[Advaita-l] Ontological status of avidyA

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Nov 24 11:21:43 CST 2016

We have these explicit words of the Bhāṣyakāra:

Mandukya Kārikā 4.58 and bhāṣya:
धर्मा य इति जायन्ते जायन्ते ते न तत्त्वतः ।
जन्म मायोपमं तेषां *सा च माया न विद्यते *॥ ५८ ॥
येऽप्यात्मानोऽन्ये च धर्मा जायन्त इति कल्प्यन्ते, ते इति एवंप्रकारा यथोक्ता
संवृतिर्निर्दिश्यत इति संवृत्यैव धर्मा जायन्ते । न ते तत्त्वतः परमार्थतः
जायन्ते । यत्पुनस्तत्संवृत्या जन्म तेषां धर्माणां यथोक्तानां यथा मायया जन्म
तथा तत् मायोपमं प्रत्येतव्यम् । *माया नाम वस्तु तर्हि ; नैवम्, सा च माया न
विद्यते । मायेत्यविद्यमानस्याख्येत्यभिप्रायः ॥*

'Māyā' is the name of that which does not exist.

So, whether one calls it avidyā or māyā, either way, it is non-existent. In
fact one can notice a kind of pun in the above words: while giving a
definition for 'māyā', the bhāṣyakāra says: a-vidyamāna.  The word 'avidyā'
itself says it: na vidyate iti. Although in popular parlance 'a-vidyā' is
that which is not vidyā, right knowledge, yet, it also has this component:
na vidyate iti. It is also agreed by advaitins that 'āvidyakam vastu na
vidyate vastutaḥ.' [That which is a product of avidyā does not really


On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 10:36 PM, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste Praveenji,
> Thanks.
> On bhAshyakAra equating avidyA with mAya, and whose locus is the Atma (two
> birds in one stone), a very clear example is in mANDUkya kArika bhAshya
> 3.10. There in explaining the word आत्ममायाविसर्जिताः, he says
> देहादिसङ्घाताः आत्ममायाविसर्जिताः = आत्मनो माया अविद्या = तया
> प्रत्युपस्थापिताः. He takes  आत्ममाया as षष्ठी तत्पुरुष, आत्मन:माया, and
> explains  माया as अविद्या.  Typically Shankaracharya when referring to mAya
> and avidyA together resorts to  adjectival usage (avidyAkrita,
> avidyAlakshaNa, avidyArUpa, etc.), whereas here, its a straight identity.
> Holding माया and अविद्या as different is therefore not justified in my
> view, and if माया is not held to be abhAva rUpa, why should अविद्या?
> Regards,
> Venkatraghavan
> On Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 3:39 PM, Praveen R. Bhat <bhatpraveen at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Namaste Venkatraghavanji,
> >
> > I agree with your analysis countering Prof. Ingall's paper. I think
> > Advaita Vedanta's calling avidyA mithyA and defining mithyA as
> sadasadbhyAm
> > anirvachanIyA is just brilliant. The definition of sat as trikAlAbAdhita
> > puts everything that is cognizable into the category of mithyA.
> >
> > Further, I also agree with you that the question of avidyA being the
> cause
> > of adhyAsa is moot to counter the objection raised so: "if we say that
> > avidyA is adhyasta on Atma, how can we then say that the avidyA, an
> > adhyasta vastu, is adhyAsa kAraNa?
> >
> > In the example given,
> > //quote
> > For example, the mithyA snake is superimposed on a satya rope. If the
> rope
> > itself is mithyA, how can it lead to snake adhyAsa?"
> > //unquote
> >
> > If one takes the avidyA as bhAvarUpa and virodhArthe, it is very clear
> > that wrong understanding of the rope gave rise to the snake, opposing the
> > right knowledge of the rope, not no understanding of the rope. No
> > understanding of the rope has no business of projecting a snake. I don't
> > know the rope, that is it. I am done.
> >
> > As you said, Bhashyakara equates avidyA with mAyA, which is shaktyAtmikA.
> > Not only does Bhashyakara do so, but he also gives quite a few adjectives
> > to avidyA at many places. abhAvarUpa avidyA needs no adjectives. Unless
> > Prof. Ingall means that Bhashyakara did not say avidyA is atyantAsat, I
> > don't think anyone in the sampradAya agrees with him.
> >
> > Kind rgds,
> > --Praveen R. Bhat
> > /* Through what should one know That owing to which all this is known!
> > [Br.Up. 4.5.15] */
> >
> >
> >
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