‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 1/4

    राजविद्या राजगुह्यं पवित्रमिदमुत्तमम् 
प्रत्यक्षावगमं धर्म्यं सुसुखं कर्तुमव्ययम्   — 9.2, BG.

[This is the Sovereign Knowledge, the Sovereign Profundity, the best sanctifier; directly realizable, righteous, very easy to practice and imperishable.]

What is this world that is available for our experience?

“The world is a ‘superimposition’ (adhyAropa). In other words, it merely appears to be present but does not really exist. It is like ‘casting forward’ of a from onto the Eternal, Immutable and Real ‘Substratum’ (adhisThAna) or the Supreme Self,” avers the Advaita Vedanta. Because of our inherent inability to know what “exactly” out there, our intellect ‘confabulates’ what could be present out there and ‘externalizes’ the imagined ‘from.’

Shankara in his introduction to the Vedanta aphorisms (sUtra-s) explains to us that this ‘superimposition’ is natural (naisargika) to us – i.e., it exists from our birth itself. Left to itself uninvestigated, adhyAsa seems to have no locatable or known beginning-point (hence, anAdi); nor an end-point (hence, ananta). No meaningful answer can be given to a question like “What is north of North Pole?” Similarly, a point of ‘beginning’ cannot be indicated for something which is outside of our familiar time-space dimensionality. “anAdi” also implies that it lies beyond our time-space framework. As a result, we find ourselves inexorably caught up in its snares and suffer the consequences as helpless victims trapped within the jaws of a mighty ‘diaphanous power.’

A superimposition or a projection is, however, an ‘action.’ There cannot be an ‘action’ without an ‘agent’ who does the act.

If I am just a ‘victim’ and not the doer of this projection, who is the ‘agent’ that does the ‘superimposition’? Continue reading

Reality/Existence

A (Martin): By the evidence of the ages – of innumerable sages and mystics, their outpourings, and the teachings they left us that are like the fruits of wonderful trees – the answer has to be yes! They tell us, especially to those capable of fathoming their words (‘those who have ears’), that the depth of understanding what is real and inescapable, reality itself, is practically limitless, to the point of becoming one with it in a seamless unit – no more subject-object distinction, the root of suffering.

And that is so because, as Matthew Arnold put it referring to some people: … ‘He who makes the determined effort to see life steadily and see it whole…’. There is a caveat, though: ‘Without love, the mind cannot understand’ – Sine desiderio mens non intelligit (Nicholas of Cusa). Is love anything more, or other, than that determination Matthew Arnold was speaking of? That is a high price, or is it not?

Ignorance Goes, but mAyA remains – Revisited

Ask any teacher of Non-duality the question “Why we see a multiplicity of objects instead of Oneness in the world?,” pat comes back the reply that “It is all due to mAyA, an inexplicable and indefinable power of the Creator God, Ishwara. mAyA is so much reified and deified in some texts that they present it almost as a given “fact.” They romanticize mAyA; sing paeans in lilting poetry as a Divine Goddess vested with special powers – that of concealment of the Truth and projection of an unreal world filled with variegated objects (e.g. 110-111, vivekacUDAmani).

But Gaudapada in his kArikA-s on mANDUkya and Shankara in his commentary on them regard mAyA to be no more than an explanatory artifact. Gaudapada mentions ‘mAyA‘ in the sense of a magic-show in the last chapter of his kArikA-s. For example: Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt 12

Part11

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-1-1 Preparatory Knowledge
6-1-2 Preparatory Action
6-1-2-6 Rituals

6-1-2-7 Self-effort 3(33,34), 6 (5 to 7)
Inherent nature, i.e., nature one is born with, and self-effort are two important factors in human life. Nature is an aggregate of impressions of virtue, vice, etc. acquired in past lives and which become manifest in the current life. 3(33) says that all creatures behave according to their nature. If this is so, there would be doubt about the purpose of scriptural teaching in the absence of personal effort. To dispel it, it is said in 3(34) that a person engaged in scriptures should not come under the influence of love and hatred despite his nature impelling otherwise. When he controls love and hatred with the help of their opposites, then he is in sync with scriptural teachings, and he is not solely led by his nature.

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The World and the One ‘brahman’

mANDUkya Upanishad’ mantra 7 tells us that anything that is sensed, perceived, experienced or even thought about or conceptualized is not brahman. Consequently, Sages admit that “Advaita philosophy is incommunicable” (7, mANDUkya); “We do not know how to teach Advaita,” (1.3, kena). But at the same time, the Upanishadkars exhort us that “You should know It.”

Shankara too urges us in the Gita bhAShya (Ch 6, 9, 15.3, BGB;) and also at kaTha bhAShya that we should make every effort to attain the Knowledge of the Self in this life itself because “here alone it is possible to have a vision of the Self as clearly as (seeing) the face in a mirror, whereas this is not possible in other worlds apart from that of brahmA, which, however, is difficult to attain” (2.6.4, kaTha UB).

Hence, the teaching of Advaita philosophy is done adopting an apophatic approach, via negativa. It is the famous “na ( = not) (stated) iti ( = thus); not (stated) thus; na ( = not) (stated) iti ( = thus),” or netineti (2.3.6, BU); thus denying anything said about the Self is NOT It! Continue reading

Q.539 Māyā and Brahman

A (Martin): 1) Māyā is not an attribute of Brahman which, as you say, is attributeless. Māyā is a diffuse, or polyvalent, concept which gives rise to much confusion, particularly by translating it as ‘illusion’ (see below). This concept can be viewed from the psychological, epistemological, and ontological perspectives.

Purely from the standpoint of Ṥaṅkara’s Advaita Vedanta, māyā is tied in with the concept of ‘ignorance’ (avidyā), which is prior to it; that is, avidyā is the necessary condition for māyā. Once ignorance has been annihilated by knowledge, māyā disappears. That means that from the higher (of two) point of view māyā does not exist. This is contrary to most post-Ṥaṅkara authors, with the exception of Sureśvara, who taught that māyā is a positive entity or force. If that were the case, how could a positive entity be removed by knowledge? Swami Satchidanandendra, practically alone in the 20th Cent. has defended the former Ṥaṅkarian position.

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Shankara Answers Beginner’s Questions

Shankara bhagavat pAda, a committed and earnest Commentator (bhAShyakAra) that he was, rarely, if at all, deviates from the immediate text on which he was making his explanatory observations. Fortunately for us, he relaxes, with compassion, his own self-imposed constraints of being a strict commentator and provides a detailed exposition on the subject matter occasionally. One of such instances is his 27-page long commentary at 2.1.20, brihadAraNyaka Upanishad (BUB). It comes before taking up the dense and meaty philosophical discussions on “the Highest Wisdom of Vedanta” beginning at the Fourth section, called Maitreyi brahmaNa. He provides answers to many typical questions that some one new to Advaita philosophy is likely to ask. I trust Shanakara’s replies help satiate the curiosity of the novice. We shall recapitulate below some of the questions and Shankara’s answers thereon. Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt 11

Part10

Part 12

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-1-1 Preparatory Knowledge
6-1-2 Preparatory Action
6-1-2-5 Asuri Sampati 16(6 to 21,23)

Human birth is because of karmic balance at the end of the previous birth. Karmic balance is due to Self-ignorance. It continues in the current birth because a person is attracted to a materialistic life of desire and wealth and does not make efforts for spiritual growth. Scriptures are meant to guide people to lead a dharmic life on way to moksha. It is not a sin to pursue desire and wealth within the bounds of dharma. With maturity, it is necessary to make a shift to spirituality.

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Meaning of anubhava

The Sanskrit term that is interpreted by many modern teachers as ‘experience’ is anubhava. And indeed ‘experience’ is one of the translations given by Monier-Williams, along with the expansion “knowledge gained from personal observation or experiment”. (Ref. 179) But words such as ‘understanding’ and ‘apprehension’ are also given and these are much closer to the intended meaning.

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