[Advaita-l] Is the concept of maya essential to explain advaita?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 23 19:55:09 CST 2012

> Please clarify with an yes or no.

Can't, because some of the questions are ill posed.
> From a vyavahara perspective, the world is said to be unreal. It is
> likened to a dream. But Ishwara is considered to be real not compared
> to a dream. Therefore, my understanding is that Ishwara has higher
> reality than jagat in advaita. Is that right?

In vyavahAra, jagat is real, ISvara is real and ISvaratva is real. The
only thing that can be said to be unreal, within the realm of vyavahAra
speech, is a totally non-existent object, e.g. the SaSaSRnga or the
vandhyAputra, to use classical examples. Note that even these two
examples may fail one day, as genetic engineering may well put horns
on a hare and give a child to an infertile female (of any species). The
important philosophical lesson, even on the day these examples fail,
is that because we can coin these linguistic constructs such as SaSa-
SRnga and vandhyAputra, they already exist as ideas in the mind and
therefore may be possible some day as external realities.
But I digress. The point is that to posit a hierarchy within reality and to
talk of a higher reality and a lower reality, or an independent reality and
a dependent reality, is to admit precisely what SankarAcArya describes
in the adhyAsa bhAshya as "satyAnRte maithuNikRtya" - combining the
satya and the anRta, the real and the untrue. It is no different, logically
speaking, from talking of vyavahAra as only apparently real, ergo it is
equivalent to admitting something like mithyAtva, in one sense or the
other. So, it serves no purpose to simply misunderstand what is meant
by the word mithyA and how it is used in advaita vedAnta writings. It
serves even less of a purpose to blame one's own misunderstanding of
the fundamental problem on the advaitin's usage of the word mithyA.
On the other hand, yes, to say that ISvara has a higher reality than the
jagat is to take the first step away from privileging vyavahAra and to
get oriented towards paramArtha. But one who does this needs to truly
think about what this "higher than" means, about the nature of reality
The dream analogy is used by advaita AcArya-s merely to show that
we create our own worlds within our own dreams and every thing,
living or otherwise, within that dream world is merely a projection of
the dreamer's mind. We even see ourselves within the dream. The
imputed reality of the dream objects and people is merely that, an
imputed one, as it totally vanishes when awake. Similarly, the reality
that we ascribe to the jagat that we experience vanishes when the
paramArtha is known.

This is an analogy made in the major upanishad-s and elaborated
upon in the commentaries. That is all. The world is NOT compared
to a dream within vyavahAra. Instead, ALL vyavahAra is like a dream,
from the paramArtha perspective. 

> Now, the jagat karanatvam is a tatastha lakshana of Ishwara but He
> exists (beyond time and space) even when jagat does not. Is that
> right?
> At this stage, His maya shakti exists as His aisvarya non-different
> from Him as well just as sun and its heat are inseparable. Is that
> right?

Not only at the stage when jagat does not exist, but even when jagat
appears, mAyA can only be conceived of as an aiSvarya non-different
from ISvara. One can find umpteen references in the bhAshya-s that
say, "SakteH Saktimator abhedatvAt." 
> The essential nature of this Ishwara (jiva and jagat) is called
> Brahman, beyond all philosophical constructs. Is that right?
The crux is that in essence, ISvara IS jIva IS brahman. If one is 
prepared to investigate, with viveka, in what sense this is being said,
then one can begin to appreciate advaita. Otherwise, all one has is
a strawman argument that says, "how can man be equated to God?"


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