3

As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here.

In any case, in Adhyaya 2 Pada 2 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa refutes various rival schools to Vedanta. In particular, he says this:

Topic-7: God Is Not a Mere Superintendent

  1. For the Lord there can be no creatorship, for that leads to incongruity.
  2. And (the incongruity arises) because of the impossibility of a relationship.
  3. And (the position is untenable) because of the impossibility of (Nature) coming under (His) direction. (Or) And (God cannot be proved), since no physical support (adhisthana) is possible for Him.
  4. Should it be argued that God will direct Nature like (a man directing) the organs, then it cannot be so, for that will result in God’s having experiences (of happiness, sorrow etc.). (Or) If a body, equipped with sense-organs, be assumed for God, (we say that) this is not possible; because of (consequent) experiences etc.
  5. God will be subject to finitude or loss of omniscience.

Now as I discuss in this question, most commentaries on the Brahma Sutras interpret these Sutras as a refutation of the views expressed in the Shaiva Agamas, aka the Shaiva Tantras; for instance see this chapter of Adi Shankaracharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya and this chapter of Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya. Specifically, the Brahma Sutras are criticizing the view expressed in the Shaiva Agamas that Ishwara is the operator (efficient cause) of the Universe but not the material cause.

Now in my question here, I asked how Shaivites, most of whom subscribe to the Vedanta school nowadays, would make sense of the Brahma Sutras' criticism of the Shaiva Agamas, given that the Shaiva Agamas are the foundational texts of Shaivism. Unfortunately I don't know of many Shaivite commentaries in the Brahma Sutras, which is why I asked this question, but I have come across two. As I discuss here, how the Shaiva Siddhanta commentator Srikantha Shivacharya interprets these Sutras is that they're criticizing a misinterpretation of the Shaiva Agamas, not the Shaiva Agamas themselves. But another Shaivite commentator handles things very differently.

As I discuss in this answer, the Veerashaiva or Lingayat sect of Shaivism follows a philosophy called Shaktivisitadvaita, and the Lingayat commentary on the Brahma Sutras was written by Shripati and is known as the Srikara Bhashya. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the Shrikara Bhashya, but this excerpt from a journal paper discusses how Shripati handles the Sutras we've been discussing:

Shrikara thought this [set of Sutras] is the refutation of dualistic view of Bhagavatas and Pancharatra, i.e. Vaishnava view point.

For those who don't know, as I discuss in this answer, the Pancharatra Agamas are a set of texts foundational to Vaishnavism that originate from the sage Narayana, an ancient incarnation of Vishnu who was the brother of the sage Nara. (Nara and Narayana were the previous births of Arjuna and Krishna respectively.) "Bhagavata" is the ancient name for followers of Pancharatra, whom we would nowadays call Vaishnavas.

So my question is, is Shripati right that there are statements in the Pancharatra which say that Vishnu is the efficient cause of the Universe but not the material cause? I'm extremely skeptical of his claim, because most Vaishnava sects believe that Vishnu is the material cause. And even Adi Shankaracharya, a critic of the Pancharatra system, describes it as a "doctrine of those according to whom he is the material as well as the operative cause".

The only Vaishnavas I know of who reject the notion of Vishnu being the material cause are the followers of the Dvaita philosopher Madhvacharya; in fact Madhvacharya thought the only problem with the philosophy of the Shauva Agamas is that they put Shiva in charge of the Universerather than Vishnu! See this excerpt from his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. Now I'm sure if I looked in his commentary, I could probably find putative quotes from various Pancharatra Agamas which support his view that Brahman is only the operator of the Universe. But as I discuss in this question, Madhvacharya's quotes are notoriously hard to track down in actual copies of texts we have in our possession.

So does anyone know of any Pancharatra texts that claim that Vishnu is not the material cause? For those who don't know, the material cause of something is what it's made of, and the efficient cause of something is what causes it to happen.

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .