[Advaita-l] Advaita vEdAnta - Unit (16)

Krishnamurthy Ramakrishna puttakrishna at verizon.net
Wed Feb 21 11:14:51 CST 2007

In Unit 15, we started with the understanding of Brahman; we reviewed the
vishEShaNa , vishEShya relationship.

In this Unit, we will review the lakShaNas that help us understand Brahman.


The lakShaNas (characteristics) of Brahman are described by

" satyam jnyAnam anantam brahma"- Brahman is of the characteristics of real,
consciousness and infinite (taittirIya upanishad, 2.1.1).


Brahman is satya = Brahman is real.

The kArya is a variation in name and form; the essence only belongs to the
kAraNa. The variation of form in kArya is not there before the kArya,
appears during the period of kArya and disappears again when the kArya
dissolves. However the upAdAna kAraNa of kArya always maintains its svarUpa
(clay or gold). So we conclude that kArya is asatya (unreal) and kAraNa is
satya (real).

" yat rUpENa yat nischitam tat rUpam na vyabhicharati tat satyam - Once an
object known in a form always maintains that form is real.

" yat rUpENa yat nischitam tat rUpam vyabhicharat tat anritam " - An object
once known in one form, fails to present in that form always, is unreal.

So jagat as kArya is unreal; Brahman as kAraNa is Real. This is the first
lakShaNa separating Brahman from jIva.


Brahman is jnyAnam = Brahman is of the nature of consciousness.

By the statement that Brahman is the kAraNa for jagat. Jagat is jaDa and so
could Brahman be jaDa? However, we know that jaDA cannot be the intelligent
cause (nimitta). As much as we know this, in the context of the lakShaNa, we
need to separate out Brahman from all the objects that are jaDa. For this we
need to identify a characteristic of Brahman that separates it out from all

When we use the word jnyAna in the context of knowledge, we may say the
knowledge of pot, knowledge of cloth etc. Such knowledge varies from object
to object. In deep sleep, there is no pot, no cloth; therefore there is no
knowledge of pot, cloth or any object. Therefore the knowledge of pot or
cloth is unreal; being unreal, object knowledge is opposed to Brahman which
is of the nature of real. The jnyAna of Brahman must also be real for it to
be a lakShaNa (to be separate), which therefore precludes pot knowledge,
cloth knowledge etc. as consciousness; these are vritti jnyAna or mode of
mind. The distinction between vritti jnyAna and knowledge can be understood
as follows.


The intellect perceives the knowledge of pot, cloth etc. These are
distinctive knowledge, specific to the pot, cloth respectively. This vritti
jnyAna or mode of mind is a specific attribute of the object like pot or
cloth. The pot, cloth etc. are substantive (vishEShya) and the specific
knowledge of pot cloth etc. are attributive knowledge (vishEShaNa). The
attributive knowledge is unreal because the pot, cloth etc. appear and or
disappear from time to time (without substantive, there cannot be attribute
knowledge). So when Shruti declares that Brahman is knowledge
(Consciousness), it cannot be the vritti jnyAna, because Brahman is real;
the consciousness that is described in the shruti is the attributive to the
substantive Brahman, which is Real.

During deep sleep, there is no pot, no cloth etc. So there cannot be any
attributes; only consciousness prevails (we will study this later in the
study of jIva- the three states). So when unreal attributes are separated,
the remaining reality to be distinguished is the knowledge being described
here. This knowledge is not absolutely jaDa. It is of the nature of
consciousness. This is the second lakShaNa of Brahman separating Brahman
from jIva. Brahman is consciousness is reinforced in the following gIta

"nAsatO vidyatE bhAvO nAbhAvO vidyatE satah

ubhayOrapi drishTo antah tvanayOh tatva darshibhih " - The unreal has no
existence and the real has no non-existence. The final truth of these two,
have been experienced by the knower of the truth. The knower of a truth is
one who has directly experienced the final truth, which is a direct
perception and not a hearsay.


 Brahman being of the nature of consciousness and not jaDa, it also
establishes that the knowledge is one and only one; knowledge cannot be
multiple. There is no meaning in saying that one knowledge perceives another
knowledge. Knowledge being of the nature of perception, everything else is


Brahman is ananta = Brahman is limitless.

Brahman being Real, is different from all kArya or effects. Brahman being of
the nature of consciousness, is different from jaDa. Now there is the jIva
who is neither kArya nor jaDa. So if Brahman is shown to be different from
jIva, then we have separated Brahman from everything else, for which we have
to focus on the lakShaNa which separates Brahman from the jIvas. The
scriptures call Brahman as anantha or limitless.

This is established as follows. In understanding the layers of jagat, the
jIva is the knower, the objects of jagat are the known, and what the jIva
has achieved is the knowledge. In this triad of knowledge, knower and known,
each is different from the other and no one can pervade the other two. This
is the limiting characteristic of jIva. Brahman is not affected by such
limiting characteristic, because the knower, known and knowledge are one and
the same in (not different from) Brahman (Statement 2. --- jIva is not
different from Brahman; Brahman is different from jIva ).

The limiting characteristic may be seen in space, time, or object. Limited
in space is fairly evident, when we notice boundaries of the object. Being a
kArya, the object is time limited - nonexistent before creation and after
death. Object limited is obvious, because a wall is not door or vice versa.
Brahman is not affected by any of these limiting factors. It being material
cause for space, which is limitless, Brahman is limitless in space. Since
Brahman is not a kArya, is not time limited. Brahman being material cause
for all objects, it is not object limited. Therefore Brahman is Ananta or
limitless is the third lakShaNa that separates it from jIva. We can now make
another statement

Nothing Other than Brahman exists; But Brahman is different from all ---
Statement 4.

The three lakShaNas - satya (real), jnyAna (consciousness) and ananta
(limitless) separate Brahman from the jIvas.


Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).



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