[Advaita-l] Sayana one with Shankara on the 'formlessness' of Brahman

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Jun 20 23:40:39 EDT 2019

In the Bhashyam for the Narayana suktam, Sayanacharya has said after giving
 a famous etymological verse from a purana:

"आपो नारा इति प्रोक्ताः आपो वै नरसूनवः । अयनं तस्य ताः प्रोक्तास्तेन
नारायणः स्मृतः" and says that he who rests in the pancha bhuta-s. Or, he is
beyond prakrti and from Him the world has emerged.

He also says 'नारायणः पर एवात्मा, न तु अपरो मूर्तिविशेषः ।’ ’Narayana is
the Supreme Atman and not the apara= inferior formed one.

This above comment has irked some sectarians who could not stand 'their'
finite, formed, 'Narayana' to be portrayed as a formless Tattva. Since they
cannot go beyond a form that has the human or animal characteristics of
hands, feet, head, etc, they have accused Sayana as a post-Shankara
avaidika who has parted company with the 'great' vaishnava advaitin that
Shankara was in their view.

The compunction of these sectarians boomerangs on them with what Shankara
himself saying in the Vishnu Sahasra Nama Bhashya for the name 'amurti'

Shankara gives two meanings to this name of Brahman:

Murti or form, consisting of the movable and immovable things, is capable
of being borne, i.e., the Universe. The Sruti (Ai.Up.3.2) says: From that
agitation the form came to exist.' He is devoid of such a form.

He who is devoid of the bodily organs and limbs.

In both the meanings a specific, default, form for Brahman is denied by
that name listed by Veda Vyasa.

Thus we see Sayana is quite compliant with the norm the Veda, Veda Vyasa
and Shankara have stipulated. The Kathopanishat says:

*न संदृशे**  तिष्ठति रूपमस्य* न चक्षुषा पश्यति कश्चनैनम् । हृदा मनीषा
मनसाऽभिक्लृप्तो य एतद्विदुरमृतास्ते भवन्ति ॥ 2.3.9 ॥

The bhashyam:  कथं तर्हि तस्य अलिङ्गस्य दर्शनमुपपद्यत इति, उच्यते — न
संदृशे संदर्शनविषये न तिष्ठति प्रत्यगात्मनः अस्य रूपम् । अतः न चक्षुषा
सर्वेन्द्रियेण, चक्षुर्ग्रहणस्योपलक्षणार्थत्वात्, पश्यति नोपलभते कश्चन
कश्चिदपि एनं प्रकृतमात्मानम् । कथं तर्हि तं पश्येदिति, उच्यते — हृदा
हृत्स्थया बुद्ध्या, मनीषा मनसः सङ्कल्पादिरूपस्य ईष्टे नियन्तृत्वेनेति मनीट्
तया मनीषा विकल्पवर्जितया बुद्ध्या । मनसा मननरूपेण सम्यग्दर्शनेन अभिक्लृप्तः
अभिसमर्थितः अभिप्रकाशित इत्येतत् । आत्मा ज्ञातुं शक्य इति वाक्यशेषः ।
तमात्मानं ब्रह्म एतत् ये विदुः अमृताः ते भवन्ति ॥
The upanishad says that Brahman/Atman is not an object for ocular
perception.  It has no form. By extension, it is not an object of any
perception, of touch, nose, sound and taste. These are specifically denied
by another mantra of the upanishad:
अशब्दमस्पर्शमरूपमव्ययं तथारसं नित्यमगन्धवच्च यत् ।
अनाद्यनन्तं महतः परं ध्रुवं निचाय्य तं मृत्युमुखात्प्रमुच्यते ॥ १५ ॥ 1.3.15
The first cited mantra says,therefore, the way to know, realize, Brahman is
only through the prepared mind, a subtle, pointed, intellect.

Vaishnavas might say that the above are only a denial of praakruta,
material, form for Brahman and not a denial of an apraakruta form.  But
this argument does not hold water since a human/animal like form is by
default a product of union of male and female species in prakruti. The
Taittiriya Upanishad says: from prthvi 'annam' is born and from annam the
purusha, human, is born.  There is no pramana whatsoever for a
non-annam-product form that resembles the human/animal form.  The scripture
only adopts this concept in order to help the uninformed aspirant who
cannot think beyond his own-type form by applying that form, to please,
appease, the aspirant, to Brahman too, so that the aspirant can relate, in
that level, with Brahman. Upon travelling to a higher level, the aspirant
has to come to terms with the reality of the above Upanishadic statements.

There are other names in the VSN too such as 'aprameya',
'anirdeshya'...which also yield the same conclusion as above.

Om Tat Sat

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