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Saturday, December 17, 2011

GLIMPSES INTO Advaita philosophy

First we will see about Advaita philosophy. what is called Advaita philosophy?

It was Sankara who brought forth the final beautiful form of Advaita philosophy.

“Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah—Brahman (the Absolute) is alone real; this world is unreal; and the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different from Brahman.”

This is the quintessence of his philosophy. Advaita - Non Dualism: This means that there is only one supreme reality, a reality called Brahman, the supreme being. Brahman is infinite and omnipresent (present absolutely everywhere), therefore nothing can be added to it and furthermore, there cannot be a place where he is not. Therefore, Brahman being non-dual in nature, there is no place for the world or man or any creature outside Brahman. It transcends all pairs of opposites and descriptions.

The reality of the world, or jagat, is then relative as opposed to the absolute nature of Brahman. In that sense, and in comparison with Brahman, the world is unreal. By unreal is meant illusory, very much like a dream, which has its own subjective reality but which is illusory compared with the waking state.

The last of the three statements asserts that the true nature of each individual is Brahman. Because of avidya, the orginal spiritual ignorance, we have forgotten our true identity and mistakenly believe that we are little, limited individuals.

The Advaita taught by Sri Sankara is a rigorous, absolute one. According to Sri Sankara, whatever is, is Brahman. Brahman Itself is absolutely homogeneous. All difference and plurality are illusory.

How come he wrote stotras for different gods and gave different description to all?

It has to be noted that it is generally considered that for Shankara the Absolute Reality is attributeless and impersonal, while for Madhava and Ramanuja, the Absolute Truth is Vishnu. This has been a subject of debate, interpretation, and controversy since Shankara himself is attributed to composing the popular 8th century Hindu devotional composition Bhaja Govindam (literal meaning, "Worship Govinda"). This work of Adi Shankara is considered as a good summary of Advaita Vedanta and underscores the view that devotion to God, Govinda, is not only an important part of general spirituality, but the concluding verse drives through the message of Shankara: "Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool! Other than chanting the Lord's names, there is no other way to cross the life's ocean". Bhaja Govindam invokes the almighty in the aspect of Vishnu; it is therefore very popular not only with Sri Adi Shankaracharya's immediate followers, the Smarthas, but also with Vaishnavas and others.

To understand this connection between the Trinity and the one Supreme Godhead we will now look at Sri Adi Shankara's explanation of God. Sri Adi Shankara was a guru who was a master of the Vedas. His teachings are called Vedanta–the conclusions of the Vedas. As mentioned earlier, Adi Shankara teaches that God has two inseparable parts, they are Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman.

Saguna Brahman is God with form. This includes any forms of Paramatma and Parashakti. Symbolically we will represent Saguna Brahman by combining Parashakti and Parabrahman. Nirguna Brahman is God who is formless. We will use the same symbol for Parabrahman to represent Nirguna Brahman. Because of his understanding the Trinity, he wrote stotras on different gods and descriptions.

Edit: Brahman may be manifest (Saguna) or unmanifest (Nirguna): when manifest, He is the supreme Individual: Ishvara, and when unmanifest, Ishvara is in total abidance in the Self and all manifested Individuality is withdrawn. The Brahman is both the unmanifest and the manifest; the One and the Many; the Being and the Becoming. It is actually more than their sum, but their combination and their integration. All (and more) is then Brahman. And yet Brahman cannot be known by Mind. One most move to the highest point of spiritualized mind, even above Intuition to have the vision of the integral oneness of the Unmanifest and Manifest that is Brahman. When we move to the soul, our minds move to the supra-mental heights where we perceive the integral view of Brahman, which is the ultimate perception of the Reality, the Absolute. Thus, in life everything is an expression of Brahman, even that which is unevolved and is in the process of evolving. Forgetting, due to false attachment, one's own true nature as the material-less spirit - beyond thoughts and words, unmanifest, beginningless,endless and pure.
Adi Shankaracharya's prasna uttara ratna malika: A short work by Shri Adi Shankara, of 100+ verses, each containing a question and answer. The translation I follow is by Swami Prabhavananda. A sample message is: 60. What are the duties of a spiritual aspirant? To keep company with the holy, to renounce all thoughts of me and mine, to devote himself to God.
Why does the religion whose originator preached "love everyone"practise hate? Why are the followers of a religion which preaches"peace and universal brotherhood", is the cause for the greatest disturbance in today's world? Why is the religion whose originator promised "freedom of the mind", preach the greatest control of mind? Finally, why are people of a religion whose basic tenet is "there are many paths to God - find your own and, be at peace" being quite intolerant?

Without practising a particular religion, how do we go beyond religion? What leads us beyond dogma? How much do we have to progress in religion to be infinitely tolerant?

How and when do we understand the exact meaning of the great words, of the great people, who were originators of the great religions? How do we go beyond the duality that surrounds us, and is within most of our actions?

I donot have answers.

The Mahavakya from Aitareya Upanishad (from Rig Veda)"Pragyanam Brahman" is apt. If the great seers have experienced Brahman knowingly, and want to describe that Brahman to the common people, that Brahman which has been said to be -- among its various attributes -- indescribable, how do the common people, who have not experienced Brahman knowingly, know that the purport of the words of the seers in the right context? How do the common people, the multitudes, know that there is imperfection in description of Brahman by those seers themselves, those who were that wise to know that what they have experienced is Brahman? After all, Isn't Brahman what we experience everyday, whenever we are experiencing Truth, Consciousness or Bliss? This, however does not make us experience it knowingly as, even animals experience it unknowingly. Do the animals know what they are experiencing? Do the multitudes know what makes them happy? Experiencing Brahman knowingly is what differentiates the seers from the rest. How many of the wise seers, who were kind enough to come back and explain to the multitudes, know that there is bound to be imperfectness, some infidelity in their communication? If they did know, how many later tried to contradict their previous words, to explain their experience exactly? If so, how many of those seers were thought by the multitudes to lose their power of communication, lose their special touch, lose their magical words, lose their simplicity and thereby left to be old seers who have no more understanding of their own experience, than any other man? Later, how of the multitudes settled among themselves that, the words of the seers the first time they uttered were sacrosant, more sacrosant than any other human being, including the seers who uttered the words themselves? If so, why did it happen after some more time, that some of the multitudes turned skeptical of the words, the words which they themselves approved of before? Why did the skeptics began to feel that the words had lost their magic touch, lost the power which they had earlier? The seers themselves, either turned into skeptics themselves and thought to be madmen, or turned into sophists and fade into glory, or worst of all, saw the misunderstanding that happened and did not comment so that they can be adulated by the masses, knowing within their heart of hearts, that no one understood the words? What happened to the masses themselves, ones who remained faithful to the words and repeated them, but did not understand the purport? Forget the purport, the masses who did not even understand the meaning of the words as uttered by the seers, the first time they were uttered? The masses who did not even know that they did not know? What happened to all these types of people? How did history judge them? How did they judge themselves, just before their final breath? The seers, of course, being wise, unioned with the Brahman. What happened to the skeptics? What happened to the faithful?

I do not know.

I, however, remember the following passage from Siddhartha by Hesse:

Quoth Siddhartha: “I’ve had thoughts, yes, and insight, again and again. Sometimes, for an hour or for an entire day, I have felt knowledge in me, as one would feel life in one’s heart. There have been many thoughts, but it would be hard for me to convey them to you. Look, my dear Govinda, this is one of my thoughts, which I have found: wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.”

“Are you kidding?” asked Govinda.

“I’m not kidding. I’m telling you what I’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught. This was what I, even as a young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness.
adhyAsa Bhashyam
shankaram shankarAchAryam keshavam bAdarAyaNam
SUtrabASykrtau vande bhagavantau punah punaha

SrutismrtipurANAnAm Alayam karuNAlayam
NamAmi bhagavdpAdam shankaram lokashankaram

SUtrabhASyapraNetArau vedAntAbjaprabhAkaru
Vande parasparAtmAnau bAdarAyaNashankaru
In the canon of vedanta litarature, the Brahma Sutram occupies a unique position as the oldest systematic commentary on the Upanishads. Of commentaries on the Brahma Sutram, Shankara's commentary stands pre-eminent in elaborating advaita vedanta according to his tradition, or sampradaya. Whilst there is doubt regarding authorship of some of the works attributed to shankara, there is universal agreement in the tradition that the bhAsyam on brahma sUtram was compsed by Adi Shankaracharya. This is evidenced by the fact that the genesis of post shankara schools arises from sub-commentaries on primarily his brahma sutra bhASyam. In these sub- commentaries (of which the so-called bhAmati and vivaraNa schools are most recognised), the authors profess to be elaborating on shankara's system of advaita, and clearly identify shankara as the author of the bhASyam.

His astonishing introduction to his Brahma Sutra Bhashyam (BSB), often called the adhyAsa bhASyam, is, in my view, one of the greatest texts written on vedanta, and holds the status for me of a Sruti. For in it, we find no quotation from other shastra in this introduction to support his statements. They are simply outpourings from anubhava, or experience, of an enlightened sage, and which appeal to that sArvatrika-anubhava, or universal experience, that belongs to each and every one of us.

Shankara's adhyAsa bhASyam fully serves the purpose of an introduction. He succintly manages to summarise all the key points that will unfold in his Brahma Sutra Bhashyam, and connects them to the central underlying theme. The them of is work is: " My commentary will explain how the brahma sutram identifies the fundamental obstacle to knowledge, and how the it explains the method used in the Sruti to remove this obstacle, so that ultimate knowledge (which will be defined), is acquired". At one stroke he covers the aim of the work, its purpose, and what the answer is to the basic question above.

In summary, Shankara clarifies for us that the obstacle to enlightenment is a misconception on our part, which superimposes (mixes up) up the real and non-real, which drives an empirical view of the world as an apparent duality of subjects, objects, and means of knowing these objects. The misconception is innate to us, and tradition gives the technical name adhyAsa to this superimposition. Shankara further defines the avidyA in the Sruti as this adhyAsa. Once this avidyA is removed, what is left is vidyA or knowledge that is the experience of brahman, the Ultimate Reality. Therefore, shankara says, the purpose of the shastra is to reveal brahman by identifying and removing avidyA or misconceptions, so that brahman can shine of its own accord.

In so doing, in his adhyAsa bhASyam, shankara sows the seed for all the important aspects of his tradition of advaita:

1) What knowledge gives us knowledge of Ultimate Reality?
2)What is the obstacle to knowledge?
3) What is the nature of this obstacle?
4) How is knowledge of brahman attained? What are the means of knowledge, and why is Sruti the ultimate means of knowledge?
5) What is the role and purpose of shastra in revealing this knowledge?
6) What is the method used by the shastra to reveal brahman?

If one had the time, one could take each statement in the adhyAsa bhASyam and unravel it to reveal all of shankara's tradition of advaita. In this article I will simply give a guided tour of the contents of the adhyAsa bhASyam line by line, and highlight the key messages. My rendering of the bhASyam will be as literal and transparent as possible, so the readers scan judge themselves the true meaning for them.

adhyAsa bhASyam is a short text, and one can read it in about 10 minutes or so. I have found it invaluable committing it to memory, so it constantly flows through all my thoughts. I hope by the end of the article the reader has the same feeling about this text as I.

I have referred in brief to the portions of the bhASya discussed at the start of each section. I have followed the bhASyam in the order it was written.
2) The nature of confusion
yuSmadasmat pratyaya�.adhyAso mithyeti bhavitum yuktam

In a manner that is classic of shankara's style, the author of the bhASyam begins with an objection. The objection runs as follows: Atman is real, and is the eternal subject I . Everything else is not real, and is perceived as a separate object you (yuSmat). How is it possible to confuse or superimpose(adhyAsa) the distinct concepts (pratyaya) of subject and object (the "I" and the "you"), and related attributes (dharma's), as they are by nature as different as night and day (tamah prakAshavat)? Such confusion should be impossible (mithyeti bhavitum yuktam). Shankara's objection simply states that, in theory, it should be crystal clear to all what reality is, since it is so different from the unreal, so what is all the fuss about, and what is the need to write a whole book about reality and how to perceive it?

Shankara's reply runs as follows:

TathA'pi anyonyasmin,�naisargiko'yam loka vyavahAraha

It is, however, a matter of common experience (loka vyavahAraha), that, through lack of discrimination (avivekena), we superimpose concepts on each other (anyonyasmin, anyonyAtmakatAm) and their attributes (anyonyadharmAn cha adhyasa), even though they and their attributes are utterly distinct in nature (atyanta viviktayoh dharma-dharmiNoh), impelled by false knowledge (mithyAjnAna-nimittaha), it is an innate human error (naisargikah) to confuse the real and the non, real or the "I" and "mine" (satyAnrte mithunIkrtya, aham idam mamedam iti).

In other words, shankara tells us " but common experience shows us that we do it all the time! We see duality where in reality there is none, we mistake one thing for another every day". That we do this is not through any mystery but is innate. The mixing up is adhyAsa. Shankara will later go on to say that this adhyAsa has always been there, and is therefore beginingless. It is important to make an important clarification here. Shankara proceeds on the same basis as the Sruti, which takes it as axiomatic that brahman is the ultimate reality. We find very few instances where discussions occur to "prove" that the correct view of the world is that there is an Ultimate Reality called brahman. For shankara and the Sruti this was self evident that Atman is self -established (swayam prasiddhatwaat). Viewed from this transcendental viewpoint of reality it is clear why shankara views this mixing of the real and the non real as an error. This is fundamental to understanding shankara's tradition of advaita. All that is required for knowledge is to remove this error to reveal brahman, and the universe will naturally be seen in its true light

NB: A side note for the specialists. If you want to stick to the essence of the meaning, skip the next paragraph
In this passage we find the first divergence of opinion amongst post shankara commentators. In the panchapAdikA sub-commentary, attributed to padmapAda, the word mithyAjnAna is explained as "mithyA cha tat ajnAnam cha", meaning an unreal ignorance. The other way to decompose this word is as "mithyA cha tat jnAnam cha", meaning a misconception, or false knowledge. Using the former definition , the sub-commentator has explained that the cause of this adhyAsa or avidyA is some other material caus( upAdAna kAraNa) that he defines as a mysterious avidyA shakti, that is indescribable (anirvachaneeya), and inert (jaDAtmikA). The later writers have used the term mulAvidyA, or Root Ignorance, for this material cause, and equate it with the term mAyA. This gives a different flavour to the nature of avidyA than a literal reading of mithyAjnAna. The question as to whether shankara really meant just false knowledge or something more mysterious is the subject of great debate. This is not the place to go in to this in detail. I will be explaining the adyAsa bhASyam using the literal meaning of simply false knowledge.
3) How is adhyAsa defined?
"Aha ko'yam adhyAso nameti"��"ekah chandraha sat dwitIyavat iti"

Shankara now proceeds to give various definitions accepted by the tradition as follows, and tries to identify the underlying theme:

In response to the question, "so, what is adhyAsa (ko'yam adhyAso nAmeti), shankara replies that it is the nature of something remembered (smrti rUpah), or the impression of something seen in the past (paratra pUrvadrSTAvabhAsah). By this he wishes to confirm that it is a mental notion. He further goes on to give 3 definitions from tradition:

i) Some say it is simply the superimposing the qualities of one thing (anyadharmAdhyAsah) on another (anyatra)
ii) Others say it is a a confusion of our faculty to discriminate (tat vivekAgraha-nibandhano bhrama iti)
iii) Others further says it is the superimposing 2 things and their attributes that are of opposite nature (tasyaiva vipareeta dharmatwa-kalpanAm Achakshate iti)

Shankara then explains that the common thread running through all definitions is that of confusing one thing and its attributes with another (anyasya anydharmAvabhAsatAm na vyabhicharati). For, it is a matter of common experience (tathA cha loke anubhavah), where we all have confused one thing for another. Two examples are given: confusing silver for nacre (shuktikA hi rajatavat avabhAsate, and when, due to a trick of the light, one moon is seen as two (ekah chandra sad-dwiteeyavat iti)

Put simply, our ignorance is confusing one thing for another, which in the context of vedanta, is confusing the world of duality for the real world, whereas the real world is one where no duality exists. This confusion is an experience, and therefore its existence does not need to be proved or disproved. Sureswara says this in his vArtikA:

Atah pramANato'shakyA'vidyA'syeti vIxitum
KIdrshI vA kuto vAsAvanubhUtyekarUpatah
Sambandha Vartika 184

In fact, one can never know ignorance as belonging to any one, neither determine its nature nor conceive how it can possibly be at all, for it is essentially the nature of experience itself

(by the way, this affirms that, in shankara's tradition of advaita, it is futile trying to establish the cause of avidyA, as, once it is recognised and removed , it is seen to never have existed at all! This is why shankara never taxes himself with detailed discussions concerning where does this avidyA come from, and to whom does it belong, as these matters become totally irrelevant once atman is known. Later followers of shankara chose not to let the matter rest, hence the elaborate theories regarding the root cause of avidyA, and various discussions of the locus of avidyA. One imagines that, should these discussions have happened in front of shankara, he would have given them short shrift by saying something like "its about brahman, not avidyA! Don't get distracted!")

4) Further clarification that adhyAsa is possible

katham punah pratyagAtmanyaviSaye�evam aviruddhah pratyagAnmanyapi anAtmAdhyAsah

To further clarify Shankara's statement that adhyAsa is a matter of common experience, he next raises an objection, which is then answered. The objection runs as follows:

We can accept the superimposition of two objects in front of us (sarvo hi puro'vasthhite viSaye, viSayAntaram adhyasyati). But, how can the atman that you claim is ever the subject (aviSayatwam bravIshi) be confused with something that is the not Atman, expressed as "you"!

Shankara has essentially restated the original objection in a different way. His reply is as follows:

It is not unusual at all that such superimposition occurs regarding atman (na tAvat ayam ekAntena aviSayah), for in empirical life the atman is referred as the object of the "me" notion (asmatpratyayaviSayatwAt aparoxatwAt cha). Secondly, there is no rule that says only two perceived objects in front of one can be confused (na chAyam asti niyamah puro'vasthite eva viSaye viSayAntaram adhyasitavyam iti). For, the sky is imperceptible, yet children confuse dirt in the sky as having made the sky dirty (apratyakhse'api hyAkAshe bAlAh talamalinatAt adhyasysanti). Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that the imperceptible atman that is the eternal subject, can be confused with objective phenomena around us. (evam aviruddhah pratyagAtmanyapi anAtmAdhyAsah)
5) Adhyasa is avidyA
tamatem evam laxanam adyAsam paNDitA avidyeti manyante, tadvivekena cha vastuswarUpAvadhAraNam vidyAm Ahuh. Tatraivam sati yatra yadadhyAsah tatkrtena doSeNa guNena vA aNumAtreNApi sa na sambadhyate.

Now we come to an important part of the bhashya. Shankara here explicitly defines that confusing of the real and the non real, that is adhyAsa (tametam evam laxaNam adyAsam), that results in the apparently real world of duality of subjects, objects and means of knowledge , as being called avidyA in the shAstras by the learned (paNDItA aviyeti manyante). In contrast, ascertaining the true nature of things though discrimination is called vidyA (tadvivekena cha vastuswarUpAvadhAraNam vidyAm Ahuh). In addition, to clarify, where avidyA operates, it does not in any way affect the substrate at all as a result of the perceived acts, defects, qualities etc that avidyA may imply as being atman (Tatraivam sati yatra yadadhyAsah tatkrtena doSeNa guNena vA aNumAtreNApi sa na sambadhyate).

Atman is never tainted by the effects of Ignorance

We find in the vArtikAs and kArikAs numerous statements that describe avidyA as that which results in a confusion of the real and non real. There are also descriptions of subtle shades of this false knowledge (mithyAjnAna) that is avidyA (nature of samshaya, of "I do not know") etc, but the core definition of avidyA is that given by shankara here in the bhASyam. In upedasha sAhasrI he beautifully elaborates his definition, to directly link adhyAsa with the world of samsAra and duality:

"Twam paramAtmAnam santam asamsAriNam samsAryaham asmIti viparItam pratipadyase, akartAram santam karteti, abhoktAram santam bhokteti, vidyamAnam cha avidyamAnamiti, iyam avidyA" (US II 50)

"You are the non-transmigratory self, but you wrongly think that you are liable to transmigration. In the same way, not being a doer/agent, an experiencer, a knower, you mistake yourself to be these. This is avidyA"

Sureshwara also beautifully summarises shankara's bhASya so far, in an unrelated verse:

AntaryAmI tathA sAkshI sarvagyashchetyavidyayA
MiththyAdhyAsaishcha tat karyaihi aprameyam prameeyate
BBV 2.3.10

"That Innner Dweller, The Witness, all knowing and un objectifiable, appears to become a separate object through the false superimposition that is aviydA"

Anywhere the notion of "I am an agent, doer, thinker," arises, then avidyA is there, as it implies a distinct separate doer/agent/knower, and an object that is to be done/achieved/known. This leads perfectly to the next astonishing segment of the adhyAsa bhASyam:
6) All secular activities that presuppose a separate doer etc are in the field of avidyA, even the veda's!
tametam avidyAkhyam AtmAnAtmanoh iteretarAdhyAsam puraskrtya sarve pramANa-prameya vyavahArAH, laukikAh vaidikAh cha pravrttAh sarvANI cha shAstrANi vidhi-pratiSedha-moxaparANi

This statement can be a bombshell for those not acquainted with the subtler meaning of vedanta . And was certainly an epiphany for me in my early vedanta studies. For, shankara declares without hesitation that all empirical activities where separate subjects and objects are perceived, (sarve pramANa-prameya vyavahArAH), both day to day and vedic (laukikAh vaidikAh cha) operate in the field of avidyA (tametam avidyAkhyam AtmAnAtmanoh iteretaram adhyAsam puraskrtya). So do all shastras (sarvANI cha shAstrANi) that pertain to injunctions, prohibitions and discussions of liberation (vidhi-pratiSedha-moxaparANi). In other words, all discussions of injunctions , vedic ritual including pooja havan, meditation etc, even talk of liberation itself are in the field of ignorance. Why is this so? shankara anticipates that this would be a question, and raises it himself next as an objection, followed by the answer. The objection runs as follows:

Katham punaha avidyAvatviSayAni pratyakshAdini pramANAni shAstrAni cha iti?

How can all means of knowledge (pramANani) and the shAstra's have ignorance as their locus?

The response is as follows:

Uchyate dehendriyAdiSu�.pramANAni shAstrANi cha

Since a man without self identification with the body, mind and senses etc cannot become a knower, and as such,the means of knowledge cannot function for him, (dehendriyAdiSu ahammamAbhimAnarahitasya pramAtrwAnupapattu pramANapravrttyanupapatteh). Since perception and other activities (of such a cogniser) are not possible without accepting the senses etc as belonging to him (na hIndriyANyanupAdAya pratyakshAdivyavahArah sambhavati). Since the senses cannot function without the body as a substrate (na cha adhiSTHAnamantareNa indriyANam vyavahArah sambhavati). And, since nobody engages in any activity with a body that has not the idea of the self superimposed on it (na cha anadhyasta AtmabhAvena dehena kashchit vyApriyate), even though the self it is unattached and cannot become a knower unless there are all of these above notions(na cha etasmin sarvasmin asati asangasyAtmanah pramAtrtwam upapadyate). And since the means of knowledge cannot function without a "knower" (na cha pramAtrtwam antareNa, pramANa-pravrittirasti), it therefore follows that all means of knowledge, such as direct perception as well as the shastras are in the field of avidyA, as they are based on the basic adhyAsa that one is a distinct knower (tasmAt avidyAvadviSayAnyeva pratyakshAdIni pramANAni shAstrANi cha)

Put simply, for the means of knowledge to operate, it requres the notion of a doer, and the notion of a doer is the result of superimposition on the unattached Atman. In other words, as soon as one falsely identifies the self as a pramAtr, ie an agent, or doer, then all fields that operate are in the field of avidyA. ShAstra, means of knowledge etc, since they require a distinct doer, are therefore bound in the field of avidyA.

Side note:

For those not familiar, the concepts of prAmtr prameya etc are defined in the nyAya shAstra as follows:

Yasya prepsAjihAsAprayuktasya pravrttih sa pramAtA
One who is urged to get or avoid something and therefore engages in enquiry (because he wants to know things correctly) is pramAtr

YenArtham pramiNoti tat pramANam
That by means of which he ascertains his object is prameya

Yo'rthah pratIyate tat prameyam
The object ascertainable is prameya

YadarthavijnAnam sA pramitih
The correct ascertainment of the object is pramiti

These concepts are fundamental to enquiry of reality in the Indian systems of philosophy. We are a sea of pramAtr's in a world full of objects to be known, known as pramANa-prameya vyavahAra. It is advaita, particularly as expressed in Shankara's school, where it is declared that such distinction of the world into a duality of distinct subjects and objects is an illusion, driven by the innate trait of superimposing on the atman the concept of pramAtr-hood. Gaudapada declares elsewhere , "mAyAmAtram idam dvaitam, advaitam paramArthatah", this world of duality is false, the supreme reality is advaita. This process of confusing the atman as distinct pramAtr is the subject of adhyAsa bhASyam.
7) In the matter of empirical life, human procedure is identical to all animals
pashwAdibhishcha avisheSAt�.tat kAlah samAnah iti nischIyate

The world as perceived when the notions of pramAtr, prameya and pramANa are assumed to exist is called the empirical standpoint in the shankara's bhashyas (vyavahAra drSTI). When these notions have been abandoned, the world is in its true light from the standpoint of supreme reality (paramArtha drSTI). It is vital always to understand in shankara's bhashyas which standpoint is being adopted for an argument, otherwise it can lead to massive confusion. In the next section of adyAsa bhASyam, shankara amplifies the point that the empirical world conjured through this avidyA is a matter of common experience that we share with all living beings.

For animals, when they hear a sound they believe is dangerous, they turn away, and move towards that which seems safe (YathA hi pashwAdayah shabdAdibhih shrotrAdInAm sambandhe sati shabdAdivijnAne pratikUle jAte tato navartante, anukUle cha pravartante), and they turn towards someone holding green grass, and shie away from one holding a stick, thinking that they will be beaten (yathA daNdodyakaram puruSam abhimukham upalabhya, mAm hantum ayam icchhatIti palAyitum Arabhante, harita-trNa-pUrNa-pANim upalabhya tam pratyabhimukhI bhavanti). In the same way wise humans are repelled by strong, riotous people with menacing looks and swords drawn, but drawn to those opposite in nature (evam puruSa api vyutpannachittAh krUradrSTIn Akroshatah kaDgodyatakarAn balavata upalabhya tato nivartante, tatviparItAn prati pravartante). In this way, the behaviour of humans and animals in the empirical sphere of subjects and objects is identical (atah samAnah pashwAdibhih puruSANAm pramANa-prameya-vyavahArah)

To further clarify, shankara goes on to say that it is of course well known that animals use their means of perception without the benefit of discrimination etc (pashwAdInAm cha prasiddho'vivekapurassarah pratyakshAdivyavahArah). From this we can conclude that from the empirical standpoint, the means of perception employed by the wise and animals are identical (tat samAnyadarshanAt vyutpattimatAm api puruSANAm pratyakshAdivyavahArah tatkAlah samAnah iti nischIyate)

So, what is the point of the above? Simply to say that the instinctive behaviour of humans in the empirical field is due to a series of misconceptions due to a non-discrimination between the Atman and the non-Atman, and that humans share this behaviour with the rest of the animal kingdom. Now humans, apart from their faculty of discrimination, must be different somehow, and therefore not subject to avidyA? Shankara deals with this objection in the next section.
8) The shastra's are ever bound in the field of avidyA as they must presuppose a distinct agent
shAstriye tu ��.Ashritya pravartante

Shankara says that it is indeed true, that one must have some notion of self as distinct from this life and the hereafter to perform karma's (shAtriye tu vyavahAre yadyapi buddhipUrvakArI nAviditwA Atmanah paralokasambandham adhikriyate). However, such a person has not cognized the true self which, according to vedanta, is beyond hunger and thirst, beyond the distinctions of caste, and beyond the notions of rebirth from one life to the next (tathApi na vedAntavedyam, ashanAyAdyatItam, apetabrahmakshatrAdibhedam, asamsAryAtmatattwam adhikAre apekshyate). In fact, the ultimate knowledge that Atman as a non-agent is not only a useless notion for one engaged in acts to be performed, but is in fact diammetrically opposite to it! (anupayogAt, adhikAravirodhAt cha).

So, all human behaviour, whether secular, vedic or employing means of valid knowledge are in the realm of avidyA. Now, it is clarified that even the shAstra laying out injunctions also operate in the field of ignorance. Shankara says that:

For, before the dawn of real knowledge, all shAstra's can never transcend the field of avidyA (prAk cha tathA bhUtAtmavijnAnAt pravartamAnam shAstram avidyAvadviSayatwam nAtivartate). For, in the example injunction "a brahmin should offer sacrifice", the notion of caste, being an agent, being at a certain stage in life, etc have first to be superimposed on the changeless, eternal Atman before such a sentence can make any sense! (tathA hi brAhmANo yajeta ityAdIni shAstrANi Atmani varNAshramayo'vasthhAdi-visheSAdhyAsam Ashritya pravartante)

This section can be distressing to those who have, all their life, depending on performing japa, pooja, homa, or following injunctions as a means to secure revelation. In contrast, such activities must presuppose a distinct notion "I am doing such and such", which puts them in the field of ignorance. Shankara elsewhere explains that, when such acts are performed without desire for fruit, by recognising the there is no "doer", then they inculcate the desire for brahmavidya, which takes the aspirant closer to realising the message of vedanta.
9) Various examples of adhyAsa elaborated
adhyAso nAma� adhyasyati.

Shankara now gives various examples of this adhyAsa, which he defines again as the cognition of one thing as something else (adhyAso nAma atasminstadbuddhih ityavochAma). The first example is one where, when family members are sick or well, we feel sick or well too, because of the attachment (tadyathA putrabhAryAdiSu vikaleSu sakaleSu vA, aham eva vikalah sakalo vA iti bahyadharmAn atmanyadhyasyati). The next example relates to attributes of the body (tathA dehadharmAn), where we say "I am fat", or "I am thin", or "I am fair"; "I stand, I go, I limp" etc (sthhUlo'ham, krsho'ham, gauro'ham; tiSThAmi, gachhAmi, langhayAmi cha iti). The next examples relate to the senses and organs (tathA indriyadharmAn), such as "I am dumb, I am one-eyed, I am a eunuch, I am deaf, or I am blind (mUkah, kANah, klIbah, badhirah, andho'ham iti). Finally, the attributes of the internal organ , when one superimposes the notions of will, doubt, perseverance etc (tathA antahkaraNadharmAn: kAma-sankalpa.vichikitsAdyavasAyAdIn).

In this way , one firstly superimposes the internal organ possesed of the ego notion, on the innermost Atman which is the eternal Witness (evam ahampratyayinam asheSaswaprachArasAkshiNI pratyagAtmanyadhyasa), and then in the opposite direction, one superimposes on the internal organ that Atman which opposed to non-Atman, and is the witness of everything (tam cha pratyagAtmAnam sarvasAkhiNam tadviparyayeNa antahkaraNAdishwadhyasyati).

Here, shankara comes full circle, and reiterates the opening section of adhyAsa bhASyam, showing how the Atman, the Witness that is ever unattached, can be confused to be the notion "me", and be confused with the non-Atman expressed as objects, or the notion "you". The inner organ referred to by shankara is none other than the manas, or mind (see shankara's commentary on BSB 2-3-32). It is possible that shankara had in mind the famous verse in Swetaswatara Upanishad, which describes atman as sAkhI or witness:

Eko devah sarvabhUteSu gUDHah sarvavyApI sarvabhUtantarAtma
KarmAdhyakshah sarvabhUtAdhivAsah, sAkshI chetA kevalo nirguNashcha (Swe 1-6)

That one Shining One is hidden in all beings, is all pervasive and the innermost Atman of all
It is the overseer of all actions, the indweller in all beings, the Witness, Pure Consciousness, that which is all that is left (when avidyA removed), and is beyond all qualities.

These examples only are given to show it is a matter of common experience that we mistake one thing for another. Elsewhere, the example of the rope and snake is given. In particular, we confuse the Atman with that which is non-Atman. Until this basic confusion is removed, enlightenment is not possible. This is how shankara wraps up his adhyAsa bhASyam and sets up his commentary on the brahma sutram:
10) The purposed of the brahma sutram and shankara's commentary is to expose the fundamental flaw that is avidyA, and remove it
evam ayam�.pradarshayiSyAmah

In wrapping up, shankara re-iterates all the main elements of adhyAsa, and the results, saying:

Thus occurs this superimposition , or adhyAsa, which is beginningless and endless (anAdiranantah), which is innate (naisargikah adhyAsah), which is of the nature of a false notion or knowledge (mithhyApratyayarUpah), is the basis for all notions of agentship and enjoyership (kartrtwa-bhoktrtwa-pravartakah), and is a matter of common knowledge to all of us (sarva-loka-pratyakshah). To eradicate this fundamental source of destruction of true knowledge (asyAnarthahetoh prahANAya), and establish the unity of Atman (atmaikatwavidyA pratipataye), all the vedanta's are begun (sarve vedAntA Arabhyante). That this is the purport of all the vedanta texts, we shall begin this work on the shArIrika mImAmsa, known as the brahma sUtram (yathA chAyam arthah sarveSAm vedAntAnAm, tathA vayam asyAm shArIrika-mImAmsAyAm pradarshayiSyAmah).

In summarising, shankara, restates the basic nature of adhyAsa, and, more importantly that this avidyA is the only obstacle to true knowledge. Therefore, hew declares, the purpose of all the vedanta texts is simply to remove this avidyA, and establish Atman or brahman as the only reality. As such the shAstra's are called the Ultimate Pramana (antyam pramANam), because they remove misconceptions that come from Ignorance. For, once these misconceptions are remeoved, Atman will shine of its accord, and there will be nothing more to be done
In his brief introduction, shankara tells us the reason we cannot attain enlightenment. It is because it is in our nature to mix up the real and not real, and therefore perceive a world of duality with multiple knowers/doers/subjects and things to be known/done/objects. In particular, we falsely confuse the eternal Atman, that is our innermost self and is The Witness with no role in empirical life, to be acting as an agent . This confusion is innate to us, and is a matter of common experience requiring no proof. It is is beginningless and endless in the sphere of the empirical universe. This confusion, or superimposition is the basic ignorance that results in this world of duality. The world of duality fashioned by avidyA is termed to be mAyA, or illusion, as it can only be perceived once this basic superimposition has occurred., and all activities including the secular and vedic fall into the field of ignorance as they must presuppose a distinct doer. The purpose of the vedanta texts is to point out this ignorance as essentially the nature of a false mental notion, and remove all misconceptions, to reveal the nature of Atman. A thorough understanding of adhyAsa bhASyam, therefore, is vital to understanding the texts of vedanta and shankara's bhASyas in particular. It is for this reason that this text is held in such high regard, and deserves to be studied by all serious students of vedanta

Harih Om
Sri krSNArpaNamastu
Introduction to Brahma Sutrani
Traditionally teaching was only at the oral level, remembering ideas of huge texts, Upanishads and other text works was quite difficult. So, the Rishis had to find out ways and means to memorise the ideas of these works.
There are 2 methods:
1. Keeping the ideas in Sutra form (Aphorisms) - it is a cryptic statement with ideas packed in it.
2. All ideas in the metrical verse form (Poetry).
The basic texts called PRASTHAANA TRAYAM are:
1. Brahmasutra - Nyaya Prasthaana
2. Bhagawad Gita - Smriti Prasthaana
3. Upanishads - Shruti Prasthaana.
A Spiritual student may wonder if the study of Brahmasutra is required for Knowledge and Moksha. We do not require Brahmasutra for Knowldege and Moksha. But the teaching of Brahmasutra is essential because it is considered as one of the basic texts of Vedantic Teaching.
Brahmasutra is such a literature packed with various ideas, a Vedantic work written by Sage Vyasacharya. The work consists of 555 Sutras dealing with BRAHMAN/VEDANTIC teaching.
Sage Vyasacharya performs 3 tasks here:
1. ANALYSES the key statements of the Upanishads. It involves
o Interpretation
o Establishing the Siddhanta
o Refuting all possible wrong interpretations.
2. DEFENCE: Defending the Vedantic teaching when other systems of Philosophy charge the teaching with various defects.
3. OFFENCE: Pointing out the defects and the illogical statements of those systems of Philosophy which attempt to invalidate Vedanta.

Before starting with the text proper we should know certain qualifications of the student trying to study Brahmasutra.
Qualifications: The ideal student is one who is mentally prepared for Tarka (Logic), Meemamsa (Analytical Science), Niruktam (Etymology), Vyakaranam (Grammar) and one who has the knowledge of atleast 10 Upanishads, mainly Chanddogya and Brihadaranyaka.
The approach of this teaching adopted here is studying Brahmasutra along with the commentary of Adi Shankaracharya.
The study of the text will become meaningful only if a man starts thinking about certain aspects of his daily life. The power of reasoning being a strong faculty of man, he should think in terms of the following topics which are important for our study.
• Jeeva (Individual) - Who am I?
• Jagat (World) - What is this world?
• Ishwara (Lord) - Cause of Jeeva and Jagat.
• Bandha (Bondage) - Cause of human bondage (Samsara).
• Moksha (Freedom) - Freedom from bondage.
• Sadhanam(Means) - Means by which a person goes from bondage to liberation.
One who has consistently thought of these and formed a conclusion is called DARSHANIKA. They are called ACHARYAS. This philosophy is DARSHANAM. As there is consistency, there will be followers. In the Indian tradition there are 12 such DARSHANAMS. Where six are NASTIKA DARSHANAMS - they do not accept Veda Pramanam(Means of Knowledge) . Their Darshanam is based on Pratyaksham (Perception) and Anumanam (Inference) only. The other six are ASTIKA DARSHANAMS - they accept Veda as a valid source of knowledge.
1. Carvaka Darshanam : Materialism.
Source : Brihaspati (Deva Guru).
Purpose : To mislead the Asuras.
The first disciple's name was Carvaka who popularised this philosophy hence called Carvaka Philosophy. It is based on Pratyaksha Pramanam only. Brahmasutra does not discuss about this philosophy because it is in Prakrit.
2. Jaina Darshanam : The teaching is given by 24 Acharyas called Teerthankaras beginning from Rishaba to Vardhamana Mahadheera. Jina was responsible for the wide popularity and this philosophy came to be called as Jaina. Jina means one who has conquered himself. This system has 2 divisions called Shwetaambaras and Digambaras.

The Bauddha Darshanam consists of four different systems: The founder of this philosophy is Buddha. The word 'Buddha' means the Enlightened One. He did not systematically teach but taught only through dialogues giving out stray statements. Therefore, Buddhism was not well developed initially. Later many followed and they collected his teachings and brought out the ideas in 3 books called Tripitakam.
- Sutra Pitakam (Supta in Pali).
- Abhidharma Pitakam (Abhidamma in Pali)
- Vinaya Pitakam (Vinaya in Pali).
Sutra Pitakam deals with statements of Buddha. Abhidharma Pitakam deals with philosophy that is based on the statements of Buddha. Vinaya Pitakam gives code of conduct and disciplines.
After deep analysis and many commentaries there arose difference of opinion and this gave rise to 4 branches of Buddhism.
3. Sautraantika is based on Sutra Pitakam.
4. Vaibhashika is based on the commentary on the Abhidharma Pitakam called Vibhasha.
5. Yogachara emphasises on the practice of Yoga and Aachara.
6. Maadhyamika claims to follow the teachings of Buddha - the middle way.

1. SAANKHYA Darshanam by Sage KAPILA.
2. YOGA Darshanam by Sage PATANJALI.
3. NYAYA Darshanam by Sage GAUTAMA.
4. VAISHESHIKA Darshanam by Sage KANAADA.
The common feature of all these 6 Darshanams are that all are in Sutra forms and the founders accept the Veda Pramanam. Saankhya, Vaisheshika and Poorva Meemamsa do not accept God. Saankhya, Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisheshika gives more important to Tarka (Logic). Shankara calls them Taarkikas. Shankara calls even the Naastikas as Taarkikas. Whereas the Poorva and the Uttara Meemamsa are Veda Pramana Darshanam.
UTTARA MEEMAMSA is also called Brahmasutra because it deals with Brahman, the other names being: Vedanta Sutrani, Shastrika Sutrani, Vyasa Sutrani, Badarayana Sutrani. This has given rise to 3 popular schools:
• Nirvishesha Adwaitam of Shankara the Bhashyam (commentary) called Shaareerika Meemamsa.
• Vishishta Adwaitam of Ramanujan the Bhashyam called Shree.
• Dwaitam of Maadhvaacharya the Bhashyam called Anu.
Introduction to Brahma Sutrani - 2
Brahmasutra consists of 4 chapters (Adhyaaya). Each adhyaaya is sub-divided into 4 sections (paada). There are 16 paadas totally and each paada is sub-divided according to subject matter (Adhikaranam). There are totally 191 adhikaranams. They are not uniform and differ from paada to paada. All topics are collected from Vedanta, especially the 10 Upanishads. Each adhikaranam is sub-divided into various sutraani. There are 555 Sutrani totally.The topics discussed in these adhyaayas can be broadly classified into four topics.
Adhyaaya I ( Samanvaya Adhyaaya ) - Samanvaya meaning consistency, is a technical word occurring in Memamsa Shastram. In the entire first adhyaaya Vyasacharya presents Samanvaya as a proof to establish that Brahman is the central theme of the Upanishads in contrast to the other systems of philosophy that propound Karma (Action) as the central theme.
Adhyaaya II ( Avirodha Adhyaaya) - Avirodha can be translated as non-contradiction. Here, Vyasa establishes that Brahmavidya is free from all contradictions. He establishes that :.
• The different statements of the Shruti do not contradict each other.
• The statements of the Smritis are consistent with those of the Shruti.
• The statements of the Shruti are not against logic (Yukti).
Vyasa refutes the Naastika Darshanams also and shows the presence of logical contradictions in other darshanams.
Adhyaaya III (Sadhana Adhyaya) - All sadhanas, the preparatory disciplines or means for gaining Brahmavidya are discussed.
Adhyaaya IV (Phala Adhyaya) - It deals with the fruit (phalam) of Brahmavidya that is MOKSHA.
Definitions of the following are necessary for better understanding.
1. Sutram:
Sutra literally means thread.
The following sanskrit verse defines a sutra
Alpaaksharamasamdigdhe saaravat vishvatomukham, Asto Bhamanavadhyam ca sutram sutra vido viduhu.

A sutram should be.
o Concise
o Clear
o Convey the essence of an Upanishadic Statement
o Multi-faceted. (if possible)
o Without glorifications
o Faultless (There should be no defects in the words and meanings).

The Brahmasutra serves as a thread to the Upanishadic ideas which are like beeds.
2. Bhashyam:
Vaakyaihi sutra anusaribhihi sva padaani ca varnyante, Bhashyam bhasha vido vidu:

A Bhashyam (commentary) explains every word in the same order as it occurs in the sutra, and elucidates technical words in the Bhashyam.
3. Adhikaranam:
Vishayo samshayashcaiva poorva pakshastathontaram. Sangatishceti panchaagam shastraadhikaranam smrutam.

It consists of 5 factors.
o Vishaya , subject matter (generally taken from Upanishads).
o Samshaya, Doubts in a particular Upanishadic statement are presented but what is evident need not be enquired into.
o Poorva Paksha, Views of the non-vedantins with their reasons.
o Siddhanta, Vedantic conclusion which is established after refuting all possible objections. It logically refutes others views and logically established the statement.
o Sangati, Connection between two topics.
Brahmasutra is a NYAYA PRASTHAANA which uses Nyaya or Reasoning to establish the Upanishadic teachings.
Advaita is more a way of life than an
abstract philosophical system. Thus the appropriation of Shankara
's legacy by the staid philosopher and the reduction of his
creative output to abstract niceties is indeed a grave betrayal
of his contribution. Such an approach transforms what is
essentially a way to redemption into mere intellectual
speculation, while the truth remains that Shankaracharya is, in
every way, our guru and guide, who leads us to the experience of
the ultimate truth (atmanubhava) which resides not anywhere
'outside,' but is present within each of us. If we wish to
understand the true meaning of Shankara's teachings, we have to
follow India's rich tradition of sages and seers and not learned
philosophers who have changed what was a cure for the malady
called life, into a complex system of philosophy.
Shankara as if he were a mere philosopher, even 'the greatest of
all philosophers,' is a sure way of not understanding him - the
one whose 'style' always was both analytic and participatory at
the same time.

Shankara's life demonstrates that one is not a philosopher by
great discourses; rather, it is the way one lives and experiences
life, soaking in all its adventures, that shows our level of
perception and understanding. In this context, it may also be
stressed that Shankara was not the founder of the theory of
Advaita, which is eternal like the Veda itself. What he however
did was to bring all the various streams of Indian thought,
diverging in his time in different directions, under the common
roof of Advaita, thus resolving the widespread confusion arising
out of the multiplicity of opinion.

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