Posted by: adbhutam | February 10, 2010


Srigurubhyo NamaH

The following observation is found in the below-mentioned site:


//The function of Upadhi must be to help understand the existing distinctions in reality and not to create a non-existing difference.//

The following is a response analyzing the above observation:

There is a man who is an expert in making wax models.  He makes models of humans – men, women, children – boys, girls, infants, etc.  He makes models of animals, birds and a variety in them.  There are also trees, plants, ponds, mountains, roads, etc. He keeps them on display.

Now, we are able to distinguish each of the above from the other and name them, identify them, relate them in one or many ways.  Supposing the plate on which the above models are displayed suddenly gets heated due to a low-intensity electric short circuit. Instantly, all the models melt and what is left is a mass of wax.  The Maker quickly takes steps to salvage the wax and retrieves a considerable quantum of his originally invested wax.  Now, in this mass, is there any differentiation of man, animal, vegetation, etc. possible?  No.  It is all wax, undifferentiated, a whole mass, in and through just wax.

Now, a question arises, what then caused the possibility of differentiating the man, animal, trees, etc. when the models were on display?  While all the models were wax and nothing but that, yet the different shapes/forms of them caused the difference. The bodies of humans and animals, the specific forms of the plants and trees and the shapes and forms of ponds, roads, etc. were the ones that differentiated one from the other.  These bodies, forms, etc. are called upAdhis. An ‘upaadhi’ is a differentiating factor.

Upadhi: Sanskrit Dictionary on Upadhi


A term of Vedanta philosophy denoting a limitation imposed upon the Self or upon Brahman through ignorance.

Are the upAdhi-s real? No.  If they had been real they would not have disappeared. Nor were they present in the wax mass before the Maker created them. That which is available for observation at one time and not at another time is not real.  They were ‘fashioned’ out of the imagination of the Model-maker and at a later time were salvaged in a mass form.  Even though the upadhi-s are unreal, when on display, the upadhis/models did succeed in creating a feeling of ‘this is a man’, ‘this is a banyan tree’, ‘this is a dog’ and so on.

In conclusion we can see that –

  • The upAdhis are unreal.
  • They created a difference where no real difference existed.
  • They were helpful in recognizing differences that were not there in truth.  The observer of the model-display was all the time seeing only wax but was enamored by the skillful display of the variety of beings – human, animal and the like.
  • It might be argued: The upadhis are real. Do we not see humans and other beings and differentiate them? The reply is: The differences seen by us in the ‘real’ life situation is now ‘superimposed’ during the model-display observation.  If we make an intelligent enquiry we will realize that even in the so-called ‘real’ life scenario we are all along seeing only basic prakRti (wax in our illustration) or going a step further, only Sat, Brahman, (the intelligent wax model-maker in our illustration) but deluded into thinking ‘this is me, this is he, this is that, he, she, it, etc.’ The Briharadranyaka Upanishad 2.4.14 teaches: यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं पश्यति…..[Where there is duality as it were, one sees something else as different from oneself….] This is akin to the case of the model-display observation: All along seeing just the basic wax, we deliberately enjoy seeing the one wax as so many differentiated beings.  Another example is that of a movie on a screen.  All along seeing just a roll of film and light projected on a static screen, we experience a movie involving so many events.  While in the case of the wax-model display and the movie even though we know the truth, we bring ourselves to get involved in the ‘show’, in the case of the real-life scenario we get involved in the show without knowing the truth that it is just a display of Maya. It is this mistake, error, that the Scripture wants to correct.  Hence, the need for Brahma jijnAsaa.  JijnAsA is desire to know.  Knowledge is always directed at correcting an ignorance-born notion.  Brahman knowledge corrects the samsara-error. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad quoted above to demonstrate the ignorance-ridden vision, also gives the corrected, widom-born vision: यत्र वा अस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत् तत्केन कं पश्येत्…[When for the wise one everything is nothing but the Self, Atman/Brahman, then with who, with what instrument will perceive what object?] The Upanishad by stating this is teaching two things: 1. The ignorant vision creates the tripuTi, triad, of the seer, seeing and seen objects.  The wisdom-born vision, on the other hand, negates the triad and establishes the sole reality of the One Non-dual Atman/Brahman. From this it is known that the UpAdhis cause the error and knowledge corrects this. ज्ञात्वा देवं सर्वपाशापहानिः says the Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1.11 [Having known the Supreme Consciousness, all miseries come to an end.]
  • If the Upadhis are really real and they help recognize real differences, one will end up in a situation where there will never be moksha.  For, in such a case, the distinctions/differences seen now is only that which existed in the earlier creation cycle/life and they existed in the ones prior to them, and so on.  This is in direct contradiction to The Lord’s teaching:

यावत्सञ्जायते किञ्चित् सत्त्वं स्थावरजङ्गमम् । क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञसंयोगात् तद्विद्धि भरतर्षभ ।

(Bhagavad Gita 13.26 )// Whatever life is born, moving or fixed, know thou that it is due to the mixing up, samyoga, of prakRti and purusha, the consciousness.//  Samyoga is possible only between two objects that have parts.  I can place my hand on the cover of a hard-bound book.  A samyoga is thus accomplished between my palm and the book.  But in the case of the ‘Purusha’, Consciousness, there is no possibility of samyoga as the purusha is devoid of parts; it is vijnAnaghana, an infinite mass of consciousness.  Since consciousness is no-body/mind complex, and inert prakriti is no consciousness, a superimposition, an error on the part of the conscious being, brought about by the association with prakriti results in the conscious purusha assuming a body/mind for itself.  And this results in samsara. This unholy marriage of purusha and prakriti, being a product of ignorance, cannot produce any real effects. ‘Samyoga’ is the word the Lord uses to denote ‘adhyAsa’ (superimposition or taking one thing as something else/identifying with something that one is not.)  The remedy, for samsara, the Lord specifies, in this chapter itself, is the discriminatory knowledge separating prakriti from purusha and also knowing that prakriti has no existence independent of its own.  It is prakriti that creates the upadhis, of bodies and minds, and invests the minds with avidya/ajnana, an effect of tamas, a constituent of prakriti and succeeds in keeping the purusha in samsara.  Thus, clearly, the prakriti-born upadhi is unreal and the differences the upadhi creates are also unreal.  If this is not admitted, there would be no way out of samsara. For, all through the scripture the undercurrent is: Knowledge is the remedy for samsara.  If knowledge has to be the remedy, essentially the problem is ignorance.  It is well known that any effect of ignorance has to be unreal.  Therefore the upadhis are unreal and the differences they posit are also unreal. The greatest proof of their unreality is: When the jiva attains aparokshajnAna, knowledge of its true nature, freedom from upadhis is experienced; no longer samsara is there.

The long and short of the above is – Prakriti, mAya, creates all upAdhis and maintains them throughout the pendency of samsara. The inert PrakRiti is activated due to ‘samyoga’ of purusha, the conscious principle. Teaches the Lord:

पुरुषः प्रकृतिश्थो हि भुङ्क्ते प्रकृतिजान् गुणान् ।

कारणं गुणसङ्गोऽस्य सदसद्योनिजन्मसु ॥ 13.21

Purusha, when identified with prakRiti, avidya, experiences the qualities born of prakriti.  Attachment to the qualities is the cause of his birth in good and evil wombs.

If only purusha does not have any connection with prakriti, there will be no samsara.  The Lord teaches the pristine pure nature of purusha in the second chapter:

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचित्

नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः ।

अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो

न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥ 2.20

The Purusha/Atman is not born, nor does He ever die; after having been, He again ceases not to be; nor the reverse.  Unborn, eternal, unchangeable and primeval, He is not slain when the body is slain.

Any tinge of prakriti/gunas is possible only when there is birth.  The true nature of Atman is to be without any contact with prakriti whatsoever.  Atman is taught thus in order that the jiva can realize this true nature of himself and get released from samsara.



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