Mayavada Darpanam

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Attack on Ajnaana of Advaita - 6


Prostrations to all.

In the last few mails of the series, we have been learning about avidya and the wonderful-flawless explanation of the same by Sureshwaracharya in the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika (sambandha vartika to be precise).

Let us now briefly summarize what we have learnt about avidya – the riddle of avidya which is very tough indeed to speak about or understand that many doubts, confusions and objections arise out of the same.

1. Avidya is not at all there at the paaramarthika level but it is experienced at the empirical level.
2. Avidya is not real because it cannot withstand proof.
3. The very characteristic of avidya is Avidyaatva or “being avidya”.
4. The aasaadharana lakshanam (distinguishing nature) of avidya is that it cannot withstand proof.
5. Avidya even though cannot be explained or proved but is still an anubhava vishaya – it is experienced by the ignorant person.
6. Thus avidya as it is experienced, is valid at the empirical level though at the ultimate level it is not at all there.
7. If a person has to prove avidya, he will in turn prove that avidya is not there as there cannot be any proof for avidya which exists in the substratum of Brahman.
8. Avidya since it is an illusion in the substratum of Brahman merges or vanishes into Brahman when Brahman is realized through jnaana (paroksha and aparoksha).

Believe there need be no detailed explanation of the above – the seeker can go through the above points a couple or more times so that the concept of avidya becomes very clear.

The important thing which we have to understand and remember is that avidya is something which is experienced but cannot be proved. Thus if a seeker experiences avidya, he should seek vidya through vedantic sravana, manana and nidhidhyaasana so that avidya totally vanishes and the seeker realizes the ultimate reality of adviteeya atman.

Trying to find out the nature of avidya or trying to prove avidya is like trying to find out darkness. Darkness cannot be found out at all – once a seeker brings in light, darkness automatically vanishes. If a person tries to find out darkness, he will end up disproving darkness or proving that there is no darkness at all. Similarly avidya can never be proved as it is not something real but as long as avidya is experienced, a seeker should try to seek vidya which will in turn remove avidya.

The above logic is based on works of advaita acharyas. Hence the dvaitin can still raise the objection that “there is no sruthi proof for avidya” – the advaitin anticipates the same and quotes Lord Krishna from the Gita thus:

Bhagavaanapi uktham
“ajnaanena aavritham jnaanam tena muhyanthi janthavah” ithi

The Lord has also said thus “knowledge of the Self is veiled by ignorance and hence beings are deluded into the same”.

The above quotation is from the 5th chapter sloka 15.Here the Lord clearly mentions as to why everybody doesn’t realize the ultimate reality of Brahman. Jnaana of the Self is veiled by ajnaana and hence the various beings are deluded. Jnaana here means paramaatma jnaana or brahma jnaana. As Mundaka Upanishad proclaims that a knower of Brahman verily becomes Brahman, therefore brahma jnaana is knowledge of one’s own nature of Brahman. Ajnaana here means ignorance of one’s own nature of Brahman.

It is but contradictory that ajnaana veils jnaana. Can ajnaana ever veil jnaana? We have previously seen that ajnaana is totally inexplicable. It is not at all possible to “not know something” until that something is already known. Thus the ajnaana which the Lord mentions here is the same avidya of advaita. Ajnaana is not ignorance of the independent nature of the Lord and dependent nature of the jeeva because this is in fact a matter of experience for ignorant seekers. A jeeva already knows that he can’t do much & has to seek the sarvajna ishwara. Thus if the Lord mentions what is already known, it will lead to siddha saadhanathaa dosha or establishing what is already established.

Thus ajnaana here is ignorance of one’s own nature of para Brahman. This is also supported by the next sloka in the chapter wherein the Lord says that “that ajnaana which destroys the atman is removed by jnaana and then jnaana shines like the sun for darkness – and that is supreme knowledge”.

As explained earlier ajnaana can veil jnaana or the Self only if ajnaana is illusory. Real ajnaana can never veil jnaana as both are opposite in nature. Thus ajnaana is not real but only vyaavahaarikam. This vyaavahaarika ajnaana is removed through jnaana and thereby the Self shines like the Sun.

Thus avidya is not a concept coined by advaita but it is based on sruthi.

With this, we come to an end the defense of the concept of ajnaana from madhva’s arguments. We have just to provide an answer to one of the arguments of jaya teertha against brahma atma aikya as the vishaya of advaita. We will see as to what the argument of jaya teertha is and what is the response of the advaitin in the next mail in the series.

PS: Please let know if the concept of avidya is clear – if there is any doubt or questions regarding whatever we have learned in this thread till now, please get back & we will clear the same before proceeding.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Monday, September 25, 2006

Attack on Ajnaana of Advaita - 5


Prostrations to all.

In the last mail in the series we saw Sureshwaracharya defining avidya as that which is not a vasthu and hence cannot withstand proof.

There can be a doubt now as to if avidya is not a vasthu & hence cannot withstand proof, then how can it be proved as advaita claims. It has always been the arguments of opponent systems that avidya if not proved will reduce advaita to ZERO. Anticipating this objection, Sureshwara answers following Sankara that avidya is proved through the experience of one who is experiencing it. Thus avidya even though is not a vasthu, still is something which is experienced by an ajnaani (or one who is in ajnaana).

Urdhvam choktham
“Kalpyaa avidhyaiva matpakshe saa cha anubhavasamsrayaa”

Sureshwaracharya has explained further thus
“Even though avidya is something illusory, yet in our view (system) it is subject to experience”.


As explained earlier, Sureshwara is here echoing the view of Sankara. And this statement of Sureshwara is to answer the objection that avidya cannot be proved thereby causing advaita to have logical issues.

We have to understand the word of “anubhava samsrayaa” properly – it only means that avidya is present for the ignorant. Since doubts/objections are obviously raised by ajnaanis & if a person enters into the study of the scriptures, that itself means that he is an ajnaani.

The advaitin continues with further quotation of Sureshwara (have split the words in the slokas so that it is easy to read and correlate with the translation)

“Yatho anubhavatho avidhyaa brahma asmi ithi anubhootivat
Atho maanotthavijnaanadvasthaa saa api ethi atha aatmathaam

Brahmani avidhithe abodhaat na avidhya ithi upapadhyathe
Nitharaam chaapi vijnaathe mrishaadheer na asthi abaadithaa

Avidhyavaan avidhyaam taam na niroopayithum kshamah
Vasthuvrittham atho apekshya na avidhya ithi niroopyathe”

Even though avidyaa is experienced by an ajnaani like the experience of a jnaani that “I am Brahman”, it is destroyed through proper knowledge of the Self and thereby merges into the Self (from where it seems to come & which is its substratum).

As long as Brahman is not known, avidya is not known or realized – thus it is proved or logically known that avidya is not there. And after realizing Brahman, it doesn’t exist at all like water seen in desert (mrisha or unreal) and therefore cannot be sublated (basically cannot be proved at all).

A person who is under avidya is thus not capable of proving avidya. And since to prove anything vasthu vritti is required, therefore he contrarily proves that “avidya is not there”.


Sureshwara said that avidya is not a vasthu as it cannot withstand proof but still it is a matter of experience for the ajnaani. Thus anubhava proves avidya’s existence. Now there can be a doubt as to if avidya is experienced – then will it be sublated??? (pratyaksha or experiences are considered by many systems like dvaita as most prominent of the pramaanas and hence sublation is not possible). This objection or doubt is being answered by Sureshwara in the first sloka over here.

Avidya is experienced by an ajnaani like the experience “I am Brahman” of a jnaani. We see over here clearly that either one of these experiences will be there in a person. Both are contrary and hence cannot remain together. Either a person is an ajnaani or a jnaani – he cannot be a little of both. Here jnaani means a person of atma saakshaatkara (realized Brahman). Ajnaana can never affect a person who has realized the ultimate reality of Brahman. Similarly an ajnaani can never have the aparoksha anubhava that “I am Brahman” even though he experiences the Self of “I” at all times – this “I” for an ajnaani is mixed and associated with the body-mind-intellect complex.

Even though avidya is experienced by an ajnaani, still it vanishes through knowledge of the Self in the right way (through the right pramaaanas). When avidya vanishes, it merges into its source of Self. It is but logical that avidya which is illumined by the saakshi of Self merges into the Self itself. Avidya cannot merge into anything else as avidya is caused out of the Self. Thus Sureshwara here says that avidya even though is experienced but still it is sublated through knowledge of the Self – after sublation avidya merges into the Self (or becomes one with the Self). Here “merging” only means that it simply vanishes into its substratum even as the snake vanishes into the substratum of rope. Thus there is no question about whether avidya is sublated or not as it is experienced.

As Sankara points out in his bhashyas, pratyaksha is not always right. We see water in desert but it is not real. Thus experience or pratyaksha anubhava need not be right at all times. Also as sruthi points out the Self as that which is beyond mind and thoughts, therefore the Self cannot become an object of any pramaana but is just the Subject of all pramaanas.

Sureshwara with the next two slokas shows clearly that avidya can never be proved through any pramaana except that it is experienced by an ajnaani. As he explained, avidya is in present in its source of Self as the substratum (since Self is substratum therefore there is no question of the Self getting veiled or affected by ajnaana). Thus as long as Self or Brahman is not known, it is but tenable that avidya is not at all there. This means that so long as Brahman (the substratum) is not known, avidya cannot be proved. As long as the rope is not known, the snake cannot be proved. Rama sees snake in the rope – it is his anubhava and hence for him the snake exists. But if he calls Krishna and shows the snake in the rope, Krishna will not (might not) see it (as it is Rama’s perception only) and hence Rama will not be able to prove the snake so long as the rope is not known. If it is argued that Krishna also might see the snake, still there might be others who will not see the snake instead see a thief or a lover – thus it cannot be universally proved. Without knowledge of the rope, the snake cannot be proved in the rope.

“But once the rope is known, the snake can be known” – if this is said, Sureshwara says in such a case as well the snake cannot be proved. This is because once the rope is known; the snake totally vanishes and is known as “illusory or unreal perception of the intellect/mind”. In this case as well the snake cannot be proved.

Similarly as long as Brahman is not known, avidya cannot be proved. After knowing Brahman as well, avidya cannot be proved or sublated. Thus avidya can never be universally proved through any pramaana. As explained earlier, avidya’s very nature of not withstanding proof itself is a proof to its being illusory or unreal.

We have to remember and understand clearly that anubhava and pramaa (valid knowledge) are totally different. What I might be experiencing need not be valid knowledge or pramaa. Thus avidya cannot be pramaa but still is anubhava for the ajnaani.

After clearly showing that avidya cannot be proved (here proving doesn’t include anubhava), Sureshwara now shows that even if a person wants to prove avidya (an ajnaani who is experiencing avidya) he cannot do so.

If a person wants to prove avidya, he would require a real vasthu which alone can be proved through pramaanas. But since avidya is not a vasthu (as it cannot withstand pramaana), therefore the ajnaani who is trying to prove avidya will end up proving that avidya is not there. Thus the person started off wanting to prove avidya but proves that avidya is not at all there. This is also similar to a fault in anumaana called anyathaa siddha dosha wherein a person tries to prove A but instead proves B. Moreover here B is exactly the opposite of A.

The last verse also is meant to point out to the seeker as to how to overcome avidya. When avidya is sought out, it vanishes itself merging unto the Self. When a person tries to seek “ignorance of mathematics”, he in turn learns “mathematics” thereby sublating the ignorance. Thus a person who wants to overcome avidya (which he experiences) should seek avidya which is ignorance of the Self. Avidya can be sought only when the nature of the Self is studied through the scriptures. Thus the seeker learns about the Self and finally ending up that “avidya is not at all there”. This is how the obstacle of avidya vanishes when brahma jnaana dawns.

In the next mail in the series (we will have the mail after a couple of days as long gap between the mails would require people to go through the previous article to keep in touch), we will see a summary of Sureshwara’s wonderful unfoldment of the riddle of avidya thereby ending with the advaitins quoting of Gita to prove avidya.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Attack on Ajnaana of Advaita - 4


Prostrations to all.

In the last mail we saw quotation from Hastamalakeeya as well Gita bhashya of Sankara and through the advaitin’s summarization of the subject of avidya thus that:

Avidya doesn’t really exist at the ultimate level but since it exists at the empirical level, therefore avidya is valid for the ignorant person. That it cannot be proved itself shows that avidya is not a real entity but only empirically real.

Thus it is wrong to say that avidya cannot be proved at all – that it cannot be proved itself is proof that it is only an illusion and exists only for the ignorant person (exists means seems to exist). This existence of avidya is based on the experience of the ignorant person which is the highest pramaana of pratyaksha (anubhava) and hence really valid. And since Lord himself states about avidya in many places in Gita, therefore avidya is really valid through sruthi, yukthi and anubhava.

Let us now try to see the riddle of avidya through the vision of Sureshwaracharya. A few words about sureshwara would not be out of context over here. Sureshwara was one of the four main disciples of Sankara. Tradition has it that sureshwara was the famous mimaamsaka mandana mishra before getting defeated by sankara in debate.

Sureshwara is also known as the vartikakaara in advaita – this is because most of his works are vartikas on works of sankara. The following are the works of Sureshwara (all really huge mass of knowledge):

1. Naishkarmya Siddhi – an independent treatise on advaita Vedanta
2. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad bhashya vartika – a vartika on sankara’s brihadaranyaka Upanishad bhashya. This is a huge work encompassing 12000 verses in total. The initial chapter called as sambandha bhashya vartika (explanation of Sankara’s sambandha bhashya – which is nothing but an introduction into as to why the study of this Upanishad is taken etc.) itself contains almost more than 1000 slokas.
3. Taittiriya Upanishad bhashya vartika – vartika on Sankara’s taittiriya Upanishad bhashya.
4. Manasollasa – a vartika on Sankara’s Dakshinamurthy astakam.
5. Panchikarana vartika – vartika on Sankara’s Panchikaranam.

The most important of all the works of Sureshwara is the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika – as it is filled with immense knowledge.

We are going to see a few verses from the sambandha bhashya vartika (which is part of the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika) wherein Sureshwara beautifully explains the riddle of avidya. It is but sad that even though he has explained avidya quite beautifully and beyond doubts, but still objections are raised on the same.

After quoting Sankara’s Gita bhashya words, the advaitin now enters into Sureshwara’s words.

Uktam cha vaartikakaariah

“vasthuno anyatra maanaanaam vyaprithirna hi yujyathe
Avidyaa cha na vasthu istham maanaaghaata sahishnutvaat

Avidhyayaa avidhyaatva idameva tu lakshanam
Maanaaghaata sahishnutvam asaadhaaranam ishyathe”


The vartikakaara has also said thus:

“pramaana or proof is not there apart from the vasthu or real entity (meaning that it is not logical to have proof for anything other vasthu or real entity). And it is not liked to have avidya as a vasthu as avidya cannot withstand proof (maana means pramaanam).

Avidya’s avidyaatva (the quality of being avidya) itself is its lakshana or characteristic. The asaadhaaranam lakshana (characteristic which is distinct from characteristics of other things) is that it cannot withstand proof.”


As mentioned earlier, as a result of the vartika works, Sureshwaracharya is known as the vartikakaara in Advaita.

What is a vartika?
There are different types of commentaries that can be written on a particular work. They are:

1. Bhashya – bhashya is that work which explains each of the words other original work & gives the explanation of the main work.
2. Vyaakhya – vyaakhya is a detailed analysis or explanation of the work which might or might not explain each word of the original.
3. Vivarana – a quite detailed analysis of the original work explaining the various concepts in depth.
4. Tika – annotation which is not a detailed analysis of the original work but gives the gist or explanation in short of the original work. This might omit certain words or verses which doesn’t require much explanation.
5. Dipika – as the word denotes lamp illumining the original work going into subtle concepts and explaining most of the technical aspects of the work. The famous dipika that comes to mind is the Gudartha dipika of Madhusudana Saraswathi which is a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita as well as the bhaavartha dipika of Sridhara swamin on the Bhagavatham
6. Vartika – a critical analysis of the original work.

Vartika is oft-explained through the below sloka:

Ukta anuktha duruktaanaam chintha yatra pravarthathe
Tam grantham vaartikam praahurvaarthikajnaa maneeshinah

That work which contains ukta, anuktha and duruktha is called as vartika by people who know about vartikas.

Vartika is thus explained as that work which deals with UKTA, ANUKTA and DURUKTA – explaining the content of the original work, explaining those things which have been omitted from the original and correcting things that have been wrongly mentioned in the original work.

It is only a vartika which can go against the original work – all other commentaries cannot go against the original work. Thus we find Sureshwara differing from Sankara’s interpretation in certain places in Brihadaranyaka Bhashya.

It is interesting that instead of DURUKTA (wrongly mentioned things are corrected), anandagiri gives the word of SU UKTA for explanation of VARTIKA in his tika on the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika.

Let us now see the explanation of what Sureshwara is pointing out in the two verses.

Once again mentioning the difference between SAT and ASAT as well as their definitions, SAT is that which is devoid of non-existence (meaning it never ceases to exist or exists beyond the three times) whereas ASAT is that which never really exists.

VASTHU is something which is SAT. Vasthu is that which is ever proved and cannot be negated or proved to be non-existent.

Only that can be proved which really exists. We can never prove the existence of dream world or the existence of water in desert – as these are not VASTHU as they are not SAT. Proof or pramaana (valids means of knowledge) can be achieved through six ways (which Vedanta accepts – Dvaita accepts only three pramaanas). The six are:
1. Pratyaksha or perception through the sense organs
2. Anumaana or inference
3. Sruthi or scriptures or words of Mahatmas
4. Upamana or analogy
5. Arthaapatti or presumption
6. Anupalabdhi or non-perception

For now, the word meanings of above is enough as the pramaanas are very vast to be discussed here (detailed analysis of each of these pramaanas can be found in Vedanta Paribhaasha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra – book with translation is available from Ramakrishna Mission).

The above six can be used to prove only valid or existing entities. That which doesn’t really exist cannot be proved. Thus Sureshwara says that proof goes hand in hand with VASTHU. VASTHU and MAANA (vasthu means entity and MAANA means proof) remain together only.

We can prove only that which exists & that which exists can alone withstand proof.

Avidya is not a VASTHU – because it cannot withstand proof. This is very much evident from the dvaitin’s or vishista advaitin’s arguments as they themselves agree that avidya cannot be proved. Avidya is not a vasthu because it doesn’t withstand maana. As maana and vasthu go hand in hand, therefor avidya which cannot withstand maana cannot be a vasthu. This is what sureshwaracharya explains in the second line of the first sloka that avidya is not a real entity as it cannot withstand proof. The first verse thus gives a clear definition of avidya.

Sureshwara goes on to explain as to why avidya cannot withstand proof and that it is not that avidya doesn’t exist because it cannot withstand proof but only that it doesn’t exist at the ultimate level – but it very well is proved for the ignorant because he experiences it.

The second sloka gives the definition of avidya. It cannot be objected that avidya cannot be explained as it is not VASTHU – this is wrong because even though avidya is not a VASTHU but still it experiences at the empirical level, definitions are valid at the empirical level and it is only at the ultimate level that there cannot be any explanations.

Explanations or definitions are not valid at the ultimate level because sruthi herself mentions that “yatho vaacho nivarthanthe apraapya manasaa sah” (there the mind and words cannot reach) meaning that at the ultimate level definitions are not valid (definitions require thought and words which are invalid at the ultimate level).

That explanations are valid at the empirical level so long as avidya is there and brahma jnaana has not dawn is shown through the Lord’s statement that “tad viddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa upadeshyanthi te jnaanam jnaaninah tattva darshinah” – to know the reality seek the Guru, offer prostrations at his feet, offer your services & question him – he will then explain to you knowledge as he is a knower of the reality.

Thus avidya can very well be explained at the empirical level as that which cannot withstand logic. Sureshwara gives one of the most beautiful and logical definition of avidya as the very characteristics of being avidya. Avidya is that which possesses avidyatva or has avidya. This definition is not meant to show that avidya has avidyaatva – because then it would lead to infinite regress. But it just tells us that avidya is that which possesses the main characteristics of avidya – the main characteristic of avidya is mentioned in the second line of the second line as ASAADHAARANA LAKSHANA which is “not able to withstand proof”. Thus avidya is that which cannot withstand proof – since it cannot withstand proof, therefore it is not a vasthu.

As avidya cannot withstand proof therefore it cannot be logically proved & thus it is termed ANIRVACHANEEYA or indescribable. Even though it can be hinted at but still it is inexplicable as it cannot withstand any logic.

Thus with the two slokas, avidya is very clearly explained as
1. Cannot withstand proof
2. Hence is not a vasthu
3. This ability of not able to withstand proof alone is its characteristics

It is very important to remember the main two characteristics of avidya as “not being a vasthu” and “not able to withstand proof”.

Keeping this in mind, we will see as to how avidya cannot withstand proof, what will happen when avidya vanishes or totally ceases to exist & as to its proof (for the ignorant alone) at the empirical level with Sureshwara’s further quoting in the next mail in the series.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Attack on Ajnaana of Advaita - 3


Prostrations to all.

In the last mail in the series, we learnt that avidya is valid and possible as it is “experienced” and “tenable”.

The basic concept here is that avidya doesn’t really veil the ever-present Self but only seems to veil the Self. This seeming veiling of avidya is something which cannot really be explained & hence avidya is called anirvachaneeya or indescribable. We will see Sankara clearly mentioning about the same later. And since the scriptures as well as advaitins accept avidya to be destroyed or sublated (as is the term recommended by madhusudana saraswathi following the footsteps of sureshwaracharya), therefore avidya is not at all accepted as existent or prior-existent by advaitins.

Next the advaitin goes on to quote sruthi as well as various acharyas words which clearly explain the concept of avidya (that which can never be really explained through logic). This part of the work of Mayavada Darpanam is important because here we find that the concept of avidya has been explained very clearly by acharyas and hence the attack of other systems is unwanted or lack of proper knowledge. We cannot say that it is due to lack of proper knowledge that these opponent system acharyas attack avidya of advaita because BNK Sharma clearly shows that the dvaita acharyas knew the philosophy of advaita very clearly and have explained so as well --- so this boils down to unwanted attack through hair-splitting logics.

What a seeker has to remember is that there is only one entity here which is beyond logic and contradictions which is Consciousness. Madhva can refute anything and everything under the Sun but he cannot refute his own Consciousness. His very nature of Consciousness is the one which illumines all other things in the world. This Consciousness doesn’t require an external Ishwara for illumination – it is self evident and self luminous. Thus this Consciousness is the substratum for all existences – thus it is the only independent entity whereas other things are fully dependent on Consciousness. Thus Consciousness is the only reality whereas other dependent entities are mere illusions in the substratum of Consciousness.

Remembering this ultimate reality and that everything is Consciousness alone, let us now see the quotations of the advaitin in the work.

Uktam cha

“ghanachhanna dristhih ghanachhannam arkam
Yathaa nishprabham manyathe cha atimoodah
Tathaa bhaddhavat bhaathi yo mooda dristeh
Sa nitya upalabdhi svaroopoham aatma”

(Hastaamalakeeya 12)

As Sun is considered to be not shining or without shine by the ignorant who considers the Sun as veiled by clouds, similarly the Self which is ever-present nature of Consciousness is considered to be in bondage by the moodah or ignorant.


This analogy of Sun being veiled by clouds as seen by the ignorant is an important one and which clearly explains the concept of avidya veiling and making the Self bonded.

We see that at times (before rain), clouds veil the Sun. For an ignorant, the Sun is totally veiled by the clouds & hence Sun has now lost its power of shining. But for a learned person, the Sun is never veiled but just seems to be veiled by the clouds. It is an illusion which seems to be happening but never is really happening. Similarly the Self is never in bondage and never thus requires liberation. But it seems to be in bondage for an ignorant person who considers himself as under avidya and therefore seeks liberation. The Self can never be veiled by avidya & thus bondage itself is not at all possible. But due to lack of proper knowledge, the ignorant sees himself as being veiled by avidya & therefore seeks to remove the veil. But the learned person understands that he just seems to be in bondage but never really in bondage.

Thus avidya seems to be veiling the Self but never really veils. This is not just a statement of the advaitin but can be inferred from sruthi vakyas. Sruthi and Lord says that removal avidya is moksha. Avidya can be removed only if it is not eternal or real. That which is real can never be removed or negated. Thus the very fact that avidya vanishes means that it is not real but only an illusion. He who is in bandha can never get moksha of eternal liberation because such a newly acquired moksha can again be lost.

Adi Sankara defines the Self in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya as Nitya shuddha Buddha muktha svabhaava – of the nature of ever-pure, ever-enlightened and ever-liberated. Gaudapada says that there is neither bandha nor moksha for the Self.

It is as a result of this that even the dvaitin defines moksha as “svaroopa avirbhaava eva moksha” (Jaya Teertha in his tika to tattva viveka of madhva).

The advaitin continues by summarizing about avidya and quoting Sankara thus:

Avidya yadhyapi paramaarthatho naasthi tathaapi saa anubhootitvaat asthi

Even though avidya doesn’t exist ultimately but still as it is experienced, therefore it exists at the empirical level (for the ignorant person).

Tathoktham aachaaryaih gitabhashyaih “atra aah saa avidhya kasya ithi yasya drishyathe tasya eva” ithi

Therefore (following this), Sankaracharya has explained in his Gita Bhashya thus:

Here we ask avidya is for whom??
(We answer) Avidya exists for that person who sees it (experiences it).


The advaitin kind of summarizes about avidya by telling that avidya is not there ultimately but for the ignorant seeker, it is there at the empirical level as it is experienced. As far as even dvaita philosophy is considered, experience or anubhava or pratyaksha is a strong pramaana unlike advaita where sruthi is the final and pratyaksha is mainly refuted or negated.

Thus since avidya is experienced, therefore it has validity. As long as avidya is experienced by the ignorant seeker, it is valid. But once knowledge of the reality dawns, avidya automatically vanishes & hence ultimately, avidya is not at all real but only an illusion in the reality of Brahman.

In order to show that this is not his own view, the advaitin here quotes Sankaracharya’s Gita Bhashya. This bhashya quotation is from the 13th chapter 2nd sloka wherein Sankara raises a question from the purvapakshin or a shishya (preferably the later because purvapaksha statements generally start with “nanu”).

The question raised is as to who experiences avidya. Sankara replies that avidya exists for the person who experiences it. This explanation is so right and exact that it totally summarizes the philosophy of avidya and there remains nothing more to say on the topic.

Avidya exists only for the person who really experiences it. Another person will never be able to prove avidya through any pramaanas. It is this nature of avidya as to not able to withstand logic or pramaana which has been attacked thoroughly by madhva and ramanuja among others. If we only admit or accept that avidya exists for the person who experiences it & such an experience doesn’t require any other proof, these objections will become invalid.

Let’s now see a little logical analysis of avidya to show that it cannot be subject to logic or proof (we will deal with this later while quoting sureshwaracharya’s exhaustive analysis in his Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya Vartika).

Avidya is ignonrance of something. If I know that I am ignorant of something, then obviously I know about that which I am ignorant of. Doesn’t it seem contradictory??? J

Taking an example, avidya of mathematics. If I know that I am ignorant of mathematics (or I say that I am ignorant of mathematics), this means I know something about mathematics & hence can say that I don’t know it. Doesn’t it look contradictory that I know that I don’t know!!!

The above clearly shows that if we try to prove avidya through logic or analysis, it will just fail.

But then how can we say that avidya is there or exists??? Simply because I am ignorant of mathematics.

How am I ignorant of the Self???
Because I don’t know the Self nor its blissful nature which I am not experiencing. If I know the Self, then there will be no seeking & there will be eternal bliss & contentment which is lacking & thus infers that knowledge of Self is lacking.

Thus avidya being existent is just a matter of experience for the ignorant & this vanishes once the reality is known. And since avidya cannot be really explained through logic, therefore it is called anirvachaneeya and illusory. But as it is experienced, it cannot be said as untenable or impossible.

Vidyaranya in his Panchadashi Tattva Viveka Prakaranam overcomes the above “knowing that I don’t know” by telling that there are two types of knowledge – saamaanya jnaana or general knowledge and vishesha jnaana or specific knowledge. Even as the father of son recognizes his son’s voice in a group of people chanting but still can’t clearly characterize his son’s voice, similarly the Self is known by all as it is their very nature but is not known specifically as it is not experienced as bliss at all times. Thus there is paroksha jnaana of the Self as that which ever exists as bliss but aparoksha jnaana of always being blissful is not there (this analysis of Self as bliss is valid for all systems even bauddha and jaina systems as the final goal of all systems is bliss alone).

Thus avidya is valid only for the person who experiences it – experience of avidya of Self is non-experience of bliss or experience of sorrow or discontent or unsatisfied etc.

We will see the advaitin’s quotation of sureshwaracharya’s words in the next mail in the series. The next mail would be a bit logical and hence request everyone to go through this mail maybe 3-4 times as the basis for next mail’s explanation would be the content of this mail.

Sorry for being irregular in posting of this thread – the reason being lack of proper dedication to explain logical things in a way that everyone is able to understand and appreciate. Mayavada Khandanam itself being a highly logical work, the counter work has also to be that much logical & the content dealt is subtle that it would require lot of explanation from the writer as well as lot of mental reflection from the reader.

Going forward we will have a couple of mails in this thread every week. There is lot more content to be dealt from madhva’s work as well as the counter work & hence this thread would go on for many days. Hence kindly request everyone (Jwhoever is reading this thread regularly) to keep revisiting the entire content or at least the particular part being discussed from the blog so that continuity is maintained.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God

Attack on Ajnaana of Advaita - 2


Prostrations to all.

We now enter into the analysis of Ajnaana from the words of acharyas of Advaita. Ajnaana is something which cannot be really explained and hence there has been lot of confusion created over the same. It is because of lack of proper knowledge of Advaita and lack of open-mindedness that many acharyas like Ramanuja, Madhva have attacked ajnaana like anything. Ramanuja has dedicated an entire portion of his Sri Bhashya called Saptha Vidha anupapatti (seven types of illogicalities of Ajnaana) to attack Ajnaana. Madhva has attacked Ajnaana like anything in Mayavada Khandana (as we are currently learning) and in many of his other works like Anu Vyaakhyaana etc.

The first and foremost thing a Guru wants from a disciple is open mind. It is tough for a Guru to teach a disciple who has some little knowledge on Vedanta. A real shishya is one who goes to a Guru with nothing in his mind. This is not the case with Vedanta alone but with any science. The more open-minded you are, the more you learn. When a person starts to learn seriously, he should make his mind blank on the topic. Once we make our mind blank on all the wrong concepts or little concepts on Ajnaana, we will see the mysterious ajnaana theory folding up beautifully in the ultimate reality of Brahman. As Lord Krishna propounds in Gita, such a person will see Jnaana rising against Ajnaana like Sun rising against darkness. This knowledge of Sun is such that once it rises, there is never any set possible for it.

Thus we have to now make our mind blank and open to all concepts before starting on the analysis of ajnaana. Let me once again offer my prostrations to the Guru Parampara and prayers to the ultimate reality of Brahman in the form of AMMA that we may be able to grasp this subtle truth about the most mysterious concept in Vedanta – Ajnaana.

We will deal this part of Mayavada Darpanam not in one mail but in a series of mail so that this concept becomes very clear to us.

As per Advaita, ajnaana veils the ever-present Self. Thus a person becomes bonded due to this veiling. It is knowledge that releases this bondage and thereby the person realizes the ever-present Self.

This concept has been attacked by Jaya Teertha in his tika by the statement that Ajnaana can never veil the Self because the Self is ever present and self-luminous as per Advaita. Such an ever-present Self and self-luminous Self can never be veiled by anything. Thus since ajnaana can never veil the Self, there cannot be any bandha or moksha as such in Advaita. Thus the system itself is futile as it can neither explain Ajnaana nor explain how ajnaana veils the Self.

This argument of Jaya Teertha is wrong. How it is wrong is being said by the advaitin thus:

Yattu jaya teerthena uktham ‘na aavaranam sambhavathi’ tat na sat

What Jaya teertha has said that ‘veiling is not possible’ is not correct.

Yadhyapi avidhyaa paramaarthatho aatmanaavaranasya kaaranam na bhavathi, tathaapi anubhootitvaat, upapattescha avidhyaa aatmanaavaranasya kaaranam bhavathi vyavahaare

Even though avidya never veils the Atman at the ultimate level but still avidya is the cause for veiling of the Self at the empirical level because it is experienced & logical enough.

Svaprakaashaatmanah ajnaana aavaranam vyavahaare sambhavathi, tat paramaarthathopi naasthi ithi na kaschit anupapattih

Veiling of the self-luminous Self by ajnaana or avidya is possible at the empirical level & since it is not there at the ultimate level, there is no illogicalities in the same.

Yathaa meghah sooryo aavarathi tathaa

As the clouds veil the Sun, similar is the case here.


We have to understand that avidya is explained only at the empirical level and not at the ultimate level. This differentiation of ultimate level and empirical level is not that has been coined by Advaita but is based on sruthi as well as yukthi. At the ultimate level, there is nothing apart from Brahman as propounded by the sruthi vakya Sadeva soumya idam agre aseet ekameva aseet – O Dear! Existence alone existed prior to creation, one without a second. It is true that different systems interpret Ekam eva adviteeyam in different ways but it just is logical enough that the ultimate reality of Brahman alone existed before creation because before creation, there was Brahman alone & other ways was created from the thinking of Brahman as proclaimed in the Upanishads.

Thus since in the beginning, before creation, Brahman alone existed. From Brahman started creation and creation will surely have an end as it had a starting. Thus in the end also there will be Brahman alone.

Thus Gaudapada says following Yoga Vasistha that the world which doesn’t exist in the beginning and at the end has no existence at all. Thus it is only an illusion in the substratum of Brahman on which the world is superimposed. Thus we have at the ultimate level, Brahman alone exists. At the empirical level, we have the world existing. This world is existent at the empirical level as an illusion. World ceases to exist only when the ultimate level of Brahman is realized and a person is at the ultimate level. This is understood easily with the analogy of dream. Dream world exists at the time when a person is dreaming but vanishes to exist once the dreamer wakes up from the dream world.

Thus avidya is accepted at the empirical level so long as the seeker doesn’t realize his own very nature of Brahman. Avidya can never really exist because it cannot really veil the ever-present Self. Madhva’s argument that the avidya cannot veil the ever-present Self is valid enough at the ultimate level. We never accept avidya veiling Brahman at the ultimate level. At the ultimate level, we accept existence of non-dual Brahman alone. But at the empirical level, avidya can veil the Self. This veiling is not real veiling but only an illusory veiling.

The advaitin gives the example of clouds veiling the Sun for the same. Sun is self-effulgent and gives light to all other things in the world. Thus the Sun cannot be veiled by anything. But we do experience the veiling of Sun by clouds. This experience is valid so long as we experience the clouds as veiling the Sun. But ultimately, it is accepted by all that the clouds never veil the Sun but only seem to veil the Self.

Similarly, the Self is not at all veiled by avidya but only seems to be veiled by avidya at the empirical level.

How can we say that avidya veils the Self at the empirical level or seems to veil the Self????

The advaitin gives two reasons for the same.

1. Anobhootitvaat – as it is experienced by all.
2. Upapatteh – as it is logical.

It is logical that avidya can illusory veil the Self at the empirical level as the example of clouds veiling the Sun is possible when the person is experiencing the veiling. Thus empirically, it is very much possible that avidya seems to veil the Self. But once a person realizes his own very nature of Self, he realizes that he never was veiled by avidya – thus avidya is not at all accepted at the ultimate level. Thus this veiling at empirical level and non-acceptance of avidya at the ultimate level is logical.

The one answer to the riddle of avidya is ANOBOOTITVAAT – as it is experienced. Avidya exists only for that person who seems to experience it. Dreamer alone can prove the existence of dream world and that too because he experiences it. Similarly avidya exists only for that person who is in avidya – for such a person, there is no need of any proof because he experiences it. Since he experiences it, therefore avidya does exist. Since this avidya is not eternal, therefore it is given an empirical status and not ultimate status.

Dvaitins cannot argue here that advaitins don’t give much emphasis to pratyaksha or perception or experience because dvaitins themselves give emphasis on pratyaksha to show that the jeeva is different from Brahman and is limited as experienced.

Thus the dvaitin cannot attack the advaitin on the same front. As far as we are concerned, we accept pratyaksha and anubhava at the empirical level but just mentioning that these are not eternal as ultimately there is only one reality of non-dual Brahman.

To conclude on this part of the work, Madhva’s as well as Jaya Teertha’s argument that avidya cannot veil the Self is completely wrong. More than wrong, it is a wrong understanding of the concept of avidya of Advaita. Advaita doesn’t accept real veiling of the Self by avidya but only accepts veiling of the Self by avidya at the empirical level because it is experienced by the seeker himself. We will see in the coming mails in the series as to what Sankara among other advaitins have to say about this. When we learn those statements of acharyas, the concept of advaita will become very clear & we will also understand as to how wrongly the concept of avidya or ajnaana has been understood by rival schools.

We will continue with the analysis of ajnaana in the next mail.

Prostrations to all.


Let a moment not pass by without remembering God