In the Chandogya upanishad bhashyam for the mantra 6.2.2 there is a brief discussion on the refutation of the bauddha thought. As a part of this discussion Shankara says:
//atha samvRttyA abhyupagatam bIjasamsthAnarUpam upamRdyate iti chEt. kEyam samvRtir-nAma? kim asau abhAvah uta bhAvaH? iti. yadi abhAvaH, dRShTAntAbhAvaH. atha bhAvaH, tathApi na abhAvAt ankurotpattiH, bIjAvayavebhyo hi ankurotpattiH.//
The translation as given by Swami Gambhirananda for the above is:
//Objection: Again, if it is said that the configuration in the form of the seed accepted in popular usage (samvRttyA) gets destroyed? Reply: What is this thing that is called popular usage? Is that existence or non-existence? If it is non-existence, no illustration can be cited (in support). If, on the contrary, it is existence, even then the sprout does not come out of non-existence (as held by the buddhist). For the sprout is born from the constituents of the seed.//
In the gloss, Anandagiri says for the word ‘samvRti’ of the bhashyam: ‘tattvam yayA saMvRiyatE AcChAdyatE sA samvRtiH – laukikI buddhiH. sA chEt bhAvarUpA iShTA tayA bIjAvayavAnAm ankurAkArapariNAma-siddhEH dRShTAnta asiddhiH ityarthaH.
[‘samvRti’ is that concealment of the truth which is otherwise known as vyAvahAra buddhi (translated by Sw.G as ‘popular usage.’ ) If this concealment is admitted to be bhAvarUpa, of an existent type, then there will be no analogy to offer (by the bauddha) since it is well known that it is the constituent parts of the seed that get transformed into the sprout (and not some existent (or non-existent) samvRtiH, concealment/AvaraNa.]
This word ‘samvRtiH’ is used in the GaudapAda kArikA 4.57 too:
samvRtyA jAyatE sarvam shAshvatam nAsti tena vai….
[57 The entire universe is created by false knowledge; therefore nothing in it is eternal. Everything, again, as one with Ultimate Reality, is unborn; therefore there is no such thing as destruction.]
Shankara says for that word ‘samvRtyA’ – samvRtyA = saMvaraNam saMvRtiH avidyAviShayaH laukiko vyavahAraH tayA samvRttyA jAyate sarvam….
[everything is produced by concealment (note: Anandagiri’s above-stated word ‘AvaraNam’) consisting in the empirical outlook within the domain of ignorance…. Sw.G] For this bhashya too Anandagiri says: avidyayA sarvasya jAyamAnatvE sati avidyAviShayE nityam nAma nAstyEva…[since everything is born of ignorance, there is nothing that can be called eternal…]
In the bhashyam to the G.kArikA 4.92 Shankara uses this word again: jnEyatA api dharmANAm samvRtyA eva, na paramArthataH… [As for the souls being objects of cognition, that, too, is merely from empirical experience but not in Reality. Sw.G.]
In the adhyAsabhAShya, at the beginning, we encounter these words:
…mithyAjnAnanimittaH …naisargiko’yam lokavyavahAraH.
In the Taittiriya bhAShyam for the mantra ‘satyam cha anRtam cha satyam abhavat’ where the Upanishad teaches the three types of sattA, Shankara comments for the first word ‘satyam’ = vyavahAra-viShayam and for the second satyam word: paramArtha satyam.
From the above we conclude:
- The word ‘samvRtiH’ is used by GaudapAda and Shankara in the context of Vedanta and not necessarily in the bauddha-context.
- It means: avidyA/AvaraNam as per Shankara
- It also means, by extension, the vyavahArika dRShTi based on ignorance of the pAramArthika
- For Shankara this samvRtiH/avidyA/AvaraNam/vyAvahArika is ‘satyam’ (as per Tai.bhashya) and ‘bhAva’ (rUpa) as per chAndogya bhashyam.
- And the usage in all places, in the chandogya as well as in the G.K.bhashya is unmistakably as the upAdAna kAraNam for the world. This is known from the seed-sprout example Shankara takes for the refutation of the bauddha view. The seed constituents are the ones that transform into the sprout. Hence it is the upAdAna kAraNam. Shankara is considering the possibility of the samvRti (ignorance/AvaraNam/avidyA) being a bhAva or abhAva vastu (for the emergence of the sprout as per the bauddha, and by final implication the entire world – for he holds abhAva (non-existence) is the source of the world). In the vedanta siddhAnta, however, the sat, which is bhAva, is the upAdAna kAraNam for the jagat. Thus, the discussion here is the bhAvarUpa kAraNam (samvRti, avidyA) as the upAdAna kAraNam for the jagat.
- In Advaita, Sat/brahman is the vivartopAdAna kAraNam for the jagat and avidyA/ajnAnam/mAyA/prakRti is the pariNAmyupAdAnam. Brahman is niShkriya/nirvikArI being ekam and cannot be held to ‘transfrom’ into the jagat; It can only appear as the jagat. prakRti, however, being made of sattva, rajas and tamas, is the one which transforms into the jagat.
- The vyAvahArika is a certain ‘satyam’ for Shankara, as distinguished from the paramArthika satyam.
- Since samvRti is called laukika vyAvahAra by shankara, and also bhAvarUpa, it is also ‘satyam’, though of the vyavaharika type.
- Hence, the avidyA/samvRti/vyavahAra is said to be bhAvarUpa, not on par with pAramArthika.
- This is the meaning of bhAvarUpa upAdAna kAraNam that is avidyA/samvRti.