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Re: Could Somebody Clarify This?

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Wed Sep 26 2001 - 19:18:42 PDT

K. Sadananda writes:
> >>I may be missing something here - but if Iishwara is sarvajnana and Jeeva is
> >>alpajnaana, there exists at least one factor that distinguishes these two - a
> >>clear indication of duality. How then is it that advaita claims non-duality?
> 
> With Shreeman Mani's approval I am posting this to the list just to 
> clarify the position of advaita as I understand.  [...] reality is 
> different from that what appears as plurality - the concept of 
> 'maaya' is brought in to explain why plurality that appears is 
> mistaken as reality.  [...]

> Iswara is defined as the creator -from T. UP. - yatova imaani 
> bhuutani jaayante, yena jaatani jiivanti, yat prayam tyabhisam 
> vishhaanti - tat vij~naanasaswa -tat brahma iti. That which the whole 
> universe is originated, sustained and goes back into - this is what 
> is called 'tatasha lakshana' by which Iswara is recognized.  - That 
> is the incidental qualification.  The swaruupa lakshana of Brahman is 
> - satyam j~naanam anatam brahma.

Dear Sri Sadananda,

I read your explanation of this fundamental question
with interest.  I also do not want to engage in extensive
Advaita vs. Visishtadvaita debates, since email is an
inappropriate forum to discuss these intricacies. However,
I would like to present a few reasons as to why on the
face of it, the answers you provide are unconvincing.

The question Sri Ramakrishna asks is very simple. When
two dissimilar things -- the Supreme Soul and the individual
soul, one infinite and blissful, the other finite and not
currently blissful -- are accepted, how can the two be
equated?

Advaita's answer, as you have explained it, is that 
the creatorship and fundamental rootedness of the
universe in the Supreme Self is an 'incidental' (taTastha)
characteristic, despite being so elaborately spoken
of in the Upanishads. You have also said that the 'mAyA'
concept must be brought in to explain why plurality
is "mistakenly" taken for reality.

If you see all your explanations, they posit ideas which
are taken from *outside* the core texts themselves and which 
seem opposed to logic. You must be familiar with the principle 
of Occam's razor -- when you have two competing theories that 
explain the same situation, the one that is simpler is better.

We have several statements cited by you yourself in the
Upanishads that the Supreme Principle is the cause of the
origin, sustenance, and dissolution of the universe. 
The same Supreme Principle is described as infinite,
conscious, and full of bliss in the same text. Why not 
agree that the two refer to *exactly* the same principle,
without positing an external adjunct (mAyA)? 

It appears that the author the Brahma-Sutras would agree. 
As we are agreed, the Brahma-Sutras codify and clarify the 
philosophy of the Upanishads. The first sUtra declares that the 
discussion is about 'Brahman', the Supreme Principle. The second 
sUtra immediately declares that this Supreme Principle is defined
as the *cause*, etc., of the universe.  From this perspective,
it's very straightforward. Creation is real, for we perceive
it and its reality is not denied anywhere. Isvara is the same
as the Supreme Principle, because the Upanishad and the Sutras
equate the two, and do not assume any distinction, even notional.
The jIva is finite and under the sway of karma, so therefore
confuses the body with the self and is unaware of the truth
that Isvara is the underlying ground of the universe, both
materially and instrumentally.  Is this not more easily
understood?

For example, your explanation of creation as involving

   ... 'thought' process - With total mind the 
   creator is Iswara and with the individual mind it is jiiva - Gold can 
   identity itself I am the one that pervades all the ornaments - I am 
   one without a second,  but a golden ring without inquiring properly 
   may think I am only ring (naama, ruupa) undergoing all the six 
   modifications associated by being a ring - birth, death and all the 
   suffering in between ...

seems needlessly complex and convoluted, and once again has
little basis in the Upanishads.  Visishtadvaita agrees that
there is unity in the universe, and that the jIva is ignorant
when it thinks that it is separate and independent.  The
Supreme Self and the individual self are one in that the
Supreme Self forms the essential ground and inseparable 
substratum for the individual self.  The individual self
is totally pervaded and controlled by the Supreme Self.
Any thought of the individual self *must* include the
thought of the Supreme Self to be correct, because the
individual self is an attribute, a mode, of the Supreme Self.

This seems on the whole a simpler and more consistent 
explanation.

Mani
 

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