[Advaita-l] FW: definition and criteria of Truth (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Jul 31 17:45:07 CDT 2010

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Subhanu Saxena

Guy Werlings wrote:

I should like to know what is shrii BhagavatpAda's definition of Truth and
what are his criteria of Truth.


Bonjour Guy!


What a pleasure after hearing from you after a long time.


I would point you to the obvious place which is Taittiriya Upanishad
Bhashyam II.i.1 where Shankara defines Satyam as follows:


Satyam iti yadrūpeṇa yannischitam tadrūpam na vyabhicharati, tat satyam.
Ato vikāro’nritam “vāchārambhaṇam vikāro nāmadheyam mrittiketyeva satyam”
evam “sadeva satyam” ityavadhāraṇāt. Atah satyam brahmeti brahma vikārān
nivartayati [TUB II.i.1]


So, for satyam, that is satyam, true , when it does not change its
ascertained nature. That which is unreal (anrita) changes (its nature), as
in “this is all wordplay of name and form, the earth alone is true” [Ch
VI.i.4] and “that alone is true which really exists” [Ch VI.ii.1]. So the
phrase “satyam brahma, Brahman is truth” distinguishes Brahman from those
entities which undergo modification (ie that which is unreal)


In case you have access to it, I would also recommend you look carefully at
Suresvara’s vartika on this bhashyam as he expands on a number of important
points. It will be too long to go into many verses, but some key verses are
given below.


We find the following important points covered in this particular section
of the vartika:


·         The sadhana that creates the right conditions for knowledge ,
starting from nityakarmas (TUBV II.6 and onwards very much an echo of N.S

·         How the method of Vedanta is to reveal the Brahman via
adhyāropa-apavāda prakriyā (TUBV II.18)

·         How as a result, the instruction only has utility if we have
already made the distinction between atman and anatman

·         How therefore even saying that we attain knowledge is itself

·         And that the term satyam itself is only indicating the highest
truth, for the method is to eliminate all that is untruth so that truth
remains by itself, ever present, ever unchanging

·         Having said that, we take Brahman is the only reality and is that
which never changes its nature, all else as anatman is unreal, being only
notionally separate. Because our bondage is notional, because our ignorance
is notional (and not a real entity), it can be removed through knowledge,
as the only impediment to our gaining knowledge once we have created the
right conditions in us is that we have not known atman (na vedmi TUBV

·         It is therefore futile to try and establish a cause of avidya or
establish its presence through pramāṇas (TUBV 176-177), as time and
causation themselves are within the purvue of ignorance

·         As Brahman is the only reality, notions of causation are purely
from the standpoint of adhyāropa, since time itself is avidyāmātram


Some verses from the vartika are given below to illustrate the above:


Koshapratyakpraveshena pürvapürvaprahāṇatah ।

kārakādiniṣedhena hyupāyo brahmavedane ॥ [TUBV II.18]


The means of knowing Brahman consists of abandoning one after the other 
(the five koshas) , in rejecting the instruments of action and in passing
inwards through the 5 sheaths (koshas)

Evam vibhajyamāam sat satyamityevam ādibhih ।

svavisheṣaviruddhebhyo dharmibhyah syānnirākritam ॥ [TUBV II.47]


Being thus qualified by words such as “satyam” Brahman stands distinguished
from all other entities qualified by attributes as opposed to its own


Jnānādasatyādyucchitterāatmano’nyatra vidyate ।

Tasmādvipashchidbrahmabhyām kāmān sarvān sahāshnute ॥ [TUBV II.119]


When the unreal is removed through knowledge, there exists nothing other
than Atman. So the knower of of Brahman enjoys all desires simultaneously
(note the clever rephrasing of the original Upanishad mantra sō̄’shnute
sarvān kāmā̄̄n saha)



Kālātrayasyāvidyāyāh samutthānādahetutā ।

Karmavedeshvarādīnām ata evānimittatā ॥ [TUBV II.147]


Time which is threefold cannot be the cause for the world because it comes
into being from avidya. For this same reason karma, deity and Isvara cannot
be the cause


It is interesting to note 3 important points which we find ever present in
Suresvara’s writings: first, as time and notions of cause are themselves
under the clutches of avidya it is futile to postulate a cause for our
ignorance as the very question is infused with the same ignorance. Second
to the extent Suresvara provisionally refers to causality he always refers
to nimitta-naimittika bhāva as opposed to upādāna-upāeya bhāva. Third,
Suresvara is consistent  in affirming that since the world is anatman, a
non-entity, its cause as ignorance is purely of this nimitta-naimittika
bhāva from not knowing Atman through lack of critical reflection without
the need to postulate a positive entity to have caused this world. So, we


Na jānāmītyavidyaikā’nityā tatkāraṇam matā ।

Svaprasiddhyaiva sā sidhyennishaulūkīva vāsare ॥ [TUBV II.176]



Avidya of the form “I do not know” which is impermanent is considered as
the cause thereof. It is self-established like the night (is self
established to) the owl by day (note the echo of N.S I.1
svatahsiddhādvitīyātmanavabodha whose cause is lack of critical reflection

I hope you find the above useful, and that you are able to read this
magnificent vartika text in full for yourself as there is so much I have
missed out (in TUBV II near the beginning, we see the analogy of the 10th
man, in verse 23 the charming description of how scripture prompts a person
towards liberation not attainable through any other means than knowledge
like a mother prompting a child to drink medicine with faith so that the
top-knot  ‘shikha’ will grow ‘shikhā te vardhate vatsa..’, and much more).
There is an English translation by J.M Van Boetzelaer.

If any list members are aware of any projects to bring Suresvara’s works
online, or if they are already available, then I would be interested to
know more



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