[Advaita-l] adhyAsa- part II

Jay Nelamangala jay at r-c-i.com
Fri May 30 06:32:00 CDT 2003

The terms Atman and anAtman are understood in various senses.
Unless we are definite regarding the meaning of these terms,  we cannot
pronounce the judgement that they are of opposed characters, like
light and darkness,  and that therefore they cannot be superposed, each
on the other.

In connection with this discussion,  we may take three senses of the terms
Atman and anAtman into consideration.   

1) In popular parlance we accept certain things as denoted by these terms.
Atma - anAtma may be taken to be living and lifeless objects.
Atman stands for the aggregation of the various bodily elements beginning
with the bodily limbs and ending with the chaitanya part of it.
anAtman stands for the inanimate objects like stone, paper, etc.
In these senses, there is not complete opposition between Atman and anAtman
because the bodily limbs etc which ought to come under anAtman form a 
part of Atman.  Nor does advaita vEdAnta hold superposition of them in this sense.
So we don't need to discuss this any further.

One may ask,  what is meant by opposition between Atman and anAtman?
We will come to that shortly.

2) Thinkers like prabhAkara, hold that Atman is the substratum of knowing,
doing and enjoying and that anAtman is that which is not Atman.
In these senses,  both Atman and anAtman are inert according to advaita
vEdAnta. It is obvious that anAtman is inert.   According to advaita vEdAnta, 
the thing that is the substratum of knowing etc is also inert, 
such a thing is called ahamkAra in advaita vEdaanta, 
and the same thing is called Atman in prAbhAkara.  
Thus,  so far as facts  are concerned, there can be
no opposition between Atman and anAtman.   The same consideration
shows that either can not be superposed on the other,  since both are
of the same nature.  We should remember that adhyAsa according to
advaita vEdAnta  is between Atma  and anAtma.  

Before looking at how advaita vEdAnta  understands 
the terms Atman and anAtman,  let us understand what we mean by 
opposition between Atman and anAtman.

Ordinarily by opposition between two things we mean that one of them
destroys or excludes the other.  Neither of these conceptions hold
good in the case of the opposition between Atman and anAtman.
So we have to understand the term "opposition" in a special sense.
To say that Atman and anAtman are opposed to each other simply
means that one can not be the other.  This meaning is not peculiar
to the opposition between Atman and anAtman.  For instance,  a
positive entity can not be a negative entity, and so we regard them as
opposed to each other.

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