Appendix (Part 2)

This article is part 127 of 131 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

Vedanta is not antithetical to Christism or Islam. Even if we say that divine principle resides outside man, Vedanta does not say that it is wrong.

antarbahiśca tatsarvaṃ vyāpya nārāyaṇaḥ sthitaḥ ।

-Mahānārayaṇopaniṣad 13.5

If someone believes that Vaikunṭha is a separate world away from himself, let him believe that. There is no harm in that. A man who now sees Vaikunṭha outside might be able to see it within himself at some later point in time. Outer practice makes way for inner experience. Sākāra is the way to realize nirākāra. This is the view of the Gītā. Thus, the aspect of Christism that causes mistrust in the scientist, becomes a step in the staircase of spiritual ascension according to the Gītā.

Yet, the Gītā does not consider nāstikas and ajñeyakas as the enemies of āstikas. Nāstikas are wayfarers who have lost their way. Ajñeyakas are those who sit bewildered at crossroads. After walking a few more steps, they can correct their ways and join the āstika path itself.

mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ ।

-BG 4.11

Even Hiraṇyakaśipu, Rāvaṇa, Kaṃsa and Śisupāla obtained the darśana of Bhagavān after some time. This is the essence of the Upaniṣads —

satyameva jayate । nānṛtam ॥

-Muṇḍakopaniṣat 3.1.6

Satya has the capacity to survive by itself. No one can destroy it. No one is necessary to sustain it. By itself, it is able to be accepted by everyone. Asatya or untruth falls off by itself. Satya is eternal on its own. Asatya is ephemeral when it is on its own.

Satya is like peepal, banyan and such trees. Asatya is akin to small branches cut and planted in a town to be the eye-balm for a visiting minister or governor. The leaves and flowers of the cut branches are green and thrive for an hour and then dry up and fall down by themselves. No one needs to expend any effort for them to wane. The same is true of nāstikya too. Nāstikas and ajñeyakas search and seek, become weary and worn-out, but finally, inevitably have to come to the path of āstikya. The passion of their search keeps them alive. The doubt of the scientist is an intense form of his curiosity for truth. Till there is śraddhā towards truth, there is also a hope of resolving the doubts.

The above discussion is to show the exalted place of doubt in our personal lives. Even doubt has its place in the quest for truth.

Nearly two years ago, a senior student of a university in Japan came to me. His age was somewhere between thirty and thirty-five. The university had apparently sent him to collect information about India’s culture and history. I don’t know who told him my name. When he came home, it became my duty to welcome him and treat him with the right decorum. He asked me many questions about politics, economics, sculpture, culture, our literature, drama, temples and maṭhas, etc. After talking for about two to two-and-a-half hours, he got up and said that he had to go elsewhere. Even I got up and shook his hands with a friendly demeanour and said “May the divine do good to you”. He stared at me and asked “Do you believe in it?”.

I : “My belief is complete only in it. Do you not not have belief in it?”
Him : (Sitting again, and thinking for a while) “I have not thought much about it. But you say that you have belief. What kind of a belief is that?”
I : “That belief is based on my personal experience”.
Him: “What is that experience?”
I: “In my blessing, I used two words. One is ’divine’; ’Good’ is the other. If you agree that something good exists, I call the fundamental cause of that ’good’ as ’divine’. Do you agree that there is ’good’?”
Him: (was looking at me, smiling)
I : “You said that the coffee that you drank now was tasty. That taste is ‘good’. The thing behind that experience is ’divine’”.
Him : (was still looking at me with curiosity).
I : “Did you not come to me with the objective of learning about India?”
Him: “Yes”.
I : “Are you not spending so much money and effort because knowledge is good? Why is knowledge required?”
Him : “This knowledge is for the friendship of India and Japan”.
I : “Fine. Then, indeed, isn’t friendship good? Friendship itself is divine”.
Him: “What else is divine, then?”
I : “All that you think is good — all that for which you are ready to expend your intellect, energy, money and time — is divine. What appears to be best to you — the best among the best — the divine is the mountain of such excellence. If you climb a hill, the form and nature of the hill becomes clearer as you traverse to the summit”.
Him: (He did not say anything for five minutes. Then he got up again) “No one had explained to me in this way. I am grateful to you”. (He folded his hands and did namaskāra to me, showed affection in his face and went away).

In the ātmā, the quality of ‘cit’ or knowledge and ‘ānanda’ or goodness are internalized by themselves. They are both the two faces of satya. One who believes that the ātmā that is internal to a jīva is the form of satya, jñāna and ānanda will view nāstikas and ajñeyakas with brotherly love — just as an M.A. or M.Sc. student would view a primary or secondary school child.

Arguments between the three sects

The important schools of Vedanta are Advaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita and Dvaita. Apart from these, there are other schools such as śaktiviśiṣtādvaita, śuddhādvaita, bhedābheda etc; they are not relevant to us now. From a holistic point of view, the above three schools stand out like three peaks in the mountain-range of Vedanta.

It is not right to think that the thought of Vedanta was expressed wholly and completely in its final form from the bhāṣya of any one ācarya. It is beyond doubt that Śaṅkarācārya was the most ancient among the three main bhāṣyakāras — Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja and Madhva. But it would be wrong to surmise that Śaṅkarācārya discovered Advaita, and that there was no Advaita before him. It is known that before him, there were many other Advaitins such as Bhartṛprapañca and Bhartṛhari. From his kārikās (Gauḍapādīya kārikas are collections of verses about various Upaniṣads), it is evident that Śaṅkaracārya’s paramaguru (i.e. guru’s guru) Gauḍapādācārya was an advaitin.

Let us set Śaṅkara aside for a moment. In the Brahma-sūtras or the sārīrakasūtras Maharṣi Vyāsa refers to Jaimini, Badari, Auḍulomi, Kāśakṛtsna and other ancient philosophers. From this, it is established that philosophical thought did not begin during the time of the trimatācāryas. That the concept already existed in the earlier Vedic corpus is amply demonstrated by these lines from various suktas — “nāsadāsīnno sadāsīt”, (Ṛgveda Saṃhitā 10.11.129) “kasmai devāya”, (Ṛgveda Saṃhitā 10.10.121) in the puruṣa-sūkta, in the rudrādhyāya — thus philosophical thought is evident in hundreds of places. In the later part of Vedas, the upaniṣads, this stream of thought branches out like great rivers such as the Gaṅgā. In this way, the Gaṅgā of philosophical thought that was already divaricated by the time of Śaṅkarācārya took new forms after him. Even if estuaries are many, the water is the same; all of it cascades down the same mountain from a single source. What does this mean?  The three matas of Vedanta available to us are not the discoveries of the respective ācāryas; it is a continuous tradition of philosophical thought starting from ancient mahaṛṣis.

The school of thought established by a philosopher based on the testimony of the Veda might be accepted — or rejected — by later thinkers in most parts. The one who accepts it supplies logical reasoning for the arguments that he finds lacking in his predecessors, provides solutions for others’ objections, clears up the aspects that are unclear — thus the text grows. In this way, philosophical discussions by ancient ācāryas are expounded upon, expanded and strengthened by their disciples. During this process, the disciple adds new thoughts and ideas that are agreeable to his tradition. Philosophical literature grows in this way. The story of philosophy is replete with new arguments and new explanations. Even if the salient points remain unchanged, the embellishing arguments change from time to time. In this process, small differences of opinion might naturally creep in. An example for this would be the slight differences between the vivaraṇa-prasthāna and the bhāmati-prasthāna, and the differences between tengale and vaḍagale in viśiṣtādvaitins. There is no detriment to the main siddhānta due to these minuscule differences.

A philosopher who does not agree with the main argument of the earlier bhāṣyakāra sets out to establish a separate, new mata. An example for this would be how Rāmānuja branched out from the mata of Śaṅkara, and how Madhvācarya differed from and separated from the matas of both Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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