[Advaita-l] Sri SSS Discussions

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 17 12:09:01 CDT 2012

> These answers seem to point to the vanity of seeking clarity on that which is by definition without clarity. Further, Sankara's admonition was to remove avidya not debate it. 

avicAryaM vicAryaM vA brahmAdhyAsAnirUpaNAt | asandeha-aphalatvAbhyAM na vicAraM tad arhati || - so says one of the verses in the adhikaraNa ratnamAlA of bhAratI tIrtha and vidyAraNya. These verses are typically found at the beginnings of adhikaraNa-s in printed editions of the SAnkara brahmasUtra bhAshya. I will leave the translation exercise to the reader.
I will also leave the discussion of avidyA - adhyAsa - mUlAvidyA to others on the list who have already recognized that the crux of the problem lies in what the bhAshyas say about sushupti. However, let me generally address the last point you make below.
> 5. directly to one of Sri Subhanu's points: 
> Sankara speaks of sadhana-chatushaya as preliminary to brahma-sutra study and undoubtedly tradition supports and expands the importance of this sadhana. I question however whether the jijnasu is to to dedicate himself to sama and dama etc. or to recognizing akarta/abhoktatva. In practice, it seems to me it's either or. Please forgive my hubris but I've observe too many Advaitins concerned with purity rather than knowledge. 

A lot depends on the personal background of the jijnAsu. What you highlight is spoken of in terms of the approach to the Atman via dhyAna yoga and sAMkhya yoga in various texts, e.g. gItA 13.24 and its bhAshya. One can find more such citations if one goes looking. Instead, let me add some free comments to this.
It has been almost 20 years since I started discussing and debating topics in vedAnta online and about 15 years or so since I set up a website on advaita vedAnta and got involved with moderating this list. In the meantime, as you can imagine, numerous life changes have happened. What I say below is based on this cumulative experience.
a. For an intellectually sharp person, it is somewhat easy to recognize, as a logical necessity, that the AtmA is akartA/abhoktA. However, it is important for the intelligent buddhi to grasp that inasmuch as this is understood to be a logical necessity, such an understanding is happening in the buddhi and that the Atman itself is not the buddhi.
b. If that meta-understanding dawns, it will be seen that this recognition at a logical level is not the same as a realization that informs and corrects one's own sense of self, leading to liberation. To be sure, every human being has a sense of self, but the fundamental point of advaita is that our normal sense of self is a mistaken identification with not-self. Yes, this identification, however mistaken it is, allows and is even necessary for functioning IN the world, but it also binds us to be OF the world. That we always have a sense of self does not necessarily liberate us FROM the world. The usual sense of "self" defines itself in contradistinction to an "other". Some people demonize the other, some empathize with the other, some are indifferent to the other, but no matter what, there is always a "self" and an "other". Now, advaita vedAnta tells us that there is, in reality, no "other" against which the "self" can define itself. The whole mUlAvidyA debate and which side you fall on depends on how you view the ontological and temporal positioning of the "other" that the self imagines, in order to define itself. At a personal sAdhana level, it is a huge conceptual leap to accept that there is indeed no other, and this proves to be most difficult to embrace at one's core identity. The paradox is that one doesn't need to embrace anything; all one needs is to let go of one's own misidentifications, but this is easier said than done.
c. It is in that leap, which laughs at the paradox of self and other, that the cultivation of Sama, dama etc proves to be indispensible. In their absence, the natural tendency of the buddhi is to grow heavy and proud in its ability to understand subtle points of vedAnta. There is an old Sanskrit verse that begins vidyA dadAti vinayaM vinayAd yAti pAtratAm. In practice, what happens is that the quality of vinaya often runs away from the buddhi that is capable of understanding the akartRtva/abhoktRtva of the AtmA. This is what leads, in some cases, to the phenomenon of pANDitya that is not yet true jnAna. It is only for this reason that the bRhadAraNyaka advises us, pANDityaM nirvidya bAlyena tiShThAset. bAlyaM ca pANDityam ca nirvidyAtha muniH. In other cases, it leads, quite contrarily, to the opposite result. If it is not well conditioned by sAdhana sampat, a buddhi that understands at an intellectual level that the AtmA is akartA and abhoktA fails to realize that the buddhi is only something that reflects Atma-caitanya, not the Atma-caitanya itself, and then it tries to set itself up as sarvakartA and sarvabhoktA, which leads to lots of unexpected problems.
d. As for purity, a lot depends on what you understand by the term advaitin. Contrary to popular belief and perception, being a lay follower of an advaita AcArya/institution, whether out of personal conviction or due to inherited family legacy, does not quite make one an advaitin. Yes, it creates a vAsanA towards understanding vedAnta, but what happens beyond that is open. The concerns with purity that many such people have, including me, are based on a myriad of personal factors, both religious and secular in nature, and there is a wide range of opinion as to what constitutes the said purity. Some of these factors may be conducive to the development of the sAdhana sampat, but others, not so much. In cases where a preoccupation with purity takes center-stage and blows everything else out, a concern for power, sacred and/or mundane, manifests itself sooner or later. Knowledge is then a long way off. In cases where some knowledge arises, but without sufficient grounding in a personal level of purity, other things happen. Ideally, a balanced approach will suggest itself to the jijnAsu or will be taught by a guru. The balance will not be the same for all, as different jijnAsu-s come with different kinds of personal baggage. But in the end, in my estimation, it is not a case of either-or, more a case of "and", if you get what I mean.
Best regards,

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