Q: Can Advaitins explain how Maya can be an attribute of the supposedly attributeless Brahman? (Quora)
A (Martin): Maya is not an attribute of Brahman which, as you say, is attributeless. Maya is a diffuse, or polyvalent, concept that gives rise to much confusion, particularly when translating it as ‘illusion’
This concept can be viewed from psychological, epistemological, and ontological perspectives. Purely from the standpoint of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta, Maya is tied in with the concept of ‘ignorance’ (avidya), which is prior to it; that is, avidya is the necessary condition for Maya. Once ignorance is annihilated by knowledge, Maya disappears. That means that from the higher (of two) points of view, Maya does not exist. This is contrary to most post-Shankara authors, with the exception of Suresvara, who taught that Maya 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, Shankarian position.
Maya can also be viewed as the power or energy of Brahman to create the world, and etymologically the word comes from ‘magic/magician’. But note that the (phenomenal) world is not a pure illusion, as stated above, but mithya (‘provisionally’ real)
Q: Why was the creation needed if Brahman alone existed?
A (Martin): ‘Brahman alone is real. The world is appearance.The world is not other than Brahman’ (one of the ‘great sayings’ or mahavakya).
Q: What is Ishwara?
A (Martin): Ishvara is Brahman considered as creator and ‘personal’ by those who need or are proclive to a devotional relationship (creator/creature). It is also known as ‘saguna brahman’ (Brahman with attributes), as (apparently) different from ‘nirguna Brahman’.
Do you have a Shankara (or prasthAna traya) reference for your claim that avidyA is ‘prior to mAyA’?
My understanding is that mAyA is the ‘force’, ‘tool’, adhyaropa ‘explanation’ for how Ishvara ‘creates’ the world, including the jIva-s. It is the jIva who is afflicted by avidyA, not Ishvara (who is sarvaj~nA). So, on the face of it, the avidyA is clearly coming AFTER the mAyA.
If we think about it a bit more, Ishvara is (as if) creating the world FOR the jIva-s, who have gained pUNya-pApa as a result of their actions in their previous lives and have to work through that karma. So, in this sense, the creation (with mAyA) IS after the avidyA.
But your statement being made ‘with authority’ implies that you are aware of a clear statement to the effect that avidyA is prior. Could you please provide the reference.
Incidentally, I would point out to readers that this subject (mAyA and avidyA) is anything but simple! I have just about completed Vol. 2 of Confusions now, which addresses the ‘ignorance’ aspect and have written around 65,000 words on the subject. (The ‘creation’ aspect of mAyA will be in Vol. 3.) So there is rather more to it than the short answers above might suggest!
Dear Dennis and Martin,
I am responding on just one point.
Sri Bhagavatpada has indeed observed in several places in PTB that mAyA and avidyA are synonymous terms. Instead of citing particular references in support of this, which no doubt would be contested, I am citing below a reference from one of the works of Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati (SSS) whose name was mentioned by Martin, but in support of the opposite view !!!
I am citing from the Introduction by Sri SSS in his text on KathOpanishad, page vi, in kannada under the title “what is avidyA”, which I have translated to English here
Quote // Although the AchArya has indeed used at some places the terms avidyA and mAyA as synonymous terms, since apart from deliberating that avidyA is mithyAjnAna which is destroyed by vidyA (AdhyAsa BhAshya) and that mayA is the seedform of nAmarUpa imagined through avidyA (avidyAkalpita) (BSB 2-1-14) ; again further in a sUtra bhAshya initiated for deliberating upon the meaning of the term **avyakta **, two versions are separately presented ;; on the one hand taking the stand that **avyakta is mAyA ** and on the other hand ** avyakta is avidyA ** (BSB 1-4-3),– it becomes clear that in shAnkara prasthAna avidyA belongs to the realm of knowledge (jnAnakOti) while mAyA belongs to the realm of objects (jnEyakOti). Hence ** avidyA is the seed for samsAra ** needs to be understood as cause for samsAra while ** avyakta is the seed for jagat ** needs to be understood as avyakta being the upAdAna kAraNa //. Unquote
Following is the link ID for the above text. If you so desire, you may get the relevant portion translated by anyone else for cross verification of the translation.
// https://adhyatmaprakasha.org/php/bookreader/templates/book.php?type=kannada&book_id=091&pagenum=0001#page/8/mode/1up //
Note that Sri SSS has admitted that Sri Bhagavatpada has indeed observed at several places in the PTB that the terms mAyA and avidyA are synonymous.
It is a different matter that Sri SSS himself prefers to take a contradictory position for his own reasons. Here the interpretation by Sri SSS implies that there is self-contradiction in the bhAshya, which he has preferred to resolve by accepting an interpretational/inferential view of the BhAshya (his own interpretation/inference) rather than the direct view (avidyA and mAyA as synonymous terms) stated in the BhAshya. This is in contravention of the generally accepted rule which calls for accepting the direct statements as primary, and interpreting others in line with this. Indeed that is what the other commentators have adopted, who have been addressed by Martin as **most post-Shankara authors**.
That is very interesting and useful and I would like to use the essence of what you have written in the section on SSS in the ‘Ignorance’ section of Confusions 2 if that is OK with you. (I would submit the wording to you for approval before committing.)
Regarding what you say about BSB 1.4.3, can you indicate where Shankara suggests that avyakta is avidyA? At present, I am only quoting the following:
<<< He claims instead that Īśvara acts from the unmanifest state (avyakta) using the power of māyā: "Should we admit some primal state as an independent cause of the world, we shall be opening the door for the theory of pradhāna as the cause. But this primal state is held by us to be subject to the supreme Lord, but not as an independent thing. That state has to be admitted, because it serves a purpose. Without that latent state, the creatorship of God cannot have any meaning, inasmuch as God cannot act without his power (of māyā), and without that latent state, the absence of birth for the freed souls cannot be explained. Why? Because liberation comes when the potential power (of māyā) is burnt away by knowledge. That potential power, constituted by nescience, is mentioned by the word unmanifest. (Ref. 5)" >>>
Citing from BSB 1-4-3
// अविद्या ह्यव्यक्तम् ; अविद्यावत्त्वेनैव जीवस्य सर्वः संव्यवहारः सन्ततो वर्तते । //
// avidyA hyavyaktam ; avidyAvattvenaiva jIvasya sarvaH saMvyavahAraH santato vartate | //
Translation ( Swami Gambhirananda) // For ignorance is avyakta, and it is because of the possession of ignorance by the individual soul that all kinds of empirical behavior continue for ever //.
Please note that the quote from BSB 1-4-3 is not my understanding of BSB 1-4-3. The entire portion covered under the brackets //……// is english translation of statement in kannada by Sri SSS in the book.
I would like to point out that if it is agreed that mAyA and avidyA are synonymous terms, then the question which comes first and which one later is not relevant.
I am not privy to the contents of your book. But prima facie the following two statements from your post appear to be contradictory
// He claims instead that Īśvara acts from the unmanifest state (avyakta) using the power of māyā //
// That potential power, constituted by nescience, is mentioned by the word unmanifest //
First one considers avyakta as a state while the second one considers it as a power. Just a thought. You may like to consider. Please ignore this if not relevant.
I don’t know if Chandramouli (or you) will endorse the following, but this is my takeaway on Shankara’s argument regarding the terms avyakta, avidya, and maya. The primary understanding of ‘avyakta’ is that it denotes the antecedent seed stage of this world in which it is not manifested by names and forms (jagat idam anabhivyaktanamarupam bijatmakam pragavastham avyakta-sabdarham). Shankara argues that the antecedent condition of the world is not some sort of mindless, blind mechanism but something that can only be imputed to a conscious creator who thinks the world into being. It’s that same dependence which guarantees that the jivas are not again thrown back into the samsaric cycle. So “the dependence of this antecedent condition” upon the conscious creator “must be necessarily so” (sa ca avasya-abhyupagantavya). Because of this dependence Shankara replaces ‘pradhana’ as the definition of ‘avyakta’ with two words, ‘avidya’ and ‘maya’ (avyakta hi sa maya; avidya hi adyaktam). It’s the same principle that is called ‘maya’ and ‘avidya’, the one with respect to the imputed creative power of Brahman, and the other with respect to the seeds of samsaric becoming ensconced in name and form. Shankara writes, “This potential power of the seed is of the nature of avidya and is signified by the word ‘avyakta’ and, having the supreme Lord as its ground is of the nature of maya and is the great sleep in which transmigratory souls unaware of their form continue to slumber on.” (avidyatmika hi bijasaktiravyakta-sabda-nirdesya paramesvararasraya mayamayi mahasusuptih) (BSB 1.4.3) In the sense of ‘avidya’ or ‘maya’ sometimes ‘avyakta’ is signified by the word ‘akasha’ or by the word ‘akshara’.
The souls’ unawareness of their own form (svarupa-pratibodharahityam), is avidya. In this lie the seeds of samsaric becoming. The seeds are defined as names and forms. The same names and forms when used by the creator-Lord and willed as power for the creation of the entire universe of transmigratory existence is properly called ‘maya’. To quote Shankara, “The names and forms which are imagined through avidya and which are, as it were, the self of the omniscient Lord, and which are indefinable as identical with or different from the tattva (i.e. Brahman) and are the seeds of the entire universe of transmigratory existence are the maya-power and the nature of the Lord.” (BSB 2.1.14)
All the best
Regarding the contradiction between two statements I had pointed out towards the end of my last post appears to me to be due to two sources you might have used for translation getting mixed up in your post.
The wording in the first part // He claims instead that Īśvara acts from the unmanifest state (avyakta) using the power of māyā // perhaps is from Sri SSS while the supporting statement (in English) you have cited for the same // That potential power, constituted by nescience, is mentioned by the word unmanifest // is from the translation by Swami Gambhirananda. This same statement from BSB 1-4-3 is interpreted differently by Sri SSS and is as follows (translation from kannada to English is mine)
// Because, that potential power (bIjashakti in Sanskrit bhashya) addressed by the term avyakta being imagined through avidyA (avidyAtmaka in Sanskrit bhashya)……. // .
This is the best I could make out from the limited information provided in your post. The problem is translation by Swami Gambhirananda mostly follows mUlavidyA prakriya which is vehemently opposed by Sri SSS. Hence it may not be advisable to quote BSB in English using translation by Swami Gambhirananda while supporting /considering views of Sri SSS. You need to quote from his (Sri SSS) translation of BSB.
Just a suggestion. You may like to consider or ignore.
Dear Rick and Chandramouli,
Thank you very much for those observations. All are very helpful. The whole topic is too complex to respond immediately and I am going to do some further reading before modifying the text. I will aim to post a revision of some relevant bits in a week or two.
But my aim is definitely to make things as simple as possible while remaining as close to Shankara’s intentions as I can. I definitely don’t want to change the title of the series to ‘Complexities in Advaita’ or even ‘Incoherences in Advaita’!
One thing I would say, to Chandramouli and Martin in particular, is that all of my studies and writing so far have led me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as mUlAvidyA and that ‘ignorance’ means ‘lack of knowledge’! This is despite my general affiliation to VivaraNa.
Though I do have some difficulty with the terminology used, I think by and large my understanding is the same as what you have said. There could of course be some differences in detail. But that is only to be expected considering the complexity of the subject we are dealing with and the different backgrounds we come from.
Regarding // That is very interesting and useful and I would like to use the essence of what you have written in the section on SSS in the ‘Ignorance’ section of Confusions 2 if that is OK with you //,
I have presented my understanding. But that is only one side of the story. You may be quite sure that it will be vehemently rejected by the followers of Sri SSS. If you really intend to include this in your text, I would recommend that before doing so, it would be appropriate if you could get the response from some learned followers of Sri SSS to ascertain their views on the subject.
For Shankara maya is the illusory ‘causal seed’ of the world, due to avidya, the result being the apparent multiplicity of the world (cf. SBh 2,1,14). But the world is identical in essence with atman-brahman and has no independent existence.
(There is indeed a problem in calling the world ‘illusory’. Illusory can only be ascribed to pratibhasika, such as mistaking sand in a desert for water. The world, as phenomena or appearance, is such as seen from the vyavaharika perspective, which is mithya.)
I wouldn’t worry about that – I am referencing (if not always actually) reading several of SSS’s own works as well as some of Gangolli’s, Kulcarni’s, Vittali Sastri’s and Ranganath. I always to try to quote authors in any debate before I give my own or other’s paraphrasing or understanding.
Yes. You have clearly stated that in your view // ‘ignorance’ means ‘lack of knowledge’! //. But what, in your understanding, is the view of Sri Bhagavatpada on the issue.
It is interesting you mention that you are familiar with the works of Sri Vittala Shastri Ji also. Sri Vittala shastri Ji has authored a text, in Sanskrit, titled मूलाविद्या-भाष्यवार्तिकविरुद्धा (mUlAvidyA-bhAShyavArtikaviruddhA).
Page 50 // अविद्या अग्रहणम् — इमे पदे अव्यक्तं माया इत्यादिपदैस्साकं पर्यायपदत्वेन कुत्रापि भाष्ये न प्रयुक्ते । //
// avidyA agrahaNam — ime pade avyaktaM mAyA ityAdipadaissAkaM paryAyapadatvena kutrApi bhAShye na prayukte | //
Translaion (mine, from the kannada version of the same text by Sri Vittala Shastri ) // avidyA and agrahaNam – these two terms, along with words like avyakta,mAyA etc, have not been used as synonymous terms anywhere in the Bhashya //.
Link to the text // https://adhyatmaprakasha.org/php/bookreader/templates/book.php?type=sanskrit&book_id=036&pagenum=0129#page/1/mode/1up //
It is to be noted that this is contradicted by no less a person than Sri SSS himself , reference to which I have already furnished. In fact this has been one of the main and strongest contention of the followers of Sri SSS in support of their stand that, as per Sri Bhagavatpada, avidyA and mAyA are not synonymous terms. This is central to the prakriya advanced by Sri SSS.
I had occasion to bring this (observation by Sri SSS) up in my discussions with two very learned followers, one of them being a direct disciple of Sri SSS. They were quite unaware of any such statement by Sri SSS and wanted time to check and study the same. Unfortunately the discussions did not resume on both the occasions. In fact this was one of the reasons why I suggested earlier that you might do well to get a response from some of his (Sri SSS) learned followers to the observation by Sri SSS. This is even more relevant in view of your understanding // ‘ignorance’ means ‘lack of knowledge’! // which makes it different from mAyA.
Dear Shri Chandramouli Ji and Dennis,
A separate discussion on the topic above is going on at the FB-SAV Forum.
Shri Apanna Ravi Ji of APK posted a comment in this connection to say that: “I have already quoted from Sri Devarao Kulakarni else where that it may not be wrong to take that avidya is maya in a VERY BROAD sense only.” He linked the same text that Shri HSC cited in an earlier comment.
Next, he gave a link to a conversation of his with Sw-A at APK:
A short (~ 4 min) Audio file re: avidyA at 1.4.3, BSB:
Shri Chandramouli Ji can understand it much better than myself.
Dear Ramesam Ji,
The talk is not directly relevant to the current issue, which is avidyA and mAyA being stated as synonymous terms by Sri Bhagavatpada in the bhashya.
There is no such reservation like ** it may not be wrong to take that avidya is maya in a VERY BROAD sense only ** expressed by Sri SSS when he has quoted Sri Bhagavatpada as cited by me. It is an unqualified statement by Sri SSS of avidyA and mAyA being mentioned as synonymous terms at several places in the Bhashya.
In continuation to my previous post, quotes from Sri Vittala Shastri Ji cited by me also do not make any such qualified distinctions.
Sorry if I misled you. I said that I was ‘referencing several of SSS’s own works as well as some of Gangolli’s, Kulcarni’s, Vittali Sastri’s and Ranganath’. I began at least a year ago with ‘Method of the Vedanta’ and ‘Heart of Sri Sankara’ (with Martha Doherty’s and Michael Comans’ refutations). I have also looked at other books by SSS and Gangolli but I have only recently downloaded works by Kulcarni and Vittali Sastri and I haven’t yet looked in depth at Ranganath’s book. I will be working through all of these over the next few weeks.
I do now appreciate the argument that avidyA is the ’cause’ of mAyA from my reading of Kulcarni.
You ask me for justification of my view that ignorance is ‘lack of knowledge. But, to me, this is precisely equivalent to the possibly equally casual remark made a few years back regarding the ‘disappearance of the world on enlightenment’. This triggered months of discussion and argument, often heated, and concluded with neither side convincing the other. And it took up an awful lot of my time when I was trying to complete Vol. 1 of Confusions. (I do concede that it was also very helpful for writing Vol. 2, however!)
As I indicated earlier, the section on ‘Ignorance’ in the forthcoming ‘Confusions Vol. 2’ is currently over 66,000 words long and the understanding that ignorance is ‘lack of knowledge’ is one of my conclusions after covering most of the aspects and presenting many varied views and quotations. There is simply no way that I could summarize this in a brief comment in any convincing manner.
As I said, on completion, I will see if it is possible to post some extracts that will go some way to clarifying my understanding of these aspects. I hope readers will understand my position and not find it too frustrating!
Reg // You ask me for justification of my view that ignorance is ‘lack of knowledge //,
No. I never made that mistake as you have already mentioned several times that you do not want to engage yourself again in any discussion on that issue having spent (or wasted) a lifetime on that debate !!!
All I wanted was, having stated your position, what is your understanding of the view of Sri Bhagavatpada on that issue. Since you mentioned earlier that you would like to be as close to him as possible, you ought to have formed your own conclusion on his stand. That is what I wanted to know. No discussion on that issue, I assure you.
I have not found any clear statement from Shankara that ignorance simply means lack of knowledge and is not an existent entity. I assume you already knew this! 😉 My conclusion is based upon all of the statements that I have found, the arguments surrounding them and the views of other authors. In the absence of such a clear statement, I have applied reason, together with my own understanding of Advaita, accumulated over the past 35 years. Put simply, what we really experience is lack of knowledge. ‘Ignorance’ is just the word that we give to this. And, as Gaudapada and Ṥaṅkara pointed out in the kārikā-s, if we experience something, that means it is not real!
I encountered a good idea from Alex Wayman (Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7 No. 1/2, Apr – Jul, 1957), who said we should use the word ‘unwisdom’ instead, since this would prompt a seeker to ask what we meant.
My basic conclusion is that:
“the mūlāvidyā controversy is a ‘storm in a teacup’; simply the result of not accepting that different words may be used to speak about the same thing. [I will address the topic of ‘Language’ in a later volume.]
“And, even if we were to accept mūlāvidyā as a ‘real entity’, this would only be a vyāvahārika concept to lead us to an understanding. Subsequently, all concepts are dropped in the manner that SSS repeatedly explains, in line with the adhyāropa-apavāda teaching of Advaita.”
Ṥaṅkara certainly speaks about ‘destroying ignorance’ but, again, this is a language problem. ‘Destroying ignorance’ is like ‘destroying the emptiness’ of a bucket by filling it with water.
If you have any clear quotation from Ṥaṅkara to the effect that ignorance is (or isn’t) a real entity, I would certainly be pleased to hear them. But otherwise, I will probably end my involvement in any discussion here.
Reg // If you have any clear quotation from Ṥaṅkara to the effect that ignorance is (or isn’t) a real entity, I would certainly be pleased to hear them //
// And, even if we were to accept mūlāvidyā as a ‘real entity’, this would only be a vyāvahārika concept to lead us to an understanding //.
Absolutely. Except For Atman/Brahman and other equivalent terms, ALL other entities or concepts are anAtma and hence enjoy vyāvahārika reality ONLY. No exceptions. That includes mūlāvidyā.
But when you use the expression ** to lead us to an understanding ** in respect of mūlāvidyā, there is a problem. It is not so. It needs to be destroyed through sAdhanAs., not merely understood.
Reg // ‘Destroying ignorance’ is like ‘destroying the emptiness’ of a bucket by filling it with water. //,
Not so. ‘Destroying ignorance’ is like ‘ destroying darkness ‘. It means what was not revealed earlier now stands revealed.
Yes. There are any number of quotes from Sri Bhagavatpada to the effect that ignorance is a real entity, ** real ** being as understood above. Instead of my citing them and getting involved in endless and avoidable (I am sure you agree) arguments and debates about their validity, especially with the followers of Sri SSS, I had earlier taken the simpler route (hopefully) of quoting Sri SSS himself about avidyA and mAyA being admitted as synonymous terms in PTB. That I think should suffice for the present as we are both agreed that discussions on this topic must be eschewed.
Even this note I am penning only because you asked for it as per the first noting at the very beginning of this post.
I would argue that ALL expressions are necessarily vyAvahArika, including Atman/Brahman, since language and communication are inevitably dualistic.
I used ’empty bucket’ for a change from light/darkness. I think it essentially the same, though I agree your point about ‘revealing’ light makes it a bit better.
The one point I question is your ‘need for sAdhana-s’. That sounds like karma-j~nAna-samuchChaya to me, which Shankara rejects in several places.
Reg // I would argue that ALL expressions are necessarily vyAvahArika, including Atman/Brahman, since language and communication are inevitably dualistic//,
Yes. Quite so in respect of *expressions*. But what the *expressions* point to is NOT vyAvahArika. It is paramArthika.
Reg // The one point I question is your ‘need for sAdhana-s’. That sounds like karma-j~nAna-samuchChaya to me, which Shankara rejects in several places //,
Definitely no. ShravaNa/manana/nidhidhyAsana also qualify as sAdhanas. I did not intend karma-j~nAna-samuchChaya.
Reg // I used ’empty bucket’ for a change from light/darkness. I think it essentially the same //,
Definitely no in the current context. jnAna can destroy darkness just as light destroys darkness, it cannot fill an empty bucket. Without *filling up* anything, which implies action or creation, it can *reveal* the already *Existant* , the *Truth*. Or rather the *Existant* reveals itself, being Selfluminous. The *empty bucket* illustration I think is not appropriate.
The light/darkness illustration also answers the question posed by Martin right at the beginning // If that were the case, how could a positive entity be removed by knowledge?//. Positive entity, namely darkness, can be removed by jnAna/Chaitanya of the nature of Brightness.
Sorry if I seem to be starting a discussion which I promised I wont. But I sincerely thought this might be of some help to you in your write up on **Ignorance*. We can close this discussion here. No issues with me.
I don’t think we are disagreeing about anything here. It just seems that you suffer from one of the same problems that I do – namely being pedantic!
When I said that ‘Atman’ and ‘Brahman’ are also part of the necessarily dualistic teaching and therefore mithyA, I was being pedantic.
You pedantically point out that sādhana catuṣṭaya sampatti is a necessary sAdhana and I will pedantically say that this is only to prepare the mind for shravaNa, which alone can give enlightenment.
I was using the filling the empty bucket with water as a metaphor for filling the ignorant mind with Self-knowledge pedantically to make the point that ‘ignorance’ means ‘lack of knowledge’. (I have used the light and darkness metaphor earlier in the book probably more than once.) You are pedantically pointing out that the light metaphor works better overall (and I agree). But I will be pedantically discussing how metaphors are often taken beyond their realm of applicability in Volume 4!
Hope you take his in the lighthearted way it is intended! After all, being pedantic is essential if we are to avoid confusion! And my repeated statement about not getting involved in a discussion referred to the whole ‘ignorance’ topic. I certainly have no objection to discussing specific points such as this. After all, that is the purpose of the site.
This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
LOL! (Do they still say this?)
I haven’t heard from them lately but I imagine they do.
My understanding of some aspects of ignorance and knowledge. Ignorance has no beginning but an end. Knowledge has a beginning and no end. Ignorance is experienced but not proven.
You very usefully pointed out the different translations of the sentence from BSB 1.4.3:
Gambhirananda: “That potential power, constituted by nescience, is mentioned by the word unmanifest.:
SSSS: “Because, that potential power addressed by the term avyakta being imagined through avidyā.”
Might you be willing to provide the actual Sanskrit words used by Shankara and give your literal word-by-word translation so that we are able to ‘make up our own minds’?
CAUTION Look before you leap.
Hopelessly pedantic !!!
The relevant Bhashya part from BSB 1-4-3 is as follows.
// अविद्यात्मिका हि सा बीजशक्तिरव्यक्तशब्दनिर्देश्या…….//
// avidyAtmikA hi sA bIjashaktiravyaktashabdanirdeshyA //.
There is no need to go into word by word literal translation. The difference between the versions given by Swami G (based on avidyA being considered a positive entity, bhAvarUpa) and by Sri SSS (based on avidyA being understood as *absence of knowledge*,abhAvarUpa ) hinges on the interpretation of the word अविद्यात्मिका (avidyAtmikA) in the Bhashya. Sounds pedantic ??. The origin of the difference in understandings itself can be traced to the fundamental difference in splitting of the word ** मिथ्याज्ञाननिमित्तः ** (mithyAj~nAnanimittaH ) in the AdhyAsa Bhashya. Is it मिथ्याज्ञान plus निमित्तः (mithyAj~nAna plus nimittaH ) or मिथ्य अज्ञान plus निमित्तः (mithya aj~nAna nimittaH ). Is *Ignorance* merely *absence of knowledge* (abhAvarUpa) or is it a positive entity (bhAvarUpa).
Sounds pedantic ?? You really cannot get away from it. Vedanta IS pedanta mainly.
This should be enough to ‘make up our own minds’?
The stance I am taking is to judge any given quotation purely on its own merit. As soon as one starts saying that the author/translator said this in some other bhāṣya or some other argument, then the potential for confusion and disagreement simply grows. I have already written over 1600 words on the specific word mithyājñāna. I suggest that Ṥaṅkara used it quite deliberately, obviously knowing full well that it was ambiguous.
But that word does not occur here. Thank you for pointing to avidyātmika as the key. I would still appreciate a word-by-word breakdown of the relevant part that you quote. This just happens to be the way that I am tackling the ‘confusion’. No danger of giving up the pedantry at this point!
As desired by you, I am presenting below a word by word literal translation of the quote from BSB.
The relevant Bhashya part from BSB 1-4-3 is as follows.
// अविद्यात्मिका हि सा बीजशक्तिरव्यक्तशब्दनिर्देश्या…….//
// avidyAtmikA hi sA bIjashaktiravyaktashabdanirdeshyA…….. //.
अविद्यात्मिका (avidyAtmikA) — Having avidyA as its essence
सा (sA) — This
बीजशक्तिः (bIjashaktiH) — potential power of germination
अव्यक्तशब्द (avyaktashabda) — the term avyakta
निर्देश्या (nirdeshyA) — addressed
// This potential power of germination having avidyA as its essence, addressed by the term avyakta,……..//.
In spite of your statement // The stance I am taking is to judge any given quotation purely on its own merit. As soon as one starts saying that the author/translator said this in some other bhāṣya or some other argument, then the potential for confusion and disagreement simply grows //, I would reiterate, for the benefit of other readers at least, that such a stand is not recommended in the Bhashya.