[Advaita-l] Nitya Karma question

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Thu Oct 6 04:10:30 CDT 2011

Namaste Subbu-ji,

All I was trying to convey was that one has to be careful about the sense in
which one uses the terms "bhAva" and "abhAva". The purpose of my earlier
post was to give some laukika examples of "errors of omission" leading to
negative consequences. I don't entirely disagree with Lalitaalaalitah either
but the context of the examples was lost in his responses.

The point is that bhAva and abhAva are seemingly straightforward concepts
but turn out to be far more elusive upon investigation. This is because they
can be used in a sAmAnya as well as in a visheSha sense. For example, it is
one thing to say that inaction cannot produce a positive result, quite
another to say that non-performance of a specific action cannot produce a
positive result.

Lets look at another example.

Lets say a person has taken a bank loan. So he now has the duty to repay the
loan. He fails to do so and the bank attaches his assets.

Now, this can be explained in two ways.

1) The bank is always searching for loan defaulters, and this search
manifests in the form of attaching the assets of defaulters. The proper
repayment of the loan prevents the manifestation of the bank's search for
defaulters (in the form of attachment of assets). The flipside is that
non-repayment of the loan implies the non-prevention of the manifestation of
the bank's search for defaulters, and so the person's assets get attached.

2) Loan default (i.e. non-performance of the specific obligatory action of
repaying the loan) is itself an action based on a sense of agency. This
action produces a result in the form of assets being attached. If it be
argued that loan default cannot be considered an action, then one only needs
to point to statements such as "100 cases of default were registered this
year". The very usage of the adjective '100' implies a certain "bhAva"

Now, the terms "bhAva" and "abhAva" can be used in both the above cases but
in different senses. So depending on how one uses "bhAva" and "abhAva" one
could argue both ways.

Practically speaking, in most contexts the distinction may not even matter.
For instance, in the above example, loan default simply implies attachment
of assets, whether in an active sense (case 2) or in a passive sense (case

While many advaitin-s may prefer 'case 1', it is a fact that 'case 2' style
explanations are also commonly used and even advaitin-s recognize this fact
by using anupalabdhi pramANa, which enables a distinction between cognitions
such as "there is no table in this room" and "there is no chair in this

In other words, 'case 1' would hold that abhAva is abhinna, whereas 'case 2'
would pragmatically recognize distinct cognitions of different kinds of
abhAva, by implicitly imputing a certain bhAva status.

Ultimately, it boils down to a sAmAnya visheSha distinction. When one talks
of relative abhAva (case 2), one can make distinctions between one kind of
abhAva and another because such abhAva-s have bhAva status imputed on them.
These different abhAva-s are revealed by anupalabdhi pramANa (note that all
pramANa-s reveal only sat).

Now coming to the nityakarma issue, if one uses the term abhAva in a sAmAnya
(case 1) sense, then one can only make a generic statement that performance
of nityakarma prevents manifestation of pratyavAya. One cannot specifically
talk about abhAva of nityakarmAnuShThana (as distinct from other kinds of

But the moment one talks of a specific type of abhAva, case 2 comes into the
picture. Here the sense is one of relative abhAva on which a certain bhAva
status has already been imputed, and then there is no point in applying
"abhAvAt bhAvotpatti doSha" to the case of a gRhastha who skips nityakarma.

Interestingly, the very same introductory portion of the taittirIya bhAShya
specifically says that though abhAva is abhinna, distinctions are
superimposed on it which effectively make it bhAvarUpa. sha~NkarAchArya says
that such a conception of visheSha abhAva and making a distinction between
different kinds of abhAva is "vikalpamAtra". Therefore, in the preceding
portion where sha~NkarAchArya applies the "abhAvAt bhAvotpatti doSha" logic
to dismiss pratyavAya, he seems to be using the term "abhAva" in a case 1
sense. If you had this in mind, then there is of course no problem, but then
it does not seem meaningful to talk of a specific abhAva such as abhAva of
nityakarmAnuShThana (as distinct from other kinds of abhAva).

Needless to say, a case 2 approach is what is normally followed in daily
life. It is vikalpamAtra alright but makes communication easier.

For example, consider the following statement:

"He failed in the exam because he lacked sincerity towards studies".

In the above statement, a causal relationship is being drawn between "lack
of sincerity" and "failure", thereby imputing bhAva status on "lack of
sincerity" which enables an easy distinction with respect to (say) lack of
nutrition. This is a case 2 style approach. Of course, one can also approach
it in case 1 style, by saying that proper study would have resulted in
prevention of failure, and that in this situation, there was non-prevention
of the manifestation of failure. Nothing wrong with it but clearly the
communication is more complicated. Or so it seems to me.

Please feel free to point out any errors above.

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