Posted by: adbhutam | July 25, 2009


ShrIgurubhhyo namaH

A vichara on ‘Attributes and substantive’

Attributes = qualities of an ‘object’ like the red colour of a rose, soft petals, thorny stalk, pleasant smell, , even the weight of 2 grams, the size of ….cms, dimensions,  the date on which it blossomed, the garden where it flowered etc.

Substantive = the ‘object’ rose that has the above attributes.

Supposing i have listed ‘everything’ that i can say/talk/think about a rose flower and have nothing more to say.  All that i have ‘said’ and perhaps not said owing to the inadequacy of the instruments/pramanas at my disposal, comes under ‘attributes’ only and what is the ‘rose’ apart from these attributes?

Ah! there is one thing that i did not include in the list of ‘attributes’, and that is ‘(the rose) Is, It Exists’.  Is this ‘existence’ an object of perception? If it is, what is/are its attribute/s?  Is it possible to perceive with senses something that has no attributes at all whatsoever and yet report to another person that ‘I saw/felt/tasted/smelt/heard xxxxx’?

Is it possible to talk about any ‘object’ without referring to its attributes?

See also: Sri Shankaracharya’s Gitabhashya II.16 (na asato..) bhashya last portion on sad vichara. A fine input for this topic.

I have a candle with me.  The candle has these attributes: 1. Wax moulded in a cylindrical shape. 2. It is 6 inches long and 2 Cms. Round.  3.  There is a white wick running thru the length of the candle. 4.  The candle is red coloured.

Apart from this there are no physical properties I can enumerate with my layman’s knowledge.  Now, among the four attributes named above, what and where is the ‘candle’?  Certainly, the wax is not the candle, nor the wick by itself.  So with the other attributes too.  Yet, we use the word ‘candle’.  Supposing I separate the above parts and keep them apart. Where is the candle there?  Is it not that apart from using the word candle we are not able to show a candle? What we are showing, even when the above four items are put together in a particular fashion, are only the four items and not a candle.  Where did the ‘candle’ come from?  Is there a ‘candle’ in concrete terms available for us to examine and show to others apart from the above four items?  There is a stubborn fellow with me who refuses to agree with me that it is a candle.  He argues vehemently that I am only holding the above four and insisting it is a candle.  He spells out the four above items and asks me to show the ‘candle’. He says despite my saying ‘look, here is a candle’, what the eyes perceive is only the group of the above four things and not a ‘candle’.

If we examine the above four items individually, again we are going to end up with the same situation alone.  Apart from the word ‘candle’ where is the ‘thing’ candle?  Surely a case of ‘vAchArambhaNam vikAro nAmadheyam…..’.  This Shruti says, with regard to every ‘object’ we are using just a name but are not able to substantiate it with a real object.  When the material/parts with which an ‘object’ (just a name) is made, assembled, disintegrate, there is no object to call by that name. A bicycle can be an example.  In a pot,  when we are touching it, weighing it, buying/selling it, using it, etc. all along we are only doing all these to the clay only and not to the pot.  Pot is just a name for clay in a particular shape.  The fate of clay too is the same when examined further.  Ultimately we will have to end up with Sat, Existence, Brahman.  Everything in the world is just a name for the real content that is Brahman.  Apart from the name there is nothing other than Brahman in the object/World.

The names are different for different ‘objects’.  But without this ‘arrangement’ that has come into being, naisargiko ayam loka vyavahAraH, as per the Preamble to the B.S.B. of Sri Shankaracharya, no vyavahara can take place.  But the Shruti/Gita will not leave us to continue like this.  It shows us, thru vichara, that this is not the Paramartha.  Thus we have the VAchAramBhana shruti of the Chandogya, the Gita verse IV,24 ‘BrahmArpaNam Brahma haviH’…. Etc.  In this shloka, the arpaNam, havis, agni, the oblation-giver, the goal intended thru the oblation are the ‘different’ names for different ‘objects’.  But the one common appendage, ‘attribute’ that is added to all these names is ‘Brahman’.  That is how the Gita negates the vyavahAric, unenquired-into usage of mere names and shows that the One Real Object that is intended to be denoted by all, the ignorant and the wise, is Brahman.  Fortunately, this Brahman is not an ‘object’ but the very subject who can never be denied.  The Panchakoshaviveka of the Taittiriya makes this realization possible that the subject in truth is the attributeless, name-free, unnamable Sat Chit Ananda.  In this viveka, the Upanishad takes up one after the other, all the five sheaths, that are the attributes of a ‘person’.  After exhausting all the attributes we are left with nothing to ‘talk’ about that person.  Only silence remains.  This is the experience of the aspirant Bhrigu in that Upanishad.  This shows that apart from the attributes there is no ‘object’.  Is it then a void, shoonyataa?  No, there is the undeniable Existence Sat, the Chit.  Since this is beyond words, as this Upanishad itself teaches, no talking is possible.  No attributes are there for It.

Interestingly, the examination of every ‘object’ in creation as well as the examiner, the subject, leads to the same result: The One Ultimate Truth is Sat.  Thus the subject is Sat and the object is Sat.  The two names subject and object die out being redundant and only Sat alone remains.  This is the Adviteeya Brahman.

Let us consider another example, a spoon.  What is a spoon other than a metallic contrivance with a handle and a scoop?  Can we ‘see’ a spoon apart from the said attribute?  No one, not even the Supreme Lord, the Sarvajna, Sarvashakta, Bhagavan Sri Hari can show us a spoon; He can at best show us what is ‘called a spoon’ but not a spoon.  This statement might sound blasphemous and a Bhagavad Bhakta is bound to get furious upon hearing such an affirmation.  But there is no reason for worry.

When it is impossible for even Bhagavan to show us even a ‘spoon’, how is it that we successfully ‘conceive’, ‘perceive’ and transact all things, atomic and astronomic? [‘aNorNeeyAn mahato maheeyAn’ conveys that the substratum of the superimposed world of varied sizes is Brahman.] There is a power, the Shakti called MaayA that makes this impossible possible!!  That is why Sri Shankaracharya called it ‘aghaTita ghaTanaa paTeeyasee MaayA’ in His ‘MaayA-panchakam’, a pentad on the ‘glory’ of MaayA.

The Enquiry into the truth of objects is not complete without the enquiry of the truth behind the instruments, the very sense organs, that ‘show’ us the objects.  These sense organs are themselves objects and their truth is also the same as that of the objects they perceive.  Such is the complex, treacherous, matrix woven by MaayA that not only there is delusion pertaining to the perceived objects but we are deluded into thinking that the organs that perceive them too are real, valid, dependable.  The preamble to the Brahmasutra Bhashya touches upon this aspect too.

Despite this total invasion by mAyA, we have no reason to worry about the Lord’s Supremacy.  For, is it not His icchA, His sportful desire, that the world of objects appear to us to be real? By His own icchA He can bring about its eradication too. BhagavAn’s mAya is otherwise termed as icchA.  The aspirant who is more bhakti oriented wishes to see it as His icchA.  The one given to enquiry predominantly sees it as His mAyA.  That is all the difference.  Bhagavadicchaa and BhagavanmAyA are synonyms for the same concept.

The Lord has the weapon to eradicate this affliction of mAyA.  That weapon is His infinite compassion that has given expression to in the form of the Shruti, the ShAstra.  The shAstra is the shastra, weapon. This weapon, the Sword of Discriminative Knowledge, as for example, taught in the Chandogya Upanishad VI Chapter, ‘vAchArambhanam….’ with three illustrations, teaches that the effect, that is visible to us as object, is insubstantial and the substance is only the cause.  The Cause of the World is Brahman and That Alone is Real, ‘mRttiketyeva satyam’.  The effect, the world (of objects, more precisely, the subject-object duality), is unreal, being nothing other than the names that denote it. The ‘hollowness’, the emptiness, of the world once determined through the viveka taught by the Shruti, one becomes freed from the clutches of mAyA.  That is why the Lord said in the Gita: daivee hyeShA guNamayee mama mAyA duratyayA.  mAmeva ye prapadyante mAyAmetAm taranti te.  [This divine mAyaa of Mine, consisting of guNas, is extremely difficult to overcome.  Whoever surrenders to Me, the Lord of mAyaa, turning away from the world, succeeds in fording the terrible mAyA.]

Om Tat Sat


  1. […] By removing petals and stamens etc, we cannot find in which part the ‘flowerness’ resides (see for an excellent article on this topic). And a flower, reduced to its subatomic particles looks […]

    • Thanks for that well-written article on ‘difference’.

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