Technicality on avidyA

Recently, during an effort to save books from termites, I found a printed article, a kind of thesis material, on a part of advaita vedanta that has been debated upon endlessly and still continues not only between vishishTa advaita and kevala advaita vedanta paths but also among staunch advaitins! Much to my habit, I reread the article and gave it to satsanga friends, ignoring the debatable points that, to me, are of no practical value in sAdhana. However, its not so for everyone, especially my satsanga elders. I can ignore that Bhaskara (indirectly) calls the Bhagavatpada a drunkard on a particular interpretation of Brahma Sutra. I add no value to such cheap comments, be it by scholars or even saMpradAyis; I prefer to ignore them too if need be. However, not everyone can and satsangis got angered. Perhaps, I did the same thing when I heard it the first time.

I'm a traditionalist in my sAdhana and have been blessed with no confusion in reconciling views of bhAmati and vivaraNa about avidyA, its nature and locus. What people think as contradictory, unnecessary and harming the saMpradAya, I see only as detail, contextually necessary and utmost important to saMpradAya. There are many that opine that if the locus of avidyA had not been commented upon at all, Ramanuja wouldn't have been able to come up with his seven tenets. I personally don't think so. First of all, Ramanuja's tenets are no reason for advaitins to pull themselves down. Bhaskara tends to call Shankara a drunkard since he comments that avidyA is unreal, the article's author says that it wasn't Shankara who said so but Sureshwara did, indicating perhaps that Bhaskara's comment applies to the latter then! Thats unimportant; lets just try and understand whether the translation unreal itself means what it means. As advaitins know that there are three levels of realities: sat, asat and mithyA. sat is satasya satya thats trikAla satya which is brahman; asat can never be such as horns of a hare, son of a barren woman or a square circle; mithyA is something that is true at a certain time and/ or place and false otherwise such as a mirage, blue sky, i.e. something that appears the way it is not. mithyA is an oft misunderstood category that is variously translated as illusion, delusion, not real or unreal. Now in what way has unreal been talked off? If its mithyA, then thats exactly what Shankara meant and the saMpradAya follows, whether the Bhagavatpada said it or Sureshwara did. If the unreal is meant as in asat, then the context is to be understood as pAramArthika, where everything is false/ unreal: everything other than brahman, since everything is brahman.

If Sureshwara indeed says something that Acharya didn't say, it doesn't at all amount to contradiction, its just addition. Only if one said something opposing what the predecessor said, its contradictory. As long as that addition doesn't go against the main advaita philosophy of brahmasatya jaganmithya..., there cannot be a contradiction. You may well ask why was it necessary to even add. To my understanding, its for the same reason that you are interested to know *why* it was necessary to add. Human tendency to find faults originates from a doubting mind. The *why* that I marked earlier comes from the same mind that questions *whence*, *what*, etc about avidyA and itself due to avidyA. For questioner's satisfaction, such additions are necessary. The saMpradAya is there to resolve doubts of the followers and guide them to their individual sAdhana. If an addition to Shankara's words helps in understanding Shankara better and one focuses back on the main principle, there is no harm at all; mere parroting of Shankara's words to someone who's unable to stop his questioning, or someone who's not ready for grasping Shankara readily will do no good. The advaita parampara has the power to come down to the level of the sAdhaka and take him to the highest.

On the same chord, to some, the locus of avidyA as jIvAtma is convincing, while to others brahmAshraya avidyA is. Mind ya, both are really, truly, perfectly in tune with Shankara: jivobrahmaiva nAparA. So Padmapada and Vacaspati Mishra are also inline with each other. Those that think that the parampara itself has issues couldn't have been more wrong. They are either looking through a different coloured glass than advaita mUlatattva or are ill-intended. There's no third possibility, of course discounting misunderstanding, which is the root of avidya anyway.

Lastly, I want to point out some potential for errors to creep into such scholarly theses. There is not a total consensus on the date of Shankara and his works too beyond the prasthAna traya, so how can there be no differences in why Shankara said only a little on avidyA?
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