Tattvabodha – Part 17

Part 17 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 17 begins the analysis of creation. The nature of mAyA is explained and the description of the five basic elements is begun.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

7 thoughts on “Tattvabodha – Part 17

  1. Re ‘Analysis of the totality of creation.’

    To me, a rookie in what concerns Advaita Vedanta (not to speak of Sanskrit!), the account of maya contained in this section seems rather peculiar in that it seems to reify what is only a concept, and a false concept at that. How can such a concept be a ‘material cause’, and also be dependent on Brahman?

    ‘Maya is of the nature of ignorance and veils the truth ‘.

    That is a sort of respite. But then, how can it (maya) be said to *exist* (in what realm)? And if Brahman is the support of maya, it would appear as if Brahman has a certain responsibility or a relationship, rather than being completely independent and unchanging.

    ‘Maya is also called prakriti. It is the seed of entire creation of the individual and cosmos. It contains karana Sharira of all bodes and universe.’

    Reification again. But is that Shankara`s view of maya, avidya, and creation?

    ‘From the stand point of truth there is no world. Yet we experience it. It is maya. From the stand point of the world, truth alone is its cause of creation. This is due to maya.’

    The above notions evidently come from the post-Shankara commentators, particularly Padmapada and the Vivarana school, for whom avidya is a positive force or a positive ‘something’, but not real, since it can be eliminated by knowledge. Further, Brahman is the locus of cosmic avidya (maya) and the jiva the locus of individual avidya. Why are these ‘truths’ (they are not even half-truths) being taught even today?

  2. This is a moot point which has been debated for over centuries. The following is the objection raised.
    1. How can Maya be said to ’exist’
    2. If Brahman is the support of Maya, Brahman has certain responsibility and cannot be unchanging
    3. Maya is the seed of creation of individual and cosmos. How can it be unreal?
    4. Why are these ‘truths’ or half truths are taught even today?

    I would like to respond as under:
    1. Maya is unreal but appears to exist, just as a rope is mistaken to a snake. Till you get the knowledge that it is a rope but not a snake, snake appears to exist. Only knowledge dispels ignorance.

    2. Maya has the support of Brahman. Knowledge as well as ignorance abides in Brahman. He is the substratum of all. Brahman has no responsibility or accountability. He is eternal, unchanging, consciousness. Maya or Prakrati (nature) has three Gunas or attributes. It has creative power ((vikṣēpa śakti), and veiling power (āvaraṇa śakti). By the permutation and combination of three Gunas it creates the whole world of names and forms. So Brahman has no role to play. It is maya that creates.

    3. Having accepted that Maya is the seed of creation a question comes before the mind, how it can be unreal?

    Yes this looks like a puzzle; at one point Vedanta says that maya exists and at another point it negates its existence. To understand this we should be aware of definition of real and unreal. Reality is one, which exists at all points of time like past, present and future. Maya or Prakrati is unreal because being material, it is not eternal. But Brahman who is nothing but truth, knowledge and infinity (satyam jñānam anantam brahma) is eternal. Other than Brahman everything is unreal.

    In my dream I was walking in a forest trail when a tiger attacked me. I tried to ward him off but he overpowered and mauled me. Then I woke up and noticed that there is no forest trail, no lion and no assault. It was just maya. A seeker who completely dis-identifies with the body consciousness and merges into God-consciousness realizes the one supreme state where there is no creation, no dissolution, no seeker and nothing is sought. There is no maya. There is nothing other than Brahman. There is only sat-chit-ananda.

    4. The concept of maya and consciousness are not half truth. They are universal truth.

    Vishnu Bapat

  3. Sir,

    You are indeed playing with words. What you are attempting to do is construct a model that somehow represents Truth. Is there something that is called Truth? Universal Truth? This is all so unnecessary and only keeps the game going. We think about thinking. We try to construct the perfect concept, the perfect path, the perfect philosophy. It’s total nonsense. It hasn’t made a difference in anyone here. Still singing the same song which has nothing to do with Truth. The mind cannot take you anywhere but in circles. Don’t you get it?

  4. <>
    <>

    Thanks to Vishnu Bapat who has clarified a few points which otherwise could lead the unaware or poorly prepared mind to error in understanding the shruti as interpreted by Shankara. There are, however, a few residual doubts in my mind which I will mention at the end.

    ‘Brahman, though changeless becomes the object of all conception and language involving transformation and the like in its aspect of name and form, differentiated and undifferentiated, called into being by ignorance…’ (SBh. 2-1-27)… ‘Name and form constructed by ignorance as though identical with the Omniscient Lord, undefinable as either identical with or as distinct from Him, are the seed of phenomena of mundane existence, called by shruti and smriti variously as maya(illusion), shakti (potentiality), prakriti (primordial material cause)’ (SBh. 2-1-14)’. Quoted from ‘Salient Features of Advaita Vedanta’, by Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati, p.81.

    SSS then adds: ‘When we speak of the world as having come from Brahman, we are speaking at the level of this maya. This is a conception too, from the stand point of avidya’.

    In view of the above two excerpts from the Bashyas, it is hard to understand how maya can be said to have the support of Brahman (2 above) and also how ‘Knowledge as well as ignorance abide in Brahman’ (ibid, 2). Are these last two (Knowledge and ignorance) not two orders or categories of being/knowledge (higher and lower) given that, as Sri Vishnu Bapat has stated, ‘Brahman has no role to play’ and that ‘Other than Brahman everything is unreal’? The problem is probably that I have not understood him.

    Finally, re (4 above) Consciousness IS a universal Truth (sat), but how can maya, merely a misconception resulting from avidya, be a universal truth, even when considered as under the empirical domain – vyavahara?

  5. 2. ‘Maya has the support of Brahman. Knowledge as well as ignorance abides in Brahman’
    4. ‘The concept of maya and consciousness are not half truth. They are universal truth’.

    These two quotations were not transcribed above for reasons I don’t understand.

  6. We have 3 issues before us. I will try to answer them.
    1. How Maya can be said to have the support of Brahman?
    Brahman is the substratum for the play of Maya. It has no independent existence. It cannot shine without its base. Maya ceases to exist on the dawn of realization.
    2. How knowledge as well as ignorance abide in Brahman? Are these two not two orders or categories of being/knowledge (higher and lower) since Vishnu Bapat has stated that Brahman has no role to play and other than Brahman everything is unreal?
    What is ignorance? It is absence of knowledge. Both of them abide in Brahman. They are not two categories of higher and lower (called para and apara).
    3. The concept of Maya and consciousness are not half truth. They are universal truth.
    Half truth is not truth. Really speaking there should be no qualification of ‘universal’ for truth or satyam. The adjective is added only to emphasize its nature that the knowledge of Brahman does not change with time and space.
    I appreciate the correspondent’s deep study in the subject.
    I am sorry for the delayed reply because I saw this post very late.

Leave a Reply