[Advaita-l] The Treatment of Avidya in Advaita - Part 1

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Apr 30 07:11:23 CDT 2010

On Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 6:09 PM, Bhaskar YR <bhaskar.yr at in.abb.com> wrote:

> praNAms
> Hare Krishna
> I was about to write a reply to one of your earlier posts...but this one
> is appeared instantly in my mail box which requires an immediate attention
> :-))
> Savithri Madam said:
> I would say the sUtra prasthAna has more authority on the meaning of
> avidya/adhyAsa than the possible different meanings in the different
> upanishads from different rishis at different times.
> >  Yes, it is because, shankara has dedicated one whole chapter as an
> introduction and taken all the pain to explain what exactly is this
> avidyA/adhyAsa is...did you notice such an elaborated notes anywhere else
> in prasthAna trayi bhAshya apart from adhyAsa bhAshya??  Please note,
> unlike your contention (and others ofcourse) shankara here does not give
> us even an iota of expression to call avidyA is anirvachaneeya & adhyAsa
> has the upAdAna kAraNa in the form of avidyA which is jadAtmaka & jnAna
> virOdhi...

Dear Bhaskar ji,

Gold  takes  the form of  bangle, chain and ring.  Supposing I write an
article  on a chain of gold, does that  warrant the conclusion that  gold
can be *only  a chain *and nothing else?

The Acharya has stated in the most unambiguous terms in the Gita bhashya
13th chapter that Avidya  manifests in *three  different* forms: agrahana,
vipareeta grahana and samshaya.  A variation of this is stated by Him in the
Br.Up.Bhashya using the word ajnAna.  In the prelude to the Brahma sutra,
stating the samsara  kaaranam,  He has deliberated on *just one of the three
forms of Avidya.*  This does not warrant the jettisoning of the other
bhashya vakyas on Avidya and its three different forms  to facilitate the
shortsighted view of avidya = adhyasa alone.

There is quite evidently a difference of understanding of the above status
of avidya among the followers of SSS.  Bhaskar ji had been vehemently
arguing, as is Madam Savithri now, that avidya means only adhyasa.  When the
other bhashya vakyas proving the contrary were continuously highlighted,
Bhaskar ji has now taken a retreat in his stand and admitted that 'avidya is
adhyasa also'.

The Acharya has not chosen to delve on the cause of adhyAsa in the
'tametam..' vaakya since He has already stated that in no uncertain terms in
the beginning of the preamble:  मिथ्याज्ञाननिमित्तः.  By this term the
Acharya has given the cause of adhyAsa: ajnAna which is mithyA,
anirvachaneeya, sadasad vilakshana.  This is the upAdaana kAraNa for
adhyAsa.  This is jaDaatmika since it is viShaya for the Atma (Gita bhasya
13.2).  It is jnAnavirodhi in the sense that it succeeds in subduing the
svarUpa jnAnam by its aavaraNashakti.  The vikshepashakti of this mithyA
ajnAna is what is called 'adhyAsa'.

> For this I showed that there is no  conflict in the meaning of
> avidya/adhyasa and therefore there is no need to call in the authority of
> the Nyaya prasthana to decide on this.
> >  that is your opinion and you are welcome to express your opinion
> prabhuji..but fact remains that adhyAsa bhAshya is the ONLY elaborated
> source in shankara's prasthAna trayi bhAshya to understand the real nature
> of avidyA/adhyAsa.

You are mistaken.  There are several places where adhyAsa is given a fairly
good treatment.  Mandukya kArikas are an indisputable source for this.

> And to say that this prasthana is not to be held as the ultimate one, I
> quoted the mantra on the Mandukya.
> > this is exactly where you erred & quoted out of context maNdUkya..when
> we are talking about tamaH you are giving the reference about prakAsha
> :-))

You are wrong.  The preamble to the Brahmasutra bhashya is NOT a document on
bandha alone; it is indisputably an exegesis of bandha and moksha.
Immediately after the (SSS favorite) sentence: .... एवंलक्षणमध्यासं पण्डिताः
अविद्येति मन्यन्ते, the Acharya specifies the avidyAvirodhi, namely the
viveka jnAna that dispells this bandha kAraNa: तद्विवेकेन च
वस्तुस्वरूपावधारणं विद्यामाहुः. Thus, in one breath, the Acharya talks about
bandha AND moksha disproving the erroneous view that the 'adhyasa bhashya'
talks about/highlights bandha alone and reiterating the fact that in Vedanta
the discussion of bandha and moksha are not disparate.

Subsequent to the above sentences, in several other places, repeatedly the
Acharya is contrasting the condition of adhyasa from the adhyasa-free state
in explicit sentences.  Again, a very famous vaakya there is: न
वेदान्तवेद्यं अशनायाद्यतीतं अपेतब्रह्मक्षत्रादिभेदं असंसार्यात्मतत्त्वं
....This is a very clear teaching of the moksha svarUpa.  He goes on to talk
of the anyonya adhyasa thereby making the bandha-moksha svarUpa an
inseparable feature of the discussion. Bandha svarupa cannot be taught
without contrasting it with moksha svarUpa.

There is absolutely no justification to claim that the adhyAsa bhaashya is a
'specialized treatment of avidya' warranting the consigning of the other
ShAnkaran comprehensive definitions of avidya to the garbage bin.  An
analysis as shown in the Article by taking ALL the significant sentences of
the Acharya on Avidya reveals the weak ground on which the SSS understanding
of 'avidya is adhyasa alone' is founded.  For those who demand the prasthana
traya bhashya vaakya for any and every concept of Vedanta that is not
palatable to them, here is a glaring instance of the flip-flop where the
very prasthana traya bhashya is mercilessly cut up and the unwanted,
uncomfortable, portions thrown away.

> And since you came up with an irrelevant objection, I showed the last
> lines of the adhyasa bhashya to prove that the
> context is avidya nivritti throu atma jnana, which is the virodhi of
> avidya
> and resulting in moksha prapti.
> >  how relevant is your quote about mOksha prApti when the vishaya of the
> discussion is all about bandha!!?? you decide yourself..

I have shown the relevance, not with my words, but with the very sentences
of the Acharya, and that too, from that very document to prove that your
contention is baseless.

> This is the meaning given by the Acharya for the nirvachana of the word
> 'Upanishad'.
> >  I dont think sAvitri mAtAji talking about the importance of shAstra
> here to make you to show her the importance of shAstra!! ...As per my
> understanding (sAvitri mAtAji, correct me if I am wrong) she is trying to
> show you that shankara in adhyAsa bhAshya saying mutual superimposition is
> the anarthahetu and Atmaikatva jnAna (self knowledge) would remove this!!
> See, once again here her intention is to show you how adhyAsa is NOTHING
> but avidyA..this is not an effort to belittle the importance of shAstra
> nor a talk about means for liberation...It is onceagain quite obvious that
> you have completely misunderstood her intention in quoting that bhAshya
> vAkya & you have comfortably quoted totally irrelevant mAndUkya quote.

Your complete misunderstanding of the entire discussion and the very purport
of the preamble to the BSB is now there for all to see.

> Also note that when the Acharya is making this statement: "asyAnarthahetoH
> prahANAya .....' His intention is
> NOT to decide upon the meaning of avidya/adhyasa.
> >  yes, because shankara has explained in this very bhAshya itself that
> adhyAsa is avidyA..

By that Shankara is NOT saying that Avidya is not agrahana and samshaya.
Your averment puts you in the danger of accusing the Acharya of
contradicting Himself when He says one thing in the adhyAsa bhashya and
quite another in the Gita and Br.Up and Mandukya bhashyas.

> He wants us to note that the superimposition is the cause of smsara. To
> quote this sentence completely out of its true context of bandhaaat
> jnaanena mokshaH, and erroneously take it as a support for avidya =
> adhyasa is the folly of some people.
> >  Despite bhagavatpAda's clear cut clarification in this bhAshya itself
> i.e. avidyA=adhyAsa, some people are too funny to float their pet theories
> on avidyA..

Everyone can now see whose theory is floating, only to sink very soon.

> This is exactly what I have discussed in my article and shown is not the
> case : //the term avidyA mainly used in prasthAna
> trayi bhAshya as adhyAsa only//
> >  My dear prabhuji, please note this is the reply to your article
> only...if your article resulting in doubts in the minds of readers..then it
> is not fool proof & it is not an universally acceptable theory..

Thank you for placing my article in the company of the Upanishads and the
Brahma sutras and the Acharya's Bhashya-s thereon.  For, is it not a fact
that the proliferation of schools opposed to Advaita as also within Advaita
has its ground in the 'doubts' that the Upanishads, etc. have generated?
The Brahmasutras themselves have for their subject matter a  number of
doubts in understanding the Upanishadic passages apparently contradicting
each other.  The Acharya's Bhashyas have become the source of doubts that
has resulted in so much of heated discussion.  Above all, SSS's book:
'Shankara, the most misunderstood...' is evidence to show that the Bhashya
is misunderstood by SSS himself. How many post-ShAnkaran schools we have -
the Bhamati, the VivaraNa, the Holenarasipur, etc.

So, my article is not alone in this. And you have questioned the fool-proof
status of the Upanishads and the Acharya's bhashyas by your logic: A
document that generates doubts in its readers is not to be regarded as fool
proof and not universally acceptable.  What a great service you have
rendered to the Veda parampara and the Acharya!!

By making a comment on my Article, you have unwittingly commented on the
comprehending capacity of Savithri Madam.  For, has she not ended up with
'doubts' after reading my Article according to you?

> When you read the article and the discussion that followed correctly you
> will realize how absurd & out of context your objection is!!!
> >  my objection to your out of scope quote is valid since you are yet to
> justify your quote with regard to 'liberation ' when the context is all
> about 'bandha' & 'bandha' svarUpa...

You have now seen the 'justification' for your out of scope comments.

> Like this you have quoted so many bhAshyA vAkya-s out of context to prove
> avidyA is not mAyA... I will not waste time to take all those bhAshya
> vAkya-s in detail to prove how those quotes are hardly near to your
> contention i.e. avidyA=adhyasa, avidya is not maya, etc.
> >  Nice try prabhuji, I used this style while countering dvaitins in
> vAdAvaLi group :-)) keep trying prabhuji :-))
> Please let this forum know what is the SSS-understanding of the term
> 'samskaara vashaat' of Brahma sutra 4.1.15.  Your effort in this direction
> would be much more fruitful.
> >  in short saMskAra vashAta does not mean traces of avidyA as you want to
> see in Sri SSS interpretation..

You have not told me  SSS's interpretation of *samskAra vashaat*, if at all
he has one. Nobody so far has given me the reply to my question: What does
SSS understand by the above term in the Bhashya?  It is his and not his
followers' interpretation that I am looking for.

> .If a switched off fan is still revolving it is not because of 'traces' of
> electricity!!  if that is the case, no doubt you are going to get shock!!! I
> have explained this with another
> example :'jihvA chApalya' in my earlier mail..

The Acharya and Sureshwrara have not left us in the want of analogies to
understand the 'bAdhita mithyAjnAna anuvRtti'; we have  several of them:
double-moon, released arrow, chakra bhramaNa.  Your analogies do not add
anything to our understanding of the concept which is quite clear with the
analogies already available.  In fact, your 'fan rotating and jihvA
chaapalya' examples miserably militate against what you are contending: the
persistence of samskara.

> More you can expect when my time permits :-)) Till that time atleast stop
> interpreting prArabdha karma
> = avidyA lesha, saMskAra vashAt=avidyAlesha etc. etc.

While you have no interpretation at all to provide to counter the above, you
> have no right to ask me to stop giving these interpretations.  In my
> considered opinion, the term 'samskAra vashAt' of the Bhashya is a 'thorn in
> the flesh' for the SSS school.  In Kannada it is expressed as: ನುಂಗಲಾರದ
> ತುತ್ತು. The 'samskAra vashaat' cannot be given any meaning that is other
> than the one given by the avidya lesha people.  The बाधितमिथ्याज्ञान
> अनुवृत्ति is impossible to be explained in any manner other than that of
> Shankara with the analogy of the double-moon vision due to samskaara.
> Accusing the avidyalesha poeple of admitting a 'remnant' of avidya in a
> Jnani is an accusation against the Acharya for His admitting the continuing
> of the mithyAjnAna in a Jnani.  If SSS has 'no problem with this position'
> as Shri Subhanu ji puts it, it is tantamount to SSS tacitly admitting what
> the avidya lesha people say. The recent post of Shri Subhanu ji has not
> provided any clue to SSS's understanding of this term.

You were the one who fought against prAradha karma.  Now you have admitted
it;  a move in the right direction.  I have noticed SSS's discomfiture with
the Bhashya vaakya-s on prArabdha.  He strains himself so awfully to
provide  footnotes to tell people that 'this position is based on the *
possibility* that the body could remain for some time to experience the
praarabdha...But in reality the Jnani's state is altogether free from....'
Why all this circus?  Where has Shankara even remotely suggested that the
acceptance of prArabdha is conditional and the Jnani's state is something
'different'?  SSS' s footnote for the Bhashya sentence: 'prArabdha is
inevitable for the Jnani' in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.14.2 is a glaring
evidence, apart from the ones for BSB 4.1. 15.  He moves heaven and earth
grouping all prarabdha-sutras and shruti vaakyas to somehow impose his
personal (mis)understanding of the Vedanta and misinterpreting the Bhashya
on his readers, misleading them pitifully.  Shankara never gives even a hint
anywhere in the prasthAna traya bhAshya to warrant such an erroneous

> Best regards,
> subrahmanian.v

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