[Advaita-l] RE: brahman and Anandamaya-Atman

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed May 12 13:47:09 CDT 2004

Before moving to the taittirIya upanishad proper and its commentary, let us 
see what Sankara says in the brahmasUtra bhAshya. Before the sUtra-s on the 
Anandamaya, the sUtra-s have established that the cause of origin, 
sustenance and dissolution of all creation is not the prakRti of sAMkhya 
thought, but the omniscient (sarvajna), omnipotent (sarvaSaktimAn) lord 
(ISvara), also called brahman. Now, is ISvara saguNa/saviSesha brahman or 
nirguNa/nirviSesha brahman? Are saguNa brahman and nirguNa brahman different 

The answer to the first is that ISvara is saguNa/saviSesha brahman and to 
the second is that no, they are not absolutely different entities. brahman 
is, in essence, nirguNa/nirviSesha, but is viewed as saguNa/saviSesha, i.e. 
ISvara for the purpose of upAsana, which are meant for those who are 
ignorant. We have to keep this firmly in mind when we read the commentary on 
the sUtra-s relating to the Anandamaya.

Now, the sUtra-s establish that the Anandamaya-Atman is

a. brahman,
b. not the transmigrating jIva
c. the cause of all creation by mere will (so 'kAmayata ... idaM sarvam 
asRjata), and
d. that in which the jIva attains final union.

Contrary to what many think, Sankara does not disagree with any of these 
conclusions. He does point out that all the terms, annamaya, prANamaya, 
manomaya, vijnAnamaya and Anandamaya, use the suffix -maya, so that one 
cannot selectively interpret it as meaning transformation (vikAra) for the 
first four, but abundance (prAcurya) only for the fifth. Now we must pay 
close attention to the sUtra - vikAraSabdAn neti cen na, prAcuryAt. Does 
this sUtra deny the sense of vikAra for Anandamaya? No. It only points out 
that it is wrong to say that the Anandamaya is not Brahman because of the 
meaning of transformation (vikAra) attached to the suffix -maya. The sUtra 
then points out that -maya can ALSO mean abundance (prAcurya). The intention 
of the sUtra is not to deny the meaning of vikAra, but to point to the 
additional meaning of prAcurya. The sUtra then goes on to say that this 
Anandamaya is taught as the cause (hetu-vyapadeSa) and is taught uniformly 
from the beginning mantra of this section of the taittirIya upanishad 
(brahmavid Apnoti param ... satyaM jnAnam anantaM brahma). Then, the sUtra 
clarifies that Anandamaya is not the transmigrating jIva, both because this 
is logically inappropriate and the upanishad expressly declares otherwise.

What is the logical upshot of all this? It should be obvious that the 
Anandamaya-Atman is ISvara. And surprise of surprises, both to many 
advaitins and to non-advaitins, this is what SankarAcArya also says in the 
concluding remarks on this section in his brahmasUtra commentary - 
saviSesham brahma abhyupagantavyam - the Anandamaya is saviSesha brahma, in 
other words, ISvara.

Although the sUtra commentary doesn't refer to any text other than 
taittirIya, we may also refer to the mANDUkya upanishad - prajnAnaghana 
Anandamayo Anandabhuk ... eshas sarveSvara eshas sarvajna esho 'ntaryAmy 
esha yonis sarvasya prabhavApyayau hi bhUtAnAm - the Anandamaya is the lord 
of all (sarveSvara), omniscient (sarvajna), omnipresent (antaryAmI), the 
womb of all (sarvasya yoni), the beginning (prabhava) and end (apyaya) of 
all creatures (bhUta-s).

I would like to reiterate that SankarAcArya does not go against the sUtra-s 
at all, in his discussion of the Anandamaya. All he does is clarify that 
Anandamaya is saviSesha brahman. As such, adherents of other schools of 
vedAnta, for whom brahman is always, by definition, saviSesha, should have 
no problem with this. The problem, as always, lies in not understanding 
properly that Sruti also teaches brahman to be nirviSesha. What does the 
taittirIya upanishad say about Anandamaya and nirviSesha brahman? We will 
take that up in the next posting.


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