[Advaita-l] About the term in 'Ishwara' in Advaita - a brief note

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Apr 10 05:53:27 CDT 2012

Since the Brahma sutra bhashya 1.3.13 was mentioned here, I wish to state a
few things pertaining to this bhashya:

For every adhikaraNam, Swami Vidyaranya has provided two verses that bring
out the gist of the discussion undertaken therein consisting of the
purvapaksha and the siddhanta.  This is very useful for one to know either
a priori or after the study of the adhikaraNam, by means of a summary, as
to what is contained therein.  For this particular adhikaraNam, the verse
goes thus:

ईक्षतिकर्मव्यपदेशात् सः ॥ १.३.१३ ॥

त्रिमात्रप्रणवे ध्येयमपरं ब्रह्म वा परम् । ब्रह्मलोकफलोक्त्यादेरपरं ब्रह्म
गम्यते ॥ १
ईक्षितव्यो जीवघनात्परः तत्प्रत्यभिज्ञा । भवेद्ध्येयं परं ब्रह्म क्रममुक्तिः
फलमिति ॥ २

Doubt: In the meditation using the praNava with the three 'mAtra-s', the
the brahman that is meditated is the param or the aparam?
The pUrvapakshin's conclusion: Since in this meditation the fruit is stated
to be going to Brahmaloka, the meditation is on the aparam brahman.
SiddhAnta: The meditated Brahman is param brahman alone for It is
differentiated from the Hiranyagarbha.  The going to brahmaloka as fruit of
this meditation is with a view to show that this meditation leads to krama

Now, let us see some salient features of this adhikaraNam:

   - In the concerned shruti passage, there are words such as 'paraH' and
   'purushaH'.  These two are common to denote both the Hiranyagarbha and the
   - Yet, the ParamAtman is said to be 'parAtparaH puruShaH'.  Here there
   are two words to indicate 'paraH' - one in the panchamI and another in
   prathamA (dviteeyaa in the shruti).  The first one indicates the
   Hiranyagarbha who is 'great' in relation to those beings that are lower in
   hierarchy than him.  The second ’paraH’ indicates that Brahman that is
   greater even than this Hiranyagarbha.
   - Even though Shankara uses the term 'paramAtmaa', 'paraH puruShaH' to
   refer to para Brahman (as distinct from the Hiranyagarbha) still this para
   Brahman is NOT the Ishwara (saguna/savishesha/mAyopAdhika Brahman that is
   described in the sixth mantra of the Mandukyopanishat and subsequently
   negated in the seventh mantra).
   - Shankara gives the reasoning, quoting another shruti: पुरुषान्न परं
   किञ्चित् सा काष्ठा सा परा गतिः of the Kathopanishat where the
   ParamapuruSha, paramAtmA, Para, nirguNa, nirvishesha  Brahman  is taught as
   the Ultimate beyond whom there is nothing to be counted as higher. And
   which is the Ultimate Goal.
   - Shankara holds that this 'meditation' is on the above said para
   Brahman (not Ishwara) that should lead to self-realization, सम्यग्दर्शनम्
   and moksha.
   - But since the Prashna shruti that is the subject matter of this
   discussion says that this meditator will reach Brahmaloka, Shankara holds
   that it is a meditation on Brahman with the Alambana, support, of the
   praNava and hence the meditator is assured or krama mukti (and not
   realization here in this life itself).
   - If the aspirant had 'known'/realized the NirguNa nirvishesha Brahman,
   he would have been released here itself.  But he has chosen to meditate
   using the praNava as prateeka, a symbol (as distinct from a pratimA, an
   idol of Vishnu).  [In the BGB 8.23 introduction Shankara uses the word
   'प्रणवावेशितब्रह्मबुद्धीनां कालान्तरमुक्तिभाजाम्’ which means: these
   meditators have infused 'Brahmabuddhi' in the praNava (just as one
   'infuses' Vishnubuddhi in the pratimA/sAligraama) and owing to this
   meditation they will get released from samsara at a different/later time
   and not in this life itself.] Since this is a meditation (till the end of
   the life), the phalam is brahmaloka prApti, for krama mukti.  He will
   realize Brahman in that loka and get finally released.
   - Thus, even though the subject of meditation is the para Brahman beyond
   even Ishwara, the fruit is brahmaloka, because it is a meditation.
   - The Ratnaprabha on the BSB clarifies: it is the dhyeya brahma with
   praNava. [In Advaita there is the mention of 'jneya brahman' which is to be
   realized as such.  But the 'meditatable brahman' is not to be realized as
   such; owing to the samskara the mind/aspirant gets due to the meditation,
   the samyagjnAnam will arise at a different time/loka.]
   - The Ratnaprabha, at the beginning of the gloss for this BSB, while
   putting the Prashna shruti in perspective explains: 'param = nirguNam,
   aparam = saguNam braha etadeva yo'yam OmkAraH'. sa hi pratimEva
   viShNostasya pratIkaH.' And goes on to explain the shruti vAkyam: he who
   meditates on this praNava will attain to, depending upon which type of
   meditation he engages in, the para or apara brahman.
   - The Bhamati writes: This meditation is on the Brahman with upAdhi.
   - The nyAyanirNaya of Anandagiri elucidates: This is a meditation on the
   Brahman with the OmkArOpAdhi.
   - Thus, even though the meditation is not on the sarvajnatvOpAdhi
   vishiShTa Brahman (Ishwara) who has the avyaktopAdhi too to carry out the
   function of creation, from whom the beings emerge at the time of creation
   and in whom the beings merge in pralaya (BG 8.19), there is the upAdhi of
   OmkAra here which makes this Brahman a dhyeya brahman and not the
   nirupAdhika jneya brahman.  However, the fruit of knowing brahman is
   available for this aspirant in the Brahmaloka.
   - The use of the word 'paramAtmA' is to refer to the para Brahman, not
   Ishwara, though different from Hiranyagarbha.
   - There is no use of the term 'parameshwara' in this BSB.  Even if it
   were there, as for example, in the BGB 8.13 (मामीश्वरमनुस्मरन्ननुचिन्तयन्),
   it does not refer to the savishesha brahman, the
   creator-sustainer-destroyer, but the one above/beyond this.  For these
   aspirants utter, ucchAraNam, the OmkAra with the idea that it means/has for
   its subject matter the Ishwara/Brahman.  (BGB 8.13)
   - Hence this sutra bhashyam 1.3.13 is not concerned with the Ishwara who
   is sOpAdhika/savishesha, though distinct from Hiranyagarbha.
   - Thus a careful study of the BSB 1.3.13 along with the BGB 8th chapter
   verses does not prove to one that the sOpAdhika/savishesha Ishwara is the
   same as the Para Brahman which is beyond even this.
   - It is also pertinent to note that in the Mandukyopanishad bhashya for
   the mantra 12 what Shankara says: //The Knower of Brahman who has realized
   the highest Truth hs entered into the Self b burning awa the third state of
   latency and hence he is not born again, since Turiya has no latency of
   creation.  For when a snake superimposed on a rope has merged in the rope
   on the discrimination of the rope and the snake, it does not appear again
   to those discriminating people, just as before. ...To those men of
   renunciation, however, who are possessed of dull or average intellect, who
   still consider themselves aspirants, who tread the virtuous path, and who
   know the common features of the letter and the quarters (of Om and the
   Self) as presented before, (to them) the syllable Om when meditted on in
   the proper way, becomes helpful for the realization of Brahman....//  In
   this bhashya too, the Brahman they meditate upon is not the Ishwara but the
   Turiya alone, with the various mAtra-s of Om for support.  Shankara, just
   as in the BGB/BSB uses the word 'Alambanam' here too.
   - The BSB and the BGB considered above are in the context of the
   aspirants mentioned above who have not the capacity to discriminate in the
   manner of rope-snake.  They gain the capacity by meditation, in a later
   loka, and eventually get released.


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