[Advaita-l] BhAvarUpa ajnAna/avidya Part 6 (6) Concluded

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Mar 19 00:21:13 CDT 2010

The objection of SSS that mUlAvidya is admitted as a ‘second entity’ to
Brahman is untenable. MUlAvidyA enjoys the same status of jnAna abhAva of
SSS. Admitting a jnAna abhava as the cause of adhyasa places SSS on the same
objection of positing a second entity to Brahman even before adhyAsa has
taken place. SSS cannot point out this defect in admitting mUlAvidya while
jnAna abhAva is not free of this ‘defect’. Nor have the Advaita Acharyas
admitted mulAvidyA as a second entity. It is only a temporary ‘adhyAropa’
(deliberate superimposition) made by the shAstra so as to explain the
adhyAsa. The ‘apavAda’ (negation of what was deliberately superimposed
earlier) of this comes in the manner of: na nirodho na chotpattiH…etc. where
creation, dissolution, bondage, liberation, a person bound and one liberated
are all negated from the absolute standpoint.

In the Bhagavadgita the Lord has delineated the kshetram known also as
aparaa-prakRti in the 13th and 7th chapters.  He has detailed what
constitutes PrakRiti.  On more than one occasion He has said ‘It is My
prakRti/mAya.  Shankaracharya does not make a distinction between prakRti
kArya and avidya/ajnAna kArya.  The Lord has himself detailed what the
prakriti kArya is as we have already quoted in the foregoing.  Now, after
talking about avidya/ajnana/prakRti as a bhAvarUpa entity that we have
discussed elaborately above, the Lord in the last verse of the 13th chapter
says: भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च (the (knowledge of) the non-existence of
bhUtaprakRti.)  Shankara has commented that this word means:
avidyAlakShaNaa,  and its abhAvagamana. He says that the Jnani realizes that
this prakRuti, avidya, avyakta, is non-existent.

Now, if Bhagavan were to have meant the PrakRti to be a ‘second entity’ to
Brahman, as real as Brahman, His subsequent teaching of the non-existence of
Prakriti would be meaningless.  This shows that even according to the Lord
the PrakRti, avidya, avyaktaa, ajnana, is only a temporary acceptance, an
adhyArOpa, but definitely bhAvarUpa, for the purpose of bandha-moksha
vyavahaara.  The apavaada comes in the 13.34 verse were the ‘abhAvagamana’
of prakrti is taught.  Thus there is no defect of ‘admitting a second
absolutely real entity apart from Brahman’ if avidya/ajnana is admitted as
bhAvarUpa.  Such a charge would be untenable and be directed against both
the Lord and Shankaracharya.  Hence, the correct, blemishless, logical,
scripture-friendly, experience-friendly and above all
vidvadanubhava-certified position is: ajnAna/avidya is bhaavarUpa.

In order to understand the inevitable ‘bhAvarupa’ status of mUlAvidya or
jnAna abhAva, we shall consider this illustration:

We use the term ‘poverty’. This can be looked at as a malady producing
several undesirable effects like malnutrition, poor sanitation, epidemic,
lack of basic education, and so on. We can also look at ‘poverty’ as ‘lack
of money or resources’. When it comes to eradicating poverty, the most
natural course would be to ‘acquire money or resources’. For, any correction
that could be done on the front of malnutrition, epidemics, sanitation, etc.
will presuppose pumping in the required money or resources. Now, for
addressing the situation, the cause, that is, ‘lack of money’ we admit that
it ‘exists.’ It would be impossible to address the problem if ‘lack of
money’ is said to be a negative or non-entity. Yet, once the necessary money
has been acquired, the ‘lack of money’ that ‘existed’, no longer exists now.

Similar is the situation we have on hand regarding the cause preceding
adhyAsa. MUlAvdiya or jnAna abhAva has to be necessarily admitted to be an
‘existing’ (BhAva rUpa) entity. It cannot be a non-entity like a hare’s
horn. Yet, once Self knowledge dawns, this ‘lack of knowledge’ as SSS has
termed it, will no longer exist. And what is the kind of knowledge that the
Jnani acquires? It is of the kind: ‘I never was ignorant, I never was a
samsArin….’. This Knowledge will be so clear to him that he knows that he
was, is and ever will be the Secondless Brahman. So, where is the question
of ‘Brahman being shattered to pieces’ just because a bhAvarUpa mUla- avidya
or jnAna abhava was admitted temporarily? Even this jnAni did address the
mUlAvidya and only then became a jAnin. If he had debated that mUlAvidyA
cannot be an existent entity, he would never have succeeded in annihilating

This statement of SSS requires close examination:

// The reality of the not-self (*anAtman) *follows necessarily from its not
being *adhyAsa, *superimposed.//

If SSS contends that the ‘bhAvarUpa mUlAvidyA’ is a ‘real’ entity in the
sense that it is not a superimposed entity, and therefore not anAtmaa, what
is the status of the ‘jnAnAbhAva’ or ‘lack of knowledge’ that SSS has
proposed as a condition existing prior to adhyAsa?  Is it anAtmA or not?  If
it is anAtmA, how can it be a causal entity even before adhyAsa occurs? If
it is Atma, how is it different from the un-superimposed Atma of the
Vedanta? In reply if SSS says that it is neither atmA nor anAtmaa, then it
is essentially in the category of sad-asad-vilakshana.  This is exactly the
status of the bhAvarUpa mUlAvidyaa.  Thus, it is impossible to differentiate
the ‘jnAnAbhAva’ proposed by SSS from the ‘bhAvarUpa  mUlAvidyA’.

The ‘other name’ of mUlAvidyA is jnAna abhAva. By choosing to give a
different name to a cause that precedes adhyAsa, SSS has not succeeded in
changing the character of the bhAvarUpa mUlAvidyA. It is settled beyond
doubt and disputation that mUlAvidyA and jnAna abhAva of SSS are just two
names to denote the same entity. The two terms are like the words ‘jalam’
and ‘udakam’ used in Sanskrit to denote water.
A synopsys

·        The terms ‘ajnAna’ and ‘avidyA’ are synonyms; they mean the same
condition that obtains during samsara, as the cause of samsara.

·        It is of an existent nature, bhAvarUpa.

·        It is not of a non-existent nature, ‘abhAvarUpa’ since such an
entity cannot be a cause of anything.

·        The Shruti, SmRti and bhAShya are the authorities that teach that
avidyA, the cause of samsara, is a bhAvarUpa entity.

·        The term ‘jnAnAbhAva’ in Shankara’s BrihadaraNyaka Upanishad
Bhashya definition of ‘ajnAna’ is only a substitute for the term ‘agrahaNa’
that He has used while giving out the definition of avidyA in the Gita

·        The ‘abhAvarUpa jnAnAbhAva’ proposed by SSS is devoid of logical,
scriptural and shAnkara-bhAShya support.

·        There is absolutely no difference between the ‘jnaanAbhAva’
proposed by SSS and the ‘bhAvarUpa mUlAvidya’ espoused by the Vedantins of
the ShAnkara sampradAya.

   -   The 'jnAnAbhAvaH' formulation of SSS is not conducive for the
   'अध्यारोप-अपवादः’ method of Vedanta.  This is because the

             'adhyAropaH' of Avidya/ajnAna admitted in the Bhagavadgita, for
instance, has to be a bhAvarUpa entity.  The 'apavAdaH'
              of this avidya/ajnana is also admitted in the Bhagavadgita,
for instance, in the last verse of the 13th chapter.
          Only a bhAvapadaartha can be a candidate for 'adhyAropa'; it is
impossible to superimpose, deliberately, an abhAva
              vastu.  Siince this is not possible the subsequent apavAda is
also impossible.



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