Many paths or one path?

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Sun Jul 25 16:15:04 CDT 1999

Here are some extracts from the sUtasa.nhitA (SS). This text is dates
approximately around 900CE by the great scholar V. Raghavan based on
manuscript and archaeological evidence. Dasgupta feels that this is
older and dates it around 600CE. I am more inclined to agree with the
latter. There is a commentary on it by Madhava Mantrin who is sometime
identified with Sayana or Vidyaranya.

I am trying to give my own translation of verses these days, but since
I have something to do after this, I'll rely on Mahadeva Sastry's
translation from his introduction to the translation of the
Dakshinamurti Stotra. A cursory reading tells me that the translation
is quite good. I'll skip actual Sanskrit quotes.

In the yaGYavaibhavakhaNda of the SS we have:

"Listen with faith, O sages, to what I say as to the truth of the
various paths: vedas, dharmashastras, purana, bharata, vedangas and
minor vedas, kamika and other agamas, vaishhnava and other agamas, the
agamas of the buddhas and arhats (jains) ... all these and many more
sastras in all their vastness the omniscient being has made in brief
... The wise say that each of these sastras is intended for a
particular class according to individual qualification, not all for
one ... As all streams ultimately empty themselves into the ocean, so
all these paths ultimately lead to Maheshvara himself. Worshiped in
what form soever as ordained, He assumes that form and takes the
devotee to the next higher step. By his grace man attains to superior
paths ...

****As the highest salvation is of only one kind, the knowledge which
leads to it must also be of one kind and of one kind only****
(emphasis mine). The vedanta texts treat Sankara as the non-dual
atman. No other path treats him directly like vedanta does. Therefore
knowledge produced by the veda alone is wisdom. Knowledge produced by
other means is avidyA or unwisdom. **** The other paths cannot
themselves lead to moksha, they are serviceable only as leading to it
through the intervening steps****. Mahadeva known by vedanta alone
gives moksha by gradually taking the soul on to the direct path ....

Thus these paths, laid out as they are by Siva, are all of them true
and serviceable. How can Siva be a deceiver? He is supremely merciful,
omniscient and altogether stainless. Yet of all the paths, the path of
the veda is the best leading to all good.


As you can see this is vastly different from all paths are the same
theory. Many paths give rise to purity of mind which gives people
capacity to understand vedAnta. The latter alone can lead to moksha.


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