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Vedanta




VEDANTA. The Vedanta is the first and most impressive structure of Indian philosophy, the creed of intellectual Hindus, and the basis of the popular Hindu religions. Its earliest germs lie in the Mantra portion of the Veda. The Nasadiyasukta (Rigveda, x. 129) propounds the genesis of the world from an inscrutable principle, darkness, neither existent nor non-existent, and from "one that bèathed without afflation, other than which there was nothing, beyond it nothing." The genesis of things from a universal soul is taught in the Purushasukta (Rigveda, x. 90). The unreality of the internal and external orders of things, and the sole reality of a supreme spirit, or impersonal self, are set forth in the Upanishads or later portions of the Veda. The teaching of these Upanishads explicated and systematized, with little or no addition, constitutes the Vedanta. It has innumerable expositors among the Indian school men of whom the most illustrious is Sankaracharya (see SANSKRIT LITERATURE, vol. xxi. p. 290), a philosopher of Kerala or Malabar, who lived, it is supposed, between 650 and 740.

The term "vedanta," end of the Veda, is a synonym of "upanishad." Is said by the Indian scholiast to denote, in the first place, the knowledge of the impersonal self, the science of absolute being, paramatmajnana, brahmavidya, in the second place, any treatise imparting that knowledge. The doctrines of the Upanishads constitute the jnanakanda, or gnotic portion of the Veda, as distinguished from the karmakanda, or ritual portion, comprised in the Samhitas and Brahmanas. They constitute also the paravidya, or superior science, dealing with cessation from volition and action, and leading to extrication from metempsychosis, as distinguished from the aparavidya, or inferior science, of the Samhitas, Brahmanas, and Vedangas, which deals with action, and prolongs metempsychosis, leading only to higher embodiments in this world or in the paradises of the deities. The Vedanta philosophy is also called Auspanishadi Mimansa, Brahmi Mimansa, Sariraki Mimansa. The Sutras or mnemonic formulas in which the system is developed are the Vedantasutra, Brahmasutra, and Sarirakasutra. They are ascribed to Vyasa or Badarayana. The system is further styled the Uttaramimansa, as an investigation of the later portion of the Veda, as distinguished from the Purvamimansa of Jaimini, which is and investigation of the earlier portion of the Veda. The purport of the Purvamimansa is dharmajiijnasa, inquiry into sacred prescription; the purport of the Uttaramimansa, or Vedanta, is brahmajijnasa, inquiry into the real nature of the soul.

There is, according to the Vedanta, but one substance or reality, ingenerable, immutable, incorruptible, eternal, and this is the supreme spirit, the impersonal self, the spiritual absolute atman, paramatman, brahman. The series of bodies and of environments through which the soul appears to pass in its metensomatosis are illusive, unreal, the figments of a fictitious illusion, maya, prakriti, avyakta, avyakrita. The individual soul, jivatman, vijinanatman, is personal only in fictitious semblance, only as it is implicated in the series of transmigratory states, and is in truth impersonal, one with the undifferenced self or Brahman. Its apparent and fictitious individuality, and its apparent action and suffering, are the individuality, the action, and the suffering of its illusory adjuncts, the organism and the faculties. The unity of all souls in the one soul is the highest truth, or, properly speaking, the only truth. On reaching and realizing this truth the individual soul returns to its isolation or state of pure indetermination. The duality of experience is fictitious and is surmounted by the true intuition, samyagjnana. On the side of this intuition there abides only "the existent, the intelligence, the beatitude."

Indian philosophy, and in particular its earliest form, the philosophy of the Upanishads, or Vedanta, is governed throughout by two needs. First, there is the need to give consistency and coherence to existing imagery, physical and hyperphysical, to work out a conception of the totality of things. Secondly, there is the need to put a stop to the miseries of metempsychosis. The idea of transmigration, foreign to the Indo-Aryans of the Vedic hyms, appears to have been taken up by their successors from the lower races with which they intermingled, while retaining their supremacy among them. The Indo-Aryans of the Vedic hymns found life pleasurable and exciting. They prayed to the gods for their hundred years of it, and for an after-life with the whole body. This view of life was replaced by one of horror and aversion, pervading everything Indian with its gloom, -- the expectation of care, bereavement, sickness, pain, and death, in body after body, and through aeon after aeon.

The effort to work out a coherent and complete idea by means of some principle of unity appears in the following passages.

In the Mundaka Upanishad : "Saunaka, the householder, approached Angiras and said, ‘Holy sir, by knowing what may all this universe be known?’ Angiras replied, ‘Two sciences are to be known which they transmit the Veda propound, a superior and an inferior science. Of these the inferior is the Rigveda, &c. The superior is that by which that undecaying being is attained. That which more none can see, none can handle, which is without kindred, without colour, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is imperishable, infinitely diversified, everywhere present, wholly imperceptible, -- that is the immutable, that it is that sages behold as the source of all.’" In reference to this text the scholiast Anandagiri says, "if we know the principium, the upadana, of things, we shall know all things, in as much as all things have pre-existed in and are identical with their causes."Sankaracharya says : "In daily life things are known to ordinary people, if the unities are known under which those things are contained. For example, individual pieces of gold are known under the nature of gold. Thus the question of the text is, what is the one cause or emanatory principle of the diversity of the universe, which known everything else is known?"

In the Chhandogya Upanished : "His father said to him, ‘Svetaketu, thou art high-minded, wise in thy own conceit, and proud. Tell me, hast thou asked for that instruction by which the unheard is heard, the unthought thought, the unknown known?’ He answered, ‘How is that instruction given, sir?’ His father said , ‘Dear son, as by one lump of clay all that is made of clay becomes known, being a modification of speech only, a change, a name, and the clay being the only reality; as by one piece of iron all that is made of iron becomes known, being a modification of speech only, a change, a name, and the iron being the only reality; as by a pair of scissors all that is made of steel becomes known, being a modification of speech of speech only, a change, a name, and the steel being the only reality:-- such is the method of that instruction.’ Svetaketu said, ‘Sir, doubtless my teacher knew not that, for, had he known it, how could he have failed to tell me of it? Do thou therefore tell me of it.’ His father said, ‘Be it so, my dear son. Existent only, fair youth, was this in the beginning, only, without duality. Some indeed have said, non-existent only was this in the beginning, one only, without duality. From that non-existent the existent proceeded. But how could this be so? How could entity proceed out of non-entity?’"

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad : "Those that proclaim Brahman say, What is the principium? Is it the impersonal self? From what have we proceeded into life? into what do we return? By what are we upheld as we pass through pleasures and pains? Is time principium? Is the inherent property of things their principium? Is chance? Are the elements? Or is the individual soul the origin of all things? Or is the sum of these the principium? Neither is any one of these, nor are all of these, the principium, for it is the impersonal self. It is not the individual self, for that is not idependent, being subject to pleasure and to pains."

The most powerful incentive to speculation was the yearning to escape the miseries of transmigration. The soul has to pass through hunger and thirst, sorrow, bereavement, decrepitude, death, in body after body, through age after age. The individual soul has to look forward to continual suffering through a countless series of embodiments. The series is without beginning, and, until the individual learns his impersonal nature, without end. The series of transmigratory spheres is projected and retracted, projected and retracted, projected and retracted, from before all time. Periods of evolution and of dissolution follow each other from and to eternity. Any intervals of pleasure in the series of states through which the soul passes are fugitive and unsatisfying. Even the pleasure of the paradise of the deities are tainted with the fear of their expiry, and with the inequalities amongst the participants. They also are part of the darkness in which everything appears to be involved.

The transmigratory series, or samsara, is said to consist of agents, actions, and fruits of action. The fruits of action are the bodies and the environments allotted according to good or evil works. It is described as an unbroken succession of evils, -- birth death, bereavement, and other sorrows, -- arising from transition from body to body. The individual soul floats down the stream, "like a gourd upon the waters," through embodiment after embodiment, "from a patch of grass to the first of the divinities," through forms, inorganic and organic, vegetable, animal, human, ultra human, infernal, and celestial. Each later stage is determined by the good or evil actions of the individual in his earlier embodiments, by a blindly, a fatally operating, law of retribution, adrishta. It is in conformity to this principle that the opifex aedificatorque mundi deus, the Demiurgus, Isvara, puts together and rules the transmigratory series through the successive aeons. It is this principle that clears the Demiurgus of the charge of cruelty and injustice on account of the miseries and inequalities of life. In all that it does and suffers the soul is reaping the fruits of its own actions. Its actions proceed from preferences and aversions; its preferences and aversions proceed from illusion, from its identifying itself with its per se unconscious senses, faculties, and organism. Merit, no less than demerit, prolongs the series, and must be shunned as sin by the aspirant to extrication.

The world, then, was pictured by the Indian sages as a series, beginningless and endless, of bodies and environments, through which personal souls -- that is, the one soul illusively viewing itself as many -- pass. They pass through it for the fruition of their works, bhoga. The material of which it is built up at each period of evolution is the cosmical illusion, ajnana, avidya, maya, prakriti. This is the principle by which soul mistakes itself for not-self, identifies with fictitious adjuncts, upadhi, with the organs, the faculties, the organism. It is this illusion that gives rise to the unreal world of duality, generable, mutable, corruptible, avidyaparikalpitam dvaitam. It is illusion that projects the manifold of experience, nanatvapratyupasthapika maya. As the flow of transmigratory experience is a succession of pleasures, pains, and neutral states, the world-projecting illusion is defined to be pleasure, pain, and indolence in equilibrium, gunatrayasamya. Pleasure, pain, indifference, are the three primordia rerum, the factors of experience, the three strands of the rope that holds the soul in bondage. The world-projecting illusion is further spoken of as the power of the Demiurgus, his all-creative power, "the power of the divine spirit latent in its constituent primordial." Thus Sankaracharya in his Bhashya on the Vedantasutra says: "Name and form (i.e., all that is heard and seen), the fictitious products of illusion, and the body of the omniscient Demiurgus, -- name and form, inexplicable as entity and as nonentity, the germs of the transmigratory series, -- are called the illusion, the power, the productiveness (prakriti) of the Demiurgus." This illusion is "neither existent nor non-existent, or both in one, neither to be explained as entity or as nonentity, fictitiously proceeding from and to all eternity." It is the illusory adjunct, upadhi, of Brahman. The internal and the external order of things are illusorily superposed (adhyasta, adhyaropita) upon the one and only real, the impersonal self, by an illusion that has imagined itself from all eternity.

To illustrate this in the figures of the Vedanta:-- "As a spider extends and retracts his threads, as plants grow up upon the earth, as the hairs of the head and body spring from the living man, so the world arises from the imperishable." "As from the blazing fire its kindred sparks proceed in thousands, so the diverse creatures proceed from the imperishable principle and into it return." All that presents itself to the soul in life after life, in sphere after sphere, lies in fictitious semblance above the real, like the blueness seen in the sky, though in the sky it has no existence; like the waters of a mirage; like the bubbles on the surface of a river; like the airy fabric of a daydream; like the visions of a dream; like the silver seen, or seeming to be seen, on the shell of the pearl oyster; like the snake seen by the belated traveler in a piece of rope; like the gloom that surrounds the owl amidst the noontide glare. The soul confined to the body as within a prison. Its doings and sufferings are as unreal as the apparent motion of the trees upon the bank to one sailing down the river. The experience of life after is the phantasmagory of a waking dream. The unreality, the fictitious nature, of the things of experience is implied everywhere in the Upanishads, and explicated with a profusion of imagery, by the Indian schoolmen.





The contents of this transmigratory series are supplied from the popular religion, the earlier imagery being built up into the new conception. A place is found in if for the deities and their paradise; only these deities and their paradises, up to the Demiurgus himself, the Isvara, and the brahmaloka, the sphere of Brahma, are per se fictitious, unreal, illusory. A sojourn in these paradises is promised to the religionist ; assimilation to these deities is promised to those that worship them with knowledge as well as with rites. Every man, the Indian schoolmen say, shall be assimilated to the deity he worships. The highest reward of obedience to sacred prescription and of worship of the deities is continuance in the brahmaloka till the end of an aeon, "relative immortality,"apekshikam nityatvam. The only real immortality is extrication from metempsychosis, reunion with the impersonal self, to be reached not by works but by knowledge. They that delight in works, in rites, and the sphere won by works, wander in darkness, are like that blind led by the blind. Works and worship are, however, necessary to purify the intellect of the aspiraut to extrication. The process of purification may go on through several successive lives. Good works performed without a view to recompense, and as an offering to the Demiurgus, produce that purity of the internal faculties which is requisite to the knowledge that terminates in liberation from metempsychosis. They are thus instrumental to emancipation. Good works are necessary, say Sankaracharya, to the rise of the spiritual intuition ; they are unnecessary when it has once arisen. The qualified aspirant to liberation, the adhikarin, must renounce all works, the good as well as the evil, for they serve only to prolong the series of his embodiments. It is thus that the popular religion is taken up and fitted into the Vedanta philosophy. Karmavidya is preliminary to brahmavidya.

Maya, the inexplicable, illusion, self-imagined, has been the unreal adjunct, upadhi, illusorily overspread upon Brahman from all eternity. Braham in its first connexion with ignorance or illusion is the Demiurgus, Isvara, Paramesvara, the constructive and superintending deity of the Vedantins. Before describing the process of things at a period of evolution, the conception of Brahman, the impersonal self, must be unfolded in the terms of the Vedanta.

Brahman is the one and real that underlies the many and apparent. It is ingenerable, incorruptible. It is the ultimate residuum of abstraction, to be spoken of only under negative predicates, sarvanishedhavadhi. It transcends duality, the world of subject and object, jnatrijneyabhavatirikta. It is one only without internal and external difference. "There is nothing before it, nor after it, nor without it." It is everlasting, objectless cognition, nityam nirvishayam jnanam. "Of the sight of the seer there is no intermission, for it is imperishable." It is no object of the understanding, and it cannot be expounded in language. "From it words turn back, with the thinking faculty, not reaching it." And this Brahman, this impersonal self, is I, aham brahmasmi.

The impersonal self, Brahman, is "existent, intelligence, beatitude," sachchidananda: -- existent, manifestations to everything that is known and seems to be, sattasphurtipradataya; intelligence, as being self-luminous, as giving light to all things, making to appear all things that do appear, svaprakasaka, sarvavabhasaka; beatitude, as exempt from all the miseries of metempsychosis, from evil, pain, and sorrow, a beatitude in which there is no distinction between the bliss and the blissful subjects, ananda and anandin, a beatitude like the repose of dreamless sleep. It is "ever, pure intelligent, and free,"nityasuddhabuddhamukta: -- pure, as free from desire and aversion, and passionless, and as unaffected by illusory limitations, nirupadhika; intelligent, as irradiating all things, illuminating the otherwise dark or unconscious modifications of the sensories and intellects of personal spirits, and as illuminating the objects of those modifications; free, as unaffected by the experiences of those spirits, exempt from implication in the unreal. It is unmodifiable, and therefore neither knows, nor acts, nor suffers. All cognition, action, and passion belong to the unreal world of duality, and are the modifications of the sensory and intellect of personal souls. These modifications would be dark, that is unconscious, but for the light of the underlying real self, in which they shine forth. In the absence of that real self the whole transmigratory order would be involved in blindness, tadabhave jagadandhyam prasajyeta. It is the witness, -- that is, the inner light -- of the cognitions of the intellects of all personal souls, sarvabuddhipratyayasakshin. It is "the light of lights beyond the darkness." "To it the sun gives no light, nor the moon and the stars, nor the lightning, —how then this fire? That, as it shines, all the world shines after. By the light of that all this world shines forth."

Brahman is said to abide especially within the heart, for it is there that the internal faculties are lodged, and it is by the light of Brahman that they are illumined. It is "the one spirit internal to all sentiencies," ekah sarvabhutantaratma. It is present to them all, as the one sun is mirrored upon many surfaces, as the ether one and indivisible in many water jars. The personal self, the jivatnam, is said to be resolved into impersonal Brahman in three states, -- in dreamless sleep, in a period of dissolution between two aeons, and in emancipation. Dreamless sleep is called a "daily dissolution," dainandinah pralayah.

To Brahman alone belongs existence in the strict sense of the term, paramarthiki satta. It is; everything else appears to be. The things of daily life have a conventional existence, sufficient for acting upon, insufficient to the reason, vyavahariki satta. The silver upon the shell, the snake seen in the piece of rope, have an apparent existence, pratibhasiki satta. For the sage conventional existence is only apparent existence. At the foot of the scale of being stand things impossible or absurd, tuchcha, as the flowers of the sky, the horns of the hare.

Brahman is both the real and the operative cause of the world, the upadana and the nimitta. It is the real cause, inasmuch as the transmigratory series fictitiously overlies it. "Over this the sky, the earth, the welkin, are woven." "Illusion," says Sankaracharya, "the aggregate of the powers of all causes and effects, reposes upon Brahman, woven across and across it, as the potentiality of the banyan-tree reposes in the seed of tree." "A fictitious object," says Anandagiri, "such as the snake seen in a piece of rope, has a relatively real substratum in the piece of rope; the transmigratory series, unreal because phenomenal, has a real substance beneath it." Brahman is the operative cause of the world, inasmuch as the world-projecting illusion, inert of itself, becomes active by proximity to Brahman, as iron is set in motion by the loadstone, the iron being inert of itself, and the loadstone unmoved and unchanged.





A process of evolution is called a "differentiation under name and form," namarupavyakarana. Processes of evolution and of dissolution follow one another from eternity to eternity. Embodiments have proceeded from works, and works from embodiments, in a series without beginning, as plants from seeds and seeds from plants. The series must proceed for each individual until he learns his real nature, becomes re-immersed in the fontal unity. The one, the ultimate spiritual reality, is knowledge. The many is ignorance, the semblance of knowledge, fictitious cognition, illusion. Ignorance is not mere privation of knowledge: it has a kind of being; it is false identification of self with not-self, bhavarupam ajnanam, viparitajnanam ajnanam.

A process of evolution is as follows:--

(1) Brahman overspread with illusion with illusion manifests itself as Isvara, the Demiurgus. The illusion of Isvara is one with the illusion of each and every sentiency, and of all sentiencies, or jivas. It is at once one and many. As one it is the causal body of the Demiurgus; as many it is the beatrific involucra of sentiencies, their anandamayakosha. The Demiurgus and the sentiencies are one. Their state is a state of dreamless sleep, a state of beatitude. Isvara, the Demiurgus, is the first figment of the cosmical illusion. The Demiurgus allots to transmigrating spirits their several bodies and sphered of fruition, in accordance with the law of retribution, and retracts them into himself at the dissolution of the aeon. Knowledge of the real nature of his soul frees a man from all fear of Isvara.

(2) Brahman overspread with illusion next manifest itself as Hiranyagarbha. As one it manifests itself as Hiranyagarbha; as many it is the sentiencies or jivas in the state in the state of dreaming sleep, taijasa. Illusion has two powers, -- that with which it envelops the soul, hiding from it its proper nature, the avaranaaakti, and that with which it projects the seeming bodies and their seeming spheres, the vikshepasakti. The elements, as yet imperceptible, come into being. Out of these the tenuous involucra, the vestures of the spirit in its passage from body, are evolved. Out of the imperceptible elements the perceptible are afterwards evolved. The soul clothed upon with a tenuous involucrum, and passing with it from body to body, from sphere to sphere, is the individual soul, the jivatman. Hiranjagarbha is spirit identifying itself with the as yet imperceptible elements, and with the tenuous involucra. It passes through them as a thread passed through the beads of a necklace, and is called the thread-soul, Sutratman.

(3) Brahman overspread with illusion finally manifests itself as Vaisvanara or Virat. As one is Vaisvanara, as many it is the sentiencies or jivas in the waking state, visva. Vaisvanara is the Purusha of the Purushasukta: "A thousand heads has Purusha, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet." Purusha is Brahman, illusorily identifying itself with the perceptible elements, and with the bodies of all transmigrating spirits. Every sentiency, every man, in the waking state, is Brahman illusively identified with this or that visible and tangible organism. The perceptible are evolved out of the imperceptible elements by the process of quintuplication, panchikarana. Each of the later of the five elements has the property of the earlier elements in addition to its own. Ether has the property of sound; air the properties of sound and tangibility; fire the properties of sound, tangibility, and colour; water the properties of sound, tangibility, colour, and taste; earth the properties of sound, tangibility, colour, taste and smell. Of these elements the bodies of transmigrating spirits, and their several spheres of fruition, are composed.

Such is the order of evolution. An evolution is conceived by the Vedantins as an instantaneous process, rapid as a flash of light.

There are, then, three orders of intelligence in three states of experience -- (1) the Demiugus, and the individual soul in the state of dreamless sleep; (2) Hiranyagarbha, and the individual soul in the state of dreaming sleep; (3) Vaisvanara, and the individual soul in the waking state.

There are for these three of bodies -- (1) the causal body of the Demiurgus, and the wrapper of bliss; (2) the tenuous involucra of transmigrating spirits -- (these are made up of three wrappers, laid above the wrapper of bliss, viz., the cognitional wrapper, or the intellect and the organs of sense; the sensorial wrapper, or the common sensory and the organs of action; the respiratory wrapper, or the five vital airs, and the organs of action); -- (3) the gross involucra, the visible and tangible bodies of transmigrating spirits, or nutrimentitious wrapper. Invested in these five successive wrappers, one above the other, the impersonal self manifests itself in the shape of innumerable sentiencies, as beast, as man, as god. It is present in all, as the one sun reflects itself upon many pools, as the one ether spread itself through many water jars. It is at the same time, apart from these illusory adjuncts, untouched with mundane sorrows, as the sun looks down upon the impurities of the earth without defilement.

Out of these successive involucra the individual soul, to extricate itself from metempsychosis, has to extract itself "like the pith out of a reed." It extracts itself by returning to its proper nature. And to learn and recover his proper nature, his real self, a man must purify his intellect, perhaps through several lives, and must put himself under a spiritual preceptor to whom the Vedantic doctrine has descendd through an unbroken line of authorized exponents. Brahman is to known by traditional exponents, not by the mere exercise of the intellect. "Not he that has not ceased from evil, not he that rests not from sensations, not he that is not concentrated, not he whose faculties are not quiescent, can reach that self by the intuition." "This spiritual reality is not to be reached by learning, by memory, by much spiritual study. But if he choose this reality it may reached by him; to him the self unfolds its own essence."

The aspirant to extrication, the m_mukshu, must renounce every. Thing in this and in future sphere of fruition. He must become a sannyasin. In the words of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "They that know the breath of the breath, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, the thought of the thought, they have seen this fontal spirit, primeval, existing from before all time. It is to be seen with the intellect only. In it there is nought that is manifold. From death to death he goes that looks on this as manifold. It is to be seen in one way only. It is unthinkable, imperishable, unsullied, beyond illusion. Unborn, infinite, imperishable, is Self. Let the patient Brahman know that and learn wisdom. Let him not learn many words, for that is a weariness of the voice. This indeed is the great, Unborn Self. This it is that only holy mendicants yearn after in setting out upon their wandering life. Yearning after this it was that the ancient sages desired no offspring, saying, ‘What have we to do with children, we to whom this spiritual reality belongs in the real sphere? They arose, and forsook the desire of children, of wealth, and of worldly existence, and set out as holy mendicants." The tardy aspirant, mandadhikarin, who seeks for gradual emancipation, kramamukti, is enjoined to mutter and to ponder incessantly upon the mystic syllable Om. This is said to be the nearest image of Brahman, to be identical with all words, and with all things.

"They make mistake who leave me out,
Me, when they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahman sings."


The spiritual preceptor proceeds by the way of "illusory superposition, and the sublation of that superposition," adhyaropapavadanyayena. Illusory superposition is the viewing of the unreal, the fictitious series of souls and their environments, upon the one and only impersonal self Brahman, as the sole reality, and the recognition of the falsity of the fictitious illusion and of all its figments. The doctrine of sublation is expounded as follows in Nrisinhasarasvati's Subodhini: "Sublation is the annulment of the series proceeding from illusion. The states in this series are illusory emanation, vivartta, of Brahman, and to annul them is to abide as pure, undifferenced spirit. The apparent snake of the familiar example, seen by the belated wayfarer, illusorily proceeds from, or is fictitiously produced upon, the piece of rope, without any charge of nature taking place is the rope itself. It is sublated when the piece of rope resumes its proper shape. A thing may retain its own nature, and become otherwise than it was, in two manners, viz., by modification, parinama, and by illusory emanation, vivartta. Modification is when a thing really quits its proper form and takes another shape. Milk, for example, quits its proper form to take the form of curds and whey. Illusory emanation is where a thing, without quitting its proper form, takes another and a fictitious shape. The piece of rope takes the fictitious appearance of a snake without quitting its proper form: it remains a piece of rope. The transmigratory series is not allowed in the Vedanta to be a modification of Brahman. Brahman, if modified as the milk is modified, would be mutable, and therefore perishable. The doctrine of illusory emanation is not exposed to this difficulty. The series superposed on Brahman being fictitious, Brahman remains unchanged. A fictitious thing, then, is said to be sublated when only the real thing abides upon which it imposed. The tranmigratory series is sublated when only the pure intelligence remains upon which it was fictitiously outspread."

By continuous contemplation the aspirant refunds each entity into the entity from which it emanated, till he passes beyond illusion to the fontal unity of undiffernced spiritual existence. He follows the order of dissolution, the inverse of the order of evolution, till he arrives at Brahman. He thus realizes the import of the great text, the mahavakya, "that art thou," tat tvam asi (Chhandogya Upanishad, sixth Prapathaka). Particular souls are one with the universal soul, the Demiurgus, and the universal soul is one with Brahman. This knowledge is the last an highest of cognitions, the final modification of the aspirant’s intellect as it melts away into the fontal unity. This is the phalitam brahma, "the resultant impersonal self." The phalitam brahma is a modification of the aspirant’s sensorium, his antahkarana, and passes away, that the impersonal self, the supreme self, the supreme spirit, may alone remain. He to whose inner faculties this vision is present has the spiritual intuition, samyagdarsana. He is extricated but alive, jivanmukta, and remains in the body till those merits are exhausted which have led to his present life. Disengaged form metempsychosis, and still in the body, the perfected sage is to be untouched by merit and demerit, unsoiled by sin, uninjured by anything he does or leaves undone. No evil, the scholiasts say, arises from this freedom, as the purificatory virtues of the aspirant cling to the accomplished seer, -- his humility, his sincerity, his terderness to all, remaining upon him like ornaments even after the rise of the spiritual intuition. Finally his body falls away, and his spirit is freed for ever. It abides in itself. It is undifferenced existence, undifferenced intelligence beatitude. This is the consummation of brahmavidya.

The soul has found itself, has loosed itself, not that in verity it is loosed or bound. From the highest point of view bondage and liberation, implication and extrication, are unreal. The Vedantins compare the individual spirit seeking to regain its impersonal nature to one searching for that which he unwittingly carries about with him, to a man trembling at his own shadow. The soul of the finished sage knows itself, and therefore is itself. In the words of the Mundaka Upanishad : "Burst are his heart’s ties, broken his doubts, his merits spent, when he has seen the principle supreme at once and not supreme. In the golden, perfect involucrum is the unsullied Self, without parts, luminous, which they know that know the soul." "As all rivers flowing onwards disappear in the sea, quitting name and form, so the sage extricated from name and form enters into the self-luminous spirit beyond the last of things, beyond illusion." In the words of the Brihadaranyaka: "He that knows it is no longer sullied by evil deeds. Repressing his senses, quiescent, free from all desires, ready to suffer all things, his thoughts fixed, he sees within himself the Self, the universal soul. Imperfection reaches him no more; he passes beyond imperfection. He burns up all his imperfection. He that knows Brahman becomes free from imperfection, free from uncertainty, insphered in Brahman. This same great, unborn, Self is undecaying, imperishable, beyond all fear. Brahman is beyond all fear. He that knows this becomes the spiritual reality beyond all fear." (A. E. G.)



The above article was written by Archibald Edward Gough, M.A., Principal of the Calcutta Madrassa; edited Records of Ancient Sanskrit Literature in India; translated the Sarva-Darsana-Sangraha; author of The Philosophy of the Upanishads in Ancient Indian Metaphysics.




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