Viśiṣṭādvaitins speaking of Advaitins

The following passage is from Yāmuna’s Ātmasiddhi and it is a description of the Advaita position about the brahman as being tantamount to consciousness:

ato ‘syā na meyaḥ kaścid api dharmo ‘sti. ato nirdhūtanikhilabhedavikalpanirdharmaprakāśamātraikarasā kūṭasthanityā saṃvid evātmā paramātmā ca. yathāha yānubhūtir ajāmeyānantātmā iti. saiva ca vedāntavākyatātparyabhūmir iti (ĀS, pp. 29–30 of the 1942 edition)

Therefore this (consciousness) has no characteristic as its knowable content. Therefore, this very consciousness is eternal, uniform and it consists of light-only, without characteristics, in which all conceptualisations of difference have been dissolved. This consciousness alone is the self (ultimately identical with the single brahman, but illusory identified as one’s own self) and the supreme self (i.e., the brahman). As it has been said: ”That experience (i.e., consciousness) is unborn, cannot become a knowledge content, it is endless, it is the self”*. And this alone is the ultimate meaning (tātparya) of the Upaniṣads’ sentences.

The quote within the passage (yānubhūtir ajāmeyānantātmā) could be an Upaniṣadic quote, but I could not locate it. Do readers know it? And, more importantly: Yāmuna’s description seems fair to me. Do readers more expert in Advaita agree?

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18 thoughts on “Viśiṣṭādvaitins speaking of Advaitins

  1. Dear Elisa, the verse cites by Yāmuna comes from the beginning of Vimuktātman’s Iṣṭasiddhi (1.1):

    yānubhūtir ajāmeyānantānandātmavigrahā |
    mahadādijaganmāyācitrabhittiṃ namāmi tām ||

    As to whether the criticism is justified, Hiriyanna would be more helpful than me!

  2. My understanding of “Advaitha” is as follows (without giving any referances) :

    Everybody has experiences of own self as a knower/doer/enjoyer.This self is identified as empirical self.
    It is said that the agent of these actions is really the ever changing nature with which the empirical self identifies itself in its
    delusion.In enlightenment the empirical self comes out of its delusion when we refer to it as metaphysical self.
    It is said that we can also experience the metaphysical self in a contentless consciousness as bliss.
    So there is only one self in reality(in existence).
    Brahman is metaphysical self( unlimited by all nature ).

    • Brahman cannot be under illusion.
      Empirical self is a composite of brahman & nature.
      Nature always creates appearances over ultimate reality.So its creations are illusions.
      When empirical self detaches itself from its nature( which is referred as coming out of illusion) it is metaphysical self.
      The metaphysical self does not experience appearances as all appearances are absent ( or can be separated out ).
      There is only bliss in experience which is self awareness and brahman.
      For coming out of illusion individual efforts are required.

  3. If everything is one and that is brahman, then we cannot have knowledge of that brahman. Because knowledge presupposes difference and distinctness. To know implies there must be some knowable object(a thatness ) and subject(one who knows that thing). Therefore knowledge favors dualism, or dvaita. Therefore brahman cannot be known.

    • Dear Mithuna, thanks for your thought-provoking questions. We discussed this very topic already on my blog, here, with many interesting comments.
      I see your point but let me add that it is hard to imagine a philosophy without at least one element which remains beyond logical explanation (say: Why is Descartes’ “I” necessarily a substance? Why should the Veda be true? Why should there be karmic retribution? Not to speak about How can a God come to earth/die/resurrect?). Why? Because philosophers are not omniscient and therefore any philosophy needs to be an approximation. This does not mean that we should just give up and jump in the boat of irrationalism, but we should be aware of this problem while criticising other philosophies, I think.

  4. We say a lot of thinks but reflect for a moment and see where our own shelter is? This is a question I asked myself some 30 years ago. I belonged to an informal debating club of particle and theoretical physicists. At that time one person threw out the aesthetically appealing idea that the self originated as the most probabilistic fluctuation in a quantum mechanic field.No one could answer 1. how to act like or become that ” original self ” 2. why despite this knowledge my lifestyle and shelter ( kids, wife, mortgage, etc ) appeared no different from my neighbors who appeared to not carry the ” burden ” of such knowledge.Over the years ( and accompanied by several first person experiences ) I have come to embrace the idea that the metaphysical can be approached by aesthetic methods as against a method of measurement and inference which seem to have acquired testimonial authority over people in general. Not at all being critical but to me its an odd position to talk of Brahman while my real shelter remains wife,( or husband, partner ), house, career, mortgage, etc.

  5. if there is no sadhana or practice towards Brahman itself we wil simply remain an outsider talking about Brahman but never being able to even begin experiencing what it is like.
    I particularly like the life of Chaitanya as a workshop , and Rupa Goswami’s modification of aesthetic theory to give us a language by which this workshop experience can be described with the least ambiguity.

  6. The issue I have with many proclaiming about Brahman they often resort to charity as a sadhana , but then there are many NGO’s , not for profit organization, and even government department already doing all of this and none of them have even though of brahman, been to the Himmalayas, meditated, of perform any kinds of the methods prescribed by stalwarts like Shankaracarya, etc

  7. So as opposed to being behind a keyboard or in an ” arm chair ” here is the kind of elements of sadhana being proposed by Sankara for experiencing Brahman : forsaking all dharmas including the familial, social and ritual .

  8. Referring to the four comments of “MITHUNA” :
    When we have a feeling of seeing a tree we are sure of the existence of a tree before us.
    But such surety is absent when we have the feeling of self.We simply assume the existence of self.
    So first we need to get satisfied about the concepts of empirical and metaphysical selves referring to a sort of real entities.
    Then the next step of intellectually guessing the self-awareness of metaphysical self as bliss is easier(as our sadhana proceeds
    in steps confirming our progress in right direction).
    The self-awareness or bliss is an experience called brahman.
    I thank you for the interest shown on my comments.

  9. Dear Mithunaji,

    Thanks for your perceptive comments. I would just like to discuss about duality and knowledge. If by saying X knows Y we mean to say that X can write/speak a group of propositions (Z) that describe Y completely and consistently then Brahman cannot be known. However, we do not use this definition for mundane things like “X knows driving”. Here knowing means being able to demonstrate something. Hence, extending your observations, X knows Brahman can only be possible if this knowledge is demonstrated in one’s lifestyle.

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