Ramanuja's Summary of the Advaitin's Position - 1

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at YAHOO.COM
Sun Apr 27 16:31:34 CDT 2003

I was reading a couple of translations of Ramanuja's
shrI bhaashhya: one by Swami Vireswarananda (R.K.
Math) and another by M. Rangacharya and M.B.V.
Aiyangar, and felt that one section right in the
beginning titled "Summary of the advaitin's position"
was a well-condensed account of the important
conclusions of advaita vedAnta. Here and throughout
the shrI bhaashhya, Ramanuja spends a great deal of
time in clarifying the advaitin's position before
refuting it. In fact, most of the objections to
vishishhTaadvaita that he considers are from the
advaitin alone.

The Great pUrvapaksha

advaitin's position reviewed

1. Brahman is Non-differentiated and the Only Reality

Brahman, the non-differentiated pure Consciousness, is
the only reality, and all manifoldness such as the
distinctions of knower, knowledge and known, are
imagined in It alone and are false; it is so declared
in the following and other passages from the shAstras:

"The Universe, my dear, was but Existence (sat) in the
beginning - One only, without a second." (Chhaandogya
6.2.2); "It is the Higher Knowledge by which That
indestructible being is known; That which is
imperceptible, ungraspable, which has no name, no
color, no eyes, no ears, no hands, no feet, and That
which the wise see as the source of all beings, is the
eternal, omnipresent, extremely subtle and
imperishable One." (MuNDaka 1.1.6); "Existence,
Knowledge, Infinity is Brahman." (taittirIya 2.1.1).
"He is without parts, without actions, tranquil, and
without fault or taint." (shvetaashvatara 6.19); "It
is unknown to those who know, and known to those who
do not know." (Kena 2.3); "Where there is duality,
there one sees another; but where to one all this
becomes the Self, what does one see and through what?"
(BR^ihadaaraNyaka 2.4.14 & 4.5.15).

These texts show that Brahman is bereft of all
differences arising from unlike and like objects and
cannot be known, but that Its nature is essentially
opposite to what we generally experience in this

Again, "There is no difference whatsoever in It. He
goes from death to death, who sees difference, as it
were, in It." (BR^ihadaaraNyaka 4.4.19); "When one
makes the least differentiation in It, then for him
there is fear." (taittirIya 2.7.1).

Such texts deny all manifoldness in It and show that
It alone is real and that everything else is false.
Falsehood means that kind of knowledge about a thing,
which is liable to be sublated later by true knowledge
of things as they are in reality, the earlier one
being due to certain defects in the means of knowledge

[What I found interesting in Ramanuja's refutation of
the above is that he argues from a purely logical
standpoint why a non-differentiated entity cannot
exist, without quoting a single definitive passage
from any scripture showing differentiation in Brahman.
Nor does he offer explanations for the upanishhadic
quotes used by the advaitin. Perhaps he is less
interested in what the upanishhads say and more
involved in establishing his philosophy? Just a thought.]

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