[Advaita-l] Does Brahman's svaprakAshatvam make it mithyA?

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Sun Apr 16 13:15:27 EDT 2017


drishyatvam (knowability) is often cited as a hetu (reason) to prove the
mithyAtva of objects. In advaita siddhi, there is an entire chapter
dedicated to what this "knowability" really means.

Here we look at one particular aspect under consideration. The pUrvapakshi
argues - if you, the advaitin, say that whatever is knowable is mithyA,
then either Brahman is knowable and therefore mithyA, or you have to accept
that it can never be known, making the study of advaita vedAnta useless. He
says: नच - वृत्तिव्याप्यत्वपक्षे ब्रह्मणि व्यभिचार:, अन्यथा ब्रह्मपराणां
वेदान्तानां वैयर्थ्यप्रसन्गादिति - वाच्यं; (vyabhichAra = a defect where
the hetu is present but the sAdhya, the thing proved by the hetu, is not.
Here the purvapakshi is arguing the hetu of drishyatvam, defined as vritti
vyApyatvam is present in Brahman, but the sAdhya of mithyAtva is not).

To refute this, siddhikAra uses an argument from the author of bhAmati (he
provides a different interpretation from a vivaraNa perspective later in
the chapter). He introduces upahita Brahman, which is Brahman delimited by
a vritti and therefore known (and thus is mithyA) and contrasts this with
shuddha Brahman, which is never the object of a thought (and thus satya).
The purpose of Vedanta is to generate knowledge of this upahita Brahman.

He says: शुद्धं हि ब्रह्म न दृश्यम्; "यत्तदद्रेश्य"मिति श्रुते:
किन्तूपहितमेव, तच्च मिथ्यैव; नहि वृत्तिदशायां अनुपहितं तद्भवति | shuddha
brahman is not drishyam, as the muNDaka shruti says, "Brahman is not
drishyam". Whereas, the object of akhaNDAkAravritti,  upahita brahman, is

The siddhikAra will later say - once the akhaNDAkAra vritti reveals upahita
Brahman, it ceases to exist itself, leaving anupahita shuddha Brahman as
the only remaining thing. For the moment though, the pUrvapakshi is left
with the understanding that shuddha Brahman cannot be known. So, he objects:

नच - एवं सति शुद्धसिद्धिर्न स्यादिति - वाच्यम् ;  "if you insist on this,
then one can never know shuddha Brahman."

स्वतएव तस्य प्रकाशत्वेन सिद्धत्वात् | The siddhikAra says - no, because
 shuddha Brahman is self-revealing, therefore it is ever obtained (known).

This raises a quandary - if shuddha Brahman is svaprakAsham (self
revealing), then it is known - for what is revealing but making a thing
known?  Therefore, does svaprakAshatvam not make Brahman mithyA by the
advaitin's own definition?

However, before this topic is taken up, the pUrvapakshi raises a
fundamental issue. He says, before commencing a discussion on whether an
object possesses or does not possess a particular attribute, that object
itself must be known. If the object itself is unknown, can one talk of its
attribute? Can one discuss whether a vandhyA putrah is tall or short?

ननु - अज्ञाते धर्मिणि कस्यचित् धर्मस्य विधातुं निषेद्धुं वा अशक्यत्वेन
शुद्धेन दृश्यत्वं निषेधता शुद्धस्य ज्ञेयत्वमवश्यं स्वीकरणीयम्, He says -
one cannot say whether an unknown substance (dharmiNi) has an attribute
(dharma) or does not have a dharma. If you want to claim that shuddha
Brahman does not have drishyatvam, one has to necessarily know Brahman
first and therefore one has to accept shuddha Brahman's knowability. That
is, that Brahman is knowable presupposes an enquiry into Brahman. The irony
of this, of course, is that it renders the enquiry into whether Brahman has
knowability (or not) moot.

न च - स्वप्रकाशत्वेन स्वत: सिद्धे शुद्धे श्रुत्या दृश्यत्वनिषेधा इति -
वाच्यम् ; He further goes on: you the advaitin, may argue that Brahman
which happens to be self established, is known by itself (svaprakasham).
You may cite shruti to say that such a Brahman does not have drishyatvam.
However, that is not acceptable because:

शुद्धं स्वप्रकाशमिति शब्दजन्यविशिष्टवृत्तौ शुद्धाप्रकाशे तस्य
स्वप्रकाशत्वासिद्धे: - when the words "shuddha Brahman is svaprakAsham" are
said,  it generates a vritti in the mind of the hearer. Is shuddha Brahman
known as a result? If you say shuddha Brahman is not known, then shuddha
Brahman is not svaprakAsham - it did not reveal itself. If you say the
words do generate the meaning, then shuddham svaprakAsham is vritti
vyApyam, because it was the vritti that revealed it. Brahman is either not
svaprakAsha or it is svaprakAsha AND mithyA.

To this siddhikAra says:
- इति चेन्न; If this is your argument, no.
वृत्तिकाले वृत्तिरुपेण धर्मेण शुद्धत्वासंभवात् शुद्धस्य वृत्तिविषयत्वं न
संभवति, Because such a Brahman whose dharma is revealed through a vritti is
not shuddha Brahman because shuddha Brahman cannot be an object of a
vritti. Brahman is never revealed by vritti, it illuminates the vritti.

अत: "शुद्धं स्वप्रकाश"मिति वाक्यस्य लक्षणया
| The sentence "shuddham svaprakAsham" is an implication. What is actually
meant is: wherever there is asvaprakAshatvam, ashuddhatvam is present
(ashuddhatvam is vyApaka, asvaprakAshatvam is vyApya). Here siddhikAra is
using the logic: A implies B is equivalent to not B implying not A.

तथा च अशुद्धत्वव्यावृत्त्या शुद्धे स्वप्रकाशता पर्यवस्यति, यथा भेदनिषेधेन
अभिन्नत्वम् | In shuddha Brahman, ashuddhatvam is absent. By the rule that
asvaprakAshatvam is the vyApya and ashuddhatvam is the vyApaka - if vyApaka
is absent, then its subset, vyApya must be absent too. Therefore, as
shuddha Brahman does not have ashuddhatvam, it does not have
asvaprakAshatvam either. In other words, shuddha Brahman is svaprakAsha. It
is like saying the absence of difference between two things proves their

To clarify the above: For example, a person can either be a man or a woman.
So  the set of men is a subset of the set of persons. We say wherever a man
exists,  a person exists. Where the larger set is absent, the smaller set
also is absent. Where there is no person, there is no man either.

Similarly, here we are saying where there is asvaprakAshatvam, there is
ashuddhatvam. Therefore, where there is no ashuddhatvam (shuddha Brahman),
there must be no asvaprakAshatvam. This is the meaning of shuddham
svaprakAsham. Thus, shuddha Brahman is not the object of a vritti - however
this does not invalidate its svaprakAshatvam. Nor does svaprakAshatvam lead
to Brahman's mithyAtva.

The pUrva pakshi then asks, why use the term shuddham at all if no words
can ever be used to refer to it - whether by direct meaning or implication?

न च - शुद्धपदेन अभिधया लक्षणया वा शुद्धाप्रकाशे तत्प्रयोगवैयर्थ्यमिति -
वाच्यम् ;
If the meaning of the word "shuddha" cannot refer to shuddha by mukhyArtha
(vAcyArtha / abhidhayA) or lakshyArtha, then the usage of the word itself
is useless.

पर्यवसितार्थमादाय सार्थकत्वोपपत्ते: | The siddhikAra replies - not so,
because when all other alternatives for the meaning of the word "shuddha"
have been negated, what remains, the paryavasita artham (where shuddhatvam
is present, there the absence of svaprakAshatvam is impossible), makes the
word meaningful.

एवं च "शुद्धं न दृश्यं न मिथ्ये" तस्याप्यशुद्धत्वं
दृश्यत्वमिथ्यात्वयोर्व्यापकमित्येतत्परत्वेन शुद्धे
दृश्यत्वमिथ्यात्वयोर्व्यतिरेक: पर्यवस्यति |
Therefore, by saying shuddha Brahman is not drishyam, not mithyA, there
too, what is meant is that drishyatvam and mithyAtvam are vyApya for
ashuddhatvam. Therefore the meaning is that in shuddha Brahman, drishyatvam
and mithyAtvam are absent.

एतेन - स्फुरणमात्रमेव मिथ्यात्वे प्रयोजकं तन्त्रम् लाघवात् ; therefore
applying the principle of parsimony, we can conclude a rule for what
constitutes mithyA - wherever sphuraNam occurs, i.e. whatever is jnAna
vishayam, is mithyA.

अत: "स्वत:स्फुरदपि ब्रह्म मिथ्यिवे'ति - शून्यवादिमतपास्तम् ; therefore,
this also refutes shUnyavAdi mata which says Brahman, being svatah
sphuraNam, is mithyA.

स्वत:स्फुरणरूपताया: शुक्तिरूप्यादावभावात्, स्फुरणविषयत्वस्य
ब्रह्मण्यसिद्धे: | because shuktirUpya, which is mithyA does not have
svatah sphuraNam. Further Brahman is not a vishaya for sphuraNam, its
svarUpa itself is sphuraNam.

Therefore the charge that Brahman's svaprakAshatvam implies it's mithyAtvam
is addressed.


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