reposting again

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 2 06:00:10 CDT 2001

>>Exactly. Does the validity of Advaita really have to depend on how many
>>times words like maya or nirguna occurs in the shruti? Maya and nirguna
>>refer to that which is beyond thought -

>Nanda - There is some internal contradiction in your statement - I
>realize of course that it cannot be avoided.  References to nirguna
>and maya are themselves are thoughts and you say they indicate  that
>which is beyond thoughts.

"Indication" itself implies that it is only a pointer and its meaning is not
absolute. If we take a diamond, the word "diamond" is a label given by us to
a  thing based on its properties and its use to us. But we've no idea of
what that thing in itself, that we call diamond, is. If we look around us
that's howmuch the substance of language is - it serves at best as a pointer
to things based on their attributes (that we perceive by the senses and
mind) and its use to us.

But again even in this kind of knowledge there're levels. While words like
mind or eye or hands have more meaning fundamentally because they are nearer
to our experience, but words like tree or stone which do not form part of
our psycho/physical being might have lesser meaning to us. Actually that's
one of the reasons "know thy self" is the way - because being the thing
itself you'll have access to the innermost depths of your being and absolute
knowledge is thus possible.

So words like maya and nirgua is used express  the inexpressible. Can you
practically show something that's formless in the world that we experience?
Even with air or water - the first we merely feel and do not see and the
second takes the shape of whatever container hold it. Or atleast everything
has a form at the time we perceive it - the mere fact that we see something
points to the existence of form. Formlessness is beyond conception and we
can only infer it as the opposite of that which is with form.

So point to be understood here is that language/thought (one can't exist
without the other) is not absolute and only relative.

>Maaya is a concept brought in to account for one appearing as many.

Again I will say this. Almost without exception every school of Indian
philosophy points to chitta vritti nirodah as the way to liberation. The
mind/thought has to cease for one to be liberated. So how can one after
liberation *think* that he's the only one? Then even reality will be within
the grasp of thought - which the shruti denies. Brahman is being. It is
beyond thought. It is existence without thought. The moment you try to
think/express it, you make the infinite, finite and the absolute, relative.

How so?

Because as explained above - thought/language is a mere pointer and doesn't
have absolute substance. Knowledge in the conventional sense is only linking
together of all these pointers for practical utility. But if we go back to
the fundamental concepts and try to dig beyond it, we find that they have no
substance. Knowledge through language/thought is the anti-thesis of true
knowledge, which is self knowledge - atma jnaanam. The distinction between
the two is that while the former revels in the duality of subject and
object, the latter is knowledge of the subject only - it is self-knowledge
and non-relational and non-dependent on anything other than itself. It is
knowledge as the thing in itself.

 >>so it is only natural that the
 >>shruti rather than dwelling on these which cannot be easily expressed
 >>concentrates on that which can be taught/easily referred to.

 >I am not convinced of your argument to say that is why shruti did not
 >dwell on maaya in the fashion that is used in advaita philosophy.  If
 >advaita philosophy could express maaya in the fashion we can
 >understand, shruti could have expressed it too.

Maya is about unreality and so in a strict sense it has only marginal
relevance in the teaching of reality. Does anyone say that just by knowing
the world is unreal - maya - we can be liberated? If so, anybody who
understands the Madhyamika Shaastram will be liberated. No, Atma Jnaanam -
knowledge of the self - alone can liberate. This is also the reason why
Vedanta is above Madhyamika - because it is the Brahma Sutra - it teaches
about reality - Brahman.

People who were liberated by atma jnaanam just found that they'd found their
true selves and that they were beyond rebirth and samsaara. But the
implication of such a state - its reconciliation with samsaara - our normal
world - requires the use of the intellect. And it is in such an enterprise
that doctrines like maya were born. If there're few expressions in the
shruti about maya, we can only say that at that point in time philosophy -
the intellectual reconciliation between samsaara and nirvaana was not that
fully developed or even more possible - it wasn't considered as relevant.
The sages of the Upanishads taught about the way to reality - either they
taught atma jnaanam or maunam or yoga. Sometimes they also described/pointed
to reality - but these teachings are not absolute as no expression/thought
can grasp the absolute. Also it is not really necessary they they should
teach about the world - infact teachers like the Buddha considered it a
hindrance as such effort will take you away from what's truly required. It
is with Nagarjuna that the maya doctrine is reasoned out - even with him his
purpose was different - he wanted to prove to relativity of what we call
knowledge and the difference between that and the real knowledge. And with
Shankara/Advaita that it is reconciled with reality/Brahman.

So ultimately maya is fully reconcilable with the intellect. As Gaudapaada
says only that which is taught by the shruti and is substantiated by reason
is the truth and nothing else. Else anybody can read anything in the Brahma
Sutra and claim that is the truth. Reason is the key and the true guide. And
maya is a product of reasoning.

 >>But again what should be noted is that reason is only able to
 >>prove the non-validity of difference (the whole of Citsukhiyam is towards
 >>establishing differencelessness) but is not able to establish unity. This
 >>fundamentally because unity is beyond thought - it is being - it is the
 >>thing in itself.

 >I am not sure I agree with your above statements.  Shruti did indeed
 >provide the unifying statements  - by the mahavaakya-s  establishing
 >oneness - sarvam khali idam brahma - brama vit brahma eva bhavati -
 >etc - along with example illustrating the creation in the Ch. Up.
 >vaachaarambanam vikaaro naama dheyam etc.

Sada, I'm not talking about mere statements - but about logical
reconciliation. However much you push reason you cannot prove unity - the
gap between consciousness and matter will loom large. You can atbest dispute
difference and traditionally that's what the Madhyamika/Advaita
dialecticians do. But disputing the substance of the intellect itself we
dispute the difference between mind and matter. As Ramana says : when the
mind itself has collapsed, where's there basis to conceptions of difference?

 >Madhva took an opposite view - the differences are absolute and the
 >other can be interpreted differently.

That there's diversity in the wrold is proved merely by normal experience
itself - then what do we need the shruti for? And how will difference remove
suffering? By non-difference, we do not have anybody else apart from us to
feel greedy/jealous/angry/hatred towards - we do not have anything else
apart from us to desire - and thus we move to a higher plane of being.

>All are trying to account the  unity and diversity.  Hence
 >we cannot blame the shruti for not making unifying statement.  It may
 >be more comforting to say that these different statements are
 >intended for different adhikaari-s as Vidya mentioned.

Again there's a difference between : statement - reasoning - reality.

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