[Advaita-l] Doubt

Vinodh vinodh.iitm at gmail.com
Sat Jan 8 02:17:13 EST 2022

Namaskaram Sri Kartik ji

This is an excellent question which was also posed by various dvaitic
philosophies, including Samkhya, Vaisheshika, etc. even during Shankara's

One analogy that is often used to explain this is that of Ghataakaasha
(space inside a pot) and Mahaakaasha (the entire space). Gaudapada says in
his kaarika (3.3 and 3.4):

आत्मा ह्याकाशवज्जीवैर्घटाकाशैरिवोदितः  ।
घटादिवच्च संघातैर्जातावेतन्निदर्शनम्  ॥ ३.३ ॥

Atma is like the akaasha (space). Jivas are like the space that is
(seemingly) differentiated (into the inside and the outside) by a pot
(ghata). This is an example of how the creation is (appearing to be)

घटादिषु प्रलीनेषु घटाकाशादयो यथा  ।
आकाशे संप्रलीयन्ते तद्वज्जीवा इहात्मनि  ॥ ३.४ ॥

As when the ghatas are destroyed the ghataakasha merges into the
mahakaasha, the jivatma too dissolves into the paramatma.

To the above, an objection related to multitudinous vs. single Atma
(similar to your question) may be raised. If the Atma were really one and
the multitudinous Jivas are only apparent, why do the Jivas have different
experiences. If there were only one Atma in all Jivas, they would all be
connected with respect to their experiences. Cause and effect would get
jumbled up. People cannot locate a proximal cause for the effect they are
experiencing. So say the dvaitins (Buddhists, Jaina, Yoga, Samkhya, and

To address this objection, Gaudapada's says in his next kaarika (3.5):

यथैकस्मिन् घटाकाशे रजोधूमादिभिर्युते  ।
न सर्वे संप्रयुज्यन्ते तद्वज्जीवाः सुखादिभिः  ॥ ३.५ ॥

In the same way as when one pot is associated with dirt or smoke not all
pots experience the dirt or smoke, when one jiva experiences sukha or dukha
the other jivas do not experience the same.

Shankara in his bhashya for the above kaarika mentions several objections
posed by the dvaitins and addresses them successively. The way he addresses
them is by taking their own individual philosophies (samkhya, vaiseshika,
etc.) and by pointing out to inconsistencies within them and lack of
alignment with sruti-pramana (or any other pramana).

Below I give a (very) rough translation of Shankara bhashya and excerpts of
Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati's (SSS) vivruti of the bhashya:

Objection: Is it not your contention that there only one Atma?

Shankara: Haven’t you heard me just say that there is only atma like in the
Ghataakaasha example? Shruti: ‘aakaashavat sarvagatashcha nityah’ (like the
aakaasha and always all-pervading) ‘eko devah sarvabhooteshu goodah’ (there
is one deva hidden in every creature).

Objection: If on the merit of these srutis we understand the oneness of the
Atma, then the Atma should feel sukha and dukha at all times because it
cannot have parts. But this is not seen. We see that sukha and dukha are
not experienced collectively. Because of the individuality of the
experiences, the multiplicity of the Atma should be admitted. Therefore,
these srutis should be taken as meaning that there is one kind of Atma and
not one Atma.

Shankara: One should ask the question ‘who can really raise this
objection?’ A samkhya cannot really make this objection. Why? According to
Samkhya, the Atma (Purusha) cannot really experience the sukha and dukha,
which are part of the Prakriti. All these sukha and dukha are like a lily
in the water (petals of a lily are not touched by the water). Sukha and
dukha belong to the buddhi which is part of the Prakriti. There is no
pramana for a Samkhya that there are multiple Purushas.

Objection: If there were no multiple Purushas, then the theory of Pradhana
(or Prakriti) doing another’s bidding does not hold good.

Shankara: The action done in this Prakriti has no connection (samavaaya)
with the Atma. Why? Because according to Samkhya, the nature of the Purusha
is said to be that of undifferentiated consciousness, is untouched by
actions in the Prakriti, and is deluded by Prakriti. The actions of
Prakriti are not connected with the Purusha. There is only one Prakriti
which is performing the bidding. Pradhana doing another’s bidding only
necessitates the existence of that other entity (Purusha) but not
multiplicity of that entity. Therefore, it only necessitates the existence
of one Purusha for Prakriti for there to be an audience for the Prakriti.
There is also no independent pramana (unconnected with Prakriti doing the
bidding of another entity) for Samkhyas for there to be multiple Purushas.

[Excerpt from SSS Vivruti: Sankya Karika 8: 'because birth and other
experiences happen for different individuals, there should be multiple
purushas; because the three gunas are in different proportions in different
entities, there should be multiple purushas.' If one points to this Sankya
Karika as an independent pramana, this karika also can be explained by the
Ghataakaasha example (the tainted space of one pot does not imply a taint
of the space of another pot). Therefore it is the Pradhaana that is going
through bandha and moksha and not the Purusha. At best, therefore, this
principle that the pradhaana is doing something for another entity can be
used to establish the existence of a Purusha but not of multiple Purushas.
The Samkhyas themselves agree that the Purusha who is of the nature of
upalabdhi (jnana) is not really affected by the actions of the Pradhana
(Sankya Karika 62: 'therefore, the Purusha never gets bound or never gets
freed or never undergoes samsaara; all actions of samsara, bandha, and
moksha happen to the Prakriti').]

Shankara: Therefore, this contention that there are multiple Purushas by
the Samkhyas is a distortion of the truth of the Vedas.

[Excerpt from SSS Vivruti: When, in a fundamental perspective according to
Advaita, the Pradhana itself does not exist, one does not even have to
worry about whether Pradhana is doing another’s bidding. On the one hand,
according to Samkhya, the Jagat is being created by Pradhana, On the other
hand Pradhana is Jada (insentient). Creation cannot happen by a Jada.
Because the Pradhana according to the Samkhya is achetana (insentient) and
the only entity that is chetana (sentient) is Purusha, the whole
description of Pradhana creating the Jagat has been imagined (made up).
Therefore, let us not go on finding faults with Samkhya because there are
many contradictions there.]

(Next the Vaiseshika view is taken)

Shankara: The Vaiseshikas associate samskaaras like icchaadayah (desire
etc.) with the Atma in an inseparable way (samavaaya). That is not correct.
Memory is caused by samskaaras (sensations / impressions), which cannot
have an inseparable relation with the Atma because the Atma does not have
any divisions (apradeshavat) and so it cannot have sensations that can be
attributed to different locations (i.e., different sensations for different

If it be contended that memory is born out of the conjunction of Atma and
Manas, that is also not correct because memory (smriti) follows cognition
and all smritis will come at once (i.e., memory of everything will come at
once because atman is nitya-vasthu). Besides, manas and other entities are
of completely different classes compared to Atma (which is devoid of all
sensations). Morever, form and other attributes (gunas) of a vasthu cannot
be independent of the vasthu. If they were independent of the vasthu, there
cannot be any real relationship between the vasthu and its gunas.

Objection: This conjunction is possible if two entities come into being
independently (disjointly) but still stay together.

Reply:  This is also not possible because Atma came before iccha etc. which
are transitory. Atma is nitya and iccha etc. are anitya. Therefore, to say
that they are inseparable is not correct. If iccha etc. were always
inseparable from Atma, then they also should be nitya. If these were all
nitya, then Atma has no way to attain moksha.

Further, if one relaxes the meaning of samavaaya itself as not
‘nitya-sambandha’ (permanently inseparable), then there should be some
other relationship between the dravya (vasthu / object) and the guna. Those
contexts in which the word ‘samavaaya’ is used (in Vaiseshika literature)
imply the meaning of nitya-sambandha (inseparable). There is no place with
another meaning for ‘samavaaya’. The notion of samavaaya has come into
existence to describe object and its qualities that always go together. If
they are completely disconnected, the sashti vibhakti (possesive case)
cannot be used. Therefore if Atma and iccha etc. were said to be connected,
Atma will become anitya because iccha etc. are anitya. This will then mean
that Atma is sa-avayava (with parts) and undergoes modifications
(nir-avayatva etc. of Atma are also accepted by the other schools, which is
contrary to this conclusion).

In contrast, if one were to attribute all these divisions to superpositions
on the undivided Atma due to avidya, then these vyaavahaarika notions of
bandha (bondage) and moksha (liberation) can be explained as being due to
avidya (the next Gaudapada karika 3.6 says this explicitly). The other
schools of thought are only talking about the vyaavahaarika aspects which
are a result of adviya and not the fundamental truth.

[Excerpt from SSS Vivruti:
Iccha-dvesha-sukha-dukha-jnaana-prayatna-dharma-adharma are the samskaras
that are inseparably connected to each individual Atma (according to the
Vaiseshikas). Because of this fundamental aspect of this connection with
Atma, multiplicity of Atma should be admitted (so say the Vaiseshikas).
This is not correct

An undifferentiated Atma cannot be confined to one sharira. Even if it were
to imagined that there are differentiations in the undifferentiated whole,
it is only an imagination and cannot be said to be true.

On what basis can we related a sharira to a Atma? Is there any basis
(according to Vaiseshikas) to say that a particular sharira (with iccha
etc.) belongs to a Atma? There is no logical basis within the Vaiseshika’s
system to establish this inseparable connection between sharira and Atma.

The Vaiseshikas say that the samyoga between the Atma and Manas gives rise
to all the sensations (iccha etc.). The fact that Atma and Manas come
together to give rise to sensations itself means that samskaras
(sensations) and Atma are not inseparably connected (because Atma and Manas
existed as separate entities prior to coming together). Samkaras cause
smritis (memories). Smritis have certain niyamas (like causality) which are
violated by the conjuction of the nitya Atma with manas (which results in
acausal memories because of the nityatva of the atma). It is not logical to
make a connection between two things that belong to different classes like
Atma (which is nitya) and Manas (anitya). Also the Atma does not have any
sparsha (impressions), whereas Manas has sparsha.]

Gaudapada continues in his next few karikas to explain that all the seeming
differences of Jivas are only imagined and are comparable to the projection
in a dream caused by Atma-maya:
रूपकार्यसमाख्याश्च भिद्यन्ते तत्र तत्र वै  ।
आकाशस्य न भेदोऽस्ति तद्वज्जीवेषु निर्णयः  ॥ ३.६ ॥

Though the form, function and name are different here and there, yet this
not imply any different in the Akasha. The same is the conclusion with the
Jivas (i.e., the Atma has no differentiation, it is only the effects of
avidya which has differentiation).

Objection: How does one, in the light of one Atman, reconcile the
multiplicity of the dvaita Jagat?

Reply: When one considers a large pot (or a huge tank), these are of
different forms and sizes. In the same way, if one takes different objects,
e.g., aparavaraka (room) or karaka (water pot), the kaarya or the purpose
for which they are put to use are also different, e.g., to bring or store
water or to sleep. The objects have different names, they have different
forms, and they serve different purposes, caused by different upadhis
(limitations, like a form etc.). They are all made of akasha (as they all
have the essential property of aakasha, i.e., of having space to store
something). This division within akasha is not fundamental
(paaramaarthika). By having a pot of a different size or form, a semblence
of a different akasha is created, but the akasha is all-pervading.
Fundamentally there is no bhedha (differentiation) in the akasha. Nor is
there any logical basis that suggests that there needs to be any
fundamental division in the akasha. In the same fashion, the Jivas who are
seemingly separated by deha (body) and other limitations are like the
ghataakaashas (space inside pots) and seemingly have differentiations. Wise
people have concluded that the Atma is one and there is no fundamental
requirement to posit multiple Atmas.

नाकाशस्य घटाकाशो विकारावयवौ यथा  ।
नैवात्मनः सदा जीवो विकारावयवौ तथा  ॥ ३.७ ॥

The ghataakaasha is not a modification (vikaara) of the akaasha, nor is it
a limb (or organ or part) of it. In the same way, the Jiva (Atma of the
individual) is not a modification of the Atma, nor is it a part of the

There is no fundamental difference between akaasha and ghataakaasha.
Akashaa is unlike an ornament which is a modification gold or when foam or
bubbles or ice which is a modification of water. In the same way, the Jiva
is not a part or a modification of the Paramatma. It is the upadhi
(limitation) created by avidya that seemingly causes the differentiation.
Therefore, the seeming differences are false.

यथा भवति बालानां गगनं मलिनं मलैः  ।
तथा भवत्यबुद्धानामात्मापि मलिनो मलैः  ॥ ३.८ ॥

Like kids think looking at the sky that the sky is tainted (because it is
blue), in the same way those who are not knowledgeable (the unwise) think
that the Atma is also tainted by the contamination (like sukha/dukha of
individual jivas).

All the contamination refers here to the various modifications that
seemingly happen to the body and mind (which do not affect the Atma). The
kleshas (difficulties) do not affect the Atma. They are all within the
sphere of upadhi (limitations). Children who are yet to learn how to
discern think that the sky is tainted unlike people who know that the sky
is not tainted. In the same way, those who know do not attribute
karma-phala etc. to the Atma. A thirsty animal looks at a mirage in a
desert and in ajnana superimposes water, bubbles, and waves. This illusion
is for the unlearned. Those who are learned, even when they see the
illusion, know what it is.

मरणे संभवे चैव गत्यागमनयोरपि  ।
स्थितौ सर्वशरीरेषु आकाशेनाविलक्षणः  ॥ ३.९ ॥

In birth and death, and in coming and going, by pervading all bodies, the
Atma is not different from akasha.

A pot can be made, broken, or moved from one place to another, but the
Ghataakaasha will not be different from the Akasha. In the same way, in the
birth, death, going and coming of a creature, the Atma is all-pervading,
pure, and one, and all these are just superimposed on it due to avidya.

संघाताः स्वप्नवत्सर्वे आत्ममायाविसर्जिताः  ।
आधिक्ये सर्वसाम्ये वा नोपपत्तिर्हि विद्यते  ॥ ३.१० ॥

All composites (objects), like in a dream, are projected (or sprung forth)
by Atma-maya. To talk of one thing being great or one thing being lower or
to talk of them being equal is untenable.

All the bodies, minds, etc. of the Jivas are like the ghatas (pots). They
are caused like in a dream by the illusion of the Atma (atma-maya), which
is avidya. They appear because of avidya but they are fundamentally not
there. Even if it be argued, to establish their reality, that there is a
seeming difference of higher/lower among the bodies of animal/devatas etc.,
there is no source (or reason) that logically establishes their creation or
reality. Therefore all these are caused by avidya and do not exist

Om tat sat.

On Sun, Jan 2, 2022 at 12:38 PM Kartik Vashishta via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> OM
> Revered Self,
> Sadar Pranam,
> I wish you comfort and peace. I wish you all a very happy new year.
> I have a doubt regarding the "self".
> Please help clarify this doubt.
> I think, that by the the grace of Guru, I understand that the "self" is in
> everything, in every subject and also in every object. I am trying to
> understand how it is the  ONE self that is in adibhauta/adiyatma/adidaiva.
> My logic(probably twisted) seems to suggest that I have a self and every
> other entity has a self, this self is not only inside me....nor is it only
> inside a particle of sand or an atom or an ant. I seem to think that every
> entity has/is a self and this self is different from everyone else's self.
> How to understand and imbibe that there is, in fact, just ONE self? And
> that, that self is Brahman...
> If you suggest readings, please suggest English texts. Thank you.
> Pranam,
> OM
> Kartik Vashishta
> OM
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