Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

Claim against Swamiji (SSS)
 Big fuss on whether avidya =mAyA
·           Swamiji does not like tarka or reasoning
·           Swamiji does not admit of avidyA in deep sleep
·           Swamiji does not endorse prakarana works, as he says they are not written by Shankara
·           Swamiji claims no role for bhakti in the advaita tradition
·           Swamiji does not accept that an enlightened soul may still suffer the consequences of past deeds
·           Swamiji advocates learning from books only, and being self taught without a teacher
·           Swamiji overuses the phrase adhyAropa-apavAda giving the impression it his discovery
·           Swamiji is not of the tradition
·           Swamiji claims he is right and everyone else is wrong


Swamiji’s true position of how he understands Shankara
·           Shankara pretty clear that mAyA is avidyAkalpita (BSB 2-1-14). The basic misunderstanding  (avidyA) gives rise to a delusion (mAyA)of multiplicity of name and form (nAmarupa)

·           avidyA can be seen as mAyA in a secondary sense as in “this is all foolery”, or an illusory appearance. As a species of knowledge, it is less confusing to denote avidyA and mAyA separately. Ultimately irrelevant since the teaching is about brahman, not ignorance and illusion

·           Note: the attacks from vishitadvaitins are usually directly at mulayavidya theory  as having no basis in universal experience, and on the confusion of ignorance and illusion. It is harder to attack the view of Shankara as clarified by Swamiji

·           Logic in accordance with sruti and universal experience is Shankara’s dictum in BSB 1-1-2
·           As long as false notions are not removed avidya is present either as manifest in waking, dream, or unmanifest in deep sleep (and don’t forget adhyAropa-apavAda. The issue of  avidyA in sleep is irrelevant from paramArtha view). No mulAvidya evidence at all (this theory can only arise because sub-commentators see the word mithyAjnAnam and split it is mithyA and ajnAnam, and not as false notion)
·           First book Swamiji read was vivekachudamani which inspired his study of vedanta. The fact that he suggests it is not written by Shankara does not demean the book in his view (Sri DB Gangolli has taken a rather unfortunate extreme view on this in his bio of Swamiji which I cannot agree to)

·           Swamiji published translations of some prakarana works under the heading “Minor Works of Shankara”

·           Swamiji has written a beautiful Sanskrit work “bhakti chandrika”, commenting on Narada Bhakti Sutras
·           Swamiji endorses the view of Shankara and Suresvara of the role of prArabdha karma even in an enlightened soul, and that true knowledge can only fructify when obstacles have been exhausted (Like a shot arrow must reach its target before stopping)

·           However this can only be a notion from the vyavahAra standpoint. A jnAnin has brocken the shackles of karma and is indifferent to the fruits of his actions as perceived by an ignorant observer since he has “nAhamkritabhAva” as Gita Ch XVIII states. The continued quietening of impressions of the mind can gave no meaning for a jnAna, since the relation with mind has been severed (mind becomes not mind GK 3-32)

·           A competent guru is indispensable for right knowledge and proper study of the shastra. Even more important is living in the spirit of vedanta. Actions speak louder than words and one must not get caught in dry intellectual speculation

·           Swamiji recommends focus on the primary texts of Shankara, Gaudapada, Suresvara, and not the prakarana texts. They are sufficient for understanding the tradition. Subsquent commentators add unnecessary complication

·           Swamiji recognises the many terms used by the tradition to describe the method (neti neti, siddham tu niravartakatwAt, BSB 3-2-17,18 etc)

·           Since adhyAropa-apavAda describes the method in a precise technical manner, this is the phrase Swamiji chose to use the most

·           Swamiji was born and studied within the tradition. He disagrees with what the tradition is representing as Shankara’s messages on key points (See above). Swamiji is accepted by Kanchi and Sringeri maths as a sampradayavit
·           Swamiji wanted to provoke discussion, and build the desire for people to study Shankara’s writings directly without blind reliance on what they have heard. He mentions past writers (even Mandana) who were aware

·           He frequently states that if his writings have been able to provoke an honest debate then he has achieved his goal (see his intro to Vedantins Meet). Even though he felt he was correct, he fully expected people to challenge what he is saying (pariprasnena sevayA as per Gita), so they can strengthen their own conviction. Satyameva jayate was his maxim

·           It is unfortunate that his polemic tone in his early writings, written to provoke reaction, was carried forward by some of his followers. It is not correct to  assert Swamiji is the only authority, as this is in direct contradiction to Yaksha prasna’s final verse (srutir vibhinnAh smritayashca bhinnAh, naiko munir yasya vachah pramANam. Dharmasya tattwam nihitam guhAyAm, mahAjano yena gatah sa panthAh)

·          (Corollary of above: We followers of Swamiji should also not blindly accept what he said. This would be a disservice to him and what he stood for-he wished for earnest seekers to engage in the serious study of Shankara’s bhashyas with the aid of a competent Guru)




One thought on “Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

  1. Thanks Martin for this interesting series. I have been meaning to read the Method of Vedanta for a while.


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