[Advaita-l] nirguNa / nirvisheSha

Amuthan aparyap at gmail.com
Sun Jun 14 13:05:00 CDT 2009

Hello Ramesh,
  I think there are some problems with your interpretation of
nirviSesha and nirguNa. You wrote:

On Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 8:27 PM, Ramesh Krishnamurthy<rkmurthy at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

This is a simple logical error. If nirguNa is interpreted like this,
it would be impossible to find a word to describe an entity that has
no guNa-s at all. When interpreting words like nirguNa, one has to
make a distinction between the grammatical meaning of the word and the
specialized sense in which it used within the framework of a
philosophical system. Since your interpretation is trivially invalid
in the former sense, lets look at it from the point of view of its
usage within vedAnta. When statements to the effect that the Self is
nirviSesha are made, the understanding is that every specific quality
is negated for the Self. In other words, name any quality, and the
Self is free of that. Note that the self having all the viSesha-s at
once is very different from having no viSesha-s at all. And not having
any viSesha is _not_ to be interpreted as a viSesha by itself. It is
simply an absence of viSesha-s. It is not correct to equate a complete
negation of all viSesha-s with the union of all possible viSesha-s.
When the upanishad-s proclaim, 'yatra nAnyatpaSyati nAnyat-SRNoti...',
one cannot arbitrarily interpret this to mean 'yatra sarvaM paSyati,
sarvaM SRNoti...'.

All talk of nirguNa/saguNa happens in vyavahAra and their meanings are
naturally (by construction) opposite. This does not imply that nirguNa
is 'limited' by saguNa. What are mutually limiting are the 'meanings'
of nirguNa and saguNa in your mind. Your comparison between nirguNa
and saguNa is not between the entities that are nirguNa and saguNa,
but between the cittavRtti-s that form the content or meaning of those
terms. So there is no actual contradiction and no limitations like the
ones you describe. To give an analogy, suppose that you see a movie on
a white screen. Whether the movie is played or not, the screen remains
as it is. It is of course the case that you don't see the white screen
when you see the movie. When the movie is played, the whiteness
disappears and when the movie isn't played, you see the white screen.
Does that mean that the fact that the screen is devoid of any pictures
is affected by your anubhava of seeing pictures on it? As a more
relevant analogy, the caitanya of a yogi in the state of asampraj~nAta
samAdhi is nirviSesha. It doesn't _become_ nirviSesha. All the
viSesha-s are removed by his effort in nirodha and the natural state
of the mind as being nirviSesha remains. In asampraj~nAta samAdhi,
there is no experience of any viSesha - not to mention any experience
inclusive of all viSesha-s. There is simply no viSesha - thats all.
This nirviSesha caitanya is not in any way 'limited' by the experience
of viSesha-s when he comes out of samAdhi. It is viSesha vij~nAna that
arises and sets as long as avidyA is not destroyed while the svarUpa
of caitanya is _always_ nirviSesha - in the literal sense of the term.

Having said this, it is also the case that a jIvanmukta's experience
is that there is nothing in the universe that is apart from him. This
all encompassing experience is also saviSesha - not nirviSesha. It is
also anitya since it is only dehAvasAna paryanta for him. All
anubhava-s are uniformly mithyA since they are saviSesha. And
nirviSesha in its core sense means viSesha-rahita and in this sense
alone is viSesha-mukta.


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