[Advaita-l] Ontological status of avidyA

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Thu Nov 24 00:37:44 CST 2016

Yes, very true!

On 24 Nov 2016 6:35 a.m., "V Subrahmanian" <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.*//
> (ksherajna)
> vs
> 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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