SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The comprehension of the import of Vedas
Criticism of Advaita
The objector speaks.
The refutation of asatkāryavāda is done only to teach that illusion cannot exist without a substratum. There is only one truth, pure consciousness, which distorted by ignorance (avidyā) appears in the form of the universe. The rejection of asatkāryavāda is to make one understand that the root cause, which acts as the substratum of ignorance, is true.
It is not so. The claim that knowing one leads to the knowledge of all, and the illustrations that followed this claim make it clear that the refutation of asatkāryavāda is to establish satkāryavāda.
Also, for your theory, it is meaningless to establish that an illusion is impossible without a substratum.
Only if you accept that the defect (causing illusion) in the conscious entity is real and that consciousness having the property of being substratum for the defect is real, you can establish that due to association with real defects, the unreal illusion is produced.
However, to you, the defects are unreal and the property of consciousness being a substratum to defects is also not real. You try to establish that the unreal illusion is an outcome of the consciousness being substratum in an unreal way. Then, you should rule out that an illusion is possible without substratum.
While both sides agree on the fact of asatkāryavāda being refuted, they disagree on what is established by refuting it. The Advaitin advances vivartavāda, while the Viśiṣṭādvaitin shows that the purport of the Vedic passages is to establish satkāryavāda.
The Advaitin considers pure consciousness to be the only reality upon which the universe is imposed as an illusion. He takes the refutation of asatkāryavāda to teach the fact that an illusion cannot exist without a substratum.
The Viśiṣṭādvaitin rejects this interpretation on two grounds:
- The Vedic passage started off claiming that by knowing the One, everything else can be known. The story of illusion and substratum is unsuited to this claim. The subsequent examples of pot and clay also do not bring out the view that the text is dealing with the substratum of illusion. It is clearly talking about the effect being a transfiguration of the cause. By rejecting asatkāryavāda, only satkāryavāda is established.
- It is useless for the Advaitin to establish that a substratum is necessary for an illusion. In his theory, consciousness is not a real substratum of illusion. Its being substratum is unreal. An unreal basis for an illusion would imply that illusion can exist without a real substratum. This is what the Advaitin must try to prove. If he proves the opposite, he ends up proving that pure consciousness or Brahman is prone to defects. This is why the author remarked in his opening verses that in Advaita, the Brahman itself becomes possessed of ignorance and suffers.
Employing co-ordinate predication, the Vedic passages such as ‘Brahman is truth, knowledge, infinite’, ‘Brahman is bliss’, etc. predicate several attributes to the Brahman. This method of understanding these passages has been established previously and there is no contradiction with the outcome of this approach.
If one says that the Vedic passages employ severally the negation ‘neti neti’ [not so, not so], it has to be determined what exactly is being negated here. One might cite that verse ‘there are two appearances of the Brahman, the form and the formless’ and claim that the entire universe consisting of form and formless aspects is negated. It is inappropriate to think that the Vedas would first teach that everything is an appearance of the Brahman, which was not previously known, and then to completely deny the existence of everything. Is it not reasonable that one should avoid the mire than wash after getting stained!
The author shows that it is irrational for the Vedas to teach something and then deny everything. Thus, he rejects the interpretation of ‘neti neti’ advanced by the Advaitin.
Then what is the meaning of ‘neti neti’?
The author of Vedanta Sūtra-s clarifies in 3.2.22 that ‘neti neti’ only denies that the appearances of the Brahman are limited to what has been stated in earlier passages. This is the right interpretation because the passages go on to speak of the same (appearances) again as ‘(The Brahman is) the truth of all truths because the life-energies are true and it is the truth of these truths’. Since such attributes are mentioned in subsequent verses, it is correct to understand ‘neti neti’ to convey that the Brahman is not confined to what has been mentioned in a few sentences but is much more than that. Only the confinement of the Brahman to specific descriptions is denied.
If the objector should ask if the statement ‘Here, there is no plurality’ be construed to refute plurality, we reply thus.
Even after this statement is made, the same Vedic section goes on to say, ‘He is the ruler of all, He is the controller of all’ to teach that the Brahman’s Lordship and true will. By having the sentient and non-sentient entities for His body, the Lord abides in all His modes. This Lord of all is only one, the Brahman. The Vedas deny that there are separate entities which do not have the Brahman for their self. This form of denial is not helpful to your position. There is no passage in the Vedas where it is denied that the Brahman possesses distinguished properties.
It is not sustainable that a Brahman with no properties whatsoever and of the true form of pure consciousness is concealed by ignorance and perceives differences in itself. To conceal is to extinguish its light. Since the Brahman does not have knowledge as its attribute but is verily pure knowledge, what is extinguished is not some aspect of it, but its very nature itself. To extinguish the essential nature is to destroy it.
It is childish to state that the light, which is consciousness, is eternal but that it is concealed by ignorance. How can ignorance conceal light other than by extinguishing it or by preventing its generation?
Since the light is asserted to be eternal, ignorance is accepted to be incapable of concealing the Brahman. Yet, the Brahman sees plurality. This weird theory is certainly beyond the vocabulary of the intelligent!
The author examines the basis of plurality. The Advaitin contends that the essential nature of pure consciousness is concealed by ignorance leading to perception of plurality which is an illusion.
However, as explained in earlier sections, this view would sit well only if the Brahman had some property which when concealed leads to illusion. But in the Advaitin’s system, since the Brahman possesses no attributes. So, to conceal the Brahman is to destroy its essential nature. Note that the Brahman is not concealed to someone else but to itself! So, concealment in the regular sense does not apply here where one entity is blocked to another entity. As there is nothing external to the Brahman from which to conceal, the Brahman itself would end up being destroyed. However, this is contradicted by the claim that the Brahman is eternal. If the Brahman is eternal and shines always, it can never be concealed. Then, pure consciousness will never perceive plurality. But, the Advaitin claims it does. Either the Brahman is eternal and unconcealed, and never leads to perception of plurality. Or, the Brahman can be destroyed and ignorance takes center-stage creating the plurality. Even these positions lead to further contradictions.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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