Presentation of the Teaching of mithyAtva in the bhagavadgItA (3 of 3)
Presentation of the teaching of mithyAtva in the bhagavadgItA (mithyAtva = unreality) – Part 3
In the sequel is a translation of the Sanskrit essay on the above topic. The Sanskrit and the English portions appear sequentially and help a reader conversant with Sanskrit to read those portions and also appreciate the translation. Those not conversant with Sanskrit could skip those portions and read just the English version. The translation is also an elaborate explanation of the Sanskrit essay.
ननु व्यभिचारित्वं कथं मिथ्यात्वे हेतुः स्यात्, तस्य अनित्यत्वार्थकमेव सिद्धत्वात् इति पुर्नराशङ्का जायते। तत्र समाधानम् – भगवता श्लोके सदसद्द्वयविभाग एव कृतः। तत्र सच्छब्दः सत्यब्रह्मबोधक इत्यत्र नास्ति संशयः, तस्य अभावप्रसङ्गो नास्त्येव । तदपर-अस्त्-शब्दस्य अनित्यार्थकत्वं नैव संभवति । अतो सद्भिन्नमसत् ब्रह्मभिन्न(विलक्षण)मिथ्याभूतजगत एव सूचक इति नात्र सिद्धान्ते दोषः ।
Objection: How can changefulness be cited as a ground for unreality since it conveys only the sense of ephemerality, anityatvam?
When such an objection is re-stated, the reply is: The Lord, in 2.16 has shown only two classes: sat and asat. Here, Sat undoubtedly refers to brahman as its going out of existence is out of the question. The other entity ‘asat’ can never be held to mean ‘anitya’, ephemeral. This is because the Lord denies existence, bhAva, to asat. Surely, everyone ‘experiences’ bhAva, existence, with respect to things anitya, ephemeral. Putting these together we conclude, per force, that the Lord is saying that the ‘asat’ is mithyA’; there is no such category called anitya, ephemeral, other than sat and asat. Therefore the asat that is other than sat, brahman, has to mean only the universe that is mithyA. Hence there is no defect of any manner in the elucidation provided in the bhAShyaM.
Objection: The changefulness of the material world is not a sufficient ground to hold that it is mithyA. All transformation ends in destruction and lapses into its cause, the mUla prakRti. Hence, as a routine sriShTi-sthiti-laya (creation-sustenance-resolution), the material world inheres, upon destruction, in the causal state, avyakta or simply put, the shakti. Thus it would be incorrect to say that the material world is mithyA, unreal.
Reply: There is no error in holding the material world mithyA on the said grounds. Even in the pralaya state, the unmanifest or shakti, is an inert principle, having to depend upon the Consciousness Principle, brahman /Iswara. No dependent principle, paratantra, can exist, be real, on its own; its dependence on Consciousness, swatantra, brahman, for its very reality, makes it an independently-non-existing entity, asat. The Lord has categorically stated in the verse 2.16 that ‘asat’ has no existence. The Lord has said in the most explicit terms that prakRti has no existence from the j~nani’s realized standpoint in the verse 13.34 as already stated earlier –
// The Lord too, through the words ‘bhUta-prakRti-mokShaM cha’ (bhagavad gItA 13.34), teaches the unreality, mithyAtva, of the world. In this verse the marks that signify knowledge of the Truth are specified – 1. The discriminatory knowledge that differentiates the kshetra, prakriti, the inert principle and the kshetraj~na, the Conscious Being and
2. The unreality/non-existence of the causal and manifested universe. //
Thus, the paratantra prakRti, whether in manifest, variegated or unmanifest shakti/energy form has no existence independent of brahman, the swatantra, Consciousness, Observer. Consciousness is required to validate energy. Energy is concomitant upon Consciousness only when Consciousness ‘wills’ to take its ‘services’ in the jagad-vyApAra of creation, etc. The mANDUkya upaniShad after describing the realm of prakRti in the first three pAda-s categorically negates prakRti in the turIya, brahman, by the word: prapanchopashamam. The Absolute swatantratva of brahman cannot be established unless It is shown to be completely free of the paratantra prakRti. Any kind of reality attributed to prakRti will entail a compromise on the Absolute Independent nature of brahman. That is the reason for the Lord to make that statement in 13.34 of the bhagavadgItA. It is pertinent to note the word ‘विदुः‘, ‘viduH’, which means ‘know’ in the plural, transitive. The non-existence, mithyAtva, of prakRiti is a matter of knowledge, in the manner of a correction of an ignorance that persisted earlier. In the state of bondage, the world has to be sustained. The jIva has to be provided a material world for his experiencing the saMsAra born of ignorance. In such a state it is essential that the creation-sustenance-destruction cycle is maintained and an ‘Energy’ state admitted in order to account for the material world.
However, when knowledge dawns about the true nature of the jIva that it is in truth Pure Consciousness, the kShetraj~na, the conscious observer and not the inert observed kshetram, prakRti, the knowledge of the non-existence of prakRiti becomes inevitable. That is precisely the reason why the Lord makes the verse 13.34 so perfectly fitting: In the first half of the verse He states that the j~nAni is the one who has the clear discriminatory knowledge that separates the observer from the observed. Since this much would not constitute complete knowledge, the explicit mention of the non-existence, mithyAtva, of the prakRti, the observed, is also made. The j~nani not only realizes his distinctness from prakRti (The Lord had stated that the cause of bondage is the erroneous identification of consciousness with prakRti in verse:13.26) but also that there is no real prakRti as apart from the observer. It is this knowledge alone that will render him free from saMsAra.
It is like knowing that there is no real sun-rise and sun-set although such an illusion persists. For those who do not know that it is only the earth’s revolution that causes the sun’s appearance and disappearance cyclically there is a ‘sun-rise-and-set’ phenomenon. On the other hand, those who know the truth are no longer under the delusion. An unreal sun-set-and-rise is happily spoken of in all circles, of the lay and the learned, as an event to be watched, looked forward to, enjoyed, etc. Nobody says ‘the sun appears to rise at 6.05 AM’. Newspapers publish the timings for sun/moon rise and set every day. People, knowing full well that the sun does not really rise or set, flock to celebrated spots like Kanyakumari and stay overnight to watch the glorious event. They do not report ‘I watched and photographed the appearance of the sun setting/rising’. That it is actually unreal does not prevent people from making it an event for all kinds of transactions, both scriptural and worldly.
The tattIriya upaniShad says: भीषास्माद्वातः पवते, भीषोदेति सूर्यः [‘Out of fear for the Lord, Brahman, Vayu, air, blows, fearing brahman rises Surya, the sun’] It is to be noted that the upaniShad does not say ‘the Sun appears to rise’. In the same vein the bhagavadgItA too talks about prakRti as if it is a real entity, without using expressions like ‘appears/seems to/ apparently’. But when the paramarthika state has to be taught, the gItA does not make any concessions and says in the most unambiguous terms: the ‘asat’ (prakRti) has no existence’ (2.16) and ‘the j~nani ‘knows’ the non-existence of prakRti’ (13.34).
The importance of the word ‘विदुः’ can be appreciated when we recognize that in the world all acquisition of knowledge is aimed at dispelling the corresponding ignorance. Knowledge-gaining or knowledge-giving presupposes ignorance on the part of the recipient. When the Lord says the person fit for mokSha ‘knows’ the non-existence of prakRti, the implication is that hitherto such a knowledge was not there and, on the other hand, there was the erroneous conception that prakRti really exists. The word ‘विदुः’ shows us that
(i) the knowledge of the kshetraj~na, the Observer, as free and distinct from the kshetram, prakRti and
(ii) the prakRti is non-existent is what is conducive for mokSha.
The conjunction ‘च’ confirms this. The term ‘ज्ञानचक्षुषा’ ‘through/by the eye of wisdom’ is most significant in this verse. It is only when one has mistaken a rope for a snake there is a need for gaining the right knowledge of the rope there with the ‘eye of widom’. Here Bhagavan uses this term to signify that the saMsAra is caused by ignorance, adhyAsa, of a mix-up of prakRti and puruSha, intert energy/matter and the conscious observer.
Incidentally, this verse, (13.34) of the gItA, could be seen as bhagavan Veda Vyasa’s authentication of shaMkara’s adhyAsa bhAshya. The adhyAsa bhAshya is positioned just before even the first brahma sUtra: ‘अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा’ ‘Thereafter, hence, a deliberation on Brahman commences.’ जिज्ञासा’ means ‘ज्ञातुं इच्छा” or ‘desire to know’. There arises a desire to know brahman only where there is a recognition that brahman is not already known. And brahman -knowledge is sought with the aim of eradicating saMsAra, bondage. If brahman –knowledge is the panacea for bondage, it is evident that such a saMsAra is ignorance-caused; ignorance of one’s brahman -nature. For, only where there is ignorance, the remedy is knowledge. In the bhagavadgItA analysis that was undertaken in the foregoing we appreciate the aptness of shaMkara’s positioning the adhyAsa bhAShya and how the entire brahma sUtra has come to eradicate this adhyAsa which has caused saMsAra. bhagavan Vyasa confirms this in the bhagavadgItA verse (13.21) and (13.26) as well. In (13.23) too the ‘knowledge’ is emphasized by the word वेत्ति (knows) – of the jIva’s true nature and the state/status of prakRti along with its guNa-s. Everywhere knowledge is shown as the means of liberation thereby highlighting and confirming that it is ignorance that is at the root of saMsAra. And anything based on ignorance has to be unreal. For, it ceases to be once knowledge of the truth arises. In this way it could be seen as Veda Vyasa’s ‘commentary’ on the adhyAsa bhAShya.
एवं श्रीमद्भगवद्गीतागतश्लोकद्वये जगन्मिथ्यात्वलक्षणं स्पष्टमुपलभ्यते ।
In this manner, one can clearly comprehend the characteristic of unreality, mithyAtva, of the universe by studying the two verses of the bhagavadgItA (2.16) and (13.34).
(अस्य लेखनस्य आङ्ग्लभाषारूपं अत्रैव प्रकाशितम्)