[Advaita-l] Re: Saguna brahman and iswara

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Feb 26 09:13:06 CST 2004

On Wed, 25 Feb 2004 drganesh at vsnl.com wrote:

> “When Sankara distinguishes between Iswara and the absolute Brahman,
> Iswara would have to be considered as Saguna Brahman. However in the
> contexts where Sankara uses the terms Brahman, paramatman, parameswara,
> and iswara interchangeably, saguna Brahman would then be generally
> Hiranyagarbha-Brahma rather than iswara per se. Different hypothesis can
> plausibly be put forward, as to why sankara often uses these terms
> interchangeably in his brahmasutrabhasya. I suggest a philosophical
> reason; he often does not make the distinction explicit, in the same way
> as the Upanisad often does not do so, because for him param Brahman and
> iswara are not two distinct things, they are in fact one and the same
> being. When everything has the single ‘eye of awareness’[pragnanetra, AU
> 3.1.3], a division of ‘ruler and ruled’ can no longer be found.
> Sankara’s interchangeable usage of the four terms can at times be
> confusing but his perspective is more fluid, and can perhaps better
> accommodate the aspirations of religiosity, than the more rigid
> definitions of some of his successors. We could speak of param Brahman
> as having a lower aspect, i.e, iswara, or, we could speak of Iswara as
> having a higher aspect, and since iswara has two aspects, the iswaratwa
> and param Brahman, Sankara can and does use the word Iswara to either
> aspect”. As in his sootra bhasya 1.1.20 also in 1.3.19 etc.

While Comans is correct that Shankaracharya does consider Ishwara and
Parabrahman to be two aspects of the same thing, I don't understand his

The brahmasutra 1.1.20 is antastaddharmopadeshAt "within, by the mention
of its activities"  dharma means activities but it could also be
translated as characteristics in this context as they are defined by
actions.  The text it discusses is Chandogyopanishad 1.6-7 which describes
the golden person who is in the sun and the person who is seen in the eye
who is the same as that person in the sun.  The opponent suggests that
this refers to Surya Bhagavan the presiding deity of the Sun.  But
Shankaracharya says this refers to Brahman on account of the description
of various characteristics.  ("He is the Rk, Yajus, and Saman", "He is the
Lord of the worlds beyond the Sun")  which would not apply to Surya
Bhagavan.  The equation of Brahman to the person in the sun who is the
same as the person in the eye is for upasana (meditation.)  Inter alia,
Shankaracharya observes parameshvarasyApichchhAvashAnmAyAmayaM rUpaM
sAdhakAnugrahArtham "Parameshvara through Maya assumes forms at will to
fulfill the needs of the sadhakas"  Is this phrase the source of Comans'
confusion?  I think it is pretty clearly stating that the forms (rUpa i.e.
saguNa) assumed by Parameshvara are maya.  How is that "interchangeable"
or "indistinct"?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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