[Advaita-l] The method of nyAya in the Shankara BhaShyam - a case study

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 02:28:13 CDT 2011


The Tarka sangraha, a book authored by Annam BhaTTa on the elementary study
of the Tarka shastra, presents the five-limbed syllogism, पञ्चावयवाक्यम् ,
that characterizes the process of an inference, अनुमितिज्ञानम्,  thus:
प्रतिज्ञा,हेतु,उदाहरण,उपनय,निगमनानि पञ्चावयवाः । पर्वतो वह्निमान् इति
प्रतिज्ञा । धूमवत्त्वादिति हेतुः । यो यो धूमवान् इत्युदाहरणम् । तथा च अयम्
इति उपनयः । तस्मात् तथा इति निगमनम् ।

There are five members of this syllogism: the Proposition, the Reason, the
Example, the Application and the Conclusion.  'The mountain is fiery' is the
Proposition. 'Because it smokes (smoky)' is the Reason. 'Whatever smokes is
fiery as a culinary hearth (kitchen oven)' is the Example.  'And so this
mountain is' is the Application. 'Therefore it is fiery' is the

In the अध्यासभाष्यम्  we find a section where the above syllogism is applied
by Shankaracharya:

After giving out a succinct definition of what an adhyAsa is, Shankara
raises a question with a view to settle the point that all vyavahara,
loukika or shAstraic, is based on adhyAsa:

कथं पुनरविद्यावद्विषयाणि प्रत्यक्षादीनि प्रमाणानि शास्त्राणि चेति ।
// How, again, can the means of valid knowledge, such as direct perception
as well as the scriptures, have as their locus a cognizer who is subject to
nescience (avidyA)? //

The above constitutes the presentation of the *Propostion, प्रतिज्ञा*,
though in the form of a question.  This is because, as stated earlier,
Shankara had, while giving out the definition of adhyaasa, stated that all
vyavahara involving a knower and the means to knowledge, be it in the field
of secular activity or in the realm of scriptural activity of either the
Veda-pUrva involving vidhi-pratiShedha, or even the Veda-anta, pertaining to
mokSha, has for its basis this ignorance-born superimposition. As Shankara
wants to establish this on firm grounds, He adopts the method of a

उच्यते - देहेन्द्रियादिषु अहंममाभिमानरहितस्य प्रमातृत्वानुपपत्तौ
प्रमाणप्रवृत्त्यनुपपत्तेः । न हि इन्द्रियाण्यनुपादाय प्रत्यक्षादिव्यवहारः
सम्भवति । न च अधिष्ठानमन्तरेण इन्द्रियाणां व्यवहारः सम्भवति । न च
अनध्यस्तात्मभावेन देहेन कश्चिद्व्याप्रियते ।

The Reply:
// Since a man without self-identification with the body, mind, senses, etc.
cannot become a cognizer (pramaatR), knower. And as such, the means of
knowing will not have any function.  Without calling forth the sense organs,
no sensory activity is possible.  Without the body in place, there is no way
the sense organs will function. And without the idea of 'I am this body'
none will perform any act. //

This portion constitutes the *Reason, hetu. *The reason is presented in a
'vyatireka' (discordance) mode as can be seen from the use of  न हि ....

न च एतस्मिन् सर्वस्मिन्नसति *असङ्गस्यात्मनः* प्रमातृत्वमुपपद्यते । न च
प्रमातृत्वमन्तरेण प्रमाणप्रवृत्तिरस्ति ।

// In the absence of all these (the idea of I am the body, the senses, their
activity, etc.stated above) the Atman that is devoid of any attachment to
anything cannot have cognizership/knowership.  And without such a
fundamental knowership no activity to know anything will come about. //

In the above section the *Example, दृष्टान्त,*  is being stated.  The
example of the Atman who does not have any superimposed idea of being the
body, having the sense organs, activating them and the fundamental
'knowership' is given.  This is called a व्यतिरेकदृष्टान्त, a contrary
example.  Instead of giving an अन्वयदृष्टान्त Shankara chooses to give the
Atman as the example to highlight the contrast.  Of course, after this idea
is 'concluded', Shankara does give an upamAna, पश्वादिभिश्च अविशेषात्
meaning: the sense-organ based activity of humans, both the learned and the
lay, is no different from the activity of animals, etc.

The *'hetUpanaya' or Application *of the reason in the case on hand is
embedded in the 'Reason' section itself for Shankara details the 'hetu' in
order to bring to our senses the way a person functions in the process of
securing knowledge by the use of the senses, the body that holds the senses
and the fundamental 'I am a knower' idea.  It is quite familiar to us.

तस्मादविद्यावद्विषयाण्येव प्रत्यक्षादीनि प्रमाणानि शास्त्राणि च ।
Therefore it follows that the means of knowledge, such as direct perception
as well as the scriptures, must have a man as their locus who is subjected
to nescience.
This constitutes the *Conclusion, निगमनम्*. The word 'tasmAt' could be seen
in the Tarkasnagraha delineation too for the expression of the nigamanam.

A distinctive feature of the syllogism is: The pratijnA and the nigamanam
are almost similarly worded. In other words, the process starts with a
proposition, a claim.  After the 'proof' part is gone through, the
conclusion expresses itself as a restatement of the proposition.  We can see
this demonstrated in the adhyAsa bhashya portion taken up above. The first
sentence and the last sentence are to be noticed. There is a word एव  that
indicates that the process of the syllogism establishes, emphasises, the
proposition, claim, pratijnA.

By this process Shankara establishes the fact of superimposition that lies
at the foundation for all human activity - secular, religious AND
spiritual.  For, if one has no idea of 'I am a human, I am ignorant, I am
bound in the transmigratory life, I have to get release from the cycle of
birth and death and misery', he would not engage himself in the study of the
Vedanta shAstra and put into practice what it teaches.  Such a one who is
devoid of this superimposed idea is a mukta puruSha.  Such a one has no urge
to engage in any action, loukika, vaidika or moksha-para, for his own sake.
He is celebrated in the Bhagavadgita thus:

यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः।
आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते।।3.17।।
3.17 But that man who rejoices only in theSelf and is satisfied with the
Self, and is contented only in the Self-for him there is no duty to perform.

नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः।।3.18।।
3.18 For him there is no concern here at all with performing action; nor any
(concern) with nonperformance. Moreover, for him there is no dependence on
any object to serve any purpose.

We have seen in the foregoing two extremes:  The adhyAsa bhAshya presenting
the state of, the fundamental cause of, samsara, bondage.  The Bhagavadgita
presenting the state of, the nature of, liberation, mokSha.  The two
extremes are characterized by avidyA and vidyA respectively.


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