[Advaita-l] Meet on Advaita Vedanta 2

subhanu saxena subhanu at hotmail.com
Tue May 28 12:54:31 CDT 2013

Are the epithets mithyā as anirvachanīyā , mūlāvidyā  as sadasadvilakshaṇa-bhāvarūpam necessary and justified in Shankara’s  tradition to explain the world as we perceive
it and to differentiate mūlāvidyā from things that have no
existence such as a hare’s horn? Can it’s nature be determined to be
sadasad-vilakshaṇam or bhāvarūpam through the correct pramanas?

For:  mūlāvidyā  is mithyā and does not stand under scrutiny so there is no
problem in labelling it as bhāvrūpa or sadasadvilakshaṇam so we can distinguish it from entities that do not
exist such as a hare’s horn. The world cannot be caused by a non-entity
therefore characterising avidya as jnāna-abhāva is not appropriate.
Also BUB 3.3.1 yadi jnānabhāvah.. can be interpreted
to mean avidyā is
something other than doubt, wrong knowledge or absence of knowledge

Against: This view is flatly contradicted in Suresvara, who
maintains vehemently that there is no entity as anātman. Anātman
is falsely imagined, and any other view would ascribe a reality to the universe
that not intended in Shāstra,
which declares Brahman as the only reality. In fact Suresvara explicitly tells
us jnanābhāvo’athavā sarvam avidyaiveti  nischitah BUBV 1.4.1439, and jnanābhavādasidddhau cha BUBV
2.4.207. We find  a similar reference in
BUBV 1.4.1699 jnanābhavann
na vijnānan…

Suresvara also uses the hare’s horn analogy in the exact
opposite way as the vivaranam tradition and he uses the term explicitly in BUBV
4.4.332 and BUBV 1.4.326. His point is to establish that atman is self
established and real, unlike something that does not exist like a hare’s
horn.  In BUBV 4.3.1292 he explicitly
tells as anātman is a
non entity like the son of a barren woman or a man’s horn: avastutvan niratmatvat

Also suresvara does not endorse the vivaraṇam school’s attempts to establish the bhāvarupatva of avidyāby pramanas (Chitsukha and
prakashatman adduce multiple pramāṇas to establish the bhāvarupatva of ignorance)  as he tells us that not only is avidyā not accessible to be
determined by pramāṇas atah pramāṇato ‘shakyā
SV 184, seyam bhrantir nirālambā NS 3.66 , but also that
one who is endowed with ignorance can never know its nature avidyāvān avidyān
tām na nirupayitum kshamah
SV 179. So trying to establish any nature for avidyā is fruitless.

Suresvara’s final judgement: we falsely imagine the world to
be other than ātman
because we have not known ātman,
as a result of our lack of critical reflection, for ignorance falsely
creates that which does not exist avidyāyāh
yadasat karanam mriṣā BUBV 2.4.456

What is the value of stating that such a root
ignorance, a superimposed notion, must be present in deep sleep, another
superimposed notion, in aiding a seeker’s understanding and is it sanctioned in
Shankara’s system?


For: We cannot explain waking up from deep sleep if root ignorance
were not present. In addition, when saying 
that jiva is one with sat in deep sleep 
that sat meant here is not the ultimate sat.

Against: Actually no argument here-whenever we invoke
the notion of a state such as waking, dream or deep sleep this is all within
the clutches of avidya as all 3 are superimposed states. In deep sleep simply
the faculties of empirical dealings, namely the mind, are absent. Ignorance,
being an imagined notion (Kalpyavidyaiva mat pakshe..SV 183)it  has nothing to reveal it in “deep sleep” which
is why we say it is not present there (N.S. 3.58). However whenever we talk of
the state of deep sleep this is still superimposition. Since avidyā is imagined, and the mind
is not present and both avidyā
and deep sleep are superimposed notions, it is impossible to state that any
entity of a non imagined avidyāis
somehow present in deep sleep. In any event no text of the vivaraṇa school has given an explanation of why insisting of the
presence of a superimposed notion in a superimposed state aids sadhana. 
4.3 has over 100 verses on suresvara’s examination of the method of the 3
states. BUBV 4.3.1517-1520 are worth noting, but from BUBV 4.3.1000 -1600 are
worth deep study.Time does not permit a detailed analysis here but if anybody
would like the fuller references and translations of the verses above or the
key verses of suresvara on the 3 states please email me privately and I will
try and find time to provide. Alternatively as I am now in Mumbai  if anybody would like to meet and discuss I
am available there. 

One final point, the more I see the more I am convinced that
these differeing views arise when we try and approach the teachings before our  sādhanā has ripened. It is no
small matter that Shankara tells us that the teaching is for those who are sādhana-chatuṣṭaya-sampanna.
In NS 1.51 Suresvara tells us that understanding the true nature of the world
comes before embarking on a serious study of the shastra, for such seekers no
longer seek to question or explain the apparent reality/causality of how the
universe came to be. I hope therefore the posts encourage all to study deeply
Suresvara and not lose focus on the prize of the right sādhanā that will yield knowledge



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