Questions on History of Advaita

Sankar Jayanarayanan kartik at ENG.AUBURN.EDU
Tue Feb 18 17:53:10 CST 1997


I was reading the advaita-l archives and have a couple of questions.


> From: Giri <gmadras at ENGR.UCDAVIS.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Questions on History of Advaita
> Comments: To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at>
> To: Multiple recipients of list ADVAITA-L <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
> X-Status:
> On Wed, 7 Aug 1996, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:


> > As for the scriptural reference to saguNa brahman etc, such can be found in
>  the
> > pai.ngala upanishhad.h. Since it was quoted by sha.nkara it must have
> > previously.


>         On a side note, here is where I learnt the reason why sadhu-s are not
> cremated but buried.

Could you please share this with us? I don't have the upanishad with me.


> Namaste.
> Giri


> From: anand hudli <ahudli at SILVER.UCS.INDIANA.EDU>
> Subject:      saguNa, nirguNa brahman and Shankara
> Comments: To: advaita-l at
> To: Multiple recipients of list ADVAITA-L <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
> X-Status:
> On Tue, 6 Aug 1996, Sankar Jayanarayanan wrote:
> >
> > The concept of Saguna Brahman was probably introduced into advaita after
> > Shankara.
> >
> > [..]
> >
> > Is there really such a clear difference between Saguna Brahman and Nirguna
> > Brahman in advaita?
> >
> >
>   I don't think SaguNa Brahman was introduced after Shankara. Consider
>   what Shankara says in his Brahma suutra bhaashhya (1.2.14)
>    nirguNamapi sadbrahma naamaruupagataiH guNaiH saguNaM upasanaarthaM
>    tatra tatra upadishyate...
>    Even though Brahman is nirguNa, yet It is instructed as possessing
>    qualities of name and form, ie. saguNa, for the purpose of meditation
>    by various texts.
>   Shankara clearly uses the word saguNa. But the question is does he use
>   it in the sense of a personal God or as merely a symbol, such as AUM,
>   for aiding meditation?

Evidently, Shankara uses the term "Saguna Brahman" to speak of Nirguna Brahman
being (erroneously) conceived as having Gunas.

In other words, when Nirguna Brahman is "seen" from the Vyavaharika level,
it appears as Saguna Brahman, i.e, endowed with Gunas.

I wish to know the Vedantic concept of Saguna Brahman well, since my only
sadhana is daily prayer. I would very much appreciate any responses to my
question: Saguna Brahman is obviously our own (mis)conception of
Nirguna Brahman. So if we do not worship Saguna Brahman or if we do not care
to "think" of Nirguna Brahman, does Saguna Brahman exist?

> In the fourth chapter, third section of the
>    bhaashhya, he talks about meditation on the saguNa brahman where
>    the term means a symbol such as AUM. But coming back to the suutra
>    1.2.14 above, he continues :
>      sarvagatasyaapi brahmaNa upalabdhyarthaM sthaanavisheshho na
>      viruddhyate, shaalagraama iva vishhNoH...
>                   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>      It is not contradictory to assign specific places to Brahman,
>       which is Omnipresent, just as it is (not contradictory to
>       think of ) VishhNu as residing in the Shaalagraama.

Shankara agrees that devotion to Saguna Brahman is Vedantic, but still,
he doesn't say that Ishvara is seen as distinct from our own (mis)conceptions
of Nirguna Brahman.

To put my question more clearly: does Ishvara exist if I don't believe in him?

>      (The shaalagraama is a sacred stone in which VishhNu is said
>       to be present. As such, it is universally worshipped by
>       devotees of VishhNu regardless of their affiliations.)

According to the Vishnu Purana, Shalagrama is a sacred pilgrimage spot
for worshippers of Vishnu. But presently, no one knows its location, and
it has remained untraceable for a long time.

Nowadays, Shalagrama is worshipped as a sacred stone.

>    The use of the simile of the presence of VishhNu in the shaalagraama
>    suggests that Shankara wants to associate saguNa Brahman with a
>    personal God as well.
>    Further, in the same bhaashhya Shankara, while dealing with
>    Bhaagavata view, agrees that meditation on God or naaraayaNa is in tune
>    with the Vedas and  SmR^itis.
>  Anand


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