According to Vedanta, Brahman is the Absolute Reality. The universe is a lower order of reality drawing existence from Brahman and is mithya. Maya is the power of Brahman with two aspects, namely, projecting power and veiling power. The former projects the universe and due to the latter a jiva forgets that his essential nature is Brahman. Indeed, maya is powerful. What is it made of?
There is a clue in verses 8.18 to 8.20 of Bhagavad Gita. A day and a night of Brahmaji constitute one calendar day of Brahmaji which is made of two thousand maha-yugas. During his daytime, when Brahmaji is awake, the universe is in manifest form and when he is asleep during the night it is in unmanifest(resolved) form resting in potential form in the unmanifest Brahman. It is again manifested at the dawn of Brahmaji’s day. The universe has two states: manifest and unmanifest and the cycles of creation continue.
It follows that maya is the unmanifest universe. It is also called Prakriti. A jiva takes rebirth because of the causal body which is the sanchit karma, i.e., the karmic balance at the time of death. At the time of dissolution, i.e., at the end of a cycle of creation, the aggregate causal body of all jivas is the unmanifest universe resting in Brahman. Maya is the cosmic causal body. Brahman owes maya power to jivas.

Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 10.129.4

Alongside Purusha Sukta (10.90), the Nasadiya Sukta (10.129) is one of the most famous Suktas of the Vedas. Known as the Creation Hymn, its fourth mantra says,

In the beginning, there was the disturbance of desire, from which sprung the first seed, which was born of the mind. Sages, searching in their hearts, realised the wisdom of the connection between existence and non-existence.

The creation the Nasadiya Sukta discusses is often believed to be the origin of the universe. However, 10.129.4 does not refer to any ordinary creation but, rather, the illusion of duality. This is attributed to desire in the mind – the first ‘seed’ of ignorance which gives the impression that we are separate. Before this disturbance, there was nothing to realise and no one to know because there was no appearance which was taken to be real as separate from the Self or Brahman. Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt17

Part 16

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-2 Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala

6-2-1 Atma 2(17 to 25, 29,30) 3(27,42)
A human being is a mixture of inert matter and consciousness. Consciousness is very subtle. Sense organs are superior to the gross body, the mind is superior to the organs, and intellect is superior to the mind. However, consciousness is innermost and the subtlest as compared to all the objects of perception ending with the intellect and is its witness. Consciousness provides sentiency to the mind and body which are otherwise inert and incapable of any function. Self is consciousness and is the true nature of a jiva. It is the real ‘I’.

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Gems From 1.4.7, BUB

“He who meditates upon each of the totality of aspects of the Self does not know. The Self alone is to be meditated upon, for all these are unified in It. Of all these, this Self alone should be realized “– 1.4.7, BU

Shankara has written one of his longest of commentaries on the mantra at 1.4.7, brihadAraNyaka Upanishad. He presents therein a very lucid, comprehensive and highly instructive account of the entire spectrum of Advaita teaching — right from the origination of the manifest manifold to its sublation and attainment of liberation. I feel that it is a “must-study” for all earnest seekers. I recapitulate below a few of the Gems that I could glean from his bhAshya.

1.  All Vedic means consist of meditation and rites are co-extensive with this manifested, relative universe. They depend on several factors such as the agent. They culminate in identity with Hiranyagarbha. It’s a result achieved through effort. Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 4/4

Part – 3

What happens by the ascertainment of the implied meaning of the words in the sentence “You are That”?

Just as the idea of a snake is negated from a rope (in the snake-rope analogy), everything of the nature of non-Self is negated from the eternally existing Self implied by the word “I.” In other words, ‘ignorance’ vanishes (immediately on the attainment of right Knowledge) – 18.4-5, US.

In addition, the (false) conception of the pain with regard to the Self vanishes forever when the right Knowledge of the Self arises like all kinds of pain which is experienced in a dream comes to an end as soon as one wakes up.

What action should I take to augment my “understanding” and attain brahman?

Shankara tells us,

चतुर्विधमेव हि सर्वं कर्म कार्यम् — उत्पाद्यमाप्यं विकार्यं संस्कार्यं वा ।  – 1.2.12, muNDaka B.

Meaning: All the effects of actions are of four kinds: Production; Acquisition; Modification; and, Purification. Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 3/4

Part – 2

It is said that brahman Itself gets deluded by Its own magic. Does it not then imply that there is really creation and a (created) world out there?

Shankara is never tired of pointing out that there is actually no creation at all and the purpose of all the scriptures, when they talk of creation, is NOT to establish creation as a fact. For example:

1. न चेयं परमार्थविषया सृष्टिश्रुतिः ; अविद्याकल्पितनामरूपव्यवहारगोचरत्वात् , ब्रह्मात्मभावप्रतिपादनपरत्वाच्च — इत्येतदपि नैव विस्मर्तव्यम् — 2.1.33, BSB.

Meaning: “The Vedic statement of creation does not relate to any reality, for it must not be forgotten that such a text is valid within the range of activities concerned with name and form called up by ignorance, and it is meant for propounding the fact that everything has brahman as its Self.” Continue reading

‘adhyAropa’ to ‘adhiSThAna’ – 2/4

[Part – 1]

When and how does the process of ‘imagination’ (creation/projection) happen?

Shankara contends in his ‘adhyAsa bhAShya’ (Intro to his ‘Commentary on the brahma sUtra-s) that the formless, featureless and functionless, unbounded, immutable Beingness does not ‘cognize’ or ‘act’ unless Its Infinitude is somehow compromised. He writes, “The unrelated Self cannot become a ‘cognizer’ unless there are all these mutual superimpositions of the Self and the body and their attributes on each other, because perception and other activities (of a man) are not possible without accepting the senses etc. (as his own); the senses cannot function without (the body as) a basis; since nobody engages in any activity with a body that has not the idea of the Self superimposed on it.” [Slightly re-arranged the clauses for easy comprehension.] Continue reading

‘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’ a non-existing or unreal “form” (objects) 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 ‘form’ as a projection.

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

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