[Advaita-l] brahma satyam jagan mithyA

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sun Aug 27 04:45:48 CDT 2006

On Aug 23 A. Siddhartha Reddy wrote:
I have a few questions on the tenets of advaita vEdAnta vis-a-vis
the tattva bOdha (attributed to shaN^karAchArya) and the vEdAnta sAra (of
sadAnanda, translated by Hiriyanna). I will first present a brief overview
of the theory presented in these two works (as per my understanding, please
feel free to correct me) to give the context, and thenformulate my
questions. Thanks a lot.

The theory in these works is as follows. Ishvara is defined to be nirguNa
brahma (the underlying spirit, consciousness) in combination with the
triguNAtmika mAyA. mAyA is fully dependent on nirguNa brahma for its
existence, while nirguNa brahma is fully independent (adhyArOpa apavAda).
Hence is asserted the ontological superiority of nirguNa brahma and its sole
     The jIva is, by definition, the nirguNa brahma in combination of
avidyA. avidyA is again triguNAtmika and hence, part of mAyA. Thus, the
relationship between the jIva and Ishvara is a unique
identity-cum-difference. For an unrealized jIva, the sattva component
comprising his avidyA is dominated by the rajas.h and tamas.h components,
while for a realized jIva, the sattva shines without being sullied by the
rajas.h and tamas.h components (This is called sattva shudhdi).
     mAyA has two powers -- vikShEpa and AvaraNa. vikShEpa is what results
in the manifestation of variety, while AvaraNa results in the covering up of
the real nature of the Atma (hence, mAyA is called bhAva rUpa).

Given this background, I have the following questions:
-- Please let me know if the above understanding is correct, and let me know
of any corrections. Thanks.

mAyA is the power of Brahman. You are right in saying that it is dependent
on Brahman. This is in fact one of the main points of difference between
sAnkhya and advaita. sAnkhya says that prakRti is independent of purusha.
As regards the nature of Isvara and jIva, there are different views held by
the different post-Sankara advaitins. All these views are accepted as they
are considered as only various means for attaining the goal of knowledge.
These differences do not affect the essential import of the Upanishads.
There are such different views on almost all topics. Sureshvaracharya
specifically says about this in Br.Up.bhAshyavArtikA- ""All the different
means by which people can attain knowledge of the self should be understood
to be valid. These means are unlimited in number".  (1.4.402). These
different views are given topic-wise by appayya dIkshita in
The most popular theory about the nature of Isvara and Brahman is that
propounded in PanchadaSi. According to this, PrakRti is of two kinds. When
the element of sattva is pure, it is known as mAyA; when impure, due to the
admixture of rajas and tamas, it is called avidyA. Brahman reflected
in mAyAis the omniscient I
Svara, who controls mAyA. Brahman reflected in avidyA (impure PrakRti) is
the jIva who is under the control of mAyA. (This has been dealt with under
PanchadaSi, chapter 1 on my website www.geocities.com/snsastri.) From the
empirical standpoint Isvara and jIva are different. From the absolute point
of view there is neither Isvara nor jIva, but there is only Brahman. So the
question of difference or identity between Isvara and jIvaA from the
absolute or pAramArthika standpoint does not arise. So your statement that
the relationship between Isvara and jIva is identity cum difference is not
correct. In the mahAvAkya 'tat tvam asi' the literal or primary meaning of
tat is Isvara and the literal meaning of tvam is jIva. It is because there
can be no identity between these ttwo that the implied meanings of these two
terms have to be resorted to.
Your statement that mAya has two powers and is bhAvarUpa is correct.
   The vikshepa sakti of avidya continues to operate even for the realized
person and so he continues to see the world as we do. But the difference
between us and him is that we take the world to be real and experience joys
and sorrows but he is not affected by them. This can be explined by an
example. A child sees a lion made of clay and screams in fear, thinking it
to be a live lion. But an adult knows that it is not a live lion and so he
is not affected. For the child the real nature of the lion is covered
(AvaraNa) and the lion appears as real (Vikshepa). For the adult there is
vikshepa without AvaraNa which is harmless. Same is the case with the jnAni
in respect of the world. He has vikshepa without AvaraNa.

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