[Advaita-l] BhAvarUpa ajnAna/avidya Part 5

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 18 20:19:58 CDT 2010

From the above it is clear that SSS admits of an ignorance presupposing
adhyAsa. It is also clear, from the concluding remarks above, that SSS has,
erroneously, equated the bhAvarUpa status of mUlAvidyA with the Reality of
Brahman. He says that accepting a condition of ignorance prior to
superimposition is *a logical presupposition, a necessary implication of
thought. *What prevents him from extending this privilege of logical
necessity to the Acharyas who have found it necessary to posit a condition
preceding adhyAsa and naming it ‘mUlAvidyA’? It would be pertinent to
examine how and in what ways is the *‘want of knowledge’ or ‘jnAna
abhAva’*as his followers term it, is different in kind from the
mUlAvidyA that SSS
opposes vehemently.

Let us take a look at what the BhAmati says on what this ‘want of knowledge’

प्रत्यगात्मनि खलु अत्यन्तविविक्ते बुद्ध्यादिभ्य: बुद्ध्यादिभेदाग्रहनिमित्तो
बुद्ध्याद्यात्मत्वतद्धार्माध्यास:। तत्र श्रवणमननादिभि: यद्विवेकविज्ञानं तेन
विवेकाग्रहे निवर्तिते, अध्यासापबाधात्मकं वस्तुस्वरूपावधारणं विद्या
चिदात्मरूपं स्वरूपे व्यवतिष्ठते इत्यर्थ:।

The above means: When the Innermost Self is so very distinct from the
non-Atman, there arises an adhyAsa owing to non-discrimination of the Self
from the non-Self. When taking recourse to scriptural study, contemplation
etc. there arises the right discriminative knowledge and through that the
elimination of the non-discriminative ignorance, the right knowledge
pertaining to the Real Thing, vastu, gets established in the person.

Again, a little later, says the Bhaamati: सत्यानृते मिथुनीकृत्य
विवेकाग्रहादध्यास: (by the admixture of the real and the unreal, owing to
non-discrimination, there arises adhyAsa.)

The BhAmatI terms this pre-adhyAsa condition as ‘viveka agrahaH’ (non
discriminative insight). The Mandukya kArikA calls this ‘tattva agrahaNam’.
Shankara calls this ‘agrahaNa’. SSS calls this very same entity: jnAna
abhAvaH. These are only different names for mUlAvidyA. When we look at this
term ‘mUlA avidyA’ we find that those who began using this term too perhaps
recognized ‘avidyA’ to be adhyAsaa alone as SSS has done. They only
qualified it by adding the word mUlA to mean the ‘root’, ‘seed’ or ‘root’ of
adhyAsa. SSS has only put it in another fashion: lack of knowledge.

It is amply clear that the condition of ‘want of knowledge’ that has to
prevail prior to adhyAsa is not an eternally real entity such as Brahman.
Why do we say so? The fact that right knowledge destroys that *a
priori*condition is itself the proof of its not being of an eternal
nature. Hence,
mUlAvidyA, in other words, the jnAna abhAva, that is admitted, as a logical
necessity, as existing prior to adhyAsa, is no threat to Brahman so as to
‘shatter Brahman to pieces’. Brahman is ever adviteeya, without a second.
The admitting, temporarily, of a mUlAvidyA or jnAna abhAva, will not bring
any harm to the One Only nature of Brahman. That is the reason why Shankara
calls it ‘mithyAjnAna nimittaH’ in the first sentence of the preamble to the
Brahmasutra bhashya. The manner in which this compound word is split by the
traditional acharyas, ‘mithyA cha tad ajnAnam’, is perfectly in order and
does not militate against the jnAna abhava concept of SSS. The ‘jnana
abhava’ too is not an eternally real entity. It is to be admitted even by
SSS to be annihilated once the Right Knowledge arises. It is exactly this
phenomenon that makes mUlAvidya or JnAna abhava a bhAva rUpa entity. If this
is not admitted, even the jnAna abhAva will enter the category of atyanta
abhAva, a negative entity, a non-entity, like a vandhyAputra or shasha
viShANa, a barren woman’s son or a hare’s horn. What is wrong in it being
so? The problem is this: Even in imparting training in the use of weapons, a
dummy enemy/target is used on which the weapon is applied. Without a
target/object, it is impossible to use a weapon, even for training purposes.
The trainee does not use the weapon in the wilderness. So too, to use the
weapon of Atma Jnana, there has to be an ‘existing’ avidya. If it is abhAva,
there is no way I can use the Atma Jnana weapon. Surely SSS would not want
this to happen. Therefore, the categorization of mUlAvidya, like jnAna
abhAva, as bhAva rUpa, a positive entity, is perfectly in order and also
saves SSS’s formulation of an अभावरूप-ज्ञानाभावः from the defect of being
akin to a vandhyaaputraH. Otherwise, GaudapAdacharya and Shankaracharya will
have to be faulted for placing Brahman at the risk of being ‘shattered to
pieces’ by their admitting mUlAvidya or jnAna abhava, although by another
name: tattva agrahaNa.

(To be continued in Part 6)

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