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Unity in Indian Philosophy


mahAmahopAdhyAya j~nAnaku~njastha shrIgopInAtha kavirAja

[Among the various philosophers and thinkers of the current and past century, shrI kavirAja holds a special place in our hearts due to many reasons. Born in 1887, shrImAn received both traditional and western education, which seems to have made his views on various issues broadminded, universal and extremely communicable. A direct disciple of the well-known master shrI vishuddhAnanda of mahAchIna (a great Siddha, Yogi and an astonishing exponent of tArA and shrImahAvidyA), shrImAn also had the fortune of studying with various great masters such as brahmAnanda sarasvatI, hariharAnanda sarasvatI, paramAnanda tIrtha, mAheshvarAnandanAtha, AnandamayI mA etc. Verily an encyclopedia of knowledge, his expertise spanned across a wide array of subjects like advaita, sAmkhya, yoga, tantra, nyAya, vyAkaraNa, Ayurveda, artha shAstra etc. as also other systems such as bauddha, jaina and various European philosophies. This deep understanding of various branches of knowledge, ably assisted by his dedication to upAsanA (he is held to be an adherent of bimbAmbikA sampradAya as also his Guru shrI vishuddhAnanda) seems to be the reason behind an unforced coherency that is characteristic of the various ideas expressed by the great master. While he has expressed his disagreements on certain aspects of kevalAdvaita as also pratyabhij~nA, these are not reasons enough to reject his undisputable scholarship. As his disciple once recounted, shrIvidyA to him, was samanvaya and sAmarasya and every aspect of his life, be it his writing, thoughts or action, reflected them. A long time head of the esteem sarasvatI bhavana, shrImAn was conferred the prestigious title of mahAmahopAdhyAya. Unlike many scholars of his category, who, though well-learned, are not accomplished in upAsanA or lack divine inspiration, he was driven by parAmbA, acting as her agent. His service to Sanskrit literature and in restoration of many important works, especially related to tantra, cannot be praised sufficiently. Some of his later writings, which we have been fortunate to have had access to through his disciples, clearly reveal his soaring journeys into the metaphysical skies and exhibit an unmistakably divine spark. With the grace of mahAmAya, we hope that this treasure trove will be made available to the discerning aspirant someday. His greatest contribution however has been the concept of akhaNDa yoga which has its root in the anuttara yoga chapter of vrhad baDabAnala tantra, a concept so lofty and so expansive that it can easily be termed as the most revolutionary spiritual teaching of the century. Filled with concepts never revealed explicitly by the scriptures or masters, such as kripA shUnyatA, samaShTi jIvatva, sarvamukhI svarUpa, bhairavAlambana etc., shrImAn has left behind a glimpse of the esoteric world of siddhas such as dIpakanAtha, Milarepa, Naropa etc. As we approach a certain day special to the hallowed memories of the master, we would take this opportunity to bow to his lotus feet with gratitude for all the teaching that he has showered on us through his works, and through his enlightened disciples like shrI kakaji and sItArAm kavirAj-ji.]

In India, philosophy, especially in its earlier and truer form, was intended to serve a practical purpose. Bare speculation is invariably condemned as waste of energy, in as much as it leads nowhere; speculation is deemed blind without the guiding light which Revelation or Higher Perception alone can furnish. Thus the premises from which Reason has to draw its inferences are naturally beyond its own reach and stand out of itself. Reason is, by nature, impotent and cannot in anywise overstep its data. It is neither creative nor intuitive; its function is interpretation of facts. Its ultimate resort is, therefore, nothing short of Direct Experience. But as human experience is limited in its scope and is liable to error, the experience on which our reasoning is based must be conceived as infinite and free from all the defects incidental to erring humanity. This infinite experience is embodied in the revealed scriptures. Reason, unaided by the light of this Revelation, would be a groper in the dark and would never be able to discover the truth which is incapable of analysis and synthesis. To the general Indian philosopher, therefore, seeking to build up his individual system of thought on the bed-rock of supra-rational illumination contained in the Veda or Agama, much in the same fashion as to the schoolmen of medieval Europe, reason is subservient to faith. shraddhavAn labhaje j~nAnam, believe and then know, this seems to be the motto of Indian philosophy.

Thus, in the general scheme of a man's inner culture, the study of philosophy is given a secondary, through a necessary place:

AtmA vAre draShTavyaH shrotavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH |

shrotavyaH shrutivAkhyebhyo mantavyashchopapattibhiH |
matvA cha satataM dhyeya ete darshanahetavaH ||

This implies that the ultimate source of true knowledge is Revelation, but as the facts of Revelation cannot be accepted without any questioning in the present state of our life, we have to study them with the help of our reason. As soon as it is brought home to us that these facts are quite possible and not irrational, the function of reason as a factor of our culture is fulfilled. For this function is simply to beget a notion of possibility (sambhAvanA buddhi) in regard to a certain proposition, and not its certainty. Certitude can never be reached by the intellectual faculties (tarkApratiShThAnAt etc.). That is, it is the bane of all intellectual processes, however, subtle and cautious, that they involve self-contradictions. To be a thinker, without committing oneself to the autonomies of thought, is impossible. It is for this reason that whatever a thesis may be, it is not difficult to find a sufficient reason for supporting it. Consequently, the intellectual processes have to be supplemented by process of personal realization, viz., concentration and abstraction.

In other words, the general enunciations of the scriptures which are in the form of categorical propositions are sufficient in themselves, as coming from an infallible source, to carry conviction, but if the mind of the hearer be not free from the disturbing factors of doubt (sambhAvanA) and perversion (viparIta bhAvanA), it will not receive the truth. The process of rational demonstration (manana), which is implied in all philosophy, aims at removing this element of doubt and producing a belief that the proposition as laid down in the scriptures is likely enough. But even at this stage, the seed of uncertainty is not wholly gone; the root of all errors (viparIta bhAvanA) still remaining, illumination of consciousness resulting in the vision of the truth cannot of course follow. Yoga (nididhyAsana) or the process of psychic discipline has therefore to be resorted to, as capable, by holding in abeyance the phenomena of mental life altogether, of bringing about this transcendental vision of intuition of Truth.

Philosophy, if rightly understood, is then only a step in the cultivation of a man's life. To be at all fruitful, it must work in subordination to, i.e. on the data supplied by, Revelation. Else, it is apt to run astray.

This being so, it is easy to understand how different systems of philosophy, apparently conflicting with and subversive of one another, originate. The Highest Truth, which lends itself to the light of supra-mental Intuition, is indeed one and indivisible, but it appears in diverse forms when looked at from diverse points of view corresponding to the capacities and tastes of the individual sAdhakas. So long as the individualized consciousness asserts itself, so long as we are unable to dispense with mind as an organ of knowledge, it is vain to hope for the attainment of the Absolute Truth. Relative or partial truth is all that can be reached by human reason. And these relative or fragmentary truths, or aspects of the Absolute Truth, are held to be the immediate ends of the different systems of philosophy. They represent varying stages in the ascending order of the sAdhaka's journey in quest of self-realization. When pieced together and studied in the light of the resultant whole, they will present a sublime picture of synthesis, fraught with deep significance and interest to humanity.

One thing remains to be noted. The piecing together or coordination of the systems is possible, simply because there is at bottom a real Unity. For all the systems pledge unconditional allegiance to Revelation. It is in their mode of interpreting the scriptures, determined by the capacities of the people for whom they are meant that the systems vary. Even the Buddhist and the Jaina philosophies accept in their own ways the necessity of this.

This Unity, of which Revelation is an expression, is transcendental. The Rishis, the sages and the illuminati, split up, by an apparent process of self-division, this Unity into concepts of symbolical knowledge, arranged them in a certain grade of increasing purity and laid them before the intellectual faculties to play with. If rightly pursued, these will result in a wonderful clarification of the intellect, when the mind will cease to work and vanish. On the bare soul, Truth will then dawn as a flash of lightening, dispelling all doubts and uncertainties.

This is the secret of what is technically called adhikArabheda, which means that not every man is capable of receiving every form of truth. The faculties of understanding develops gradually, and in the course of this development, truths which once seemed unintelligible and vague, begin to assume a depth of meaning and are accepted. It is thus that the folly of one age is turned into wisdom in another. So with countries and individuals. It is believed that the Karmas, the forces and tendencies accumulated from the actions of the past ages and building up the lower personality, stand in the way of a man's knowledge of Reality. As soon as these impediments are gone, either worked out through their natural reaction on the mental life or destroyed by Knowledge or Yoga, the obscure truths are at once illuminated. Thus there are degrees in the receptivity of the mind which the Teacher has to recognize if he wants his instructions to be understood and acted upon. This idea finds excellent expression in the following statement of madhusUdana sarasvatI who is rightly reckoned as one of the greatest philosophers of India in the last millennium. Referring to the apparently conflicting views of the different AchAryas, he observes:

nahi te munayo bhrAntAH sarvaj~natvAT teShAm | kintu bahirviShayapravaNAnAM ApAtataH paramapuruShArthe pravesho na bhavatIti nAstikyanivAraNAya taiH prakArabhedhAH pradarshitAH ||

From what has been said, it is apparent that there is a real order in the systems of Indian Philosophy which a close study is able to discover. The synthetic consciousness to which such an order reveals itself has ever been recognized in India. In the samkShepasArIraka (II, 60-64), Atmatattvaviveka (96-97), in the prasthAnabheda, an attempt has already been made in this direction. The pratyabhij~nAhR^idaya explicitly states that the different views of Reality, which the different are but fragments of One Supreme Vision. Vij~nAnabhikShu and nIlakaNTha, in several places emphasize, each from his own point of view, on the mutual and supplementary relations existing among the various schools of thought. It is immaterial in this context however to discuss how far the different schemes of synthesis are agreeable among themselves. This is merely to point out that there is a real spirit of unity, of aim as much as of methods, among the diversities of thought and activity according to Indian philosophers.