Science of the Absolute Chapter 4 - Prologue







Here we come to an epistemological aspect of the Science of the Absolute called Maya. No other idea, concept or doctrine has given rise to so much vain speculation here in India. The most popular context in which the term is used is when it is said that "All this world is Maya".


In this form as an overall statement about the phenomenal world it only means to say what is otherwise familiar in literature when Shakespeare compares the world to a stage . Other writers refer to it as a cosmic illusion. More often in the Vedas, Maya is mentioned as being the "magic of Indra", indicating that it is an illusion of a supernatural order. It is also referred to as the overall category of error possible to the mind in its effort to search for truth and reality behind mere appearance. When Shakespeare says "All that glitters is not gold", it implies the same spirit of research. In the phrase "The play's the thing" appearances and realities are made to meet each other in an integrated whole, including within its scope the imitation and the original.


Errors are frequently possible in the world of simple existence, as when a child treats a mirror-reflection as real. This is an error of the most elementary order. Other miscellaneous errors also exist as when a stick half-dipped in water appears to be bent. This is due to refraction. There are other optical illusions and errors due to errors of judgment with eidetic factors entering in mild or strong forms so as to make one imagine a ghost where there is only darkness or a snake where there is only a rope.


A classical example of error used in more serious and philosophical Vedanta is when the wave and the ocean are treated dualistically. For the Advaita Vedantin it is also a grave error to treat a pot and clay as different, although Ramanuja and others of a more dualistic outlook excuse such error as fully justified by what they consider to be right, true or significant.


In Maya we are not only interested in errors of ontological existence alone but include logical errors of judgment and confusion of values. This last refers to the final factor included within the scope of Indian philosophy which is the axiological one. Right thinking must lead us to spiritual freedom, salvation or union with God. If philosophy is not conducive to this final goal the teaching is discredited and considered defective or erroneous in an overall sense. The ends must justify the means and vice- versa, or else both ends and means have to be finally cancelled out into a neutral unity. All these considerations make of Maya a complex question. Students and teachers of Indian philosophy sometimes seem to be more influenced by Western thought when dealing with this question, and as a result a great deal of questionable literature has appeared on this subject. Some modern Indian philosophers are even ashamed and apologetic about this principle which seems to go against the practical and technological spirit of modernism. Even some of the best inheritors of Indian thought who should at least be expected to know the implications of this grand and noble contribution to speculation are sometimes seen to speak with a strange foreign accent about Maya and admit that at best it serves as a mere tautology or contradiction. Such spokesmen for Indian Philosophy have not however succeeded in abolishing the basic paradox implied in this principle.


Tautology comes in when it is said the world exists because it exists. Contradiction enters when it is said the world both exists and does not exist. These positions have been discarded as objectionable by Indian thinkers. They have been named respectively as two kinds of doshas or deficiencies found in dull non-philosophical minds. Tautology is called atmasrayah and like petitio principii, begs the question. Contradiction or logical impossibility is called asambhavah. Applicability beyond its limits is known as ativyapti and non-applicability to the whole is avyapti. These are two intermediate doshas. There is another dosha called anavestha or having no stable ground. In the West this is referred to as infinite regression.


Other genuine methodological peculiarities known to Vedantic thought such as satkaranavada (giving primacy to cause over effect) are proper to the Advaita of Sankara. On the other hand satkaryavada (giving primacy to effect over cause) is known to Ramanuja who stands for a kind of qualified non-duality. In this respect his writing resembles the Vaiseshikas and Purva Mimamsakas. Ramanuja has thus no use for the concept of Maya while Sankara´s philosophy is founded upon it.


We have referred to these peculiarities of method and ontology to show how complicated the question of Maya happens to be. Furthermore Maya is not to be mixed up with any religious doctrine, as it often is, as when a person declares that he does not believe in it. Others while trying to deny the world also deny Maya which is meant to do the same thing and nothing more. In trying to go behind appearances in order to find the cause behind all effects, there are many stratifications of causes successively eluding the vision of the philosophical enquirer, each of which has to be passed with a correct way of methodic doubt.


When one proceeds negatively to the cause behind the positive effects, one begins to touch the subjective stratum where matter and mind meet. If the research is further continued in the same negative direction of ontological existence one attains to the domain of phenomenology where the transcendent and the immanent thrive on a subtle ground. There is a constant interchange of existences and essences here. When the enquiry is further pushed backwards one finally reaches the stratum of pure epistemology. It is here that negativity attains its full status as a principle having its dialectical counterpart in the more positively normalized principle of the Absolute. We shall examine the implications of such normalization in the next chapter. In Hegel we find these two aspects of the Absolute, negative as well as positive, represented as confronting each other. In his notion of the process of becoming where thesis and antithesis constantly cancel out into a synthesis, such dialectical reasoning is presupposed. On looking around for a point of support in the world of Western speculation, we find that Hegelian philosophy is the only context where there is some semblance at least of support for this Indian philosophical concept of Maya. Hegel's own principle of negativity is described as follows:

"Either way - whether blindly acting or blindly reacting - the object is a plaything of circumstances; it is there to be pushed around and to push around in turn. This activity, which is bound to change and to corrode the object, is the negativity or irrationality inherent in its nature." (1)


Hegel also writes:

"The Absolute negates all things that are not absolute. It is their Nothing or negativity.
Nonetheless this negativity or freedom of the Absolute can be abstractly isolated or representationally pictured. For Religion then, God is the supreme Being beyond all determinations; or the Void which is neither definite nor indefinite. Or, object metaphysics pictures the Absolute as a thing-in-itself without form or content. Or, sometimes compromisers try to save a part of Being from its all-pervasive negativity, for example by postulating the conservation of matter in all changes" (2)

The above quotations still leave the character of Hegel´s negativity somewhat vague and general. The Absolute becomes fully the Absolute when it negates its own negative aspect and asserts itself doubly from the plus side. In the first quotation it is inertia belonging to ponderable things that is referred to as a negative principle yielding the idea of the Absolute. Thus there are two forces acting in opposite directions. These two forces are already implied in the dialectical revaluations of thesis and antithesis into synthesis. It is not hard to conceive in this alternating process and stabilization of a positive and negative movement as also of a resultant - one tending to be more positive. The negative in the double-sided movement is the Hegelian principle of negativity. It can be referred to a minus dimension in the vertical axis. The further clarification, given in Hegel's second quotation gives handy examples of the successive grades of pure or impure negativity. Religion could be said to be impure to the extent that religious belief does not attain to the clarity of philosophy which questions and doubts critically.



We know from the history of German idealism that there was an intimate group of philosophers who were all post-Kantians. Being influenced by Kant's notions of the ding-an-sich (thing-in itself) and the antinomies present in his transcendental cosmology, they began to think along certain kindred lines, finally ending up with the dialectics of Hegel.


This two-sided speculative game started with Fichte's notion of the Self and the non-Self. Fichte, the father of pan-Germanism, soon went out of fashion because of his rigid moralism and sense of social responsibility. Nonetheless his influence was not altogether lost on the post-Kantian group who were romantic and therefore loved free thought. Schopenhauer's "world as will and presentiment" contains the same a priori synthetic elements found it Kant. His appreciation of Buddhist and Upanishadic thought is unmistakable.


Schelling and Schlegel also were influenced by Kantian and Fichtean absolutism as well as by what they derived from their Sanskrit studies. Although Schelling disowned his disciple Hegel, the kinship between their respective philosophies is discernible. German absolute idealism is thus an integration and a culmination of certain tendencies presented in common by a group of philosophers who must be assumed to have influenced each other in their admiration, admitted or not, for the philosophy of the Upanishads.


Paul Deussen and Max Müller went further than the original post-Kantians and were more wholeheartedly and openly affiliated to Vedantic thought. If we remember these circumstances it is rather easy to fill in what is not explicit in Hegel from the quotation above. The antinomies of Kant and the Self and non-Self of Fichte have their ground in an inner factor called Will belonging to the Self in-itself treated as for-itself and by-itself.


Treated in this way the Self attains an independent absolutist status with a double dialectical movement of thought accommodated by the Absolute within its content.


The Will to live, the Will to power, and the Will as presentiment are all positive expressions at different levels of the same inner factor understood in itself. We are not concerned with the positive aspects of this Will here but wish to shed more light on the nature of negativity vaguely referred to by Hegel. The same negativity is described in terms of his own ding-an-sich by Kant, with whom the description belongs to the domain of pure reason. By the help of its critique, it is easy to see how it is in the same direction of negativity as with Hegel.

We read as follows:

"If, therefore, I am obliged to think something necessary for all existing things, and at the same time am not justified in thinking of anything as in itself necessary, the conclusion is inevitable: that necessity and contingency do not concern things themselves, for otherwise there would be a contradiction, and that therefore neither of the two principles can be objective; but that they may possibly be subjective principles of reason only, according to which, on one side we have to find for all that is given. as existing, something that is necessary, and thus never to stop except when we have reached an a priori complete explanation; while on the other we must never hope for that completion, that is, never admit anything empirical as unconditioned, and thus dispense with its further derivation In that sense both principles as purely heuristic and regulative, and affecting the formal interests of reason only, may well stand side by side. For the one tells us that we ought to philosophize on nature as if there were a necessary first cause for everything that exists, if only in order to introduce systematical unity into our knowledge by always looking for such an idea as an imagined highest cause. The other principle warns us against mistaking any single determination concerning the existence of things for such a highest cause, i.e. for something absolutely necessary, and bids us to keep the way always open for further derivation, and to treat it always as conditioned. If, then, everything that is perceived in things has to be considered by us only conditionally necessary, nothing that is empirically given can ever be considered absolutely necessary." (3)


Kant continues referring to the "philosophers of antiquity" as follows:

"The philosophers of antiquity considered all form in nature as contingent, but matter, according to the judgment of common reason, as primitive and necessary. If, however, they had considered matter, not relatively as the substratum of phenomena, but as existing by itself, the idea of absolute necessity would have a vanished at once, for there is nothing that binds reason absolutely to that existence, but reason can at any time and without contradiction remove it in thought, and it was in thought only that it could claim absolute necessity." (4)

He now shows how matter is not adequate to the idea of a necessary Being:
"Nevertheless, as every determination of matter, which constitutes its reality, and hence the impermeability of matter also, is an effect (action) which must have a cause, and therefore be itself derived, matter is not adequate to the idea of a necessary Being, as a principle of all derived unity, because every one of its real qualities is derived and, therefore, conditionally necessary only, so that it could be removed, and with it would be removed the whole existence of matter." (5)


Kant now brings in the vertical parameter of Pure Reason as we see from the following:

"It follows from all this that matter and everything in general that belongs to the world are not fit for the idea of a necessary original Being, as a mere principle of the greatest empirical unity, but that we must place it outside the world. In that case there is no reason why we should not simply derive the phenomena of the world and their existence from other phenomena, as if there were no necessary Being at all, while at the same time we might always strive towards the completeness of that derivation, just as if such a Being, as the highest cause, were presupposed." (6)

Kant now goes on to explain the "negative discipline" of pure reason. As we can see, his negativity is one of an epistemological order:

"In its empirical use reason does not require such criticism, because its principles are constantly subject to the test of experience. Nor is such criticism required in mathematics, where the concepts of reason must at once be represented in concreto in pure intuition, so that everything unfounded and arbitrary is at once discovered. But when neither empirical nor pure intuition keeps reason in a straight groove, that is, when it is used transcendentally and according to mere concepts, the discipline to restrain its inclination to go beyond the narrow limits of possible experience, and to keep it from extravagance and error is so necessary, that the whole philosophy of pure reason is really concerned with that one negative discipline only." (7)


Kant concludes by showing us how a "negative code" is necessary in order to correct whole systems of illusions and fallacies.
He says:
"Single errors may be corrected by censure, and their causes removed by criticism. But when, as in pure reason, we are met by a whole system of illusions and fallacies, well connected among themselves and united by common principles, a separate negative code seems requisite, which, under the name of a discipline, should erect a system of caution and self-examination, founded on the nature of reason and of the objects of its use, before which no false sophistical illusion could stand, but would at once betray itself in spite of all excuses. (8)



Although Schelling calls his philosophy Transcendental, he is able to bring the positive and negative aspects of the Absolute into close relation as if on equal terms where positivity and negativity could cancel out into the full neutral Absolute. We are not concerned with this finalized and fully normalized Absolute. We shall need the clarification of this finalized notion only at the end of the next chapter. Here we are more interested in Schelling's notion of negativity in the context of the Absolute. His position is identical to that of Vedanta.


If we can suppose that the principle of negativity prevails over its own dialectical counterpart, making it just possible to exist as two rival ambivalent factors with an element of paradox between them persisting and finally to be abolished, we then attain to a more or less correct notion of what is meant by Maya. The infinitesimally small degree of negativity implied in it is the only factor that keeps it from representing the pure Absolute itself.


Schelling's position is clearly brought out by B.A.G. Fuller, as follows:

"Moreover, if we examine the higher, conscious expressions of the Real, we shall find that they, too, obey the law of attraction, repulsion and resultant equilibrium, displayed in natural processes. To exhibit this new link between the ego and the non-ego is the purpose of the System of Transcendental Idealism. The expansion of consciousness, Schelling tells us, rests upon the fact that there is consciousness. Pure and primal consciousness is simply a registration of its own existence. But even this blank act of registration of mere existence by pure consciousness is consciousness of something. In performing it, consciousness becomes an object unto itself, and is now self-conscious. Since the object of which it is conscious is simply itself, the limitation of the subject by the object, of the "I" by the "me", is an act of self-limitation." (9)

Fuller continues describing how Schelling views consciousness as a process of contraction and expansion:

"Let us start with sensation. Consciousness is a process of expansion and contraction, and sensation is the equilibrium resulting from the conflict of these two forces. Sensations are data of consciousness because they represent an expansive, outgoing activity of the self. But being involuntary and uncontrollable, as well as limits upon creative activity, they show also that the outpouring of consciousness which gives rise to them is continually checked and balanced by the contraction and return of consciousness upon itself." (10)


Finally we see how Schelling is able to conceive of the Absolute as One Reality transcending all duality. From the standpoint of the Absolute, the finite is not real but merely an appearance. We read from Schelling:

"The Absolute is an infinite and eternal Reason, in which the conscious and the unconscious, the subject and the object, the ego and the non-ego are identical. The Absolute Reason is one. Outside of it there is nothing. Within it there can be no distinction or difference or division, since if there were, the Absolute would not be one and infinite. It would be, rather, a collection of finite beings. If follows that from the point of view of the Absolute the finite is not real but simply an appearance, and that the distinction and opposition between the conscious and the unconscious, spirit and matter, the self and the non-self, are illusions. Stated in terms of the law of attraction and repulsion, the Absolute is the point of indifference or absolute equilibrium in which the expansion and the contraction underlying the ego and the non-ego exactly balance and cancel each other. Here, then, we have a Reality transcending the opposition between idealism and realism and describable as neither subject nor object, mind nor matter." (11)


We are now trying to trace the relationship between the notion of Maya as found in Vedanta and in Socratic and post-Socratic Philosophy, and the influences if has left on modern thought in general. The dialectics of the One and the Many of Parmenides and the paradoxes of Zeno have elements of ambiguity or uncertainty and are essentially the same when understood with the epistemology proper to Maya.


The affinities are, however, overlaid with other considerations, and the following quotation from Prof. 0. Lacombe brings out some of its difficulties and differences from Western ways of thinking. This quotation will at least help us to see how intricate the notion is when viewed from the standpoint of the West:

"Maya is the irrational of the system of Sankara. It is less than the chora of Plato or the rule of Aristotle: non-being in that these have no existence and have reality only by and for form, but to no degree in themselves, one could still say they are participations of being in a limited sense yet not in a false one. The illusion of Sankara, without being any more for itself, nor by itself, nor in itself, is a participation with Being except in a sense so extenuated that it becomes false therein. What is more it is indeed this falsity (mithyatva), this ambiguity, which has made it the principle of illusion. But it is more than the mere objective possibility of our medieval metaphysicians and of those who have followed them; because this latter is not clothed with any positive character and is nothing but the manner in which the over finite spirits conceive from outside the creative richness of God, and think in reversed and passive images the capacity, absolutely actual, which he has to confer freely being to nothingness. The purely ideal moment where it is designed in abstracto, the branches of modes under which the Being could be reflected in non-being; modes which are finite because non-being is not one and of an infinite number because the Being is infinitely generous; this movement was not to be passed over by a free act of creation for Sankara - whether with a metaphysical freedom or a moral freedom after the manner of Leibniz - it is necessarily transcended by the fecund presence of being." (12)


Overladen with classical and scholastic terms familiar to European theology, the above passage is an example of a text hardly readable or understandable in any eastern language. But it is not hard to note toward the end of the above quotation how the generosity of God and the fecund presence of Being belong to opposite epistemological poles of a two-sided situation. The former is contingent, referring to essences, while the latter is necessary, referring to fecund existence. In the light of our previous discussion of antinomies and antithetical factors in the structure of absolute consciousness, these two ambivalent aspects can be distinguished. Maya takes into account both these aspects together, instead of giving primacy to the intelligibles of Plato or the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle. Professor Lacombe's analysis is penetrating and in other references to the same subject he brings out the peculiarities in Vedanta in dealing with some other aspects of Maya such as "cosmic illusional magic", "wonderful powers," mayamayisrishti (creation made of the stuff of illusion) and mayavi or mayin (magician), There is no need to go into all these aspects of maya, as we shall have other occasions to come back to such questions under Chapters 8, 9 and 10.



Anything can be applauded or laughed at for right or wrong reasons. We have seen how the theory of relativity is good enough for the purposes of physics, but becomes untenable in the eyes of a correct philosopher like Bergson. Voltaire laughed at the idea of living in the "best of all possible worlds," and caustically mocked the followers of Leibniz.

The notion of Maya or Mayavada, or the principle of illusion in Sankara´s Advaita, are often referred to either seriously or lightly depending on the philosophy of the commentator. Ramanuja has little use for Maya except as a form of primary nescience (avidya). He does not give it an independent status in his scheme. Madhva represents a supreme Vishnu on a dualistic pole in the context of absolutism and from this derives various value factors of the world represented in a graded series. In a scheme called svarupananda-taratamya (a gradation based on the degree of bliss in the Self) Madhva finds room for this in his philosophy.


The cardinal principle of one Indian school of thought becomes the laughing stock of a rival one and confusion becomes all the more intense when Western philosophers make their own contributions to this domain. It is highly necessary therefore that the principle of Maya, considered as a product of the genius of the Indian mind and arising legitimately from the Upanishads, should be viewed in its proper perspective in relation to the system or vision to which it properly belongs. Sankara is the best spokesman and his own definition of Maya deserves our first attention. We read in the Vivekacudamani, Verse 108:

"Avidya (Nescience) or Maya, called also the Undifferentiated, is the power of the Lord. She is without beginning, is made up of the three gunas and is superior to the effects (as their cause). She is to be inferred by one of clear intellect only from the effects She produces. It is She who brings forth this whole universe." (13)


Sankara now abolishes all paradox in the very next verse:

"She is neither existent nor non-existent nor partaking of both characters; neither same nor different nor both; neither composed of parts nor an indivisible whole nor both. She is most wonderful and cannot be described in words." (14)

In the light of Sankara´s definitions, it is clear how the treatment given by Western. scholars to what they call the "doctrine of Maya" by authorities even of the high status of Paul Deussen, does not have any adequacy of relationship to what was in the mind of Sankara himself. We read the following from Deussen:

"The fundamental doctrine is thus clothed in the empirical forms of knowledge which are innate within us and assert their right; while the metaphysical dogma is gradually more and more superceded by empirical intellectual methods. In this way is originated a series of conceptions which, following up what has already been said, we propose here at the close briefly to survey; they remodel the original idealism into the theories of pantheism, cosmogonism, theism, atheism and deism." (15)


After scrutinizing the more recent quotation from Lacombe and comparing it with this from Deussen it is noticeable that Deussen treats Maya on a par with other theories of false appearance found in Kant or Plato. We read as follows:

"When Kant in his inquiry into the capability of the human intellect drew the conclusion that the entire universe, as we know it, is only appearance and not reality he said nothing absolutely new, but only in more intelligible demonstrated form uttered a truth which in less intelligible shape had been in existence long before him .... This is the case in Greek philosophy, when Parmenides asserts the empirical reality to be mere show, or Plato to be mere shadows..." (16)

In contrast with this, Lacombe's penetrating analysis shows Maya as having an absolutist inner status as a principle of necessity having a negative character. Deussen tends rather to abolish empirical reality altogether in the name of some such reality as Platonic intelligibles. The principle of Maya is not meant to be an article of faith nor is it to be treated as a doctrine to be completely accepted or rejected. Rather it has an epistemological and methodological foundation of its own, proper to the type of absolutism found in the Advaita philosophy of Sankara. It is not mere idealism. Prof. Betty Heimann correctly puts her finger on how philosophers and scholars tend to treat the question of Maya in a light different from what is intended.
We read:

"The Sanskritist must at the outset feel repelled when for example the Indian concept of Maya is translated as 'illusion'. The Western mind, according to the present use of 'illusion' sees here something unreal, deceptive and delusive. Yet this is not even the primary meaning of the Latin word illusion from the root ludere, 'to play'. Illusion originally, though this is now forgotten, meant, 'interplay'. As such, but only in its original meaning is it a near equivalent of Maya. Maya, the 'world of the measurables' (from the root ma, to measure), is a relative and transitory display of forms. In this sense it actually corresponds to illusio : interplay in variant shapes and forms, manifestations of the underlying substance. Illusion, thus interpreted according to its original meaning, truly is analogous to the Sanskrit term lila, 'play and display' of the creative urge for world-formation and elusive world-manifestation, as taught in Indian cosmogony." (17)


The idea of interplay of complementary factors is fundamental to Maya, just as Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle is fundamental in the context of physics. Two rival factors like light and darkness cannot coexist without mutual participation contributing to abolish the distinction between them as equally real factors. This is the paradoxical principle of ambiguity which distinguishes Maya. The paradox itself is not given to the senses of the physicist. It has its being at the point where physics and metaphysics meet. To solve the paradox it is not enough that these two rival fundamental factors can coexist as if by kind permission of the philosopher concerned. The paradox is not dissolved thereby. Unless the paradox is first dissolved one does not attain the Absolute.


It is easy here to get caught within the principles of tautology and contradiction without attaining to any fixed ground on the combined basis of the two possible alternatives of reality or appearance. Sankara is also seen to take much trouble in his Brahma Sutra commentary (I.4.21) to banish the vestiges of this persisting paradox found in the type of doctrine known as bheda-bhedavada (the principle of difference-non-difference).


To dissolve the paradox one has to take at least one initial converse position stating the paradox in the negative form, as neither difference nor non-difference. This correctly follows the anirvacaniya (unpredicability) found in Sankara's Advaita. The subtle distinction is seen in contrast between Sankara´s proper viewpoint and that of a modern Indian interpreter as follows:

"Although Radhakrishnan is a follower of Sankara, he does not hold strictly with the latter that the world is neither real nor unreal, and regards Maya not as illusion, but as a concept of explanation. We cannot know the why of the world, and 'it is this fact of its inexplicable existence that is signified by the word Maya'. But while admitting that the appearance of the world is without explanation, Radhakrishnan does not 'cover up our confusion by the use of the word Maya, nor does he consider that the world is devoid of value and importance, for in his words, 'the things of the world ever struggle to recover their reality'. So it would seem at this point he regards the world as a combination of Being and Non-Being, sat and asat, rather than neither Being nor Non-Being as most Advaitins would hold." (18)

It is not hard for the reader to see from the above appraisal of Maya by Radhakrishnan that whether the paradox is stated in one form or its converse, it is not transcended by him.


It was Schopenhauer who pointed out that the whole problem of the will and the world as presentiment has to be viewed from a different perspective. Starting from the empirical outside to arrive at the idealistic brings into being a series of graded -isms as enumerated by Deussen. When viewed from the other deeper inner pole and methodically built up, one -ism is made transparent to the next, and the multiplicity of rival standpoints, all existing side by side, is also absorbed and thus avoided. We read the following from Schopenhauer:

"The objective world, the world of idea, is not the only side of the world, but merely a different side - the side of its inmost nature - its kernel - the thing in-itself." (19)


Sankara´s own indication of this approach from the inner to the outer is indicated by the karya-anumeya (what is to be inferred back from effect), following his own method of satkaranavada already explained. If a certain medicine cures a specific malady, the effect of curing is what makes the medicine good. Here, there is a reasoning from effect to cause. A blind man handling a jar upside down finds it useless. When properly held the difficulties vanish. Method and matter in Vedanta have to be compatible with. each other and in fulfilling this requirement a total structural and subjective view based on select categories is all important.



At the end of the third chapter we arrived by a certain method of reduction and verticalization to a sort of negative limit in which the Absolute still remained structurally in the form of a colourful solid. The world of appearances and eidetic representations justified such a status as marking the limit of the chapter. Previously, even from the beginning, we have noted the same process of reduction through successive equations of counterparts, always proceeding from the effect to the cause. Each verse invariably contained the elements of an equation of counterparts which were successively absorbed into the more existent and ontological aspects.


The Absolute was the existent by the time we reached the last verse of Chapter 3. Now having disposed of the ontological aspects belonging to phenomenology we are ready in this chapter to further purify the Absolute more fully in the context of its epistemology and methodology. The pure Idea of the Absolute, as Hegel called it, has to rid itself of all taint of its own possible negativity. There is both inner and outer negativity. What is understood in terms of consciousness refers to inner negation. What refers to a concrete universal might still retain an element of contradiction or contrariety which has to be abolished. This is in order to make the pure normative notion of the Absolute stand out independent of its own negative aspect. When the notion emerges in its purified form without inner contrariety and contradiction, it fulfills some of the characteristics laid down by Hegel. We read from Hegel:

"It is not an idealism in which the content of knowledge is through and through subjective, imprisoning its products within the subject; subject and object are only distinct but necessary poles within a comprehensive, universal concreteness. The contrast of idealistic and realistic philosophy is of no importance; such expressions as subjectivity and objectivity, reality and ideality, are simply bare abstractions." (20)

One can never attain to a full notion of the Absolute without completely shedding the paradox residing in its structure. Such a paradox can be found in the most peripheral as well as in the most interior of zones. We are here speaking the language of structuralism which should never be viewed as a reality in itself but instead considered as points or parameters of reference for linguistic purposes. Even the colour solid which seems to refer to aspects of reality is to be treated as a concrete universal in a schematic and generalized sense.


The space over which a colour might be spread can be big or small, but conceived in topological, vectorial or tensorial terms, the attributes of actuality have to be forgotten in favour of an abstracted and generalized entity, though still thinkable as having concrete attributes. In this sense we agree with Hegel who calls the Absolute an Idea. But in the light of a protolinguistic geometrical structure where concrete visible geometrical language and conceptual algebraic symbolism lend certitude to each other, we have to suggest a slight correction of Hegel who seems to be thinking only in terms of ideas which are algebraic, ignoring the possibilities of a more concrete geometrical language. It is thus possible to continue to keep in mind the colour solid found so helpful in the last chapter, on arriving at a precise notion of the phenomenological implications in the context of ontology. For the purposes of this chapter, in passing from ontology to epistemology we will omit this pronounced colourful contrast of harmony. We have now to think rather of contraries and contradictories within the structure of antinomies or the two sets of antithetical factors as existing in the thought of both Kant and Hegel. Paradoxes can be conceived as present at different concrete or abstract levels even within a delimited structuralism. The white, red and black clearly distinguish three aspects in the structure of the phenomenological sphere and represent theoretically the positive, negative and intermediate zones within which antinomies live and move. When a stable synthesis is established, counterparts are then absorbed or cancelled out. As pointed out by Schopenhauer there are two different aspects of reality involved in such a process. The deeper seat of paradox lies at the core of the Absolute as a negative principle of the most delicate or subtle character.


The Absolute has to be attained by abolishing this last residual paradox which in its transparency is hardly distinguishable from the light of the Absolute itself on which it thrives.


The Maya to be understood here does not primarily refer to the outer phenomenal zone or sheath of this structural unit. There is no firm ground offered to the philosopher interested in attaining the Absolute in these peripheral elements where the process of becoming and the flux of change are most horizontally pronounced. He has to start at the central core where paradoxes begin to get crystallized or formed. Maya is the final residue of epistemological negativity as an overall category of error. It resides at the very core of the notion of the Absolute, with a transparency in that inner zone so nearly equal to the Absolute with which it both participates and does not participate at one and the same time.


The method of philosophy has to correspond to the content treated by philosophy. It can start from the known or the unknown according to whether axiomatic certitude or experimental certitude is given priority. In the Science of the Absolute it is not enough to speak of appearances which are given positively or empirically to the senses. One has to attain step by step to the innermost reality hiding behind appearances before the absolute reality stands revealed. At every step there is a paradox and it has to be resolved, graded and numbered if scientific treatment is to be given to the component items or factors. This particular type of difficulty in respect of the starting point of the philosophy of the Absolute is referred to by Hegel, as follows:

"The object and method of philosophy are not known beforehand, their development is philosophy itself. This is the perplexity of its form. On the one hand, philosophy must immediately begin with itself; on the other hand, it is a mediation of all things. This necessary unity of immediacy and mediation is the Concept (Begriff) of philosophy." (21)

The notion of the Absolute should rid itself of all taints of negativity. The relative and the Absolute have to be closely distinguished. There are many ways in which the Absolute can emerge out of its proper background. In theology there is a perfect God of Goodness; in cosmology, the Ultimate Ground of all things: in psychology, the Self and the Non-Self. The pure Absolute cannot tolerate any adulteration by anything not fully itself. It has to be in-itself, for-itself and by-itself, uniquely raised independently above all negative relativism. As Eddington says, "The Absolute may be defined as a relative which is always the same no matter what it is relative to."

Negative relativism, epistemologically understood, is what is referred to as Maya. It results from a double negation of the double assertion implied in fully attaining the Absolute. It is the perfect Self of all things without any rivals. It lives in the world of pure reason as against the phenomenal world. Possible antinomies and antithetical factors add further complications which resist analysis. This is true especially of the negative implications lodged at the core of the Absolute which have to be dissolved in graded fashion by penetrating criticism.


It is therefore natural to begin at the very core where paradox is most subtle and most elusive, rather than where paradox has harsh outer properties in a completely horizontalized form. Within these two limits there are also other gradations. Narayana Guru is able to analyze all these grades in this chapter. The Absolute then emerges to full view to receive normalization with its own counterparts as we shall see in the fifth Chapter. Only after this is accomplished will the full normative character of the Absolute stand revealed.



Discursive philosophy is too often verbose and polemical with rival schools of thought both claiming to possess the truth. Sometimes philosophy is judged on the basis of a single battle between two such rivals. Long drawn out battles occur over larger periods in which many and varied skirmishes take place. The final results often remain vague and lost to humanity. It is not rarely that we find serious works on philosophy filled with verbosity, hairsplitting, and logic-chopping, the benefit or even the meaning of which, nobody really knows. Wrong patronage is sometimes the cause for the production of fat volumes supporting this or that special philosophy. Libraries often get filled in this way and, as Sankara says, "the magic of words makes a great forest where one becomes mentally dizzy." We shall not here cite any specific examples but only speak of general principles.

A unified Science of the Absolute when structurally conceived, with an inner consistency and a uniform theory of knowledge is alone the answer to the present sad plight of philosophical speculation. Hegel's statement above foreshadows such a possibility in the name of the Absolute as an idea (begriff).


Although Hegel attained to such a high point of vantage in being able to conceive of a philosophy that covered all philosophies whether idealist or realist, we know that he unfortunately got lost somehow in pan-Germanic enthusiasms. Wordy speculations cannot control or regulate the final course that speculation leads to, because we cannot expect outer forces to enter the fray and hold the hands of writers when they deviate from correct lines of thought. We have to depend on some kind of control being exercised from within science and philosophy itself. In this connection, mathematics has attained to the full status of a self-contained discipline. So in an extrapolated sense what has proved true in mathematics can also apply to other disciplines inclusively and in genera. There could thus be a science of philosophy, a philosophy of science or a unified science of all sciences.


If we now change our analogy and think in terms of games to clarify certain other implications of correct method, we can visualize a tennis match between two rival players. Or we can think of a whole tournament consisting of many matches until the finalists face each other. Each game is interesting enough, and what we have to note is that each game is played in the same court and under the same rules. There are no separate rules for each game or for only one player as against another. What is more important in each game is that the two contestants have approximately some kind of equality of status sufficient to make the match interesting. Here we touch on the principle of samanadhikaranatva (homogeneity of content).


If a certain philosopher wants to be a realist, the game he plays must be with an idealist; otherwise the game will be absurd. Furthermore, it goes without saying that one game cannot be played with the rules of another game. Such matters are self-evident, yet many philosophies violate the rules of the game with impunity. We have only tried to explain here the need for both inner and outer consistency whether in philosophy, science or any other discipline.


In the previous chapters we have passed through three definite visions of truth, each having its own frame of reference. Each chapter is to be respected as a self-consistent grade of epistemology and methodology. In this fourth chapter, we are still on the negative side of the situation. The positive aspects have been treated as far as was required in the very first chapter dealing with cosmology and theology by postulating a God in a positivistic context. Within each chapter there is a reduction and application of the principle of Occam's Razor  (22) to get rid of the extraneous as quickly as possible, so as to reduce the discussion to its most important and essential elements.


One has to distinguish the delicate thread of argument running through the whole, having its negative initial direction in a God who is alone given, at the beginning, a pure and thin mathematical status. He becomes a real God and the source of a real creation by the tenth verse of the first chapter. The other chapters, as we have already explained, refer to more negative or subjective factors like caitanya (vital consciousness), manas (mind), and sankalpa (willing).


Relativity attains to its culminating status in this chapter. The reader has now to distinguish the many grades of relativity enumerated and included within the scope of this same chapter. Negativity as a principle is not acceptable to the positivist or the realist. Nonetheless philosophizing, as Bergson points out, is "to invert the habitual direction of the work of thought" (23). In the Upanishads this approach through the negative way is called neti neti (not this, not this), where one passes from one degree of negativity to a lower and profounder degree of negativity. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (III.9.26) this is most vividly brought out by the Guru Yajnavalkya:

"That Soul (atman) is not this, it is not that (neti, neti). It is unseizable, for it is not seized. It is indestructible, for it is not destroyed. It is unattached, for it does not attach itself. It is unbound. It does not tremble. It is not injured." (24)

This same method was employed by Dionysius the Areopagite and is known as the via negativa. This method is also implied in Spinoza and Leibniz. Because negativity is not acceptable to the positivist and realist, one is obliged, as is Hegel, to start from the other extreme pole or zero point of origin where negativity hides at the core of the Idea as the Absolute. At its origin it has a pure epistemological status in terms of knowledge and not in terms of being.


Existence and Being belong to the world manifested through a nature that is phenomenological in status. Before entering into the text of the present chapter we have to bear in mind its proper delimitations and the scope of its contents. What has already been covered under phenomenology should not be expected to be repeated here, where we pass from a phenomenological order of things to the new epistemological domain of reason.


The reference to the three gunas (nature modalities), of pure (sattva), passionate (rajas), and dark (tamas) qualities, within the limits of this chapter, marks the point to which the scope of the chapter extends. Here we have to explain that the three gunas are not treated as realistic modes of change, but are meant to suggest the structure and modus operandi behind Nature, only revealing its abstract dynamism. This principle, derived from the Samkhya (rationalist) philosophy, is one of the greatest contributions ever made to Indian philosophical speculation. Because of the rationalism in the Samkhya philosophy, Vedic orthodoxy, which relies on belief, has a light regard for this contribution to thought. The Bhagavad Gita, however, has given to Samkhyan structuralism and categories a high position in Vedanta, and it has itself relied on this structuralism in the final chapter dealing with the unitive way in behaviour patterns. On the other hand, the Brahma Sutras do not accept the gunas completely, nor any other aspect of the Samkhya philosophy and structure. Nonetheless, the principle of the gunas has firmly entrenched itself in both the philosophy and common belief of India.


Even in India today one hears the expressions " sattvik food" familiarly used in popular language. This error is the same in its type of mistake as in the statement one often hears: "I do not believe in Maya; the world is real." Maya refers to a methodological device for the use of philosophy. It is not to be treated as an article of religious belief nor disbelief. The same holds true for the three gunas. We also hear the common expression, "I eat sattvik food to become spiritually sattvik". This is absurd. Sattva, rajas, and tamas are to be used diagnostically for recognizing psychological types. To compare food with spirituality in this manner is as absurd as saying that if a man wore a red coat he would become rajasik (passionate).


Those who attack the philosophical negativity implied in Maya very often forget that it has its own epistemological raison d´être. Maya is never to be viewed as an entity or reality in itself to be denied or asserted. Its only positive reality consists in its name. Its content denotes a negativity empty of all reality. We have here another interesting quotation from Bergson adding support to what we have already said about this negative principle:

"It is therefore something negative, or zero at most that must be added to Ideas to obtain change. In that consists the Platonic non-being, the Aristotelian 'matter' - a metaphysical zero which, joined to the Idea, like the arithmetical zero to unity, multiplies it in space and time. By it the motionless and simple Idea is refracted into a movement spread out indefinitely. In right, there ought to be nothing but immutable Ideas, immutably fitted to each other. In fact, matter comes to add to them its void, and thereby lets loose the universal becoming. It is an elusive nothing, that creeps between the Ideas and creates endless agitation, eternal disquiet, like a suspicion insinuated between two loving hearts" (25)

This comes the nearest in modern philosophy to expressing the negativity of the Idea of the Absolute between zero and –1, within the structure of the normative and neutral Absolute.



Many western Indologists have been reasonably puzzled to find differences of opinion on basic philosophical tenets in the same body of Vedantic thought based on the prasthana trayam (the three basic source books, viz., Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, and Brahma Sutras). Brahman as implied in the mahavakyas (great sayings), whose purpose is to abolish the duality between cosmology, theology, and psychology as doctrinal dicta, is acceptable to both orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Yet, there nonetheless emerge diametrically opposed religious and philosophical points of view amongst followers of certain schools of thought in spite of their common allegiance to these great dicta.


It is easy to understand how a stranger to Indian thought is not fully able to enter into the spirit of such subtle doctrines and philosophical points of view as represented by the principle of Maya. This doctrine, if we may call it so for convenience, is the result of the slow and steady growth of speculation over a period of thousands of years. What are called the six systems of Indian philosophy took many centuries to pass through their various formulations, restatements, and revaluations.


The tree of Indian wisdom is an old one and it sometimes puts out new shoots at unexpected levels while some roots or branches last beyond their proper season.


The source of all the trouble in interpreting Vedanta and Maya correctly seems to be located in the peculiar lingua mystica of the Upanishads, which have further been elaborated in the itihasas (legends), puranas (epics), and dharma sastras (texts on social ethics and behaviours). When we add to this complicated situation the numerous bhashyas (commentaries), tikas (commentaries on commentaries), vrittis (glosses), of different grades of acceptability to orthodoxy and heterodoxy, we arrive at a very complex situation which puzzles and offers a challenge to any scholar or student of Indian wisdom. Yet we do find scholars like Lacombe masterfully bringing to bear on the situation their penetrating powers of analysis and criticism of the inherent contradictions found in the Vedanta of Sankara and Ramanuja. A scholar like Thibaut showed his open preference for Ramanuja mainly because of his love of a personal God. This attitude closely resembles what such scholars themselves were nourished on in the form of Christianity. In his introduction to his translation of the Vedanta Sutra of Sankaracarya, Thibaut, while showing the difference between the interpretation of the Sutras by Sankara and Ramanuja; almost always agrees with the view taken by Ramanuja. Apparently only what had a prophetic touch could be palatable to him. Ramanuja's own view or vision of Brahman, whom he calls Narayana or Vishnu, is found in the following:

"The Brahman knowable through the Vedas is Narayana who is antithetical to all evil, transcendent and unique. In his substantive nature, he is infinite knowledge and bliss. He is an ocean of countless hosts of auspicious attributes, inherent and unlimited in their excellence .... His supreme glory is infinite and beyond thought in its nature and attributes. He has as the means of his sport the entire universe, consisting of multitudinous kinds of countless sentient and non-sentient entities." (26)


Later scholars like Paul Deussen were able to appreciate Sankara through the eyes of Plato, Parmenides, and Kant.
He says:

"You see the concordance of Indian, Grecian and German metaphysics; the world is Maya, is illusion, says Sankara; it is a world of shadows, not of realities, says Plato; it is appearance only, not the thing-in-itself, says Kant. Here we have the same doctrine in three different parts of the world." (27)

Max Müller, who was Paul Deussen's teacher, admits that sometimes Sankara's speculative methods make him feel giddy, yet his keen appreciation of the Advaita of Sankara is unmistakable:

"Such speculations are apt to make us feel giddy, but whatever we may think about them, they show at all events to what a height Indian philosophy had risen in its patient climb from peak to peak, and how strong its lungs must have been to be able to breathe in such an atmosphere." (28)


In Lacombe we also find a keen appreciation of this "doctrine" of Maya. We see how he is able to penetrate into its fullest implications and never wanders from the spirit of the texts of Sankara whom he profusely quotes in support of almost every one of his own appraisals or assertions. He can be credited with having taken up the challenge in full earnestness. But even so it is not impossible to discern a certain preference for Ramanuja whom he credits with "robust common sense" when he refutes Maya in his Sribhashya.


How Indians who are familiar with their own background of thought should become antagonistic to Maya is a deeper challenge confronting us. Certain modern interpreters of Vedanta share a great deal of mistrust towards Sankara and his principle of Maya, going so far as calling it not a principle of error but "a concept of explanation". However much one may attempt to explain away Maya the deeper aspects of this challenge still need to be faced squarely and openly. Ramanuja has no use for Maya and rejects it outright with a certain vehemence. In refuting the position of the Advaita of Sankara and his followers he says:

"Nor can our opponent urge against this that, owing to the denial of plurality contained in other passages this last text refers to something not real; for it is an altogether laughable assertion that Scripture should at first teach the doctrine, difficult to comprehend, that plurality, as suggested by perception and the other means of knowledge belongs to Brahman also, and should afterwards negate this very doctrine!" (29)


Ramanuja also enumerates seven anupapattis (non-conclusive arguments) against Advaita (30). He has no sympathy for the semantic polyvalence of Sankara who postulates the principles of vakyartha (direct meaning) and lakshanartha (indirect meaning). Instead Ramanuja prefers to be unambiguous, avoiding all the deeper aspects of Vedanta. He is definitely in favour of theism or deism with an adorable personal Vishnu lifted as high as possible. Here he makes Vishnu correspond to the Brahman of the Upanishads. He does this without going beyond the needs of ordinary pious devotion of simple believers.


In the same way as Sankara was influenced by Buddhism, particularly the Madhyamika Philosophy of Nagarjuna and others, Ramanuja, in his insistence on a personal God with prophetic tendencies, seems to have been influenced by Islam, which was the dominant ruling power in India during his time. Ramanuja wants a real God to worship with a corresponding real world, without any room for contradiction. entering in to divide his God from the world. It is Sankara's acceptance of the principle of contradiction and its outright rejection by Ramanuja that constitutes the basic difference between their respective viewpoints.



It is neither necessary nor possible to enter here into a detailed and comparative examination of all the peculiarities of the theory of knowledge and method that make Sankara and Ramanuja take the rival positions that they do. We have already elsewhere devoted some pages in a passing manner to such a study in connection with the various types of Vedanta (31). Now we are particularly interested in the principle of Maya. The seven items enumerated by Ramanuja wherein he rejects the position of Sankara have already been enumerated.


Ramanuja, as a realist, prefers clarity and common sense above everything else. He is also a believer in the full plenitude, bounty and perfection of God and at every point is able to support himself. Added to this is his loyalty to the Vedic scriptures that are never to be questioned at all, even when glaring contradictions are found.


Instead they are to be justified even when they state the opposite of what is given to common sense. His ability to explain without difficulty any philosophical or religious problem is accomplished by simple realistic commonsense. The world as the creation of God is real because it is clearly perceived. If there are varieties in creation God is still one. Ramanuja finds no difficulty in explaining this discrepancy and only says that the omnipotence and omnipresence of God is capable of making one thing seem manifested in many forms or prakaras. Error such as in the appearance of silver in mother-of-pearl offers no difficulty to him because since silver is seen and even if it is not actually present, some potential or essential element of it must be present in the universe as in the mother of pearl. This is because in God´s world, which is a unity, all things participate in all other things, and perception is the proof of essence. Maya does not find a place within the plenitude of reality, as we can see from the following:

"A declaration that the appearance of mother of pearl as silver is founded on error surely does not imply that all the silver in the world is unreal!" (32)

In respect of the third feature of Ramanuja's way of speculating as compared with Sankara's we must turn to the Brahma Sutras (II.1.27) where the differences at once become apparent. This sutra brings in the question of treating contradictory passages where they occur in the Vedas. Sankara is satisfied to say that if there are two alternative injunctions of a contrary nature it is permissible to adopt the one that is natural to the believer.


If one school, for example, says that the shodasin cup is to be taken in he hands and another says it should not be taken, Sankara says it is permissible to act according to the circumstances of the time. Ramanuja's loyalty to scripture goes further than this. We notice that his range of scriptural quotations in support of his doctrine is much wider than Sankara's. He does not hesitate to bring in the Vedas and a number of smritis (obligatory traditional texts). Ramanuja includes them all within his scope of scriptural authority. He even refers to the Vishnu Purana on many occasions. His Pancaratra and Bhagavata background permits him to give to Vishnu every imaginable as auspicious quality called kalyana-guna. The following quotation from the Sribhashya under the sutra referred to above reveals how he goes further in the direction of accepting even contrary and impossible injunctions whenever they are stated in the scriptures. We read as follows:

"Scripture declares on the one hand that Brahman is not made up of parts, and on the other that from it a multiform creation proceeds. And in matters vouched for by Scripture we must conform our ideas to what Scripture actually says - But then Scripture might be capable of conveying to us ideas of things altogether self-contradictory; as if somebody were to tell us: sprinkle water with fire! - The Sutra therefore adds 'on account of its being founded on the word.' As the possession, on Brahman's part, of various powers (enabling it to emit the world) rests exclusively on the authority of the word of the Veda and thus differs altogether from other matters (which fall within the sphere of the other means of knowledge also), the admission of such powers is not contrary to reason. Brahman cannot be either proved or disproved by means of generalizations from experience." (33)


Neither contraries nor contradictions offer any difficulty to Ramanuja. The plenitude of God's creation and His perfect bounty justify anything. This does not however mean that Ramanuja does not indulge in close speculative argumentations. His versatility and familiarity with the Vedas and Sastras and his freedom with the polemical language of Vedanta, as also his deep knowledge of Sanskrit grammar and syntactical rules make him a real match for the followers of the Advaita of Sankara.


We see how Ramanuja settles the question of contraries by relying on scriptural authority. Contraries exist at the inner core of the total knowledge-situation, while contradictions become evident in the more phenomenological zone. When the former duality is abolished it is the contradictions in the full foreground of realism that still remain to be abolished. In the name of complete realism and common sense, even this outer contradiction is abolished by Ramanuja. The principle of the omnipresence of God sees to it that what is abolished at one particular place or time is always asserted at other places and times. This means in principle that nothing is really abolished at all. Such is the main trend of the close argumentation adopted by Ramanuja in refuting the mayavada of Sankara. While Sankara gives full validity to both the contraries and the contradictions that contribute to the paradox implied between appearance and reality, Ramanuja recognizes no error or paradox as possible. The question of Maya therefore does not arise for him. Ramanuja replaces anirvacaniyakhyati (the principle of unpredicability) with akhyati (no error at all). Likewise, the problem of evil is of minor import and treated merely as tuccha or insignificant. Since God is endowed with the power of lila (purposeless sport), He cannot be charged with an evil intent.


Thus no major difficulty hinders Ramanuja in his speculation. To see how his way of reasoning works, we quote at length from Lacombe's L'Absolu Selon le Vedanta, where he first discusses the differences of Sankara and Ramanuja and then translates at length a part of the Sribhashya of Ramanuja:

"The arguments which Sankara claims to prove in his thesis are far from having the value he attributes to them: It is for him a sort of experimental proof of the unreality of the multiple world that the localized character of different things have their existence according to space and time in a certain place and within a certain duration exclusive of their simultaneous existence at all other places and in all other times.


Being in itself is said to have a vigorous omnipresence. It is the contradiction between diversity and becoming. Although attenuated and never to be confounded with each other, let us repeat that with a contradiction that is pure and simple like the inanity of a square circle, it is a contradiction all the same that this incessant flux of evanescent conditioning and of deaths succeeding births, could make room for other births. The robust common sense of Ramanuja will not let itself be disarmed:


"All this is the product of an error by default in the matter of recognizing the differences which distinguish the relation between the thing to suppress and the factor of suppression on the one hand, and that of impermanence to permanence on the other hand. In effect when there is contradiction between two knowledges it is the relation-thing to be suppressed, the factor of suppression which is valid, and there is only impermanence of that which is suppressed. But here, in what concerns jars, pieces of cloth, etc., from the fact that they occupy times and places that are distinct, there is no contradiction. If from that which we know the state of actual existence (sad-bhava) at a certain time and at a certain place, we come to understand for the same time and place non-existence (abhava), there is contradiction between the two knowledges and as a consequence the knowledge that is stronger suppresses the other and so suppressed knowledge ceases to exist.


But when the one perceives (pratiti) the absence (abhava) at another time of that which is known in connection with such time and place, there is no contradiction. How (could one apply) in this case the relation-thing to suppress the factor of suppression, or how (could one say) that a thing is not present in such a time and place which is not present in another time and place?


In the case of the rope and the snake; because one perceives (the existence and) non-existence in connection with one and the same given place and time, there is contradiction, an act of suppression and cessation of existence.


But one could in no way assert that the fact of ceasing to exist (vyavartamanatva) at a certain time and place should be for a thing which one sees as existing in another time and place as necessarily accompanied by the character of falseness and as a consequence the simple impermanence (vyavartamanatva) is not a reason for unreality." (34)



In passing we now refer to the sister school of the Vedanta of Madhavacarya, in order to see how these two teachers of Vedanta, while resembling each other in their rejection of Maya and accepting Vishnu as a substitute for the purer and more neutral notion of Brahman, yet have different ways of bridging the epistemological gap necessarily existing between their ontological and teleological positions. Both Ramanuja and Madhva insist on the difference between the individual soul as an aspirant and the Supreme Soul as the goal to be attained, whether in bhakti (individual devotion with dependence on Vedic injunctions) or prapatti, freer individual devotion. On the other hand when it comes to the content of devotion they both depend on ananda, (bliss) as belonging to the Absolute. This is conceived in terms of the Self or atma as svarupa (one's own true form). Thus we have a transition from ontology to teleology, the latter having a full axiological status in the context of abstract philosophy reconcilable only with inner ideals rather than with any outer positivism.


This gap which is more evident in the case of Ramanuja who by his visishta-advaita (non-duality accepting difference) is able somehow to transfer to Vishnu all auspicious attributes, arriving at the reciprocal factor of bliss in the Self of the devotee. The world is wholly real to Ramanuja.


This difficulty is better solved in the dvaita (dualistic) philosophy of Madhva. The world is not real as such to him. It is only so according to the tattvas (first principles) he postulates. In other words, he relies on epistemology rather than ontology in order to relate the devotee with the highest Vishnu called Hari. In his own terminology, this relationship between the Supreme Hari and the humble devotee is based on a scale of spiritual values called svarupananda-taratamya (a gradation based upon the degree of bliss in the Self). Regarding this gradation we read the following:

"As the subject of moksha-ananda and svarup-ananda pertain largely to the domain. of mysticism, students and critics of Madhva's doctrine of svarupananda-taratamya of souls, in Moksha, should not fail to take due note of the mystic inwardness of this doctrine, however strange and unfamiliar it may seem to them at first sight. Viewed in the light of an expression and an interpretation of the mystic joy of self-realization, in moksha its contribution to the philosophy of mysticism itself will be seen to be quite remarkable." (35)

Ramanuja is able to bypass all problems of evil or error by merely removing them from the horizontalized aspect to that of a fully perfected and verticalized version of Vishnu and crowning the same with all auspicious and generous attributes, making Him more perfect. In doing this, he is able very easily to make the transition from ontology to teleology. Madhva, on the other hand, has to resort to his own new theory of error called abhavavanyath-akhyati (a new basis of error located elsewhere).


While we cannot go into any details regarding this theory, a short quotation will suffice to throw some light on this subject:

"The Madhva theory of perceptual illusions is a bold and dexterous combination of the salient features of the asat-khyati and the anyatha-khyati views. Madhva defines illusions as the contrary appearance of an unreal, non-existent object as real and existent and vice-versa ...

Madhva therefore holds that, notwithstanding the unreality of 'the silver in the shell,' it is through contact with the real piece of shell that the sense-organ, vitiated by defects, gets a distorted apprehension of it as a piece of silver." (36)

The historical climate of India at the time of both these teachers was roughly the same, and we find that in spite of philosophical divergences found amongst the believers and followers of these two South Indian spiritual teachers, their followers nonetheless went to the same places of pilgrimage, forgetting their theoretical differences. Instead they stood together as common enemies of Sankara's Mayavada. They must have surely responded to the historical conditions of their times accommodating their spiritual life and Vedantic outlook to the altered tempo of the public mind. By giving primacy to the tattvas rather than to cosmological reality Madhva bears perhaps a slight kinship to the Jaina influence clearly evident near and around his headquarters at Udipi (on the west coast of Mysore State in South India), where remnants of an elaborate Jain vasti (religious establishment) and a giant statue of a tirthankara (one of the Jain spiritual teachers from antiquity) are still present.


When we examine closely the cosmology and theology of Ramanuja and Madhva, the former´s way of thinking finds a place in the very first darsana of the Darsana Mala. It is true however that the cosmology presented by Ramanuja is not rigid but rather one in which an interchange of essences takes place from all parts of the universe. This is accomplished in a refined or attenuated manner more in keeping with the universe of the Red Shift referred to in the first chapter. The further fact that God is able to think in terms of the famous dictum from the Upanishads, "let Me be many", shows a certain fluidity in Ramanuja's cosmology. Still the element of the real strongly persists as given to human cognition. Some of Ramanuja´s cosmological ideas must therefore be included in the second chapter where the representative mind enters more negatively into the context. There are delicate matters to clarify convincingly. Ramanuja´s own idea of the union of the devotee's Self with the Supreme Self finds a legitimate place in the Bhakti Darsana. This darsana again implies a positive attitude. When thus distributed, the soundness of Ramanuja's position remains unquestioned, but the gap in the method remains still evident.


As for Madhva, he finds a place in any darsana where positivistic logic and dialectical reasoning have their natural place. The sixth and seventh chapters perhaps best accord with him. Also his emphasis on bhakti finds a place in the eighth chapter.


We have gone into a comparison and criticism of these two schools of thought in order to bring to light the methodological and epistemological gap existing at the core of their teachings. It is by introducing a series of concepts proper to each chapter that Narayana Guru accomplishes the transition between each separate chapter.


In the first chapter, we have the supreme Lord (paramesvara) in a positivistic and empirical context as the key notion. Vital consciousness or caitanya replaces this in the second chapter. A fully accredited mind or manas takes the place of caitanya in the third and in this chapter the concept of cidatma or reasoning Self, (a double-sided expression helping in the transition from ontology to teleology) replaces manas.


Maya is still a negative factor in the context of the Absolute. It has a purer and more dignified status than manas in the phenomenological and ontological sense, and therefore requires for its unitive treatment a newly-coined double-sided concept which is cidatma. The ambiguity of the subject-matter is reflected in the term itself. We shall see how the whole of this present chapter turns round this concept.




[1] Hegel, p. 148


[2] Hegel, p. 103-104


[3] Kant, pp. 410-411 (B:644)


[4] Kant, pp. 411 (B:646)


[5] Kant, pp. 412 (B:646)


[6] Kant, pp. 412 (B:647)


[7] Kant, pp. 464 (B:739)
[8] Kant, pp. 420


[9] Fuller, p. 295-296


[10] Fuller, p. 296


[11] Fuller, p. 299


[12] Lacombe, pp.6 6-67,our translation


[13] Vivekachudamani, p. 39.


[14] Vivekachudamani, p. 39.


[15] P. Deussen, 'The Philosophy of the Upanishads', T. Clark, 1906, pp. 236-237.


[16] P. Deussen, p. 226-227


[17] B. Heimann, 'Facets of Indian Thought', London: Allen & Unwin, 1964, p.172.


[18] R. Reyna, 'The Concept of Maya from the Vedas to the 20th Century', Bombay: Asia Publ. House, 1962, p.52.


[19] A.Schopenhauer, 'The World as Will and Idea', & J. Kemp, London: 1907-1909, p.39.


[20] 'Encycl. Of Phil.', G.E. Mueller, Phil. Libr. Inc., NY,1959, p.71


[21] Hegel, p.68


[22] This is the principle that entities are not to be multiplied unnecessarily.


[23] Bergson, 'Intro. Meta.', p.52.


[24] Hume, P. 125.


[25] Bergson, Cr. Ev., p. 344


[26] Vedanta-Samgraha of Ramanuja, trans. S.S. Raghavacar,Mysore: Ramakrishna Ashrama, 1966, pp.181-182, Verse 234.


[27] Deussen, 'The Philosophy of the Vedanta', Madras: Theosophical Publ. House 1930, P.11.


[28] F. Max Muller, 'The Vedanta 'Philosophy', Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1960, p.92.


[29] 'Vedanta-Sutras with Ramanuja's Sribhashya', trans. G. Thibaut, ('Sacred Books of the East', Vol.48) Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass ed., 1962, p.85.


[30] Ramanuja's seven anupapattis are: I.asrayanupapatti, non-conclusive argument on interconnectedness; therefore Maya cannot have seat in Jiva or Brahman (the Absolute); 2.tirodhananupapatti, non-conclusive argument on hiddeness, therefore Maya cannot hide in Brahman; 3.svarupanupapatti, non-conclusive argument on self- nature, therefore one does not know where Maya belongs as existing or non-existing; 4.anirvacaniyanupapatti, non-conclusive argument on impredicability, therefore maya must be cognized as a thing and impredicability is not a legitimate escape; 5.pramananupapatti, non-conclusive argument on means of knowledge, therefore no necessity compels us to postulate maya; 6.nivartakanupapatti, non-conclusive argument on the cause of turning back, therefore Maya has no real negative effect, and; 7. nivrittyanupapatti, non-conclusive argument on what is negative, therefore if Maya was a reality, moksha (liberation) would be impossible, so one must reject the concept as it hinders the-purpose of gaining liberation.


[31] See our ninth article of the series 'Vedanta Revalued and Restated' entitled 'Varieties of Vedantism,' Values, Vol.9, no.12 (Sept. 1964).


[32] Ved. Sut. Ram. Sri.,P. 91 .


[33] Ved. Sut. Ram.Sri . pp.474; the word 'sprinkle'is ours


[34] Lacombe, pp.90-92,our translation


[35] B.N.K. Sharma, 'The Philosophy of Sri Madhvacarya', Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1962, pp.345-346


[36] Sharma, pp.132 & 133, resp.