Saturday, March 19, 2016

Our Religious Philosophies.

On my recent trip to Pune, I met a relative of mine and during the course of conversation learnt that he has begun the study of ‘Nyaaya Sudha’ written by Jayateerthaacharya. If you are a pursuer of Dwaita Philosophy and intend studying the works of Sri Madhwacharya, a thorough understanding of Nyaayasudha , which is in the form of 1919 verses, is said to be a must. I casually asked him what exactly was ‘Nyaaya Sudha’ and the following is the result of that question.

I have written whatever I understood after talking with him for about an hour and a half.  The conversation (I thought then) gave me a fairly clear picture.  I am not sure now. But I hope what I have understood is right and have attempted to put it in writing before the entire thing evaporated.  If you find a blunder here, it is not his. It is mine.

I have not written this to educate others. I know that it does not interest many nor do I have the required qualification. It is just to put whatever I learnt in black and white and keep it for future reference, if and when required. I sometimes make a half hearted attempt to know something about our religion and religious practices and this is one such. This blog is a place where my thoughts are likely to remain undisturbed and hence I posted it here.

I asked my relative about ‘Nyaaya sudha’ and he tried his best to explain it to me.  Since he found that my knowledge about our religion is next to nil, he began with a brief history of Hinduism in India.

 Budhddhism is probably the first significant religion of the sub continent. Before that, there was no religion as such. There were many beliefs and different kinds of worship. Some worshipped the earth, some the sun, some the rivers and many such groups worshipped many entities which they thought were mightier than themselves. There were some who had thought of a creator or god too.

Budhdhism preached that there is no creator or god and there is nothing called the ‘atma’ or Soul, which is eternal.  That philosophy is called  ‘Nireeshwaravaada’ and ‘Anaatmavaada’ meaning no god, no soul.  Budhdhism preaches a life devoid of greediness and says that by leading a life full of virtues like right intention, right speech, right livelihood, right actions and concentration/ meditation, one would attain enlightenment or relief from the bindings of life.

 Budhdhism was followed by Jainism. Jainism recognises the concept of a soul and says that a soul in its pure form exists in every living being. The soul is imprisoned in the body and it can be liberated by practicing ‘Ahimsa’ - Nonviolence, ‘Anekantavaada’- Non Absoluteness and ‘aparigraha’ - detachment.  Both Budhdhism and Jainism follow the doctrine of ‘Nireeshwaravaada’ - That is, there is no ONE god.

This was the scene, around eight century, when Adi Shankara was born and he put forward the Advaita philosophy. Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s major contribution to Hindu philosophy is supposed to have been his acceptance of ‘Vedas’ and ‘Brahmasutras’ as the roots of this philosophy and recognition of the ‘soul’. He is said to have travelled the length and breadth of India, spreading the advaita philosophy and setting up schools or Mutts for its propagation. The Advaita philosophy believes that there is a soul or ‘Atma’ and a super soul or ‘Paramaatma’ (or god)  and that they are actually one and the same. The soul which is present in every human being is the same super soul but in a form that is temporarily masked by illusion or ‘maya’. Once the soul gets rid of ‘maya’ and attains ‘Moksha’ or liberation, it merges with the super soul. There is no differentiation between the soul and the super soul.

Through his clarity of thought and powerful presentation, Shankaracharya is said to have won over most other schools of thought and the ‘advaita’ philosophy had the sway over most of India.  However, certain Philosophers in southern India thought differently. They were from a sect known as ‘Vaishnavas’ who worshipped only Vishnu or Narayana as the supreme god. They accepted the existence and the significance of Vedas and Brahmasutras and the existence of soul and supersoul. They differed slightly from advaita. They put forward what is known as the ‘Vishishtaadvaita,’ the main proponent of which is Ramanujacharya. His philosophy -  put in the simple form by my relative, to suit my brain - says that atma and paramatma are similar but are differentiable when the atma or soul exists in a human body.  Once the soul attains salvation, it will be same as super soul. Vishishtaadvaita believes in similarity between soul and super soul and that Vishnu or Narayana, the only ‘God’, is supreme and controls everything else.

I have finished about 2/3rds of what I intended to write and I hope that it makes some sense. I have not gone into the details of different schools of thought since I do not have a thorough understanding.  For someone, who does not believe in religion, god, soul etc etc, and do not want anything to do with those things, the whole lot is garbage.  And for those who firmly believe in all that, have thought about it and already have a clear idea, this is very very basic. They are welcome to improve this writing if they can. Apart from being a record of my understanding, ( Don’t ask me why I need a record) this piece may be of some use to half baked souls like me who are neither here nor there and like to have some information on our religion in a nut shell.

Acharya Madhwa or Aanandatheertha, born in 13th century, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Hanuman or ‘Mukhya Prana’, strongly disagreed with Shankaraachaarya’s philosophy. He based his teaching on ‘Vishnusarvottamatva,’  meaning , Vishnu,  Sri Hari or Narayana , (THE GOD or super soul - Paramaatma) is supreme and entirely differentiable from any other ‘Jeeva’ or  soul.  Differentiation or ‘Taaratamya’ between any two things in this world (any two inert matters, between inert and living, between two living beings and between all these and god)  is the second  important factor of his philosophy. Since he said that there are two realities - god and everything else and that they are different, his philosophy is known as the ‘Dvaita’(dual) philosophy. He also said that Vedas are fundamental for our understanding of god and everything that Vedas mention is true and real.

The Vedas are said to have originated as sound waves emitted by God. The seven great ‘rishis’ (Vasishta, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Goutama, Atri, Bharadwaja, kashyapa) had the capabilities to grasp these waves and they gathered and spread them for the benefit of mankind.  Vedavyaasa or Krishna Dwaipayana as he is also known, wrote 564 (according to madhwa school of thought)  ‘Sutras’ or formulae known as the ‘Brahmasutras’ to help one in understanding the Vedas.  Acharya Madhwa wrote ‘Brahmasutra Bhaashya’ or ‘Anuvyaakhyaana’ (commentary on brahmasutras) which simplifies the Brahma sutras. And Sri Jayateertha or Teeekaacharya as he is also known, who was the sixth pontiff of Madhwa peetha  wrote Nyaayasudha, a detailed commentary  on Madhwacharya’s Brahmasutra bhaashya, in the form of 1919 verses.

It takes considerable dedication and efforts to reach a level where in one may attempt to understand Nyayasudha and it may take years to complete the study of the text.  Nyaayasudha, as I understand now, is the first step towards understanding  Brahmasutra bhashya, which is necessary to get a grasp on the Brahmasutras, which in turn help one to understand the Vedas.

I think a few words about my relative, are in order here. A mechanical engineer by profession, with a post graduate degree from IIT Madras, he is a senior executive in an automobile firm. He firmly believes in our religion and religious practices and follows them sincerely. In spite of being a staunch believer, he does not impose his beliefs on any one and does not have contempt/ look down up on   those who do not believe/ practice the religion. While he maintains rigidity in his practices, tries to simplify them and make them as flexible as possible for the uninitiated souls like me. My sincere thanks to him.


1 comment:

Mahabaleshwara BL said...

Very Interesting write up and equally interesting person is your religious relative.
I do not want to preach here. Just want to put some comments. What ever I read on Buddhism, they believe in reincarnation - means the concept of soul. I also read "Bhodisattvana Kathegalu" in my childhood. Buddhists do not value Vedas I guess.

However Budhha is believed to be ninth incarnation of Mahavishnu though contradictory to Buddhism itself.

I some how could grasp the difference between Dwaita and Adwaita. But Vishisthaadwaita is an added dimension to get confused.

One life is not enough to understand the Hindu religion i believe.