American Academy of Religion

Ramanuja, The Hindu Augustine Author(s): J. Calvin Keene Source: Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan., 1953), pp. 3-8 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 09/06/2011 19:07
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3 preme Identity.THE JOURNAL OF BIBLE Vol. a theism which emphasizes the transcendence of God and hence leans toward deism. Turkey. arising from direct experience of Brahman. is the only reality.) carried thought to the extreme in the pantheistic direction. Eastern thought has in general leaned toward pantheismthe identity of God and his world--although it is questionable whether any Eastern theologian is a strict pantheist. touches on an idea basically very close to Ramanuja's "qualified non-dualism" in his concept of God as beingitself or the ground of being. Saving knowledge. We suggest. Frequently they lump all into one category. therefore. Brahman for him. Ramanuja. CALVIN KEENE* of the greatthinkers and reli. American and Continental theologians are so taken up with current discussions of their problems that on the whole they have little time for or interest in Eastern thought. XXI AND RELIGION January. Shankara (788-820 A. The parallels between Ramanuja and Augustine are numerous. The gious leaders of India who deserves to become better known to philosophical and theological thought in the West is the theologian. from 1931-1934and as Visiting Professor of Philosophy in the American University of Beirut. 1 Ramanuja.) attacked the formidable system of thought developed by his predecessor. in his recent volume. Keene served as Tutor in the International College. attempts to uphold a "non-dualism" of an even more ex- Hindu Augustine J." This is. He is Book Review Editor of the Journal of Religious Thought. Izmir." He used the same source as his rival.D. Dr. shows him that he is God himself. Christian thought has accepted theism as its approach. and refer to the whole as "Hindu thought. Systematic Theology. Examination of the systems of such men as Ramanuja is valuable both for its own sake and also for making comparisons and gaining insights as they are held up against comparable systems of Christian theology. generally pantheism. on the higher level of knowledge. living three centuries later (1055-1137 A.treme type than Ramanuja's. His aim was to find a place in reality for the world and the individual. Alan Watts. Lebanon.1949-1950. Thenceforth he dwells in bliss. 1953 No. which he too accepted as the . He called his non-dualism" in opposition system "'qualified to Shankara's "non-dualism. Paul Tillich. for example. in the sense that the world and God are identical. possibly more consciously. in his The Su- ONE * Associate Professor of Philosophy and History of Religion in the School of Religion of Howard University. as fallacious as it would be to classify all Christian theology as deism. Further. Ramanuja. He and the universe are not dual. Ignorance makes one think himself an individual and hides from him the fact that he is Brahman. of course. The first and basic theological problem is the nature of God and his relation to the world and man. that contemporary teachers and students of religion will find it profitable to note how a thinker removed from us in time and place dealt with problems still very pertinent to us. but the universe is an illusion.D. contemporary theology on its minority side shows points of resemblance to the thought of Ramanuja. the Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana.

' However. Of themselves and through their own power and activity they have no independent being. "What the Lord himself aims at is ever to increase happiness to the highest degree. particularly Upanishadic. knowledge. . so depends the world upon God. whose purposescome true. this potentiality was unfolded into matter. Since Brahman is by nature good. there is no other reality. CALVIN KEENE From whom the creation. love. including individuals. . Sin. ."5 Love also is part of the motive. The souls have for their inner Self the highest Self while they constitute the body of that Self and hence are modes of it. whose nature is antagonisticto all evil. play. He says: The motive which prompts Brahman . Yet he is not a bare identity. He had recourse to a concept used in later Western philosophic thought. Before the creation the world existed potentially within God. Hence the idea is frequently expressed in Hindu thought in general and is used also by Ramanuja that the creation is God's sport. not illusory. God and the Universe Apart from and independent of God. Since he is perfect being his acts. creation included. even though possessed of great wealth. is not undifferentiated oneness or absolute mathematical identity.and whether in their non-evolved or evolved states.2 Why a self-subsistent God should create a universe at all is a difficult problem of theology. Having indicated the relation of Ramanuja to his particular problem we can now develop the salient points of his system. A number of Hindu thinkers have said that if God should act for a purpose it would indicate that he is incomplete or limited. are mere playthings of Brahman. must be non-purposeful. A king acts for his own sport. but is best conceived in the highest qualitative terms. it seems logical to state." He reached the conclusion that the universe and selves do actually exist. As the body depends upon the soul for its continued existence. . Man. but out of himself: May I (thinks Brahman). become manifest in the shape of various non-sentient and sentient beings. space. and Salvation. time. is nothing else but sport. without reaching the conclusion that the latter is illusion. nor did he create out of nothingness. Since God alone is independently real he could not have created out of already existing materials. theology. who possesses infinite auspicious qualities. .omnipotent.7 The universe and individual souls exist as realities but only as a result of his creative work. The relation between God and his creation is similar to that between the soul and body of man. He has the qualities of being. It is better conceived as the oneness which characterizes an organism.! correct summation of Vedic. and so on. As he created. subsistence. and are not the illusions of ignorant mind. not a unity without distinction but one of "harmonious interaction. Unity.4 J. .8 . . he claimed. and no other than I. the creation and reabsorptionof the world are only his sport. and . All beings. sentient and non-sentient. All beings depend upon God and his activity." Brahman itself is the material and the instruments. They are therefore real. while God himself is real and independent. These fall naturally into four divisions: God and the Universe. who is omniscient. Ramanuja seems unwilling to accept this as the last word on God's motive for creation. He is eternal. such as knowledge. God is: that highest Person who is ruler of all. blessedness.' Ramanuja faced the problem of holding to the unity of God and the universe. His outstanding characteristics are power. consciousness. He is completely spiritual. but completely dependent for their reality upon God. and reabsorption of this world proceed-he is Brahman. I. In any independent sense he is the only real.supremely merciful. bliss.

no illusionto be cast off. As he framed man for himself. . without parts. Hence there is no contradictionbetween the individualand the highest Self . Man is a part of Brahman."" We see then that God is both the immanent and the transcendent ground of being.the same Self with namesandformsevolved in object. . He desires release. thus the highest Self differs from the individual soul which is a part of it. . Created souls are conscious and possess a certain degree of freedom while matter depends more completely upon God since unconscious and without freedom. consists in release from ." Creation takes place repeatedly as this inward potentiality becomes actual and then returns again to potency. . THE HINDU AUGUSTINE The highestBrahman. . havingthe whole aggreandsentient gate of non-sentient beingsfor its body. . and their being at the same time of essentially different nature. yet forever distinct. as the light issuing from a luminous thing such as fire or the sun is a part of that body. yet this law is not for Ramanuja a kind of neutral second power apart from God. endowed with intelligence and conscious of himself. For as the luminous body is of a nature different from that of its light. Creator and created are united. in common with some Western theologians." The Self with namesand forms non-evolved is agent. It is under his control and is his agency. but rather an ultimate fact to be received joyfully. He is lord also of karma. In all the ages Brahman again and again. . The individual has been endowed by his creator with freedom of will. to work either good or evil. . God is thus exonerated from responsibility for man's sin and error. it is obvious that salvation or release in this system could not consist in the disappearance of personal identity in the absolute God. of God's deeds.. Sin and error are not the result. unique. atomic. As an individual he is real. and in accordance with their own wishes. but if he "were to realize that (as Shankara said) the effect of such activity would be the loss of personal existence. Man Man is essentially an individual soul.i" nally unchangedthrough all the cycles of transmigration. but are the consequence of man's wrong exercise of his freedom."'3 The relation between individual soul and Brahman has been stated by Ramanuja in the following analogy: The individualsoul is a part of the highest Self. everis the Self of all. standing to each other in the relation of part and whole. therefore.' "12 "The 'inward' Self shines forth in the state of final release also as an 'I'. III.16 The individual soul then has a certain amount of freedom to choose good or evil. eternal.RAMANUJA. apply themselveson their own part. The souls . "creates the new world on the same pattern. It is to be noted that for Ramanuja each man is his own Adam."j Individuality is for Ramanuja no hin- . so he made karma also according to his nature to express himself and his will. yet holds a status of his own. for it appears to itself. responsible only to himself for his situation in life. Salvation or Release In view of what has gone before. and forming abodes in which he dwells. used here in a much wider sense than in typical Christian thought and referring to the ultimate goal of human life. Salvation. Ramanuja. endowed with all the powers im- parted to them by the Lord and with bodies and organs bestowed by him. he surely would turn away as soon as somebody began to tell him about 'release. II. and even in the saved state. His essential nature remains eter- 5 dranceto salvation. dependent entirely upon God for his being. does not seem to recognize that this leaves unanswered the essential question of why a being made by a perfect God should wish to choose wrongly! The effects of the choices made are governed by the law of karma. since personal identity is eternal. As a result he is able partially to determine his own fate. He is imperceptible. but the choice brings in its train the results of karma.

secGod in one supreme fellowship. but at the point of Ramanuja's doctrine of grace sound unexpectedly familiar to Christians. and The goal is "singleness of aim. Consequently its dewhich binds more firmly or continues this sires. Here the soul. having escaped carries with it as its corollary failure to love the shackles of transmigration. becomes like God and enjoys God. In the ing does not discover itself as object and hence broad meaning given it in Hindu thought. freed from all that hides its which purifies the mind. the body to be its real self. in all except istic will the individual sins against self and two essentials. The false path is easily followed. not real power of ruling and guiding the diffierentforms of timately The purpose of karma self. force the to is nature. The subject in its negative sense. particularly because in the past wrong made and the laws of For the Samsara state consists in the possession choices have been have karma brought back the soul." which is the individual has no creative or controlling to be understood in two ways. present. The first step toward salvation is that The released soul." nected as it is with the material body. perpetuatof name and form. . Then bodily death to dwell in a heaven of bliss in the further operation of karma returns the company with God.ple or merely emotional matter. Such devotion. which is due to connection with non-sentientmatter.with the true knowledge that God is the ulholding the pure Brahman. the self must necessarily be bounded and limited. or thought mistakenly embodied to be the self. It is a combination of attributes. It is the total leased soul stands to the Highest Self in the dedication of the self. How is the individual to attain such a conof separation."2? limitation and the attainment of a nature like that of God."8 individual. ". the the is animate and inanimate motion and rest belonging to body. such connectionspringing from ing the error and the weakened will. .6 J. The ultimate goal the knowledge that God is the subasically of all creation is the unity of all souls with and final reality.l9 Again we should note that there is supremely. This attachment to the body The saved man is one who. spiritual being. possesses the power of intuitively be. unconscious and entirely dependent. pictured popu. no loss of personal identity. Primarily. The will of man is secondary to knowledge.soul and again in new bodies. hopes and values center about the welconnection with limiting matter. the re. equality. each finding preme that individual love and trust God the in this unity his own fulfillment and the good ondly. is to be sought. CALVIN KEENE The means by which salvation is reached are typically Eastern. deed. replacing ignorance true nature. while individual soul is atomic. it is power over the universe. represents a life of sult of the compound of ignorance and egounlimited being. believes that in which the self is sin consists in any act. equality of Lord. Full salvation cannot be attained as long as one is connected with matter. is no simof all.. Congood and evil works. The first step is the curing of basic ignorance. the soul makes the fundamental error of believIt is to escape this limitation that salvation. As a reagain larly in familiar symbols. fare of the body.but does not possess the and that the individual soul. and all this implies consciousness knowledge and right will. Heaven. out of love for one's relation of fellowship. to search for the deeper The two exceptions are that God is omnitruth that will guide it to release. bhakti. to his worship. for in such union with that which by nature is inert. through dissatisfaction and suffering. This requires. it is man's wrong beliefs that conduct him along the broad and winding path of transmigration. goes after his and be devoted to God. Not individuality but egoism is the basic evil of life which brings beings back continuously in the cycle of samsara or transmigration. full fellowship with him. First.

be. integrity. THE HINDU AUGUSTINE 7 dition of devotion and self-dedication? Ra.. Good works tions.' plete resignation is salvation achieved. however. the tendency of man to identify The released soul has freeditself fromthe bondhimself with his body and. be attained. The southern school insisted of and the other practices worship that one can do nothing in any positive way Prayers the goal is reached by pass. therefore. including truthfulness. a with it. and is reminded very strongly again of Aucharity. their fruits offered as a service to God. bliss. One must be passive.' unsurpassable two answers. alikeScripture In the history of the movement initiated by on Brahman For to all meditations knowl. intuitive assignsoneandthe sameresult. through constant practise. will. The gustine. Meditation. of supreme. compassion. . and by him the highest Self is through submission and gained. The grace of God is the essential eleperformed in a spirit of non-attachment to earn salvation. . with us backintothemiseries of Samsara. which is in love for God. non-violence.Y Even the act of moving toward assist in the search. called prapatti. means at one's disposal to reach faith in and be thought to ensure salvation. Preparation extending his grace to man.age of karman. has its powersof knowledge fully and has all its being in the supremely lieve in the terrible drag of karma. He can do something . resulting developed. in using all the The practises of bhakti must not. which appeared means steady remembrance. submay be of aid. but the former takes an hope but also in the mystical experience of active approach while the latter is chiefly negGod's presence. hope. It is by no greater unity with him is the result of God's means a simple or easy practice. The northern school agreed that release.e. as a the ing beyond these to This is the end of bhakti kitten depends entirely upon its mother to be God. They recognize. do. depending entirely upon God. cheerfulness. contemplation and no sense a payment or reward for man's acgood works are all to be used. Steady remembrance in the method described above and in a secis the goal. man in his own salvation came thus to have whichis of the nature edgeof Brahman." this is the most efficacious way to as claiming is of the same character Such remembrance oneself to receive his grace.once more the similarity with Christian views ing good to others. but sense of unity of in.RAMANUJA. This latter form places the entire uninterrupted." in the West. of the highestBrahman . the doing of caste duties nor even He who possesses remembrance. One notes here for it is stringent. the greater love of God and coming into Meditation is a further step. emphasis upon complete resignation to God..ment in salvation and without grace it cannot sults. or and is salvation this is one way to be saved but declared man there is no more transmigration. dividual and When reached carried. continuityof steady remembrance.Y from the sin of previous lives. . is chosen by through meditation but only through comthe highest Self. is thus trained Grace receives the primary emphasis both along with the intellect.allows them to attain to that supreme bliss which consistsin the direct intuitionof His manuja and his followers had no illusions own truenature:andafterthat doesnot turnthem about its difficulty. is not entirely helpless. likethe flowof oil.Ramanuja the question of the part played by viz.missive. (worship) frees them from the influence of Nesciencewhich consists of karmanaccumulated to win the favor of the Lord and so assist to in the infiniteprogressof time and hencehard to some degree. in addition.overcome. 'Meditation' i. ond method. The way of blissfulintuition bhakti consists.. ative. Not prepare seeing (intuition). For this school the baby mon- . Both bhakti and prapatti The final culmination within human existthat the enemy is egoism and attachence is reached when one lives not only in the agree ment to the body.

F. p. Max. George Foot. Here again we see a familiar problem in Christianity arising also in Hinduism. 1937 Otto. p. See also pp. pp. 563. 16 * Ibid. 771 " Ibid. Boston: Ginn and Co. p. London: Oxford University Press.. 48. "The Vedanta Sutras.. A History of Religions. 1895 Moore. The Religions of India.. 70 p. 402 ' Ibid. Volume 2. W. R. 156 *Ibid. is the better analogy of the relation between God and worshipper. p. Sacred Books of the East..... 488. E. Editor. cit. Editor. 401 ' Ibid. W.. London: William and Norgate. p. 2Ibid.. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. 1919 Eliot.. 58 1 Ibid. CALVIN KEENE 1 Ibid. Sydney. 488. p. cit. p... 70.. Indian Thought. 759 ' Ibid. p. Max. 766 19 See S. Sacred Books of the East. p. 697ff. pp."p. London: T. J. J. 298 8 Ibid. 1921 Cave. Indian Philosophy. New York: Charles Scribner'sSons. 156 'Ibid. N. India's Religion of Grace and Christianity. 2 Ibid. p.. p.. Radhakrishnan. which can at least cling to its mother. F. 477 and discussion in S. 1930 key. p. p. 1915 Hopkins. 34. cit.. Estlin. p. p. pp.. The Crown of Hinduism. p. p. London: Oxford University Press. op.. c 'Miiller. Vol. *Ibid. p. 14f. with the Commentaryof Ramanuga. 488 1 Ibid. p. See also p. p. pp.. 681 Ibid. p.. 1913 Frazer. Past and Present. with similar solutions. 406. Max. op. 14 22Ibid.. 405 ' Ibid. 759. 603 ADDITIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY Carpenter.. Radhakrishnan. pp.. Rudolf.. 710ff ' Miiller.. 2.op. *Ibid.. 1921 Farquahar.. Radhakrishnan. p. See also p. F. REFERENCES 1 For criticism of Shankara's interpretationby a modern scholar see Mfiller.. 770 "Ibid. Theism in Medieval India. Hinduism and Buddhism.. Charles. London: Edward Arbold and Co. Hindu and Christian. cit. 271 " Ibid. 683f. 399 1 Ibid. 694 . Volume 1.. 758 ' Ibid.. 401f.8 J. Fisher Unwin. op. Vol. Vol. SIbid. Redemption. See discussion in Radhakrishnan. See also S..

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