[Advaita-l] Yato vaaco nivartante - limitations of literary criticism as a method of vedanta

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sun Mar 21 02:28:53 CDT 2010

On Sun, Mar 21, 2010 at 11:23 AM, Siva Senani Nori <sivasenani at yahoo.com>wrote:

> sarvebhyo namah
> The Sruti and smritis say that Brahman is beyond the grasp of vaak, speech.
> This is due to the inherent, structural limitations of language - and the
> whole set of silent assumptions that pre-suppose the use of language. A
> sentence is supposed to have a subject (karta), an object (karma) and a verb
> (kriya); one which does not have these distinctions is not correct. However
> when Brahman - which is all the three - is involved, so the ordinary rules
> of language break down when dealing with Brahman. Then we have two choices -
> being silent as Brahman is beyond vaak, or using language, however imperfect
> it is, to discuss Brahman. Since the first does not help those covered by
> avidyA to break free, the latter is followed. All the while one is supposed
> to know the structural limitations of language.
> For instance we take the Sruti vaakya 'tat aikshata bahusyaam iti', meaning
> 'That desired to be many', that is, Brahman wanted to be many. A literary
> analysis will start by saying, "a word of action, a verb, is used", and
> continues "so there ought to be an agent of action or an organ performing
> the action. Here desire is what manas - mind does, so Brahman has a mind! So
> Brahman is not nirguna!".

Namaste Senani ji,

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

This part of your article aroused my interest as just over the last two days
I have been listening to an exposition of the Sutra BhAShya for ईक्षतेः न
अशब्दम् Br.Sutra 1.1.5.  Here the विषयवाक्यं happens to be the one stated by
you as an example above.  This sutra comes to refute the sAnkhya proposition
that the जगत्कारणम्  is प्रधानम्.  The Vedantin wants to show that the
insentient pradhAnam is not what the Upanishads teach as the cause of the
universe.  Why?  Because, the Upanishads teach the cause of the universe as
something that 'sees, thinks, deliberates, desires'.  And the reasoning:
BECAUSE 'seeing, deliberating', etc. cannot be the property of an insentient
being such as the pradhAnam, the Vedanta-s are meaning only the sentient
principle, Brahman, as jagatkARaNam.

Thus, the very ground of deciding whether the jagat kAraNam is the sentient
Brahman or not is 'because there is the word denoting ईक्षणम् which is
essentially possible only in a sentient being, Brahman.'  Thus, the
Upanishadic word ऐक्षत forms the basis for this conclusion.

Further down in the bhashyam we have an interesting question-answer:  We saw
that Brahman 'saw/deliberated/desired' and concluded that It is chetana
vastu.  Now, this Brahman is the subject, ईक्षणकर्ता.  What is the object,
karma, that is 'seen' by the kartA Brahman?  Says the bhashyam:

किं पुनः तत्कर्म, यत्प्रागुत्पत्तेः ईश्वरज्ञानस्य विषयो भवति ? इति ।
What is the object, karma, that is 'seen' by the kartA Brahman?

तत्त्वान्यत्वाभ्यां अनिर्वचनीये नामरूपे अव्याकृते व्याचिकीर्षते इति ब्रूमः ।
//Name and form, we reply, which can be defined neither as being identical
with Brahman nor as different from it, unevolved but about to be evolved.//

This 'object' vishaya, for Brahman, the kartA, prior to creation, is:
avidyA/mAyA/mUlAvidyA.  It is with this basic material that Ishwara/Brahman
creates the world which is the manifest form of the unmanifest.

Thus, in the analysis done by Shankaracharya, we have a neat
subject-object-predicate tool involved.

The subject is: Brahman.  Here, Brahman is not NirguNa but saguNa.  It is
only the saguNa brahman, in association with Maya, that can be the creator,

The Object: is the

The predicate: is the ईक्षणक्रिया the act of
'seeing/deliberating/desiring'.  It is this predicate that became the vital
ground for the Vedantin to refute the saankhyan proposition and clinch the
issue in favour of the Brahman of the Upanishads.  And that clinching
reasoning is: BECAUSE 'seeing' can be a property of only a sentient being.

The upshot of this study is: Brahman as creator is not nirguNam.  yato vaaco
nivartante is applicable to NirguNa brahman. The Shruti passages regarding
creation such as 'तदैक्षत बहु स्यां प्रजायेय’ is essentially
सगुणब्रह्मपरम्.  And in this sphere there is mandatorily ample scope for
subject-object-predicate ananlysis.  And it is inevitable, as we saw in the
above sutra bhAshya being employed by Shankaracharya.

That such a thinking/seeing/desiring saguNa-Brahman has a mind, eye, heart,
hands, etc. is the rich field of the imagination of a saadhaka/bhakta. All
this is possible in this realm.  Shankacharacharya's Sutra bhashya
references are available.

Thank you very much for enabling me, thru your article, to do a quick
mananam of the bhAshya exposition I had just finished hearing this morning.

With sincere regards,

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list