It would be useful to know why at all the Upanishad should resort to the method
of adhyAropa – apavAda. Shankara says in the BhAShyam for the mantra 6.2 of the prashnopaniShat:
//ihaiva antaHsahrIre hRdayapuNDarIka-AkAshamadhye hey somya sa puruSho na
deshAntare vijneyao yasmin (Purushe) etAH uchyamAnAH ShoDaSha kalAH prANAdyAH
prANAdyAH prabhavanti utpadyanta iti ShoDaShakalAbhiH upAdhibhUtAbhiH sakala
iva niShkalaH puruSho lakShyate avidyayA iti tadupAdhikalAdhyAropApanayena
vidyayA sa puruShaH kevalo darshayitavya iti kalAnAm tatprabhavatvamucyate |
prANAdInAm atyanta nirvisheShe hyadvaye shuddhe tattve na shakyo
adhyAropamantareNa pratipAdyapratipAdanAdi-vyavahAraH kartumiti kalAnAm
prabhava-sthiti-apyayA Aropyante avidyAviShayAH. chaitanyAvyatirekeNaiva hi kalA
jAyamAnAH tiShThantyaH pralIyamANAshcha sarvadA lakShyante.//
The translation of the above, from the book of Swami Gambhirananda:
//Here itself, inside the body, within the space inside the lotus of the heart,
O amiable one, that PuruSha exists and He is not to be sought somewhere else, in
whom originate these sixteen parts: prANa and the rest that are being
enumerated. The Purusha who is partless appears through ignorance to be
possessed of limbs as a consequence of His association with the sixteen parts
that are His limiting adjuncts. But this PuruSha has to be shown as an absolute
entity by eliminating, through knowledge, those parts that condition Him. That
is why the parts are spoken of as originating from the PuruSha. Since no
empirical pronouncement as to attainability and the means of attainment can be
made unless there be the superimposition of prANa and the rest on the totally
attributeless, non-dual, pure principle, therefore, the origin, existence, and
absorption of the pats that are within the domain of ignorance, are superimposed
(on the PuruSha), for the parts are always seen to exist in identity with
Consciousness at the times of origin, continuation, and dissolution.//
The salient features of the above bhashyam are:
1. The Supreme Being, Brahman, called Purusha, is taught to be realized within
our body and not elsewhere. This is a common feature of all Upanishads.
2. Since that Being is free of all attributes, it would be impossible to teach
3. Therefore, with a view to ‘identify’ It, the upAdhi-s are to be ‘attributed’
4. When the upadhis are attributed to It, it is possible for us to know that
such an Entity exists. Otherwise even Its existence is either denied or
5. Once the existence is admitted, it becomes necessary, and easy, to deny,
negate, remove, through knowledge/intellect, those superimposed upAdhis.
6. It would, however, be impossible for anyone, to deny/negate the Existence,
which is none other than one’s own Existence, nay, oneself.
7. We have, through the words of GaudapAda, too, heard that the statements in
the Upanishads as to the creation of the universe along with the examples of
fire, clay, gold, etc. are only means, a tactic, upAya, for the enabling of
understanding/realizing the One Conscousness Principle.
8. Here too, in this Upanishad, as in the MAnDUkya, the various (sixteen)
parts/components (three states in the mAnDUkya) are taught by the Upanishad
itself as being produced/available and later denied/negated in order to hold out
the undeniable Atman/Brahman/turIya.
9. Thus it is a pattern across the Upanishads to specify the parts/states/the
entire created world as coming from/originating from the Supreme and denying
them/apavAda while teaching the realization part.
10. The creation, sustenance and dissolution of parts or the whole universe, is
shown always in association with the Supreme Consciousness Principle, where the
created, etc. is insentient.
11. There is a depended upon and a dependent relationship between the
Consciousness and the created.
12. While the depended upon, is svatantra, the dependent is paratantra.
13. Just as the clay products cannot /do not originate, exist and dissolve
independent of clay, the paratantra cannot originate, exist and dissolve without
the svatantra as its basis.
14. The ONLY example for such a situation is the rope-snake. The superimposed
snake cannot originate without the rope being there a priori. It cannot exist,
as long as the error, bhrama, persists, without the rope being there. Of,
course, for this snake to go away, disappear, the rope knowledge/support is
essential. We can’t say, at any point of time, that two objects exist here: the
rope and the snake. At all points of time, only one object can be counted and
that is the rope. The snake cannot be counted as a second entity at any point
15. Thus, it is quite logical for the Upanishad to adopt the method of adhyAropa
and apavAda since what is superimposed and negated is after all the
insubstantial; the only substance being the Atman. The goal of the Upanishads is
not to enable us realize the created universe but only to help us realize the
Creator Principle. No Upanishad teaches that there is freedom from samsara by
knowing the created universe. In fact the kshetram, the knowable, is taught to
be differentiated from the Kshetrajna, the Knower, so that the kShetrajna is
realized for mokSha.
// A king had 17 elephants. Then the king died. He had three sons. According to
his will, the first son was entitled to one-half of the number of elephants, the
second to one-third, and the third to one-ninth. The size of the share couldn’t
be changed. As 17 is an odd number, and difficult to share among the three, they
were unable to find a solution to the challenge. Fortunately for them, a wise
man was passing through their country. He was an old friend of their father’s as
well. The young men described their predicament and asked for his help. The wise
man asked them not to worry and set about solving the problem immediately.
He added his elephant to the 17 elephants; they were now 18. He separated 9
elephants or one-half of 18, and gave them to the first son. The second son was
given six elephants or one-third of 18. Lastly, the third son was given two
elephants, two being one ninth of 18. The total number of elephants given away
was 17 (9+6+2). The eighteenth elephant left was that of the wise man who took
his elephant back and left, with everybody happy and satisfied. The last
elephant is like maya: it came to solve a problem, and having solved it, it
removes itself from the scene, leaving no trace of its previous presence.//
That is the purpose/method of the adhyAropa – apavAda in Vedanta.
Pl. also read this blog post:
Om Tat Sat