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Q&A - philosophy of Ramanuja Sampradaya

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Knowlege about the soul and the Supersoul

Super-SoulQ:  What are the important differences between the Supreme Lord Vishnu or the Supersoul and the living entity (samsaaree)?

A:  The important differences are:

  1. Dimensionally, the Supersoul is infinitely vast and spreads His opulent (vibhu) light everywhere and in comparison, the living entity, as a personified unit of gyana (knowledge) is infinitely smaller. 
  2. The Supersoul is not bound by ‘karma’ (past deeds), but the living entity is bound by ‘karma’, which means that his present role is pre-determined by his past role.
  3. The Supersoul, overwhelms, bears and governs and the living entity is overwhelmed, borne and governed by the Super-Soul.
  4. The Supersoul’s knowledge is everlasting and is infinitely vast, whereas the knowledge of the living entity, because of its attachment to ‘karma’ is bound to shrink. However, in the state of ‘mukthi’ or liberation from ‘karma’, the knowledge of the living entity expands and fills the space.

Q:  How many varieties of living entities are there?

A:  The living entities are of three varieties: 1. Baddhas, 2. Mukthas and 3. Nithyas.

There are four classifications of baddhas:

  • devas (the heavenly entities);
  • human beings;
  • thiryaks consisting of birds and animals;
  • sthavaras (plants).

The above said baddhas take different births cyclically based on their past deeds of good and bad, being subject to the natural elemental influences like, sound, touch, form, taste, scent etc., they get involved in the wordly life. Their physical bodies obscure their consciousness of the soul within and are affected by their ego of I and Mine. They have been experiencing joy and sorrow of life from time immemorial. We belong to this category of baddhas and are countless.

A baddha, at some point of time, through the grace of the Lord, begins to realize the presence of the Supersoul, gets liberated from the cyclical worldly connections imposed by karma, samsara and the mundane sport (leela vibhoothi) and reaches the abode of Lord Vishnu to become a muktha, which means that he has attained mukthi, a state of liberation. These mukthas are also countless.

The nithyas are never associated with karma and always dwell in the abode of the Supreme Lord like the great serpent called Anantha, the great bird called Garuda, the chief attendant Vishwaksena and a countless number engaged in the service of the Lord.

Q: Are there any differences in the personality (swarupa) of the three types of living entities?

A: As part of the body of the Supreme Lord, these three types of living entities, who enjoy the consummate enlightened state do not have any difference in personality.

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Knowlege about the Supersoul

Q: What are the important qualities of the Supersoul?

A: 1. gyana (knowledge), 2. bala (strength), 3. aishwarya (opulence), 4. virya (valour), 5. shakthi (energy), 6. tejas (lustre) - these are the six important qualities of the Supersoul and are said to be the shadgunas.

Q: Does the Supersoul have an auspicious physical frame (vigraha), if so what is the nature of it?

A: The Supersoul has an auspicious super-elemental (apraakrutha) physical frame. The earthly physical frame or bodies, made up of elements are of three qualities, namely, satva (sober or stoic), rajas (aggressive or regal) and tamas (crude or primitive). The living entity acquires a body made up of the above three qualities in proportion to the good and bad deeds (karma) of the past. As is obvious from the names, the three qualities are graded in that order. These three qualities of satva, rajas and tamas belong to the earthly raw or gross material (moola prakriti) and the worldly physical bodies, which consist of these qualities are elementally earthly (prakrutha). The physical frames in the abode of the Lord (parama pada) is made up of shudha sathva guna only and they are free from the other two inferior qualities namely, rajas and thamas. The body of the Supreme Lord (aprakrita sharira) is also made up of sathva guna only and is free from the deficiencies of the elemental body (prakrutha sharira), which are inherently capable of blurring knowledge. The body of the Supreme Lord, which is above the elemental limitations, is self-enlightening and is capable of spreading light (knowledge). Unlike the elemental body of the living entity, which is influenced by the effects of good and past deeds (karma), the body of the Supreme Lord is not only free from the influence of karma, it is capable of protecting the living entity from the various blemishes and by His will possesses an incomparable blaze of light. 

Q: What are the aspects of opulence called vibhuthi of the Supreme Lord?

A: The abode of the Supreme Lord (paramapada), is made up of shudha satva guna (pure satva) is a veritable treasure of opulence. The world (prakriti), which is a mixture of the three qualities (gunas) of satva, rajas and tamas, is a different kind of opulence. The abode of the Lord (paramapada) is eternal and is called nithya vibhuthi. This world is evolved at the time of creation (shrishti kala) and is absorbed by the Supreme Lord within Him at the time of the deluge (pralaya). The Supreme Lord, creates, sustains and dissolves this world continuously as a matter of supreme sport (lila vibhuti).

Q: In what state does the Supreme Lord carry out the running of the two vibhutis namely the world and His abode?

A: The Supreme Lord in running the two worlds (ubhaya vibhuti) assumes different states:

  1. para (paramapada abode);
  2. vyuha (design as on the milky ocean);
  3. vibhava (incarnations or manifestations);
  4. antaryami (omnipresence);
  5. archa (worshipable still form).

Q: What is meant by the state of para?

A: The Supreme Lord with a non-elemental body (aprakrita sharira) and endowed with all the auspicious qualities, inseparably surrounded by the ever present, great serpent-couch Ananta, His winged carrier the great bird Garuda, the retinue of gods (nitya suris), the liberated living entities (muktas) who wait upon the pleasure of the Lord is His para state. He dwells in His abode called the paramapada in the state of His auspicious qualities like gyana; the important six qualities already explained provide the most brilliant spectacle.

Q: What is meant by the vyuha (design) state?

A: In the sportive act (vibhuti-lila), the Supreme Lord designs a three-in-one state to run this world called vyuha. The three aspects called the trimūrti contain some of the six explicit and auspicious qualities like gyana etc., described earlier to be his opulent parts in His para state. The functional aspects of the trimūrti are as under:

1. Sankarshana: Explicitly displays two of the six qualities, namely, gyana (knowledge) and bala (strength) and drawing upon the resources of the Supreme Lord of Paramapada (Para Vasudeva), he acts as the patron deity of the life aspect (jiva-tattva) of the world. He also presides over the dispensation of codes of knowledge (sastra) and the dissolution of the world.

2. Pradyumna: Explicitly displaying two of the six qualities, namely, aishvarya (opulence) and virya (valour) and drawing upon the life resources of the above said Sankarshana, he acts as the patron deity of the mind aspect of life (jiva-tattva) in the world. He also presides over the administration of imparting the discerning codes (dharmopadesam) to the four of the manus etc. and creates the pure grade of things.

3. Aniruddha: Explicitly displays two of the six qualities, namely, shakti (energy) and tejas (luster) and drawing upon the resources of the above said Pradyumna, he acts as the patron deity of ego (ahankara which refers to the mistake thinking that one is his body). He also presides over the creation of complex plays a protective role.

The three functions of creation, protection and destruction mentioned above are performed as the in-dwelling spirit of Brahma and Rudra (Shiva).

Q: What is meant by the state of vibhava (incarnation or manifestation)?

A: The state of vibhava take three forms:

  1. The real incarnation or the direct descent. The real and direct incarnations are the well known, in the shape of a fish (mathsya), turtle (kurma), boar (varaha), man-lion (Narasimha), the great dwarf and the great conqueror (Vamana and Trivikrama), Shri Rama, Lord Krishna etc.
  2. The state of dwelling in a living entity with His non-elemental body as the Supersoul (Paramatma). 
  3. The state of specific charge (shakti-avesha) through His energy (shakti) and living within the living entity to perform certain specific tasks. The limited charge incarnations like Parashurama is just a fractional charge for a specific purpose. The energy charge (shakti-avesha) like Brahma, Rudra etc., the resources required for creation and dissolution are drawn from the Supreme Lord.   

The first mentioned direct incarnations are worship-worthy for attaining moksha. The other two forms are not worship-worthy for the attainment of moksha.

Q: What is the antaryami (omnipresence) state?

A: The Supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of the devotees and promotes the focus of the devotee on Him and saves the devotees from diffusing their concentration. The fact that the Supreme Lord, as the main focus, guides the devotee from within, this state is called the antaryami or in-dwelling force.

Q: What is the state of archa (worshipable still form)?

A: The state of archa refers to the easily accessible manifestation form of the Lord in any of the material chosen by His devotee and acts in the same manner He acts with non-elemental (aprakrita) body. Unaffected by the limitations of time or physical boundaries, He willingly lets Himself into the grip of His devotees in the worshipable still forms by His descent in temples and dwelling places of His devotees.

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