I am very happy to undertake the editing of this collection of contributions by Vidwans written in response to my ‘Appeal to thought Vedantins’.
It goes without saying that each of the writers is personally responsible for his own views in the matter. My portion of the work, therefore, lay mostly in preparing the manuscripts for the press, with only such additions as would facilitate ready reference to the corresponding questions raised in the Appeal. For the same reason the pamphlet itself has been bodily reproduced here at the very commencement. An English summary of each article has been prefixed for the convenience of those readers, who being more conversant with English would like to have some aid in following the train of thought like to have some aid in following the train of thought adopted in the original contributions.
A single exception to this self- imposed limitation has been the article of Shastra Ratnakara, Brahma Sri Polagam Sriram Sastrigal. That learned Pandit, whose opinion was most needed in this connection, did not deign to send us his valued contribution in spite of repeated request, and the I had no alternative but to make relevant extracts from his extensive Introduction to the Pancha Padika, in editing which the Shastrigal has devoted nearly hundred pages to questions kindred to those mooted in my pamphlet circulated for this symposium. In fact, a considerable portion of that Introduction is taken up to expose the fallacies, which, in the opinion of that scholar, I myself have committed in my writings, What is more, I have even been charged with having plagiarized the views expressed in the Laghu- Manjusha of Nagesha Bhatta. In these circumstances I have felt it incumbent on me to review the opinion of Sri Shastrigal under each head, and give out my own genuine views, so as to leave no doubt whatever in the minds of readers regarding my position.
It is a maxim of ancient teachers that doubts and mis- conceptions are dispelled and truth fully revealed through discussion with those proficient in any particular branch of knowledge. Acting on that principle, I shall try here to clarity my position by standing my impression of Shankara’s system in some- what greater detail than I have done in the Appeal prefixed.
1. Adhyasa (super- imposition) is nothing but mistaking one thing for another. And Avidya, as Shankara has defined it in so many words, is the mutual superimposition of the Self, the only Reality, and the not- self. There is no other Ignorance worth the name, which according to Shankara is directly sublated by Vidya or the discriminative knowledge of the Self as it is. Doubt and non- perception, are, it is true, also comprehended in the connotation of the term and are sometimes even expressly stated to be such. But since no human thought- process is possible without the pre- supposition of Adhyasa, this latter is pre- eminently entitled to be called Avidya.
Therefore, those who imagine that the object super- imposed is primarily meant by the term Avidya and it is that which has got to be removed by true knowledge, not only do violence to Shankara’s words, but also disregard a fact of nature and even common since, in as much as no one believes that the apparent silver in the nacre has get to be removed first by the true knowledge of nacre, and not one’s own false notion of it.
2. 2. It is universally accepted by Vedantins that in Shankara’s system, knowledge is the one means of the Summum Bonum of life, and the Upanisads expressly say so. Shankara avers that knowledge vipes off all ignorance or Adhyasa,the source of all ills of life. And it goes without saying that knowledge can dispel, nothing else than subjective ignorance.
It is therefore clear that thinkers who assert that the source of all ill spoken of by maintain their position only by going against the express statement of Shankara,a nad the Srutis, and quietly ignoring the essential nature of knowledge which can never destroy existing things.
3. Shankaras’s very proposition that Upanishadic knowledge of Brahaman, is meant for the annihilation of Adhyasa, is sufficient in itself to convince any one that the Bhashyakara never thought of tracing Adhyasa to its cause. For no one could think of going in search of ignorance after it has been blotted out. And no one is conscious of his ignorance, while he is in its grip. But it is no mere guess by which one has to infer that Shankara does not demand a cause for Avidya, for he definitely announces that Adhyasa is begin- ningless Nor could one think of a beginning to it, since even time is a creation of Adhyasa, and causal relation is inconceivable without the pre- supposition of time. No doublt Shankara does- declare that all super- imposition derives its breath from non- discrimination, but it is is self- evident that he is not thinking of a temporal relation between non- discrimination and super- imposition. He only means to say that Adhyasa disappears as soon as discriminative knowledge dawns. The Upanishads are never tired of declaring that the individual self as well as all this apparent universe is really Brahman and nothing else.
It is therefore nothing but a wild- goose- chase to start in pursuit of a cause for Adhyasa.
4. Such being the case, illustration like that of the silver in the nacre, or the rope in the snake, interspersed in Shankara’s commentaries, meant as they are to contrast truth with error, only imply that false appearances being only the figment of ignorance, cease to impose upon us the moment the real nature of their substrate is ascertained. These appearance in themselves, are neither born nor destroyed by true knowledge, in fact they never exist in any way as entities, for they are merely thought- constructs.
It is therefore so much labour lost to enter into speculation about the nature, cause and process of birth or destruction of these false appearances.
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