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Re: [Vidyasankar S.: regarding 'sarira-sariri bhava']

From: Sudarshan Iyengar H3-378 (
Date: Wed Aug 24 1994 - 12:28:21 PDT

 Response to Vidya's comments on 'sarira-sariri-bhava'
vidya>> From: (Vidyasankar Sundaresan)
vidya>> To:
vidya>> Subject: Re:  another regarding 'sarira-sariri bhava'
vidya>> Date: Mon, 22 Aug 1994 23:27:43 -0700
vidya>> Very interesting articles. I based my rather peremptory dismissal of 
vidya>> the anirvachaniya charge as frivolous on the account in P. T. Raju's
vidya>> "The Philosophical Traditions of India". On pg. 192, he recounts the 
vidya>> argument that Sankara's followers ask "If the body is an essential part
vidya>> of the Brahman, how can one part change without affecting the other part?"
vidya>> Ramanuja's answer is "In ourselves we find that the body undergoes many 
vidya>> changes, but the atman remains the same." 
vidya>> When faced with the difficulty with this analogy - namely, if the Atman is
vidya>> the knower, doer and the enjoyer, then it must be affected by the affections
vidya>> of the body. This seems to imply that in a similar fashion, the Brahman is 
vidya>> also the active knower, doer and enjoyer, thus implying some change. 

            Why does the Atman as Knower, doer, enjoyer get affected by the
        affections of the body? Because of it's undeniable karma. Sri Ramanuja's
        answer above is only a gist of the detailed analysis that he puts forth
        in the Sri Bhashya and the VedaarthaSangraha. What is implied here is that
        there is no change in the "substantive" nature (svarupa-bhuta-jnana) of the
        Atman. But there is a change in it's "attributive" consciousness (dharma-bhuta-
        jnana) which is due to karma.  The concepts of these 2 types of natures or 
        consciousness is unique to Visistadvaita and is a deeper analysis of the
        what constitutes Atman or the finite self. The conclusion reached by Vidya
        that Brahman is also afflicted by change appears only at the prima-facie
        level at which Sri PT Raju seems to have quoted Sri Ramanuja. A deeper
        analysis of the Epistemological concepts of Visistadvaita is necessary to
        appreciate the significance. Since Brahman is not afflicated by karma he is
        not afflicted by change. The Atman's attributive consciousness is what
        undergoes change when in bondage but it's essential substantive consciousness
        remains unchanged. At moksha it's attributive consciousness expands and it
        "perceives" the truth. 

         The doership of the self is subordinate to the supreme in the general sense.
         The karma vAsanA of the self is the particular cause of different
         actions for which it's is solely responsible. No such vAsaNa exists for
         the Supreme by which it can be tainted. Brahman's doership is not 
         tied to, or qualified by any vAsaNa but is it's own will as in the case of
         the manifestation of the Universe.

vidya>> Raju says the only answer is that Brahman has a mysterious power so that
vidya>> it remains unchanged by the changes in its body. It was that that I used to
vidya>> say that Visishtadvaita also has to resort to some mystery at the end. 

           This is not a correct view of Visistadvaita.

vidya>> I see a more serious charge against the idea of sarira-saririn as parts
vidya>> from the point of view of Advaita. Brahman is without parts in the 
vidya>> Upanishad. How then can Visishtadvaita maintain this concept of parts
vidya>> till the very end? The analogy of sarira-saririn will be acceptable to 
vidya>> Advaitins at the level of Saguna Brahman, but not with Nirguna Brahman. 

                   If one says that Brahman is a aggregate of finites with no 
        interlinking or inter-relationship then yes, that is wrong. When 
        the Upanisads say that Brahman is without parts are they saying parts in
        the ordinary sense of the word ? The plurality of selves is a fact
        of experience based on distinctions in cognition, volition  and 
        experiences among individuals. It is impossible to conceive a non-phenomenal
        self which does not perform any function like knowing, willing or 
        experiencing. The individual selves are real and many and continue to
        do so even after liberation. How then to interpret the statements of Unity
        in the Upanisads?
                        In these contexts Unity of Attributes is intended. These
        statements indicate that the selves have, by nature, common charecteristics
        and so belong to the same category.
                   While plurality is real there is no intrinsic inequality
        in the individual selves. This is the force of the Upanisadic statements
        that talk of Unity or similarity. Empirical inequalities are all due to
        the variations of embodiment brought out by karma. Individuation is not
        destroyed at the time of moksha as individuation is Not a product of
        bondage. The plurality of selves is eternal. The attributes of the 
        Supreme reality which the selves are, are not dissolved but they attain
        "oneness" due to their attributive consciousness being fully expanded
        similar to that of Brahman. 
                  So this "part-of-whole" aspect is unlike the parts of wholes we
        normally experience here in this world, but is an organic relationship 
        (NO organism is implied here) where the "inseperability" aspect renders
        the so called "parts" not parts at all! ie. No independent existence.

vidya>> As I understand Advaita from the point of view of the five kosas, each kosa
vidya>> derives from the more subtle inner kosa till you come to the innermost 
vidya>> reality. Sankara elaborates on this in his pancikarana. That is why I 
vidya>> maintain that the words maya and avidya are highly misunderstood, and 
vidya>> should be taken in a technical sense, not in the popular sense. Throughout
vidya>> the Panchikarana, Sankara follows the scheme from the Taittiriya Upanishad.
vidya>> As Sankara himself is said to have belonged to the Taittiriya sakha, this
vidya>> is understandable. All this, is here treated as if it were real, and not
vidya>> unreal at all. Still, the words maya and avidya are used, but in a positive
vidya>> sense. 

         The doctrine of Panchikarana (quintuplication of elements) is also upheld
        by Sri Ramanuja. The "technical" sense of Maya or Avidya is still not clear
        enough to eradicate the "so-called" "mis-understanding" of these terms.
        The concept of "sad-asad-vilakshana" is resorted to by Advaitic epistemology
        (see works like Ista-siddhi and Brahma-siddhi) in many arguments to 
        establish that "mithyatva" of the Universe. ie. That the cosmic principle
        of Avidya is neither sat nor asat but something other than these two. This
        view is refuted by Visistadvaita. This vilakshana is what gives rise to 
        the Anirvaachaniya concept in Advaita.
               "satve na bhrAntibAdhau stam, nAsattve khyAtibAdhane; sad-asadbhyAm
                anirvAcyA"     ---- Istasiddhi  (advaitic text by Vimuktatmaan)

        Also the terms "mithya", "mithyatva" etc quoted elsewhere in Advaitic texts 
        can only be taken to mean "Illusion", "illusory" etc.        

vidya>> The main reason why Sankara goes through all these complicated explanations,
vidya>> I think, is to maintain that what was Unmanifest did not change in its
vidya>> essential nature due to manifestation. Which is why he maintains vivarta,
vidya>> and not parinama as the relationship between Brahman and this world. 
vidya>> vidya

            But if there is  an alternative explanation which can bind the
       Abheda and Bheda srutis of the Upanisads to present a more coherent
       and non-contradictory thesis, than one must atleast examine it thoroughly.
       All this, without resorting to an "inexplicable" phenomena. The best way
       to study a vedantic school, be it Advaita or Visistadvaita, is to look at 
       the purvapaksha or the opponent's view to gauge the level of depth 
       and exegesis.

       I am also in the learning process and any clarifications to the views
       presented are welcome.

with regards,