[Advaita-l] Moral Goodness of Brahman?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Oct 20 13:34:59 CDT 2015

On Tue, 20 Oct 2015, saha niranjan via Advaita-l wrote:

> Dear List,
> Namaskar and navaratri greetings!
> Could you please share your thoughts about the points below Professor Lance Nelson is wondering about?  
> Sincerely yours,Niranjan Saha

> Hello Friends—I’m looking, with mixed success, for textual evidence 
> regarding the moral goodness, or otherwise, of para Brahman in 
> Advaita.I’m aware that many scholars have argued for the essential 
> amorality, or transmorality, of the para/nirguna Brahman in Advaita.  It 
> seems that most such declarations are based on general impressions of 
> the literature, and not on actual citations from Sankara, the Upanisads, 
> or other sources.  Are there any citations that point explicitly to the 
> para Brahman being “beyond good and evil”?

I think not.  See below.

>  I’d very much appreciate 
> some references on this.I’m also aware that Sankara gives a fairly 
> extensive theodicy, based on idea of karma, lila, the anaditva of 
> creation, etc., in his comments on Brahmasutra 2.1.34-36 and related 
> sutras.  This of course seems to assume, and attempt to defend, the idea 
> of the moral goodness of Brahman as Isvara, in relation to creation.  
> But this does not, it seems to me, say much about the para Brahman.I’d 
> appreciate any suggestions my learned colleagues could kindly provide. I 
> was asking about evidence in the literature of Advaita (particularly 
> Upanisads and Sankara, but perhaps elsewhere) for or against the idea 
> that para/nirguna Brahman is, as it is commonly said, trans-moral, 
> “beyond good and evil.”  I’m thinking about the moral goodness of 
> Brahman.

One pertinent text that comes to mind about Brahmans intrinsic goodness is 
kenopaniShada III.2 and onwards.  which begins by recounting how Brahman 
caused the devas to overcome the asuras.  The Devas ignorantly claimed the 
victory as their own so Brahman in the form of a yakSha humbled them and 
then in the form of umA HaimavatI taught indra the brahmavidyA.

On III.2.1, shankaracharya's padbhAshya explains vijagye etc. as:

vijagye jayaM labhavaddevAnAmasurANAM cha s~NgrAme.asurA~njitvA 
jagadarAtInIshvarasetubhettR^iR^in devebhyo jayaM tatphalaM cha 
prAyachchhajjagataH sthemne |

Brahman favors the Devas against the Asuras who are enemies of the world 
and violate Ishvaras dharma. This favoritism is for the protection of the 
world.  So you could say that Brahman is good in the sense that It prefers 
life and the creation and laws over their opposites.

But the reference to Uma mata shows a problem in the way your question is 
formulated.  As I'm sure you well know Brahman and Ishvar are not two 
separate entities but the same Brahman viewed as saguna or nirguna.  It 
makes sense to talk about a saguna entity as good or evil but when talking 
about a nirguna one what does that even mean?  Even in the phenomenal 
realm, can a rainfall or a volcano be called good or evil?  These are 
words that only make sense for embodied beings no?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list