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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Universal salvation in Appayya Dīkṣita

Some Vedāntins (beginning perhaps with Vācaspati) have conceived the possibility of universal salvation (sarvamukti), i.e. the condition in which all living beings are liberated. The most compelling depiction of it I know of is found in Appayya Dīkṣita's works (especially in his Śivādvaitanirṇaya and Siddhāntaleśasaṅgraha).

Appayya seems to come to the idea of sarvamukti in a purely logical way: liberation is possible for every living being. More than that, liberation is necessary for all of them, since the very bond is actually only illusory (given that nothing but brahman ultimately exists). Thus, given that time is endless, sooner or later  every living being will be liberated from nescience (ajñāna) and recognise his/her/its original identity with the brahman.
Until that moment, however, nescience is not completely destroyed and, thus, the brahman keeps on being reflected in the multiple mirrors of the single souls, which are no more than mirrors reflecting the only brahman but believing to be different from it. This means that the brahman is itself not completely free and that no soul, however advanced in the path, can be completely released.

Thus, the liberation of all other living beings is, so to say, in our own interest ("so to say" is needed, since ultimately speaking there are no multiple living beings), since until every one is released, no one can attain oneness with the absolute brahman.

Does this sound convincing? Do you see possible parallels/influences from the Buddhist concept of Bodhisattva and/or with the communio of human beings (NB: only human ones) in Christianity?

On endless time, have a look at this post.


Jayarava said...

I think sarvamukti is inherent in all Buddhist thought. Although the early texts acknowledge that aptitude (or perhaps the level of accumulated puṇya) might be a limiting factor in attaining liberation in any given life, the traditional Vedic limitations on liberation, such as varṇa, certainly do not apply.

This is emphasized in the story of Aṅgulimālā (Majjīma Nikāya 86) a mass murderer who attains liberation after meeting the Buddha. If he can be liberated then anybody can.

I'm not sure it is teleological though - I'm not sure there is a necessity that all beings must eventually be liberated. We continue in saṃsāra indefinitely unless we make an effort to escape. The potential always exists, but one needs to make an effort to realise it.

I think we see this in a phenomenon of Buddhist thought. This is the re-occurrence of 'proofs' of the possibility of liberation. My sense is that liberation regularly became elevated to the level where it was effectively impossible - either it took an infinite amount of effort, or an infinite amount of time. And correctives had to be introduced to allow for the possibility of liberation: tathāgatagarbha was one such.

However if one invokes infinite time, as Appayya Dīkṣita seems to, then all things that might come to pass will eventually come to pass if we wait long enough. Like an infinite number of monkeys typing randomly on keyboards will eventually (re)produce the works of Shakespeare.

If supposedly separate beings are really only facets of a single all-encompassing (i.e. infinite) entity, brahman, then we are already liberated. Thus oneness was never in fact broken - the multiplicity of the universe is illusory. "All is one. God is good."

This invocation of infinity is just sophistry though, isn't it? It allows us to bypass logical impasses, and to express certainty where none exists. I sympathize with the attempt to eliminate uncertainty, but infinity is entirely indefinite. Thus infinity offers no certainty.


There is a very interesting passage, which in my belief presents in a nutshell Śaṅkarācārya’s view of mokṣa. It is:

“अतः अविद्याकल्पितसंसारित्वनिवर्तनेन नित्यमुक्तात्मस्वरूपसमर्पणात् न मोक्षस्य अनित्यत्वदोषः। यस्य तु उत्पाद्यः मोक्षः तस्य मानसं वाचिकं कायिकं वा कार्यम् अपेक्षते इति युक्तम्। तथा विकार्यत्वे च। तयोः पक्षयोः मोक्षस्य ध्रुवम् अनित्यत्वम्। नहि दध्यादि विकार्यम् उत्पाद्यं वा घटादि नित्यं दृष्टं लोके। न च आप्यत्वेनापि कार्यापेक्षा स्वात्मरूपत्वे सति अनाप्यत्वात्। स्वरूपव्यतिरिक्तत्वे अपि ब्रह्मणः न आप्यत्वं सर्वगतत्वेन नित्याप्तस्वरूपत्वात् सर्वेण ब्रह्मणः आकाशस्य इव। नापि संस्कार्यः मोक्षः येन व्यापारम् अपेक्षेत। संस्कारः हि नाम संस्कार्यस्य गुणाधानेन वा स्यात् दोषापनयनेन वा। नापि दोषापनयनेन नित्यशुद्धब्रह्मस्वरूपत्वात् मोक्षस्य। स्वात्मधर्मः एव सन् तिरोभूतः मोक्षः क्रियया आत्मनि संस्क्रियमाणे अभिव्यज्यते यथा आदर्शे निघर्षणक्रियया संस्क्रियमाणे भास्वरत्वं धर्म इति चेत् न क्रियाश्रयत्वानुपपत्तेः आत्मनः। यदाश्रया हि क्रिया तम अविकुर्वती नैव आत्मानं लभते। यदि आत्मा क्रियया विक्रियेत अनित्यत्वम् आत्मनः प्रसज्येत। अविकार्योऽयमुच्यते।… ब्रह्म-भावशच मोक्षः। तस्मात् न संस्कार्यः अपि मोक्षः। तस्मात् ज्ञानमेकं मुक्त्वा क्रियायाः गन्धमात्रस्यापि अनुप्रवेशः इह न उपपद्यते।” (Śāṅkarabhāṣya on BS, I/i/iv)

This is more succinctly expressed by Dharmarājādhvarīndra in his Vedāntaparibhāṣa: “सिद्धस्यिव ब्रह्मस्वरूपस्य मोक्षस्यासिद्धत्वभ्रमेण तत्साधने प्र्वृत्त्युपपत्तेः। अनर्थनिवृत्तिरप्यधिष्ठानभूतब्रास्वारूपतया सिद्धैव।” (p. 204, Swāmī Mādhavānanda’s edition).

From all that has been said above, one thing is clear: all considerations of liberation made in the above quotations are from the standpoint of Ajātavāda – this is to say, since in Ajātavāda, only one supreme category, viz. Brahman, of the nature of consciousness, is accepted, and there is no scope even for superimposition (āropa) and its negation (apavāda), mokṣa is not accepted as a thing not to be achieved, rather it is identified with Brahman itself. But strictly speaking, Ajātavāda is meant only for those who have already experienced Brahman and become one with it.

But the case of Appayya Dīkṣita, which is under question, revolves round the pivot of anekajīvavāda. I have long thought about it. It is my assumption (i.e. immense research is needed to substantiate this point) that anekajīvavāda and such other vādas proceed from a socio-religious need, aside from philosophical needs, viz. Guruvāda. Gurus are lauded as ‘narākāra parabrahma’. Now how is such a ‘narākāra parabrahma’ subject to death? This becomes a very moot question in face of such expressions as “ābrahmastambaparyantaṃ paramātmaswarūpakam / sthāvaraṃ jaṅgamañcaiva praṇamāmi jaganmayam//” On account of the ever-free nature of this ‘jaganmaya’ then everything else (if there is really something as such) – sthāvara and jaṅgama should be ever-free. But it is not the case. Thus a modern Vedāntī guru like Swāmī Nigamānanda Saraswatī Paramahaṃsa (1880-1935) has to say: “So long as a single disciple of mine remains bound, I myself shall not be liberated.” There is clearly an influence of the Buddhist concept of Bodhisattva here. But the original esoteric undercurrent of the oneness of Brahman remains the same. Thus Narahari, an 18th century Vedāntin, says in his Bodhasāra:

advaitaṃ kecidicchanti dvaitaṃ icchanti cāpare/
samaṃ tattvaṃ na vindanti dvaitādvaitavivarjitam//

This ‘samaṃ tattvam’ of Narahari echoes the Gītā (V/19): nirdoṣaṃ hi samaṃ brahma.

What do you think?

elisa freschi said...

Thank you Jayarava, for this insightful comment.
sarvamukti in Appayya means liberation of all (quantitatively). Thus, the main stress is on the fact that the absolute liberation of each of us is not reached unless and untile everyone else is also liberated and that all will be liberated since the bond does not ultimately exist. In this sense, the point of time is less relevant than the point about the logical and relational necessity of the sarvamukti.
Interestingly, I read an article about Appayya's sarvamukti written at the beginning of the XXth c. in India. The main objection was that sarvamukti would imply the end of time and this is logically inadmissible… infinity was instead conceived as the default case.

Vidya said...

"This means that the brahman is itself not completely free"

The keyword Appayya Dīkṣita uses in Siddhantalesasangraha is "Isvara" not brahman!

My first thought on reading this was on how exactly is this different from the concept and what happens during mahapralaya (discussed in Saivagamas) but with some subtle differences.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elisa, thank you (again) for your insightful post on sarvamukti as well as for underlying the “purely logical” way of Appayya’s thinking (precisely why, I think, you added also communio). I see your question as a present-day variation on the very problem of ‘universal salvation’ or better apokatastasis. I suspect the right answer for your question comes from the status and metabolism of samsara. I think here is the common bond (rather than in parallels or influences/dialogical refutations/responses). Nevertheless, there is another direction in several other Indic systems, most notably in early medieval Jainism and (so to say pre-tathagatagarbha) Buddhism: the ‘fear’ of emptying samsara and so invalidating (temporally-wise or otherwise) the most basic presuppositions underlying Indian religious cum philosophical grand vistas. Dr Jean-Pierre Osier (Paris) asked the right question in 2002 about “Un cauchemar indien : les classes végétales peuvent-elles se vider?” (now a contribution differently titled, et pour cause : “On a toujours besoin d’un plus petit que soi ou les animalcules (nigoda) au service de l’équilibre cosmique” , published in Penser, dire, représenter l’animal dans le monde indien, Paris : EPHE, 2009), with a review here : More on Origen & Gregory of Nyssa’s apokatastasis in an article incidentally by a fine & most industrious Italian scholar, in the journal for the history of religions it happens I edit: From quite another angle: thinking in such bold terms as sarvamukti (and sarvajña, etc.) the totality of (animated) beings and its destiny on the inscrutable canopy of time is an ultimate concern for thinking religious goals and mechanisms qua religion (including indeed etymologically ‘religion’). Of course, I would absolutely not expect some of the fashionable and so poorly informed theorist/deconstructionists of ‘religion’ as a ‘still’ pertinent category (because invented/imposed by the ‘West’), especially Dubuisson and the like, to read Appayya in Sanskrit. They have no idea about ‘sanscrite cogitare’. Best wishes! Eugen (Ciurtin).

elisa freschi said...

@Vidya, you are right. Appayya actually speaks of jīvas not being able to attain the status of the brahman, but being able to attain that of Īśvara, until everyone else is liberated. I simplified the point because this intermediate step seemed to me logically irrelevant. Why would you compare it with mahāpralaya? I should check back the sources, but I have a vague memory of the malas being preserved during the mahāpralaya, isn't it?

elisa freschi said...

@Sudipta, thanks for the learned references. I am afraid, though, that I am not completely following you. Why should the problem of death regard only Gurus and not already the case of Kṛṣṇa and Rāma or the other avatāras of Śrī Viṣṇu? And could not one solve the issue with the idea of the death of the body alone? In short, the anekajīvavāda seems to me to have at least also philosophical reasons as its base (see Madhva's defence of bheda for instance).
Thanks also for Paramahaṃsa's quote, which in fact seems to go in the same direction of sarvamukti.

elisa freschi said...

@Eugen, thanks for the comment. And yes, you are right, I was having Origen in my personal background, well spotted. I will try to locate the texts you mention (Pinault's Penser… is unfortunately not available in Vienna and too expensive to be bought and "your" journal is also not present here —but thanks for signalling it). I do not know enough about Dubuisson (I never read more than a short summary of his "The Western Construction of Religion"): what do you mean exactly?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Elisa. I can provide a copy of Osier's article (not I'm afraid quite immediately), I shall review this extraordinary volume edited by Professors Balbir and Pinault. Archaeus (as well as Studia Asiatica) are available online in Vienna (institutional subscriptions, if not I can of course send you PDFs). As for Dubuisson et al.: they are denying plainly and definitively the values once associated with the concept/description of 'religion' precisely because they are trying to eliminate every 'concordance' in addressing similarly, in distant times & environments, the very same problem (e.g. the 'universal salvation'). Thus, 'religion' may well represent Origen's writings, but not Appayya's etc.

elisa freschi said...

Thank you, Eugen. I am not at the University of Vienna and my institution (Austrian Academy of Sciences) does not subscribe to any journal (they think that the university subscription is enough). Thus, yes, I would be grateful to receive a copy of Osier and of the apokatastasis article, if this is not inconvenient for you ( Thanks for the explanations re. Dubuisson.

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