[Advaita-l] Tamas, physical darkness, is a positive object

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Jul 20 08:54:51 EDT 2017

Tamas, physical darkness, is a positive object

In the BSB 1.3.40, Shankara says: ‘एष सम्प्रसादोऽस्माच्छरीरात्समुत्थाय परं
ज्योतिरुपसम्पद्य स्वेन रूपेणाभिनिष्पद्यते’ (छा. उ. ८ । १२ । ३)
श्रूयते । तत्र संशय्यते — किं ज्योतिःशब्दं *चक्षुर्विषयतमोपहं तेजः*, किं वा
परं ब्रह्मेति ।

Does the word 'jyotis' in the Chandogya passage 8.12.3 refer to the
physical light that dispels darkness that envelops objects perceptible to
the eye or the Supreme Brahman?

From the usage  *चक्षुर्विषयतमोपहं*   it is clear that darkness is a
positive entity that is also popularly understood as 'absence of light' and
that it is dispelled by light. In any case that darkness is admitted by the
Vedantin as an object that is grasped by the eye is what we understand from
the usage. We do have the Upanishad itself admitting darkness, tamas, as a
specific entity and not as an abhava. In the antaryami brahmanam 3.7.13 is
this mantra:

यस्तमसि तिष्ठंस्तमसोऽन्तरो यं तमो न वेद यस्य तमः शरीरं यस्तमोऽन्तरो
यमयत्येष त आत्मान्तर्याम्यमृतः ॥ १३ ॥

He who, residing in tamas, impels the tamas (devata), but whom the tamas
devata does not know, for whom tamas is body, this antaryami is your self.

The Upanishad also says next that tejas, light, is a devata, etc.

यस्तेजसि तिष्ठंस्तेजसोऽन्तरो यं तेजो न वेद यस्य तेजः शरीरं यस्तेजोऽन्तरो
यमयत्येष त आत्मान्तर्याम्यमृत इत्यधिदैवतमथाधिभूतम् ॥ १४ ॥

Recently in a chintana goshthi, a scholar asked 'in which element, bhuta,
could tamas be included?' I felt that since it is admitted to be an object
of the eye, the right element, bhuta, would be tejas, for among the five
elements, rupa is the guna of tejas and since tamas has the black color
that we perceive, it would be appropriate.

Vidwan Sri Mani Dravid Sastrigal said in an Advaitasiddhi class that the
mimamsakas admit tamas as an object, that is cognized by the eye as black
in color.  Thus, tamas is a bhaavarupa object. An abhava cannot be black.

Here is a audio recording of the Advaitasiddhi referred to above. One can
get to know a lot of things from a variety of shaastra-s from the talk:


Even though the talk is in Tamil, everyone with a basic understanding of
Sanskrit can appreciate the recording as the lines from the Advaitasiddhi
are read and many Sanskrit terms are used in the exposition. One can, if he
chooses to, go to 7.40 minutes in the audio to hear about the tamas


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