Exegesis of mahAvAkya-s - II

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Sat Jul 1 17:30:58 CDT 2000

Use of analysis of mahAvAkya-s

The first question while studying anything would be about the
utility of the endeavor. For e.g., study of medicine is
important because it can cure diseases which cause pain. Why
are mahAvAkya-s important? It's because they teach the unity
of brahman and Atman directly and succinctly. So
sureshvarAchArya says in Ma 2.12, tattvamasi-Adi-vAkyeshhu
tayoH-aikyaM pradarshyate, i.e., by the sentences such as
'That thou art', their (jIva and brahman) unity is taught. He
who sees duality sees great fear, whereas the one who
comprehends unity does not. Thus the taittirIya says
na-bibheti kadAchana-iti. It is also known that the inner self
is shAntaM shivaM and advaitaM as per the mANDUkya upanishhad.
So teachings of non-duality are certainly very important.

But the taittirIya upanishhad also says: yato vAcho
nivartante, aprApya manasA saha - From which the speech along
with the mind turns back, when talking about brahman. The
various means of knowledge like pratyaxa (direct perception),
anumAna (inference), etc cannot reveal the true nature of
brahman, and only shruti has that capability. And
sureshvarAchArya says about this particular inability of the
pramANa-s [1] other than shruti in his NaiSi 2.1s:
pratyaxAdInAM anevaM vishhayatvAt, teshhAM
svArambhaka-vishhaya-upanipAtitvAt.h - Since the scope of
pratyaxa, etc is different from this subject matter (Atman),
and since their scope is restricted to the substances which
produce them. He also adds: vastumAtra-yatha-athmya-
prakAshana-paTIyasaH-tattvami-AdeH-vacasaH-eva-iti - i.e.,
*only* words like tattvamasi are capable of revealing the real
nature of the self. To repeat, the indeclinable 'eva', i.e,
"only", should be noted.

Thus, not only do the mahAvAkya-s produce enlightenment, they
are also the *sole* means of achieving enlightenment [2]. For
the advanced student hearing the mahAvAkya alone (shravaNa)
through the instructions of a qualified guru, is enough for
the complete destruction of avidyA. But, even for the lesser
qualified students the mahAvAkyas are of great importance
because the shravaNa would lead to manana and nididhyAsana,
which will finally lead to destruction of avidyA. In either
case, the importance of the mahAvAkyas is established. The
actual analysis of the vAkya-s, consisting of manana and
nididhAsana is a must for most, except perhaps a handful of
extremely qualified sAdhaka-s. The following material is on
the analysis of mahAvAkya-s, as taught by sureshvarAchArya.


[1] The number of pramANa-s, whether they are 3 or 6 or more,
is irrelevant to the topic under discussion.

[2] The term "achieving enlightenment" is used synonymously with
destruction of avidyA. It is not to be understood that an
actual production of something takes place. Also, the
teachings of non-duality may also be realized from smR^iti,
like the mahAbhArata, purANa-s, etc. This is made clear by
sha.nkara in his sUtra bhAshhya. This is because smR^iti also
teaches about topics on topics not accessible to other
pramANa-s. The authority of the smR^iti comes from being
derived from shruti.

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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