[Advaita-l] upadhi

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Aug 6 20:52:27 CDT 2011

On Sat, Aug 6, 2011 at 3:59 PM, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com
> wrote:

> Sri: V Subrahmanian : While introducing verse 15.16 Shankara recalls what
> was stated by the Lord in verses 15.12 onwards.  These verses happen to talk
> of the glories (vibhUti-s) of the Lord such as  is being the Light even for
> the luminous bodies sun, moon, etc.  This, Shankara says, is a specially
> attributed nature of Brahman, vishishtopadhiH. That shows that according to
> Shankara this nature of Brahman being the luminosity of the luminous
> entities, etc. is not its svarUpalakshanam but only owing to a superimposed
> attribute.
> RV: In the case of the sun, the luminosity is the reflection of the real
> luminosity of Brahman.

There is no 'real' luminosity in/for/of Brahman.  Luminosity is an object of
the organ eye.  Brahman has been taught in the Kathopanishat as 'arUpam',
without any form, thereby determining that It is not a vishaya for the eye.
'na tatra chakshurgacchati' says the Kenopanishat too.  The Mundaka too has
this kind of teaching.  Then, what is the luminosity that is being spoken of
here as being that of Brahman?  It is certainly a way to show, depict,
Brahman, saguNa, as endowed with an excess of abundance of any virtue found
in anything in creation.  In other words, there should/aught  not be
anything in creation that exceeds Brahman in anything.  When we see the Sun,
etc. we are awestruck with the luminosity there.  If we conclude that the
Sun is the best or most luminous then we have to be shown as wrong.  Our
true awe-inspirer aught to be none other than Brahman.  So in order to show
that the Sun, etc. should not be concluded to be the best/most luminous, the
scripture 'attributes' Brahman with an infinitude of luminosity.  The
Kathopanishat, for example, teaches the Yoga for realization of Brahman.  It
says that during that meditation one should make all the sense organs, the
mind and the intellect non-functional (in their normal modes).  It is then
that the true nature of Brahman gets revealed.  If Brahman were to be
endowed with physical light in abundance or in whatever quantity, this
teaching of the upanishad is to be held wrong.  For with the organ eye not
operating, how is it one to realize the luminous Brahman?  How can one
appreciate the luminosity of a powerful bulb or even the sun with closed

> In his bhashya, Sankara clearly says that the *light
> of consciousness* is abudant in the Sun because of predominance of
> sattva.

This is only an alternative explanation for the verse.  The word 'athavA'
confirms this.  Since the word 'tejas' has a figurative meaning of denoting
Consciousness Shankara cashes in on this.  Even this meaning/depiction of
Brahman as Tejas/prakasha is ONLY because ignorance is figuratively spoken
of as tamas, darkness.  Since Consciousness is the remover of ignorance, the
simile fits both ways. For example in the Gita verse:
*तेजस्तेजस्विनामहम्*॥७- १०॥ Shankara comments: तेजः
प्रागल्भ्यं तद्वतां तेजस्विनाम् अहम् [I am the tejah, courage; tejasvinam,
of the courageous, of those possessed of that.]   The manifestation of
Consciousness depends upon the degree of sattva in a reflecting medium,
mind.  With the increase of sattva, the entity turns away more and more from
gross things of life and moves towards Atman.  Surya devatA is an entity who
owing to great tapas and other upasanas has cleansed the mind to such a
tremendous extent that Consciousness manifests immensely there.  That alone
is the idea of the second explanation of Shankara.  He has exhausted the
'light' meaning in the first explanation.

> He gives the example of reflection in a mirror versus reflection in
> wood. Maya covers Brahman using tamas, distorts using rajas and reveals
> using sattva. It is sopadhikara brahman but when the upadhi is of the
> nature of visuddha sattva, it reveals some of the infinite glories of
> Isvara. We have already seen that all the infinite attributes of Isvara are
> present in
> Brahman as Brahman itself undifferentiated. Otherwise, it is not a
> reflection but a creation. As you know, reflection and original have equal
> weightage.

First, pl. note that there is nothing called 'sopadhikara' or
'nirupadhikara' which usage is seen in your writings.  It is simply
sopadhika or nirupadhika.

It is true that only what 'exists' gets revealed in a refined upAdhi.  But
it should be remembered that it is only the Shastra that first of all 'puts'
those attributes in Brahman for the sake of upasana and when the aspirant
practices those upasanas, the glories that are 'placed' in Brahman by the
scripture get revealed.  So, it is not something that naturally exists in
Brahman.  Brahman is no receptacle of anything.  So, undoubtedly it is a
creation by the shAstra.  That which has been created alone gets reflected.
Thus reflection is only of what is a priori creation. Gaudapada says in the
kArikA all the teachings of creation with the various examples of gold,
iron, etc. are only an 'upAya', a trick really, adopted by the scripture to
drive into the aspirant's head the true nature of Brahman.  And this trick
extends to all the infinite glories attributed by the shAstra to Brahman.

> RV: > ishanashila: or lord by nature (bg 15.18) this is with respect to
> Narayana,the omniscient, nirupadhikara brahman. so omniscience is not due
> to upadhi.
> Sri: V Subrahmanian : Even in 15.17 that saguNatva vestige is not totally
> severed.  ONLY in 15.18 it gets completely severed by the word uttamaH.
> One, perhaps the, strong indication of this complete severance of saguNa
> upAdhis is this:  the bhashya says: He who knows Me the PuruShottama as 'I
> am He'....  'ahamasmi iti puruShottamam'.
> RV: Your argument that "sagunatva vestige" (what a term to use? hmmm) is
> not discarded until 15.18 is not in line with what Sankara says. Sankara in
> 15.15 clearly states "Now then, the succeeding verses are begun with a view
> to determining the real nature of that very Lord as the *Unconditioned and
> Absolute*, by *distinguishing Him from the limiting adjuncts*, (viz) the
> mutable and the immutable".

It is precisely what is within the immutable, mAyaa, that all the adjuncts
like sarvajnatva, sarveshvaratva, ananta-vibhUtimatva, etc. exist.  And in
order to realize Brahman, the true nature whereof has to be shown only by
separating the two - the mutable and immutable from Brahman.  That alone
will result in showing the nirupadhika brahman.  As related to the
immutable, however, Brahman is sopaadhika.

> Also 15.18 is about Purushottama or Supreme Person, who is an object of
> devotion and poetry as evident from Sankara's comments "as purusottamah, the
> supreme Person. Devoted persons know Me thus, and poets also use this name
> 'Purusottama' in their poetry etc.;".

Devoted persons, bhaktajanAH, consist of all types of devotees.  Depending
upon each one's maturity the Tattva will reveal itself as endowed with
attributes and otherwise. For each of such devotee the Lord is the supreme
Person for such a devotee, at whatever level he is, has turned to Him
considering the other persons as not supreme.

> That this refers to the Lord Narayana is also very explicit in
> Madhusudana's commentary. Now,it seems that according you to Isvara is not
> nirupadhikara according to Sankara. But Isvara is sopadhikara as in
> Vaishnavara, Surya etc. and Nirupadhikara as in Narayana. This is amply
> clear in 15.18, which is about nirupadhikara brahman or Isvara.

Narayana can be seen as the Creator, sustainer, etc. and be sopadhika
Brahman.  He can also be seen as beyond these functional roles and regarded
as nirupadhika.

> RV : > bg 14.27 is also relvant
> Sri: V Subrahmanian : Even here, Shankara gives the saguNa-para meaning
> first and then gives the nirguNa-para vyAkhyAnam.  In the latter, He
> considers the word 'brahman' as saguNa brahman and says that the Lord is the
> abode/support of that saguNa Brahman.
> RV: What is important here is to understand Sankara's opinion on
> non-difference between Isvara and Maya (Shaktiman and Shakti) and Brahman
> and Isvara.

Vedanta does not hold Brahman and Ishwara as non-different.  Only someone
who has studied the shastra under a competent acharya will know how to
appreciate this.  Reading the vedanta by oneself from books is not the
proper way to understand vedanta.  SaguNa brahma jnana owing to saguNa
Ishwara upasana leads a person to brahmaloka and only from there one gets
mukti, called krama mukti.  But the knowledge of Brahman as distinct from
Ishwara confers upon one the moksha phalam here itself.

> It is on this basis that Madhusuda says that "Lord Krishna is
> nirupadhikara brahman".

"Krishna'' can be seen as both sopadhika and nirupadhika.  Here is a
definition of the word krishna:

कृषिर्भूवाचकः शब्दो णश्च निर्वृतिवाचकः।
तयोश्चैक्यं परं ब्रह्म कृष्ण इत्यभिधीयते॥

The root कृष् means to be, Being , combined with the suffix Na = Bliss,
makes the word कृष्ण to mean परं ब्रह्म = The Supreme Being endowed with
eternal bliss. This is the PauraNika-s definition.

The word 'nArAyaNa' too has a similar definition that is different from the
usually understood meaning for the term/entity.

> Please note that our conception of the Isvara
> (Krishna, Rama etc.) is limited but Isvara (Krishna, Rama etc.) is not.

No one says Ishwara is limited; in fact Advaita Vedanta holds that it is
Ishwara who graces the realization of the liberating Knowledge which is
characterized by the conviction that Brahman is different from the
mAyopAdhika (sopadhika) Ishwara.  Shankara says in the Brahmasutra bhashya:
तदनुग्रहहेतुकेनैव हि ज्ञानेन मोक्षसिद्धिर्भवितुमर्हति .  It is by the Jnana
that ensues owing to the grace of Ishwara alone that the accomplishment of
moksha comes about.  Yet, if someone stops with knowing hat Ishwara is
sarvajna, karmaphala dAtA, mokShaprada, etc, he will not get the advaitic
liberation here itself; he will be fit to go to Brahmaloka to gain moksha
jnanam there and get liberated at the end of Brahma's kalpa which is called
krama mukti.


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