A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/Prakriti and Purusha


The editorial at the head of the article that precedes will explain to the learned Hermit of Almora and the readers of the Theosophist the reason for my having undertaken to write the following lines in connection with the controversy raised by the Swami as regards Prakriti layam (dissolution of Prakriti).

I am really quite delighted to be informed by the respected ascetic that his "motives are not shallow," and that he has raised the present controversy "for scientific purpose." But it is certainly a very dangerous task to enter into controversy with a disputant who, according to his own candid confession, is unable to give a clear expression to his thoughts, but who, nevertheless, is prepared to declare that "those who seek to find fault with" him "and become hostile to" him "are prejudiced and stubborn." Probably if understood "hermitically" and (we are called upon to construe the Swami's article in this manner) they may disclose some other meaning, and I sincerely hope they will. Meanwhile I trust he will not be pleased to consider me as either "prejudiced" or "stubborn" if I venture to defend the position taken up by the editor of this journal (who belongs to the same school as I do) as regards the subject in disputes.

I will begin by respectfully informing the learned hermit that it is not childish "to scrutinize and try to understand the wording of a question before attempting to answer it." Nobody has found fault with his style, nor has any one thought of "attacking" him. On the other hand, every attempt was made to weed out the grammatical errors in his article (the foot-notes to which have provoked his anger) before it was printed. But controversies like the present one can never come to any satisfactory conclusion unless the disputants clearly understand each other. I claim the right to remark that in the shape his articles generally reached the Theosophist Office, it became next to impossible to correctly ascertain the real meaning of the "idea" he tried to convey, so long as the latter found itself successfully concealed under what he terms his "style." Philosophical disputations apparently formidable in their appearance have often been found to have their origin in the various meanings attached to a single word; and it will be no exaggeration to say that innumerable creeds and sects have arisen from disputes about mere words. Under such circumstances, it may be humbly submitted that it is extremely improper on the Swami's part to lose his temper in spite of his Nirvikalpa Samadhi as soon as an attempt is made to analyse his question and ascertain its real meaning. Even now, after so much discussion, it is not easy to see what the editor is called upon to prove? If the Swami had merely asked the editor to explain more fully the assertion contained in one of the issues of this journal to the effect that Prakriti co-exists eternally with Purusha, there would be no confusion whatever. From the explanations given in his article, it would however appear that the learned hermit requires the editor to prove that Prakriti exists in Tureeya Avastha.*[1] Even then the question still remains Vague and uncertain. I shall now proceed to point out clearly the difficulty involved in the question and explain the doctrines of esoteric theosophy on the subject under consideration, in order to enable the Swami to see that the difficulty is not merely an imaginary one created by the editor for the purpose of giving "evasive replies" to his questions and ridiculing him for his bad English; but that the teachings of esoteric science being, I can assure him, neither absurd and illogical nor as "unscientific" as he has imagined,—one has to thoroughly understand and assimilate before criticising them. Let us trust this may not become a hopeless task with regard to our learned critic!

For the purposes of this contoversy it must be explained that Prakriti may be looked upon from two distinct stand-points. It may be looked upon either as Maya when considered as the Upadhi of Parabrahmam or as Avidya when considered as the Upadhi of Jivatma (7th principle in man).†[2] Avidya is ignorance or illusion arising from Maya. The term Maya, though sometimes used as a synonym for Avidya, is, properly speaking, applicable to Prakriti only. There is no difference between Prakriti, Maya and Sakti; and the ancient Hindu philosophers made no distinction whatsoever between Matter and Force. In support of this assertion I may refer the learned hermit to "Swetaswatara Upanishad" and its commentary by Shankaracharya. In case we adopt the four-fold division of the adwaitee philosophers, it will be clealy seen that Jagrata,‡[3] Swapna*[4] and Sushupti Avasthas†[5] are the results of Avidya, and that Vyswanara,‡[6] Hiranyagarbha§[7] and Sutratma||[8] are manifestations of Parabrahmam in Maya or Prakriti. Now I beg to inform the learned hermit that the statement made in the Theosophist regarding Prakriti has no connection whatever with Avidya. Undifferentiated cosmic matter or Mulaprakriti eternally co-exists with Purusha, but there is Avidya Layam in Tureeya Avastha. The Editor of the Theosophist has never maintained that Avidya, illusion or ignorance, is eternal. Why shonld, then, the learned hermit require the Editor to prove that which has never been claimed? I cannot help suspecting that the erudite Swami is confounding Avidya with Prakriti, the effect with its cause. In drawing a distinction between Avidya and Prakriti, I am merely following the authority of all the great Adwaitee philosophers of Aryavarta. It will be sufficient for me to refer the Swami to his favourite book of reference, the first chapter of Panchadasi. If, however, the learned Swami is prepared to say that Mulaprakriti itself is not eternal, I beg to inform him that his views are clearly wrong and that his arguments and his Layapṛakarna, of which he is very proud, do not prove the Layam of "Mulaprakriti," whatever meaning he may attach to the word "Laya." Before proceeding to notice his arguments, I shall say a few words about the "murder by the double" which appears so very ridiculous to this, our "practical" Yogi. The hermit is probably aware of the fact that, sometimes, a severe mental shock can cause death when the physical body itself remains apparently unhurt. And every practical occultist knows that in several instances when death is caused by recourse to "black magic," the victim's physical body bears no sign of injury. In these cases the blow given, as it were, in the first instance, to the 4th and 5th principles of man which constitute his astral body, is immediately communicated to his Sthoola-sariram. And hence there is no absurdity in saying that a wound which proves mortal to the victim's Sthoolasariram can be inflicted on his astral body. The Swami, however, seems to think that the astral body itself is the victim in the Editor's opinion. There is no room whatever for any such misapprehension in the article regarding the subject in question; and I am very sorry that the hermit has thought it fit to abuse the Editor under the plea of outspokenness, having himself carelessly misunderstood the correct meaning. The Swami is at full liberty to call Sthoolasariram the treble if he is pleased to do so; but as the Upadhis are generally named Samharakrama,*[9] the treble would ordinarily be taken to mean Karanasariram†[10] and when the Swami was pleased to name them in a different order, he ought to have expressed himself in less ambiguous manner. Our correspondent seems to be very fond of stale remarks. There seems hardly any necessity for all his wise flings about modes of investigation in general, when he is not fully prepared to show that our method of investigation is unscientific.

The Swami now comes forward with another question: Whether matter is indentical with spirit? Our learned hermit is always ready to raise fresh issues without any cause for it. The real question is, whether Mulaprakriti is eternal, and I fail to see the necessity for examining the nature of its relationship to what is ordinarily called spirit in deciding whether it is eternal or not. But if the Swami insists upon my giving him a definite answer to his question, I beg to refer him to my article on "Personal and Impersonal God," published in the Theosophist, and to Shankaracharya's commentary on the 4th para. of the first chapter of Brahma Sutras. In truth, Prakriti and Purusha are but the two aspects of the same One Reality. As our great Shankaracharya truly observes at the close of his commentary on the 23rd Sutra of the above-mentioned Pada, "Parabrahmam is Karta (Purusha), as there is no other Adhishtatha,*[11] and Parabrahmam is Prakriti there being no other Upadanam." This sentence clearly, indicates the relation between "the One Life" and "the One Element" of the Arhat philosophers. After asking us this question, and quoting the doctrines of the Adwaita philosophy against the assumption that matter is not spirit, the learned Swami proceeds to show on his own authority that matter is not Spirit, in fact. If so, is the Swami's doctrine consistent with the doctrines of the Adwaitee philosophers? Our hermit probably thinks that the quotation will not affect his own statement, inasmuch as he holds that matter is not enternal. What then is the meaning of the statement soof ten quoted by Adwaitees—"Sarvan khalvitham Brahma"?†[12] and what is meant by saying that Brahmam is the Upadanakarnam of the Universe? It seems to me that the Swami has entirely misunderstood the Adwaitee doctrine regarding the relation between Prakriti and Purusha. If confusion is to be avoided, it is highly desirable that our critic should inform us distinctly what he means by "matter." I shall now examine his arguments or rather his assumptions to show that Prakriti, is not eternal in the order in which they are stated.

I.For certain reasons matter is not Spirit; Spirit is enternal and therefore matter is not eternal.

In reply to this argument I beg to state that the major premise is wrong in itself, and does not affect undifferentiated Prakriti, as the grounds on which it is based are not applicable to it for the following reasons:—

(a)Mulaprakriti has not the attributes enumerated, as the said attributes imply differentiation and Mulaprakriti is undifferentiated according to our doctrines.

(b)Mulaprakriti is not dead or jadam, as Purusha—the one life—always exists in it. It is in fact Chitanya deepta (shining with life) as stated in Uttaratapani (see also Goudapatha Kârika).

(c)Mulaprakriti is not temporary but eternal.

(d)When subjected to change it always loses its name, reassuming it after returning to its original undifferentiated condition.

(e)It is not partial but co-extensive with space.

(f)It eternally exists in the universe in whatever Avastha (state or condition) a particular human being may be.

And, moreover, I deny the validity of the inference drawn even if, for the sake of argument, the truth of the premises be granted.

Our Swami's second argument is extremely ridiculous. When stated briefly it stands thus:—

II.The existence of matter is not known either in Sushuptì or Tureeya*[13] Avastha, and therefore matter is not eternal.

This is enough to convince me that the Swami of Almora knows as much about Tureeya Avastha as of the features of the man in the moon. The learned gentleman is in fact confounding Avidya, with Maya. Indeed, he says that Mulaprakriti is Avidya, I shall be very happy if he can quote any authority in support of his proposition. I beg to inform him again that Avidya layam is not necessarily followed by Prakriti layam. It is the differentiation of Mulaprakriti that is the caase of Avidya or ignorant delusion, and when the differentiated Cosmic matter returns to its original undifferentiated condition at the time of Mahapralaya, Avidya is completely got rid of. Consequently, Mulaprakriti, instead of being identical with Avidya, implies the absence of Avidya. It is the highest state of non-being—the condition of Nirvana. Mukti, therefore, is beyond differentiated Prakriti and beyond Avidya, but it expresses the condition of undifferentiated Mulaprakriti. On referring to Uttaratapani and its commentary, the learned hermit will be able to see that even the Mahachitanayam at the end of Shodasanthum indicated by Avikalpapranava is spoken of as existing in what is described as "Guru beejopadhi Sakti mandalum."*[14] This is the nearest approach to the one undifferentiated element called Mulaprakriti. It will also be seen from the passage above referred to that Mulaprakriti exists even in the highest stage of Tureeya Avastha. The Swami is pleased to ask us why we should call this element matter if it is but an aspect of Purusha. We are obliged to use the word matter as we have no other word in English to indicate it; but if the Swami means to object to the word Prakriti being applied to it, it will be equally reasonable on my part to object to its being called either God, Spirit or Purusha.

Our Swami's lengthy quotations from "Saddarshana Chintanika" happily eliminated by the Editor do not help him much. If the term Avyakta †[15] is applied to Brahman instead of being applied to "the Parkriti of the Sankhyas," how does it prove that undifferentiated Parkriti is not eternal? Shankaracharya merely says that Avidya or ignorance can be exterminated; but he says nothing about the laya of Mulaprakriti. It is unnecessary for me to say anything about the Swami's views regarding other systems of philosophy. I am only concerned with the esoteric Arhat philosophy and the Advaita philosophy as taught by Shankaracharya. The remaining quotations from the works of various authors, contained in the Swami's article are, in my humble opinion, irrelevant. The chapter on Pancha Mahabhutaviveka in Panchadasi does not show that Asat has not existed with Sat from all eternity. This is the first time I hear that the Paravidya mentioned in Manduka Upanishad is a kind of Prakriti as stated by our learned hermit. I have reason to think that the entity indicated by the said Paravidya is Parabrahmam. In conjunction with the said entity Shankaracharya speaks of undifferentitated Parkriti as "Akasakhyamaksharam" pervading it everywhere. Our opponent seems to think that as every Yogi is asked to rise above the influence of Avidya, it must necessarily be assumed that Prakriti is not eternal in its undifferentiated condition. This is as illogical as his other arguments. Illusion arises from differentiation or, Dwaitabhavam as it is technically called; and absence of differentiation, whether subjective or objective, is the Nirvana of Adwaita. If the Swami only pauses to consider the nature of "this one element" in its dual aspect, he will be able to see that it is but an aspect of Parabrahmam. All the arguments advanced by him seem to show that he is labouring under the impression that we are contending for the permanancy of this illusive manifested world. If this Mnlaprakriti that I have attempted to describe is not noticed in Brahmam according to the "practical experience of hermits," all that I can say is that their experience is different from the experience of Shankaracharya, Vyasa, Goudapada and several other Rishis. The hermit is welcome to "laugh at our weakness of understanding" if it can in the least comfort him; but mere vituperation will bring him very little benefit if he rushes into controversy without clearly understanding the subject under disputation and with worthless arguments and irrelevant quotations as his weapons.

The Editor of this journal is, I think, perfectly justified in rejecting our hermit's interpretation of Pranava, as it is not quite consistent with what is contained in Mandukya, Uttaratapane and Naradaparivrajaka Upanishads and other authoritative treatrises on the subject. I do not think that the three mantras in Pranava mean matter, force and spirit respectively, as stated by the Swami. I have seen several interpretations of Pranava in various books; but this explanation is entirely novel to me; and I respectfully submit that it is wrong, inasmuch as no clear distinction is ever drawn between matter and force in our ancient philosophical works. If our Swami is satisfied that Ramagita is a great authority on Esoteric science, I shall not attempt to deprive him of his satisfaction; and as the Esoteric doctrine taught by Shankaracharya and other great Vedantic writers is almost identical with the Esoteric Arhat doctrine as far as it goes, it is impossible for me to enumerate all the similarities between the two systems for our hermit's delectation; but I shall be very glad if he can kindly point out where and in what they differ.

I beg also to inform him that it is impossible to think of Purnsha except in conjunction with Mulaprakriti, since Purusha can act only through Prakriti. In support of these views I may refer him to Shankaracharya's Soundarya lahari and his commentary on Namakam and Swetaswatara Upanishad. It is quite clear that an Adhishtatha can never exist without Upadanam. If, as is stated by Shankaracharya, Purnsha is Adishtatha or Karta, and if Prakriti is Upadanam, the necessary co-existence of these two aspects become inevitable. As regards the passage quoted from Taittiriya Upanishad, I have to inform the hermit that the word Prakriti therein mentioned means differentiated Prakriti. Not satisfied with the abusive language contained in the body of his article and his allusion to the "black mouse," (a passage omitted therefrom for decency's sake,) our learned opponent has thonght it proper to record an emphatic declaration at the termination of his article that the IQditor's views are Exoteric and not Esoteric. Undoubtedly, as far as they are communicated to him through the medium ot this journal, they are exoteric, for if really esoteric they would not be thus made public. But it is a matter of very little consequence to the progress of theosophy whether the Swami of Almora considers them esoteric or exoteric, provided they are reasonable, and in harmony with the doctrines of the great teachers of ancient Aryavarta.

  1. * Condition of the highest Samadhi (or trance), or as expressed by the Swami, "in sleep."
  2. Upadhi—vehicle.
  3. Jagrata—waking state, or a condition of external perception.
  4. * Swapna—dreamy state, or a condition of clairvoyance in the astral plane.
  5. Sushupti—a state of ecstasis; and Avastas—states or conditions of Pragna.
  6. Vyswanara—the magnetic fire that pervades the manifested solar system—the most objective aspects of the One Life.
  7. § Hirnyagarbha—the One Life as manifested in the plane of astral Light.
  8. || Sutratma—the Eternal germ of the manifested universe existing in the field of Mulaprakriti.
  9. * Samharakrama—order of involution or evolution reversed.
  10. Karanasariram—the germ of Avidya (ignorance) which is the cause of rebirth.
  11. * Adhishtatha—That which inheres in another principle—the active agent working in Prakriti.
  12. † Everything in the universe is Brahma.
  13. * Dreamless sleep, and Tureeya Avastha, or the condition of intimate union with Parabrabm—a stage higher than ecstasis.
  14. * A condition of Prakriti when it has but the germs of the three ganas, viz., Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas.
  15. Avyakta—The unrevealed Cause.