[Advaita-l] Omniscience, etc. only due to upAdhi

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Dec 28 01:04:38 CST 2013


'Omniscience' is the word generally used to connote the sanskrit term
'sarvajnatvam'.  'Knowledge' of 'everything' implies that the possessor of
such a knowledge is different from the 'everything' and the 'knowledge'.
Thus, just as a person who 'knows' something is different from that thing,
and without that thing in place no knowledge of it is possible for the
person, the Vedantic Brahman too cannot be inherently possessed with the
knowledge of 'everything' unless that 'everything' is existing.

Now, the 'everything', in other words, the entire creation, jagat, is
'existing' ONLY on the 'sat', existence, of the Sat, Brahman.  Thus the
world enjoys only a dependent existence, paratantra sattaa, and never an
independent existence, swatantra sattaa.  The ONLY example for such a
phenomenon is the rope-snake.

Since the world is thus not Brahman but only dependent on It, the
omniscience of Brahman cannot be inherent in Brahman but could at best be
'attributed' to It.  Inseparably attached to the concept of 'omniscience'
is the pair satyakAmatvam (unfailing desire) and satyasankalpatvaM
(unfailing resolves)

We have in the chandogya up. a mantra:

स ब्रूयान्नास्य.......सत्यकामः सत्यसंकल्पो....८.१.५

The translation of this mantra is:

//5.   Then he (the teacher) should say: "With the old age of the  body,
That (i.e. Brahman, described as the akasa in the heart)  does not age;
with the death of the body, That does not die.  That Brahman and not the
body is the real city of Brahman. In  It all desires are contained. It is
the Self — free from sin, free  from old age, free from death, free from
grief free from hunger, free from thirst; free from thirst; Its desires
come true, Its thoughts come true.   Just as, here on earth, people follow
as they are commanded by  a leader and depend upon whatever objects they
desire, be it a  country or a piece of land so also those who are ignorant
of the  Self depend upon other objects and experience the result of  their
good and evil deeds.//

Here is a teaching of the nature of Brahman, the Self.  The teaching comes
both in the saguna and nirguna mode, combined, as is the case with the
Upanishads and the smRtis, in several places.  Shankaracharya while
commenting on the highlighted words above says:

संकल्पाः कामाश्च शुद्धसत्त्वोपाधिनिमित्ताः ईश्वरस्य, चित्रगुवत् । न स्वतः,
नेति नेतीत्युक्त्वात् ।

[sankalpAh kAmAshcha shuddhasattvopAdhinimittAH Ishvarasya, chitraguvat. na
svataH, neti neti ityuktatvAt']

The translation of the above is:

//Wills and desires of God are caused by the limiting adjunct (upAdhi) of
pure sattva, as a man is called 'Chitragu' when he is possessed of cows of
various colors. [A person having cows of various colors is called
'chitragu', and the phrase does not mean that the person himself has many
colors.  Similarly in the case of Brahman, true wills and desires are not
the qualities of Brahman Itself, but caused the quality of sattva which is
Its upAdhi.]  But they do not inhere in Him, since the UpaniShad declares,
'Not this, not this' (Br.2.3.6).//

Thus satyakAmatva, satyasankalpatva, etc can remain in Brahman only owing
to the upAdhi which is not-brahman.  In other words, the shruti teaches
Brahman as possessed of omniscience and its related attributes only to
impress upon the mind of the seeker the existence and infinite nature of
Brahman.  The shruti also, as shown by Shankara above, negates all such
attributes through passages such as neti neti.  Thereby the shruti holds
out Brahman free of all attributes for realization as one's true Self as
taught by passages such as 'tat tvam asi'.


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