SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
But, when the Brahman is taught as ‘pure knowledge’, does it not mean that the Brahman is
knowledge without all attributes?
No it does not. Words which signify attributes, that are ‘essential-to’ the true character of an
entity (svarūpa-nirūpaka- dharma-s), establish the entity itself.
The author of the Vedānta Sūtras also said, “Being the essential attribute, it signifies the
substance/entity as in the case of the knower.” [2-3- 29] and “There is no defect in doing so
since the attribute always exists with the substance.” [2-3- 30]
Likewise, here too, knowledge is the essential attribute of the Brahman and qualifies it only in
that way. It does not communicate to us that the Brahman is verily ‘knowledge without
How do we know this?
The scripture says clearly, “He, who knows and understands everything” – Muṇḍaka [2-2- 7], “His
powers, great and diverse, and His natural knowledge, strength and action are sung well.” –
Śvetāśvatāra [6-6- 17], “How can the knower be known?” Bṛhadāraṇyaka [4-4- 14], etc. The
Brahman is not merely knowledge but also the knower. Therefore, knowledge is His essential
attribute. The scripture uses the attribute of knowledge to describe the Brahman because
knowledge is essential to the substance of the Brahman.
If in ‘tat-tvam- asi’, the words tat and tvam are understood to connote the same Brahman which
is without attributes, there is the defect of blatantly ignoring the well-established primary
meanings of these words.
The Advaitin denies this objection. He admits that where the primary meaning of words must be sought, it must be done so. But, where the primary meaning of words leads to a contradiction, the secondary meaning must be sought. The Brahman which is signified by ‘tat’ is qualified by kāraṇatva (causality). The Brahman which is signified by ‘tvam’ is qualified by antaryāmitva (being the in-dwelling controller). Clearly, kāraṇatva and antaryāmitva are different dharma-s (attributes), and therefore signify different dharmin-s. However, the statement seeks to establish their identity. How is it possible that an entity associated with one dharma is the same as the entity associated with an entirely different dharma? It must be admitted that we conceive of the same entity as possessing one dharma initially and another dharma later. Then, the only way to understand identity is to discard the dharma-s (attributes) completely which seem to teach difference, and embrace the unity taught by the statement. An entity for which all attributes are denied is the attributeless entity of Advaita.
In the statement, “This is that Devadatta”, the unity of person is conveyed. In primary meaning,
‘this’ signifies the current location and time, while ‘that’ signifies a past location and time. It is not possible that the same person is simultaneously qualified by both the dharma of being in the past and the dharma of being in the present. This is because the ‘past’ and ‘present’ are
conflicting dharma-s. Likewise, the same person cannot be qualified by two different locations
simultaneously. The only way to understand is to ignore the dharma-s of location and time
(conveyed by primary meanings), and comprehend the unity of the person that is beyond these
The Advaitin’s explanation is not correct. In “This is that Devadatta”, there is no need to take
recourse to secondary meanings. The primary meaning can stand by itself.
The mistake in the Advaitin’s argument is his assumption that it is a contradiction to consider a
person as existing in two different places or at two different times. There is no contradiction in a person being in both past and in the present. The statement ‘this is that Devadatta’ does not mean that the person is simultaneously in both the past and the present. It means that the
person is qualified by ‘being in the past’ and also by ‘being in the present’. There could be
another baby which did not exist in the past instance and was born only now. Then, the baby is
not qualified by ‘being in the past’.
While it is a contradiction that the same person exists in two different places at the same time,
there is no contradiction that the same person exists in two different places in different times.
Thus, it is seen that the primary meanings directly qualify Devadatta. The Advaitin cannot think
of ‘simultaneous-application’ of conflicting dharma-s which resolving ‘this’ and ‘that’ as different
times! How can different times be ‘simultaneous’?
Even if the Advaitin sticks to his reasoning, he has to pick the secondary meaning only for one
case – ‘this’ or ‘that’, not for both. He can admit primary meanings for one case, and secondary
meanings for another to resolve any contradiction with the primary meaning of the former case.
There is no reason to assume secondary meanings for both cases and strip the entity of all
attributes. But, we have shown that the use of secondary meanings even for one case is not
necessary. The primary meanings can stand by themselves.
Even this difficulty does not exist in ‘tat-tvam- asi’. There is no contradiction at all in the Brahman being both the cause of the universe and also the in-dwelling controller of the self. It can be easily admitted that the Brahman has more than one dharma (actually, infinite attributes). The statement simply states that the Brahman which is recognized through its dharma of causality manifest at one instance is the same as the Brahman which is recognized through its dharma of being the in-dwelling controller of souls. This is the principle behind samānādhikaraṇya. It conveys the identity of an entity qualified by different attributes. It does not denote identity by robbing the entity of all attributes. That is why the scholars have said that samānādhikaraṇya is the application of several words which signify different aspects to denote the same entity. Our explanation is consistent with this opinion.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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