[Advaita-l] Is Advaita a Framework?
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jun 22 20:13:51 CDT 2010
In Advaita Vedanta a crucial question comes up: Is Advaita a shAstra, a
prakriyA, a framework? To this question we have a qualified answer: It is
true that Advaita is a framework. It is also true that 'Advaita' is not a
framework; it is the Absolute Truth. When looked at this way, we have no
conflict between these two viewpoints.
*Advaita as a framework:*
For Shankaracharya and for Gaudapadacharya Advaita is what is taught by the
Upanishads. And the method of the Upanishads, if we call this a framework,
is the one that leads to the Truth that is Advaitam. In this framework,
shAstram, we have a number of elements that become useful in understanding
the very framework and putting into practice the teaching, the methods,
delineated in this framework. Thus we have, for instance,
1. the statement of the levels of reality: pAramArthika satyam and
2. We have the definition of Satyam: That which exists always AND without
undergoing any change.
3. We have the declaration that the jiva, the individual soul, is none
other than the Supreme, Brahman.
4. There is the concept of Mahavakyas.
5. We differentiate between scriptural passages that allude to the
vyavaharika state and those that teach the paramArthika Satyam.
6. There is the distinction between Kshetram, prakRti and Kshetrajna,
Purusha, Brahman. The Drik, seer consciousness, as differentiated from the
dRshya, the observed objectified world.
7. The concept of AdhyAsa
8. The concept of AjnAna, Avidya, Maya
9. Several views to explain these, not finally deviating from the
ultimate Advaitic teaching
10. The concept of saguNa and Nirguna Brahman.
11. The concept of Jivanmukti
12. Nondifference in Kaivalya
The above list is not exhaustive; many more points could be added. This
constitutes the Advaita framework; the shAstram. Advaitins hold this
framework as a part of vyavahara, the realm of ignorance. For, the
framework will not have a distinct existence in the realm of the Absolute
Reality, the प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवं अद्वैतम् described by the Mandukya
Upanishad 7th mantra. One significant statement on this status of the
'framework' of Advaita is made by Sri Shankaracharya in the Dashashloki:
na shaastaa na shaastraM na shishhyo na shikshaa
na cha tvaM na chaahaM na chaayaM prapaJNchaH .
tadeko.avashishhTaH shivaH kevalo.aham.h .. 7..
"There is no ruler (scriptural Authority) nor rule (scriptural
no pupil nor training. There is no YOU nor I. This universe is not.
For the realistion
of the true nature of the Self does not tolerate any distincion. That
One, the Residue, the Auspicious
the Alone, am I."
And, of course, the famous Amritabindu Upanishad quotation also found
as a KArikA in the
न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिः न बद्धो न च साधकः । न मुमुक्षुर्नवै मुक्त
इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥ G.K. 2.32
There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and
none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation
and none liberated. This is the absolute truth. .
This implies that there is no 'shAstram' from the ultimate standpoint.
Here is the emphatic statement by Shankaracharya in the AdhyAsa bhAShya:
तमेतमविद्याख्यं आत्मानात्मनोरितरेतराध्यासं पुरस्कृत्य सर्वे
प्रमाणप्रमेयव्यवहारा, लौकिका वैदिकाश्च प्रवृत्ताः, सर्वाणि च
शास्त्राणि *विधिप्रतिषेधमोक्षपराणि* ।
[ The mutual superimposition of the Self and the Non-Self, which is
termed Nescience, is the presupposition on which there
base all the practical distinctions--those made in ordinary life as
well as those laid down by the Veda--between means of knowledge,
objects of knowledge,
(and knowing persons), and all scriptural texts, whether they are
concerned with injunctions and prohibitions (of meritorious and
or with final release.]
As per this statement, the shastram, even the Upanishads, etc. belong
to the realm of vyavahara, ignorance.
They do not have a distinct existence in the Paramarthika Satyam. So
much about the topic: 'Advaita as a framework'.
It is the folly of someone if he attaches himself with something, some
'ism'. Sriharsha, the author
of the 'Khandana-khanda-khAdya' says:
अभीष्टसिद्धावपि खंडनानां अखण्डिराज्ञामिव नैवमाज्ञा ।
तत्तानि कस्मान्न याभिलाषं सैद्धान्तिकेऽप्यध्वनि योजयध्वम् ॥
[Though what is intended is secured by the arguments refuting the other
schools, they are not like an edict of a king who is deemed to be above
it. Therefore, there is no reason as to why they (arguments) may not
be levelled as desired, even against the path delineated by the siddhAnta.]
Shankaracharya has said in the adhyAsa bhAshya: All shAstra-s,
including those directed at teaching the means for moksha, belong to
the realm of avidya. And that includes 'advaita' as a framework.
Here is a very significant statement from Sri Vidyaranya, in His
commentary to the Taittiriya Upanishad 2.1:
After delineating the various other systems like Nyaya, Sankhya,
Shaivaagama, on their respective theories on creation, (which all hold
is a real creation) he concludes:
//(Let it be so). Where is the harm, thereby, for us the Vedantins? There
need be no apprehension that the Maayaavaada is vitiated by such
developments, inasmuch as the illusory formulations of Gautama
and others - any formulation being illusory because it is dRsya, i.e. object
of cognition external to Atman - have been generated by the very
Maya which gives rise to the illusion of samsara of wonderful variety
in all living beings from Brahmaa down to the tiniest creature.
*On the same principles, it may perhaps be urged that the account
of evolution given expression to by the Vedantas is also an
illusion. We admit that it is so. And it is the very object of the
Vedanta to teach that the whole creation is an illusion*.//
Gaudapada says the word 'advaita' itself is only relative. The word is used
only to distinguish this from concepts like 'dvaita'. A realized
person will not see any framework as absolutely real. He might use one
or the other or a combination of several to help others who might seek
his help. All schools lose their identity in the ultimate Truth that
is no school by itself.
Now, we shall turn our attention to the other aspect of this topic:
*Advaita as the Truth and Not a framework:
Truth, pAramArthika Satyam, is ever the Truth, Reality, never to be
negated, never negatable.
This is variously described in the Scripture:
1. न हि द्रष्टुः दृष्टेः विपरिलोपो विद्यते अविनाशित्वात् [The 'sight' of
the 'seer' never fades, since it is indestructible. Brihadaranyaka Up.]
2. एकमेवाद्वितीयम् [One only without a second. Chandogya Up.]
3. सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह् [Existence, Consciousness and Infinite is
Brahman. Taittiriya Up.]
4. तत् सत्यं स आत्मा तत्त्वमसि [That Existence is the Self (of the
Universe). That you are. Chandogya Up.]
5. नाभावो विद्यते सतः [Existence, sat, never goes out of existence.
6. प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवं अद्वैतम् [Free, bereft of the world, Peace,
Auspicousmess and Non-dual. Mandukya Upanishad 7.]
This Advaita Tattvam is NOT a framework; it is the Truth that transcends all
framework. It is only to teach this Truth that any framework is used.
The Mandukya karikas of Gaudapada say emphatically:
मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतं अद्वैतम् परमार्थतः
'mAyAmAtramidam dvaitam advaitam paramArthataH' says Gaudapada (Mandukya
अद्वैतं परमार्थो हि द्वैतं तद्भेद उच्यते 3.18
That which is mithya, that is dvaita, cannot contradict satya, advaita. It
cannot be counted as an adversary of advaita. The superimposed serpent does
not, cannot, 'oppose' the substratum, rope. It can at best lead to the
mistaking of the substratum. That is why the correcting 'knowledge' is the
key to the removal of the error.
To conclude, we took up the question: 'Is Advaita a framework?' We replied
that we can answer this question in two ways: Advaita is a framework AND
Advaita is not a framework; it is the ultimate undeniable Truth. The former
is the means that helps us grasp, realize the latter. Even this status is
relative: Realization presupposes a state where there is ignorance about
that Truth. That such is not the reality is evidenced by the possibility of
transcending the ignorance. When this is achieved it would be clear, for
the one who has thus realized, that there was no state where the Truth was
not realized. To clarify, he would realize that he never was not the Truth;
He ever was, is and will be the Truth. The state of having been ignorant is
realized to be only an appearance. So, it is only in this realm of
appearance do we talk of a framework. When this realm itself is known to be
false, the status of Advaita as a framework is also not real. The Only
Truth is Advaita as the Reality.
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