advaita-siddhi 13 (Madhusudana's reply)

 To understand MadhusUdana's reply to the objection (advaita-siddhi 12), we need to find out what it means to negate something in the world. Shankara states in his commentary on gItA 2.16:

sarvatra buddhidvayopalabdheH, sadbuddhiH asadbuddhiH iti |

yadvishhayA buddhiH na vyabhicharati tat.h sat.h, yadvishhayA vyabhicharati tat.h asat.h|

 There are two cognitions everywhere (in any cognition in the world) - cognition of the real and cognition of the unreal. That cognition which does not change is real (sat) and that which changes is unreal (mithyA).

 [Please note that Shankara's usage of asat corresponds to mithyA.]

 In the cognition, "the pot is" (san.h ghaTaH), the permanent factor is " is" which indicates the underlying existence. What is an illusion is "the pot". What is cognized is just this permanent  factor but it is falsely understood to be a pot by the super-imposition (adhyAsa) of the name-and-form on the underlying Existence (sat). In another cognition, "the cloth is" (san.h paTaH), again the common, permanent factor is "is." What is an illusion has to do with "the cloth." In other words, between the cognitions "the pot is", and "the cloth is", what is common, constant, and permanent is the factor, "is." What we see above is a cognition where the cognizer gives a name to a cognized object, such as a pot, cloth etc. Another type of cognition tries to assert an adjective or attribute of an object. In the cognition, "the blue pot is", again what is common, constant, and permanent is the factor "is." What is illusion is "the blue pot." So what is being denied ultimate reality is the "blueness" and "potness" of the object but not pure existence indicated by "is". 

Generalizing this to all cognitions, all objects are real as far as they are treated as pure existence, but the moment you start associating them with names and forms, the illusion begins. This Existence is the common, unchanging, and permanent factor among all cognitions.

 Therefore, status of anything in the world may be said to be comprised of two components 1) a Real part and 2) an unreal part. This is somewhat similar to the Mathematician's expression of a complex number as (X + i* Y) where X is the real part and Y is the unreal (imaginary) part. (Electrical engineers prefer to write X + j *Y, using j instead of i.) But here we are not dealing with numbers, rather cognitions. So every cognition is made of two parts - a real part, E  and an unreal part, X. Shankara assures us that the real part E remains the same for all cognitions while the unreal part X changes.

 So we come to the interesting question: what does it mean to negate something in the world, such as a pot? It is clear that the real component of the pot, which is Existence, can NEVER be negated. However, the unreal name-and-form (nAma-rUpa) component of the pot can be negated. This means only one thing. The negation of the pot also has two components - 1) a real component, Existence (Being) and 2) an unreal component that negates only the unreal component, name-and-form (nAma-rUpa), of the pot.

 This is essentially what MadhusUdana says. The negation of the world has two components. The real component (pAramArthika) is identical with Brahman (sat) and the unreal component is of the same order of reality as the world, ie. vyAvahArika. The unreal component  of the negation only negates the unreal component of the world.

 We will first see how MadhusUdana explains the real component of the negation.

 advaita-siddhi text:


tAtvikatve .api na-advaitahAnikaratvam.h | na cha tAtvikAbhAva-

pratiyoginaH prapaJNchasya tAtvikApattiH, tAtvikAbhAvapratiyogini

shuktirajatAdau kalpite vyabhichArAt.h |


 (If we hold that) the negation (of the world) is real, non-different from Brahman which is the substratum of the negation of the world, then there is no damage done to the non-duality principle. And the world as the counter-positive (pratiyogin) of the absolutely real (pAramArthika) negation cannot be (forced to be) absolutely real (based on an erroneous rule that the pratiyogin of a negation and the negation itself must necessarily belong to the same order of reality.) An exception (to this rule which proves the rule to be erroneous) is the silver-in-nacre that is (illusory only) and its negation (at the end of illusion) which is real.

 To understand MadhusUdana's stand more, we need to examine how negation or absence (abhAva) is treated in different systems. The questions are: 1) Is abhAva a category (padArtha) in itself? in other words, do we have a cognition of abhAva? 2)  Through what means of cognition (pramANa) is abhAva cognized?

 The bhATTa-mImAMsakas, for example, hold that abhAva is a separate category and it is cognized through a separate pramANa called anupalabdhi or non-apprehension. The naiyAyikas and MAdhvas hold that abhAva is a separate category but they do not recognize a separate pramANa like anupalabdhi for it, and hold that abhAva can be known through standard pramANas such as perception, inference, and verbal testimony. The prAbhAkara-mImAMsakas hold that abhAva is not a category in itself, nor is there a pramANa such as anupalabdhi.

 For example, consider the sentence "there is no pot on the ground", - bhUtale ghaTo nAsti. Here, an absence or negation of a pot is being asserted with respect to the ground, the substratum. The bhATTas, naiyAyikas, and MAdhvas all accept that the absence of pot on the ground is cognized as separate from the ground.

 But the prAbhAkara-mImAMsakas hold that the absence of the pot is really identical to the ground, the substratum itself.  One of the greatest prAbhAkara mImAMsakas, shAlikanAtha defines abhAva in the prakaraNa-paJNchikA :

 dR^ishye pratiyogini yA tadekavishhayA buddhiH

sA tadabhAvo vyapadishyate | (prakaraNapaJNchikA)

 abhAva (negation or absence) is the cognition of the (substratum) alone while the pratiyogin (the thing that is negated) is supposed to have been perceived (had it been present).

 When we say "there is no pot on the ground", we are really only saying that we perceive the ground alone where a pot was supposed to have been present. We do not perceive such a thing as "absence of pot" on the ground. Therefore, "absence of pot" is the same as the ground alone, the substratum. Here the pot which is supposed to have been present but not seen is the pratiyogin.

 Earlier, it was stated that the negation of the world has two components - 1) a real component, Existence (sat) and 2) an unreal component that is the negation of the name-and-form aspects of the world. The real component can be identified with Brahman, the substratum, and agrees with the PrAbhAkara mImAMsA view of negation that equates the negation with the substratum.

 As to the objection that the negation and the thing negated must both belong to the same order of reality, MadhusUdana says this rule is flawed because there is an exception. In the illusion of silver in nacre, the silver is illusory (prAtibhAsika) but the negation of the silver (at the end of the illusion) is real or vyAvahArika at best which is of a different order of reality.

 The unreal component of the negation, which is vyAvahArika, is discussed next by MadhusUdana.