Our last ‘Thoughts and Questions’ proved so popular that we are offering a new topic for your consideration:
I received an interesting Question that touches on several aspects of creation and liberation for ‘everyone’. I posted the question at Advaitin discussion group because of my doubt about its value in gaining Self-Knowledge which is after all the one that matters for us here. The question is this:
“Is there any teaching anywhere in the scriptures regarding the enlightenment and ‘freeing’ of all jIva-s? What the questioner is getting at is: will the cycle of sRRiShTi – sthiti – laya ever come to an end, namely when there are no more jIva-s left to be enlightened? Or even: if this does occur at some point, will the process start all over again with a new set of jIva-s? If not, what happens then?”
My initial apprehension was that any ‘answer’ is clearly going to be in the same category as the various creation myths that we can find scattered about in the scriptures. However, a lively discussion ensued that eventually led to eka jIva vAda, a powerful but contentious theory that describes liberation of the jIva and the simultaneous end of creation.
I give below some of the salient points that have come up in those discussions:
1. The freeing of all jIva-s, all at once, has not been mentioned anywhere in the Veda and Vedanta. Brahman wanted to be many and became many. Nowhere is it said that Brahman wanted to be one again. What is taught in Advaita is that Brahman is always one and the jIvanmukta does realize that (or should we say the realized one is the jIvanmukta).
2. There are actually two questions in the inquiry:
i) The end to the endless cycle of creation and
ii) the creation of new jIva-s with the process starting all over at the end of each cycle.
Logically, the endless cycle cannot end (hence it is called endless cycle.) Thus, if the knowledge dawns for a particular jIva, his ignorance ends. When all jIva-s in the universe gain the knowledge, then from their point there is no more creation. Creation is only based on karma and all the karma is essentially neutralized by j~nAnam. The second question does not arise since the root cause for creation is beginning-less ignorance, which has now ended.
3. According to eka jIva vAda, there is only one jIva. All the others are like those conjured up in dream. Ishvara and Guru are also conjured up by this one jIva because of avidyA. When this one jIva attains Self-knowledge and becomes free from avidyA, he gets mokSha. Then all other jIva-s, including all living creatures (not only humans), cease to exist because the dreamer no longer exists. The mokSha stated to have been already attained by Suka and others is only by way of eulogy. When the only jIva becomes free from avidyA there will be no further creation and Brahman alone will remain. This is what has been stated by Appayya Dikshita in siddhanta-lesa-sangraha. Under the theory of multiple jIva-s (aneka jIva vAda), all jIva-s will gradually get liberated and then there will be no creation.
4. Shankara possibly did not propagate eka-jIva vAda in the vyAvahArika realm since upAdhi bedha is quite conspicuous.
5. eka jIva vAda is applicable only if the question is answered from the point of view of a single subject as reference point. There is only one conscious entity I am – everything else is mithyA (objects in my view). Hence when I realize, the story ends. I am Brahman or aham brahmAsmi becomes the underlying truth that I recognize. With multiple jIva-s assumed, creation would end only when all the jIva-s realize. Hence, from whose reference this question is addressed becomes important for clarification.
6. In the very last section of the siddhAnta lesha saMgraha of Sri Appayya DikShita there is a certain view called ‘sarva mukti‘. The idea there is: the j~nAnI who realizes the Supreme Brahman will, after death, remain one with Ishvara (and not be non-different from nirguNa Brahman). In that view such a situation will persist till ALL the jIva-s get liberated. However, there is no mention that the creation will cease after that, which, however, is obvious. A situation where there is a samaShTi, group, en masse, mukti, alone might make the sarva mukti a plausible one. In any case, it is only a kalpana (imagination), never even a vyAvahArika reality, not worth much thought.
But the admitted view of Advaita Vedanta is: even in the multiple-jiva scheme, the particular aspirant who evolves in spiritual enquiry, will naturally come to realize that there has been no creation, no bound soul, none seeking liberation, none a liberated one – in the pAramArthika sense (as the GaudapAda kArikA puts it) — it is ajAtivAda.
7. With aneka jiva vada, if you accept multiple jIva-s’ perceptions of the world, there would then be a need to postulate different portions of Consciousness / Brahman that somehow continue to be separate and re-born until they achieve mokSha. However, as per the Upanishads, there are no parts to Brahman. How can there be some separate jIva-s left out to be reborn until moksha?
8. In the Kathopanishat mantra 1.3.13 occurs a word ‘mahati’ in the locative case. The aspirant, in the meditative exercise to realize the Self has to gradually quieten his distracted mind and gradually identify itself with the subtle states of one’s own self. The ‘mahat’ is that cosmic entity that is just before, the penultimate, the True Self, the Atman. At this stage Shankara says:
//‘mahat’ is the First born (hiranyagarbha). One should make one’s mind pure-natured just as the First born is.//
In creation, the first one to manifest is this Mind. It does not have any shortcomings born of desire, anger, etc. Yet it is the repository of ‘all’ individual minds. So, at that stage there is a leap from the many-jIva-s idea to the one-jIva concept. And that is the closest to the Atman.
The following mantra from the rg veda supports the above idea:
kAmastagrE samavartaAdhiH manasO rEtaH prathamaM yadAsIt
The mantra says that the entire creation is the “projection from the mind of prajApati“. He desired to create and that desire itself became the seed of creation. prajApati can be considered to be the first jiva.
There is a question which the prajApati Himself poses to Himself before creation.
kAsIt pramA pratimA kiM nidAnaM (RRig veda, 10.130.3)
prajApati thinks Himself that what should be the measure of creation? How the creation should be commenced? What is the benchmark? How should it look like? What is the blueprint?
He got an answer by performing tapas that kAla (Time) in the form of “samvatsara” should be created. Thus, to create the blue print for “samvatsara“, prajApati offered Himself as the raw material for creation and performed “sarvahuta-yAga“.
Thus, prajApati also became identical with the puruSa. Hence the shatapatha brAhmaNa says that prajApati in the form of prathama jIva is very near and identical with puruSa
puruSo vai prajApatEH nEdiSTaM (184.108.40.206).
Advaita siddhAnta is shruti-proktaM which is explicitly stated in shruti.
It can be seen from the above summary that though eka jIva vAda is discussed to some extent, the question on the cyclicity of creation and complete ending of any further creation has not really been answered. I would like to invite the other bloggers and all the readers to respond and join in the discussion.
I am grateful to all the participants at the Advaitin forum for their thoughts and inputs on this topic. And thanks to Ramesam for editing those comments to produce this overall summary.
Here are a couple of additional points that people might like to read to help clarify the issues here.
First of all, this is the problem with the commonly held view that there are many jIva-s, who each have to strive for mokSha. Here is how I expressed it in the Advaitin group:
Since I fully accept ajAta vAda, I have no personal concerns about the seemingly problematic nature of the question. However, we are talking about interim teaching here – the adhyAropa before the apavAda. I can certainly imagine that a seeker might be seriously derailed and possibly reject Advaita altogether if there is no intellectually acceptable answer…
I accept what Subbuji said regarding multi-jIva mokSha. A few years back, I wrote a blog on pa~nchAgni vidyA – http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/DennisWaite/The-Fires-of-Reincarnation.ashx. This was based on Brahmasutra and describes the journey of the jIva between lives. At the time, it never occurred to me to follow this through logically to ask what would transpire as more and more jIva-s gained liberation. But clearly we must reach the situation where there are insufficient numbers of jIva-s remaining to sustain the process. And, whilst I haven’t (yet) gone tracked down the arguments against eka jIva vAda, the fact (as I understand it) that Shankara rejected it seems to me evidence enough that it is not a viable theory (apart from being extremely counter-intuitive)!
But perhaps some readers are unfamiliar with what ekajIva vAda actually says. Accordingly, here is a very good description:
From ‘Annexure I – Prakriya Bedha In Avaita Vedanta’ in ‘Advaita Vedanta – A Bird’s Eye View’ by D. Krishna Ayyar, a disciple of Swam Paramarthananda. http://www.vedantaadvaita.org/Annexure_1.htm
(a). … there is a prakriya called Eka jiva vaada which is also known by the name Drshtisrshti vaada. Eka jiva vada is accepted by Sarvajnatman who discusses mainly the anekajiva vada – vide Samshepakasaarika II.128-131.( For the elucidation of the nature of jiva And Iswara, Sarvajatman adopts pratibimba vada.) In Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Saraswati, eka jiva vada and drshtisrshti vada are equated. (Mukhyavedaantasiddhaantah ekajivadaakhyah, imam-eva drshti-srshtit-vaadam-aacakshate.) But in the prakaranagrantha called Vicara Sagara (of Niscaladasa in Hindi translated in Sanskrit by Swami Vasudevabrahmendra Sarasawati, a distinction seems to have been made between a drshti-srshti-prapanca solely of pratibhasika order of reality (eka-satta) and a drshrti-srshti universe consisting of a single vyavaharika entity with all the rest being pratibhasika (dwisatta).
(b). In the eka-satta version, the triputi of the pratibhasika universe, the pramatas, pramanams and prameyams (subjects, instruments of knowledge and objects) are projected simultaneously and withdrawn after each perception. The subject and object exist only at the time of perception. The next time, it is a different subject and a different object. Even when two pratibhasika individuals, A and B, are seeing a house, say No. 50, Sardar Patel Road, it is not the same house that they see. A is seeing a house corresponding to the vritti in A’s mind. B is seeing a different house corresponding to the vritti in B’s mind. In the trisatta universe, where we have a vyavahariika prapanca, when two persons look at 80, Sardar Patel Road, they are seeing the same house. But in the dwi-satta universe, where there is only a pratibhasika prapanca, apart from the paarmaartikam, each perception is unique to the perceiver. If we take an example from the tri-satta universe, where the vyavaharika perceivers see pratibhasiksa objects, it is like A seeing a snake on the rope corresponding to his jnaanaadhyaasa (erroneous notion in his mind) and B seeing a different snake on the rope, corresponding to his jnaanadhyaasa.
(c) In the dwi-satta version, BrahmaAtman that transcends avidya is Iswara and Brahman-Atman reflected in Avidya is Jiva. As avidya is only one, jiva also is one only. This is a vyavaharika jiva. Avidya conceals the true nature (as Brahman) from this jiva. This jiva is the material , and efficient cause of the universe consisting of other jivas and objects of the world which are all pratibhasikam. The world does not exist independent of being perceived by the single vyavaharika jiva. An object exists only at the time of perception. It has no existence before or after that. In technical language drshti is srshti; yadaa padaarthaaah pratiiyate tadda eva pratiiti-vishaya-padaarthaah jaayate; darsanam srshti adarsanam layah; there is no ajnaata-satta; there is only jnaata-satta. For example, say I am the eka jiva. When I leave my house, the house ceases to exist. I traverse a road to go to the class. When I leave the road, the road ceases to exist When I return to the house, it is not the same house; it is a new house which I have created by my thought of the house. When I go the class again, it is not the same teacher and the same classmates; it is a new teacher and new classmates. There is no cause-effect concept either. I see a Maruti 800 car with the number plate DLC 4585 in a showroom ready to be delivered. Later, I see a Maruti car 800 with the number plate DLC 4585 on the road. But it is not the same car. It is a fresh car created by my thought of the car or like Thus, the jagrat prapanca is like the swapna prapanca created by the waker. However, the knowledge of Brahman arises to this eka jiva from the teaching of the preceptor, though the preceptor also is pratibhasika, avidya is removed and Brahmatvam is restored. Since the other jivas are pratibhasika, this vada does not accept jivanmukti, because there is no other jiva to be taught.
(d). Sureswaracarya says that whatever be the prakriya, as long as people attain firm knowledge of jiva brahma aikyam by adopting that prakriya, that prakriya is valid. The only question is which is the prakriya that appeals to a person‘s intellect. On should go by that to arrive at the knowledge, ‘brahmasatyam, jaganmithya, jivobrhmaiva naaparah.
Just to let you know that the section on ekajIva vAda from Appayya DikShita’s siddhAnta lesha saMgraha is translated in ‘The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta’ edited by Eliot Deutsch. I have just read this, however, and understood scarcely a word! In fact, it provides brief descriptions of a number of theories, of which this is just one. And there are sentences which go on for half a page, with umpteen clauses. If anyone has a copy and is prepared to read it and translate the relevant bits into something that is comprehensible, we would be much indebted!
You should further note that Ramesam has discussed eka jIva vAda as part of his ‘Process Models’ essays at Advaita Academy (Parts 7 and 8):
Also he has written on the subject here in his six-part blog beginning:
The views of Ramana Maharshi on ekajIva vAda (apparently supporting this view) are presented and discussed in the extensive blog at http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/swami-siddheswaranandas-views-on.html.
I found a concise view of David Godman (who consulted an expert) supposedly expressed as an answer at his forum to a Question on eka jIva vAda on June 2, 2010 at:
It contains a list of ten source texts of post-Shankara writers who propounded eka jIva vAda, six of them being vouched by David from his personal knowledge.
In his article, David Godman quotes Guru Vachaka Kovai:
“Let the heroic one who possesses a powerful intuition accept that the jiva is only one, and thus become firmly established in the Heart. In order to satisfy those persons in whom this intuition has not blossomed [jnanis appear to] agree with their view that jivas are many.”
In the advaita forum, it was also pointed out in a previous discussion, that the 35th Sanakaracharya of Sringeri said (in Exalting Elucidations, p.280) in almost similar terms to Bhagavan Ramana:
Q; What is creation?
A: Perception alone is creation. There is no creation other than perception. Perception of a thing is its origination.
Q: What about Isvara?
A: He too is part of your dream. In reality there is neither cause nor effect. One has bondage as long as one considers that one has bondage. He who feels that he is free is indeed free.
Q: Is the removal of the wrong idea that one has bondage the means to attain moksha
A: Yes. So far I was speaking with drsti-srsti vada in mind. This however is not suitable for many people because their minds are not pure enough to imbibe it. People accept that the dream state is unreal. However if told that the waking state is equally unreal they would feel disturbed. That is why the sastras do not speak much of the drsti-srsti vada.
Again, on p.305:
“The variations seen [in advaita philosophy] are in the description of the world, God and the individual self. The differing views serve to cater to the requirements of aspirants of differing competence and temperament. To a highly competent and advanced aspirant the eka-jiva-vada is appealing. Difficulty may arise if others are also taught in the same fashion. So for them nana-jiva-vada (the view that there are many jivas) is presented. Suresvaracarya has clarified, “By whatever method one gets knowledge of the inner Self, that means should be considered proper. Such methods are several””.
Thank you, Dennis, for posting again a very provocative question pregnant with the possibility for potentially explosive thoughts.
Thanks also for the references and the Links to one possible answer for the question through eka jIva vAda when seemingly the creation ends with the single jIva who is none other than brahman Himself, achieves liberation.
As you said, eka jIva vAda is a ‘powerful but contentious’ technique – “powerful” as a method of nididhyAsana by an individual but “contentious” as a theory of creation. But does the creation really end when that single individual gets liberated? Is there a guarantee that that individual is not created again? Is there a declaration anywhere: “No more creations. Full Stop?!”
See what Sage Vyasa had to say in the words of Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita:
Though I am birthless, I take birth (Ch IV – Sloka 6).
Is it just once? No, Many times. In fact countless times!
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन | — IV – 5
(OH, Arjuna, many lives of Mine have passed and so have yours).
That’s what is said, in spite of the assurance, made twice, about there being no return for one who reaches the ultimate:
यं प्राप्य न निवर्तन्ते तद्धाम परमं मम — VIII – 21
(That is the Supreme Abode of Mine, reaching which they do not return).
यद्गत्वा न निवर्तन्ते तद्धाम परमं मम — XV – 6
(That is My Supreme Abode reaching which they will not return).
So as an answer to the Question: will the cycle of sRRiShTi – sthiti – laya ever come to an end?, we have to say, No.
The cycle goes on and on and on …………
In fact it is described as anAdi – beginningless and therefore, endless too. But the word “anAdi” does not explain anything. It is just a euphemism to hide our ignorance instead of openly admitting, “I don’t know.”
If you allow a little digression, oftener than not, we nod our heads in agreement as if we understood, when we have a label. For example, we know that it is because of ‘gravity’ that things fall down to earth. Newton gave the name. But what exactly is gravity? Newton did not know. At least he knew he did not know. After more than a couple of centuries, Einstein tried to explain what it was. But today, we are not sure what really gravity is, and some opine that it could be merely an ‘illusion.’ So honestly speaking, we do not know what‘gravity’ actually is though we are complacent in accepting it.
There are many such mesmerizing and popular names like anAdi in Vedanta – they sedate us to a smug feeling of ‘knowing’; but we really don’t. More on this at another time.
Coming back to the unending cyclicity of creation-sustenance-dissolution, do we have any idea of the periodicity of the cycles? The answer seems to be a ‘Yes.’ What are the time scales? Well, it depends.
Again quoting Gita, we have: Death of anyone born is certain; and of the dead (re-) birth is a certainty (II – 27). Krishna also suggests an alternate model: ‘You may think this One is born continually and dies constantly’ (II – 26). Thus it is an ongoing affair!
At another scale, we have periodicities ranging from a 24-hr day to billions of earth years.
We have the ‘Daily’ deep sleep when the waker jIva ends and a new one created afresh again with each waking up (difficult to concur – but that’s another issue to debate).
We have the ‘Periodical’ dissolution of the jIva-s at the end of each daytime of the Creator – 4.32 billion earth years. The Creator has an equally long night time.
There is also a ‘Natural’ dissolution at the end of the lifetime of each Creator – over 311 trillion earth years.
Finally is the Great Dissolution when jIva is said to be liberated!
Only to restart the process‼
Advaita holds “nothing is ever created.” Hence no question of any cycles of creation-dissolution.
As per Advaita, all the creation is just an imagination. For example, Sage Vasishta describes the origin of jIva as follows:
“First there was the Pure Consciousness. An intention (sankalpa) to create arose in Consciousness. The reason for this thought is the residual impressions of actions of the earlier Kalpa (Kalpa refers to a cycle of 4.32 billion years). These impressions could be many, variegated and very startling. Therefore, it is difficult to state decisively how and when this ‘thought to create’ arises. Elders state that it happens randomly (yadruchayA). The Pure Consciousness associated with the intention of creation is called jIva.
When the intention congeals, it gives raise to a vibration called as the manifestation of “I-consciousness” in jIva. It eventually becomes denser as the mind. The mind helps the jIiva to manifest himself.
The mind in association with the jIva, fantasizes this whole world in no time, like building castles in the air. In this fantasy, mind pretends to have lost first its state of Pure Consciousness and then its state of being the seer (dRigrUpa).
The jIva experiences, under his power of intention, a creation as if a creator, a four-faced Brahma, is creating it. Then the fourteen worlds (loka-s) come up. Where from have all these come? Please observe. They have originated from the thought of the jIva! — sarga 40, sthiti prakaraNa, yogavAsiShTa.
And all of this happens in the blink of an eye. You are Brahma, the Creator.
This must be one of those topics where one can say practically anything and for it to be theoretically valid. If it is meaningful and helpful for the one who says it, then it is valid! Ultimately, as we agree, all theories are invalid since there is no creation.
I don’t think your quotation from the Gita supports your argument (“Though I am birthless, I take birth (Ch IV – Sloka 6).
Is it just once? No, Many times. In fact countless times!”) Here, Krishna is speaking as an avatar of Ishvara, not as a jIva. After self-knowledge, I don’t think the Gita anywhere states that the jIva is ever reborn. And does not Self-knowledge spell the end of beginningless ignorance?
Your comment about gravity reminds me of the story told by Alan Watts, which I recounted in ‘Book of One’: “He said that gravity is a case where an unknown, undetectable force is used to ‘explain’ why, for example, a rock falls to the ground when it is dropped.
We say that the rock falls ‘because of’ gravity. In fact, this explains nothing at all and, he suggested, is actually not necessary. It is part of the definition of ‘rock’ that it will act in this way; if we dropped it and it rose up into the air, we should instead call it a balloon.”
Thanks Dennis for the observations.
It is absolutely incontestable when you say, “…all theories are invalid since there is no creation.” No argument there!
Alan Watts’s story underlines doubly what I said with his two examples – rocks and balloons. But in the humor therein, the message on how our brain gets numbed by the ‘soup of labels’ appears to be slightly lost (including on Alan Watts himself in his own story!). He just ended up cooking one more label if the movement happened to be in the opposite direction. The “unknown, undetectable force” remains, sadly, still an UNKNOWN only, and does not “explain” what that actually is. And as all fighter bombers would know, a rock dropped from a speeding jet will be a balloon for some time before it becomes a rock again!
Similar is the case in the BG example I gave. The unchanging, unborn, birthless ‘whatever-that-is’ cannot be many, It has to be only One. When Vyasa caricatures It by giving a ‘voice’ and a name, It says, “I take birth again and again.” To explain away the paradox, we create more labels – mahat,avyakta, avatar, Ishwara, jIva etc. etc., and we go away with a grin of contentment, as if we are meeting our familiar old neighborhood faces, by knowing all those additional names!
I admire the creativity in fabricating names and stories; but I admire parsimony more when it comes to concepts.
I suggest here The Necker Cube Model for Creation-Dissolution of the world.
1. The sRiShTi vAkyA-s from aitareya, bRihadAraNyaka and chandogya clearly establish that the world has been in existence even prior to creation (in unmanifest form).
2. The sRiShTi vAkyA-s imply, therefore, non-separateness of the world from brahman.
3. The unmanifest form is brahman. The perceived from is the world – like unmanifest form is clay, the perceived from is ‘pot’.
4. brahma sUtra II-1-15, bhAveca upalabdheh, tells us that brahman, the kAraNam is non-different from the world, the kArya. Therefore, even at the time you perceive a world, you are actually perceiving brahman only – much like even when you are looking at the letters and the words in this sentence on your computer screen, you are actually looking at the screen only. You have not stopped looking at the screen when you are lookng at the letters!
5. Shankara says, while commenting on brahma sUtra II-1-16, sattvAt ca Avarasya, that the effect also enjoys eternal existence. Therefore, the world (kArya) also is eternal as kAraNa.
6. Then what is it that makes a world to appear instead of brahman? Only your perception because perception is creation.
(Please see: https://www.advaita-vision.org/eka-jiva-vada-i-am-alone-part-vi/ )
7. Hence, the world appears as long as your perception lasts and ends with your perception ending. (It can also be interpreted that the world is created with each thought, lasts as long as a thought and dissolves with the thought).
8. Suppose 12 lines are drawn to show a 3-D cube as a 2-D projection on a paper. You may see it with the lower left face in the frontal view OR you may see the bottom and the lower corner in the front view.You may also find it not so easy to switch from one view to the other. (Please ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necker_cube )
9. Strictly speaking, there are only some lines there, no 3-D cube with one or the other view on the sheet of paper.
Likewise, let’s say there is the nameless Beingness only which you view either as brahman or as the world. How long you view which projection will depend on you as the perceiver.
10. So long as you keep yourself as a remote Viewer and perceive the One total “Whatever-That-IS” in bits and pieces assigning labels to each piece, you perceive a world. The moment you dissolve your separation, the perception and the world will dissolve and only brahman remains.
Great post, Ramesam! The only slight issue I had was that your words read as though the world (effect) is different from Brahman (cause), although of course it is not. The world qua world is mithyA. (I’ve always wanted to use ‘qua’ in a sentence!) The world as ‘name and form of brahman’ is real.
I only say this for clarity, as I know you do not disagree. It is just that you cannot really say ‘the world existed prior to creation’; in fact, it never exists (as something other than brahman), either ‘before’ or ‘after’. I think this is one of those cases where you have to be pedantic!
And when you say that the effect also enjoys eternal existence, it appears as if you are talking about two things. You are only actually talking about one thing (Brahman). It is like saying that Jesus died on the cross at the same time as Christ.
I am obliged for your kind words.
Once the basic model is acceptable, we shall work on the orthology.
Hi Dennis, Hi Ramesam,
just to let you know that I am enjoying your exchange a lot!
(As noted by Radhakrishnan in Vol. 2 of his ‘Indian Philosophy’, ekajIva vAda is in conflict with the following sutras from Brahmasutra:
II.1.22 The jIva cannot be the creator of the world, who is omniscient, omnipotent etc.
II.1.33 Brahmna’s creativity is mere sport
I.2.3 The qualities used to describe Brahman cannot apply to the jIva.
Radhakrishnan also begins his short discourse with the words “Shankara does not support the view that the jIva, limited by advidyA, is one, as avidyA is one.”
Thanks Dennis for the quotes from Dr. Radhakrishanan against eka jIva vAda.
My comments here under are based purely on the brahma sUtra-s cited in the above Comment.
I do not have with me the work of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan referred to by Dennis. So I am ignorant of the overall context in which Dr. S.R. developed his arguments. Hence the validity of my observations may please be considered within these constraints.
1. BS II.1.22:
The itaravyapadesAdhikaraNam containing the sutras 21-23 follows the ArambhaNAdhikaraNam wherein it was established by the Siddhantin that “The world (effect) is non-different from Brahman (the cause).”
The first sUtra (# 21) of this adhikaraNam is the argument posed by the Opponent. The Opponent ridicules the wisdom of brahman. He says that brahman “is not doing good to Himself by creating suffering and pain on account of repeated births and deaths for Himself as jIva.”
The Vedantin answers in the sUtra # 22 (cited by Dr. S.R.) that the said limitations (suffering) of the jIva are his imaginations only and brahman in actuality has not become a contracted embodied individual. Shankara in his commentary specifically mentions the fact that the Upanishads (e.g. bRihadAraNyaka) do point out the difference between the individual and brahman and therefore give the instruction to the individual in the following words: “Verily, the Self is to be seen, to be heard, to be reflected and to be meditated upon.” It is further stated that “When the individual soul attains knowledge of brahman, he remembers his identity with brahman. Then the whole phenomenon of plurality which springs from wrong knowledge disappears. There is neither the embodied soul nor the creator.”
The jiva is exhorted to remember his True nature and only in this context, it is stated that brahman is superior to the individual who cannot be the creator of the universe.
That being the position, how can one hold BS II.1.22 to be a statement in conflict with “eka jIva vAda,” especially if we consider the doctrine for upAsana by a seeker?
2. BS II.1.33:
This sUtra # 33 is in response to the objection raised in the immediately preceding sUtra # 32. sUtra # 32 questions the veracity of brahman being the creator of the universe on the ground that no purpose could possibly be there for brahman for creating a world. For, it is argued that He lacks nothing and, therefore, cannot have a motive for creation. There is nothing for him to be gained from the act of creation.
The Vedantin replies that brahman has created the world not out of any desire or motive but done out of a sportive impulse. In support of his contention, he says that even in the case of the human beings, there are many activities done without a motive or desire. An example of such an action seen in the world is: children playing for mere fun. Another example is “a man, full of cheerfulness after awakening from sound sleep, dancing about without any objective, but from mere exuberance of spirit.”
The Vedantin holds the creation to be thus a “celebration.”
This being the context, of the sUtra # 33, how can it be taken to be speaking against eka jIva vAda?
3. BS 1.2.3:
The purpose of citing this sUtra to argue against eka jIva vAda totally beats me.
The sUtra says: anupapattestu na shArIrah
The general purport of this and the adhikaraNa-s preceding it is to establish that the various words used in the Upanishads to describe the object of meditation connote brahman, though the immediate meaning of a word used may convey a different sense.
The meaning of the word shArIrah (one who is in the body) in one of the mantras is being clarified here. Vyasa and Shankara explain that the word indicates brahman and not the individual because, the qualities described by other words (like satyasakalpatva, AkAsAtmatatva…) cannot fit into the individual jIva. Therefore, only brahman has to be the object of meditation and not jIva. Agreed that the existence of a vast difference in the attributes of a jIva and brahman is pointed out here.
But the point is that in eka jIva vAda, the seeker assumes on to himself/herself the qualities of brahamn — omniscience, omnipotence, immanence etc. He considers himself to be brahman and not a puny limited person. Whether it is meditation or creation, that is the stature with which the jIva in the eka jIva vAda proceeds. So in that act, jIva is not a particular person with a name and identity, but the nameless “tat.” That is the idea and the spirit with which the eka jIva doctrine goes. If the seeker thinks of himself as a separate person, his action will tantamount to be the usual ‘gauNa’ dualistic worship and not eka jIva vAda.
Thus I am unable to accept that the three brahma sUtra-s cited are in anyway in conflict with the principles of eka jIva vAda.
Dear Dennis and Ramesam
Thanks for this really thought-provoking exchange. Two questions to you both.
The bhasya to BSB 2.3.43 states that Brahman cannot have any parts, and that a soul is not actually a part, but a part as it were, an imagined part. Further BSB2.3.39 states that the soul is an agent which achieves liberation through hearing, reasoning and meditation.
Now, if you adopt aneka jiva vada, then that would imply some souls, i.e. some ‘imagined parts’ of Brahman achieve liberation, whilst other imagined parts of Brahman continue to be deluded. Doesn’t this contradict the logical meaning of no parts to Brahman? Surely only eka jiva would be logically consistent?
Shankara’s commentary on BSB 2.3.49 and BSB 2.3.50, does seem to imply acceptance of multiple souls:
“An individualised soul means the connection of the Atman with a particular body, mind, etc and since these are not overlapping, the individual souls are different from each other”
“According to Vedanta, an individual soul is but a reflection, image of the Supreme Lord in its Upadhi, the Antahkarana. So the reflections of the Lord in different Antahkaranas are different . . . so the experiencing of happiness and misery by a particular jiva or individualised soul is not shared by other souls. Hence there can be no confusion of the results of action.”
Is this just a concession to a more relative level of understanding?
Would really appreciate your thoughts.
I find the use of the word “soul” confusing because there are people who translate aatman as soul. What you seem to mean is the jiva. Of course jivas, as jivas, are different from each other. Only the jiva has antahkarana with upadhi and therefore experiences happiness or misery which are not shared by other jivas.
To begin with we assume that all jivas project a world. But if you inquire a little deeper into this it implies that all jivas are within each other’s projections, which in turn means that in the end there is only one jiva needed to create the whole mithya world. This is what I understand eka jiva vada to mean. Please, Dennis and Ramesam, be so kind as to correct me if I am wrong.
Hi Sitara, I am using the English translation of BSB by Swami Vireswarananda, where I think he uses soul in the sense of jiva.
In eka jiva there is literally only one jiva imagined by Brahman, from whose perspective the imaginary world is then seen. All srutis and other beings, jnanis, etc are just in the imagination of this one jiva. Once this jiva gains the knowledge of its non-difference from Brahman and removal of its ignorance, then that is the only moksha.
In aneka jiva there is an imaginary world which is consistently seen from different spatial / temporal perspectives by apparently different jivas. Here one jiva can gain moksha and release from re-birth, whilst another may not and continues the cycle of birth and re-birth.
Hence my two questions to clarify – as to whether eka jiva is the only theory that is logically consistent with there being no parts to Brahman; and whether Shankara in BSB actually only allows for aneka jiva.
Hi Venkat, thank you. I do not really feel authorized to answer your questions. As far as I am concerned eka jiva is the only logically consistent concept. But it is a still concept; in fact there is not even one part as it were. There is only ever partless Brahman.
Dear Sitara and Venkat,
Thank you both for the interesting observations and the searching questions posed by you.
Before I present my response, I would like to make it clear that I do not claim any expertise on brahmasutra bhAshya (BSB) of Shankara nor am I a scholar in Advaita polemics. Hopefully Dennis may also be responding to the questions and I trust his answers will be more authentic.
I present below my understanding.
Regarding the Questions by Venkat:
Vedanta is an Astik philosophy, as you know. That means it believes in Vedas to be a valid pramANa (means of knowledge). But Vedas are vague when it comes to the question of the relationship between jIva and brahman. They speak of abheda (non-difference) between jIva and brahman but also contain equal number of bheda vAkya-s (statements of difference).
The boy Shankara chose the abheda school of thought. In order to buttress his argument and to add weight to his young voice, he armed himself by documenting his views through his commentaries. BSB is one of such primary documents that go to establish the jIvabrahmaikyatva (the Oneness of the individual and brahman).
Undoubtedly eka jIva vAda (EJV) is out and out a derivative of the doctrine of jIvabrahmaikyatva.
But BSB was not prepared to establishing EJV.
As adhyAsa bhAshya, the preamble to BSB, clearly spells out, the main thrust in BSB was directed towards explaining the basic error in human behavior, viz, adhyAropa – ahamidaM, mamedamiti naisargikOyaM lOka vyavahAraH….adhyAsO nAma atasmintadbuddhirityavOchama ……
Under these circumstances, it is unfair, IMHO, to quote Shankara’s commentary on a particular sUtra and look for evidence for EJV or multiple jIva-s. If we anyone does so, it will be either overstretching or shoehorning the arguments.
As a matter of fact, according to knowledgeable persons, “there is a scope for both eka jIva and nAna jIva vAda in Shankara bhAshya. We can see that Shankara himself contextually accepts both the views…when we take the ‘samashti’ antaHkaraNa (upAdhi-s) for Atman then it is ‘eka jIva vAda’ only…instead of this if we hold the individual antaHkaraNa-s as they are many in vyAvahArika then nAnA jIva vAda can be brought forward.”
While we may keep the above overall picture in mind, I would still answer that there is no ‘contradiction’ when Venkat asks, “if you adopt aneka jiva vada, then that would imply some [individuals], i.e. some ‘imagined parts’ of Brahman achieve liberation, whilst other imagined parts of Brahman continue to be deluded. Doesn’t this contradict the logical meaning of no parts to Brahman?”
Reconciliation of many as ‘one’ can be understood from the way Vince Flammini explained to me over six years ago. I quote him below:
“Try an experiment. Hold up your left hand, palm facing your face. Now, with a piece of paper, cover all of the palm so only the top half of the fingers are visible. Do the fingers appear to be separate? In some relative sense, are they separate? Remove the piece of paper. Are the fingers really separate?
As long as you identify yourself as a finger, these questions will continue to arise. Unquestionably, from the standpoint of a separate finger, these questions are legitimate and, seemingly, of great importance. See clearly that your premise is wrong. Your premise is itself a conceptual construct, “I am separate.” You can ask as many questions as you’d like from the wrong premise and you will get a myriad of interesting and useless answers.”
Or you can imagine a tree, which is a single unit. Some leaves may be coming up newly on one branch whereas the leaves on another branch may be ripening and turning red. Yet the oneness of the tree is not affected.
(In order to keep the length of the post short, I will close here and post my response to Sitara separately).
Dear Sitara and Venkat,
I agree with Sitara fully when she says that the word “soul” can create confusion. It is a loaded term and has a different connotation in the Western philosophies. I always try to avoid using that word. I prefer “individual” in its place. But as Venkat also observed, the older authors translated jIva as “soul.”
Sitara says: “To begin with we assume that all jivas project a world. But if you inquire a little deeper into this it implies that all jivas are within each other’s projections, which in turn means that in the end there is only one jiva needed to create the whole mithya world. This is what I understand eka jiva vada to mean.”
My appeal to Sitara is to drop the word ‘mithya’ as a descriptor to the world in the above sentence. I shall give the reason in a bit.
What you said in the above sentence (with my amendment) is also my understanding. We have from brihadAraNyaka upa:
“As from a fire tiny sparks fly in all directions, even so from this Atman come forth all organs, all worlds, all gods, all beings.”
The brihadAranyaka bhAshya also says: “brahman itself gets bound in the world because of Its own avidya and secures liberation by Its own realization.’
We have from siddhAntalesha sangraha: “Brahman Itself, as jiva because of Its own avidya, is the concoctor of the entire world, even Ishwara characterized by Omniscience etc., is concocted by jiva, in the manner of a God seen in a dream.”
Gaudapada is quite unequivocal when he says: “The self-luminous Self, by Its own Maya imagines Itself by Itself and It alone cognises all objects. This is a settled fact of the Vedanta-texts.” — kArika II – 12
A little digression with regard to the word ‘mithya’:
IMHO, it is another of those mesmerizing terms that fails to convey anything meaningful.
Let me use the story of Allan Watts quoted by Dennis. Let us imagine the scenario where the crashing-down things are called “rocks” and going-up things are called balloons. Now we coin the word ‘rockloon’ or ‘brock’ to explain the raising rock dropped from the speeding jet aircraft. Does it explain to me anything of the dynamics involved or enrich my understanding of the nature even by del increment?
One need not make fun of me when I say as above. Physics knows that matter at atomic and subatomic scales can behave as particles or waves. We do not know exactly what it is. Instead of admitting “I do not know”, some physicists like to talk of ‘wavicles.’ Does the word wavicle improve our understanding of the fundamental nature of matter?
“mithya” is also such a dud word.
It sounds mystic, we go brandishing it all around. It lulls the brain. We feel smug and wise! Let us openly admit, “we don’t know.” At least that leaves the spirit of inquiry open.
Ramesam, thank you for your comment. I think that mithya is a fabulous term, extremely useful. It should not be dropped because it does help the seeker understand the nature of reality. Please explain further why you think that it lulls the brain. In my experience it is just the opposite.
Your example of gravity above – everyone talking of gravity without knowing anything about its nature – exactly describes what mithya means: thinking that you know a thing when you know name and form whereas in fact you do not know anything about it at all.
Im impressed with Ramesam’s analysis and I could not possibly claim to be more authoritative as regards interpretation of the BSB. I have listened to most of Swami P’s talks on this (missing out some of the stuff on passage between lives etc) but have only used the various commentaries on this for reference. Also, it was not my intention that I participate overmuch in any discussions; the idea was that visitors begin a discussion!
But I certainly take exception to the comment about mithyA and agree entirely with Sitara. mithyA is possibly the most important concept in Advaita and I suggest has done more to bring about Self-knowledge than anything else. How could we say that all words and concepts and jIva-s and objects are mithyA without the word mithyA?! If it didn’t exist, we would have to invent it; we couldn’t keep saying sadasadvilakShaNa all the time (can’t think of any shorter way of conveying the meaning).
Dennis, could you not just say ‘sad-asat’ to make it shorter, its meaning being equivalent to mithya (and less “mystical”, as Ramesam suggests). This may be a moot point, I agree.
Mithya the most important concept in advaita? (of course, you quality this sentence by adding ‘possibly’). I thought it would be adhyasa, in tandem with avidya, from which it cannot be separated. That pair explains just about everything.
sad-asat is certainly one of the ‘definitions’ for mithyA but how is that shorter? (6 letters plus a hyphen versus 5 letters)?
The reason I suggested it was possibly the most important concept is that the story I wrote to explain the meaning of advaita also turned out to be the best way to explain mithyA. http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/definitions/advaita.htm
I’m not sure I could say the same for adhyAsa or avidya. Possibly the former (after all, Shankara did quite well in the BSB intro!) but not the latter.
Dear Sitara and Dennis,
Thank you for your time and Comments.
I may be violating the code on over much participation, but would like to quickly clarify what I said about the word “mithya.”
I suggested that it be dropped “as a descriptor to the world in the above sentence” specifically referring to the quote from Sitara’s earlier comment . I did not say that the word should be eliminated from Advaita lexicon!
As the point is not immediately related to the topic of discussion under this thread, I shall post a separate write up on how and why I feel it lulls our brain into complacency.
Thanks for your response. With respect to your reconciliation of the many as one, using the explanation of Vince Flammini – I agree that this is a good model for aneka veda.
However, in this model, the ‘death’ of a finger / jiva would simply be the end of that jiva. Full stop. But Vedanta (which I presume is at a “more relative” level) proceeds to talk about some part of that jiva transmigrating and being re-born; and that this continues until the jiva realises and dispels his ignorance, and that this knowledge then stops transmigration for that particular jiva (presumably because the jiva ‘merges’ back into Brahman) . . . then one is logically positing parts to Brahman. Hence the inconsistency. And one thing Vedanta is good at, is to point out that truth must be uncontradictable. Eka jiva vada does not have this issue.
On your comments about mithya, I take it to mean that one should not place over-reliance on concepts and conceptual frameworks. Bhagavan Ramana, Nisargadatta and JK, all would say that concepts are just pointers to understanding.
– “The inner silence is self-surrender. And that is living without the sense of ego. Solitude is in the mind of humanity. Silence is ever speaking; it is the perennial flow of “language.” It is interrupted by speaking; for words obstruct this mute language. Silence is permanent and benefits the whole of humanity. . . . By silence, eloquence is meant. It is the best language. There is a state when words cease and silence prevails.” (Bhagavan Ramana)
– “To see reality is as simple as to see one’s face in a mirror. Only the mirror must be clear and true. A quiet mind, undistorted by desires and fears, free from ideas and opinions, clear on all the levels, is needed to reflect the reality. Be clear and quiet, alert and detached, all else will happen by itself.” (Nisargadatta)
– “When there is stillness, when there is no desire, no longing, when the mind is absolutely quiet with a stillness that is not induced, then reality comes. And to find that reality is not to seek it, but to understand the factors that agitate the mind, that disturb the mind itself.” – JK
If you haven’t come across is, there is a wonderful, affectionate dialogue between JK and Swami Venkatesanada. There used to be two, but the first seems to have been deleted unfortunately.
I don’t see why the existence of individual jIva-s necessitates there being parts to brahman. When the sun is reflected in many puddles of water, it is the whole sun, in each case, that is reflected.
The sun reflected in many puddles analogy is attractive in its simplicity but it implies a separation between Brahman and the jivas; that somehow impartial universal consciousness is lighting up different, otherwise insentient jivas.
However the upanishads (e.g. Brihadaranyaka bhasya I.iv.7) state that after projecting the universe the Self entered into it – to show that Brahman is not separate from its projection.
So, Brahman + veiling ignorance = jiva.
The removal of ignorance from the jiva through knowledge results in Brahman; the knower of Brahman is Brahman. In a multiple jiva world, you would have some jivas where ignorance has been removed and others where it remains. The fact that one jiva (which is Brahman in reality) is ignorant and another jiva (which is also Brahman) has achieved moksha surely implies parts to Brahman? If you stick to your reflections in puddle analogy, then you imply a separation between Brahman and ignorant jivas.
This is further compounded by arguing that liberated jivas escape rebirth (by the simple fact of knowledge?), while ignorant jivas continue to be reborn.
When Mandukya II.32 states “no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated”, surely it also literally means that there are not some who are liberated whilst others are bound?
You can’t take all scriptural statements literally – you would have too many contradictions. I like the simplicity of the puddle metaphor. You have dirty puddles (aj~nAnI-s) and clear puddles (j~nAnI-s) but both are still only reflections; the reality (the sun) is still untouched, unchanging brahman. And ‘in reality’, no one is bound, no one is born etc, just as Gaudapada says. And you can say that the substrate of the puddles themselves (if you like) is also brahman.
The entire teaching is adhyAropa. Why pick on parts of it and try to make those ‘correct’ at the expense of other parts? I accept that ekajIva vAda might help some towards Self-knowledge but my feeling is that it will be counter-productive for most, implying as it does some sort of megalomaniac position. (Except I suppose you should really say ‘egomaniac’ since EJV says I, the jIva. am the only vyAvahArika reality…)
I have posted a discussion on this with Acharya Dr. Sadananda as a separate thread – https://www.advaita-vision.org/more-on-ekajiva-vada/.
Dear Dennis, without knowing about this particular prakriya I have been using EJV a with students and have found that it is only suitable for those who already have a clear knowledge of who they truly are. In fact I would say that EJV is entirely a technique for nididhyasana. Used before nididhyasana it will only trigger imaginations and maybe, as you say, egomaniac ones. The Direct Path methods of Atmananda Krishna Menon, brilliantly described by Greg Goode in his book “The Direct Path” are great EJV-tools. Actually I think that EJV is especially suitable for secular Europeans who have little devotional inclination and respond very well to logic and self-inquiery.
As anticipated by Dennis, the Question on “Moksha for all” attracted a large number of Comments being posted on this topic and it has also triggered an (apparently) off-line parallel discussion by him with Dr. Sadananda spinning off a separate post by Dennis.
But the original Questioner has stoically remained silent all through this so far. It will be interesting to listen to his voice as a feedback within all this “storm.”