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Books > Hindu > Vedas > The Concept of The Vyavaharika in Advaita Vedanta (An Old and Rare Book)
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The Concept of The Vyavaharika in Advaita Vedanta (An Old and Rare Book)
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Foreword

 

Dr T. P. Ramachandran, Lecturer in Philosophy at this Centre, worked as a Research Scholar from 1956 to 1959, and wrote his doctoral thesis on 'The Concept of the Vyavaharika in Advaita- Vedanta'. The thesis earned for him the Ph. D. Degree of the University in 1962. And, it is now published as No. 12 in the University Philosophical Series.

 

The concept of the Vyavaharika is difficult to understand, in view of the fact that, according to Advaita, Brahman-Atman is one and non-dual; it is paramarthika or absolute, allowing no room at all for a second reality. Vyavahara is empirical usage; and vyavaharika is all that relates to, or constitutes, the empirical world. Since the empirical world is not real, what place can it conceivably have in Advaita? How can it be significant at all? This is the problem which is studied and discussed in the present work.

 

It is admittedly true that the empirical world is non- real or illusory; it is an appearance in Brahman, even as silver is in nacre, or serpent in rope. Nevertheless, the world of phenomena is useful in that it provides the location and means for striving for, and gaining release from its root-cause which is nescience. All endeavour - even spiritual endeavour - is, obviously, phenomenal. Not only the earlier stages in the discipline such as performing disinterested action, etc., but also the final path which is jnana-yoga, consisting of study, reflection, and meditation, fall within the category of the Vyavaharika.

 

One has to be careful in understanding the so-called doctrine of the threefoldness of reality (satta- traividhya) : paramarthika (absolute reality), Vyavaharika (empirical reality), and pratibhasika (apparent reality). Illustrations for the pratibhasika are such appearances as rope-serpent, nacre-silver, the dream contents, etc. These are sublated at the empirical level itself; and the reality of the pratibhasika is its basis or substrate which is the vyavaharika. What is referred to as the empirical reality (Vyavaharika belongs to the world of phenomena, the universe in which we live. This is sublated only when there is the dawn of Self-knowledge, Brahman-realization. The empirical world has no reality of its own; what is called its reality is the absolute Brahman-Atman which is paramarthika. So, the threefoldness of reality is not real; the Real which is Brahman-Atman is non-dual - it is the basic reality of the vyavaharika and the pratibhasika which are superimpositions thereon at different levels.

 

As there is nothing but the Atman, the plurality that is experienced must be accounted for in terms of nescience (avidya). The Atman is the locus of nescience. And, all empirical usage, secular or sacred, profane or spiritual, is superimposed on the Atman. The differences such as those between the souls and God, ends and means, endeavour and attainment are superimpositions on the self-same reality. It cannot be argued that the assumption of the supreme Self being what establishes, etc., does not stand to reason, for Scripture is the ground for making the assumption. Addressing himself to the pluralists Suresvara says in the Brhadaranyaka-bhasya-vartika (I, iv, 1279): "Why are you impatient in regard to the assumption that the supreme Self is what establishes, (the relation of knowledge as the means to the end which is release)? Do you not see that samsara (the empirical world) itself is an assumption made therein by ignorance?"

 

Dr Ramachandran has made in this maiden work of his a detailed analysis of the implications of the Vyavaharika in Advaita, and the significance thereof for Advaita- experience. A notable feature of his exposition is that in every context relevant passages from the original texts are cited in support of the statements made.

 

Preface To The First Edition

 

This work is, by God's grace, the fulfilment of a long- standing desire for a study of the practical side of the philosophy of Advaita. The justification for choosing the theme of this work is the mis-conception often met with among scholars of a non-Advaita persuasion that the philosophy of Advaita, by its very nature, cannot have anything to do with practical life.

 

According to Advaita, reality, in the true sense of the term, i.e. the paramarthika satta, is Brahman alone. The realm of duality-consisting of the physical world, the souls as individual entities, and God endowed with personality-is but an appearance of the non-dual Brahman. The realm of duality is no doubt described as the vyavaharika satta, or the empirical reality. But it is called sattti, or reality. only by courtesy and in so far as it presents its appearance. The term 'vyavaharika' in the appellation qualifies the reality ascribed to the realm of duality and distinguishes it from the absolutely real. It indicates that the realm of duality is merely the scene of activity and has no claim to the status of reality in the strict sense of the term. That is to say it is non-real, or other than real.

 

What is non-real is not necessarily useless and what is useful need not be real. This is a fundamental tenet of Advaita. Therefore the fact that the realm of duality is non-real does not take a way from its efficient character. The designation ‘vyavaharika ' is itself a recognition of the efficient character of the realm of duality. The vyavaharika is the scene of natural activity as well as the field of preparation for release from bondage. We are, how- ever, concerned here with the usefulness of the Vyavaharika in respect of release. According to Advaita, the ontological status of the vyavaharika is no bar to its being a stepping stone to the paramarthika, the non-dual Brahman. In fact, the means which are indispensable to the realization of the non-dual Brahman operate in and through the vyavaharika.

 

This in substance is the argument of this book. In developing this argument an attempt is also made to bring out the right attitude towards the Vyavaharika which the philosophy of Advaita teaches. The right attitude towards the vyavaharika avoids the extreme of total absorption in it as well as the other extreme of cold indifference towards it and consists in being interested in it to the extent that it is useful to moksa.

 

The point of view represented in this work is ancient.

The sources of material are also well known: they are mainly the works of Sri Sankara and a few manuals of later preceptors. What I have done is to focus attention on an aspect of Advaita which has as much claim to the attention of modern scholars as its metaphysical doctrine with which they are mostly occupied. I earnestly hope that the pattern of exposition I have tried to evolve out of familiar material would not have deviated from the traditional spirit of Advaita, I would consider the present endeavour a success to the extent that I have been able to submit my will to the unseen guidance of a Higher Power. But the imperfections - of which I am painfully conscious - are distinctively my own.

 

I humbly dedicate this book - which is my first attempt at publication - to Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Sri Sankaracary a Sricaranah, the sixty- eighth Jagadguru in the hallowed line of preceptors from Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada adorning the Sri Kamakoti Pitha at Kanci, who is the unique living embodiment of Advaita-experience, and to whom I pray for light and guidance at every step in my endeavours.

 

This work is the thesis which I submitted for the doctorate degree of the University of Madras and is the out- come of my research in the Department of Philosophy in the University from 1956 to 1959. I wish to record my sense of deep gratitude to my professor, Dr T. M. P. Mahadevan, for the guidance he gave me in the preparation of the thesis. I have also the privilege of working under him from 1964, firstly as a post-doctoral research fellow for two years and subsequently as a member of the staff, in the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy in the University, and my studies during this period have enabled me to revise the doctoral thesis for the purpose of publication. I am grateful to my professor for his kind interest in the publication of this work and for the Foreword he has written.

 

I am thankful to the authorities of the University of Madras for sanctioning the publication of this work under the auspices of the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy and to the University Grants Commission for the facilities given for the purpose.

 

Without the inspiration and support of my beloved parents this undertaking in research would neither have been begun nor completed. The occasion of its publication also brings to my mind thoughts filled with gratitude towards my professors in philosophy at college - Prof. M. K. Venkatarama lyer and Prof. Venkata- subramanian at the National College, Tiruchirapalli, and Dr A. S. Narayana Pillai and Prof. K. Seshadri at the University College, Trivandrum - to whom I owe the foundation of my later pursuits and the benefit of continued contacts as well.

 

To my friend and colleague Dr. Veezhinathan I am more than indebted. He gave me not only all the help I needed in revising the work, but also his unfailing love and encouragement which pulled me through many a difficulty.

I am thankful to Sri V. Seshachalam of Avvai Achukkoodam for the care he has bestowed on the printing of this work and to all those who have helped me in one way or another.

 

Contents

 

 

Foreword by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan

vii

 

Preface to the First Edition

ix

 

Preface to the Second Edition

xii

 

Abbreviations

xiii

I

Preliminary Considerations

1

II

The Significance of the Vyavaharika

9

III

Intellectual Training

36

IV

Ethics

56

V

Religion

81

VI

Aesthetics

104

VII

Reason in Advaita

158

VIII

Conclusion

242

 

Bibliography

246

 

Subject Index

249

 

Sample Page


The Concept of The Vyavaharika in Advaita Vedanta (An Old and Rare Book)

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1980
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Foreword

 

Dr T. P. Ramachandran, Lecturer in Philosophy at this Centre, worked as a Research Scholar from 1956 to 1959, and wrote his doctoral thesis on 'The Concept of the Vyavaharika in Advaita- Vedanta'. The thesis earned for him the Ph. D. Degree of the University in 1962. And, it is now published as No. 12 in the University Philosophical Series.

 

The concept of the Vyavaharika is difficult to understand, in view of the fact that, according to Advaita, Brahman-Atman is one and non-dual; it is paramarthika or absolute, allowing no room at all for a second reality. Vyavahara is empirical usage; and vyavaharika is all that relates to, or constitutes, the empirical world. Since the empirical world is not real, what place can it conceivably have in Advaita? How can it be significant at all? This is the problem which is studied and discussed in the present work.

 

It is admittedly true that the empirical world is non- real or illusory; it is an appearance in Brahman, even as silver is in nacre, or serpent in rope. Nevertheless, the world of phenomena is useful in that it provides the location and means for striving for, and gaining release from its root-cause which is nescience. All endeavour - even spiritual endeavour - is, obviously, phenomenal. Not only the earlier stages in the discipline such as performing disinterested action, etc., but also the final path which is jnana-yoga, consisting of study, reflection, and meditation, fall within the category of the Vyavaharika.

 

One has to be careful in understanding the so-called doctrine of the threefoldness of reality (satta- traividhya) : paramarthika (absolute reality), Vyavaharika (empirical reality), and pratibhasika (apparent reality). Illustrations for the pratibhasika are such appearances as rope-serpent, nacre-silver, the dream contents, etc. These are sublated at the empirical level itself; and the reality of the pratibhasika is its basis or substrate which is the vyavaharika. What is referred to as the empirical reality (Vyavaharika belongs to the world of phenomena, the universe in which we live. This is sublated only when there is the dawn of Self-knowledge, Brahman-realization. The empirical world has no reality of its own; what is called its reality is the absolute Brahman-Atman which is paramarthika. So, the threefoldness of reality is not real; the Real which is Brahman-Atman is non-dual - it is the basic reality of the vyavaharika and the pratibhasika which are superimpositions thereon at different levels.

 

As there is nothing but the Atman, the plurality that is experienced must be accounted for in terms of nescience (avidya). The Atman is the locus of nescience. And, all empirical usage, secular or sacred, profane or spiritual, is superimposed on the Atman. The differences such as those between the souls and God, ends and means, endeavour and attainment are superimpositions on the self-same reality. It cannot be argued that the assumption of the supreme Self being what establishes, etc., does not stand to reason, for Scripture is the ground for making the assumption. Addressing himself to the pluralists Suresvara says in the Brhadaranyaka-bhasya-vartika (I, iv, 1279): "Why are you impatient in regard to the assumption that the supreme Self is what establishes, (the relation of knowledge as the means to the end which is release)? Do you not see that samsara (the empirical world) itself is an assumption made therein by ignorance?"

 

Dr Ramachandran has made in this maiden work of his a detailed analysis of the implications of the Vyavaharika in Advaita, and the significance thereof for Advaita- experience. A notable feature of his exposition is that in every context relevant passages from the original texts are cited in support of the statements made.

 

Preface To The First Edition

 

This work is, by God's grace, the fulfilment of a long- standing desire for a study of the practical side of the philosophy of Advaita. The justification for choosing the theme of this work is the mis-conception often met with among scholars of a non-Advaita persuasion that the philosophy of Advaita, by its very nature, cannot have anything to do with practical life.

 

According to Advaita, reality, in the true sense of the term, i.e. the paramarthika satta, is Brahman alone. The realm of duality-consisting of the physical world, the souls as individual entities, and God endowed with personality-is but an appearance of the non-dual Brahman. The realm of duality is no doubt described as the vyavaharika satta, or the empirical reality. But it is called sattti, or reality. only by courtesy and in so far as it presents its appearance. The term 'vyavaharika' in the appellation qualifies the reality ascribed to the realm of duality and distinguishes it from the absolutely real. It indicates that the realm of duality is merely the scene of activity and has no claim to the status of reality in the strict sense of the term. That is to say it is non-real, or other than real.

 

What is non-real is not necessarily useless and what is useful need not be real. This is a fundamental tenet of Advaita. Therefore the fact that the realm of duality is non-real does not take a way from its efficient character. The designation ‘vyavaharika ' is itself a recognition of the efficient character of the realm of duality. The vyavaharika is the scene of natural activity as well as the field of preparation for release from bondage. We are, how- ever, concerned here with the usefulness of the Vyavaharika in respect of release. According to Advaita, the ontological status of the vyavaharika is no bar to its being a stepping stone to the paramarthika, the non-dual Brahman. In fact, the means which are indispensable to the realization of the non-dual Brahman operate in and through the vyavaharika.

 

This in substance is the argument of this book. In developing this argument an attempt is also made to bring out the right attitude towards the Vyavaharika which the philosophy of Advaita teaches. The right attitude towards the vyavaharika avoids the extreme of total absorption in it as well as the other extreme of cold indifference towards it and consists in being interested in it to the extent that it is useful to moksa.

 

The point of view represented in this work is ancient.

The sources of material are also well known: they are mainly the works of Sri Sankara and a few manuals of later preceptors. What I have done is to focus attention on an aspect of Advaita which has as much claim to the attention of modern scholars as its metaphysical doctrine with which they are mostly occupied. I earnestly hope that the pattern of exposition I have tried to evolve out of familiar material would not have deviated from the traditional spirit of Advaita, I would consider the present endeavour a success to the extent that I have been able to submit my will to the unseen guidance of a Higher Power. But the imperfections - of which I am painfully conscious - are distinctively my own.

 

I humbly dedicate this book - which is my first attempt at publication - to Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Sri Sankaracary a Sricaranah, the sixty- eighth Jagadguru in the hallowed line of preceptors from Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada adorning the Sri Kamakoti Pitha at Kanci, who is the unique living embodiment of Advaita-experience, and to whom I pray for light and guidance at every step in my endeavours.

 

This work is the thesis which I submitted for the doctorate degree of the University of Madras and is the out- come of my research in the Department of Philosophy in the University from 1956 to 1959. I wish to record my sense of deep gratitude to my professor, Dr T. M. P. Mahadevan, for the guidance he gave me in the preparation of the thesis. I have also the privilege of working under him from 1964, firstly as a post-doctoral research fellow for two years and subsequently as a member of the staff, in the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy in the University, and my studies during this period have enabled me to revise the doctoral thesis for the purpose of publication. I am grateful to my professor for his kind interest in the publication of this work and for the Foreword he has written.

 

I am thankful to the authorities of the University of Madras for sanctioning the publication of this work under the auspices of the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy and to the University Grants Commission for the facilities given for the purpose.

 

Without the inspiration and support of my beloved parents this undertaking in research would neither have been begun nor completed. The occasion of its publication also brings to my mind thoughts filled with gratitude towards my professors in philosophy at college - Prof. M. K. Venkatarama lyer and Prof. Venkata- subramanian at the National College, Tiruchirapalli, and Dr A. S. Narayana Pillai and Prof. K. Seshadri at the University College, Trivandrum - to whom I owe the foundation of my later pursuits and the benefit of continued contacts as well.

 

To my friend and colleague Dr. Veezhinathan I am more than indebted. He gave me not only all the help I needed in revising the work, but also his unfailing love and encouragement which pulled me through many a difficulty.

I am thankful to Sri V. Seshachalam of Avvai Achukkoodam for the care he has bestowed on the printing of this work and to all those who have helped me in one way or another.

 

Contents

 

 

Foreword by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan

vii

 

Preface to the First Edition

ix

 

Preface to the Second Edition

xii

 

Abbreviations

xiii

I

Preliminary Considerations

1

II

The Significance of the Vyavaharika

9

III

Intellectual Training

36

IV

Ethics

56

V

Religion

81

VI

Aesthetics

104

VII

Reason in Advaita

158

VIII

Conclusion

242

 

Bibliography

246

 

Subject Index

249

 

Sample Page


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