prasthAnatrayI (was Re: saguNa and nirguNa are the same)

Sankaran Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Thu Nov 18 15:12:14 CST 1999

I expected someone knowledgeable to reply to your posting, but since I
don't see anyone clearing the matter up, and also because I would really
like to know more about this subject, here goes:

On Tue, 16 Nov 1999, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian wrote:

> I seem to have invited the wrath of at least a few by insisting on
> prasthAnatrayI as a standard of comparison. Perhaps I wasn't clear
> enough. Please note that I expressed my doubts on "saguNa-nirguNa
> aikyam" because I felt it went against the exposition in the sUtra
> bhAshhya. My comments that the prabodhasudhAkara goes against
> sha.nkara's bhAshhyas on the prasthAnatrayI has *at least* a prima
> facie case.
> The upadeshasAhasrI does not talk in a single place about
> saguNOpAsana, inspite of the fact that it is a fairly long work.

The upadeshasAhasrii implicitly accepts saguNopaasana, as revealed in the
following verse (there are many like this throughout the work):
(2.17.88) (translated by Swami Jagadananda, Ramakrishna Math)
"I bow down to that All-knowing and All-powerful One who is of the nature
of consciousness and besides whom there is nothing else viz., a knower,
knowledge or object of knowledge."

The above is definitely saguNopaasana, especially since Brahman is
referred to as "sa.rvashakti.ryaH." Perhaps Shankara thought no reason to
dwell on saguNopaasana separately?

> In
> one place "madbhaktAn" are actually criticized.

I'm not sure which verse you have in mind, but this one comes close:
"Those are to be pitied who know the supreme Brahman to be otherwise
[footnote: i.e., to be other than the Self]..."

The above isn't a criticism per se, so you probably meant some other

> Please note that when
> Srimad Sureshvara wanted to quote an authority, he chose the
> gauDApAdakArika, chapter 1 as the work of gauDapAda and the
> upadeshasAhasrI as the work of sha.nkara.  So it's definitely an
> important work of sha.nkara. Further, I have already quoted the kena
> upanishhad's criticism of saguNopAsana ad nauseam. If sha.nkara felt
> saguNa and nirguNa were the same in effect, we could expect him to at
> least mention it in the kena bhAshhya, and not criticize saguNopAsana.

But Shankara does not criticize saguNopaasana in his Kenopanishhad.h. I
believe the verse you're referring to is (1,5):
(translation by Swami Gambhirananda)
"That which is not uttered by speech, that by which speech is revealed,
know that alone to be Brahman, not what people worship as an object."
Shankara's commentary:"...this is not Brahman, which people meditate on,
this (as a limited object) possessed of distinctions created by limiting
adjuncts -- as a non-Self, e.g. God, etc."
This only means that one ought not to consider the object of worship to be
different from the Self. Since in advaita, in the final stages of Bhakti,
the devotee becomes one with saguNa Brahman, the idea that the object of
worship and the Self are different is alien to advaita, even when it
pertains to saguNopAsana. The one-ness with saguNa Brahman eventually
leads to GYAna, which is knowledge of unity of the Self and ni.rguNa

When explained this way, it seems like saguNa and ni.rguNa Brahman are
different :-) but that difference is only illusory :-)


> Rama


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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