[Advaita-l] Brahman and Avidya - mutually exclusive?

Aurobind Padiyath aurobind.padiyath at gmail.com
Tue Jun 23 06:16:10 CDT 2015

Sri Venkatraghavanji,
Hari Om!!!
First let me define each terms I will be using for clarity then the
1. Brahman, Atma are synonyms and are used as interchangeable. Since both
of are Achintyam and Avachayam we can only use the roopam in which the
Brahma swaroopam or Atma swaroopam is standing for the expressive aspects
of respective Tatwams, only for comprehension purpose and not in Reality.
2. Avidya The general mistake that takes place here is many a places it is
used instead of Maya. While Maya is the shakti of Eswara Avidya is the
mis-apprehension of the non-aprehending objects. While one is the cause the
other is a result. Since the cause is in the result this error happens.
3. Jnana and knowledge. As you rightly said the difference should be clear.
While Jnana is self effulgent in nature knowledge needs Thrpudi of the
object subject and the act of knowing. Mistaking for one to another can
lead to confusion.

Now to my views:
Brahman and Avidya are mutually exclusive and will not co-exist. Tamah
prakashyoh viruda swabhavat. But Brahman and Maya can, as Maya is the
wielding power which gives rise to Adhyasa or mis-apprehensions. The best
example for is Light and Darkness itself. There is no independent existence
for Darkness. But it can encroach into areas where the light becomes weak
and Darkness can be seen only in the presence of Light. But only Light can
dispel darkness not the other way. This power of Darkness to encroach into
areas of Light with the permission of light is the example for the power of
Darkness or Maya.

Avidya is a result of the encroachment of darkness into areas of light and
in pure light it has no existence. Nor in absolute darkness where the
existence of the mistaken object itself is unknown.

Now to the location of Avidya. Avidya is located only in the anthakarana as
it is a product of Budhi upon the influence of Maya. This Avidya can be
identified only in the waking Budhi. One to be aware of that, it has to be
part of his Sareera as he recognizes it as I am ignorant, I do not know
etc.. In the deep sleep since This experince of even the sareera is absent,
even the ignorance is absent hence my statement that in deep sleep there is
no Avidya.

When we say Brahman is Virodhi to Avidya do not mean Brahman is Virodhi to
Maya. Brahman is Virodhi to Avidya because it,Avidya, being the effect gets
destroyed in Brahma Jnana. But a Jnani can differentiate the play of Maya
while established in Brahman and does not get deluded, like seeing a
mirage. For him Maya is a non existent aspect of Brahman appearing to be
there until the Videha Mukthi or Jeevan Mukthi takes place. There after he
becomes Brahman till then he is only a Jnani. Brahmavith Brahmaiiva Bhavati.


On 23 June 2015 at 15:51, Venkatraghavan S <agnimile at gmail.com> wrote:

> Sri Aurobind,
>  Just wanted to clarify this statement of mine:
> However, Brahman is of the nature of consciousness, which is aviruddhA of
> ignorance - *that is by the brahman's chit svarUpam (i.e by consciouness),
> knowledge of all objects can be obtained, or tasya bhAsA sarvamidam
> vibhAti.*
> That is for ignorance removal, you need knowledge AND consciousness (for
> there can be no knowledge without consciousness). Pure consciousness alone,
> without knowledge, cannot remove ignorance.
> Regards,
> Venkat
> On Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 10:40 AM, Venkatraghavan S <agnimile at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Dear Sri Aurobind,
>> Given that the topic has moved significantly from Sri Venkatesh Murthy's
>> initial query regarding AkhandAkAra vritti, I thought it would be better to
>> move this to a separate thread.
>> Going to the heart of your queries, I believe the biggest issue that
>> needs addressing is the question whether Avidya and Brahman are mutually
>> exclusive or not - the other issues such as the gyAni / agyAni status of
>> the sleeper, or the nature of ananda being  bimbAnandA or pratibimbAnandA
>> in sushupti are side topics. Important ones, but unless its clearly
>> determined whether avidya and Brahman are paraspara virodhI  or not (i.e.
>> the presence of one necessarily implies the absence of the other), the
>> other issues cannot even be broached. Therefore I will use this email to
>> only address this point.
>> There are 3 concepts that need to be clarified here:
>> 1) Atma has a swarUpa of Consciousness, which is different from
>> knowledge. The gyAnam in "satyam gyAnam anantam brahma" of the Taittariya
>> Ananda Valli refers to consciousness and not knowledge. Knowledge
>> necessarily has to be linked to an object. For example: knowledge of a pot,
>> knowledge of physics etc. Consciousness doesn't  require an object, it
>> simply "is". This is what AchArya SadAji refers to by "consciousness" and
>> "knowledge *of*". The "of" in his statement is crucial and cannot be
>> glossed over.
>> 2) Only knowledge (gyAnam) is the virodhI of ignorance (agyAnam),
>> consciousness (chit) is not the virodhI of ignorance (agyAnam).
>> 3) agyAnam can have locus only in brahman.
>> If 1) and 2) are accepted, it becomes clear that the presence of brahman
>> is not antithetical to the apparent existence of avidyA.
>> Your argument is that this cannot be correct because "if you accept
>> Brahman and Avidya co-exist it is like both darkness and light on the same
>> object."
>> The response to this would be that this is not a correct example because
>> of the following:
>> a) Even if we accept that darkness and light are paraspara virodhI (i.e
>> you ignore the state of manda adhakAra, or partial darkness, of say,
>> twilight), the example is not applicable in the case of Brahman and avidyA.
>> Knowledge and ignorance have opposite attributes, and therefore the
>> presence of complete knowledge necessarily requires the complete lack of
>> ignorance. However, Brahman is of the nature of consciousness, which is
>> aviruddhA of ignorance - that is by the brahman's chit svarUpam (i.e by
>> consciouness), knowledge of all objects can be obtained, or tasya bhAsA
>> sarvamidam vibhAti.
>> b) Secondly, for adhyAsa (or erroneous superimposition) to exist, there
>> has to be a condition of partial knowledge and partial ignorance. For a
>> snake to be perceived on a rope, there has to be parital darkness - it
>> cannot happen in bright light or total darkness. If you believe that jagat
>> is mithyA, Brahman has to be obfuscated by avidyA. If avidyA could never
>> exist in the presence of Brahman, what is the cause of adhyAsA? What is the
>> cause of the appearance of this jagat? And to extend the argument, what is
>> the cause of the antahkaraNam?
>> This leads me to the second point in your email. Your contention is that
>> avidyA is not located in Brahman but in antahkaraNa:
>> "Maya or MoolAvidya or what ever we call it is not in Swaroopa or
>> Brahman, both being the same, but in the Anthakarana thru which the Jeeva
>> bhava is assumed. "
>> This has been extensively dealt with by Sri SureshvarachArya, but to
>> summarise the opposing argument:
>> 1) All adhyAsa requires a satya vastu as an adhishthAnam.
>> 2) Ignorance of the satya adhishthAnam leads to the projection of adhyAsa
>> If antahkaraNa was the adhishthAnam of avidyA, what is the adhishthAnam
>> of antahkaraNam? By point 1), antahkaraNam either needs to be a satya vastu
>> for it to be a adhisthAnam, or it needs to be an adhyAsa too. If
>> antahkaraNam is a satya vastu, it means that you have two satya vastus -
>> brahman and antahkaraNam, which is not acceptable. If antahkaraNam is an
>> adhyAsa too, then the question is asked, what is the adhishthAnam of
>> antahkaraNam? If you say it is another avidyA, then what is the adhisthAnam
>> of *that* avidya? This argument leads to infinite regress, and therefore
>> the statement that "avidyA has antahkaraNam as its adhisthAnam" cannot be
>> accepted.
>> The only satya vastu is brahman. Therefore avidyA has to have a locus in
>> brahman - this avidyA is the mAyA or mUlAvidyA.
>> By the above, two things have been established: Brahman is not the
>> virodhI of avidyA, and in fact, brahman provides the AshrayA for avidyA.
>> Kind regards,
>> Venkatraghavan
>> On Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 6:12 AM, Aurobind Padiyath via Advaita-l <
>> advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
>>> Hari Om!!!
>>> Sri Venkatraghavanji and Sri Sadaji,
>>> Just to clear my views on your replies:
>>> Venkatraghavanji replied:
>>> If you are saying that avidyA and brahman (or swaroopa in your
>>> terminology)
>>> cannot exist simultaneously, that is not correct. Avidya doesn't require
>>> the antah karaNa for its existence.  Avidya rests and exists (apparently)
>>> only because of brahman, and not antah karaNa - that is the moolAvidyA or
>>> mAyA or kAraNa sharirA.
>>> Me: Swaprakashe kuto Avidya? In the Light of knowledge no ignorance can
>>> stand. So if you accept Brahman and Avidya co-exist it is like both
>>> darkness and light on the same object. Maya or MoolAvidya or what ever we
>>> call it is not in Swaroopa or Brahman, both being the same, but in the
>>> Anthakarana thru which the Jeeva bhava is assumed. The Jeeeva bhava is a
>>> reflected knowledge of That Brahman. Reflection being thru the
>>> Anthakarana
>>> the impurity of the Anthakarana can affect the quality of Pure knowledge
>>> but never affect That source.
>>> Venkatraghavanji replied:
>>> The absence of knowledge in deep sleep is due to the absence of any
>>> vishaya, but that doesn't mean that the folded mind becomes an aparoksha
>>> brahma gyAni then. Your statement that "ignorance cannot stand in the
>>> presence of swaroopa unless assisted by antahkaraNa" cannot be true,
>>> because otherwise in deep sleep the moolavidyA would be destroyed because
>>> of its proximity to Brahman and absence of antahkaraNam.
>>> Me: You misunderstood me here. I did not say in deep sleep one becomes
>>> Aporoksha Brahma Jnani. All I said was there is Vishesha vijnana abhava
>>> and
>>> hence no ignorance caused by non-apprehension and mis-apprehension. There
>>> is the light knowledge shining as it is and not reflected, in deep sleep.
>>> And no one will ever "become" a Jnani in deep sleep because you do not
>>> have
>>> the cause and effect of ignorance there. Both these cause and effect
>>> causing the ignorance is in other than deep sleep. One can treat illness
>>> only on who it is shown. The 'sleeper' doesn't know or show Ajnana and
>>> hence no Vidya can be given to that state.
>>> Venkatraghavanji replied:
>>> The ananda that is experienced in deep sleep is because the kAraNa
>>> sharira
>>> simply reflects brahman and no other thing, and as the vritti in deep
>>> sleep
>>> is a pure antar-mukha vritti without any bahir vishaya disturbances, the
>>> reflection of ananda swaroopam of brahman  on the folded mind causes the
>>> "experience of ananda" more than one would typically face in the jAgrat
>>> avasthA - the exception being yogic samAdhi, when there is a similar
>>> chitta
>>> vritti nirodhA.
>>> Me: I do not agree with you that there is "The Ananda" experienced
>>> as reflected in Kaarana Shareera. While I agree the absence of Vishaya
>>> Vigjnana, The Ananda one feels here is the stillness of vritti (in other
>>> words mind) caused due to the absence of Variying Vishaya Vigjnana. The
>>> Ananda of Bhuma even if reflected is unfathomable. Yetra na Anya
>>> pashyati,
>>> Anya Shrunoti etc...
>>> Sadaji replied:
>>> Sakshii swaruupam is jnaanam as pure consciousness not jnaanam of -
>>> including the jnaanam of self. It is unqualified homogenous
>>> undifferentiated consciousness or pure Knowledge without any
>>> qualification.
>>> Saakshi does not even know or need not know its saaskhitvam too  as from
>>> its point there is no saakshyam also. Some of these are discussed in the
>>> Advaita Makaranda by Lakshmidhara kavi.
>>> Me: This is exactly what I also said. IT, the Sakshi, alone is there is
>>> deep sleep. The Anthakarana abhava in deep sleep is not ignorance or
>>> avidya. One cannot prove that the anthakarana is the one who is sleeping
>>> because one should know that the anthakarana is identified by the
>>> vritties.
>>> In the absence of it does not mean it is present and sleeping. Just as
>>> the
>>> Jagrat vishaya vigjnana is only to Jagrat , It's absence is deep sleep.
>>> The
>>> Avidya we talk is present and experienced only in Jagrat (includes both
>>> waking and dream). We do not know the Sakshi in deep sleep because the
>>> anthakarana is not there to know or reflect.
>>> Now to summarize:
>>> Vritties, immaterial if we call it Anthakarana, is the Avidaya. And just
>>> as
>>> no snake can exist without a real rope these vritties are intertwined
>>> with
>>> the Truth and hence difficult to separate just as difficult as the snake
>>> to
>>> be separated from the rope, unless the knowledge arises in the same place
>>> where the snake knowledge exists and at the same time and space too. So
>>> only in waking there is Avidya and it can be removed only in waking. The
>>> Akhandakara Vritti (not a Vritti as in normal terms) is the waking state
>>> of
>>> that Jnanai who sees everything as Sat Chit Ananda. Or as Chandogya Ch. 7
>>> says. Yetra na anya pashyati, any shrunoti, anya vijanati. Either
>>> everything as Bhodaroopam or Total Oneness where there is nothing other
>>> than Pure Existance.
>>> Aurobind
>>> On 23 June 2015 at 09:12, kuntimaddi sadananda <kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
>>> >
>>> wrote:
>>> > Aurobindji:
>>> >
>>> > I agree with you on the other points mentioned in your mail except the
>>> > following
>>> >
>>> > "For ajnaani, when he goes to deep sleep state he sleeps as ajnaani
>>> only -
>>> > no ajnaani gets up from deep sleep state as jnaani."
>>> >
>>> > Ajnana is only for the antahkarana not for swaroopa. Jnana will be
>>> needed
>>> > where ever Ajnana is present. In your explanation of deep sleep if
>>> Ajnana
>>> > is there,  Guru and upadesha will be needed there also in deep sleep.
>>> > -----------------------------
>>> >
>>> > Sada:
>>> >
>>> > Let us look a simpler problem. Two cases: 1. ajnaani of Chemistry 2.
>>> > Jnaani of Chemistry. - For both jnaanm or ajnanaam is at the intellect
>>> > level. When ajnaani of Chemistry sleeps, his intellect that has
>>> ajnaanam
>>> > also folded as such. Hence in his deep sleep - the mind that does not
>>> > Chemistry sleeps as such. On the other hand the jnaani of Chemistry the
>>> > jnaanam is also in the intellect and when it is folded, he sleeps as
>>> such
>>> > as folded jnaanam of chemistry.
>>> >
>>> > We are not talking of the Saaskhi which never sleeps. It is illumining
>>> the
>>> > sleeping folded minds of both jnaani and ajnaani . From its point it is
>>> > unaffected by what it illumines or to say more correctly what gets
>>> > illumined in its presence.  - just as Sun is unaffected by what is
>>> getting
>>> > illumined.
>>> >
>>> > Sakshii swaruupam is jnaanam as pure consciousness not jnaanam of -
>>> > including the jnaanam of self. It is unqualified homogenous
>>> > undifferentiated consciousness or pure Knowledge without any
>>> qualification.
>>> > Saakshi does not even know or need not know its saaskhitvam too  as
>>> from
>>> > its point there is no saakshyam also. Some of these are discussed in
>>> the
>>> > Advaita Makaranda by Lakshmidhara kavi.
>>> >
>>> > The self-knowledge is also at the Mind level only or you can say at
>>> > anthakaraNa. - Shankara discusses this exhaustively in relation to the
>>> > sloka -kshetrajnam ca api maam viddhi sarva kshetreshu bhaarata.
>>> >
>>> > The jnaani and ajnaani is only at vyaavahaara state - that is the
>>> notions
>>> > in the mind (illumined by chidaabhasa) that consciousness that I am is
>>> the
>>> > all pervading consciousness the original light that is getting
>>> illumined.
>>> > It is the mind that has to know. Hence Vedanta is for the mind - and
>>> it is
>>> > the mind that needs a teacher.
>>> >
>>> > In deep sleep state, the knowledge cannot occurs since the mind that
>>> needs
>>> > to know is not available to learn. To see the original light of
>>> > consciousnesses (which cannot be seen) but can be seen only
>>> cognitively, I
>>> > need to prepare the mind - Viveka is required and is available only in
>>> the
>>> > waking state. Hence any self-realization by the mind can only take
>>> place in
>>> > the waking state. It requires subtle discrimination to differentiate
>>> the
>>> > real from apparently real. It is like looking at the full moon, I want
>>> to
>>> > see the sunlight that is illumining the moon while seeing only the
>>> > reflected sunlight from the moon. I cannot see the original sunlight.
>>> This
>>> > is example where sun is a source. The pure sat chit ananda that is
>>> > all-pervading light of consciousness there is no localizes source.
>>> Saakshi
>>> > is term we use only for that (part - word used to convey only) that is
>>> > illumining the local mind - which cannot be recognized other than
>>> > cognitively using the reflected
>>> >  light - chidabhaasa - reflection by the subtle body. This is what we
>>> mean
>>> > by self-realization is also mithyaa only since it is at the mind level.
>>> > -------------------------------------------
>>> > Arabindji:
>>> >
>>> >  Ajnana being only experienced during waking, because the Antahkarana
>>> > becomes active on waking with the budhi, part of Anthakarana,
>>> reflecting
>>> > the Chit. That's why when the Ajnani wakes as Ajnani and Jnani as
>>> Jnani.
>>> > Like the tiger and mosquito as respective animals. A blue flower will
>>> > reflect only blue just as red as red. So all reflections in a Ajnana
>>> > Anthakarana can only reflect ignorance. And Ajnana is only in waking
>>> > because of which the need to eradicate that in waking. Deep sleep is
>>> "Easha
>>> > Swabhavah" as told in Mandukya. Even waking and dream is the same,
>>> that's
>>> > why we see Jnanis like any others having waking deep sleep and dream.
>>> But
>>> > they have the Jnanam which do not delude them like others.
>>> >
>>> > Sada: Yes. This is true for Janni also. Jnaanam is only at the
>>> antahkarana
>>> > stage only. From the point of pure saakshii it is one without a
>>> second- No
>>> > saakshyam even.
>>> >
>>> > The Mandukya discusses in each state two aspect one from the micro and
>>> the
>>> > other from macro. In mantra 5 it states from the micro aspect - na
>>> kanacana
>>> > kaamam kamayata et. in the Mantra 6 from the samashiti point as Iswara.
>>> >
>>> > We are discussing at the vyashTi level since from samashTi level we
>>> call
>>> > Iswara as sarvajna. Hence it is only vyashTi ajnaani that need to be
>>> > eliminated and for that Viveka which is available only in the waking
>>> state
>>> > is needed.
>>> >
>>> > Hari Om!
>>> > Sadananda
>>> >
>>> >
>>> >
>>> --
>>> Aurobind Padiyath
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Aurobind Padiyath

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