Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 10

hbdave hbd at
Mon Mar 4 00:41:11 CST 2002

Dear List Members,
Here is posting no. 10.
Best wishes,
-- Himanshu
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Advaita : Some Baisc Explanations - 10 (Aprameya)
                                                -- Himanshu
In this posting, we shall talk about why aatman is called
{\skt aprameya} (one whose proof of existence is not needed),
a Vedantic process known as {\skt bhaagatyaaga}, and
and interpretation of Mahavakyas based on this process.

First let us refresh our definition of what is {\skt "sariiri} -
controller or possessor of "body" :
{\skt "sariiri} -- one who is endowed with, possesses or controls a
{\skt "sariiram}, a body.

The word {\skt "sariiram} is derived as {\skt "s.r.r iiran}
"one which goes to destruction"; thus the meaning of the word itself
is "destructible".

The {\skt aatmaa} or Self is {\skt "sariiri}.

Atman is called {\skt anaa"sina.h} -- one which does not get destroyed and
{\skt aprameya.h} -- one which does not have or does not require proof [of

{\skt aatmaa} does not require a proof of existence, this is accepted in all
the religious philosophies of the world. No one can say "I am not existing",
because that would be a logical falacy (if you say that then
who is speaking?). The one who thinks "I", is a reflection of presence of
Self, {\skt aatmaa}. There is no other normal proof for presence of
{\skt aatmaa}, niether one is needed.

Doubt : Atman is also called {\skt nitya} everlasting. Is there a difference
in meaning of "everlasting" ({\skt nitya}) and indestructible
({\skt avinaa"sii}) ?

Reply : There is some difference. For example, a dead body when burnt on
funeral pyre  is called "destroyed", where it actually gets destroyed as an
object. We also say "his body is destroyed due to a disease", i.e., actually
present as an object, but useless. Thus there are two types of destructions
-- destruction as a material object and destruction of the function. Use of
two words with similar sounding meanings is probably to indicate that
{\skt aatmaa} is devoid of both these types of destructions.

Doubt : Why is Self called {\skt aprameya} because it is already known
by text of scriptures and as individual experience that "I am"?

Reply : You see, Self is its own proof (or  means of definite knowledge).
You know other objects (collect information about them) only when first
you have a sense of "I". In deep sleep or coma, when there is no "I"
sense, there is no knowledge of other objects also.

Also, as mentioned above, every one is convinced that "I am".

The scriptures are proof (means of definite knowledge) of existance of Self
only as far as they help you in distinguishing between illusory objects and
Self. They do not provide the actual knowledge of Self.

As far as perception of "I" is concerned, we have to investigate, what is
this "I"? You say : "I know I am". Who is this "I"? We have to investigate
how this perception of "I" arises. We have already done this as a discussion
what is to be done is you, as a seeker, go through this enquiry.

Generally, in a situation where some knowledge of existence
({\skt pramaa} correct or accurate information) is obtained about any object
({\skt prameya} one about which information is collected) by a subject or
an observer ({\skt pramaataa} one who collects information), it can be
depicted as :

+--------------+                  +----------------+
|              |                  |                |
|{\skt prameya |--{\skt pramaa}-->|{\skt pramaataa}|
|              |                  |                |
+--------------+                  +----------------+

Refering to our discussions about various layers or cells of consciousness :
{\skt praa.namaya} is {\skt pramaataa} for {\skt annamaya},
{\skt manomaya} is {\skt pramaataa} for {\skt praa.namaya},

The ultimate {\skt pramaataa} is Self. Now who is the observer for Self?
It Self. We can show that situation as :

                | pramaataa |<--+
                |           |   | pramaa
                |           |---+

Strictly speeaking, we do not have a {\skt pramaataa} now, because this
ultimate observer does not need to observe at all. We should draw the
diagram as :
                | atmaa     |<--+
                |           |   |
                |           |---+

Note that there is no marking of the arrow as {\skt pramaa}. Just as we see
the objects during day time due to light of the Sun, but to see the Sun
itself no light is required, {\skt aatmaa} does not need any {\skt pramaa}
to know itself. That is why it is called {\skt aprameya}. Neither any
external proof (means of definite knowledge) is available, nor is any needed
to "know" Self. In fact, we should not use the phrase "to know the Self"
rather it may be more correct to say "just be". How else can you describe
the situation?

Doubt : You are saying that aatman is aprameya, but I know that "I am", so I
know aatman as an object.

Reply : You are back to square one. You are confusing different uses of the
word "I" {\skt aham}.
The word "I" is used in three ways or senses :

1. Kutastha gets identified with chidaabhaasa, due to superimposition,
   adhyaasa. This is the meaning conveyed when lay people use "I". This is
   considered the primary meaning of "I". In other words, "I" in this case
   refers to Ego ({\skt ahankaara}), which is present in all states.

2. Knowledgeable people and philosophers use "I" to mean chidaabhaasa only,
   for wordly matters, e.g. "I am going home."

3. They also use "I" to mean Kutastha, in a philosophical sense, e.g. when
   saying "I am Self" or "I am brahman".

Doubt : I get confused. How are such things determined?

Reply : Basically the problem arises becauses of the use of a language.
Given a sentence, there are at least three meanings derivable from it :
{\skt vaacyaartha.h} - direct meaning, what is derived from the direct
        meanings of the words and the syntax of the sentence.
{\skt lak.syaartha.h} - indirect meaning, derived by certain processes
        discussed below.
{\skt guudhaartha.h} - the hidden meaning, purport.

Here we are concerned with Lakshyartha, the indirect meaning.
For some more details from view point of language, see my earlier series
on RigVeda (sometimes in yr. 2000), posted on this list.

The process by which such an indirect meaning is derived is called Lakshana
{\skt lak.sanaa}. There are three types of Lakshana :

1. Jahati Lakshana : {\skt jahatii} - a key word loses its primary sense,
        but denotes a sense somehow related to that. For example,
        "there is a cow-pen on Ganga". Here a cow-pen can not be actually
        on Ganga river, it has to be on some land. So we reject the sense
        of Ganga as a river and replace it by "on the bank of Ganga".
        [{\skt jahat} to reject]

2. Ajahati Lakshana : {\skt ajahatii} - non-rejecting; here the complete
        sense of the word is taken, nothing is rejected. In order to derive
        the indirect meaning, we may have to add something to the sentence.
        For example, "the red is running". Here the meaning is, of course,
        not that the red colour itself is running. By context we know that
        there is a horse involved in the situation and so the meaning taken
        is "the red horse is running."
        Note that the complete sense of the original word "red" is retained.

3. Bhagatyaga Lakshana : {\skt bhaagatyaaga} or {\skt jahadahatii} -
        keeping a part of the sense and rejecting another part. For example,
        "He is that Devadatta." A little story will explain the how meaning
        is derived.

        There was a man named Shivadatta, went to another town and met the
        King of that region. He befriended the king. Later, he came back to
        his own village. Many years later, the king, develooping vairagya,
        left his kingdom and took up a life of mendicant, putting on frugal
        dress etc. He visited the very village where Shivadatta was

        Shivadatta, on seeing the king, started having a doubt : "it seems
        this man is the king whom I met years back." But immediately he
        had doubts : "He was powerful, had a lot of wealth, army, servants,
        etc. Here these characteristics are not seen." Again, noting various
        attributes of his body, he thought : "Surely, he is that King." On
        further enquiry, he confirmed that "he is that (king) Devadatta."

        Thus leaving out a part of characteristics of Devadatta (power,
        wealth, servants, army, etc.) and retaining some part (the body/mind)
        the person was identified.

While interpreting many of the teachings in Vedanta, we have to use this
third kind of processing.

Mahavakyas  and their interpretation :

We shall now give interpretations of the Great Saying
({\skt mahaavaakyaani}), in light of Bhagatyaga Lakshana. There are four
Mahavakyas considered here, corresponding to the four Vedas :

1. SamaVeda :   {\skt tatvamasi} --> {\skt tat  tvam  asi}
        tat     tvam    asi
        "that"  "you"   "are"           naive translation

direct meaning (vaacyaartha) :
        tat     tvam    asi
        |       |       |
        |       |       +---> "are"
        |       +-----------> jiiva = avidya + chidaabhaasa + cetana
        +-------------------> Ishvara = maayaa + abhaasa + chetana

Jiiva is subject to birth/death, limited, devoid of Knowledge, etc. but
Ishvara is birthless, unlimited, all powerful. How can they be same?
So we have to use Bhagatyaga Lakshana.

indirect meaning (lak.syaartha) :
        tat     tvam    asi
        |       |       |
        |       |       +---> "are"
        |       +-----------> cetana = Kutastha
        +-------------------> chetana = brahman

2. AtharvaVeda : {\skt ayamaatmaa brahma} --> {\skt ayam aatmaa brahma}

        ayam            aatmaa          brahma
        "this"          "atman"  ["is"] "brahman"  naive meaning

direct meaning (vaacyaartha) :
        ayam            aatmaa          brahma
        |               |               |
        |               |               +---> Ishvara (see above)
        |               +-------------------> Jiiva (see above)
        +-----------------------------------> "I", "My"

indirect meaning (lak.syaartha) :
        ayam            aatmaa          brahma
        |               |               |
        |               |               +----> brahman
        |               +--------------------> Kutastha
        +---> {\skt sarve.saam} "directly known to all"

3. YajurVeda : {\skt aha.m brahmaasmi} --> {\skt aham brahma asmi}

        aham            brahma          asmi
        "I"             "brahman"       "am"    naive meaning

direct meaning (vaacyaartha) :
        aham            brahma          asmi
        |               |               |
        |               |               +---> "am"
        |               +-------------------> Ishvara
        +-----------------------------------> Jiiva

indirect meaning (lak.syaartha) :
        aham            brahma          asmi
        |               |               |
        |               |               +---> "am"
        |               +-------------------> brahman
        +-----------------------------------> Kutashta

4. RigVeda : {\skt praj~naanamaananda.m brahma} -->
                {\skt praj~naanam aanandam brahma}

        praj~naanam     aanandam        brahma
        "Knowledge" [and]"Bliss"  ["is"] "brahman"      naive meaning

direct meaning (vaacyaartha) :
        praj~naanam     aanandam        brahma
        |               |               |
        |               |               +----> Ishvara
        |               +--------------------> Bliss
        +------------------------------------> Jiiva

indirect meaning (lak.syaartha) :
        praj~naanam     aanandam        brahma
        |               |               |
        |               |               +----> brahman
        |               +--------------------> Bliss
        +------------------------------------> Kutashta
{\skt atmaat abhinna.h brahma aanandaruupa.h}
The Brahman, non-different from Atman, is Bliss.

{\skt siddhaanta.h} (conclusive principle) common to all the four above :

{\skt "suddha.h brahma.h na ka"scidapi padasya vaacya.h}
The pure brahman, Ultimate Reality, is not the direct meaning of any of
the words.

{\skt sarvaani padaani vi"si.s.tabrahma vaacakaani}
All words indicate only a specific aspect of braman.

Let us stop here.
With best wishes to all,
-- Himanshu

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