[Advaita-l] Jiiva is not the locus of avidya-Part I

kuntimaddi sadananda via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Fri Oct 17 10:39:53 CDT 2014

I just landed in Chennai yesterday for my yearly my 6-month stay here and attended today the Bhagavat Geeta Class of Paramarthanandaji. Since the topic of interest in view of the current discussion on who has avidya, I wrote the following based on the pravachan by Swamiji, for those who are interested to know who has ignorance. The topic of discussion is on the sloka of Ch. 13 based on Shankaara Bhaashya. Posting as two parts due to length of the write-up.  
Ch. 13. Kshetrajnam chaapi maam viddhi sarva kshetreshu Bhaarata|

This is considered as mahaavaakya where the knower of the field, kshetrajnaH is none other than Iswara, maam, who is the knower of all fields. Kshetrajna stands for jiiva and maam stands for Iswara and the above statement provides and identity statement between jiivaatma and paramaatma. Thus it is considered as mahaavaakya stated in Bhagavat Geeta by Lord Krishna.

Jiivaatma is endowed with avidya or muula avidya, and Iswara is free from avidya. Being an Iswara, He is sarvajnaH or all knower and therefore He cannot have avidya. Hence this equation of identity of jiivaatma and paramaatma is not valid. 


Shankara says that avidya does not belong to jiivaatma or individual self. We have been led to accept that jiiva is born with avidya and because of that he takes himself to be this body, mind and intellect, BMI, and since they are limited, he considers himself a limited entity. He tries to solve the limitations of the BMI he performs the actions and by pravRitti and nivRitti that is gaining things he likes and getting rid of things he does not like he tries to reach limitless. Thus the root cause of samsaara for jiiva is attributed to this beginning-less avidya.  Here Shankara states that avidya does not belong to jiiva. That is the locus of avidya is not jiiva. Locus of avidya is not Iswara. Therefore the above objection is not valid. 
Avidya of one’s own self belong to the anthaH karaNa or the inner instruments, i.e. the mind – the vijnaana maya kosha. The ignorance of the world belongs to bahiH karaNa or sense organs which are always going outwards. In essence, the avidya belongs to karaNas or instruments of knowledge. Put this in a different way, the avidya or ignorance belongs to anaatma and not aatma. 

The above statement appears to contradict the statement of Sureswaraacharya in Naishkarmya Siddhi, III rd ch., where he states that locus of avidya is aatma or Brahman only. These apparent contradictions need to be resolved for clear understanding. 

Shankara says avidya manifests in terms of three-fold prakriyas or functions or pratyayas or thoughts: a) agrahanam b) samshayam and c) vipareeta pratyayam. Agrahanam is non-apprehension of the truth, samshayam is the doubtful thoughts about the nature of the object of knowledge, and vipareeta pratyayam is the misapprehension of the object of knowledge. For the case of rope/snake, this can be expressed as non-apprehension of the rope, and doubt about the nature of the object perceived and misapprehension in taking the rope as snake. In essence, the aatma avidya is located in the mind, which is antaH karaNa as it cannot comprehend the self (agrahaNam).  While recognizing that I am conscious-existent entity, I still have a doubt that I am limitless entity, samshayam. The doubt is in the mind only and not in the self.  Finally, I have the misapprehension that I am the mind who appears to be a knower. The ‘I’ here, it is not the self or aatma but the
 mind itself, since the self that I am pure from any prakrtiyas or pratyayas, right or wrong. In essence, it is the mind that thinks that I am the aatma that is conscious-existent entity.  Being limited, I am become unhappy. Thus, it is enlivened conscious mind or chidaabhaasa has these three prakriyas due to ignorance. An example is like moon thinking that I am the self-luminous existent entity that is limited by other luminous and non-luminous entities in the universe, without recognizing that the luminosity is due to the sun-light.  

Corresponding to the three prakriyas related to the avidya, there are three prakriyas that are opposite each one of them, a) viveka b) abhaava and c) prakaasha. The three prakriyas of the knowledge are opposite to the three prakriyas of the avidya. Therefore Shankara concludes that avidya is not with jiiva but with the antaHkaraNa when it comes to the self-knowledge and with bhahiH karaNa (senses) when it comes to the objective world. 


The above arguments are in correct. If you claim that jiiva does not have avidya then there is no reason for any saadhana required for self-realization and he must be nitya muktaH. Therefore the study of scriptures is useless. Since Vedas themselves advise that for moksha or liberation one has to approach a teacher. In Bri. Up. III chapter it is said that one who is ignorant of this self-knowledge will be in the eternal cycle of birth and death. Hence there is no moksha for him. Therefore jiiva has the avidya requiring the study of the shastras for gaining moksha. 

Therefore equation of jiiva with Iswara is wrong.

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