[Advaita-l] (Alleged) Internal Inconsistencies in the Advaita Tradition

Anand Hudli anandhudli at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 28 21:26:08 CDT 2011

It is clear that all explanations within advaita on jIva and Ishvara have
the following common approach. All the AchAryas agree that the Undivided
Brahman-Atman, One with a second and the Self of all, is the only reality
there is and realization of that Atman is liberation. Now, what needs to be
explained are jIva, Ishvara, and the world. Who is Ishvara? Who is jIva? How
did this world come into being? Is there one jIva or many jIvas? In
explaining these, mAyA has to enter the picture, because mAyA makes the
Undivided Brahman appear as many. It is not possible to explain these
concepts without reference to mAyA. In explaining them, the AchAryas have
chosen different methodologies (prakriyA's), based on the shruti, of course.
Does this mean there is inconsistency within the tradition? No.

The very first verse of the siddhAntaleshasangraha is relevant here.

adhigatabhidA pUrvAchAryAnupetya sahasradhA saridiva mahIbhedAn.h saMprApya
shauripadodgatA | jayati bhagavatpAdashrImanmukhAMbujanirgatA jananaharaNI
sUktirbrahmAdvayaikaparAyaNA ||

The teachings that have emanated from the mouth of Shankara BhagavatpAda are
like the gaN^ga that springs from the foot of ViShNu. Just as the same river
branches out into tributaries due to variations in the characteristics of
the land where the water flows, so also, due to variations in the learning
(background) of the AchAryas earlier (than myself), there are many prakriyAs
within the advaita system. (The conclusion of every prakriyA is the same as
every AchArya has accepted the conclusion of Shankara's teachings.) This
advaita teaching, which destroys birth (saMsAra) and which has the
attainment of the nondual Brahman as its objective, is  victorious.

Here, I would like to reproduce the quote, which I originally posted in this
list in August 2005:

We should view shankara's school with more magnanimity. Here is what Shri
Bharati Tirtha Svami has to say, in his foreword blessing the publication of
Appayya Dikshita's siddhAnta-lesha-saMgraha by Vedanta Bharati,
Krishnarajanagar, Mysore District, 2001:

paramashivAvatArAH shrimachchhaMkarabhagavatpAdAchAryAH
prasthAnatrayabhAShyANi virachayya advaitAtmaGYAnameva kaivalyasAdhanamiti
spaShTaM pratyapIpadan.h | tadanantarakAlikA advaitAchAryAH **
siddhAntamimaM AikakaNThyena pratipAdayanto .pi  pratipAdanaprakAreShu
vaividhyaM anvasaran.h ** | tadidaM vaividhyaM siddhAntasya na kShatikaraM
kintu puMsAM pratyak-prAvaNya-saMpAdanAyaiveti

yayA yayA bhavetpuMso vyutpattiH pratyagAtmani |
sA sAiva prakriyA GYeyA sAdhvI sA chAnavasthitA |

iti vArtikakArapAdAH abhidadhuH |

Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada, an avatara of Parama Shiva, authored the
bhAShyas on the prasthAnatraya (Brahma sUtras, upaniShads, gItA) and clearly
established that the means to liberation is the knowledge of the nondual
Self. AchAryas of later times, while **unanimously propounding the same
conclusion, followed a variety of methods in explaining it**. This variety
(of methods) is not damaging to the siddhAnta, rather it is meant for
achieving inclination (becoming absorbed) in the Self by people.

In the siddhAnta-bindu, Madhusudana Sarasvati has shown how various
views in advaita, such as those of
the vArtika, saMkShepa-shArIraka, avachchheda-vAda, pratibiMbavAda,
AbhAsa-vAda, and ekajIva-vAda or dR^iShTi-sR^iShTi-vAda, can all be
reconciled. He cites the vArtikakAra:

yayA yayA bhavetpuMso vyutpattiH pratyagAtmani |
sA sAiva prakriyA GYeyA sAdhvI sA chAnavasthitA |

By whatever (approach) one attains the knowledge of the Inner Self, that
itself is to be understood as *a* (not *the*) right method. It is not fixed
(to a particular approach).

Going by this definition, we can talk about *a* right method but not *the*
right method.

In May 2007, I also wrote, regarding the introductory verse in the

Appayya Dikshita outlines the reason for the diversity of methods in advaita
vedAnta and for the perceived mutual contradictions among them.

prAchInair-vyavahArasiddha-viShayeShvAtmaikyasiddhau paraM
sannahyadbhiranAdarAt.h saraNayo nAnAvidhA darshitAH |

The ancient AchAryas (of vedAnta) were completely intent on establishing the
One Atman, (but) provided different explanations owing to their indifference
shown to things that can be established in vyavahAra (bhrAntimAtrasiddha -
valid only in the illusory world).

There is no doubt that all AchAryas of Shankara's lineage were intent upon
establishing the Non-dual Atman as the only reality (tattva). There was not
the same intent and emphasis on establishing conclusions that pertain to the
illusory world, conclusions that have relevance or validity only in
vyavahAra. Therefore, owing to the indifference of the AchAryas to such
matters, there resulted a diversity of explanations in advaita works.

In summary, any perceived contradictions among AchAryas are not relevant in
the final analysis, and hence can be safely ignored.

It is important to note the PanchadashI verse (Chitradeepa):

मायाख्यायाः कामधेनोर्वत्सौ जीवेश्वरावुभौ।
यथेच्छं पिबतां द्वैतं तत्त्वं त्वद्वैतमेव हि॥६-२३६॥

jIva and Ishvara are the two calves of the Kamadhenu cow called mAyA. Let
them drink (the milk) of duality as much as they desire, but nonduality
alone is the truth.

And we have the VivekachUDAmaNi verse, where it is stated that the limiting
adjuncts (upAdhi's), again due to mAyA, are responsible for forming the jIva
and Ishvara:

एतावुपाधी परजीवयोस्तयोः सम्यङ्निरासे न परो न जीवः|
राज्यं नरेन्द्रस्य भटस्य खेटकस्तयोरपोहे न भटो न राजा ॥ २४४॥

When these two limiting adjuncts (upAdhis) of Ishvara and the Jiva are
completely eliminated, there is no Ishvara, no Jiva. The limiting adjunct of
the King is his kingdom, while that of the soldier is his shield. When these
two (limiting adjuncts) are removed, there is neither King nor soldier. In
other words, the essence or substratum of Ishvara and Jiva is the same.

The siddhAntaleshasangraha says (prathamapariccheda 11.2):

एवं च स्वाविद्यया जीवभावमापन्नस्यैव ब्रह्मणः सर्वप्रपञ्चकल्पकत्वात्
ईश्वरोऽपि सह सर्वज्ञत्वादिर्मैः स्वप्नोपलब्धदेवतावज्जीवकल्पित इत्याचक्षते ।
Thus, by His ignorance alone, Brahman obtains the jIva status and creates
the whole world. Ishvara too is imagined by the jIva, just as a God
appearing in a dream. The attributes of Ishvara, such as Omniscience, etc.,
are imagined by the jIva.


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