SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
Also, there must not be an interpretation of the conclusion of the discourse which rivals the
beginning of the discourse. The beginning of the discourse said that the Brahman willed to
become many. By His unfailing will, the Brahman became many and His being the cause of the
universe is established. The claim that the Brahman is the locus of ignorance (avidyā) is in
contradiction with the assertion that the Brahman is a seat of perfections.
The Brahman which has been announced in the beginning of the discourse as possessing
perfections such as actualizing the manifold universe by means of mere will cannot be the locus
of imperfections such as ignorance which can present the actualization of the will to create. In
the next passage, it will be shown that the scripture cannot communicate the Brahman if the
Brahman is understood to be devoid of attributes.
The scripture is made of words and sentences. Words communicate because of the difference
in their meaning which refer to different objects. Sentences are constructed out of words and
rely on the different relationships between objects to communicate meaning. The scripture
cannot communicate an entity without attributes.
When the scripture says “without attributes”, it only denies attributes belonging to other entities. It does not mean that the Brahman has no attributes whatsoever. Because, if it had said so, it would have communicated nothing about the Brahman at all, and would ceased to be a source of knowledge about the Brahman.
Every word is composed of the root and the suffix, and depends on the variety of roots and
suffixes to communicate meaning. Every sentence is a set of words of definite meaning related
to communicate a particular sense.
Every Vedic tradition accepts that the scripture is the authoritative source of knowledge about
the Brahman. The scripture depends on words and sentences which are based on the
differences in objects and their relations. The scripture, in its own nature, cannot convey an
entity which has no characteristics. It is simply out of its nature.
If it is insisted that the scripture communicates an entity without attributes, it can say nothing
about it. It can provide no information about something of which no characteristic can be
described. In calling the Brahman as lacking attributes, the scripture only denies that certain
attributes present in other entities are not present in the Brahman. It also communicates several positive attributes of the Brahman such as His being the cause of the universe, having unfailing will, omniscience, etc. In this way, it becomes a useful source of knowledge about the
The Advaitin can counter this point as follows.
“We do not say that the scripture is the source of knowledge about an entity that is without
attributes and self-evident. It is unnecessary for the scripture to reveal what is self-established.
When the scripture has rejected every difference such as subject, object, etc., the
unconstrained and self-evident entity stands by itself.”
The above objection is not valid. When all the differences are removed, by what word is the
If you say that the entity is mere knowledge (jñapti-mātram), then it is not correct. Even that ‘pure or mere knowledge’ can only stand on an entity with attributes. It is composed of its own root (jñā) and suffix. “jñā avabodhane” conveys that the root is associated with an object and belongs to a subject, and denotes action. These details are supplied by the meaning of the root itself. The suffix only provides gender, number, etc. If knowledge is self-evident, it must be evident only as described by the meaning of the root above, and not otherwise. Besides, knowledge is self-evident only in its revelation of other things.
The Advaitin does not cease without remark about the entity without attributes. He positively
associates this entity with knowledge. Knowledge or consciousness has definite characteristics,
and is revealed only in the consciousness of other things. While other objects require
knowledge for their revelation, knowledge is revealed in the act of knowing itself and does not
depend on something else. It is only in this sense, that knowledge can be claimed to be self-
evident. The knowledge of nothing is just ignorance or the complete absence of consciousness.
As long as one is conscious, one must assert to be conscious of something: one’s breath, a
feeling of bliss, the world around, etc. It is not possible to be conscious of nothing. When one is
not conscious of anything, one is unconscious. Some modern teachers preach that the
consciousness must be without judgment or labeling. While this is alright, the consciousness in
that state is still qualified by that experience and is not one without characteristics. One can
argue that there can be a state of consciousness where the experience is not characterized
‘consciously’. That is a perfectly qualified state of consciousness – the qualification contained in
the very description of it which differentiates it from other states of consciousness.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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