‘eka jIva vAda,’ the Doctrine that says “I Alone Am” is a perpetually fascinating as well as a perplexing topic in Advaita. It has been debated at many Non-dual discussion fora in the past, both online and offline. Enthusiastic seekers no doubt will continue to do so in the future, if for nothing else, at least as a part of their manana (reflection on the shruti vAkya learnt by them about jIvabrahmaikatva (Identity of the individual and brahman). We are no exception here at this site, thanks to the indulgence from Dennis.
Even though neither Dennis desired nor I anticipated, willy-nilly another round of discussion on ‘eka jIva vAda‘ got opened up triggered by a few observations Dennis made at his latest Post on “Q.394 – Becoming One.” First he raised a few questions, then two, and then one more. The last question was the inevitable left hook: What are the “scriptural references for EJV?”
That’s off my kilter. I jumped out of the rink. Had to look for succour. Fortunately there is help available from redoubtable experts, highly knowledgeable Advaitins. Instead of presenting them in the ‘Comments’ section of the thread, I felt that their answers to the query deserve to be posted as a separate Blog.
I am very grateful to Shriman LalitAlAlitaH, Shri Venkataraghavan and Shri Praveen Bhat for their kind and prompt response and for their ready consent to letting me post their views here.
Any shruti which has ekavachanAnta-jIva-pada can be treated as reference for eka-jIva-vAda.
It is true that we have mantras supporting both eka jIva vAda and aneka jIva vAda in the scriptures. shruti mantras that can be cited in support of eka jIva vAda are:
अनादिमायया सुप्तो यदा जीवः प्रबुद्ध्यते — GK I – 16 (When the individual sleeping (i.e. not knowing the reality) under the influence of beginningless mAyA …. )
एको देवः सर्व्वभूतेषु गूढः svetaswatara VI – 11 (God, who is one only, is hidden in all beings. He is all-pervading, and is the inner self of all creatures ….)
and other similar mantras.
One should also look at advaitasiddhiH where strength of such shruti-s is propounded countering jIva-nAnAtva-shrutiH.
Since, others can’t show any flaw in eka-jIva-vAda, and since the knowledge of multitude of jIva by other means makes shruti reluctant to prove that;
so one has to accept eka-jIva-vAda. And hence shruti-s propounding jIva-nAnAtva need to be explained according to eka-jIva-vAda – is the theme.
I don’t have vedAntasiddhAntamuktAvalI with me, so you may yourself check that too.
[Further, Shri LalitAlAlitaH corrected me regarding the point I made about eka jIva vAda being a vastu tantra. He explained as follows:
There is no need to bring kartR-tantratva or vastu-trantratva here.
If you have to propound any thing, you need proof. prakriyA-s although mithyA need some support from veda-s. This is true for eka-jIva-vAda too. Otherwise, it will be just an imagination of idle mind.]
Shri S. Venkataraghavan:
Prakashananda in vedanta siddhAnta muktAvali explains that the following Vedic mantra is support for avidyA being only one:
बह्वीः प्रजाः सृजमानां सरूपाः ।
अजो ह्येको जुषमाणोऽनुशेते
जहात्येनां भुक्तभोगामजोऽन्यः ॥ — svetasvatara, IV – 5
(Meaning: There is one unborn (avidyA) − red, white and black − which (appears to) gives birth to many creatures like itself. An unborn (jIvA) becomes attached to it and enjoys it. The unborn (jIva) transcends it (avidyA) which in reality is different from him, after his enjoyment is completed.).
avidyA being only one, jIvA is also one.
[This conclusion is arrived through a detailed vivisection of the above mantra, analyzing the significance of the words used, meeting various objections raised by the opponent and so on. Shri Venkataraghavan Ji sent via a later communication the full commentary of Prakashananda. I hope to make a separate Post on it as it is quite an involved explanation.]
Madhusudana Sarasvati in siddhAnta bindu says that drishti srishTi vAda, also known as eka jIva vAda is the ultimate siddhAnta as far as Advaita is concerned.
[Shri Venkataraghavan also pointed out that all jnAna is vastu tantra, not kartr tantra.]
Shri Praveen R. Bhat:
I haven’t read the linked thread.
I see that Venkatraghavan ji has already quoted the mantra in support of EJV. There will likely be a question on this as to how that proves shruti support for EJV. My answer is: the same way that everyone thinks that there is shruti support for anekajIvavAda/ nAnAjIvavAda (AJV/ NJV). That is, sampradAya. If there were no sampradAya teachers explaining AJV, there would be no AJV either. So to understand that quotation in support of EJV, one has to study Vedanta Siddhanta Muktavali, which uses a lot of tarka.
shruti has ekavAkyatA and therefore, avAntaravAkya-s in the Vedas are only to lead to mahAvAkya; this is agreed by all Advaitins. IMHO, all mahAvAkya-s point only to ekajIvavAda, since there is no proof of any of them including any other jIva.
No Vedantin disagrees that shruti uses the adhyAropa-apavAda method. If that is so, every process used by shruti is adhyAropita, till it is refuted by apavAda. The follower of nAnAjIvavAda is trapped if you ask as to what happens to other jIvas on one jIva‘s mukti? Will they exist as baddhA-s? If yes, then are they different from the mukta jIva who is brahman? Obviously not, else it is reduced to dvaita; then what is the use of other jIva-s to one and only jIva seeking mukti? Through Occam’s razor, ekajIvavAda is the simplest approach, apavAda is done of all other jIva-s. I am not rejecting AJV, but it seems counterproductive to say that other jIva-s exist while rejecting the world, one’s own panchakoSha, etc.
Further, I prefer Swami Prakashananda’s approach of putting the onus on the opponent to prove that the other jIva-s exist. This is an impossible task using tarka as taking the support of mANDUkya kArika, I can say it is all svapnavat. It is an impossible task using shruti too, since all shruti vAkya-s of other jIva-s existing is in the realm of adhyAropa. An ekajIvavAdin can also be said to be stuck at the final step if asked: isn’t the eka jIva who thinks of himself as a sAdhaka also adhyAropita? That is indeed true, to the contrary establishing EJV, since the seeker is svatassiddhaH, who is the only aparokSha proof of mukti for himself.
Finally, to conclude, EJV’s purpose is [shortcut to] mokSha, validity is any mahavAkya/ advaita sampradAya [not ending with Bhashyakara] and efficacy is the same as AJV [if not the most].
[Regarding the observation by Dennis that “Gaudapada uses the dream analogy to guide seekers to a final understanding,” Shri Praveen Ji explains: “Dream analogy is that wherein one jIva becomes the abhinna-nimittopAdAna-kAraNa of the entire svapna-prapancha including all svapna-jIva-s, other than oneself!” Therefore, he points out, Gaudapada’s analogy itself is EJV. ]
Shri Praveen Ji has been kind to provide in a subsequent communication additional information as follows:
Though it may not be directly evident, EJV can be inferred from taittirIya praveShashruti. It says tad-eva-anuprAvishat, where tat is saMsAram. sampradAya adds jIvarUpeNa to the sentence. Bhashyakara glosses over it so while giving one of the many reasons as to why brahman exists: (तत्प्रवेशाच्च;)
‘तत्सृष्ट्वा तदेवानुप्राविशत्’ (tattirIya II-vi-1) इति च तस्यैव जीवरूपेण शरीरप्रवेशं दर्शयति ।
To me, this statement of Bhashyakara may be seen as EJV, since even when the Shruti said बहुस्याम् earlier, Bhashyakara uses singular जीवरूपेण instead of जीवरूपैः।