[Advaita-l] BhAvarUpa ajnAna/avidya Part 1 (4)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 12:51:14 CDT 2010

> श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः
> Namaste.
> Presenting a new article on the topic of ajnAna/avidya.  It is proposed to
> post the entire article in four or five parts.  Readers are requested to
> come forward with their views/comments on any of the topics dealt herein
> AFTER they have read the entire article.  This is because some questions
> that come up now could well be answered in the article itself in later
> parts.
> Spelling mistakes and errors of references could please be pointed out so
> that I can make the corrections in my copy.
> Regards,
> subrahmanian.v
> BhAvarUpa ajnAna
> Sri Shankaracharya has given out the ‘lakShaNa’ of avidya/ajnAna in more
> than one place in His commentarial literature.  In the Bhagavadgita  13.2
> Bhashya, for instance, He says:
> 1.     तामसो हि प्रत्यय आवरणात्मकत्वा*दविद्या* विपरीतग्राहकः,
> संशयोपस्थापको वा, अग्रहणात्मको वा (१३.२)
> In the Mandukya KArikA 1.16 bhAshya He has given it as:
> 2.     तत्त्वाप्रतिबोधरूपेण वीजात्मना, अन्यथाग्रहणलक्षणेन च,
> अनादिकालप्रवृत्तेन मायालक्षणेन..
> Elsewhere, in the BrihadaranyakopaniShad BhaShya, He has said:
> 3.     यदि ज्ञानाभावः, यदि संशयज्ञानं, यदि विपरीतज्ञानं वा उच्यते, *
> अज्ञानमि*ति सर्वम्
> The wording ‘jnAnaabhaavaH’ in the above bhAshya has given an impression to
> a section of the Advaitins that according to Shankaracharya
> ajnAnam/avidya/maya is of the nature of ‘abhAva’, non-existence .  This
> view has led them to alienate themselves from the view held by the majority
> of the Advaitins representing the ‘sampradAya’ that avidya/ajnAna/Maya is of
> a ‘bhAvarUpa’, or of the nature of an existent entity.  In the sequel the
> two views are examined in  the light of a variety of pramaNa-s and
> concluded that there is no evidence to hold avidya to be of the nature of
> ‘abhAvarUpa’ and that it is reasonable and correct to adhere to the
> traditional view: avidya/ajnAna is of  bhAvarUpa.
> At the outset let us take the definitions shown under 1 and 3 above and
> look at the common features and see what is uncommon between them:
> 1.      तामसो हि प्रत्यय आवरणात्मकत्वादविद्या विपरीतग्राहकः, संशयोपस्थापको
> वा, अग्रहणात्मको वा (१३.२)
> 2.      यदि ज्ञानाभावः, यदि संशयज्ञानं, यदि विपरीतज्ञानं वा उच्यते,
> अज्ञानमिति सर्वम् (BruhadAraNyaka Bhashya)
> In the first sentence three features of avidya are given out: 1.
> agrahaNaatmaka – non-perception of the truth, 2. viparItagraahaka –
> wrong-perception of the truth and 3. samshayopasthApakaH – doubtful
> perception of the truth.  All these features are shown to be of *‘avidyA’*which itself is of the nature of /transformation of tamas.
> In the second sentence too we have these features shown:  1. jnAnAbhAvaH,
> ignorance/non-perception of the Truth, 2. samshayajnAnam, doubtful
> knowledge/perception and 3. viparIta jnAnam, erroneous knowledge/perception.
> Shankaracharya groups these three under ONE *’ajnAnam’*.
> Thus the common factors in the two sentences are:
> In both the sentences we find the features: ignorance/non-perception, doubt
> and error/wrong/mis-perception.  That shows that the two sentences are
> defining one thing.  And that one thing is: ‘avidya’ as per the first
> sentence and ‘ajnAnam’ as per the second sentence.  That proves that
> according to Shankara avidyA is the same as ajnAnam.
> Shankara Himself calls ‘avidya’ as a ‘taamasa pratyaya’ in the first
> sentence.  We have in the Gita 14th chapter that ‘ajnAnam’ is the effect
> of ‘tamas’.  Thus, once again, it is proved beyond doubt that Shankara’s
> usage of ‘avidyA’ and ‘ajnAnam’ is synonymous.
> What is uncommon between the sentences is that the first sentence uses the
> *term* ‘avidyaa’ and the second one, the *term* ‘ajnAna’.  Now, from the
> above analysis we can easily conclude that:
> ·        ‘avidayA’ and ‘ajnAna’ are not different from each other; they
> are only synonyms.
> ·        As avidya has been shown as a transformation of ‘tamas’, tamoguNa
> of prakRti, it is but fitting to conclude that ajnAna too is a taamasa
> pratyaya.
> Now that we have concluded that avidya and ajnana are not different
> concepts but two names to denote one concept, we are able to further say
> that avidya/ajnana is a power that brings forth certain effects.  That it
> is a power basically is indicative of its being a ‘vastu’ an entity.  For,
> we cannot have something that is non-existent and yet have the potency to
> bring out effects.  So, this power avidya/ajnana has to be a bhAvarUpa
> vastu.
> (To be continued in Part 2)

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list