[Advaita-l] Ontological status of avidyA

Venkatraghavan S agnimile at gmail.com
Thu Nov 24 01:26:35 CST 2016

One more spotted. I really need someone to proofread my emails! The
sentence below should say:

Therefore, if Prof. Ingalls contends that Shankara did not say that  avidyA
is unreal, it will call into question *advaita's* very purpose as a
soteriological science - how is to one get rid of something that is
ultimately real?

On 24 Nov 2016 6:58 a.m., "Venkatraghavan S" <agnimile at gmail.com> wrote:

> Haha very much so :). Thanks for pointing out.
> On 24 Nov 2016 6:54 a.m., "Ravi Kiran" <ravikiranm108 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> This one also seems a typo.. replace Atma by avidyA below
>> >> the first half, that Shankara nowhere says that Atma is mithyA, is
>> not valid on examination.
>> 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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