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

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Apr 17 01:50:54 EDT 2017

On Sun, Apr 16, 2017 at 10:45 PM, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste.
> 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.

Very nicely articulated post. I have always felt the Advaita Siddhi is a
hard nut to crack. To present such a lucid explanation in English is not
easy.  You have done it so well.

Please continue with many such selections from that great text.

Thanks and regards

> 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
> mithyA.
> 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
> अशुद्धत्वमस्वप्रकाशत्वव्यापकमित्यर्थ:
> | 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
> similarity.
> 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.
> Regards,
> Venkatraghavan
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