V Subrahmanian, Monday, May 23, 2016 3:15 pm

The Sūtasamhitā – Part 12

Chāndogya Upaniṣat

Part 12

The method of generating right knowledge through the instruction of the Mahāvākya is discussed:

Verse 83:

एकत्वप्रमितिं वाक्यं न करोति सुरर्षभाः ।

व्यावहारिकमज्ञानं बाधते विद्ययैव तु ॥ ८३॥

एकत्वप्रमितिं knowledge of oneness  वाक्यं sentence न not करोति produce सुरर्षभाः O Foremost of Gods! व्यावहारिकम् parlance अज्ञानं ignorance बाधते annuls विद्यया by knowledge एव alone तु however

Objection: Just as the Oneness of the jīva and Brahman has to be understood only on the basis of akhaṇḍārthatā and it is not a oneness that is produced by the vākya of the śruti, the Oneness inherent in Brahman is also not something produced by the śruti vākya.  Hence where is the need for the vākya at all? If the Oneness of Brahman requires to be taught by the Śruti, then the self-luminous nature of Brahman is at stake.

Reply:    No. Such a defect would not arise. The Upaniṣadic sentence does not generate the oneness of Brahman. On the other hand, it (the sentence) plays the role of removing the ignorance that envelops the Oneness of Brahman. The sentence has the capacity to generate that vṛtti, mode, in the mind that destroys the ignorance that covers one’s natural experience of the secondless Consciousness. Hence the instructive vedic sentence, vākyam, is not useless.  

Verse 84:

सदा प्रमितमेकत्वं स्वत एव न चान्यतः ।

अतो न प्रमितिं वाक्यं कुरुतेऽज्ञानबाधकम् ॥ ८४॥

सदा always प्रमितम् understood एकत्वं oneness स्वतः by itself एव alone न  च but not अन्यतः by anything else अतः hence न not प्रमितिं knowledge वाक्यं sentence कुरुते does अज्ञानबाधकम् dispel ignorance

If as averred earlier, there is no role for the vedic sentence in generating the knowledge of oneness, owing to the reason that the Supreme Reality is beyond words, then that ‘Reality’ will be a non-existent entity, no different from the hare’s horn.  A hare’s horn, being a non-object, is not grasped by any pramāṇa.  So, if the Upaniṣadic Brahman were to be beyond any pramāṇa, including verbal, it is but a non-entity.  This objection is met by the verse: Brahman, Pure Consciousness, is forever in our experience, being self-luminous. It is only the objects of the world, which depend for their very existence, on the observer-consciousness, that the Vedāntin admits, are not an object for a pramāṇa. This is because, first, in order to be known by any pramāṇa, the object must exist. This very existence is not there for the created object since it is not self-luminous and has to depend on an extraneous consciousness to illumine itself. Brahman, on the other hand, being self-luminous, does not need another pramāṇa to reveal It; what is required is only the Vedic instruction that aims at removing the ignorance that envelops It. Once the ignorance is dispelled, there being no more obstructing element, Brahman shines forth to the experience of the aspirant. 

Verse 85:

वस्तुतो नास्ति चाज्ञानं चित्प्रकाशविरोधतः ।

अतो वाक्यं न चाज्ञानबाधकं च निरूपणे ॥ ८५॥

वस्तुतः actually न अस्ति not there च indeedअज्ञानं ignorance चित्प्रकाशविरोधतः as consciousness is inimical to it अतः hence वाक्यं sentence न not च indeed अज्ञानबाधकं dispeller of ignorance  च really निरूपणे upon analyzing

Objection: Since ignorance has no real existence, it is not subject to annulment.  Also, since ignorance is non-different from Brahman, if annulment is admitted, the latter too cannot escape that fate. Therefore another entity called ‘ajñānam’ is to be admitted in order to make the Upaniṣadic instruction of mahāvākya meaningful. If another entity called ignorance is admitted, there will be the defect of duality, since Brahman, along with the second entity ajñānam, will make two entities, toppling the fundamental tenet of Advaita.

Reply: In real terms, there is no such entity called ajñānam. The light of consciousness being inimical to the darkness called ‘ignorance’, the latter simply never gains the fundamental existence itself. This is akin to the glowing lamp that would not let the presence of darkness in its range.   Then, what is this ignorance that is sought to be dispelled? It is nothing other than the imagined ignorance that has illusorily gained existence from time without a beginning, triggered by the nascent impression formed due to a preceding bhrama, error. To explain, the present ignorance is due to the impression formed of the earlier ignorance, and so on. It is only this seeming ignorance that is sought to be dispelled by the Upaniṣadic mahāvākya.  This is what transpires when one enquires into the truth of the entity called ignorance, by resorting to the teaching of the Vedānta śāstra and the Āchārya, along with yukti, logic. Thus, in truth, even the Upaniṣadic sentence is not a dispeller of the really non-existing ignorance.  It is only in the view of parlance, vyavahāra dṛiṣṭi, that it is admitted that the mahāvākya dispels ignorance.  

Objection: If the mental mode, antaḥkaraṇa vṛtti, having Brahman as its content, that is generated by the mahāvākya, which dispels the ignorance that envelops Itself (Brahman), just like the other mental modes that have the pot, cloth, etc. for its content, why is it that that Brahman-vṛtti too does not illumine/reveal Brahman? The idea is: while the mental modes having pot, cloth, etc. reveal those objects, why not a vṛtti that has Brahman for its content reveal Brahman? Why is it said that the vṛtti dispels ignorance enveloping Brahman?

In reply it is said: 

Verse 86:

एकत्वं यत्पुरा प्रोक्तं तत्स्वयं सेद्धुमर्हति ।

न प्रमाणेन मानानि तस्मिन्कुण्ठीभवन्ति हि ॥ ८६॥

एकत्वं Oneness यत् which पुरा before प्रोक्तं was said तत् that स्वयं by itself सेद्धुम् shine अर्हति possible न not प्रमाणेन by pramāṇa मानानि pramāṇa-s तस्मिन् in It कुण्ठीभवन्ति become ineffective हि indeed

The Oneness that is Brahman that was elucidated in the foregoing is not anything that is different from the effulgence that is the very content of the Oneness. This is because It can shine all by itself and is not in need of any pramāṇa to reveal it. [On the other hand, the insentient created objects such as a pot need a pramāṇa, a vṛtti generated by associating with the eye, for example, to reveal them.] Why is Brahman, the Advaitam, not in need of any pramāṇa? Any pramāṇa at the disposal of the aspirant, when attempted to be applied to know Brahman, will be the object of, and therefore illumined by, the effulgence of Brahman itself. This is akin to a lamp that is held to illumine the Sun. Thereby the pramāṇa-s will become powerless and ineffective in their endeavor. Hence alone it is declared in the Kenopaniṣat 1.3 ‘na tatra chakṣur gacchati, na vāggacchati, no manaḥ…’    [‘The instruments such as the eye, the speech and the mind do not objectify / grasp Brahman…’] 

Verse 87:

व्यावहारिकमज्ञानमपि ब्रह्मैव वस्तुतः ।

अज्ञानमिति वार्ताऽपि त्वर्थसद्भाव एव हि ॥ ८७॥

व्यावहारिकम् parlance अज्ञानम् ignorance अपि too ब्रह्म Brahman एव alone वस्तुतः in fact अज्ञानम् ‘ignorance’ इति thus वार्ता talk अपि even तु though अर्थसद्भावे while deeming to exist एव alone हि indeed

That ignorance that is dispelled by the knowledge generated by the Upaniṣadic mahāvākya is also Brahman alone in the ultimate analysis. Just as the superimposed objects, like silver, are non-different from the substratum, shell, etc. ignorance too is only superimposed on Brahman and therefore is non-different thereof. The superimposed silver has no existence of its own apart from the existence of the substratum shell. The ignorance that is aimed to be annulled has no existence apart from the existence it derives from Brahman, the substratum. Thus, when the truth/status of ignorance is enquired into, no entity called ‘ignorance’ will remain. When the Substratum Brahman is realized, nothing that is apart from It will ever remain as existent. It will be beneficial to read what Sri Shankaracharya says in the commentary to the Bhagavadgītā 4.24:

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्महविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम्।

ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना।।4.24।।

4.24 The ladle is Brahman, the oblation is Brahman. The offering is poured by Brahman in the fire of Brahman. Brahman alone is to be reached by him who has concentration on Brahman as the objective.

4.24. ब्रह्म अर्पणं येन करणेन ब्रह्मवित् हविः अग्नौ अर्पयति तत् ब्रह्मैव इति पश्यति तस्य आत्मव्यतिरेकेण अभावं पश्यति यथा शुक्तिकायां रजताभावं पश्यति तदुच्यते ब्रह्मैव अर्पणमिति यथा यद्रजतं तत् शुक्तिकैवेति।

4.24.  Brahma-arpaṇam, the ladle, is Brahman: The knower of Brahman perceives the instrument with which he offers oblation in the fire as Brahman Itself. He perceives it as not existing separately from the Self, as one sees the non-existence of silver in nacre. In this sense it is that Brahman Itself is the ladle, just as what appears as silver is only nacre.

Verse 88:

सत एव हि सद्भावो नासतः सूक्ष्मदर्शने ।

सदसत्कोटिनिर्मुक्तमित्युक्तिश्चार्थभासने ।

खलु नाऽऽभासते भानं ब्रह्म वस्त्वेव केवलम् ॥ ८८॥

सतः Of existence एव alone हि indeed सद्भावः existence (is admitted) न not असतः of non-existence सूक्ष्मदर्शने upon examination सदसत्कोटिनिर्मुक्तम् ‘free from the categories of existence and non-existence’  इति  thus उक्तिः statement च too अर्थभासने to enable realization खलु indeed न not आभासते  shines भानं effulgence ब्रह्म Brahman वस्तु entity एव alone केवलम् only

(Coming soon…Part 13)

Recent articles