[Advaita-l] Fwd: On avidyA being anirvachanIya etc

nishanth rope.snake+garland at googlemail.com
Tue Nov 22 22:12:55 CST 2011

om shri sadgurubhyo namah

> http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/bhavir.html
> Transliteration Key<http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/transliteration.html>
> In his works, SankarAcArya takes a direct approach to the problem of human
> liberation, and declares that *moksha* consists in realizing the identity
> of Atman with the One brahman. This brahman is in fact, all that really IS,
> and there is no change or multiplicity in It. As for the question, how does
> the perception of multiplicity arise in the first place, Sankara points to
> *avidyA* and *mAyA*. He does not attempt to explicate *avidyA* too much,
> and tells the student not to worry about the logical status of this *
> avidyA*, except to recognize that it is responsible for desires (*kAma*)
> and action (*karma*) which lead to bondage (*bandha*). Therefore, getting
> rid of the *avidyA* leads to *moksha*, which is really not different from
> the *brahman* itself.
> After his time, *avidyA* and *mAyA* became a tough problem for his
> followers. Sankara described *avidyA* as *anAdi* - beginningless. His
> approach was informed by the well considered notion that searching for the
> roots of *avidyA* was itself a manifestation of the very *avidyA* one was
> seeking to remove. However, in order to work out the logical implications
> of various advaitic doctrines, his followers had to pay greater attention
> to this issue. In course of time, two sub-schools, known as the bhAmatI and
> the vivaraNa schools emerged within advaita vedAnta. The bhAmatI school
> takes its name after vAcaspati miSra<http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#vac>'s
> commentary on Sankara's *brahmasUtra-bhAshya*, while the vivaraNa school
> takes its name after prakASAtman<http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#pra>'s
> commentary on padmapAda's *pancapAdikA*, which is itself a commentary on
> Sankara's *brahmasUtra-bhashya*.
> The most important commentaries and sub-commentaries that define the *
> bhAmatI* school are the following.
>    SankarAcArya - *brahmasUtra bhAshya*
>       vAcaspati miSra - *bhAmatI*
>          amalAnanda - *kalpataru*
>             appayya dIkshita - *parimala*
>             lakshmInRsimha - *Abhoga*
>          allAla sUrI - *bhAmatI tilaka*
>          SrIranganAtha - *bhAmatI vyAkhyA*
> There are a large number of texts in the *vivaraNa* school. The important
> commentaries are:
>    SankarAcArya - *brahmasUtra bhAshya*
>       padmapAda - *pancapAdikA*
>          prakASAtman - *vivaraNa*
>             akhaNDAnanda - *tattvadIpana*
>             citsukha - *tAtparyadIpikA*
>             AnandapUrNa vidyAsAgara - *vivaraNa TIkA*
>             sarvajnavishNu - *RjuvivaraNa*
>             rangarAja dIkshita - *darpaNa*
>             nRsimhASrama - *bhAvaprakASikA*
>             yajnanArAyaNa dIkshita - *ujjIvinI*
>          amalAnanda - *darpaNa*
>          nRsimhASrama - *vedAntaratnakoSa*
>          dharmarAja adhvarIndra - *padayojana*
> The *vivaraNaprameya sangraha* of bhAratI tIrtha and vidyAraNya, the *vedAnta
> paribhAshA* of dharmarAja adhvarIndra and the *vivaraNopanyAsa* of
> rAmAnanda sarasvatI are independent works that are philosophically allied
> to the *vivaraNa* school of thought.
> The major features which differentiate these two sub-schools are two.
> vAcaspati miSra's *bhAmatI* attempts to harmonize Sankara's thought with
> that of maNDana miSra <http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/mandana.html>.
> Following this line of reasoning, later authors in the bhAmatI school
> describe the individual jIva as the locus of *avidyA*, i.e. *avidyA* is
> ignorance or false knowledge, but it pertains to the individual, who is
> subject to it. brahman is never subject to *avidyA*, but controls it in
> Its capacity as ISvara. This school describes two functions of *avidyA* -
> one is its capacity to veil the Truth, and the second is its capacity to
> project an illusion. This school also describes *avidyA* in terms of a
> root *avidyA* (*mUlAvidyA*), which is universal, and is equivalent to *
> mAyA*, and an individual *avidyA* (*tulAvidyA*), which vanishes when *
> brahmajnAna* arises. Thus, this school develops its theses primarily
> along ontological lines. However, if the individual jIva is the locus of *
> avidyA*, and the individual jIva is also a product of *avidyA*, this
> would lead to an infinite regress, which the *bhAmatI* school avoids by
> positing an infinite series of beginningless jIvas and *avidyA*-s.
> The vivaraNa school concentrates on epistemological approaches to
> establishing advaita. Thus, these authors hold that since there is only the
> One brahman, that brahman Itself is both the locus of *avidyA* and the
> object of *avidyA*. A keen analysis of perception and inference is done,
> through which the non-reality of difference is established. In this
> approach, the later authors share company with both padmapAda<http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/disciples.html#padma>and
> sureSvara <http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/disciples.html#sur>. The
> one problem which critics have against this school of thought is that since
> brahman is of the nature of pure consciousness, to describe brahman as the
> locus of *avidyA* would go against the omniscience of brahman. It would
> also attribute contradictory qualities, namely knowledge and ignorance, to
> the same brahman. The *vivaraNa* authors get around this problem by
> distinguishing between pure consciousness and valid knowledge (*pramAjnAna
> *). Pure consciousness is *cit*, the real essence of brahman, but valid
> cognition at the vyAvahArika level presumes an *avidyA*. The ultimate
> substratum of all cognition, and therefore also of this *avidyA*, is
> brahman.
> It should be clear that the basic problem is still that of reconciling the
> upanishadic dictum of One changeless brahman with the evidence of the
> senses, which imply a mani-fold universe full of change. The *bhAmatI*and the
> *vivaraNa* schools are therefore only varying approaches towards the same
> basic problem. There are some other authors who share both lines of
> thought. An early example is amalAnanda, and a later example is appayya
> dIkshita, whose *siddhAntaleSa-sangraha* is an encyclopedic compilation
> of various views. appayya points out that the differences among the authors
> of the bhAmatI school and the vivaraNa school are not fundamental
> philosophical ones, but rather a result of differing emphases and style of
> argumentation. Taken alone, each school has its own logical problems.
> However, each is a way of describing a logical/philosophical approach to
> the insight of Oneness that cuts through all language and logic.
> Finally, there are authors who cannot be classified under either school.
> These typically tend to be the earlier authors in the post-Sankaran advaita
> tradition. Thus, we have early teachers like jnAnaghana, jnAnottama,
> vimuktAtman <http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#jna> and
> slightly later ones like sarvajnAtman<http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#sar>,
> SrIharsha <http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#sri> and
> citsukha <http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/later.html#cit>. The last
> two named authors strike an independent route, and demolish all non-duality
> through examining the premises of the nyAya logical system, while most of
> the others develop on the arguments first seen in sureSvara's works.

On 22 November 2011 22:53, nishanth <rope.snake+garland at googlemail.com>wrote:

> om shri sadgurubhyo namah
> salutations,
> wow. this an old discussion! i'm finding similar threads everywhere:
>> http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/DennisWaite/Ignorance-%E2%80%93-not-so-obvious!.ashxDennis<http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/DennisWaite/Ignorance-%E2%80%93-not-so-obvious%21.ashxDennis>Waite article:
> There is a metaphor which talks about putting pure water in a colored
>> vessel, analogous to the idiom of seeing the world through rose-colored
>> spectacles. It is as though the truth is being ‘obscured’ by viewing the
>> world through a covering of ignorance. But there is not really something
>> positive here, in the same way as the colored glass. What is happening is
>> that we have accumulated various opinions and beliefs from books and
>> parents etc and these are ‘coloring’ our judgment. Even the word ‘coloring’
>> is forcing us to uphold the metaphor and believe that it refers to
>> something real. But what this actually means is that they are influencing
>> our judgment; there is no physical medium in place.
>>  Accordingly, one has to wonder if the problem here is simply one of
>> language. A new word ‘ignorance’ was introduced to refer to the state of
>> ‘not knowing’ but then, because the word became so much a part of everyday
>> usage, we started to think that there was an actual *thing* called
>> ‘ignorance’. I am reminded of the Alan Watts’ talk which discussed the idea
>> of cause and effect and suggested that so-called ‘causes’ were often
>> invented terms of this sort. And he cited the example of this thing called
>> ‘gravity’ being described as the ‘cause’ for objects falling to the earth
>> when dropped. And he said that, if we dropped a particular object and,
>> instead of falling to the ground, it rose up into the air, then we would
>> have called it a ‘balloon’ and not a ‘stone’. Clever though this sounded
>> when I first heard it, I nevertheless thought that he was deliberately
>> taking an extreme, and unrealistic, example to make his point. But now I am
>> not so sure.
>>  In this case of ignorance, it seems quite reasonable to argue that we
>> could quite happily live without the concept. Shankara’s key concept of
>> Advaita (as indicated by the fact that his commentary on the Brahmasutras
>> is introduced by an explanation) is *adhyAsa*. This is the mechanism by
>> which we ‘mix up’ real and unreal, or ‘superimpose’ the not-Self upon the
>> Self. And there is a tendency to say that ignorance is the *cause* of *
>> adhyAsa*. What I say in ‘Back to the Truth’ about this is: “*What
>> Shankara begins by saying is that ‘I’ am different from the perceived
>> object. I make a fundamental mistake when either I see one thing and think
>> it is something else (e.g. I see a rope and think it is a snake) or I think
>> something has an attribute that it does not really have (e.g. I think that
>> the mirage is actually a lake). There is always something real (the rope or
>> the sand with shimmering air above it) and something illusory. The real
>> part is unaffected by our superimposition. What is effectively happening is
>> that we partially see the real part, the substratum such as the rope, and
>> then overlay it with some recollected memory of something else, such as the
>> snake.*” There is no immediately apparent reason as to why we should say
>> that this happens because of something called ‘ignorance’.
>>  In the metaphor, it is the absence of light which causes us to imagine a
>> snake where there is actually a rope. This equates to absence of knowledge
>> explaining why we fail to realize that everything is Brahman. But darkness
>> is not a positive thing; it is merely absence of sufficient numbers of
>> photons of visible electronic radiation to trigger impulses on the retina.
>> It is a misunderstanding of the physical process that causes someone to
>> claim that a thing is ‘covered’ or ‘hidden’ by darkness. What they really
>> mean is that the thing is not being revealed because there is insufficient
>> light. Thus, for example, I say in ‘Back to the Truth’ that it is
>> ‘ignorance of our true nature’ that is the reason for *saMsAra*. What I
>> should perhaps really say, to avoid this confusion, is that it is ‘failure
>> to recognize our true nature’ that is the reason.
>>  Prior to enlightenment, we identify with the body and mind etc. Since
>> these things are always changing, we think that we are subject to change
>> also – and we call this ‘ignorance’. As I say in BttT: “*The Sanskrit
>> word for ‘truth’ is *satyam* and this is also the word for reality. The
>> only reality is brahman. Ignorance is ignoring (literally ‘turning away
>> from’) this truth through identifying ourselves with a body, mind, belief,
>> cause or whatever. We mistakenly take these things to be real in their own
>> right instead of simply a form of one essential reality.*” Ignorance is
>> this ‘making a mistake’, not something positive in its own right.
>>  The reason I have been thinking about all this is that I have been
>> reading SSSS’s (that’s Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, if you didn’t
>> know!) ‘The Heart of Sri Shankara’ (an incredible translation by A. J.
>> Alston, since the original is in Sanskrit), which is all about logically
>> destroying the idea of a causal, positive ignorance. I will be reviewing
>> book this in due course (If I can manage to complete it, since it is not
>> the easiest read!) and may also continue this discussion – because this is
>> not the whole story by any means. There have been many discussions (or
>> perhaps ‘arguments’ might be a better word) on this topic and there is
>> another difficult, academic text, which looks at these ideas of SSSS and
>> does not altogether agree with them! (This is the doctoral thesis of Martha
>> Doherty, a disciple of Swami Dayananda.)
>>  SSSS says, amongst many other things, that: “*The final truth is that
>> one cannot say that Ignorance really has either an object or a locus. For
>> (Ignorance cannot be real, since) what is real cannot be brought to an end.
>> *” “*…adequate reflection shows that there is no reality ‘Ignorance’
>> over and above different forms of (wrong) knowledge.* *Ignorance is
>> either absence of knowledge or doubtful knowledge or wrong knowledge, as
>> Sri Shankara has remarked (Brihadaranyaka bhAShya 3.3.1).*”
> On 20 November 2011 08:53, Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com>wrote:
>> Namaste Subhanu-ji,
>> Regarding your point (3) in the earlier post:
>> I am not sure what you mean by the term "mental imagination". If the idea
>> is that avidyA is conjured up by the mind, that is not a reasonable
>> statement because the mind itself is a product of avidyA. avidyA is the
>> very nature of the mind. Our list member Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian had
>> extensively written about this in a formal paper that was a major topic of
>> discussion on the list, and which I am sure you would have read. He
>> clearly
>> explained that the mutual superimposition of self and not-self cannot be
>> something conjured up "by the mind".
>> At least I found his arguments very reasonable. For whatever reason, he is
>> no longer a regular participant on the list and I think many on the list
>> would agree if I say that the list misses his insightful posts.
>> So the mind itself is conjured up by avidyA, and the mahAvAkya is needed
>> to
>> destroy avidyA. Of course it is all figurative, in the sense that the
>> Atman
>> is always non-dual and avidyA is found to be non-existent upon
>> investigation. No traditionalist denies this.
>> I hope you notice that it is the SSS school that is actually making a
>> "claim" about avidyA, namely, that it is abhAvarUpa, a mental construct,
>> etc. The classical tradition merely uses it as a factor or device to
>> explain vyavahAra, noting that it can neither be classified as an "entity"
>> (bhAvarUpa) nor as a "non-entity" (abhAvarUpa). The tradition also clearly
>> says that while avidyA is experienced, it disappears on investigation. It
>> is avichAritasiddha and j~nAna-virodhi.
>> Anyway, if your idea is that the SSS school has some important insights
>> that are worth appreciating, I am only too happy to go along. But we are
>> yet to see a post from you that clearly explains what these insights are
>> and how they differ from more commonly held traditional positions. All you
>> have done so far is to tell everyone that they ought to study
>> sureshvarAchArya's works, and even here, none of your quotes so far
>> clearly
>> illustrates anything different from commonly held traditional positions.
>> I would request you, if possible, to put up an article that clearly brings
>> out the specific points (at least with respect to avidyA) being made by
>> the
>> SSS school and how they differ from commonly held traditional positions.
>> You need not quote from the NS, TUBV, etc. Just let us have a complete
>> picture of your thinking on avidyA. This discussion is pointless unless we
>> have that picture. My sense, thus far, is that you misunderstand
>> traditional positions on avidyA.
>> On 8 November 2011 05:32, subhanu saxena <subhanu at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> > As such, Ramesh, I await your response to point 3 in my previous post to
>> > see if there is a real difference at all.
>> >
>> >
>> _______________________________________________

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