saguNa and nirguNa are the same

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 15 12:13:04 CST 1999

On Tue, 9 Nov 1999 19:42:39 -0500, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
<ramakris at EROLS.COM> wrote:

>Anand Hudli <anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
>I'll think a little bit more about these verses and try to write
>something later. But, a few quick observations:
><<< The identity of nirguNa and saguNa brahman or para and apara
> (Superior and Inferior Brahman as some wish to call them) is not
> an identity of two entities but rather the identity of *end*result*.
>The end result is not the same. saguNa upAsana without desires leads
>to purification of mind and *possibly* kramamukti. On the other hand,
>there is nothing called nirguNa upAsana. It is rather the GYAna that
>qualties are superimposed on brahman due to avidyA. Intutive
>realization of this is jIvanmukti. So, the end results are quite
 Yes and no. If the "end result" is defined as jIvanmukti, then
 clearly the end results are different in the two cases. If the
 end result is defined to be mukti, the end results are the same
 in both cases. It is clear that Shankara leaves open the possibility
 of (krama) mukti through saguNa upAsana as per the previous quote
 from Shankara's bhAShya on Prashna 5.2.

 Further, in the suutra bhaashhya (1.3.13), he explicitly says:

 trimaatreNa OmkaareNa aalambanena paramaatmaananaM abhidhyaayataH
 phalaM brahmaloka praaptiH, krameNa samyagdarshanotpattiriti
 **kramamuktiH** |

 For one who meditates on the Supreme Self by the aid of the Omkaara
 which has three components, the fruit is the attainment of Brahmaloka,
 and gradually (krameNa), perfect realization. This is Krama mukti.

 How can we equate upAsana of the OMkAra with the upAsana of a personal
 God? This can only be done if the upAsana of the personal God is done
 with the understanding that such a personal God represents the nirguNa
 Brahman in the same way as the OMkAra does. Both the OMkAra and the
 personal God can be thought of as the nirguNa Brahman limited by
 attributes. And that is why the prabodhasudhAkara is pointing out
 such a personal God has to be worshipped as the Self of all, not as
 someone "out there."

><<< 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 >>>
>The sUtra bhAshhya refutes the view of certain vedAntins that brahman
>is both saguNa and nirguNa at the same time. The prabodhasudhAkara
>seems to be saying the same thing. Or at the very least, it's quite
>vague on this point. First of all thinking that Krishna possessing
>qualities is due to avidyA. So, what's the point in saying
>saguNa-nirguNayor-aikyam?  Why not clearly say that thinking of
>Krishna with attributes is due to avidyA? Sure, worshiping Krishna is
>recommended, but that does not mean it's the same as GYAna, i.e., the
>neti-neti process which results in GYAna. The daily rites are also
>recommended by the veda-s, but that's no reason to presume that the
>end result of the daily rites and GYAna are the same.

 The end results of following the daily rites and GYANA are not
 stated to be the same as in the case of saguNa upAsana and GYAna.
 So that question does not arise.

 As for "worship", this has numerous connotations. The "worship"
 has to be closer to upAsana where upAsana also is defined by
 Shankara who says:

 upaasanaM naama samaanapratyayapravaahakaraNam.h  (suutra bhaashhya 4.1.7)

 Making similar ideas flow (continuously) is called upaasana.

 When upAsana is done in this manner, ie. constant fixation of the
 mind on some object such as God, it becomes on par with samAdhi, a
 state that can also be achieved by Yoga. Of course, samAdhi is not the
 same as GYAna, but one who reaches this stage has a reasonably good
 chance to have the Self reveal Itself.

 The whole idea here is that as Shankara says in his commentary on
 Brahma sUtra 1.2.14 (sthAnAdivyapadeshAchcha), it is not contradictory
 to assign specific places as the "residence" of Brahman, where such
 assignment is being done *for*the*purpose*of*upAsana. There is no
 claim being made that the Brahman so restricted to certain places
 or symbols such as OMkAra, is both nirguNa and saguNa. The *only*
 utility of such assignment should be as an aid or prop for doing

 VAchaspati Mishra says regarding the same sUtra 1.2.14:
 natu nAnAsthAnatvaM nabhasa iva nAnAsUchIpAshA-
 disthAnatvam.h | visheshhatastu brahmaNastAni tAnyupAsanAsthAnAnIti
 tairasya yukto vyapadeshaH || (bhAmatI)
 The many places assigned (to Brahman) are not just like the many
 places, such as the eye of a needle, in which space occurs. The specialty
 of the places where Brahman is said to occur (specifically) is as places
 for (being utilized in) upAsana. By (virtue of being places for use in
 upAsana), the mention of such places is appropriate.

 VAchaspati argues that the mention of certain places as the "abode" of
 Brahman is not the same as casual mention of Brahman's existing in
 different places. It is not the same as saying "Brahman exists everywhere;
 It is also in the OMkAra." There is a specialty associated with places that
 are mentioned specifically. And what is this specialty? As a utility for

 It would be safe to say that this principle of assigning attributes
 to nirguNa Brahman so that upAsana of the saguNa version is possible,
 is what validates upAsana of images. It may be true that images are
 worshipped with a great variety of techniques and keeping different
 "end-results" but the primary utility of such images is only upAsana
 as Shankara describes the word upAsana.

 Depending what attributes or descriptions are assigned to Brahman, the
 fruit of upAsana differs. If this assignment is done so that no duality
 is introduced, then there is no harm.

 Shankara says (sUtra bhAshhya 1.1.12):

 eka eva tu paramAtmeshvaraH taistairguNavisheshhaiH vishishhTa upAsyo
 yadyapi bhavati, tathApi yathAguNopAsanameva phalAni bhidyante |
 taM yathAyathA upAsate tadeva bhavati |

 Even though the One and only Supreme Self, the Lord characterized by
 different attributes is the object of different upAsana's, yet the
 fruits (results) are different for upAsanas with different attributes.
 Whatever may be the (saguNa form in which) one does upAsana (of the Lord),
 one becomes that.

 If one forgets the primary reason for worshipping images, etc., then
 I agree completely that such worship has nothing to do with realizing
 nirguNa Brahman. For example, if one worships Krishna so that ultimately
 one may attain the status of a kiMkara (a servant) of Krishna, then
 there is obviously a clinging to the duality: "I am different and He is
 different." But for one who does the upAsana with the understanding
 "He is the Self", there is no loss. And the prabodha-sudhAkara does
 make it clear that Krishna is the Self of all. So how can anyone be
 misled by its teachings?


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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