[Advaita-l] Ontological status of avidyA

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Nov 24 00:35:38 CST 2016

In this sentence in the post, the word kṣetra occurring for the second time
is to read 'kṣetrajna'.  It is an error that occurred by oversight.

//what is known is kshetra dharma, whereas the knower is* kshetra.*//



On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 11:54 AM, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste,
> Recently, I was reading Prof. Daniel Ingalls' paper on Shankara's arguments
> against Buddhism, see link below.
> http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew27155.htm
> Here, Prof. Ingalls makes several very interesting points. One of these,
> while not central to the theme of his paper, struck me as curious. He says:
> "Now, `Sa^mkara, to the best of my knowledge, nowhere says that ignorance
> is unreal. See my article "`Sa^mkara on the Question: Whose is Avidyaa?"
> Philosophy East and West, III, No. 1 (April, 1995), 69-72. It is Padmapaada
> who says this."
> This did not ring true - can it be true that Shankara does not make a
> statement anywhere in his bhAshya that avidyA is mithyA? On reviewing the
> other paper referred to him in the quote above (available on JSTOR, if
> anyone is interested), his point is as follows.
> Essentially, Prof Ingalls reckons that Shankaracharya never made a comment
> on the reality of avidyA. He avoided the problem by talking about the lack
> of a real connection between Atma and avidyA- that is, what is of interest
> to Shankara is not the ontological status of avidyA, but that Atma is ever
> free from it. He cites BGB 13.2, BSB 4.1.3 and BUB 4.1.6 as support.
> While the second half of Prof Ingalls'  comment, that Shankara's interest
> is in proving that Atma is free from avidyA as a paramArtha satya, has
> merit, the first half, that Shankara nowhere says that Atma is mithyA, is
> not valid on examination.
> 1) Just by basic logic, Atma is the only paramArtha satya. If Atma is free
> from avidyA, then it is anAtma, and hence must therefore be mithyA. If
> anAtma avidyA were satya, the basic principle of advaita would be
> invalidated as there would be two entities with ultimate reality. Atma and
> avidyA.
> Shankara himself says that avidyA is not Atma dharma. In BGB 13.2,
> ज्ञेयस्य क्षेत्रधर्मत्वात्, ज्ञातुः क्षेत्रज्ञस्य तत्कृतदोषानुपपत्तेः  -
> what is known is kshetra dharma, whereas the knower is kshetra. Further, he
> says: यदि आत्मनः धर्मः अविद्यावत्त्वं दुःखित्वादि च कथं भोः प्रत्यक्षम्
> उपलभ्यते, कथं वा क्षेत्रज्ञधर्मः. If avidyA is Atma's dharma, then how
> pray, is one aware of ignorance and sorrow, how can it be kshetrajna
> dharma?
> 2) Shankara himself clarifies this in Br.Up.Bh 4.4.22: एतदुक्तं भवति —
> योऽयम् ‘विज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु’ इत्यादिना वाक्येन प्रतिपादितः स्वयं
> ज्योतिरात्मा, स एषः *कामकर्माविद्यानामनात्मधर्मत्वप्रतिपादनद्वारेण*
> मोक्षितः परमात्मभावमापादितः
> Therefore one line of argument can be, in describing avidyA as
> anAtmadharma, Shankara is indirectly saying that avidyA has no paramArtha
> satya.
> The issue with the above is that it can be counter-argued that the avidyA
> referred to above is avidyA which has the mind as its locus, and not
> mUlAvidya/mAya, which has Atma has its locus. It is this avidyA that
> Shankara in Br.Up.Bh 1.4.10 argues has to be located in Atma, as there is
> no other conscious entity apart from it.
> 3) To answer this possible argument, I looked up references to अनिर्वचनीय:
> in advaita sharada. It shows up thrice, each time as तत्त्वन्यत्वाभयां
> अनिर्वचनीय. All three instances are in Brahma SUtra BhAshya - 1.1.5, 2.1.14
> and 2.1.27.
> In each occasion, Shankaracharya does not use this adjective to refer to
> avidyA, but to the avidyAkalpita nAmarUpa.
> However, we can infer the ontological status of avidyA from this. Since
> nAma rUpa is said to be by Shankara as being of the nature of mithyA in
> these instances (तत्त्वन्यत्वाभ्यां अनिर्वचनीयं, incapable of being
> classified as sat or different from it) AND as being avidyA kalpita, it
> follows that the thing because of which they are kalpita, avidyA, is also
> tattvanyatvAbhyam anirvachanIyam, or mithyA.
> 4) More directly, in BSB 1.1.5, this adjective is used to describe the
> nature of nAmarUpa before creation (यत्प्रागुत्पत्ते:) ie in its potential,
> avyakta state.
> किं पुनस्तत्कर्म, यत्प्रागुत्पत्तेरीश्वरज्ञानस्य विषयो भवतीति —
> तत्त्वान्यत्वाभ्यामनिर्वचनीये नामरूपे अव्याकृते व्याचिकीर्षिते इति ब्रूमः
> Therefore this is a comment on the ontological status of avyaktam. Because
> we consider avyakta, avyAkrita, prakriti, mAya, mUlAvidyA as synonymous, we
> can take this as a comment by Shankara on the ontological status of avidyA
> too.
> 5) In Mandukya kArika bhAshya 3.24, Shankara says:
> ‘इन्द्रो मायाभिः’ (बृ. उ. २-५-१९)*इत्यभूतार्थप्रतिपादकेन मायाशब्देन
> व्यपदेशात्*। ननु प्रज्ञावचनो मायाशब्दः ; सत्यम्, इन्द्रियप्रज्ञाया
> अविद्यामयत्वेन मायात्वाभ्युपगमाददोषः । मायाभिः
> इन्द्रियप्रज्ञाभिरविद्यारूपाभिरित्यर्थः ।
> Shankara says that the very use of the word Maya is as अभूतार्थप्रतिपादक,
> that is, the word mAya implies something that is not in existence - या मा
> सा माया.  ie not real and later goes on to say that MAya is avidyAmaya.
> 6) In commenting on BGB 13.34, Shankara describes the phrase
> भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च ये विदुः that occurs in the sloka thus:
> भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च, भूतानां प्रकृतिः अविद्यालक्षणा अव्यक्ताख्या, तस्याः
> भूतप्रकृतेः मोक्षणम् *अभावगमनं* च ये विदुः विजानन्ति
> That is, those that know that prakriti, also called avyakta, which is of
> the nature of avidyA, is non-existent ultimately. The use of अभावगमनं as
> sublating avidyAlakshaNA prakriti means that it cannot have paramArtha sat.
> Ultimately, if advaita is moksha shAstra, avidyA has to be mithyA also.
> Therefore, if Prof. Ingalls contends that Shankara did not say that  avidyA
> is unreal, it will call into question avidyA's very purpose as a
> soteriological science - how is to one get rid of something that is
> ultimately real?
> Regards,
> Venkatraghavan
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