[Advaita-l] Gita bhashya excerpt proves Avidya is Bhavarupa

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Dec 21 02:46:35 EST 2022

In the Gita bhashya 13 chapter Shankaracharya  through a  short dialogue
 demonstrates that avidya is  objectified and not  the property of  the
observer consciousness.  This is what  clinches the case in favour of
 Avidya being Bhava rupa according to Shankaracharya  as he includes Avidya
along with the experiences of misery etc.  This very chapter  has
 categorised  Kshetra as  consisting of  of the five elements  and the
elemental  world outside,  the organs through which we experience  the
outside world and, most importantly,   the emotions such as  desire,
anger,  misery  which are included in  Kshetram that is distinct from the
observer Chaitanya consciousness, the Kshetrajna.

 Surely  for those who hold that Avidya is jnanabhava and not any bhaava
rupa category, there is the responsibility of  proving that  desire,
hatred, etc. that are experienced by all are also some 'abhava' and not

The following is the translation the whole dialogue by Swami Gambhirananda.

The terms in the Bhashya that clinch the issue are:

 यदा च एवम् , *अविद्यादुःखित्वाद्यैः* न ज्ञातुः क्षेत्रज्ञस्य किञ्चित्
दुष्यति ॥

(Therefore Avidya, misery, etc. do not taint the observer Consciousness
(that is, they are not the property of Atman but the dharma of the anatman,

यदि पुनः अविद्या ज्ञेया, अन्यद्वा ज्ञेयं ज्ञेयमेव ।

If avidya is observed, jneya, just like any other jneya, Avidya is jneya
for sure (and not the Knower, jnaata, consciousness)

There is no doubt that iccha, dvesha, etc. are jneya.

One cannot club abhava with bhava. Since Shankara clubs avidya with
iccha,dvesha, etc. which are all indisputably bhaava, it goes without
saying that for Shankara avidya too is bhava. If that were not so, he
should not have clubbed avidya with iccha etc. that are clearly antahkarana
dharmas. This also answers the objection that the talk of 'locus' for
avidya is a post-Shankara concept. Shankara clearly localizes avidya to
antahkarana along with iccha, devesha, etc. Also, here Shankara holds
avidya to be located in the jiva: jivaashrita avidya.  In the
Brihadaranyaka 1.4.10 'aham brahma asmi' bhashya, Shankara accepts avidya
to Brahman. Thus Brahmaashritaa avidya is also accepted by Shankara.  All
these concepts are not post-Shankara products.

So, Shankara holds avidya to be an observed, just like misery, desire, etc.
are saakshi vedya. So, by no means can avidya, like iccha, dvesha, be an
abhava rupa.  By including Avidya in the same category of iccha, etc.
Shankara has held Avidya to be bhava rupa.

Oh! Sir, if being ignorant, sorrowful, etc. are qualities of the Self, how
is it that they are directly perceived? Or how can they be alities of the
Knower of the field? If the conclusion be that all that is known
constitutes the field, and that the one who knows is verily the knower of
the field, then, to say that being ignorant, sorrowful, etc.are the
qualities of the knower of the field and that they are directly perceived
is a contradictory statement having only ignorance as its basis. Here, (the
opponent) asks: To whom does ignorance belong? (The answer is that) it
belongs verily to him by whom it is experienced! Objection: In whom is it
perceived? Reply: Here the answer is: It is pointless to ask, 'In whom is
ignorance experienced?' Objection: How? Reply: If ignorance be perceived
(by you), then you perceive its possessor as well. Moreover, when that
possessor of ignorance is perceived it is not reasonable to ask, 'In whom
is it perceived?' For, when an owner of cattle is seen, the estion, 'To
whom do the cattle belong', does not become meaningful. Objection: Well, is
not the illustration dissimilar? Since, the cattle and their owner are
directly perceived, their relation also is directly perceived. Hence the
estion is meaningless. Ignorance and its possessor are not directly
perceived in that manner, in which case the estion would have been
meaningless. Reply: What will it matter to you if you know the relation of
ignorance with a person who is not directly perceived as possessed of
ignorance? Opponent: Since ignorance is a source of evil, therefore it
should be got rid of. Reply: He to whom ignorance belongs will get rid of
it! Opponent: Indeed, ignorance belongs to myself. Reply: In that case, you
know ignorance as also yourself who possess it? Opponent: I know, but not
through direct perception. Reply: If you know through inference, then how
is the connection (between yourself and ignorance) known? Surely it is not
possible for you the knower to have at that time ['When you are knowing
your own ignorance.'] the knowledge of the relation (of the Self) with
ignorance which is an object of knowledge; ['After having perceived
ignorance as an object of your knowledge, how can you who continue to be
the knower cognize yourself as the knower of that ignorance? For this would
lead to the contradiction of the same person becoming the subject and the
object of cognition.'] because the cognizer is then engaged in cognizing
ignorance as an object. Besides, there cannot be someone who is a
(separate) cognizer of the relation between the knower and ignorance, and a
separate cognition of that (relation), for this would lead to infinite
regress. If the knower and the relation between the knower and the thing
known be cognizable, then a separate cognizer has to be imagined. Of him,
again, another knower has to be imagined; of him again a separate cognizer
would have to be imagined! Thus, an infinite regress becomes unavoidable.
Again, whether the knowable be ignorance or anything else, a knowable is
verily a knowable; similarly, even a knower is surely a knower; he does not
become a knowable. And when this is so, [Since the knower cannot be known,
therefore his relation with ignorance also cannot be known by himself or by
anybody else] nothing of the cognizer-the knower of the field-is tainted by
such defects as ignorance, sorrowfulness, etc.
End quote.


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