[Advaita-l] nature of Avidya (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun Mar 28 22:08:12 CDT 2010

Namaste Shri Subhanu ji,

I thank you once again Sir, for your interest in the article and the

elaborate comments.


Namaste Subrahmaniam-ji.

I also am grateful for your thoughtful comments. I think between the various
exchanges there is enough richness in the points raised for aspirants to
critically reflect on the points in the context of their own sadhana, so I
shall end my comments after this post, as I only wanted to add a couple of
clarifications and answer questions you raised to me in your response:



VS: Surely, according to this definition of

Shankara, there is a cause preceding adhyAsa/anyathA grahaNam.  And that is

agrahaNam.  ]



VS:  A cause for adhyAsa has been posited by SSS as:


// AdhyAsa, of course, presupposes ignorance or want of true knowledge.

But this is a logical presupposition, a necessary implication of thought.//




Despite all the above description, SSS admits of a cause that precedes this

bhrAnti, etc.  Surely this cause,  called by the name 'jnAnAbhaava' cannot

itself be a bhrAnti, etc.  It has to be clearly something other than

bhraanti, etc. as it is posited as that which 'causes' bhrAnti..//




It is tattva agrahaNa, the

non-comprehension of the truth that is the cause of anyathA grahaNa. The

bhashya to the Mandukya kArika 1.16 is clear about this. The word

'abodhataH' mentioned by you a little above with reference to the Vartika,

gets a clearer connotation in Shankara's words...



It is worth clarifying a couple of points here:


-    The common meaning of agrahaNam is simply not perceiving /not knowing
and does not need to have the meaning material cause read into it. We have
in Suresvara’s TBV II. 176 and II.180 the clarification that the cause is
simply not knowing atman, and nothing else (as we saw before in BBV 4.4.
178-179). You can see TBV II.8 also in this context.

-    SSS clarifies in his Sugama, section 4 more precisely the causality
accepted in the Bhashya, where he says “kim tarhi Atmaiva satyam vastu
nAnyadato’stIti jnAnAbhAvAdajnAtAtmaivAtAtmarUpeNa iti bhAsata iti
nimitta-naimittika-bhAvo’vaseyaH”, meaning: “Given that Atman is the only
reality, and only entity , the cause of the world through lack of knowledge
of Atmana by not having known Atman is “nimitta-naimittika” in nature, ie
one of effiency not materiality”. Again , the central point is that since
anatman is not a real entity it cannot really be caused by an entity.
“nimitta-naimittika” is akin to the statement “when the sun shines I wake
up”. In the same way, for the simple reason that I have not known Atman I
see duality and samsara when there is none. This is sufficient for aspirants
who are not troubled by the question “why am I ignorant” as we have said
before. In fact, Shankara explicitly states that “tattva-apratibodhamAtram”
is of this nature of nimitta-naimittika in Karika Bhashyam 1-11





Here again we could refer to the Mandukya Karika and bhashya 1.16 quoted by

me above.  Shankara very clearly speaks of the 'material root' clinging to

every state and ever present throughout a jiva's samsaaric existence.  That

entity is called : tattva apratibodhaH.  This is clearly differentiated from

anyathaa grahaNa.


As we have seen above it is not necessary to infuse this extra meaning into
the Bhashyam. A literal reading of this is innocent of any material root
connotation. However, as I have mentioned before, if one chooses to look for
it one can find it. The same holds true for Karika Bhashyam on II.17 etc
etc, where you have to look for a meaning beyond the simple “vikalpitaH” of
the kArikA, as there is no literal mention of material root causality.





First, it should be noted that this 'orthodox view' is that of Shankara.  I

have quoted Shankara's Taittiriya Upanishad commentary where he specifically

criticizes the view that 'an existent thing could come from a non-existent

thing': अभावात् भावोत्पत्तिः..सर्वप्रमाणव्याकोपा .  If it is true that

Sureshvara has refuted this view, clearly he is refuting Shankara.

And worse, Sureshwara is contradicting himself.  For, he has said in the

Taittiriya Upanishad Bhashya Vartika: न ह्यभावाद्बवेद्भावो मानं यस्मान्न

विद्यते  (sIkShAvalli 19) [What is existent cannot, indeed, come out of what

is non-existent, as there is no evidence for that.]


I would like to make a few clarifications:


-    In the time honoured tradition of uktAnukta-durukta-chintA, we have a
number of cases where Suresvara takes a different stand to his guru eg
eligibility of Sannyasa, the meaning of nididdhyAsana, to name a few. In
this case however,  he is consistent with his teacher as follows:

-    The passage you refer to relates to a discussion on performance of
obligatory rites more than samsara. The point is made by both Shankara and
Suresvara in many places however, regarding Brahman and not Samsara: In
other words, saying that the not-real cannot emerge from the real is to show
that Brahman is the only reality and nothing else, and is not trying to
establish a material causality for something that is ultimately seen to not
have any independent existence.

-    The key point made by Suresvara and Shankara elsewhere, as we have seen
before is that anAtman is not a real entity, and therefore does not need an
entity to be its cause. We have mentioned before this is a point many
aspirants find hard to overcome/miss the significance of in their







Sir, I am unable to understand the synonymity between the two:

adhyAropa-apavAda AND


> “siddham to nivartakatvat”.  Could you pl. explain?


This is attributed to Dravidacharya, and simply means “its validity is
established through negation”, ie another way of stating adhyAropa-apavAda
prakriyA. My point was simply that there is no magic to describing the
method as adhyAropa-apavAda, even though it is a convenient simple technical
description, as the method has been described in similar ways by a number of
ancient teachers prior to Shankara. However, I am sure SSS would have been
proud of the unambiguous way you embrace the method in your writings! For
those interested, amongst other places, Suresvara discusses the method in
BUBV 2.3 171-213 , esp 2.3.187.


You may be interested to read Sri Gaudapada Hridaya by SSS if you  speak
Kannada which goes through the Karika and addresses the points you raise in
your Karika quotes. It is too elaborate to go into to here, but SSS goes at
lengths to dispel the notion that there is any explicit or implicit mention
of bhAvarUpa-mulAvidyA in the kArikAs. It has been translated into English
by Sri DB Gangolli but I am not sure it a good translation.


There are 2 central points I would leave aspirants with: first, is a literal
reading of the bhashyas sufficient or must other concepts be introduced that
are not seen in a literal reading? This depends much on whether or not the
aspirant is troubled by what causes their ignorance. Second, regardless of
the view, it is vital to remember that anAtman is not an entity at all, even
though it may provisionally seem to be. A provisional reality might
desiderate a provisional cause, but only as long as such notions serve their
purpose before being discarded in the light of true knowledge. Such an
approach with these extra steps may not be necessary for all aspirants. That
is up to each person to assess.



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