Dennis raised a question on how one can conclude that the word “this” in the 3.14.1, chAndogya would mean “the ‘Universal’ substratum of the world and not the nAma-rUpa-vyAvahAra which are the perceivables.” His contention is that “this” refers to the percept itself.
If what is directly available for the five sensory organs + mind is itself brahman, neither the Upanishads nor the Advaitic teachers right from Gaudapada, Shankara and so on need to have taken any trouble at all to point out to the seeker what brahman is. On the other hand, all the teachers go to considerable pains to explain that what is available to perception “veils” the Reality, the Substratum and that what is available for perception is a superimposed “falsity” out of our ignorance.
Shankara, in fact, is so tired of repeatedly pointing this fact in all his bhAShya-s that at 2.1.22, BSB, he writes out of exasperation that “We have stated more than once.” What is apparent to the senses and mind is out of “ignorance” as was already pointed out in the opening para of Part – 1. In addition, we have from 2.4.1; 2.9.1, taittirIya shruti, “Failing to reach brahman (as conditioned by the mind), words, along with the mind, turn back.”
Venkat at another thread of discussions, has been kind to draw our attention to what Shankara says right at the beginning of his Intro to sUtra bhAShya. He makes it unequivocal that the apparent world available for our “perception” is a superimposition that we make out of our “ignorance.” Shankara writes:
“… since perception and other activities (of a man) are not possible without accepting the senses etc. (as his own); since 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; since the unrelated Self cannot become a cognizer unless there are all these (mutual superimposition of the Self and the body and their attributes on each other) ; and since the means of knowledge cannot function unless there is a cognizership; therefore it follows that the means of knowledge, such as direct perception as well as the scriptures, must have a man as their locus who is subject to nescience.”
Further, Shankara says it so clearly that there is no scope for any doubt in his prakaraNagrantha:
“All this world is unreal and proceeds from nescience, because it is seen only by one afflicted with nescience and is not seen in dreamless sleep.” — 17.20, upadesha sAhasrI.
Shankara tells us at 1.3.1, BSB: अविद्याकृतं कार्यप्रपञ्चं विद्यया प्रविलापयन्तः तमेवैकमायतनभूतमात्मानं जानथ एकरसमिति ।
The meaning is that, “after eliminating through Knowledge, the universe conjured up by ignorance, you should know that one and homogeneous Self alone that appears as the repository.”
[Apologies. It is proving too much time consuming and laborious to transliterate the Sanskrit script into Roman letters. That has become a great disincentive to post the articles. Hence, I have discontinued transliteration and anyone having a doubt can check any authentic translation based on the citation I have given for the quote.]
We have Shankara chastising us in his bhASya at BG, 13.2: अविद्यामात्रं संसारः यथादृष्टविषयः एव ।
Meaning: samsAra is only based on avidya and exists only for the ignorant man who sees the world as it appears to him.
Shankara clarifies at 2.1.20, brihat:
अपि च यथाप्राप्तस्यैव अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितस्य क्रियाकारकफलस्य आश्रयणेन इष्टानिष्टप्राप्तिपरिहारोपायसामान्ये प्रवृत्तस्य तद्विशेषमजानतः तदाचक्षाणा श्रुतिः क्रियाकारकफलभेदस्य लोकप्रसिद्धस्य सत्यताम् असत्यतां वा न आचष्टे न च वारयति, इष्टानिष्टफलप्राप्तिपरिहारोपायविधिपरत्वात् ।
[Meaning: Had the shruti wanted to teach that brahman has diverse attributes such as the origin of the universe, like a painted canvas, a tree, or an ocean, for instance, it would not conclude with statements describing It to be homogeneous like a lump of salt, without interior or exterior, nor would it say, ‘It should be realized in one form only.’ There is also the censure, ‘He (goes from death to death) who sees difference, as it were, in It.’ etc.
And we need not forget that what is available for “perception” is only the “difference” and NOT the “homogeneity like a lump of salt, without interior or exterior.”
Shankara hammers it well on us at 2.3.40, BSB saying that “the scripture also shows that the individual self is an agent and an experiencer [only] when in a state of ignorance.” Hence, we experience “perception” only in a state of ignorance, not knowing the Reality, brahman.
One can fill volumes and volumes of pages with such citations as above. I shall, however, stop with those and shift to a different aspect of why such misapprehension about the percept itself being “Reality” (brahman) might have arisen.
Dennis himself gave a clue for this other aspect quoting 2.2.28-29 BSB. We have already discussed it at another thread. However, for the sake of an authentic record, let me quote a few excerpts explaining 2.2.28, BSB from a paper prepared by more knowledgeable people than myself.
Brahma Sutra 2.2.28 (नाभाव उपल(धेः) is the first of a set of 5 Sutras comprising अभावा-धकरणम, which is a refutation of vijnAnavAda…. Here is a sample of some of the arguments that ShankarAchArya makes in this sutra.
1) That which is perceivable cannot not exist.
2) That which is knowable by perception and other pramANAs is possible, that which is not knowable by any pramANA is impossible. Here external things are, according to their nature, apprehended by all instruments of knowledge.”
On the face of it, this is clinching evidence of ShankarAchArya’s view that external objects must be real. … Presumably, the train of logic is as follows: If external objects were real, it would mean that they existed independently of the seer, and consequently they existed independently of (and importantly, in the absence of) the seer’s perception. … However, ShankarAchArya’s comments on vijnAnavAda in BS 2.2.28 must be viewed holistically in light of what he says in his commentary to the GaudapAda kArika.
[After several pages of analysis examining Shankara’s commentary at ch 2 and 4 of GK]:
1) In the vaitathya prakaraNA, Shankara holds that the objects perceived in the dream states and the waking states have a similar level of reality – objects of the waking state are no more real than the objects of the dream state.
2) Specifically, they are vaitathya, and the reason why they are so is because they are perceived.
3) The Self is the seer, and the seer creates as it were, all the objects perceived externally and internally.
What is done in BS 2.2.28 to refute vijnAnavAda, is simply an exercise akin to prathama malla nyAya. That is, he is simply using another opponent’s (the dualist’s) argument against vijnAnavAda and not everything stated while making such a refutation represents the views of ShankarAchArya himself. Therefore, when ShankarAchArya
seems to be arguing for the reality of external objects in BS 2.2.28, we think that it should be viewed simply as him using the bAhyArthavAdin’s arguments to refute the vijnAnavAdin, not because he himself holds that external objects are real. Why? Because elsewhere (GK), he argues the opposite (that external objects are unreal) too!
2) Within BS 2.2.28 itself, what Shankara is refuting, is simply the vijnAnavAdin’s contention that what is perceived is atyanta asat (like a hare’s horn) – that is, he is refuting the vijnAnavAdin’s conception of the world, which lacks an changeless substratum / perceiver. Why do we say this?
In GK, he uses the hEtu of perception to argue for the vaitathyam of objects. Here (in BS 2.2.28), he uses the same hEtu of perception to argue against the abhAva (nonexistence) of objects. That is why in BS 2.2.28 he says that “I see Vishnumitra, the vandhyA putrah” is a statement that no one can make. Even the example he gives is
of the non-perception of an object like the son-of-a-barren-woman, a well-known idiom in Vedanta for atyanta asat objects.
Therefore, it is apparent that he does not consider vaitathya = abhAva/atyanta asat.
Therefore, what ShankarAchArya is against is atyanta asattA postulated by the vijnAnavAdin, not the vaitathya postulated by GaudapAda. Further, in arguing against the atyanta asattA of objects in BS 2.2.28, it would be wrong to conclude that ShankarAchArya is arguing for the sattA (paramArtha satta) of those objects either. If he were, there would be advaita hAni (harm to the idea of one, homogenous reality) as there would be two realities – the seer and the seen. Therefore, what he is arguing for instead, is that they are vaitathya (that is mithyA) –
the third predicate in advaita ontology. Neither sat, nor asat.
In response to the vijnAnavAdin’s contention that the advaitin is simply proving the self-evidence of consciousness which is the Bauddha’s
position in BS 2.2.28, Shankara says: “If you (vijnAnavAdin) finally
object that we (advaitin), when advocating the witnessing Self as self-proved, are simply expressing in other words the vijnAnavAda principle that thoughts are self manifested, we refute by remarking that your ideas have the attributes of birth, passing away, being manifold etc (whereas our Self is one and permanent)”. It is Brahman itself that appears as the many. What is rejected here is the vijnAnavAdin’s denial of the one permanent Self.
It is clear thus that one cannot take shelter under 2.2.28-29 to argue that the perceived objects have a reality and go on to construct a thesis on that basis.
(To Continue …. Part 3)