[Advaita-l] Paper on SSS: avidyA, clarifications

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Sat Apr 14 06:55:30 CDT 2007

As a general note: I was originally planning to write the paper as
only pointing out some philosophical problems associated with the
interpretations of SSS. Since that would interest only a very small
group of people, I have tried to present some fundamental
philosophical issues, and how advaita is a consistent system of
philosophy. The last 2 sections on maayaa and some recent problematic
trends in studying commentaries, were more an afterthought. In any
case, I do encourage you to read a few books by SSS, and not form an
opinion merely from my quotes. He writes well in English. And
certainly you can get food for thought from the many reference he

Regarding the fundamental error, you could say that. The former is the
more or less the tattva-apratibodha-lakShanam, and the latter is
anyathaa-grahaNa-lakShaNam (gauDapaada kaarikaa). This is what is
explained as the aavaraNa and vikShepa of the avidyaa shakti or
maayaa, by later advaitins. Also Ramana Maharshi (RM) has pointed out
the former is the fundamental cause, but both are properties of the
same avidyaa shakti. The former inevitably leads to the latter. Some
writers explain that for j~naanis the aavaraNa shakti of avidyaa is
nullified, but the vikShepa shakti continues to operate in a very weak
way for the jiivanmukta, till he is living. RM accepts this as a valid
explanation, but also points out that this is an explanation for the
unenlightened, the j~naani himself does not perceive any difference.

Regarding the "natural", it is basically from the word naisargika in
shankaras adhyaasa bhaaShya. Essentially SSS says that it is natural
for the mind to confuse one thing for the other, thus leading to some
of the statements I quoted. But here is some food for thought.
Shankara proceeds from gross to more subtle superimpositions in his
adhyaasa bhaaShya.

1. Superimposition of the well being wife and children (external
things) on oneself.
2. Superimposition of body on the self (gross).
3. Superimposition of the sense organs on the self (subtle).
4. Ultimately, the inner organ itself is superimposed on the self (fundamental).

And he states that this 4th is the fundamental cause. Some people
think that since he quotes no shruti in the adhyaasa-bhaaSHya, he is
being "scientific" or it is "pure philosophy". Hardly true, Sankara is
merely summarizing the "neti, neti" of the upaniShad, without any
actual reference to it. Without shruti, the last superimposition
claims makes no sense. Certainly, the first, second, and third
superimpositions are clearly by the mind (assuming the mind exists),
but the last one is not. All 4 share the characteristic of *being*
superimpositions, but not the characteristic of the *"by the mind"*.


On 4/12/07, Praveen <bhatpraveen at gmail.com> wrote:
> praNAm,
> I hereby declare that I've not read the works of SSS and don't intend
> to comment on the person, but intend to share my understanding and
> seek clarifications from the author of the paper or others for my own
> benefit.
> Ramakrishna-ji,
> I'm not specifically following the rules you mentioned since I'm not
> neither contradicting you nor debating to prove a point. Hope that is
> ok.
> 2.1.1 (page 4, quotation 3): avidyA being "*subjective* as well as
> *natural* tendency of the mind" itself seems contradictory, IMHO.
> Doesn't the term natural, here, mean that its a common happening? That
> commonness would bring in a non-subjective generic behavior of avidyA,
> leaving aside subjectivity.
> 2.1.3 (page 7, The Fundamental Error - Sankara's Adhyasa Bhasya):
> Since the fundamental error is that the observer is superimposed on
> the self, could it (also) be interpreted to mean that the reverse
> superimposition of the self on the inner organ is itself a *result* of
> initial adhyAsa/ superimposition? In which case, the second (part of
> the) error itself becomes a disparate error based on the first, ergo,
> not so fundamental.

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