saguNa and nirguNa are the same

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 9 16:24:46 CST 1999

On Mon, 8 Nov 1999 22:11:25 -0500, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
<ramakris at EROLS.COM> wrote:

>Anand Hudli <anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> saguNa-nirguNayor-aikyaprakaraNam.h
>>    (The Identity of saguNa and nirguNa brahman)
>>    From: prabodhasudhAkara of Shankara
>[ ... ]
>The verses above directly contradict bhagavatpAda's interpretation of
>sUtra 3.2.11. He takes up as pUrvapaxa the contention that saguNa and
>nirguNa brahman are the same and refutes it conclusively in the
>bhAshhya to sUtra-s 3.2.11-17. The last sUtra shows that smR^iti also
>declares that saguNa and nirguNa brahman are not the same. In fact,
>look at bhaAshhya to sUtra 3.2.14. It directly contradicts the
>saguNa is a product of avidyA or ignorance. nirguNa is the "neti neti"
>"characterization" of brahman. Both definitely cannot be the same.
>This is presented with sha.nkaras usual clarity in the bhAshhya to the
>above sUtra-s.
>Not to mention sha.nkara's kena pada bhAshhya, in which he takes up
>for pUrvapaxa, "vishhNurIshvara indrashcha prANo vA brahma bhavitum
>arhati na tvAtma loka pratyaya virodhAt.h." I.e., vishhNu, Ishvara,
>Indra or prANa could be brahman, but not Atman due to contradiction of
>worldly logic. He conclusively disproves this contention.
>I am willing to change my mind if any mistakes in my interpretation of
>the bhAshhya-s to the above sUtra-s are pointed out. But, I think that
>part of the sUtra bhAshhya is not that difficult to understand. I am
>somewhat busy now and am unable to type out the bhAshhya and a
>translation. May be I'll try to do that sometime later.
 Making a point-by-point comparison of the sUtra bhAshhya with the
 prabodha-sudhAkara will occupy my time for quite a while, since I too
 am busy, but I take the liberty of making some remarks for now.

 The identity of nirguNa and saguNa brahman or para and apara brahman
 (Superior and Inferior Brahman as some wish to call them) is not
 an identity of two entities but rather the identity of *end*result*.
 There are no two Brahmans whose identity is being asserted here!
 Speaking of identity is possible only when there are two (or more)
 entities. When Brahman is all there is, there can be no assertion
 of identity with anything. There is only one Brahman, but for those
 who are unable to directly realize the nirguNa Brahman, the saguNa
 Brahman is used as a "prop" or support. It is only in this sense that
 the nirguNa is said to be the same as the saguNa.

  See what Shankara says in the sUtra bhAshhya (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.


  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 specifically residing in the shaalagraama.

  This seems to be the point in the text of the prabodha-sudhAkara
  as well. Even though Brahman is present everywhere, for the purpose
  of meditation, there is no harm in treating It as if It were endowed
  with form and other attributes. The moment we do this, we are "reducing"
  Brahman to saguNa form. But in reality, Brahman does not transform
  Itself into saguNa. This is clear. Shankara cites the example of the
  shAlagrAma and VishhNu. VishhNu, by definition, is all-pervading and
  omnipresent, but for purposes of worship one may think of Him as
  specifically residing in the shAlagrAma-shilA.

  Brahman reveals Itself even through saguNa-upAsana.

  oMkAre tu vishhNvAdipratimAsthAnIye bhaktyAveshitabrahmabhAve
  dhyAyamAnaM tatprasIdati ityavagamyate shAstraprAmANyAt.h |

  By meditating on the OMkAra, as on images of VishhNu, etc., with
  the thought of Brahman fixed by devotion, It (Brahman) becomes
  gracious (reveals Itself). This is understood from the authority
  of the shAstras. (Shankara's commentary on prashna upanishhad, 5.2)

  Or, we can look at the whole thing this way. In math and science, we
  sometimes use reductio ad absurdum. To arrive at X, we can start out
  by assuming "not(X)" (X is does not hold). This may be because it is
  exceedingly hard to prove X directly. As we proceed, we arrive at
  at some point where there is a contradiction. At that point, we have
  realized the original assumption "not(X)" was incorrect. We have
  correctly "realized" X now! Because proving X directly was so difficult,
  we had to, as a practical matter, to resort to this method. This is
  similar to what is suggested by meditation on saguNa Brahman, worship,

  Shankara makes an extremely pithy remark with regard to one who
  does the upAsana of the OMkAra that also holds good for other saguNa

  paraM chet.h GYAtavyaM aparaM chet.h prAptavyam.h |

  If it is the para Brahman (that one desires), It is to be known; if it
  is the apara Brahman, It is to be attained. (Shankara on KaTha upanishhad

>Anyway, I think this clearly shows that the prabodhasudhAkara is not a
>genuine composition of bhagavatpAda. I have, for a long time, been
>under the impression that this is not a work of sha.nkara. This only
>intensifies that feeling. Either that, or the verses have to be
>interpreted in a fashion different from declaring saguNa and nirguNa
>brahman are the same. This can only be verified from someone like H.H
>Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamigal.

 The authorship of prabodhasudhAkara is a different issue, I agree.
 Note, however, that it is included in the standard Vani Vilas collection
 and also has been quoted by HH Abhinava Vidya Teertha in one of his
 discourses as being a work of Shankara.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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