[Advaita-l] Reflection - sathya or mithya?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Jan 30 01:23:51 CST 2012

Is the reflection one has in the mirror of oneself real ?  The   reflection
cannot exist without the upAdhi, the mirror.  Also, the presence of the
'original' in front of the mirror, the medium, is a must for the reflection
to be in the mirror.  This way too the reflection is dependent on things
apart from it.  Since being dependent for its very existence, the
reflection, having no existence of its own, is necessarily unreal.  For, an
imagined snake in the place of a rope does not have an existence of its
own.   The only difference between the reflection and the 'snake' is that
the former is a case of 'buddhipUrvaka adhyAsa'  (the person in front of
the mirror knows that the reflection is false and yet makes use of the
reflection) like the 'viShNu buddhi in the sAligrAma or any archya, while
the latter is an 'error', unintended.

In the case of the mirror, it is an upAdhi that enables the reflection to
be caused.  In the case of the multiplicity seen in the world the upAdhis
are many, themselves effects of avidyA.  Shankara says in the Brahmasutra
bhashya 3.2.15:

....ब्रह्मण आकारविशेषोपदेशो उपासनार्थो न विरुद्ध्यते ।....उपाधिनिमित्तस्य
वस्तुधर्मत्वानुपपत्तेः ।
 उपाधीनां चाविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितत्वात् । सत्यामेव च नैसर्गिक्यामविद्यायां
लोक-वेद- व्यवहारावतार  इति तत्र तत्रावोचाम ।

The question discussed here is:  what is the fate of those shruti passages
that talk of Brahman being of the form of the prthivi, etc. ?  These
passages are useful in the context of upAsana and are therefore not utterly
useless.  It is ONLY because there is the natural ignorance that there
arises the occasion for worldly and scriptural vyavahara.  Shankara says
that all upAdhis are the effect of avidyA and any form described for
Brahman in the scripture is based on this avidya-caused upAdhis.

Now the thinking advanced by Sri Venkatesh::

//But we have to see Advaita can be explained using Sagunopasana. Then
we will not even need Avidya at all. Everything is Sat. But we are not
seeing it now. Doing Sagunopasana we can see He is there in
everything. Then we can do Nirgunopasana and realize Sarvam Khalvidam
Brahma. In this line of thinking there is no requirement for Avidya or

can be seen to be without any basis either in the shruti or in the advaita
shastra taught by Shankara.  Shankara straightaway puts an end to such
erroneous thinking by showing that EVEN sagunopasana has its basis on
Avidya alone.  So, there is no way the concept of avidya can be avoided by
bringing in the sagunopasana bogey in the teaching of Advaita.

In BSB 3.2.15 Shankara says:
दर्शयति च श्रुतिः पररूपप्रतिषेधेनैव ब्रह्म निर्विशेषत्वात्  -  The shruti
too teaches Brahman  ONLY by negating the saguNa forms for Brahman is
nirvishesha.  He says even the Smriti teaches so -

तथा स्मृतिष्वपि परप्रतिषेधेनैवोपदिश्यते -

ज्ञेयं यत्तत्प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वामृतमश्नुते   ।

अनादिमत्परं ब्रह्म न सत्तन्नासदुच्यतेऽ (१३.१२) इत्येवमाद्यासु   । (Bh.Gita)

The saguNa Brahman that is both manifest and unmanifest is negated in order
to give out the ultimate teaching of Brahman.

तथा विश्वरूपधरो नारायणो नारदमुवाचेति स्मर्यते  -

माया ह्येषा मया सृष्टा यन्मां पश्यसि नारद   ।

सर्वभूतगुणैर्युक्तं नैवं मां ज्ञातुमर्हसि || - इति   ।

The Lord Himself teaches that His own SaguNa form should not be the basis
for determining His true nature.

From the above it is clear that for Shankara the teaching of the Advaitic
Brahman is impossible without negating the mAyA/avidyA caused world of
duality.  SaguNopasana by itself will not get one to the ultimate Truth.
 For, the very first word of Shankara in the Brahmasutra bhashya in the
adhyAsa bhashya is 'yuShmad-asmad'  which He Himself says is corresponding
to 'satya-anRta'.  So, the teaching of Brahman is impossible without
calling up the anRta / mAyA / mithyA to the limelight and then negating it.
 This is inevitable since the situation as it obtains in the state of
samsara is: satyAnRte mithunIkRtya' - an admixture of satya Brahman and the
anrta prakRti.  The whole of adhyAtma shAstra is aimed at separating,
viveka, of the satya from the anRta.  The Gita 13th chapter is about this
viveka.  The last verse says:  The liberating knowledge HAS to be two-fold:
 1. Knowing that oneself, the kshetrajna, is separate from the not-self,
kishetram AND 2. the kshetram is non-existent at all periods of time.  It
is ONLY this two-fold realization that guarantees moksha.  Wherever only
the first is highlighted the second is implied for as seen from the earlier
passages quoted from the BSB the teaching of Brahman is not without the
negating of the a-brahman.

A question, though impertinent, arises: Why then we have 'BrahmajijnAsA'
and not 'mAyA//mithyA jijnAsA'?  We have an answer-to-the-point reply in
our shAstra itself:  The pUrvamImAmsA shastra is admitted to be 'dharma
jijnAsA'.  Shri Shabara Swamin has said: even though it is dharma jijnAsaa
(enquiry about dharma), adharma too has to be enquired into and known with
a view to avoid it.  On the same lines in brahmajijnAsA too there is a
copious content of a-brahma/mAyA/prakRti jijnAsA in explicit terms too, for
example in the BG 13th chapter defining, describing kShetram, so as to
enable the aspirant to identify it, its dharma, how it binds him, and to
avoid wrongful identification with it and get released without continuing
in samsara. While there are statements like 'brahmavid Apnoti param', there
are equally strong statements like 'mRtyoH sa mRtyumApnoti ya iha nAneva
pashyati' where the nanAtva-darshanam is taught as the cause of continued
samsara. In positive terms too we have the teaching: tatra ko mohaH kaH
shokaH ekatvam anupashyataH' where ekatvadarshanam, to the eschewing of
nAnAtvadarshanam, is taught to be rewarding.  This genre of statements are
enough to tell us what to avoid and what to accept.  In the absence of the
teaching about non-Atman there will be no way the aspirant will know what
causes samsara and what is to be avoided.

Although the entire body of bAdrAyaNa sutras is called 'Brahmasutra' yet
there are innumerable sutras therein on mAyA/prakRti/avidya/samsara.  By
just browsing through the list of brahmasutras one can realize the truth of
this statement.


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