[Advaita-l] BG 14.27 - saguNa and nirguNa Brahman

rajaramvenk at gmail.com rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 16:26:22 CDT 2012

Please read the para before that. The Innermost Self is equated to the Supreme Self.

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-----Original Message-----
From: V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>
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Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2012 23:01:53 
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
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Subject: [Advaita-l] BG 14.27 - saguNa and nirguNa Brahman

In the 14th chapter of the Bh.gita the last verse has a very important
message in the context of saguNa and nirguNa brahman.

ब्रह्मणो हि प्रतिष्ठाऽहममृतस्याव्ययस्य च।

शाश्वतस्य च धर्मस्य सुखस्यैकान्तिकस्य च।।14.27।।

[For I am the Abode of Brahman - the indestructible and immutable, the
eternal, the Dharma and absolute Bliss.]

The portion from the shAnkara bhashyam taken for our purpose is:

यया च ईश्वरशक्त्या भक्तानुग्रहादिप्रयोजनाय ब्रह्म प्रतिष्ठते प्रवर्तते, सा
शक्तिः ब्रह्मैव अहम्, शक्तिशक्तिमतोः अनन्यत्वात् इत्यभिप्रायः। अथवा,
ब्रह्मशब्दवाच्यत्वात् सविकल्पकं ब्रह्म। तस्य ब्रह्मणो निर्विकल्पकः अहमेव
नान्यः प्रतिष्ठा आश्रयः।

Translation (Sw.Gambhirananda):
// Indeed, that power of God through which Brahman sets out, comes forth,
for the purpose of favouring the devotees, etc., that power which is
Brahman Itself, am I. For, a power and the possessor of that power are
non-different. Or, brahman means the conditioned Brahman, since It (too,)
is referred to by that word. 'Of that Brahman, I Myself, the unconditioned
Brahman-and none else-am the Abode.' //

Shankara  has given two explanations here.  The first explanation is as
coming from Krishna the saguNa brahman.  He (Krishna) says that His
manifestation as this avatAra is based in Him only, due to His shakti.  And
that way He and the manifestation are not different.  Here Krishna is
speaking in the capacity of saguNa brahman, Ishwara.  When Ishwara takes
various avatara-s, it is out of His mAyAshakti.  The avatAra is a
manifestation of the mAyAshakti of this Ishwara, saguNa Brahman. In the
cosmic management function of Brahman, the saguNa Brahman/Ishwara, there
arises now and then the need to take specific avatara-s/forms for specific
purposes mainly aimed at dharma sthApanam and adharma nigrahanam.  These
forms are of the saguNa Brahman alone.

In the second explanation, Shankara takes the word 'brahma' to mean the
saguNa brahman (that sometimes manifests as the avatAra Bhagavan.)  For
this saguNa brahman, the adhiShThAnam is the nirguNa brahman.

The subtle but significant difference between the two explanations is: in
the first one, the avatAra krishna is not seen as different from saguNa
Brahman.  It is just a manifestation of the latter just as this saguNa
brahman will take / has taken other avataras too, to bless mankind.  In the
second interpretation, Ishwara/krishna is a saguna entity who is kalpita in
the nirguNa brahman.   Shankara says that the nirvikalpa Brahman otherwise
known as nirguNa / shuddha / nirvishesha / nirupAdhika Brahman is the
support without which the savikalpaka/saguNa/a-shuddha
prakRti-yukta/savishesha/ sopaadhika brahman has no independent existence.

In Advaita that which is dependent on / supported by something else for its
very existence is held to be unreal / mithyA / only relatively real and not
absolutely real.  Only the one that lends support/existence to other(s) and
is not in need of any other support for its own existence is absolutely
real.  In this bhashyam Shankara brings out the status of the saguNa and
nirguNa brahman. The word 'pratiShThA' provides the occasion for such an
explanation.  'brahmaNaH pratiShThA' assumes greater significance, for the
question arises: Brahman itself is the support/abode of everything.  What
can be the support of Brahman? The answer comes in the form of Shankara's
words: 'Brahman' can mean, in this context, the *manifest form* of saguNa
brahman and saguNa brahman itself.  We should not bring nirguNa brahman in
the search for the meaning of the word 'Brahman' in this verse.  This is
because it will lead to the absurd situation of looking for a support for
nirguNa brahman.

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