[Advaita-l] Sri SSS Discussions

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Aug 15 13:23:41 CDT 2012

On Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 11:12 PM, Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com>wrote:

> Namaste
> There is a natural question. If Adi Sankara wanted to say don't worry
> about Mulavidya and Upadana for Adhyasa but focus on Adhyasa why it
> took more than 1000 years for someone like Sri SSS to discover it. How
> can so many great Sankara Mata Anuyayis like Padmapada and Vachaspati
> Mishra miss the crucial point Adi Sankara is making?


To my knowledge Martha Doherty is pointing to a Nagesa Bhatta (some two
centuries older) to be the one who preceded Sri SSS in this 'finding'.  I
think there is an even longer history to the source of this objection to
mUlAvidyA.  I have also heard that the late Vidwan Polagam Rama Sastry has
written/spoken about these earlier persons and their works under whose
influence Sri SSS is making these objections.

There is a recording of a lecture by the renowned scholar Vidwan Dr. Mani
Dravid SastriNaH in Tamil on the topic of mUlAvidyA based on the writings
of Vidwan (late) Sri Polagam Rama Sastry. This talk was delivered on the
26th Jan.2012. I am appending here a free translation of a talk by Dr.Mani
Dravid SastrigaL in Tamil on Polagam Sastry's 'Paper'.  I have not done any
proper editing of this note of mine which I prepared for some other
purpose.  While announcing the uploading of this paper (of mine) I had said
'the contents of this paper are not for discussion in this Forum.'  Now
since Sri Vidyasankar has invited a discussion on this main topic, I am
reproducing the paper here.


Sri MDS on Nagesha Bhatta’s views as commented by Polagam Rama Sastry:

 Nagesha Bhatta, a grammarian attuned to the Advaita teaching of Shankara
holds the view that the ‘anAdi anirvaachya avidyA’ is not supported by the
Bhashyam.  He does not agree to the mUlAvidyA idea.  Why is this
disagreement with this/these ideas despite his appreciation of
Shankara/Bhashya? The reason is that Nagesha Bhatta is heavily influenced
by the writings of Vijnana Bhikshu (VB) (who is a non-advaitin opposed to
Shankara/Advaita ) on the sAnkhya sutras, yoga sutras and brahmasutras.  VB
does not agree with Shankara.  Though Nagesha bhatta (being born into a
family of advaitins and having a natural affiliation to Shankara) has no
disagreement with Shankara, yet, the views of VB on mUlAvidyaa have formed
an impression in his mind.  Thus Nagesha imbibed an admixture of Shankara
and VB and expressed an appreciation of Shankara but a hatred towards
PanchapAdikA and other vyAkhyAta-s.  Though Nagesha has earned a title of
‘sarvatantra svatantra’ yet his writings depict a confused mind. He failed
to understand the siddhAnta in a clear manner.  Be that as it is.

Now, Polagam Sastry sets the agenda for his work:  Now, we aim to establish
that all the Acharyas who have followed Shankara, starting from Sureshwara
onwards, have accepted mUlAvidyA in their works.  He first takes up the BSB
for the sutra:  This sutra/bhashya is very ideally suited to
admit mUlAvidyA.  How? In this adhikaraNam, in the sutra the
Mundaka mantra 2.1.2 is taken up for analysis.  The opponent, the sAnkhya,
proposes that the entity taught in this mantra is the pradhAna.  The
siddhanti refutes his arguments and concludes that it is Brahman that is
taught here.  In the specific idea that it is not the
pradhana/jiva but Brahman alone is brought out.  The mantra says ‘It is
different from / greater than the akShara (pradhAna/MAyA).  The question
arises: Unless you have first admitted something called the ‘pradhAna’ you
cannot say that this mantra is ‘differentiating’ Brahman from the pradhAna.
To such a predicament the BhashyakAra replies: It is not that the sutrakAra
has admitted a pradhAna.  What he means is that ‘in case the saankhya
accepts the pradhAna as an entity that is subservient to Ishwara, then in
that case, the pradhAna would become no different from the ‘avyAkRta’ of
vedAnta. In such a contingency the mantra says that the bhUtayoni is
different from that avyAkRta. The sankhya too admits that the pradhAna is
constituted of three guNas. If he admits the pradhAna to be subservient to
Ishwara, it would be no different from the cause, avyAkrta, which is also
admitted to be of three guNas.  Polagam Sastry asks: how can anyone say
that Shankara does not admit the avyAkRta which is the same as the pradhAna?
It is this avyAkrta alone that is spoken as mUlAvidyA. Shankara clearly
states in this bhashya that the ‘akshara’, the cause, is greater than the
kArya, its own manifestation, effect.  It is not Brahman. This entity that
is different from Brahman is called ‘, nAmarUpabeejashakti, aksharam,
avyakrtam, dependent on Ishwara, an upAdhi of Ishwara, but is not a vikAra
by itself, bhUtasUkshmam.  Such an entity called ‘akshara’ is not different
from bhAvarUpa avidyA.  Not understanding this, those opponents to the idea
of mUlAvidyA refuse to listen if told that this mAyA is non-different from
avidyA.  They keep harping on the thinking that it is mAyA alone that is
spoken of here and not avidyA.  That is their speciality!! This bhAshya is
one glaring instance of Shankara admitting bhAvarUpa mUlAvidyA.  [Not just
here, in the bhashyam where the sankhya is refuted in the 2nd adhyaya
2ndpAda, first adhikaraNam -
in ‘tadadheenatvaadarthavat’  too. This will be taken up in a later
paragraph.] In all these places Shankara has given ample room to conclude
that He admits that the pradhAna of the sankhya, with a slight alteration,
is equatable to the mUlAvidyA.  The only change required is: the sankhya
does not admit the pradhAna to be subservient to Ishwara; for him it is
independent. Whereas the Vedantin holds this very shakti to be under the
control of Ishwara. For the sankhya the pradhana is a ‘real’ entity and for
the vedantin the mAya is mithya.  That is all the difference.

 Now, the commentary from the ‘prakaTARtha vivaraNam’.  Apart from
Bhamati/vivarana, this is the first (oldest) commentary on the BSB.  This
book says that avyAkRtam is ‘anAdi’.  Because it itself is not created it
is anAdi. anirvAchya.   ‘naamarUpabIjashaktirUpam’ is a bhashya word.
avidyA is Ishwara’s shakti. Why? It is subservient to Ishwara. The
dAha-shakti is subservient to agni. Ishwara’s shakti is subservient to Him.
‘bhUtsUkshmam’ is another word in the bhashyam.  It is not sUkshmabhUta
(subtle state of the elements), this is not the sense here. The samskaras
remain in pralaya in the sUkshma state. This is maya.

‘nAtra pradhAnam’.  There is no pramaaNam for the pradhAna.  The sankhya
relies ONLY on anumAna for establishing the pradhana.  These anumana-s have
been completely blasted by the bhashyakAra in the sAnkhyAdhikaraNa.  The
shruti is pramaNam for the mAyaa tattva which is subservient to Ishwara but
no mention of the pradhana is there in the shruti.   The sUtrakAra too uses
the word ‘pradhAnam’ but that is not in recognition/approval of the
sAnkhya’s pradhanam.  It is with the etymological meaning in mind that the
term is used: pradhIyate asmin jagat layakAle iti pradhAnam’ – the world,
at the time of dissolution, devolves into this and therefore it is called
so. Even the sAnkhya holds this meaning as valid in his school. This is
nothing but the mAyA which alone is meant by the SutrakAra by the term
‘pradhAna.’  The mantra under discussion talks about the Ishwara who is
different from this mAyA.  The Bhashya refers to this mAyA alone which is
none other than the pradhAna with the difference that the latter is
independent in that school while the former is Ishwara-dependent in Vedanta.
Also pradhana is sathya and Maya is mithya.  The sAnkhya holds his pradhAna
to be undoubtedly anAdi-bhAvarUpa. Therefore (because Shankara sees no
difference between the P of Sankhya and the M of Vedanta excepting for the
two differences mentioned specifically) the mAyA/avyAkRta of Vedanta is
also undoubtedly anAdi-bhAvarUpa.  Since Shankara admits of an ajnAna as
anAdi bhAvarUpa it is undoubtedly the mAyA alone which is also
anAdi-bhAvarUpa. [Here the purport of the talk is: Shankara explicitly
brought out the difference between P and M but not even implicitly
disagreed with the Sankhya on the anAdi-bhAvarUpatvam of P and thus it is
deemed, on the ‘anuktatvAt’ pramANam that Shankara admits of an
anAdi-bhAvarUpa ajnAna/mAya.]  While for us this very bhashya reveals
Shankara’s admitting an aAdi anirvAchya ajnanam, the very same bhashya for
the opponents is not so revealing.

This very same thing has been stated by Shankara in the AnumAnikAdhikaraNa
bhashyam – tadadhInatvaat…1.4.3.  Here the Kathopanishad mantra
‘AtmAnam  rathinam
viddhi..’ is discussed.  In this mantra a hierarchy is stated.  The sankhya
finds room for his theory here.  He says ‘the word avyaktam (1.3.11) is
none other than my pradhanam’. The sutra refutes this.  It is not the
pradhana of the Sankhya. That is spoken of here.  There is a word
‘sharIram’ in the earlier mantra.  And there is the word ‘avyaktam’ in the
current mantra.  While everything that was listed in the earlier mantra is
accountable in this mantra, it is only that one word ‘sharIram’ that
remains without finding a match here.  And the term avyaktam remains over
without being matched . So, the avyakta word refers to the shariram – this
is the siddhanta. Now the opponent questions:  while the sharIram is so
patently visible how can it be the avyaktam which by its very meaning  is
not  visible?  The siddhanti replies: there is no problem here.  The body
which is gross, an effect, has for its cause the avyaktam.  In this mantra
the effect (body) is referred by the word that denotes the cause.  When one
goes backwards enquiring the cause of each manifestation, one will reach a
stage where nothing could be spoken of.  The cause alone is spoken of as
the effect.  This is not a fault.   We refer and even say ‘clay’ when we
actually mean a pot. ‘gobhiH rINItamatsaram’ – in this sentence the meaning
is: ‘one should mix the cow with the soma juice’ .  Evidently the meaning
is: one has to mix milk with the soma juice. Here the milk is what is meant
by the word cow.  The kAryam, milk, is referred to by the word kAraNam, the
cow.  In the same way what is wrong in using the word ‘avyaktam’ to denote
the ‘sharIram’?   Now the opponent counters: Since you are admitting
avyaktam to be the (ultimate)cause how different is it from my case where
too avyaktam is held to be the cause of the manifest world. The sutrakAra’s
reply to this is that ‘the avyakta that the Vedantin accepts is dependent
on Ishwara.  1.The Vedantin, despite admitting Iswara as the ultimate
cause, has to admit this avyakta so that the act of creation becomes
possible.   2. The other purpose of admitting the avyakta is: the
liberated, if they have to be admitted to be not returning to samsara,
there has to be a cause and that is: they have, by their knowledge, put an
end to the basic avidyA. This is the avyakta.  It is only when the avyakta
is destroyed by knowledge there is no possibility of the liberated ones
returning to samsara.  Here Shankara is categorical that the prapancha
kAraNam avyakta is destroyed by Self-knowledge.  Thus according to Shankara
this avyakta/mUlAvidyA is jnAna-nivartya. विद्यया तस्याः बीजशक्तेः दाहात् ।
 अविद्यात्मिका हि सा बीजशक्तिः ।....This anAdi bhAvarUpa avidyA is
established in this bhashya. Bhamati too says this in different words.
[This was stated by Polagam Sastry/MDS to refute someone’s objection that
‘even the BhAmati does not admit mUlAvidyaa/anAdi bhAvarUpa] The difference
between mAyA and avidyA is no way discernible here; the two are one alone.
 It is neither different from Brahman and non-different from Brahman.  This
way it is anirvAchyA [brahmabhinnatvena vA abhinnatvena vA nirvaktum
ashakyatvAt; sattvena vA asatvena vA nirvaktum ashakyatvAt.]

>From the two adhikaraNa bhashyam (s) discussed in Polagam Rama Sastry’s
paper it becomes clear that Shankara accepts a mUlAvidyA thatis anAdi

[My conclusion is:  The above discourse has this as its central theme:  In
the ‘tadadheenatvAt..’ bhAshyam Shankara is giving the reason: the avyakta
is to be admitted for ‘managing’ the fact/feature that the liberated souls
do not return to samsara’.  That means, Shankara is holding the reason:
samsara, bandha, is due to ajnAna/avidyA.  Jnana liberates through
dispelling avidyA.  This avidyA is no longer there for causing a return to
samsara.  At this juncture Shankara does not differentiate between mAyA
which is popularly held to be the jagat-kAraNam.  He does not say ‘since
the jagat-kAraNam mAyA (avyakta) is destroyed the jnani/liberated person
does not return to samsara.’  In fact, the jagat kAraNam mAyA cannot be
‘destroyed’ in the conventional sense; it is there to provide for the very
jnani’s life till his physical death.  It is ONLY because the avidya that
caused samsara is destroyed the jnani does not return to samsara.  Thus,
the whole discourse is on the word ‘avyakta’ and its two meanings: 1. As
jagat-karanam mAyA and 2. Samsara kAranam avidyA.  Shankara is seen to be
using both these meanings in this particular bhashyam.  And thereby giving
ample room to conclude that ‘according to Shankara avidyA and mAyA are
non-different; they hold interchangeably the same meaning. ‘ Also, the last
chapter of the BG 13th chapter bhashyam too adds credence to this
conclusion.  There one of the (two) requirements for liberation is:
‘bhUtaprakRti moksham’ .  Shankara comments: bhUtAnAm prakRti
avidyAlakshaNaa avyaktAkhyA…tasyAH abhAvagamanam.  Here too, Shankara is
not saying ‘nAsha’ of this shakti; it is only the realization that it is
‘non-existent in all periods of time as an entity that is different from
Brahman/Atman’. This means according to Shankara ‘the cause (prakRti) of
the beings (bhUta-s) is the ‘avidyAlakshanA’ avyakta (and one should
know/realize that this is simply naught.)  Here too one can see the
specific use of the two words ‘avidyA and avyakta’ in one sentence by
Shankara to mean: that entity is 1. The cause of the manifest world of
beings and, 2. It is also ignorance which is the cause of bondage.  These
pointers are enough to conclude about Shankara’s views on the various
‘contentious’ points.]

[VS:   Nagesha, though ‘naturally’ affiliated to Advaita/Shankara, yet
holds views that are opposed  to Shankara/Advaita/the later Acharyas, owing
to his reading of VijnAna Bhikshu who was opposed to Shankara/Advaita.  All
others who, too, are naturally affiliated to Advaita/Shankara and hold
views opposed to Shankara/Advaita/the later Acharyas, are in one way or the
other influenced by the views of Nagesha/VijnAna bhikshu.]


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