Jonathan Bricklin brickmar at EARTHCOM.NET
Fri Sep 25 17:35:42 CDT 1998

Parmenides, I believe, is the only Western philosopher who makes the claim
that ultimate reality is without change.  No other Western philosopher
supports the doctrine of Nirguna Brahman.

Jonathan Bricklin
Brickmar at earthcom.net

"Nor ever [it] was, nor will [it] be, since now [it] is all together, one,

>From  Fri Sep 25 19:46:58 1998
Message-Id: <FRI.25.SEP.1998.194658.0400.>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 19:46:58 -0400
Reply-To: ramakris at erols.com
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Defense of later advaitin-s (was An advaita vedAnta toolkit, etc)
Comments: To: Advaita-L <advaita-l at tamu.edu>
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Su: sureshvarAchArya
Sh: sha.nkarAchArya
Pa: padmapAdAchArya

BSB: brahma sUtra bhAshhya of Sh
UpSa: upadeshasAhasrI of Sh
NaiSi: naishhkarmya siddhi of Su
BUBhVa: bR^ihadAraNyaka upanishhad bhAshhya vArttika of Su


Thanks for the interesting posts "An advaita vedAnta Toolkit" and "Y.
Subba Rao". I hope I don't sound churlish, but I disagree with quite a
few of your points :-). Sorry for the delayed and rather long response.
I was not in town for the last three weeks.

I have clubbed together my reponses to your posts, the advaita vedAnta
toolkit and Y.Subba Rao in one post for (my :-)) convenience.

Note: I have split sandhi in all verses for clarity.

Equation of mAyA and avidyA:

You say:

>- Shankara never equates avidya and mAyA, unlike later commentators.  I

1. Sh does not contradict this either. From putting together many of
his and Su's writings it's clear that he held this view. More below.

2. Please refer to Su's vArtika on the ashvamedhabrAhmaNa, BUBhVa

nAmarUpadinA yA iyaM avidyA prathate asatI |
mAyA tasyAH paraM sauxmyaM mR^ityunA eva iti bhaNyate ||

That unreal (asat) ignorance (avidyA) which, by means of name and form,
unfolds [as the universe],
Indeed, the extreme subtleness of [that] mAyA is uttered by [the word]
death (mR^ityu).

mR^ityuH vai tamaH iti evaM ApaH eva idaM iti api |
avidyA prathate maulI vyakta-avyakta-AtmanA-nishaM ||

[By the statement in shruti] mR^ityu is indeed tamas (darkness) [and]
also water is indeed this [universe],
The basic ignorance is revealed in it's form of the manifest and


a) 1.2.135 is very clear. Su clearly says yeyaM avidyA = mAyA. This is
clear from both avidyA and mAyA being in the nominative case, and also
iyaM. They are indicated by the word mR^ityu (in the Up), which is in
the instrumental case (mR^ityunA) as would be expected.

b) 1.2.135 of course makes clear that avidyA manifests as nAmarUpa.

c) 1.2.136 shows that the concept of mUla-avidyA and tUla avidyA are
easy extensions of Su's thoughts. I suspect that Su already had ideas
of this, but did not amplify them. It is similar to Sh not fully
stating many things in the BUBh.

d) In view of the fact that a direct equation of avidyA and mAyA is
present in the verse given above, the burden of proof is on those who
claim that Sh and Su do not equate avidyA and mAyA. They should provide
positive proof, namely explicit denial by Sh or Su that avidyA is the
same as mAyA.

Further BUBhVa 1.4.371 (purushhavida brAhmaNa),

asya dvaita indrjAlasya yat.h upAdAnakAraNam.h |
aGYAnaM tat.h upAshritya brahma kAraNaM uchyate ||

Having relied on that ignorance which is the material cause of this
great magic of duality,
It is said that brahman is the cause [though there is no cause nor
effect, but brahman alone].

NOTE: The modifications of ignorance is the world of name and form and
thus ignorance is considered the material cause. The Atman which is the
substratum of ignorance (intellect etc) and changeless is the real
material cause. Similar verses can be found in the UpSa: refer 14.1-9.

This is exactly what Pa says!

You say:

>commentaries claim.  The source of the confusion is a difference in
>interpretation of the word "mithyAjnAna" in the above phrase.  Shankara
>means "mithyA" + "jnAna", or false knowledge in the sense of
>misconception.  In the panchapAdika this word is broken as
>"mithyA"+"ajnAna", or unreal ignorance.  This is postulated by followers
>of this school as the material cause of the universe that clings to

The splitting of the word by Pa is quite in line with Su's
writing.  Please note that Su describes avidyA = mAyA as _asatI_. This
is hardly different from what padapAda is saying. The idea that this
is the "material cause" is also quite derivable from the above two
verses of Su.  Please note the word prathate. Su is very clear that
_though_ mAyA = avidyA is unreal (asatI), it amplifies itself by names
and forms (namarUpadinA).  Also note carefully the verse 1.4.371 given
above. It is even more explicit and nothing different from what
Pa says.  We also have to be very careful here with terms like
material and efficient cause of the universe.  The statement you make
may give the impression that the later authors held brahman as only
the efficient cause, which is far from the truth.

Whose is avidyA?

You say:

>Correct understanding of the above makes it clear why Shankara and
>Sureshwara never trouble themselves with questions pertaing to the cause
>of avidyA, or to whom does avidyA belong.  For anyone under the clutches
>of avidyA does not know that they are , and once knowledge has arisen,

The question of "Whose is avidyA?", with certain modifications becomes
the question "What is the locus (Ashraya) of avidyA?". This question
has been neglected by Sh. As to later writers, the discussion was on
the locus of avidyA. This is one of the famous controversies betweem
the two schools, bhAmatI and vivaraNa, which I suppose you are
referring to. vAchaspati mishra says the locus of avidyA is the jIva
(the bhAmatI school). Other authorities like prakAshAtman, vidyAraNya
and prakAshAnanda (the vivaraNa school and derivatives of that) say it
is brahman.  It has been pointed out that Sh. has said things which
can be interpreted in favor of either school. Please refer to:

"Sankara and the Schools of Advaita", Collected Papers of S. S.
Suryanarayana Sastri, Ed by T. M. P. Mahadevan, Madras University
Philosophical Series-No 8, pp. 122-128.

However, this controversy was already existent in Su's time and not an
invention of the later scholars, as you seem to imply. Su actually
discusses it quite extensively in the NaiSi third chapter. The pUrvapaxa
argument seems to be that of maNDana mishra, who holds the view of the
bhAmatI school. In short: Su holds the vivaraNa view. In fact, it has
been noted by Kuppuswami Sastri, that it's a reason to doubt the
identity of Su and maNDana mishra.

The very fact that Su takes the trouble establish the locus of avidyA
means that he had no problem with the equation avidyA = mAyA. I think
that's a subtle point, but quite important. Once this is accepted
there can be no questions about "cause of avidyA". Later advaita
authors who equate mAyA and avidyA do not talk about how avidyA came
into existence. It is pointed out that the anirvachanIyatva of it/them
precludes such questions. It is held that the cause of mithyAGYAna is
avidyA/mAyA. This has support in Su's writings (See previous quotes).

avidyA in deep-sleep

You say:

>- Refutation of views that avidyA (or avidyA lesha) persists in deep
>sleep and in a true brahma jnAni.

Destruction of avidyA or moha is indeed brahmaGY.Ana or mukti. I'll
quote the UpSa 16.17-18 here:

aGYAnaM kalpanAmUlaM sa.nsArasya niyAmakam.h |
hitvA AtmAnaM paraM brahma vidyAt.h mukta-sadA-abhayaM ||

Ignorance is the basis of [all] imagination [and] propeller of the cycle
of births and deaths,
Abandoning [ignorance] one should know the supreme brahman, [which is]
always released and fearless, as the Atman.

jAgratsvapnau tayoH bIjaM sushhuptAkhyaM tamomayaM |
anyonyasmin.h asattvAt.h cha na asti iti etat.h trayaM tyajet.h ||

[The two states] waking and dream, [and] the seed of the two, deep
sleep, [which is] filled with darkness,
[One] should renounce those three [states] due to the unreality of the
other [two] states in the state which exists [now].

The difference between deep sleep and the other two states is that the
world is unmanifest (avyakta) in deep sleep. Sh clearly identifies deep
sleep with tamas (=avidyA). Here we can see that the pure avidyA (no
modifications of it) alone is present. After all, the state of deep
sleep is also only a delusion, nothing more, nothing less. This is the
traditional anvaya-vatireka method Su has expounded at some length in
the second chapter of NaiSi. This equation tamas = avidyA = mAyA is also
clear from Su's verse 1.2.135-136 I quoted above. Also, the references I
had given previously about avidyA being the "material" cause and Su's
equation of avidyA and mAyA should make it clear that avidyA = mAyA
persists in deep sleep also.

I can also quote from Su's writings where he makes it clear that avidyA
persists in deep sleep if anyone wishes.

Su and Sh are quite clear that avidyA once "destroyed" remains
destroyed. This, in fact, is Su's argument against parisa.nkhyAna
espoused by maNDana mishra. Further, if destruction of avidyA = moxa,
the following reasoning holds. There is avidyA before going to sleep and
after getting up from sleep. Hence there must have been avidyA even
during sleep. If there were no avidyA, moxa would have been attained in
deep sleep, since absence of avidyA is equivalent to moxa. Hence, avidyA
is present in deep sleep also. GaudapAdAchArya summarizes this succintly
in the kArikA-s. In waking and dream there is false perception and in
deep sleep there is non-perception. All are equally unreal and due to
avidyA/mAyA. In fact, since avidyA exists without modifications
(nAmarUpAdi) in deep sleep, avidyA can be equated with deep sleep, as
has been done by Sh.

Position of the BSB:

It has been claimed by many people that the "authenticity" of any text
should be checked with the contents of the BSB. I disagree. There is
absolutely no reason why every text of Sh should have the same
explanations as found in the BSB. If that were so why would Su say

yayA yayA bhavetpu.nsAM vyutpattiH pratyagAtmani |
sA saiva prakriyA GYeyA sAdhvI sA chAnavastithA  ||

Whatever are the means by which the inner-self is realized by men, those
should be regarded as flawless, and they are endless - translation by K.
N. Subramanian, Siddhantabindu, page 33, Rishi Publications, Varanasi.

Anand had quoted this in his post. I have pointed this verse also
before, but I think you were not on the list then. If it were the case
that the _only_ method acceptable is the BSB, Su would have clearly told
so. OTOH, he makes the comment that there are infinite methods and they
are all flawless. Of course, this is completely neglecting the fact that
Pa has interpreted the BSB in a different way from what you are
suggesting. And it has support in Su's writings. I see no contradiction
between various writings of Sh: BSB, mANDUkya kArikAbhAshhya, and also
the "doubtful" writings aparoxAnubhUti, vivekachUDAmaNi, etc. Why on
earth should Sh follow exactly the same method in every text?
VidyAraNyasvAmin gives different methods in the pa.nchdashI and the
anubhUtiprakAsha. So why not Sh? It seems to me that this is a
fundamental assumption of Hacker and also Sri SachchhidAnandendra
sarasvatI svAmin, which does no have much basis to it IMHO. The
reference I gave above also points out differences in expositions
between the BSB and some upanishhad bhAshhya-s. So it seems to me that
inisiting that every detail in all texts should be exactly the same does
not seem to be a good assumption.

Someone may find Sh's writings lucid. Another may find the pa.nchadashI
better. Either way Su would not have much objection (as per his own

As for Sri SachchhidAnandendra sarasvatI svAmin's works: I went
through his work "Misconceptions about Sankara". I do not agree with
many points he makes and was able to find many quotes from the works
of sha.nkara and sureshvara contradicting his ideas. IMHO, his
writings neglect quotes from Sh and Su (like the ones given above) and
do not capture Sh and Su completely. He has some interesting points

An aside:

Prof John Grimes of Michigan State University has written a monograph
entitled "The Naiskarmyasiddhi of Suresvara". It presents the views in
the NaiSi by specific topics rather than by chapter. This is a very
useful work for students of NaiSi. I think it's high time someone did
the same with Su's other works. Unfortunately, it takes me quite a bit
of time to slog through verses, otherwise I'd do it myself. Well,
perhaps sometime later. Some key topics which come to mind are
avidyA/mAyA in the BUBhVa and its influence on later advaita, the topics
on which Su diagrees with Sh and offers alternative explanations (these
mainly pertain to the interpretation of shruti), Su's arguments against
Buddhism, Su's arguments against the mImA.nsA, comparison of the
gauDapAda kArika-s and the BUBhVa, creation theories in the BUBhVa and
so on. This will reveal some surprising conclusions and also show how
all later advaitins, including vidyAraNya derive their methods basically
from Su. Unfortunately, most of academia, Western and Indian, seems more
interested in counting the number of times avidyA or mAyA occur or
something equally useless.


>From  Fri Sep 25 19:50:24 1998
Message-Id: <FRI.25.SEP.1998.195024.0400.>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 19:50:24 -0400
Reply-To: ramakris at erols.com
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: AsparSa yoga
Comments: To: Advaita-L <advaita-l at tamu.edu>
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Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Non-causality would be ajAti-vAda. asparSa yoga would be a methodological
> approach to kaivalya, and can be allied to saMnyAsa, if not equated to it.
> After all, the point of saMnyAsa is to attain the highest kaivalya.

While it may be permissible to talk about sannyAsa as asparsha yoga, it
is certainly not the only interpretation, nor is some other
interpretation wrong (as Jaldhar seemed to imply). In fact, if sha.nkara
thought aspasha yoga implied sannyAsa, he would have said so. We could
say that all brahma GYAnis are asparsha yogins and hence vidura would be
an asparsha yogin. However he was not a sannyAsI and according to
sha.nkara would not have been able to take formal sannyAsa either. So,
interpreting asparsha yoga as sannyAsa is very restrictive and somewhat
unwarranted since sha.nkara himself does not do that. And we all know
that sha.nkara never fails to drive home the point about sannyAsa. So it
merely means the yoga of "no contact", which does not necessarily have
anything to do with sannyAsa (As defined by wearing ochre robes etc).

As for Guy's question about Raphael: I don't think Raphael is a new age
philosopher. In a recent issue of tattvAloka I read that he has
translated the biography of shrI bhAratI tIrtha mahAsvAminaH into
Italian. So I would presume he has a good knowledge of advaita vedAnta.
I don't think there is much of a defect in using the word asparshin
instead of aspashayogin. Sanskrit scholars, please correct me if I am
wrong. Of course, it doesn't mean that the book you asked about is good
(I haven't read it myself). He may, in all probability, have something
good to say.


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