Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 27 Aug 2019


When Isvara is not all-pervading, how can He be said to possess the world as His external body?

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

Shri Anil asked: In the context of Śrī Rāmānuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita philosophy, You have said that creation is the external body of Īśvara. But You have also rejected the idea that God is all-pervading. Could You kindly resolve the seeming contradiction?

Swami replied: If you are in your house, you do not pervade all over your house. Similarly, the soul, which is main seat of awareness, exists in the body. But it does not pervade all over the body. At any given time, the sun is at one place in the sky. Only its light pervades all over the sky and earth. The lamp is located at one place in the room and only its light pervades all over the room. The soul, which is the main seat of awareness, lies in the body. But some general awareness pervades all over the body. This concept was well-explained by Rāmānuja.

All the above examples are imaginable. The unimaginable God need not pervade all over the world in a physical sense. Neither does He have to make His power pervade the world. Yet, He or His power can be said to pervade the world in an effective sense. God’s omniscience is unimaginable. So, in order to know everything, He or His power does not need to physically pervade the world. He is omniscient in spite of not physically pervading the world. Moreover, in the case of the imaginable domain, the possessor of the power and the power are different. So, we can say that the possessor of the power is at a certain location, while his power pervades everywhere. In the case of the unimaginable domain, the possessor and power are both unimaginable and hence, both are one and the same. Therefore, we have to say that the Possessor (God) or His power pervades the world in an effective sense and not in a physical sense.

Your doubt is solved even if we treat the unimaginable God as the central soul of the universe. But, in the philosophy of Rāmānuja, God is not unimaginable. He is imaginable and even visible to energetic beings in the upper worlds. This is because, Rāmānuja treats the first Energetic Incarnation as the ultimate God. The first Energetic Incarnation, Īśvara is the first energetic form in which the unimaginable God entered and merged. Since the energetic body of Īśvara is finite and it exists inside the universe, it can be treated to be the central soul of the universe. This mediated God, Īśvara, has His own energetic body. This body can be treated to be His internal body and the external world can be treated to be His external body, which is like a shirt that we wear over the body.

In the case of God, the external world is treated to be His gross body, just as in the case of the human being, the external physical body is taken to be the gross body. The central mediated God is taken to be the possessor of the gross world-body just as the central soul (awareness) is the possessor of the gross physical body. This shows a similarity between the macroscale world and the microscale human being. The world contains both the non-inert souls and the inert matter and energy. Similarly, the external gross body of the human being has both the non-inert general awareness and the inert matter and energy. Both the gross bodies, at the macro- and micro-scales, possess inert matter and energy (acit) and non-inert awareness (cit). Hence, both can be treated as mixtures of non-inert and inert items (cit-acit). The world is huge (sthūla cidacit) and the physical body of human being is small (sūkṣma cidacit). The possessor of the world becomes sthūla cidacit viśiṣta and the possessor of the physical body is sūkṣma cidacit viśiṣṭa.

The similarity between the two possessors is loosely indicated by the word monism (advaita) in Rāmānuja’s philosophy. Here, it appears that Rāmānuja is comparing Īśvara to an ordinary human being. But, I feel, the word ‘advaita’ will carry its full sense if you compare the First Possessor (Īśvara or Nārāyaṇa) to a Human Incarnation like Krishna instead of an ordinary human being like Śvetaketu. There is no difference between the First Possessor (Nārāyaṇa) and Krishna since both are Incarnations of the same unimaginable God. Thus, there is not just a similarity between the two, but there is an actual monism between them. If Rāmānuja’s philosophy were limited to pointing out a similarity between Nārāyaṇa and an ordinary human being like Śvetaketu, the philosophy would have been named Viśiṣṭa Sādṛṣya and not Viśiṣṭa Advaita. Sādṛṣya means similarity, while advaita means monism. Even though Rāmānuja spoke of the similarity between Nārāyaṇa and an ordinary human being, He named the philosophy Viśiṣṭa Advaita. It shows that, in His heart, Rāmānuja was referring to the identity or monism, which only exists between the First Energetic Incarnation, Īśvara and the Human Incarnation, like Krishna. It means that even though Nārāyaṇa and Śvetaketu were on the tongue of Rāmānuja, in his heart, were Nārāyaṇa and Krishna. The heart is more important than the tongue. So, it is obvious why He named His philosophy Viśiṣṭa Advaita and not Viśiṣṭa Sādṛṣya.

Ramanuja Vishishtaadvaita advaita Eshvara Iswara Ishvara Visvarupa Viswarupa chit achit Suukshma chidachit Narayana Krishna Vishishta Saadrushya