[Advaita-l] The concept of mAyA sItA

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Feb 14 03:59:14 CST 2014

According to the Vedanta, the jAti-s (birth in a particular species), varNa
(castes such as brAhmaNa) and Ashrama (stages such as householder,
sannyAsin) belong to the sthUla sharIra, physical/gross body and not to the
Atman.  And therefore what happens to the gross body is not really
happening to the jiva.

This verse 93 of the viveka chUDaamaNi says so:

sthUlasya sambhava-jarA-maraNAni dharmAH

sthaulyAdayo bahuvidhAH shishutAdyavasthAH

varNAshramAdi niyamA ....pUjAvamAna...visheShAH

[Birth, old age, etc. varnAshrama niyamAH, etc. belong to the gross body]

A householder is distinguished from a sannyAsin on the basis of the body.
 A brahmaNa is distinguished from another varNa on the basis of the body.
 Since the mind cannot function on its own, it is the body that determines
the distinction.

Hence we have the BG verse on vAsAmsi jIrNaani...where the gross body is
acquired and given up and not the jIva who continues its sAmsAric journey
by acquiring another body, etc.  Not only in the same jIva the happenings
to one body during various stages such as bAluyam, kaumAryam, does not
affect the jiva, but even when one other body, A, say, has a good meal, a
different body, B. is not getting the tRpti, satisfaction.  So with all
experiences involving sound, touch, etc. that happen to A body are not
transferred to B body.

The most popular episode in scripture that comes to mind is the case of
'mAyA seethA'.  The following material is useful in understanding the
concept of 'the experiences of one body does not affect another body
whether of the same individual or another'.



With the growing popularity of Rama bhakti
movement<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhakti_movement>in the 12th
century, numerous works adopted the concept of Maya Sita.
Devotees could not bear that Sita - the consort of Rama and the chief
goddess of Rama-centric sects - was kidnapped by the demon Ravana and had
to suffer his imprisonment and was defiled by his
Maya Sita concept saves Sita from suffering Ravana's custody and being
succumb to the temptation of acquiring the illusory deer. Instead, the
texts create an illusory Sita, who does not recognize the illusory deer.
The illusory deer motif in the *Ramayana* may have inspired the Maya Sita
concept too.[7]
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-Doniger-7>Maya Sita
also excuses Sita from rebuking Lakshmana when she forces him to
leave her and aid Rama in the illusory deer

Similar doubles or surrogates of Sita and other goddesses are found in
various tales of Hindu mythology<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_mythology>

Though the Maya Sita motif was found earlier in the *Kurma Purana* and
the *Brahma
Vaivarta Purana
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahma_Vaivarta_Purana>*(801-1100 CE)
where Sita's purity is safeguarded, it is the *Adhyatma
Ramayana <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adhyatma_Ramayana>* (a part of
the *Brahmanda
Purana <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmanda_Purana>,* c. 14th century),
where Maya Sita plays a much greater role in the plot. The concept of
maya<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28illusion%29>(illusion) is an
integral part of the narrative; the best examples being
Maya Sita and Maya mriga (illusory deer). Though *Adhyatma
Ramayana*originated in
Varanasi <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varanasi> in North India, it
influenced Malayam <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malayam> (South India) and
Oriya <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oriya_language> (East India) renditions
of the *Ramayana*, but most importantly influenced the *Ramcharitmanas
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramcharitmanas>* of
[9] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-9>

The *Ramcharitmanas* expands on the Agni Pariksha narrative. Since no one
knows about the replacement of the real Sita by Maya Sita, Sita's chastity
is in question. The text explicitly states that the Agni Pariksha destroys
the Maya Sita as well as the "stigma of public shame", that Sita would have
had to otherwise endure. Rama is exculpated from using harsh words to
"Sita" at the time of Agni Pariksha as he knows it is the false Sita he is
accusing. Sita is saved from public humiliation as her chastity is proven
by Agni Pariksha.[10]<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-Doniger_a-10>The
moral status of Rama as well as Sita is protected by the Maya Sita
motif.[11] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-11>

In many versions of the tale, the omniscient Rama knows about Sita's
impending abduction and creates Maya Sita. Such versions assert Rama's
divine status, a departure from Valmiki's portrayal of Rama as a human hero.
[8] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-:2-8>

The motif also appears in the *Devi Bhagavata Purana
century CE) and the *Adbhuta
Ramayana <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adbhuta_Ramayana>*,[3]<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-Krishnaraj2012-3>(c.
14th century CE)The *Chaitanya
Charitamrita <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaitanya_Charitamrita>*, a
biography of the Vaishnava saint Chaitanya
by Krishnadasa
Kaviraja <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishnadasa_Kaviraja> (b. 1496)
alludes to the *Kurma Purana* tale. Chaitanya meets a
brahmin<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmin>Rama devotee in
Madurai <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madurai>. The brahmin is devastated
after learning that "mother Sita, mother of the universe and the supreme
goddess of fortune" was stained by Ravana's touch and gives up food. The
saint consoles the brahmin saying that Sita's spiritual form can not be
touched by the demon; it was Maya Sita that was taken away by Ravana. The
brahmin feels better and accepts food. Chaitanya then travels to
where he listens to the *Kurma Purana* and obtains the authoritative proof
to comfort the brahmin. He returns to Madurai with the *Kurma
Purana*manuscript, leaving that brahmin overjoyed.
[16] <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-16>[17]<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Sita#cite_note-Rosen1994-17>


The case of Shankaracharya entering the body of King Amaruka is somewhat
similar to the above.  Ubhaya bhArati (originally Saraswati/bhAratI), after
her husband (originally brahmA/vAyu) surrendered to Shankara's victory in
the debate, wanted to show to the world that Shankara was no ordinary
person.  She wanted to portray Shankara as a sarva vidyA sampanna, the
knower of all sciences.  That was required in the sense that Shankara would
be ascending the sarvajna peetha.  He was not just an ordinary sannyAsin
but also a dArshanika.  That is why Saraswati, as ubhaya bhArati, posed the
question about kAma kalA.  Shankara, though aware of the kalA, if replies,
it would be unbecoming of a sannyasi to delineate about such things.  On
the other hand, if he does not reply, it would be a lacuna in his knowledge
of all sciences/arts.  So, He decided to ask for a month's time and hit
upon the plan of feigning the acquiring of the knowledge and giving it out.
 Thus, out of the yogic powers He entered the body of the dead king and
stayed in the palace among the women, yet administering the kingdom.  He
'consulted' several experts in the kAma kalA and *wrote a work, as the
King, on the science of kAma (according to the mAdhavIya dig vijaya).  *

The shankara vijaya does not say that after return, by AkAsha mArga,
Shankara, as the sannyAsin, discussed this with ubhaya bhArati.  The vijaya
says that ubhaya bharati acknowledged Shankara's *literary work on the
matter.*  Thus, Shankara achieved the objective of coming out successful in
her test and yet not defiling the sannyAsa Ashrama.

Before doing the para kAya pravesha Shankara discusses the plan with his
disciples  and with supreme conviction says: No harm will come to him as a
person, even if he would engage in the art of acquiring the knowledge with
his present form since he is an Atmavit and has given up desire and most
importantly, the kartRtva bhAva.  He cites the Rg vedic passage of Indra
not getting affected by killing a brAhmaNa and consigning a number of
yati-s to wolves out of great krodha.   But, He says, following the
shiShTAchAra of not causing any harm to the sannyAsa Ashrama, he would opt
for the other method, which would, however, not affect his Ashrama-body.
Nor do we have evidence that Shankara's disciples lost reverence for Him
after that episode.

If ubhaya bhArati's questioning Shankara, a sannyAsin, of the kAma kalA is
objected to, then we will have to delete some portions of the Br.up and the
chAndogya up. and their bhAShyas.  For instance in the Br.up. while
discussing the deep sleep the upanishad gives the example of the man in
tight embrace of his beloved/wife and immersed in that conjugal bliss, not
being aware of anything outside or inside.  Shankara does not shy away from
commenting on this.  Likewise in the Ch.up. there is the vAmadevya sAman,
an upAsana, were the person involved is under a vow not to refuse
intercourse with 'any' woman who comes to him.  Shankara does comment upon
those mantras without diluting the original mantra's purport or changing
the meaning.

Thus we have a number of instances of one resorting to certain actions
through taking another body, etc. as precedent.  There cannot be two
opinions on Swami Vidyaranya's knowledge of the Vedanta, the scriptures,
and his great regard to the sampradAya and shiShTAchara and, above all, to
Shankara BhagavatpAda.  His penning those incidents in the narration of
Shankara's life is beyond censure and by no means amount  to demeaning the
stature of the shAstra and Shankara.  In fact one very noteworthy feature
of the work is that Vedantic teaching is very extensively woven into the
various episodes.  He who has written the jivanmukti viveka with those
incomparable chapters on vAsanA kShaya and mano nAsha could not be held to
be ignorant of the do's and don'ts of writing a kAvya centered on the life
of Acharya Shankara who was not only a sannyAsin but also a dArshanika.



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