Significance of the name Advaita - part II of II

Vaidya Sundaram Vaidya_Sundaram at I2.COM
Thu Feb 24 03:50:40 CST 2000

(The following is from the book dialogues with The Guru (Talks with his Holiness
Sri Sri Chandrasekara Swaminah of Sringeri)
The book is a comiplation of HH's discussion and talks, compiled by Sri. R.
Krishnaswami Aiyar fisrt published in 1957 by Chetana Limited.)

Contd from part I:

Distinctive Characteristics:

G: Generally speaking, a name gets attached to a particular thing only if some
attribute which is denoted by that name happens to be the exclusive attribute of
that thing. If an attribute is common between a particular thing and several
others, that particular thing cannot be called by the name which connotes that

D: Certainly.

G: A name is therefore given to a particular thing when that thing has an
exclusive characteristic of its own which is associated with that name.

D: Quite so.

G: Now, what is the exclusive characteristic of our system of philosophy which
is absent is all other systems?

D: I suppose, the doctrine of mAyA.

G: Quite so; and its implications.

D: What are the implications?

G: Before we go to that question, tell me what do you understand by mAyA?

D: I have heard it explained as the differentiating principle which is
responsible for diversity in the universe.

G: In the universe of matter or in the universe of souls?

D: In both. mAyA is the prime cause of all diversity, in the objective as well
as the subjective universe.

G: Then, but for mAyA, there can be no diversity at all?

D: I have heard it so said.

G: Matter, inert as it is, will have no independent existence of  its own but
for mAyA?

D: Yes.

G: Similarly, I suppose, we, individuals as we are now, will have no independent
existence of our own, but for mAyA?

D: It would seem so.

G: If we do not enunciate any differentiating principle as mAyA, matter - inert
matter - will persist in having an existence of its own consistently with God
the Supreme Principle, just as the mud from which a pot is made claims
consistent existence with the potter who uses it for making the pot?

D: It is so. In some other systems, they assign to God only the status of the
potter and enuncuate a primary substance, be it pradhAna or the atoms or any
other thing, as the material out of which the universe is made.

G: But there are some systems which deny the independent existence of matter and
which enunciate that God is Himself the material cause as well as the efficient
cause. That is, He is as much the mud as the potter.

D: Quite so. I think such as idea is formulated by the viSishtAdvaitins.

G: It finds a place in some other systems also. Though they conceive of God as
the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe, they do not grant
that God is the material cause of individual souls, for souls are not matter;
nor is God the efficient cause of souls, for souls are  not 'made'.

D: I understand.

G: Then, by postulating that the individual souls are not made but exist from
time beginningless, they assign them an existence, an independent existence,
co-eval with God Himself.

D: No doubt so, for they call all souls eternal.

G: But so do we. The difference between our system and theirs lies not is
ascribing eternal existence to the individual soul, but in their ascribing
eternal independent existence to all individual souls and in out ascribing the
eternality to brAhman and deny to the souls any existence independent of

D: It is so.

G: Now then, we find that there are some systems which postulate the existence
of God as the Supreme Being and at the same time grant the independent existence
of matter and also the independent existence of individual souls. In some other
systems, God is conceived of as the Supreme Being as well as the primary
material cause of the universe of matter, thereby denying to inert matter an
independent existence of its own, but conceding such as existence to individual

D: Yes,

G: It is only in the advaita system that matter is denied existence independent
of God and the individual soul also is denied existence independent of God.

D: Quite so.

G: It will be clear now that the distinguishing characteristic which is
responsible for the name advaita, which our system has appropriated to itself
and by which it is generally known to all.

D: But how does the name advaita convey the idea of this distinctive

G: You your self said that advaita signified a negation of duality.

D: But Your Holiness pointed out that no religion in the world postulated a
duality in God?

G: Quite so. You committed the mistake of understanding 'negation of two-ness in
God' to mean 'negation of two Gods', thereby giving room for my further
questions. If advaita meant negation of two Gods,  our system has no sole right
at all to appropriate that name to itself but, if it means on the other hand
negation of any second principle independent of God, we have the sole right to
monopolize that name for our system. It is only in the latter sense that our
system goes by the name of advaita.

D: I now understand the significance of the name; but there is mAyA the
differentiating principle which is responsible for the diversity in the universe
of matter and of individual souls. Surely, that is a second principle.

G: No. That cannot be a second principle. Viewing it as the sakti or power or
potentiality of brAhman, it can have no independent existence of its own apart
from the sakta, the Supreme Person or brAhman. From the still higher standpoint
of absolute truth, it has no existence at all. mAyA is the name given to it
because it IS NOT (ya ma), but seems to be, borrowing its seeming reality from
the eternal verity called brAhman.

bhava shankara desikame sharaNam

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

Archives :
Help     : Email to listmaster at
Options  : To leave the list send a mail to
           listserv at with
           SIGNOFF ADVAITA-L in the body.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list