SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImath varavaramunayE nama:
SlOkam – Original
na thvEvAham jAthu nAsam na thvam nEmE janAdhipA: |
na chaiva na bhavishyAma: sarvE vayam atha: param ||
word-by-word meaning (based on puththUr krishNamAchArya swAmy’s thamizh translation)
aham – me (who is sarvESvara – the lord of all)
jAthu – (in the past) always
na Asam (ithi) na – never that, did not exist
thvam – you too (who are jIvAthmA – the soul, sentient being)
(jAthu nAsI: ithi) na – (in the past, that you did not exist) is not true
imE janAdhipA: – these kings (who are jIvAthmAs – souls, sentient beings)
(jAthu nAsan ithi) na – (in the past, that they did not exist) is not true
sarvE vayam – all of us (me, you and these kings)
atha: param – in the future
na bhavishyAma: cha Eva (ithi) na – will not exist is also not true
Simple Translation (based on puththUr krishNamAchArya swAmy’s thamizh translation)
Never was there a time in the past, when I (who am sarvESvara – the lord of all), you (who are jIvAthmA – the soul, sentient being) and these kings (who are jIvAthmAs – souls, sentient beings) did not exist. Nor will there be a time in the future when all of us (me, you and these kings) will not exist.
bhagavAn establishes a couple of important points here.
- He establishes the individual identity of each soul and that the souls are infinite in number. Their eternal nature is also proved at the same time. He also establishes that he is different from all other souls.
- It is established that even in liberated state, the individuality of the soul is retained. Certain misconceptions such as “sAyujya mukthi meaning merging into brahmam” are thwarted here. sAyujya means the coming together of bhagavAn, the lord and jIvAthmA, the servitor and their eternal togetherness where the jIvAthmA gets to serve bhagavAn forever.
Rendering based on ALkoNdavilli gOvindhAchArya swAmy’s English translation of gIthA bhAshyam
As for Me, the Universal Lord (Sarvesvara) there is never ‘nay’ to My having been in all the eternity anterior to the present. I always was. So are yourself and all these in your front; all souls (in short) under My control (īśitavyāḥ) and informers of bodies (kshetrajñas). Nor are all of us – Myself, yourself and all – not going to be in the future. We shall all be for ever in the future eternity. As indubitably ever-existent am I, – the Universal Lord (Sarveśvara4) – the Supreme Spirit (Paramātmā5), so also should you all, the matter-informing souls, be understood as ever-existent.
It is thus evident that (1) the fact of the soul being distinct from Bhagavān6 Sarveśvara (God), and (2) the fact of the multiety of souls, have been declared (in this verse) by Bhagavān Himself. For, this is an occasion when (like the teacher to his pupil), eternal truths are imparted to one with the object of removing the cover of all his ignorance. And on such an occasion, the distinctions such as I, you, we all, etc., are made (thus showing that souls are many and they are different from God, and it is this that Kṛishṇa is now teaching Arjuna).
(A brief statement of objections to the interpretations above made, and refutations thereof now follow):
1st. Aupādhika-bheda-vāda, or the Controversy which holds the doctrine that all duality is caused by upādhi7 (limitations or conditions):
In the matter of the Controversy that duality (or that souls are different from God) is caused by upādhi, we ask why, at a time when instruction of veritable monistic knowledge has to be imparted, the upādhi attitude, (that of Kṛishṇa being different from Arjuna and so on) is still maintained by Kṛishṇa – an attitude clearly warranting the dualistic doctrine? Why any upādhi should, at such time, be allowed at all to interfere with the monistic truth? The teaching then, of Bhagavān, indicating the dualistic position (that souls are many, and they are distinct again from God) is thus a veritable axiom. That such is the case, receives support from such Śruti8 texts as: ‘That Eternal among the eternals, that Intelligent among the intelligents, that One among the many, is He who grants desires, etc.’9
2nd. Ajñāna-kṛita-bheda-dṛishti-vāda, or the Controversy that the perception of duality is caused by ajñāna (ignorance or nescience or a-knowledge)10:
If this be the case, then we contend that for Paramapurusha (Supreme Spirit = God), Who has definite knowledge of all things, and Who must be credited with the absence of all ignorance inasmuch as He ought to possess the true experiential knowledge, which according to you is that ātmā (soul) is (one, because), attributeless (nirviśesha11)’ immutable (kūtastha12), eternal (nitya13) etc., for Paramapurusha, who possesses this monistic knowledge, to deceive Himself by believing in the dualistic position caused by ignorance, and then to practically teach it to others, is most untenable.
If it be again contended that the persistence of dual notion in Paramapurusha – in Whom the true monistic knowledge is inherent – is no objection, as in the case of a burnt cloth14, we reply that this cannot be a tenable ground. For an example, we say that in a mirage, which is not water, the notion that it is water may continue, but no one would (with that dual notion) attempt to pursue the mirage in order to fetch water therefrom! Hence even though duality may persist (according to you) even after it has been proved false by monistic knowledge, yet no one with the conviction of the certainty that dualism is unreal, would yet deliberately proceed to teach the same. (Because, teaching from the monistic standpoint is impossible, as teaching demands the recognition, at the outset, of a real duality between person and person, between thing and thing.
Nor can you maintain that Isvara15 was once ignorant, and that He came to possess true knowledge (i.e., monistic knowledge) after acquaintance with Śāstra16, and that therefore it might fairly be supposed that the dualistic knowledge which Īśvara had in his ignorant stage, might yet continue even after the dawning of monistic knowledge, coming to him from Śāstra. For, to maintain such a position would be to contradict all Śruti and Smṛiti17 declarations, such for example: “Who is All-knowing and All-understanding”18; “Transcendent is His power, and verily varied; so it is heard. Knowledge, strength, and capacity for action are natural (to Him)”19; “I know, Arjuna! all the beings of the past, of the present, and of the future; but Me, no one knows.”20. Again, it must be asked (i.e. we ask you), that -admitting that Paramapurusha and all the line of the Apostolic succession of Preceptors (guru-parampara) were convinced of the monistic nature of spirit, and admitting that dual notions (somehow) persisted as well- to whom do they impart their conviction, the true monistic knowledge? If you rejoin that the imparting of monistic instruction is to such men as Arjuna etc., appearing as their reflections, (we say that) this position is also unmaintainable. For, who, unless he be mad, would, -knowing that the reflections of himself in a polished gem, sword, or mirror, are but himself reflected therein and none other- yet be foolish enough to impart them (the reflections) any instruction?
To begin with, no continuance of dualistic notion can even be alleged by them (viz., the holders of the monistic theory), for according to them, that which causes the dualistic notion of things as existing separate from ātmā, is, by reason of its antagonistic doctrine of the monistic nature of ātmā, should have exploded in time without a beginning (anādi). (I.e. if at any one point of time, it can be asserted that monistic knowledge came and dualistic knowledge departed, only then it can be reasonably comprehended that from that time forward, the previous notion persisted and so on; but monistic knowledge is according to them (i.e., you) eternal, i.e., never began in time; hence the argument itself is a fallacy21 ). Next, we might suppose our opponent assailing us with the (analogical) argument of the ‘duplicated moon.’ Thus may he say: The moon is one, and yet the diseased eye sees two moons. With the knowledge that there is but one moon, may not yet the knowledge of the ‘duplicated moon’ exist? (This is as much as to say that the unreal dualistic notion of ātmā, may, though unreal, yet continue to co-exist with the real monistic notion of ātmā). To this we reply: ‘this analogy does not apply to your case.’ For the disease of the eye is a fact, whereas your disease, viz: ignorance which produces the dualistic notion, is a figment. Again the cause, viz. the disease of the eye, giving birth to the sight of the ‘duplicated moon,’ remains; whereas your ignorance has vanished! There is thus reason for the persistence of the ‘double moon’ though it must be conceded that stronger evidence existing in favor of only one moon, renders the diseased eye a proof of little or no importance. But in your case, the dualistic notion (according to you) is a fiction! Not alone the notion or knowledge, but as well the objects of such knowledge, the causes of such knowledge, have no existence (according to you)! For your real knowledge of things, viz. the monistic knowledge, has dissipated it for ever! Hence in no way whatever is it possible for you to maintain the argument of ‘the continuance or persistence of the dualistic notion’ in the face of your monistic hypothesis.
Hence, if it is true that the hypothetical (monism) alone is the veritable knowledge that Sarveśvara and all the Apostolic line of Teachers up to this time maintained, then the dualistic ground on which alone all tutorial function can be based, is inadmissible.
If on the other hand, (you say) they have (still) had dualistic knowledge, then (because of such knowledge) ignorance and its cause must have existence. When, therefore, ignorance has existence, because of that very existence, -ignorance,- there can in no case be such a thing as imparting instruction of real (i.e., according to you, the monistic) knowledge. (For, how can an ignorant man teach truth?)
A teacher again is (according to you) one who possesses the supreme knowledge that ātmā is non-dual; and hence Brahm22-ignorance and all its products do not exist for him. And therefore all instruction to a pupil is (under such circumstances) entirely futile.
But if you should assert that the (spiritual) teacher as well as his (monistic) knowledge may be imagined, then the pupil and his (monistic) knowledge should also be imagined. Hence, not an imagined (monistic) knowledge of the pupil can be the means of dispelling his illusion (i.e., dualism).
If, however, you should retort again that (monistic) knowledge -(even though it be of the imagined description)- has, in the case of the pupil, the force of destroying the antecedent (dualistic) illusion, -by reason of their (mutual) antagonism-, then this argument equally applies to the teacher; and let it then be supposed, that the teacher’s own (dualistic) illusion perish by means of his own (monistic) knowledge, thus rendering all necessity for indoctrination -(as the having to imagine the duality of a non-existent pupil, etc.) – superfluous and inconsistent.
Hence, whichever way you argue, the giving and the taking of instruction (on the basis of the monistic hypothesis) is meaningless.
Enough then with all such exploded sophistic controversies23!
(This verse therefore, as we have interpreted, is a clear exposition of the dualistic doctrine that ātmā (or soul is different from God, and that ātmā is plural).
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- The particles ‘tu‘ and ‘eva‘ (meaning ‘never at all’) emphasizes God’s eternality. Though souls are also eternal, this emphasis is wanting in their case in as much as to show that souls are subject to transmigration, whereas God is not. … ↩
- The particles ‘tu‘ and ‘eva‘ (meaning ‘never at all’) emphasizes God’s eternality. Though souls are also eternal, this emphasis is wanting in their case inasmuch as to show that souls are subject to transmigration, whereas God is not. … ↩
- Eternal a parte post. ↩
- This is the 97th name of God, meaning etymologically the Instantaneous Saviour of the faithful. ↩
- The 11th name of God; one etymology is the Un-excelled or Peerless Spirit. ↩
- The 563rd name of God, meaning the All-good, All-worshipful. … ↩
- A brief explanation of these technical terms and of the nature of the controversies of the Indian philosophers is very necessary to enable the reader to intelligently follow Rāmānuja’s arguments:
Upadhi is that which limits, binds, conditions, circumscribes, environs, veils, obscures, contracts, dulls, fetters, etc., or that which, in short, checks, bridles, restricts or obstructs freedom, and is that by which Unity is supposed to appear as Duality or Multiplicity.
Aupādhika-bheda-vāda, is the argument of the Monistic (advaita) Philosophers asserting that all the duality (or plurality or diversity) manifested in the Universe is due to Upādhi or some inexplicable limiting condition. This argument belongs to the Schools of Yādava and Bhāskara. Read commentary to XIII-2.
Rāmānuja may now be followed. ↩
- Śruti is the Vedas, the Āryan Scriptures or Revelations. I shall use the Samskṛit term itself throughout my translation, as it is convenient. ↩
- Ka: Up: II-5, 13 and Sve: Up: VI-13. ↩
- This argument belongs to the Śankara School. It maintains that the dual appearance of the universe is unreal. The unreality is caused by ignorance. ↩
- nirviśesha = void of attributes or qualities. ↩
- kūtastha = the immovable or the steady, the stable. ↩
- nitya the eternal, or that which is not affected by time. These three terms put together mean the noumenal, which is beyond space, causality and time. ↩
- The idea is that when a piece of cloth is burnt, and is left undisturbed, it still retains the semblance of the cloth, the texture, form, etc., so that though it is burnt up, the appearance that it is cloth still persists. And so it is argued that ‘though monistic knowledge is in God, dual knowledge still persists in Him’. Thus the Monistic philosopher contends. ↩
- Īśvara is the term which, in preference, Rāmānuja uses to denote God, in all his philosophical discussions; Chit being used for individual soul, meaning ‘sentient or intelligent or conscious’, and A-chit for matter or that which is not sentient, not intelligent, not conscious’. A-chit, chit and Īśvara thus constitute the tatva-traya, or the Three Verieties, or the Three necessary Postulates of Existence. Also, Īśvara or the all-perfect Lord is Parabrahm Itself in the Viśhisḥtādvaita literature, not the Lower Brahm of the Advaita as distinguished from the Higher Brahm. The Vedānta-Sūtras make no such distinctions (vide: G. Thebaut’s Vedanta Sutras). ↩
- Śāstra means laws, learning, and therefore spiritual laws or science embodied in the Vedas or Sṛutis, etc. ↩
- Smṛiti is that which is remembered, such as the Institutes of Manu and others, who remembered the explanations of the Vedas and embody them into their Institutes. ↩
- Mund: Up: I-1-9. Means ‘Generic’ and ‘Specific’ knowledge. ↩
- Svet: Up: VI-8 ↩
- Bh: Gī: VII-26 ↩
- I put the argument in other words for better comprehension. “Ignorance or false notion is dualism which was instrumental in producing a knowledge of differences, which should disappear with the advent of the counter-knowledge of non-dualism of ātmā (viz., that there is but one Universal Soul, and a second doth not exist). But such disappearance is not referrible to any fixed point of time in the eternal past.” ↩
- I use Brahm for the neuter form Brahma to distinguish It from Brahmā, the masculine form, the former referring to the Infinite God, the latter to the four-faced Demiurge, the Lord of a Brahmānda, or one bubble-world in the Infinite Ākāśa. ↩
- The drift of Rāmānuja’s argument may be gathered from the following extract:- “If these rules of initiation be truthful, then the doctrine of One Being (a-dvaita) is necessarily falsified, for they presuppose the existence of the guru and all things which are necessary for the performance of the Vedic ritual; and if the rules are themselves illusory, the Vedāntic initiation must itself be an illusion; and if the initiation be false, the indoctrination must be false too; for he only gets knowledge who has got an āchārya. The Vedānta will not allow that its grand consummation can be brought about without a qualified tutor. If there be no āchārya, there can be no teaching; and if the indoctrination is a delusion, the conclusion of this spiritual exercise, i.e., mukti must be the grandest of delusions; and the whole system of Vedāntism (a-dvaitism), all its texts and sayings, its precepts and promises, its āchārya and adhikāri (qualified pupil) are therefore built like a house (as Rāmānuja suggests) upon an imaginary mathematical line.” Dialogues on Hindu Philosophy page: 421
Śri Yāmunāchārya argues thus: To whom is Moksha? To jiv-ātmā (individual soul)? But individual soul to you is a non-entity, so that Moksha is to an unreal jīva, which is a reductio ad absurdam. And therefore follow this advice when anyone comes to preach you this kind of Moksha: ‘Aham-artha-vināśaś-chet moksha-ity adhyavasyati, apasarped asau moksha-kathā-prastāva-gandha taḥ.‘
Read also verse:4, Decem: 8, Cent 2, Vol: II. Bhagavad-vishaya. ↩