[Advaita-l] Function of Pramana

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian balasr at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 6 00:54:29 CDT 2004

This is a really good point brought about by Shri
Venkat, where sha.nkara seemingly contradicts himself.
My original thought was to write a long post, with
extracts from the relevant bhaashhya-s. While I may
still do that at a later time, I am currently very
busy at work. I'll give a relatively concise reply,
which points out the essentials.

First, I presume you are referring to 

a) the maaNDuukya bhasshhya (MaBh) under na-antaH
praGYaM, etc.
b) the bR^ihadaaraNyaka bhasshya (BrBh) under naiveha
ki.nchanaagra aasit (2.1). 

I am not sure where the passage "asadeva idamagra
aasiit" referred to below occurs. I don't remember
such a passage in my (admittedly very incomplete)
readings of the BrUp. Please do point out the chapter
and verse numbers, if I am mistaken. There is a
similar sounding passage in the taittiriiya which runs
asadvaa idamagra aasit (aanadavallii). But since the
pot analogy occurs in BrBh to 2.1 (seems too much of a
co-incidence), I shall assume that this is what you

The key point to remember is that knowledge is vastu
tantra, a property of a thing and not kartR^i tantra,
a property of the knower or the doer. This is what is
driven home by sha.nkara in his magnificient MaBh.  He
points out that once the darkness is removed from a
pot, the knowledge of the pot does not depend on any
further action by any pramaaNa on part of the knower.
The knowledge automatically rises once the hindrance
is removed. To wit, each pramaaNa acts *unaided* by
some other pramaaNa, in its own sphere (otherwise it
would cease to be pramaaNa!) and it's vastu tantra.
Thus is the case with shruti, which sublates any
notion of duality and does not need any repeated
thinking, meditation, etc., after the notion of
duality is sublated. The main point of the bhaashhya
is the *subject* or the cognizer of the pot.

In contrast, in the BrBh, sha.nkara is concerned with
showing that the effect pre-exists in the cause.
Obstructions prevent us from seeing the effect as
pre-existing. Each effect destroys the previous effect
- example a pot destroys the lump shape which existed
before. His opponent tries to prove his position as
ridiculous by claiming that anyone would try to just
get rid of obstructions and not attempt to make a pot!
Sha.nkara points out that even in the simple case when
darkness shines on a pot, the pot is changed - namely
the pot is covered with light. It is not a *rule* that
an object remains unchanged when the obstructions
related to it being perceived are removed. It could be
the case *sometimes*, but not *always*. Here the main
point of the bhaashhya is the *object*, i.e., the pot.

Thus there is no contradiction between the two

I may point out here these two are the two distinct
kinds of tarka allowed by the shruti in understanding
brahman for the mediocre intellects (for the superior
intellects there is no necessity for any reasoning,
shruti vaakya alone will do): - the effect is
pre-existent in the cause and the witness-self is the
underlying and unchanging substratum of the three

I must thank Shri Venkat for making me go through
these passages and the bhasshya-s once more. They are
indeed very deep. Sureshvaras vaartikas on BrBh 2.1
are also a "must-read"!

--- venkata subramanian <venkat_advaita at yahoo.com>
> The Bhashyakara writes in the Mandukya Upanishad
> Bhashya that the function of Vedic pramana in the
> field of Atma Jnana is only to destroy the
> ignorance.  He says that Veda only removes ignorance
> and Atman is already Self-established Consiousness
> which does not need any further pramana to entighten
> it.
> Apart from destroying the darkness, light does not
> do anything else to enlighten  a pot.
> however, in his Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashyam
> (Asadeva Idamagra Aaseeth) while establishing that
> even effect existed before creation, he mentions
> that it cannot be said that light simply destroys
> the darkness, it also entlightens the pot, as the
> pot is also seen covered with light.
> How should we understand this two opposite
> statements; one in Mandukya and the other in
> Brihadaranyaka.
> Thanks & Regards,
> Venkat.
> Sadgurubhyo Namah.

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