Title of the work
This work is entitled “Visuddha-Vedanta-Paribhesha” (Techniques of Pure Vedanta), mainly because it is the only attempt which specifically aims at presenting the tec1mical terms and methods employed in explaining the central doctrine of Vedanta as sanctioned by Sankara’s tradition in contradistinction to those in vogue in similar systems ancient or modem.
Hurdles in the path of Research Scholars and Pandits
Pure Vedanta has resisted all attempts of Scholars to define its limits or to label it as one or the other of the systems familiar to students of Western thought. It has been alternately dubbed scholasticism, theology, mysticism or metaphysics. And it has tempted some of the eastern thinkers and Pandits to subsume it under Mimamsa, Sankhya, Yoga or Nyaya or even Buddhistic philosophy or else to treat it as a conglomeration of all these systems. The reason is very simple. Writers on pure Vedanta accept or adopt the terminology as well as certain doctrines of these schools while discussing on the empirical level, but strictly adhere to their main theme and method when they wish to teach the transcendental truth. Failure to keep this distinction intact, and to understand the techniques of pure Vedanta, has baffled many a research-scholar engaged in a serious attempt to understand Sankara’s Vedanta.
Subject Matter of the Work
Accordingly, in this work, I have confined myself to the classical works of Sankara, and to the Sutra-Bhashya in particular, in appealing to authorities for my views about the subject-matter, methods and terminology which can be safely assumed to belong to the pure system. The first and foremost unique doctrine of Sankara Vedanta is that taught by the Svetasvatara Upanishad (Sve.6-11). There is only one Witnessing Pure Consciousness in all beings, (एको देव: सर्वभूतेषु गूढ:... साक्षी चेता केवलो निर्गुणश्च) and according to the Chandogya (6-8-7 .....) it is the one Reality and Self of the whole universe and of each and every one of the souls (ऐतदात्म्यमिदं सर्वं तत्सत्यं स आत्मा तत्त्वमसि). And the second is that all the apparent world is but a play of words while essentially it is the substrate Brahman. (वचारम्भणं विकारो नामधेयम् ६-४-१) Basing himself on texts like these, Sankara puts forward his definition of Avidya (ignorance) as the mutual superimposition of the Real Atman and the unreal, the Body, mind and the senses. He considers bodilessness (अशरीरत्वं) alone as the pure nature of the Self, and declares that pleasure and pain can never touch the eternally bodiless Self. (अशरीरं वाव सन्तं न प्रियाप्रिये स्पर्शत: - छां. ८-१२-९) It is the one purport of all the Upanishads to lead the earnest enquirer to the truth of the absolute identity of the apparently embodied Jiva or individual soul with the bodiless Universal Self.
Now, the Universal Self or Brahman is really devoid of all specific features and as such can never be objectified by words or thoughts, for these obtain only in empirical life and are pre-eminently intended to express or conceive empirical facts. Naturally therefore they can never reveal reality which is their very Self. Vedanta therefore uses conventional words and concepts for inducing the enquirer to see that characteristics which the empirical mind naturally superimposes on Reality, never actually pertain to it, and that they are essentially one with the Absolute Self, or Reality. That words cannot express, or that thoughts cannot throw light on Brahman is, however, no disadvantage either to the teacher or to the seeker of truth in Vedanta, for the basic teaching of the Upanishads is to point out that the Reality or Brahman is the real immediate evershining Self of all, and that it is through the light of its consciousness that everything else, inclusive of words and thoughts themselves become known. It is for this reason that the method of अध्यारोपापवादन्याय the method of deliberate ascription and its subsequent removal, is an unique tool in the hands of teachers of Vedanta. The maxim of the tradition is अध्यारोपापवादाभ्यां निष्प्रपञ्च प्रपञ्चयते ‘Reality which is absolutely devoid of all distinctions and differences is explained through deliberate imputation and negation.’ It is this hall-mark that distinguishes Pure Vedanta from all other types of Absolutisms.
The nature of Avidya, the antecedent reason and the effect of this Avidya or ignorance on human life, have to be accurately and precisely known if one wishes to avoid confounding it with what the term denotes and connotes in other systems of Indian Philosophy. Mutual super imposition of the Real Self and the unreal not-self is avidya, which is due to the non-discrimination of the real nature of these two and its effect is vyavahara, to think, speak, and act as though one were really the knower, actor and experiencer of the fruits of actions. It is this vyavahara which is mundane life or bondage from which Vidya (right knowledge of the real nature of the Self and the not-self) releases the soul finally. How this final release ensues so soon as enlightenment dawns, how enlightenment results immediately from the knowledge of the text ‘That thou art’, how the exact significance of the terms ‘that’ and ‘Thou’ are to be ascertained and what are all the acts of discipline necessary to qualify the seeker to attain enlightenment form the subject-matter of the present work.
I hope that a fairly complete account of the important techniques of Pure Vedanta is comprised in this little book. For a fuller account of the Unique Method of Vedanta the Adhyaropapavada-Nyaya, the reader is referred to my work the “Vedanta-Prakriya-Pratyabhijna” and greater details in technical terms and methods will perhaps appear in my commentary on the Samanvaya-Sutra, if it is destined to go to the press.
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