[Advaita-l] Athato Brahma Jijnasa

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri May 6 00:56:55 CDT 2011

Namaste.  Let me reiterate that the sUtra bhAShya of Shankaracharya is so
potent and pregnant with meaning that it has considered all the purvapakshas
that others opposed to advaita could come up with.  In my present study of
the Ratnaprabha commentary on the adhyAsa bhAShya along with a friend on
Skype everyday, I found that even what Advaita Siddhi contains is already
there in the adhyAsa bhAShya either explicitly or implicitly.  Thus, it is
best to engage in a deep study of the ShAnkara bhAShya, with the aid of a
vidwan trained in the sampradaya, and appreciate its beauty in having
already taken into account all possible sensible  pUrvapakSha-s. In fact
that is the reason why the so-called pUrvapakSha-s have not been able to put
up any meaningful offence against advaita.

For example, one standard objection of the non-advaitins is:  How can
Brahman be subject to avidyA?
This question has been raised by Shankara Himself in the Br.Up.1.4.10 and

Having said this, let me answer some of the questions raised by you.

On Thu, May 5, 2011 at 9:20 AM, Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com>wrote:

> Namaste Sri Subrahmanian
> Dhanyavadaha.
> But the important question how can we have Jijnasa the desire to know
> Nirvisesha Brahman before start of the study of Vedanta?  The student has to
> study something. If he has no desire to know the subject matter he cannot
> study it. How can there be desire to know? He may know something about it
> but not enough. Samanyataha Vedite Viseshataha
> Veditavye.  If he knows something generally but not Viseshataha particular
> details he can have the desire to know it. But Nirguna Brahman does not have
> any Visesha. How can there be desire to know it for the student starting his
> studies?

The desire to know the nirguNa Brahman can arise with all validity even when
one has the 'saamAnyataH jnAna' of the jneya vastu.  The system of Vedanta
takes the aspirant step by step by first showing the vastu in its more
easily understandable/appreciable mode of sa-visheshas and later, by the
sthUla arundhati nyAya, point to the vishesha-rahita vastu.  Not having any
vishesha does not preclude that vastu from being referred to as
'nirvishesha'.  This epithet does not become a vishesha of Brahman. Sri
Vadiraja has said in the Yuktimallika that nivisheshatva/niguNatva itself
will make Brahman sa-vishesha, sa-guna by that very adjective.  The advaitin
will not have any problem with this kind of objections.  What the advaitin
wants to say is that there is no guNa/vishesha that one can perceive in
Brahman.  If the advaitic nirguNatva/nivesheshatva were to be one or the
other guna/vishesha of brahman, let one point out such a guna/vishesha and
say what utility it has.  Thus 'visheshataH jnAna' of nirguna brahman is
nothing but knowing it to be free of all the visheshas that were
superimposed by the shAstra for the purpose of teaching.  'upAyaH so
avataaraaya...'.  The Mandukya upanishad does this eminently.  By presenting
Brahman as  posited with all guNas / visheshas in the first three pAda-s, it
gives a 'saamaanyataH jnanam' of Brahman.  By negating all those
guNas/visheshas from Brahman in the 'turiya' seventh mantra, the
'visheshataH jnanam' is presented.

When a person is convinced that it is due to adhyAsa that he considers
himself a samsari and that such an adhyasa will go when Brahman is known and
when it is clear that 'if knowledge is to remove samsara, such a samsara
should be aavidyaka, and therefore not real', why would not such a one seek
to know the jneya Brahman?  This point too has been elaborately discussed in
the Ratnaprabha.

> But the Advaiti position can say the desire to know will be there because
> the lower Apara Brahman is the meaning of Brahman in Athato Brahma Jijnasa.
> But this lower Brahman gets superseded by Nirguna Brahman.  Here also there
> cannot be desire to know because the student
> will think I have to study this but it is not Ultimate. Why study?

This is no valid argument.  A person entering a degree course of four years
knows very well that he has to leave the course once he has graduated and
that the first year is not the 'fruit' of his endeavour.  Still he does not
shy away from joining the course and doing the first and the second and the
third years to come to the fourth.  In our brahma vichara case, these words
of Shankara aught to be remembered to remove all such confused arguments as
presented in the question:

In the sutra bhashya 2.1.14 He says:

तस्मात् *प्राग्ब्रह्मात्मताप्रबोधात्* उपपन्नः सर्वो लौकिको वैदिकश्च
व्यवहारः  [Therefore, PRIOR to the realization of one's Brahman nature, all
worldly and scriptural transactions are quite appropriate for him.]

So even when one knows that the Ultimate Reality is the nirvishesha brahman,
one can and aught to take up the enquiry into Brahman and follow the method
of the teaching where the savishesha nirUpaNa is done first and he is given
the due preparation to appreciate the nirvishesha reality.

> The Advaiti position can say the desire to know will be there because the
> Adhyasa has to be removed. The student must have desire to know how to
> remove this Adhyasa. If this Adhyasa is removed there will be Brahma Jnana.
> But the Advaiti also has said Adhyasa is Maya only but not true. How can the
> student have desire to know a false Adhyasa?

At the start he knows that the adhyAsa/samsara/bandha is maayika/aavidyaka.
So, he does not have any desire to know that it is false.  He only sets
about to personally realize its falsity by his own experience.  And this
will be possible ONLY through aparoksha brahma jnanam.  There is no defect
of anyonya-aashraya in this method as alleged by the nyAyAmRta
[prapancha/samsara mithyAtva will be realized ONLY by aparoksha jnana and
aparoksha jnana will dawn ONLY when prapancha/samsara is realized to be
mithyA].  It is possible to know the mithyAtva of samsara/world even through
yukti, in the avidya avasthA itself,  based on shAstra:  asti bhAti priyam
rUpam nama ityamsha panchakam.  aadya trayam brahma rUpam, mAyA rUpam tato
dvayam.  With this kind of analysis one's conviction about the mithyAtva
gets well established.  This will contribute to the process of acquiring
aparoksha jnana and nishThA.

This point also was emphasized and demonstrated by the Advaita Vidwan, Sri
Kuppa Vishvanatha Sastry of Tirupati,  during the recent
nyAyAmRta-advaitasiddhi meet.  He took the example of a tree with all
foliage, etc. It is there for anyone to see, asti and do vyavahara, bhAti.
One loves, priyam, the tree for the shade, its beauty, etc. It is called,
'nAma',  a 'tree' and it has a form 'rUpa,: branches, trunk, foliage, etc.
When the tree is reduced to timber, still it is asti, bhAti and a carpenter
has utility, priyam, for it and a nAma and rUpa are there. Later it takes
the shape of a piece of furniture, a table where too asti, bhAti priyam and
nama-rUpa are there.  In this way, whatever form the original tree takes,
there are to be seen the asti/bhAti/priyam without any change but changes in
nama and rUpa which occur by the destruction of the earlier name/form and
the birth of a new name/form.  What is anugatam in all states is Brahman and
what keeps changing by destruction and birth, vyAvRttam, is mAyaa.  This
analysis is sufficient to prove the mAyika nature of samsara/bandha.  What
Brahma jnana does is providing the firm conviction that 'I am never a
samsari/never in bandha, ever free'.  For gaining this it is imperative for
one to walk the path of vichAratmaka sadhana.

> The Advaiti position can say the desire to know how to get Moksha will
> definitely be there in the student. He must study the Vedanta to get Moksha.
> Take Moksha as Brahman.  But the Advaiti has said Moksha and Bandha are not
> finally true also. How can the desire to know how to get Moksha be there in
> the student?

Why not? As stated already, does he have the first hand experience that
bandha and moksha are both only in the relative plane?  If he has this, he
does not need any vichAra.  He is a mukta already. One has to enter the
process of enquiry and know for oneself that bandha and moksha are mithya
after all.  It is his own vichara that brings this conviction to him.  Till
then it will be the words from the shAstra and the Acharya.  He should know,
having internalized the teaching, that he is no samsari, never bound.  Such
a conviction can result only when the vichara is initiated and taken to its
logical end.  If  Shankara were to have thought the way the questioner above
has, He would not have proceeded to write the rest of the sUtra bhAShya
after the adhyAsa bhAshya.  In fact he specifically states at the end of the
adhyAsa bhAshya:  In order to eliminate this adhyAsa that has caused all the
anartha, we shall deliberate in detail on the shArIraka mImAmsA.  So it is
in spite of the *a priori* knowledge that samsara is aavidyaka/mithyA one is
obliged to take up the brahmajijnAsA.

An involved study of the Shankara Bhashyam will provide one with the ability
to appreciate the bhashyam as against all pUrvapakShas raised by
non-advaitic schools.  When one encounters such objections *after the study
*of the Acharya's bhashya one will know how the bhashya itself has in it
embedded these objections and the answers thereof.

> Regards,

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