SRI RAMA AND THE RAMAYANA.
In the September and October number of this magazine there appeared an article entitled "The King and the Sudra Saint," with our comments thereon. Exception has been taken to our language, and we publish below the correspondence on that subject between ourselves and our learned brother Mr. T. Sadasiva Aiyar. We have always had the greatest respect for the talents of our brother, but we are very sorry, we cannot be in agreement with his views on this question, the difference being so marked and fundamental.
Our brother virtually believes that the sage Valmiki lived and wrote his poem in the Dwapara Yuga itself and that every incident narrated in it are facts of history which has thus the merit of being recorded by a contemporary, who was besides blessed with occult vision and that all the characters and figures introduced therein were real beings, and celestial ones too, and he could also explain obscure incidents in the light of occultism. He is equivocal, however, about the divinity of Sri Rama. He is regarded by our brother as an Avatar of the Saguna Vishnu. He postulates also that Parabrahman cannot be born as an Avatar, and cannot appear in human or any other form. But as to our query 'Can Parabrahman, become the Saguna Iswara? He replies that the liberated man who has become Sivam or Parabrahman can through His Grace limit himself to Saguna Iswara and do the action of creation, preservation and destruction in appropriate forms. He also says "There are great Iswaras who have reached Nirguna Parabrahman and who are therefore called Parabrahman, but whenever they will have to do so, can limit themselves to Saguna." From these at any rate we can deduce that Parabrahman per se cannot become Saguna Iswara and cannot be the cause or the occasion for gestation, human or the rest. But Jivas, souls, when liberated, become Saguna Iswaras, who entering Nirguna Para-Brahman become Para-Brahman as it were, and these can leave their abode when prayed for, condition themselves and become once again Saguna Beings animating human forms. Becoming men and women, they too can eat and drink and grow fat, they can marry and procreate, they can acquire wealth, power and dominion, and rejoice over all these, nay, they can cry and weep, when deprived of these, grow angry and kill their enemies, and becoming despondent, can give up their ghost though of course voluntarily. But "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts." But in the ordinary world, there is some moral code, or ethical test for one's acting, because one is so human out and out in all seriousness and necessity. But these divine or semi-divine players are merely mock-players and spoil their acting by being conscious that they are so; and even if they should forget for a moment that they are mock-mortals, the Gods come out in all their pageants and fully proclaim to them that they are Divine, greatly Divine.
But, for our part, we believe that all the so-called inspired works we peruse are after all the productions of their much despised kali age, and that as our friend Kali is growing in years, he is seeing more and of advance in art and science, and in morality and good government, than it ever was the fortune of any anterior period real or visionary. Our moral sense has been growing keener and our intellect brighter, and our religion certainly purer, though on the other hand the existence of vice and sin and irreligion and superstition is found in equal abundance. And it is work-a-day men and not celestials who are honestly trying to combat as far as possible such ills flesh is heir to.
We believe also that these works contain more fiction than fact and that they have lessons for the ordinary reader and not alone to the Occult Seer. Exaggeration was the characteristic trait of the age of these ancient writers; and infant minds always delight in astounding situations, blood-curding catastrophes, and dreamland wonders, e.g., our Fairy Tales and Arabian Nights Entertainments. No doubt some of these books are intended to teach us moral duties comprising the first three Purusharthas, Dharma, Artha and Kama, and some books there are which convey spiritual truths by means of parables, allegories or stories and these deal with the last Purushartha Moksha; and some books with all these combined. We believe it to be the good of society that books dealing with the first three are as important to it as the last class of books; and there is actually danger in people becoming too much Brahmanised, for it is apt to produce more hypocrites than really honest men. The present crisis in our age may even involve this element of danger. As our Brother observes truly, the purpose of Ramayana is to teach us our duties in regard to Dharma, Artha and Kama, the reward being the securing of earthly bliss and enjoyment, of hymeneal happiness, of wealth, domestic, peace, children, union of friends and relations, and so on. But our Brother thinks that Uttara Kanda is believed to give Moksha; but on reading the last page of this Kanda, we fail to come across any such phalam being recounted on the contrary, removal of sins, long life and prosperity, sons, riches, honor in this world and the world of the dead, and strength, these are all the phalams set forth on this last page. We doubted that the Uttarakanda was the work of the writer of the Purvakanda, and we find we are not alone in our suspicion. Several Pundits whom we consulted have expressed similar doubts and this is probably the real reason for its unpopularity, though of course an occult reason is given as is always usual. We find at least one proof in the book itself. The last section of the Yuddhakanda finishes off the story completely after stating that Sri Rama lived for ten thousand years in glory and happiness, performing ten Aswamedhams, &c., and that all his subjects lived happily and long. And it continues, "And this sacred Epic, the fruit of its kind, affording piety, fame and long life, and describing the conquest of the Kings was composed by Valmiki in the days of yore," and all the phalams for reciting Valmiki's story are recounted in detail – such as multiplied relations, increased wealth and crops, beautiful wives, excellent happiness and the accomplishment of all desires, long life, wealth, fame, intellect, prowess and good brothers; (and in this long list forsooth we don't find anything concerning its spiritual efficacy). And why we ask should this section devoted to the authorship and phalams be added here, at the end of the Yuddhakanda, if in fact the work was not finished here as it stood originally? – When in fact we do not find any such statement at the end of any of the previous kandas. And the reiterated statement at the end of the Uttarakanda that Valmiki even wrote the Uttarakanda, and the citing of Brahma himself as a witness thereof, is extremely suspicious. Brahma lost all worship for telling one lie on a previous occasion, and the writer of this passage evidently wants to heap further coals on his devoted heads. We recognize also that the work was written in an age when the belief in a host of gods, Indra and Varuna, Agni, Vayu, Soma and Surya as still powerful had not been altogether lost. We recognize also that in course of time this belief again was lost, and more monotheistic beliefs centered round one person alone of the lot; the personality of Sri Rama was so far magnified that the recognition began to be confined to distinct sects, and these believed that Sri Rama was the real Parabrahman, and none else, and we have several Upanishads concocted for the purpose of raising him to the highest divine pedestal. Similarly the character of Sri Krishna set forth in the Mahabharata was evolved so as to make him a great god, Krishnaism and Bhagavata Purana and Krishnatapini and Gopalatapini Upanishads being the result of this odd dispensation.
For one thing, we have not blindly followed the opinions of western scholars, though at the same time we have hardly stinted to appreciate the large amount of sense in their writings. Where they have failed is in failing to understand us even from our own standpoint; there being such a vast hiatus of basic difference between stand point of the Orientals including the Jews and the Christians, and that of the occidentals.
We understand that in Religion, sentiment or emotion is a potent factor, and fain would we have examined the figure of Sri Rama as depicted by Valmiki, but we are afraid we would be wounding the feelings of our friends and brothers. And we need not make secret of the fact that the writers of Rama's history after Valmiki, whatever might be the language they should have chosen to depict the narration have displayed greater delicacy of taste and culture and in fact a good deal more ingenuity. They have omitted very many ugly incidents, glossed over the inconsistencies, sought plausible reasons and explanations for some irreconcilable facts, and have avoided the semi-coarse language of Valmiki. When we pointed out the brutal language put by Valmiki into the mouth of Rama at the time of Sita's first "Trial," our Brahmin friend was simply horrified. Such language will be readily perceived to be inconsistent with our present notion of Sri Rama. Kamban, our Tamil poet, would not even hold that Ravana had even touched Sita; because he knew that to have used the language of Valmiki would have been jarring to the feelings of his audience. The Sanskrit poet Bhavabhuti introduces nicer touches in his version of the Sudra Saint's story. According to Valmiki, it is not a voice from Heaven that proclaimed the cause of the Boy's death, but it was Rama's Brahmin advisers who were called in and who imparted this precious information. Rama's hand did not pause and his heart did not melt at the sight of the Sudra Saint, according to Valmiki; but he goes right up the Saint and chips off his head with his beautiful sword! And Behold! The gods appear and praise him for this. And from the story as given here, there is no room even for the Occult interpretation offered by our Brother. The Brahmin advisers in Valmiki hold that for a Sudra to do penance is ipso facto an iniquity and a sin for which the only expiation is by a death-penalty. If the Sudra Saint did however get into Heaven it was not through his merit, but it was on account of the merit of the person who killed him. The story of Bhima killing a huge serpent and releasing it from the mortal coil is good as a story and less repugnant to our sense. Valmiki does not state either that the Sudra was under any curse nor does he make him thank Rama and feel grateful for this proffered Salvation via homicide! Valmiki states also that it was due to Rama's own iniquity in allowing a Sudra to practice penance that the Brahmin boy died. Poets and dramatists do not always draw on facts for their story, and are not faithful to their prototypal text or original, be that a previous poetic legend or a composite mass of fugitive tradition, but lay their copious imagination under severe contribution, and Bhavabhuti and Kamban are not exceptions to this dictum.
We will append now the correspondence relating to this subject which inevitably, though fortunately, has afforded us an opportunity to voice our opinions on 'Rama and the Ramayana.' What we have stated above in such elaboration and entirety will be better comprehended, by our readers, after a close perusal of the following letters and the replies they elicited from our pen in return.
From the correspondent.
In the September and October number of the Light of Truth, the Editor has very ably removed some misapprehensions of the revered Dr. G. U. Pope regarding the life of Saint Sundara. Though the Revered Gentleman's fulminations were put very delicately, we all felt them keenly.
2. But is not very surprising to see in the Editorial "notes and comments" in that same issue a complete misunderstanding of the Life of the Divine Avatars of Sri Rama? The Editorial (unlike Dr. Pope) fulminates violently against Sri Rama that "he is a most shocking instance of caste and priestly tyranny," "of want of courage and moral strength," "of humanity and justice," etc. Leaving aside Bhava Bhooti's poem, has the learned Editor cared to read the incidents in Valmiki's Ramayana itself? That the Editor should adopt the grotesque absurd Western theory that Sage Valmiki through jealousy and antagonism put down the Southern as monkeys shows how deeply the wells of sober thought in English educated minds have been poisoned by the a priori speculation of Western so-called Orientalist Mr. Telang, Mr. R. C. Dutt, Mr. M. M. Kunte, Mr. Ranade and many similar gigantic intellects have succumbed to the poisonous influence. Sage Valmiki says that the monkeys who assisted Sri Rama were born of Gods and had the power to change their forms at will and were specially sent to the earth to assist Him in the glorious enterprise of re-establishing Dharma. Of course, if the Editor has become so enlightened as to think that all this is superstitions or, even worse, a deliberate lie (a "sop" thrown out to the Cerberus of popular conscience as if the popular conscience would have been better than that of the saintly chronicler), I have nothing more to say. That Valmiki "did not cherish great veneration for the piety of the monkeys" though he could "hardly deny them, the qualities of courage, truthfulness, and fidelity" is also grotesque when we know that hanuman was praised by Sri Rama at the very first interview for his very great learning in all the Vedas and Shastras and in Grammar and Hanuman is considered the very embodiment of piety. In short, unless we ruthlessly strike off every passage in the Ramayana which goes against our preconceived view that "monkeys" means "Southern," we will be met by difficulties at each step. If those passages were taken away, you can amuse yourself with a parody of the Ramayana like Mark Twain's parody of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar or of "George Washington's life."
3. "Poor Sita being swallowed up by the Earth is mere poetic symbology for a most heart-rending suicide." This is absurd (please excuse the word). Sita Devi was born of Mother Earth and not of human womb and she was taken back by the Spirit of the Earth, through her purity and at her request. I ask a plain question "Do you or do you not believe in the Regents of the Earth, Water, Fire, Vayu and Akas mentioned in all our religious books, (Divine, intelligent, powerful beings guiding Evolution) and in their Devis"? If you don't I am not surprised at your remarks. If Rama was an ordinary Kshatriya, his act of abandoning his pure wife was blamable. But he was a King and the duties of a King are in some respects different from those of other Kshatriyas. He can kill his unruly and vicious subjects without observing the ordinary rules of warfare and he must so conduct himself (by denying for himself even lawful private pleasures) so as to misguide many of his contemporary subjects in the path of Dharma (sic). Even Saint Bhishma felt diffident about the path of Dharma in some instances, but you seem to be cock-sure of everything. Your statements that King "Rama repented of his act" and "all his subsequent miseries are due to it" are quite wrong. He never repented (according to the Ramayana) except for his having wasted three days in sorrowing for Sita's absence and in not having looked after the welfare of his subjects during those three days. Of course, his loving heart felt and voluntarily bore all the acute miseries of separation, but only in order to show to us how dear a wife should be to the heart of her husband, and to show that we also ought to bear all miseries for the sake of Dharma. What does Mother Sita herself say to Lakshmana when she is abandoned, quite close to the hermitage of Valmiki? She says that she understood Sri Rama's motives well and that Sri Rama should not grieve for her but should protect his subjects with Dharma.
4. Coming to the Sudra's death, the Ramayana shows that the Sudra was performing penance not to attain "Sivam" or "Moksham" but to go to Swarga (a place of mental comfort) along with his physical and astral bodies like Trisanku. In short, he was making a low kind of Kamya Tapas, the higher Tapas being common to all castes. Tapas to attain Swarga after physical and astral bodies die is also not prohibited. What Sambuka wanted was different and he knew that it was not his Dharma to make the kind of Tapas he was performing. Sri Rama before striking off his body asks him about his caste and the purpose of his Tapas (See the 75th and the 76th Chapters of Uttara Ramayana). Sambhuka admits that he is a Sudra and wants to go to Swarga with his physical body. Now, why did the Brahmin boy die during Sambuka's Tapas and why was the dead body resuscitated when Sambuka was slain? Of course, if you treat these two facts also as "sops," I have no more to say. But if these were really facts, they show that the Sudra's Kamya Tapas required that his impure astral principles should be purified by combining with the principles of the Brahmin boy's pure astral body before he (the Sudra) could go to Swarga in his body, and that he did not care even if the boy died provided his purpose was attained. When the Sudra was slain, the vital principles of the boy returned to the boy and the Sudra went to Swarga in his own Devachanic body.
5. But are the vital astral principles of all Brahmins in all ages purer than those of Sudra in all ages? Are persons with Sudra bodies always prohibited from performing Tapas? This question is also discussed in the 74th Chapter of Uttara-Ramayana itself, and it is only after considering in Council the Dharma rules relating to this question that Sri Rama goes to Sambuka. There, the king's minister Narada says that in Krita Yuga all men were Brahmins and performed tapas, that in Treta Yuga, souls in Kshatriya bodies became fit to perform Tapas without prejudice to other men, that in Dvapara Yuga souls in Vaisya bodies became fit to make Tapas and that in forthcoming Kali Yuga souls in (nominal) Sudra bodies can also do Tapas, but that in that Dvapara Yuga (which was then going on) such Tapas was "Adharma." Sage Valmiki and Sage Narada had Sudra bodies in their previous births.
6. Sri Rama treated (Sugriva) and Guka (sic) as his brothers. He threatened and abused the Brahmin Jabala for his atheistical talk. He slew the Brahmana Ravana and Kumbhkarna, and to talk of him as subject to caste and priestly tyranny and as wanting in moral courage is absurd. That the so-called medieval Brahmins were guilty of caste-tyranny and prejudice and that we Hindus are suffering for our national sins are true. But that Sage Valmiki or Vyasa or Sri Rama was guilty of caste jealousy and tyranny is (to use your very learned Correspondent Mr. M. Narayanasamy Aiyar's words) a statement of such fantastic character that the very word "Historical" would be a misnomer if applied to it. Brahmins ought to be patient and tolerant according to Manu and they do not deserve that name if they do not bear personal insults meekly. But as a great Avatara was attacked by you not in dubious or delicate, but very violent language, I have thought it my duty to send this humble contribution.
COIMBATORE, 25-2-1901 T. SADASIVAIYAR.
From the Editor.
Your MSS was put into my hands when I returned home after meeting you, otherwise I would have discussed some points therein with you in person.
I have not got the Volumes of Ramayan with me and I don't know where these stories occur. For one thing, I regard that the Uttara portion of a Purana or Itihasa was not written by the same author who wrote the Purva portion. Do you believe that the Uttara Ramayana was the work of Sage Valmiki?
Who do you take the 'monkeys' in Valmiki for? You know we always speak at first of an alien as "குரங்கு
You know I strongly hold that God cannot be born or become incarnate on earth THROUGH THE WOMB (போணிவாய்ப்பட்டு); though he can appear in human form, and that this is one of the cardinal point of our Siddhanta?
Those alone who are still in the folds of the three gunas can get a saguna body, however high they may have been placed?
Though they may not be 'Divine' (in any sense of the nature of the Highest Principle) they may be like 'Divine'. But till they become 'Divine' by repeated births, it won't be wrong to say that they now and then exhibit some blot or frailty. So you may excuse me if I think that Sri Rama is not immaculate in every respect. And I have always held to this opinion consistently in the journal. One may love Sri Rama, as Tulasi Das says, as the son of Dasaratha, though one may not regard him as the incarnation of the Highest.
Evidently, Sri Rama's power as a sovereign waned while nearing his end, and so, he may have committed some act just to please the multitude, which he in his highest wisdom may not have approved.
One or two more queries and I shall have done.
Can you refer me to any authority which enjoins a king to act on mere gossip and vile scandal? Is this in any way consistent with our human or even divine ideas of justice? Is there any law which requires any king to be unjust to himself?
You know how euphemistic the phrases "மண்ணிலிறங்கினான்" "பூமாதுடன்போய்ச்சேர்ந்தாள்"
are phrases cognate with "சிவலோகப்
Did not Lakshmana kill himself? Did not Sri Rama enter the Sarayu? How do you interpret these facts?
From the Correspondent.
1. I received your kind letter. I believe the Uttara Ramayana to be the work of Valmiki Rishi though in the northern editions additional spurious chapters have been added to it. Of course in all our religious works such interpolations exist. The first six Kandams close with Sri Rama's coronation and hence do not complete Sri Rama's life. Just as the Mahabharatam cannot be completed at Yuthishtira's coronation and must go on till his Swargarohanam, so the Uttara Ramayana is a necessary portion of the Ramayana. In the Balakanda it is said that Valmiki wrote the Uttara portion also. The total numbers of the chapters are also given besides the total number of the Slokas (24,000). The first Sloka of each 1,000 Slokas begin with the twenty four letters of the Gayatri in regular order. When tested by these data, the Uttara Ramayana must be considered as Valmiki's genuine work. It is however considered detrimental to worldly prosperity to read it just as Govinda Narayana and Mahadeva or "Kadapatamatas", (sic). Again, of the Uttara Ramayana is not a genuine production of Valmiki, why do you find fault with Sri Rama in respect if his two acts of killing the Sudra ascetic and the abandonment of Sita, which stories occurring only in the Uttara Ramayana.
2. As I have said in my paper I take the monkey friends if Sri Rama to have been born of Devas to semi-human women (of monkey form usually), they being an off-shoot of the third root-race whose bodies were not hardened like ours and were more ethereal and capable of temporary alterations of form. (See Secret Doctrine, Vol. II). As to prejudiced ignorance talking of aliens as குரங்குமூஞ்சி, it has nothing to do with the talk of sages like Valmiki. The notion of Orientalists and Material Philosophers that religions and religious stories had their origin in infantile ignorance and prejudiced race-hatred and blind hero-worship is utterly opposed to Theosophic truth and to the sober conclusions of rational historical studies. Ordinary men of course in all ages talk ignorantly and in a prejudiced way but the Rishis and the founders of religions are highly evolved souls who have gone above the distinctions of caste, creed, race and color and who saw Truths by a vision which belongs to a plane above the plane of the highest intellect.
3. I agree with you that the supreme Parabrahman cannot be incarnated in its fullness. I even go beyond you and hold that the Nirguna Brahman cannot appear in a human or any other form because all form implies limitation. The Saguna Iswara who does the three works of Creation, Preservation and Destruction has got three aspects. In His two aspects as Brahma and Rudra he does not incarnate, that is, does not take up relatively permanent forms in which a life of some length is lived out and a great drama is played out. Brahms and Rudra merely take passing forms, for special purposes and throw them aside as soon as the purpose is served. But in Iswara's Vishnu aspect he makes (sic) Avataras as in that aspect. He is the supporter and preserver of forms, and guides the laws of evolution and teaches Dharma by example from time to time, when the sattwic forces in the universe are almost overborne by the rajasic and tamasic forces from time to time. Yonee is as much made of Panchabhutas as a Lingam-stone or Brahma's brow or a cattle tying wooden post, out of which Sree Mahadeva has risen in temporary forms or as the stone pillar, out of which Sree Narasimha came out. I cannot understand the philosophical rationale of the superiority claimed for a form when it comes out of a stone or pillar, and the inferiority of the form alleged to be caused by its coming out of a fleshly tabernacle. A human being which issues out of Yonee (வாய்) is superior to a stone or a sexual plant which comes into existence without passing through a Yonee. The Omnipresent Supreme in all his three aspects is present in every particle of matter including the yonees of all creatures. Even when Lord Mahadeva or Brahma take forms to bless his worshippers, those forms have to come out of the womb of nature and space. The distinctions between the three aspects of God when made not for philosophic purposes of clearly understanding his Saktis but out of the desire born of human weakness to exalt one at the expense of the other two, so that we might have the satisfaction of seeing imperfections in beings held Supremely Sacred by others, will not lead to peace of mind or to correct apprehension of the inner meanings of the apparently contradictory Puranic stories (see 12th Skantam of Srimat Bhagavatam, dialogue between Markandeya and Mahadeva). The three aspects so different, though indissolubly connected, kinds of work (according to the grasp of our limited intelligence) and they do such works not for the sake of themselves or as bound by Karma, but they limit themselves voluntarily out of Grace and do the works in appropriate forms for purifying the Jeevas out of the latter's Anava and Karma Mala. The incarnation of one of the sacred aspects through a womb, or without the medium of a womb (as in the case of the 1st four Avataras), cannot degrade Him any more than the Mahadeva aspect, dancing naked in burning grounds or interceding with Paravaiyar for his bhakta Sree Sundara, or testing his devotees by asking them to do apparently cruel and inhuman things, can affect his majesty or purity. As to the "Cardinal points" of the Siddhanta, I am afraid that like out other philosophical systems, its original purity might have got soiled by the dogmatisms and idiosyncrasies of its later followers. The Siddhanta in my opinion contains the clearest and most logical expositions of metaphysical Tattva philosophy even now. I consider you as my elder brother as regards clear metaphysical thinking, but I am not so sure of your superiority as regards the reverential treatment and understanding of Puranic stories and historical traditions.
4. Of course the word 'Avataras' is used very loosely and even persons like Parasu Rama who have not become Divine (in your sense) though they have long spells of divine influence, are called Avataras. But Sri Rama is considered as a being who though born only as "half-divine" reached full Divinity when he broke Sree Mahadeva's bow, while Sree Krishna had reached full divinity several Kalpa before his Avatara. Sree Rama's power as a sovereign waxed higher and higher and never waned. The Dharmas and actions of different beings vary according to their position. It is said in the Bhagavatam that Iswara in his three aspects praises and worships his Bhaktas as greater than himself, that one of His objects is, the testing of his Bhaktas and the strengthening of their humility and devotion, that another object is to set an example to ordinary men, and that he has other inscrutable objects also. Again the Iswara and the ordinary Devas place temptations in the paths of Bhaktas and Ascetics and do other acts which are prohibited to men. A king's highest duty according to Manu is to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his subjects and he attains the Highest Worlds thereby.
5. As regards Lakshmana's and Sri Rama's giving up of their bodies voluntarily, it is not ordinary suicide, as the latter word is usually used to denote the self-destruction of the body for the purpose of escaping troubles here or enjoying pleasures hereafter. When Karaikkal Pechi Ammaiyar threw off her fleshly form her husband had released her from her duty as his wife and she did not want any longer the beautiful flesh-body which might be a hindrance to her worship of the Lord Siva. Further there are Swechchata-mrithyus whose bodies cannot die without their free consent and yogis like Bhishma have to commit suicide by raising their Prana voluntarily through the Brahmarandhra. Sarabanga and Sabaree burnt up their bodies as useless in future, after they had waited to hospitably entertain Sri Rama with their bodies. Soldiers and Martyrs voluntarily court Death to fulfil duty. The Uttara-Ramayana says that Brahma Deva sent Mrityu to Sri Rama to inform Him that His work on the earth had been completely performed, and then, Sri Lakshmana and Sri Rama give up their bodies by the Yoga Marga while immersed in the waters of Sarayu. The Jaina religion requires ascetics to starve themselves to death when their bodies become useless to do further good to the earthly beings.
From the Editor.
Many thanks for your reply. But your reply raises up so many more points that I would fain put you some more queries.
Do you seriously contend that Ramayana is history? Perhaps you also mean this work was composed in the Dwapara Yuga. You admit that there are interpolations in Ramayana. But perhaps you are not prepared to hear that for several hundreds of years the whole of Bhagavata has been regarded as spurious both by Indian and European scholars; nay they have traced even the authorship of the worship. But of course you will all put it to sectarian and anti-Hindu prejudices, but why should you not extend your hand of charity and toleration to these people and credit them with some regard for truth?
In regard to the question of Avatars, my statement was general. I simply said that God cannot incarnate and I defined God below as the Highest Principle. Whenever I use such word I always refer to the supreme Brahmam Nirguna. You see in this statement of mine only an attempt to elevate one sect over another. Is this charitable? In your reply you don't question this statement of principle itself, though you are pleased to dogmatize at once on the dogmatisms of Saiva Siddhanta. Can you kindly state what you regard as the dogmatisms of this Siddhanta? Is the distinction between Nirguna Parabrahmam and Saguna Iswara a dogmatism or not? Are these distinct? Is the distinction real or fancied? Can the Parabrahmam become the Saguna Iswara? If the Parabrahmam can become Saguna Vishnu and Vishnu can become born through the womb and incarnate as man, can we or can we not draw the conclusion that the Parabrahmam can be born through the womb? Well, but where is the difficulty of Parabrahmam incarnating as man or beast or anything? I want this position to be much more defined and see if the explanations offered by yourself do not hold good even here. I have elsewhere explained the real reasons for this doctrine. The reason is not that any appearance is a limitation, in which the Parabrahmam's omnipresence itself is a limitation. The real ground is that, the supreme who is Mayatita, beyond Tamas, and beyond the three Gunas could not bring himself within the folds of Maya or Guna. This is the distinction of Nirguna and Saguna. Nirguna is where one cannot be enfolded by the Gunas and subjected to their influence. Saguna is where the subject is subjected to the folds of the three Gunas or Prakriti and the Saguni can rise higher and higher by getting outside the influence of the Gunas and finally to get outside them altogether. But the Parabrahmam is still present in Maya or Prakriti. But this presence is a mystery i.e., not possible to explain exactly, but this presence is in no way similar to the presence of the Guni on the Saguna body. If otherwise, the distinction between Nirguna and Saguna itself will vanish. The distinction between sexual and asexual is important, if only that the latter points to a highly differentiated and organized and evolved physical body, showing how deep the spirit had been materialized or subjected to the folds of Prakriti. You will be surprised to find that a very ancient Tamil classic writer in speaking of the Narasimha ranks it higher than the other Avataras, in fact it was a Yonijates. You can see there could be no birth of a man lion from the stone. It is a mere appearance. But by the way, did you ever know that the Saivites – the sectarians you may call them – have never identified their supreme ideal – call it by whatever name you like ("ஓருருவம்
கொட்டாமோ – திருவாசகம்) – with one of the three. Will it be news to you if you are told that their God lower or higher whatever it is, is never called by them as Saguna. Do you know that even the Trimurti Rudra or Siva is not Saguna but Nirguna. And that even though a being could be Nirguna, yet it is not the Parabrahmam (to you Parabrahmam and Nirguna Being are synonymous). The Beings or Jivas between the 26th, (25th is Prakriti composed of three Gunas) and 36th Tatwa composing matter are all Nirguna Beings though not outside matter or maya; though they are clothed in material bodies higher than the Saguna bodies… Not that you do not know these things, but I really could not understand how you can ignore these when month after month I have been repeating these things in the pages of the Deepika? Perhaps one may suggest that this is not Saivaism or that the Saivites assume their position to appear to be supreme to the Vaishnavites out of blind sectarian prejudices. But you know the story of Durvasa. Is this story a sectarian one and fictitious? (This story rebuts your position that Brahman cannot be born of the womb). Can anyone point out any passage in the Vedas, and Upanishads, Agamas, Itihasas or Puranas in which the Being or Beings named as Iswara, Maheswara, Parameshwara, Mahadeva, Rudra, Sankara, Siva, Sambhu, Bava, Sarva, &c., is called SAGUNA. On the other hand, these are distinctly called NIRGUNA. But you know it is the foible or dogmatism of the Vedantists of a certain type or sect to read 'Lower Brahman' or 'Saguna Brhaman,' wherever these words occur, a position held to be untenable ever by such people as Prof. Max Muller and Dr. Thebaut. I have often pointed out the absurdities and ludicrousness and perversities of interpretation which flow from this preconceived theory or sectarian prejudice. You know the well-known definitions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. It has always seemed to me that definitions of sectarian and non-sectarian could be reduced to similar terms. A non-sectarian is one's own enunciation of truth and principle, and sectarian is the other's dogmas. I believe that even absolute truth must be sectarian. The persons believing in it will form a 'sect' as distinguished from those who differ or oppose it. Even if those who hold to the truth will not call themselves 'sectarian,' the others will call them so. Can you not really define 'truth' as held to by 'theosophy.' When defined, has it not got a limit or bound? Dear Brother, you must really excuse my prolixity. Because in these matters when you pull up a twig, you pull up the whole plant, branches trunk and roots and all. Each truth is based on another, rests on another and could only be understood in relation to the others. And thus we arrive at certain truths or body of truths, which are mutually related, have a natural cohesive symmetry and harmony, a well-known basis and structure. You cannot have really an olla podrida. You can't pluck roses from thistles nor sweets from a neem tree.
Dear Brother, I have no copy of Manu with me, will you kindly quote the passage referred to by you?
By the way, it is not for the first time I express this opinion about Sri Rama and Ramayana in the pages of protest at the time. The story of the Sudra Saint is recited and commented on by me at p. 189, vol. II and I am not the first to give vent to such criticisms either; nor were they Saivites and at page III, same vol. I observe "And there could be no excuse for the writer of the Ramayana for his ungrateful and ungenerous travesty of the Tamilians and the gross exaggeration and hyperboles he deals with; and the only excuse could be that he was altogether ignorant of the Tamil people," &c., &c.
I have already set forth my views as regards the reading and interpreting of sacred history. But the majority of the Puranas do not even form 'sacred history' in the strict sense of the term. I have also explained elsewhere as to how one should read the Puranas. And in the writing of the history of the rise of Hindu religions and sects, even Bhagavata has its place. One could really distinguish between the faith and beliefs of the people when the Ramayana and Mahabharata came to be actually written, and those of people or at least of the portion of them who lived in the age when the Bhagavata was actually written. Why, the writer of Bhagavata actually thinks that all other Puranas and Vedas were not satisfactory from his point of view. I wish you would calmly consider the views of Colebroke and Wilson on these subjects (vide the small book on Puranas brought out by the Society for the Resuscitation of Oriental Literature). The Sanskrit journal of Pudukkottai extracted the passage from Wilson bearing on the Bhagavata but curiously enough it did not give its own views on the question, but evidently it acquiesced in the Professor's views. And in the Saiva-Vaishnava views on these matters, at least you can regard these oriental scholars as impartial judges. Your extreme devotion to the person of Sri Krishna should not make you forget all other questions of chronology and true historical criticism. I am afraid Mr. Narayanasamy Iyer will be the last to uphold your views of Ramayana. I know his views are much worse than mine.
From the Correspondent.
(1). As I have very little leisure, I will not lengthen this letter by hunting up and quoting authorities but will answer your further queries briefly and you will excuse me if I am not clear.
(2). At the risk of being considered superstitious and unenlightened, I confess that I believe Ramayana to be History and that it was composed in the Dwapara Yuga. Bhagavatham is the name of one of the 18 Puranas and without it, you cannot make up 18. When Sakti worship increased in Bengal, Devi Bhagavatham was attempted to be substituted for the original Bhagavatham and the latter was alleged to be the forgery of one Boppa Deva. There have been, of course, "eminent" Indian and European scholars who are prepared to prove that every Hindu work is a forgery, that everything good in them was borrowed from the Bible, that Hindu did not know writing till recently and that even Panini the Grammarian was illiterate, that the Vedas are the babblings of infant humanity, that it is all superstitious personification of astronomical facts or of dreams or ancestor worship and so on and so forth. The Reverend Lazarus in the Christian College Magazine for January says that it is established by eminent Scholars that the Bhagavat Geeta is a forgery made by a Vaishnava Brahmin in the second century A. D. and that all persons of all sects having a copy of the Maha Bharata were persuaded by this forger in the days when there was neither Railway, Telegraph or Printing press to insert this Geeta in all the copies of the Maha Bharatam – even Mr. Ranade was persuaded by these eminent scholars to believe that all "Southern Sudras were barbarous aborigines who were worshipping devils which were changed into Vedic gods by the influence of crafty Brahmins. Of course, I credit them all with regard for Truth, though not with much sympathetic reverence for the ancient Religious works. Saint Sreedhara Chariar quotes passages from other Puranas showing that the marks of the Bhagavata Purana are (a) its being taught by Suka, (b) its beginning with a sloka which paraphrases the Gayathri, (c) its peculiar treatment of Vrithrasura Vadham, and so on, and prove that the work he comments upon is the genuine Bhagavatam and that the theory of forgery by Boppa Deva is absurd.
(3). You say "But this presence (of Parabrahmam in Maya) is a mystery; i.e., not possible to explain, &c." I agree. A man who does not know even simple equations cannot grasp the meaning of the functions in a problem in Integral Calculus. But there are great Iswaras who have reached Nirguna Parabrahmam and who are therefore called Parabrahmam but who, whenever they will to do so, can limit themselves to Saguna Beings. They exercise that will whenever their Devotees pray to them to do so. There are three kinds of such Beings, the Trimoorties, Parabrahmam (that is, Iswara who had reached Parabrahmam) took the Narasimha Form to protect Prahlada and he took "asexual birth for doing certain acts for the good of His world. He took "sexual" birth at request of Devas, Rishis, Earth, &c. as Sri Krishna to do certain other works. One of the dogmatisms of the later followers of the Siddhanta School is that the distinction between "sexual" "asexual" appearances is an important one, Sree Krishna was never bound by His physical Body which He used as His instrument and He was able, at will, to show His omnipotence and omnipresence and there was no "Materialization or subjection of the spirit to a highly differentiated and organized and evolved physical body and to the folds of Prahriti" as you suppose.
(4). You ask "can the Parabrahmam become the Saguna Iswara?" I answer that the liberated man who has become Sivam or Parabrahmam can, through His Grace, limit Himself to Saguna Iswara and do the acts of Creation, Preservation and Destruction in appropriate forms, the second act of Preservation requiring the taking of many forms on many occasions.
(5). As your letter states, Parabrahmam has no form and no name and yet, we praise IT with 1,000 names. All the 1,00o names and forms are on such a high plane that to us, the distinctions must remain a mystery and it is best to treat them as equal. It is useless and dangerous to speculate wit hour intellects abort them till through the Grace of the Guru, we get our initiations, second births and second sights which are higher than intellectual visions. All stars are at the same distance to our physical eyes. Where distinctions between Iswaras are made or appear to be made in the religious works, it is better to see whether the distinction is made between two Beings both of whom have reached Sivam or between one who has reached Sivam (and who is called by one of th 1,000 names) and a Saguni called by another of the 1,000 names and also whether the distinctions are intended to indicate a truth of Higher Planes (called Allegory). Hence, it is that certain religious works were prohibited to be read without the Upadesam of Guru. Another dogmatism of the later followers of the Siddhanta when it became a sect was that Beings having the Vaishnavite Form and called by some of the 1,000 names could not have reached Parabrahmam and could not be called Parabrahmam and that only Beings having the other names of Siva, Rudra, Sambhu, &c. can alone be so considered. That the several sets of Trimoorties (who exist in sets in all the worlds) are called "Saguna Beings" (connected with Satwa, Rajas and Tamas as Vishnu, Brahma and Rudra) in numerous works is so patent a fact that I was surprised at your challenge to show you any place where Rudra or Sankara is styled a Saguna Being – of course, as I said before, Nirguna Beings are also called by the names of the Trimoorties.
(6). As to the story of Durvasa, it is said in several Puranas that all the three, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva incarnated as Soma, Dattatreya and Durvasa and became sons of Atri. Sree Sankaracharya is stated by some of His followers to be the direct Avatar of Lord Siva. Whenever the influence of any of the Great Lords over shadows a man, the followers of the man make him a direct Avatar of the Lord. If the modern Sectarian Siddhantists will REALLY ignore names and look at the facts, they will find that in the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavatam, the same Siddhantam is taught, the Parabrahmam being called by the names Vasudeva, Narayana, Hari, Vishnu and so on instead of Siva, Hara, Rudra, Sambhu, &c.
(7). I have no time to go into Tatwas as I have been too long already. There are only 9 Tatwas which can be watered into 96 and more and it is all a fight about words as shown by the Lord in the 11th Skandham of Sreemat Bhagavatam in the Upadesam to Saint Uddhava.
(8). As to the views of Mr. Froude and others about the interpretation of Sacred History, I beg to state (and this is the theosophical view) that the full and complete interpretation must recognize the existence of higher planes seen by higher visions and that acute and labored attempts to treat the saints as superstitious children in some respects and as highly intellectual, moral and spiritual men at the same time cannot satisfy the reason. You ought not to ignore the existence (past, present and future) of great men of superior vision who have passed on to higher worlds and yet guide the evolutions of the cycles of younger human races (their younger brothers) by translating the facts and truths of the higher planes into the current language though which translations into human words look as strange and fantastic after a time as an algebracial formula to an infant standard boy.