[Advaita-l] Analysis of attributes and their locus

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 28 03:59:32 CST 2011

Analysis of Attributes and their Locus 


Objects, their attributes and the
relation between them are important topics even in Vedanta. Hence clear
understanding of these encompasses the perceptual knowledge of the world of
objects, subject-object relationships (jiiva-jagat relationships) and through
Vedanta, Iswara –jiiva – jagat relationships. For example, Bhagavan Ramanuja
postulates that every object must have attributes, and according to him Iswara
is an object of adoration, as He is the creator, controller, sustainer and
annihilator for all jiivas and jagat. Therefore He is qualified by infinite
auspicious attributes, each attribute being infinite. Ramanuja interprets that
Brahman is one but has internal differences (swagata Bhedas) with jiivas and jagat
as part of his attributes or visheShaNas. His postulation includes that they
have organic relationship with Him like organs of the body; and yet He is
independent of them while they depend on Him –shesha-sheshii bhaava. Thus one
advaitic Brahman with internal differences or attributes that differ from each,
is vishiShTa advaita. In contrast, advaita Vedanta insists that Brahman being
infinite cannot have attributes (nirgunaH), cannot have divisions and internal
differences. Conversely, every attribute make its locus a finite, since
attribute describes the object of its locus and in the process limits the
object. For example chairness as an attribute while describing a chair,
delineates it from objects which are not-chairs such as tables and lamps, etc. Thus
Shree Ramanuja explains the nirguna aspect of Brahman not as gunaatiitaH or the
one who transcends all gunas, but as dhoshaguna rahitaH i.e. or the one in whom
there are no inauspicious qualities. Scriptures, on the other hand, define
Brahman as dvandvaatiitaH i.e. beyond the pairs of opposites that is both good
and bad. In the eleventh Chapter of Gita virat puruSha is shown involving one side
all Gods and the other the devils, with no-exclusions (since exclusions limit
Brahman), while Brahman transcends the both good and bad.  The whole creation forms lower prakRiti, while
Brahman transcends both while supporting all – says the Lord in B.G. 7-5.   Brahman that transcends all pairs of
opposites transcends all attributes too.  Hence satyam, jnaanam and anantam said in Tai.
Up. are not attributes of Brahman but swaruupa lakshaNas. I restate here, as a
note of caution, that my understanding is based on self-consistency of the
perceptual knowledge, which may differ at places from the traditional views. We
try to differentiate what we know as facts or data from the theories to explain
the data.  


To start with, I differentiate
swaruupa lakshaNas (necessary and sufficient qualifications) from swaabhaavika
lakshaNAs (necessary but not sufficient qualifications as in sweetness for
sugar); such a demarcation has not been explicitly stated anywhere, but implied
in discussions. A simple example is H2O is swaruupa lakshaNa of water; water is
H2O (a direct statement) and H2O is water (a converse statement); there is no
ambiguity in the description since being H20 is necessary and sufficient
requirement for it to be called water. Swaruupa lakshana therefore refers to
intrinsic structure of the object, without which the object cannot exist as
such. Here water is defined not on the basis of perceptual form but on the
basis of its swaruupa laKshNa, of intrinsic structure. H2O in any physical form
(water, ice or steam) remains still as water as we know.  In this specific case the intrinsic structure
itself is based on assemblage of constituent parts, H2 and O which can be
de-assembled or reassembled in a different way or different proportions to make
different compound as in H2O2. We arrive at a definition as that which can be
parted, cannot have basic or fundamental swaruupa lakshana. As we know, science
is still struggling to find the fundamental constituent particles that make up
the universe, or its swaruupa lakshana. Advaita does not subscribe to
fundamental entities or dravyas, as other philosophies do, other than to the
advaitic Brahman. 


Coming back to water its
properties like fluidity or sapidity (as we know, water is considered as
colorless, odorless, tasteless, etc, but it is an essential ingredient for
tasting anything), may be necessary but not sufficient qualifications to define
water, since converse does not establish uniquely the water. Recently
Chittaranjanji has pointed out in his post that all objects have swaruupa
lakshanas – ex, chair is called a chair because of its chair form which is
perceptible. I think, this is true provided the object is defined essentially
by its form only which is perceptible. Apple is an apple even if it is plastic
looks alike apple until one touches it, and so is a chair even if it is made of
a paper and cannot sustain any weight to support. In the example for upamaana
(comparison) pramANa, Vedanta Paribhaasha (VP) discusses gayal (gavaya) which
looks like a cow, but not a cow. Here the form becomes a misleading specific
attribute to define an object precisely. 
In general, we can say that because of this imperceptibility of
swaruulakshana by which an object can be precisely defined without any
ambiguity, errors in perception occurs as in mistaking a rope for a snake,
since the perceived attributes are incapable of differentiating the snake from
a rope, even if they can differentiate an elephant from a rope. That is no one
sees an elephant where there is a rope since there is no saadRisyam or
similarity in the perceptual attributes. In contrast, one sees the attributive
world where here is non-attributive Brahman because of the order of reality is
different, an essential topic of discussion in adhyaasa bhaasya.


Swaarupa lakshaNa should involve
no ambiguity in its specificity of an object. Shankara in his Tai. Up. Bhashya
specifies that satyam and jnaanam are swaruupa lakshanas because of the
infinite nature of Brahman as anantatvaat. Shankara states that the infinite
nature of Brahman makes satyam and jnaanam as swaruupa lakshaNas.  Implication of swaruupa lakshana is converse
has to be true. For example scripture conveniently define Brahman using
mahavaakya as prajnaanam brahma in a converse form – consciousness is Brahman
and not a direct statement as Brahman is a conscious entity. Just as swaruupa
lakshana for water is H2O implies that anywhere there is H2O, it has to be water
including water involved in crystallization, consciousness is Brahman as
swaruupa lakshaNa implies that wherever there is conscious entity, it has to be
Brahman; there cannot be any ambiguity about it. Similarly the existence is as
swaruupa lakshaNa of Brahman. aitadaatmyam idagam sarvam tat satyam, sa aatmaa
– says Uddalaka to his son, swetaketu – The essence of this entire objective
world of plurality that can be pointed as this, this and this is nothing but satyam
or pure existence  – and wherever there
is existence that is Brahman as it is its swaruupa lakshnam. Similarly wherever
there is a conscious entity, that consciousness is Brahman. Hence even the
statements satyam, jnaanam and anatam brahma are provided in the converse
statement form by the scriptures that a) each one of them is necessary and
sufficient indicaters for Brahman, which cannot be directly indicated as a
object of perception and b) they are not mutually exclusive and are one and the
same but viewed differently from the seeker’s reference. In addition, being
Brahman or infiniteness it cannot be an object of knowledge or it is aprameyam.
Hence no pramANa can operate to know Brahman. Vedanta is accepted as pramANa
only in the sense that it points out the subject as the very object of
knowledge, as in the discovery of the 10th man, where the seeker
himself has to discover that he is the sought. 


Limitlessness or infiniteness is
of the nature of happiness itself without adjuncts, hence Brahman is ananda
swaruupam. Generally more precise and specific the attributes are more precise
and specific the object defined. From this analysis, we formulate that two
entities in the universe that cannot be objectified and therefore defined; one
is Brahman since it is infinite and the other is the subject, I am, who is
objectifying everything else but it cannot be objectified. The violable
definition for the subject is that which cannot be objectified. This is only an
operational definition to reject whatever this is or objectifyable entity is,
that cannot be the subject, I.  The
scripture uses neti, neti, not this, not this, statements to emphasize the
point. This, here, includes all the five sheaths which are objectifyable. One
has to arrive at the subject, I, by negation of everything that can be
objectified or can be defined or attributable. 
The subject, I, and the Brahman, both cannot be also negated. Since
Brahman being infinite cannot be a subject for negation since only finite
entities can be negated. The subject-I am- also cannot be negated since any
negation process presupposes the subject, the nagator.  Yet I know I am existent entity and a
conscious entity. Existence and consciousness being swaruupa lakshaNas, I
cannot but be Brahman. Since Brahman being infinite and indivisible, the
analysis also indicates that - I am - cannot be different from Brahman. If - I
am - is different from Brahman, then Brahman ceases to be Brahman. If Brahman
includes I am as a part of Brahman, as Shree Ramanuja postulates, then Brahman
is subject to division, change and thus to suffering, whenever I feel that I am
suffering. In addition, if I am a part of Brahman, I become subject to
objectification just as I can objectify any part of my pancakoshas or five
sheaths; thus violating that the subject cannot be objectified.  Internal contradictions arise which can only
be resolved either by accepting aham braahmaasmi or mahaavaakyas that equate
the jiiva-jagat-Iswara as one, or by axiomatic statements that internal
divisions are intrinsic to Brahman, as VishiShTaadvaita postulates, which have
to be accepted without questioning. Justification for internal divisions in
Brahman is provided by appropriately interpreting the bheda vaakyaas of the
scriptures, statements of apparent differentiation of jiiva-jagat-Iswara.
According to Ramanuja, Brahman who is infinite is a locus of infinite
auspicious gunas or qualities such as compassion, etc., and scriptural
description of nirguNaH only means He has no inauspicious qualities. Ramanuja
ascertains that a coherent picture of Brahman is provided in vishiShTaadvaita
that integrates the bheda vaakyas and the abhedha vaakyas (statements of
identity of jiiiva-jagat-Iswara as one) of the scriptuers, by incorporating
internal differences in Brahman and making the atomic size jiiva-s and jagat as
integral parts of advaitic Brahman. The logical contradictions that arise are
overridden by scriptural statements by interpreting them appropriately.  For advaita scriptures (shruti), logic (yukit)
and experience of three states of consciousness (anubhava) form the foundations
for coherent interpretation.  


There is a book by Shree Arun
Shourie that has in the title – suffering refutes religion with a question that
if there is an infinite compassionate God then how can there be suffering?  Infinite compassion and God are oxymoron,
says Mr. Shourie. If He exists, either He is sadistic since he is indifferent
to suffering or powerless since he is incapable of removing the suffering;
either way God thus defined is less desired. The problem lies not with the God,
but in trying to define an infinite Brahman with attributes including the
creator, sustainer and annihilator which are only incidental attributes and not
swaruupa or swaabhaavika lakshaNa. Hence God defined is God defiled, since any
description being always in terms of attributes. On the other hand, by changing
the title of the book, we can say advaita refutes suffering. Infinite cannot
have attributes, and therefore God, if he is infinite cannot be cause anything,
much less suffering, as GouDapaada says. Suffering and happiness both are
attributes of mind that has likes and dislikes or raaga and dweShas. In
essence, even the happiness and unhappiness become attributes of the mind.
Because of the ignorance of our true nature, we identify ourselves with the
mind along with its moods or its attributive content. Question is then can we
possibly remain as humans without identifying ourselves with our attributive
minds – if that is possible, how can we know ourselves since we are the
attribute-less subjects, and all entities are known via their attributes.  

Rest in the next.

Hari Om!


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