Meaning of Philosophy
THE PHILOSOPHY OF ŚRI RĀMĀNUJĀ - VISIṢTADVAITA
written by Sri V.R. Srisaila Chakravarti
Meaning of Philosophy
The sages of Greece used to be called Sophs (wise men); but Pythagoras thought the word too arrogant and adopted the compound ‘philosophia’ (I Love Wisdom), whence philosopher means ‘one who loves or courts wisdom’. Philosophy thus means ‘the science of wisdom’.
What is wisdom or true knowledge? A distinction is drawn by Tennyson between Knowledge and wisdom. The former is earthly, of the mind; but wisdom is heavenly, of the soul. Amarasimha says: “True and supreme knowledge is knowledge of deliverance; the other kinds of knowledge relate to other sciences and arts.” Mokṣha-Sāstra or science of deliverance is alone conducive to wisdom or true knowledge. The latest discoveries in sciences, constructions of air ships and destructive bombs and machines do not certainly constitute wisdom. Parāśarā says: that “knowledge alone by which the spotless Supreme Being is known, seen and attained is true knowledge; and science and knowledge relating to other things is ajñāna or nescience”. “That alone is vidyā or science which leads us to deliverance. The sciences will make anyone only skillful”. Philosophy thus means, Ātma-Vidyā , Brahma-Vidyā or Science of the Divine.
The end and aim of supreme knowledge, according to Hindus, is the alleviation of pain and promotion of happiness. The other kinds of knowledge only sub-serve this end. Even works on grammar, medicine etc., state that they sub-serve the attainment of mukti, or liberation and salvation. Vāgbhaṭa in his treatise on Medicine says in the benedictory stanza: “Salutation unto the oldest and earliest physician, Dhanvantri, an avatā r of Viṣnu, who uproots all kinds of disease of the mind, namely desire, anger and so on, which beget attachment, ignorance, aversion, etc.- diseases which ever persist whichever body is assumed”. Evidently, the author prays to God for the complete annihilation of the ills of samsāra or worldly existence. The central motive which must govern the whole life according to Hindu philosophy, is, how the soul may be freed from pain, how misery may be put and end to and how bliss may be attained and perpetuated infinitely. The chief defect of western philosophy lies in the fact that it is divorced from dharma or religion-law, which, in its perfection and completeness, is the supreme science-knowledge, chiefly directed towards the achievement of the desired happiness, here and here after by means of suitable actions done here. This idea was, in a way, present in mind of Socrates. Socrates was filled with the most intense conviction of the Supreme and overwhelming importance of truth, of the paramount duty of doing the right because it is right, on every occasion, whatever may be the consequence. He gave his first and superlative care to the perfection of his soul and those of others. His whole teaching rested on the doctrine, ‘virtue is knowledge’. And conversely, if virtue is knowledge, vise is ignorance. A man who knows what is right must always do the right. A man who does not know what is right cannot do the right. Knowledge is not a part, it is not even an indispensable condition, of virtue. It is virtue itself.
The Mahābhārata says: “the aim of all knowledge is the formation of character and conduct.” Unfortunately, western philosophy relegates this most important function to Theology or Ethics. But Hindu philosophy treats of metaphysics as pre-eminently goading as to action for reaching the goal. The comprehensive teaching of philosophy, in the Bhagavad Gitā, aims at the attainment of the Supreme Being, Brahman or Nārāyaņā, by means of constant practice of bhakti or upāsanā which can be achieved by karma, jñāna and vairāgya or this attachment, as beautifully summarized by Yāmunācārya in the first stanza of his Gitārthasaṅgraha. In the opening sentence of his Vedārthasaṅgraha, Bhagavān Śri Rāmānuja says: “You can reach God if, with intense love and devotion, you worship Him by mind, word and deed, by meditating on Him, by uttering His holy names, by offering flowers etc., by prostrating at His lotus-feet and so on, along with the performance of duty cast on you according to Varna (caste) and āśrama, with the correct and true knowledge of the relation between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul.” The idea contained in this sentence is developed throughout the whole work.
Unable to bear the sight of the sufferings of millions of souls in this worldly existence, four persons who were the personification of mercy, love and pity, trade for the complete annihilations of the ills of those souls. They are: Sage Parāśara, King Ranti Deva, Saint Nammāḻvār, and Bhagavān Śri Rāmanuja.
This article is extracted from the book THE PHILOSOPHY OF ŚRI RĀMĀNUJĀ - VISIṢTADVAITA written by Sri V.R. Srisaila Chakravarti (Coimbatore) and published by V.S.R. Chakravarti, 24, Kasturi Ranga Iyengar Road, Madras - 18. The book is printed at Bharati Vijayam Press, Triplicane, Madras - 600 005 in the year 1974.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 August 2009 20:39 )