Mayavada Darpanam

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Attack on vishaya of Advaita - 6


Prostrations to all.

We saw in the last mail the advaitin’s answer to the criticisms of Madhva against the vishaya of Advaita and the advaitin clearly expounding the vishaya of Advaita.

Here we as seekers might have some doubt as to what is being explained by the Advaitin are his own personal opinion and not traditional or scriptural view point. We have the followers of Sacchidanandendra Saraswathi of Holenarsipur who claim that the later advaita acharyas after Sankara and Sureshwara differed from these two acharyas and tried to introduce new concepts into the philosophy of Advaita propounded by Sankara. In order to avoid any such future arguments or accusations, the Advaitin in this work now quotes from Sankara’s Adhyaasa Bhashyam.

Sankara wrote a bhashya to the Brahma Sutras which is the most famous of his bhashyas and there is a long list of sub-commentaries to this Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Sankara. Before entering into the Brahma Sutra, in order to answer the question as to why the study of Brahma Sutra is required, Sankara wrote an introductory commentary. This commentary dealt mainly with the concept of Adhyaasa or superimposition mentioning that adhyaasa is the main cause of all sorrows and sufferings (anartha hetu) and removal of this adhyaasa through adhyaaroopa is the main aim of the study of Brahma Sutra or in general the desire to know Brahman (which is the very first sutra of Brahma Sutras – atha atho brahmajijnaasa – let us now strive to know Brahman). Since this introductory commentary deals mainly with Adhyaasa, it is also known as Adhyaasa Bhashyam. This bhashyam is superb and highly intellectual. If a seeker learns the adhyaasa bhashyam, understanding it & trying to implement the solution for adhyaasa in life, he will realize his own very nature of Brahman very shortly itself.

The Advaitin in Mayavaada Darpanam quotes from the Adhyaasa Bhashyam to support the explanation of the vishaya of Advaita which he propounded earlier. Let us now see what the Advaitin says. Advaitin says thus:

Etaduktham bhaashyakaaraih “Tatraivam sati yatra yadadhyaasastatkrithena doshena gunena va anumaatrenaapi sa na sambhadhyathe, tametam avidhyaakhyam atma anaatmanoritara itara adhyaasam puraskritya sarve pramaana prameya vyavahaaraah laukikaah vaidikaascha pravrittaah sarvaani cha shaastraani vidhiprathishedha mokshaparaani” ithi

It has been said thus by bhaashyakaara (Sankara in adhyaasa bhashyam) – “thus taking into consideration, that place where adhyaasa happens and that which is superimposed, the original (the substratum) is not at all affected (not even little) by the qualities or impurities – that this is termed as avidyaa which is nothing but mutual-superimposition of the Self and not-Self & taking into consideration this superimposition alone, all pramaaanas (means of knowledge), prameya (the object of knowledge), all activities including worldly, vedic and all scriptures including injunctive (vidhi), forbidden (prathishedha) and moksha (liberation) are valid or present”.

Reading the above meaning or the original Sanskrit words clearly points out that Sankara is crystal clear that even the shastras, pramaaanas and prameya (object of knowledge or vishaya) is valid only at the plane of Avidya.

Avidya or ignorance causes superimposition – when a person doesn’t know his nature of Self or Brahman, he sees two entities the Self or Subject & the not-Self or the Objects. Thus is created superimposition of one on the other. Sankara says that this superimposition is mutual and not just of not-Self on the Self. Even though the substratum is one alone but when avidya is there, the Self is superimposed on the not-Self & the not-Self is superimposed on the Self.

When a person says that the body is the Self or “I am the body”, the not-Self is superimposed on the Self. When he says that the sense objects are real, he is superimposing the Self on the not-Self.

Thus there is always mutual superimposing between the Self and the not-Self. Since both Self and not-Self or the differences between both is only illusory and created out of avidya (as Sankara puts it), therefore the mutual superimposition itself is an illusion. Whenever there is some pramaana or means of knowledge, there is the difference between pramaatha or the knower & the prameya or the object of knowledge. This difference itself is caused out of superimposition & hence pramaanas are valid only at the plane of ignorance. Similarly the shastras whether they be injunctive like “do sandhya daily” or forbidden like “don’t drink” or moksha like “reflect on the reality at all times”, are all valid only at the plane of avidya as these suppose an object and a subject.

Thus Sankara gives two important points in the above quotation:
1. Vishaya and shastras are invalid at the paaramarthika level as there is no avidya at the paaramarthika level
2. Vishaya and shastras are valid as long as avidya is there because they operate at the empirical level.

This is exactly what the Advaitin had propounded in Mayavada Darpanam as to the vishaya being ultimately invalid and empirically valid. Since Shastras are valid at the empirical level, therefore we cannot say that they are invalid or faulty – as at the empirical level, the vishaya is fully valid. But once a person learns the scriptures, he realizes that there is no vishaya as well as avidya, this is the ultimate level wherein the vishaya completely vanishes leaving behind only the ultimate reality of Brahman.

There can be written an entire book on the concept of Adhyaasa as per Sankara’s Adhyaasa Bhashyam but since it is not the real topic of our discussion, we will not enter into that – maybe we can discuss Adhyaasa bhashyam alone as a different and separate topic (as a different thread).

We will continue with the work in the next mail.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God


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