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.
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.
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.
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
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?"
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
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
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.
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.
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.
point of view represented in this work is ancient.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
Foreword by Dr. T. M. P. Mahadevan
Preface to the First
Preface to the Second
The Significance of the Vyavaharika
Reason in Advaita
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