[Advaita-l] Nitya Karma question

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Fri Oct 7 03:42:04 CDT 2011

Namaste Subrahmanian-ji,

On 7 October 2011 07:23, V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com> wrote:

> However, I am not able to readily appreciate the distinction you have
> sought
> to make between seeing the 'abhAva' in one way or the other.  This concept
> eludes my understanding.

This is why I talked about anupalabdhi pramANa. The point is that any
pramANa can reveal only sat. I am sure you would be familiar with this very
expression from Sri DS Subbaramaiah-ji's book. So, strictly speaking, one
cannot cognize abhAva as such. When we use anupalabdhi pramANa, what is
being revealed is not abhAva as such but relative or specific abhAva (as in
absence of a table, or absence of a flower, etc). The very fact that we
distinguish between one kind of abhAva and another (using anupalabdhi
pramANa) very clearly shows that a certain bhAva status has been imputed on
it. Indeed, the very cognition of abhAva means that bhAva has already been
imputed on it.

This is reflected in language also, for we say 'ghaTAbhAva asti'. Where did
the 'asti' come from if it is abhAva? The 'asti' comes because it is
specific abhAva which still has satsvarUpa brahman as adhiShThAna, which
makes it cognizable. In fact, relative bhAva and relative abhAva are like
two sides of the same coin. Every object is simultaneously bhAva of itself
and abhAva of others. In this sense, both bhAva and abhAva are "facts", i.e.
both are cases of "asti" and can be cognized.

Even atyantAbhAva (as in horns of a hare etc) is relative abhAva only. This
is why we can say 'atyantAbhAva asti'. Since it is relative, it is also
destructible. When the locus (the hare) is destroyed, the atyantAbhAva is
gone. Now, the bhAva of the atyantAbhAva becomes 'nAsti', and abhAva of
atyantAbhAva becomes 'asti' !!! (Mind boggling, isn't it)

As to sha~NkarAchArya's characterization of different types of abhAva as
"vikalpamAtra", and such distinctions effectively turning abhAva into bhAva,
it is found in the very same paragraph of the taittirIya bhAShya as the
discussion on pratyavAya, etc. This is the introductory portion of the
bhAShya. So there is no change in context.

abhAva as such is a very elusive concept. It is pretty much a case of 'yato
vAcho nivartante...'. The mind can only conceive of bhAva. Language can only
express bhAva. pramANa-s can reveal only sat. Even when we talk about
abhAva, we end up saying 'abhAva asti' (i.e. abhAva on which bhAva is

A small note to readers who may not be familiar with anupalabdhi. This is
considered a distinct pramANa from pratyakSha because the senses cannot
directly perceive the absence of a thing. For example, lets say there is a
bare table. What the eyes see is just the bare table. The cognition "there
is no plate on the table" is attributed to non-perception (by the eyes) of
the plate, and this is called anupalabdhi. Likewise, the cognition "there is
no cup on the table" is attributed to non-perception of the cup on the
table. The distinct cognitions "there is no plate on the table" and "there
is no cup on the table" cannot be made by the eyes per se, which can only
see the bare table. So the cognition of the absence of an object is based on
the *non-perception* of the presence of the object.

I mentioned anupalabdhi pramANa only because it is accepted by
advaita-vedAnta as the means for the cognition of abhAva. Other darshana-s
such as sAMkhya do not count anupalabdhi as a separate pramANa. They give
various other explanations.

Nonetheless, as long as (specific or relative) abhAva is cognized (by
whatever pramANa), one is implicitly imputing bhAva status, for we still say
'abhAva asti' (as in 'ghaTAbhAva asti'). Therefore, the argument holds
irrespective of the actual pramANa being used.

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