Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | May 17, 2012

Truth and the immanence of Language

Atha of “athato brahma jigyasa”

There are so many days that have not yet broken –Rigveda
when speaks the soul, alas, the soul no longer speaks.-Hegel

Indeed there were great moments in Indian philosophical tradition, there were great flights and departures, there were great swans who didn’t know limits; there were great moments of immanence of language and spiritual life.  There were great separations between the holy and the most holy, Veda and the end of Veda, belief and unbelievable, ritual and knowledge, mytholization and demytholization.  There were moments when everything would be raised unto miracle and wonder; hence, they would be able to write an absolutely Sagic language, “The Plane of philosophical immanence is astonishment”.  What more one can expect from philosophy? As for as language is concerned; it is wonder in which truth is realized.  Western philosophy in its political rationality barely understands this mysticism of philosophy. It would have been a great moment of revelation of language when Panini wrote ‘eight equations’ of grammar in Astadhyayee said to be emanated from Shiva’s divine instrument damru.

Sutras written by Indian philosophers are ultimate realization of language that western philosophers still hope to realize (“The hope that being could find its true expression in one word” is still an unrealized desire found in Greek to Jewish and Christian tradition of which Derrida was a recent manifestation). Heidegger once asked “who is the GOD of technology?” And the answer was: “Code writers”. Heideggerian search for codification i.e. Greekan “thechne” led his spirit not to God rather to Auschwitz. It was the spirit of vengeance spiritualized to the highest point.  No civilization other than Indian Vedic civilization that has conceived the divine possibility of language. Sages had conceived that language can reach the ultimate horizon of its immanence where it would be a gospel in silence. It would deconstruct the gods to become the highest goddess, and it would realize the supreme reality in itself.  Language and life becomes united and seers would proclaim its potential as the creator and the destroyer of universe. Sristi samhar (destruction of universe) and sristi vimarsha (creation of the universe) would be conceived in language itself. Language is the very nature of consciousness; if it is not considered as such it would not be a reflection, as Indian sages tell us “अन्यथा प्रकाशोऽर्थोपरक्तोऽपि स्फटिकादिजडोपमः”.

Heidegger has the view that Dichtung or poetizing is related to reflection, in saying i.e. Sage but western philosophers did not know how Sama Gayan is performed? Is it possible without Rik! “It is five thousand years old Vedic tradition that teaches us “येन स्तोमेन स्तोष्यमाणः स्यात् “One should think before one hymns“. The search of a Gospelic speech has been a search after immanence of language of which priest Saint Paul was the first propagator in west.  In Gospelic speech, in a strange tongue the truth is prophesized but this prophetic linguistic legislation as a spiritual force (geistige Kraft) was foolishness from which west suffered heavily. In fact it is Biblical, for the Christian “poverty” means poverty of reason i.e. foolishness for only a fool can have a life as Heidegger thinks that ‘being-able-to have” is a form of ‘not –having”, hence, one must be deprived of thinking and send to nothingness.  Paulian search of a prophetic tongue is a search of speech in foolishness hence it doesn’t realize truth. What Vedic sages taught us is ultimate Horizon of language: “He who knows the “akshara ॐ” knows the speech. This truly is the approximate exposition of this indestructible” खल्वेतस्यैवाक्षरस्योपव्याख्यानं भवति”.  Heidegger was a priest so as Derrida and both priests only loved priest’s writing and in critical junctures of meditations sought justifications in their sacred texts but they never visited Indian sages for insight.

Perhaps Hegel was the only philosopher who  unknowingly realized the mystery of ‘Brihaspati’ and speaks about “Oum’ in relation to thought and intelligence in strict Vedantic term:“ with this wholly abstract purity of continuity, that is, indeterminateness and vacuity of conception, it is indifferent whether this abstraction is called space, pure intuiting or pure thinking; it is altogether the same as what Indian sages called Brahma, when for years on end, physically motionless  and equally  unmoved in sensation, conception, fantasy, desire, and so on, looking only at the tip of nose, he utters inwardly OM, OM ,OM or else nothing at all. This dull empty consciousness understood as consciousness, is –being.”  Pranava –an unutterable Name of God that Derrida searches or hopes to discover it.  God is denoted by Pranava “Tasya Vachakah Pravavah-Patanjal Yogasutra”. All the manifested and divine gospelic speech is considered within Pranav’s one feet while rest three feet are established in immortal realms, hence sages taught us “यतदः परो दिवः” which has a distinguished sacred theology. It is imparted only to those who have realized the three feet of Pranava; it is beyond the metaphysics of writing and reading. I would like to say few words here by this detour about the “ Atha”  of “ athato brahmajigyasa” of Vedanta Sutra.  In India there had been a tradition of writing the great texts beginning with mangala charan or obeisance (with praise to the teacher or to the deity or to simply invocation of peace as in shanti recitations in the beginning of Upanishads); which would be sometimes accompanied by the fourfold anubandha (outline of the work) depending on the nature of Text.  In this case often mangalacharan would be somewhat large extending up to few pages in several verses. Before this tradition of writing in pre-Vedic age everything would begin simply with the most auspicious syllable Vedantic ‘pranava ॐ”.

Every chapter in Vedic literature begins with the invocation of eternal speech ( vaak ) Pranava or Oum.  Oum is eternal speech or vaak thus everything must begin with uttering ॐ.  Veda says “Oum, by uttering this auspicious syllable, he begins …after uttering oum the Adhvaryu chants the hymn, the Hota praises the gods, the Udgata sings. Through the greatness and essence of Oum are begun the rites enjoined by Vedas.” It has been customary to use Pranava very frequently at the beginning and the end of repetition of mantras, rites, study of Vedas and writings. Om is sacred speech in which everything culminates, it causes Sama and Rik singer to sing, it is letter of consent and proposal for one unconsciously utters it.  Another word that was used in the beginning and end of Vedic studies and rites in the days of yore was ‘Om Ta Sat’.  “Om –Tat-Sat “all the three are used in combination or sometimes separately as it is prescribed that “After uttering the word ‘Tat’, acts of sacrifice and austerity, and also the various acts of charity are performed”.  It is said that whatever defects may arise in the acts of study, chanting, sacrifices, charity, austerity etc. due to errors of the performers, that becomes rectified by the uttering of ‘Om Tat Sat’.  However, there were some other specific  syllables that were uttered in some specific  rites or chantings, for example  the syllable ‘vashat’ is often used in mantras, Vedic injection is this that, “The priest who utters the word vashat at the end of the offering will have the first morsal, etc”. Mangala charan had been an essential part of writing; sometimes it would be praise, sometimes a dedication to the teacher or deity or both. If we look into it more closely, we see that sometimes Mangalacharan would be like a preface that would tell us the essence of the text to be commenced or what has already been said, revealed or written.  This is one of the surprising elements of Indian writing that before text begins everything would be said in few words in nutshell; rest would be just an elaboration (vimarsha).  Hegel wrote in the preface of his magnum opus “phenomenology of mind “about it as follows: “don’t take preface seriously. The preface announces a project is nothing until it is realized”, in this case preface is not a ‘prae-fatio i.e. ‘a saying before-hand’.

Our Mangalacharan is ‘a saying before -hand’ if you are intelligent enough you need not read the Text, truth prefaced  in ‘mangal words ‘ in mangala charan are sufficient to enlighten you.  Mangala charan has the structure of a magic, it proclaims the revealed truth beforehand. Derrida still asks regarding Hegel’s preface, does preface takes place? Where would it take place? In what mode does it come to predicate? Still, a very serious question of language!  In west preface did not take place but In India it was written and passed into silence.  Derrida though outlines what a preface would be, he writes: “preface belongs to the buildung….internal to the philosophy to the extent that, as the preface also says, the exteriority of negative still belongs to the process of truth and must leave its trace upon it…..”Time is time of the preface; space (he says, a certain space between concept and ‘being there’) —whose time will have been the Truth—is the space of the preface. The preface would thus occupy the entire location of duration of the book.” He appreciates Hegel as the first philosopher of writing in which preface is very significant part so significant that his work was a play of prefaces.  In the beginning of Bhagavatam Veda Vyasa writes mangala charan that encapsulates a better concept of preface than what he expects: “जन्माद्यस्य यतोन्वयादितरतश्चार्थेष्वभिज्ञः स्वराट् तेने ब्रह्म हृदा य आदि कवये मुह्यन्ति यतसूरयः। तेजोवारिमृदा यथा विनिमयो यत्र त्रिसर्गो मृषा, धाम्ना स्वेन सदा निरस्त कुहकं सत्यं परम धीमही।।“ After this exposition nothing more is to be said. It speaks the highest truth of Advaita Vedanta in four lines; the Text that follows it is an elaboration in a Puranic genre for the lay people.  Mangala charan encapsulates in its first word the second aphorism of Vedanta sutra “जन्माद्यस्ययत:” to explain the nature of truth or Brahman that says “That from which (are derived) birth.etc of this universe”.  I am in no mood here to debate the nature of this truth or lie, I am just telling you about the richness of the writing of Indian sages. Mangala Charan exposes entire Vedantic metaphysics together with its objective in four lines and in a poetic way.  The verse can be sing like Sama hymns –in it truth is hymned.  Here language is not merely some short of writing; rather, it is impregnated with the possibility of “Other” language- if you like call it the language of God.  Sutra literature had already achieved what Derrida ultimately hopes in ‘Of Grammatology’. A treatise on Sanskrit grammar Vakyapadiya speaks about this language in which god dies, “There is no cognition in the world in which the word does not figure. All knowledge is, as it were, intertwined with the word” and prior to it Upanishad speaks metaphorically “vacharambhano vikaro namadheyam i.e. “Everything is manifestation of speech”.  Now we can say that immanence of language has a metaphysical basis and in Indian linguistics it is devoid of God. It is “sabdattva or word-ness” itself that is everything, symbolized by the word Om and realized in the Silence. Hence hereafter follows the injunction that, “whatever you know is “Name” only, meditate in silence”  ‘tajjalaniti shanta upasita’”.

I don’t want to enter into the metaphysics of Grammatology here but it is clear that Om is the bridge of all speeches, name and forms.  Now, we have seen that mangalacharan is auspicious and says truth before hand, in India this has been a kind of offering; teachers spoke to us the highest truths first, irrespective of personae or status.  Even a text like Gita speaks the highest in the beginning to his quite a dull disciple by saying, “Nothing is highest than this (knowledge) O partha!”  Mangalacharan is a true preface of great Indian philosophical texts; west still haven’t achieved this immanence of philosophy and language.  But beyond this lyrical and philosophical preface, Indian philosophers conceived something amazing, spiritually rich and transcendental in nature. In the Sutra age Indian philosophers almost abandoned writing mangalacharan or preface, a word was discovered that was sufficient to speak the auspicious ‘time to come’ and it was the word ‘atha’.  Sutra literature begins with ‘atha’ as in: “athahato brahma jigyasa(Vedanta sutra), athato dharma jigyasa ( jaimini’s Mimansa sutra), athato bhaktim jigyasyamah (bhakti sutra), atha yoganushashanam (yoga sutra)etc.”  Sankaracharya writes that it is not used for ‘commencement’ for ‘a deliberation on Brahman’ can’t be commenced; it is used for ‘sequence or in Sanskrit ‘anantarya’. To show that after knowledge of the rite portion of Vedas and the ephemeral nature of its results of the rituals has been gained; the inquiry into the real nature of truth should be taken up. It means simply ‘atha- “thereafter”, it naturally serves the purpose of auspiciousness as in hearing the blow of conch one feels auspiciousness.  Deliberation on Brahman is not commenced, rather, since the deliberation on Vedic religious rites (dharma jigyasa) has come to an end, it solves no purpose, for “just as the enjoyable things earned through work gets exhausted in this world, so also do the enjoyable things in the other world that are earned through merit”, therefore one must move forward and take deliberation on Truth (Brahman jigyasa).  As Mundakopnishad says, “Having examined the world attainable through work, a Brahman should get dispassionate towards them. The uncaused can’t be attained by caused. To know ‘That’, he must approach a Guru.” This undertaking is itself an auspicious event for a knower after truth hence it is spoken with the word ‘atha’.  What is more auspicious than a spiritual event that would make one realize his sovereign nature?  With the invocation of the word ‘atha’ begins the wonder, surprising and the uncommon –a sense of awakening that I am an Other. ‘Atha’ is invocation of wonder. Existence continues as bhavah in adi letter of Atha as it is said ‘अ आदौ भाव: इति आद्यः”.It is in a poetic way an event in which for the first time one opens himself in to eternity and asks “how to become heart?” ‘Atha’ of ‘athato Brahmajigyasa’ is taken up not out of anxiety as in western philosophy, for ‘jigyasa’ cannot come from anxiety rather it comes from a superior sense ‘to know the truth’ in order to liberate oneself(  From jigyasa follows mumuksha i.e. intense feeling of liberation) .  Jigyasa i.e. ‘to know the truth’ is a spiritual awakening, not a means to attain some good profit (for it exhausts, as Upanishad says ‘punya loko cha chiyate’). It has only one objective that is to reach the pure point of intuiting or pure thinking and attain liberation.  ‘Atha’ is the proclamation of a higher form of philosophy, it is an opening of the miraculous eyes to Truth hence it is called “darshana” in India.  Darshan speaks the language of wonder “vismaya” but it is devoid of superstitions;  it follows the rigorous path of logic of negation in the same Hegelian sense of theo-logic with the three steps– ‘study of vedanta (adhyayan), intellectual pondering(manan) and meditation (nidhidhyasan), leading to the intellectual apparition called ‘aparokshanubhuti” of Advaita.  From ‘atha’ begins an inquiry upon the nature of Truth; it is not towards construction of some philosophical edifice (buildung).  It is touching, seeing, and caressing the eternity every moment, every day; it is an absolute embrace of existence. It is an absolute departure in bliss from neti-neti to iti-iti.

–This is an draft of piece  written two years back



  1. i agree

  2. […] ego on this blog I wrote a blog-post on “Athato” of Brahma-Jigyasa where I had touched upon certain issues. However unfortunately I could not take […]

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