Yajnaguhya yajnaguhya at SKYNET.BE
Sun Jul 2 06:04:58 CDT 2000

Dear Friends,
I wonder whether someone can help me to find an answer to some questions, and I beg your pardon if this contribution will be a bit lengthy. First a word on my translitteration of Sanskrit for plain text documents: ' indicates palatals; ° cerebrals; : is the avagraha or the sign of a vowel sandhi; the rest is clear to anybody knowing the language.
In his large work on Indian Philosophy, S. Radhakrishnan states that, in his opinion, (kevala)-advaita (S'rî S'ankarâcârya) and vis'is°tâdvaita (S'rî Râmânuja) are complementary rather than opposed to each other, but he does not develop this important point. I have been trying to do it. Let us start with what is said to be the cardinal tenet of Advaita, namely that 'Brahma satyam, jagad mithyâ, jîvo Brahmai:va nâparah'. All right: this must be true, since there can be one independent Reality only. I have no doubt about that; therefore, I want to be clear, I have no doubt about the fundamental correctness of the Advaita position. What I am worried about is the way certain post-S'ankara authors expound Advaita, sometimes going beyond S'ankara Himself and making nonsense of His teaching.
If we look at that sentence a bit closer, we discover that it is not so obvious, and that there may be various ways to understand it. First 'jagad mithyâ'. Is mithyâ real or unreal? One would say unreal, otherwise it would be Brahman. But how is it possible to predicate somenthing unreal of an unreal entity? It does not make sense. Then 'jîvo Brahmai:va': identity is a binary operator: it can be used only for TWO things; in other words, identity can be predicated only of entities that show some difference. If it were not so, one could say 'jîvo jîva eva', or 'Brahma Brahmai:va', two nice tautologies that add nothing to our knowledge. This is no hair splitting; on the contrary it hits on something important: the relation between Brahman and jagad on one side, and that between Brahman and jîva on the other, precisely where the two main advaita Schools differ.
The S'ruti is clear: 'One only without a second' (Chândogya VI, ii, 1); 'There is no duality in Brahman' (Kat°ha IV, 11); etc. But does this imply absolute homogeneity? Does this negate the existance of different MODES within Brahman? Certain advaitins would say yes, thus contradicting or forgetting S'ankara Himself. Please take His Brahmasûtrabhâs°ya (I, iv, 26): there He states quite clearly, with reference to Taittirîya II, vii, 1, that the Self can become an object to Itself (by an act of self-creation: 'Tad âtmânam svayam akuruta' says the Upanishad) "by way of change of form, the idea being that the Self ... changed Itself into a special form as the Self of the modifications" (Swami Gambhirananda's translation).
So modes are possible within Brahman. This is S'ankara, but it is also, precisely, S'rî Râmânuja's doctrine.
Now please take Gaud°apâda II, 12: 'kalpayaty âtmanâ :tmânam âtmâ devah svamâyayâ'. Here, again, the Self makes an object of Itself, that is, It obviously puts Itself into the two modes of subject (âtmâ) and object (âtmânam). But then we read Gaud°apâda II, 16: 'jîvam kalpayate pûrvam'. From II, 12 it is clear that it is Itself that It kalpayate as the jîva. But the Self is timeless; so that act of self-kalpana is timeless too; therefore the jîva is eternal: precisely another tenet of S'rî Râmânuja! The jîva is thus an object with which the Self identifies Itself, whence the identity-cum-difference of the jîva with the Self, again Râmânuja.
I have not seen this subject discussed anywhere in the books I have. Maybe it has been in India, where a rich Vedanta literature is certainly available. I should be grateful to anybody enlightening me (I have more to add, but I am afraid I have already been to long).
Yours fraternally,
Roberto Fantechi.
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