[Advaita-l] The stance of the upadeshasaahasrii on Ignorance, Deep Sleep (was Re: Meet on Advaita Vedanta...)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 3 16:35:36 CDT 2013

There are many on the list who have studied Sankara's works much better than I have (including the person to whom I'm replying now), but the case for the tradition is not presented fully and hence this response.

subhanu saxena <subhanu at hotmail.com> wrote:

> 4)    
> Are the epithets mithyā as anirvachanīyā , mūlāvidyā  as 
> sadasadvilakshaṇa-bhāvarūpam necessary and justified in Shankara’s  tradition to 
> explain the world as we perceive
> it and to differentiate mūlāvidyā from things that have no
> existence such as a hare’s horn? Can it’s nature be determined to be
> sadasad-vilakshaṇam or bhāvarūpam through the correct pramanas?
> For:  mūlāvidyā  is mithyā and does not stand under scrutiny so there is no
> problem in labelling it as bhāvrūpa or sadasadvilakshaṇam so we can distinguish 
> it from entities that do not
> exist such as a hare’s horn. The world cannot be caused by a non-entity
> therefore characterising avidya as jnāna-abhāva is not appropriate.
> Also BUB 3.3.1 yadi jnānabhāvah.. can be interpreted
> to mean avidyā is
> something other than doubt, wrong knowledge or absence of knowledge
> Against: This view is flatly contradicted in Suresvara, who
> maintains vehemently that there is no entity as anātman. Anātman
> is falsely imagined, and any other view would ascribe a reality to the universe
> that not intended in Shāstra,
> which declares Brahman as the only reality. In fact Suresvara explicitly tells
> us jnanābhāvo’athavā sarvam avidyaiveti  nischitah BUBV 1.4.1439, and 
> jnanābhavādasidddhau cha BUBV
> 2.4.207. We find  a similar reference in
> BUBV 1.4.1699 jnanābhavann
> na vijnānan…
> Suresvara also uses the hare’s horn analogy in the exact
> opposite way as the vivaranam tradition and he uses the term explicitly in BUBV
> 4.4.332 and BUBV 1.4.326. His point is to establish that atman is self
> established and real, unlike something that does not exist like a hare’s
> horn.  In BUBV 4.3.1292 he explicitly
> tells as anātman is a
> non entity like the son of a barren woman or a man’s horn: avastutvan 
> niratmatvat
> vandhyāsūnunrishringavat

The fallacy in the above argument lies in the assumption that there is an exact dichotomy in
advaita VedAnta consisting of Atman and anAtman. Even in the above quote(s) from Sureshvara,
it is important to underline the fact that He does NOT classify avidyA as anAtman!

> Also suresvara does not endorse the vivaraṇam school’s attempts to establish the 
> bhāvarupatva of avidyāby pramanas (Chitsukha and
> prakashatman adduce multiple pramāṇas to establish the bhāvarupatva of 
> ignorance)  as he tells us that not only is avidyā not accessible to be
> determined by pramāṇas atah pramāṇato ‘shakyā
> SV 184, seyam bhrantir nirālambā NS 3.66 , but also that
> one who is endowed with ignorance can never know its nature avidyāvān avidyān
> tām na nirupayitum kshamah
> SV 179. So trying to establish any nature for avidyā is fruitless.
> Suresvara’s final judgement: we falsely imagine the world to
> be other than ātman
> because we have not known ātman,
> as a result of our lack of critical reflection, for ignorance falsely
> creates that which does not exist avidyāyāh
> svabhāvo’yam
> yadasat karanam mriṣā BUBV 2.4.456

Sankara in the upadeshasAhasrI 2.1.18 proposes the third category (translation by Swami Jagadananda):

  ... paripUrNa AkAshavatanantashaktiH AtmA sarvasya, ashanAyAdivarjitaH,
  AvirbhAvatirobhAvavarjitashcha svAtmavilakShaNayornAmarUpayorjagadbIjabhUtayoH svAtmasthayoH
  tattvAnyatvAbhyAmanirvachanIyayoH svasaMvedyayoH sadbhAvamAtreNAchintyashaktitvAd 
  vyAkartAvyAkR^itayoH .. 18 ..

  "... that Self of all devoid of hunger etc., as also appearance and disappearance, is by
  virtue of Its inscrutable power, the cause of the manifestation of unmanifested name and form
  which abide in the Self through Its very presence, but are different from It, which are the
  seed of the universe, are *** describable neither as identical with It nor different from It ***,
  and are cognized by It alone."

The nAmarUpa and AkAshavat-ananta-shakti of the AtmA (Self) are said to be:

  tattva-anyatvAbhyAm-anirvachanIya = "Indescribable as either the same (Atman) or different (anAtman)"

This third category of "anirvachanIya" is precisely where avidyA (too) falls under.

> 5)    
> What is the value of stating that such a root
> ignorance, a superimposed notion, must be present in deep sleep, another
> superimposed notion, in aiding a seeker’s understanding and is it sanctioned in
> Shankara’s system?
> For: We cannot explain waking up from deep sleep if root ignorance
> were not present. In addition, when saying 
> that jiva is one with sat in deep sleep 
> that sat meant here is not the ultimate sat.
> Against: Actually no argument here-whenever we invoke
> the notion of a state such as waking, dream or deep sleep this is all within
> the clutches of avidya as all 3 are superimposed states. In deep sleep simply
> the faculties of empirical dealings, namely the mind, are absent. Ignorance,
> being an imagined notion (Kalpyavidyaiva mat pakshe..SV 183)it  has nothing to 
> reveal it in “deep sleep” which
> is why we say it is not present there (N.S. 3.58). However whenever we talk of
> the state of deep sleep this is still superimposition. Since avidyā is imagined, 
> and the mind
> is not present and both avidyā
> and deep sleep are superimposed notions, it is impossible to state that any
> entity of a non imagined avidyā is
> somehow present in deep sleep.

Deep Sleep is filled with tamas, vide upadeshasaahasrii 1.16.18:

  jAgratsvapnau tayobIjaM suShuptaakhyaM tamomayam.h .
  anyonyasminnasattvaachcha naastItyetattrayaM tyajet.h ..

  "Transmigratory existence consists of waking and dream.
  Their root is deep sleep consisting of Ignorance (i.e. tamas).
  No one of these three states has a real existence because
  each goes out of existence when another remains in it.
  One should therefore give up all these three states."

Note the phrase "suShuptaakhyaM tamomayam.h" -- to say that there is no avidyA in deep sleep
goes against Sankara's works.

The exact same teaching by Ramana Maharshi from His book Self-enquiry:

  "...in deep sleep the gross and subtle bodies of all the individual souls are included in the
  **cosmic maya which is nescience, of the nature of sheer darkness**, and since the souls are
  resolved in the Self becoming one with It, they see everywhere darkness alone. From the darkness
  of sleep, the subtle body, viz. egoity, and from that (egoity) the gross body arise respectively."

Note that Ramana Bhagavan says that the state of Deep Sleep contains "Maya" = "Nescience" = "Darkness",
which is a reference to the "tamas" of the upadeshasaahasrii.

> In any event no text of the vivaraṇa school has 
> given an explanation of why insisting of the
> presence of a superimposed notion in a superimposed state aids sadhana. 

All sAdhanA is to rid oneself of avidyA, whose existence is admitted before sAdhanA commences
and non-existence admitted in the goal of Liberation.

> 4.3 has over 100 verses on suresvara’s examination of the method of the 3
> states. BUBV 4.3.1517-1520 are worth noting, but from BUBV 4.3.1000 -1600 are
> worth deep study.Time does not permit a detailed analysis here but if anybody
> would like the fuller references and translations of the verses above or the
> key verses of suresvara on the 3 states please email me privately and I will
> try and find time to provide. Alternatively as I am now in Mumbai  if anybody 
> would like to meet and discuss I
> am available there. 
> One final point, the more I see the more I am convinced that
> these differeing views arise when we try and approach the teachings before our  
> sādhanā has ripened. It is no
> small matter that Shankara tells us that the teaching is for those who are 
> sādhana-chatuṣṭaya-sampanna.

Of course none would disagree with the last statement above.

But let there be no criticism of the teachings of the unbroken lineage of the Gurus of the
Sankaran tradition prior to careful examination of their views (preferably under a teacher of the

> In NS 1.51 Suresvara tells us that understanding the true nature of the world
> comes before embarking on a serious study of the shastra, for such seekers no
> longer seek to question or explain the apparent reality/causality of how the
> universe came to be. I hope therefore the posts encourage all to study deeply
> Suresvara and not lose focus on the prize of the right sādhanā that will yield 
> knowledge
> Regards
> Subhanu                         


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