V Subrahmanian, Thursday, February 10, 2011 4:43 am

An Appraisal of SSS’ views (1 of 3)

ShrIgurubhyo namaH

The following is based on the ‘Reply of SSS to a critic’s response to ‘mUlAvidyA nirAsaH‘.


Prologue

Swami SatchidAnandendra Saraswati (1880-1975) has authored over 250 books and papers in Kannada, English and Sanskrit during his illustrious lifetime. This is by no means an ordinary achievement. His detailed, faithful and extensively annotated translation, into Kannada, of the prasthAnatraya bhAshyam-s of our Acharya Sri shaMkara Bhagavatpada is an immense contribution to the world of vedAnta studies.

The Swami, known popularly as SSS, has also distinguished himself by popularizing some of his personal views pertaining to certain aspects of vedAnta. These have been much debated in various vedAntic discussion groups and other fora. These views of SSS can be enumerated as:

The term ‘avidyA’ according to shaMkara means ‘adhyAsa’ alone. shaMkara did not admit a causal mUlAvidyA and only the later advaitins introduced this unacceptable concept into advaita vedAnta. SSS accepts a causal ignorance, ‘j~nAna abhAva‘ or ‘lack of knowledge’ as preceding adhyAsa. avidyA cannot be bhAvarUpa. shaMkara did not admit the persistence of avidyA in deep sleep.

In the sequel an appraisal of these views has been taken up in the light of shaMkara’s and others’ works. As the above views are largely of an inter-related nature, a composite treatment of these views is undertaken instead of a strictly topic-wise assessment. It is for the readers to carefully identify the topics even as they are woven into a single fabric.

Says SSS: ‘Stating my position pretty correctly the learned Professor proceeds to deal with my explanation of adhyAsa as identical with avidyA. Before dealing with his criticism, a brief history of the doctrine will, I believe, be helpful. Now neither in the upaniShad-s nor in the writings of the Vedantins anterior to Sankara, is this term ‘adhyAsa’ (superimposition) to be found. ‘avidyA’, ‘anAdyavidyA’, ‘mAya’, ‘bija’,sakti’ – these are the terms widely used to denote the nature of the unreal world. The rational minded Sankara felt them to be too vague for a scientific conception of truth, and it is his incomparable genius that we owe the idea of superimposition. It is his own priceless contribution to thought and is a universal solvent of philosophical doubts.’


A Response to the above:

The concept of adhyAsa has been used in the shrImad bhAgavata purANam. Some instances of such usage are shown hereunder:

Here is a fine verse from the shrImadbhAgavatam, Prahlada charitram:

nArada uvAcha:
nindana-stava-satkAra-nyakkArArtham kalevaram |
pradhAna-parayO rAjan avivekena kalpitam ||
 (Canto VII . Ch.1. verse)

[‘This body has been concocted, imagined, owing to the non-discrimination between the Supreme brahman and mAyA, the prakRRiti. What is the result of this concoction?  The body is subjected to insults, praise, honour and dishonour.]

This verse reminds us of a couple of verses from the bhagavad gItA:

puruShaH prakRtistho hi bhunkte prakRtijaan guNaan |
kAraNam guNasango’sya sadasad yoni janmasu ||
(13.21)

(Purusha, when seated in prakRRiti, experiences the qualities born of prakRRiti. Attachment to the qualities is the cause of his birth in good and evil wombs.)


yA
vat sanjAyate kinchit sattvam sthAvara-jangamam
kShetra-kShetrajna-sanyogAt tadviddhi bharatarShabha (13.26)

(O Scion of the Bharata dynasty, whatever moving or non-moving comes into being, know that to be from the association of the field and the knower of the field.)

In His commentary to the above verses, shaMkara sees the play of adhyAsa at work.

Some more instances of adhyAsa, superimposition, from the bhAgavataM:

विषयेषु गुणाध्यासात्पुंस: सङ्गस्ततो भवेत्
सङ्गात्तत्र
भवेत्काम: कामादेव कलिर्नृणाम् (11.21.19)

क्वायं मलीमस: कायो दौर्गन्ध्याद्यात्मकोऽशुचि:
क्व
गुणा: स्ॐअनस्याद्या ह्यध्यासोऽविद्यया कृत: (11.26.18)

(In these verses the superimposition, adhyAsa and its cause avidyA, are spoken of.)

Some instances of the usage of the term ‘adhyAsa’ in the sense of superimposition:


अध्यात्मोपनिषत्

अहं ममेति यो भावो देहाक्षादाव्नात्मनि

अध्यासोऽय्ं निरस्तव्यो विदुषा ब्रह्मनिष्ठया

निरालम्बोपनिषत्

जीव इति ब्रह्मविष्ण्वीशानेम्द्रादीनां नामरूपद्वारा स्थूलोऽहमिति मिथ्याध्यासवशाज्जीव:

The term adhyAsa is found in the above two upaniShad-s too. kamba rAmAyaNam, an ancient Tamil work, uses the rope-snake analogy to describe superimposition.

In the mANDUkya kArika (2.12) we find the concept of adhyAsa, superimposition:


कल्पयत्यात्मनात्मानं
आत्मा देव: स्वमायया

एव बुध्यते भेदानिति वेदान्तनिश्चय: .१२॥

//The Self, Divine, owing to His Own Maayaa, imagines, projects Himself by His Own glory, and Himself becomes also the experiencer of the variegated world He has created.//


अनिश्चिता
यथा रज्जुरन्धकारे विकल्पिता

सर्पधारादिभिर्भावैस्तद्वदात्मा विकल्पित: .१७

//As a rope whose nature has not been well ascertained is imagined in the dark to be various things like a snake, a line of water, etc., so also is the Self imagined variously.//

The next kArika says:


निश्चितायां
यथा रज्ज्वां विकल्पो विनिवर्तते

रज्जुरेवेति चाद्वैतं तद्वदात्मविनिश्चय: .१८

//bhAshyaM: As on the ascertainment that it is nothing but a rope, all the imaginations disappear and there remains the rope alone without anything else, so also from the scriptural text, ‘Not this, not this’ (Br.Up. (4.4.22)), establishing the Self as devoid of all worldly attributes, there dawns, as a result of the light of the sun of realization, this firm conviction about the Self, viz ‘the Self indeed is all this’ (Ch.Up. (7.25.2))….//


अध्यारोप
अपवादाभ्यां निष्प्रपञ्चं प्रपञ्च्यते

[By the method of superimposition and negation, the ultimate truth devoid of the world, is expatiated.]  This is a quote that Bhagavatpada Himself makes in His gItAbhAShya.

The above references are made just to show that the concept of superimposition, adhyAsa, has been in vogue even prior to shaMkara. At least Gaudapada’s karikas can be conclusively said to be pre-shaMkara.


Response on the topic of SSS view on ‘AvidyA not persisting in Sushupti (Deep Sleep state)’:

In the mANDUkya upaniShad mantra 5 ‘yatra supto na kanchana… Ananda mayo hyAnandabhuk…‘ the bhAshyam says:

// And he (jIva) is anandamayaH, full of joy, his abundance of joy being caused by he absence of the misery involved in the effort of the mind vibrating as the objects and their experience; but he is not Bliss itself, since the joy is not absolute. Just as in common parlance, one remaining free from effort is said to be happy or anandabhuk, an experiencer of joy, so this one, too, is called anandabhuk, for by him is enjoyed this state that consists in extreme freedom from effort, in accordance with the vedic text, ‘yESho asya parama AnandaH‘ [this is its supreme bliss’ Br.Up. (4.3.32)]//

From the above bhAshyam we conclude that the jIva does not experience absolute Bliss, of the Self, Atman, brahman, while in the state of deep sleep. Another point to be noted is: The Br.Up. passage that the Acharya quotes above, when seen in isolation, would give an impression that the jIva‘s bliss in deep sleep is absolute : parama AnandaH. That the Acharya is quite consistent in His opinion about the jIva’s not attaining the absolute Bliss in deep sleep is evident in His quoting that Br.Up. passage in the present context of the mANDUkya mantra’s exposition on the deep sleep state of the jIva, prAjna.


Two Types of avidyA
:

We are now in a position to appreciate the need to classify avidyA into two types. [shaMkarAcharya says in the gItA bhAshya (13.2) that avidyA takes three forms: agrahana (non-cognition), anyathA grahana (wrong-cognition) and samshaya (doubt). This is another proof of avidya not being only adhyAsa or wrong cognition.]

The avidyA that ‘exists’ prior to adhyAsa: This is called by various names like kAraNa avidya, mUlAvidyA, j~nAna abhAva (shaMkara uses this term ‘j~nAna abhAva‘ in the bRRihadAraNyaka bhashya along with anyathAgrahana and samShaya making it clear that He is substituting the word ‘agrahana’ by this term ‘j~nAna abhAva’. This term is particularly used by SSS), tattva agrahaNa (by shaMkara in the gItA bhashya and mANDUkya kArika bhashya),etc. English translations for these terms would be like: Causal Ignorance, Root/Seed ignorance, absence/lack of Knowledge (by SSS), non-cognition of Truth, etc. We may adapt the term: ‘error of omission’ to denote this type.

The avidyA that is characterized by adhyAsa: This is known by various names such as: kArya avidyA, anyathA grahaNa, atasmin-tad buddhiH, viparIta grahaNa, vipratipatti, etc. The English names are: effectual ignorance, wrong-cognition, taking one thing for another, misconception, mistake, error, etc. The term ‘error of commission’ would signify this type. The example for this is: comprehending a snake in the place of a rope, experiencing the world in place of brahman.

In short, type 1 has to be admitted in order for type 2 to happen. Yet, when right knowledge dawns, type1 is removed and thereafter/ simultaneously type 2 gets annihilated. What remains is the Right Knowledge, unsublated.

Now, on the important topic of avidyA persisting in deep sleep, let us consider two quotes from the Acharya’s bhAshyam:

In the bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad (4.3.21) we read in the bhAshyam:

Quote No.1:


तत्र
अर्थान्नानात्वं विशेषविज्नानहेतु: इत्युक्तं भवति नानात्वे कारणं आत्मनो वस्त्वन्तरस्य प्रत्युपस्थापिका अविद्या इत्युक्तम् तत्र अविद्याया: यदा प्रविविक्तो भवति तदा सर्वेण एकत्वमेव अस्य भवति ततश्च ज्नानज्नेयादिकारकविभाग असति कुतो विशेषज्नानप्रादुर्भाव: कामो वा संभवति स्वाभाविके स्वरूपस्य आत्मज्योतिषि?

This is a bhAshyam concerning the state of deep sleep. It says: //(From what has been said earlier) Incidentally it is implied that variety is the cause of particular consciousness (of say ‘this is a pot’); and the cause of that variety is, as we have said, ignorance, which brings forward something other than the self. Such being the case, when the jIva is freed from ignorance, he attains but unity with all. Therefore, there being no such division among the factors of action as knowledge and known, whence should particular consciousness arise, or desire manifest itself, in the natural, immutable light of the Self? //

A little further down the bhAshyam says:

Quote No.2:


काम्यमाना यथा जाग्रत्स्वप्नयो:, तस्य आत्मैव अन्यत्वप्रत्युपस्थापकहेतोरविद्याया अभावात् आत्मकाममत एव अकाममेतद्रूपं काम्यविषयाभावात् शोकान्तरं शोकच्छिद्रं शोकशून्यमित्येतत्शोकवर्जितमित्यर्थ:

//In states other than that of profound sleep, i.e. in the waking and dream states, things are separated, as it were, from the self and are desired as such. But to one who is fast asleep, they become the self, since there is no ignorance to project the idea of difference. Hence also is this form free from desire, because there is nothing to be desired, and devoid of grief. //

It would appear to a reader that the above bhAshyam quotes very clearly state that in the state of profound sleep the jIva is free from ignorance. However, a careful reading of the bhAshyam passages quoted above will tell us that our prima facie conclusion is not correct. The bhAshyam, speaking of the state prevailing in deep sleep makes a comparison of this state with the other states of waking/dream. In these two latter states, there is a variety of objects available and there is an experiecer, pramAtR, to perceive them through a set of instruments, pramaNams and an experience arising therefrom. This triad is present in the waking/dream states. When the jIva goes to sleep, the pramanams cease to operate, along with the mind. All these go into sleep mode and the jIva is left without any objects to interact with. This is stated clearly in the Quotes No 1 and 2 above. The experiencing of variety, as per the Acharya, is due to ignorance, avidya. This specific avidya has the characteristic of ‘projecting variety, duality’ – pratyupasthApikA.

This kind of avidya is what is termed adhyAsa. In the preamble to His brahma sUtra bhAshyam the Acharya says: ‘adhyAso nAma atasmin tadbuddhiH ityavochAma‘ [‘We have said earlier that adhyAsa means perceiving one thing in some other locus’.] Where did He say this ‘earlier’? It is in the same preamble where He says: ‘tametam evam lakshanam adhyaasam panditaaH avidyaa iti manyante‘ [‘The adhyAsa characterized thus is considered to be avidyaa by knowers.’] Later on we will be seeing that in the waking/dream states, the jIva perceives the world in the place of brahman. This is the adhyAsa that is spoken of as avidya, rather its absence, in the two bRRihadAraNyaka bhAshyam passages that we noted earlier.

Thus, from this tight definition of adhyAsa as error/mis-apprehension, the Acharya in the above bhAshyam on deep sleep is conveying that this kind of avidya is not present in the state of sleep. The jIva, free from this kind of avidya (adhyAsa) which can project objects for the jIva‘s perception like ‘this is a house, this is my son, etc.’ experiences oneness with his Self, Atman and is free from misery born of being in duality. Elsewhere, in the Chandogya upaniShad VI chapter, we have an illustration of a bird that after flying in various directions, returns to its source, tired, for resting. The jIva, likewise, after engaging in the tasks of the waking state, returns to his source, the Self, for rest and attains great peace.

From the above study, we conclude that when the Acharya says that the jIva is freed of avidya, ignorance, in deep sleep, it is only the adhyAsarUpaavidya of the waking that is meant and not the basic ignorance that the jIva, samsari, is subject to throughout his samsaric state until he gets Self Knowledge and gets liberated. That such is the case is demonstrated in the following set of bhAshyams, from the mANDUkya kArika-s (2.12, 16, 17) .


कल्पयत्यात्मनात्मानं
आत्मा देव: स्वमायया
एव बुध्यते भेदानिति वेदान्तनिश्चय: .१२॥

स्वयं स्वमायया स्वमात्मानमात्मा देव आत्मन्येव वक्ष्यमाणं भेदाकारं कल्पयति रज्ज्वादाविव सर्पादीन्


//In states other than that of profound sleep, i.e. in the waking and dream states, things are separated, as it were, from the self and are desired as such. But to one who is fast asleep, they become the self, since there is no ignorance to project the idea of difference. Hence also is this form free from desire, because there is nothing to be desired, and devoid of grief. //


It would appear to a reader that the above bhAshyam quotes very clearly state that in the state of profound sleep the jIva is free from ignorance. However, a careful reading of the bhAshyam passages quoted above will tell us that our prima facie conclusion is not correct. The bhAshyam, speaking of the state prevailing in deep sleep makes a comparison of this state with the other states of waking/dream. In these two latter states, there is a variety of objects available and there is an experiecer, pramAtR, to perceive them through a set of instruments, pramaNams and an experience arising therefrom. This triad is present in the waking/dream states. When the jIva goes to sleep, the pramanams cease to operate, along with the mind. All these go into sleep mode and the jIva is left without any objects to interact with. This is stated clearly in the Quotes No 1 and 2 above.


The experiencing of variety, as per the Acharya, is due to ignorance, avidya. This specific avidya has the characteristic of ‘projecting variety, duality’ – pratyupasthApikA. This kind of avidya is what is termed adhyAsa. In the preamble to His brahma sUtra bhAshyam the Acharya says: ‘adhyAso nAma atasmin tadbuddhiH ityavochAma‘ [‘We have said earlier that adhyAsa means perceiving one thing in some other locus’.] Where did He say this ‘earlier’? It is in the same preamble where He says: ‘tametam evam lakshanam adhyaasam panditaaH avidyaa iti manyante‘ [‘The adhyAsa characterized thus is considered to be avidyaa by knowers.’] Later on we will be seeing that in the waking/dream states, the jIva perceives the world in the place of brahman. This is the adhyAsa that is spoken of as avidya, rather its absence, in the two bRRihadAraNyaka bhAshyam passages that we noted earlier.


Thus, from this tight definition of adhyAsa as error/mis-apprehension, the Acharya in the above bhAshyam on deep sleep is conveying that this kind of avidya is not present in the state of sleep. The jIva, free from this kind of avidya (adhyAsa) which can project objects for the jIva‘s perception like ‘this is a house, this is my son, etc.’ experiences oneness with his Self, Atman and is free from misery born of being in duality. Elsewhere, in the Chandogya upaniShad VI chapter, we have an illustration of a bird that after flying in various directions, returns to its source, tired, for resting. The jIva, likewise, after engaging in the tasks of the waking state, returns to his source, the Self, for rest and attains great peace.


Part 2

Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent articles