adhyAsa (part 3)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 2 of the series

Analogy of the Rope and the Snake
This example originates from the commentaries of gaudapAda on the mANDUkya upaniShad. Seeing a rope in the dark, it is mistaken for a snake – an error or adhyAsa. We mistakenly superimpose the image of an illusory snake onto the real rope. In just such a way we superimpose the illusion of objects etc. upon the one Atman .

If there is total dark, we would not see the rope so could not imagine it to be a snake. Hence ‘ignorance is bliss’, as in deep sleep – there can be no error. Similarly, if there is total light we see the rope clearly – in complete knowledge, we know everything to be brahman. Knowledge is also bliss! The error occurs only in partial light or when the eyes are defective. Then there is partial knowledge; we know that some ‘thing’ exists. This part, that is not covered by darkness or hidden by ignorance is called the ‘general part’ and is ‘uncovered’ or ‘real’. That the ‘thing’ is actually a rope is hidden because of the inadequate light or knowledge. This specific feature of the thing, that it is a rope, is called the ‘particular part’ and is covered. In place of the covered part, the mind substitutes or ‘projects’ something of its own, namely the snake. Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 2)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 1 of the series

Inference
Before inference can occur, there needs to be some valid data which is itself gathered directly or indirectly through direct perception. Otherwise, the inference could only be a speculation or imagination. For example one could not infer the age of the Moon just by looking at it and estimating it. Data must be collected first e.g. rocks could be brought back and carbon dated.

Four aspects are involved in the process of inference. These are the subject or ‘locus’ of the discussion, the objective or ‘conclusion’ (that which is to be inferred or concluded), a ‘basis’ for the argument and finally an ‘analogy’. An example given in the scriptures is the inference that there is a fire on a mountain because one is able to see smoke there, just as might happen in a kitchen. Here, the mountain is the ‘locus’; to infer that there is a fire on the mountain is the ‘conclusion’; the ‘basis’ is that smoke can be seen and the ‘analogy’ is that when one sees smoke in the kitchen, it is invariably associated with fire (this is in the days before electricity!). Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 1)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

adhyAsa is possibly the most important concept in Advaita – certainly in Advaita as ‘formulated’ by Shankara, since he wrote an extended introduction to his commentary on the Brahmasutras on this topic. I wrote this article originally for Advaita Vision but (as far as I know) it is no longer available at that site so I am reproducing it here. It will be in 4 or 5 parts.

These notes are essentially a rewording, omitting most of the Sanskrit, of the notes provided by Achacrya Sadananda on the Advaitin List and I gratefully acknowledge his permission for this. In turn, he wishes that I acknowledge his own indebtedness to H.H. Swami Paramarthananda of Madras, himself a student of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda. His lectures form the basis of these notes.

The brahmasUtra is the third of the so called ‘Three pillars of vedAnta‘, the first two being the upaniShad-s (shruti – the scriptures ‘revealed’ and not ‘authored’ by anyone) and the bhagavad gItA (smRRiti – the ‘heard’ scriptures passed down by memory). The brahmasUtra is a very terse and logical examination of the essential teaching of the upaniShad-s, seeking to show the nature of brahman and the superiority of the philosophy of vedAnta. It is usually studied with the help of a commentary or bhaShya, the best known being the one by Shankara. Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? IV

 

70. Lot has been said so far; false allegations and baseless surmises were brought to light; statements factually incorrect were exposed; citations substantiating certain statements were shown to be out of context and in some cases self-defeating; statements attributed to Swamiji, but not found in the originals were discovered; incomplete and incorrect understanding of not only Śan@kara and Swamiji but also the views of traditionalists were enumerated; quotations made partially and out context were pointed out; issues raised, even though extraneous to the admitted scope were reviewed; withholding of complete facts and resort to partial reporting were singled out; how finding fault in Swamiji amounts to finding fault in Śan@kara was shown; translations not faithful to the original were pointed out; self-contradictory statements were laid bare; most important of all, how not a single ground of Swamiji against the tenability of Mūlāvidyā is controverted, was shown; however, what is yet to be shown is the final outcome of the question – fidelity to Śan@kara, admitted to be the main focus of M’s paper. In this regard attention of readers is drawn to the following statements of M. Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 29

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 29 concludes the discussion on adhyAsa – how we superimpose false attributes upon brahman – and begins the section on the nature of brahman itself.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Q. 372 – Superimposition and Memory

Q: What is the relationship between memory and superimposition (adhyAsa)? In the metaphor of rope and snake, we say that we fail to see the snake clearly, because of inadequate light – there is partial knowledge and partial ignorance. When we superimpose a snake on the rope, we are drawing on fear and memory. We must have seen a snake (or image of one in a film or book) before in order to be able to mistake the rope for one. Similarly, we mistake brahman for the body and the world etc.

 But what about a baby or someone who has no memory as a result of brain damage? Is there still superimposition in this case?

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Sitara and Dennis

A (Ted): We have to bear in mind that the example of a rope being mistaken for a snake is an analogy, and as is the case with any analogy, the example is imperfect. In the example, the snake image is based on a previous experience of the mistaken perceiver.

 In terms of mistaking the body-mind-sense complex as well as the innumerable other objects that constitute the manifest universe for Brahman, however, we are dealing with something a little bit different. Whereas in order to mistake the rope for a snake, one must have previously seen a snake, the projection of the apparent reality (i.e., the manifest universe in both its subtle and gross aspects) is not based on experiential memory, but rather results from the mind’s ability to recognize the “cosmic blueprints” that abide in dormant form in the Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is personified as Isvara, and are made manifest through the conditioning that maya upadhi, the limiting adjunct of causal matter, puts upon Brahman. That is, the mind is an instrument that is designed or a mechanism that is “programmed” to recognize these forms and, thus, is able to discern their apparent existence within the cosmic soup of pure potentiality (i.e., the unmanifest realm or “mind of God,” if you will) from the data it receives via the perceptive instruments/organs. Continue reading

Brahma Sutras

Southern Aeschna(Originally posted to Advaita Academy Oct. 2010)

Most readers of this site will certainly have heard of this text- the third branch, nyAya prasthAna, of the source for the teaching of advaita. (The other two branches of the so-called prasthAna traya are the Upanishads or shruti, and smRRiti, of which the most important is the bhagavadgItA.) But few have probably read it. You may have attempted to do so but been quickly put off by its seeming complexity. This is not surprising!

The basic text was written by vyAsa and otherwise known as bAdarAyaNa. And ‘text’ is not really the right word. It is actually written in short, numbered sutras whose meaning is often obscure, to say the least. The practice of the time required that writers of such works used as few words as possible – and vyAsa must have been one of the most proficient! The reader is expected to remember what has gone before and fill in the appropriate words as necessary. He is also expected to know the Upanishads and other works off by heart so that the relevant references do not have to be spelled out. Continue reading

Revision of ‘Critical review of article on Shankara’ – part 2

‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by ´Sa ˙ nkara Bhagavadp¯ada’ – by Ramakrishnan Balasubrahmanian – 2

We saw in the 1st part of this Review the primary or prior, not to say exclusive, importance that the author, RB, gives to the superimposition of a subject, individual mind or jiva, on the self: “the superimposition of an observer is avidy¯a and is prior to the reverse superimposition” – not mentioning that Shankara does not talk of a ‘reverse process’, as if it was something happening through time, but of mutual superimposition of self and non-self. Period.

As we noted in the first part of this Review, RB ‘half’ concedes the point:  “It is not completely incorrect to say that avidy¯a is the mutual superimposition of the real and unreal. ´ San˙ kar¯ac¯arya and Sure´svar¯ac¯arya do mention this … the superimposition of an observer on the inner-self naturally leads to the reverse process of superimposing the inner-self on the inner organ”. His objective in maintaining this priority of the subject in this ‘act’ seems to be to show that SSS is guilty of circularity (petitio principi, in logic). Even so, and rather surprisingly, he claims that avidya is not something subjective (neither is it ontic nor epistemic – see below). Continue reading

Q. 358 – mAyA and avidyA

Q:
1) If Atman is perfect, how can it ever be deluded by mAyA?

2) What is the source of avidyA? If there is only brahman, how and why does avidyA exist?

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, Shuka, and Dennis.

A (Ted):
1) Atman (i.e. pure limitless awareness) is never really deluded by mAyA (i.e. ignorance), but rather only apparently so.  Given the non-dual nature of reality and, thus, the fact that Brahman-Atma is the only thing — though, of course, pure awareness cannot be said to be a “thing” at all due to its attributeless and unobjectifiable nature — that exists, mAyA is nothing other than Brahman-Atma itself.  That is, it is a power inherent in the very nature of Brahman-Atma.  Ironically, if Brahman-Atma, whose nature is limitless, were limited by the inability to apparently delude itself, it would not be limitless and, therefore, would not be Brahman-Atma :-). Continue reading