[Advaita-l] Prayer with full understanding -3

Kuntimaddi Sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 5 08:23:52 EDT 2021

Chandramouliji - PraNAms
And thanks for your input. The write up is only based on my understanding of the scriptures. 
If you feel there are fundamental mistakes in terms of the essential teaching of Advaita, will be happy to know. 
Sarvam khalu idam brahma - nehe naanaasti kinchana - is the essential teaching of Advaita - that was the central theme of the write-up. 
Hari Om!Sadananda


    On Monday, April 5, 2021, 08:17:34 AM EDT, H S Chandramouli <hschandramouli at gmail.com> wrote:  
 Pranams Sri Sadananda Ji,
This interpretation of the mantra does not appear to be in accordance with the Bhashya of Sri Bhagavatpada. If so, can you please clarify on which Bhashya this is based.
Pranams and Regards
On Sat, Apr 3, 2021 at 8:23 PM Kuntimaddi Sadananda via Advaita-l <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

The final part.----------------------
The most important point to note here is that the sensescan grasp only the attributes of an object, but not its substantive essence.Hence, knowledge of all objects “out there” is only attributive knowledge,never substantive knowledge. The reason is that the substantive for all objectsis nothing but Brahman since, according to our scriptures, Brahman is thematerial cause for the Universe. The Taittireya Upanishad says “yatova imaani bhuutani jaayante …” –“That from which the whole Universe arose, by which it is sustained and intowhich it returns is Brahman.” The senses cannot know Brahman. From the aboveanalysis, too, we cannot independently establish that there is a chairmaterially “out there.” For if we look at, say, a wooden chair closely, we findthat there is no such essentially substantive thing as a “chair” – it is only aname given to a certain assembled form of wood. What is actually “there” isonly wood. 

Moreover, if we then examine the wood closely, we find thatthere is really no wood there. It is just an assemblage of organic fibers,which are, in turn, are made up of molecular chains, which are in turn butassemblages of various atoms. And we can keep going: Atoms are themselves anassemblage of electrons, protons, and neutrons, which are, in turn, anassemblage of more fundamental matter. We soon come to a quantum level where wecannot precisely analyze the system since the very act of examining the fundamentalmatter affects the system observed. So, we cannot say with certainty what is“out there” at the fundamental level. We can only say that, at each relativelevel (vyavahaara), that “a chair isout there,” or “wood is out there” or organic fibers, or molecules or atoms,and so on. The knowledge changes as we shift our reference. 

The Real and the Apparent: Inshort, the knowledge of any object is only relative knowledge and not absoluteknowledge. The scriptures correctly point out that what is there is onlyBrahman, with different names and forms. Vidyaranya Swami says in DrikdrisyaViveka: 

अस्ति भाति प्रियं रूपंनामं चैत्यञ्च पञ्चकम्, 

अध्यत्रयम् ब्रह्म रूपंजगत् रूपं तथा द्वयम्|

asti bhaati priyam ruupam naamam chaityancapancakam| 

adhyatrayam brahmaruupam, jagat ruupam tathaa dvayam||

It says: Every object has asits five aspects; existence, illumination, desirability, form, and name. Ofthese five, the first three belong to Brahman while the other two, name andform, belong to the world. It means that the manifest world we live in isnothing but an assemblage of objects with names and forms (all areattributive), which are superficial since they do not have any substantialityof their own.  The underlying substanceof everything is Brahman alone. Hence the Upanishads declare, sarvam khalvidam brahma; neha naanaastikincana.  All of ‘this’ is nothingbut Brahman; there is nothing other than Brahman. What there is, is onlyBrahman, which is infinite. We cannot gain the substantive experience ofBrahman by any means of knowledge since Brahman is infinite. It is like a ring,a bangle, a bracelet, and a necklace made of gold. Each one is different, withtheir own attributes (guna) and purpose or utility, each differing from that ofothers. Yet those attributes (such as i.d. or o.d., or thickness, size, shape,etc.) do not belong to the gold, the substance of all these ornaments. Althoughwe say, from the point of vyavahaara,that the ring, or the bangle, etc., arises from gold, is sustained by gold andreturns into gold The truth is they are all just gold in different forms andnames. The process of gold becoming jewelry or ornamentation is a“transformation-less transformation,” since the gold remains gold throughoutthe transformation. In the same vein, the Ch. Upanishad declares: vaachaarambhanam vikaaro naama dheyam“Creation is nothing but an apparent transformation” – just like gold becomingornaments. Is the ring, bangle, bracelet, etc., real or unreal? They appear tobe real, but the truth is they are nothing but gold and gold alone. What must Ido to see the gold in the ring? I don’t have to destroy the ring. Rather, likea goldsmith, I must learn to see gold in and through the ring, by paying moreattention, not to the object’s superficial name and form but its substance. 

That which appears to be real, but can be negated, iscalled mithyaa, which Shankara defines as satasat vilaxanam. One cannot say that the ring does not exist since one canobviously decorate oneself with it. But at the same time, one cannot say thering really exists either, since what actually exists “out there” is only gold.Hence, it is called mithya. Scripture sometimes uses the word “asat” formithya. Hence the first prayer – “Lead me from the unreal to the real” – isessentially a request for the discriminative power to see Brahman, thesubstantive of the world. Here “seeing” means understanding since Brahmancannot be an object by any pramaana (aprameyam). The Mandukya Upanishad startswith the declaration that “Om” is nothing but all “this”; that all “this” isnothing but Brahman; and that Brahman is nothing but the Self that I am. Hence,in the prayer “astoma sadgamaya,” we are asking the Lord to lead us to therealization that “I am that Brahman” – the real entity. That is liberation, ormoksha, since the realization that “I am Brahman” means becoming that Brahman,the limitless “That I am.” brahma vitbrahmaiva bhavati – the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman, say thescriptures. 

A finite “I” cannot become the infinite Brahman; that wouldbe mathematically illogical. However, if I am already infinite and only thinkthat I am finite, and thus suffer the consequences of that thinking, then I amsimply ignorant of my true Self. All I need is convincing teaching that I amnot what I think I am; that, rather, I am the totality, the substantive essence,and being of the entire Universe. Hence, in the prayer “tamasoma jyotirgamaya,” I am asking the Lord to help me to knowmyself. This self-knowledge is not the kind of objective or attributiveknowledge that we discussed above; the knowledge of one’s own self cannot beobjectified, and, therefore, cannot be defined. It is recognition of one’sself, with Vedanta as pramaana, as expounded by the teacher. Here Vedanta actslike a mirror, a darashana, in thehands of a teacher – reflecting my true nature in contrast to what I think Iam. Hence, the prayer, “Oh Lord, lead me from ignorance to knowledge.” Here,the process is one of knowing the identity of the self with Brahman (ayam aatma brahma); and that is moksa,or liberation, too. Bondage is only notional; it is not real – and therefore,it can be removed by knowledge. Finally, once I recognize that I am thateternal, all-pervading Brahman – which is of the nature of sat, the existencethat never ceases to exist – I recognize myself as eternal and immortal. Deathis only notional since there is neither birth nor death; as when a ring isdestroyed to form a bangle, the gold itself remains unaffected. Hence, in theprayer “mrutyormaa amRitam gamaya,” Iam only praying for the knowledge to recognize myself as the immortal entitythat I already am. So now we can understand that all three of these prayers arefor the realization of our own true nature – a realization that can happen onlywhen we drop the notions that “I am this body-mind-intellect complex.” Byidentifying with the body, I consider myself to be mortal – hence the prayer,“Lead me from mortality to immortality.” By identifying with limited intellect,I consider myself to be ignorant – hence the prayer, “Lead me from ignorance toknowledge.” By identifying myself as this jeeva with its limited body-mindcomplex, I consider the unreal world to be real, and I suffer the consequencesof this misunderstanding. And hence my prayers: “Lead me from unreality toreality.” All three prayers involve seeking the knowledge that “I am that Satyam-Jnaanam-Anantam;” that I amBrahman, from which the whole world arises, by which it is sustained, and intowhich it is finally reabsorbed. 

Let us now pray with full understanding.



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