No subject

Wed Jan 14 12:03:44 CST 1998

sarvebhyo namaH,
  I just learned from Swami Tadatmananda that
today is makara saMkraanti.  So, Happy makara
saMkraanti (in other words, New Year) to everyone :)


>From  Wed Jan 14 21:20:23 1998
Message-Id: <WED.14.JAN.1998.212023.0500.>
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 21:20:23 -0500
Reply-To: chandran at
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Home Personal Account
Subject: Re: Bhagavad kr^pa (grace of God)
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Forwarded Article from Manish Tayal in reply to Ram Chandran's posting:
Is Brahman Nirguna or Saguna?

Namaste :

I read with great interest the views of Shri Ram Chandran in his
excellent article "Nirguna and Saguna Brahman".  As a follow-up to this,
I am re-posting an article which I wrote some time ago now, on this same
question.  I would be very interested in hearing any other views that
anyone may have also...      Brahman - Nirguna or Saguna...or
Neither...or Both???

One of the fundamental questions which has preoccupied the minds of some
of the greatest Hindu thinkers down through the ages is the nature
of...well, call it what you will - Aum, God, Bhagwaan, Ishwar,
Paramatma, Satchidanand, Brahman...whatever.  The question is "Is
Brahman saguna or nirguna?"  Of course, this is a question that has been
asked down the ages from time immemorial, and in no way would I claim to
have found the answer to a question that even the Maharishis of Vedic
times struggled to explain.  However, I would like to make a few points
on this topic thatI feel are of relevance.

Now, the general argument tends to be that Brahman is nirguna, but has
the capability to take on any guna.  Thus, His true self is nirguna, but
He presents to us an apparition of saguna, since it is said that in Kali
Yuga, the confused human mind, devoid of guidance from the atma, which
it has blocked out, will be unable to comprehend anything so intangible
as an entity without Form.  Thus Brahman provides us with a tangible
Form which we can then use in order to try to comprehend Him.  However,
the opposing side to this says that how can Brahman be nirguna? A
Brahman which is nirguna is like a kingdom without a King.  Brahman must
have some Form, since for Him not to have a Form is tantamount to His
nonexistence, as something which has no Form surely does not exist.  If
the entity exists, then surely it must have a Form - perhaps an
imperceptible, or possibly even inconceivable Form, but SOME Form

At this point, I would like to put forward the idea that actually, the
argument is ridiculous on both sides. If we are to say that Brahman is
saguna, then we rule out the possibility of Brahman being nirguna, and
vice versa - by the very definitions of the terms nirguna and saguna.
Thus, we are trying to put precise definition on Brahman, and to define
is to limit, since if something has a definition, then they are confined
to exist only within the parameters of that definition.  By the very
nature of Brahman, He is without any limit, so this can not be
possible.  So, what then is the solution?  I propose that in order to
deal with this, new terminology has to be introduced.

I would like therefore to introduce here the term "Sarvaguna", by which
I mean not just "With Form" - "Saguna" - but "With ALL Forms".  What do
I mean by this, and how is it different from either of the other two
terms?  If it is to be said that Brahman has Form (ie, is saguna), then
surely, we cannot restrict Him to just one Form, or just a few Forms.
If Brahman is said to have Form, He must surely have ALL forms, since
the very idea of Brahman is an all-encompassing idea, without
restrictions or limitations.  However, if it is argued that Brahman is
nirguna, then it can be argued that the state of having no Form is in
itself also a Form - and the Form is "No Form".

To explain this, one can refer to the Unified Field Theory, a modern day
theory in physics.  The physicist who recently won the Nobel Prize in
Physics (whose name escapes me at present - anyone know??) has
described, as part of his theory (which itself, according to a friend of
mine who knows him, is taken, in great part, from knowledge in the
Vedas), a so-called "Field of All Possibilities".  Now a Field of "ALL"
possibilities must surely contain as one of the possibilities the
possibility that there is NO possibility.  If then there is a
possibility that there is no possibility, then at face value, this would
appear to contradict every other possibility in that Field of All
Possibilities.  However, surely, if *all* possibilities are to exist,
then this one also must exist.  Otherwise, the Field of All
Possibilities would not consist of ALL the possibilities.

 In the same way, an entity which is Sarvaguna, must have, as one of the
gunas, the guna which is nirguna.  So, a state of being Sarvaguna
encompasses then every possible guna.  It therefore qualifies as a
description of Brahman in that it places no limitation on Him.  However,
what about the fact that there is this glaring contradiction present in
the idea?  Well, this again stems from the very fact that, whilst we are
now not LIMITING Brahman, we are still trying to define Him, and place
Him into some kind of compartment whereby we can say "That is what
Brahman is" - like they say "Aum Tat Sat".  So of course, it is
impossible to define  Brahman, since any definition is in itself a
contradiction of Brahman's nature, which by definition is indefinable.

Hence, any attempt to define Brahman is from the very start a
contradiction in itself, and is thus doomed to end in a result whereby
the inherent contradictory nature of the argument manifests itself.  So,
does this mean then that there IS no absolute truth?  We can't say that
"Aum Tat Sat", because there is no way of defining anything that is
REALLY "Sat"?  Well, there is, of course, an absolute truth.  That truth
is Brahman itself - indeed, "Sat" is often translated as "God" anyway.
This provides a clue for what is wrong here.

The problem is that we are confined to using language and terminology to
describe Brahman.  Surely, language is limited.  There ARE things that
language can't explain, merely because words can only relate to other
words, which in turn relate to other words, and so on.  Thus, language
is in itself actually entirely self-defeating, since words can only
define other words.  They can't actually define the concept which gives
RISE to that word.  If someone says "flower", then we know what it is,
and therefore, we are able to define "rose" as "a type of flower". So,
in this case, we know something, and we can use that knowledge to define
something else.  However, in the case of Brahman, we are not attempting
to define through knowledge, but we are trying to know through
definition.  Knowledge must come first, and only then can we proceed to
a definition.  Otherwise, as I said, all definitions we are able to
make, are doomed to ultimate failure in the midst of inconsistency and

     ____  __   ____      _   _ ____ _  _ ____
    (_  _)/__\ (_  _)    ( )_( )_  _) \( )  _ \  Manish Tayal (JAI_HIND)
   .-_)( /(__)\ _)(_ ____ ) _ ( _)(_ )  ( )(_) )  jai_hind at
   \____)__)(__)____)____)_) (_)____)_)\_)____/     mt6 at

>From ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU Thu Jan 15 08:48:43 1998
Message-Id: <THU.15.JAN.1998.084843.0700.ADVAITAL at TAMU.EDU>
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 08:48:43 -0700
Reply-To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Shrisha Rao <shrao at NYX.NET>
Subject: Re: Sureshvara and Mandana Mishra
Comments: To: ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU
In-Reply-To: <Pine.GSO.3.96.980113144532.16353A-100000 at morocco> from
        Vidyasankar Sundaresan at "Jan 13, 98 03:11:53 pm"
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Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> > > example being Vachaspati Mishra who has written authoritative works in
> > > Samkhya, Yoga, and Nyaya as well as Vedanta.  We know that Mandan Mishra
> > > wrote a work on sphotavada which isn't a view of Purva or Uttara Mimamsa.
> > > That doesn't automatically make him a Grammarian.
> >
> > Actually, all scholars are grammarians, no matter what school they
> > belong to.  They have to be, otherwise their statements, in favor of
> > whatever school, would be ungrammatical.  Thus we have Patanjali's
> > bhAshhya on the Panini-sUtra-s, Amarasimha's kosha, etc., considered
> > authoritative by Vedantins, although their respective doctrines (Yoga
> > and Jaina) are not similarly regarded.
> Shrisha, you're quibbling. Writing a treatise called sphoTasiddhi is
> much, much more than merely being grammatical in one's language usage.
> bhartRhari elevates Sanskrit grammar to a school of philosophy in itself.

This is somewhat off-base, because it has little to do with the main
topic I was trying to address, viz., whether a mImAmsaka would/could
also address Vedanta subjects, as Jaldhar seemed to claim.

Besides, I think you're confounding philosophy of language with
grammar; both are certainly proper parts of any serious classical
doctrine, Vedantic or otherwise, but grammar, unlike the former,
cannot be "elevated to a school of philosophy in itself," because that
makes no sense.  The philosophical criticisms of Bhartrhari's
sphoTavAda by Sri Shankara and later scholars are properly considered
as criticisms of his philosophy of language, not as criticisms of his
grammar.  If you feel differently, then it is best we cordially agree
to disagree.


Shrisha Rao

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