[Notes on “A Criticism Upon the ‘Mighty Problems of Brahma, Iswara and Maya’”]
Theosophist, March, 1882
Article Selections by Dorasamy Iyer | Introductory Note and Notes by H.P.B.
To the Editor of The Theosophist:
Madame,—As a member of a Reading-Room of Salem, which has recently subscribed for your Journal, I beg to stat that, although the questions to which my article refers, appeared in The Theosophist two years ago, yet as I read them only a few days since, and as they, even now, appear to continue to draw the attention of the people in this part of the country, I will, with your permission, undertake to answer them. I would, therefore, request that you may be pleased to re-insert the said questions together with my article for the convenience of your Vedanta readers.
District Munsiff of Salem.
Salem, 5th January, 1882.
Instead of republishing the article above referred to, it is far better that the Vedanta scholars interested in the discussion should turn to the back numbers of The Theosophist. They will find it on page 87, column 2, in the January number of the year 1880. It was written by “Sri Paravastu Venkata Rungacharin Arya Vara Guru” and directed against our friend, the learned Sanskrit Professor of Benares, Pramada Das Mittra, who answered it very ably there and then in the same number [p. 88]. The present article—criticizing that which was itself intended as a scathing criticism—comes rather late in the day; but, as our Journal was founded precisely for the object of fathoming the intricate metaphysics of India’s philosophies, we give it room with pleasure. Confessing our inability to decide between the three opponents, we leave the task of awarding the palm of Vedanta scholarship to those qualified better than ourselves to judge of the respective merits of the three Pandits, only hoping that the “Mighty Problems” that follow, may finally themselves be solved.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: for further background than that referenced by H.P.B. above, see the article that began the above-mentioned exchange: “Brahma, Iswara & Maya” The Theosophist, October, 1879, p. 14; see also H.P.B.’s Editor’s Note on the follow-up article “Brahma, Iswara and Maya”]
In The Theosophist of January 1880 . . . I met with a subject whose importance as a philosophy is unparalleled, but which has been dwelt upon in so fallacious a manner that one who sees that fallacy would be guilty of forgetting his duty to the truth-seeking portion of the public, should he neglect to expose it. . . .
The article in question is headed “Brahma, Iswara and Maya” . . .; it contains a series of questions which their author calls “Mighty Problems,” . . . and warns the Theosophists not to trust to the explanations of Professor Pramada Das Mittra . . .
. . . while admitting that the views of Pramada Das Mittra are quite in accordance with the doctrine of Sankara, the author informs the public that he means to refute the doctrine of “Advaita.” . . . I do not undertake to explain here the doctrine, but will simply point out the absurdity of the first critic’s questions themselves. Such fallacies should be destroyed—never criticized or even answered, as their very nature forbids of any arguing. . . .
It is not for the first time that such questions are asked. They are trite ones, and are being constantly echoed by certain sections of people . . . [who] are only prone to ignorantly shout their satisfaction, at what they regard as an able attack upon the Advitees.1 . . .
1. The Advitees are one of the two sects of the Vedanta system. It rejects the idea of a personal God, holding that the Paramatma (or Universal Soul) and Atma (the human soul) are identical. They are advanced highly spiritual Pantheists, though they reject the name; but we find no other equivalent for their belief in the English language.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: the article continues for several columns here]
. . . no philosophy or doctrine, which is unable to stand the test of logic and reasoning, deserves any regard. And the best mode of testing its soundness is to discuss it without prejudice or fear, and, setting forth every reasonable doubt and difficulty, to get them explained. That this is the mode adopted by the students of the Advita Philosophy is clear from many of the Advita treatises. P.V.R. is welcome with all those who share his views to offer questions; but he had no right to intrude upon the valuable time of the learned readers, with his problems abounding but in palpable and self-evident absurdities. Any one acquainted with the lectures of a genuine Vedanta scholar, one who has both the theoretical and practical knowldge of the Advita philosophy can explain away with the utmost ease any of his objections, and show him, at the same time, that any attempt to refute the doctrines of such a Divine Personage as Sankara Charya is about as reasonable as to seek to blow out the light of the Sun.2 . . .
2. The indignation of our esteemed correspondent is natural, and we respect it, since he appears to be a true Vedantin and a fervent disciple of Sankara Charya. But his wrath might find a far larger outlet than the innocent article written in 1880, by the gentleman of the long name. Mr. Dorosamy Iyer should turn it against a fitter opponent, such one, for instance, as Major G. A. Jacob of the Bombay Staff Corps and the Inspector of Army Schools, who has furnished the missionaries with a “Manual of Hindu Pantheism,” upon the Vedantasara. (See Trübner’s Oriental Series.) In it the learned gentleman who write it, “to provide the missionaries” with a weapon against the “Heathen”—bungles up and confuses with a most charming carelessness the various gunas of the system. So, he makes no difference between “Maya” (ignorance) which constitutes the causal body of Ishwar and the “Maya” constituting the causal body of jiva; one “Maya” being of pure satva guna, and the other of impure satva guna; the said author, moreover, mistakes the words for pure and impure satva guna in the original Sanskrit—for Brahma itself!—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: the article continued for another column. Later in the same edition of The Theosophist (p. 156) H.P.B. added the following Editor’s Note:]
On page 143 of this issue, will be found an article “Brahma, Iswara and Maya” being a reply by Mr. Dorosamy Iyer to Sri Paravastu Venkata Rungacharia Arya Vara Guru. In publishing it, we have merely shown that spirit of impartiality and fairness which is the characteristic feature of this Journal and of our Society. On the same principle, we shall, with pleasure, insert any rejoinder S.P.V.R. might desire to send to the present article, although we do not approve of such a feeling of bitterness among the Hindoos as has been shown by our present correspondent towards his opponent.—Ed. [H.P.B.]