[Advaita-l] A vichara on 'Attributes and substantive'

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Apr 17 07:01:37 CDT 2010

ShrIgurubhhyo namaH


*Attributes = qualities of an 'object' like the red colour of a rose, soft
petals, thorny stalk, pleasant smell, , even the weight of 2 grams, the size
of ....cms, dimensions,  the date on which it blossomed, the garden where it
flowered etc.

*Substantive = the 'object' rose that has the above attributes.

*Supposing i have listed 'everything' that i can say/talk/think about a rose
flower and have nothing more to say.  All that i have 'said' and perhaps not
said owing to the inadequacy of the instruments/pramanas at my disposal,
comes under 'attributes' only and what is the 'rose' apart from these

*Ah! there is one thing that i did not include in the list of 'attributes',
and that is '(the rose) Is, It Exists'.  Is this 'existence' an object of
perception? If it is, what is/are its attribute/s?  Is it possible to
perceive with senses something that has no attributes at all whatsoever and
yet report to another person that 'I saw/felt/tasted/smelt/heard xxxxx'?

*Is it possible to talk about any 'object' without referring to its

*See also: Sri Shankaracharya's Gitabhashya II.16 (na asato..) bhashya last
portion on sad vichara. A fine input for this topic.*

*I have a candle with me.  The candle has these attributes: 1. Wax moulded
in a cylindrical shape. 2. It is 6 inches long and 2 Cms. Round.  3.  There
is a white wick running thru the length of the candle. 4.  The candle is red
coloured.** *

*Apart from this there are no physical properties I can enumerate with my
layman’s knowledge.  Now, among the four attributes named above, what and
where is the ‘candle’?  Certainly, the wax is not the candle, nor the wick
by itself.  So with the other attributes too.  Yet, we use the word
‘candle’.  Supposing I separate the above parts and keep them apart. Where
is the candle there?  Is it not that apart from using the word 'candle' we
are not able to show a candle? What we are showing, even when the above four
items are put together in a particular fashion, are only the four items and
not a candle.  Where did the ‘candle’ come from?  Is there a ‘candle’ in
concrete terms available for us to examine and show to others apart from the
above four items?  There is a stubborn fellow with me who refuses to agree
with me that it is a candle.  He argues vehemently that I am only holding
the above four and insisting it is a candle.  He spells out the above four
items and asks me to show the ‘candle’. He says despite my saying ‘look,
here is a candle’, what the eyes perceive is only the group of the above
four things and not a ‘candle’.

*If we examine the above four items individually, again we are going to end
up with the same situation alone.  Apart from the word ‘candle’ where is the
‘thing’ candle?  Surely a case of ‘vAchArambhaNam vikAro nAmadheyam…..’.  This
Shruti says, with regard to every ‘object’ we are using just a name but are
not able to substantiate it with a real object.  When the material/parts
with which an ‘object’ (just a name) is made, assembled, disintegrate, there
is no object to call by that name. A bicycle can be an example.  In a
pot,  when
we are touching it, weighing it, buying/selling it, using it, etc. all along
we are only doing all these to the clay only and not to the pot.  Pot is
just a name for clay in a particular shape.  The fate of clay too is the
same when examined further.  Ultimately we will have to end up with Sat,
Existence, Brahman.  Everything in the world is just a name for the real
content that is Brahman.  Apart from the name there is nothing other than
Brahman in the object/World.      *

*The names are different for different ‘objects’.  But without this
‘arrangement’ that has come into being, 'naisargiko ayam loka vyavahAraH',
as per the Preamble to the B.S.B. of Sri Shankaracharya, no vyavahara can
take place.  But the Shruti/Gita will not leave us to continue like this.  It
shows us, thru vichara, that this is not the Paramartha.  Thus we have the
VAchAramBhana shruti of the Chandogya, the Gita verse IV,24 ‘BrahmArpaNam
Brahma haviH’…. Etc.  In this shloka, the arpaNam, havis, agni, the
oblation-giver, the goal intended thru the oblation are the ‘different’
names for different ‘objects’.  But the one common appendage, ‘attribute’
that is added to all these names is ‘Brahman’.  That is how the Gita negates
the vyavahAric, unenquired-into usage of mere names and shows that the One
Real Object that is intended to be denoted by all, the ignorant and the
wise, is Brahman.  Fortunately, this Brahman is not an ‘object’ but the very
subject who can never be denied.  The Panchakoshaviveka of the Taittiriya
makes this realization possible that the subject in truth is the
attributeless, name-free, unnamable Sat Chit Ananda.  In this viveka, the
Upanishad takes up one after the other, all the five sheaths, that are the
attributes of a ‘person’.  After exhausting all the attributes we are left
with nothing to ‘talk’ about that person.  Only silence remains.  This is
the experience of the aspirant Bhrigu in that Upanishad.  This shows that
apart from the attributes there is no ‘object’.  Is it then a void,
shoonyataa?  No, there is the undeniable Existence Sat, the Chit.  Since
this is beyond words, as this Upanishad itself teaches, no talking is
possible.  No attributes are there for It.

*Interestingly, the examination of every ‘object’ in creation as well as the
examiner, the subject, leads to the same result: The One Ultimate Truth is
Sat.  Thus the subject is Sat and the object is Sat.  The two names subject
and object die out being redundant and only Sat alone remains.  This is the
Adviteeya Brahman.

*Let us consider another example, a spoon.  What is a spoon other than a
metallic contrivance with a handle and a scoop?  Can we ‘see’ a spoon apart
from the said attribute?  No one, not even the Supreme Lord, the Sarvajna,
Sarvashakta, Bhagavan Sri Hari can show us a spoon; He can at best show us
what is ‘called a spoon’ but not a spoon.  This statement might sound
blasphemous and a Bhagavad Bhakta is bound to get furious upon hearing such
an affirmation.  But there is no reason for worry.

*When it is impossible for even Bhagavan to show us even a ‘spoon’, how is
it that we successfully ‘conceive’, ‘perceive’ and transact all things,
atomic and astronomic? [‘aNorNeeyAn mahato maheeyAn’ conveys that the
substratum of the superimposed world of varied sizes is Brahman.] There is a
power, the Shakti called MaayA that makes this impossible possible!!  That
is why Sri Shankaracharya called it ‘aghaTita ghaTanaa paTeeyasee MaayA’ in
His ‘MaayA-panchakam’, a pentad on the ‘glory’ of MaayA. *

*The Enquiry into the truth of objects is not complete without the enquiry
of the truth behind the instruments, the very sense organs, that ‘show’ us
the objects.  These sense organs are themselves objects and their truth is
also the same as that of the objects they perceive.  Such is the complex,
treacherous, matrix woven by MaayA that not only there is delusion
pertaining to the perceived objects but we are deluded into thinking that
the organs that perceive them too are real, valid, dependable.  The preamble
to the Brahmasutra Bhashya touches upon this aspect too.

*Despite this total invasion by mAyA, we have no reason to worry about the
Lord’s Supremacy.  For, is it not His icchA, His sportful desire, that the
world of objects appear to us to be real? By His own icchA He can bring
about its eradication too. BhagavAn’s mAya is otherwise termed as icchA.  The
aspirant who is more bhakti oriented wishes to see it as His icchA.  The one
given to enquiry predominantly sees it as His mAyA.  That is all the
difference.  Bhagavadicchaa and BhagavanmAyA are synonyms for the same

*The Lord has the weapon to eradicate this affliction of mAyA.  That weapon
is His infinite compassion that has given expression to in the form of the
Shruti, the ShAstra.  The shAstra is the shastra, weapon. This weapon, the
Sword of Discriminative Knowledge, as for example, taught in the Chandogya
Upanishad VI Chapter, ‘vAchArambhanam….’ with three illustrations, teaches
that the effect, that is visible to us as object, is insubstantial and the
substance is only the cause.  The Cause of the World is Brahman and That
Alone is Real, ‘mRttiketyeva satyam’.  The effect, the world (of objects,
more precisely, the subject-object duality), is unreal, being nothing other
than the names that denote it. The ‘hollowness’, the emptiness, of the world
once determined through the viveka taught by the Shruti, one becomes freed
from the clutches of mAyA.  That is why the Lord said in the Gita: daivee
hyeShA guNamayee mama mAyA duratyayA.  mAmeva ye prapadyante mAyAmetAm
taranti te.  [This divine mAyaa of Mine, consisting of guNas, is extremely
difficult to overcome.  Whoever surrenders to Me, the Lord of mAyaa, turning
away from the world, succeeds in fording the terrible mAyA.]

Om Tat Sat

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