SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
If the true nature of the Brahman always shines by itself (svayaṃprakāśa), there cannot be the
super-imposition (adhyāsa) of another attribute (dharma) on the Brahman. For example, if the
true nature of the rope is clearly visible, other attributes like “snake-ness” cannot be
superimposed upon it. Even you (the Advaitin) agree to this. That is why you posit something called avidyā or ignorance whose role is to conceal the true nature of the Brahman.
Then, the scripture, which removes ignorance, must have for its content that aspect of the
Brahman which is concealed. If it does not have this for its content, it cannot remove ignorance.
In the example of rope and snake, some attribute of the rope shines over the snake-illusion and
removes that illusion. If there is even one attribute of the Brahman which is explained by the
scripture to remove the illusion, then the Brahman becomes one of attributes (saviśeṣa-brahman). Rightly then, the Brahman is endowed with all attributes revealed by the scripture.
For those serious on evidence, there is no evidence by which an attributeless entity can be
The Advaitin’s philosophy uses the concept of superimposition or adhyāsa to explain the
experience of the universe. The universe is an illusion superimposed on the Brahman. This is
not at all possible if the Brahman which shines by itself always reveals its true nature. There
must be something which conceals this aspect of the Brahman and leads to the illusion. The
Advaitin employs avidyā or ignorance for this purpose.
If the study of scripture removes the illusion, then the scripture must have for its content the true nature of the Brahman. By revealing something about the true nature of the Brahman which has been concealed, the scripture removes the illusion.
The Advaitin frequently uses the example of rope and snake. In darkness, a rope is perceived
as snake and this is the illusion. This illusion can be removed only if some attribute of the rope
becomes perceived piercing the illusion. Likewise, some attribute of the Brahman must be
revealed by the scripture which removes the illusion created by ignorance.
Even if the scripture reveals a single attribute (in truth, it reveals several attributes), we must
conclude that the Brahman is saviśeṣa; it has attributes. Some or all of its attributes are
concealed to the souls. By studying the scripture, one understands the attributes of the
Brahman and pierces concealing the veil.
Even in indeterminate perception (nirvilakpa pratyakṣa), only an entity with attributes is grasped. Otherwise, it would not be possible in determinate perception (savilakpa pratyakṣa) to say “This is that”. Determinate perception is the perception in which the common-ness of attribute is determined. Attributes like ‘cowness’ are part of the structure of objects. In indeterminate perception which is the first perception, the ‘cowness’ is perceived only as ‘such’. When objects of the same class (other cows) are seen, the common attribute seen in all the entities is observed and determined as ‘cowness’. This is determinate perception. If the attribute was not grasped in the indeterminate perception, it would not be possible to determine the attribute in subsequent perceptions by relating the latter perception to the earlier ones.
Indeterminate perception is the first perception of an entity which does not allow one to
determine what the attribute is. The attribute is enforced on subsequent perceptions and
perception becomes determinate. The determination is achieved by identifying the trait
common to all perceptions. If no attribute or trait was ever grasped, perception can never
become determinate. There must be some attribute grasped even in the indeterminate
perception which allows subsequent perceptions to become determinate.
By this, the view of positing both difference and identity, which are opposing attributes, in the
same entity is also denied. Since the attribute is a mode, it is definitely different from the entity.
However, being a mode, it does not exist independently of the entity and is not perceived
independently of the entity.
Using the same arguments, we can deny the position of Bhedābhedavādins also. They try to
reconcile difference and identity, but end up imposing opposing attributes on the Brahman. This is needless confusion on difference and identity.
The universe and the souls are the modes (prakāra) of the Brahman. A mode is certainly
different from the substance or entity. For example, red is the not the same as rose. At the same time, a mode cannot be perceived and cannot exist independent of its entity/substance. It is not possible to perceive red independent of any substance such as a rose. So, the mode is
inseparable in existence (apṛthak-siddhi) but different from the Brahman. This is the correct
view in dealing with questions of difference and identity. Other views only lead to unnecessary
confusion for spiritual aspirants.
If it is said that the scripture denies attributes which conceal the Brahman and reveal it as an
attribute-less entity, we ask, “What are those scriptures?”
The Advaitin: The scripture says, “vācāraṃbhaṇaṃ vikāro nāmadheyaṃ mṛttiketyeva satyam”.
Variations in form and names are on the basis of speech; only the clay is true. Therefore, name
and form are announced to be artefacts of language. The cause, the clay, is alone is true and
real. Everything else is unreal. Extending the illustration, we can conclude that the Brahman
alone is true, and all attributes are denied.
Response: It is not so. The scripture promised that by knowing the One, everything else can be
known. This leads to the question as to how the knowledge of one entity leads to the knowledge of another entity. It is replied that one entity, by real modifications in the form of change of state, appears in a plural of forms. Then, by knowing that one entity, all its forms are known. Though they are different states, they are states of the same substance. This is the concept explained by the scripture. It does not deny any attribute. The same substance clay has different names depending on the difference in its states and its uses. The substance is constant in all of these states. It is in view of this that knowing the substance creates the knowledge of its states. The scripture negates nothing which we have explained.
If the purpose of the scripture, which said “why knowing which, the unknown becomes known”,
was to establish the illusory nature of everything other than the Brahman, the example of clay
and its modifications does not serve this purpose.
While it can be argued that Śvetaketu understands the illusion of a snake in a rope, there is no
reason to assume that he understands objects like pots and jars to be illusory with respect to
clay. (This is a very unnatural understanding.) If it is argued that even the point on illusion is
revealed through the illustration, we reply that it cannot be so. There must be something in the
illustration which can be safely assumed to have been understood which is used to explain the
unknown entity. It is impossible to teach something new about the illustration and
simultaneously it to explain the unknown.
The Advaitin’s argument is not informed by how illustrations work. The matter used in the
illustration is assumed to be well known to the listener. Only then, it can be used to explain what is not known. A person cannot seek to seek something new about the illustration itself, and then use it to explain an unknown. Because, in this case, the illustration itself becomes the unknown and we are left with two unknowns, both of which are new to the listener. Then, the teacher would have to use one more illustration to explain the primary illustration. But, we see no such secondary illustration in the scripture which explains the primary illustration. It is not correct on the part of the Advaitin to arbitrarily assume that the listener understood whatever the Advaitin wants to establish as his philosophy, completely ignoring the simple and direct implication of the illustration.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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