[Advaita-l] Re: Anandamaya and brahman

drganesh at vsnl.com drganesh at vsnl.com
Wed May 26 12:18:49 CDT 2004

The two descriptions commonly used for brahman are -'satyam gnanam anantham' and  'sat chit ananda'. Anandamaya is also brahman because everything that is here is nothing but brahman , the 'mayat' suffix indicates gradation or vikara hence can be taken as an experiential ananda.
The common trap that many people fall is when we transalate ananda as 'bliss' because everyone will then want to experience that ultimate bliss.This brings some kind of mystisism to brahman which is misleading. The word 'anantha' is purposefully replaced by 'ananda' in the scriptures because it is difficult to conceptualise limitless or anantha in a student's mind.It is limitlessness when expressed in our minds is termed 'ananda'.Hence when we say brahman is ananda-it is really anantha.This ananda is nonexperiential and is the substratum of all the grades of experiential ananda possible in lokas.Hence one should never look out for ananda as a brahman experience.Any experience happens in time,hence false.
Dr s. ganesh   
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From: advaita-l-request at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Date: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 9:00 am
Subject: Advaita-l Digest, Vol 13, Issue 18

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> Today's Topics:
>   1. RE: brahman and Anandamaya-Atman (Vidyasankar Sundaresan)
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> ---
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 25 May 2004 20:00:59 -0700
> From: "Vidyasankar Sundaresan" <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
> Subject: [Advaita-l] RE: brahman and Anandamaya-Atman
> To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> Message-ID: <BAY13-F69jgJKVApwOL000263ef at hotmail.com>
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> In the preceding posts, we have seen that
> a. the vedAnta-sUtra does not quite deny the meaning of vikAra for 
> the -maya 
> suffix, but rejects the idea that this meaning of vikAra negates 
> Anandamaya 
> as brahman;
> b. it also rejects the idea that Anandamaya may be the 
> transmigrating jIva;
> c. contrary to mistaken interpretations of advaita thought, 
> SankarAcArya's 
> sUtra commentary also affirms that Anandamaya is brahman, but 
> points out 
> that Anandamaya is saviSesha (saguNa) brahman; and
> d. the text of the taittirIya upanishad, AnandavallI, gives rise 
> to certain 
> issues that SankarAcArya raises in the form of doubts/questions 
> and 
> addresses in his commentary.
> In this post, I will briefly go over the commentary on the 
> Anandamaya 
> description in the taittirIya upanishat. SankarAcArya points out that,
> i. the -maya suffix continues to bear the meaning of vikAra here 
> too, as in 
> the outer four Atman-s/SarIra-s.
> ii. the text goes on to say, "etam Anandamayam AtmAnam 
> upasaMkrAmati". It is 
> logically impossible for the Anandamaya-Atman to go beyond the 
> Anandamaya-Atman. Therefore, Sruti does describe a brahman who 
> goes beyond 
> the Anandamaya,
> iii. the Anandamaya is described in terms of parts, with priya, 
> moda etc., 
> which would not hold true of the absolute nirguNa brahman,
> iv. the text also says "adRSye 'nAtmye 'nirukte 'nilayane" thereby 
> showing 
> the absence of all qualifiers in the highest brahman,
> v. after describing the Anandamaya, the text quotes Sloka-s (asann 
> eva sa 
> bhavati ...) which imply the possibility of a doubt whether the 
> highest 
> brahman exists or not. Such a doubt would be impossible with 
> respect to the 
> Anandamaya, which is experienced by everybody, for varying reasons,
> Having said all this, what then is this highest brahman? 
> SankarAcArya points 
> out that it is not the Anandamaya (the body made of bliss) per se, 
> but 
> Ananda itself, the highest bliss, which is indicated as the 
> highest brahman. 
> The taittirIya says that Ananda itself is the Atman (self) of the 
> Anandamaya, and that brahman is the tail (puccha) / basis 
> (pratishThA). It 
> is not as if the highest brahman is literally one of the limbs of 
> the 
> Anandamaya self. Rather, brahman, which is bliss (Ananda), is the 
> innermost 
> Self of being, from the outermost annamaya to the Anandamaya. It 
> is this 
> brahman that is further described in terms of the absence of all 
> attributes 
> (adRSya, anAtmya, anirukta, anilayana) and it is with respect to 
> this 
> brahman that a question may arise as to whether it exists or not. 
> (Indeed, 
> there are schools of thought that claim that nirguNa brahman does 
> not exist 
> at all.) SankarAcArya here draws our attention to an important 
> point 
> regarding how to get rid of the doubt whether nirguNa brahman 
> exists or not. 
> The Anandamaya is known through our ordinary experiences of 
> bliss/happiness. 
> This may be a result of learning, or performance of actions, or 
> the mere 
> sight of a loved child. If we pay internal attention to our 
> experience of 
> Anandamaya, it is also known in the sleeping state. However, 
> because our 
> ordinary experiences of happiness are directed towards external 
> objects, 
> they do not last. When we turn away from external objects and find 
> the bliss 
> inherent in our own Self, as our own Self, that is no longer just 
> a fleeting 
> experience of happiness. Thus, the Anandamaya self, in its best 
> experience, 
> culminates in the highest Ananda. That Ananda is the highest 
> brahman, and is 
> described as the foundation of the Anandamaya. Therefore, we can 
> infer that 
> the highest brahman is not non-existent and that this brahman is 
> the end of 
> all the duality posited by ignorance (Anandamayasya ekatva-
> avasAnatvAt | 
> asti tad ekam avidyA-kalpitasya dvaitasya-avasAna-bhUtam-advaitaM 
> brahma 
> pratishThA puccham).
> The upanishat further goes on to say, "asad vA idam agra AsIt tato 
> vai sad 
> ajAyata" - here the highest brahman, which is devoid of all 
> attributes, is 
> figuratively described as "asat" - non-existence. This does not 
> mean 
> absolute non-existence, but indicates that the highest brahman is 
> beyond all 
> name and form (nAma-rUpa). This is because the doubt regarding the 
> possible 
> non-existence of brahman has already been addressed. From this 
> brahman 
> arises all that has name and form and is generally known to be 
> existent in 
> the world (tato vai sad ajAyata).
> Thus, we can see that SankarAcArya draws a crucial distinction 
> between 
> Anandamaya-Atman, the self known through experiences of 
> happiness/bliss, and 
> Ananda itself, the brahman which is beyond all sensory experience. 
> His 
> explanation is the best possible one of the seemingly 
> contradictory and 
> puzzling statements in the taittirIya upanishat. After all, read 
> by itself, 
> without the help of the commentary, the upanishat first warns that 
> one who 
> knows brahman as "asat" (non-existence) will himself become non-
> existent and 
> then goes on to say "asad vA idam agra AsIt tato vai sad ajAyata" 
> (non-existence alone was, in the beginning, from this, arose 
> existence). It 
> is only through SankarAcArya's clear interpretation that we get an 
> idea of 
> what these enigmatic statements in the upanishat really mean.
> This concludes this short series.
> Regards,
> Vidyasankar
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