[Advaita-l] Avidya part 5

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 15 12:45:00 CDT 2010

We continue to examine the Sutrabhashya of Shankara where-in we find different aspects related to Maya or Avidya and the effects thereof discussed.

In the following excerpt Shankara emphasizes that this Maya shakti while intrinsic to Brahman never has any sparsha or touch or contact with Brahman.

BSB 1.4.6
For as long as Avidya remains yavad avidya na nivartate, so long the soul is affected with definite attributes taavad dharmaadigocharatvam jeevasya jeevatvam cha na nivartate, but as soon as Avidya comes to an end, the soul is one with the highest Self, tannivrttau tu prajna eva as is taught by such scriptural texts as 'Thou art that.' But whether Avidya be active or inactive - na cha avidyavattve tadapagame cha vastuna kaschid sheshesti- no difference is made thereby in the thing itself. 

What is interesting here is that he talks about the persistence and the sibsequent eradication of this avidya while affirming that in and through both scenarios, the vastu Brahman never undergoes any transformation whatsoever.

He follows this up with the famous rope/snake analogy and explains that while a man may, in the dark, mistake a piece of rope lying on the ground for a snake, and run away from it, frightened and trembling; thereon another man may tell him, 'Do not be afraid, it is only a rope, not a snake;' and he may then dismiss the fear caused by the imagined snake, and stop running - but all the while - the presence and subsequent absence of his erroneous notion, natvahibuddhikale tadapagamakaale cha - (as to the rope being a snake) make no difference whatever in the rope itself. 

Now we take up another objection that Shankara has the interlocutor bring up -
"You say Brahman is Eternal and Changeless. No transformation is possible. We accept that. But you are saying Brahman us the Cause of the world. And this world is by it's very nature ever-changing. In fact change is the very nature of the world and hence alone it's associated multivariate dimensions of name and form. It is like saying from a block of white clear ice streams of water which are red green and yellow emerge. Even if we allow you this incredulous hypothesis for the sake of argument, is it not reasonable Sir that when these waters resorb back into Ice that they "stain" that ice with their respective colors?"  

Shankara provides the answer why.

BSB 2.1.9
The objection that the effect when being reabsorbed into its cause would inquinate the latter with its qualities does not damage our position 'because there are parallel instances,' i. e. because there are instances of effects not inquinating with their qualities the causes into which they are reabsorbed. Things, for instance, made of clay, such as pots, which in their state of separate existence are of various descriptions, do not, when they are reabsorbed into their original matter (i.e. clay), impart to the latter their individual qualities; nor do golden ornaments impart their individual qualities to their elementary material, i. e. gold, into which they may finally be reabsorbed. 

Shankara is here taking the Upanisadic examples of clay and pot and gold and ornaments to explain that when mithya resolves into satyam there is no physical resolution - the mithya aspects are ever in name and form only, and thus when a necklace resolves into its original gold there is no "necklaceness" that ends up contaminating the substratum gold. Further =

As the magician mayavi is not at any time affected trshvapi kaleshu na samsprshyate by the magical illusion produced by himself svayam prasaritaya mayaya, because it is unreal avastutvat, so the highest Self evam Paramatmapi is not affected by the world-illusion
 Samsaramayaya... For that the highest Self Paramatmano appears in those three states avasthatraya  is a mere illusion atmana avabhasanam, not more substantial than the snake for which the rope is mistaken in the twilight. With reference to this point teachers knowing the true tradition of the Vedânta have made the following declaration, 'When the individual soul which is held in the bonds of slumber by the beginningless Maya awakes, then it knows the eternal, sleepless, dreamless non-duality' (Gaudap. Ka. I, 16). Thus we have shown that--on our doctrine--there is no danger of the cause being affected at the time of reabsorption by the qualities of the effect, such as grossness and the like."
Shankara thus shows that it is only because of the deep slumber induced by Ishwara's Maya shakti that the One Nondual Atman appears to be a jiva subject to three states.

Not satisfied the purvapakshin continues - how then again, would the verisame diversity reemerge - in other words, how do you postulate such diverse streams of multicolored water will reemerge with the unbroken continuity of color and form from what has now resumed its amorphous homogeneity.

Answers Shankara:
--With regard to the second objection, viz. that if we assume all distinctions to pass (at the time of reabsorption) into the state of non-distinction there would be no special reason for the origin of a new world affected with distinctions, we likewise refer to the supporting illustration - drshantabhavadeva. As in deep sleep and samadhi - sushupti samadhyadavapi - though in these states also there is a natural eradicastion of differences svabhavikyamavibhagapraptau; nevertheless, owing to the persistence of unreal ignorance mithyajnanasyaanapoditattvat poorvavatpunah prabodhe vibhago bhavati, differences re-establish themselves upon waking up, similarly also it can happen here. Compare the scriptural passage, 'All these creatures when they have become merged in the True, know not that they are merged in the True. Whatever these creatures are here, whether a lion, or a wolf, or a boar, or a worm, or a midge, or a gnat, or a mosquito, that they become
 again' (Ch. Up. VI, 9, 2; 3) 

For just as during the subsistence of the world the phenomenon of multifarious distinct existence vibhagavyavahara, based on unreal ignorance mithyajnanapratibaddhau, proceeds unimpeded like the vision of a dream svapnavadavyahatah, although there is only one Supreme Self devoid of all distinction avibhagepi Paramatmani; so, we conclude, there remains, even after reabsorption, a power of diversification vibhagashakti founded on unreal nescience mithyajnanapratibaddhaiva.--Herewith the objection that--according to our doctrine--even the finally released souls would be born again is already disposed of. For in their case unreal nescience stands eradicated mithyajnanasyapoditatvat by full illumination samyag jnanena.

Thus we find that Shankara once again asserts here that even after Pralaya when there is a temporary disoolution of differences, the latent potential or Shakti for these verisame to reemerge is very much latent. It is only when this seed potential has been extinguished by samyag Jnana that those jivas obtain release, and there is no possibility of their obtaining any rebirth. It is important to note here in this context that were such erroneous knowledge to simply be absence of knowledge with no specific cause, there could be no particular reason for the reemergence of jivas - or even of Srshti. It is only because of the existence during the period of the Cosmic dissolution of the Mayashkti - which here is termed the latent power of diversification.

We will examine a very crucial passage of this section of the sutrabhashya next which elaborates on cause and affect.

Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyo namah


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