NOTES ON BRAHMASUUTRA IIIE
k_sadananda at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 29 06:37:58 CDT 2000
sadaashiva samaarambhaam shankaraachaarya madhyamam|
asmadaachaarya paryantaam vande guruparamparaam||
I prostrate to the lineage of teachers starting from Lord Shiva who is ever
auspicious and with Bhagavaan Shankara in the middle and all the way up to
my own teacher.
vaatsalya ruupam triguNairatiitam
aananda saandram amalairnidhaanam|
shree chinamayaananda guro praNiitam
sadaa bhajeham tava paada pankajam||
Who is the very embodiment of motherly affection who is beyond the three
guNa-s, who is full with bliss, and who is the very source of purity who is
the best among the teachers, Shree Chinmayaananda, to his lotus feet I
(sada) always prostrate.
Notes on Brahmasuutra IIIE
It should be understood from the analysis presented so far that in all our
transactions, we all have this problem of adhyaasa or error involving
aatma-anaatma mithuniikaraNam - satyaanR^ita mithuniikaraNam - mixing up of
real and unreal or aatma and anaatma. In should be recognized that we have
one unitary experience, but unaware that in that unitary experience, we are
mixing two things in all our transactions. This is exactly like the fellow,
who mistakes that there is a snake, is not aware of the fact that he is
mixing two things; a real rope as an existent entity and an unreal snake.
In his vision there is one single entity or unitary experience that it is a
snake. So when I say 'aham jaanaami', 'I know' it looks like there is one
single entity, knower. But upon analysis there is mixing up of 'chetana
aatma' conscious self and 'achetana vR^itti', inert thoughts are involved.
Hence Shankara says in Atmabodha:
bhuddher vR^itti ritidvayam|
samyojya cha avivekena
jaanaami iti pravartate||
Thus in 'aham jaanaami' - I know - there is 'aatmanaH sat and chit aMashH',
that is 'I am existent and conscious entity' is involved. At the same time
'vRitti', a thought process, in the intellect is involved. The changeless
chit and sat belong to aatma and changing vR^itti belongs to anaatma- these
two get mixed together, forming into one entity leaving me with the notion
that 'I am the knower'.
Thus we transact all the time, due to the notions about ourselves, based on
adhyaasa. In the same text, Shankara says:
aatmano vikR^iyaa naasti
jiivasarva malam JNaatvaa
JNaata drashhTeti muhyati||
aatma cannot be a knower since it cannot go through the knowing process
(since it is 'avikaaraH', changeless), anaatma cannot be a knower because it
is jaDam or inert. Then we create a new entity by combining aatma and
anaatma, and thus, a 'knower' is born. Thus, there is a mix-up of aatma and
anaatma - satya asatya mithuniikaraNam, real and unreal parts into one
single unitary experience.
Thus adhyaasa pramaaNa proves that there is satyaanR^ita mithuniikaraNam
resulting in adhyaasa.
3-11 adhyaasa upasaMhaaraH - Conclusion of adhyaasa bhaashhyam:
In this last topic, Shankara says we are interested in this adhyaasa, not
for an academic interest, but for our own evolution, because adhyaasa is
harmful to the entire humanity, since adhyaasa alone brings in the notion
that I am 'anityaH' or mortal. Therefore, because of this adhyaasa, there
is a constant fear of death, and this fear in turn results into constant
insecurity. Hence wealth becomes very important in life, since we have a
strong notion that wealth brings some security - food on a plate to eat, a
shelter above my head etc., through the wealth. But the fact of the matter
is wealth only provides comforts and one can be comfortably insecure, since
the basic insecurity does not go away even if one has any amount of money.
The famous example is the terminal life of multi billionaire -Howard Hughes
of the fifties. Thus because of adhyaasa only there is samsaara. Since
adhyaasa leads to pravR^itti and nivR^itti vyavahaara, we go after things or
try to get rid of things. Because of the adhyaasa 'that I am limited', I go
after for all those things that I like, to remove my limitations. Hence all
types of actions, vyavahaara, are due to adhyaasa alone. These actions
produce merits and demerits or punya and paapa phalam. These, in turn,
result in re-birth, thus cycle of birth and death. Thus adhyaasa propels
one to action, karma, and karma leads to janma, birth. All karma-s are
based on this error. This includes both laukika karma or worldly actions
and vaidika karma or alaukika karma, or scriptural sanctioned actions, since
both involve the notion of kartR^itva bhaava or the notion of doer-ship. To
put it another way around, because of this adhyaasa alone, all the karma-s
originate. Because of laukika and vaidika karma-s, worldly and ritualistic
actions, one reaps different results. The laukika karma-s, the worldly
actions, produce dR^ishhTa phalam or tangible results and vaidika karma-s
produce adR^ishhTa phalam or intangible results. Because of this the cycle
of birth and death, there is the associated suffering involving janma,
jaraa, vyaadhi, duHka, birth, old-age, disease and suffering, etc.
If we want to get rid off samsaara, we need to get over the adhyaasa or
committing the error. Only remedy to samsaara is adhyaasa nivR^itti. How
does adhyaasa go away? - Only by eliminating the cause of adhyaasa. Cause
for adhyaasa is aJNaanam or ignorance. Ignorance will go away only with
knowledge - hence athaato brahma giJNaasa - inquiry into the nature of
This adhyaasa occurs at various levels. The first adhyaasa is that 'aham
pramaataa' or I am a knower' caused by the mixing up of aatma and the anthaH
karaNam, mind and intellect. Through the mind, the error, as if, flows down
to sense organ level. At that level, there is further mixing up I and the
sense organs resulting in the second level of adhyaasa. For example, if I
say 'I am blind' - the problem of the sense organ is super imposed on aatma.
Through the sense organs the error further flows down to the level of the
body - aham purushhaH, aham strii, aham sthuulaH, aham vR^iddaH, I am a man,
woman, fat, old, etc. The properties of the upaadhii-s, equipments, are
taken as my property by the superimposition on aatma. aatma in principle is
naiva strii na pumaan eshha na chaivaayam napuMsakaH|
yadyat shariiram aadatte tena tena sa yujyate||
as stated in Svetaashvatara Upanishhad 5-10. He is neither female, nor
male, nor neuter. Whatever body he assumes he becomes identified with that.
This is further echoed as:
naasa nnasanna sadasanna mahanna jaanuu
na strii pumaan naja napumsaka meka biijam||
I am neither non-existent ( from aatma aMsha) nor existent (from anaatma
aMsha), neither existent and non-existent (mixture of both aatma and
anaatma), neither female nor male nor neuter - I am none of these - those
properties of the body are superimposed on the self and properties of the
self are superimposed on the non-self - all due to adhyaasa. Just like the
long, curved, poisonous, fearful snake, where there is only a rope.
Through the physical body, the adhyaasa goes to surrounding environment.
Through the body I get relationships with all types of people - father,
mother, brother, uncle, grand father etc.,. etc. In this process, one
develops ahankaara adhyaasa and mamakaara adhyaasa, I-ness and my-ness in
the upaadhiis or equipments and the surroundings. Really speaking aatma
being asanghaH with no associations, it is relation-less. But because of
this adhyaasa, the roots of samsaara spread all over - Krishna comparing the
samsaara as an ashvattha or peepal tree says (15-2):
adhashchordhvam prasutaastasya shaakaaH
adhashcha muulaani anusantataani
Its branches extend both above and below, nourished by guNa-s they indulge
in sense objects. Their secondary roots extend downwards resulting in
actions that bind the human beings. The root of samsaara spreads all over
the world - some even to America - families spreading from east coast to
One has to work for the removal of adhyaasa. How does adhyaasa start?
adhyaasa is born of ignorance - since the error is centered on the self 'I',
and therefore the self-error is born out of self-ignorance. It is not
ignorance of any thing or any subject - That is why any amount of removal of
other ignorance such as the ignorance of chemistry, physics, etc. will not
remove the self ignorance. In spite of all the degrees that can be attached
to the name, he will be only an educated samsaari or an erudite samsaari
since he has gained an anaatma JNaanam which cannot remove samsaara.
Instead of being an unintelligent fool, I will be an intelligent fool.
Samsaara can only be removed by aatma JNaanam, since we have an error with
regard to aatma. That is the reason in Ch. U. in the seventh chapter known
as Bhuuma vidya, we find Naarada approaching Shree Sanatkumaara to learn
Brahma vidya. Naarada gives a big list of degrees he has so far received.
He has a Ph.D. in every subject possible in this world. But then he says in
the end: soham bhagavan sochaami- I am still suffering. Sanatkumaara says
'tarati shokam aatmavit' grief can go away only by self-knowledge. Hence
Shankara says 'aatma ekatva vidyaa pratipattaye sarve vedaantaaH
aarabhyante| asyaaH anartha hetoH prahaanaaya|' all the Upanishads begin
with an intention of giving only, the knowledge of aatma or knowledge of
oneself alone removes the suffering resulting from adhyaasa. In MunDaka
Upanishad - the student approaches the teacher, realizing that no amount of
objective knowledge is making him wiser, asks the teacher - 'kasmino bhagavo
viJNaate sarvam idam viJNaatam bhavati' - 'Hai bhagavan, please teach me
that knowledge, knowing which everything of 'this' is known. The teacher
teaches him self-knowledge which makes him to realize that he is the very
essence of all knowledge. He is the very JNaanam in all JNeyam.
When we say aatma JNaanam, self knowledge, has to be gained to remove aatma
aJNaanam, self ignorance, one point has to be noted. We already have
partial knowledge or partial ignorance of the adhishTaanam, the substratum.
It is not total ignorance. Remember, if the rope is totally not seen there
will not be an error. There is a partial knowledge that 'there is' - some
object is there, the satya aMsha or real part. Only the ignorance is about
the visheshha aMsha or 'rope-ness' of the object. Similarly the self-error
is because of partial ignorance. I know 'aham asmi' - the sat part is
known and the chit part is known. What is not known is "aham brahma asmi'
or brahmatva aMsha is not known. The Brahman feature or Brahmanhood or
Brahman status of mine is not known. Thus whenever we say Brahma JNaanam it
is not that we are going to know a new thing called 'Brahman', it is knowing
the Brahman status of mine. We are only knowing the full real status of
'I'. Hence 'Brahma JNaanam means 'aatmanaH Brahmatva JNaana' the knowledge
of my real status as Brahman. When the real status is not known, a false
status is taken up as real that is my jiivatva status. Hence what is
required is a self-correction involving knowing my Brahman status and in the
process displacing my jiivatva status. Hence 'athaato brahma giJNaasa'
therefore inquiry into the nature of myself as Brahman - athaataH aatmanaH
brahmatva giJNaasaH - I should learn my own superior status as Brahman. For
this purpose alone all the Upanishads begin teaching. This is the
difference between Vedanta shaastra and all other shaastra or sciences. All
other shaastra-s take our inferior status as a fact. Then they prescribe
the methods of improving the status. Some religions follow the same
methodology. They start with the statement that we are sinners. Only a
sage of the Upanishad screams at the top of his voice - 'shruNvantu vishve
amR^itasya putraaH' addressing all of us as 'Listen you all, Oh! Sons of
Immortality!' implying that immortality is our birth right! He even dares
to address the Gods in the Heavens - 'aayo dhaamaani divyaani santi - you
too the indwellers of the heavens!' That is the goal of Vedanta - to make
us to inherit our own true divine nature. We waste our whole life in
working to improve our status symbol. Even the karmakaanDa is promoting
this status enhancement assuming an inferior status of us as a fact. All
sciences take the view that our inferior status as a fact. Only Vedanta
raises the very fundamental question- whether this, my present inferior
status, is a fact or a presumption on my part. Upanishads instigate us to
inquire saying that you do not have to work for improving your status. You
as you are 'a nitya shuddha budhha mukta swabhaavaH' -you are eternal, pure,
free from any limitations- there is no competitor for you since you are
ekaH, one without a second. It is not an image building but for removal of
superimposed low image. This is done by instigating us to inquire into the
nature of Brahman - which is the nature of our own self - athaato brahma
giJNaasa - to remove the superimposed error or misunderstanding on our part
by correct understanding of our own nature. Hence the inquiry into the
nature of Brahman.
This ends the essence of adhyaasa bhaasya.
3.12 Further questions on adhyaasa:
Here we will briefly mention couple of important objections raised by the
post-Shankara philosophers, that are relevant to adhyaasa. These include
from VishishhTaadvaita school, Shree Raamaanuja and Shree Vedanta Deshika;
and from Dvaita school Shree Madhvachaarya, Shree Jayatiirtha and Shree
Vyaasatiirtha. There were also several advaitin masters who addressed these
issues. These include Shree Harsha, Shree Vidyaaranya, Shree Citsukha, and
Shree Madhusuudana Saraswati. These are only few names but in reality there
were many more involving arguments and counter arguments. These in fact
helped in crystallizing the concepts for each school of philosophy. We will
mention couple of objections that were raised and we will address them once
we complete the Shankara Bhaashhya.
1. Who or what is the locus of avidya?
According to Shankara, adhyaasa or error is due to ignorance and error
involves mixing up of satya aMsha as in 'I am' and asatya aMsha as in 'a
samsaari'. This is the jiiva who consists of a mixture of real part of the
statement ' I am' or aham which implies that I am sat and chit, and unreal
part 'a parichchhinnaH' a limited entity, or jiiva asmi. My true nature is
aham brahma asmi. This error occurred because I am ignorant of my true
nature that is aham brahma asmi. Now Raamanuja asks - there has to be a
locus for avidya and what or who is that locus? That is who has this avidya
or ignorance - jiiva or Brahman? Brahman cannot be the locus because (1)
that will make Brahman ignorant, in which case He cannot be Brahman any
more, (2) If ignorance rests with Brahman then ignorance is as real as
Brahman and now we have two real entities, Brahman and ignorance and that
violates the advaita principles of non-duel nature of Brahman as well as his
nirguNatvam, since He has ignorance. Lastly 3) Brahman is of the nature of
light and ignorance of the nature of darkness and are diagonally opposite to
each other, and therefore cannot exist together. Thus Brahman is the locus
of ignorance is unacceptable. On the other hand jiiva cannot be the locus
of avidya since jiiva is the product of avidya. That is, the status of
jiiva or jiivatvam arose because of the presence of avidya. That implies
Jiiva status comes after avidya. That is avidya existed even before
jiiva-hood arose. Hence jiiva cannot be the locus of avidya. Ignorance is
not an independent entity to exist without any locus. Therefore we conclude
that Advaitic concept of avidya is wrong. Hence there is a fundamental
problem in the doctrine of Advaita based on adhyaasa as the cause for jiiva.
2. Ontological status of PramaaNa:
The next important issue is related to Veda-s as pramaaNa. Shankara says
ignorance can only go with the knowledge of Brahman and the source of the
knowledge for Brahman is Veda-s which are apourushheya. Hence the inquiry
into the nature of Brahman as stated in Brahmasuutra. But in the discussion
of adhyaasa, the satya aMsha is only 'aham' or 'I am' and any other is only
a superimposition of unreal on the real. This include all idam vastu-s or
all that can be identified as idam or 'this' - These are not real and are
superimposition on Brahman. Then the question is, are Veda-s real or
unreal?. If Veda-s are real like Brahman then we have duality, Brahman and
Veda-s and that violates the Advaita doctrine which states that Brahman is
one without a second. If Veda-s are unreal then how can the unreal pramaaNa
provide a knowledge of the reality? Falls books cannot teach us about real
science! If Veda-s are unreal and such unreal texts are pramaaNa, the
knowledge that they provide will also be apramaa or bhrama. Hence there is
no use of inquiry of Brahman using invalid tools. In addition as per
Advaitin, if Veda-s are considered as unreal, similar to the world which is
considered as unreal, then Advaita cannot claim as aastika system of
philosophy. It should be considered as naastika system similar to Budhhism.
In fact they are more parallel to Buddhism, with nirguNa Brahman, which
cannot described by any means, since all descriptions presuppose guNa-s.
Brahman is as good as 'suunyam', which cannot be described since there is
nothing to describe it.
Thus there are many questions raised against Advaita doctrine and Shree
Vedanta Deshika has written a book with the title a 'shataduushanii',
hundred objections to advaita. We will address some of these later but it
is suffice at this stage to know that philosophical discussions were kept
alive. These discussions and counter discussion are back bone of our
culture, and inquiry into the nature of reality is there at the time of Veda
Vyaasa, at the time of Shankara and even now with advancement of science
and technology, as in the advaitin list serve! These discussions are not
necessarily for convincing somebody else, but at least for convincing the
discussor himself. Otherwise there will be 'vyabhicaara dosha' - a vagaring
mind uncertain about what the goal is.
Now, those who want to venture into the discussion of the above issues may
do so. But for the time being we will formally end here the adhyaasa
bhaashhyam and we will next take up Shankara's Brahmasuutra Bhaashhyam.
When and if the time permits we will come back later to address the above
This completes the Notes on Adhyaasa Bhaashhyam. With this introduction,
Shankara takes up the Suutra Bhaashhyam. Adhyaasa bhaashhyam forms the back
bone for the entire analysis of the suutras and hence its importance need
not be emphasized. This section should be thoroughly studied not only from
the point of its contents but also from the point of its implications in
terms of our day to day life.
We will start the notes with discussion of Suutra 1, after three weeks.
This will give some time to contemplate on the contents discussed so far.
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