[Advaita-l] Brahman, Isvara, and VishishthAdvaita

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Tue May 16 06:48:24 CDT 2006

--- Annapureddy Siddhartha Reddy <annapureddy at gmail.com> wrote:

 I have been little busy trying to prepare for my talks at Chinmaya
Mission and for the forthcoming two day spiritual camp on Mandukya
during the Memorial day weekend. 

Those who are interested in the camp can get the info from Chinmaya
Mission, Washington DC. 

Shree Siddharthaji - thanks for your private mail and here is my
understanding in relation to the discussion you have raised.  
Hari OM!
A. Sidhharthaji (AS):

Here are the premises I am starting with:
-- Brahman is everything and the sole entity (of course, not in the
sense of
an object).  Then, is
this world of duality unreal?  No, this world is equally true (though
not in
an ultimate sense).  This is the position of the Upanishads (from a
reading without any BhAShya, as mentioned in the
History of Indian Philosophy by Das Gupta).  These are the
"facts"/experiences that any Advaita Vedantic theory should explain.

Sadananda (KS): Here is my understanding:
Scriptures say that Brahman is the only thing. Ekam eva advitiiyam, one
without a second.  Hence there cannot be anything other than Brahman. 
If one sees ‘any thing’ or every thing’ all that is included in the only
thing that is Brahman – Hence ‘sarvam khalu idam brahma’ – all that I
can point out as idam or ‘this’ is nothing but Brahman only (apparently
with different names and forms just as ring, bangle, bracelet etc of

Reality is that which is non-dismissible or negatable at any time. 
trikaala abhaaditam satyam’.  Unreal is that which has no locus for
existence like the son of a barren woman (vandhyaa putraH). The world
does not come under either of the two categories, since it appears to be
there but does not remain the same, as it is continuously changing. 
Hence it called ‘mithya’ – sat asat vilaxanam’, different from real and
unreal.  Any changing thing must have a substantive, which is
changeless.  That substantive is nothing but Brahman as scripture says
that every thing arises from Brahman, sustained by Brahman and goes back
into Brahman.  Hence the world is nothing but Brahman with naama and
ruupa – names for changing things while the changeless entity or the
substantive is nothing but Brahman.  The 'reality' for the world or
existence of the world comes from Brahman, its substantive, which alone
is real. Hence world has dependent existence.  Any dependent existent
thing is mithya.  The apparent changing things with all the attributes
(like attributes of ring are different from those of bracelet, yet both
are nothing but gold.  Attributes of name and form do not belong to
gold.), belong to perceptual world, which has no substantive of its own
other than Brahman.  Hence, Shankara says whatever one sees is mithya,
as we are discussing in Mandukya. The world is mithya because it is
seen, dRisyatvaat. Brahman cannot be seen (aprameyam). 

The scripture itself explains these truths – there is nothing other than
Brahman – ‘neha naanaasti kincana’, everything is nothing but Brahman
and all things that one sees or experiences arise from Brahman,
sustained by Brahman and go back into Brahman.  Of course Advaita
provides a detailed explanation, if one studies Scriptures with Shankara
Bhaashhyas - But the study should be done under a competent teacher, who
is well versed in the scriptures and not from an academician like Das
Gupta.  Just my 2c. 

AS: -- How is it possible that the one Brahman manifests as multiple
One explanation is the phenomenon of Maya.  More than an explanation,
this is a recasting of the question in terms of Maya, i.e., Maya is by
definition the phenomenon by which the sole Brahman manifests as
multiple entities.  We can then ask, what is the nature of this Maya
that makes the one Brahman manifest as many?

KS: You can pose the same question about your dream world.  How can one
mind (waker’s mind) project multiple jiivas and jagat in the dream world
along with the subject jiiva as a part of the total universe?  The dream
world is real only for a dreamer and not for a waker.  Same way the
world is appear to be real who has not realized that one is Brahman. 
Maya is ‘power of Iswara’ that is brought in to explain the
‘unexplainable’ – one can say it is the glory of the Iswara to be able
to project one into many – Liiala of the Lord - It is the glory of Gold
(that is malleable) that it can be shaped into varieties of forms and
shapes – Hence Krishna says – Look at my Glory  Arjuna – ‘pasyam me
yogam aiswaram’. 

Nature of mAya is mAya it self – that which appears to be there but is
not there.  It is like factor X we bring in solving math problem.  If
you ask what is X before one solves the problem or what is the nature of
X – it is nothing but an entity used as a convenient to solve a problem
at hand– and it is unceremoniously dropped when the problem is solved. 
Hence, from Brahman point there is no mAya.  Brahman does not create
anything and there is nothing what so ever that is created.  However,
for those who see the creation, which is overwhelmingly present, a story
is providing that there is creator and he creates with his power called
mAya.  When one realizes that there is neither creation nor a creator,
then where is the question of the power ‘mAya’ and its nature? 

A.S: -The position of Shankara himself (based on his BhAShya for
Bhagavad Geeta
verse 13.2 as read and understood from a translation by A.G. Krishna
Warrier) seems to be this. That Brahman is the sole entity is true, both
because of the infallible declaration of the Upanishads, and the
of the realized people (which validates the Upanishadic statements). The
reason we perceive dualities is because of Avidya (I might use Avidya
Maya interchangeably. If there are precise definitions for these terms
should not thus be used interchangeably, please let me know). 

KS: Avidya is from the jiiva’s point, who fails to recognize that his
status is absolute infiniteness).  Since he sees the creation separate
from him to his ignorance, a creator is brought in and for him to create
we gave him the power to create which is mAya.  Hence mAya is used for
the avidya but from the totality point- ‘Iswara’.  He does not have
avidya – He has a power mAya and he is not engulfed by mAya.  In the
realization, all ( Iswara, mAya, jiiva, etc)  resolve into one
‘advaitam’ that I am – This is the essence of Mandukya.   

AS: Shankara disposes of one question, viz., what is the relationship
between the Self and Avidya, saying that it is indeterminable.  His
assertion is this --
Avidya is a knowable entity only, and the relationship between the
(the witnessing Self) and Avidya cannot be known. We know that Avidya is
knowable, which is why we perceive this world of duality. Thus, we
the first half of the assertion.

KS: There cannot be any relationship between the self and avidya.  From
absolute point there is nothing other than self – this will be discussed
when we analyze the ‘turiiyam’.   This is from Paaramaarthika point.

All explanations are only at the level of vyavahaara- including avidya,
mAya, Iswara, jiiva, world etc.  Now the discussion is at vyavahaara
level.Relation involves two things. Existence of two things is only at
the level of vyavahaara. 

‘Avidya’ is not a knowable entity.  It is lack of knowledge of oneself. 
If I say I am ignorant of Chemistry – is it lack of knowledge of
chemistry that I become aware of or is it a positive entity of ignorance
that I am aware of.  – In Sanskrit this is discussed as ‘bhaava ruupa’
or ‘abhaava ruupa’.  

That which exists can never cease to exist – says Krishna.  If ignorance
exists then it remains forever.  Therefore even the ‘ignorance’ is also
a notion, and that is why it drops itself when the knowledge is gained.
Ignorance is knowable entity only in the relative sense that “I am aware
of the lack of knowledge of chemistry or aatma, etc..’ – that is ‘I know
that I do not know.’  I also know what I know.  Hence, both ‘knowns’ and
unknowns’ are known. There are relative.   What is my relationship with
knowns and unknowns? – I am a knower, subject with respect the knowns,
the objects. However, I am neither the subject nor the object –
pramAta-prameya vilaxanam – and this is the central theme of Mandukya,
which we will unravel slowly.

A.S:  For the second half, if we assume the
relationship between the knower and Avidya can be known, then there
the following infinite regress, which is unacceptable (Why it is
unacceptable, I am not sure. For me, infinite regress does not look so
How? Since we have perceived the knower (because we have perceived the
knower and Avidya), we have made the knower a knowable object, which
necessitates positing the existence of a meta-knower which can cognize
the knower and Avidya. And we then drop down into an infinite regress
we enquire about the relationship between the meta-knower and Avidya.
the only safe conclusion we can draw is that Avidya is necessarily only
knowable entity. If then Avidya belongs to the realm of the knowable,
the question arises if the knower perceives defective objects veiled by
Avidya. The idea is that the knower just IS, the notion that something
being cognized by the knower (for example, a cow being perceived) is
only a
figurative notion ascribed to the Self by the Mind (of which Manas,
Ahamkara, Chitta are the constituents). And of course, this mind is
itself a
product of Avidya.

KS:  All these confusions and dialectic arguments arise only when one is
not clear about the truth of Vedanta.   Avidya being of the nature of
ignorance cannot be known, since it is not a positive entity that can be
known and analyzed. Any explanation and analysis of avidya is within
avidya only.  When the truth is known, there is no avidya to be
analyzed.  Hence Shankara aptly says it is anirvachaniiyam, in
explicable.  Why I am seeing a snake when it is rope? If I ask, you will
say – you do not know that it is a rope and because of the ignorance of
rope you are seeking a snake.  How and when did this ignorance of rope
started for me and what is the nature of this ignorance of rope? What is
my relationship with my ‘rope-ignorance’? Is there a scriptural pramaaNa
that I have this ignorance of the rope?

 Do I really need any ‘pramaaNa’ to prove that I have ignorance of rope
when I am seeing snake where there is a rope?   What would be your
answers to all these? There are many things in the world that are
anirvachaniiyam – did egg come first or  chicken first? Is it not an
‘infinite regress problem’? 
The problem lies in the fact that any explanation itself is with in the
realm of avidya.  When the truth is realized, all these notions also
drop out along with the notion that ‘I was ignorant’.  Any analysis of
‘ignorance’ is ultimately futile since it involves ignorance- says
Shankara.  Any explanation ( obviously in the realm of intellect which
itself is a product of ignorance) itself is out come of ignorance. Hence
the statement – it is anirvachaniiyam since its existence itself is
questionable from the absolute point.   

If we were to draw a very rough representation, it would look something

        knower (the witnessing Self) --> Realm of Avidya
                                                --> Mind and the

KS:  Even the concept of ‘witness’ is within the real of avidya. I am
beyond all these dualities. It helps to start with to with draw from
that which is witnessed.  But ultimatly I have transend all
realtionships included witness-witnessed. 

Avidya involves ‘not knowing that I am infinite’ because of which I
project myself as I am finite’  - Not knowing the rope as rope is one
aspect – projecting that it is a snake is the second aspect.  Cause for
both is essentially not knowing the truth as truth. The fact that I do
not know the truth as truth is evident from the fact that I take myself
as finite while the Scripture shows me that I am that Brahman which is
infinite – tat tvam asi.  How can I the infinite became finite – it can
never become since that is mathematically absurd.  It is only a notion
in my  mind that I am finite – and that is ignorance. The fact that I,
being sat chit ananda, take my self to be mortal, ignorant and unhappy. 
This is obvious since I am longing for that absolute uninterrupted
happiness that I am. If I am finite I cannot become infinite.  However,
if I am infinite and take myself to be finite then ignorance is the only
problem and knowledge of my true nature eliminates this ignorance.  

AS: Here are my questions based on the above premises:
-- When the distinction between the Self and the products of ignorance
the mind and the external world has been made as mentioned above, why
retain this distinction eternally?

KS.:  All distinctions are part of the same ignorance.  They all drop
out with the awakening of the knowledge. Hence the deeper analysis of
dream state about which similar questions can be raised by a dreamer but
all get resolved in awakening. Hope these aspects become clear when we
examine the Mandukya closely. 

In fact, this seems to me to be exactly the VishishthAdvaitic position
-- a
Self that permeates a body (made of lesser chetanas and jada padarthas.
details of what makes up this body might be different, but the idea is
one independent Self permeates the rest of the dependent world).
Instead, in
Advaita Vedanta, the Self is made the substrate for even the mind and
external world. Is this done to reconcile some statements of the
-- In the BruhadAranyaka Upanishad, the Self is identified by the
process of
Neti-Neti. From above, we rule out entities like the mind, the external
world, and then arrive at the nature of the Self. This seems to support
"VishishthAdvaitic" (my understanding of it above) position that the
Self is
"something" distinct from the world we are in.

KS – We do not rule out any thing in advaita – we include all things as
nothing but Brahman.  I am there in all of them and all of them are in
me – look at my glory Arjuna. ‘ yo maam pasyati sarvatra and sarvanca
mayi pasyati’.
‘sarva bhuutastam aatmaanam sarva bhuutaanica aatmani’ who sees oneself
in all and all in oneself – he alone is jnaani. VishishhTaadvaita is
based on visheShana-visheShaya sambandha.  Bhagavaan Ramanuja raises
seven untenables against  avidya concept of advaita in his ‘Shree
Bhaashhya’.  All the questions that you have raised are there in that. 
There is a book by Dr. John Grimes as part of his Ph.D thesis on this
topic. Excellent book to study.  I have addressed some of these issues
in my book - whenever it is published. 

AS: If my understanding is correct, what could be a plausible notion of
Iswara? If the mind were to posit an Iswara to explain the external
world, I
do not see much difference from the Naiyyayika position which posits an
Isvara to explain the regularity and order in this world. But the
of the Purva Mimamsakas that regularity doesn't necessarily imply an
(in the Naiyyayika sense) holds. In fact, I see a very good analogy with
intelligent design (Naiyyayikas) and Evolution (the refutation of the
Mimamsakas). Thus, this definition of an Isvara seems unsatisfactory to
-- Another definition of Isvara could be the witnessing Self as
perceived by
the Mind. This is satisfactory for me. But as I pointed out earlier, the
notion of the Self taking Avatars and being interested in the affairs of
human world doesn't make much sense in this framework. Hence the
what is the definition of Isvara?

KS: Krishna defines Iswara in the seventh and ninth chapters of Gita and
discusses his vibhuutis in the 10th chapter.   Scriptures are the only
pramaaNa for these.  
Hari OM!

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