[Advaita-l] nirguNa / nirvisheSha

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Fri Jun 12 09:57:47 CDT 2009


I was debating the issue of nirguNa/nirvisheSha with someone and
thought of sending this post to the group, primarily as a sort of
manana exercise so that one may learn from the comments of various
list members.

Any philosophy is meaningful only so long as it accommodates anubhava,
in the sense that it must not be opposed to anubhava. Therefore, when
we use terms such as nirguNa or nirvisheSha, the understanding must be
such that it is not opposed to the world of experience but only
sublates the latter.

In other words, nirguNa must not be opposed to the presence of guNa-s.
If there is such an opposition, nirguNa would become the dualistic
opposite of saguNa - when saguNa comes, nirguNa goes and vice-versa.
Where there is guNa, there would be no nirguNa and vice-versa. Thus,
being limited by the presence of guNa-s, it would effectively become a
kind of saguNa in its own right - an oxymoron.

Therefore, nirguNa in the vedAntic sense implies freedom from (or
transcendence of) guNa-s rather than absence of guNa-s. nirguNa
implies "guNa mukta" rather than "guNa rahita" - the freedom from
guNa-s must necessarily include the freedom to take on any and all
guNa-s. Another way to understand this is that absence of a particular
guNa implies the presence of its dualistic opposite. True freedom from
guNa-s requires freedom from both the opposing guNa-s, which
effectively implies the freedom to **include** both the opposing
guNa-s. Only such a nirguNa can imply true non-duality.

Similarly, one may consider the usage of the word non-duality or
advaita. advaita is not opposed to dvaita, but inheres in and through
dvaita. If advaita were opposed to dvaita, then dvaita would have to
go for advaita to come and vice-versa, leading to a duality of dvaita
& advaita.

To understand advaita, one must recognize that dvaita itself includes
the entire field of opposites, such as tall/short,
coloured/colourless, known/unknown, empirical being/non-being, etc. To
make advaita itself an opposite to dvaita would (as mentioned above)
lead to a duality of dvaita and advaita and make jIvanmukti

Therefore, we say that the tree, the rock and the person are all
brahman, but (nirguNa) brahman is not specifically any of these while
simultaneously being all of these. This is because while brahman is
free from tree-ness, rock-ness and person-ness, etc it is also
simultaneously free from non-tree-ness, non-rock-ness,
non-person-ness.and so on.

Comments invited from the list vidvAn-s.

santoṣaḥ paramo lābhaḥ satsaṅgaḥ paramā gatiḥ I
vicāraḥ paramaṁ jñānaṁ śamo hi paramaṁ sukham II
- Yoga Vāsiṣṭha

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