[Advaita-l] brahman and Anandamaya-Atman

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon May 10 13:58:29 CDT 2004

Thank you Bhaskarji for drawing attention to two important issues which are 
well worth a detailed discussion. In this post and a couple of followups, I 
will address the analysis of the Anandamaya in the vedAntasUtra-s and the 
bhAshya, along with the taittirIya upanishad and bhAshya.

Let us take the sUtra-s first. sUtra-s 12 through 19 in the first book of 
the vedAntasUtra-s read as follows -

12. Anandamayo 'bhyAsAt -
        The Anandamaya self (is Brahman), because of repetition (in 
13. vikAraSabdAn neti cen na prAcuryAt -
        If (one objects), pointing to the term "maya" in Anandamaya, which 
means modification
        or transformation, (we say) no, because "maya" also refers to 
14. tadd hetu vyapadeSAc ca -
        And because it (Brahman) is declared to the cause.
15. mAntra-varNikam eva ca gIyate -
       (The same brahman) is sung of in both the mantra and brAhmaNa 
portions of the scripture
       (taittirIya upanishad).
16. netaro 'nupapatteH -
       (Anandamaya) is not the other (individual self, jIvAtman, the 
transmigrator), because that
       is inappropriate.
17. bheda vyapadeSAc ca -
       And because it (Anandamaya) is declared to be different (from the 
18. kAmAc ca na anumana apekshA -
       Because of the reference to will (in the sentence, so 'kAmayata - he 
willed), Anandamaya
       cannot be inferred (to be the same as the prakRti of sAmkhya thought 
- according to
       SankarAcArya's commentary).
19. asminn asya ca tad yogam SAsti -
       And because it (the upanishad) teaches the union of this (the 
individual jIva) in that (the

Now, let us take the bhAshya upon these sUtra-s. In my reading, this portion 
of SankarAcArya's commentary is one of the most misunderstood passages in 
most modern discussions of vedAnta. It is obvious to everybody that the 
upanishad reference in this section of the sUtra-s is to the taittirIya 
upanishad AnandavallI. The vishaya-vAkya-s (reference upanishad statements) 
that SankarAcArya quotes here are all from this text, and there is no 
objection from any other school of vedAnta to that. Next, if we look at the 
progression of the sUtra-s, it is clear that their intent is to establish 
that the Anandamaya Atman is not the jIva, but brahman. SankarAcArya 
discusses this argument with great clarity.

However, there is one weakness in the logical argument, if we just look at 
the sUtra-s superficially, without paying attention to the source text in 
minute detail. Firstly, the argument of sUtra 13, that the term "maya" 
refers to abundance and not to modification, cannot be selectively applied 
to Anandamaya alone. If a student were to ask, what prevents the meaning of 
abundance being applied to anna(rasa)maya, prANamaya, manomaya and 
vijnAnamaya also, the sUtra by itself does not answer it. Such a question 
would also be justified, because both in the AnandavallI and the bhRguvallI, 
the concluding sentences treat them all in a like manner -

etam annamayam AtmAnam upasaMkrAmati (upasaMkramya, in bhRguvallI), and so 
on, upto
etam Anandamayam AtmAnam upasaMkrAmaI (upasaMkramya).

So, why treat the Anandamaya alone differently from the rest, as far as text 
interpretation is concerned? SankarAcArya, being the thorough commentator 
that he is, addresses this issue very nicely. I will cover that angle in my 
next posting on this topic.

Warm regards,

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