[Advaita-l] A 'vichAra' on the terms ‘avidyA’ and ‘mAyA’ - Part 2

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Apr 28 13:25:48 CDT 2010

continued from Part 1

The Third Sutra Bhashya passage:*

*सर्वज्ञ**स्य** ईश्वरस्य आत्मभूते इव अविद्याकल्पिते नामरूपे
तत्त्वान्यत्वाभ्यां अनिर्वचनीये, संसारप्रपञ्चबीजभूते, सर्वज्ञस्य-ईश्वरस्य
मायाशक्तिः, प्रकृतिः इति च श्रुतिस्मृत्योरुपलभ्येते । ताभ्यामन्यः
ईश्वरः....एवमविद्याकृतनामरूपोपाध्यनुरोधी ईश्वरो भवति, व्योमेव
घटकरकाद्युपाध्यनुरोधि । स च स्वात्मभूतानेव घटाकाशस्थानीयान्
अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापित-नामरूपकृत-कार्यकरणसंघातानुरोधिनः जीवाख्यान्
विज्ञानात्मनः प्रति ईष्टे व्यवहारविषये । (2.1.14)*


* *

*// **Belonging to the Self, as it were, of the omniscient Lord, there are
name and form, the figments of Nescience, not to be defined either** **as
being (i.e. Brahman), nor as different from it
the germs of the entire expanse of the phenomenal world, called in Sruti and
Smriti the illusion (mAyA), power (shaktî), or nature (prakRRiti) of the
omniscient Lord. Different from them is the omniscient Lord himself, as we
learn from scriptural passages such as the following, 'He who is called
ether is the revealer of all forms and names; that within which these forms
and names are contained is Brahman' (Chan. Up. VIII, 14, 1); 'Let me evolve
names and forms' (Chan. Up. VI, 3, 2); 'He, the wise one, who having divided
all forms and given all names, sits speaking (with those names)' (Taitt. Âr.
III, 12, 7); 'He who makes the one seed manifold' (Sve. Up. VI, l2).--Thus
the Lord depends (as Lord) upon the limiting adjuncts of name and form, the
products of Nescience; just as the universal ether depends (as limited
ether, such as the ether of a jar, &c.) upon the limiting adjuncts in the
shape of jars, pots, &c. He (the Lord) stands in the realm of the phenomenal
in the relation of a ruler to the so-called jIvas (individual souls) or
cognitional Selfs (vij~nAnAtman), which indeed are one with his own
Self--just as the portions of ether enclosed in jars and the like are one
with the universal ether--but are limited by aggregates of instruments of
action (i.e. bodies) produced from name and form, the presentations of

*The scheme of jIva, jagat and Ishwara and Brahman as essentially brought
out by Shankara is as follows:*

*1.   **By avidyA, names and forms are projected.*

*2.   **A. Names and forms form the basis/seed/material for the principle
called Ishwara.  Names and forms cannot be said to be different from Ishwara
as they are ‘nothing’ without the sentience and existence borrowed from
Ishwara.  Nor can they be said to be the ‘same’ as Ishwara as that would
render Ishwara insentient.  Being thus inexplicable, anirvachanIya, they
form the seed for the saMsAra of the jivas and the prapa~ncha, the world of
experience. The Ratnaprabha gloss clarifies: संस्कारात्मकनामरूपयोः
अविद्यैक्यविवक्षया ब्रूते – मायेति । [Shankara, with a view to imply that
the ‘names and forms in the form of saMskAra-s, latent impressions, are
non-different from avidyA (their cause), uses the word ‘mAyA’.]  The word
‘mAyAshaktiH’ of the Bhashyam implies that it is non-different from
avidyA,the cause of saMskAra-s that forms the material for Ishwara to
engage in
creation, etc.  *

*B. Names and forms form the basis/seed for the principle called ‘jIva’.
These names and forms are a product of avidyA. *

* 3.    ‘Ishwara’ is the one that is ‘associated’ with the avidyA-created
name-form upAdhi.*

*4.   ‘jIva’ is non-different from Ishwara, and is conditioned by
avidyA-created, name-form created body-mind apparatus upAdhi.*

*5.  Thus Ishwara and jiva have the same avidyA-created upadhis, with a
distinction in the nature of upAdhis: For Ishwara the shakti is the
collective saMskAras created by avidyA, non-different from mAyA, prakRRiti,
etc. as different names found in the scriptures.*

*6. The Atman is the locus where the avidyA, avidyA-created upAdhi-s.  When
vidyA is secured, it destroys all the upadhi-s and Atman is known to be
ever-free of upAdhi-s, both of Ishwara and jIva.  *

*7. The Scriptures temporarily adopt the परिणामवाद-प्रक्रिया, the
scheme/method of the pariNAmavAda, only with the objective of enabling the
jIva to engage in karma yoga and upAsanA.  This would be possible only when
creation of the world is spoken of, Ishwara, the Creator, is specified and
Ishwara’s role in the creation, maintenance, etc.  Once the purpose of
cultivating/preparing the mind is accomplished, the jIva comes to appreciate
the upAdhi-free Atman, free of creation, free of Ishwara and jIva upAdhi-s.
The Ratnaprabha quotes a verse in this connection: कृपणधीः परिणाममुदीक्षते
क्षयितक**ल्म**षधीस्तु विवर्तताम् ** (source not provided). [‘The unprepared
aspirant understands only the ‘creation, transformation’ scheme whereas the
one who has purified his mind of all dross is able to appreciate the
‘transfiguration’ vivarta of Atman/Brahman as appearing as the world and

*8. Shankara does not say ‘avidyA has created mAyA’.  He only says avidyA
has projected names and forms.  It is only the Veda that gives the term
mAyA/avyakta/prakRRiti and so on to that power of Ishwara used for creation
and managing the creation.  Shankara only alludes to this saying that this
avidyA-created names and forms are named mAyAshakti, etc. by the Shruti.  By
this much it would be incorrect to conclude that Shankara has treated mAyA
as a figment of avidyA.  *

*9. It could be contended that ‘since names and forms are called mAyA by the
shruti and alluded so by Shankara, names and forms themselves could be
treated  as mAyA and in that way why can’t we hold mAyA to be a figment of
avidyA?’  The reply to this is:  By this same logic, what is wrong in
treating mAyA as non-different from avidyA since as per the above contention
‘mAyA is a figment of avidyA’?  After all, Shankara has strongly held that
the effect, kAryam, is non-different from its cause, kAraNam.  That way mAyA
is non-different from avidyA indeed.  *

*10.  As the study of the Bhashya quotes reveal and as the general method of
the Upanishads as taught by Gaudapadacharya and Shankaracharya make it
clear, the Upanishads/Smriti initially talks about the creation and the
created world and jIva-s as distinct entities and Ishwara as a distinct
All-powerful Creator.  In this stage the Upanishads have to maintain that
Ishwara’s power is mAyA/avyakta/avyakRRita and the power that conditions the
Consciousness so as to make it appear to be a jIva, saMsArI, is avidyA. From
the third bhashya quote we saw above, it is clear that Shankara alludes to
this and thereby uses the term:  नामरूपे ….संसारप्रपञ्चबीजभूते.  Here we see
Shankara mentioning that the nAma-rUpa combine is responsible for 1. saMsAra
which is the jIva-s ‘creation’ and 2. prapa~ncha which is Ishwara’s
creation.  Elsewhere in the Brihadaranyaka mantra and bhashya we learn that
the jIva, owing to avidyA and kAma (ignorance and desire) engages in karma
and accumulates apUrva, saMskAras.  This forms the stock material for
Ishwara to provide the jIva with the ‘appropriate’ prapa~ncha consisting of
the names and forms.  We can see here that the jIva creates his saMskAras
and Ishwara provides the appropriate prapa~ncha for further bhoga and
further karma.  In this way, avidyA of the jiva provides the material for
Ishwara’s creation.  We are able to immediately appreciate that
avidyA-created saMsAra is non-different from mAyA-shakti, the material for
prapa~ncha.  *

*11. If it is held that avidyA, the power that conditions jIva and makes him
subordinate to it, ‘creates’ mAyA, the power of Ishwara who wields it to
create the world, etc., a question arises thus:  How can the
durbala/daurbalya-creating avidyA ever bring about a mahAbala, great power
called Maya shakti of Ishwara?  *

*12.  Accordingly, the terms ‘avidyA’, ‘mAyA’, etc. are all used only in the
state of bondage, vyavahAra.  Their synonymity and functional difference is
also maintained only in this realm.  From the Absolute, Paramarthika,
standpoint, however, no words obtain.

*To be continued

*         *

*  *

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