Author Topic: Response to objection to the chosen meaning of atha  (Read 464 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Response to objection to the chosen meaning of atha
« on: February 27, 2015, 12:53:31 PM »
Response to objection to the chosen meaning of atha

      Shankara refutes puurvapakshi's arguments using both yukti or logic and shruti support.

      yukti pramaaNa: Shankara give four reasons to refute the puuvapakshi's views: The first reason is called 'vyabhichaara doshhaH' - we can roughly translate as error due to inconsistency. Suppose the word 'atha' is translated as 'after the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa' - then we will run into two problems. Suppose a person completes the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa. Next he will take up the study of uttaramiimaa.nsaa as per the purvapakshi's argument, thinking that he is now qualified to study the uttaramiimaa.nsaa. Shankara says that there is a danger involved.

      After the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa he may become a scholar of puurvamiimaa.nsaa and does not necessarily have the required saadhana chatushhTaya sampatti for uttaramiimaa.nsaa. The study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa does not necessarily guarantee that one will have acquired viveka, vairaagya, shhatkasampatti and mumukshutvam. Therefore unqualified student thinking that he is qualified will end up studying uttaramiimaa.nsaa. A person may become an expert in karma-s, yoga-s, rituals etc but that does not guarantee that he acquired saadhana chatusshTaya sampatti. On the other hand he may get more interested in heavenly pleasures etc. MunDaka U. (1-2-10) exemplifies these karmakaanDi-s 

ishhTaapuurtaM manyamaanaa varishhThaM naanyachchhreyo vedayante pramuuDhaaH| naakasya pR^ishhThe te sukR^ite anubhuutvaa imaM lokaM hiinataraM vaa vishanti||

      Thinking that these 'ishhTaapuurta karma-s are most supreme and there is nothing more beneficial than these and one goes after heavenly pleasures and thereafter go down the hill into lower worlds. This is what can happen if one hangs on to the karma-s thinking that they are important rather than acquiring the needed saadhana chatushhTayam. There are many expert ritualists and they do not have any interest in Vedanta. On the other hand they want to perform more and more rituals. Hence Shankara says that there is no guarantee that after the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa one gets the necessary qualifications for the Vedantic study. He will not gain anything out of it. Thus the first problem that Shankara says is that an unqualified person taking up the study of Vedanta.

      There is a second problem also. There can be some rare cases where a person is born with saadhana chatushhTaya sampatti because of puurva janma saadhana. (Shankara's own disciple - Hastamalaka is an example). Hence such students who are already having saadhana chatushhTaya sampatti do not require puurvamiimaa.nsaa since they already have the saadhana chatushhTaya sampatti. Then why should they waste their time in studying puurvamiimaa.nsaa? Right from brahmacharya aashrama they are ready for Vedantic study. Therefore if puurvapakshi says that only after puurvamiimaa.nsaa one should study Vedanta, then even an otherwise qualified student will end up wasting his time in studying puurvamiimaa.nsaa. Thus the puurvapakshi's ascribed meaning to 'atha' word that it implies 'puurvamiimaa.nsaa anantaram' or after the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa will result in two problems; one an unqualified student entering into the study of Vedanta and the second a qualified student being denied immediate access to the study of Vedanta. On the other hand, as Shankara's ascribed if 'atha' implies 'saadhana chatushhTaya anantaram brahma jij~naasa' that is only after acquiring the four-fold qualifications one should inquire into the nature of Brahman, it automatically eliminates both problems stated above. One can acquire these qualification through puurva janma sa.nskaara (from previous birth) or in this birth through karma and upaasana. What is important is to emphasize the actual qualifications that are required rather than insist on a particular means, which does not necessarily guarantee acquisition of those qualifications. In this interpretation, the four-fold qualifications become compulsory than the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa for all. Only for the unprepared minds, karma and upaasana can help in acquiring the four-fold qualifications and for them the study of the puurvamiimaa.nsaa will be beneficial. This is the first reason why puurvapakshi is wrong in his interpretation of the meaning to 'atha' shabdam.

      Shankara gives three more reasons. To understand these reasons one should understand the background of the Shankaracharya's times when he was responding to these objections. When the puurvapakshi says one should come to Vedanta after studying puurvamiimaa.nsaa, this philosopher has got a particular philosophy in his mind, which was very prevalent during Shankara's time. According to that philosophy, mere knowledge cannot give liberation - kevala j~naanena mokshaH na sambhavati'. As an example, the puurvapakshi points out the state of most of the Vedantic students. This example may very well be applicable then as well as now. There are very many great Vedanta experts who can quote from one end to the other, some even in Orange robes. Some can give eloquent lectures and have big ashrams and number of disciples. They have studied Vedanta for many years. But their behavior and their language of communication is worse than the Vedanta illiterates. In the name of tradition, they propagate only fanaticism.

      Hence the puurvapakshi argues that these have studied Vedanta and still have not gained any benefit from it. Hence it is very clear that 'kevala j~naanena na mokshaH' by the Vedanta knowledge alone one cannot gain moksha. Hence j~naanam must be combined with karma. "j~naana karma samuchchhayena mokshaH' that is only by combining j~naana and karma one can gain moksha and not by j~naana alone. The proof is the direct evidence of the presence of so many Vedanta experts who have not gained what they intend to gain through the knowledge alone. This is the view of one philosopher who is called 'j~naana karma sumuchchaya vaadi', a proponent of the mixture of j~naana and karma for moksha (Some people now a days give more fancy name called- 'Integral yoga' - involving a samuchchaya of several things!).

      Hence his contention is that everyone should study puurvamiimaa.nsaa first so that he can know about all rituals or karma-s or upasana-s. Once he learns them, he should practice them or implement them - Yagna-s, various types of puuja-s, japa, vratams, etc. While implementing these, he should study the Vedanta to gain knowledge. Then he can combine both karma and j~naana required for moksha. Hence 'atha' means puurvamiimaa.nsaa anantaram one should enter into Brahman inquiry and while the inquiry is going on he should perform in parallel the rituals that he learned through the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa. This way he can combine karma with j~naanam - This is the contention of j~naana karma sumuchchaya vaadi - or a puurvapakshi's argument.

      Shankara refutes this j~naana karma samuchchaya philosophy. For this, he gives three reasons. This is the topic Shankara enters into very often since this philosophy was very prevalent in his times. This may be little divergence, but some aspects of this philosophy is also prevalent at least in the practices of vishishhTa-advaita and more so in dwaita where the emphasis on the upaasanaa and puujaa dominates the field. vishishhTa-advaita emphasizes the sharaNaagati aspect with Bhakti involving archanaa, stuti or stotrams and japa as a means while in Dwaita major emphasis is on the puujaa with rigorous aachaara or practices. Puja-s look and sound spectacular with aarati of the deity, Krishna or NaaraayaNa, with one, two, five, ten, twenty-four, forty-eight, etc flames with as many drums and bells as possible making a deafening sound. Vedic upaasanaa and observance of various vrata-s became a norm of the practice than inquiry into the nature of the reality. Hence the study of puurvamiimaa.nsaa and karma is given importance in daily life.

      Shankara provides three reasons to refute the j~naana-karma sumuchchaya philosophy. Three reasons are namely; karma j~naana kaanDayoH (between karma and j~naana) (a) vishhaya bhedaat (themes are different) (b) prayojana bhedaat (utilities are different) and (c) pravR^itti bhedaat (means are different). Because of these three reasons karma, j~naana cannot be combined.

      Each one of these will be explained in the next post.