[Advaita-l] Sastra's Ability To Remove Ignorance

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jun 19 05:15:30 CDT 2012

On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 1:10 PM, <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> You are going around the core question. As I was thinking about it, I got
> the answer but still curious what the sampradaya position. Do sastras know
> what is Brahman? They cannot because they are words only but Brahman is
> beyond words. Then how can they remove our ignorance about Brahman? Even if
> I don't know what a pot is, I can answer correctly the question "Is this a
> pot?" if I know what is not a pot. Sastras know what not Brahman correctly
> and hence can dispel our ignorance on what is brahman.

In the BSB for sutra shAstrayonitvAt Shankara writes in the very first

mahataH RgvedAdeH shaastrasya anekavidyAsthAna-upabRmhitasya pradIpavat
sarvArthaavadyotinaH sarvajnakalpasya yoniH kAraNam brahma.  nahi IdRshasya
shaastrasya RgvedAdilakShaNasya sarvajnatvaguNAnvitasya sarvajnAt anyataH
sambhavo'sti. ...kimu vaktavyam sarvajnAnAkarasya....

Here we see Shanka paying the richest possible tributes to the Veda and its
source, Ishwara.  He says that the Veda is akin to an omniscient one. Again
He says it is endowed with the characteristics of an omniscient one.  And
it indeed has its source in the Omniscient One, Ishwara.  Not satisfied
with all this Shankara goes on to say the Veda is a mine of all knowledge.
   Throughout the prasthanatraya bhashya Shankara's reference to the Veda,
consisting of the karma kanda and the Upanishats, is of this genre, of
utmost reverence.

That the Veda is negated as not-Atman is on the basis of the Vedic
teachings alone. The Br.Up. teaches, as does the above sutra, that the Veda
is a 'product' of Ishwara.  For, in Vedanta, even the Omniscient one is so
only with relation to the knowable/known world.  In other words His status
as the Sarvajna is inalienably dependent on the known/knowable world.
Without the world He has no such a status/epithet.  And that which is so
dependent, relative, cannot be the Absolute.  I said this as an aside.

Thus, in the sampradaya, the Veda is the primary source of knowledge about
Brahman, capable of removing our ignorance of our Self, Atman, which is
none other than Brahman, through the intervention of a capable Acharya.
For, the Upanishats can be of utmost utility only when taught, instructed
and guided by the Acharya.  It is true that the teaching is predominantly
by way of anAtmadharma pratishedha or negating the attributed non-Atman.
By doing this, the shastra shows that the one that cannot be negated is the
Self.  It is also not correct to say that 'the Veda or a sarvajna purusha
does not know Brahman.'  For we have the term aparoksha jnani, sarvajna,
vedavit, brahmavit, atmavit, sarvavit, etc.  and the disciple approaching
such a one for being taught this Atman/Brahman.  In the famous Kenopanishat
mantra we have the specific teaching that It cannot be known/apprehended as
an object.  The Kathopanishat teaches that It should first be known as
'asti', 'IS', and  only to such a one it reveals itself in its true
nature.  In the BG 13th chapter it has been clearly taught that there has
to be a two-fold realization: 1. The kshetrajna is distinct from the
kshetram and 2.the kshetram is mithya.  Only such a knowledge will result
in the Advaitic moksha.  And towards this end not only the kshetra is
explained as to its constituents but also, most importantly, the kshetrajna
is taught as the knower, awarer, vishayI, of the kshetra.  We also have
declarations in the U[panishats such as 'He indeed came to know It'
(chandogya: taddhAsya vijajnau', in Kathopanishad as 'Nachiketa knew it
upon being taught by Yama',   If this is not so or if it is not admitted,
there will be a situation where the jnani will have to be someone who knows
only the non-brahman that he has negated.   That such is not the case is
amply explained by Shankara.  Unless it is possible to know what one is,
that is, for example, the vishayI, it is impossible to recognize the others
as vishaya.  So we can definitely say that the Veda does know what Brahman
is and that is why it teaches that It should not/cannot be known/realized
as an object.  When it is said 'words and mind do not reach It..' it only
means that it is not known through words/mind as an object.  That is why we
have the seeming counter teaching to this too:  'It has to be known only
through the mind' (Kathopanishat)  This apparent contradiction is explained
as: with an unprepared mind It cannot be known but with a duly cultivated
mind it can be known.


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