[Advaita-l] Bhagavatam: Brahman is the non-different Atman that is known through the Upanishadic 'Neti Neti'.
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 03:20:15 EDT 2023
Prahlada says that Brahman is the non-different Atman that can be
understood through the path of the Upanishad, 'Neti Neti'.
In the Bhagavata, Prahlada, while teaching the esoteric truth to his
classmates, explained the characteristics of the Atman, which is different
from the body, and said that we should know this Atman by denying that
which is not the Atman through the method of Neti Neti.
In the Upanishads, neti neti is said to be a means of knowing Brahman:
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.6:
य एवं वेदाथात आदेशो नेति नेति न ह्येतस्मादिति नेत्यन्यत्परमस्त्यथ नामधेयं
सत्यस्य सत्यमिति प्राणा वै सत्यं तेषामेष सत्यम् ॥ ६ ॥
What is realized by neti neti is Brahman that is the 'Real of the real'
From this sermon of Prahlada we learn:
1. From the Upanishad's way of teaching neti neti, we know that Brahman is
the Atman that is non-different from it, different from the body. The
Bhagavata has explained the identity between Jeevatma and Paramatma in this
way as well.
2. Not only that, but also that there is no world in Brahman (Neha Nanasti
Kinchana - Kathopanishat). Because Prahlada says here that one should give
up what is not Brahman with the idea of neti neti, it is known that the
world is an illusion.
3. About the experience of the world which we can only get in the states of
wakefulness, dream and sleep, Prahlada says that these states are mental
modes and these states offer the samsara to the Atman like a dream.
4. And 'Purusha' is here repeatedly spoken of as the Atman distinct from
the body. Since it is said that the Atman itself is non-different from
Brahman, here clearly the Upanishad's Neti Niti method is useful to know
the true nature of the Jivatman.
5. Since there is an Atman distinct from the non-Brahman world, it follows
that that Atman is non-different from Brahman.
Only in Advaita it is admitted that 'atad-vyaavritti' (denying/negating
that which is not Brahman) is adopted by the neti neti method by the
Upanishad to know Brahman:
Shankara's commentary on Taittiriya Upanishad: 2.1.1:
तस्मिन्हार्दे व्योम्नि या बुद्धिर्गुहा, तस्यां निहितं ब्रह्म
तद्व्यावृत्त्या विविक्ततयोपलभ्यत इति । न ह्यन्यथा
विशिष्टदेशकालसम्बन्धोऽस्ति ब्रह्मणः, सर्वगतत्वान्निर्विशेषत्वाच्च ।
(By denying the mind which is the locus that supports the cause-effect
world, by denying it (the locus along with its content) Atman/Brahman is
………नाहं जीवः परं ब्रह्मेत्यतद्व्यावृत्तिपूर्वकम् ।
वासनावेगतः प्राप्तस्वाध्यासापनयं कुरु ॥ २८१ ॥ ………
281. ‘I am not the individual soul, but the Supreme Brahman’ – eliminating
thus all that is not-Self, do away with thy superimposition, which has come
through the momentum of (past) impressions.
The Advaita passages corresponding to the Bhagavata's use of the word
'atattyajan' (disregard that which is not-Brahman) are shown above.
श्रीमद्भागवतपुराणम्/स्कन्धः ७/अध्यायः ७
जन्माद्याः षडिमे भावा दृष्टा देहस्य नात्मनः।
फलानामिव वृक्षस्य कालेनेश्वरमूर्तिना १८।
आत्मा नित्योऽव्ययः शुद्ध एकः क्षेत्रज्ञ आश्रयः।
अविक्रियः स्वदृघेतुर्व्यापकोऽसङ्ग्यनावृतः १९।
एतैर्द्वादशभिर्विद्वानात्मनो लक्षणैः परैः।
अहं ममेत्यसद्भावं देहादौ मोहजं त्यजेत् २०।
स्वर्णं यथा ग्रावसु हेमकारः क्षेत्रेषु योगैस्तदभिज्ञ आप्नुयात्।
क्षेत्रेषु देहेषु तथात्मयोगैरध्यात्मविद्ब्रह्मगतिं लभेत २१।
अष्टौ प्रकृतयः प्रोक्तास्त्रय एव हि तद्गुणाः।
विकाराः षोडशाचार्यैः पुमानेकः समन्वयात् २२।
देहस्तु सर्वसङ्घातो जगत्तस्थुरिति द्विधा।
अत्रैव मृग्यः पुरुषो नेति नेतीत्यतत्त्यजन् २३।
In the 13th chapter of Bhagavad-gita, it is stated that the kshetram
(field) is the body senses, the mind, and external objects such as sound,
form, and the Kshetrajna (knower of the field) is presented as that which
is quite distinct from it (kshetram).
बुद्धेर्जागरणं स्वप्नः सुषुप्तिरिति वृत्तयः।
ता येनैवानुभूयन्ते सोऽध्यक्षः पुरुषः परः २५।
एभिस्त्रिवर्णैः पर्यस्तैर्बुद्धिभेदैः क्रियोद्भवैः।
स्वरूपमात्मनो बुध्येद्गन्धैर्वायुमिवान्वयात् २६।
एतद्द्वारो हि संसारो गुणकर्मनिबन्धनः।
अज्ञानमूलोऽपार्थोऽपि पुंसः स्वप्न इवार्प्यते २७।
Samsara, bondage, is due to the fundamental ignorance. This samsara
experience is like a dream to the Purusha (Atman). That is, the spirit that
shines as witness to this experience is the Atman. When you know the truth,
you realize that samsara/bondage is not the truth, like waking up from a
Thus the Neti Neti method accomplishes two doctrinal goals - 1. Jiva is
non-different from Brahman, and 2. The world is illusory.
This is the essence of Prahlada's teaching.
Prahlada himself has said that 'Kshetrajna' is one of the 12
characteristics of the Atman.
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