Author Topic: A-U-M - Awakening to Reality - Gaudapada's Karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad:  (Read 3214 times)

Subramanian.R

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(This article by Dennis Waite is a book excerpt.  This appears in April -June 2016 of Mountain Path.)

Theories of Creation:

A-U-M, Awakening to Reality, is a study of the Mandukya Upanishad and the  215 verse commentary
(Karikas) by Gaudapda, the Paramaguru of Adi Sankara.  Dennis Waite has become one of the leading lights
in the West with his clear and judicious approach to Advaita.  He has published a number of authoritative
books on Advaita and this latest book  now being excerpted in the magazine, is best available for seekers
who are looking for a reliable overview of traditional Advaita.

***

This is the topic most often associated with Gaudapada's work, with elements of the discussion occurring in
all four chapters, despite the fact that it does not occur explicitly in the Upanishad itself.   He introduces the
subject in Karika 1.6. although Karika 1.6-9 are ostensibly commentary on the sixth mantra of the Upanishad,
which talks about the macrocosmic aspect of the deep sleep state - Ishvara.  He addresses only the second
part of this mantra, which says 'This is the source of everything; assuredly the place of the arising and dissolution of all beings.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                       

Subramanian.R

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He says that it is clear that there has to be a source for everything that exists and concedes that, effectively
we have to acknowledge that Isvara is that source, as claimed by the Upanishad.  Before embarking on a
detailed consideration of all that this entails, beginning with some of the theories that were around at that time,
it is worth pointing out where all this is going to lead:  there is and can be no such thing as creation!

To return to the bangle, chain and ring metaphor yet again, we can change the bangle into a chain. We
might therefore be said to be 'creating' a chain out of a bangle. But all we are doing is changing the form
of the substance - gold. We cannot create or destroy the gold.  Note that any discussion of nuclear fusion
or fission would be going beyond the bounds of this metaphor!  Advaita has nothing to do with physics
or chemistry.

Given that the true 'creation' is not possible, all that we can suggest is that everything already exists and
always will exist.  If some thing 'appears'  when it seemingly was not there before, but in an 'unmanifest'
state. An example of this given in the scriptures is a tree 'appearing' from a seed. Here, we now know that   
the 'unmanifest; from is the DNA in the nucleus of the seed; all of the instructions for making the tree are
contained in encoded form, ready to be activated when food, water, light are provided.  Another way of
putting this is to say that the tree was in 'causal' or 'potential' form in the seed.  Similarly, as far as the
universe is concerned, we could say that everything was in a potential form prior to the big bang. But
it would be wrong to say that nothing 'existed.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Note that the DNA explanation is clearly only possible in the light of scientific knowledge not available in
ancient times.  And, more significantly, DNA is still strictly speaking 'manifest';  it is just that it requires
quite powerful microscopes to establish this!  And it has to be remembered that this is only a metaphor!
It is not being suggested that the 'code' for the universe is held in some sort of pre-Bang computer
(where would such a thing be?).  It may actually be more helpful to think of the universe being 'created'
as a result of our own ignorance, in an analogous way to how we 'manufacture' a snake out of what is
really only a rope.

Sankara adds that everything has  have a substratum. Continuing with the rope snake metaphor, prior
to our seeing the snake, we would say that the snake had its existence as the rope. We would never see
the snake if it were not for the rope. Similarly, everything in the world, prior to its appearance, has to
have its existence in a cause.  This cause we give the name of Isvara (or Prana, as this is called in the
Karika). This is why we are able to say that 'All this is Brahman', - one of the famous sayings (Mahavakyas)
of the Upanishads. This appearance itself, of course, is only name and form of Brahman and is therefore
Mithya.

A note of warning must be issued in respect of this assignment of Isvara as a 'cause' for the universe.
We have already seen above that the very notion of 'causality'  is meaningless on analysis.  The idea
also tacitly assumes that there was a time 'before' creation.  Since the concept of time is something only
empirically meaningful within the context of a universe, it is a mistake to think of a 'time' before creation
of all.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                                 

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time is the currency of awareness ......   :)
simply stop telling the story of the self and see who you are without it

Subramanian.R

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Theories of Creation:

Gaudapada  just briefly mentions some of the other views on this, without going into any detail or offering
any arguments against them.  Some people are creationists, believing that the universe is a demonstration
of God's power of glory, while others think that is only an illusion or dream.  (Karika 1.7). Sankara cites the
example of people witnessing a magician performing an illusion such as the Indian Rope Trick.  In the version
described by Sankara, the magician appears to climb the rope, engage in a fight with limbs being chopped
off and falling to the ground!  It is supposed that the one who climbs the rope is unreal, because the real
magician remains hidden from view on the ground.  The audience just enjoys the spectacle;  they know that
it is a trick and only naive children would think that it is real.

The second half of this verse refers to the notion that 'creation is brought about by time' but most of the
commentators make no attempt to explain what is meant by this, other than suggesting it refers to
astronomers and astrologers.  Bhattacharya points to mantra 1.2. in the Svetashvarata Upanishad,
which seems to explain it better than anything.  This says that:  'Time, the inherent nature of things,'
design, chance, the elements, primordial matter, individual awareness  -- these are to be considered
as the cause of the universe.  But not even a combination of these can be the cause, for they are themselves
effects.  It seems to me that this can be understood as evolution and Darwinian selection;  i.e.it all
'just happen', as the result of natural change as time goes on, with God taking no part in either in its
initiation or development.  The key point to note is that there is no explanation here as to how the universe
came into being in the first place.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                           

Subramanian.R

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The other, more frequently encountered 'explanation' for creation is that it is for God's enjoyment or sport.
(K.1.9).  The word Lila may well have been encountered even by those who have never heard of Advaita.
It means 'play', 'amusement' or 'pastime'.  But Gaudapada immediately rejects this, asking how it could
possibly be that the absolute Consciousness, which is entirely unlimited, complete  and in need of nothing,'
could have desires to satisfy.  Desire is synonymous with limitation.  Swami Chinmayananda gives the analogy
of someone who has just enjoyed the most sumptuous meal imaginable and is entirely replete being offered some new dish of food.  There will not be the slightest interest, no matter how tasty this might seem as some other time.

The 'explanation' that creation is for God's enjoyment raises another paradoxical point.  We know that there
are wars and famines, and suffering in the world for all sorts of reasons.  How could we explain this if we
accepted a God who creates for His enjoyment?  He could have been a sadist!  Consequently, the Lord could
have no motive for creating the world.  As Gaudapada puts it:  'What possible purpose could there be for Him
whose desires are always in the state of fulfillment?'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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So, what explanation does Gaudapada offer?  Much more detail will be said about this below but, at this
point (K.1.9.), he simply says that what appears to be the creation is simply His very nature.  The
consensus seems to be that Gaudapda is saying here that, as far as the phenomenal (vyavaharika) is
concerned, we can say that Maya is the 'cause' of creation. In fact, he refutes every view of creation later
and some commentators think that this view here is simply another one of the many theories he is listing
and rejecting.  To avoid any danger of being  misled, this is probably the safest policy!

In respect of the view that creation is His nature, Swami Chinmayananda has a metaphor.  This time it is
the ocean with its waves.  He says that we cannot say that the waves are 'created' by the ocean but rather
that it is simply the nature of the ocean to have the waves on its surface.  They are restless and in a continual
state of flux while, deep down, the vast body of the ocean is totally unaffected by them.

More will be said about Maya later. It is often spoken of as though it were a positive force wielded by God to
delude us into believing in something that is not there.  But that is not a fair explanation, implying either
entertainment or deception.  Gaudapada does not actually use this world here anyway but simply says that
creation is Svabhava - His natural disposition, in the same way that the heat is the nature of fire.

But this does, on the face of it, entail a similar problem to that above regarding suffering;  it will mean
that God too owns all of this suffering.  It  is difficult for us to conceive that He could be 'all bliss' 
while simultaneously having all the suffering of the world.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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The explanation is that the world is Mithya. Just as we our waking selves are unaffected by any suffering
that might take place in our dreams, so the non dual reality is unaffected by apparent suffering in the world.
The dream is pratibhasa; the gross universe is vyavahara; the reality is Paramartha.  A metaphor encountered
in the scripture is that of a person in the bright sunlight casting a shadow.  The shadow might 'collide' with a
wall or 'fall into' water but the person casting it as well as the shadow itself, is totally unaffected by it.

Creation according to the scripture:

Having briefly looked at the sort of theories that are usually considered in respect of creation of the universe,
Gaudapada now begins his demolishing process by seeing what the scriptures say.  His own methods are
primarily to use reason and logic so that there can be no argument.  Traditionally, however, especially with
respect to aspects that are outside of our own direct experience, teachers refer to what is said in the scripture.
This source is believed to contain answers to those questions which cannot be answered by recourse to
perception and inference.  The scriptures contain truths which were 'revealed' to ancient sages and have
been passed down from teacher to disciple ever since.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Such an approach is anathema to many people, especially any that have come across so called fundamentalists,
who believe literally in what is said in the Bible, for example, irrespective of how ridiculous it might seem
to modern science . But the attitude taken here is quite different.  Gaudapada actually states (K.3.23) that
we should only accept anything that is stated there if it is also supported by reason.  The intended meaning of
the word 'faith' is that we put our trust in something that we have good reason to trust, provisionally, until
such time as we can verify it ourselves.

Sankara also makes the point in his commentary on K.3.15, that scriptural statements such as these are not
intended to be taken literally;  they are figurative only.  And he cites the example of the supposed discussion
among the 'senses' as to which was the most important. ( Prajapati (their father) suggests that each sense
should depart the body in turn so that they can find out. The loss of speech, sight, hearing and mind each had
the effect of the body's registering their respective absence but carrying on without them.  But as soon as
Prana (the breath) prepared to leave, all others realized that they could not survive without it and acknowledged that Prana was the most important.).  Sankara says that story is obviously only intended to
be taken figuratively;  we should not imagine that the texts intended us to believe that the senses converse
or have a father!

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.
           

Subramanian.R

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The texts on creation of the world should be regarded similarly.

The other example that Sankara uses is that of 'cooking food'. The point is that whatever is being prepared
may not be edible initially e.g.rice grains. So, when we say 'I am cooking food', it is a figurative expression,
being cognizant of the fact that, by the end of cooking, it will be edible.  Thus, for example, when the
scriptures speak of the 'difference' between the Jiva and Brahman, it is figurative only - this position is not
different from what we believe already. It is done in the knowledge that the later teaching will show their
identity.

Nevertheless, Gaudapada maintains that the 'bottom line' teaching of the scriptures is that there has
never been any creation.  Accordingly, before attacking the notions of creation using logic, Gaudapada
wants to show that the scriptures themselves also support what he is about to say.

He begins (K 3.23) by pointing out that, on the face of it, there seem to be statements in the scriptures
for both sides, namely some that state there is a real creation and some which say that it is only apparent.
Most of the Upanishads seem to have something to say, often going into elaborate details as to sequence
and mechanism.  Consequently, we have the situation where the Dvaitins (dualists) claim that creation is
real, whereas the Advaitins say that it is apparent only, like the worlds we create in our dreams.  Of course,
we (Advaitins) may acknowledge that some scriptures do seem to say that creation is real but we can argue
that it is part of the Adhyaropa apavada - teaching device.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Irrespective of this, however, the main point is that scriptural  statements cannot be taken out of context.
The whole section in which a statement occurs must be read before drawing any conclusion.  Sankara
gives the example of the 'sheath' model used in the Taittiriya Upanishad.  Here a statement is made that
the sheath made of the vital force Pranamya Kosa, is the Atman.   This, of course, is non sense.  But the
next verse says that, all well actually, Atman is not this sheath but the mental sheath, Manomaya Kosa.
No, it is not!  And so on.  The entire section has to be read together to get the whole story.

Then Gaudapada makes the point, mentioned above, that we should never accept what is unreasonable;
we always have to analyze the whole and apply reason.  When a scriptural text makes a statement regarding
the creation of elements, people etc., but later makes another statement to the effect that there is really no
creation, then we have to conclude that the 'creation'  to which it referred initially is only an apparent one.
An apparent creation is equivalent to no creation at all.  There is no denying that we see a seemingly separate
world but it is a Mithya world, being only name and form of Brahman.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Gaudapada gives four examples of statements from the Upanishads to the effect that there is no creation
(despite those Upanishads having previously said otherwise).

In K 3. 24, he refers to Katha Upanishad 2.1.11 -  'there is no diversity here (in the creation)' and Brahadaranya Upanishad 2.5.19 - 'the supreme being is perceived  as manifold on account of Maya'.  And he refers to the
Taittiriya Aranyaka 3.13.1. (the part also known as Purusha Suktam) - 'unborn, he (Brahman) appears in
many ways (by the power of Maya)'.  (This part of the Yajur Veda - the four extant Vedas are massive texts
which contain all of the ritual and mystical aspects as well as the philosophical Upanishads.  The Aranyakas
are called the  'Wilderness Books'  in English, the name being given because, according to Wikipedia,
they contain dangerous rituals which had to be performed in the wilderness!  The word Aranyaka means
'forest'. 

Gaudapada is effectively pointing out here that, because the Upanishad has made it clear that the Turiya
is changeless, has nothing to do with the world and is itself unborn, it therefore cannot really produce
anything.  Therefore, the world must  be an appearance only, as in magic show.  Consequently, it follows
that there cam be no real creation at all. Thus, his theory of Ajata Vada (the doctrine that nothing whatever
has been 'born'.  follows from these scriptural extracts as well as from the logical reasoning which he is about
to give.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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In K.3.25, he references quotations from two more Upanishads.  The Isa Upanishad (12th mantra) says that
'They who worship the Unmanifested enter into blinding darkness, but those who are devoted to the   
Manifested enter into greater darkness.'  The detailed analysis of this m mantra is not relevant here. 
The point is that the word 'Manifested' refers to Hiranyagarbha, which is the first stage in the model of
creation being referred to.  This Karika says that by effectively negating Hiranyagarbha, the quoted reference
is thereby negating the whole creation.  The word used for Hiranyagarbha is Sambhuti, which means 'the most
powerful'.  Anandagiri gives the analogy of the best wrestler being defeated by a challenger.  As a result of this, the challenger automatically becomes the best himself; there is no need to fight anyone else.

The other reference is to Brihadaranykya Upanishad (3.9.28.7) which asks about the cause for rebirth of man:
'Who should again bring him forth?'  Gaudapada says that this is denying that there can be real cause for creation.  Sankara again refers to the rope snake metaphor, saying that the snake has not been created by
anyone;  it simply arises out of ignorance and disappears as soon as this is dispelled. Similarly, there is no cause or origin for the person (the embodied Self or Jiva).  And he points out to another scriptural reference
which states effectively the same thing:  The intelligent Self is neither originate from It. It is birthless, eternal,
undecaying, and ancient.  It is not injured even when the body is killed. Katha Upanishad 1.2.18.

The next Karika (K.3.26) points out to the well known phrase in Advaita 'neti, neti', meaning 'not this, not this'
(strictly 'neti' means 'not this way', 'not in this manner' or 'not thus'.) This also comes from the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad and is used to negate all those things that we might think ourselves to be.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                           

Subramanian.R

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At the beginning of the related section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.3.1), it is stated that 'Brahman
has only two forms - gross and subtle, mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited,  perceptible and
imperceptible.'  'Simplistically, therefore, when the Upanishad repeatedly utters the pronouncement
'neti, 'neti' in later mantras, the first 'neti'  negates the gross aspects of the universe, i.e. tangible, material
aspects (murta prapancha), such as the physical body.  The second 'neti' negates subtle aspects (amurta
prapancha) such as the mind and intellect.  (murta refers to 'shape' or 'form'.)  Whatever we can experience
see or think cannot be who-we-really-are, since there is always a subject witnessing these things. I am the
consciousness-witness which remains when there is nothing to experience, as was seen when discussing
the deep sleep state in the analysis of the Upanishad above.

Recognizing what we are not, in this way, we realize what we are.  When the delusion of the snake is removed,
the truth of the rope is known (as long as we do not then think it is a crack in the ground!).  Once all Self
Ignorance is removed, Self Knowledge is revealed. 

Brahadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.26 says:  'The Self is that which has been described as 'Not this, not this'.
It is imperceptible, for it is never perceived;  undecaying, for it never decays;  unattached, for it is never
attached; unfettered, for it never suffers and it does not perish.'

Sankara explains that this mantra thus negates all duality, which is only superimposed on the Atman as a result of ignorance.  Anything that we can grasp mentally has a 'birth' and can be negated. Mantra 7
of the Upanishad says that Tuirya is 'agrahaya' - not 'graspable'.  It has no attributes or characteristics
at all.  He says that the earlier descriptions of a dualistic creation were only means (Upaya) to lead to
realization of the true nature of reality, which is the end (Upeya).  Ignorant people unfortunately tend to take
the means as the end itself.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                                 

  .
   

Subramanian.R

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Ironically, and apparently ridiculously, it is possible to make the statement that:  'After rejecting all the
Murta and Amruta forms of the Atman, (i.e all the 'obvious'  things, 'I am the body' and 'I am the mind')
and negating all the superimposed duality, what remains is the Atman.  Anandagiri makes this statement
as his comment on K.3.26.  It is remarkable how similar this is to the statement b Conan Doyle's
Sherlock Holmes that I have been quoting in all my books: 'When all has been investigated and rejected,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'  Anandagiri goes even further:  'all that
falls into the class of comprehensible (drishya) is established as unreal,'  i.e. whatever you can understand
is false; what is real will be always be beyond comprehension!

But, lest you should give up at this point, the import of this must be realized.  You should never confuse means
with ends.  And it is not that, for example, you should make the mistake of the neo Vedantins and think that
the nirvikalpa samadhi that is possible to attain after many years of practice in meditation is what is meant
by enlightenment.  You should not think either that what is said by the Upanishads is the absolute truth.
Words exist only in the empirical realm; the absolute truth is forever ineffable.  This teaching is provided
to lead you and point you in the right direction.  The final leap is up to you.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.