Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The DARSANA-MALA (Garland of Visions of the Absolute), of ten sections or Darsanas of ten verses each, is perhaps the major work of the Guru Narayana and is meant to present, in one symmetrically conceived whole, all possible visions of the Absolute.
The brief Introduction and Commentary which appear below were written by Nataraja Guru and were originally published in "Values" magazine,
Most people know that the Indian philosophical schools of thought are only six in number. There is the Nyaya-Vaisesika pair, with a common methodology and epistemology between them, one complementary to the other in a very subtle way. Then there is the couple called Samkhya-Yoga, which again form a pair with a more subtle penetration into the structure of the Absolute as seen from the sides of both the fully Absolute and the relatively Absolute; the Samkhya, as its name signifies, specialising in numbering the categories, and the Yoga, its complementary counter- -part, specialising in the aspects of personal discipline in a manner in keeping with the dualism as recognized between the two schools.
The last two systems form not merely a pair, but may be called, as they have been by those who know, twin schools - the Purva- Mimamsa of Jaimini and the Uttara-Mimamsa attributed to Badarayana (sometimes also called Vyasa). These twin schools or systems of philosophy are so closely related that they become inseparable in the sense that one presupposes the other. Jaimini and Badarayana quote each other and the Karma- or Dharma-Mimamsa, as the anterior exegetic critique might be called, pertaining to the ritualistic and Vedic background, and the Brahma-Mimamsa, the posterior critique can be called, have much in common, like twins who might resemble the twilight hours of the morning and evening. The name Sariraka Mimasa, sometimes seen applied to the latter, seems to indicate that while the former refers to action in the context of the Absolute, this latter comes near to envisaging more globally the same situation, not as the field of ritual action but as referring to the very body or Self of the agent of all action in the same context of the Absolute.
A common epistemological and methodological thread must run through the six Darsanas or systems, although individually they are still perfect gems of thought-systems. Although each gem has to be cut and adjusted to fit into one integral necklace or garland, actually they are found to have been ground too much on one side or left crude on the other. The very fact that even at present they have been treated in pairs to make any complete natural system of philosophy, is sufficient to show the lop-sided nature of each of the gems taken separately.
If they are to make one necklace under the aegis of the Absolute, which is the norm for all philosophy, a revaluation and arrangement in graded order will be needed. What the expert jeweller , therefore, will do to the collection of precious gems of thought that he has inherited will be first to polish each gem and then to string them together so as to make them accord with an integrated Science of the Absolute.
Each jewel is a value to be conceived with an inner symmetry of structure and as comprising a unitive or global whole. The beauty of the necklace would depend on such correctness of grinding of even the smallest of its facets, so as to require, by analogy, on the part of the maker of the garland of the visions the minutest of attention to detail and workmanship in respecting the slightest shades or angles of view possible in making each gem conform structurally within itself to the requirements of a complete garland of visions representative of all philosophical points of view possible anywhere in the world at any time for anyone. This would demand an over-all normative notion of the Absolute as a reference for each of the Darsanas which make up the series, as also a graduation as between each vision, so that when the garland reaches its end it would be capable of being linked naturally and normally with where it began.
Sankara called his work on the Vedantic Absolute the Viveka-Chudamani (the Crest-Jewel of Discriminative Wisdom). Narayana Guru continues the same tradition after him, and thinks of not one ornament for the head, but of a whole garland in which no vision of any religious or philosophical school would be neglected or left out. Each would be kept in mind by him as the architect of the total integrated edifice. Thus would be commemorated the dignity and wisdom possible for humanity, from which alone should be derived the legitimate ornament to enhance his human quality as homo sapiens.
The garland further represents, in the symbolic gesture- language of India , the whole of one's precious wealth: it is implied as when a bride gives herself to the bridegroom at the time of marriage. It represents the Sarvasvam (total good) that one surrenders to God or the Absolute or submits to Humanity itself, in an extended sense of the analogy.
The garland is thus meant to enhance human dignity to the highest possible point, as when one man wearing a garland like another would find points of agreement and not difference between them, thus promoting the cause of human solidarity and fellow feeling through a common ideology. Cold or hot wars which "begin in the minds of men", as the United Nations Charter states, consist of the same stuff out of which comes what is currently referred to as "ideological warfare" in the journals of our days. By the integrated, unitive and scientific understanding implied in the garland of visions here presented to the world by a wise Guru, such seeds of war would tend to be neutralised, while the natural man of total understanding could be regained and re-established through the teaching of such a philosophy in the universities and academies of the future.
What science seeks is a really a certain degree or kind of certitude arrived at by proper methods, conforming to an epistemology and having a workable, useful or direct significance in human life, in understanding or conduct. There are two kinds of certitudes, which can be called apodictic and dialectic.
The former is in the domain of the probable, while the latter is in the domain of the possible and the intentional (which is not necessarily that of the visible or actual). The final instance of dialectical certitude is the axiom itself, such as A = A , which requires no proof. Between the two certitudes there is a dichotomy or bipolarity which expresses itself in terms of ambivalence or antinomian principles in various branches of knowledge. The synergisms in physiology represent the same polarity in the physiological sense. The psyche, the libido and the Self, too, present psycho-dynamically the same alternation of phases resembling the systole and diastole of the heart-beat. One complete cycle of thought has its inductive and deductive phases, as also its systole and diastole. One hears too of the "sex-diastole" which has a similar alternating figure- eight rhythmic process, resembling quantum mechanics and the mutations which occur in plant-life where certain stages are jumped or alternate with others.
The structural details within the notion of the Absolute present paradoxical enigmas to the novice in the Science of the Absolute. One has to be a well-practised dialectician and absolutist to see the difference between the vertical and the horizontal (i.e. unitive and multiple, perennial and transient, etc.) aspects which refer to the Ksetrajna (perceptual) and Ksetra (actual) aspects of the Absolute in the language of the Bhagavad Gita. In distinguishing these twin but intersecting axes of reference, the whole of wisdom itself finally becomes comprised, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita (XIII, 2).
When this epistemological secret has been understood in all its bearings and applications in science or philosophy, a man becomes able to see clearly through mazes of percepts and concepts. He can then organize them into ramified hierarchies representing values ranging from the actual to the nominal, with the perceptual and the conceptual fitted between these extremes. The structure of the series of visions in Narayana Guru's Darsana Mala conforms broadly to the scheme that we have just referred to in passing. Experimental proof of the empirical sciences corresponds to the Pratyaksha of the Indian Tarka or Nyaya school, and complete a-priorism corresponds to the Sabda Pramana of the Vedantins. Possibilities and probabilities belong to the Arthapatti and the Anumana respectively of the Samkhya and other schools. Anupalabdhi is impossibility, where probability is ruled out completely. All these ways of reasoning have between them a reciprocal or complementary nature. When the subtlest kind of certitude is involved, as in the case of the notion of the Absolute which has to be defined, one employs analogy and hypothetical predication to be verified later on direct experience of the Absolute. This is the method of Upamiti (hypothetical analogy), which is the highest instrument of all. What in the West is known as the "method of agreement and difference" is the Anvaya-vyatireka method of Vedanta, which is of great use when the final stage of speculation about the nature of the Absolute is in question.
Thus the fully scientific status of the verses of the Darsana Mala does not present a problem at all to those who are conversant with dialectical and absolutist methodology, epistemo- -logy and the scale of values leading to the highest value in the Self as the Absolute. Certitude resides neither in the subject or the object, but in the neutral or central Absolute which is the norm for all thought.
This is essentially a realistic and theological chapter. If the world is treated as real, then one has to find a source for it somewhere, whether in a maker or a final cause. Usually, Sankara's Vedanta treats the world as Maya, and whatever reality it has in practical life belongs to the order of the Vyavaharika rather than to that of the Paramarthika, which refers to reality in its fullest sense. Here in the Darsana Mala we have a chapter called Adhyaropa which is one of "supposition for argument's sake". Suppose the world is real, as the majority of ordinary men and women take it to be in life? There must be a vision corresponding to such a natural position.
To brush aside such an ordinary man's position in respect of ordinary natural philosophical problems would be to slight all common men who have doubts. A seemingly theological answer is given here for such a man in the street, but, on careful and closer examination of the contents, one finds that the Guru does not deviate one bit from the strictly Vedantically valid position here; not even when compared to doctrines of the Vedanta Sutras themselves, which begin by stating: "Janmadyasya Yatah": "By which the visible world is traced back to Brahman".(Sutra 2). The justification for this is a long one to explain, but it will suffice to note here that when it is said that the world is the Sankalpa (willed presentiment) of Parameswara ( the Great Lord) and that its status is the same as that of a dream, as the very first verse of this chapter lays down, the position strictly conforming to Vedanta is not violated at all. But instead of referring to the Ajata (uncreated) and Vivarta (presentiment) theories commonly accepted by Advaita Vedantins, the Guru here is able to reconcile a theological God with a philosophical Absolute. In doing so, he bridges the gap which has been the source of much wasted polemics between Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva.
This chapter has its accent slightly shifted epistemologically and subjectively from the objective empirical to the mental or rational sphere. It is, however, to be noted that the gross and subtle aspects, one more mental than the other, receive equal emphasis here, instead of one being abandoned in favour of the other. There is an equation of cause and effect, the latter visible and the former intelligible. By cancellation of these two factors, one against the other, the neutral Absolute remains still the "subject matter" as well as the "object matter" of this vision. It thus resembles the Neutral Monism of Russell and James.
This chapter will be seen to be more epistemologically idealist than realist. The blue of the sky is neither "in us" nor " out there", but is a subjective awareness in a more accentuated sense than in the previous vision. The perceptual and the actual are here cancelled out in the Absolute, which can contain them both without contradiction. By the time we reach the last verse of this chapter, all duality between the universal and the specific will have been abolished in favour of a unitive view.
Here we enter a deeper epistemological ground in which, beginning from Vidya (knowledge) and its counterpart Avidya (nescience), all epistemological pairs or factors that enter into the negative side of the Absolute as the Maya-principle, which is the over-all category of all possible error in respect of the Absolute, are passed under review, to show how they fall short yet of full- - fledged reality. The epistemological position of Maya, admitting and transcending contradiction, is a subtle one. From Pure Reason to Nature spreads the amplitude of this vision coming under Maya.
As the last verse of this chapter occupies the central position in the whole work, this chapter is so conceived in epistemological gradation that it studies the neutral Absolute in terms of consciousness alone. The perfect neutrality of the Absolute, where the conceptual and the perceptual abolish each other into the glory of the Absolute, as contained in such Vedantic dicta as Aum Tat Sat (Aum, That Exists) etc., is here marked; and we can say that, like a pendant that might hang in a necklace of gems strung together from its most central gem, the Mahavakya or Great Saying is seen subtly indicated in its most suitable context at the end of the 50th verse of the whole work, at the end of this chapter. The reader or keen student has himself to fit all such detailed implications into the text wherever they are warranted.
Here we have already passed the centre of gravity, as it were, of this work. Karma (action or work) is generally considered outside the scope of Vedanta, which is called the Jnana-Kanda (wisdom section); but as Karma-Yoga it appears in the Bhagavad Gita and is to be treated as being on a par with wisdom when done passionlessly as an offering to the Absolute, as a necessary aspect of life only, and non-obligatorily in the social sense. Done in such a free spirit, and in a rationally or dialectically revalued form, it becomes a help rather than a hindrance to emancipation. When done for its own sake, without any duality of ends and means entering into it, and with vertical aspects alone accentuated and the horizontal aspects eliminated, it can be part and parcel of the wisdom-discipline of Advaita Vedanta proper. Like the "unmoved mover" and the "pure act" in the philosophy of Aristotle , there is a dialectically balanced way of engaging in works, without prejudice to one's progress in the path of wisdom. Detachment is referred to in Verse 5, and what takes place within body limits, as also such acts as seeing, which is a kind of interaction between the seer and the seen, the Self and the non- Self, have all to be cancelled out against their dialectical counterparts, and the neutral Absolute arrived at under this Darsana.
Knowledge being the central subject here, one might inquire if this had not been covered in Chapter V. There it was passive awareness that was examined. Here, on the other hand, coming after action of the previous chapter, it is positive thinking and its results that are treated as knowledge. The duality of subject and object comes out again into evidence as a methodological and epistemological necessity for the discussion to complete its round. The various kinds of ratiocination and logical inferences, and the use of analogies, inductively, inferentially or hypothetically, are all covered in an order of the Guru's own. The absolute knowledge mentioned in Verse 10 of this Darsana may be compared with that of the corresponding verse in Chapter V, so as to bring out into full relief the differences in the epistemological status of this chapter, which could be said to be more positive, while the fifth chapter was a neutral view of the same subject as the content, rather than the object, of consciousness.
Devotion being the subject of this chapter, a close scrutiny of the verses will reveal that the only distinguishing feature of devotion as against of knowledge in the previous chapter is that an element of joy is introduced here, which will be noticed to become further accentuated in the two remaining Darsanas. Joy, bliss or communion with the Absolute has various grades or degrees before it becomes perfected into identity with the Absolute, which would mark the term of progress in contemplative life. It is the Self that the Self contemplates with joy, and not any deity or godhead before whose idol it is usual to associate a typical man of Bhakti dancing or singing with cymbal or drumbeats in India. Both Sankara and Narayana Guru here elevate Bhakti to a fully contemplative status, dis- -countenancing mere popular effusions in its name
The title here refers to the most publicized and misunderstood of all topics in Indian spirituality, namely, Yoga.
Yoga means union of two aspects of the same Self, as if happening within consciousness itself. And further, this union has to be conceived under two distinct heads as happening between the horizontally dual aspects, and as taking place between the lower and higher selves vertically. This delicate distinction has not been brought out by Patanjali in his Yoga-Sutras. The four different definitions of Yoga found in the Bhagavad Gita too, although elaborate in their own way, leave out this delicate matter where the union is both Samyoga (contiguous association) and Sambandha (continuous association) at once, of the tendencies within the Self. The very first verse makes this clear in its striking definition. The joy of being thus unitively absorbed in the Absolute is here seen to be more accentuated than in the case of Bhakti, which is in this respect a more passive or negative state, although both belong to the positive side of contemplation as a whole.
To complete the contemplative cycle, the supreme value of release or emancipation is here the subject-matter. We find in the world many persons who claim spirituality: how are they to be classified and graded according to inner principles proper to the subject of contemplation?
Almost like a book on grammar, the Guru here excels in analysis and divides and even numbers the possible varieties of mystical and contemplative experience into various grades and sub-grades. It will be noticed that, in the higher grades, all matters of doing good in a philanthropic sense drop off, although in less perfect stages they exist, as it were, on sufferance. Piety and works have to part company somewhere, and when one is totally absorbed in unity with Brahman, the Absolute, no question of a second value outside the self can even arise. Self-realisation in the fullest sense, when a man forgets himself in the Absolute completely, is the last mark of punctuation to which this garland takes us. It catches up thereby with the very first chapter where the world is given primacy as against the Self that is given primacy in this last of all chapters. The garland thus retains its link with the beginning of the subject, and a full cycle of contemplative topics has thus been covered in a graded inner order, always under the same normative reference to the Absolute.
Posted by "Gurucharanam Sharanam" at 8:05 AM