[Advaita-l] Re: Clarification on vEdAnta sUtra

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat May 8 21:51:07 CDT 2004

On Fri, 7 May 2004 bhaskar.yr at in.abb.com wrote:

> >        1. There is another difficulty which suddenly erupts in the Sutra
> > when it speaks of the liberation of the soul. The Sutra makes out that the
> > liberated soul is free only in so far as it can enjoy the bliss of
> > perfection equally as Brahman, but it cannot have the power of creation,
> > preservation, destruction etc. of the universe. This categorical statement
> > would mean that even in the state of liberation the soul is not fully
> > liberated. Here the Sutra seems to be landing itself on the qualified
> > monism of Acharya Ramanuja, according to whom the soul is an organic part
> > of Brahman but not identical with Brahman. If we persuade ourselves to
> > believe that the Sutra is sympathetic with the Vaishnava theology of
> > Ramanuja, we can easily understand why the soul in liberation cannot have
> > the power of God Himself. Acharya Sankara here has practically nothing to
> > tell us except to interate that if the soul is given the power of
> > creation, etc., there would be a clash of purposes among the liberated
> > souls. Here again arises the question: are there many liberated souls in
> > the state of Brahman? Acharya Ramanuja would not disagree with this
> > proposition, but Acharya Sankara would find here a hard nut to crack.
> >
> > question to My masters : could  u kindly clarify , why author claiming
> > here  it is hard nut for shankara to crack.
> >

This refers to the last adhikarana of the Brahmasutras.  Which deals with
the the souls who have become liberated and achieved brahmaloka by the
worship and meditation on Ishvara.  They get lordly powers such as the
ability to assume multiple bodies or no body etc.  But does this include
the ability to create and destroy the universe as Ishvara does?

jagadvyAparavarjamprakaraNAtasannihitatvacca || 4.4.17

"Except for the power of world-projection because of the subject and not
being mentioned."

The purport is the liberated souls have all lordly powers except for
creation and dissolution of the world because Ishvara (the creator) is
mentioned as one only and because the liberated souls are not mentioned in
the context of creation.

Why is Ishvara one?  This is actually related to the arguments I've made
to Kiran.  Throughout the universe we see a lot of diversity but
underlying it is a surprising amount of uniformity.  the laws of nature
are the same not just between Jaldhar and Kiran but between the US and
India, and Earth and the furthest galaxy.  This indicates they all have
one cause which we refer to as Ishvara or God.  Now if there were two Gods
Why would they agree on every single detail of how the universe acts?
Migh not one want to make E=mc^3 for instance.  Ok for two maybe such
coincidence is possible.  But for a Million?  This is highly implausible.
It is more likely there is only one cause.

Also various theories of creation are propounded in the shastras.  They
say Ishvara said this or that.  But none mention the role of the liberated
souls.  The next sutras spell this out:

pratyakshopadeshAditichennAdhikArikamaNDalsthokte || 4.4.18

"if it is said on account of the plain meaning then no because it is said
the region is according to the ability [or office.]"

The plain meaning of "attains lordly powers" is attains _all_ lordly
powers which would seem to destroy our thesis.  But this sutra says that
the very same Shruti text (Tai. U. 1.6) which contains these words goes on
to say "He attains the lord of the mind," "He attains the lord of speech"
etc.  This ennumeration of "Lords" refers to the One lord who has taken on
different roles as Mind, Speech etc.  Each role is limited to a specific
area of control.  In the same way Ishvara is defined as the creator who
has the role of creating and destroying the world-appearence.  It by no
means follows that His particular area of control can be assumed by the
liberated soul just because other areas of control are explcitly

Also note one of Swami Krishnanandas observations is that Shankaracharya
does not go according to the plain meaning of the text.  But this sutra
itself says we are not follow such a simplistic, literalist line of

vikAravarti cha tathA hi sthitimAha || 4.4.19

"And also because the existence of a transcendental aspect is said"

Shruti states Brahman is twofold, saguna and nirguna.  For instance both
purushasukta and chandogyopanishad mention that "one fourth is all this
and three fourths are immortal in heaven."  Ishvara is Brahman in the
saguna aspect.  The liberated souls under discussion are those who have
attained their state through meditation and worship of Brahman in the
saguna aspect.  They may not necessarily have understood the nirguna
aspect.  So their knowledge is not complete.  Thus it is natural that
their powers would also not be complete.

darshayatashchaivaM pratyakshAnumAne || 4.4.20

"Thus both perception and inference show."

Interestingly Shankaracharya considers perception and inference to mean
Shruti and Smrti.  There are examples from both to show that Brahman is
both saguna and nirguna.

bhogamAtrasAmyaliNgAccha || 4.4.21

"And because only the same amount of enjoyment is indicated."

Because of maya, the one imperishable and omnipresent Brahman appears to
take multiple forms.  From the viewpoint of one of those limited
delusion-bound forms, it appears that the world was created by Ishvara and
after it has run its course will be destroyed by Him.  So they cannot
possibly achieve any greater power than that which Ishvara put into the
universe they believe in.

anAvrttiH shabdAtanAvrttiH shabdAt || 4.4.22

"It is said there is no return, it is said there is no return."

Based on the above sutra there is a doubt.  If the liberation of the
maya-bound souls is limited then isn't true, total liberation impossible?
This sutra says it is because the Vedas declare there is no return (to
samsara) from that state.  So they are well and truly liberated but the
fullness of that liberation does not take into effect until the pralaya or
apparent dissolution of the universe.  (I say apparent because from a
paramarthic viewpoint there is no creation or destruction.  It is only
from the vyavaharic viewpoint that this entire discussion is valid.) Then
the souls who are united with saguna Brahman together with Ishvara Himself
merge back into the nirguna Brahman.  The sutra is repeated twice to
indicate it is the end of the work.

So it would appear Swami Krishnanand is making some wrong assumptions.  He
fails to understand that in Advaita Vedanta mukti and jnana are two
seperate concepts.  Both are necessary for the ultimate goal but it is
possible to have one without the other.  This adhikarana only addresses
the class of souls that are free from samsara but do not have the total
knowledge of the nature of Brahman.  If they had such knowledge they would
neither need nor desire lordly powers.  The question of whether there are
multiple liberated souls thus does not arise.  Of course there are because
they identify with an imperfect and limited view of Brahman which is the
cause of multiplicity.  Neither is it necessary to wonder if they are
truly liberated.  They are liberated as it is possible to be in their
situation.  It's the same as if I was robbing you and I said "give me all
your money" you would understand I meant all the money you had with you
not necessarily all the money that you had at your disposal in bank
accounts etc.  Brahman has both nirguna and saguna aspects.  So the
meaning of the concept "liberation" changes vis-a-vis saguna Brahman and
nirguna Brahman.

I hope I have satisfactorily shown the Advaitic meaning of these sutras
and why they are not in the least bit a "tough nut" for Shankaracharya to

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

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