[Advaita-l] VedaprAmANya in Advaita - 2 (concluded)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Apr 2 01:37:25 CDT 2010

‘Existence’ of Brahman and ‘svarUpa’ of Brahman

 One should make a difference between the knowledge of the ‘existence’ of
Brahman and the knowledge of the ‘svarUpa’, essential nature, of Brahman.  To
accomplish both of these, the only pramaaNa, valid means of knowing, is the
Veda alone.  Pratyaksha and anumAna cannot establish the existence,
‘astitva’, of Brahman.  Towards this end words, vaak, can work. The Veda
itself says, for example –

’यतो वा इमानि भूतानि जायन्ते, येन जातानि जीवन्ति तद्विजिज्ञासस्व
तद्ब्रह्मेति ’ (Taittiriya Up.)

’असन्नेव स भवति असद्ब्रह्मेति वेद चेत्, अस्ति ब्रह्मेति चेद्वेद सन्तमेनं ततो
विदुरिति’ (Taittiriya Up.)

’अस्तीत्येव उपलब्धव्यः...’ (KaTthopanishad)

These words of the Veda definitely teach us the ‘existence’ of Brahman.  That
way, वाग्व्यापारः is possible in this respect.

However, when it comes to knowing the ‘svarUpa’ of Brahman, the use of words
is given up.  The Veda itself teaches this too, as already quoted by
Shankaracharya in the foregoing -

‘यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते..’ (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.9)

अन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि (केनोपनिषत् १.३) ‘It is other than the known
and above the unknown’.

न तत्र वाग्गच्छति (KenopaniShat)’words to not reach It’.

The above are some of the Vedic passages that teach the ‘अवाच्यत्वम्’,
’अशब्दत्वम्’ of Brahman.  For this reason, the Veda does not cease to be a

Veda the only pramANa even in our getting to know the svarUpa of Brahman

The Veda does this in a very ingenious manner.  We have already seen above
that there is no शब्दप्रवृत्तिनिमित्तत्वम् , scope for use of words, in
respect of denoting Brahman for the reason that Brahman is not a member of
any species, not a doer of any act, not attributed and not related to
anything.  It is only in these four spheres can one use words to denote an

In the view of the Vedanta, samsara is characterized by taking Brahman,
erroneously, to be the world and the body-mind complex.  The samsari, jiva,
encounters the world and knows the world only through names and forms.  This
brings the four criteria explained in the previous paragraph within the
range of the world.  The entire world can be fitted into these four
criteria.  Conversely, these four criteria succeed in ‘describing’ the
world.  And this is enough for sAmsAric existence.

Since the Veda is the only pramANa to know about the svarUpa of Brahman,
knowing / realizing which alone results in freedom from samsAra, the Veda
uses the method of ‘teaching’ the svarUpa of Brahman by words that are
characterized by negating what all is encountered by us in the world.  While
we encounter ‘this’ and ‘that’, specifying a name and attributing a form,
the Veda teaches ‘not this’, ‘not this’ नेति, नेति (Br.Up.4.4.22).  When we
say ‘this is a tree’, the Veda teaches, ‘this is not Brahman’.  We have
conceptions of stout, lean, short, long, etc. The Veda teaches Brahman is
‘not stout, not lean, not short, not long’ etc.  ’अस्थूलं, अनणु, अह्रस्वं,

By using words that are directed at negating any attribute, any action, any
membership in a species, any relationship, with respect to Brahman, the Veda
indicates to us what Brahman ’is not’.  How about words like सत्यं ज्ञानं
अनन्तं ब्रह्म? Even here, the words are only negations of their opposites.  We
have conceptions like असत्यं, जडं, परिच्छिन्नं, etc in the world.  The Veda
teaches Brahman is not these.

Shankaracharya puts the above idea in His own words

In the bhashya for the Mandukya Karika 2.32 Shankaracharya says:

तस्मान्निर्विशेष एव आत्मनि सुखित्वादयो विशेषाः कल्पिताः । यत्तु
असुखित्वादिशास्त्रम् आत्मनस्तत्सुखित्वादि-विशेषनिवृत्त्यर्थमेवेति सिद्धम् ।
’सिद्धं  तु निवर्तकत्वात्’ इति आगमविदां सूत्रम् ।

[Therefore, it is in the attributeless Self that the distinct
characteristics of ‘being happy, miserable, intelligent, dull, healthy,
ailing ’ etc. are imagined.  And as for the scriptural texts speaking of the
absence of happiness etc. in the Self, it is proved that they are merely
meant to remove the specific ideas of happiness etc. from It.  And in
support of this is the aphorism of those who are versed in the meaning of
scriptures: ‘The validity of the scriptures is derived from their negation
of positive qualities from the Self.’

Clarifies Anandagiri : उक्तेऽर्थे द्रविडाचार्यसम्मतिमाह – सिद्धान्त्विति ।
ब्रह्मणि पदानां व्युत्पत्त्यभावेऽपि सिद्धमेव शास्त्रप्रामाण्यम्,
अभावबोधननञ्पदसंसृष्टैः स्थूलादिव्युत्पन्नपदैः स्वाभाविकद्वैताभावबोधनेन
अध्यस्तनिवर्तकत्वादिति सूत्रार्थः ।

  ’सिद्धं  तु निवर्तकत्वात्’ – This is a quotation from DravidAchArya.  The
idea is this: Though words may not have any positive meaning with regard to
Brahman, the validity of the scripture is well established; for the words,
that are associated with negation and are well known as denoting the absence
of qualities, eliminate all duality from the Self. ‘
 A Synopsis

   - The Veda is the Only PramaaNa in respect of knowledge of Brahman
   - The ‘Existence’ of Brahman is known only through the Veda
   - The ‘svarUpa’ of Brahman is also known only through the Veda
   - According to the Veda, Brahman is beyond words
   - By saying so, the Veda does not mean that it ceases to be a pramANa
   - The Veda is indeed the pramANa by teaching the svarUpa of Brahman
   through words that negate all that has been superimposed as the svarUpa of
   - This is by means of words like: नेति नेति, अस्थूलं, अनणु, अह्रस्वं ,
   अदृश्यं, अनात्म्यम्, अनिलयनं, अनिरुक्तं , अभयं, अजरं, अमरं, अमृतं,
   अपाणिपादं, अचक्षुः, अश्रोत्रं, नैव स्त्री, न पुमान्, न नपुंसकः, etc.
   - These are terms that are certainly not taught by any other shAstram
   about Brahman; *the Veda alone teaches us about Brahman through these
   - By using such words the Veda does not specify Brahman the way jAti,
   kriyA, guNa or sambandha specifies a person or object in the world.
   - In this way, even though Brahman is
    (not a candidate fit for words being used), the Veda succeeds in
   conveying to us what Brahman is in truth.
   - Thus, the Veda alone says ‘Brahman Exists’
   - The Veda alone says: Brahman is avaachyam, ashabdam, avaaggocharam
   - The Veda alone teaches Brahman thru नेति, नेति, etc.

In this manner there is no contradiction in 1. Holding Veda as the pramANa  2.
Holding Brahman as avAchyam/ashabdam and 2. Resorting to the Veda alone to
know the svarUpa of Brahman.  The Veda is free from the defect of
contradicting itself.

ओम् तत् सत्


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