The upnishadic statement ‘brahmavidh ApnOthi param,’ that one who know Brahman reaches the ultimate, is the key thought of real revelation. This corresponds to the central theme of Ramanuja philosphy, denoted by Thatthva, hitha and purushArTHa.
Let us see what these terms mean:.
There are three questions that present to the mind of the one who thirsts for the knolwledge of reality, mentioned as brahmajijnAsA in the Brahmasuthra.They are:
1. What is reality?
2. How do I get the knowledge of it ?
3. What do I gain by it?
The answers to these three questions are expounded in the vedantasuthras.(Bahmasuthras).Ramanuja has interpreted these suthras in Sribhashya under the light of visishtadvaita principles and the answers given by Ramanuja to the above three questions are in short, thatthva, hitha and purushArTHa .
1. Thatthva is the answer to the question “What is reality?” The thatthvajnana is the knowledge that Brahman, synonymous with Narayana of Visishtadvaita is the absolute reality, the inner Self of all beings and the substratum of the whole universe of sentient and nonsentient beings.This displays the transcendence and imminence of Brahman.
2.Hitha means that which is good , namely the moral and spiritual discipline that is necessary for acquiring the knowledge of the Supreme Self.In other words it means the sadhana.This answers the second question.
3. purushArTHa is the goal to be attained , that is, the realisation of Brahman, attaining which there is nothing more to be gained and this is the answer to the third question.
The knowledge of reality
Brahman or the absolute reality, is Narayana of visishyadvaita. But the world of sentient and insentient beings is not unreal. In Visishtadvaita there are three reals, namely ,chit, the sentient, achit, the insentient and Isvara, though the first two are not distinct reals, unconnected and separate but have an inseparable realation with Isvara..This is what is known as the sarira-sariri bhava in visishtadvaita and the vedanta is called sArirakasasthra.
The first of the three reals, Isvara is the inner Self of all beings both sentient and insentient, which form His sarira. The term sarirais defined by Ramanuja as the substance which a sentient soul can support, control for its own purposes and which stands in a subordinate relation to the sentient soul. All beings are supported and controlled by Brahman , to whom they are subservient. As the physical body exists for the purpose of the individual soul and not vice versa, all beings exist for the sake of Brahman, their inner self of whom they constitute the body.This relationship is variously described as AdhAra-AdhEya(supporter and the supported), niyanthA-niyAmya(controller and the controlled) and Sesha-Seshi ( possessor and the possessed).
Brahman is the adhara
Brahman is the adhara or the support of all in the sense of being a substratum of everything.The idea of support is not like a basket to the fruit where the supporter and the supported are distinct and separate, but the two have an inseparable relationship.The space, akasa , exists everywhere and everyting exists in it , without which they cannot stand, yet the akasa is not affected by anything while it pervades everythiing in and out.In describing the srshtikrama, upanishad says that everything came from akasa and merges back into akasa.This is the concept of the adhara -adheya bhava between Brahman and the world, though this is only in form of an illustration since akasa is not Brahman being itself supported by Brahman.In Bhagavtgita Krishna says.that all beings are supported by the SupremeSelf like the beads on a string.The same idea is found in the upanishad where Yajnavalkya explains that the whole universe is supported by Brahman who is the warp and hoof of everything.So the knowledge of reality can arise only by knowing the nature of Brahman , by knowing which everything becomes known.The upanishad define Brahman as ‘sathyam, jnanam, anantham brahma.’ That is, Brahman is existence or truth, knowledge and infinity.
Brahman as Sathyam.
Brahman is sathyam or real which does not mean that the other two, namely, chit, the sentient and achit , the insentient denoted by jiva and jagat, are unreal. They are real but they are conditioned.Achit or matter, the effects of prkrthi, the premordial nature consisting of three gunas, cotinues to change and hence it is conditioned by its form and attributes. But it is real only as the state of existence alone changes but not the substance.
This can be explained as follows:
The clay is made into a pot and hence it no more exists as clay. But it is real and only the state of existence has changed. When the pot is broken, it becomes potsherds still it is real but the form and attributes has changed. So nothing in this world ceases to exist and hence it is real.The insentient, achit includes everything except the soul.In the final dissolution also the achit and chit do not cease to exist but absorbed in Brahman and exist in unmanifest state..
The individual soul, jiva, denoted as chit is also not uneal but conditioned real because its existence is conditioned by the body it acquires due to karma.
Brahman is thus termed as satyasyasatyam, real of the reals. It is the inner self of all, changeless and infinite.It is satyasya satyam as everything acquires reality only because of Brahman.
Brahman as jnana
Brahman is knowledge, not in the sense that it is knowledge itself but in the sense of having knowledge as its svrupa like the heat and the fire. Heat is the svarupa of fire without which it ceases to be fire.Similarly the jnana is the svarupa of Brahman and it is infinite.It differs from that of the jiva in as much as the knowledge of jiva becomes contracted due to karma and attains it infinite state only in mukthi.the knowledge of brahman is infinite and unconditioned and is the source of all knowledge, by knowing which everything else becomes known.. These will be explained later when we deal with the causation of Brahman.
Brahman as anantha
Brahman is infinite. This is a determining quality which distinguishes Brahman from jiva and jagat. Brahman is not conditioned by time, place or entity. Conditioning by time is when we say that a thing exists now but not later or earlier. A pot does not exist before its creation not after it is destroyed.. Conditioning by place means a thing exists here and not elsewhere. A pot is here but not there. Conditiong by entity is a thing being limited in form, as saying this is a pot ,that is a cloth etc.
Brahman on the other hand exists everywhere as there is nothing else other than Brahman. So it is unconditioned by space. Brahman exists always and hence not limited by time. As everything is Brahman it is not limited by entity either.
Thus the idea of Brahman as AdhAra affirms the reality of separate entities of chit and achit but denies their separate reality other than Brahman.
Section 1- Brahman as Niyantha
Brahman is the inner ruler and redeemer. Brahaman explained as the support of all, adhara, denotes the transcendence, while Brahman as niyantha,controller, shows the imminence. As the Self of all, Brahman is the silent, but not indifferent, witness.On the other hand Brahman is not a controller in the sense that all the actions of the individual self is controlled by Him and the latter is nothing but a puppet on a string.
By the words of Krishna in Bhagavatgita, ‘eesvarassarvabhoothAnAm hrddhESE arjuna thishTathi,;bhrAmayan arvabhoothAni yanthrArooDani mAyayA,(BG-18-61) the Lord is in the heart of all beings and makes them go round by His maya as though they are mounted on a machine,’ it would appear as though the individual soluls have no control over their actions and only activated by the Lord. If so, it could not be explained why do they commit sin unless it is admitted that God is partial and makes some do good and enjoy happiness while He makes others sin and suffer.
This apparent discrepancy can be explained by examining another sloka from the Gita,,upadhrashtA anumanthA cha bharthA bhokthA mahEsvarah;paramAthmEthi chApyukthO dhEhE asmin purushah parah,’(BG-13.22)
This sloka is explained as follows The Self is upadhrashtA , the witness because it is actually not affected by the experiences of joy and sorrow resulting from the wrong identification with the body. But since no action or experience is possible with out the accordance of the self , it is called anumantha, the approver. Since the body is supported by the Self it is the bhartha, supporter.Due to the identification with the body the self seems to experience joy and sorrow and without it no experience is possible and so the self is called bhoktha,experiencer.As the body is subservient to the self who is the master, it is called Mahesvara, the over-lord and in reality the self is nothing but the Supreme Self , the inner controller and hence called as ParamAthma.
The self, Atman, is eternal and of the nature of bliss.But the individual self which is known as jiva is the real self reflected through the ahankara, ego, the product of maya due to karma.Purusha , the individual soul, due to the influence of ego, identifies himself with the prakrthi, nature, consisting of the three gunas and acts accordingly..The war between devas and asuras is that between the spiritual self and the empirical self, which is ego identified with the prakrthi.Eesvara is a silent witness and approver as the Lord allowed the devas ad asuras to fight for amrtha but at the same time lent His hand to help the devas. He did not prevent the war and destroy the asutras forthwith because the devas had to undergo the result of their own actions, by disobeying His injunctions in the first place.
Similarly, Eesvara lays down rules of conduct which are disobeyed by the jivas due to their own karma. In laying out the rule He is the Ruler but when it is disobeyed He is the silent witness and allows the actions of the jiva to take its own course. In this manner He is the upadhrashta and anumantha. But in as much as He decrees the proper apportionment of the results of the actions He is the Niyantha.
Ramanuja illustrates this in his Sribhashya by an analogy. Let us assume that two persons A and B own a land jointly. The former tills the land and cultivates it while the latter is a silent partner. But when A want to transfer the land to C or sell it he has to get the sanction of B. Like wise Eesvara allows certain freedom of action to the jiva but regarding the result of His actions Eesvara is the sole controller.
By His entry into the jiva as its inner self, Brahman, Narayana of Visishtadvaita, is both the sovereign and saviour.
Brahman as the ruler and redeemer
The cause of samsara is the karma which presupposes a free agent. Isvara is the karmaphaladhAthA, apportioning the fruit of karma. His proclamation that He manifests Himself in every yuga in order to protect the good and punish the wicked , and to establish dharma ’parithrANAya sAdhoonAm vinASAya cha dhushkrthAM dharmasamsTHApanArTHAya sambhavAmi yuge yuge shows Him the ruler who punishes the evildoer and rewards the good. But the judgement is based not on the deed but on the doer. This means the same as in the worldly sense of the term. When a person commits a crime the judge decides about the punishment based on the motive of the person rather than on the act itself. Similarly the Lord acts as the karmaphaladhatha.
But the role of karmaphaladhatha does not rule out compassion because the retribution is for redemption. It is like the attitude of a parent in punishing the child out of love in order to prevent him from further wrong acts. It is usually thought that a person steeped in sin is not punished and flourishes on the other hand. In the world whereas a good person suffers even for the smallest sin committed by him. It is true. But it only signifies the mercy of God that He would not allow His devotees to transgress even a little from the path of virtue. This again is not partiality. A child who strays away from its home has many falls and mishaps till finally he decides to seek the protection of his parents and comes home. But the one who stays close are always watched by the parents and is not allowed to do anything wrong.
Another question often asked is that why should the Lord allow one to stray away and accumulate karma? Isn’t it true that everything happens according to God”s will? The answer is that an individual soul has certain amount of freewill to act as he wants. It is he who chooses whether to stay close to the Lord or to go away from him. Bhagavan is the Supreme self. Inner ruler and the witness self. That is why He is termed as upadhrshta and anumantha, one who supervises and gives His permission to act. But the how and what of the action is decided by the individual self, who is possessed of an intellect which discriminates and decides.
The five forms of Brahman
God seeks the individual soul more than the latter seeks God. Ascent of self is assisted by the descent of God. As a result , the five forms of Brahman or Narayana prove the divine mercy of the Lord.
The five forms are, para, vyuha, vibhava, antharyamin and archa.
1. paravAsudheva- The Supreme absolute reality immutable that is Brahman is known as paravasudheva for the sake of meditation.
2. vyuha- The six attributes of Bhagavan, namely the three .jnanaaisvarya and shakthi which are transcendental and the three , bala, virya and thejas are in the plane of activity. These six pair and form three vyuha forms, SankarshaNa (jnana and bala), Prdhyumna, (aisvarya and virya), and Aniruddha (shakthi and thejas). Vasudheva is the one in whom all the six attributes are present in full manifestation while in the others only two are manifest and the othersa re unmanifest. The Vyuha modes are for the purpose of creation, maintenance and d destruction
3. Vibhava- These are the incarnations of the Lord main of them being the ten wellknown avataras.
4. Antharyamin- The indwelling self within all beings who can only be intuited through yoga.
5. Archa- The idol form consecrated with manthra for facilitating easy worship.
All the above forms are the expressions of the infinite mercy. Of these paravasudeva is inaccessible like the avaranajala, cosmic waters as He is in vaikunta in that state, the vyuhas are like the milky ocean which can be made accessible through inspired meditation, as He has been seen by the devotees like akrura and sages like visvamithra. The vibhavas or incarnation are like monsoon floods as they happen once in a while whereas the archavatharas, the idols worshipped in temples and other places are like reservoirs of water always available. Antharyami state of bhagavan is like water in the earth, ever existing but invisible found only through proper digging.
Brahman who transcends the form and matter, who is without parts and gunas ( meaning the three gunas of prakrthi) embodies Himself as these forms out of mercy and to redeem the individual self. Brahman of visishtadvaita is the sath of the Upanishads, one only without a second who transforms Himself as Vasudheva. This transition is necessitated by the divine nature of dhaya or mercy, Brahman expresses Himself with twofold spititual form as Narayana and Lakshmi.. The two are inseparable in principle though functionally distinct.
Chapter2-section4- Brahman as Seshin
Seshin is the one who is the owner and the sesha is the owned. As the inner self of all, the whole universe of sentient and in sentient beings is controlled by Him and supported by Him in the same way as a king controls and supports his kingdom and his subjects. Only difference is that all beings are inseparable from Him as they form His body. Similar to the relationship between the soul and the body of an individual, the former controlling and supporting the latter which exists for its use and enjoyment, the relationship between the individual self and the Lord is one of sesha and seshi.
The sesha – seshi sambandha is one of absolute dependence on the Lord and that of service to the Lord. This relationship arises from the fact that the whole universe forms a part of the Supreme Reality, that too an infinitesimal part as declared in the Gita ‘vishtabhyAham idham krtsnam ekAmSena sThitho jagat,’ encompassingthis entire world the Lord stands with the whole universe forming but a infinitesimal part of Him. The same idea is expressed the Purushasuktha it is sadi ‘pAdho asya visvA bhoothAni thripAdhasyAmrthamdhivi.’
The question that arises in the mind is that whether the absolute dependence rules out the free will and freedom of action on the part of the individual soul. If so there will be no choice between good and evil and hence the karma of the individual will not adhere to him as he will be an automaton with no ill of his own. Thus the whole scripture giving injunctions and prohibitions will be meaningless.
This view advance dby the opponent is set aside by Ramanuja in his sreebhashya while explaining the meaning of the suthra ‘parAth thu thathSrutheh.’(SB.II -3-40) and the next Suthra-41-krthapray atnApEkshasthu vihithaprathishiddh a avaiyarTHyAdhibhyah (SB.2-3-41 ) which means ‘Since the effort is taken by the individual soul the injunctions and prohibitions are relevant . ‘
To the objection that if the soul is not independent the injunctions and prohibitions will have no value it is replied in this suthra that the effort is taken only by the individual self but it cannot act without the sanction of the supreme self, who is the anumantha, one who gives permission to act. If the soul does good karma the Lord bestows His grace and if indulges in evil deeds He gives punishment.
If the Lord Himself makes one to do good and bad deeds , it goes contrary to the independent effort of the individual self. Ramanuja replies that this does not apply to all beings but only means that when one chooses to proceed along the path approved by the Lord, He helps the soul to rise further and when one pursues the path that leads away from the Lord, He makes the soul descend further so that the propensity for evil will be exhausted. In the Gita the Lord says
‘thEshAm sathatha yukthAnAm bajathAm preethipoorvakam dhadhAmi buddhiyOgam tham yEna mAmupayAnthi thE.’(BG.10.10)
It means that the Lord gives the wisdom to those who worship Him with love so that they can attain Him. And He hurls those who are evil, He says, into demonical wombs in perpetual transmigration.
Chapter2-section5-Brahman as the whole and the individual soul as the part
This relationship between Brahman and jiva is known as amsa-amsi bhava. Ramanuja explains this in his Sribhshya while commenting on the Brahma suthra ,’amSo nAnA vyapadheSAth,’ (BS.II.3.42) and the subsequent suthras.
In chandhOgya upanishad it is declared
‘pAdhOasyavisvAbhoo thAni thripAdhasyAmrtham dhivi,(Chan.3-12- 6)
All beings and the world constitute one part (quarter) of the supreme self and the rest of the three quarters are immortal in heaven.’ The word pAdha denotes amsa. The plural term bhoothani, is used as souls are many.
In Bhagavatgita the Lord declares
‘mamaivAmsO jivalOkE jivabhoothah sanathanah,(BG.15-7)
an eternal part of Myself has become the individual soul.’
Also it is said ‘ vishtabhyAham idham krthsnam ekAmSena sThitho jagath,’(BG.10.42) “I stand sustaining the whole Universe with a fragment of mine.”
An objection is raised that if the soul is part of Brahman all imperfections of the soul will be of Brahman too
As the light of a luminous body, the generic character (jati) of an entity and the colour of an object, though being part of the object they qualify are different from it so also Brahman is different from the individual self which forms its mode. A visEshaNa, attribute and the visEshya the object having the attribute are inseparable yet different. The declarations of identity and difference denote the two aspects, the inseparability of the substance and its attribute and the distinctness of the substance and the attribute, respectively.
In VishnupurANa ParAsara states
‘EkadhEsasTHithasyA gnEh jyothsnA visthAriNee yaTHA,parsyabrahmaN ah sakthih thTHEdham akhilam jagath,(VP.1-22-56)
Just as the light of a luminous body that exists in one place spreads around, the power of Brahman pervades the whole world. Also the individual self is declared to be the body of the Lord.’thasyasrjyasya sambhoothou thath sarvE vai harEsthanuh, ‘ all these created are the body of Hari.
Like the fire which is from the household of a brahmana is accepted while that from cremation ground is not, though the fire is the same everywhere, the difference in qualification is due to the purity or otherwise of the body the soul occupies.
Even though all souls are part of Brahman they being atomic and different from each other the result of the karma is different for each.
Chapter3- cosmology-Nature of Jagat
The nature of Brahman, that is Ontology has been explained so far. Now let us examine the Cosmology or the nature of the Universe and its relation to the indidual self and God.
The cosmology of Ramanuja is based on the concept of the three reals, thathvathraya, namely cit (jiva), acit (jagat) and Isvara (Narayana) and the relation ship between them.
Isvara is cidacit visishta and the latter exists in the relation of modes to the substance with Isvara. Cit the sentient souls and acit the insentient matter in subtle(unmanifest) state exist in Brahman before creation and in their gross( manifest ) state after creation. Thus the sookshmacidactvisishtabrahna is the cause and sthoolacidacitvisishtbrahman is the effect. So the universe exists in the relation of effect and the cause with Brahman.
The cause of the universe being Brahman is accepted by all the schools of vedanta and by Nyayavaiseshika, or logicians. Only The school of nirisvara sankhya expounded by Isvarakrishna does not accept Isvara as the cause. The atheistic schools of Buddhism and Jainism who do not accept the Vedas as authoritative are outside the scope of discussion.
Now the school of sankhya which does not accept the causality of Brahman professes that the prakrthi, the primordial nature is the cause of the universe while the sentient soul, purusha is eternal. Thus there is no need of Brahman at all. The yoga school accepts Isvara but only as a purushavisesha who should be meditated upon to acquire the right knowledge that the purusha is ever free and wrongly identifies himself with the prakrthi and suffers the samsara and this knowledge secures release.
The school of Nyayavaiseshika deems the atoms of the four elements, earth, water, fire and air to be the cause of the universe.
According to the Upanishad which declares ‘sadheva soumya idhamagra aaseeth ekameva adhvuitheeyam’, there was only Brahman existing in the beginning ,one only without a second. So Brahman is both the material (like the mud in making a pot0 as well as the efficient cause ( like the potter) of the universe.
Then the text goes on to say “it willed to become many and created fire.’ Of course the mention of fire is due to its being the first gross form of creation and hence the other two namely air and akasa are understood to have preceded it. From the fire originated the water and from water the earth came about. This is the order of creation mentioned and in annihilation it takes the reverse order.
After creatin the gross universe the Brahman decided to enter into all beings to give them name and form and to be their inner self. ‘ anena jeevena Atmanaa anupravisya naamaroope vyaakaravaaNi.’
So the universe is the effect and Brahman is the cause and the universe is real as much as when the cause is real the effect is also real. But this does not mean that Brahman is transformed into the world in which case the imperfections of the world will adhere to Brahman. It is just that Brahman being the inner self of all , the sentient and the insentient, they form the body of Brahman. As the imperfections of they do not adhere to the self , similarly those of the universe do not affect Brahman. This sarir-sariri relationship of Brahman to the world is the pivot of the realistic philosophy of ramanuja.
The purpose of creation
Thus it has been established that Brahman is the material as well as the efficient cause of the world. But the question remains to be answered is that why should He create the world at all? Brahman of visishtadvaita is avaaptahasamastha kaama, one whoone who has no unfulfilled desire. Usually things are produced in the world either for one’s own use or for that of others. The first alternative is shown to be absent because Brahman is avApthasamasthakAma and the second also can be disproved. If Brahman creates for others it must be as an anugraha or for showering grace in which case He would not have created this world full of sorrow, as He is full of mercy.
Ramanuja answers this in his commentary to the brahmasuthra ‘lokavattu leelaakaivalyam.’(Sri Bhashya 2.1.33)
The purpose of creation is nothing else but play, like a king who has everything indulges in sport just to amuse himself. This gives rise to the critcism that if the creation is for sport it exposes Brahman to the charge of cruelty in creating a world full of inequalities and making the beings suffer. But the scripture declares that Brahman takes into consideration the karmas of the souls in creating the different conditions of the beings in the world. So what appears to be a sport on the part of Brahman is purposeful from the point of view of the individual soul. The word leela is used to indicate effortlessness on the part of Brahman in creating the world of sentient and insentient beings.
Ramanuja accepts the theory of evolution as given out by Sankhya that the prakrti or the insentient primordial nature constituted of three gunas evolves into the world of matter by the combination of three gunas. He only adds that the entire process of creation is willed and controlled by Brahman. The seven thatthvas or principles which are the effects of prakrti are the causal substances of everything else. These are, mahat or buddhi, ahankara, and the five subtle matter of the elements. From these evolve the gross elements, ten indriyas and the mind. Ramanuja opposes the theory of causation of Sankhya only in their not accepting Brahmanas the inner self of all beings, sentient and insentient.
Chapter4- The nature of the jiva
The jiva is the finite or individual self. It is distinct from the body, mind and intellect etc. and eternal in nature. The jivas are many and form the sareera of the Lord who is their inner self. To Ramanuja the individual self is the knowing subject unlike in advaita where it is pure consciousness. In vedartha sangraha he describes the nature of the soul thus:
The individual self is subjected to anaadi avidya, beginningless nescience (ignorance) due to accumulation of karma, which is both good and bad , as a result of which the jiva enters into different bodies, devatiryangmanushyaadhi, divine beings, human beings or beasts. The embodied self gets identified with the body it occupies and suffers the pangs of samsara. To get rid of this spiritual knowledge is sought about the nature and attributes of the self, the nature and attributes of Brahman who is its inner self and the way to attain Brahman which frees the individual self from transmigration.
Jiva as the knowing subject
Ramanuja explains in his comment on the vedantasutra (sribhashya) that the self is of the nature of knower and not mere knowledge nor inert.(SB.2-3-19) This is proved from the sruthi itself. In ChAndhOgya text in the section where prajApathi describes the released and unreleased souls by saying ‘aTHa yo vedha jiGHrANeethi sa AthmA, onewho knows “I smell” he is the self. Similarly in BrhadhAraNyakait is said as a reply to the question ‘kathama AthmA, who is the self,’ that ‘yO ayam vijnAnamayah prANEshuhrdhyanthrjyothirpurushah,(Brhd.4-3-7) he who is consisting of knowledge is the light within the heart in the prAnas.’ and ‘Esha hi dhrashtA srothA GHrAtha rasayithA manthA bOdDHA karthA vijnAnAthmA purushah ,(Pras.IV-9) this person is the seer, hearer smeller, taster, thinker, knower, doer and the knowing self.
Knowledge ,jnana is the peculiar attribute of the jiva. This is called attributive consciousness, dharmabhutha jnana. It is however contracted in the embodied state and attains its natural all encompassing status when the soul is released from transmigration in mukti.
It may be argued that if the jiva is the knower, its real nature being infinite and all pervading, there will always be cognition everywhere. To this Ramanuja replies in Sribhashya thus: (SB.
The sruthi mentions the soul going out, and coming in etc. which is not possible if it is all pervading. In BrhadhAraNyaka upanishad ‘
‘Esha AthmanishkrAmathi chakshushO VA murDHnO vAanyEbhyO VA sariradhEsebhyah,(Brhad.4- 4-2)
This self departs through the eyes or the skull or any other part of the body,’ and the return likewise ‘thasmAth lokAth punarEthi asmai lOkaya karmaNE, from those worlds, returns to this world for karma.’
The all pervasiveness only means that The self though atomic is able to pervade the whole body like the sandalpaste that creates coolness for the whole body though applied in one place or as the light placed in one corner lights up the whole room so does the AtmA in the heart spreads consciousness all over. (SB.2-3-24/26)
The individual self as an agent,karthaa
In katopanishad it is said
‘hanthA cheth manyathE hanthum hathaschEth manyathE hatham, ubou thou na vijAneethou nAyam hanthi na hanyathE.’(Kata.I-2-19),
meaning, one who thinks that the self kills or get killed do not know the truth because the self neither kills nor gets killed .
It is said in the Gita also,
‘prakrthEh kriyamANAni guNairkarmANi sarvasah, ahamkAravimooDAthmA karthAham ithi manyathE, (BG.3-27)
All actions are done by the gunas and the one who is deluded by ego thinks that he is the doer.’
The Brhamsutra ‘karthaa SaasthraarThathvaath, the individual self is the agent according to sastra ,’ says Ramanuja, refutes this view.
. Only the self is the kartha and not gunas. This is in accordance with the sasthras. It is found in the sruthi texts like ‘yajEtha svargakAmah, one desirous of heaven should perform sacrifice ‘ and ‘mumukshurbrahma upAseetha, one aspiring for release should meditate on Brahman,’ that the agency of action is ascribed only to the individual self. The word sasthra means scriptural injunction originated from the word sAsana, command. Sasthras induce action by giving certain instructions and it is possible only in the case of a sentient soul and not insentient pradhana, that is, the gunas. That is why the purvamimamsa declares ‘sAsthraphalam prayokthari, the fruit of the injunctions is only to the agent.’ (III-7-18)
Ramanuja clarifies the point by saying that the text about the self not killing or getting killed etc. is to show that it is eternal and not to deny the agency. Similarly the sloka quoted from Gita only means that the activity during the state of bondage is induced by the gunas and not natural to the self as it is mentioned there itself that ‘kAraNam gunasangOasya sadhasath yOnijanmasu,’ ( BG.18-21) the cause of the embodiment in good and evil wombs is the association of the self with the gunas.’ The original nature of the jiva is one of purity and bliss. It gets entangled with the world due to the limitations of embodiment and becomes the doer and enjoyer.
To the objection that if the soul is the doer, the instruments of action being always present there will be perpetual action. Ramanuja replies that like a carpenter who has the will to use his instruments or not, the jiva also, being sentient, has the power to act or not to act. ( SB.2-3-39) Being provided with the instruments of action the jiva is free to act or not to act. The jiva is free within certain limits and has the power of choice.
There is a text in Kousheetaki upanishad which says
‘Esha hyEva sAdhukarma kArayathi tham yamEbhyO lOkEshu unnineeshathi, Esha Eva asAdhu karma kArayathi tham yam aDHo nineeshathi,
He makes those whom He wishes to raise to the higher worlds to do good deeds and whom He wishes to send down from these worlds He makes them do bad deeds. This may create doubt as to the freewill of the jiva since it means that only the Lord Himself makes one to do good and bad deeds and this goes contrary to the independent effort of the individual self.
Ramanuja replies that this does not apply to all beings but only means that when one chooses to proceed along the path approved by the Lord, He helps the soul to rise further and when one pursues the path that leads away from the Lord, He makes the soul descend further so that the propensity for evil will be exhausted.(SB.2-3-41)
In the Gita the Lord says
‘thEshAm sathatha yukthAnAm bajathAm preethipoorvakam dhadhAmi buddhiyOgam tham yEna mAmupayAnthi thE.’ (BG.10-10)
It means that the Lord gives the wisdom to those who worship Him with love so that they can attain Him. And He hurls those who are evil, He says, into demonical wombs in perpetual transmigration,
‘thAn aham dvishadhah kroorAn samsArEshu narAdhamAn, kshipAmi ajasram ashubAnAm aAsureeshvEva yOnishu (BG.16-19)
The limited freedom of the individual is explained as follows. The concept of anumantha as outlined in Sribhashya of Ramanuja and in the Gita means that The Lord who is the inner self of all promotes the action and aids it by granting permission. Ramnuja explains this by the analogy referred to earlier.(see chapter2 section1) He is the anumantha as no action is possible without the will of the Lord, good or bad. As to why He allows bad actions has been explained above.
Further Ramanuja says that the allowance of an action on the part of one who has the power to stop it is not necessarily due to hard-heartedness.
It is said in the scriptures that the puNya and pApa consists of the actions like worship etc which please the Lord and the actions that displease HIm are pApa. His grace and retribution are the fruits of action resulting in joy and sorrow.
‘Paramapurusha aArAdhana rupEkarmaNee puNyApuNyE;thadhanu grahanigrahAyatt hE cha thathphale sukah duhkE’
Hence the Lord who has infallible will, with no desires, omniscient omnipotent and of the nature of bliss etc. is the dispenser of the fruits of actions and bestows on all beings the body and other instruments to work out their karma, as effortlessly as a sport. There is no question of cruelty or partiality in administrating justice. As the punishment for a crime is to check the tendency of evil, so too His retribution is for redemption, as it is said in the Bhagavatgita,
‘thEshAm sathatha yukthAnAm bajathAm preethipurvakam dhadhami buddhiyogam tham yEna mAm upayAnthi thE;thesham EvAnukampArTHam aham ajnAnajam thamah nAsayAmyAthmabhAvas THah jnANadheepEna bhAsvathA.’ (BG.X-10-11)
The Lord says that He gives jnana to those who resort to Him with devortion by destroying their darkness of ignorance out of compassion by the light of wisdom. (SB.II-2-3)
This leads to the discussion of karma and krpa and how the retribution is for rendemption