[Advaita-l] Is Isvara paramartika?

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Sun Aug 7 16:08:02 CDT 2011

Sri Subrahmanian: Ishwara is definitely not the absolute; He is relative to
the created world and the jivas.
RV: I raised this question earlier and the following is the answer from Sri
Devanathan, an academic scholar with traditional training. It is from Volume
77 Issue 9. Prof. Lance Nelson (University of San Diego) takes the position
that you do. Dr. Sanjukta Gupta Gombrich (Oxford) also takes the position
that Isvara is relative though she states that there is difference in the
position between vartika and vivarana schools. My position is that Isvara is
absolute but not for the reasons that Sri Devanathan states. In my view, it
should be based on direct textual evidence for the definition of Isvara from
pre and post Sankaran advaitins resolving apparent conflicts through
logic. However, I would like to know your views on his views to start with.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Antharyami <sathvatha at gmail.com>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2010 23:22:12 -0600
Subject: [Advaita-l] True or False
Hari OM~

Sri Rajaram,

  1. Nirvisesha Brahman (Nirguna Brahman) is sat (real)

  2. Savisesha Brahman (Saguna Brahman or Ishwara) is asat (unreal)

  3. Jagat is asat (unreal)

  4. Jivatvam is asat (unreal)

Points 1) 3) and 4) are True.

I would want to treat point 2) closely.  Firstly,  I consider
employing savisesha or saguna terms widely ambiguous at this juncture
for various terminological – technical difficulties. I would simply
use ‘Isvara’ as Bagavatpada frequently refers to in his bhasya-s.

Some say, ‘Isvara’ is “Neither True nor False” and few others consider
‘Isvara’ as “vyAvahArika satyaM” – for all those who call ‘Isvara’ as
‘Mithya’ in the name of Advaita Vedanta, are akin to brAhmaNa-s who
would accrue ‘pratyavAya doSa’ for not doing ‘nitya smArta karma’ for
‘janmani janmAntare vA’. SuresvarAcArya would call them ‘mahA patita’.
This is due to their ‘prauDha buddhi’.

Coming to the point straight, Madhusudana Sarasvati in his
Advaitaratna RakSaNa mentions few many definitions for
‘vyAvahArikatva’. A concept is considered to fall into the ‘empirical’
category if and only if it complies with these definitions of
‘vyAvahArikatva’.  Let us see whether the concept of Isvara fits in
any of the following definitions.

Definition 1.

‘abAdhyatvena-ashakya-avasthAnatvaM vyAvahArikatvaM’ – Empirical’ness
or phenomenality is that which cannot be determined as something that
cannot be sublated.

Now, Isvara is svata-siddha, self-established and cannot be considered
as an indeterminant factor at all since he is sAkSi and he resides in
all beings as One and non-dual – he is the object of upAsana. Isvara
cannot be sublated by any other empirical factor for it is an
unwelcome position. BhagavatpAda in his Apastamba adhyAtma paTala
bhASya, sUtra 7 says Isvara “asharIra .. sarvajnaH…
sthUlalingasharIravarjitaH,,,,” – draSTaH yaH anityo’sarvajnaH – ayam
(Isvara) tu amRtaH” iti, Hence the definition does not apply to

Definition 2.

‘bhrama mAtra viSayatvaM vyAvahArikatvaM’ – Emperical’ness or
phenomenality is that which is the subject of mere error’.

There is no scripture that says Isvara is the subject of error. Isvara
is the substratum of all valid and erroneous cognitions but Isvara
cannot be subjected to the Error itself; for he is sva-prakAsa. Hence
definition 2. does not apply to Isvara.

Definition 3.

‘anAdi-bhAvarUpa-ajnAna-tad-adhIna-anyataratvaM vyAvahArikatvaM’ –
Empirical’ness or phenomenality  is that which is either the
beginningless positive ignorance or that which relies upon that.

Isvara is neither beginningless ignorance – for he is the substratum
of it, nor someone who is dependent on ignorance; for he is
svantantra. Hence the definition 3. does not apply to Isvara.

Definition 4.

‘alIkatvaM eva vyAvahArikatvaM’ – Empirical’ness or phenomenality is
that which is non-existence.

If Isvara is non-existent, it is anAstikya bauddha mata-prasanga and
stands in direct contradiction to AchArya’s position on significance
of Isvara maintained in the racanAnupapatyadhikaraNa and subsequent
chapters in the sUtra bhASya. Hence the definition 3. does not apply
to Isvara.

Definition 5. (which is most important here)

‘mokSopAya-jnAna-aviSayatvaM vyAvahArikatvaM’ – Empircal’ness or
phenomenality is that which is not the content of the knowledge which
is the means for liberation.

All scriptures reveal that Isvara is mokSopAya. Lord himself declares
“sarva dharmAn parityajya mAM evaM sharaNaM vraja” BG XVIII.66 , where
BhagavatpAda comments “mAM” as ‘sarvAtmAnaM samaM sarvabhUta sthitaM
IsvaraM achyutaM…’  (my eyes get wet whenever I read this – now too).
If Isvara is not the content of jnAna, which is the hetu for mokSa –
then there is an unwelcome postion of ‘anirmokSa prasanga’. Other
difficulties are apparent. Hence definition 5. does not apply to

Above all, in BG X.11, Lord says “teSAM eva anukampArthaM ahaM
ajnAnajaM tamaH nashayAmi” – Moved by compassion, I destroy the
ignorance borne darkness for those (bhakta-s). BhagavatpAda commenting
on this verse says thus: “teSAmeva kathaM nu nAma shreyaH syat ? iti
anukampArthaM dayAhetoH ahaM ajnAnajaM avivikataH jAtaM
mithyApratyayalakSaNaM mohAndhakAraM tamaH nAshayAmi…” – “How can I
promote the bhakta-s well being?” thinking thus “out of compassion due
to benevolence I (Isvara) destroy the darkness borne out of ignorance
which is the very character being Mithya”

BhagavatpAda clearly says Isvara is one who destroys the
Mithya-pratyaya-lakSaNa-s. How can the Isvara who destroys
Mithya-pratyaya-s himself be Mithya ? Aho ! kaSTataraM khalu !?!

Also, in the adhyAtma-paTala bhASya sUtra 10, BhagavatpAda
categorically mentions “jneyAt jnAtavyAt paramArtha-svarUpAt
paramesvarAt’ and calls this Isvara as ‘parameSTin “saH (IsvaraH) ca
parameSTi parame prakRSTe sve mahimni hRdyAkAshe avasthAtuM
shIlamasyeti parameSTi” – “he the Lord is one who is ever standing as
supreme in his own state of ‘transcendence’ (pAramarthika) – standing
(sthit) abiding in the space of heart – such is He – the Lord.

I ‘again-and-again’ repeat:  Isvara, according to Advaita Vedanta in
Adi-Sankara’s opinion, is pAramArtika-Sat !! na-anyaH.

With Narayana Smrti,


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