[The Theosophist, Vol. IV, NO. 8, May, 1883, pp. 196-97]
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 Visishtadvaita. 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.
A. GOVINDA CUARLU, F.T.S.
CATECHISM OF THE VISISHTADVAITA PHILOSOPHY
[Only those questions and answers to which H. P. B. appended
footnotes are included.]
What is Moksha? Enjoyment of Brahma (Brahma, Parabrahma, Paramatma, Isvara , Bhagavanta, denote the same principle) after disseverance or disenthralment from all material connection.
What is the nature of Isvara? It has no bad but only good qualities, it is everlasting and universal wisdom; omnipotent, having truth as its principle and final purpose. It is the universal Master, omnipresent, having for its body chetana (animate) and achetana (or inanimate) nature; and it is quite distinct from Jiva.
If “Brahma, Parabrahma, Paramatma, Isvara, 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 Visishtadvaita Philosophy.
What is the nature of Jiva? Jiva 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 Isvara.
The monad or “Jiva” being “distinct from Isvara” 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 Jiva “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?
Are Jiva, Isvara, Maya real existences (truth or realities?) All the three are true.
This answer is incomplete, hence unsatisfactory. We would like to know in what sense is each of these three understood to have real existence?
Parabrahma has Jiva for his body; he has Prakriti for his body; Chit and Achit forming the body to the indweller, Isvara, as the primum mobile.
And if for “Isvara” 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 nonexistent apart from it.
Take away the chit and achit, the gunas, etc., and Isvara will be nowhere.
What is Karma? Isvara’s ordination or will.
In such case the Visishtadvaita 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 Isvara? In the first case Isvara becomes an unjust tyrant, in the second—a fickle deity capable of being entreated and of changing his mind.
What does Isvara ordain? “Thou be’st happy,” “thou be’st unhappy,” and so on.
Why does Isvara so will? On account of the good and bad acts of Jiva:
But since Karma is “Isvara’s ordination or will,” how can Jiva be made responsible for its acts? Isvara 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 Isvara “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 Jiva is “through its eternal companionship with Achit,” a state due to Karma, i.e. Isvara’s “ordination or will”; and yet further on it is said Isvara 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” Jiva had to do, and in what state of existence it was before Isvara ordained or willed it into its conditional existence, and whether even those acts were not
due to Isvara’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.
Since Jiva is subservient to Isvara and Jiva is able only to do that which he is ordered to do, how can Isvara punish him? And how does Isvara point out, by means of Sastras (Laws or Institutes) what is good and what bad, to subordinate Jiva? Isvara gives to Jiva organs (body), etc., free will, and capability of knowledge, and a code explaining what must be avoided. Jiva is dependent, but has still enough independence given him to execute the work entrusted into his hands. Isvara deals out reward or punishment accordingly as Jiva uses the functions he is endowed with, in conformity with Sastras or not. (Consider the consequences of the use or abuse of power with which the king invests his premier.)
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 Isvara, or he is irresponsible and both reward and punishment become useless and unjust.
Isvara being omnipresent, what is the meaning of Moksha-attainment in other Lokas? As soon as full-wisdom (Brahmajñana) is obtained, i.e., the state of complete illumination, Jiva shakes off his Sthula Sarira; being blessed by Isvara dwelling in his heart, it goes in Sukshnna Sarira to Aprakrita Loka (non-material world); and dropping Sukshma Sarira becomes Mukta (emancipated).
“Emancipated” then from Isvara also? Since “Isvara is dwelling in his heart and that the heart forms a portion of Sthula 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 Isvara is “shaken off” at the same time as Sukshma Sarira, and with all the rest? A true Vedantin would say that Isvara or Brahmâ is “Parabrahman plus MAYA (or ignorance).”
How do you know all this is true? From Sastras.
What is Sastra? The Sacred Scriptures called “Veda” which is Anadi (had no beginning), Apurusheya (non-human), Nitya (unaffected by past, present, or future), and Nirdosha (pure).
That is just what is denied by most of the Pandits who are not Viśishtadvaitees. The Sâstras 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 Sastras 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.
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 Advaitee and Dvaitee 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.
* Vol. II, p. 639.