The endless debate: 1

A more suiting title from the worldly perspective is: The boiling point!

Knowingly, I participated in an endless debate with Advaita Vedanta on one (my) side and rest of the world on the other. I even announced beforehand that I know the entire activity is unfruitful. :)

And so, it went as expected, surprisingly after only one post in every thread: the opponent got personal and started mudslinging! Having avoided personal attacks for as long as I could, I cracked up and started to step out of the threads, since it was no longer a logical debate, since there wasn't any logic involved nor a debate left from the other side. Soon, I unsubscribed from the group as well, since I definitely have no patience with nonsense!

I'm going to call the opponent as a Purvapakshi for the sake of tradition, not because of my ego, since I care more for the tradition than the pea-sized ego that *seemingly* bloats in the following lengthy (thats also why *endless*) debate ... perhaps, thats my ego saying so too! :)

1: Advaita(Sankara) Vs Vishishtadvaita(Ramanuja)
Purvapakshi: "Let me see, if a single person among you can answer these questions posed by Ramanuja" against Advaita

prb: Humble praNAms. I wonder why you start the thread so "let me see..."! Before even starting an attempt to answer what you ask, I'd like to say that all that Ramanuja questioned has been answered by Shankara beforehand itself! Shankara said that mAyA is anirvachaniyaand that in itself puts all the discussion brought up later, including this one, to a category of a wasteful exercise. Nonetheless, I'm into it too, by choice :) Sw. Vivekananda said that our rishis boldly declared that "we do not know" and that takes courage. All of Ramanuja's questions beat around the bush of mAyA, ergo, they just boil down to one question, which was answered "as that which cannot be explained". With all due respect, if it were possible to *explain* mAyA, Shankara would have done it. In that case, it'd have been very easy to understand and cross over the ocean of mAyA, that we all know of not being so.


I. The nature of Avidya. Avidya must be either real or unreal; there is no other possibility. But neither of these is possible. If Avidya is real, non-dualism collapses into dualism. If it is unreal, we are driven to self-contradiction or infinite regress.

prb: Must be? I do not think things can be put categorically so. A dream cannot be called as real and it can't be called as unreal. Why? Because when we are dreaming, thats all the reality there is. That makes it real, but it vanishes on waking up, making it unreal. So its both and neither! Thats absurd, is it not? But we all *know* it to be so. Similar to a snake that is seen as real as a snake, but is a rope when clearly seen as a rope. The rope was a rope, is a rope, will be a rope, for one who is seeing the rope as real and snake as unreal, but one who sees it as a snake and is scared by it, will call it real and the rope as unreal. Such avidyA is called as mithyA or loosely translated as illusion.


II. The incomprehensibility of Avidya. Advaitins claim that Avidya is neither real nor unreal but incomprehensible, {anirvacaniya.} All cognition is either of the real or the unreal: the Advaitin claim flies in the face of experience, and accepting it would call into question all cognition and render it unsafe.

prb: Same Q, just twisted; nature of avidya is incomprehensibility and incomprehensibility is its nature, ergo, answer too remains the same. Does the dream of a lion fly in the face of experience during or after the dream? A person perspires on waking up. He knows it was a dream and so calls it unreal. But he's perspiring, making it real! There's the cognition rendered unsafe too, if so. But no, the cognition is perfectly fine for the *experiencer*. He felt a lion, got scared and woke up. Thats the dream experience, unreal in the waking state but equally real in the dream. An advaitin's claim remains justified perfectly.


III. The grounds of knowledge of Avidya. No pramana can establish Avidya in the sense the Advaitin requires. Advaita philosophy presents Avidya not as a mere lack of knowledge, as something purely negative, but as an obscuring layer which covers Brahman and is removed by true Brahma-vidya. Avidya is positive nescience not mere ignorance. Ramanuja argues that positive nescience is established neither by perception, nor by inference, nor by scriptural testimony. On the contrary, Ramanuja argues, all cognition is of the real.

prb: Repeat, because its anirvachaniya. avidyA is both real and unreal as mentioned before. Advaita describes it to have two powers, so to say: AvarNa/ power to veil and vikshepa/ power to project, both being parts only in literal usage for us mortals to understand. However, its not two parts, but is *one* whole that causes both. The brahmaN remains hidden as a rope due to AvarNa and the jagat is projected as a snake due to vikshepa. So avidya is not *only* positive nescience and not *only* ignorance. Here's how it is: the removal of ignorance is knowledge. What does that mean? One has to remove the ignorance. It also means one has to know. Are knowing and removing the ignorance two different things? No, they are one. That one removes ignorance of the snake is the knowledge of the rope.

If all cognition is of the real, then where did the dream lion go? If the rope is a rope elsewhere and so is the snake, both equally real, then why are both not seen simultaneously by one but are seen as different by different people simultaneously?

IV. The locus of Avidya. Where is the Avidya that gives rise to the (false) impression of the reality of the perceived world? There are two possibilities; it could be Brahman's Avidya or the individual soul's {jiva.} Neither is possible. Brahman is knowledge; Avidya cannot co-exist as an attribute with a nature utterly incompatible with it. Nor can the individual soul be the locus of Avidya: the existence of the individual soul is due to Avidya; this would lead to a vicious circle.

prb: Again, locus of avidyA is a question on avidyA that is anirvachaniya. The two possibilities exist in the mind of the vishisTa advaitin's, not advaitin's. jivo brahmaiva nA parA for an advaitin means that the jiva is brahmaN. So saying that it cannot be in the individual jiva or in brahmaN is an invalid argument. Consider the reflection of a person in the mirror. Where is its locus? It is in the mirror or the person who sees it? Where is the locus of dream when a person is waking? Where is it when he is dreaming? No one can know this for a fact. An advaitin boldly accepts this so: the unknowable is unknowable; it is not known till it is known; So too with avidyA of the anirvachaniya, mithyA jagat, that which cannot be expressed cannot be expressed. Thats why no one has been able to answer the Q (to everyone's staisfaction, of course), how the world/ universe began, etc!


V. Avidya's obscuration of the nature of Brahman. Sankara would have us believe that the true nature of Brahman is somehow covered-over or obscured by Avidya. Ramanuja regards this as an absurdity: given that Advaita claims that Brahman is pure self-luminous consciousness, obscuration must mean either preventing the origination of this (impossible since Brahman is eternal) or the destruction of it - equally absurd.

prb: same as III above. We don't see a pot as mud though it is mud, do we? When the mud gets shaped up as a pot, it *covers* the mud and *projects* a pot as *one* single activity. The mud remains *as is*, neither preventing the origination of it nor destroying it. So too with brahmaN. Thus its not absurd.


VI. The removal of Avidya by Brahma-vidya. Advaita claims that Avidya has no beginning, but it is terminated and removed by Brahma-vidya, the intuition of the reality of Brahman as pure, undifferentiated consciousness. But Ramanuja denies the existence of undifferentiated{nirguna} Brahman, arguing that whatever exists has attributes: Brahman has infinite auspicious attributes. Liberation is a matter of Divine Grace: no amount of learning or wisdom will deliver us.

prb: Ramanuja may well have denied nirguNa brahmaN, but thats the only way it can be. The argument that brahmaN has infinite (auspicious or not) attributes does not mean that its knowledge cannot remove avidyA. The nirguNa nature of brahmaN also means purNa or infinite in the sense that the infinite attributes are as if they are no attributes of brahmaN. If its undifferentiated consciousness, that makes it full, infinite, complete and purNa inasmuch as its explanation being as if nirguNa. For liberation to be a matter of divine grace, that bestower or God or ishwara must have a wish to grant a wish. That wish in itself will make him apurNa! So, ishwara as a creator that bestows grace is a part of the creation (that too a contradiction and absurdity, just like this mithyA anirvachaniya creation). Such knowledge that delivers may be seen as grace too, of course.


VII. The removal of Avidya. For the Advaitin, the bondage in which we dwell before the attainment of Moksa is caused by Maya and Avidya; knowledge of reality (Brahma-vidya) releases us. Ramanuja, however, asserts that bondage is real. No kind of knowledge can remove what is real. On the contrary, knowledge discloses the real; it does not destroy it. And what exactly is the saving knowledge that delivers us from bondage to Maya? If it is real then non-duality collapses into duality; if it is unreal, then we face an utter absurdity.

prb: same as V and VI mixed together. So answers too ditto.

With all due respects, just because Ramanuja put one Q to advaita vedAnta, in as many different ways, it doesn't disprove it. Also, that is no ground to establish that anirvachaniya mAyA becomes Lakshmi and purNa brahmaN becomes Vishnu. Finally, it will have to come to stay that mAyA is anirvachaniya, as Shankara said, since no one has been able to explain it; na bhuto na bhavishyati.



prb: I wish you knew better than to say "where *you all* have been criticising...". If you'd to copy words from the earlier thread, this thread was not needed! I hadn't even seen the thread you mention before I asked that. Anyways...

Purvapakshi: So you want to say that the Brahman is dreaming??

prb: Great conclusion! With my explanation if thats what you've concluded, I congratulate you on your understanding of both Shankara and Ramanuja!

Purvapakshi: There can be no dream ever possible without any previous real experience of the things.

prb: Thats just an assumption without basis. Ramanuja's claim puts his own Q to him then, where does the first real experience come from then for the dream to occur? Thats anirvachaniya!

Purvapakshi: But I again wonder, whence is this semidarkness(avidya), and how could it obscure the Brahman which is verily of the nature of Pure Cosmic Intelligence.

prb: Keep on wondering to reach an infinite regress! Thats what is termed as anirvachaniya.

That semidarkness which causes one to confuse the rope for a snake is the avidyA.

Purvapakshi: Dont just play with the words, try to logically reason out the things

prb: There's no play of words anywhere in what I said. Its plain logical words from advaita vedAnta! Nonetheless, pray tell the logic that justifies Vishnu and Lakshmi.

Purvapakshi: I have to give the Same reply as above.

prb: But of course. Ramanuja's Q was repetitive, so are the answers that follow.

Purvapakshi: Who knows, it is the theory of your Mayavada, why do you ask me about that? Go and ask your Advaita acharyas.

* Rather, I would like to ask the reverse of this question,
First of all how did you dream of a Lion if it were not real and if you did never experience it in reality??

prb: You should know better than just blabber "go ask your advaita acharyas". I'm not asking you, the Q was metaphorical! Moreover, you brought up the idea of all cognitions being real. If it may be *hypothetically* (I mark that since I wouldn't have used your word *controversial* against you to conclude something as weird as "the whole sruti is invalid.", but you could hang me for believing advaita :) assumed that the dream experience comes from the real, that doesn't lead to the dream being real. It just means that recalling the real experience in dream feels real, but is not so. Again, not real doesn't mean unreal. That a person sees water in the mirage doesn't make the mirage as water.

Purvapakshi: Its your own mistake, being in semidarkness, why do you cry out that you are mistaking a snake for the rope ?

* Keep a Snake and a Rope side by side, I hope you can well differentiate between the two

prb: Precisely, semidarkness is avidyA. I'm crying out that I see a snake not knowing its a rope, but you seem to assume that there's no semidarkness and see the snake and the rope, both, as if they were side by side when they are not so. For a mAyAvAdin, the snake and rope can never be side by side. There'll always be the rope, snake being mAyA when in avidyA, and after the dawn of knowledge, snake also a rope. So, talk for yourself on keeping both side by side and dance around that you can differentiate. :)

Purvapakshi: The Mirror and the Person, both are really existing.

prb: Ah, aren't they? But does that make the image in the mirror the person?!!! Who's playing with words here? I'm talking of the reflection and you of the mirror!

Purvapakshi: So, by using the word, "TILL", you want to relate the "TIME" factor to the realization of Brahman. Its very interesting to know that, "it is not known till it is known", What do you mean by knowing?? Can you please tell me using what you will know the Brahman??

prb: No, till need not mean time in the vyavhAric sense! I hope that you do see why Shankara termed it as anirvachaniya then. Time can't be added to eternal brahmaN and nor to the beginning of mAyA. Realization drops the time itself when brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati. The bhavati doesn't mean at a particular moment in time. That is knowing, by knowing which all becomes known. So knowing brahmaN is shravaNa-manana-niddhidhAsana, for me; if you can call it *using* something, if at all.

Purvapakshi: So, you accept that Brahman has got itself transformed into this world. Huh? You seem to be a Vashishtadvaitin within and an Advaitin without.

prb: If the mud within the pot is transformation of mud, then congrats again! And with that conclusion of yours, I can only say that you seem to be neither! :)

Purvapakshi: Kudos !! Great play of words. Please dont try to veil my eyes with the Avarana Shakti of your Maya and project before me something else......, with its Vikshepa Shakti

prb: I'll try to explain that in a different way, since I do accept that I should have given an example for it to not seem as "play of words". Pick up a dictionary and read the meaning of *priceless* Whats that mean to ya? :) So what nirguNa means is that the attributes are infinitely many for them to be known, so let it remain as a terming of nirguNa, attribute-less.

Purvapakshi: So you want to delimit the omnipotency of Lord?

prb: Wow, you don't miss an opportunity to get congratulated! Do I? I said "That wish in itself will make him apurNa!" An advaitin's Lord need not be delimited since He has no wishes. Your definition has.

Purvapakshi 2: "The dreaming is real. The (situation in) dream may not be real."

prb: Analyze what you said there. Similarly, "that we see the mithyA world", is real, but the mithyA world itself is not real. (Its not unreal either, of course, else why would you see it!)

I hope I am making sense now?

btw: IMHO, you've not phrased Ramanuja's accusation right.


With all due respect, the end in duality seems absurd to me, ergo, I don't find the need to read works on dualism. I have read on sAMkhyA earlier and Shankara's bhashya on Brahma Sutra refutes sAMkhyA perfectly.

Purvapakshi 2: "Well we will have to read Kapila to see what he really says. The puruSha prakRiti theory belongs to him, I think."

prb: By we, I'm not sure who do you mean! Definitely, I'm not in it. (I've read on Samkhya, all of them based on Ishvarakrishna's kArikA which is the oldest text available on Samkhya. There's no need for me to read Kapila anyway) Next, its not at all relevant to this thread since its neither advaita, nor vishishTa advaita. Pls get your facts right first.

You're not even sure whether purusha-prakriti theory belongs to him! Let me give you a starter: Samkhya theory *is* that of purusha-prakriti! I repeat, Samkhya, aka dualism, was refuted by Shankara and is very well documented in Brahma Sutra Bhashya.

Much later...

prb: Last post
Funnily enough, things will never change with philosophy-attackers; when they have nothing to say or are trapped or proven wrong, they either crack up or make personal attacks. And expecting this very behaviour here, I'd mentioned in my first post on this thread that its going to be a wasteful exercise :) Here's my last post on the thread, only to clarify what I said than reply to the funny-man's personal attacks! :D

I repeated the word oft on purpose, even if I tried some explanation at each instance, so that the meaning of the *word* is understood. No matter how much we try, the mystery of mAyA will never be solved in words. Neither Shankara attempted it, nor do his followers, since its not possible! No explanation of it in any branch of philosophy makes any sense, logically.

--brahmaN or jivA ("or you!!!")
jIvo brahmaiva nA parA.

--pot, mirror, etc
All these are vedantic metaphors, we all know it equally well; there's no need to take them literally and force oneself to be funny! :)

Why empirical examples? What else are examples supposed to be made of, I wonder! (No examples are needed if we were ready for mahAvAkya-s!)

--prasthAna trayA:
The study of the above is a lifelong activity for me. I don't claim to have understood it completely and I stand corrected if I sounded so! My apologies are due here. Bhajagovindam is a beautiful work that I love. However, they are never quoted as a logic in philosophical arguments by anyone. So too, for me, Vishnu and Lakshmi fall in the domain of religion and not philosophy.

--Brahman is both the Material as well as the efficient cause of this Universe.
It sure is and I've not missed that in Acharya's bhashya. But I can never make myself read into it as "jagat is a *transformation* of brahmaN"

Lastly, I'm tempted to quit the game in a lighter mood :)
"Purvapakshi: Please, Iam ignorant and ..."
Quoting you: "Go to your acharyas" :D

Anyway, best wishes on your journey too.

Ano bhadrA kratavo yantu vishvataH
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