Rāmānuja’s use of svarūpa (literally, ‘proper form’) in describing Brahman’s nature is not fixed. Sometimes he seems to use this word in a strict sense, sometimes in a broad sense.1 From a logical point of view this flexibility may be lamented, but theologically it accords well with Rāmānuja’s characteristic of making Brahman the focus of different perspectives. We have seem earlier that on occasion Rāmānuja theologises ‘from above’-that is, by focusing on Brahman’s comprehensiveness; here the Brahman-reality is made to comprehend the whole of being so that justice may be done to the immanentist religious (and scriptural) insight that Brahman is the source, ground and terminus of all reality (in a perspective where the notion of creation ‘out of nothing’ seemed unintelligible). On occasion, however, Rāmānuja theologises ‘from below’-from the viewpoint of finite being-to preserve the Lord’s purity and transcendence and to account for our experience of both imperfection and (relative) moral and existential autonomy in the world. The concept of Brahman’s svarūpa then, i.e. of that form proper to Brahman qua Brahman, must remain flexible enough to be susceptible to these shifts of perspective. Nevertheless, as I have noted above, we can detect a strict use of svarūpa for Brahman in Rāmānuja’s thought, at least in the sense of Brahman’s quiddity or essential nature, i.e. Brahman per se or in himself, in his innermost core. For the present let us concern ourselves with Brahman’s svarūpa in this sense; later we shall consider the broader senses.
KeywordsClay Posit Rounded
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