[Advaita-l] ***UNCHECKED*** Re: Paul Hacker on Avidya in Brahma Sutras

Michael Chandra Cohen michaelchandra108 at gmail.com
Tue May 24 06:20:18 EDT 2022

Dear Vinodh, namaste
Yes, SSS demands subtlety of argument. One scholar reads SSS as teaching
"extraordinary tarka" as method. Comment below:

> My response can refer to your comment, "These essentially correspond to
> paramArtha sat and vyAvahArika sat respectively."  Terminology is
> questionable, i,e,. vyAvahArika 'sat'. The implication of bhavarupa leads
> to the consequence of taking vyAvahAra as some kind of 'sat' which enables
> categories of 'absence' and 'presence'. My earlier comment questions the
> status of vyAvahAra as 'sat' rather than asat or adhyasa.

Vyavaharika sat is also sat only and completely non-separate from Brahman.
Is the pot separate  from the clay? Is an ornament separate from gold? Or
is the snake separate from the rope? Not at all. That we see the pot, the
ornament, and the snake as something separate from the underlying
substratum is the maya. There that we see vyavaharika sat as a separate
entity from the paramarthika Atma is the illusion. This is also sat, that
is also sat. Sat comes out of sat. Asat never comes into existence
fundamentally or through maya, just like the son of a barren woman —
Gaudapada says this in the very next karika after the one you have quoted

The issue is asat, not sat. One of the key distinctions between bhasya
Sankara and post Sankara Vedanta is the usage oi namarupa as the material
creation compared with maya shakti, sadasat vilakshana anirvacaniya, jada
bija, mithya ajnana. The latter are positive bhavarupa entities. The
former, epistemological entities only - non-existent as they appear, real
as they are truly. Here's a nice quote on the same:

"Objection: Then, is this world not Sat now? It is qualified (as Sat) in
the beginning!

Answer: Not so. Then why the qualification (in the beginning)? What is
meant is that even now it is Sat but it is accompanied by differentiation
of name and form, and is understood (from the śabda-buddhi) by the term
'this' (idam - in the verse idamagra). Before birth, in the beginning,
however, it was understood only through the śabda-buddhi of the term Sat.
Hence, it is emphasised please check red underscores that 'in the beginning
this was Sat only’. Is there any doubt that an entity can be apprehended
before it is said to have such and such name and form? This is exactly as
during the time of deep-sleep (suṣupti kāla; description follows). What is
meant is that immediately upon waking from deep sleep, one determines the
is-ness as - ‘Sat was the only entity (vastu) during deep sleep’ -
similarly, (one should apprehend that) it was, in the beginning or before
the birth of the universe. It is similar to how all this (jagat) is usually
spoken of. Chbh6.2.1"

> The same reasoning applies to the earlier topic of efficient and material
> causation. I provided the link to section 131 to highlight SSS's
> clarification,
> "And again, the strict Advaitin accepts (according to the opponent) that
> absence of knowledge is the root-Ignorance causing wrong knowledge, and
> that wrong knowledge arises from it. In this \vay he accepts that the
> existent arises from the non-existent, which contrad~cts received canons
> knowledge. Nor can he claim that he does not teach the rise of being from
> non-being by saying that superimposition is a modification of the mind,
> has the mind for its material cause. For the mind itself presupposes a
> material cause, and the demand for a first cause cannot on this basis be
> satisfied. So, because the strict Advaitin cannot account either for an
> efficient or for a material cause of Ignorance, his whole system is
> But all this argument only arises from 'ignorance'. We do not admit that
> Ignorance is either the efficient or the material cause of the world,
> it has no real existence at all." Heart of Sri Samkara p135

This is a very subtle argument that SSS renders against the opposing view
who accuses Advaita as proposing the existent (wrong knowledge) to come out
of something non-existent (absence of knowledge). He does so by first
pointing out that this very view of the opponent arises from ‘ignorance’.
In this way, he points out to the apparent locus of ignorance, which is
centered on the view of opponent. He continues then by declaring the
pararamathika view that nothing other than Brahman, including ignorance,
has any real existence. The existence of everything else is out of maya. It
is in this cocntext that he quotes Gaudapada karika 3.27.

In essence, from a vyavaharika standpoint, ignorance “appears” exist and
cause adhyasa etc. However, to whom is does vyavaharika view make sense?
Only to the one who ignorant. For one who sees nothing other than the
non-dual Brahman, where is the world or its cause? As an analogy, it is
only to the one who sees the snake in the rope or the silver in the shell
that an explanation about ignorance of the underlying substratum and a
superimposed entity make sense. Because it is he who is ignorant of the
truth and asks questions about vyavahara (illusions that he perceives). For
the one who sees nothing but the truth all such doubts hve disappeared
because he no longer sees any illusions.

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