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Dialogue on Hinduism - Chapter 3; Post 4

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Thu May 02 1996 - 17:42:57 PDT

Post 4 of 14
Chapter 3 of 13 of  "A Dialogue on Hinduism,"
Published by Sri Visishtadvaita Research Centre, C/O Sri
Ahobila Mutt, 66, Dr. Rangachari Road, Madras 600 018, 1990

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-- P. Dileepan

====Start of Chapter 3 of 13 from Sri Gopala Desikan's book=======

                       Chapter 3

       The 'Doctrine Special' of Visishtadvaita

Q.   I have heard of the "Doctrine Special" of our
     Sampradava.  But first let us start with

     What is an authority (pramana)?

A.   An authority is something from which we learn
     truths.  We consider the Vedas, as the basic

     We also use logic and arguments to arrive at the
     truths, in addition to learning from the Vedas.

     Such things from which we learn the truths or
     arrive at the truths, are called authority

Q.   What are the authorities or sources (pramana) for
     understanding things?

A.   These are three in number, and are as follows:-

     1.   What we understand directly by our senses,
          like what we see with our eyes or what we
          hear with our ears.  This is called

     2.   Inference or logic (Anumana) - That is, by
          seeing or understanding a thing, we
          logically infer something else, although it
          is not actually seen by us.  For example, if
          we see smoke coming, we infer there is
          fire. So this is called one of the sources of
          knowledge (anumana).

     3.   Sabda (Or sound).  We accept the Vedas,
          Smritis, Itihasas, Puranas as authority (so
          long as they do not contradict the Vedas).

     It is from these that generally the various systems
     of philosophy are developed by logical
     deductions and arguments.

Q.   Can you describe this further?

A.   A detailed description or discussion of these will
     be difficult to understand.  I will only briefly
     indicate the nature of each of these.

     Talking of the first source, i.e. perception by
     senses, we have to be careful that our perception
     is correct and it is not wrong.  For example,
     seeing a rope from a distance, we may mistake it
     for a serpent. This is wrong perception.
     Similarly, in hot summer, on a tar road, seeing
     from a distance, you may think that there is
     water.  This again is wrong perception.  We have
     to guard against such wrong perceptions.

Q.   In talking of perception by senses, what are the

A.   The senses or Indriyas are of two kinds: the
     senses of knowledge (Jnana Indriyas) and the
     senses of action (Karma Indriyas).

Q.   What are the senses of knowledge (Jnana

A.   These are five in number: 1. Eye 2. Ear 3. Nose
     4. Mouth and 5. Skin (on the body).

Q.   What are the second set of senses or Indriyas?

A.   These are called the five senses of action or
     karma (Karma Indriyas).

Q.   What are they?

A.   These are: 1. Tongue 2. Hand 3. Leg 4. Anus
     and 5. The Organ of reproduction.

     So, we have to be careful that what is understood
     through the senses of knowledge is correct.

     We should also remember at a later time what we
     had seen or heard earlier.  This is also accepted
     as an authority, since it is only remembering of
     an authority, which was understood through our
     senses earlier.

 Q.  What is an illusion or maya?

A.   We see a rope and wrongly think it is a serpent.
     We see a shell and wrongly think it is silver.
     This is called illusion.

     We shall study this at a later stage in greater

Q.   Can you explain further about the second source
     of knowledge, "Inference" (anumana)?

A.   We need not go into details for our present study.

Q.   What exactly is Sabda?

A.   As you know, Sabda means sound.  Sound
     evolves or develops into words, and then
     sentences.  The Vedas are accepted as the basic
     authority.  Along with this, we also accept the
     Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Gita as authorities.

     We also accept the Itihasas (Ramayana and
     Mahabharata), the Puranas, the Smritis and the
     Vaishnava Agamas as authorities.

     However, there is one important condition and
     that is, that anything in these works, which are
     not in tune with the Vedas or which are
     contradictory to Vedas, are not accepted as

Q.   What is the ultimate aim or objective of the
     human being?

A.   The ultimate aim or objective of the human being
     is to attain salvation or moksha.

Q.   What is salvation or moksha?

A.   We human beings are a repeatedly born, come
     into this world and then die.  Thus, there is a
     cycle of births and deaths.  In this life, we
     commit so many sins, we undergo so many
     hardships.  We do not follow the code of conduct
     prescribed by Sastras and we go on committing

     Salvation means, release from this cycle of births
     and deaths and attainment of moksha or mukti.

Q.   What are the things we should know to achieve
     salvation in due course?

A    We have to learn five things (Artha Panchaka)
     and these are as follows:

     1.   The object of attaimnent is Sriman
          Narayana, who is permanently associated
          with Lakshmi.  So, the nature of God.

     2.   The nature of our Soul or Jivatma.

     3.   The means or the methods to be adopted
          by us, for attaining Moksha at the end of
          this life.

     4.   The exact nature of Moksha or

     5.   The hindrances that arise in attaining our
          goal of Moksha at the end of this life; and
          how to get over these hindrances or

Q.   I have also heard the term "tattva".  What exactly
     is this?  How many tattvas are there?

A.   "Tattva" means that which is real.

     There are three tattvas or reals.  These are:

     1.   Jivatma.  It is also called as Chit, Soul,
          Self, Atma and Chetana.  It is sentient i.e.,
          has knowledge.

     2.   Achetana or matter or achit.  It is non-
          sentient. i.e., does not have knowledge.

     3.   Iswara or the Supreme Lord.

     We will discuss the three tattvas, in detail, later.

Q.   What is the most important principle or doctrine
     of our sampradaya?

A.   The most important principle (pradhana
     pratitantra) is the body/soul relationship (sarira-

     sariri bhava or sarira - atma bhava) between
     sentient (Chetana), non-sentient (achetana); and

     The Brahman or Iswara is the soul and the other
     two reals (tattvas),chetana and achetana, form His

Q.   Please explain this further.  How do you define

A.   You can say that the body has legs and hands.
     The body of a serpent does not have any hand.
     Similarly, the shape and size of one body are
     different from that of another.  A tree has a
     different body.  An animal has a different body
     from that of a bird.  The body of an elephant is
     different from the body of a mosquito.  So, you
     cannot give physical characteristics to define a

     There are three characteristics which decide what
     the body is.

Q.   What are these characteristics?

A.   The first one is that the body is supported by the
     soul.  The body exists from the time of the soul
     entering into it, in the mother's womb.  The body
     continues and perishes or dies, only when the
     soul leaves the body.

     In other words, the body is supported by the
     soul.  As long as the soul remains in the body,
     the soul supports the body.  This is the first
     characteristic of the body.  Even in a state of
     dreamless sleep, the body continues to exist.  So,
     the soul fully support the body.

Q.   What is the second characteristic?

A.   The second characteristic is that the soul also
     controls or rules over the body.

     When the body is awake, the body is controlled
     by the will of the soul.  The soul thus rules or
     controls the body.  The body acts as per the will
     of the soul.

Q.   What is the third one?

A.   The third one is that the body exists only for the
     fulfilment of the desire of the soul.  The soul
     through the mind, desires something and then the
     body acts accordingly.  So, the body exists only
     for the purpose of the soul.

     These three govern the relationship between the
     body and the soul.

Q.   So, what is the significance of body/soul

A.   The soul performs the following three functions,
     over the body:

     (1)  Supporting (adharatva)
     (2)  Controlling (niyantrutva)
     (3)  Mastership (Seshitva).

     So, the soul is, in relation to the body, as
     (1)  Supporter (adhara)
     (2)  Controller (niyanta)
     (3)  Master (Seshi).

     So, the body is
     (1)  being supported by the soul; (adheyatva)
     (2)  being controlled by the soul; (niyamyatva)
     (3)  existing for the pleasure of the soul

Q.   Can the above three qualifications be taken to
     define the body/soul relationship?

A.    Yes.

Q.   How do you then conclude that by logic,
     Brahman or Iswara is the soul of all chetana and

A.   You take all the three factors, which I have
     mentioned above and apply the principle to
     Brahman versus the chetana and achetana:

     (1)  All these chetana and achetana are
          supported by Brahman.
     (2)  Secondly, in their waking state, they are
          controlled or ruled by Iswara.
     (3)  Thirdly, all these exist only for His

     Thus, all the three characteristics or factors which
     determine the relationship between the soul and
     the body, are present in the case of Brahman or
     Iswara versus the entire, chetana and achetana.

     Hence the fundamental doctrine of our
     philosophy is that Iswara is the soul of all
     chetanas or Jivatmas.  Iswara is also the soul of
     all achetana i.e. the fundamental Matter and its

     In other words, all the Jivatmas are the body of
     Iswara.  Similarly, Matter and its evolutions also
     are the body of Iswara.  This is the basic doctrine
     of our religion and philosophy.

Q.   What you have said now becomes clear to me.
     You have also been saying that the fundamental
     authority for us is the Veda.  Can you prove the
     Sarira - Sariri bhava by quoting from the Vedas?

A.   We have a full section called "Antaryami
     Brahmana" in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and
     also similar passages in the Subala Upanishad.
     These specifically and clearly say that Iswara is
     the soul and the Jivatma and Matter are His
     body. The following are some of the passages:-

     "He is dwelling in the earth, is within the earth."
     "His body is the earth",
     "His body is the water",
     "His body is the fire"
     "His body is the air"
     "His body is the sun"
     "His body is the moon and the stars"
     "His body is ether"
     "His body is the light"
     "His body is speech"
     "His body is the eye"
     "His body is the ear"
     "His body is the mind"
     "His body is the skin"
     "His body is the soul or Jivatma"
     "His body is the intellect"
     "His body is matter"
     "His body is death"
     "He is the internal soul of all beings"
     "He is the divine Lord Narayana.  He is the soul
     of all"

     There are many such passages.

Q.   So, am I correct in saying that the fundamental
     basis for our philosophy is the body/soul

A.   Yes, We have established body/soul relationship
     between the Paramatma and Jivatma/achetana in
     two ways:
     (1)  By logic and argument, we have said that
          Brahman supports and controls the
          Jivatrna/ achetana and it is for His purpose
          that the Jivatma/achetana is there.  So, the
          Jivatma/ achetana is the body and Brahman
          is the soul.
     (2)  Secondly, we have also quoted several
          passages from the Vedas, which clearly
          and explicitly state that Brahman is the
          soul; and the Jivatma, the matter and other
          evolutions are all His body.

Q.   You say that Ramanuja perfected our system of
     philosophy and body/soul relationship.  Then
     were there earlier acharyas who propounded this?

A.   Yes.  There were earlier acharyas like
     Bodhayana, Dramida and Tanka.  But
     unfortunately their works have been lost and are
     not available now.

Q.   Have the Alwars mentioned about the body/soul

A.   Nammalwar has explicitly mentioned this.  He
     says that the Lord is present everywhere, as the
     soul in the body.