[Advaita-l] Athato Brahma Jijnasa

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed May 4 13:36:44 CDT 2011

On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 9:38 AM, Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com>wrote:

> In Satadusani Vedanta Desika has criticised the Nirguna Brahma theory in
> the Vedanta Sutras. In the first Vedanta Sutra Athato Brahma Jijnasa enquiry
> about Brahman has to be done. About what is the enquiry to be done? If it is
> Nirguna Brahma it is not correct because the Advaiti has said Nirguna Brahma
> cannot be Jnana Vishaya at all. We
> cannnot know it like some object. If it is known like object it is not
> Nirguna at all.  Yato Vacho Nivartante says words and mind cannot reach
> Brahman.

In Advaita 'knowing/realizing Brahman' is not 'objectifying' Brahman.  It is
rather 'dispelling the avidya that envelops Brahman, as it were.' The
prayojana of all shravana-manana-nididhyasana is the generating of that
vRtti that dispels avidya. 'siddham tu nivartakatvaat' is a sutra of
DraviDAchArya that Shankara quotes in the Mandukya bhashyam. This results in
Brahman being 'known' not as an object but revealed as the very subject.
'Avidyaa dispelling' is the knowledge that there exists none other than
Brahman, the realization that a-brahman or an-Atman is mithyA.

(This point was emphatically made by Vidwan Vishwanatha Sastry during the
recent 'न्यायाम्त-अद्वैतसिद्धिकार्यशाला’ meet in response to a remark made
by a Dvaita scholar from the audience.)

Thus Brahman is 'jneyam' (ज्ञेयं यत् तत् प्रवक्ष्यामि’ Bh.Gita 13th chapter)
विज्ञेयः as per the Mandukya Up.7th mantra, and yet is not jnana-viShaya
like any created object.

> Then what is the enquiry? This Brahman is explained in Sruti by using
> Brhati and Brmhayati. It grows and causes to grow. This becomes meaningless
> if Nirguna Brahma is the object of enquiry. It cannot grow and cause to grow
> because it cannot have any qualities like growing
> and causing to grow. Na Hi Nirviseshataya Abhimate Suddhe Brhati Brmhayati
> Iti Srutyukta Nimittam Asti.

In the Taittiriyopanishad bhashya, Anandavalli, for the word 'Brahma', the
Acharya writes: बृहत्तमत्वात् ब्रह्म’ [That which is Supremely great].  The
gloss 'vanamAlA' says for the above commentary:

ब्रह्मपदेन ’बृहि बृद्धौ’ इति व्युत्पत्तिबलात् वृद्धिमद्वस्तु कथ्यते ; सा च
वृद्धिः संकोचकाभावात् निरतिशयमहत्त्वे पर्यवस्यति; तच्च निरतिशमहत्त्वं
वक्ष्यमाणलक्षण एव ब्रह्मणि सम्भवति नान्यत्रेति भावः ।
// By the word 'Brahman', through the etymological derivatives 'great,
growth', an entity that is endowed with growth is meant.  This growth,
however, owing to the absence of reduction, culminates in the
unhindered/absolute Greatness.  Such an absolute greatness is possible only
in that entity, Brahman, that is taught as 'satyam, jnanam, anantam' in the
sequel and not in any other entity.  This is the purport of the Bhashyam.//

Thus, if 'growth' is understood in a literal sense, it would only mean that
Brahman is also one of the created things that is subject to the `ShaDbhAva
vikAras' where growth leading to decay and destruction/death is inevitable.
It is to be noted that Brahman is not something that has 'grown' to the
present size having not had such a size before.  It is ever
desha-kaala-vastu pariccheda rahitam.  Brahman's causing something else to
grow is also not difficult for advaitins to admit/accept and explain: by
mAyA-association Brahman can be the creator-sustainer of the universe and
its products.  This will come under savishesha brahman and therefore not the
'jneyam brahma'.  This aspect we have already discussed elaborately in
another thread.

> If Advaiti Nirguna Brahma is accepted the first Vedanta Sutra becomes
> meaningless.

One is recommended to read the Ratnaprabha vyAkhyAnam for the adhyAsa
bhashya for many of the questions raised by non-advaitins.

This verse is very useful in understanding the a-viShyatva nature of

शिव इत्यहमित्युभौ न भिन्नौ शिव एवाहं अहं शिवः स एव ।
यदि नैवं अनात्मता शिवस्य प्रसरेत् अशिवत्वमात्मनोऽपि ॥
[The two, Shiva and I, are not different. 'Shiva' is 'I' alone and 'I' is/am
'Shiva' indeed.  If such were not the case then 'Shiva' will end up as
'anAtmA' (since anything other than the Atman, aham, is anAtma. And
therefore jaDa, anitya.) And not just that, Atman will become a-shiva,
amangala. This is because if aham, atman, is not admitted to be Shiva, it is
only 'ashiva', amangala, inauspicious. Surely, none would like the prospect
of being inauspicious.]

It may be remembered that here 'Shiva' is not the saguNa Ishwara, but the
Supreme Brahman.  And 'aham' is not the paricchinna jIva but the shodhita
tvam padArtha.



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