[Advaita-l] A note on ‘Avidya lesha’ 'अविद्यालेशः’ (Part 1)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Mar 30 06:41:25 CDT 2010

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In the Brahmasutra BhAshya (4.1.15), Sri Shankaracharya says:

बाधितमपि तु मिथ्याज्ञानं द्विचन्द्रज्ञानवत् संस्कारवशात् कञ्चित्कालं
अनुवर्तत एव ।

[Though sublated, nonetheless, illusory ignorance, does persist, for some
time,that is, till the fall of the jnAni’s body.  How? Like the erroneous
vision of two moons persisting briefly even after the eye-disease, timira,
responsible for the erroneous vision, is cured.  Why does mithyAjnAna
persist even after it is sublated? Because of samskAra, impression.]

विक्षेपकर-अविद्या-लेश एव तत् संस्कारः । (भाष्यरत्नप्रभा on Brama sUtra
4.1.15) [The trace of avidyA that projects what is false is alone that

In the SamkShepashAreeraka, Sri SarvajnAtman says –

गन्धछायालेशसंस्काराभासा विज्ञातव्या भाष्यकारीयतन्त्रे ।

स्वाविद्यायाः बाधितायाः प्रतीतिः पौर्वापर्येणार्थमालोच्य बुद्ध्या ॥ ४.४२ ॥

Considering the earlier and later portions of the BhAshya, it must be
understood that the appearance of avidyA that is sublated is
avidyA-samskAra, impression of avidyA, or avidyA-chayaa, the shadow of
avidyA, or avidyA-lesha, the trace of avidyA.


जीवन्मुक्तिव्यापृतेः प्रापको यस्तस्याविद्यालेशगन्धादिभाषा ।

नाविद्या नापि भागस्तस्य.....॥

The Definition:

That which accounts for the functioning of a jivanmukta is called
avidya-lesha,the trace of avidya, avidyaa-gandha, the tinge of ignorance,
etc.  It is neither avidyaa nor is it any part thereof.

Sri JnAnottama says in the NyAya-sudhaa (cited in TattvapradIpikaa),

अविद्यलेशशब्देन मोहाकारान्तरोक्तिः – by the word ‘avidya-lesha’, an aspect
of avidya is referred to.

Sri Chitsukha, a disciple of Sri JnAnottama, explains in his magnum opus,
TattvapradIpika (in Pariccheda 4), that though avidya, the cause of samsara
is only one, nonetheless, it has multiple akAra-s, aspects.

   1. One akAra is ‘ प्रपञ्चस्य परमार्थसत्त्वभ्रमहेतुः – the cause of the
   delusion that the world is ultimately real.
   2. The second gives rise to purposeful activity in the world.
   3. The third is that which projects a semblance of perceivable objects.

The first aspect is removed, according to Sri Chitsukha,
‘advaitasatyatva-adhyavasaayena’ – by the conviction regarding the non-dual
Reality.  That is, it is removed by paroksha-jnAna.

The second aspect, which accounts for fruit-bearing karma, ‘साक्षात्कारेण
निवर्तते ’- ceases due to the direct realization of Brahman.

अपरोक्षप्रतिभासयोग्य-अर्थाभासजनकस्तु मायालेशो जीवन्मुक्तस्य अनिवृत्तः – the
third akAra that projects a semblance of objects capable of appearing as
directly perceivable is avidyA-lesha or mAyA-lesha.  This is not eradicated
in the case of a jivanmukta.  This is vouchsafed by Shankaracharya, from His
own experience, in the Brahmasutra bhashya 4.1.15 :

कथं ह्येकस्य  स्वहृदयप्रत्ययं ब्रह्मवेदनं देहधारणं च अपरेण प्रतिक्षेप्तुं
शक्येत ?

[For how can one contest the fact of another possessing the knowledge of
Brahman – vouched for by his heart’s conviction – and at the same time
continuing with the body?’’]

Sri Madhusudana Saraswati, in the renowned work ‘Advaitasiddhi’ has defended
the position on ‘avidya leshaH’ against the questions of opponent school.  One
of his replies is thus delineated:

अज्ञानस्य सूक्ष्मावस्था लेशः – ‘avidyA leshaH’ is a subtle condition of
avidyaa. In establishing that a yAga is a means to attain heaven, it is
accepted, he points out, that a subtle condition of the yAga termed ‘apUrva’
persists even after the yAga has come to an end, till such time as the fruit
of the yAga occurs.  In other words, a subtle condition of yAga in the form
of apUrva intervenes between the cessation of the yAga and the attainment of
the fruit, such as heaven, by the performer of the yAga.  तथा अज्ञाने गतेऽपि
तत्सूक्ष्मावस्थारूपो लेशो देहादिप्रतीत्यनुकूलः स्वीक्रियते – in like manner,
it is accepted that though avidyA has ceased, there is avidyA-lesha of the
nature of a subtle condition of avidyA which conduces to the appearance of
the body, etc.
Evidence in the Scripture and the BhAshya of Bhagavatpada with regard to the
three ‘aakAra-s’ of avidyA advanced by Chitsukhacharya

   - The explanation provided by the Advaitasiddhi above is supported by the
   Chandogya Upanishad: तस्य तावदेव चिरं यावन्न विमोक्ष्येऽथ संपत्स्ये (6.14.2)
   [For him (the enlightened one) the delay is for that long only, as long as
   he does not become freed.  Then he becomes merged in Existence.]
   Clarifying a point, Shankaracharya says in the Bhashyam here:

// Those actions which have started yielding results, and those by which the
body of the man of Knowledge has been molded, get exhausted ONLY THRU
EXPERIENCING THEM, just as an arrow etc. that has gathered momentum after
being shot towards a target, stops only with the exhaustion of its momentum,
and not because it has no purpose to serve at the time it pierces the
target.  Similar is the case here.  ….Therefore, as in the case of an arrow
that has been shot, the experiencing of the results of actions that have
become active is INEVITABLE for the man of Knowledge, even though there is
no need of his living etc.  Hence, what has been said that, ‘His delay is
for that long…’ is reasonable.  Therefore the criticisms that were advanced
are illogical.//

   - Chitsukhacharya had said:  One ‘aakAra’ is ‘ प्रपञ्चस्य
   परमार्थसत्त्वभ्रमहेतुः – the cause of the delusion that the world is
   ultimately real.  This gets removed by ‘parokSha jnAnam’- this statement
   finds support in a host of passages of Shankaracharya.  A sample is shown

Continued in Part 2

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