Some Non-dual teachers maintain that on the collapse of the sense of a separate self, i.e. on the realization of the Supreme Self, only “ignorance” is lost. They hold that the sway of “mAyA” remains showing a world. Such a concept implies that Self-realization happens in stages; mAyA and ignorance are two distinct entities with their own specific locus, object, distinguishable features and source. It would also mean that the “sense of separate me” is not part of the domain of the world.
Does the prasthAna trayi or Shankara support such a view?
I know some groups talk of Ishwara sRiShTi and jIva sRiShTi, but that is not supported by Upanishads, IMHO. At the most what can be called as jIva sRiShTi is the individual’s false assumption that s/he is limited. That assumption is his creation.
Shankara leaves no scope for any doubt when he declares at the end of his commentary at 2.1.33, sUtra bhAShya, that “The shruti statement of creation does not relate to any reality, for it must not be forgotten that such a text is … meant for propounding the fact that everything has brahman as its Self.” (Translation by Swami Gambhirananda).
Shankara also asserts in his commentary on mantra 2.1.20, brihadAraNyaka: “Therefore the-mention in all Vedanta texts of the origin, continuity and dissolution of the universe is only to strengthen our idea of Brahman being a homogeneous unity, and not to make us believe in the origin etc. as an actuality.” (Trans: Swami Madhavananda).
He makes it abundantly clear in his commentary at 3.15, Gaudapada kArikA that “Therefore, we have reasonably to conclude that the scriptural statements regarding creation, etc., are for the purpose of helping the mind to realize the oneness of Atman, and for no other purpose whatsoever. Therefore, no multiplicity is brought about by creation, etc. (Translation by Swami Nikhilananda.)
The 35th Sringeri Acharya HH Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha was unequivocal when he told a disciple that “To cater to the doubts of such people (i.e. less advanced aspirants) as regards creation, the scriptures speak variously of origination. Scriptures are actually not concerned with creation at all.” Continue reading →
The uncompromising position of Advaita Vedanta is that “Nothing is ever born” as Gaudapada tells us in his mANDUkyakArikA (verse) at 3.48 and repeats it for emphasis at 4.71. As many as four Upanishads wrap up the Absolute Reality from the Advaita viewpoint in the following verse which appears also in Gaudapada’s kArikA:
न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो न च साधकः । न मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥ — 10, amRitabindu upanishad; 2.31, Atma upanishad, 11, avadhUta upanishad; 5.13, tripuratApini upanishad; 2.32, Gaudapada kArikA.
[Meaning: There is neither Dissolution nor Creation. There is neither bondage nor any seeker for freedom. There is neither any one wishing for salvation nor any one who achieved it. This is the absolute Truth.] Continue reading →
The famous Indian Rope Trick is Shankara’s favorite to illustrate how the world or an individual separate ‘self’ originates. He says that it is like the mesmerizing show created by a Magician, himself being unaffected and uninvolved and standing unseen, “veiled magically,” on the ground. Here are three instances where Shankara refers to the Rope Trick in his Commentaries:
Shankara @ 7, Ch 1, Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya:
The magician throws the rope up in the sky, climbs by it with hands, disappears from sight (of the spectators), engages himself in a fight (in the sky) in which his limbs, having been severed, fall to the ground and he rises again. The onlooker, though witnessing the performance, does not evince any interest in the thought in regard to the reality of the magic show performed by the magician. Similarly, there is a real illusionist who is other than the rope and the one that climbs up the rope. Continue reading →
When Arjuna laments at the prospect of killing his loved ones in the war, Krishna tells him, “It was not that I was not existing before nor will I stop existing in the future.” That means there is no beginning or end, nor do the birth and death exist. Life is merely a transitional form that arises in between the unreal appearance of birth and death. Since birth and death are unreal, we (as the Self) are already liberated.
“How can you perceive the relation between the Self and avidyA? It is not indeed possible for you to perceive your Self as related to avidyA, at the same moment (that your Self cognizes avidyA); for, the cognizer (Self) acts at the moment as the percipient of avidyA. (The Self cannot be both the perceiver and the perceived at the same time). Continue reading →
What we have are clearly two entities. They are the kShetra, the field comprising all that which is the knowable, and the kShetrjna, who is the Knower. If ignorance and misery were to be the inherent properties of the Self, it amounts to say that Self perceives Itself because the Self is able to know them (the misery and nescience). That obviously is an absurd position, “since one and the same thing cannot be both the agent and the object of an action.” Whatever is perceived, as for example form and color, cannot be a property of the perceiver.
Likewise, it is the Self that perceives joys and sorrows. They cannot perceive themselves. They are objects to the Self; they are not the Self. For the Self to perceive these, they must be different from the Self. Only then can they be experienced. If the object is totally identified with the Self (me), it cannot be perceived anymore. It itself becomes the Self.
Hence it is incorrect to say that “nescience and misery and the like are the attributes and specific properties of kShhetrajna.” Continue reading →
Shankara is very categorical in his observation that “Very rare is the person who attains discriminating wisdom. The ignorant don’t follow the man of Wisdom, because of their attachments and evil passions which necessarily lead to action.” He regrets that such people resort to even black magic. He adds that “Therefore, samsAra is only based on avidyA and exists only for the ignorant man who sees the world as it appears to him. Neither avidyA nor its effect pertains to Kshetrajna, pure and simple.”
9. A Man of Erudition (paNDita) vs. A Scholar:
Shankara says that, not only many of the common people, even some of the scholars (Experts in shAstra-s) fail to understand the essential message of the scripture. Proud of their knowledge in the Vedic rituals, they think that they are the doers (with a strong sense of a “me”) and believe they will attain great merit (as “mine”) in this life-time so that they can reap the fruits of their meritorious actions in the next world. They perceive their body, life-force, senses, and mind, but are unable to grasp their innermost Self (pratyagAtmA) which is the actual witness to all that they perceive. If they are able to recognize their inner Self, they will easily cognize the Supreme Self (paramAtmA) that is present everywhere and in everything. They will come to realize that their inner Self is not different from the Supreme Self. As the Gita says,