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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 17

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Bhāskara’s Bhedābheda

Passage 73

In the second view (that of Bhāskara), nothing other than the Brahman and qualifiers (upādhi) is
admitted. As a result, the qualifiers can touch only the Brahman. All the defects associated with the contact of qualifiers affect the Brahman itself. The qualities such as ”being without blemish” stated in the scriptures become invalidated in this system.

Passage 74

The Bhedābhedavādin responds:

Universal space is different from the space limited by a jar since the latter is bound. The defects of the space limited in a jar do not touch universal space which is beyond bounds. Likewise, the defects found in individual souls due to the differences caused by qualifiers do not bind the Brahman.

Our answer:

This is not correct. Space is indivisible since it is without parts. Objects like jar cannot divide space. The indivisible space itself comes into association with jar.
Likewise, the Brahman is indivisible and therefore, it has to come into contact with qualifiers by itself.

Passage 75

It cannot be held that the part associated with the jar is distinct from universal space for another reason.
The jar is not fixed to any location but moves across one universal space. It qualifies different parts of the space as limited space as it moves. There is no constancy of association.
The same must apply for the Brahman too. As the qualifiers &quot;move&quot; through different parts of the Brahman, they condition that part alone. This results in bondage and liberation of parts every moment. The wise consider such a situation laughable.

Passage 76

The Bhedābhedavādin responds:

Space is the same as the sense of hearing. Yet, the latter stands in separation as the sense. Likewise, individuation is possible in the Brahman too.

Our response:

Space is not the sense of hearing. Only that part of space in the ear which is conditioned by a form of air constitutes the sense of hearing. Though there is no constancy of association between a part of space and the ear, the sense of hearing is sustainable. After all, the same space comes into moving objects without any constancy of association between the objects and its parts. In the same manner, we are left to understand that the Brahman also comes into contact with different qualifiers without constancy of association. (This situation recurs the previously explained defect.)

Passage 77

The above assumption that space constitutes the sense of hearing has been admitted only for the sake of argument. In reality, space does not constitute the sense of hearing.
Those versed in Vedas hold that the eleven senses originate from sāttvika ahaṅkāra called vaikārika. Bhagavān Parāśara says, Some say that the senses originate from taijasa. But, in truth, the ten senses and the mind originate from vaikārika. There are three forms of ahaṅkāra: vaikārika, taijasa and bhūtādiḥ which respectively correspond to sāttvika , rājasika and tāmasika. The elements such as space are generated out of bhūtādiḥ. But, the senses, referred in the text by the word ‘deva’, are created out of vaikārika. The senses that are the product of vaikārika are satiated by the elements which are the product of bhūtādiḥ – this is stated in the Mahābhārata.

Passage 78

Even if it is argued that the senses are the product of elements such as space, there is no problem in considering them as modifications of the elements in the same manner as bodies of souls which are also modifications of elements.
However, even admitting this poses problems to your conception of the Brahman. The Brahman is known to be beyond limits, without parts and changeless. Yet, it comes into contact without any rule or law with countless limitations. There is no way to escape this consequence. Those versed in the scripture consider that this philosophy is only for blind believers and do not value it highly.

Passage 79

By allowing the very essence of the Brahman to be modified, this philosophy negates the scriptural teaching that the Brahman is without modification. Likewise, by subjecting the Brahman to qualifying defects, it antagonizes the scripture which says that the Brahman is blemish-less. If it said that only the potency of the Brahman undergoes modification, we ask: what is this potency?

Is it a modification of the Brahman or is it something else non-different from the Brahman?

In either case, modification of the essential character of the Brahman is unavoidable.

The section ‘Criticism of Bhāskara’s Bhedābheda’ is concluded.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 16

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Advaita

Passage 66

Also, from where does the knowledge that removes the perception of all difference become born? If one says that it is born from the Vedas, it cannot be accepted. The Vedas lack the ability to produce knowledge that removes the perception of the illusory universe. This is because (1) they are different from the Brahman and (2) they are the product of avidyā themselves.

It is like this:

Assume that due to faulty perception, one mistakes a piece of rope for a snake. This illusion cannot be removed by another knowledge ‘this is not a snake’ if it is also produced from the same faulty perception. When a person is afraid due to confusion over whether the object in front of him is a rope of a snake, this fear is not removed by the affirmation of another person, who is subject to the same confusion, that the object is not a snake, but only a rope. Nor does the affirmation of a confused person produce the confident certainty that the object is not a snake.

Since the student learns that the Vedas are different from the Brahman at the time of learning them, it is clear that the Vedas are understood to have their basis in the same confounding illusion as everything else.


True knowledge can emerge only from true sources. In the system of Advaita, the Vedas are as much a product of ignorance as anything else since they are of the character of difference. Being a product of what they seek to remove, their testimony becomes untrustworthy and incapable of removing the effects of illusion.

Passage 67

If one thinks that the knowledge which removes difference, the knower and the Vedas which are the source of this knowledge are also sublated by the same knowledge on account of being different from the Brahman, it creates even more problems.

In this case, even the sublation of the universe becomes ultimately false on account of being other than the Brahman. If the sublation of the universe is false, the universe itself emerges to be true.

It is like a person seeing the death of his son in a dream but waking up to find him alive. Being part of the dream, his son’s death is false and in reality, his son lives on.

The passages like tattvamasi are powerless to sublate the universe as they have the same illusion for their source and are like the words of a person, who is himself confused if an object is a rope or a snake.


If the Advaitin argues that everything other than the Brahman is an illusion, even the removal of the illusion and the one to whom it is removed become illusions. Since the universe is well established through experience, the illusory nature of its removal only points to its real existence.

Passage 68

One might respond to the above criticism as follows: In the case where one attains fear in a dream, but realizes at some point, ‘I am dreaming’, and becomes rid of the fear through the knowledge that the events are part of dream.  The situation here is similar.

This response also does not solve any of the problems. If one knows that the knowledge which removed the fear is also part of the dream and hence false, the original fear returns.

Even as a student of Vedas, one is taught (in Advaita) that even the Vedas are part of the dream.


Fear in the dream experience is removed by true knowledge of waking experience and not by merely by a dream-contained feeling that this is a dream.

In some mental disorders, the person considers even the waking state to be unreal or dream-like, and only suffers pain as a result leading to chronic fear and depression.

Modern Advaitins try to work around by saying that the signpost is not the destination. But, then, you have to concede that the signpost itself is true in pointing to the destination and not part of the illusion. So, even this work-around does not work with the overall metaphysics of Advaita.

Passage 69

Another possible response (from Advaita) is as follows: Though the Vedas are products of illusion and are ultimately false, their content that the Brahman is pure, non-dual being is true. The truth will be seen from the fact that when everything else is sublated, the Brahman remains.

Even this response is not appropriate. Even the Brahman becomes sublated to the śūnyavādi-s (Buddhists) who declare, ‘There is only the void’. The Advaitin cannot brush aside the Buddhist with the claim that the statement of the Buddhist is a product of ignorance. Because, in his own claim, the Advaitin has to admit that his interpretation of Vedic statements regarding the Brahman are also a product of ignorance.

If the universe is sublated by the assertion that the Brahman alone is real, then it seems logical that the Brahman is also sublated by the assertion that there is only the void.

In truth, neither the Buddhists (who are upholders of the void doctrine) nor the Advaitins (who are upholders of the ultimate unreality of everything other than the Brahman) are qualified to indulge in philosophy at all. This is because philosophy presumes that there are valid means of knowledge to decide if one view is better than the other. For both these groups, the valid means of knowledge are illusory and there ends their exercise in philosophy! This has been pointed out by other teachers too.


The fundamental requirement in philosophy is that the source of knowledge (pramāṇa) is as true as the philosophized conclusion (siddhānta). The former cannot be less true, untrue or illusory compared to the conclusion. If one’s philosophy denies the equal truth of the sources of knowledge, such as perception, reasoning or Vedas, one has ended up cutting the very tree upon which one is sitting and the entire philosophical structure comes crashing down. The conclusions of philosophy cannot deny the equal reality of the knowledge on which they are based. Anyone who attempts to do so is unqualified for philosophy.

Passage 70

Besides, by what source of knowledge is it confirmed that the perceived universe is ultimately false?

A possible response is as follows: Perception is a product of ignorance and hence defective in ascertaining truth. Through the defectless scriptures, the reality of perceived experience is sublated.

This response is also incorrect. What is the defect in perception that leads to the experience of difference? Is it not the timeless ignorance and habituation? Alas! Not just perception, but even the Vedas are the products of the same ignorance. Both perception and Vedas being equally the products of ignorance, one cannot sublate the other.

Passage 71

In contrast, our system resolves these different sources of knowledge more consistently. Perception is the cognition of the elements such as space, air, etc. and their possessing properties like sound, touch, etc. and their existing as beings in the form of humans etc. The Vedas deal with subjects that are beyond perception: the true nature of Brahman who possesses infinite attributes such as being the self of all, the ways of meditating on and worshipping the Brahman, the fruit attained through the blessing of Brahman upon attaining Him, and the means of destroying that which is not favorable to the attainment of the Brahman. Thus, there is no contradiction between perception and the Vedas.


Perception and the Vedas are complementary sources of knowledge.

Passage 72

The scholars who uphold the superiority of Vedas on account of their not having origin or end, of coming in unbroken spiritual tradition and other such excellent qualities must necessarily uphold the validity of perception in which these qualities are cognized.

This much is sufficient in refuting this theory (of Advaita) which is weaved out of faulty logic and an incorrect view of the Vedas, and is refuted by hundreds of Vedic assertions.

The section ‘Criticism of Advaita’ is concluded.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 15

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Advaita

Passage 58

The objector speaks: Avidyā is proposed by us for two reasons: (i) the Vedas have mentioned it and (ii) the teaching that the individual soul is identical to Brahman requires it. That is why avidyā is explained as defect which veils the essential form of the Brahman.

Response: The universe is ultimately unreal and depends on avidyā to explain its illusion. Since Avidyā is also ultimately unreal (on the absolute level), it should in turn depend on another defect that explains its illusion. Then, we would have to accept that the Brahman itself is the explanation and reason for illusion.

The argument that avidyā is beginning-less is not of much use to solve the above problem. The idea that avidyā is beginning-less also exists only in the perception (illusion) of the Brahman. Since no other real reason is accepted in your philosophy to explain avidyā, the Brahman must be taken to be the reason for illusion. If Brahman is the reason for illusion, since the Brahman is eternal, the illusion would be eternal and liberation becomes impossible.

Passage 59

From the above discussion, the view that there is only one jīva (soul) also stands refuted. This incorrect view holds that there is only one body which has a soul and all other bodies are soul-less. This condition is similar to the case of a dream where only the dreamer is the soul and all other people in the dream are soul-less. Therefore, except for one, all other souls are unreal.

Passage 60

Further in your theory, you hold that the Brahman creates the sense of individual soul (jīva) and bodies, which are contrary to the Brahman’s true form. Even if there is only one body with a soul, since the soul itself is ultimately unreal, it follows that all bodies are unreal. Saying that only one body has a soul makes absolutely no difference.

However, in our view, we do not deny the reality of body and soul of the dreamer since they are not denied in the waking state. We only deny the reality of bodies and souls of others in the dreaming state which are sublated in the waking state. This is the difference between us.

Passage 61

Also, how is the end of avidyā achieved? What is the nature of its end?

(Opponent’s answer) The knowledge of identity achieves the end of avidyā. The nature of its ending is a state that is completely the opposite of avidyā which escapes definition (it is anirvacanīya).

Passage 62

(Response) If avidyā is beyond definition, what is the complete opposite of it, must be well defined. This must either be real, unreal or both real and unreal. There is no other option. The end of avidyā cannot be other than the Brahman itself, since cognizing anything other than the Brahman is an effect of avidyā. But, if it is the Brahman, since the Brahman always exists, the end of avidyā also should exist always. Then, avidyā is destroyed always and without anticipating the knowledge of Vedānta. Thus, your view that the knowledge of unity ends avidyā, while the absence of this knowledge causes bondage, stands refuted.

Passage 63

There is another problem too. If you say that the knowledge of identity of soul and Brahman ends avidyā, this knowledge too is an effect/form of avidyā. How can a form of avidyā destroy itself has to be explained by you. You may say, ‘Like how fire burns wood and then dies itself, so too the knowledge of identity, which is a form of avidyā, destroys all differences and being momentary dies itself.’ Or you may say, ‘This is like poison itself being a cure for poison.’ But these are not correct.

Since the knowledge that ends avidyā is taken to be other than the Brahman, it must be unreal in its true form, and its origin and cessation. Then, avidyā must exist in some form in order to support the cessation of this knowledge. How does the avidyā which supports the cessation of knowledge disappear?

After all, in the case of fire, poison etc. the entities only change state and exist in a state which does not contradict its previous state (they do not utterly disappear).

Passage 64

Who is the knower of the knowledge which eliminates the perception of everything other than the Brahman? It cannot be ahaṃkāra which is the product of superimposition of illusion on the Brahman. This is because it is the object of avidyā-eliminating-knowledge, and cannot be its subject. If it is said that the Brahman itself is the knower, is the knowership part of the essential form of the Brahman or is it superimposed? If it is superimposed, then superimposition is the object of avidyā-eliminating-knowledge and cannot be its subject. If there is something else required for the elimination of this superimposition, it must be too of the form of knowledge and must involve the three factors: knowledge, knower and known. This leads to infinite regress. Since all knowledge is the apprehension of an object by a subject, knowledge bereft of these three factors cannot be knowledge itself. Any knowledge that does not involve the three factors cannot remove avidyā in the same way that the (attributeless contentless) knowledge that is the real form of the Brahman is insufficient to eliminate avidyā.

To avoid these contradictions, if you admit that the Brahman is really the knower, not by superimposition of illusion, then you are effectively admitting our view.

Passage 65

The argument that the avidyā-eliminating-knowledge and the knowership of the knowledge are also part of what is eliminated is laughable.

This is like saying that the meaning of ‘Devadatta destroyed everything other than the floor’ is: Devadatta destroyed everything which includes the process of destroying, the action of destroying, and the fact that he was a destroyer.


Some explanations are necessary to enable correct understanding of the above arguments.

The fundamental defense of Advaita in justifying avidyā is to appeal to the fact that avidyā finds mention in the Vedas and it is the only way to explain illusion which is the knowledge of difference. This illusion is removed by the knowledge of identity of the soul and Brahman.

The author analyzes the synthesis of the idea of avidyā in the system of Advaita to show that it is conceived poorly.


  • Brahman is the root of avidyā and no liberation is possible


The entire illusion is sustained by avidyā. On what is avidyā sustained? It has to be sustained since it is ultimately unreal. If it is self-sustaining, then avidyā can never be eliminated since it will always manage to sustain itself. It will end up becoming ultimately real.

If it is sustained by another, there is nothing other than the Brahman which can sustain it. If it is sustained by the Brahman, on account of the Brahman’s nature being eternal, again, it will always remain sustained.

Claiming that avidyā is beginningless does not answer the question. It is beginningless only as a phenomenal illusion, not as the ultimate reality. One cannot say that the beginningless-ness of avidyā is ultimately real. Avidyā, whatever its nature, needs to be sustained on account of its being ultimately unreal. The only real which can explain its existence is the Brahman.

In Viśiṣṭādvaita, the Brahman is the support of both universe and souls. Everything other than the Brahman is controlled and lorded by the Brahman. patiṃ viśvasya ātmeśvaram. The universe is not unreal. Its reality depends on the Brahman. The souls are also real and liberation applies to the souls who align themselves in harmony with the Brahman. The presence or absence of harmony of the soul with Brahman explains the states of bondage and liberation.

However, the Advaitin in trying to establish the reality of the Brahman to overcome the blatant failings of Buddhism falls into the same error. He is unable to explain what sustains avidyā and leaves it dangling. Since it is unreal, it cannot be left dangling and must be tied to something real. The illusion of snake is fixed to the reality of the rope. The illusion of mirage is attached to the reality of earth. Then the sustained of avidyā must be the Brahman.

Since the Brahman of Advaita is without any attribute or content and is mere knowledge, there is no dimension of the Brahman that can arbitrate the illusion; the Brahman is inert. Since the Brahman is eternal, the illusion sustained by the inert Brahman is also eternal. So, liberation from avidyā is impossible.


  • The knowledge of identity is left unexplained as well


Advaita leaves not only avidyā unexplained but also the knowledge which removes it. Since the knowledge which removes avidyā is of definite form and taught by teacher to student, it cannot be the Brahman which is content-less, attribute-less knowledge.

If the knowledge that removes avidyā is other than the Brahman, then it is also part of avidyā which it is supposed to have destroyed. This is because, in Advaita, anything other than the Brahman is an effect of avidyā. If it is identical to the Brahman, then since the Brahman always exists, this avidyā-eliminating-knowledge also always exists. This ensures that avidyā never arises at all.

The Advaitin obviously cannot identify this knowledge with the Brahman but must only consider it as a part of avidyā. If that is the case, then what destroys the avidyā-eliminating-knowledge?

Some common answers which Advaitins, old and new, repeat without examination is that the avidyā-eliminating-knowledge destroys itself in the same way that a fire burns up wood and then vanishes itself or in the way that poison neutralizes poison.

But, these examples when examined reveal that burning or neutralizing do not result in utter annihilation but only the transformation of entities from one state to another – ash, non-poisonous substance, etc. Hence, they are not within the application of the Advaitin’s notion of complete annihilation. Besides, the fire which burns the wood is other than the wood. The knowledge which burns avidyā must be other than avidyā which is not acceptable to the Advaitin. Likewise, poison neutralizing poison must be understood carefully. If it were as simple as poison vs poison, then the person must simply consume twice the quantity of poison for it to be neutralized. Instead, poison taken initially assumes a particular nature in the body which is neutralized by a different dose of poison. The neutralizer and the neutralized are different.

Also, avidyā-eliminating-knowledge cannot really be that. Since this knowledge is unreal, it is in anticipation of the avidyā which it is supposed to eliminate. Since, this knowledge is not the Brahman, it is of the threefold nature of knowledge, knower and known (which is the character of avidyā).

Let us analyze who is the knower of this knowledge? It cannot be the Brahman superimposed by illusion because illusion is the object of the knowledge (what it eliminates) and cannot be the subject (knower who understands it). It cannot be the Brahman because in Advaita, the Brahman is not the knower.

It is not correct to say that the knower knows the knowledge and in the next instant, everything falls. Looked at carefully, this is effectively the same as saying that the initial knowledge attains a mature state which is a different state of realization. What explains the demise of this mature knowledge? We end up in infinite regress assuming more and more mature states of knowledge sublating previous states of knowledge. As long as the knowledge is an effect of avidyā, it can never destroy avidyā. Fire cannot scorch itself. It can only burn something else.

If one says that Devadatta destroyed everything other than the floor, it only means that Devadatta destroyed everything else that was standing on the floor. It does not mean that Devadatta destroyed the process of destroying, the action of destroying and his role as the destroyer also. Thinking so would be laughable.

From the above discussion, it is clear that the notions of Advaita, though spoken in captivating language, are not logically sustainable and only mislead the spiritual aspirant by setting incorrect expectations.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 14

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Advaita

Passage 51

The objector speaks:

But you too should admit of a soul which is of the nature of conscious and that is self-luminous. It is necessary for this light to be covered in order for the soul to identify itself with bodies such as gods, etc. If the light shine forth, there is no scope for misidentification. So, the defect pointed out applies to you as well. In our case, there is only one soul, the Supreme Self, to which this defect has to be explained. In your case, this has to be explained for the infinite number of souls admitted by your philosophy.

Passage 52

Our opinion is as follows:

The Para Brahman, by its very nature, is opposed to all blemish and is of the essence of limitless knowledge and bliss. It is by its very nature, an ocean of unsurpassed, limitless and excellent traits. By employing the endless divisions of time such as minute, second, etc. it governs changes such as creation, sustenance and destruction while remaining untainted by time. Such is its greatness. There are countless individual souls which are accessories to the Brahman in its sport and are verily its aspects. They are threefold: eternally free (nitya), liberated (mukta) and bound (baddha). What is other than the souls, (universe or material nature) is also its accessory which is enjoyed by the soul and full of endless curiosities, energies and changes. The Brahman controls the souls and the universe by being their inner controller (Antaryāmī) and having everything as its body (śarīra) and mode (prakāra). This Brahman is to be known.

The Ṛk, Yajus, Sāma and Atharva Vedas are timeless and are of thousand branches. They come in an unbroken knowledge tradition to reveal the highest truth. The Vedas in their three sections of injunction, praise and incantation are explained by Itihāsa, Purāṇa and Dharmaśāstra composed by those who know the true import of the Vedas: Bhagavad-Dvaipāyana, Parāśara, Vālmīki, Manu, Yājñavalkya, Gautama, Āpastamba and others.

When our position is such, what can be our difficulty?

Passage 53

Bhagavān Dvaipāyana said in Mahābhārata,

He, who knows Me as birthless and without origin, and as the Supreme Lord of the worlds! – Gītā

There are two entities in this world – perishable and imperishable. All creatures comprise the perishable entity which the eternal soul is imperishable. The Supreme entity is that which is other than the perishable and imperishable. It is called the Supreme Self (Paramātmā). The undecaying Lord fills the three worlds and sustains them.  – Gītā

In the place of the Supreme Self, time is controlled and does not act as the master. But, all this (in this world) is hell.  – Mokṣa Parva

Ranging from unmanifest material nature to the specific objects, everything is subject to change and growth. All this is to be known as perishable which constitute the play of Hari. – Mokṣa    Parva

Kṛṣṇa alone is the origin and end of all the worlds. All these movable and immovable entities exist only for the sake of Kṛṣṇa. – Sabhā Parva

To exist for the sake of Kṛṣṇa is to be an accessory to Kṛṣṇa.

Passage 54

Bhagavān Parāśara also speaks in a similar way.

Maitreya! The word ‘Bhagavat’ is applied truly to the Para Brahman who is pure and great, and is the cause of all causes.

The perfections of knowledge, strength, sovereignty, energy, power and brilliance, and the absence of defects are connoted by the word ‘Bhagavat’.

Maitreya! Thus this great word Bhagavān refers only to Para Brahman, Vāsudeva and not to others.

The word is employed in our convention to anyone who is worthy of respect. This is only a secondary sense of the word (respect). To Vāsudeva, the use of this word is in the primary sense and just out of respect.

Such is the Supreme state of Viṣṇu which is devoid of blemish, untainted, eternal, pervading and undecaying.

Time with its various divisions is incapable of causing change to His glory. Look at His actions which are like that of a playing child!

[All quotes from Śrī Viṣṇu Purāṇa]

Passage 55

So does Manu, The controller of all is smaller than the smallest.

And Yājñavalkya, The soul attains the highest purity through the knowledge of God.

And Āpastamba, All creatures are the caves in which the secret-indweller resides.

Cave means place, that is the body. All creatures which have the individual soul for their self are the bodies in which the indweller resides.

Passage 56

Objector: What is the purpose of all this bombast? The objection has not been answered.

Reply: We understand as above. Therefore, it is only the attributive consciousness (dharma-bhūta-jñāna) of the individual soul (jīva) which is subject to expansion and contraction on the basis of karma. Therefore, your objection holds no force at all.

For you, the light that is affected is not the attributive consciousness but the essential consciousness itself (since consciousness has no attributes in your case). Also, you do not admit of expansion or contraction.

For us, karma hides the soul by obstructing the expansion of the light of attributive consciousness. But, if you say ignorance (avidyā) is the hiding agent, it has been shown already that to conceal, it will have to destroy the essential light itself.

Therefore, in our view, it is by karma, which takes the form of ignorance, the attributive consciousness of the eternal essential consciousness is constrained and leads to misidentification with gods, humans etc. This is the difference.

Passage 57

It has been said,

There is another third power which is ignorance and is called karma. By this, the power of the knowing soul is overwhelmed. Concealed by this ignorance, the individual souls exist in different forms suffering the afflictions of saṃsāra.

This clearly shows that ignorance that is of the form of karma causes expansion and contraction of attributive consciousness of the individual soul.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 13

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Advaita

Passage 45

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.

We reply.

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.

Passage 46

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Passage 47

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.

Passage 48

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.

Passage 49

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.

Passage 50

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.

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Criticism of Advaita

Passage 40

An objection can be raised. In the śṛti-vākya (Vedic passage) “sadeva somya! idamagra āṣīt, ekameva advitīyam”, the words ekameva (only one) and sadeva (only Sat) contain the emphasis only repeated twice. So, the true purpose of this passage must be the complete denial of all entities of the same or different kind.

This position raised in the form of objection is unsound. The illustration of clay and pot used earlier makes it clear that the purpose of the passage is to convey that if a single entity exists in two states: cause and effect, knowing the entity in one state (cause) provides knowledge about its other states (effects). This is because, in essence, the entity is one though its states are several. Since Śvetaketu is ignorant that Brahman is the cause of everything, the teaching starting “sadeva somya!” is employed.

In ‘sadeva idamagra āṣīt’, the word ‘agre’ (before) indicates time reference. The word ‘āṣīt’ (was) indicates that the current manifest universe denoted by ‘idam’ (this) had attained the state of Sat previously. The word ‘ekameva’ (only one) clarifies that in this previous state of Sat, there was no differentiation as name and form which allow the perception of ‘several’.  Through this much, it is taught that Sat is the material cause of this universe.

We generally observe that the material cause anticipates an intelligent cause (agent) to provide the transition of state (for eg. in the pot example, a potter is required to translate the clay into a pot) and expects a substratum on which the transition takes place. However, in this case, the Brahman does not anticipate another intelligent cause. Since the Brahman is distinguished in all ways, and is omniscient, it is not unreasonable to understand that the Brahman is also omnipotent.  The word ‘advitīyam’ (without a second) rejects that the Brahman anticipates a second intelligent cause or any other support.

Since the Brahman is possessed of all potencies, several Vedic passages teach us that the Brahman is the material cause first, and then teach that it is also the intelligent cause.


The author clarifies the import of the Vedic passage that is the subject of debate. The objection raised to the author’s position significantly diminishes the richness of meaning contained in the teaching. The simple view is that the passage contains the emphasis ‘only’ merely to deny the existence of anything other than the Brahman.

The author rejects this position by showing that the import is more sophisticated than that. The author clarifies the correspondence of the teaching with the pot illustration employed in the earlier passage.

Every word in the passage is used with deep insight. The passage teaches us that the Brahman which has the universe unresolved into names and forms is the cause, and that the Brahman which has the universe resolved into names and forms is the effect. The current state (idam) is the resolved state of the Brahman’s body. Sat is the unresolved state of the Brahman’s body. The Brahman activates the transition from one state to another through its potency. In this manner, the Brahman is both the material cause and the intelligent cause.

Passage 41

In other Vedic passages, it is first taught that the Brahman is the intelligent cause, and then it is investigated what the material cause is. In conclusion, it is asserted that the Brahman is all causes including the material cause of the universe.

Consider the verse in Ṛg Veda:

“kiṃsvid-vanam? ka u sa vṛkṣa āsīt? yato dyāvāpṛthivī niṣtatakṣuḥ, manīṣino manasā pṛcchate du tat, yad-adhyatiṣthad-bhuvanāni dhārayan |

brahma vanaṃ brahma sa vṛkṣa āsīt | yato dyāvāpṛthivī niṣtatakṣuḥ, manīṣino manasā vibravīmi vaḥ brahmādhyatiṣhad-bhuvanāni dhārayan ||”

[What was the forest? What was the tree from which the skies and earth were shaped? The wise ones ask searching with their minds: through which support were the worlds supported?

Wise ones! I answer carefully analyzing through the mind: The Brahman was the forest; the Brahman was the tree. The Brahman creates the skies and the earth, supported by itself.]

Normally, it is not considered for the same entity to be the material cause, the support and the intelligent cause. This doubt is clarified by showing that the Brahman is very special and distinguished.


Tree provides wood for construction. It is the material cause. The carpenter seeks the wood from the forest and using tools and other supports converts the wood into an object.

The Brahman is the tree; it is the forest where the tree is the found. The Brahman is the carpenter who creates and the Brahman is the support also. The Vedic passage ‘sadeva’ is no different from this passage and it conveys the same teaching.

Passage 42

The Vedic passage offers zero scope to the Advaitin who seeks to establish a Brahman without any relations and attributes. The word ‘agre’ indicates a time relation. ‘āsīt’ conveys a relation of action (state transition). Through these relations, the relation of cause-effect between Sat and the universe is established. Attributes such as being material cause, intelligent cause and absence of difference between material and intelligent causes are explained. Through this, it is shown that the Brahman is very special and that it possesses all potencies. Several relations and attributes, which are otherwise unknown, are taught through the Vedic passage.

Passage 43

The Vedic passage intends to teach a real relationship of cause and effect. That is why it starts, ‘asadeva idamagra āsīt’ (Non-being alone was in the beginning) and then refutes the view that being can come into existence from non-being (asatkāryavāda).  The passage asks the question ‘kutastu khalu somyaivaṃ syāt’ (Dear one! How can it be like this?)

The implication of the question is that if there was only non-being, we would have the absurdity of causeless origination. This is further emphasized through the question: ‘kathamasatas-saj-jāyeta’ (How can being arise from non-being?) The meaning is only that which is of the kind of non-being (asat) can arise from non-being. This is in the same way as a pot having the nature of clay. Then was the meaning of origin (utpatti) for something that is already being (sat)? Origin simply means that being has transitioned from one state to another for some purpose.  

Passage 44

The teaching claimed that by knowing one, everything can be known. The reason for this claim is that it is the same entity existing as cause which undergoes transition of state and becomes called as effect.

In the theory that being can arise from non-being, the claim of knowing everything by knowing one becomes invalidated (because by knowing one, one cannot know something of a different or opposite nature).  According to this theory, the material, instrumental and supporting causes produce an effect which is different from all of them. Hence, the effect is fundamentally a different substance from the cause. Then, the knowledge of cause cannot produce the knowledge of effect.

The advancer of this theory (Sāṅkhyan) can argue that the presence of a new object constituted from the older objects (causes) cannot be denied. To this, we reply that it is not so. The new object is merely a reconfiguration of the states of the causes and is not utterly novel with respect to its causes. Even the Sāṅkhyan agrees that a change of state in the cause is involved through some relation to produce the effect. The difference lies in our denial of the existence of a new substance called the effect which is utterly different from the cause. The view that the effect is a reconfiguration of the state of the cause explains the integrity of the effect and the reason for its being referred by a different name from the cause (the names are labels to the states and not to the substances of cause and effect). Also, no new entity is seen to be produced other than that originating from the causes. So, it is fit to regard the effect as a reconfiguration of state from the cause.


The true reason of the teaching is explained by the author. The teaching seeks to employ illustration and logic to reject asatkāryavāda and establish satkāryavāda. The goal of the Vedic teaching is to establish the Sat (being) as the cause. It is in the system of cause and effect that the claim of knowing everything by knowing one makes sense.

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Passage 35

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.

Passage 36

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.

Passage 37

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.

Passage 38

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.

Passage 39

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.

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Passage 31

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.

Passage 32

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

Passage 33

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.”

Passage 34

The above objection is not valid. When all the differences are removed, by what word is the
entity described?

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.

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Criticism of Advaita

Passage 28

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.

Passage 29

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

Passage 30

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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Vedārtha Saṅgrahaḥ 8

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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The comprehension of the import of Vedas

Criticism of Advaita

Passage 21

What does it mean for the Brahman to be the self of all? Is the Brahman essentially identified with everything else or is it related in the way of soul and body?

If it is identity, the attributes of the Brahman such as trueness of will which are known from the passages like “It resolved, ‘May I become manifold.’” become nullified (since such trueness of will is not found in anything other than the Brahman).

Therefore, the relation is that of soul and body where the Brahman is the soul of all sentient and non-sentient beings, and in that sense it is the self of all. The passage that says, “The self of all has entered into all people as the ruler” confirms that the Brahman rules over all by “ruling” them as their soul, and by being within them. In this sense, He is the self of all. It is known that He has the entire spectrum of existence for His body while being their soul.

Specifically, we also come to know that the Brahman is the soul of the individual soul also through the passage – “He stands within the individual soul, He controls the individual soul from within, He is your soul, He is the inner controller, He is beyond death.”

Passage 22

Since the Brahman has all sentient and non-sentient entities for its body, and is the self of all, it is denoted by all words. This is the way to understand the passage ‘tattvamasi’.

The individual soul, who is indicated by ‘tvam’ and is known already to be the controller of the body, is a mode of the Brahman since he is the body of the Brahman. Since the individual soul is incapable of separate existence or action, the word ‘tvam’ extends till the Brahman who is his inner controller.  The scripture clarifies the position of the Brahman as the in-dwelling controller of the individual soul by also saying, “By entering into matter through the individual soul, the Brahman creates names and forms.”  

Both words ‘tat’ and ‘tvam’ refer only to the Brahman. The word ‘tat’ refers to the Brahman which has been introduced as the cause of the universe, the abode of all auspiciousness, the blemishless and changeless. The word ‘tvam’ refers to the state of the Brahman where it has the individual soul for its mode and is the inner controller of the individual soul.

On account of the difference in activity – ‘tat’ signifying the Brahman’s causal aspect and ‘tvam’ signifying the Brahman’s ruling aspect – both words are reconciled in the same Brahman. It conveys the message that the Brahman’s auspicious attributes, causality, freedom from blemish and change are unaffected by the Brahman’s being the inner ruler of the individual soul. This clarification is useful because it distinguishes the Brahman from the individual soul which loses its true nature when it controls a body in this world.  This controller (or ādeśa) is the cause of all by knowing which everything else is known.

Passage 23

Those who are unread in scripture do not comprehend that the Brahman is the inner self of all – all objects and all individual souls. They understand that words only narrowly signify specific objects, and end in their import locally. But, those who have studied the scripture comprehend that the Brahman is the self of all since the Brahman is both the cause of all, and the inner controller of all. They also recognize that all words ultimately denote the Brahman since the objects denoted by them are all inseparable modes of the Brahman.

Passage 24

But does this not destroy the meaning of all words? The word ‘cow’ has no significance because it denotes the Brahman as much as the word ‘deer’!

No, it does not. It is only said that all words attain completion of meaning only by denoting the Highest Self who has objects and souls for His body. This is the import of the scriptural passage: “I will divide them into names and forms”.

As the Highest Self is not comprehended by simple perception or measurement, the people of this world use words to signify objects as separate entities and assume that the meaning of those words has been fulfilled. However, those versed in the scripture realize that the words, while signifying different objects, attain fulfillment of meaning only by denoting the Brahman.  The Vedic knowledge completes the understanding of the import of words, and does not deny their significance.

Passage 25

Thus, all words ultimately signify the Brahman. It is the Brahman who creates the universe of objects (as they were during the previous creation), and applies the words of the Vedas as the names of these objects. The names of these objects are derived from the Vedas or from the Brahman. They denote the Brahman alone.

Manu says, “From the words of the Vedas, the Creator assigned the names, different actions and separate forms.”

Bhagavān Parāśara says, “The Brahman created the names, actions and forms of all beings including the divinities from the words of the Vedas.”

Even the Veda says, “He created the Sun and the Moon as before, and assigned the same names as before.”

Thus, the inseparable nature of the universe and Brahman is conveyed. It makes sense why the knowledge of one Brahman is equivalent to the knowledge of all. The passage ‘tatsatyam’ conveys that everything is true only because the objects and souls are the effects of the Brahman and have the Brahman for their self. All objects made of clay exist only because they have clay for their self.

Passage 26

Determinate propositions concerning the Brahman (śodhaka-vākya) determine a Brahman that is without blemish and is the abode of auspicious attributes.

Passage 27

Even if it is thought that the Vedic passages only determine/characterize the Brahman by saying what it is not, it must still be admitted that the Brahman is something positive. It is a positive entity which is characterized in some passages through negation. The Vedic passages convey a uniquely positive entity that is like no other, and beautifully distinguished in its attributes. They do not teach an attribute-less entity.


The Advaitin interprets everything in negation and concludes that the Brahman has no attributes. This view is criticized. First, there is no reason to interpret ‘knowledge’ as ‘not insentient’ negatively, or ‘truth’ as ‘not being false like the world’. They can be interpreted directly for what they convey instead of obfuscating in negations. This is childish word play. What is then the meaning of “insentient” than “not being sentient”, the meaning of “false” than “not being true”! We would be forever stuck in defining things as negations of each other, and the Vedic passages will convey no useful meaning.

Even if it is argued that the meaning must be understood only as negations, we are still talking about a positive quantity. We simply lack the language to describe this unique entity called the Brahman, and try to describe it in terms of negations of entities comprehended by our language. This establishes only that the Brahman is a uniquely distinguished entity; not that it is devoid of all attributes as the Advaitin hastily concludes.

Let us take the common example of quantum physics where the behavior of entities is understood at the quantum scale as wave behavior and as particle behavior. We know that the entity is neither exclusively wave as any other wave known to us, nor exclusively particle like any classical particle. Yet, we use a language to describe what appears to be beyond our conventional experience. We do not rush to the conclusion that the entities are without any properties because they are neither like classical particles or waves known to conventional experience. Instead, we recognize that we are describing something positive and unique.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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