Monday, 21 November 2016

What is the correct meaning of ajāta vāda?

In a comment on my previous article, The difference between vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda is not just semantic but substantive, a friend called Venkat questioned my understanding of the meaning of ajāta vāda, citing something that I wrote in the sixth section of that article, What is unborn (ajāta) is only pure self-awareness, and since it is the infinite whole, nothing else actually exists, namely ‘ajāta vāda is the contention that no creation has ever occurred even as an illusory appearance’, and then arguing:
Michael I think that you might be incorrect in your understanding of the advaitic meaning of ajata vada. I cannot argue with you on what Bhagavan Ramana meant by it.

Gaudapada’s famous ajata verse occurs in the second chapter of his karika. If this verse is taken in context of the verses that precede and follow it, it is clear that Gaudapada does indeed mean that there is no real creation of the world or the jiva, and that both are illusions.

30: This Atman, though non-separate from all these, appears as it were separate. One who knows this truly interprets the meaning of the Vedas without hesitation
31: As are dreams and illusions or a castle in the air seen in the sky, so is the universe viewed by the wise in the Vedanta
32: There is no dissolution, no birth, none in bondage, none aspiring for wisdom, no seeker of liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.
33: This (the Atman) is imagined both as unreal objects that are perceived as the non-duality. The objects are imagined in the non-duality itself. Therefore non-duality alone is the highest bliss.

Sankara’s commentary on v32 is also worth reading, though quite long. Relevant extracts:

“This verse sums up the meaning of the chapter. When duality is perceived to be illusory and Atman alone is known as the sole Reality, then it is clearly established that all our experiences, ordinary or religious, verily pertain to the domain of ignorance.”

“Thus duality being non-different from mental imagination cannot have a beginning or an end . . . Therefore it is established that duality is a mere illusion of the mind. Hence it is well-said that the Ultimate Reality is the absence of destruction, etc, on account of the non-existence of duality (which exists only in the imagination of the mind”.

My understanding is that srsti-drsti vada says first the world is created and then jivas evolve from it thereafter. Then, vivartha vada takes a step back to say that actually the jiva’s perceiving creates the world. And ajata vada then takes a further step back to point out that the jiva itself is an illusion, a superimposition on the atman.
In this article, therefore, I will try to explain more clearly why the correct meaning of ajāta vāda is the contention that no vivarta (illusion or false appearance) has ever been born or come into existence at all.
  1. What distinguishes ajāta vāda from vivarta vāda is concerning not what actually exists but only what does not actually exist
  2. Since vivarta vāda contends that non-existent things seem to exist only in the view of the non-existent ego, its logical conclusion can only be ajāta
  3. The ultimate truth is that no illusory appearance has ever come into existence
  4. According to vivarta vāda both the seer (the ego) and the seen (all phenomena) are illusory appearances
  5. The experience of the ātma-jñāni is that the ego and world never seemed to exist at all
1. What distinguishes ajāta vāda from vivarta vāda is concerning not what actually exists but only what does not actually exist

Venkat, regarding your comment above, in which you question my understanding of the meaning of ajāta vāda, in order to decide its correct meaning we need to consider what distinguishes it from vivarta vāda, and for that we need to begin by considering on what they agree.

What Bhagavan says in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, namely ‘யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே’ (yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē), which means ‘What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own real self]’, is in accordance with both vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda, because neither of them contend that anything other than ātma-svarūpa actually exists. Therefore what distinguishes ajāta vāda from vivarta vāda is not concerning what actually exists, so it must be concerning other things, which do not actually exist.

In the second sentence of the same paragraph Bhagavan refers to all other things, namely ‘ஜக ஜீவ ஈச்வரர்கள்’ (jaga-jīva-īśvarargaḷ), ‘world, soul and God’, which according to both vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda do not actually exist as such, and what he says about them is ‘ஜக ஜீவ ஈச்வரர்கள், சிப்பியில் வெள்ளிபோல் அதிற் கற்பனைகள்’ (jaga-jīva-īśvarargaḷ, śippiyil veḷḷi pōl adil kaṟpaṉaigaḷ), which means ‘The world, soul and God are kalpanaigaḷ [fabrications, imaginations, mental creations, illusions or illusory superimpositions] in it, like the [illusory] silver in a shell’. In other words, he says that they are all just illusions or false appearances, which is what vivarta vāda contends, because vivarta in this context means illusion or false appearance.

What then does ajāta vāda contend regarding everything other than what actually exists? If it were to contend that they are all just illusions or false appearances, then it would be exactly the same as vivarta vāda, which I hope you will agree is obviously not the case, because vivarta vāda and ajāta vāda are always considered to be two distinct contentions.

As we all know from our own experience, though illusory appearances seem to exist in waking and dream, they do not seem to exist in sleep, so they appear and disappear. An illusory appearance never actually comes into existence, but when it appears it seems to come into existence. Its appearance or seeming to come into existence is therefore its birth. Hence all illusory appearances are born, at least in a metaphorical sense, and this gives us a clue to what ajāta vāda contends regarding everything other than what actually exists, because ajāta literally means unborn, non-born or not born. That is, ajāta vāda contends that nothing is ever born, which implies that nothing ever appears or seems to come into existence.

Therefore what distinguishes ajāta vāda from vivarta vāda is that whereas vivarta vāda concedes that things other than what actually exists do at least seem to exist and are therefore just illusory appearances, ajāta vāda does not concede that anything appears or seems to exist at all. Both ajāta vāda and vivarta vāda agree that nothing other than ātma-svarūpa actually exists, but by contending that everything other than ātma-svarūpa is just an illusory appearance, vivarta vāda is claiming that though other things do not actually exist, they do seem to exist, whereas by contending that nothing is born, ajāta vāda claims that nothing ever appears or seems to exist at all.

What actually exists alone is real, and whatever does not actually exist but merely seems to exist is unreal, so vivarta vāda agrees with ajāta vāda that nothing other than ātma-svarūpa is real. However, vivarta vāda reconciles the seeming existence of other things with the fundamental contention that what actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa by contending that their seeming existence is just an illusory appearance and hence unreal, whereas ajāta vāda contends that nothing else seems to exist at all.

2. Since vivarta vāda contends that non-existent things seem to exist only in the view of the non-existent ego, its logical conclusion can only be ajāta

It could be argued, therefore, that ajāta vāda is clearly disproved by our experience, because in our experience other things do seem to exist. However according to Bhagavan, Sankara, Gaudapada and the authors of several upaniṣads ajāta is the ultimate truth, being what alone our actual self experiences, as we will know when our ego is consumed by the clear light of pure self-awareness (ātma-jñāna). How then can we reconcile this teaching with our current experience?

According to vivarta vāda not only are all phenomena just an illusory appearance, but so too is this ego, which alone is what experiences all illusory appearances An illusory appearance is what seems to exist even though it does not actually exist, so though this ego seems to exist and seems to be aware of all these phenomena, according to vivarta vāda it does not actually exist, as Bhagavan says we will discover if we investigate it sufficiently keenly. Therefore what vivarta vāda contends is that non-existent phenomena seem to exist only in the view of a non-existent ego.

How then does this non-existent ego seem to exist in its own view? This cannot be adequately explained, but according to Bhagavan it seems to exist only when its attention is directed away from itself towards the illusory appearance of other things, which are all its own projections, and when its entire attention is directed back only towards itself, it ceases to exist even as an illusory appearance. In other words, the ego seems to exist only so long as it looks elsewhere, and it does not seem to exist when it looks at itself alone. Therefore if we investigate what this ego is by turning our entire attention back towards it, we will find that there is no such thing, and never was any such thing, as Bhagavan teaches us in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār:
மனத்தி னுருவை மறவா துசாவ
மனமென வொன்றிலை யுந்தீபற
      மார்க்கநே ரார்க்குமி துந்தீபற.

maṉatti ṉuruvai maṟavā dusāva
maṉameṉa voṉḏṟilai yundīpaṟa
      mārgganē rārkkumi dundīpaṟa
.

பதச்சேதம்: மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. மார்க்கம் நேர் ஆர்க்கும் இது.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. mārggam nēr ārkkum idu.

அன்வயம்: மறவாது மனத்தின் உருவை உசாவ, மனம் என ஒன்று இலை. இது ஆர்க்கும் நேர் மார்க்கம்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): maṟavādu maṉattiṉ uruvai usāva, maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai. idu ārkkum nēr mārggam.

English translation: When one investigates [examines or scrutinises] the form of the mind without forgetting, anything called ‘mind’ does not exist. This is the direct [straight or appropriate] path for everyone.
Since the essence of the mind is the ego (our primal thought called ‘I’), as Bhagavan explains in the next verse, when he says in this verse ‘மனம் என ஒன்று இலை’ (maṉam eṉa oṉḏṟu ilai), which literally means ‘anything called mind is not’, ‘anything called mind does not exist’ or ‘there is not anything called mind’, thereby implying that no such thing as ‘mind’ exists at all, he clearly implies that there is actually no such thing as ‘ego’. Therefore, since this ego does not exist, all the phenomena that seem to exist only in its view likewise do not actually exist.

Since the ego does not actually exist, and since it seems to exist only in its own view, how can it or anything else actually seem to exist at all? That is, how can anything seem to exist in the view of something that itself does not exist? Therefore, when we investigate the ego sufficiently keenly to see that it does not actually exist at all, our experience will not be that it seemed to exist in the past and has now ceased to exist, but that it never seemed to exist at all, because there never was anything in whose view it could have seemed to exist. And since this ego never seemed to exist, nothing else seemed to exist either, because other things could seem to exist only if there was an ego in whose view they seemed to exist.

Therefore though ajāta seems to be quite contrary to our present experience (that is, to the experience of ourself as this ego), it is actually the logical conclusion of vivarta vāda, because vivarta vāda contends is whatever seems to exist seems to exist only in the view of this ego, which itself does not actually exist at all. This is why while teaching vivarta vāda sages like Bhagavan, Sankara and Gaudapada often slip in a reminder that the ultimate truth (pāramārthika satya) is not vivarta vāda but only ajāta, because no ego or phenomena have ever been ‘born’ or come into existence even as illusory appearances.

3. The ultimate truth is that no illusory appearance has ever come into existence

This explains why in the series of verses that you quoted from Māṇḍukya Kārikā (2.30-33), while expounding vivarta vāda Gaudapada quoted (as verse 32) a more ancient verse that implies that ajāta alone is the ultimate truth:
न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो न च साधकः ।
न मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥ ३२ ॥

na nirōdhō na cōtpattirna baddhō na ca sādhakaḥ |
na mumukṣurna vai mukta ityēṣā paramārthatā || 32 ||

पदच्छेद: न निरोधः, न च उत्पत्तिः; न बद्धः, न च साधकः; न मुमुक्षुः, न वै मुक्तः — इति एषा परमार्थता.

Padacchēda (word-separation): na nirōdhaḥ, na ca utpattiḥ; na baddhaḥ, na ca sādhakaḥ; na mumukṣuḥ, na vai muktaḥ — iti ēṣā paramārthatā.

English translation: There is no destruction, and no utpatti [birth, origination, arising, occurrence, appearance or coming into being], no one bound, and no one who does sādhana, no one seeking liberation, and even no one liberated. This is paramārthatā [the ultimate truth].
This verse appears in several upaniṣads, including Amṛtabindōpaniṣad (verse 10) and Ātmōpaniṣad (2.31), and it is quoted by Gaudapada in Māṇḍukya Kārikā (2.32) and Sankara in Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi (verse 574). In his Tamil prose translation of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi Bhagavan translated this verse as follows:
உத்பத்தி யில்லை; நாசமில்லை; பத்தனில்லை; சாதகனில்லை; முமுக்ஷுவில்லை; முக்தனுமில்லை; இதுவே பரமார்த்தம்

utpatti-y-illai; nāśam-illai; baddhaṉ-illai; sādhakaṉ-illai; mumukṣu-v-illai; muktaṉ-um-illai; iduvē paramārttham.

There is no arising [birth, origination, appearance or coming into being]; no destruction; no one bound; no one who does sādhana; no one seeking liberation; not even one who is liberated; this indeed is paramārtha [the ultimate truth].
Since Bhagavan often cited this verse, Muruganar composed a Tamil translation of it, which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai (verse 1227), and seeing this four-line verse by Muruganar, Bhagavan condensed its meaning as the following two-line verse, which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai (B28) and also in Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (verse 24):
ஆதலழி வார்ப்பவிழ வாசைமுயல் வார்ந்தாரில்
ஈதுபர மார்த்தமென் றெண்.

ādalaṙi vārppaviṙa vāśaimuyal vārndāril
īdupara mārttameṉ ḏṟeṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: ஆதல், அழிவு, ஆர்ப்பு, அவிழ ஆசை, முயல்வு, ஆர்ந்தார் இல்; ஈது பரமார்த்தம் என்று எண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): ādal, aṙivu, ārppu, aviṙa āśai, muyalvu, ārndār il. īdu paramārttam eṉḏṟu eṇ.

English translation: There is no coming into existence [occurring, happening or becoming], destruction, bondage, desire to untie [bondage], effort [made for liberation], [or] those who have attained [liberation]. Know that this is paramārtha [the ultimate truth].
Since this verse categorically denies the existence of any उत्पत्ति (utpatti), which means birth, origination, arising, occurrence, appearance or coming into being, it denies in effect that any vivarta (illusion or false appearance) has ever occurred, arisen or come into being, which is not only the import of ajāta vāda but also, as we saw above, the logical conclusion of vivarta vāda. This is strongly emphasised by Sankara in the portion of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi in which he cited this verse (namely in verses 569-574), and it is made particularly clear by Bhagavan in his translation of this portion, which occurs in the fourth last paragraph of his Tamil version.

When translating Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi in Tamil prose Bhagavan did not translate each verse separately or in strictly the same sequence as the original, because in many places he merged several verses together in a single sentence, and he often rearranged the sequence of ideas in such a way that the logical connection between them was brought out more clearly and explicitly than in the original verses, as he did in his translation of verses 569 to 572. The following extract from the fourth last paragraph of his Tamil translation corresponds to verses 569 to 574 and part of 575 (according to the verse numbering in most editions of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi, although in some editions these numbers are incremented by one), but in the first sentence I have omitted here most of the portion that corresponds to verses 572 and 571:
மித்யா ஸர்ப்பத்தின் தோற்றமும் நாசமும் ரஜ்ஜுவில் உண்மையில் இல்லாததுபோல, நாசரஹித நித்திய அசங்க அத்வைத கேவலஞானாத்ம வஸ்துவில் [...] மாயாகிருத பந்தமோக்ஷங்களு மில்லவேயில்லை. பிரஹ்மத்தி லன்யமா யெதுவு மின்மையின், ஆவரணத்தால் பந்தமென்றும் ஆவரண நாசத்தால் மோக்ஷமென்றுஞ் சொல்லக்கூடாது. சொல்லின், அத்வைதஹானியும் துவைதப் பிரதீதியும் சித்தியாகும். இது வேதங்களுக்கு சம்மத மாகாது. நிஷ்கள நிர்மல நிஷ்கிரிய நிரஞ்ஜனமாய், ஆகாசம்போலப் பூர்ணமாயிருக்கும் அவ்வதிசாந்த அத்விதீயப் பிரஹ்மத்தில் கற்பனை யெங்கிருக்கும்? ‘உத்பத்தி யில்லை; நாசமில்லை; பத்தனில்லை; சாதகனில்லை; முமுக்ஷுவில்லை; முக்தனுமில்லை; இதுவே பரமார்த்தம்’ எனச் சுருதியும் கோஷிக்கின்றது. ஸகல வேதாந்தத்தின் சித்தாந்தமாய், ரகசியங்களி லதிரகசியமான இது, சிஷ்யனே! என்னா லுனக்குத் தெரிவிக்கப்பட்டது.

mithyā sarppattiṉ tōṯṟam-um nāśam-um rajjuvil uṇmaiyil illādadu-pōla, nāśa-rahita nittiya asaṅga advaita kēvala-ñāṉātma vastuvil [...] māyā-kiruta bandha-mōkṣaṅgaḷum illavē-y-illai. birahmattil aṉyam-āy eduvum iṉmaiyiṉ, āvaraṇattāl bandham-eṉḏṟum āvaraṇa-nāśattāl mōkṣam-eṉḏṟuñ colla-k-kūḍādu. solliṉ, advaita-hāṉi-y-um duvaita-p piratīti-y-um siddhi-y-āhum. idu vēdaṅgaḷukku sammatam āhādu. niṣkaḷa nirmala niṣkiriya nirañjaṉam-āy, ākāśam-pōla-p pūrṇam-āy-irukkum a-vv-ati-śānta advitīya-p birahmattil kaṟpaṉai y-eṅgirukkum? ‘utpatti y-illai; nāśam-illai; baddhaṉ-illai; sādhakaṉ-illai; mumukṣu-v-illai; muktaṉ-um-illai; iduvē paramārttham’ eṉa-c śuruti-y-um ghōṣikkiṉḏṟadu. sakala vēdāntattiṉ siddhāntam-āy, rahasiyaṅgaḷil ati-rahasiyam-āṉa idu, śiṣyaṉē! eṉṉāl uṉakku-t terivikkappaṭṭadu.

Like the appearance and destruction of the unreal snake not existing in reality in the rope, in kēvala-jñānātma-vastu [the substance that is oneself, who is pure (or isolated) awareness], [which is] free from destruction, eternal, unattached and non-dual, there is absolutely no māyā-produced bondage and liberation whatsoever […]. Because of the non-existence of anything at all as other (anya) than brahman, it cannot be said that bondage [occurs] because of āvaraṇa [covering, veiling, concealing or obscuring] and that liberation [occurs] because of destruction of āvaraṇa. If this were said, the failure of advaita and the proof of dvaita would be achieved [that is, if this were the case, it would mean that advaita is false and dvaita is true]. This is not sammata [consistent with, acceptable or agreeable] to the Vēdas. In that extremely tranquil advitīya [secondless or otherless] brahman, which exists as niṣkala [formless, partless or indivisible], nirmala [taintless or immaculate], niṣkriya [actionless] and nirañjana [blemishless or pure], and as pūrṇa [full, complete, entire, whole or infinite] like space, where is [room for any] kalpanā [fabrication, mental creation or imagination]? ‘There is no utpatti [birth, origination, arising, occurrence, appearance or coming into being]; no destruction; no one bound; no one who does sādhana; no one seeking liberation; not even one who is liberated; this indeed is paramārtha [the ultimate truth]’: thus proclaims even the śruti [the Vēdas]. This, which is the most secret among secrets, being the siddhānta [established conclusion] of all vēdānta, O disciple, has been made known to you by me.
Thus in this portion of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi (which is in effect its final conclusion, because though there are five and a half verses after these, they were written just to round off the text and do not contain any significant spiritual import), Sankara explains that the ultimate truth and the established conclusion of all vēdānta is that there is nothing other than brahman, and that therefore there is absolutely no bondage or liberation whatsoever, and that nothing else has ever come into existence. Thus he leaves no room for doubt that in his view ajāta alone is the ultimate truth.

The portion that I omitted from the first sentence of the extract above is an elaborate relative clause that describes bondage and liberation, and I omitted it in order to avoid diverting the attention of the reader away from the main conclusion of that sentence, namely ‘கேவலஞானாத்ம வஸ்துவில் [...] பந்தமோக்ஷங்களு மில்லவேயில்லை’ (kēvala-ñāṉātma vastuvil [...] bandha-mōkṣaṅgaḷum illavē-y-illai), which means ‘in kēvala-jñānātma-vastu [the substance that is oneself, who is pure awareness], […] there is absolutely no bondage and liberation whatsoever’. However, for the sake of completeness, the following is the entire sentence, which is Bhagavan’s translation of verses 569 to 572 and part of 573:
மித்யா ஸர்ப்பத்தின் தோற்றமும் நாசமும் ரஜ்ஜுவில் உண்மையில் இல்லாததுபோல, நாசரஹித நித்திய அசங்க அத்வைத கேவலஞானாத்ம வஸ்துவில், உண்டு இல்லை யெனப்பட்ட தெல்லாம் புத்தியின் தர்மங்களன்றி உண்மையி லின்மையின் அப் புத்திகற்பிதமாய், மேகத்தால் வந்த தன் நேத்திராவரணத்தை அறியாதான் ஆதித்தனில் ஆரோபிப்பதுபோல மூடர்களால் விருதாவாயாரோபிக்கப்பட்ட மாயாகிருத பந்தமோக்ஷங்களு மில்லவேயில்லை.

mithyā sarppattiṉ tōṯṟam-um nāśam-um rajjuvil uṇmaiyil illādadu-pōla, nāśa-rahita nittiya asaṅga advaita kēvala-ñāṉātma vastuvil, uṇḍu illai y-eṉappaṭṭadu ellām buddhiyiṉ dharmaṅgaḷ-aṉḏṟi uṇmaiyil iṉmaiyiṉ a-p-buddhi-kaṟpitam-āy, mēghattāl vanda taṉ nēttirāvaraṇattai aṟiyādāṉ ādittaṉil ārōpippadu-pōla mūḍhargaḷāl virutā-v-āy-ārōpikkappaṭṭa māyā-kiruta bandha-mōkṣaṅgaḷum illavē-y-illai.

Like the appearance and destruction of the unreal snake not existing in reality in the rope, in kēvala-jñānātma-vastu [the substance that is oneself, who is pure awareness], [which is] free from destruction, eternal, unattached and non-dual, there is absolutely no māyā-produced bondage and liberation, which — being what is fabricated by the buddhi [intellect], since all that can be said to be ‘it is’ or ‘it is not’ does not exist in reality but only as dharmas (characteristics) of the buddhi — are wrongly attributed [to (or superimposed on) that kēvala-jñānātma-vastu] by confused people, like attributing onto the sun because of ignorance the āvaraṇa [covering, veiling, concealing or obscuring] of [it from] one’s eyes that comes due to clouds.
In this translation the complex relative clause that describes bondage and liberation (namely all the portion from ‘which — being what is fabricated by the buddhi’ onwards) comes at the end of this sentence, because in English a relative clause has to come after whatever it describes or defines, but in Tamil a relative clause always precedes that, and the main clause of a sentence always comes at the end, so in this case the main and therefore concluding clause is ‘பந்தமோக்ஷங்களு மில்லவே யில்லை’ (bandha-mōkṣaṅgaḷum illavē-y-illai), which means ‘there is absolutely no bondage and liberation whatsoever’. ‘இல்லவே யில்லை’ (illa-v-ē-y-illai) is an intensified and iterated denial of existence, which literally means ‘does not exist, not at all’, ‘there is not, not at all’ or ‘there is no, none whatsoever’, so it is an extremely emphatic way of asserting that something does not exist at all, and hence by ending this sentence with such a strongly worded main clause, Bhagavan emphatically declares that there is absolutely no bondage or liberation whatsoever, thereby implying that ajāta alone is true.

Unfortunately in English the force of this carefully worded sentence is to a large extent lost, not least because this emphatic main clause is embedded in the middle of the sentence, and is followed by a description of bondage and liberation, thereby obscuring the fact that the very purpose of this sentence is to assert that in reality they do not exist at all. Since the relative clause says that bondage and liberation are fabricated by the buddhi and are wrongly attributed to or superimposed on kēvala-jñānātma-vastu, and since in the analogy of clouds concealing the sun it uses the term āvaraṇa (which means covering, veiling, concealing or obscuring), it is expressing the viewpoint of vivarta vāda. However in Tamil this relative clause is then followed by the main clause, which in effect declares that vivarta vāda is ultimately false, because there is in fact absolutely no bondage or liberation, thereby implying that there is also absolutely no māyā, āvaraṇa, buddhi, fabrication, false attribution (or superimposition) or anything else whatsoever other than brahman, which is kēvala-jñānātma-vastu (and which is what Bhagavan generally refers to as ātma-svarūpa, our own actual self).

This is made clear by the structure of this sentence in Tamil, because the emphatic denial of existence, ‘இல்லவே யில்லை’ (illavē-y-illai), applies not only to bondage and liberation, but also to ‘மாயாகிருத’ (māyā-kiruta), ‘māyā-produced’, and to the entire contents of the relative clause that precedes it. However, we can also understand that this is the case by considering that since Bhagavan says in verse 24 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that the ego itself is bondage, and since he frequently explained that māyā is nothing but our mind or ego, of which our intellect (buddhi) is a function, and since he says in verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu that if this ego does not exist nothing else exists, when he writes here (expressing what is stated in both verses 569 and 573 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi), ‘கேவலஞானாத்ம வஸ்துவில் [...] மாயாகிருத பந்தமோக்ஷங்களு மில்லவேயில்லை’ (kēvala-ñāṉātma vastuvil [...] māyā-kiruta bandha-mōkṣaṅgaḷum illavē-y-illai), which means ‘in kēvala-jñānātma-vastu [the substance that is oneself, who is pure awareness], […] there is absolutely no māyā-produced bondage and liberation whatsoever’, what he clearly implies is that in the one real substance, which is pure self-awareness, there is absolutely no ego and hence nothing else whatsoever.

4. According to vivarta vāda both the seer (the ego) and the seen (all phenomena) are illusory appearances

In the final paragraph of your comment that I quoted at the beginning of this article you wrote: ‘My understanding is that srsti-drsti vada says first the world is created and then jivas evolve from it thereafter. Then, vivartha vada takes a step back to say that actually the jiva’s perceiving creates the world. And ajata vada then takes a further step back to point out that the jiva itself is an illusion, a superimposition on the atman’. However, as the oft-cited verse that we considered in the previous section (namely ‘na nirōdhō na cōtpattirna baddhō na ca sādhakaḥ, na mumukṣurna vai mukta ityēṣā paramārthatā’) clearly implies, ajāta vāda does not contend that the jīva is just an illusion but that it does not exist at all, even as an illusion.

What you seem to imply is that vivarta vāda contends that only the world (the totality of all phenomena) is an illusion and that the jīva (our ego) who perceives it is in some sense real, but as Bhagavan makes abundantly clear in many of his original writings and elsewhere, what vivarta vāda actually contends is that everything other than our actual self is an illusion, so this ego is as illusory as whatever phenomena it perceives. In other words, both the seer (the ego) and the seen (all phenomena) are illusory appearances.

The seer and the seen are two of the three factors of சுட்டறிவு (suṭṭaṟivu), transitive awareness or objective cognition (that is, awareness or cognition of anything other than oneself), namely the perceiver (the ‘seer’ or subject), the perceived (the ‘seen’ or object) and the perception (the subject’s seeing or cognition of the object). In advaita philosophy these three factors are called त्रिपुटि (tripuṭi) in Sanskrit and முப்புடி (muppuḍi) in Tamil, and of these three, the most fundamental is the seer, perceiver or cogniser, which is the ego. However, though their root is only this ego, it is no more real than either of the other two, because none of them can appear without the other two. That is, just as neither perception nor whatever is perceived could seem to exist in the absence of the perceiver, the perceiver (the ego) does not seem to exist except when it is perceiving something other than itself.

Therefore according to vivarta vāda the seer, the seen and the seeing are all equally unreal, so they are all just a false appearance. However, since they all appear only in the view of the seer (the ego), they depend on it for their seeming existence, as Bhagavan indicates in verse 9 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
இரட்டைகண் முப்புடிக ளென்றுமொன்று பற்றி
யிருப்பவா மவ்வொன்றே தென்று — கருத்தினுட்
கண்டாற் கழலுமவை கண்டவ ரேயுண்மை
கண்டார் கலங்காரே காண்.

iraṭṭaigaṇ muppuḍiga ḷeṉḏṟumoṉḏṟu paṯṟi
yiruppavā mavvoṉḏṟē teṉḏṟu — karuttiṉuṭ
kaṇḍāṯ kaṙalumavai kaṇḍava rēyuṇmai
kaṇḍār kalaṅgārē kāṇ
.

பதச்சேதம்: இரட்டைகள் முப்புடிகள் என்றும் ஒன்று பற்றி இருப்பவாம். அவ் ஒன்று ஏது என்று கருத்தின் உள் கண்டால், கழலும் அவை. கண்டவரே உண்மை கண்டார்; கலங்காரே. காண்.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): iraṭṭaigaḷ muppuḍigaḷ eṉḏṟum oṉḏṟu paṯṟi iruppavām. a-vv-oṉḏṟu ēdu eṉḏṟu karuttiṉ-uḷ kaṇḍāl, kaṙalum avai. kaṇḍavarē uṇmai kaṇḍār; kalaṅgārē. kāṇ.

அன்வயம்: இரட்டைகள் முப்புடிகள் என்றும் ஒன்று பற்றி இருப்பவாம். அவ் ஒன்று ஏது என்று கருத்தின் உள் கண்டால், அவை கழலும். கண்டவரே உண்மை கண்டார்; கலங்காரே. காண்.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): iraṭṭaigaḷ muppuḍigaḷ eṉḏṟum oṉḏṟu paṯṟi iruppavām. a-vv-oṉḏṟu ēdu eṉḏṟu karuttiṉ-uḷ kaṇḍāl, avai kaṙalum. kaṇḍavarē uṇmai kaṇḍār; kalaṅgārē. kāṇ.

English translation: Dyads and triads exist [by] clinging always to one. If one looks within the mind [to see] what that one is, they will cease to exist. Only those who have seen [this] have seen the reality. See, they will not be confused.
Here ‘dyad’ is a translation of இரட்டை (iraṭṭai), which means a pair and in this context implies a pair of opposites (known as dvaṁdva or dvandva in Sanskrit), such as knowledge and ignorance, awareness and non-awareness, existence and non-existence, reality and illusion, happiness and unhappiness, or bondage and liberation, and ‘triad’ is a translation of முப்புடி (muppuḍi), which as we saw above means the three factors of any subject-object experience, namely the perceiving subject, the perceived object, and the subject’s perception of the object. The one to which both dyads and triads cling (that is, the one on which they depend for their seeming existence) is the ego, which is the subject, the one who alone is aware both of itself and of all other things.

The reason why dyads and triads will all cease to exist if one looks within oneself to see what this one ego actually is is that it seems to exist only when it looks elsewhere (that is, at anything other than itself), and it will cease to exist if it looks at itself, because even though it seems to exist when looking elsewhere, it does not actually exist, and since everything else (all dyads and triads) depends upon its seeming existence for their seeming existence, when it vanishes due to its own keen self-attentiveness, everything else will vanish along with it.

5. The experience of the ātma-jñāni is that the ego and world never seemed to exist at all

This is what vivarta vāda contends, so in what way does ajāta vāda differ from this? Since vivarta vāda contends that even the ego (the jīva), which is what is aware of everything else, is itself just an illusory appearance, the difference between ajāta vāda and vivarta vāda cannot be that ‘ajata vada then takes a further step back to point out that the jiva itself is an illusion’, as you suggest.

Since vivarta vāda contends that neither the ego nor anything perceived by it actually exists, and that they merely seem to exist, because what actually exists is only our own real self (ātma-svarūpa), which is pure and infinite self-awareness, and since ajāta vāda likewise contends that nothing other than our real self actually exists, the difference between them can only be concerning the question of whether the ego and world seem to exist or not. Whereas vivarta vāda concedes that they do seem to exist, at least in the self-ignorant view of this ego, ajāta vāda contends that they do not seem to exist at all, because how can anything seem to exist in the view of this ego, which itself does not actually exist?

According to Bhagavan the experience of the ātma-jñāni is not that the ego and world once seemed to exist and have now ceased to exist, but that they never seemed to exist at all, because what actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa, which is anādi (beginningless), ananta (endless, limitless or infinite) and akhaṇḍa (undivided) sat-cit-ānanda (as he says in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār), so in its clear view nothing else whatsoever could ever appear or seem to exist at all. Therefore though he taught vivarta vāda as the theoretical foundation on which our practice of self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) should be based, and consequently as the most beneficial view for us to adopt if we wish to free ourself from this illusory ego, he explained that his own experience was only ajāta, the ultimate truth that no illusory appearance has ever been ‘born’ or come into existence (or even seeming existence) at all.

61 comments:

Mouna said...

In view of Michael’s excellent article, proposed hypothesis:

Jiva’s perspective = Srishti-Drishti or Ignorance

Ishwara’s perspective = Drishti-Srishti or Vivarta

Brahman = Ajata

world-perceiver said...

So Mouna,
which perspective do you like most ?

Mouna said...

world-perceived,

It's not a question of liking one or the other, it's more a question of inner investigation to know/realize/understand what is real and what is unreal.

illusory silver in a shell said...

Michael,
from which source can a non-existent ego develop/gain the power (sakti) to cultivate an own view ?

world-perceiver said...

Mouna,
my question was formulated only out of a joking mood.
But without being convinced you would not easily enrich the required perseverance to experience only the real.

Mouna said...

world-perceiver,

:)

paramarthika satya said...

Michael,
5. The experience of the ātma-jñāni is that the ego and world never seemed to exist at all

Where is the road to atma-jnana ? What are we waiting for ?

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

Some further explanations by Sadhu Om from Path of Sri Ramana Part Two:

"But for the most advanced and mature aspirants who possess perfect courage and clarity of intellect, the Vedas teach only the final truth known as 'no creation' (ajata), the import of which is as follows: "No such thing as the world has ever come into existence; what you see is not the world; it is only you, the real Self. Other than you, nothing has ever existed. There never was any such thing as creation, sustenance or destruction. You alone exist".

"However, although the absolute truth experienced by Him was only ajata, when Sri Bhagavan was asked to give teachings, for the sake of devotees He accepted as if
true the theory of simultaneous creation - the doctrine of false appearance - and gave His teachings accordingly.

The reason why He did not give His teachings according to the standpoint of ajata is that in the state of ajata there exists only Self, the mere existence-consciousness 'I am', and no other thing, no world, no mind, no bondage, no disciple and no Guru-, and hence in that state no teaching is either necessary or possible.

A need arises for a teaching only because we see the world - because we experience otherness, and therefore a teaching will be of practical value only if it accepts the existence of the world at least as a false appearance -.

That is why Sri Bhagavan begins the first verse of Ulladu Narpadu with the words, 'Nam ullaham kandalal', which means, 'because we see the world'."

venkat said...

Hi Michael,

I think the key to this is your sentence:

"Therefore though ajāta seems to be quite contrary to our present experience (that is, to the experience of ourself as this ego), it is actually the logical conclusion of vivarta vāda, because vivarta vāda contends is whatever seems to exist seems to exist only in the view of this ego, which itself does not actually exist at all."

I wholly agree - in ajata vada there never was born a separate ego. However, born / created is not the same as the arising of the illusion of separation. Hence the 3 states analysis. Deep sleep is what we really are - the substratum; and the dream and waking world are equivalent: they never existed in reality, were never created / born.

In Mandukya Karika 2.16, Gaudapada says 'first is imagined the jiva and then are imagined the various entities, objective and subjective that are perceived'. I would suggest that advaita uses vivartha vada, as a teaching method, to help us, who are so closely identified with our ego, to at least first detach themselves from the world, and regard it as a dream, and to turn their attention inwards.
[Remember vivartha vada is equivalent to eka jiva vada - there is only one jiva that is imagining all this; but still there is that one jiva! As an aside Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha, a famous Sanakracharya of Sringeri, said that even eka jiva vada is only suitable for advanced seekers, because most people can't accept that the world out there is illusory.]

Ajata vada, then takes the next and final step to point out that even that one jiva is illusory, and in fact there was never any bondage, and never any liberation. So there can be no jiva to even seek moksha. Therefore even this final, highest yearning has to be given up, because it is still a desire of a non-existent ego.

There is a helpful on these creation theories here:

http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/creation.html#ajati

With love and respect,
venkat

Ken said...

venkat wrote:
"Deep sleep is what we really are - the substratum; and the dream and waking world are equivalent: they never existed in reality, were never created / born."

This is contrary to what Shankara said in Vivekachudamani, translated by Ramana Maharshi:

"That realization of ‘I’ is indeed the Self which is experienced as ‘I-I’ shining of its own accord, the absolute Being, the witness of the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, distinct from the five sheaths, aware of the mental modes in the waking and dream states, and of their absence in the state of deep sleep. That Self sees all of its own accord but is never seen by any of these."

venkat said...

Michael;,
I just wanted to come back on your translation of Bhagavan's translation of Vivekachudamani, v574. This is a translation of the original Sanskrit:

"So these two, bondage and liberation are imaginations wrought by maya; they do not pertain to the atman. Where can be any imaginations of (i.e. how can any imagination affect) the partless, actionless, peaceful, defect less, taintless, non-dual Supreme Reality which is infinite like the sky?"

So I would interpret your 'absolutely no maya-produced bondage or freedom' simply to state the fact that: firstly if there is no jiva, there can be no talk of bondage or freedom; and second that ignorance cannot pertain to the ever-pure Brahman / atman.

My understanding is that Advaita says that there cannot be a second thing (maya) that conceals Brahman from itself. So that begs the question what is the locus of ignorance, of the superimposition, of the illusion of subject and object?

Advaita's response is that the ignorance, the misconception is that of the illusory jiva itself. It does not answer the question why this illusion arises; it just says that there never was a really existent jiva that can be bound or seek moksha. When the jiva attains the jnana that it is in fact Brahman, then the subject-object distinction that is at the root of all of the jiva's chattering thoughts is no longer existent. The illusion of separation ceases. The snake-in-rope or a mirage cannot be said to be born or exist, for it to be subsequently destroyed ('there is no destruction, no birth . . '); the ignorance in believing that it is real, simply ceases.

venkat said...

Ken

In Guru Vachaka Kovai:

455: Even though people enjoy the highest happiness in deep sleep, where no other thing exists, instead of understanding that it is the true happiness and trying to achieve it in life, craving to obtain other things, sense objects, as if they were the remedies for the miseries that occur is utter foolishness.

457: Terming sleep as a 'sheath' is only on account of the foolishness of Self-forgetfulness in which the waking state is considered to be a state of knowledge. If the concept that the waking state is a worthy and true state of knowledge is lost, then the very sleep will shine as the one, non-dual Reality.

Sadhu Om in his commentary on this verse references Maharshi's Gospel:
"Sleep is not ignorance, it is one's pure state; wakefulness is not knowledge, it is ignorance. There is full knowledge in sleep, and total ignorance in waking"

You may also wish to re-read para 1 of Nan Yar.

best
venakt

Ken said...

Venkat quoted Muruganar:

" Terming sleep as a 'sheath' is only on account of the foolishness of Self-forgetfulness... "

I'm not going to get in the middle of a debate between Shankara and Muruganar. :)


Bob - P said...

Thanks Michael for writing and posting this article.

If Bhagavan said the ultimate truth was Ajata and his own experience was Ajata then he was not aware of the mind, body, and the world (duality). Instead the mind, body and the world are all nothing but himself and not perceived as separate from himself. The mind, body and the world are nothing but a misperception of what we really are. We either see our self as we really are or we see our self as the mind, body, world we can't see both at the same time.

This is just my understanding.

Venkat and Ken with regards the nature of sleep I think the end of page 176 to end of page of 179 of The Path of Sri Ramana Part 1 is very helpful personally. A bit too much to paste in here and in fairness you have probably read it numerous times but just thought I would I mention it.

I must admit it does makes sense to me but like all things it is open to debate.
All the best.
Bob

D Samarender Reddy said...

Why We Are Not the Subtle Body/Mind

While we may convince ourselves that we are not the gross body, it is that much more difficult to convince ourselves that we are not the subtle body/mind. We tend to remain identified with our mind/personality as ourselves. Here is Swami Sarvapriyananda explaining the reasons that Sankaracharya gives in Aparokshanubhuti as to why we are not the subtle body/mind (including one of the reasons Bhagavan emphasises a lot, especially in Talks, namely, that the mind/I-thought does not exist in deep sleep, but we do, so we cannot be the mind):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ovKMyqXhjw

jagad-dristi said...

Michael,
the seeming existence of things is perceived only by our five senses.
Is the sense-perception as such wrong or do our sense organs function blurred or give an incomplete rendering of the facts and do thereby impart an untrue picture of reality ?
Who is the boss of the five senses ? If the ego-mind has the sovereignty over the senses, does the ego-mind believe he hold his office by divine right ? Who else has appointed the ego-mind and his senses to their imperfect function/action ?

Anonymous said...

if 1) the Self is the only "thing" that "knows"
2) the Self only knows itself,

then 3) what else could be known, and by whom?

even illusory thoughts that present a world,soul etc. are not recognized as such
but only as pure awareness. By pure awareness.

in that sense, illusion never "appears to exist".

i like it.

Ken said...

Bob - P wrote:

"We either see our self as we really are or we see our self as the mind, body, world we can't see both at the same time."

I would agree if one word is added:

"We either see our self as we really are or we see our self as only the mind, body, world we can't see both at the same time."

Then it corresponds (roughly) to a sentence that Ramana said many times to people.

venkat said...

Hi Ken - actually it would be the middle of a debate between Ramana and Shankara. ;-)

Though fortunately Shankara often made a similar point about deep sleep being prajna (wisdom).

Ken said...

Hmmm - but the Shankara quote was from Ramana's translation. :)

illusory silver in a shell said...

Anonymous,
when you say: "illusion never appears to exist" , which conclusion shall we draw from your statement ?

siva-svarupa said...

Hey atma-svarupa,
you are in the comfortable position that there is nothing beside you. You are brooking no competition. Nothing can bother you, the least the seeming existence of other things which is just an illusory appearance and hence unreal. You are the unchallenged, incontestable, undisturbed and untouched autocrat. You stand motionless uninvolved and in carefreeness. You are unfathomable and immune against the unreal. You are the imperturbable, incomprehensible and immeasurable unborn boundless awareness, brahman.
Nothing else seems to exist at all.
Therefore in the one real substance, pure self-awareness, is absolutely no ego and no maya-produced bondage.
Because I do not experience only ajata in my practice of self-investigation I am eager to improve it.

venkat said...

Hi Michael,

I've just be re-reading Mandukyakarika. In chapter 4, Gaudapada clarifies what he means by ajatavada:

57: All this is seen to be born on account of the illusion of experience (due to Avidya); therefore nothing is permanent. All, again, as one with the Ultimate Reality is unborn. And therefore there is nothing like destruction.
58: Those jivas or beings are said to be born. But that birth which is never possible from the standpoint of Reality. Their birth is like that of an illusory object. That illusion (maya), again, is non-existent.
59: The illusory sprout comes forth from the illusory seed. This illusory sprout is neither permanent nor destructible. The same applies to jivas.

Sankara's comment: Now, is the birth of jivas, what are seen to exist, illusory? To this question, our reply is as follows: From an illusory seed is born a mango sprout which is equally illusory. This sprout is neither permanent nor destructible, simply because it does not exist. In the like manner, ideas of birth and death are applied to the jivas. The purport is that from the standpoint of the Ultimate Reality. neither birth nor death is applicable to jivas.

So Vedanta's ajatavada in its "no creation, no destruction", it is simply saying that for a non-existent illusory jiva, how can one talk of birth or death? It is not making a case that there never was even an illusion.

illusory silver in a shell said...

venkat,
if there is - as seen from the standpoint of ultimate reality - not even an illusory jiva, to whom else could then appear any illusion ?

venkat said...

You need to find that out for yourself.

illusory silver in a shell said...

venkat,
okay, but my question was only intended to give you food for thought regarding your statement : "So Vedanta's ajatavada in its "no creation, no destruction", it is simply saying that for a non-existent illusory jiva, how can one talk of birth or death? It is not making a case that there never was even an illusion."

venkat said...

Thanks - and your answer is??

The locus of illusion is an interesting one - is it Brahman or is it the jiva? If it is Brahman, why does Brahman have an illusion? If it is the jiva, one still needs to explain how imagines the jiva, or how / why it came about. It is a bit like the sequence saying "God created the world", but then "Who created God?". It is an unanswerable question, apart from conjecture.

Anyway, you missed the point of the conversation, which was the Vedantic meaning of ajata vada - is it that everything is an illusion (and therefore you can't talk about birth or death of an illusion), or that even the illusion never arose.

illusory silver in a shell said...

venkat,
I wanted to point out the logical conclusion that illusion can appear only to a jiva, because we cannot seriously assume that Brahman is in error. But if there is stated from the viewpoint of ajata vada that there is not at all any jiva, then consequently there cannot be any illusion because there is no subject to whom such one could appear.
As you know we cannot answer any why-question. Therefore we never can know as this ego with some certainty why anything and we ourself can or do exist. So we should not rely on conjecture and instead try to eliminate the biting and grinding tyranny of our ignorance.
Best wishes.

siva-svarupa said...

venkat,
regarding your question "Who created God ?" additionally one could ask : How can there be at all any questioner including myself and so further on ?

venkat said...

"illusion can appear only to a jiva because we cannot seriously assume that Brahman is in error"

For the avoidance of doubt, that is not what Gaudapada and Shankara say. From Madukyakarika:

2.11: If the objects cognised in both the conditions of dream and of waking be illusory, who cognises all these (illusory objects) and how again imagines them?
2.12: Atman, the self-luminous, through the power of his own Maya, imagines himself by himself. He alone is the cogniser of the objects so created. This is the decision of Vedanta.

Also, from Bhagavad Gita, chp 13 (entitled "The field and the knower of the field"):

13.22 He who is the Witness, the Permitter, the Sustainer, the Experiencer, the great Lord, and who is also spoken of as the transcendental Self, is the supreme in this body.

From Sankara's commentary:
He who is the upadrasta, Witness, who while staying nearby does not Himself become involved. . .
Proceeding inwards from that body, the Self is the inmost as also the proximate observer compared with which there is no other higher and inner observer . . .
He is the anu-manta (Permitter) because when the body and organs are engaged in their own functions, He remains as a witness and never dissuades them. . .
He is paramatma, the transcendental Self, because he is the Self which has the characteristics of being the supreme Witness of all those - beginning from the body and ending with the intellect - which are imagined through ignorance to be the indwelling Self.

Michael James said...

Venkat, in the first of your recent comments, after citing Māṇḍukya Kārikā 4.57-9 you conclude by saying that ajāta ‘is not making a case that there never was even an illusion’, but according to the translation of 4.58 that you quote, ‘That illusion (māyā), again, is non-existent’, and this is strongly emphasised by Sankara in his commentary (a translation of which is given here with the original verse). Therefore the clear implication is that māyā is not born because it never existed, and since it never existed none of its products have ever existed.

That is, though māyā and its products seem to exist in the deluded view of ourself as this ego, they do not actually exist, because as that verse says (and as Sankara emphasises in his commentary) from the standpoint of what is real (tattva) their being born (or coming into existence) is never possible. Therefore the clear implication of these three verses is that there is no illusion except in the view of the jīva (the ego), which is itself part of that illusion and hence non-existent.

In 4.59 Gaudapada says, ‘The illusory sprout comes forth from the illusory seed’, and in this context we have to assume that what he meant by ‘the illusory seed’ is the ego, which is the seed from which everything else sprouts (as Bhagavan says in the kaliveṇbā version of verse 26 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), and what he meant by ‘the illusory sprout’ is all phenomena, which have sprouted from this ego and seem to exist only in its own view. Since both the seed and its sprout are illusions, they are māyā and hence do not actually exist at all.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Venkat:

In your final paragraph you indicate that you agree that the jīva is non-existent, but if it is non-existent, in whose view can any illusion exist? When another friend pointed out to you that it cannot exist in the view of brahman because ‘we cannot seriously assume that Brahman is in error’, you replied saying ‘that is not what Gaudapada and Shankara say’ (though it is actually what they both imply when they say in 4.58 and its commentary that like the birth of illusory objects the birth of the jīva ‘is never possible from the standpoint of Reality’), and in support of your view you cited 2.12, in which Gaudapada said, ‘Ātman, the self-luminous, through the power of his own māyā, imagines in himself by himself [all the objects that the subject experiences within or without]. He alone is the cognizer of the objects [so created]. This is the decision of the Vedānta’.

In this context if we take ātman to mean ‘the Self’ (ourself as we actually are), as people generally do, then it would imply, as you assume, that brahman alone sees all the objects created by māyā, because our actual self is brahman. However what ātman actually means is only ‘oneself’ (or myself, yourself, himself, herself or itself), so we need to understand from the context whether it refers to ourself in general or specifically to either ourself as we actually are or ourself as this ego or jīva. In this case it means ourself in general, because what is dēva (divine or self-luminous) is ourself as we actually are, whereas what imagines and perceives objects is only ourself as this ego.

Therefore we should interpret the meaning of this verse thus: ‘Oneself, [who is actually] the self-luminous, [rises as this ego and thereby] through the power of one’s own māyā, imagines in oneself by oneself [all the objects that the subject experiences within or without]. He [namely oneself as this ego] alone is the cognizer of the objects [so created]. This is the decision of the Vedānta’.

If we do not interpret it thus, but instead interpret it to mean that oneself as one actually is (that is, as brahman) is deluded by māyā (even though māyā does not actually exist) and therefore imagines and perceives all these illusory phenomena, that would be absurd, because if brahman were ever deluded by māyā into perceiving what does not actually exist, that would mean that it is not immutable and hence not real. If brahman is the infinite, indivisible and immutable whole, it can never be deluded and can never see what does not actually exist.

Because brahman is never subject to delusion (māyā), when we experience ourself as brahman there is absolutely no possibility that we could ever be (or ever have been) deluded, or that we could ever see (or ever have seen) anything illusory. If, on the contrary, brahman ever could be subject to māyā, even if we were to see ourself as brahman there would always be a possibility that we could again fall prey to māyā, in which case liberation would not be eternal, as Bhagavan says it is in the final sentence of verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: ‘நித்தமாம் முத்தி நிலை’ (nittam-ām mutti nilai), which means ‘[This is] the state of liberation, which is eternal’.

venkat said...

Hi Michael

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of Gaudapada and Shankara, and I have tried to set out my understanding below.


(1) ‘That illusion (māyā), again, is non-existent’.


The translation of Shankara's commentary actually says 'Maya is the name we give to something which does not (really) exist but which is perceived."

Vedanta does not dispute that an illusion is perceived, it does say it is not real. Unfortunately it is quite easy to confuse real, exists and perceived in this context. Vedanta talks about that which is both real and unreal. The best example is a mirage - it is clear that is exists in the sense that it is perceived, but it is non-existent in a 'real' sense of actually being water there.

Lakshmana Sarma makes this distinction in Sri Ramanaparavidyopanishad v.431 and 432:
"It is not taught that the world is completely unreal; it is not unreal like the horn of man or horse. If it were wholly unreal it would not appear at all. But it does appear because of its confusion with its substratum, the Reality.
The unreality which has no substratum. such as the son of a barren woman and the like, does not appear at all. But the unreality which appears on a substratum, like the snake seen in a rope appears as real"

And clearly for a perception that is illusory, like a mirage, it is meaningless to talk about birth or death of a mirage. 4.57 says "All this is seen to be born on account of the illusion of experience (due to Avidya); therefore nothing is permanent . . and all is unborn". This is saying that all jivas are illusory and therefore not permanent, and cannot be said to be really born or destroyed. [Though clearly jivas are not "unborn" in the sense that Brahman is unborn.]

So the crux of the matter is whether one can say that an illusion / mirage exists or not. I interpret Gaudapa / Shankara as saying that an illusion / mirage exists (in the sense that it is perceived), but it is not real, and so cannot be said to have never been perceived. Clearly I am perceiving my body-mind, and the world from the perspective of this body-mind. So to say that under ajatavada this perception never even arose contradicts reason and experience; however to say that it is illusory and is not real is entirely consistent with reason and experience.

(continued)

venkat said...

(2) 'If we . . . interpret it to mean that oneself as one actually is (that is, as brahman) is deluded by māyā (even though māyā does not actually exist) and therefore imagines and perceives all these illusory phenomena, that would be absurd'


In MK2.11, the opponent is challenging the view that is all cognitions - internal and external - are illusory, who is cognising them. MK2.12 in saying Atman, clearly cannot mean ourself as the jiva. The point of the verse comes out from Shankara's commentary

"THE SELF-LUMINOUS ATMAN HIMSELF, BY HIS OWN MAYA, imagines in himself the different objects . . . There is no other substratum of knowledge and memory. The aim of Vedanta is to declare that knowledge and memory are not without support as the Buddhist nihilists maintain". Gaudapada was keen to demonstrate that whilst he agreed up to a point with Buddhists in their idealistic philosophy, and that the jiva/world were illusory and not really existing, he was also keen to show that there was a substratum on which these illusions arose, and not merely nothingness.

Also MK2.13 reads:
"The Lord (Atman) with his mind turned outward variously imagines the diverse objects which are already in his mind. The Atman again with his mind turned within, imagines in his mind various ideas."

I would also refer to the consistency of these MK verses with Bhagavad Gita 13.22 (in my comment above on 28 December at 11.03), in which both BG and Shankara make clear that the witness is the paramatma, that witnesses all the actions, perceptions, thoughts of the body-mind.

(continued)

venkat said...

(3) 'Because brahman is never subject to delusion (māyā), when we experience ourself as brahman there is absolutely no possibility that we could ever be (or ever have been) deluded'


Our experience tells us that we exist and are conscious, and that we perceive a body-mind and a world. Vedanta tells us that what we are is existence-consciousness, and not a separate body-mind that is acting in the world. And that existence-consciousness that we are is Brahman.

Beyond that, we cannot know Brahman or whether or why an illusion has arisen. Since everything there is is Brahman, it is illogical to contend that Brahman is never subject to delusion. An illusory jiva with consciousness has arisen. To say that this jiva does not in reality exist, that it is in fact Brahman is what Vedanta says. To say that an illusory jiva is experiencing an illusory world, but that the illusion never actually ever arose leaves one having to explain this existence-consciousness that I / you are experiencing right now. And since there can be no parts to Brahman and he is omnipresent / all there is, we cannot have arisen in some universe away from Him.

This is also the import of Shankara's famous aphorism:
brahma satyam (Brahman is the Reality)
jagan mithya (the world is an illusion)
jivo brahmaiva napara (the jiva is Brahman alone)


Best wishes,
venkat

siva-svarupa said...

Correct interpretation of the sastras is not given to everybody. So we can easily cook our own soup and use one's own discretion in dealing with the Holy Scriptures of Vedanta. Is that so ?

venkat said...

Dear Michael,

If I may refer to Katha Upanishad (Sw Nikhilananda's translation):

2.1.3 It is through Atman that one knows form, taste, smell, sounds, touches and carnal pleasures. Is there anything that remains unknown to Atman? This verily is that.

Sw Nikhilananda summarises Sankara's commentary thus:
According to Vedanta, Atman which is Pure Consciousness, is the Subject, or real Seer; all outer things - including body, senses, mind and ego - are the object, or the seen.

2.1.4 It is through Atman that one perceives all objects in sleep or in the waking state. Having realised the vast, all-pervading Atman, the calm soul does not grieve.

Sw Nikhilananda:
Atman is the Witness of the activities of the waking and dream states, and of their absence in dreamless sleep. All relative states are subject to change. Atman alone, being the Witness of all changes, is unchanging. A man realising himself as the immutable Atman becomes free from fear and grief.


Best wishes

venkat

Mouna said...

Devil’s advocate mumblings for my friend Venkat (others may abstain if they wish to save some synapsis time).

(Part 1 of 2)
"What we are is awareness (Brahman)”
No, we are chidabhasa. awareness/brahman is non-personal substance.
The “we” in the sentence “what we are” is ego. ego imagining itself being awareness, a fancy way of claiming for “it” (ego) something that is beyond its reach of understanding.

"On this screen of awareness arises, a bundle of thoughts (including perceptions), which become conceptualised into names-forms of my jiva-body-mind and the 'outside' world.”
Who says this? Certainly not brahman. Were you told all this? Do you remember having that experience? or you’ve been told that babies only see colours etc, like you’ve been told you were born? or that the universe is 14 billion years old and that the brain is the creator of consciousness? Isn’t all this information part of the world in your waking and dream states and part of “your”dream?

"That deep sleep consciousness, is also that consciousness that underlies and is aware of our waking and dream states.”
There is no underlying otherwise duality. Please note the “aware of” at the end of the first phrase.
Consciousness is not “aware of” any phenomena (refer to the concept of deep sleep), not even aware “of” itself, that is another invention to keep the ego satisfied when it doesn’t get it.
Consciousness, period. No verbs attached, or adjectives linked, etc.
If you wish, silence. Much better.

"Intellectually understanding / knowing provides a level of freedom. The deepening of this understanding to become conviction is jnana...”
I was in the hole in the prison, now I am allow to walk in the courtyard… I am free to see the sky and talk to people, yes, but I’m still in prison. Are there levels of freedom within the prison?, I would rather say levels of imprisonment. It’s the other way around, freedom has no levels. Consciousness has no levels, mind/ego does.

"At that level of conviction, there can be no ego (or at least a very minimal ego)”
(bold my make) Even a one-millon to the millionth potency thin layer of ego is ego. Very thin, granted because ego has levels of thickness, but still fully operational, meaning veiling and projecting duality.

(continues on next comment)

Mouna said...

(Part 2 of 2)
"At this point there would be no derivative thoughts, of my/yours, like/dislike, etc - or if they did arise, there would be no attachment to them, and therefore they would drift away again.”
For whom there will be no derivative, etc…? for a mind, a brain?
Who is not going to be attached, a different mind than the one that was attached before? Mind is the attachment! Mind is its/the projection!

Venkat, are you a character in mouna’s dream or vice versa? or both? or neither?
I would go for NO to all of the above!

I understand quite well the two levels of Vedanta.
First neti-neti to produce awareness that “I am not this nor that”, I am awareness witnessing this and that, they are in me but I am not in them.

Second, the witness collapses into the “witnessed”, the ignorance (or error, or superimposition) of separation is destroyed, like the gold in the ornaments, they are not separate, it’s one entity. Gold can’t be perceived in its absolute substance, needs un ornament (even if it is a lump “without” recognizable form) to be conceptualized as gold.
This stage is siva-shakti, siva-parvati, ishwara-maya, form is emptiness / emptiness is form, water mirage, sunset illusion.

But third... snake “on" rope.
The knowledge of the rope makes also the “seen” illusory snake disappear!
We can’t see both, is either or.

You seem to be well versed in the Vedas/Upanishads (or a genius at google searching). I am not, that's why not a lot of quotes here.
I do recognize one thing though. There is waking and dream woven by existence/awareness. And then, it seems that there is only existence/awareness which seems (from here, i.e. waking and dream) very peaceful and limitless, without any-thing, any phenomena being material or psychological. I read somewhere that that is brahman. I am not that because the moment I’ll be that there will be no more I to say that.

Ok, enough. Would you like some tea?

Ken said...

Quote: "Consciousness is not 'aware of' any phenomena"

I love this formulation - I keep seeing it from time to tim.

Let us use the synonym "Awareness".

So, Awareness is not "aware of" anything except itself.

The problem here is that this abstract invocation of "non-duality" requires a real duality. If Awareness is not aware of anything other than itself, then we need a second Awareness that is aware of everything else.

My reading is that Shankara and Ramana did not use this neutered version of Awareness.

Ramana said in Nan Yar:

"What is called mind (manam) is a wondrous power existing in Self (atma-swarupam)."

and

"What really exists is Self (atma-swarupam) alone. The world, soul and God are superimpositions in it like the sliver in the mother-of-pearl; these three appear simultaneously and disappear simultaneously."

Shankara said in Vivekachudamani, translated by Ramana Maharshi:

"That realization of ‘I’ is indeed the Self which is experienced as ‘I-I’ shining of its own accord, the absolute Being, the witness of the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, distinct from the five sheaths, aware of the mental modes in the waking and dream states, and of their absence in the state of deep sleep. That Self sees all of its own accord but is never seen by any of these."

"That Self sees all of its own accord" seems pretty clear, but Shankara goes on:

"That inner Self, as the primeval spirit, eternal, ever effulgent, full and infinite Bliss, single, indivisible, whole and living, shines in everyone as the witnessing awareness. That Self in its splendour, shining in the cavity of the Heart as the subtle, pervasive yet unmanifest ether, illumines this universe like the sun. It is aware of the modifications of the mind and ego, of the actions of the body, sense organs and life-breath. It takes their form as fire does that of a heated ball of iron; yet it undergoes no change in doing so."

and also this:

"The Self is the witness who knows the characteristics of the body, its modes of activity and its three states. It is self-aware and directs the body. Such being the contrast between the body and the Self, how can the body be the Self? The fool thinks of it as the Self. The man of wise action with some measure of discrimination, takes body and soul together for ‘I’, but the really wise man who conducts the enquiry with firm discrimination knows himself always as the Supreme Brahman, the Being which is of its own nature."

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken said...

Quote: "I read somewhere that that is brahman. I am not that because the moment I’ll be that there will be no more I to say that."

If I had to pick one series of quotes of Ramana that is the most important, it would be this:

"D: How can I attain Self-realization?

Ramana Maharshi: Realization is nothing to be gained afresh, it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought ‘I have not realised’.

D: How shall I reach the Self?

Ramana Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now but that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for.

So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That.

The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance supervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self which is Bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance which is merely wrong knowledge.

The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the Self with the body, mind etc. This False identification must go, and then the Self alone remains."

From Maharshi's Gospel p.31-32 (of which a corrected manuscript exists in Ramana's handwriting).

The line of thought is completed with the following quote from Page 35:

"Ramana Maharshi: The Realised one does not see the world as different from Himself."

which ties back to Venkat's position.

If the world were truly non-existent, then it would be quite different from the Self.

Mouna said...

...

silence

Mouna said...

Although very scary to mistake a rope for a snake, it is far more dangerous to mistake a snake for a rope.

(From the Manual of Practical Duality, chapter 3, pg 78, first edition)

Mouna said...

...

(back to) silence

venkat said...

Mouna & Ken

Thanks for your comments. We are all sincerely trying to understand the limitless, using our limited minds - and trying to convey in words to each other what we have understood hitherto. That is the beauty of Michael's blog.

Best wishes to you both.

venkat

venkat said...

Ken, Mouna

Extracts from Swami Iswarananda - which reinforces Ken's quotes from Bhagavan.

The knower and the known, the seer and the seen, the drk and the drsya cannot be the same . . . Even the ego-sense of I, being only a modification of the mind, which is experienced as an object, is other than the real I, and is seen as an object only with the body, the mind the the world of senses. The real I then is simply the Knower, the Consciousness itself set against which is the world of insentient nature, including my body and mind . . . In this way, all our world of experience could be analysed into categories of Self and non-Self, following our present cognition and 'I' and 'this', and pushing it to its ultimate logical possibility. This is the first step in Vedantic reasoning and ends in the discovery of the real I, the Self as Pure Consciousness or cit, the essence of knowledge.

...

The second process of reasoning, known as anvayin, synthetic, by which we come to the knowledge that all this is the Self. That which was first rejected as non-Self, the world of drsya, is known at the end of this process as nothing other than the Self. The Self being this without a second, nothing more will remain to be known.

...

The fact that nothing other than the Self existed in susupti is an incontrovertible conclusion. . . Where then was this world? The seers of the Upanishads say that the world existed then as non-different from the Self. Was not the world then the Self in the previous waking state? Is not the world always the Atman? Yes it is so. All this is always Atman. All this is Brahman. The whole universe therefore is nothing but pure consciousness, cit, the Self that 'I am'.

...

Says Ramakrishna: "He IIsvarakoti) follows the process of negation and affirmation. First he negates the world, realising that it is not Brahman, but then he affirms the world as the manifestation of Brahman."

nirantara said...

venkat,
the beauty of Michael's blog is also that indeed commentators are tolerated who want only be right in any case though they are even lacking full understanding.

venkat said...

Nirantara

Your comment imputes a motive to my comments, which I will look at. I hope that you are more wrong than right.

Mouna said...

Venkat, greetings

"We are all sincerely trying to understand the limitless, using our limited minds - and trying to convey in words to each other what we have understood hitherto."

I definitely agree with you here my friend, and I believe we are all sincere in our efforts. But I wonder if we (and I definitely include myself here) don't use most of our time "trying to understand" instead of abiding in that which is available here and now, the reality that, as Bhagavan defines in Ulladu Narpadu, is free of and beyond thought.
According to His wisdom, it's the most direct path to take...

Be well, m

daisilui said...

Mouna,
well said- there is a fine balance between the need to know and the want to know [more...]. In my view the non-dual 'message' is very simple and clear and actually knowing too much is detrimental to being. One can be even with gaps in knowing- in fact being doesn't need knowing at all [i am talking about the human kind of knowing].

Mouna said...

Daisilui, you put it perfectly, not one word is out of place.

nirantara said...

venkat,
let us appreciate today the anniversary of the birth of Sri Ramana's mortal body, down in Tiruchuli/Tamil Nadu. Without his appearance our helplessness with removing our ignorance would be still more flagrant.

nirantara said...

venkat,
thank you for quoting the following extracts of Swami Iswarananda which I find easy to comprehend:
"The second process of reasoning, known as anvayin, synthetic, by which we come to the knowledge that all this is the Self. That which was first rejected as non-Self, the world of drsya, is known at the end of this process as nothing other than the Self. The Self being this without a second, nothing more will remain to be known."
and
"Says Ramakrishna: "He (Isvarakoti) follows the process of negation and affirmation. First he negates the world, realising that it is not Brahman, but then he affirms the world as the manifestation of Brahman."

Ken said...

There are two reasons for verbal, intellectual knowledge about spirituality:

* Understanding how to do the practice. This is particularly easy for Self-Enquiry, but nevertheless "Be As You Are" has an entire chapter devoted to "Self-Enquiry - Misconceptions" (the classic one being the idea that it is repeating "Who Am I" like a mantra).

* Understanding why to do the practice and what is the goal. This topic is often called cosmology or metaphysics or theology. Essentially this is necessary to understand why to do the practice instead of just drinking beer and watching sports, and also how to recognize "success".

In the conversations with Ramana in books, I have read different people describe their spiritual experiences, and to one, Ramana says "Yes, that is the correct result, keep doing that" and to another one, Ramana replied "It's good that you have reached samadhi, but now you need to prevent manolaya" (and gives advice about that).

One of the results of the "just practice, don't study" idea is that people do that successfully, which becomes a big problem! Why? Because they then think they should be teaching spirituality. There are two cases:

* They do successfully achieve realization, but know nothing about what happened or how to do it. Ramana very specifically admits that after he was realized, but before he left for Arunachala, he had no idea what had actually happened, and it was only later from talking to sadhus, and reading books that he understood.

OR

* They think they are successful, but only have achieved manolaya or some other intermediate state. Obviously those are the worst people to be teachers.

So, intellectual understanding is an important part of spirituality. (You can become clear on this point by watching random "spirituality" videos on Youtube, lol.)

sat - bhava said...

Ken,
would you like to answer also the following four questions ?
1. what means OR ?
2. what are the other (important) part(s) of spirituality ?
3. what is (the use of) spirituality ?
4. why is drinking beer not a spiritual practice ?

Ken said...

1. a conjunction - according to Wikipedia "Or – presents an alternative item or idea ("Every day they gamble, or they smoke.")"

2. Practice

3. Read Nan Yar (available for free at happinessofbeing.com )

4. It can be for some who follow "left hand" tantra.

Mouna said...

sravana, manana, nididhyasana, all in good balance, and with the correct timing for each one, that's good practice.
when unbalanced, problems, specially if a living teacher is not around.

sat - bhava said...

Ken,
thanks for your reply even to my crazy questions.
I don't know "left hand" tantra which you seemingly impart that it is rather valueless.
Happy New Year !

sat - bhava said...

Mouna,
as you say, good balance in good timing is a necessity for each one.
Life itself is a good "living teacher".
Happy years from here to eternity !