V Subrahmanian, Thursday, December 16, 2010 4:08 am

The Scriptural teaching of mAyAvAda and brahmavAda (2 of 3)

In Part 1 we had seen that there are two distinct streams of teaching in the Scripture: mAyAvAda and brahmavAda. It would be of interest to know what these two terms mean, as a definition. In Sanskrit these two may be stated as:

माया निराकर्तव्यत्वेन उच्यते अनेन इति मायावाद:, शास्त्रम् इति यावत् ।
mAyA nirAkartavyatvena ucyate anena iti mAyAvAdaH, shAstram iti yAvat.

(mAyA spoken of as that which is to be given up is called mAyAvAdaH. This definition applies to the Scripture.)

ब्रह्म मोक्षार्थं साक्षात्कर्तव्यतया उपदिश्यते अनेन इति ब्रह्मवादः, शास्त्रम् इति यावत् ।
brahma mokShArtham sAkShAtkartavyatayA upadishyate anena iti brahmavAdaH, shAstram iti yAvat.

(brahman taught with a view to be realized as the means for liberation is called brahmavAdaH. This definition applies to the Scripture.) 

We now continue with the list of statements from the upaniShad-s.   

1. In the prashnopaniShat there is a symbolic mantra where both the streams are brought out, although in an implicit manner:

ते तमर्चयन्तः ’त्वं हि नः पिता यो अस्माकम् अविद्यायाः परं पारं तारयसि’ इति, नमः प्रमऋषिभ्यो नमः परमऋषिभ्यः ॥
te tamarchayantaH ‘tvam hi naH pitAh yo asmAkam avidyAyAH param pAram tArayasi’ iti namaH paramRRiShibhyo namaH paramaRRiShibhyaH 

[And they, worshipping him, said: Thou, indeed, art our father – thou who hast taken us across our ignorance to the other shore. Adoration to the supreme RRiShi-s! Adoration to the supreme RRiShi-s! ]

Here there are two words that convey the mAyAvAda and brahmavAda teaching: ‘avidyA‘ is the word that represents all that mAyA is. shaMkarAcharya’s commentary is very striking here:

अविद्यायाः विपरीतज्ञानात् जन्मजरामरणरोगदुःखादिग्राहात् अपारात् अविद्यामहोदधेः
avidyAyAH viparEita~jnAnAt janma-jarA-maraNa-roga-duHkhAdi-grAhAt avidyAmahodadheH

[from the ocean of ignorance or false knowledge, infested with birth, old age, death, disease, sorrow, etc., which are like sea animals, which is extremely difficult to cross]

This is the mAyAvAda spoken of here. brahmavAda is represented by two other words here: param pAram. Here again, the commentary is worth studying:

विद्याप्लवेन परं अपुनरावृत्तिलक्षणं मोक्षाख्यं..
vidyAplavena param apunarAvRRittilakShaNam mokShAkhyam

[with the help of the raft of Knowledge (of brahman, Atman, that is eternal, ageless, deathless and fearless) You have ferried us across ignorance to the other shore of the boundless ocean of nescience, called emancipation, consisting in absolute cessation of rebirth.].

2. The mANDUkyopaniShat is verily structured in the form of these two streams. The upaniShad teaches the Absolute, with a view to make It easily comprehensible, as consisting of four pAda-s, quarters or feet. The first three are the three states – of waking, dream and sleep. The upanishad, up to the end of the sixth mantra delineates these three states in their individual as well as cosmic modes.  The entire bhoktR-bhogya prapa~ncha, the world consisting of the experiencer – consciousness and the experienced world is explained through these three pAda-s. The three pAda-s themselves have the cause-effect feature as their characteristic. The first two pAda-s namely the waking and dream states are the ‘effect’ and manifest in nature. Their cause is the third, the sleep state, which is the unmanifest, seed, cause. This is the mAyAvAda  in this upaniShad. After giving out this teaching, the upaniShad, in its crucial 7th mantra,

नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं…अदृष्टं अव्यवहार्यं अग्राह्यं अलक्षणं अचिन्त्यं अव्यपदेश्यं एकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवं अद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आमा स विज्ञेयः
nAntaH pra~jnam na bahiShpra~jnam…adRRiShTam avyvahAryam agraahyam alakShaNam acintyam avyapadeshyam…vi~jneyaH

[turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self in the three states, It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss and non-dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realized.]. This, clearly, is brahmavAda. The word ‘prapa~nchopashamam’ of the seventh mantra is the negation of mAyAvAda of the upaniShad

3. The taittiriya  upaniShad teaches the Truth through the method of pa~ncha kosha viveka, the discrimination of the Self from the five sheaths). The five sheaths consisting of the anna-maya, prANamaya, the manomaya, vijnAnamaya and the Anandamaya are the constituents of mAyAvAda. The Self is taught as the one ‘residing’ beyond all these sheaths, covered as though by these, and the One that lends existence and shine to these. This is brahmavada. There is a very important mantra in this upaniShad that teaches Concsciousness, brahman, as the one essential being enshrined in the microcosmic jIva and the macrocosmic Aditya:

स यश्चायं पुरुषे यश्चासावादित्ये, स एकः (2.8.5)
sa yashchAyam puruShe, yashcha asau Aditye, sa ekaH 

[The one in the puruSha, jIva, and the one in the Aditya, Sun, is One alone]

Here, the puruSha, the individual, and the sun, the cosmic, are representative of mAyAvAda. The teaching of the One as ‘residing’ therein is the brahmavAda. In another mantra too the upaniShad brings out these two streams beautifully: 

सत्यं च अनृतं च सत्यं अभवत् (2.6.1)
satyam cha anRRitam cha satyam abhavat

[The Truth became the true and the untrue.]

Here, the word ‘satyam‘ that occurs later is brahmavAda . The word ‘satyam‘ occurring first and the word ‘anRRitam‘ denote the mAyAvada . For, the world consists of objects pertaining to parlance reality, vyAvahArika. This is denoted by the word ‘satyam‘ in the pair ‘satyam cha anRRitam cha‘. The world also has within it those cases of appearances like mirage water which are easily known as false, anRRitam. These two categories form the created world.  As both these are only created ones, the creator brahman, satyam, is the Absolute Truth. Thus, in this one small pithy sentence we see the teaching of mAyA and brahman delivered tactfully by the upaniShad

4. The aitareya upaniShad contains the mahAvAkyam: प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म (pra~jnAnam brahma). It occcurs in the mantra

एष ब्रह्म एष इन्द्र … (3.1.3)
eSha brahma eSha indra..  

[He is brahman, He is indra, He is prajApati; He is all these Gods; He is the five great elements – earth, air, AkAsha, water, light; He is all these small creatures and the others which are mixed; He is the origin – those born of an egg, of a womb, of sweat and of a sprout; He is horses, cows, human beings, elephants – whatever breathes here, whether moving on legs or flying in the air or unmoving. All this is guided by Consciousness, is supported by Consciousness. The basis is Consciousness. Consciousness is brahman (pra~jnAnam brahma). ]

Here brahman is said to be the impeller, the support of everything in the creation. The teaching of the Impeller, Support, Consciousness is the brahmavAda. That which is impelled, supported, is the created world which is what mAyAvAda is. The pra~jnAnam is brahman. That which becomes the object of Consciousness is mAyA.

5. The cChAndogyopaniShat in the 6th chapter gives out the teaching of ‘sadvidyA‘. ‘sat‘ is Existence, the supreme Reality that forms the substratum for the ‘asat‘ the unreal manifested world to appear. sat is brahman and the manifested appearance is mAyA. The teaching

वाचारम्भणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्(6.1.4)
vAchArambhaNam vikAro nAmadheyam,  mRRittiketyeva satyam

[All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only.  Clay as such is the reality.]

Here, the transformation, vikAra, (of clay), in the analogy, is taught as a mere word, just a name. The substance, however, is the clay. 

With this (and two more) example, the upaniShad teaches

सदेव सोम्य इदमग्र आसीत्, एकमेव अद्वितीयम् (6.2.1)
sadeva somya idam agra AsIt ekameva adviteeyam

[‘In the beginning, my dear, this universe was Being (sat) alone, one only without a second.’]

Here, the word ‘idam‘ refers to the world, mAyA. This world before manifesting, was none other than sat, Existence. This is brahmavAda. The Seventh chapter of this upaniShad is about the teaching of ‘bhUmavidyA‘ by Sage sanatkumAra to nArada. Here occurs the famous mantra:

यो वै भूमा तत्सुखं, न अल्पे सुखमस्ति, भूमैव सुखं भूमात्वेव विजिज्ञासितव्यः (7.23.1)
yo vai bhUmA tat sukham, na alpe sukhamasti, bhUmaiva sukham, bhUmAtveva viji~jnAsitavyaH

[‘The infinite is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Only the Infinite is bliss. One must desire to understand the Infinite.’]

Here the word ‘bhUma‘ (infinite) refers to brahman. The word ‘alpam‘ (finite) refers to the created universe, mAyA.

In the subsequent mantra too we have this clear demarcation, bringing out the characteristic of both mAyA and brahman:

यत्र नान्यत्पश्यति नान्यच्छृणोति नान्यद्विजानाति स भूमा  अथ यत्रान्यत्पश्यति अन्यत्च्छृणोति अन्यद्विजानाति तदल्पं यो वै भूमा तदमृतम् अथ यदल्पं तन्मर्त्यम्(7.24.1)
yatra nAnyatpashyati nAnyat shRRiNoti nAnyad vijAnAti sa bhUmA. Atha yatrAnyapashyati anyat shRRiNoti anyadvijAnAti tadalpam. yo vai bhUmA,tadamRRitam, atha yadalpam tanmartyam.

[Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else – that is the Infinite. Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else – that is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite mortal.]

Here, the perception of duality is shown as the characteristic of mAyA which is again, mortal, perishable. Contrasted with this is taught the Infinite, brahman, as devoid of any duality and is Immortal. Thus, this set of mantras bring out the mAyAvAdabrahmavAda pair of upaniShadic teaching with telling clarity.

6. The bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad has this two-stream teaching (of mAyAvAda and brahmavAda) depicted in a number of places. One example is: 

यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं पश्यति……यत्र त्वस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत् तत् केन कं पश्येत्… (2.4.14 & 4.5.15)
yatra hi dvaitamiva bhavati taditara itaram pashyati…yatra tvasyasarvamAtmaiva abhUt tat kena kam pashyet..

In the vision of even the semblance of duality one sees another…when everything has become Atman in one’s vision, with what can one see another? Here, the ‘seeing another, that is seeing something different from oneself’ is the mAyAvAda. The vision of ‘everything is Atman‘ is brahmavAda

Having seen a sample of passages in support of the brahmavAda and mAyAvada in the upaniShads, let us have a look at some verses in the Bhagavadgita depicting this twin-stream.

Part 1, Part 3

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