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Re: your question

From: Sudarshan Iyengar H3-378 (siyengar_at_himalaya.sps.mot.com)
Date: Mon Jun 27 1994 - 12:17:09 PDT

Anup: 
          your argument Re: Anirvaachaniya avidya in Advaita.

anup>> Sudarshan,
anup>> I think mysteriousness exists one way or the other once again. if
anup>> bondage is out of karma, then the question would be how did the first
anup>> karma take place? whether it is the will of god, leela or whatever,
anup>> once again, the mysteriousness come out. I think focussing on the
anup>> importance of anirvachaniya is as unimportankt as piking on the
anup>> "original karma" in all the three philosophies. 
anup>> regards,
anup>> anup.

   Let me attempt to show that it is not the same level of inexplicability 
 we are talking about.
 
    Almost all schools of philosophy that believe in Karma (theistic and atheistic) 
 have the problem of the First Cause. The Upanisads say that Karma is Eternal, ie.
 beyond space & time. (as time is a phenomena within actualised prakruti). Before time 
 itself is born or instituted, the Self and Prakruti are related and dependent on Brahman.
 Brahman, Self, Prakruti & Karma are all Eternal (without a beginning). The only possible
 explanation we can give to this Eternal business is that this is not within our
 capacity (logical) to describe it fully. (I say fully because at least partially
 we can rationalise that there is "a" possibility of "a" condition where time 
 does not exist). Whatever explanation one gives it still is not Fully convincing.
 Yes. Hence "Eternal" refers to the inability of logic to comprehend 
 this aspect. Agreed.

  Now lets come to the Advaita concept of Anirvaachaniya. This concept is Not
 talking about the First cause of karma. It is Not talking about the inexplicabilty
 of why the Self got entangled in Samsara in the first place. It is talking about the
 existence of the world as we see it.  It is saying that the world around us, the
 phenomenal world is unreal, the self is unreal and everything that goes with prakruti
 is unreal. This "appearance" of reality (world etc) is attributed to one "avidya" 
 which is supposed to be the fundamental cause. This "avidya" is supposed to put a
 "veil" over reality and hence misleads. The inexplicability referred to here is the 
 inexplicability of this notion of avidya in the context of the prevailing advaitic
 view that nothing other than Brahman exists. (Note the context, this is important)
 It basically glosses over the world and the finite selves as unimportant.
 By positing this view that Brahman alone exists and everything else is unreal, Advaita
 falls into problematic situations with regards to 1) Ontological status of avidya,
 2) Cause and effect of avidya, 3) Status of elimination of avidya etc. 
 This is in Addition to the problem of the "Eternal" karma described above.

   Every "model" of the Upanisadic idea tries to explain it's concepts by positing one
 thing or another. The point is when one can logically refute a model and show there
 is another way to explain the existence of the world, the self etc., then one has to
 consider this refutation seriously. No system can be logically Perfect. One has to see
 which one is better than the rest. (relatively). Within our capacities to
 reason and rationalise, if one can offer an alternative to the existence of the 
 phenomenal world then one has to look into it. The creation of the "model" of Karma
 is supposed to attack the problem of entanglement, misery etc, one faces in this
 lifetime. 

   Visistadvaita has refuted this "world-phenomenon-theory" which is supposedly 
 anirvaavachniya, as untenable, due to self-contradictions.  
 
  First-karma is NOT the will of God or Leela etc that you mention above. Karma is
 attached to the Self due to it's freedom of choice and it can get rid of it 
 by contemplating on Brahman. This freedom-of choice has always been there and 
 it's wrong actions get it entangled in Samsara.
 The "leela" refers to Brahman's conscious will to actualise or bring 
 forward the Real world where the Self can exercise it's "freedom" (hopefully "correctly")
 to achieve freedom from Karma. 
   ie. It is God's Gift of mercy to the self to redeem itself.

  Wherever possible one has to Focus on the problems of one "model" or another
 to explain what is untenable in that system. If it is explainable it does NOT
 fall into the "Eternal" category. If it is not explainable by any logical means
 whatsoever but the concept is essential to explain other subsequent concepts then
 it falls into the "Eternal" category. The point is to remove all self contradictions
 within a "model" (self contradictions such as Avidya in Advaita). The existence of
 the "Eternal" category is Not a self contradiction.
 Consider it as an "irreducible axiom" which is essential to explain further
 Upanisadic concepts, but this axiom itself is not contradicted by anything else
 we know. (perception, inference, Sabda)

   Hence I think focussing on the Advaitic Anirvaachaniya avidya is very much
 important and does not fall into the same category as First-Karma.

regards,
-sudarshan