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By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur

Published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)


Different Commentaries

A. Shrimad Bhagavatam: -- We often hear that the different systems of religious currents in India have more or less derived their origin from the different interpretations of Vedanta. None is recognized as the leader of a school unless he can maintain his position as a commentator of Vedanta-Darshan which is known as the treatise on the Vedas as well as an authoritative refutation of all the different systems that might oppose the original source of religions of India. Two contending parties have decided the fate of Religious India, viz., the philosophers who have got a tendency to differ from the religionists by their rationalism, and secondly, the communities who have secular views different from those entertained by religionists. Early inculcations of religious views would show us a less civilized interpretation of usages in society; whereas when they were opposed by different scholastic views, they mended their course a little to meet the invaders and their exploitations.

The Aphorisms were meant to give an undeviated decision of the apparently conflicting impressions of the hymns, but a frustration of the aim and object to gain some designed results transpired according to the whimsical temperament of the anti-Vedantists who had an inimical motive of attacking the undeviated devotional principles. An apprehension was detected by the writer of Aphorisms of such insinuations; so he undertook the task of furnishing a true interpretation that might check the exploiting stultifier from diverting the people from the Absolute Truth.

The Puranas are the supplementary elucidating religious instruction of the Veda. People, who are interested in having an interpretation of the Vedas in their own light, demand some supporting views to foster their cause; and so the supplementary writings were written to suit the different tastes of Raajasas, Taamasas and Saattvatas. The Saattvatas are truly ethical, whereas the other two are busy to maintain their respective notions. So the Aphorisms as explained by the commentators of these two schools, viz., the Taamasas and Raajasas seek to disturb the inner essence of the writer by their commentaries.

At present we have in our possession a dozen commentaries of the Aphorisms of Vedanta. It is difficult for a reader to select the genuine commentary of Vedanta-Darshan, when the commentators themselves are more or less victims to misconception (Bhrama), inebriation (Pramaada), defective observation through their sensuous experience, (Karnapaatava) and instigation to delusive enterprises by dissuading from the Truth Vipralipsaa). It is said that a true sage is quite free from such defective possessions, so we should rely on the true devotees who have no other ambition than to serve the Absolute. The commentators who have some definite design of floating tendentious explanations to mislead honest but unwary enquiries by their stultifying suggestions and to oppose the true functions of the unalloyed soul, have often led only to the delusive features of the non-absolute.

From the pen of commentators who are victims of the triple qualities of this defective and limited world, we cannot expect the Positive Truth. Most of them are misguided by their wrong preceptors; some are found to be actuated by their short-sighted policy, being unaided by the Personality of the Absolute owing to their non-devotional attitude, and some have got unusual affinity, to lord it over the limited things. So going in quest of the genuine commentator of the Aphorisms has become a puzzling problem.

Each writer comes forward with his own treatise which, he says, is the Genuine Commentary of the Aphorisms, but since none has shown the shlokas culled from the vast religious lore side by side with the aphorisms as explanatory comments, the commentators have found a loop-hole to introduce their whimsical writings as true explanations of the Aphorisms, asserting at the same time the vouchsafing words of Shrimad Bhagavatam to be vague in themselves. But the Bhagavatas always, when reading that book with all scrutiny, substantiate the assertion by recollecting the particular aphorisms exactly dove-tailing into the context. So Shrimad Bhagavatam should have the first place among the dozen schools of commentaries, and whenever there is any conflicting view in the writings of the commentators, a reference may be made on the point to the genuine commentary, Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Shrimad Bhagavatam’s Two Great Annotators: Shridhara and Shri Jeeva: -- Swami Shridhara has been appropriated by the Impersonal School as one of their members, but the Supreme Lord has reckoned him as one of the supreme defenders of devotion. Shri Jeeva Gosvami has given the true spirit of the author of Bhagavatam in his ’Krama-Sandarbha’ (explanations following each shloka) specially in his Shatshandarva (Six treaties) and Sarvasamvadini (Reconciliation of different discourses). So we need not misunderstand Shridhara to have followed the Kevala-advaita-Vaada School (undifferenced Monism). Shridhara’s Suddhaadvaita (unalloyed monotheism) interpretations are quite different from Kevaladvaita views. Maayaavaadina, the advocates of Illusory theory in explaining the non-manifestive phase of the Absolute, are really pitiable objects in the estimation of the Devotional School.

It would be a tremendous task to supply Bhagavata verses to serve as commentaties [sic] of the Aphorisms in this short narration; so we give up the idea of that undertaking to exhibit the eighteen thousand slokas as the commentaries of the Aphorisms which are a quarter less six hundred only.

B. Sattwata Pancharatras. -- The Sattwata Pancharatras are also accepted as commentaries of the Aphorisms, though none has attempted to arrange them accordingly under each item of different adhikaranas.

C. The Famous Commentators: Theistic and Non-Theistic. -- The other ten commentaries claim to explain the sutras by citation of different hymns of Upanishads in which the Sutrakara by following the divisional method has arranged them into particular themes. There were several commentaries before the attempts of Kevalaadwaita School through the pen of Shri Shankaracharya. Sri Ramanuja and others have referred to the names of Bharuchi, Kapardi, Bodhayana, Audolomi, Tanka, Guha and some other older commentaries. We find half a dozen Bhaashyas and several dozen annotations of the same after Shankara had given out his own interpretation. Among them, Shri-Bhaashyam of Shri Ramanuja, Purnaprajna Bhaashyam of Shri Madhava and his Anuvyaakhyaanam are the most famous, and later on we find that Vallabhacharya’s Anubhaashyam and Nimbarka’s Paarijaata Saurava (the origin of Keshava-Kashmiri’s thoughts of Kaustuva), Bhaskara’s interpretation of the Dvaitaadvaita view and Shrikantha’s Shaiva Vishistaadvaita Bhaashyam and lastly Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s Govinda Bhaashyam have added multifarious interpretations of the Aphorisms. Each Bhashyakara has got several annotations to explain their methods by way of elucidating their writings and chiefly to indicate the direction in which their interpretations differed from the opinion of a particular School, instead of participating in a common view. Bijnana Bhikshu has also given a Bhaashyam of his own. One Sarvajna Muni’s ’Sankshepa Shaarirakam’ is also an attempt to explain the views of the Aphorisms according to the undifferentiated monistic school, while Brajanatha, Purushottama and others have backed up the writer of Anubhaashya.

We are also at a later period accosted by the thundering muse of the writings tending to explain the Aphorisms by the Shaakta method and to proselytize the Masculine or Neuter aspect of the Fountainhead to the Feminine store-house of all energies. Sectarians are not wanting now-a-days to come up with Bhaasyam of recent days alleged to have been written by Swami Ramananda which has not a little deviation from the views of his old preceptorial chair. It is not possible to give a brief survey of all the contending thoughts of different Bhashyakaras except what we dealt with previously in the preceding theme of this article.

The principal differences inculcated in the different Bhaashyams are principally the two contradicting phases of the Personality of the Object and His Impersonal Phase. Shankara maintained Impersonality through and through, rejecting all the mundane relativities here and in the region he is going to enter. His idea of the Absolute is not fostered by the other schools, except that Shrikantha’s follower, Appaya Dikshita who has shown similar sympathetic views in his “Parimala’ shifting himself from his position in his older writings ‘Nyaya-Rakshamani’ and ‘Shivarkamanidipika’ and refuting at the same time what Alavandar and Lakshmana-Deshika had posited in their treatises.

Shankar and Shrikantha are more or less analogous to each other, though Shrikantha has admitted the personality of Brahman in Shiva for some time, apart from henotheistic views, unlike Ramanuja whose conception of the Personality of Brahman in Vishnu-nomenclature is not a transitory element to be dissolved in an indistinctive phase of Brahman. The Shrikantha cult merged in the system of Shankar together with his follower Appayya Dikshit whose conversion to Shankara’s view has destroyed more or less his former writings of Shivarka Mandipika and Nyaya Rakshamani. According to Shankara has adoption of the illusory theory of Maya has explained the unreal position of Jiva or individual soul and material world, whereas the theory of devotion or Bhakti has been accepted by theists as the sole medium of reaching the eternal destination. Shankara’s concept of ultimate salvation, Nirvana, can be had through inflated unalloyed knowledge of an individual, free from the reference of eternal existence and beatitude, by annihilating himself to the non-perspective situation of Brahman, where he should have no retention of individuality of his unalloyed entity save and except assumption of a hallucinative universality dispelling all empiric ignorance and bitter experience of defective designative finiteness. This would give him a theoretic relief of his existence.

D. The Differentiating Features of the two main Divisions of the Commentaries: -- The conception of the Personality of Vishnu and Krishna had been a bugbear in the apprehensive eyes of later commentators of the Impersonal School and they were frightened at the very sight of the manifestive references dealing with the relativities discovered in the Absolute. Shrikantha’s Shaivism is considered as a corresponding Shaivite replica in the line of Shri Ramanuja, though he was backed up by some of the Shiva Adwaitins who talked of the personality of the object of Vedanta later on dissolving into nothingness.

The eternal manifestive Phases are more or less ignored by the process of distillation which eliminated all specific aspects of the concretized mundane impressions. These are never required to be carried to the region of the transcendence where deficiency and transitoriness should never form a factor. The knowledge which has accrued through the medium of senses is no doubt drawn from tranformable [sic] objects of phenomena. So they can have no absolute value according to the estimation of sensuous critics. But such impressions can have some lien when the phenomenal existence is considered as an imperfect and perverted reflection of the Original Transcendental Manifestation.

If we start through the synthetic process and from the mundane level, we surely neutralize the variegated positions of the phenomena and are naturally found to pose as impersonalists in the long run. But that situation is likely to suffer a change when the manifestive Absolute Phases are traced as the Eternal source of this eclipsed and imperfect vision of the phenomena. The mundane things stand in our visual range as an opaque screen preventing us from having a full sight of the transcendental tabula rasa.

Madhwa’s eternal associative duality always maintains eternal devotional attitude which is the common basis of all the four inculcators of Positive Truth. Maya or delusive energy is to be abandoned or over-powered by devotion which will give eternal relief to conditioned individual soul or spirit. Individual spirit is never to indulge itself in the imaginary inflation for becoming the universal non-designative Spirit. Individuals are eternally atomic isolated numberless entities. They have eternal cognitional, volitional and emotional attributes in them. They are prone to be forgetful of the direction of service towards the Absolute, and such inattention has made them non-diligent towards their Eternal Master, the Fountainhead. In salvation they are never to lose their eternal special individuality and this temporary captive individuation in the present sheath should never be considered as permanently neglecting the eternal ontological transcendental form. The individual souls and matter are not temporary production, but they are emanated from Brahman and they have reciprocal relations. The Personal Body of Brahman known as Vishnu is the very center of all energies and attributes, be they temporary or eternal. He is All-potent and His Service is the eternal function of the individual spirits. The worldly pretensions of Maya are traced in the unusual desire of elevationists The devotees have got no such pretensions like the fictitious believers of enjoyment or the Salvationists like the Vedanta interpreter Shankar. Madhva’s interpretation of the Efficient Cause is not challenged by his opponents, but his conception of material cause of the world has been misunderstood by the Maayaavaadins to be different from the unique situation of Brahman. The phase of the material cause is not isolated from Brahman but the yieldings of the material cause should in no case be confused as identical with Brahman. The material cause has produced this phenomenon to befool conditioned Jivas or individual captive spirits, who have by their indolent mood behaved as enjoyers but the real cause should be seen to have emanated from Him through one of His conflicting potencies for that purpose which is misunderstood by a hasty idealistic conception from outward reading. A true insight would surely convince a student of the Vedanta endowed with a true theistic mood that the unique existence of Brahman has brought forth simultaneously the phenomena of sentients and insentients.

In fine we may mention that considerate thinkers of Transcendence do not quarrel with the nomenclature of the Object Who is a non-differentiated Knowledge of substratum exactly identifiable with the varieties of Energies inherent in Him. The spectator of the transcendence may find the object to be non-distinctive Brahman when all attributional references are eliminated, being frightened with the better impression of concretized blockages which, according to his sectarian views, is an irreconcilable item in reaching the position of the Fountainhead. The ideas of Yogins have continuously been persisting in beinghood of non-being as well as the phenomenal capacity attributed to Him.

The Bhagavatas or the devotees on the other hand did not exclude the three different aspects of their vehicular energy to approach the Fountain-head when they speak of the fullness of Majesty, Power, Beatitude, Glory, Gnosticism and Dissociative Renunciation and of the infinitesimal and of the parts traced as the infinitesimal unalloyed spectator of the whole. The transcendental concretizing method has been eliminated in the transcendental conception of Impersonalists as weighty cumbrous odds which will grind their subtle entities like mustard seeds.

The impersonal school has resorted to Vivarta-Vaada instead of invoking the powers of Inherent Energies with the Absolute, viz., the Saktiparinaama vaada (the Doctrine of the transforming Energies). In the Arambhavaada (doctrine of basic activity) and Vastuvikaaravaada (the Doctrine of Transformation) these Vivartavadins (followers of the doctrine of mis-conception) or Mayavadins have found many defects; so they do not want to follow them, but their evasive policy will not brand them as wise.

In is said that modern religions except those that are mentioned in the very body of the Aphorisms are the outcome of the Vedantic system. They are not acknowledged to have the support of the Vedantic thought and we find even refutations of them in that book. Some chroniclers predate the advent of the Sankhya system before the thought of Vedanta came into existence. We need not subscribe to this opinion as we find the Shankhayans have got a tendency to condemn the Vedantists as well. Some critics have deemed it fit to reject the present Aphorisms of Sankhya as original, but their view gravitates towards a neo-Sankhy system made out of the old policy of that school. They are found to tell us that Iswara Krishna’s work Kaarikaa was commented on by Gaudapada who is said to have been the preceptor of Govinda, the Guru of Shri Shankaracharya. In the Upanishads themselves we find both the views of Sankhya and Vedanta side by side which has given rise to the religious views now in vogue. So these two systems are correlated whenever they are spoken of.

The Personal Phase of Brahman has been differentiated from all objects of the phenomena, so they have come strictly under the calculations of Sankhya. But as we cannot do away with our present concept of phenomena, the system of Sankhya has got involuntarily mixed up with the ritualistic aspects of all religious evolution. The cosmological view of phenomena has resulted in the elimination of all the objects realisable through the senses from final representation of the source.

The realistic view has deemed it fit to consider the elements as the cause of action. Even the Efficient cause is but a peculiar composition of differently distributed elements; whereas the other theory would tell us that the seat of true knowledge is eclipsed by the foreign intrusion of ignorance in the shape of elements. The peculiar formation of the sense has led to the mutilation of the objects in the chamber of subjectivity according to the particular predominating quality.

The manifestive Aspects of the Unalloyed Spirit, void of all gross relation with matter, are simply hidden by the lack of transcendental impression, because the theory of enjoyment by senses has given rise to the dismissal of the phenomenal representation. The devotional aptitude, having no connection with the enjoying mood of the recipient, will give them relief by advancing the overwhelming nature of the efficient cause with the power of eliminating and rubbing out all sorts of objective ingredients. We are apt to realize the position of the object of adoration by our predilections, so that the dominating qualities play an active part in constructing a figure of the non-Absolute personality to suit our purpose. This mental speculation has produced Cathenotheistic formulation in our mind with a remote termination in Impersonalism. As our mind cannot receive things which are not included within the jurisdiction of the senses, we are compelled to apparel the Impersonal substratum by associating It with our impressions of phenomenal garments. So this has produced at the very outset the triple objects of worship - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who are the descended aspects of the Impersonal Origin.

The Vedic henotheism has got a different phase in Panchopaasanaa whereby the adored objects are entreated to supply our present demands. We approach Ganadevata when we are in need of dispelling the opposing forces; we want to invoke Shakti when we desire to satisfy the needs of our senses; when we are in an ethical mood, we find solace in the sun-god and when we want to retire from enjoying the phenomenal world, we approach the dissolving Energy in Shiva. The Sankhya system has explained the Triple energies that are recognized as the active principles of the different aspects of Nature; in other words, they are the three qualities -- Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, and their different compositions have instigated us to paint the Fountainhead according to our requirements.

We approach Ganapati when the two influences of Sattwa and Tamas become prominent features. The combination of Sattwa and Rajas qualities drives us to the sun-god and that of Rajas and Tamas qualities drags us to Shakti-phase of the Absolute in Nature. The unalloyed Rajas quality will lead us to the progenitor Brahma, the Sattwa quality to the sustainer Vishnu, and the Tamas quality to the destroyer Shiva. So we subscribe ourselves to evolution, sustenance and dissolution when we do not require a combination of the different qualities. The Henotheists would claim by their particular taste to approach a temporal godly figure whom they call the Supreme manifestation of the Eternal Impersonal Phase and they would not discourage their friends of different schools actuated by the same principle in finding and painting their own Supreme reverential Object in some other demonstrative aspect in turn. So different phases of theism would not disturb one another when they have a common object of tending towards Impersonation in the long run.

The Vedantic idea has been proselytized to the pantheistic impression by people who ignore the different faculties of temporary senses. Whatever is perceived through the senses is but a relative impression susceptible to come under our sensuous activities with no permanent value in themselves. The phenomenal subjectivity should be obliterated by the intrusion of the destructive energy in the self. The Illusive theory of Maya will then act on them to lose their self by merging into the Absolute where the axiomatic view will enforce the common idea of the Absolute. They can give effect to these views when the position of the observer, the observation and the observed is conglomerated.

But theism has got a different situation from pantheism. The Personality of Godhead is the Principal Object to mark and the personality of the observer is set free from foreign invading elements - the soul proper is eternal and the magnitude of the soul has been found as an associative subservient to the Full Personality of the Fountainhead. The Vedanta wants to establish this pure theism and no phase of henotheism or pantheism should mutilate the position of pure theism.

Theism in some cases is troubled by Hellenic and Hebraic ideas concocted by people to suit best the altruistic practices among them. But we should be cautious not to welcome anthropomorphic or apotheotic interpretations. Neither should philanthropic attempts commit any offence against the true Vedantists. The Greek and Roman mythologies are no doubt good illustrations of the influence of anthropomorphic ideas in ascribing various situations to different gods, and in some cases the Indo-Aryan mythology is not found to be free from these faulty associations.

The apotheotic tendency has made many a hero to pretend as identical with different gods and the theory of social amelioration through altruistic activities has also obstructed us from receiving the Scriptures in a true light and thereby wrongly applied Biblical references to philanthropic exploitations.

The Supreme Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya has endowed the unalloyed intelligentsia versed in pure Transcendental Manifestations with an entirely different eternal relationship of the pure essence which is not allied with the mundane decrepit condition.

Many apathetic hearts are found to oppose theism in different ways by their participating in a particular phase of epistemology in which they do not understood [sic] the spirit of the transcendental position of Theism in the Vedanta system.

The short-sighted conception of Impersonalism offered by the busty mundane philosophers cannot be relied on when they have got no authority to pass any opinion about transcendence to which they have had no access. The conviction and experience stored up in the mundane thesaurus cannot possibly accommodate the subject-matter of Vedanta which is beyond the realization of the impoverished senses and no previous experience could possibly judge the merits which cannot submit to the area of the ordinary senses.

The Aphorisms of Vedanta do not go so far as to delineate all the Manifestive Phases of the Absolute but give some directions which find further exposition in supplementary books; so we need not expect all sorts of perspective views of the Transcendence through the cryptic words and pithy expressions of the Aphorisms.

We have noticed some abuses among the so-called Vedantists when they associate themselves with mundane thoughts under the pantheistic interpretations of Vedanta. The pseudo-Vaishnavas, viz., Bauls and Sahajiyas together with a section of the Smartas, have shown a degraded phase in their worldly behaviour based on a distorted view of Vedanta. The very connotation of the word “Daridra Narayana” of the altruistic school is a vivid illustration of the gross abuse of the Vedantic thought in the hands of naturalists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics who all claim to be exponents of the ideas of Vedantic school. Wherever pure theism is crossed in the least we notice a feeling of paramount degradation in their hearts, intent on defiling the pure devotion of the unalloyed schools. The undigested food offered by Vedanta-Darshan will not nourish the intelligentsia, even if they have got possession of it through their linguistic attainments but vitiated by the contamination and misuse of foreign ideas.