[Advaita-l] Advaita Vedanta and Ignorance

Aditya Varun Chadha adichad at gmail.com
Fri Mar 25 14:32:16 CST 2005


Although I am not very well read in the advaitin literature, I wish to
test my understanding of its teachings by addressing the (imho) very
profound question about the seeming contradiction between 'ignorance'
and the Atman = brAhmaN doctrine of advaita. I thank Krunal and the
others for raising it in the first place.

Ignorance is a property of the mind, and the mind is just another
sensory faculty as is expounded by most of vedAnta. The mind then
should not be confused with the Atman. The Atman is not ignorant, the
avidyA is a trait of the mind and thus is synonymous with mAyA itself.
When we say, "I am ignorant," this "I" does not refer to the Atman
that advaita or vedAnta in general talk about. Rather, this "I" is a
mask that is the mind. In fact, we are saying that "the mind is
ignorant," which is not only consistant but also redundant, since the
mind is mAyA and mAyA is ignorance. brAhmaN is nirguNa, and since
Atman is the same, it cannot have 'ignorance' as a guNa (or avguNa for
that matter, really doesn't matter)

Now atleast we can see that Atman itself is not ignorant. In
enlightenment the Atman does not go through any transformation at all,
the Atman is by its very nature identical with brAhmaN. What probably
does happen (only going from a logical progression, I am in no way
claiming that this is what actually happens, it's just speculation) is
that the mind (mAyA) finally fully realizes (an imaginary action since
the subject itself is an illusion) and sees the fact that the Atman
(Self) IS brAhmaN, along with the fact that the mind itself is mAyA.

With this seeming self-negation, this 'enlightened' mind dispells its
own ignorance, and PERCEIVES the Atman-brAhmaN identity (note that
perception itself is mAyA or illusion). This is the source of Bliss
that enlightenment is associated with. In fact, this bliss, if taken
strictly, is itself mAyA, because it is experienced by the mind, which
is mAyA (it is not 'experienced' by Atman). But this bliss is the most
intense, because it is a result of the mind making an everlasting
discovery about its own nothingness. The pure bliss of knowing that I
am nothing but bRahmaN. This experience is very similar (if not the
same) to that experienced in many disciplines like buddhism, sufism,

But then, what is the significance of Atman as a concept at all? Atman
is the manifested brAhmaN, the goal towards which the mind (mAyA) can
work to negate itself. In negating itself, this mAyA itself goes from
ignorance (darkness) to enlightenment || tamaso mA jyotirgamayah ||,
thus realizing its own nothingness with respect to Atman and thus

Atman is just a manifestation of brAhmaN which the mind can better
accept as its object of meditation or quest. The brAhmaN aspect of
this same reality is simply too much for the mind to grapple with. So
Atman is often seen to be in some way 'attached' to the mind. But this
is not so, in fact it is the other way round. The mind feels an
affinity for the Atman (through the linguistic tool "I") easier than
for the brAhmaN concept directly. For example, when the mind thinks "I
am All" it finds it easier to attatch itself to the "I" rather than
the "All", which is atleast a starting point.
---- x ----

I request the readers of this list to kindly read my arguments and
comment on it. I do not presume that what I said above is true or
correct, it is just my current understanding, kindly help in
dispelling our collective mAyA by pointing out any axiomatic, literary
or logical flaw or incompleteness that you notice above.

|| nAyamAtmA balhInen labhyah ||


On Fri, 25 Mar 2005 02:53:09 +0000, Krunal Makwana
<krunalmakwana at hotmail.com> wrote:
> || Namo Narayan ||
> I understand that ignorance is the cause of this outward perception but
> saying this, if Atma and Paramatma is the same, and that Paramatma is all
> knowing, then how can Paramatma be ignorant of what is being percieved in
> the first place. There should never be any room for ignorance to arise in
> the first place.
> Saying that we percieve due to ignorance, ignorance would then be the cause
> of this outward perception, then logically Paramatma is flawed with
> ignorance. Ignorance can only occur, if something is not known, and
> so...Paramatma if all knowing, is flawed and ignorant himself due for this
> perception to take place in the first place.
> But then we can saying that the Jiva or Atma is wrapped up in Maya, but
> saying that then ignorance would have to be taken place from the highest
> being for the jiva's to be ignorant, having a knock-on effect from Paramatma
> to atma (who in Advaitin seem to be one). Because if the Atma is Paramatma,
> and again if Paramatma is all-knowing then the atma would be all-knowing
> respectively, but then to say that Atma is flawed and Paramatma isn't, that
> is a contradiction in Advaita. Hence how can ignorance be identified from
> it's foundation, because we can't say that Atma is ignorant, as Atma and
> Paramatma are the same thing, and we can't say Paramatma is all-knowing then
> ignorance would not arise in the first place.
> Please do not condemn me as  this is just a point i am trying to make, i
> believe myself to be an Advaitin but this question has always haunted me.
> And also when debating with other fellow's of different philosophies (E.g.
> Madhvacharya, ISKCON etc) this subject always seem to crop up which i do not
> have an answer for. Please please please try and answer this and the
> previous prose i have written earlier as constructively as possible.
> Waiting eagerly for your responce
> Krunal Makwana
> Hindu Youth UK

Aditya Varun Chadha
adichad at gmail.com

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