[Advaita-l] सच्चेन्न बाध्येत, असच्चेन्न प्रतीयेत

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Feb 14 08:59:32 CST 2013

One of the difficulties of conveying the Advaita positions on sat, asat, (an)Rta 
and (an)upalabdhi is the medium of translation. For example, 
> In the BhAShyam for 'satyam' of the passage 'सत्यं ज्ञानम् अनन्तं ब्रह्म’
> of this Upanishad, Shankara gives a very crisp but comprehensive definition
> of what 'satyam' is:
> // *यद्रूपेण** यन्निश्चितं तद्रूपं न व्यभिचरति, तत् सत्यम् ।*
> यद्रूपेणयन्निश्चितं तद्रूपं व्यभिचरति, तदनृतमित्युच्यते । अतो
> विकारोऽनृतम्,
> ’वाचारंभणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’, एवं सदेव सत्यम्
> इत्यवधारणात् ।
> //*As for satyam, a thing is said to be satyam, Real, when it does not
> change the nature that is ascertained to be its own; *and a thing is said
> to be unreal when it changes the nature that is ascertained to be its
> own. Hence
> a mutable thing is unreal, for in the text, ‘All transformation has speech
> as its basis, and it is name only. Clay as such is the reality.’
> (Chandogya Up. 6.1.4), it has been emphasized that, that alone is true that
> Exists (Ch.Up. 6.2.1) //

Here, what is called unreal in the English language is actually described not as
asat/asatya in the saMskRta original, but as anRta (अनृत). Personally, I would
like to search for a different English word than unreal to translate this, especially
as later in the same upanishat, there is a sentence that says satya itself became
satya and anRta. The upanishat text and the bhAshya very masterfully play with
the words sat, asat and anRta, to direct our attention to that which is beyond
> In this very upanishad bhaShyam, further down from the above reference,
> Shankara observes while commenting on the passage: असन्नेव स भवति
> असद्ब्रह्मेति वेद चेत् (२.६)thus: ...यदस्ति तद्विशेषतो गृह्यते; यथा घटादि ।
> * यन्नास्ति, तन्नोपलभ्यते; यथा शशविषाणादि ।* ..... न च असतो जातं किञ्चिद्
> गृह्यते लोके कार्यम् । असतश्चेन्नामरूपादि कार्य,* निरात्मकत्वात्
> नोपलभ्येत;*उपलभ्यते तु, तस्मादस्ति ब्रह्म । [’If anyone knows Brahman
> as
> non-existing, he himself becomes non-existent. (2.6) bhashyam: ...whatever
> exists is perceived as possessed of distinctive attributes, as for instance
> a pot, etc. Whatever is non-existent is not perceived, as for instance the
> horn of a hare etc. .... And no effect is perceived in this world as having
> been produced from a non-entity. If such effects as name and form had
> originated from a non-entity, *they should not have been perceived since
> they are insubstantial* (nirAtmakam). But they are perceived. Hence
> Brahman exists (and not a non-existing entity)]

Again, here, to get the full force of nirAtmakatva in translation, I would choose,
"they would not have been perceived, since they would have been insubstantial."
The point is that if name and form had originated from the unreal (asatash cet),
then they would have been nirAtmaka and therefore they would not have been
perceived at all (na upalabhyeta). That they are indeed perceptible (upalabhyate
tu) means that their source has to be sad-vastu.
This may seem like a minor point, but I bring it up, because one of the major
misunderstandings of advaita, both by followers of other vedAnta streams and
by people who were originally alien to any vedAnta tradition is this. They take 
advaita as saying that nAma and rUpa are anyway unreal, so they mistakenly
ask, why should one argue for a real source of an unreal world? 

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