[Advaita-l] A Vichara on the terms 'Avidya' and 'Maya' Part 1 A

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat May 1 04:38:42 CDT 2010

Continued from Part 1

Moreover, the above description of mAyA, reminds us of Shankara’s
definition of avidyA lakShaNa and mAyA lakShaNa in the Gita bhashya
13.2 and Mandukya kArika bhashya 1.16:

1.                तमसो हि प्रत्ययः, आवरणात्मकत्वात् अविद्या
विपरीतग्राहकः, संशयोपस्थापको वा अग्रहणात्मको वा (Gita Bhashya 13.2)
2.                यदि ज्ञानाभावो, यदि संशयज्ञानं, यदि वा विपरीतज्ञानं
वा उच्यते अज्ञानम् (Brih.Up.Bhashya)
3.                योऽयं संसारी जीवः स उभयलक्षणेन तत्त्वाप्रतिबोधरूपेण
बीजात्मना अन्यथाग्रहणलक्षणेन च अनादिकालप्रवृत्तेन मायालक्षणेन
स्वप्नेन... (Manudkya kArikA bhAShya 1.16)
From the above sample, it is clear that for Shankara what constitutes
avidyA, mAyA and aj~nAnam is all the same power.  Shankara is seen in
the above sentences to make a clear distinction between adhyAsa and
tattva-agrahaNa, thereby proving wrong the theory: avidyA = adhyAsa.
From the above sentences we conclude that for Shankara avidyA is not
just adhyAsa; it is something more than that.  'adhyAsa' is just one
facet of avidyA/aj~nAna/mAyA; the other two facets being
agrahaNa/j~nAna abhAva and saMshaya.  'adhyAsa' is called by other
names such as: viparIta-grahaNa, anyathA-grahaNa, atasmin tad buddhiH,
viparyAsa, etc.  While ‘tattva-agrahaNa’ is understood as ‘mUlAvidyA’
that underlies adhyAsa by the traditional commentators, ‘j~nAna
abhAva’, a synonym of tattva agrahaNa is understood as the state prior
to adhyAsa by the non-traditional thinkers.  For analytical purposes a
sequence is admitted by all.  adhyasa, superimposition, does not
happen unless there is a prior non-apprehension of the object.

Continues Anandagiri: इदानीं अनिर्वाच्यत्वेन अव्यक्तशब्दार्हत्वमाह –
अव्यक्तेति (अव्यक्ता हि सा माया) ... (Since this avidyA Shakti is
inexplicable, it is quite fitting that it is called by the name:
‘avyakta’. ) Shankara says that this shakti which cannot be determined
to be real or unreal, different from Brahman or identical with It, and
therefore it (mAyA) is avyaktA.

कुतो जीवभावस्य अव्यक्ताधीनत्वं, अविद्याधीनत्वात्, इत्याशङ्क्य,
अव्यक्तस्य उक्तं स्वरूपं स्मारयति – अविद्येति । Since the jiva is
subservient/subordinate to /controlled by avidyA, how is it apt to say
that the jIva is subservient to avyaktA? To such a question, Shankara
replies, by recalling His earlier remark regarding the nature of
‘avyakta’ (avyaktA hi sA mAyA) - अविद्या हि अव्यक्तम् - avidyA indeed
is avyaktam.

Thus, in the light of Anandagiri’s clarificatory comments we conclude that:

·  For Shankara avidyA, mAyA, avyakta are all non-different from each
other; they mean the same bondage-creating/sustaining nescience.  This
nescience has these facets:  1. Render the jIva ignorant to the True
nature. 2. It is inexplicable, anirvAchya. 3. It overpowers the jIva.
4. It projects a multitude of objects/jIvas, in other words, the
world.  All these features are present in this shakti and hence it is
denoted by so many names in the scripture.

·  In the passage examined herein, Shankara uses two words:
अविद्यात्मिका and मायामयी in the same sentence to describe/define one
noun: बीजशक्तिः also termed by Shankara as महासुप्तिः.  This confirms
beyond doubt that He holds avidyA and mAyA to be synonyms, even as He
holds ‘bIja shaktiH’ and ‘mahA suptiH’ as synonyms.

·  The ending ‘AtmikA’ and ‘mayI’ in the two adjectives are important
for consideration.  When we say मृदात्मकः घटः, it is a pot made of
clay.  सुवर्णात्मकं कुण्डलम् means, a golden ear-ring.  Likewise,
हिरण्मयं पात्रम् means a golden vessel.  The suffix ‘मयट्’ and
‘Atmakam’ mean the same.

·  Shankara is undoubtedly talking about   परमेश्वराश्रया मायामयी
महासुप्तिः and स्वरूपप्रतिबोधरहिताः शेरते संसारिणो जीवाः in the same
sentence, without making any distinction between them.  From the very
wordings of these two expressions it is clear that the first one
refers to the ‘popular’ mAyAshakti of Ishwara and the second one
refers to the equally ‘popular’ bandhaka avidyA of the jIva.   This
expression: स्वरूपप्रतिबोधरहिताः particularly has in it, in embedded
form, the two – AvaraNa shakti, तत्त्व-अग्रहण and vikShepa shakti,
अन्यथा-ग्रहण.  But why should ‘महासुप्तिः’ be located in the
Parameshwara?  Herein lies the answer: According to Shankara, Brahman
Itself, owing to ignorance of/about Its own Nature, is ‘as though’ in
bondage.  Otherwise, we cannot account for ‘mahAsuptiH’ for Ishwara.
Is He not sarvaj~na?  In the subsequent sentences Shankara is
referring to the jIva being subordinate to/controlled by a force
‘avyakta’.  Thus Shankara uses the adjectives ‘avidyAtmikA’ and
‘mAyAmayI’ in such a way that the bIja shaktiH is explained as
referring to mAyA and avidyA.  This shows that Shankara treats both
mayA and avidyA as basically non-different, yet allowing for a
functional distinction.

·  When we appreciate the above व्यवस्था, arrangement, we can
appreciate that the ‘upAya’ for transcending mAyA and avidyA is one
and the same.  It is well known from the Gita that mAyA is
त्रिगुणात्मिका, constituting the three guNas.  The entire 14th chapter
is a description of the guNa-s and the way to transcend them: गुणातीत.
 The Lord says: तेषामेवानुकम्पार्थं अहं अज्ञानजं तमः
नाशयाम्यात्मभावस्थो ज्ञानदीपेन भास्वता (Gita 10.11).  This is clearly
indicative of avidyA in the jIva.  Maya, even though regarded as
Ishwara’s Shakti, is definitely jIva’s problem.  He has to and can
transcend it and realize that from the Advaitic realization
standpoint, mAyA/avidyA never existed.  Maya as both jagadrUpa and
jIva-avidyA rUpa is mithyA.

(Continued in Part 2)

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