Swami Vivekananda asked Pramadadas Mitra in a letter on August 17, 1889:

"Vyasa makes out in the Vedanta-Sutras that it is wrong to worship the tetrad of divine manifestation, Vâsudeva, Sankarshana, etc., and again that very Vyasa expatiates on the great merits of that worship in the Bhâgavata! Is this Vyasa a madman?"

The question in an interesting one. Could someone provide any answer?

  • When we are quoting something we have to use the yellow quote here.
    – Rickross
    Jan 23, 2019 at 11:51
  • @Rickross unfortunately that does not work in my android
    – user17294
    Jan 23, 2019 at 11:52
  • Okay u can click on the inverted comma (4th button from the left in edit box) after u hv selected the text u want to make yellow ...
    – Rickross
    Jan 23, 2019 at 11:54
  • @ChinmaySarupria From His letter
    – user17294
    Jan 23, 2019 at 11:55
  • 2
    In giving a quote, you should give the book and page number or a link. The above quote should give the context also. To randomly pull a quote out of context is misleading. The above quote is from when VIvekananda was a young wandering monk and wrestling with apparent inconsistencies he was finding in different shastras. He was writing to a Brahmin scholar to help him understand these apparent inconsistencies. Jan 24, 2019 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


According to Sripad Ramanujacharya, Vyasa is actually defending the worship of tetrad of divine manifestation in the Brahma Sutras rather than criticising it. This is what Sripad Ramanujacharya in His "Sri-Bhashya" says while commenting on the Adhyaya 2, Pada 2 , Verses 42-43 of the Brahma Sutras:

...If Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha are of the nature of the highest Brahman, then truly there can be no objection to a body of doctrine which sets forth this relation. The criticism that the Bhâgavatas teach an inadmissible origination of the individual soul, is made by people who do not understand that system. What it teaches is that the highest Brahman, there called Vâsudeva, from kindness to those devoted to it, voluntarily abides in a fourfold form, so as to render itself accessible to its devotees. Thus it is said in the Paushkara-samhitâ, 'That which enjoins that Brahmanas have to worship, under its proper names, the fourfold nature of the Self; that is the authoritative doctrine.' That this worship of that which is of a fourfold nature means worship of the highest Brahman, called Vâsudeva, is declared in the Sâtvata-samhitâ, 'This is the supreme sâstra, the great Brahmopanishad, which imparts true discrimination to Brahmawas worshipping the real Brahman under the name of Vâsudeva.' That highest Brahman, called Vâsudeva, having for its body the complete aggregate of the six qualities, divides itself in so far as it is either the 'Subtle' (sûkshma), or 'division' (vyûha), or 'manifestation' (vibhava), and is attained in its fulness by the devotees who, according to their qualifications, do worship to it by means of works guided by knowledge. 'From the worship of the vibhava-aspect one attains to the vyûha, and from the worship of the vyûha one attains to the "Subtile" called Vâsudeva, i.e. the highest Brahman'--such is their doctrine. By the 'vibhava' we have to understand the aggregate of beings, such as Rama, Krishna, &c., in whom the highest Being becomes manifest; by the 'vyûha' the fourfold arrangement or division of the highest Reality, as Vâsudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha; by the 'Subtle' the highest Brahman itself, in so far as it has for its body the mere aggregate of the six qualities--as which it is called 'Vâsudeva.' Compare on this point the Paushkara, 'That body of doctrine through which, by means of works based on knowledge, one fully attains to the imperishable highest Brahman, called Vâsudeva,' and so on, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha are thus mere bodily forms which the highest Brahman voluntarily assumes. Scripture already declares, 'Not born he is born in many ways,' and it is this birth--consisting in the voluntary assumption of bodily form, due to tenderness towards its devotees--which the Bhâgavata system teaches; hence there lies no valid objection to the authoritativeness of that system. And as Sankarshana. Pradyumna, and Aniruddha are the beings ruling over the individual souls, internal organs and organs of egoity, there can be no objection to their being themselves denoted by those latter terms, viz. individual soul, and so on. The case is analogous to that of Brahman being designated, in some texts, by terms such as ether, breath, and the like.

The origination of the gîva is, moreover, distinctly controverted in the books of the Bhâgavatas also. Thus in the Parama-samhitâ 'The nature of Prakriti consists therein that she is non-sentient, for the sake of another, eternal, ever-changing, comprising within herself the three gunas. and constituting the sphere of action and experience for all agents. With her the soul (purusha) is connected in the way of inseparable association; that soul is known to be truly without beginning and without end.' And as all Samhitas make similar statements as to the eternity of the soul, the Pañkarâtra doctrine manifestly controverts the view of the essential nature of the giva being something that originates. How it is possible that in the Veda as well as in common life the soul is spoken of as being born, dying, &c., will be explained under Sû. II, 3, 17. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Bhâgavata system also denies the origination of the soul, and that hence the objections raised on this ground against its authoritativeness are without any force. Another objection is raised by some. Sândilya, they argue, is said to have promulgated the Pañkarâtra doctrine because he did not find a sure basis for the highest welfare of man in the Veda and its auxiliary disciplines, and this implies that the Pañkarâtra is opposed to the Veda.--his objection, we reply, springs from nothing else but the mere unreasoning faith of men who do not possess the faintest knowledge of the teachings of the Veda, and have never considered the hosts of arguments which confirm that teaching. When the Veda says, 'Morning after morning those speak untruth who make the Agnihotra offering before sunrise,' it is understood that the censure there passed on the offering before sunrise is really meant to glorify the offering after sunrise. We meet with a similar case in the 'bhûma-vidyâ' (Kh. Up. VII, 2). There at the beginning Nârada says, 'I know the Rig-veda, the Yagur-veda, the Sâma-veda, the Âtharvana as the fourth, the Itihâsa-purâna as the fifth,' and so on, enumerating all the various branches of knowledge, and finally summing up 'with all this I know the mantras only, I do not know the Self.' Now this declaration of the knowledge of the Self not being attainable through any branch of knowledge except the knowledge of the Bhûman evidently has no other purpose but to glorify this latter knowledge, which is about to be expounded. Or else Nârada's words refer to the fact that from the Veda and its auxiliary disciplines he had not obtained the knowledge of the highest Reality. Analogous to this is the case of Sândilya's alleged objection to the Veda. That the Bhâgavata doctrine is meant to facilitate the understanding of the sense of the Veda which by itself is difficult of comprehension, is declared in the Paramasamhita,'I have read the Vedas at length, together with all the various auxiliary branches of knowledge. But in all these I cannot see a clear indication, raised above all doubt, of the way to blessedness, whereby I might reach perfection'; and 'The wise Lord Hari, animated by kindness for those devoted to him, extracted the essential meaning of all the Vedânta-texts and condensed it in an easy form.' The incontrovertible fact then is as follows. The Lord who is known from the Vedânta-texts, i.e. Vâsudeva, called there the highest Brahman--who is antagonistic to all evil, whose nature is of uniform excellence, who is an ocean, as it were, of unlimited exalted qualities, such as infinite intelligence, bliss, and so on, all whose purposes come true--perceiving that those devoted to him, according as they are differently placed in the four castes and the four stages of life, are intent on the different ends of life, viz. religious observances, wealth, pleasure, and final release; and recognising that the Vedas--which teach the truth about his own nature, his glorious manifestations, the means of rendering him propitious and the fruits of such endeavour--are difficult to fathom by all beings other than himself, whether gods or men, since those Vedas are divided into Rik, Yagus, Sâman, and Atharvan; and being animated by infinite pity, tenderness, and magnanimity; with a view to enable his devotees to grasp the true meaning of the Vedas, himself composed the Pañkarâtra-sâstra. The author of the Sûtras (Vyâsa)--who first composed the Sûtras, the purport of which it is to set forth the arguments establishing the Vedânta doctrine, and then the Bhârata-samhitâ (i.e. the Mahâbhârata) in a hundred thousand slokas in order to support thereby the teaching of the Veda--himself says in the chapter called Mokshadharma, which treats of knowledge, 'If a householder, or a Brahmakârin, or a hermit, or a mendicant wishes to achieve success, what deity should he worship?' and so on; explains then at great length the Pañkarâtra system, and then says, 'From the lengthy Bhârata story, comprising one hundred thousand slokas, this body of doctrine has been extracted, with the churning-staff of mind, as butter is churned from curds--as butter from milk, as the Brahmana from men, as the Âranyaka from the Vedas, as Amrita from medicinal herbs.--This great Upanishad, consistent with the four Vedas, in harmony with Sânkhya and Yoga, was called by him by the name of Pañkarâtra. This is excellent, this is Brahman, this is supremely beneficial. Fully agreeing with the Rik, the Yagus, the Sâman, and the Atharvân-giras, this doctrine will be truly authoritative.' The terms Sânkhya and Yoga here denote the concentrated application of knowledge and of works. As has been said, 'By the application of knowledge on the part of the Sânkhya, and of works on the part of the Yogins.' And in the Bhîshmaparvan we read, 'By Brahmanas, Kshattriyas, Vaisyas and Sûdras, Mâdhava is to be honoured, served and worshipped--he who was proclaimed by Sankarshana in agreement with the Sâtvata law.'--How then could these utterances of Bâdarâyana, the foremost among all those who understand the teaching of the Veda, be reconciled with the view that in the Sûtras he maintains the non-authoritativeness of the Sâtvata doctrine, the purport of which is to teach the worship of, and meditation on, Vâsudeva, who is none other than the highest Brahman known from the Vedânta-texts?

But other passages in the Mahâbhârata, such as 'There is the Sânkhya, the Yoga, the Pañkarâtra, the Vedas, and the Pasupata doctrine; do all these rest on one and the same basis, or on different ones?' and so on, declare that the Sânkhya and other doctrines also are worthy of regard, while yet in the Sârîraka Sûtras those very same doctrines are formally refuted. Why, therefore, should not the same hold good in the case of the Bhâgavata doctrine?--Not so, we reply. In the Mahâbhârata also Bâdarayana applies to the Sânkhya and other doctrines the same style of reasoning as in the Sûtras. The question, asked in the passage quoted, means 'Do the Sânkhya, the Yoga, the Pasupata, and the Pañkarâtra set forth one and the same reality, or different ones? If the former, what is that reality? If the latter, they convey contradictory doctrines, and, as reality is not something which may be optionally assumed to be either such or such, one of those doctrines only can be acknowledged as authoritative, and the question then arises which is to be so acknowledged?'--The answer to the question is given in the passage beginning, 'Know, O royal Sage, all those different views. The promulgator of the Sânkhya is Kapila,' &c. Here the human origin of the Sânkhya, Yoga, and Pâsupata is established on the ground of their having been produced by Kapila, Hiranyagarbha, and Pasupati. Next the clause 'Aparântatamas is said to be the teacher of the Vedas' intimates the non-human character of the Vedas; and finally the clause 'Of the whole Pañkarâtra, Nârâyana himself is the promulgator' declares that Nârâyana himself revealed the Pañkarâtra doctrine. The connected purport of these different clauses is as follows. As the systemsof human origin set forth doctrines mutually contradictory, and, moreover, teach what is in conflict with the matter known from the Veda--which, on account of its non-human character, is raised above all suspicion of error and other imperfections--they cannot be accepted as authoritative with regard to anything not depending on human action and choice. Now the matter to be known from the Veda is Nârâyana, who is none other than the highest Brahman. It hence follows that the entities set forth in those different systems--the pradhâna, the soul (purusha), Pasupati, and so on--have to be viewed as real only in so far as Nârâyana, i.e. the highest Brahman, as known from the Vedânta-texts, constitutes their Self. This the text directly declares in the passage, 'In all those doctrines it is seen, in accordance with tradition and reasoning, that the lord Narayawa is the only basis.' This means--'To him who considers the entities set forth in those systems with the help of argumentation, it is evident that Nârâyana alone is the basis of all those entities.' In other words, as the entities set forth in those systems are not Brahman, any one who remembers the teaching of texts such as 'all this indeed is Brahman,' 'Nârâyana is all,' which declare Brahman to be the Self of all, comes to the conclusion that Nârâyana alone is the basis of those entities. As thus it is settled that the highest Brahman, as known from the Vedânta-texts, or Nârâyana, himself is the promulgator of the entire Pañkarâtra, and that this system teaches the nature of Nârâyana and the proper way of worshipping him, none can disestablish the view that in the Pañkarâtra all the other doctrines are comprised. For this reason the Mahâbhârata says, 'Thus the Sânkhya-yoga and the Veda and the Âranyaka, being members of one another, are called the Pañkarâtra,' i.e. the Sânkhya, the Yoga, the Vedas, and the Âranyakas, which are members of one another because they are one in so far as aiming at setting forth one Truth, together are called the Pañkarâtra.--The Sânkhya explains the twenty-five principles, the Yoga teaches certain practices and means of mental concentration, and the Âranyakas teach that all the subordinate principles have their true Self in Brahman, that the mental concentration enjoined in the Yoga is a mode of meditation on Brahman, and that the rites and works which are set forth in the Veda are means to win the favour of Brahman--thus giving instruction as to Brahman's nature. Now all these elements, in their inward connexion, are clearly set forth in the Pañkarâtra by the highest Brahman, i.e. Nârâyana, himself. The Sârîraka Sâstra (i.e. the Vedânta) does not disprove the principles assumed by the Sânkhyas, but merely the view of their not having Brahman for their Self; and similarly in its criticism on the Yoga and Pâsupata systems, it merely refutes the view of the Lord being a mere instrumental cause, the erroneous assumptions as to the relative position of higher and lower entities, and certain practices not warranted by the Veda; but it does not reject the Yoga itself, nor again the lord Pâsupati. Hence Smriti says,' The Sânkhya, the Yoga, the Pañkarâtra, the Vedas, and the Psupata doctrine--all these having their proof in the Self may not be destroyed by arguments.' The essential points in all these doctrines are to be adopted, not to be rejected absolutely as the teaching of Gina. or Sugata is to be rejected. For, as said in the Smriti text quoted above, in all those doctrines it is seen, according to tradition and reasoning, that the lord Nârâyana is the only basis.'--Here terminates the adhikarana of 'the impossibility of origination.'


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