of knowledge as the source of Samyagdarshanam, the only fruit of which is bliss (nihshreyasam) i.e., liberation.—Perfect knowledge is not attainable by reflection (tarka), and just as little by tradition or Smriti (including the Vedic Sûtras, Kapila, Manu, the Mahâbhâratam, etc.); both of these, reflection and Smriti, can only in a secondary sense be considered a source of truth, so far as they are directed to the Veda and serve to clear up and complete its revelation.
Higher and lower Knowledge.
§ 6. The aim of man (purusha-artha) is liberation (moksha) i.e., the cessation of transmigration (samsâra); and the release of the soul from its wanderings is brought about by man’s own Self (âtman) being recognised as identical with the highest Self (parama-âtman), i.e., the Brahman. The whole content of Vidyâ is therefore knowledge of the Âtman or Brahman (they are interchangeable ideas).—But there are two sorts of knowledge of Brahman—the higher knowledge (parâ vidyâ); its aim is Samyagdarshanam and its one and only fruit is liberation; and the lower knowledge (aparâ vidyâ) which does not aim at the knowledge but at the worship (upâsana) of Brahman; it brings as its fruit, according to the steps of this worship, in part the prospering of works (karma-samriddhi), in part happiness (abhyudaya, heavenly, perhaps also in the following birth), and finally in part kramamutkti, i.e., gradual liberation.—The object of the higher knowledge is the higher Brahman (param brahma) and of the lower the lower Brahman (aparam brahma).
Higher and lower Brahman.
§ 7. For the Scripture distinguishes two forms (rûpe) of Brahman; the higher, attributeless (param, nirgunam) and the lower attribute-possessing (aparam, sagunam) Brahman. In the former case it is taught that Brahman is without any attributes (guna), differences (vishesha), forms (âkâra), and limitations (upâdhi)—in the latter, for the purpose of worship many attributes, differences, forms, and limitations are ascribed to him.
Difference between them.
§ 8. One and the same object cannot be at the same time with and without attributes, and with and without form; in Himself (svatas) Brahman is therefore without attributes, forms, differences, and limitations; and this higher Brahman becomes the lower when Ignorance (avidyâ) for the purpose of worship ascribes to him the limitations or Upâdhis. That Brahman is subject to Upâdhis is only an illusion (bhrama), just as much as it is an illusion to hold a crystal for red in itself because it is painted red. As the clearness of the crystal is not changed by the red colour, so the essence of Brahman is not altered by the limitations ascribed by Ignorance.
The higher Brahman cannot be perceived.
§ 9. The higher Brahman is in his own nature attributeless (nirgunam), formless (nirâkâram), and without differences (nirvishesham) and limitations (nirupâdhikam). It is “not coarse, and not fine, not short, and not long,” etc. (Brih. 3, 8, 8); “not to be heard, not to be felt, not formed, imperishable” (Kath. 3, 15); it is “not thus and not thus” (neti, neti, Brih. 2, 3, 6); i.e., no shape and no idea corresponds to its real being. Therefore it is “different from what we know, and from what we do not know” (Kena 1, 3); “the words and thoughts turn back from it and find it not” (Taitt. 2,4); and the sage Bâhva met the question as to its essence by silence [[(See p. 210, The System of Vedanta by Paul Deussen, tr. Charles Johnston, 1912) Note: all page number references are to this work unless otherwise noted.]]
Essence of the higher Brahman.
§ 10. The only assertion that can be made of the attributeless Brahman is that it is not not. In this sense it is “the Existent” (sat); but if this conception is taken in its empirical sense, Brahman is rather “the non-Existent.”—The Scripture further defines the essence of Brahman as through and through pure spirituality (intelligence, caitanyam) just as the lump of salt tastes salt through and through. But by this two characteristics (plurality) are not ascribed to Brahman, because both are identical, so far as the essence of Being consists in spirituality, and of spirituality in Being. Bliss, ânanda [attributed to Brahman as a third predicate by the later Vedânta in the name Sac-cid-ânanda] is occasionally recognized as a limitation of the attributeless Brahman; it remains unmentioned however in the discussion of his being, perhaps because it can be regarded as a merely negative quality, as painlessness, which is ascribed to Brahman alone, for “what is different from him is afflicted” (ato ‘nyad ârtam) as the Scripture (Brih. 3, 4, 2) says.
Brahman is the soul.
§ 11. That the attributeless Brahman cannot be perceived depends on the fact that he is the inner Self (antar-âtman) of all; as such he is on the one hand the greatest certainty of all and cannot be denied by anyone; on the other hand He is not to be perceived because in all perception He is the Subject (sâkshin), and can therefore never become the object.—He is however beheld by the sages in the state of Samrâdhanam (perfect satisfaction), which consists in a withdrawal of the organs from all external things, and a concentration on their own inner nature. On the consciousness of being this attributeless Brahman and on the accompanying conviction of the unreality of all plurality of names and forms depends salvation.
The lower Brahman.
§ 12. The higher Brahman becomes the lower Brahman by being connected with pure (vishuddha) or perfect (niratishaya) limitations. The lower Brahman is to be recognised wherever the Scripture ascribes limitations, attributes, forms or differences of any sort to Brahman. This happens when the aim is not knowledge but worship (upâsanâ), and the fruit of this worship is, like that of works, which are to be placed in the same category, not liberation (moksha, nihshreyasam) but happiness; this is, as it seems, mainly heavenly; it is however limited to the Samsâra (p. 148, 5) though the heavenly lordship (aishvaryam) attained after death by the path of the gods (devayâna) as a result of the worship of the lower Brahman leads by means of Kramamukti or gradual liberation to perfect knowledge and therefore complete liberation. This result however does not follow immediately, because the worshippers of the lower Brahman have not completely “burnt up” Ignorance; for it is this which ascribes the limitations to the higher Brahman and transforms it into the lower Brahman. The nature of Brahman is as little changed by these limitations as (in the already mentioned simile) the clearness of the crystal by the colour with which it is painted—as the sun by its images swaying in the water—as space by bodies moving or burning in it.—The richly developed ideas of the lower Brahman may be divided into three groups, according to whether they regard Brahman pantheistically as world soul, psychologically as principle of the individual soul, or theistically as a personal God.
The lower Brahman as world soul.
§ 13. The most important passages of the first group are Chand. 3, 14 which terms Brahman “all-working, all-wishing, all-smelling, all-tasting [the principle of all action and sensuous perception], embracing the All, silent, ungrieved” (above p. 153); and Mund. 2, 1, 1 according to which sun and moon are his eyes, the cardinal points his ears, the wind his breath etc. (above p. 132). We bring under the same head Brahman as source of all light (p. 130); as the light beyond the sky and in the heart (p. 169); as the ether from which all things proceed (p. 145), and which holds asunder names and forms (p. 146); as the life from which go forth all beings (p. 146), in which the whole world trembling moves (p. 148); as the inner ruler (p. 149) as the principle of the world-order; the bridge, which holds these worlds asunder that they do not blend (p. 162), by which sun and moon, heaven and earth, minutes, hours, days and years are kept apart (p. 133); finally as destroyer of the world, who swallows up all created things (p. 151).
The lower Brahman as world soul.
§ 14. With the dimensions expressed by these ideas is often contrasted the smallness which belongs to Brahman as psychic principle; as such he dwells in the stronghold of the body (p. 199), in the lotus of the heart (p. 160), as a dwarf (p. 50), a span large (p. 156), an inch high (p. 155), smaller than a grain of millet (p. 153), large as the point of an awl (p. 311), as principle of life (pp. 177, 182) as onlooker (p. 171); also as the man in the eye (pp. 140, 165) etc.
The lower Brahman as personal God.
§ 15. These ideas which assign attributes to Brahman culminate in the conception of Him as Îshvara, i.e., personal God. In the Upanishads this idea is relatively rare and little developed (e.g., Brih. 4, 4, 22 above p. 195; Kaush. 3, 8; Kath. 4, 12); in the system of the Vedânta on the other hand it plays an important part; it is Îshvara by whose permission Samsâra, and by whose grace (prasâda, anugraha) the saving knowledge is conditioned; He decrees for the soul its works and sufferings, taking into consideration in this the works of the previous life, and causing the fate in the new life to proceed from them as the rain produces the plant from the seed after its nature. The personification of Brahman as Îshvara, Lord, Ruler, to whom is opposed the world as that which is to be ruled, is expressly limited to the standpoint rooted in Ignorance of worldly action, which has no reality in the highest sense (above p. 272).
The empirical and metaphysical standpoint.
§ 16. The dual knowledge (aparâ and para vidyâ) of Theology (and as we shall see of Eschatology) has as its counterpart in the spheres of Cosmology and Psychology the dual standpoint:—the empirical (vyavahâra-avasthâ, literally, standpoint of worldly action) which teaches a creation of the world by Brahman and a wandering of the soul rendered individual by the Upâdhis; and the metaphysical (paramârtha-avasthâ, literally, standpoint of the highest reality) which maintains the identity of the soul with Brahman, and denies all plurality, and therefore the validity of the ideas of the creation and existence of the world, as well as the individuality and wanderings of the soul.—To the detriment of clearness and logic this dual standpoint in Psychology and Cosmology is not always strictly adhered to. The system takes up the metaphysical standpoint as a rule and neglects the empirical, without however denying or being able to deny its relative right of existence, it being the indispensable presupposition for the aparâ vidyâ of Eschatology. This aparâ vidyâ treats the creation in the Cosmology very fully and regards it as real, at the same time we meet with the assertion again and again that this scriptural doctrine of the creation has only the purpose of teaching the Brahmanhood of the world; to support this view the idea of causality is transformed into that of identity; in Psychology the metaphysical doctrine of the identity of Brahman and the world is always in the foreground, and is defended against an opponent who generally speaking upholds the empirical standpoint indispensable for the Eschatology of the system, but also (e.g., in maintaining the creation of the soul) deviates from it, so that the relative recognition and appropriation of his arguments only concerns a part of them, and a complete theory of the empirical psychology is thus wanting. Still by bringing together occasional and scattered assertions a reliable picture of this part of the system too may be obtained.
Relation of the two kinds of knowledge to the two points of view.
§ 17. The coherence of the system may prove to us that the parâ vidyâ in Theology and Eschatology forms with the knowledge paramârtha-avasthâ in Cosmology and Psychology an inseparable unity of metaphysical doctrine; and that on the other hand the aparâ vidyâ of Theology and Eschatology with the vyavâhara-avasthâ of Cosmology and Psychology a connected picture of metaphysics viewed from the empirical standpoint of Avidyâ (i.e., innate realism) and forms a system of popular religion for all those who cannot raise themselves to the standpoint of the doctrine of identity.—And it is clear that only a lower, not a higher Brahman can be conceived as creator of the world, firstly because the act of creation, as has been repeatedly insisted on, requires a plurality of powers (above p. 227), which can only be ascribed to the aparam brahma; and further, because the passage by which this plurality of creative powers is proved: “all-working is he, all-wishing, all-smelling, all-tasting” (Chand. 3, 14, 2) receives the preference as a proof of the doctrine of the lower Brahman.
§ 18. According to the Upanishads Brahman creates the world and then as individual soul (anena jîvena âtmanâ) enters into it (Chand. 6, 3, 2. Taitt. 2, 6. Brih. 1, 4, 7. Kaush. 4, 20). There is no question either of an existence of individual souls before the creation, or of a periodically repeated creation.—In this view the germs of the empirical and metaphysical doctrine of the Vedânta are present in an undeveloped form side by side; the metaphysical part is the identity of the soul with Brahman, the empirical the extension of the world of sense. In the Vedânta system the two are separated; metaphysically we have the identity of the soul with Brahman but neither origin, persistence, nor destruction of the world; empirically on the other hand we have a creation of the world but no identity of Brahman and the soul; on the contrary the individual soul with the Upâdhis, which cause its individuality, has existed from all eternity and migrates (except in the case of liberation) from one body to another to all eternity; and the dogma of the creation of the world is transformed into that of a periodically alternating emanation of the world from Brahman and reabsorption in it; these processes repeat themselves not once only but countless times throughout eternity. Souls, like the elements, continue to exist, at the reabsorption of the world, potentially and as seed in Brahman, and at each new creation go forth from Him unchanged. The original sense of the doctrine of creation is thus completely abandoned; it is adhered to, in the modified form in question, simply because the Veda teaches it; in the system there is a motive not for a creation of the world, but rather for its eternal duration; in place of this (to save the authority of Scripture) we have the periodical creation and reabsorption, which however must incessantly be repeated, and are not permitted to alter the order of the world; this is to satisfy the condition of eternal existence demanded by the system, and is as we shall see, dependent on a moral necessity.
The world has no beginning.
§ 19. The fundamental idea of the empirical Cosmology and Psychology is that Samsâra (transmigration) has no beginning. There exists from eternity a plurality of individual souls different from Brahman. What distinguishes them from Brahman (with whom they are in the metaphysical sense identical) is the Upâdhis in which they are clothed; by Upâdhis are understood, in addition to the works, which accompany the soul, the psychic organs (indriyas, manas, mukhya prâna), the subtle body (sûkshmam sharîram) which bears them, and, in a more extended sense, occasionally the gross body together with external objects. Only the gross body is annihilated by death; the subtle body on the other hand with the psychic organs has existed from eternity as the vestment of the soul and accompanies it on all its wanderings. And the wandering soul is further accompanied by the works (ritual and moral) performed by it during life; and it is just these which prevent Samsâra from coming to a standstill. For every deed, good and evil, demands retribution, and therefore reward and punishment, not only in the Beyond but, besides that, in the form of another existence. Without works no human life is conceivable; and therefore also no life that is not followed by another as its retribution. Very good works result in existence as a god; very bad in existence as an animal or plant; even if the soul does no works in these lives, this does not protect it from rebirth, for works of special goodness or badness demand for their retribution several successive existences. On this depends the fact that Samsâra through all spheres of existence from the gods down to plants is without beginning and (if the seed of works is not”burnt up” by knowledge) without end.
Moral necessity of the creation of the world.
§ 20. The spatial extension of the sense-world (nâmarûpa-prapañca) is essentially nothing more than the fruit of works which is imposed as a burden (adhyâropita, p. 1056, I. 1132, 10) on the soul; the world is, as the common formula runs, kriyâ-kâraka-phalam (pp. 273, 12. 291, 6. 447, 3. 987, 6), “requital of the deed on the doer;” it is bhogyam (what is to be enjoyed) while the soul in it is bhoktar (enjoyer) and on the other hand kartar (doer); both of these of necessity and in exact agreement with its kartritvam (activity) in the preceding existence. The intermediator between the works and their fruit (which includes the deeds and suffering of the succeeding existence) is not an adrishtam (invisible power of the works reaching beyond life) or at least not this alone but rather the Îshvara, a personification of Brahman, which is valid for the empirical standpoint alone (§ 15.); the Îshvara decrees action and suffering for the soul in the new birth in exact correspondence to the works of the former existence. Moreover each new creation of the world after its absorption into Brahman depends on the same necessity as the rebirth; for even when the souls are absorbed in Brahman, they still continue to exist in the form of seed together with their works, and the latter require for their retribution another creation of the world, i.e., the emanation of the elements from Brahman; this process we shall now consider more closely.
Inorganic nature (the elements).
§ 21. At the creation, srishti, which according to this word is to be conceived as an “outpouring,” i.e., emanation, there goes forth from Brahman first of all the Âkasha, ether, or more properly all-penetrating space conceived as a very subtle form of matter; from Âkasha goes forth air (vâyu), from this fire (agni, tejas), from this water (âpas), from this earth (prithivî, annam); and in this process each successive element is produced not by the elements themselves but by Brahman in the form of the elements. In reverse order at the end of the world earth first becomes water, this fire, this air, this ether, and this Brahman.—Ether is perceived by the sense of hearing, air by hearing and touch, fire by hearing, touch and sight, water by hearing, touch, sight and taste; and earth by hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell. These elements occurring in nature, however, are not the pure, original elements but a mixture of all with preponderance of some one of them. [There is no systematic account of the theory of mixture in Shankara’s Commentary on the Brahmasûtras; we do not find one before the Vedântasara.]
Organic nature (souls).
§ 22. After Brahman has created the Elements, he enters them, according to the Upanishads, as the individual soul; i.e., in our system the wandering souls, which continue to exist potentially (shakti-âtmanâ) in Brahman even after the destruction of the world, awake from this state, itself a part of the glamour [of empirical reality], of very deep sleep (mâyâmayî mahâsushuptih, p. 342, 9) and assume divine, human, animal or plant bodies according to their works in the previous existence. This comes about by the seed of the elements, carried by the soul with it on its wanderings in the form of the subtle body, becoming the gross body by the addition of homogeneous particles from the coarse elements which surround it (above p. 259); at the same time it unfolds the psychic organs (mukhya prâna, manas, indriyas) which during the wandering were rolled together (sampindita). (What becomes in the case of the organs of plant souls remains undiscussed; it may be assumed that they remain rolled up.) The body is nâmarûpakrita-kârya-karana-sañghâta (pp. 473, 17. 455, 4. 686, 5), “the complex of the organs of work formed of names and shapes” [[ According to Chând. 6, 3, 2 Brahman enters into the elements by means of the individual soul and by this means expands Himself as names and shapes; Shankara on the other hand speaks, p. 507, 1, of a nâmarûpa-mâyâ-âvesha, an entrance into the illusion of names and shapes and in this sense the above formula is probably to be translated; for p. 787, 13 the expression kârya-karana-sanghâta is replaced by deha in this formula.]] [i. e., from the elements], and the soul is lord (svâmin) of this complex. The growth of the body takes places from the elements, in which gross, middle and fine are distinguished; correspondingly faeces, flesh, and Manas are developed from earth; urine, blood, and Prâna from water; and bones, marrow, and speech from fire;—as however according to the system the soul already has with it its psychic organs, and among them Manas, Prâna, and speech, we must either see a contradiction here, or assume that the growing Manas, Prâna and speech are related to the similarly named organs which the soul always has with it, as the coarse body is to the subtle. The absorption of this material from food is rendered possible by the fact that (v. § 21) every natural body contains all the original elements.—According to their origin organisms are divided into those born from germs (plants), those born from moisture (vermin), the oviparous, and the viviparous; procreation consists in the soul of the child, which has entered into the father as food and sojourned in him as a guest, passing by means of the sperm into the body of the mother and from her blood developing the subtle into the coarse body. Death is the separation of the soul (with its organs and the subtle body) from the material body; if the organism is destroyed the soul wanders forth. The duration of life is not accidental but is predestined exactly according to the quantum of works to be atoned for, just as the nature of the life is by their quality. On the other hand again we find works, which cease to be, not all at once, but only after repeated rebirths; only in this way can we explain why e.g. transmigration does not come to a standstill when the soul enters into a plant. As every plant is an embodied soul, and every incarnation only serves the end of atonement, the system is quite logical (pp. 772, 4. 774, 5) in attributing sensation to plants also.—While the duration of life of plant, animal, and human souls is short, those souls which, in consequence of exceptional performances in the previous life, are born as gods, are immortal, i.e., they continue to exist till the next destruction of the world; then they again enter the cycle of Samsâra; and the places of Indra etc. can be occupied by another soul in the next period (above p. 69).
No world from the metaphysical point of view.
§ 23. Just as all clay vessels are in reality only clay, since the conversion of the clay into vessels is “a mere name, dependent on words” (vâcârambhanam vikâro, nâmadheyam, Chand. 6, 1, 4 cf. Parmenides’ saying: “τψ πάντ’ ὄνομ’ ἐστίν, οσσα βροτοὶ κατέθεντο, πεποιθότες ἀληθῆ”), so also the whole world is in reality only Brahman and has no existence beyond Brahman (brahma-vyatirekena); there is nothing different from Brahman (na iha nânâ asti kiñcana, Brih. 4, 4, 19). But here our system goes further than the Veda. The whole extension of names and forms (namarûpa-prapanca), the whole plurality of phenomena (rûpa-bheda) is, from the standpoint of highest reality, caused, produced and laid as a burden [upon the soul] by Ignorance (avidyâ-kalpita, avidyâ-pratyupasthâpita, avidyâ-adhyâropita), arises from false knowledge (mithyâjnâna-vijrimbhita), is a mere illusion (abhimâna), which is refuted by perfect knowledge (Samyagdarshanam);—just as the illusion that there is a snake, where there is only a rope, a man where there is only a tree trunk, or a sheet of water where there is only a mirage, is refuted by closer examination and deceives no longer. The whole world is only an illusion (mâyâ) which Brahman projects (prasârayati) from himself like a magician (mâyâvin), and by which he is not affected any more than the magician is by the magic he creates; or, to change the image, Brahman owing to Ignorance appears as multiplex (vibhâvyate) just as the magician does owing to the illusion; he is the cause of the continued existence (sthiti-kâranam) of the world, as the magician is of the magical scene he projects, and of the absorption of the world into his own Self (sva-âtmani eva upasamhâra-kâranam), just as the earth withdraws living beings into itself; the action of plurality (bheda-vyavahâra) during the existence of the world and the force of plurality (bheda-shakti) before and after both depend on Ignorance or false knowledge. As to this idea of avidyâ, mithyâjñânam, all further inquiry is at a loss; of the origin of this Ignorance, innate in all of us, we learn nothing; we penetrate deepest by the repeatedly employed image of the person with diseased eyes, who sees two moons, where in reality there is only one. [[Guilt reaching back ad infinitum is in this case not to be thought of; cf. what has been said above p. 802 and as confirmation the important passage p. 85, 4: tat-krita-dharma-adharma-nimittam sasharîratvam, iti cet? na! sharîra-sambandhasya asiddhatvâd dharma-adharmayor âtma-kritatva-asiddheh; sharira-sambandhasya dharma-adharmayos tat-kritatvasya ca itara-itara-âshrayatva-prasañgâd andha-paramparâ eva eshâ anâditva-kalpanâ kriyâ-samavâya-abhâvâc ca âtmanah kartritva-anupapatteh (translated above p. 420) .
However the non-existence of the world is only relative: the plurality of phenomena, names and forms, and Maya are tattva-anyatvâbhyâm anirvacanîya, i.e., “one cannot say that they are Brahman (tat), nor yet that they are different from Him.” They are, like the figures in a dream, true (satya) so long as the dream lasts, and are so no longer when the awakening (prabodha) comes.—This idealism, of which we see the dawn only in the Upanishads, the Vedânta tries to bring into unison with the Vedic doctrine of creation by maintaining that by creation is only meant the identity (ananyatvam, tâdâtmyam) of the world and Brahman; the world is the effect, Brahman is the cause; and effect and cause are identical; for the proof of this proposition the persistence of matter through changing states serves as the main argument.
The soul alone is real.
§ 24. While we recognise in all Being around us, in all the names and forms, of which the world consists, a deception, a mere illusion dependent on Ignorance and comparable to a dream, there is one point in the Universe when these considerations have no application; this point is our soul, i.e., our own Self (âtman). This Self cannot be demonstrated because it is the basis of every proof, but it cannot be denied either, because anyone who denies it presupposes its existence (above p. 127). Of what nature is there this sole foundation of all certainty, the soul or inner Self? How is it related to Brahman, who includes all Being in Himself?
Identity of the soul with Brahman.
§ 25. The soul can (1) not be different from Brahman because there is nothing “Existent” outside Brahman; but it is (2) not to be regarded as a transformation of Brahman either, for Brahman is unchanging; it is (3) just as little a part of Brahman, for He has no parts.—Therefore it only remains that the soul is identical with Brahman, and that each of us is the whole, indivisible, changeless Brahman who comprehends all Being in Himself.
The soul from the metaphysical standpoint.
§ 26. From this follows that all that is established of the Brahman who is without differences, is also true of the soul; like Brahman the Soul is essentially pure spirituality (caitanyam), and to it are applicable all those negative characteristics whose purpose is to secure the conception of Brahman from all ideas by which His Being might seem to be limited. Therefore the soul is, like Brahman (1) omnipresent (vibhu, sarvagata), or, as we should say, spaceless, (2) omniscient and omnipotent, (3) neither agent (kartar) nor enjoyer (or sufferer as the case may be, bhoktar).
The soul from the empirical standpoint.
§ 27. If the true nature of the soul lies in these characteristics, it follows that all which contradicts them is “ascribed” to it only by Ignorance. These ascribed limitations or Upâdhis have their foundation only in false knowledge and to them as we saw all which conditions bodily existence belongs; on them depends the fact that the soul in the state of Samsâra is (1) not all-pervading and omnipresent but dwells in the heart, its size being limited to that of the Manas, (2) is also not omniscient and omnipotent; for its natural omniscience and omnipotence become latent through the Upâdhis, just as the light and heat of fire in wood in which it is hidden and slumbers; (3) finally the soul by its connection with the Upâdhis becomes an agent and enjoyer (kartar and bhoktar) and by these latter qualities its entanglement in Samsâra is conditioned; for the works of one life must be recompensed by enjoyment and works in the following existence; the works however which form one part of the requital demand a further requital and so on ad infinitum.
§ 28. This beginningless and endless Samsâra depends only on the soul’s true nature being hidden from it by the Upâdhis due to Avidyâ. They make Brahman the individual, active and enjoying soul; in addition to all outward things and relations and including the “gross body” which belongs to them and at death returns into the elements, they are the following: (1) the Manas and Indriyas; (2) the Mukhya Prâna; (3) the Sûkshmam Shariram; and with this unchanging psychic apparatus, with which the soul has been clothed from eternity and remains clothed till liberation, is associated (4) a changeable element which we shall term moral determination. We have now to consider these Upâdhis individually.
Manas and Indriyas.
§ 29. While the gross body (deha, kârya-karana-sanghâta) and its organs (karanam), such as eye, ear, hands, feet etc. perish at death, their functions (vritti) regarded as separate entities remain united with the soul for all time. These organs are the Indriyas (the powerful ones) which the soul puts forth like feelers and withdraws at death. On these depend the two sides of conscious life, perception on the one hand and action on the other. Answering to this the soul has five faculties of perception (jñâna-indriyas)—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and five faculties of action (karma-indriyas)—,grasping, moving, speaking, procreating, and evacuating. These ten Indriyas commonly named after the corresponding organs of the gross body, are directed by a central organ, the Manas, which on the one hand works up the data of perception into ideas (manasa hi eva pashyati, manasâ shrinoti, Brih. 1, 5, 3), and on the other by the faculties of action causes what is willed to be executed; it is therefore at once what we call understanding and conscious volition. While the Indriyas pervade the whole body, the Manas “large as the point of an awl” dwells in the heart, and in the Manas, filling it completely, dwells the soul in the closest connection with it, broken only by liberation; only by the organs to which Ignorance chains it does the soul become an agent and enjoyer; it is itself as regards the activity of the organs a passive on-looker (sâkshin), pure apperception (upalabdhi) so that in spite of its immersion in worldly action it remains in its essence untouched (asañga, ananvâgata) by it.
§ 30. With the Mukhya Prâna the soul seems to be less intimately connected than with Manas and the Indriyas; this term still has in the Upanishads the meaning of “breath in the mouth,” but in the system it has come to denote “chief breath of life.” Just as Manas and the Indriyas are the functions of perception and action hypostatised into separate entities, the Mukhya Prâna on which they all depend is a hypostasis of empirical life itself, which its five branches—Prâna, Apâna, Vyâna, Samâna, and Udâna condition. Of these Prâna causes exhalation, Apâna inhalation; Vyâna is what supports life when breathing is momentarily suspended; Samâna is the principle of digestion; just as these four sustain life, Udâna brings about its termination, leading the soul out of the body at death by one of the 101 principal arteries. By the same road withdraw Manas, the Indriyas and Mukhya Prâna; just as during life they are the forces that rule the organs of the body, they are after the death of the body the seed from which at each rebirth the bodily organs arise.
§ 31. Just as the soul carries with it the seed of the bodily organs in the Indriyas, it bears with it the seed of the body itself in the form of the “subtle body” sûksmam shariram, or as it is paraphrased repeatedly by Shankara, deha-vâjâni bhûta-sûkshmâmi, i.e., “the subtle parts of the elements which form the seed of the body” [and, according to Shankara, as is demonstrable from p. 743, 4, the impure elements; cf. for a contrary view Vedântasâra § 77]. How these subtle parts are related to the coarse elements is not further explained. The subtle body formed of them is material (tanutvam) but transparent (svacchatvam); therefore it is not seen at the withdrawal of the soul. On it depends animal heat; the corpse grows cold because the subtle body has left it to accompany the soul on its wanderings along with the other organs.
§ 32. With this psychic organism (manas, indriyas, mukhya prâna, sûksmam shariram) which is attached to the soul in life and death at all times, and appears completely unchanging, is associated further as a companion in the migrations a changing Upâdhi; this is moral determination, consisting in the treasure of works (karma-âshaya) collected during life; side by side with the physical substratum (bhuta-âshraya) i.e., the subtle body, it departs with the soul as a moral substratum (karma-âshraya) and inexorably determines the nature of the future existence in respect of enjoyment and suffering as well as of works.
Special state of the soul.
§ 33. There are four states of the wandering soul—waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and death. In the waking state the soul sojourning in the heart in association with Manas rules over the whole body, perceiving and working through Manas and the Indriyas. In dream sleep the Indriyas enter into rest while the Manas remains active; and the soul, surrounded by Manas into which have withdrawn the Indriyas, pervades the body in the veins and in doing so beholds the dreams “fitted together” from waking impressions (vâsâna). In deep sleep the union of the soul with the Manas is dissolved; Manas and the Indriyas, entering into rest, go into the veins or the pericardium and then into Mukhya Prâna, whose activity continues in deep sleep also; meanwhile the soul, temporarily freed from all the Upâdhis, enters into Brahman in the ether of the heart; as the soul without the Upâdhis is Brahman, this entrance into Brahman is only another way of expressing the complete deliverance from the Upâdhis. From this temporary identification with Brahman the soul on waking issues with all its individual characteristics, the same that it was before.
The passing of the soul from the body.
§ 34. At death the Indriyas first of all enter into the Manas, this into the Mukhya Prâna. this into the soul affected by moral determination, and lastly the soul into the Sûksmam Shariram. After all these are assembled in the heart, its tip glows to illuminate the way and the Udâna leads the soul, together with the Upâdhis mentioned, out of the body. The soul of him who has acquired (lower) knowledge passes by the artery of the head (mûrdhanyâ nâdi, later termed sushumnâ); those who have not knowledge depart by the 100 remaining main arteries of the body. (He who has acquired the higher knowledge does not, as we shall see later, depart at all.) From this point the roads branch; the Ignorant who has performed works follows the Pitriyâna or way of the fathers; he who has the lower knowledge the Devayâna or way of the gods; he who has neither knowledge nor works, i.e., the wicked man, is excluded from both these roads.
Fate of the doers of works (Pitriyâna).
§ 35. The Pitriyâna, intended for those who have neither the higher nor the lower knowledge of Brahman but have performed good works, leads the soul up to the moon to be recompensed. The stages on this road are the following—(1) smoke, (2) night, (3) the half of the month in which the moon wanes, (4) the half of the year in which the days grow shorter, (5) the world of the fathers, (6) the ether, and (7) the moon. In the luminous realm of the moon the souls enjoy converse with the gods as a reward for their works, and that until no more works remain. Only a part of the works however is recompensed on the moon. Another part forms a residue (anushaya) and finds its recompense in the next birth. Which works are to be understood in each case is a question that is not cleared up. After the works which find their reward on the moon are consumed the soul descends again; on the return journey the stages are—(1) the ether, (2) the air, (3) smoke, (4) the cloud, (5) rain, (6) the plant, (7) the male semen, and (8) the mother’s womb. In all the soul sojourns merely as a guest and is to be distinguished from the elements and souls it traverses. After it has finally reached a womb corresponding to the merit of its works it again passes out to another life on earth.
Fate of the wicked (Hell and the third place).
§ 36. The wicked who have neither knowledge nor works do not ascend to the moon; their fate is not clearly developed, for Shankara refers on the one hand to punishment in the seven hells of Yama, and on the other to the “third place,” in which they are born again as lower animals, but the connection between the two is not made clear. Though the wicked remain excluded from life on the moon, among those who return from the moon there is a further difference made between those of good conduct who are reborn in one of the three higher castes and those of evil conduct who enter the bodies of Candâlas or animals. A combination of these ideas to a connected whole, easily possible by the distinction of various steps in the good and evil works to be atoned for, is not found in the work from which we draw our facts.
Fate of the pious worshippers of Brahman (Devayâna).
§ 37. From those who do good works (§ 35) and adhere to the old Vedic cult of sacrifice are to be distinguished those who retain the Brahman doctrine but are unable to rise to the perfect knowledge of the doctrine of identity; and who therefore regard Brahman not as the soul in themselves but as God outside themselves and worship him accordingly. These possessors of the lower knowledge (aparâ vidyâ), i.e., the worshippers of the lower, attribute-possessing (aparam, sagunam) Brahman, all enter, (with the exception of such as have worshipped Brahman under a symbol, pratîkam), after death by the Devayâna into the lower Brahman. The stages of this road are variously given in the different accounts, and Shankara weaves them into a whole. According to Chand. [Brih., Kaush.] the soul of him who possesses the lower know- ledge, after leaving the body by the artery of the head, traverses the following regions—(1) Flame [= Agniloka], (2) the day, (3) the half of the month when the moon waxes, (4) the half of the year when the days grow longer, (5) the year, [(6) Devaloka, (7) Vayuloka], (8) the sun, (9) the moon, and (10) lightning. These stages are neither to be regarded as signposts, nor as places of enjoyment for the soul, but as guides which it needs, because it cannot use its own organs as they are rolled up. While therefore by those already mentioned we are to understand divine, quasi-human guides of the soul, the soul after its entrance into the lightning is received by a “man, who is not as a human being” (purusho ‘mânavah), and conducted to Brahman [through (11) Varunaloka, (12) Indraloka, and (13) Prajapatiloka]. By Brahman however the lower, attribute-possessing Brahman is here to be understood, who has himself originated (kâryam) and therefore perishes at the destruction of the world. In the world of this Brahman the souls enjoy aishvaryam, lordship, which consists in a quasi-divine but limited omnipotence and includes the fulfilment of all wishes. The Manas serves as organ of enjoyment; whether the soul can also make use of the accompanying Indriyas is doubtful. Among other powers of the soul is that of animating several bodies at once, among which the soul distributes itself by dividing its Upâdhis.—Though this aishvaryam of those who have entered into the lower Brahman by the Devayâna has an end and only lasts till the destruction of the world, the scripture says of them: “For such there is no return.” We must therefore assume that the higher knowledge of Samyagdarshanam is communicated to them in the Brahman-world, and that thus at the destruction of the world, when the lower Brahman also perishes, they enter with Him into the “eternal, perfect Nirvâna.” This way of entering Brahman is termed Kramamukti “progressive liberation” because it is conditioned by a progression, or “liberation by steps” because it is brought about by the intermediate step of heavenly lordship. To be distinguished from it is the immediate liberation of those who possess knowledge and this we shall now consider.
“From knowledge comes release.”
§ 38. The question of the possibility of a release from individual existence which forms the cornerstone of the Vedânta as of other Indian systems presupposes the pessimistic view that all individual existence is a misery. This view is occasionally put forward both in the Veda (Brih. 3, 4, 2, ato ‘nyad ârtam, “what is different from him is afflicted;” Brih. 4, 4, 11, anandâ nâma te lôkah, “yea joyless are these worlds” above p. 194; cf. Kath. 1, 3. Isha 3) and in the system (above pp. 318, 433, cf. p. 1139, 12); but is not emphasised to anything like the extent we should expect.—How is liberation (moksha) from the bond (bandha) of existence possible?—Not by works; for they, good and evil alike, demand their recompense, condition a new existence and are the cause of the continuance of Samsâra; but not by a (moral) purification (samsâara) either; for this can only take place in an object capable of change; but the Âtman, the soul, whose liberation is in question, is unchangeable. Therefore liberation cannot consist in a process either of becoming or of doing something but only in the knowledge of something, already present, that is hidden by Ignorance: “from knowledge liberation” (jñânân mokshah). After the Brahmanhood of the soul is recognised liberation follows at once (“that thou art” is the phrase not “that thou wilt be,” p. 917, 7); simultaneously with the attainment of the knowledge of the identity with Brahman the soul becomes the Soul of the universe (p. 66, 7).
Knowledge brought about by the grace of God.
§ 39. The Âtman, in the knowledge of which consists liberation, is nought else than the subject of knowledge in us. For this reason it is not recognisable by natural means: “thou canst not see the seer of seeing” etc. (Brih. 3, 4, 2); it cannot be sought for and looked at as an object; knowledge of it cannot be obtained at will, and even research in the scriptures does not produce a knowledge of it at once; this only serves to clear away the obstacles in the way. Whether the Âtman is known depends like the knowledge of every object on whether it shows itself to us, and therefore on itself. For this reason in the lower knowledge, which contrasts the Âtman to ourselves and worships him as a personal God, knowledge appears as dependent on the grace of God; but in the higher knowledge, as the Âtman is in reality not an object, we cannot inquire further after the cause which makes it known to us.
Auxiliary means of acquiring knowledge.
§ 40. Religious practice however knows certain means (sâdhanam), by which the acquisition of knowledge of the Âtman is furthered. Thus from those who are called to knowledge is demanded the study of the Veda and the four requirements (1) Discrimination between eternal and non-eternal substance, (2) Renunciation of the enjoyment of reward here and in the other world, (3) the attainment of the six means—tranquillity, self-restraint, renunciation, resignation, concentration, belief, (4) desire for release).—In a more general sense and apart from this enumeration customary in instruction there are two means of furthering knowledge—works and meditation. (1) Works cannot, it is true, produce knowledge but are auxiliary (sahakârin) to the attainment of it, and that by destroying the obstacles that stand in the way; as obstacles are reckoned the affections (klesha) such as (passionate) love, hate, etc. (Works have therefore in the plan of salvation not a meritorious but an ascetic role; cf. 1082, 12 nirabhisandhin). Works which serve as a means of knowledge are auxiliary in part “outside” (vâhya) in part “closer” (pratyâsanna). As these “outside” means are reckoned—“the study of the Veda, sacrifice, alms, penance, fasting” (Brih. 4, 4, 22); these are to be employed only till knowledge is gained. In contrast to these the “closer” means continue to exist even when knowledge is attained; they are “tranquillity, restraint, renunciation, resignation, concentration” (Brih. 4, 4, 23).—(2) Side by side with works pious meditation (upâsanâ) serves as a means of knowledge. It consists in the devout consideration of the words of scripture, e.g., the saying tat tvam asi, and is, like threshing, to be repeated till knowledge appears as its fruit; this requires a longer or shorter time according as a person is mentally limited or afflicted by doubts. With the attainment of the higher knowledge meditation becomes unnecessary, for it has served its purpose. (The meditation on the other hand which is a part of the service of works, and that which is usual in the lower knowledge are to be practised till death, for the thoughts in the hour of death are of importance in determining the fate in the life beyond.) The posture is indifferent in the case of meditation serving the purpose of the higher knowledge. (So too for meditation as part of the service of works; the meditation necessary for the lower knowledge must be practised sitting, not standing or lying down.)
Destruction of works.
§ 41. Knowledge consists in the immediate intuition (anu-bhava) of the identity of the soul with Brahman. The works of Him who has attained this and with it the conviction of the unreality of the world of plurality and transmigration, are annihilated and in the future cleave to him no more. This annihilation refers just as much to good as to evil works, for both demand retribution and therefore do not lead beyond Samsâra.. He on the other hand who has attained knowledge has won this conviction—“that Brahman the nature of which is opposed to the nature, previously considered by me to be true, of agent and enjoyer, which is in its own nature in all time past, present and future non-agent and non-enjoyer, that Brahman am I; therefore I never was agent and enjoyer, and I am not one now, nor shall I ever be” (p. 1078, 4). With the unreality of activity the unreality of the body which exists as the fruit of works is recognised; therefore he who has attained knowledge is as little affected by the sufferings of his own body as by the sufferings of another; and he who still feels pain, has verily not yet attained full knowledge.
Abolition of all duties.
§ 42. Even as for the man who has attained knowledge there is no longer a world, a body, or suffering, there is also no longer prescribed action. But he will not therefore do evil; for that which is the presupposition of all action, good and evil,—illusion—has been annihilated. It is a matter of indifference if he does works or not; whether he does them or not they are not his works and cleave to him no more. (However natural it would have been to desire from the described position of him who knows himself as soul of the world a positive moral disposition which shows itself in works of justice and love, this consequence is not drawn in Shankara but only in the Bhagavadgita, cf. above p. 59, note 36).
Why the body of the liberated continues to exist.
§ 43. Knowledge burns the seed of works so that no material is at hand to cause a rebirth. On the other hand knowledge cannot annihilate works, the seed of which has already germinated, i.e., those from which the present life is put together. This is why the body, even after the awakening (prabodha) is complete, continues to exist for a while, just as the potter’s wheel goes on revolving even when the vessel which it supported is completed. This continuance is however a mere appearance; the possessor of knowledge cannot destroy it, but it cannot deceive him any more either; just so the man with diseased eyes sees two moons but knows that in reality there is only one there.
Absorption of the possessor of knowledge in Brahman.
§ 44. After the works whose fruit has not yet begun to appear have been destroyed by knowledge, and after those, the fruit of which is the present existence, have by completion of this present life come to an end, with the moment of death full and eternal liberation comes to him who possesses knowledge; “his vital spirits withdraw not; Brahman is he, and into Brahman he is resolved.”
“As rivers run and in the deep
“Lose name and form and disappear
“So goes, from name and form released,
“The wise man to the Deity.”