[Advaita-l] An Advaitin's Reply to a Dvaita objection

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Apr 24 04:36:49 CDT 2010


Here is an objection against Advaita from the Dvaita school:

// On Advatin epistemology :
There is a very long section in Vadiraja's book about the refutation of
Advatin epistemology; i am just posting one point of his in this connection.

 *[Comments Vadiraja]:The procedure we will use here strikes at the heart of
the Illusionist's retaliatory formula. This procedure of ours invalidates
the vyahvarika position of the Illusionists and establishes the ultimate
reality of the world appearance by using the very method which they use on
others. Who could fail to admire this procedure of ours, which in the end
only disposes of this method of the Illusionists. ...

 *... Moreover, the Substrate-Consciousness would see the pot after having
"superimposed" on the pot a sharing of its nature with it. If not, your guru
would be angry.*

Comment on above by Stafford Betty: *In the introduction to his Commentary
on the Vedanta sutra, Sankara [the guru of all Advaitins] says that the
"real" and the "Unreal" have "superimposed upon each the characterestic
nature and the attributes of the other." Vadiraja lets his opponent know
that he expects him to adhere closely to this orthodox Non-dualist
teaching--or "your guru would get angry." *
 *[Vadiraja will now, as usual, make excellent use of this doctrine to
reduce his adversary's position to adversity]:

Comments Vadiraja: *In that case the thought "I am the pot" would be like
the thought "I am fair skinned," and the soul abiding within the body should
observe, "I am the pot". Why then does that soul act as if it were thinking,
"I perceive the pot?"*

Comment on above by Stafford Betty: *Non-dualists, he says, hold that the
body, mind, etc. is superimposed on the Substrate-Consciousness just as
objects like pots are. So why, he asks, should consciousness say on one
occasion, "I am fair skinned" of the body superimposed on it, but not say "I
am the pot" of the pot superimposed on it? After all, one superimposition is
like another. So why in the second case does Consciousness say "I perceive
the pot" rather than "I am the pot?" And why, moreover, does it act not as
if it were the pot, but as if it saw the pot? This is just one more
illogicality in the adversary's position.

*(sourced from: )*

*An Advaitin's response to the above:*

Illustration 1

In a dream I find myself in a busy mall. There are a number of people doing
business. I meet a friend there and we chat for a brief while. I notice a
flower vase made of ebony and ask the price. (End of the dream).

In the dream, all the dream persons, objects, talks, etc. are made of one
material: the dream material which is consciousness. Certainly no artisan of
the waking world put an ebony vase there in the dream. The people are not of
the flesh and blood of the waking. The entire mall is of no weight, for it
was in my mind alone. If it was really made of brick, mortar and steel of
the waking, I the dreamer lying on my bed, would have been crushed by its

The illustration brings to the fore the fact that despite the entire variety
of dream objects/people being made up of the same material: consciousness,
yet it is perfectly possible to have the ‘I’- feeling with respect to one
body, ‘he/she’- feeling with respect to the other bodies and ‘it’- feeling
with regard to the inert objects.

Illustration 2

Supposing there is an expert in making wax models. He has in his stock a
variety of models of vegetables, fruits, etc. It is evening time and
suddenly there is a power failure. He finds his candle and lights it and
there is light sufficient for his activity.

Now, even though the models and the candle are of the same material: wax,
yet in order to give light it is the candle that is needed and not any of
the fruit/vegetable models. Why is this so? It is because it is only the
candle that has a specific cylindrical/conical shape and a wick running thru
it. This unique feature is absent in the other wax objects he has.

Similarly, despite the fact that the body and the pot are of the same
material in a superimposition, yet, it is the body alone that qualifies to
be the object of the feeling: ‘I am fair-skinned’. the ‘iI can arise only in
the body/mind as even though these are made of the five elements, they alone
have the unique capacity of reflecting, pratibimba, the consciousness of the
atman/self. This feature is absent in the pot even though it is also made of
the elements. This is the reason for the jiva getting the feeling of ‘I’ in
the body/mind complex alone and not in the pot. The body/mind identification
is expressed as: ‘I am the perceiver of the pot’. There is no feeling ‘I am
the pot’ because the pot cannot capture the reflection of the consciousness
just as the body/mind does.

The reason for this dichotomy is the presence of ignorance in the jiva. It
is because of ignorance the jiva identifies with just the body/mind and sees
every other person/object as different from himself. This is the cause of
bondage, samsara. The ‘I’ becomes the experiencer of joy/sorrow and the
‘this’, the objective world, becomes the experienced. The objective world,
when interacted with by the jiva, generates joy or sorrow. This is what
samsara is.

The Upanishads teach that this distinction should go and the means for this
is obtaining the knowledge that ‘I am all, everything, there is none other
than me.’ ‘aham Brahma asmi’ (I am Brahman, the All).

Quite unwittingly Sri Vadiraja has pointed out, as a defect, what is
actually the ideal situation that the Upanishad/Advaita teach as the mark of
freedom from bondage. The Taittiriya Upanishad iii chapter contains the
expression of joy of the truth-knowing person: ‘aham annam, aham annam……aham
annaado….etc. (I am the food and the eater of the food) The universal vision
that the aspirant gains affords no room for any difference whatsoever and
that is the realization that destroys all distinction, 'VAsudevaH sarvam'.
This makes the earlier notion of difference between ‘I’ and the ‘pot’ an
erroneous one, now replaced by ‘I am the all’ . The ‘inert’ food (pot) is
also experienced to be consciousness in truth.

Thus it can be seen that there is no illogicality in (1) not getting the
feeling of ‘I’ in the pot and getting it only with respect to the body/mind
(in a superimposition) and (2) ultimately, when the superimposition is gone,
getting the feeling of ‘I’ in everything, sentient and insentient.


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