[Advaita-l] Imagined Nature of Ignorance in Vivaranam

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 19 08:03:05 CDT 2012

Pranams to all participants of this thread.
The topic had previously been discussed on the advaitin list and I am reproducing here my perspective.

The body-mind-intellect [that the jivatman is habitually acquainted with] is a construct (sanghAtA). 
That the construct conceals is a given. 

When you examine deep sleep the construct is dormant, while the concealing constant 
-  an effect thus engendered exacts an agency. 
This is what Sankara refers to, when he talks about an effect without a cause 
- na hi aakasmiki kasyachid utpattih sambhavati atiprasangat - in his Sutrabhashya 
- both in the context of sushupti as well as Cosmic pralaya, in strikingly similar language.
This world when being dissolved (in a mahapralaya) is dissolved to that extent ONLY 
that the Shakti (causal potentiality) of the world remains Shaktyavashesham Eva 
- and (when it is produced again) it is produced from the root of that Shakti alone
- shakti MOOLAM EVA cha prabhavati ; 
otherwise we should have to admit an effect
without a cause itaratha aakasmikatva prasangatvat. 
Here we find Shankara defining for us Shakti as that Primordia Cause 
unto which this entire manifest Srshti dissolves unto and 
from which alone spurts forth another cycle of this manifold Nature. 
The term the Acharya uses in this context is mula Shakti. 
Compare this with another instance elsewhere in the Sutrabhashya 
where-in is described our "everyday" pralaya - aka sushupti. 
"But, an objection is raised, in the states of deep sleep and pralaya 
no contact of the Self with the buddhi can be acknowledged, 
since scripture declares that 'then he becomes united with the True, 
he is gone to his own' (Ch. Up. VI, 8, 1), 
and as then all modifications have avowedly passed away. 
How then can it be said that the contact with the buddhi exists as long as the Self?
--To this objection the following Sûtra replies.
On account of the appropriateness of the manifestation of that (contact) 
which exists (potentially); like virile power.
 As in ordinary life virile power and so on, existing potentially only in young children, 
and being then looked upon as non-existing, become manifest at the time of puberty
and do not originate at that time from previous non-existence, 
because in that case they might originate in eunuchs also; 
So the connection of the soul with the intellect exists potentially merely during deep sleep and pralaya, 
and again becomes manifest at the time of waking and the time of creation.
Because nothing can be assumed to spring up unless from something else 
na hi aakasmiki kasyachid utpattih sambhavati atiprasangat; 
Otherwise we should have to suppose that effects spring up without causes. 
That the rising from deep sleep is due to the existence of SEED avidya 
- avidyatmakabeeja sadbhavakaaritam - scripture also declares, 
'Having become merged in the True they know not that they are merged in the True. 
Whatever these creatures are here, whether a lion or a wolf,' (Ch. Up. VI, 9, 2; 3)."
If we extend this example of a lion and a wolf to our "rope-snake" – we have a rope having an innate
sense of identity as a snake,. and every night this rope goes to deep sleep where its "snake-"ity is fully resolved unto itself. 
And only svarupa aka rope is, plus a blank "absence" - jnana abhava – 
absence [of rope-svarupa-knowledge] on the part of a [snake] intellect that is itself fully resolved - 
in other words rope plus a barren void. 
How does a "snake-intellect" now re-emerge from this vacuous void and then, rather audaciously, 
disengage from the embrace of svarupA rope is a question that requires an agency or cause.
In characterizing and defining such a anirvachaneeya mula avidyA or beeja shakti alone does Sankara clarify in the Sutrabhashya
"For that causal potentiality is of the nature of Avidya - avidyatmika hi sa beejashakti; 
it is rightly denoted by the term 'undeveloped; avyakta shabda nirdeshya' 
it has the Supreme Lord for its substratum Parameshwara ashraya; 
it is of the nature of an illusion Maya - mayi; it is a universal sleep Mahasushupti
in which are lying the transmigrating souls sansarino jeeva 
destitute for the time of the consciousness of their individual character svarupapratibodha rahita.  
Sometimes, again, it is denoted by the term Akshara, the Imperishable; so, for instance (Mu. Up. II, 1, 2), 
'Higher, than the high Imperishable.'

Sometimes it is spoken of as Maya - mayeti suchitam - so, for instance (Sve. Up. IV, 10),
'Know then Prakriti is Maya, and the Supreme Lord is the Master of Maya' For Maya is properly called
undeveloped - Avyakta hi sa Maya - since it cannot be defined either as that which is or that which is not
The statement of the Katha Up that 'the Avyakta is beyond the Mahat' is 
based on the fact of the Mahat originating from the Avyakta, if the Mahat be the intellect of
Hiranyagarbha. If, on the other hand, we understand by the Mahat the individual soul, the statement is
founded on the fact of the existence of the individual soul depending on the Undeveloped
avyaktaadheenatva jeevabhavasya, i.e. Avidya. Avidya hi avyaktam. And it is because of the possession
of ignorance by the individual that all kinds of emprical behavior continue forever jivasya sarvahsanvyavahara. 

How painstakingly does the Acharya apply the same coat of hue in brush after brush! Here-in we find such a
vivid all-encompassing presentation from the benevolence of our beloved Acharya. 

That Primordial Power is Beeja Shakti.
That beeja Shakti is Avidya.
This avidya, this Shakti is termed Avyakta.
This Avyakta is alone Maya.
This Maya is also called Akshara, the Imperishable.
Maya is also called Prakrti.
Avyakta is Avidya alone

And this Shakti/Maya/Avidya/Prakrti/Avyakta can neither be characterized as Real nor Unreal, and it has
for its substratum the Supreme Lord Parabrahman. 
Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyo namah
----- Original Message -----
From: Anand Hudli <anandhudli at hotmail.com>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2012 6:35 AM
Subject: [Advaita-l] Imagined Nature of Ignorance in Vivaranam

Dear Shri Subhanuji,

> Here we get to the crux of the issue: Does the orthodox tradition place mulavidya within or outside the scope of superimposition. Sri Subramanian has come closest to clarifying this,

> but in Sri Swamiji’s time there were certainly divergent opinions within the tradition on this point.

Yes, all avidyA, whether it is mulAvidyA or avasthAjnAna, is after all
a superimposition. See, for example, the siddhAnta lesha sangraha
(Pariccheda 1, 19.4) remark on mulAvidyA:
ghaTaM na jAnAmi iti ghaTajnAnavirodhitvena ghaTajnAne sati
ghaTAjnAnaM nivRttamiti tannivartyatvena cAnubhUyamAnaM na
mUlAjnAnam.h|  shuddhacaitanyaviShayasya tajjnAnanivartyasya

ca tasya tathAtvAyogAt| kintu ghATavacchinnacaitanyaviShayaM
mUlAjnAnasya avasthAbhedarUpamajnAnAntaramiti tannAsha evAbhibhavaH |

Clearly, we use the term mUlAvidyA to denote that it is a
superimposition over shuddhachaitanya or Pure Consciousness, thus
distinguishing it from other illusions such as the snake over a rope.

The viShaya or content of ajnAna is different here. In the case of the
snake over rope illusion the viShaya is rope, while in the case of
mUlAvidyA, the viShaya is shuddhacaitanya.
When the illusion of a snake over a rope ends, due to the knowledge
of the rope, it certainly does not mean mulAvidyA is destroyed. The
avidyA of the rope is called avasthA ajnAna or tUlAvidyA.

In English, mUlAvidyA is primal ignorance while avasthA ajnAna is
modal ignorance.

The divergences among advaitins may have been due to different answers
to the followup question:
Whose is this superimposition-mUlAvidyA? Does it belong to Brahman or the jIva?

To reiterate, there is a need to distinguish superimposition on the
Self from other superimpositions. Else, we have the following dilemma,
if we treat all superimpositions as the same. To remove
a simple illusion of a snake over a rope, it takes nothing less than
BrahmajnAna! Or, if the illusion is removed, by knowledge of the rope,
it is equivalent to realizing the Self! In fact, we read
about such objections from opponents in polemical treatises.

The advaita texts anticipate these questions and have answered them
well. For example, the panchapAdika vivaraNa says:

The material causes (upAdAnAni) of the illusory silver, etc. may be
considered to be  modes (or states, avasthA's) of the mUlAvidyA. These
avasthA-ajnAnas are sublated along with the (respective) adhyAsa by
knowledge of nacre, etc. (ie. the substratum of the illusion).

>By stating there is a bhava-rupa avidya in deep sleep implies it is not imagined, which contradicts Vivaranam and Suresvara kalpyavidyaiva matpakshe in SV 183. Shankara also clarifies in BSB 2-1-9
> that we talk of a possible objection that all would become liberated on waking if ignorance were not present simply because our false notions have not been removed.
>This point is made by Suresvara in NS also where he tells us that the mind is not present to reveal it in deep sleep, nothing more. When we are in the clutches of ignorance then the false notion
>that is our ignorance infuses all our discussion of the 3 states.  For these are themselves superimpositions to be rescinded. So, postulating an avidya outside the realm of superimposition in a
>superimposed state makes no sense also. Also nobody has the experience upon waking “I experienced a bhava-rupa-avidya”.
Agreed, the three states of sleep, dream, and waking are themselves
superimpositions, but then, why would a principal upaniShad be devoted
to description of the three states, if we are able to brush them aside
so easily? The analysis of the three states is crucial for
understanding advaita.  If we treated all superimpositions as one,
then advaita philosophy becomes extremely terse and, consequently,
open to many questions.
It would not satisfy the aspirant who seeks answers to many classical
questions.  If we said, Brahman is the sole reality, everything else
is a superimposition, where is the need to explain Creation, for
Where is the need to elaborate on Vedanta sUtras such as "janmAdyasya
yataH"? All systems must make a sincere attempt to answer such
questions. This is a fundamental premise. In the process of finding
to such questions, it becomes necessary to distinguish between primal
and modal superimpositions.

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