Visishthadwaita Philosophy (2)
Theosophist, June, 1883
Article selections from “Viśishtadvaita Philosophy”, by Govinda Charlu | Notes by H.P.B.
Parabrahma being an All-pervading principle, itself being the All, is still considered as a separate substance from Jivan, although the former contains the latter, in the same manner that we talk of a part as separate from the whole of which it is a part.1
1. We cannot conceive of an “All-pervading whole,” being separate from its part. The idea put forward by our learned brother is of course the theistic, but not very philosophical doctrine which teaches the relation of man to God as that between father and child.
A part is therefore of the same nature as the whole, yet its distinguishing qualification is the fact of its being a part, viz., the individualization, and dependence on the whole. In this way is Jivan considered in relation with, and distinct from, Parabrahm.2
2. Would it not be better and far more philosophical to resort, in such a case, to the oft-repeated simile of the ocean? If we suppose, for a moment, infinity to be a vast and an all-pervading ocean, we can conceive of the individual existence of each of the drops composing that sea. All are alike in essence, but their manifestations may and do differ according to their surrounding conditions. In the same manner, all human individualities, although alike in nature yet differ in manifestations according to the vehicles and the conditions through which they have to act. The Yogi, therefore, so far elevates his other principles, or let us call them vehicles, if preferred, as to facilitate the manifestation of his individuality in its original nature.
My own inference is that Advaita and this coincide, the former considering that Jivan is Parabrahma, modified by the latter into “Jivan is a part only of Parabrahma.”3
3. We believe not. A true esoteric Vedantic Advaitee would say: Aham eva Parambrahm, “I am also Parabrahma.” In its external manifestation Jivan may be regarded as a distinct individuality—the latter a maya—in its essence or nature Jivan is—Parabrahm, the consciousness of the Paramatma manifesting through, and existing solely in, the aggregated Jivans viewed collectively. A creek in the shore of the ocean is one, so long only as the land it stretches upon is not redeemed. Forced back, its water becomes the ocean.
Considered in this manner, there is one Infinite, made up of numberless infinites.4
4. We are at a loss to know what our learned brother can mean by Jivan being “dependent” on the whole, unless “inseparable from” is meant. If the whole is “all-pervading” and “infinite,” all its parts must be indivisibly linked together. The idea of separation involves the possibility of a vacuum—a portion of space or time where the whole is supposed to be absent from some given point. Hence the absurdity of speaking of the parts of one Infinite being also infinite. To illustrate geometrically, suppose there is an infinite line, which has neither a beginning nor end. Its parts cannot also be infinite, for when you say “parts,” they must have a beginning and end; or, in other words, they must be finite, either at one or the other end, which is as evident a fallacy as to speak of an immortal soul which was at some time created—thus implying a beginning to that which, if the word has any sense, is eternal.
Jiva, Iswara and Maya are considered to be real, all the three in this light, i.e., as long as anything has existence, it is real or true, although that existence may not last forever. The Advaitee says that only that which is immutable is true, and all things temporary and liable to change are illusionary; whereas the Viśishtadvaitee says that as immutability is real in the eternity, so mutability is also real for the time being, and so long as there is no change. My own inference is that all the difficulty here lies in the words, but that the idea is one.5
5. We would like our learned brother to point out to us one thing in the whole universe, from the sun and stars, down to man and the smallest atom, that is not undergoing some change, whether visible or invisible, at every smallest fraction of time. Is it “man’s personal individuality”—that which the Buddhists call attavada—“delusion of self”—that is a reality elsewhere than in our own Maya?
Jivan is said to be dependent and independent, in the same sense that a minister, a dewan, is independent in exercising authority, and dependent on his king for the bestowal of that authority.6
6. The comparison of the king and the dewan is meaningless with reference to the subject illustrated. The power of conferring authority is a finite attribute, inapplicable to infinity. A better explanation of the contradiction is therefore necessary, and we trust our brother will get it from his inspirers.
A subtile distinction is made between Iswara’s will and Jiva’s Karma; Iswara’s will or Karma being the ever-active state of the whole—the Parabrahma.7
7. This is indeed a “subtile distinction.” How can Parabrahma be “the ever-active state of the whole” when the only attribute—an absolutely negative one—of Parabrahm is passivity, unconsciousness, etc.? And how can Parabrahm the one principle, the universal Essence or the Totality, be only a “state of the whole” when it is itself the whole, and when even the Vedantic Dvaitees assert that Iśwara is but a mere manifestation of, and secondary to, Parabrahm which is the “all-Pervading” Total?
I perfectly agree with the Editor in saying that truth stands as the one white ray of light decomposed into several colours in the- spectrum; and I add that the one white ray is true as well as the decomposed colours. This is the Theosophic view.8
8. Not quite so, we are afraid. The eye-deceiving colours of the spectrum being dismembered and only illusionary reflections of the one and only ray—cannot be true. At best they rest upon a substratum of truth for which one has often to dig too deeply to ever hope to reach it without the help of the esoteric key.