In this posting we shall see how the s’ruthi vAkya eka vijnAnena sarva vijnAnam is interpreted by the Advaitins and continue with the treatise of Sriman U.Ve. Raghunathacharya swami on how the Advaitin’s interpretation is proved to be untenable.
According to advaita philosophy, only Brahman is real and rest in this universe is all illusory. As such the sentence eka vijnAnena sarva vijnAnam is not applicable at all. There is no possibility of knowing something which is not real. Shall we say that by knowing about that Brahman the only reality, it will be known that the rest is all unreal or illusory? Is it not quite illogical to interpret the meaning of the word sarva vijNAna to be sarva abhAva vijnAna – i.e., knowing that everything is non-existent? Applying the same logic, we will have to interpret the word eka vijnAna as eka abhAva vijnAna!
It is possible to know about the rest after knowing one object either by the objects having same characteristics – sAdharmya or objects having opposite characteristics – vaidharmya. If a cow is seen, it will be known that the other cows also are like this cow only. It is known from the same characteristic form of all the cows – the sAdharmya of the form and shape that all the cows will be similar in form and shape. The illustrations of the lump of clay and lump of gold given in the s’ruthi vAkya are of this type only. In those illustrations, there is similarity of the characteristics from the earthliness and shining characteristics. In this method of similar characteristics, it is surely impossible to know about the other objects is not possible. In the theory of monism, where is the existence of a second real object to know about the other object? Coming to the case of vaidharmya – the dissimilarity of the characteristics, we know about the other from the special characteristics of one being told to separate it from others. Here the illustration is as follows – the sentence “Devadatta is the main person” shows that the persons other than Devadatta are unimportant. In the same way, from the knowledge of the real Brahman, having the knowledge that the rest of the objects are all having opposite characteristic of being real – i.e., they are unreal. This knowledge being obtained should be called as sarva vijnAna from eka vijnAnena. This type of deriving a meaning from the words not present in the sentence will become an arbitrary meaning suiting ones likes and dislikes only and not the proper answer. To make this idea clearer let us take the s’ruthi vAkya “kasminnu bhagavo vijnAthe sarvam iDam vijnAtham bhavathi” in this mantra and try to get the meanings – according to the advaitin – the monist. For that meaning (meaning as desired by the advaitin to suit monism,) two words sathyathvena and mithhyAthvena are to be borrowed and then the vAkya will be like this – “kasmin sathyathvena bhagavo vijnAthe sarvam iDam mithhyAtvena vijnAtham bhavathi”. The word sathyathvena and its antonym – having opposite characteristics – mithhyAthvena do not appear in the original s’ruthi vAkya. Further, in the illustrations of the lump of clay, lump of gold, and lump of iron, which reads yathA Somya ekena mrithpiNDena sarvam mriNmayam vijnAtham et al., the knowledge of one (the material cause) is able to provide the knowledge of all (the effect of the material cause) objects derived from that material cause through the principle of having similar characteristics only. Hence to state that from the knowledge of Brahman as the only real entity, the knowledge about the universe that it is unreal – is against the comparative principles of the illustrations. Thus stating that the universe is unreal and is illusory from the knowledge that Brahman is real is not logical and is not tenable.
To be continued.
Courtesy Srinivasa Ramanuja DAsan