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

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri May 14 18:36:29 CDT 2004

In the last two posts, we have gone over the sUtra-s referring to the 
Anandamaya and SankarAcArya's comments on them. In this third post in this 
series, I will briefly go over important doubts that are possible regarding 
the AnandavallI of the taittirIya upanishat, taking up the commentary of 
SankarAcArya in the next one.

After SAntipATha (saha nAv avatu ...), the upanishat opens with the 
statement that one who knows Brahman in his own heart as satya, jnAna and 
ananta, attains the highest. Then the order of evolution of the elements is 
described, followed by the descriptions of annarasamaya, prANamaya, 
manomaya, vijnAnamaya and Anandamaya in order. These are described in terms 
of a body (SarIra) - self (AtmA) relationship. Thus, annarasamaya is 
considered the body (SarIra) and prANamaya is its self (AtmA). In turn, the 
prANamaya is the body of which the manomaya is the self and so on, till we 
come to Anandamaya as the self of the vijnAnamaya body. Thus, each layer is 
the self of the one outer to it and in turn is the body of the one inner to 

The results of worshipping anna or prANa or vijnAna as brahman are mentioned 
in each case. Here, we must pay attention to one of the opening lines - the 
knower of brahman attains all his wishes, along with brahman (so 'Snute 
sarvAn kAmAn saha brahmaNA vipaSciteti). Now, the result of knowing vijnAna 
as brahman is also said to be the attainment of all wishes (vijnAnaM brahma 
ced veda ... sarvAn kAmAn samaSnuta iti). Does this indicate that vijnAna 
(knowledge or consciousness) itself is Brahman? But the sUtra indicates 
Anandamaya as brahman. Where does the Anandamaya fit in then? Also, how do 
we connect this to other upanishat-s, such as bRhadAraNyaka, where vijnAna 
and Ananda are both posited of brahman?

Each of these bodies/selves is also described in terms of a head (Siras), 
right and left sides (dakshiNa and uttara paksha-s), a self (AtmA) and a 
tail (puccha) or basis/foundation (pratishThA). Thus for example, Sraddha, 
Rta and satya are the head and sides of the vijnAnamaya self. yoga is its 
AtmA and mahaH is the tail. The parts of the Anandamaya self are described 
as priya (head), moda (right side), pramoda (left side), Ananda (self) and 
brahman (tail/foundation).

Here, the Anandamaya is described in terms of consisting of various parts. 
Obviously, these parts are different from one another and indicate varying 
gradations of happiness or bliss. The upanishat then goes on to say that one 
who knows brahman as non-existence (asat) himself becomes non-existent, 
while one who knows brahman as existence (sat) is also existent. Here a 
question arises. Everyone experiences some happiness (Ananda) for one reason 
or another. So, no one can doubt the existence of the Anandamaya self, which 
we are told, is brahman. If so, why should anyone think that brahman may be 
non-existent? What exactly does the upanishat text mean here?

After describing how everything arises from brahman, the text then says that 
non-existence (asat) alone was, in the beginning, and existence (sat) was 
born from non-existence. This is a statement that sounds nonsensical to some 
ears and like a riddle to others. We are then told that one who makes 
distinctions or differences in brahman is subject to fear. If there is 
nothing inner to the Anandamaya, then there have to be differences in 
brahman, for the Anandamaya itself is described as consisting of parts. How 
then, can anyone not see differences at the innermost, ultimate level?

These are problems raised by the taittirIya text, which SankarAcArya 
addresses in his commentary, which I will discuss in the next, concluding 
post in this series.


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