The Vedanta Karikavali is a work by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Buchchi Venkatacharya summarizing the tenets of Visistadvaita. In particular, Visistadvaita says that there are two kinds of inanimate entities, Dravya or substance and Adravya or non-substance. Adravya refer to Gunas, i.e. qualities of substances. They're enumerated in verse 14 of the Vedanta Karikavali:

The Sattva (goodness), Rajas (activity), Tamas (darkness or dullness), Shabda (sound), Sparsha (touch), Rupa (color), Rasa (taste), Gandha (odour), Samyoga (union) and Shakti (potency) are the ten kinds of Adravya (non-substance).

Other philosophical schools disagree on the number of Gunas. For instance, some philosophers think there is another Guna called Samkhya or number, which tells you how many of something you have. But Buchchi Venkatacharya rejects this view in verse 29 of the Vedanta Karikavalivali:

The enumeration of Samkhya (number) etc. as separate Gunas (qualities) as distinct from our ten is contradicted by the Sutrakara himself and is therefore rejected.

I'm interested in the part in bold. When a member of the Vedanta school says "the Sutrakara says this", the Sutra text they're referring to is usually the Brahma Sutras. So my question is, where do the Brahma Sutras reject number and other things as distinct Gunas?

You can read the Brahma Sutras here, but I can't seem to find this statement at least at first glance. Are there any Sri Vaishnava works that clarify this?

  • Why the downvote? – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 27 at 19:11
  • Can it refer Samkhya philosophy rather than number? – Pandya Apr 28 at 16:36
  • @Pandya No, in this context Samkhya refers to number rather than the Samkhya school. The context is the enumeration of Adravya or non-substance, i.e. the qualities of substances. – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 28 at 16:41
  • can u check the verse 29 link you posted ? i don't see the word sankhya in there..think you posted 14 & 15 again. – ram Oct 11 at 4:32
  • what exactly is meant by 'number is, or is not, a guna' - a number by itself cannot be a guna, unless it is associated with a quantity of something else. '3' is not a guna, '3 shakti', or '3 atmas', etc. could be a guna. what is the point of contention here, whether '3 shakti' or 'N shakti' is distinct / not distinct from just 'shakti', or whether '3' is different from 'shakti'. – ram Oct 11 at 4:38

The English translation of the verse is misleading. A more precise translation would say "those (ideas) that are against the Sūtrakāra are rejected". The short commentary below the verse in Sanskrit clarifies, 'sūtrakāramataviruddham' - "they are against what the Sūtrakāra intends."

  1. As we shall see, this is not literally rejected by the Sūtrakāra but rather by the Śrībhāṣyakāra Rāmānuja.
  2. It would also be more appropriate to translate Saṅkhyā as 'Count' rather than 'number' since it really means cardinality of a finite set in this context.
  3. The short commentary for the verse also says that the limits of reasonable consideration of these qualities (Saṅkhyā, etc.) are described in Chapter 10.

The relevant sūtra is Vedanta Sūtra 2.1 A(6) S(15) in the Ārambhaṇādhikaraṇam

तद् अनन्यत्वम् आरम्भण शब्दादिभ्यः

tad ananyatvam ārambhaṇa śabdādibhyaḥ

Translation:

From the passages beginning with "ārambhaṇa", it follows that the Universe is not different from Brahman

In the Śrībhāṣya, Rāmānuja devotes significant space to discussing this sutra. Only a tiny fragment of it is relevant to your question, so I am only quoting the relevant passages and explaining them here:

--

One of the opponent's arguments is that since souls are distinct from each other, the number of souls has to be finite. The analogy given to support this is: Objects like grains, seeds, pots, clothes that are distinct from each other are also seen to be countable. Thus, the opponent argues that Count is an essential property of entities that are mutually distinct.

यत्त्वात्मनां भिन्नत्वे माषसर्षपघटप-टादिवत्सङ्‌खयावत्त्वमवर्ज्जनीयमिति, तत्र घटादीनामप्यनन्तत्वात्‌ दृष्टान्त साध्यविकलस्स्यात्‌, ...

yattvātmanāṃ bhinnatve māṣasarṣapaghaṭapa-ṭādivatsaṅ‌khayāvattvamavarjjanīyamiti, tatra ghaṭādīnāmapyanantatvāt‌ dṛṣṭānta sādhyavikalassyāt‌, ...

--

Rāmānuja's counter argument is that while the property of Count makes sense for ordinary objects like seeds, it is only an emergent property that arises due to the limits of space and time imposed on ordinary objects. If there are no such limits, then no such emergent property can arise. Therefore Count itself is not a quality inherent in the object.

... दशघटा सहस्रं माषा इति सङ्‌खयावत्त्वं दृश्यत इति चेत्‌-सत्यम्‌, तत्तु न घटादिस्वरूपगतम्‌, अपि तु देशकालाद्युपाधिमद्घटा-दिगतम्‌,...

... daśaghaṭā sahasraṃ māṣā iti saṅ‌khayāvattvaṃ dṛśyata iti cet‌-satyam‌ , tattu na ghaṭādisvarūpagatam‌, api tu deśakālādyupādhimadghaṭā-digatam‌, ...

--

Similarly, since souls have no limits of space and time, there is no such emergent property for them such as Count.

... तादृशं तु सङ्‌खयावत्त्वमात्मनामभ्युपगच्छाम ।

... tādṛśaṃ tu saṅ‌khayāvattvamātmanāmabhyupagacchāma ।

--

In mathematical terms, the pūrvapakṣin is saying all countable sets are finite (since in everyday life all countable sets we see are also finite sets) and thus cardinality is a property of the set element itself. Rāmānuja disagrees and says it is possible to have sets that are countably infinite.

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