‘Vedanta or The Science of Reality’ is characterized by deep and vast scholarship, perspicacious analysis, fearless critical assessment and a remarkably arresting English style. The book is not a mere dogmatic assertion of the greatness of Vedanta, but a systematic establishment of an eternal Truth. "Vedanta is a Positive Science founded on reason, intuition and universal experience".
With a thorough and impeccable knowledge of Oriental and Occidental schools of philosophy, the author was able to cognize the relative merits of each system.
This monumental work examines all Philosophical dicta from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle down to Hegel, Schopenhauer and Rusell Vis-a—vis the truth enshrined in Vedanta.
K.A. Krishnaswamy Iyer is an ardent advocate of Shankara and in this work he attempts to transmit to his readers a little of his great enthusiasm for it. Mr. Iyer brings to his task a well-stored mind, critical insight and a capacity to envisage his subject as a whole.
Philosophy should base itself on acknowledged facts and not on hypothetical possibilities. So, after Gaudapada and Shankara, the author takes his stand on life with its three independent aspects of waking, dream and sleep.
K.A. Krishnaswamy Iyer was a celebrated writer par excellence, a constructive critic, a learned linguist, and a reputed educationist.
It is fortunate that many students of Indian Philosophy trained in the renowned traditional methods of our Sanskrit Pandits are now coming forward to interpret the truths of ancient systems in the language and style familiar to students of Western Thought. Of this remarkable group, Mr. K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer is one of the most notable. He is an ardent advocate of the system of Shankara, and in this book he attempts to transmit to his readers a little of his great enthusiasm for it. Mr. Iyer brings to his task a well-stored mind, critical insight, and a capacity to envisage his subject as a whole. He has read everything worth reading on ` his special subject and has pondered deeply on the fundamental insights of Vedanta. His book embodies the ripe reflections of a life devoted to the study of the Advaita Philosophy.
Mr. Iyer distinguishes, at the outset, the Hindu Religion from the Vedanta Philosophy on which it is eased. He points out the long distance which the religion was to traverse, if it is to embody the main tenets of charity and tolerance characteristic of the Philosophy. Being the science of the ultimate truth, Vedanta is the backbone of the Hindu Religion" (p. 8); yet "the outlook of the Hindu Religion is comparatively narrow and its methods radically dogmatic" (p. 13). The fundamental truths on which Vedanta is based are by no means the monopoly of the Hindu Religion. The author’s frequent references to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam indicate me free spirit of respectful appreciation characteristic of a true Vedantin, though unfortunately this breadth of .1ew is mistaken for lack of conviction by many critics.
A good part of the book is devoted to a discussion of Western Thought with special reference to the truths of Vedanta. While the main motive of the author is to establish the superiority of the Vedanta Philosophy, his criticisms of Western views are generally acute, reasoned and above all good—natured. Some of his judgments such as that "Schopenhauer’s philosophy is the greatest effort made by Westerners to grasp life in its fullest significance" (p. 402) may be questioned, but they are always interesting and often illuminating. It is perhaps an advantage to have comparative discussions since our University students happen to know more of Western Thought than of Eastern.
The central point of distinction between the two currents of thought is well brought out. While Philosophy is more a matter of speculation or theory in the West, in the East it is more a question of experience of life. Commenting on Hegel, the author says: "Hegel contrives to rise above the subject and the object to a self—consciousness transcending both. But this is only a logical necessity, necessity of the laws of thought and can never attain to the rank of a truth rooted in a fact of life and experience" (p. 33). Philosophy should base itself on acknowledged facts and not on hypothetical possibilities. So, after Gaudapada and Shankara, the author takes his stand on life with its three independent aspects of waking, dream and sleep. While time, space and causation characterise the states of waking and dream, the state of sleep is free from their sway. We seem to have in sleep Pure Consciousness free from subject object relations. The human spirit is wholly identical in the state of sleep with Pure Consciousness, which is the absolute reality, that none can deny or dispute. We cannot deny our own existence. We cannot conceive our own non-existence. We experience uninterrupted continuity, of life through the three states of, waking, dream and sleep. Discontinuity is inconceivable (p, 138). Whatever we may say about the status of the objects of knowledge, affirmation or denial, doubt or supposition, there is one thing without which everything else will fail and that is the self as Pure Consciousness. It is present right through, in our affirmations and denials, in our doubts and speculations. When the Deity introduced Himself to Moses on Mount Horeb, He called Himself ‘l am’. "Say to the children of Israel, ‘I am’ hath sent me unto you." If we go behind our conceptions of God, we will find that the essence of the highest reality is ‘I am’, pure self—affirming consciousness. ‘l am’ is the universal light that never goes out, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhati. As self—affirming, we human linings share the nature of the Supreme—Tat tvam asi; Aham Brahmasmi. The Advaita Vedanta emphasizes man’s immanent and potential infinitude.
The religious mind has a longing for a personal relation with a mind and a will, at once the source of all reality and a living presence in the soul. A person alone can be the object of devotion and worship. Mr. Chesterton once wittily remarked that, while the Christian idea of Heaven is a condition in which we shall all love one another, the Hindu idea makes it a condition in which we shall all be one another. It will be more accurate if we substitute ‘theist’ for ‘Christian' and ‘absolutist’ for ‘Hindu’. The Advaita recognizes that, for litany, philosophy cannot take the place of religion. A proposition that the Infinite Spirit underlies and reveals itself in life is not enough. Religion is binding a man’s will to a Will greater than itself. We get the conception of a personal God eternally engaged in self—expression. It is the disguise worn by the Supreme Reality to the Time-bound intellect.
The relation between the world of multiplicity and the Absolute is an inconceivable one and this inconceivability is denoted by the word 'Maya’. "Any attempt to connect the Absolute with its manifestations in the shape of the world must end in failure, for no relation can be imagined beyond the sphere of duality." (p. 64). Pure Consciousness cannot be regarded as the seed; which contains the world—tree in potency; for in every * instance of organic development, the substance is T exhausted in its manifestation, the cause in the effect. Pure Consciousness though the basis of the world remains at the same time integral and undivided (p. 63). It is more like "a fountain, possessing no other principle, but imparting itself to all rivers, without being exhausted by any of them and abiding quietly in itself."* Pure Consciousness is the changeless witness in us throughout the three states. It transforms itself into waking consciousness with its law and order and it again dissolves back in sleep without a residuum into Pure Consciousness which is the basis of all changes. The relation between the two is inconceivable to the intellect, but when the latter insists on tracing the world-effect to a cause, ignorance or avidya is said to be the causative force, ignorance disappears with knowledge. It does not follow, however, that the world is a mere illusion. This popular misconception is repudiated by the author. The world is not a mere phantasy but has its own grade of reality.(p. 125) In the course of the book are found many interesting discussions about the ethical aspects of the Advaita, Karma and rebirth, authority and mysticism. Throughout, the author emphasizes the profound importance of the study of the three states.
I have not been able to give the careful and concentrated study which the book requires and desenres. It is not a compendium of information or a common text—book. It offers to general readers interested in Philosophy, as well as to University students, a sympathetic and at the same time scholarly account of the leading ideas of Advaita Vedanta such as may prepare the way-for the more elaborate and erudite commentaries and criticisms. I hope the scholar will not look askance at the work for the reason that it does not possess the usual apparatus of Learning—footnotes, references, and a transliteration in the approved style. These latter would certainly have added to the usefulness of the work, but the main thesis, -dealing as it does with a profound study of the logical implications of the three states, is developed with great power and dialectical skill and the conclusions depend on logical argument and not textual authority. The book will appeal to many readers who seek for rational solutions of life-problems and shy at bewildering accounts of Indian systems apparently loaded with much learning. Though the book is written with great distinction and even charm, it is. not easy reading; but there are not many books which will better repay the labour. No student who proposes to deal seriously with the issues involved can afford to neglect it or is likely to do so for many a year to come. For myself, I hope to be able to return to it with greater care, which, I know, will be to greater profit.
The author’s sons having made over the copy right of publishing this precious work to the Karyalaya, we have ventured to bring out this new edition with the help of Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswathi. But for His Holiness’ strenuous effort in revising the work and securing the financial assistance of the public, we should have been hardly able to make this attempt. We hope that the Introductory Remarks as well as the Word-Index which the Swamiji has kindly added will enhance the value of the work.
The size of the book has been altered to suit the press and larger types have been used for the convenience of readers, without reducing the quality of paper. Almost all the Sanskrit words in the body of the book have been transliterated, and sometimes the original has been set in Devanagari also.
We are highly thankful to all Swamiji's admirers and devotees who have liberally contributed towards the printing expenses of this publication. Among these are to be mentioned the members of the Paramartha Vichara Sangha, Visweswarapuram, Bangalore, devotees amongst the audience in the Rama Mandiram, Narasimharaja Colony, Bangalore, who contributed their quota in appreciation of the work as expounded by Swamiji, as well as other devotees in Bangalore and Mysore. We wish to tender our thanks individually to Sri Manjunatha Iyer, B. A., Coffee Planter, Mysore; Sri Bagemane Devegowda, Coffee Planter and Ex—M. L. C., Chickmagalur, and Dr. B. Narayana Rao, Retd. Medical Officer, Bangalore.
The Adhyatma Prakasha Press deserve our thanks for having made speedy arrangements for taking up the work at very short notice. We apologize for the printing mistakes that have crept in. The failing eyesight of the aged Swamiji and the handicaps of the press are the chief reasons for this defect. We hope that the readers who have been long looking forward to a new edition of this only precious work on Vedanta as a Science will treat this endeavour of ours with sympathy, despite its shortcomings.
lt was during the course of the 110th Jayanthi celebrations (20512-89) of H. H. Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji (of revered memory), we were inspired to erect a lasting memorial to our blessed guru by re—publishing all the great Sanskrit and English works of the Swamiji. The foundation stone, as it were, for this ambitious project was laid by bringing out in 1990 the celebrated English work of the Swamiji-Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta. This book was very well received by the Adhyatmic world.
Inspired by the instantaneous success of the first work of our project, we decided to re-print and » re-publish the renowned work of the famous Vedantin K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer-"Vedanta or The Science of Reality" during the 111th Jayanthi celebrations (9-12-1990) of the Swamiji. We had many valid reasons for choosing this work as the second venture in our re—publication project. In the first instance, the great work was out of print for quite some years. Secondly, it is a kind of classic in the history of Advaita literature. Thirdly, the eminent Vedantin, K. A. Krishnaswamy lyer, was Swamiji’s guide and guru. Not a day passed during the life time of the Swamiji without his remembering and paying tribute to the solid contribution made by K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer to the world of Advaitic literature. ` Fourthly, there was a general demand from the votaries of Vedanta to make this minor classic of K. A. Krishnaswamy lyer available. In deference to this expressed general wish and in order to perpetuate the lively memory of the Swamiji and his guru, we are now offering this remarkable work in your hands for grateful acceptance.
K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer was an eminent scholar, a true Vedantin, an educationist, a famous writer and an intrepid interpreter of Advaita. Besides being endowed with a sharp and penetrative intellect, K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer was gifted with an excellent English style. Vedanta or The Science of Reality is characterized by vast and doop scholarship, perspicacious and powerful analysis, and a fearless, critical assessment. The book is not a mere dogmatic assertion of the greatness of Vedanta, but a systematic establishment of an eternal Truth. Since the learned author was trained in Vedanta in the traditional style and since he was born into a family of Vedantins, he lived a truly Vedantic life. Hence we notice his courage of conviction and ring of sincerity in fearlessly defending the truths of Vedanta. As he was educated in the Western style in Madras University during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, he was thoroughly exposed to all the systems of occidental philosophy as well This was indeed a double benefit and we the readers stand to gain by this double blessing.
As K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer had a perfect grounding in Oriental learning and in Vedanta and as he was an assiduous student of the Western systems of Philosophy, he was able to vindicate the stand of Vedanta in the strongest terms. In order to do that logically, systematically and convincingly he examines, praises or demolishes all the philosophical dicta from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, down to Hegel, Whitehead and Russell apropos Truth enshrined in Vedanta. All in all, Vedanta or The Science of Reality is a truly fascinating work.
We at first thought that getting this monumental magnum opus of K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer re-printed would not pose much difficulty. But, when we did the spade work and took up the task in right earnest we were faced with obstacle after obstacle, one more daunting than the other. However, we persevered doggedly. The ever—present grace of H. H. Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji, the timely help and co-operation of our well—wishers and the unfailing encouragement of our patrons have seen us through. And the lovely and splendid work is now in your hands. We are indeed thankful to the grace and goodness of Almighty and the Swamiji and remember gratefully their benevolence and blessings.
On this memorable occasion we do well to call to memory the noble achievements of our guru H. H. Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji. He not only founded the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya at Holenarsipur and its branch in Bangalore, but also left no stone unturned for their right growth and proper development. He strove single—handed to propagate and popularise Shankara Parishuddha Vedanta Siddhantha. To that end, with missionary zeal and unflagging enthusiasm, he undertook tours and lectures, wrote, edited, translated and published nearly 250 monumental works on Advaita. Age and ailments did not deter him, adverse comments and arrogant reproaches did not discourage him, hardships and obstacles did not cow him down. Rather, they encouraged him to proceed with re—doubled vigour. The Swamiji was an acknowledged authority on Shankara, and by far the truest and most faithful interpreter of the Adiguru’s Philosophy. On this red-letter day in the history of Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya we offer our pranams at the sacred, lotus feet of the Swamiji. It was he himself who scrutinised and edited the text, wrote footnotes, traced the allusions and references, penned a very critical and learned introductory essay, furnished sub-tit- los, and got a word—index ready for the second edition of K. A. Krishnaswamy Iyer's Vedanta or The Science of Reality in 1965 -all because his guru's work was not only a classic in its kind, but also because it was his favourite book. The present third edition is by and large a faithful re—print of the second edition brought out by the Swamiji.
Many are those who have rendered willing and voluntary service to make this new edition possible. We thank all of them. First and foremost, our thanks are due to the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya, Holenarsipur for granting unconditional permission to re—print and publish this third edition of Vedanta or the Science of Reality. Secondly, a number of devotees have painstakingly gone through the proofs and have helped us immensely. Among them are Prof. N. Nanjunda Sastry (Prof. of English), Sri H. N. Flanga Swamy, Sri B. S. Krishna Murthy and Smt. V. N. Nagamani Murthy, Sri C. A. Sanjeeva Murthy and Smt. Geetha S. Murthy. We thank all of them whole—heartedly and pray that the blessings and grace of the Sadguru be ever on them. thirdly, we can never afford to forget Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao who is an unfailing source of help, inspiration and guidance in all our endeavours. He readily consented to our request to write an introduction to this third edition; and our readers will agree when we say that the book has been really enriched by his erudite and apposite foreword.
Special and meticulous care has been taken to see that there are no printing mistakes or typographical errors. If, however, some have crept in, we request you to be indulgent.
Our humble and thankful pranams at the holy lotus feet of Paramapujya Sri Srimat Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj, President of Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, and vice—president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission for having graciously consented to be physically present to release the book, to speak about the book and thus bless the ‘Book Release Function’ on Wednesday the 1st May 1991 at Swami Vivekananda Centenary Auditorium, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Bangalore—19. Our heart—felt thanks are due to Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao for having kindly accepted our request to preside over the Book Release Function.
Sri Nithyananda Printers have spared no pains to make the book as attractive as possible in a very short span of time. We sincerely thank them for this noble service they have rendered.
We offer this work in all humility and gratitude at the lotus feet of H. H. Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji and invoke his blessings in all our endevaours, particularly in the project we have undertaken of re—printing all the Sanskrit and English works of the Swamiji.
With this we place this work in the hands of Sahrudaya readers.
With Sashtanga Pranams once again at the Charanaravinda of the Swamiji.
Vedanta exercises an enduring fascination on all thoughtful minds. Numerous works have been written by reputed scholars and great thinkers, expounding its principal doctrines. The justification for the appearance of my work consists in the fact that it treats Vedanta as a Science based on common life and experience. Whatever may be the public judgment on it I have the satisfaction of having made the attempt. If abler minds proceeding on the same line should achieve greater success, none would be happier than myself.
The significance of the Avasthas was first borne in upon me more than thirty years ago, through my contact with two eminent teachers whose method was rational to the core. One of them was the late Anantappa Maharaj of Bangalore and the other, Motaganahalli Shankara Sastry. They were to me the living representatives of the great Shankara, the World-Teacher. A brief note is perhaps necessary on the word 'Vedanta’. In the writings of Shankara and others, it occurs in two senses, (1) a passage or text of the Upanishads, (2) the system of thought underlying them. In the former sense, the word admits of the plural, ‘Vedantas'; in the latter it must be taken as a Singular Significant Name, like ‘Providence’, ‘Nature’, &c., admitting of no article before it. I have hence invariably adhered to the form ‘Vedanta’, without the article, when it denotes the well-known system of thought.
The reader will meet in this work with repetitions of truths and statements which, as they are mostly unfamiliar though essential could have been avoided only at the cost of perspicuity. ...... Notwithstanding defects, the reader who realizes the greater seriousness of life will, I hope, sympathize with my endeavour at performing a Herculean task, whatever its merits.
I am deeply indebted to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, author of several philosophical works of unequalled merit, who has furnished this book with a sympathetic Foreword. My sincere acknowledgments are due to the great thinkers of the world who have trodden the same path before me, and to many kind friends who have helped financially and in other ways towards the publication of this work.
My heart-felt thanks are due to Mr. Y. Subba Rao, the author of ‘Mulavidya nirasa' who interpreted to me various ticklish passages in the works of Shankara and whose rational cast of mind is an asset to Vedantic literature.
In conclusion, I express my deep gratitude to the Great Being whose wonderful manifestation is this mysterious universe, who lights up all souls great and small, from whose grace spring all our tiny activities, before whose might all earthly grandeur is but dust and glamour.
I am happy that circumstances, altogether unex- pected, have favoured me with this opportunity of associating myself with the re-publication of a book which had made an early impact on my mind. I was still a student in the college at Mysore when I first read this book; and of course I could make precious little of it. But I kept the book with me with the hope that it would make sense in due course. It did, surely enough. After my college days, when I took up an assignment in the Indian Institute of Science at Bangaore, I read the book again; but this time I studied it. It provided me several insights.
To write in English on Vedanta is a difficult exercise. Either the language gets terse and often formidable, or the subject-matter gets diluted and often distorted. As students, we found Radhakrishnan pleasant reading but we could see that he was not firm in his facts. He had entered the sanctum of Indian Philosophy through the corridors of Western Thought and without the strength of traditional learning. On the other hand, writers like Jadunath Sinha and Surendranath Dasgupta were excellent in their presentation of facts, but they were by no means easy reading. Krishnaswamy Iyer's book was therefore a pleasant surprise. The English was beautiful, the style engaging and the matter solid. The book was thought-provoking and convincing.
Krishnaswamy Iyer had the advantage of learning Vedanta in the traditional manner under old-time masters; and he came into contact with at least two saintly souls who had realized the truth of Vedanta in their lives (Shri Anantappa Maharaj and Sri Motaganahalli Shankara Sastri, both of Bangalore). As a school teacher in Mysore and Bangalore, he had occasion to meet masters like professor M. Hiriyanna and Palghat Narayana Sastri and discuss with them problems of Vedanta. And he had a brilliant mind, which was receptive to philosophical ideas and a pious heart which inclined towards spiritual matters. It was a rare instance of many favourable factors combining in an earnest seeker.
The first major production from his pen was an . English rendering of the popular Vedantic manual, Panchadasi, ascribed to Vidyaranya. This he ac- complished as a joint translator, but the language was his as well as the presentation of the typical Vedantic ideas of Vidyaranya. This work prompted him to take up a more serious study of Advaita through the classical texts. His was not only an inquiring mind but reason was his forte. When he studied the secondary texts in the original, doubts assailed him and he felt impelled to go back to Shankara's own writings. The fruit of this application, which was as earnest as it was intense, was the magnum opus from his pen, Vedanta or the Science of Reality
The title 'Vedanta' was understandable, as the book dealt with the essential philosophy of the Upanishads as interpreted and presented by Shankara. But why the expression "the science of reality" as the' subtitle? And he had used the latter expression as a synonym of the former. He was seeking to project Vedanta as the science of reality. He was eager to dispel the notion that was then wide-spread that Vedanta was something mystical, unworldly, impractical and esoteric. He was also anxious to correct the view held among the sophisticated and learned folk that there was not one Vedanta, but many Vedantas that differed among themselves. The underlying error was the notion that Vedanta was merely a viewpoint, a matter of arguments and convictions, not related to reality at all. The book was to show that Vedanta concerned itself with reality and that reality was but one; further the book was to demonstrate that Vedanta followed a methodology that was perfectly rational and not mystical and that there could be a 'science' of reality rising above views, convictions and prejudices.
When Krishnaswamy Iyer wrote this book (1930) science had newly entered Indian awareness; and it had a special appeal to the Intellectual elite. It was easy then to contrast the rational approach of science with the apparently irrational approach of religion, and in India philosophy was not divorced from religion. Philosophy in India was regarded as a bundle of speculations, even by the Indian luminaries of those days; reason was not considered its strong point. And science came to India in a package deal: it was received along with technology and Western philosophy. The Indian mind distinguished between European philosophi- cal thought and Indian philosophical disciplines; and the former somehow had a ring of rationality about it while the latter did not rise above the level of speculations. That is how the early Indian professors of philosophy were more favourably inclined towards Western philosophers than our own. They attempted evaluating Indian thought on the touchstone of Kant, Hegel and Bergson, Schopenhauer, Spencer and Mill, Russell and Whitehead.
The book on Vedanta was described as a scientific inquiry by its author because he felt that Vedanta was thoroughly rational, that "it was a science based on common life and experience". Among other things, the author tried to show how Vedantic ideas compared favourably with Western philosophy; he devoted in fact more than half the book for this purpose! Six entire chapters deal exclusively with Western philosophers, besides frequent references to them in other chapters. This was the spirit of the times, and the author may be excused for this excess. More importantly, the author points out the positive contribution and the independent status of Vedanta amidst this vast concourse of world-thought.
The author was impelled to defend what he thought was the scientific stand of Vedanta. When the book was published, it was well received because this appealed to the Indian intellectuals who had self-regard. The book made them think highly of their philosophical system. No wonder the copies were all sold within a few months. And many an other book was brought out which bore the impact of this book.
But when science itself changed its ground, and when even scientists recognized a method beyond the 'rational', much of the force of this book was lost. And it is smaller wonder that no one thought of bringing out a second edition of this book until 1965, when the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya of Holenarsipur issued a revised edition. Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswathi who undertook to revise the book for the second edition did a service to the cause by enumerating the special features of this book, apart from its avowed aim of providing a rational and scientific basis for Vedanta.
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