[Advaita-l] On anirvachaneeyatva (indefinability / inexplicability) of avidya in Advaita Vedanta

Vinodh vinodh.iitm at gmail.com
Mon Jan 10 08:53:42 EST 2022


One of the main objections that dvaitins raise against Advaita seems to be
regarding avidya being anirvachaneeya (indefinable or inexplicable). I have
often wondered how this is addressed by Advaitins, because it appears based
on all my reading thusfar that they do indeed admit this anirvachaneeyatva.

Recently, I was reading Sri Sacchidanandedra Saraswati's vivruti on
Shankara's Taittiriya Bhashya (particularly,  the 6th anuvaka of
Brahmananda Valli 'asanneva sa bhavati...'), and I found the way he
addressed this objection wonderful. Although it may not be the first time I
have read/heard this response, it is probably the first time I appear to
somewhat understand it. So I thought I would share whatever I have
understood here and possibly hear your thoughts on it as well, which could
help me refine my understanding.

The dvaitins ask with respect to sruti vaakyas like 'so'kaamayata' (He
desired) etc. as to how come the Brahman, whose svaroopa is jnana, has
desires to create the world. When it is said that it is only from an
avidya-drishti (a point of view of avidya or ignorance) that desires are
attributed to Brahman, they say that Brahmam is of the form of vidya and
vidya alone, and there can be no avidya in Brahman. Moreover, according to
Advaita, there is no other entity that can house this avidya (because
Brahman is advitiya, without a second). Therefore this theory of Advaita is
anirvachaneeya (not defined or explained properly). There is no logic that
can explain the avidya. So claim the dvaitins.

To this is responded (in SSS vivruti): to whom is this anirvachanyeeya? As
long as we maintain that in an advaita Brahman, in a fundamental sense,
this complex dvaita jagat does not exist, it has to be that the Brahman
perceives vishwaroopa (dvaita Jagat) due to avidya-drishti. Therefore, who
opposes this statement and what they oppose needs to be explained.
(Paraphrasing the opponent’s argument) If Brahman is the svaroopa of vidya,
then avidya cannot go together with it. This notion of avidya is what is
being contended. (Continuing the opponent’s argument) Nor is it true that
only the Jiva has avidya because there is no other entitiy called Jiva that
is independent of Brahman. Therefore, to say that the Jiva has avidya is
also contended. Yes, this has been said (by the opponent) but this is
wrong. Nobody said that avidya exists in Brahman. If one sees that there is
no avidya in Brahman nor the Jagat which is created by avdiya, isn’t that
what we call vidya? So what is there to oppose here? (i.e., when one takes
the viewpoint that Jagat is fundamentally non-existent, like silver in a
conch-shell or water in the desert, there is no longer anything to oppose
because one has already accepted that the Jagat including its cause,
avidya, is non-existent, and the only thing that exists is Brahman). If, on
the other hand, one doesn’t see that there is no avidya in Brahman, then
why does the person ask why is there is avidya in Brahman? It was the
person who is asking that has assumed avidya in Brahman. Because of this
assumption, one is making it undefinable.

In the example of the one seeing silver in a conch shell (or any other
illusion for that matter), it is the one seeing the silver who has
inexplicably assumed silver to be existent when it is really non-existent;
for the one who sees that there is no silver there and only sees the
conch-shell, there is no explanation to be given to the one seeing the
silver, because it is his own wrong assumption that is leading him to see
silver there. The only thing that can be said is that it is due to an
ignorance of the truth that creates the illusion of silver where it is not.
In the same way, it is because one is still perceiving this Jagat, one is
told that this is due to avidya that it appears to be real, when it is
really non-existent. This is why the sruti talks to the ajnani, who has
avidya-drishti, about creation of Jagat by attributing desires to Brahman
(so'kaamayata etc.). Therefore, it is from this avidya-drishti that the
sruti speaks of creation of the Jagat by Brahman. In reality, neither does
the Brahman have any desires nor is the Jagat created.

Om tat sat 🙏

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