[Advaita-l] Paul Hacker on Avidya in Brahma Sutras

Vinodh vinodh.iitm at gmail.com
Sun May 29 09:03:34 EDT 2022


Below is based on my limited understanding of the two. Scholars in the
group can add more.

Brahma sutra is authored by Badarayana (Vyasa) and condenses the teachings
of the upanishads in sutra form and resolves apparent differences in
teachings and interpretations. The subject matter of the Brahma Sutra is
Vedanta (conclusion / summary of the Vedas, which are the Upanishads)

Yoga sutra is authored by Patanjali (an avatara of Adi Sesha) and teaches
how to get rid of afflictions of the mind, which is called “yoga” (“Yogah
chitta vritti nirodhah”). It is also written in sutra form and the subject
matter is Yoga.

The primary teaching of Vedanta is that there is only one non-dual (ekam
eva advitiyam) unchanging (avyaya) entity which is of the nature of
consciousness or chit (of being able to cognize/know). Everything else
including the mind etc. are merely illusions that are perceived within this
consciousness that makes one see a multitudinous world (dvaita jagat). By
realizing this entity as no different from one’s own self (atma), one is
liberated from the ups-and-downs of samsara because they are realized to be
merely illusory, just like when one wakes up and realizes that all the
things one underwent in a dream are merely illusory. At this realization
one identifies with all and sees no differences whatsoever between one and
other. He becomes one with this single entity as if he has reached home
(even though he never left anywhere, everything else being just illusions)
and enjoys bliss without end.

Yoga differs from Vedanta because it fundamentally assumes the existence of
a real mind, which Vedanta does not. Yoga attributes one’s sufferings to
the indulgences of the mind in various things and teaches how to attain the
ultimate state of what is terms as “samaadhi”, where all of the mind’s
activities cease to exist, thereby ending the suffering.

On the topic of the mind and the realization of Self, Gaudapadacharya
(Shankaracharya's guru's guru) has expressed his thoughts in his Karika on
Mandukyopanishad (III.31-47) and Shankaracharya has provided his commentary
on it. Here is an English translation by Nikhilandanda.

In short, it is said in Gaudapadacharya's and Shankaracharya's words that:

III-31: duality is never experienced when the mind ceases to act

III-32:  when the mind does not imagine on account of the knowledge of the
Truth which is Atman, then it ceases to be mind and becomes free from all
idea of cognition, for want of objects to be cognized

III-34: the behaviour of the mind that is free from all imaginations and
endowed with discrimination is not like the condition of the mind in deep

III-37: This Atman is beyond all expression by words beyond all acts of
mind (for, the Shruti says, "It is verily without Prana and without mind")

III-40-41: Yogis who look upon the mind as separate from but related to
Atman and who are ignorant of the knowledge regarding reality of Atman can
experience fearlessness as a result of the discipline of the mind. To them,
the destruction of misery is also dependent on mental control; (however),
the mind can be brought under control only by an unrelenting effort like
that which is required to empty an ocean, drop by drop, with the help of a
blade of Kusha grass

III-42: Is untiring effort the only way for bringing the mind under
discipline? We say, in reply, no.

III-43: What is the way of disciplining the mind? Remember that all duality
is caused by Avidya or illusion and therefore afflicted with misery.
Thereby dissuade the mind from seeking enjoyments produced by desires. In
other words, withdraw the mind from all dual objects by impressing upon it
the idea of complete non-attachment. Realise from the teachings of the
Scriptures and the Acharyas that all this is verily the changeless Brahman.
Then you will not see anything to the contrary, viz., duality; for it does
not exist

III-44: When the mind is immersed in oblivion, i.e., in Sushupti (deep
sleep), then rouse it by means of knowledge and by detachment. That is to
say, turn the mind to the exercise of discrimination which leads to the
knowledge of the Self. Bring the mind back to the state of tranquility if
it is distracted by the various objects of desires. When the mind is thus,
by constant practice, awakened from the state of inactivity and also turned
back from all objects, but not yet established in equilibrium, that is to
say, when the mind still dwells in an intermediary state, -- then know the
mind to be possessed of attachment. Then the mind contains within it the
seeds of desires for enjoyment and inactivity. From that state also, bring
the mind, with care, to the realization of equilibrium, that is, when it is
on the way to realize that state, then do not disturb it again. In other
words, do not turn it to (by attachment) external objects

III-45: The mind should not be allowed to enjoy the bliss that arises out
of the condition of Samadhi. It should be freed from attachment to such
happiness through the exercise of discrimination. If the mind, once
attaining to the state of steadiness seeks externality, then it should be
unified with the Atman, again, with effort.

III-46 When the mind does not merge in the activity of oblivion (Laya /
deep sleep) or become distracted by desires, that is, when the mind becomes
quiescent and does not give rise to appearances, it verily becomes Brahman

III-47: This highest bliss is based upon the realization of Self, it is
peace, identical with liberation, indescribable and unborn. It is
indescribable as nobody is able to describe it; for, it is totally
different from all objects... The Knowers of Brahman describe this bliss
verily as the omniscient Brahman, as it is identical with that Reality
which is omnicient

On Sun 29. May 2022 at 17:59, Srinivasan Krishnamoorthy via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Hi, please guide me as to how compare Brahma Sutra and Yoga Sutra of
> Patanjali.
> dr.srinivasan k iyer
> On Fri, May 27, 2022 at 10:20 AM Vinodh via Advaita-l <
> advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
> > Sri Michael,
> >
> > Fully in agreement with the SSS quote.
> >
> > When clay appears in a particular form (roopa) it gets the name (naama)
> > “pot”. But the pot is not an entity separate from the clay at all. That
> one
> > thinks it to be so is the ignorance.
> >
> > When gold appears in a particular form it gets the name “ornament”. But
> the
> > ornament is not separate from the gold at all. That one thinks it to be
> so
> > is the ignorance.
> >
> > Brahman appears in various forms and it gets various names accordingly.
> But
> > all the naama-roopa are not entities separate the Brahman at all. That
> one
> > thinks it to be so is the ignorance.
> >
> > Therefore all names and forma are not separate from Brahman. Brahman is
> sat
> > (existence) and chit-svaroopam (nature of consciousness/cognition).
> > Therefore all names and forms are also sat and they are perceived in that
> > same chit-svaroopa. The maya is that they appear to be separate entities
> > from Brahman.
> >
> > There arises no question of asat here because asat is of the nature of
> that
> > which cannot be grasped (cognized), that which is non-existent. Asat
> cannot
> > lead to something that can be cognized (sat) either. Therefore, nothing
> is
> > asat, including avidya, maya, and the jagat which is perceived, nor are
> > they caused by asat.
> >
> > On Tue 24. May 2022 at 15:50, Michael Chandra Cohen <
> > michaelchandra108 at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > 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
> > > (3.28).
> > >
> > > 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
> > > of
> > > > 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,
> > > and
> > > > 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
> > > faulty.
> > > > 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,
> > > since
> > > > 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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