n the series examining the eight Buddhist verses Sri Madhvacharya has quoted in his Tattvodyota (as reported by Dr.BNK Sharma) in support of his stand that Advaita is not any different from Buddhism here is the fifth verse:
भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं भावत्वं वा न तत्त्वतः ।
विश्वाकारं च संवृत्या यस्य तत्पदमक्षयम् ॥ ५
The overall meaning of the above verse is:
The ultimate Truth cannot be said to be existent or non-existent in absolute terms. Owing to ignorance of the Truth one perceives the variegated world.
The first half of the verse conveys a very important concept pertaining to the Vedantic Brahman. What is immediately recalled to our mind is this verse of the Srimadbhagavadgita:
ज्ञेयं यत्तत्प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वामृतमश्नुते ।
अनादिमत्परं ब्रह्म न सत्तन्नासदुच्य्ते ॥ 13.12 ॥
//I shall speak of that which is to be known, by realizing which one attains Immortality. The supreme Brahman is without any beginning. That is called neither being nor non-being. //
In the above profound verse, the Lord begins to expound the nature of Brahman which is to be known (for mokSha). This Brahman alone was taught as the KShetrajna in the beginning of the chapter. What we have on hand is the portion corresponding to the second half of the above verse: ब्रह्म न सत्तन्नासदुच्य्ते
That Brahman is called neither being nor non-being. This is what is being stated by the ‘Buddhist’ verse in the first half: भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं भावत्वं वा न तत्त्वतः.
Now, what does this line, either of the Gita or of this buddhist verse mean? न भावत्वम् (not existence). Why is Brahman described in these terms? Is not the Vedantic Brahman an existent entity? Yes. However we have to note that the ‘Existence’ of Brahman is markedly different from the ‘existence’ of any other object in the world. For example, a pot is said to be existent: ‘The pot is’ ‘घटोऽस्ति’. Here, before the pot was produced and came into being, we could not say ‘the pot is’. We say ‘the pot is’ ONLY after the pot has come into existence. Thus, the existence of a pot is CONDITIONAL to its coming into being upon being produced. Brahman, on the other hand, need not come into being anew to Exist. It is ever existent, Sat. Thus, the scripture takes pain to bring out this seminal distinction between the existence of a produced object and the Existence of the Ever-Existent Brahman. With this in view the verse says: ‘Brahman is not sat’.
When a pot is destroyed we no longer say ‘the pot is’; we say ‘the pot is not’, ‘नास्ति घटः’. When we have said ‘Brahman is not ‘existent’ (like a pot is existent) one might conclude ‘Brahman is non-existent’ ‘नासि ब्रह्म’. In order to correct this misconception the scripture says: न भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं , न असत्. ’न भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं’ means that which is ‘not non-existent’ or ‘that which is not the opposite of existent’.
Thus, Brahman is neither ‘existent’ (like a pot is existent) nor ‘non-existent’ (like a pot that goes out of existence upon destruction) because we have said that Brahman is ‘not existent’. So Brahman can neither be put under the ‘existent’ category nor can It be said to be ‘not existent’ in absolute terms. We can neither say ‘अस्ति’ nor ‘नास्ति’ with regard to Brahman. This is the meaning of the ‘Buddhist’ verse: भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं भावत्वं वा न तत्त्वतः and the Bh.Gita verse: न सत्तन्नासदुच्य्ते.
Now, we shall take up the other half of the ‘Buddhist’ verse: विश्वाकारं च संवृत्या यस्य तत्पदमक्षयम् . Here the cause of the appearance of the world is brought out. यस्य= यद्विषयक संवृत्या=आवरणेन (अज्ञानेन) विश्वाकारं = विश्वं जगत्तया जगदाकारेण अनुभूयते तत्पदमक्षयम् = तत् अविनाशि ब्रह्म. Owing to the ignorance of (about) Brahman one perceives the world. In this line both the concealment, AvaraNam, and the projection, vikShepa, are presented. अज्ञानेनावृतं ज्ञानं तेन मुह्यन्ति जन्तवः 5.15 of the BhagavadgItaa. Brahman alone, owing to ignorance, is seen as the world. It is with this in view alone the scripture teaches abundantly: यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र सर्वं च मयि पश्यति । तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि स च मे न प्रणश्यति ॥ gita 6.30॥ ब्रह्मैवेदममृतं पुरस्तात् ब्रह्म पश्चात् ब्रह्म दक्षिणतश्चोत्तरेण । अधश्चोर्ध्वं च प्रसृतं ब्रह्मैवेदं विश्वमिदं वरिष्ठम् ॥Mundaka Up.2.2.11. पुरुष एवेदं सर्वम् (puruSha sUktam). These passages teach us in unmistakable terms that it is Brahman that is seen as the world owing to ignorance. How does one conclude from these passages the ignorance part? It is from arthApatti that we conclude so. The Upanishad aims at removing our ignorance by giving us the knowledge of Brahman. And that Brahman is taught as appearing as this universe that we observe. By saying that the observed universe is none other than Brahman the scripture teaches that if one sees the universe alone and remains in samsara it is indeed due to ignorance. And the teaching that the knowledge that the universe is none other than Brahman is liberating knowledge also confirms that it is due to ignorance that one perceives the world. By pratyaksha pramaaNa one experiences the world. By the Upanishad pramANa one learns to negate the world-vision and gain the Brahman-vision. Thus this is a teaching of the Upanishad pramANa that comes later negating / falsifying the earlier svAbhAvika pratyakSha pramANa.
Thus the ‘buddhist’ verse is actually bringing out the central teaching of the Upanishad about the true nature of Brahman and the true nature of the world. It brings out the cause of samsara by talking about ignorance and also suggests, hints, the remedy: Knowledge of Brahman. It gives the svarUpa lakShaNa of Brahman as akShayam, padam and also what Brahman is not through the words ‘neither existent nor non-existent really.’
Om Tat Sat