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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -10



SRI VENKATANATH of the Visistadvaita School of Philosophy wrote in his Paramatabhanga that there are two schools of Philosophy known as Rahu Philosophy and Kabandha Philosophy. Every one acquainted with Indian astrology knows that Rahu and Ketu are shadowy bodies. Astronomy has stated that these two nodes of the Moon are placed at the distance of 180 degrees from one another. Indian astrology explaining eclipses states that the Rahu and Ketu are head and tail of a Dragon or Asura who tried to become immortal by eating Nectar or the potion of immortality and being discovered in the act was severed into two. Obviously Rahu and Ketu became the two ends of the Asura conceived as a serpent. Though thus disconnected or disjoined they are immortal portions and bind the world or earth in a sense. A Solar eclipse occurs when the moon intercepts the rays of the Sun from falling on the Earth and the Earth is covered by the shadow of the Moon: this is described as the swallowing of the Sun: and in the Lunar eclipse the earth interrupts the rays from falling on the Moon, and the shadow of the Earth falls on the Moon. This is the swallowing of the Moon. This is mythology.

Whatever this might the Rahu Philosophy takes its name from this severed head which is immortal. It is a philosophy disconnected or abstracted from the beginning or physical and vital life. It is the philosophy disconnected or abstracted from the being or physical and vital life. It is the philosophy of mere mind uninterested in the world and life of matter and life and is concerned with pure thought and it is geometrical or mathematical. It gains by its abstraction from life and food or matter, its power. This abstract power is enormous. Indeed it was the expressed opinion of the great mathematician who afterwards turned a Philosopher that abstraction realizes the truth of Nature better and knows deeper than concrete science itself. Mathematics guides all knowledge. Rahu is jnanakaraka-the instrumental force of knowledge in astrology. More abstraction, more penetration into the form of things and therefore more power. Rahu inverted by metathesis becomes ahura; the great god of Zoroastrian Religion-the Asura or power of Gods of the Veda itself. Thought, abstract thought, is capable of knowing Reality and it alone grants Reality to being. It can shape Reality also. Such is its promise-the promise of mathematical Idealism.

Rahu in Indian astrology is said to be the instrumentator of jnana or knowledge. Knowledge is thus acquired through the karakatva (instrumentation) of this abstract thought force. But it is also a great liberating force but its excessiveness it is that causes greatest idealistic philosophies dependent upon the abnegation of all world values. He is a great philosopher of rationalism mathematics and abstraction and rejoices in his own vast domain. There is no heart in him, it is a reality of its kind but capable of being illusory or rather shadowy.

Ketu, his counterpart, is considered to be the tail or the ray or fire or flag of being. Being fire it is emotional and yet it is considered to be also the moksa-karaka, one who leads to liberation or the significator of liberation, that is the ultimate. It is true that liberation can be of various kinds and levels. Perhaps one may say that wherever Rahu is in a horoscope, there is knowledge (abstract and powerful) in respect of that bhava, and wherever there is Ketu in a horoscope there is liberation in respect of that bhava. But it is a significator of aspiration for the highest realization an ascending force even like fire-a carrier of all offerings to the Ultimate. No wonder the Brahmana says that Agni is avamah and Visnu is paramah-the lowest and the highest among the Gods, and if the imagery be accepted, Agni is Ketu, then Visnu is the Rahu, and it is stated that it is Visnu who separated the Rahu from the Ketu, and it is the business of the whole edifice of Yoga to unite the disjoined, to join the disjoined: within us is the aspiration urging forward and upward, and above us is the sovereign head that has to be attained-the power that is great and all-enveloping.

A Ketu philosophy would be the philosophy of aspiration, of scared will. But it too can go wrong by excess. A philosophy of sacrifice or yoga apart from the exercise of knowledge-a mudha-bhakti or devotion that permits no enquiry or abstract ascent to higher and higher knowledge, would ultimately defeat itself. But in a sense the heart-philosophy is nearer to this than the head-philosophy. Inseparable however in reality, however separated by the Supreme Visnu for the safety of the worlds of the gods, these two immortals have to be reckoned in all integral philosophies.

The contradictory to Rahu philosophy is not Ketu philosophy because it is integral to it, though separated from it, but the Kabandha Philosophy.

If the soul of man remains in the brain or intellect or Buddhi in Rahu Philosophy, the head of the Kabandha is in his belly or stomach.

Kabandha is an asura. In the Ramayana he is described as having his head in his belly. The symbol reveals that there was a person whose thoughts were all centered in the eating and everything that he could get he could interpret only in terms of eating. All his aspiration was for a good meal every day. All creatures were intended for his eating more than for his service. We could see that in the modern world all efforts proclaim that every thing is for eating. Though all scriptures prescribed that only plants can be food for man or animal, yet since some animals had taken to living on other weaker animals man also has fallen into line with these carnivores. Man was granted a greater power than eating the animal for the animal can be domesticated and made useful in growing more food and not be themselves food. The concept of Vahana or vehicle was mainly intended to explain this transformation of the concept of use or usefulness. All animals are useful for man’s work of developing agriculture. Domestication of all animal life is the great leap of man over the animal since he can now control production of plants for his food. Even food could be got from animals but food produced by them in the form of milk etc., Due to exigencies of climate and change and struggle for survival, man began to cultivate the taste for animal food and turned into animal eater rather than domesticator and now it is not restricted to that at all but for the extraordinary purposes of just skins and so on. Kabandha philosophy; thus leads to what we may call eating-philosophy; today most meetings and conferences are conferences for eating and eating everything, and all social life is built around this congregational eating and promiscuous eating. Though we can say that all satisfaction and allurements are centered round this eating table, and great transaction are taking place round the eating table, yet man is not just an eating animal: values are not just eating and there need not be all this food-centeredness. Food can corrupt and that is why purity in food habits has been said to be most important for being: aharasuddhi is what leads to sattva-suddhi; as the Chandogya Up says. But we are reminded about this being just a kitchen philosophy by very good men who hardly worried about the food. The trouble has been that there has been the basic distinction between the meat-and flesh eating and the plant eating persons and this distinction is basic somewhat to a proper perspective in human affairs as well as spirituality. The former is gross and leads to loss of sensibilities about life whereas the latter does not lead to insensibility about life. Men who can kill animals for good would hardly hesitate to kill men if not for food but for other things linked up with their food and enjoyment.

The evils of this world are more dependent upon this loss of feeling for life and also the extraordinary appetite for such food that it verily makes for the asura. The power of food is more than the power of the brain. The materialist civilization is geared up for this great appeal to food as the welfare condition of the State. The State’s function is to provide food for all: this is truly a welcome thing. But food-habits must be cultivated that will not demoralize man and make him brutish and short-a pseudo-cannibal or incipient one. The great efforts of the Buddha and Mahavira were precisely to put and end to this flesh-centered or sacrificial-animal-food centered civilization of the greedy sacrifices in the name of Brahman. This shift to food-centeredness from God-centeredness is easily had because food is a prasada offering going along with worship. It is a sort of conditioned reflex that has led to linking up sacrifice with flesh-food, or temple-going with sweet-food and so on. It is true that Anna or food is a primary need but it is regulated food that is satvik that brings about health and real happiness rather than other things that promote other tendencies like sexual and other irritations and aberrations. One of the most important features of modern civilization is the growth of hotel and eating houses in plenty, which cultivate and condition tastes that help not health and goodness in nature but intimidate man to do things which he dare not dream of doing without them. Moral inhibitions are removed and man is turned into a beast-and what with wine and other things. Kabandha civilization starting from a necessity which is good that preserves one from falling below the human line or plane of being develops the tastes that bring down man to the level of a hunter and prepares for the loss of his sensibilities in other directions. His knowledge is centered on these wants and appetites and does not go beyond the sense of smell of food. Indian thinkers always associated food with smell, for smell is the indicator of earth or food, its guna so to speak. Where there is smell there is food and no wonder we are earth bound men relishing smell and seeking it.

Kabandha philosophy is most enticing to the earth-bound souls who seek to live forever for food. Life is for eating-happiness rather than eating is for living and growing into a real being of thought and realization and values that are truth and wisdom. Man’s food makes him survive as an animal but his life itself is capable of being renounced in his search for other ends and goals that appears to him on his onward march. These values that are apprehended by the conscious being are firstly those that make the food-value instrumental for their realization if possible or even to be renounced if necessary. In other words food may be an instrumental value to higher values but it is just possible that it may not be for its renunciation even may be necessitated for the realization of the higher values. Thus it is emphasized that food must be abstained from – fasting (anasakayana) should be restored to in order to show that man does not live by food alone: food is necessary for the physical body, breath is necessary for the vital existence, but it is mental impressions that are necessary for a mental being and it is the higher mind impressions and apprehensions that make one who has yearning for highest values live at all. This hierarchical perceptions reveal that Kabandha philosophy may be displaced by Kama philosophy but both will be surrendered to the dharma (mental) philosophy that seeks the discernment of a law which makes one live meaningfully. But even this will have to be given up for the sake of larger dharma or worlds beyond the physical, beyond life itself. Life itself which has been the end for most becomes an instrumental value. For life itself is seen to be transcended by the mind which becomes life for the mental being. One becomes aware of one’s possession of a mental body which outlasts the physical and the vital. And there are those who renounce the mental body (the Rahu-body so to speak), in order to arrive at that life or existence which transcends the individual finite yearning ineffectually for the infinite knowledge and power that are beyond the mind (manas). Thus the Upanisadic concepts of sheaths or bodies becomes meaningful only in terms of the realization of what is life in matter or by food, life in life through sexual desire, life in mind through intellectual knowledge of law and order (dharma) or society, and life in supermind or cosmic life which provides him with his spiritual body beyond this world or earth-bodies which can life through all the disasters and renunciations of the lower bodies.

Kabandha symbolizes this lowest type of body, which one gets in the fall from the high state for there is the truth that as one relishes that lower one becomes lower and life itself appears to be the lower. Thus an ascending spirit (deva-sampatti) seeks renunciation of the lower bodies for the sake of attaining the highest body of ananda, whereas the descending body or spirit takes delight in the life of grosser and grosser bodies which may well be called the formations or concretions or involvements or veilings of the higher in the lower. The Kabandha of the Ramayana got tired of his annamaya sarira so to speak which lived by anna or food and sought the highest by seizing the Divine Rama and Lakshmana and that led to the severance of his life in annam and for annam. He was restored to the effulgent form –his spiritual nature that lived by the vijnana and the ananda. On lives by matter not for the sake of matter but for the sake of the supreme self; knowing this truth one renounces or enjoys life in the Supreme Self. This is the truth that one must learn if one wishes to get over the diabolical preachings of the food-philosophy.

Sri Venkatanatha applies the term “Rahu Mimamsa’ to Advaita and Kabandha Mimamsa to Purva Mimamsa which does not accept Isvara (nirisvara mimamsa) and these two should signify that the former denies the Karma portion of the Veda and accepts only the upanishads called Veda Siras (head of the Veda) though actually it is the end of the Veda (Vedanta), Rahu being the head of the dragon or Asura, the Advaita Vedanta which denies the karma-kanda is called Rahu mimamsa, Similarly the Purva Mimamsa which denies the Upanishads as authority and clings to the Karma performance or dharma rites and rituals and attainment of enjoyments of heaven and etc. is interested in enjoyment (bhojana) is Kabandha Philosophy. No wonder that Vedanta Desika (Venkatanatha) has not called Advaita Ketu Philosophy. [Because it is the Mimamsa about the tail of the Veda (Vedanta) for it is also called the Head (Siras) of the Veda, by convention because it teaches the paths of attainment: though really the Purusa-Sukta should be called the highest teaching or Veda Siras].

Advaita refutes the world of appearance as Maya or illusory as changing and as full of misery. It therefore emphasizes the need for realization of the Absolute Brahman apart from Maya and as such is an abstract philosophy. It is the philosophy of renunciation of the world and the creation of Brahman which are considered to be illusory and full of self-contradiction. It bases itself on the Axiom of Brahman’s incorruptibility and transcendence, an axiom accepted from the Scripture of course but even like the axioms of geometry not evidenced by the experience of the world but to which they are applied with success undoubtedly in a limited way, for we find that other sets of axioms equally apply, as we know from Einstein and Euclid and Reimann and others. Abstract axioms are at basis based on intuitions and revelations and insights and not gained by inductions. Thus it has been argued that Advaita is an intellectual philosophy with some high intuitions thrown in. Thus mere transcendentalism or anti-phenomenalism is intellectual abstractionism.

Purva Mimamsa since it is much more concerned with getting phenomenal benefits by the performance of the rites and rituals is a bread and butter philosophy-or flesh and meat philosophy-or sensual philosophy too for it is dependent on desires for everything both in heaven and earth for which it seeks help of rites and rituals and gods as agents who grant these automatically or impersonally.