A few events seem to have conspired against the peaceful summer slumber at this site prompting me to pen a few words. Hope you will enjoy and add a few of your thoughts.
I have been struggling for a couple of months to locate the original Upanishadic quote for the phrase ‘sacchidAnanda‘ popularized by Shankara in all his bhAShya literature. I couldn’t. We all know that the phrase ‘sacchidAnanda’ does not come from any major Upanishads. So, I sent a query to our Dennis if he could help me out. Pop comes back the response in a jiffy from him giving me the mantras where this sobriquet for brahman appears. One of the Upanishads is maNDala bhrahmaNa Upanishad which, perhaps many have not heard even. I was floored! It was amazing how he could search so many of the Upanishads so fast especially when we know none of them are in the form of a searchable database. Not only that Dennis has a such a large collection of books, his Upanishadic knowledge too is so vast that one cannot but applaud and admire. Which, anyway, we often do here.
Has that very appreciation become a cause for some trouble? 🙁
People began to say in some discussions at an FB group that such a knowledgeable person like Dennis holds that my stance was wrong regarding whether what is perceived by the senses is brahman or not. Therefore, they accuse me saying that I misinterpret the Upanishads, though I merely copy-paste authentic translations and never interpret anything by myself. Recently another American gentleman from a small Non-duality group in Seattle referred to the article at:
Presumably, perhaps, he was hinting to the Comment there on by Dennis, rather than the article itself! LOL LOL.
Dennis says in his Comment: “If [Shankara] says: “ln answer to the question ‘In what way is all this brahman?’” and answers: “all this world has come out of brahman…”, it seems clear to me that he meant by ‘this’, all of the perceivable separate world of objects.” In addition, Dennis posed the question: “… how do you conclude that “this’ in the above mantra refers to the ‘Universal’ substratum of the world and not the nAma-rUpa-vyAvahAra which are the perceivables?”
In his latest replies in his Q&A column, Dennis happened to refer to “all of the posts on ‘world does not disappear on enlightenment’ etc.?” In some other context, he referred to the detailed commentary by Shankara on the 2.1.1, taittirIya mantra, satyam jnAnamanantam brhama.
Obviously, the issue on ‘what appears is brahman or not’ is still very much alive in public’s mind. It has, moreover, taken two enormous routes. One is on whether what appears to the eye is brahman Itself or a superimposition made by the finite mind of the ignorant observer? In other words, does the eye see the Reality or an illusory form of It?
The second question is whether a fully enlightened mukta sees a world in the same way as a finite observer does or s/he has a different vision?
I am still puzzled how such a learned man like Dennis can hold that what appears to the eye is itself brahman. I offer here a few more of bhAShya and other references on the topic.
Shankara himself says that the Reality, brahman, is NOT available as a percept in his commentaries in sUtrabhAShya. For example:
“for whatever is perceived is perceived through the light that is brahman, but brahman is not perceived through any other light, It being by nature self-effulgent.” Swmi Gambhirananda explains in a footnote that “brahman is not an object that can be illumined.”
In his commentary at 13.12, BG, Shankara writes: “That thing, indeed, which can be perceived by the senses, such as a pot, can be an object of consciousness accompanied with the idea of existence or an object of consciousness accompanied with the idea of non-existence. Since, on the other hand, the Knowable is beyond the reach of the senses and as such can be known solely through that instrument of knowledge which is called ‘shabda‘ (the Word, i.e., Revelation), It cannot be, like a pot, etc., an object of consciousness …” [Translation: Alladi M. Sastry, 1897.]
kaTha Upanishad says at 2.3.12: नैव वाचा न मनसा प्राप्तुं शक्यो न चक्षुषा ।
अस्तीति ब्रुवतोऽन्यत्र कथं तदुपलभ्यते ॥
“Not by speech, not by mind, not by the eye can It be attained. Except in the case of one who says, ‘It exists’, how can It be known to anyone else?” [Translation: V. Panoli.]
अगृह्यो न हि गृह्यते — 3.9.26, brihadAraNyaka.
“It is imperceptible, for It is never perceived.”
And finally, how could anyone be not familiar with the very first verse in Vedantasara of Sadananda Yatiswara? The shloka reads:
अखण्डं सच्चिदानन्दमवाङ्ग्मानसगोचरम् |
आत्मानमखिलाधारमाश्रयेऽभीष्टसिद्धये || — Verse 1, vedAntasAra of Sadananda.
I take refuge in the Self, the Indivisible, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, beyond the reach of words and thought, and the substratum of all, for the attainment of my cherished desire (summum bonum). [Translations: Swami Nikhilananda 1931.] (Bold font by me).
In regard to the second question about the ‘disappearance of the world,’ let me restate what has been said many times, that let us not give primacy to the appearance or disappearance of the object, world, but examine whether the sense of an independent self, a ‘me’ as the separate ‘seer’ continues to be present on liberation.
Because of the fact that Dennis mentioned about 2.1.1, taittirIya, I read the commentary of Shankara on that mantra. I found it interesting that right at the beginning itself, Shankara, in his intro, writes: “Hence is begun, the text, brahmavid Apnoti param etc., for the sake of realizing the Self as freed from all distinctions that are created by limiting adjuncts, so that (as a result of the realization), ignorance which is the seed of all the miseries, may cease. And the need of this Knowledge of brahman is the cessation of ignorance, as also the total eradication of worldly existence which results from that. And the Upanishad will declare, “The enlightened man has nothing to be afraid of (2.9.1, taittirIya), and that it is inconceivable to be established in a state of fearlessness so long causes of worldly existence persist (2.7), and that things done and not done, virtues and vice, do not fill him with remorse (2.11). therefore, it is understood that the absolute cessation of the worldly existence follows from this Knowledge which has for its content brahman that is the Self of all.” [Translation: Swami Gambhirananda, 1957.] (Bold font by me).