Moksha in advaita

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Nov 22 21:02:57 CST 1999

On Mon, 22 Nov 1999, Nataraj BV wrote:

> Dear List Members:
> According to advaita, jIvas feel that they are different from each other and from brAhman
> because of avidya.


> If this is the case, how can individuals get rid of avidya?

"Individuals" cannot because the condition of individuality is itself
caused by avidya.  On the cessation of avidya (Moksha) the jiva itself as
a concept disappears.

> Since I am
> not different from others or Brahman,

Only in the paramarthika sense.  In the vyavaharika sense you are
different and it is legitimate for you to think of oyurself as different.

> and since there will always be jIvas suffering from
> avidya (due to the fact that there are *infinite* jIvas in samsara),

But in  Brahman there are no jivas hence no locus for suffering.

>  there is no
> possibility for anyone (Brahman) to get rid of avidya, ever. If you say that Brahman has
> two parts- one which is suffering from avidya and one which is not, then you are implying
> duality which goes against advaita.

We can summarize the argument logically like this.

1. Avidya is a property of the jiva.
2. The Jiva is Brahman.
3. Therefore by the transitive property, Avidya is a property of Brahman.

However the Advaitin views things differently.

1.  Avidya is not a property of the Jiva but the Jiva itself.  Jiva is
simply a term of convenience we use for the avidya with sentience attached
to a body as opposed to the avidya which is a rock or the city of the
Gandharvas, or the rabbits horns etc.

2.  If following 1, Jiva = avidya then the assertion that Jiva =  brahman +
avidya or alternatively Brahman = Jiva - avidya reduces to Brahman alone.

3.  So not only is avidya not a property of Brahman, it is actually

Now for this line of reasoning to work, the assertion jiva = avidya must
be held.  If the Advaitin is unable to do that, he is in deep
trouble.  But that's a different topic.

> Also, if we are non-different from each other, what is the point in us
> doing sadhana individually? When some great soul gets rids of avidya,
> we should all automatically get rid of avidya.

If and only if we recognize we are nondifferent from that great
soul!  That process of recognition is what is termed sadhana.  But if you
are going to seriously practice the notion that "all this is truly my own
self" why stop with some Mahatma?  Although great respect is given to the
Guru and to ones ishtadevata in Advaita Vedanta, this is for the benefit
of the Vidvisha, the seeker, who requires some focal point for his
practice.  For the Vidvan there is no need because he sees his divine self
as the only truth.

> Since this has not happened, it implies that nobody has ever gotten rid of
> avidya in the past.

For those who are still mired in difference, it does indeed seem that
avidya is eternal.  For those who have achieved Moksha it becomes clear
that avidya never existed in the first place.

Btw, such matters are discussed at length in the
Brhadaranyakopanishadbhashya and its vartika by Sureshwaracharya.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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