[Advaita-l] Questions on Isavasya

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 27 01:27:52 CDT 2006

Siddhartha gaaru
  Your dvaita friend is admirable for the rigour with which he has read Sri Sankara's bhashyas. I feel ashamed that I am unable to study the bhashyas of Sri Sankara, whose teachings are held to be the Truth by my forefathers, in such detail leave alone reading Sri Bhashya and Sri ManmadhvAchArya's works.
  If you were to read the IsAvAsya with an open mind, you would realise that it abounds in paradox, and that without a guiding commentary, reconciliation of all the verses would be very difficult. Once that is realised, and if one's quest is to understand, I think Sri Sankara's commentary reconciles the seemingly irreconcilable splendidly.
  On the other hand, it is indeed fair that questions be raised against a doctrine and those need to be answered. That is best left to scholars. I am a beginner and definitely do not possess the eligibility, but in the spirit of testing my knowledge, and taking advantage of the relaxed informality of an online discussion group, here is my attempt to some of the questions of the learned Dvaitin:
  (Incidentally, I think he missed the biggest criticism: Sri Sankara says that in a particular verse, the letter 'a' should be added to the word given in the vedic verse, reversing the meaning of the word. To my knowledge there is no grammatical justification for this.)

  Annapureddy Siddhartha Reddy <annapureddy at gmail.com> wrote:
    Namaste all,
I have some questions on the IshAvAsya bhAShya of
shaN^karAchArya which came up in discussions with a dvaita friend of
mine. Please feel free to address any or as many of the issues. Thanks
a lot.

-- In the shaN^kara bhAShya, there is a switch from the first to the
second verse with respect to the person to whom the words are
addressed (The first verse is addressed to a GYAni and the second
verse to an aGYAni who is steeped in karma). In fact, there is an
objection (in the form of an opponent in the bhAShya) with regard to
this switch, and shaN^kara justifies it with the claim that since
karma is referred to in the second verse, it could only have been
addressed to an aGYAni and not to a GYAni.

Thus, it seems like shaN^kara derives his theory from some particular
parts of the upaniShats, and interprets the rest of the upaniShats in
the light of that theory. What are these particular parts of the
upaniShats that shaN^kara focuses on? Are these the mahAvAkyas?

Another criticism is this -- If the above hypothesis was true that
shaN^kara gave more weight to particular parts of the upaniShats, then
isn't that the wrong approach? Should not all the statements of the
upaniShats be given equal weight? Especially when the later
commentators like madhva have tried to incorporate all the statements
into one framework (in this particular context, I mean without making
this hard distinction of GYAna and karma).

  Sri Sankara's system of intepretation: It is very well known that Sri Sankara's view is that only those parts of Scripture which reveal what is not known through pratyaxa is paramount. Not all statements of the Vedas are given equal importance, because that is not the way the Vedas are supposed to be understood. I have not read SrimanmadhvachArya's works and not eligible to say anything - but a simple reading of the MuNDakopanishad and the daily taNDula hOmam establishes this. (The MuNDakopanishad is quite critical about sacrifices etc. whereas in the taNDula hOmam after offering a few grains of rice, the yajamAnin - the perfomer - seeks Ayus, Arogyam, aiSvaryam etc. Both are of course part of the Vedas. The karma kANDa is more important to the vast majority, and the j~nAnakANDa to the enlightened few.)
-- Are there any vArttikas on the IshAvAsya bhAShya btw?

-- The bhAShya does not have a mangalAcharaNa shlOka. Was this normal?
Do all the other bhAShyas of shaN^kara have mangalAcharaNas? Could it
be possible that the bhAShya was not originally written by shaN^kara
(Is there any section of advaitins who believe this)? Also, in the
bhAShya, at many places, shaN^kara claims that some of the particles
are meaningless (for example, the particle svid in the first verse)?
Could this be said of the vEdas where redundancy is considered to be
an egregious error (This was one reason why the quality of the work
apparently seems to be inferior to that of shaN^kara's other works)?

-- shaN^kara (in verses 9-12) uses the word avidya to mean karma and
vidya to mean upAsanas. Isn't this a non-standard use of the word
vidya? Is there an etymological justification (or some other
justification) for employing the word vidya in this sense?

  Vidya and Avidya: Vidya is 'that which is fit to be known' This, in the given context, is upAsana (as defined elaborately by him) according to Sri Sankara. Avidya is what is not Vidya - merely doing karma without contemplating about the real meaning. I see no problem here. As to these being non-standard, it is not so. There is no contradiction between the definition of avidya elsewhere and here.
-- In the third verse, shaN^kara interprets all worlds like the
dEvalOka to be andham.h tamas.h, because people are bound to suffer
ultimately in these lOkas. But later in the bhAShya (verses 9-12)
where the word "amR^itamashnutE" is used in the upaniShat.h, shaN^kara
still interprets it to mean the result of upAsanas. How could the two
contradictory words, namely andham.h tamas.h and amR^itam.h, be
employed to refer to the same result?

  Amritam aSnutE (enjoys deathlessness, or eats ambrosia) is indeed darkerness (andhamtamas) when compared to brahmAnandam. No problem, there as well.
-- Another question is with regard to the word IshA in the first verse
(which is in the tR^itIya vibhakti). It seems there is a verse in both
in the bhAgavata purANa and the brahmAnDa purANa (quoted by madhva)
where the same verse occurs except the beginning is "AtmavAsyamidam
sarvaM", AtmA being used instead of IshA. Now AtmA is in the ShaShThI
vibhakti, so should not IshAvAsyamidam be split as Ishasya

  vigrahavAkyAs of samastapadas: What is 'navakambaLa' - a new blanket or nine blankets? If the speaker does not clarify, the listener is at liberty to undertand either meaning as long it is coherent. Imposing a particular way of resolving a compound word is not proper criticism.
-- shaN^kara interprets the word jagatyAM to be pR^ithivyAM. By this,
does he mean only the earth, or should it be taken to mean the entire
jaDa prakR^iti?

-- The word "tEna" in the second line of the first verse could be
taken to be in the masculine or the neuter gender. shaN^kara takes it
to be in neuter gender to mean "by that (understanding)". "That"
refers to the first line in the verse. But if it's so close, the usual
word employed is "EtEna". So, does this not suggest that the word
"tEna" should be interpreted to be in masculine gender?

  tat and Etat: the distinction is with respect to physical objects, in loukika language. The distinction does not apply to "distance" in verse, and anyhow Vedic language is not fully explained by PaNinian grammar.
-- bhuJNjithA usually means enjoy. Does it also mean protect (as given
in the translation by svAmi gaMbhIrAnandaji)? Can someone give the
root word and the derivation?

  Bhu~n is the ubhayapadI root which means both 'to protect' and 'to enjoy'. Going by the origins of the names of the roots, the atmanEpadI (bhu~nktE) is supposed to mean 'to enjoy' (the agent enjoys the fruits of the action) and the parasmaipadI (bhu~nakti) to protect. But as Sri M. R. Kale quotes Monier Williams, if memory serves me right, in his grammar book "poets have not followed the distinction and have used both personal terminations promiscuously'. In sum, it is perfectly tenable to interpret bhu~njithAh using either of the meanings.
Hari Om.


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