[Advaita-l] Re: Questions on Isavasya

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Aug 5 11:07:55 CDT 2006

Continuing with the ISAvAsya bhAshya questions:

"-- shaN^kara (in verses 9-12) uses the word avidya to mean karma and vidya 
to mean upAsanas. Isn't this a non-standard use of the word vidya? Is there 
an etymological justification (or some other
justification) for employing the word vidya in this sense?"

The word vidyA being used to indicate upAsana-s is age-old practice in 
vedAntic texts. For example, we have references to madhu vidyA, dahara 
vidyA, pancAgni vidyA etc. All of these refer to specific upAsana-s taught 
in the upanishads.

"-- In the third verse, shaN^kara interprets all worlds like the dEvalOka to 
be andham.h tamas.h, because people are bound to suffer ultimately in these 
lOkas. But later in the bhAShya (verses 9-12)
where the word "amR^itamashnutE" is used in the upaniShat.h, shaN^kara still 
interprets it to mean the result of upAsanas. How could the two 
contradictory words, namely andham.h tamas.h and amR^itam.h, be employed to 
refer to the same result?"

The worlds that are said to be andhaM tamas are attained as a result of 
performing karma-s. On the other hand, amRta refers not to the devaloka-s, 
but to attaining brahmaloka in stages (krama-mukti), as a result of 
following the upAsana-s leading to brahmaloka. Nowhere does Sankara refer to 
the same result once as darkness and once as immortality.

"-- Another question is with regard to the word IshA in the first verse 
(which is in the tR^itIya vibhakti). It seems there is a verse in both in 
the bhAgavata purANa and the brahmAnDa purANa (quoted by madhva) where the 
same verse occurs except the beginning is "AtmavAsyamidam
sarvaM", AtmA being used instead of IshA. Now AtmA is in the ShaShThI 
vibhakti, so should not IshAvAsyamidam be split as Ishasya AvAsyamidam?"

Another grammar excursus:

ISAvAsya can be rendered as follows:
ISA + vAsya (simple parsing as two separate words);
ISa + AvAsya (tritIyA tatpurusha samAsa, i.e. a compound of two words, with 
the first word in the instrumental case);
ISA + AvAsya (shashTI tatpurusha samAsa, a compound of two words, with the 
first word in possessive case).

In the dictionary AvAsya has the meaning of "to be inhabited by," while 
vAsya is explained as "to be (or being) covered, enveloped."

Note especially the dictionary usage of the preposition "by" in the meaning 
of AvAsya. In Sanskrit, this would translate to instrumental case, because 
the preposition with the possessive case would be "of".

Returning to interpretation,

ISA (instrumental case of root ISa) is a special grammar case, as explained 
in the SAnkara bhAshya. The more familiar form would be ISena, which if you 
note, also occurs in the very next sentence in the bhAshya. If we take 
ISAvAsya as a compound word, it can be interpreted as ISena AvAsya or as 
ISasya AvAsya.

Just out of curiosity, in the bhAgavata and brahmANDa purAna-s, is the word 
clearly AtmavAsya (short a-vowel before vAsya) or is it AtmAvAsya (long 
A-vowel before vAsya)? If it were AtmAvAsya, the only way to parse it would 
be as a compound word, Atma + AvAsya (AtmanaH AvAsya or AtmanA AvAsya, i.e. 
shashThI or tritIyA tatpurusha samAsa). As far as I am aware, AtmA is not a 
shashThI (possessive case) form of Atman and therefore, it is not correct to 
split the word as AtmA + vAsya.

If the word is AtmavAsya, the only way to parse it would be Atma + vAsya 
(AtmanaH vAsya or AtmanA vAsya, again a tatpurusha samAsa). Unlike ISA + 
vAsya, AtmavAsya can never be simply parsed as two separate words standing 
next to each other in the sentence.

Asssuming it is AtmavAsya, as quoted, it makes better sense to parse the 
compound as a tritIyA tatpurusha than as a shashTI tatpurusha, because the 
referent of vAsya, in all cases, is "idaM sarvaM" = all this. i.e. AtmanA 
vAsyam idaM sarvam (all this is covered/enveloped by the Atman), makes much 
more sense than AtmanaH vAsyam/AvAsyam idaM sarvam (all this is the 
cover/envelop of the Atman). Similarly, it makes better sense to say ISA + 
vAsya or ISena AvAsya rather than ISasya AvAsya.

I will post one final mail on this topic.


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