Still Confusion regarding Shankara’s co

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Tue Jan 28 11:54:30 CST 1997

> Inferior? Are you saying that advaita recognises one 'mental concept' to be
> of a higher order than another 'mental concept'?

No, but then, the Absolute is hardly just a 'mental concept', is it? If
so, the mind which forms such a concept must itself be held to be the real
absolute, and then non-duality breaks down, because your mind and my mind
are not guaranteed to be the same.

The pot qua pot is devoid of objective reality from the perspective of the
Absolute. Pot qua pot holds objective reality only in vyavahAra, when the
unitary knowledge of brahman is not known. However, pot qua pot holds
objective reality in vyavahAra only because brahman is its substratum. So
long as this substratum is not known, vyavahAra exists, and as such
vyavahAra is inferior to paramArtha. The two perspectives are never held
to be two sides of the same coin in traditional advaita.

This distinction also lies at the very heart of the difference between
advaita vedanta and madhyamaka buddhism. Sankara's only criticism about
the madhyamakas is that they dismiss the perceived reality without
positing a "higher" reality. In madhyamaka, samvr.ti and nirvANa are held
to be the same. In advaita, paramArtha is definitely superior, and
vyavahAra inferior.

> Certainly the word 'advaita' itself means 'non-duality', does it not? Not
> two.

Yes, but no advaitin claims non-duality in vyavahAra. It is to account for
the duality in vyavahAra that the concepts of mAyA, and then avidyA are

> This inability to see beyond the pairs of opposites is due to a fixation
> with dualism. The 'one-ness' of things must first be apperceived before the
> words of the Masters will become clear.

Once you see beyond the pairs of opposites, the opposites cease to exist.
But then, the perspective gained by seeing beyond the pairs of opposites
is hardly equivalent to the perspective that is circumscribed by the pairs
of opposites, no?


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