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


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