[Advaita-l] A 'vichAra' on the terms ‘avidyA’ and ‘mAyA’ - 3 (concluded)
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Apr 29 05:45:30 CDT 2010
From the short study of the three sample passages from the Sutra
Bhashya, it would be apt to conclude as follows:
• The view arguing for the distinctness of avidyA and mAyA has been
prevalent even before Shankara’s times. This is evident from the
gloss of Anandagiri. It is evident that the protagonists of such a
view are advaitins. In the absence of specific information, we
surmise that they are the bheda-abheda-
vAdins/vRRittikAra/bhartRRiprapa~ncha school that Shankara has often
taken up for refutation across His bhAshya literature.
• The functional distinction between A and M could be admitted, even
as Shankara does, in the explanation of the distinction between jIva
and Ishwara in the realm of ignorance/bondage/saMsAra.
• What indeed is meant by ‘the non-distinctness of A and M’? In reply
to this question, we turn to a very significant statement of the
author of the bhAmatI. Says Sri Vachaspati Mishra in the gloss to the
Bhashya on the sutra: 2.1.14 तदनन्यत्वं आरम्भणशब्दादिभ्यः - ‘ न
खल्वनन्यत्वमित्यभेदं ब्रूमः, किंतु भेदं व्यासेधामः ...(by
non-difference we do not suggest identity; but only negate absolute
difference…). By imposing identity between the cause, clay, and the
effect, pot, a difficulty would arise where the practical
utility/parlance cannot be accomplished. When a man wants a pot to
store water/cook rice, etc., he goes to a potter to buy one. In case
the potter hands him a lump of clay saying ‘take this, for is not the
pot the same as clay?’, that would be an undesirable situation. This
is not the way Advaitins want the cause-effect non-difference to be
understood. All that is intended is to wipe out any idea of absolute
difference between the cause and the effect. One not given to enquiry
holds the effect and the cause as two distinct real entities. This
view is not conducive to the understanding of the fundamental reality,
tattva. The correct view of appreciating the non-difference of the
effect from its material cause without jeopardizing the practical
parlance, vyavahAra, is to understand, by enquiry, that the two, the
cause and effect, are not two distinct, real entities; one cause alone
appears, through imagined/superimposed name and form, as many effects.
The fundamental reality, however, is one only which is neither the
cause nor the effect.
• If the principle underlying the above Bhamati statement is
appreciated, one would be able to understand and appreciate the varied
usages of the terms ‘avidyA’ and ‘mAyA’ in the scriptural and
commentarial literature. One can allow a distinction for functional
purposes in vyavahAra but not lose sight of the ultimate
non-difference between A and M.
In his Gudarthadipika, Madhusudana Saraswati (MS) comments for the
verse 13.34: भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च – भूतानां सर्वेषां प्रकृतिः अविद्या =
मायाख्या तस्याः परमार्थात्मविद्यया मोक्षणमभावगमनं च ये
विदुः...[bhUtaprakRRitimokSham cha – the cause of all creatures avidyA
which is called mAyA, its non-existence owing to the gaining of the
knowledge of the Supreme Atman …also those who know…]
This is what exactly Shankara too has done here, with even more
emphasis: भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च – भूतानां प्रकृतिः अविद्यालक्षणा
अव्यक्ताख्या तस्याः भूतप्रकृतेः मोक्षणं अभावगमनं च ये विदुः...[ the
meaning given in the above paragraph is to be seen as applicable here,
with the additional word: avyaktA. MS uses MAYA for this word. ]
For the term ‘avidyA lakShaNa’ of the bhashya, the derivation is:
अविद्या लक्षणं यस्याः प्रकृतेः सा = that prakRRiti which has for its
characteristic avidyA, ignorance. This prakRRiti is also termed
It is clear that Shankara makes no difference between avidyA and mAyA
(avyaktA). Also to be noted is that Shankara says, on the authority of
the Lord, that mAyA, avyaktA, which is the Lord’s Shakti, is realized
by the Jnani to be non-existent. This very sentence also says that
avidyA is realized to be non-existent too. How? By gaining the
Self-knowledge. Thus AtmavidyA renders non-existent (1) the avidyA,
ignorance, that is associated with the jIva as well as (2) mAyA that
is Ishwara’s Shakti.
How do we affirm that mAyA, avyaktA is Ishwara’s Shakti in this
context and not something related to the jIva? The Reply is:
Just three verses after the above, into the 14th chapter, for the
verse 14.3, Shankara comments:
मम स्वभूता मदीया माया त्रिगुणात्मिका प्रकृतिः योनिः सर्वभूतानां ...[My
own mAyA that is made of the three guNa-s is the source, cause, womb,
of all beings…] (note: this very expression is used by Shankara to
explain मम माया of verse 7.14.)
One can see the similarity in the words’ usage in the two instances
presented above. It is unmistakable that the 13.34 bhashya/verse
speaks about the same mAyA, avyaktA, Ishwara’s Shakti that is spoken
of in 14.3. MS also follows Shankara in the 14.3 explanation.
What about the word avyaktA? The reply is: In His commentary to verse
8.20, Shankara says:
कस्मात् पुनः परः? पूर्वोक्तात् भूतग्रामबीजभूतात् अविद्यालक्षणात्
अव्यक्तात् ...[Greater than what? Greater than the earlier mentioned
(8.18) avyaktA that is the seed of all the beings, of the nature of
Here again, we have to remember the derivation of the term avidyA lakShaNa as:
अविद्या लक्षणं यस्य अव्यक्तस्य = that अव्यक्त which has for its
characteristic avidyA, ignorance. This अव्यक्त is also termed
Here Shankara defines avyaktA, which is the source of all beings as
one having its nature, ignorance, avidyA lakShaNa. For Shankara, even
mAyA, prakrRti, Ishwara’s Shakti, is of the character/nature of avidyA
It is clear that MS too is actually putting avidyA and mAyA as synonyms.
In the Mandukya karika: मायया भिद्यते ह्येतन्नान्यथाऽजं कथञ्चन । 3.19
Here too, Gaudapada and Shankara use Maya as that which brings forth
misapprehension, multiplicity. Shankara says: यत्परमार्थसत् अद्वैतं
मायया भिद्यते...तैमिरिकानेकचन्द्रवत्, रज्जुः सर्पधारादिभिर्भेदैरिव...
Thus, mAyA and avidyA have the same lakShaNa-s.
Shankara admits ‘mAyA’ to be: 1. Ishwara’s Shakti and 2. avidyA.
The Mandukya kArikA reads thus:
विभूतिं प्रसवं त्वन्ये मन्यन्ते सृष्टिचिन्तकाः ।
स्वप्नमायासरूपेति सृष्टिरन्यैर्विकल्पिता ॥ 1.7 ||
[Some of those who contemplate the process of creation regard it as
the manifestation of God’s powers; others imagine creation to be like
dreams and illusions.] (Sw.Gambhirananda)
Shankara terms svapnamAyA-sarUpAH as those different type, second
type, believers in creation: These people think that the creation is
like a dream (that is, since the dream-objects are created only on the
basis of the objects experienced in the waking, the dream-objects are
also REAL.) This is the explanation for the portion: svapna-sarUpa.
Then, for the term mAyA-sarUpa, the meaning is: that which is created
by the powers of a gem, mantra, auShadhi, herbs – these are also
considered by those people as REAL. All these people believe in a
Anandagiri glosses for the portion ‘तत्कृत मायादि सतत्त्वचिन्तायां
आदरः भवति of the Bhashyam thus: मायादि of the bhashya means, mAyA =
magic. Adi = the effects of magic namely the illusory things and
events created by the magician through the magic. The word तत्कार्यं
गृह्यते of Anandagiri means only this and not ‘avidyA which is a
product of mAya’. Therefore, there is no connection between verses 1.7
and 1.16 of the kArikA. In this kArikA the word anAdi-mAyayA is none
other than anAdi avidyayA.
There is an interesting pair of expressions in the bhashya for the
Mandukya karika 1.6:
प्रभवः सर्वभावानां सतामिति विनिश्चयः ।
सर्वं जनयति प्राणश्चेतोंशून्पुरुषः पृथक् ॥
1. सतां विद्यमानानां स्वेन अविद्याकृत-नामरूप-मायास्वरूपॆण सर्वभावानां...
2. दृष्टं च सज्जुसर्पादीनामविद्याकृत-मायाबीजोत्पन्नानां
रज्ज्वाद्यात्मना सत्त्वम् ।
In the first expression, the meaning is: avidyA projects name and form
which are unreal, mAyA, superimpositions…
In the second expression, the meaning is: avidyA is the nimitta,
instrumental cause and mAyA seed is the upAdAna, material cause of the
superimposed snake, etc.
For this expression, the Anandagiri gloss is: अविद्यया
अनाद्यनिर्वाच्यया कृताश्च ते मायाबीजादुत्पनाश्च तेषां अविद्यैव माया
इत्यङ्गीकारात्.... सत्त्वं ...
Anandagiri says that ‘since it is admitted that avidyA is mAyA alone’, …..
A question arises: Where, by whom is the above admitted? The reply we
can give is:
In the second Sutra Bhashya 1.4.3 passage we saw above:
There are these two expressions: अव्यक्ता हि सा माया ..अविद्या हि अव्यक्तम् ।
Shankara says: 1. avyaktA is mAyA and 2. avidyA is avyaktam. The
common term in the two equations is avyakta/m. Since avyakta is mAyA
as well as avidyA, the three terms mean the same and thereby Shankara
admits that ‘avidyA itself is mAyA’.
In the Mandukya Upanishad bhashya, for the mantra 2 Shankara says:
विराजैकत्वं उपलक्षणार्थं, हिरण्यगर्भ-अव्याकृतात्मनोः ।
...सुषुप्त-अव्याकृतयोस्तु एकत्वं सिद्धमेव, निर्विशेषात् ।
//The non-distincness of the virAT and vaishvAnara and the taijasa and
hiraNyagarbha and prAj~na and avyAkRRita is well established. The
last pair is quite well determined owing to the absence of
Anandagiri clarifies: The individual, prAj~na, sleeps by withdrawing
all distinctions into himself, and in dissolution, pralaya, the
Unmanifested, avyAkRRita, too, withdraws everything into itself. The
‘Unmanifested’ means here the ‘inner Director’, antaryAmin,
conditioned by Maya, ruling from inside all.
From the above it is clear that according to Shankara the
avidyA-conditioned jiva and the mAyA-conditioned Ishwara are
non-distinct. There is no distinction in the shakti.
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