[Advaita-l] Locus of avidyA: N.S. Anantakrishna Sastri's summary

Murali Karamchedu murali_m_k at msn.com
Thu Nov 2 12:50:53 CST 2006

Dear List Members,

Mahamahopadhyaya N.S. Anantakrishna Sastri has written a book called 
where he considers the numerous criticisms leveled against advaita by 
specifically by Sri Vedanta Desika . In his introduction to the work, he 
summarizes the
objections and advaita’s answers to those.

I have copied the portions of this introduction that deals with the ‘locus 
of avidyA’ issue in this post.
I have retained the original spellings in the post, and have not 
tranliterated the sanskrit words.

I also apologize for this long post; also please bear in mind that the 
introduction itself is
very technical in nature, and so may be difficult reading. For those 
interested, this book is
published by Amar publications of Varanasi.

Murali Manohar

Introduction: Section II: Logical and Chronological Development of advaita: 
Page 10
========= Begin Quote ============

[ Note: Some Background Information from the text]
Except Ramanuja and Sankara, the other theorists look upon Brahman as only 
or nimitta karana and not as upadana karana. Ramanuja and Sankara consider 
Brahman as
both upadana karana and nimitta karana. But to Ramanuja, Brahman is upadana 
karana in
the secondary sense by reason of the parinami maya being associated with it 
as its body.
To Sankara on the other hand, Brahman is upadana karana in the primary 
sense, not
parinami as maya, but as vivartopadana only( vide Vivarana).


The several topics in the Brahmasutras(I and II Chapter) which declare that 
Brahman is
upadana karana are better understood in the primary sense of Sankara than in 
secondary meaning attributed to them by Ramanuja. If Ramanuja’s 
interpretation is right,
the objections raised by Sankhya relating to the upadana karana of Brahman 
and the
Sutrakara’s reply thereto will become purposeless. The same will apply to 
criticisms of Yoga, Patanjala, Dvaita, Pasupata, Vaiseshika and Nayyayika 
theories. In
effect, Vijnanabikshu’s theory and Ramanuja’s theory will become identical. 
But the
sutra’s have to be explained only on the basis of the avarana sakti of 

[ Note: The ‘locus of avidya’ issue]
Ramanuja criticizes this theory of avidya by advancing seven fallacies 
against it, namely,
relating to the locus of avidya, whether it is Brahman or jiva, its nature, 
power of
concealment, its destruction, the means of destruction and its 
justification. The fallacies
relating to the locus of avidya (whether it is jiva or Brahman), the 
tirodhana and the
nivartaka of avidya turn on the theory of knowledge whether avidya is 
opposed to jnana,
in its twofold aspect of Brahmarupajnana and jivarupajnana. Ramanuja 
dismisses this question saying that Brahman and jiva are of the nature of 
jnana and so are
opposed to avidya, If they are opposed they cannot be the locus of avidya; 
if they are not
opposed, jnana cannot be the nivartaka of agnana.

The main objection raised by Vedanta Desika to the advaitic concept of 
avidya centers
round the problem whether jnana is the antithesis of ajnana, and whether 
Brahman and
jiva are pure consciousness or not. Both Ramanuja and Sankara agree that 
Brahman and
jiva are of the nature of jnana. If jnana is opposed to ajnana, then Brahman 
and jiva
cannot be the locus of ajnana. If not opposed, jnana cannot destroy ajnana. 
Based on this
dilemma, the following criticisms are advanced:

	1. asrayanupapatti, 		2. tirodhananupapatti,
	3. jiva ajnanavada,		4. vivartakanupapatti.

To solve this problem, it is necessary to consider the various theories of 
knowledge. The
Nayyayika holds that ajnana is achetana and that jnana is an attribute. The 
divides jnana into two kinds 1, ‘dharmajnana’ or pure consciousness(atman) 
‘dharmijnana’ by which the atma gets knowledge. He holds that dharmajnana is 
only the
transformation of the atma i.e dharmajnana is svarupajnana. The 
Visishtadvaitins accept
that dharmajnana is not atmaparinama, but is eternal and inseparably related 
atma(aprthaksiddha) like the flame and the light. The atma knows objects 
only with the
aid of dharmabhutajnana. This knowledge is not created or destroyed, but it 
contraction or expansion, sankocha or vikasa making for loss or gain of 
knowledge by the

The Samkhya holds that dharmajnana is antahkarna parinama, transformation of 
the ego.
Though it is only a dharma of antahkarana, it becomes associated with the 
atma on
account of the close relationship between the two. This theory is adopted by 
the advaitins
too. They hold that dharmabhutajnana is opposed to ajnana, but not 
svarupajnana of jiva
or Brahman. What is opposed to ajnana is dharmabhutajnana only and not 
or pure chidrupa(pure conciousness). Hence, there is no incompatibility in 
the view that
jiva or Brahman in the form of pure consciousness is the locus of ajnana. 
Ajnana can be
destroyed by dharmabhutajnana.


Avidya is bhava rupa. It is not bhava rupa as such. It is neither bhava nor 
abhava. It is
anirvachinya rupam. It is of a tertiary kind(tritiya prakaram) i.e 
bhavabhava vilakshanam.
Vide Brahma Siddhi, Ishta Siddhi, and Advaita   Siddhi etc. It is of the 
nature of the
fourth prakara. It is not correct to say as Vedanta Desika contends that 
avidya is of the
nature of antecedent negation of jnana(jnana pragabhava rupam). This is not 
the advaitic
theory. Visishtadvaitins cannot consistently speak of jnana pragabhava. For 
according to
them, jnanam is either svarupa jnanam or dharmabhuta jnanam. Both these 
kinds of jnana
being eternal (nitya), there cannot be an antecedent negation for them. 
Ajnana for
Visishtadvaitins must be either svarupajnanam or anyathajnanam ot 
viparitajnanam, not
pragabhava of jnanam.

Sankara’s Nirguna Vada is bound up with the falseness of the world whereas 
Saguna Vada is based on its reality. The difference arises from the way in 
which the text
sarvam khalvidam brahma which refers to the identity of the world and 
Brahman is
interpreted. This identity is derived from Samanadhikarana between sarvam 
and brahma.
Brahman includes chit and achit according to Ramanuja while to Sankara it 
excludes both
since Brahman is suddha chaitanya in which there is no conciousness of the
particularized jiva or prakriti. The difference between Ramanuja and Sankara 
may be
stated as follows: According to the former. In mukti the ego *of* the jiva 
vanishes while
for the later the ego *as* jiva vanishes. Brahman is chidachidvisishta 
according to
Ramanuja; but for Sankara it is nirvisesha.

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