SankarAcArya's bhagavad gItA bhAshya: 2. 16.
vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Nov 16 02:11:16 CST 1998
This post concludes the commentary on verse 2. 16, where SankarAcArya
explicates the advaita vedAnta view of what is real and what is unreal.
As I had notified earlier, there will be a delay in posting the next
instalment in this series, because I will be traveling for a while, and
may not have ready access to email. This will also be an appropriate
place to pause and reflect upon the preceding verses and their commentary.
I will continue with verse 2. 17 late in December 1998, or perhaps in
early January 1999.
One may object that when the "pot" (ghaTa) is destroyed, the cognition of
the "pot" (ghaTa-buddhi) also changes, so that the cognition of
"existence" (sadbuddhi) should also change. (We say that) this is not so,
as the cognition of "existence" holds true for the cloth (paTa) also. The
object (vishaya) of this cognition of "existence" is only the attribute
(viSeshaNa). Another objection is that like this cognition of "existence"
(which is seen in objects other than the "pot"), the cognition of "pot" is
also seen, for example, in another pot. We respond that it (the cognition
of "pot") is not seen in "cloth."
A third objection - the cognition of "existence" is not to be had for the
pot that has been destroyed. Not so, because the referent (pot) is absent.
Although the cognition of existence has for its object only the attribute,
in the absence of the referent (pot), what would the attribute qualify?
It is not that the cognition of existence is totally absent.
The argument about "sat" is terse. The thrust of the above passage is this
- in ordinary sensory perception, "existence" is seen as an attribute of
objects. When the object, e.g. pot, is destroyed, one cannot conclude that
"existence" itself is destroyed. In the absence of the object, the
attribute of "existence" cannot qualify anything, but this does not mean
that the cognition of "existence" itself has changed. What has changed is
the cognition of the "pot." In other words, in the sentence, "this is a
pot," what has changed is the "pot-ness," but not the "is-ness" of "this."
A further objection may be that attributing two attributes (pot-ness and
is-ness) to the same substratum is impossible when the object (pot) is
absent. Not so. For example, the cognition "this is water (udakam)" is to
be had of light (marIci - mirage?) etc. even though the two (light and
water) are of mutually different natures.
This comment about "water" and "light" seems to presume some other
analogy, which I'm not able to place at this moment. One usual example
offered of erroneous perception is that of water in a desert mirage. On
the other hand, the word "marIci" usually refers to light, and I've
translated it likewise. Krishna Warrier also does so. However, here
"marIci" seems to mean mirage, so that I've included "mirage" in
parentheses, and with a question mark. I'm not aware whether there was any
theorizing about the cause of mirages being due to reflection of light. In
any case, the philosophical point being made is that in ordinary
perception, the attribution of two different attributes is possible even
when an object is absent. The point is that, like the perception of a
mirage, ordinary sensory experience is also flawed.
Therefore, the unreality of entities like the body, and all duality, with
its cause, is shown by the statement "na vidyate bhAvaH." Similarly, the
cognition of the real Atman is never absent. As we have already observed,
this is constant everywhere. Thus, those who see the Truth (tattva) see
the ultimate truth of both the real and the unreal, the Atman and the
anAtman - the real is always real and the unreal is always unreal.
"tat" is the name of the "all" that is brahman. "tat" being the name of
brahman, the nature of brahman is "tat-tva." Those who are fit to directly
perceive this (nature of brahman) are the seers (tattva-darSis). You too
(O Arjuna), endure Soka (grief) and moha (delusion), and take the
perspective of the seers - unstable dualities like cold-heat etc. are
simply transformations, ultimately unreal, and appear falsely, like water
in a mirage. The opinion (of Krishna) is, "Setting your mind upon this
conclusion, titikshasva (endure cold, heat etc)."
The final reference connects the commentary on verse 2. 16 back to verse
2. 14, which concluded "tAMs titikshasva bhArata."
"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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