Posted by: adbhutam | October 19, 2014


Adhyāsa and an example thereof

Shankaracharya has defined what adhyāsa is in the preamble to the Brahmasūtra bhāṣyam, both in an elaborate manner and also in a succinct way. The latter is cited here for it is more easily grasped by most people than the first one which involves greater effort. The second occurrence is: अध्यासो नाम अतस्मिन्स्तद्बुद्धिरित्यवोचाम [ ‘We have said that adhyāsa (superimposition/error) is the cognition of something as some other thing.’ In the same document Shankara has also summarized the various views on adhyāsa pointing to a common feature among all those views: सर्वथापि तु अन्यस्यान्यधर्मावभासतां न व्यभिचरति । तथा च लोकेऽनुभवः — शुक्तिका हि रजतवदवभासते, एकश्चन्द्रः सद्वितीयवदिति ॥ [‘From every point of view, however, there is no difference as regards the appearance of one thing as something else. And in accord with this, we find in common experience that the nacre appears as silver, and a single moon appears as two.’]

One comes across a fine example that demonstrates what adhyāsa is in the following page:

Dvaita-Advaita QA

The following is a part of the above page:


// Q: #2 Prayatna is of no use, because it depends on the Lord who is sarva-prEraka.

KT: Prayatna is always of use and it must always be done. Note that if your swarupa-yOgyata compels you to do prayatna, you will be compelled to do so. Isn’t it? The sarva preraka Lord will do preraNa as per one’s swarupa-yOgyata and engages one to do prayatna.

In fact, Prayatna is of no use in case of Advaita -where jIva is God and so where is the need for Prayatna? If Advaita claims that Prayatna is to make the jIva realize that he is God, then it is biting its own tail. If jIva is omniscient God, then he must know that even without any prayatna. If not, he is no omniscient God.

Q: #3 There’s no way of knowing one’s swaruupa, so the jiiva could become confused about its saadhana.

KT: Firstly, what is the correlation between “knowing one’s swaruupa” and “the jiiva could become confused about its saadhana”?

Secondly, there is a way of knowing one’s swarUpa. That is what is aparoxa j~nAna. One must strive for that. There is at least some evidence for that and it is not hard to conceive that. What is impossible and what does not have evidence is “an ordinary soul becoming into God”. Even Sankaracharya has not achieved this even as per Advaitis.

The amount of confusion of a jIva is dependent on the yogyata of jIva.

In case of Advaita, there’s no way of knowing one’s swaruupa. In Advaita, knowing one’s swarUpa is realizing that one is God. This is most ridiculous because this entails that “there are so many Gods floating around, who did not realize that they are God.”

God always knew that He is God and specific to our context, when He incarnated on earth, He knew that He is God. No ordinary jIva, no matter what he does, can ever become God. So, Advaita is an untenable position.

Q: #4 No incentive for action, because swaruupa determines the outcome, so if you’re saatvik, you’re going to be liberated, so why break your head over this?

KT: Because that is your swaruupa. Can you go against your swaruupa? If you think you can, then that is not your swaruupa. If it is your swaruupa, then you can’t go against it.

Otoh, in case of Advaita, there is no incentive for action. If you are God, nothing can change the outcome, so why break your head over this? If you are not God, then you are no Advaitin. What is worse is that in case of Advaita, even the most despicable jIva is non-different from God. //


The ‘repḷies’ by the blogger form a fine example of adhyāsa. From the replies it is evident that what is not Shāṅkara Advaita is wrongly seen/understood to be so.

Here are parts of the ‘replies’ (quoted between // – //) and rebuttals to them by citing / stating what Advaita taught by Shankara through the bhāṣya-s :

// In fact, Prayatna is of no use in case of Advaita -where jIva is God and so where is the need for Prayatna? If Advaita claims that Prayatna is to make the jIva realize that he is God, then it is biting its own tail. If jIva is omniscient God, then he must know that even without any prayatna. If not, he is no omniscient God. //

The fact is Shānkaran Advaita never claims ‘Jiva is God’. The word ‘God’ is a little misleading here for it may usually mean the Omniscient, etc. Lord or by some stretch, the Nirguṇa Brahman. But by the emphasis found in the ‘reply’ the word ‘God’ is taken as the Omniscient Lord alone. Why does Advaita not propose to equate the jīva with the Omniscient God? The reply is: In Advaita, both the entities jiva and God (Iśwara) are in truth the Pure Consciousness, nirupādhika chaitanyam, appearing as sopādhika ones, that is, they are endowed with upādhis. The jiva is endowed with the pancha koshas (annamaya, etc. which Advaita holds as anātman) as upādhis and God/Ishwara is endowed with sarvajñatva, sarvaśaktitva, etc. upādhis, going by the translated words ‘Omniscience, Omnipotence, etc.’ In Advaita these are all adjuncts superimposed on the Nirguṇa Brahman which is ever free of any upādhis. Thus, there will be no use, and also not possible, to unite or identify or equate the jiva with Ishwara.

Says Shankara in the BSB 2.1.14:

// तदेवमविद्यात्मकोपाधिपरिच्छेदापेक्षमेवेश्वरस्येश्वरत्वं सर्वज्ञत्वं सर्वशक्तित्वं च, न परमार्थतो विद्यया अपास्तसर्वोपाधिस्वरूपे आत्मनि ईशित्रीशितव्यसर्वज्ञत्वादिव्यवहार उपपद्यते ; तथा चोक्तम् — ‘यत्र नान्यत्पश्यति नान्यच्छृणोति नान्यद्विजानाति स भूमा’ (छा. उ. ७-२४-१) इति ; ‘यत्र त्वस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत्तत्केन कं पश्येत्’ (बृ. उ. ४-५-१५) इत्यादि च..//

[Iśwara’s Lordship, Omniscience and Omnipotence are caused by limitations born of upādhis which have ignorance for their root. They do not subsist in the absolute sense when Atman is realized to be free of all upādhis (limiting adjuncts) through right knowledge, vidyā when the vyavahāra involving omniscience, omnipotence do not remain. Hence is stated by the Chāndogya upaniṣad 7.24.1: When one does not see another, hear another, knows another, that state is Infinite, bhūmā. And the Br.up. 4.5.15 says: when for one all has become the Self then with what does he see what? Etc.]

Thus, according to Advaita, when the attributes such as Omniscience and Omnipotence are not absolutely real, there is no way the jīva is taught to be non-different from Iśwara. Another misconception of the blogger that ‘Ishwara has to know his true self through prayatna, effort’ is also not what Advaita teaches. Advaita holds Ishwara to be ever sarvajna and never bound requiring Him to put efforts to know Himself. In fact, in advaita, Ishwara is the one who graces the jiva with the Advaitic knowledge:

BSB 2.3.41:

// कर्माध्यक्षात्सर्वभूताधिवासात्साक्षिणश्चेतयितुरीश्वरात्तदनुज्ञया कर्तृत्वभोक्तृत्वलक्षणस्य संसारस्य सिद्धिः ; तदनुग्रहहेतुकेनैव च विज्ञानेन मोक्षसिद्धिर्भवितुमर्हति । कुतः ? तच्छ्रुतेः ; यद्यपि दोषप्रयुक्तः सामग्रीसम्पन्नश्च जीवः, यद्यपि च लोके कृष्यादिषु कर्मसु नेश्वरकारणत्वं प्रसिद्धम्, तथापि सर्वास्वेव प्रवृत्तिष्वीश्वरो हेतुकर्तेति श्रुतेरवसीयते ; तथा हि श्रुतिर्भवति — ‘एष ह्येव साधु कर्म कारयति तं यमेभ्यो लोकेभ्य उन्निनीषते । एष ह्येवासाधु कर्म कारयति तं यमधो निनीषते’ (कौ. उ. ३-७) इति, ‘य आत्मनि तिष्ठन्नात्मानमन्तरो यमयति’ इति च एवंजातीयका ॥ ४१ ॥

[It is by His, Ishwara’s grace alone the vijñāna, realization, arises which results in liberation.]

The Advaitic realization of ‘I am Brahman’ is possible only when both the jiva and Ishwara are shorn of the upādhis and the unnegatable Pure Consciousness alone is recognized and realized as one’s true self. Evidently, the blogger has not understood this fact of Shānkaran Advaita and expresses that ignorance/confusion in the ‘reply’ cited above. No jiva, when in the state of bondage and in the state of liberation, claims he is Ishwara/God who is the Omniscient one. Hence, there is no situation where one is ‘biting his tail’ as envisaged by the blogger. Also there is no situation in Adviata where ‘”there are so many Gods floating around, who did not realize that they are God.”’ for the reason stated above. In Advaita there is only one Ishwara for all the jiva-s who are subject to Him. The jiva-jiva, jiva-Iśwara bheda is admitted in Advaita too in vyāvahārika. “an ordinary soul becoming into God”. is also not an Advaitic position for the same reason given above. The blogger’s observation ‘Even Sankaracharya has not achieved this even as per Advaitis.’ needs a little clarification from the Advaitin:

Traditional advaitins hold Shankaracharya as Lord Shiva alone. So, there is no question of Shankaracharya ‘achieving’ Ishwarahood. The concluding verses of the Mādhavīya Shankara vijaya say:

At the end of Shiva’s role as the Acharya, His ascension to His abode is described thus:

इन्द्रोपेन्द्रप्रधानैः त्रिदशपरिवृढैः स्तूयमानः प्रसूनै-

र्दिव्यैरभ्यर्च्यमानः सरसिरुहभुवा दत्तहस्तावलम्बः ।

आरुह्योक्षाणमग्र्यं प्रकटितजटाजूटचन्द्रावतंसः

शृण्वन्नालोकशब्दं समुदितमृषिभिर्धाम नैजं व्रजस्थे ॥ (sarga 16, verse 107)

[Praised by Indira, Viṣṇu and other gods and worshipped with divine flowers, and led by Brahmā who was born in a lotus, taking His hand, that Yatīśwara wearing the crescent moon and the weight of the matted hair, taking His own divine form, ascending on the vṛṣabha, hearing the round of applause of the group of Munis arrived at His abode.]

Thus, there is no question of Shankaracharya attaining any new status. On another count, Shankaracharya, being brahmajnāni, is also Brahman itself.

Since the blogger is not aware of the correct position of Advaita regarding the Jiva, Ishwara, realization, etc. he has given expression to his confusion in those ‘replies’ which are meant to ‘clarify’ doubts raised by a sincere seeker!! As another example of this confusion and the resultant misrepresentation of Advaita by the blogger, here is another instance:

// Q: He says in this dream world, he is different from the Vishnu he’s worshipping. Which makes all people caught in bondage dvaitins. Out of bondage, there’s only oneness.

KT: In other word, the Advaitin claims that the jIva has at least some existence in samsAra and in Mukti, the jIva ceases to exist. In other words, the purpose of sAdhana is to achieve extinction! Mukti seems really scary!//

Alas! The confusion of the blogger has led him to conclude the extinction of the Advaitic jiva as the consequence of realization!! The Upaniṣad declares: ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति (’The knower of Brahman is Brahman alone’ – Munḍaka. 3.2.9) So, even going by the Upaniṣad, there is no extinction of the knower of Brahman. See what Shankaracharya says in the Brahmasutra bhashya as the mode, prakāra, of such realization:

सूत्र(भाष्यस्थवाक्यम् –

पूर्वसिद्धकर्तृत्वभोक्तृत्वविपरीतं हि त्रिष्वपि कालेषु अकर्तृत्वाभोक्तृत्वस्वरूपं ब्रह्माहमस्मि । न इत: पूर्वं कर्ता भोक्ता वा अहमासं, न इदानीं, नापि भविष्यत्काले इति ब्रह्मविदवगच्छति ।

[ Quite contrary to what had been previously regarded as agent and enjoyer, I am verily that Brahman, which, by nature, is neither agent nor enjoyer at all in all the three periods of time.  Even earlier I was never an agent or enjoyer, nor am I so at present; nor shall I be so in future – such is the realization of the knower of Brahman.]

So, where is the question of the Advaitic jīva becoming extinct upon realization of his Brahman-nature? The Lord says in the BG 2.16: na abhāvo vidyate sataḥ. The Existent Brahman never becomes non-existent. So, the jiva who has realized his true nature as Brahman never goes into extinction. What, however, goes into extinction, is his wrongly held jīvatva, samṣaritva bhāva.

In the BSB 3.2.4 सूचकश्च हि श्रुतेराचक्षते च तद्विदः ॥ ४ ॥ [This is a sutra in the svapnādhikaraṇa which says: the dream is an indicator as the shruti says so and the knowers say so.]   Shankara says:

इहापि ‘य एष सुप्तेषु जागर्ति’ (क. उ. २-२-८) इति प्रसिद्धानुवादाज्जीव एवायं कामानां निर्माता सङ्कीर्त्यते ; तस्य तु वाक्यशेषेण ‘तदेव शुक्रं तद्ब्रह्म’ इति जीवभावं व्यावर्त्य ब्रह्मभाव उपदिश्यते — ‘तत्त्वमसि’ (छा. उ. ६-९-४) इत्यादिवत् — इति न ब्रह्मप्रकरणं विरुध्यते ।

//Here too the shruti ‘he who is awake in deep sleep (kaṭhopaniṣad 2.2.8) by the alluding to the popular experience of the deep sleep state, declares that the jiva alone is the creator of the objects of desire in the dream and by the rest of that shruti passage ‘he is pure, he is brahman’ it (the shruti) teaches the Brahman-nature of the jiva after negating his jiva nature, just as the Chandogya 6.9.4 teaches ‘Tat tvam asi’. Therefore the sutra (which is dealing with dream) does not restrict itself to the nature of the jiva, but it is non-contradicting with the context of Brahman too. //

Thus, in Advaita, there is no room for the extinction of the svarupa, which is Brahman, the Pure consciousness, of the jiva; there is an end, however, to the erroneously held jivabhāva alone. It is akin to Karna’s wrongly held notion of ‘Rādheya’ (son of Rādha) coming to an end when he realized that he is indeed Kaunteya, Kunti’s son upon being informed/instructed/revealed by the Lord. Karna himself does not come to an end, only his wrong identity vanishes.

This is only a sample to show that the blogger’s fundamental misconception of advaitic concepts reflects in all his ‘replies’. The same is the case with all the Acharyas of the non-advaitic schools who raised objections against Advaita, only based on their wrong understanding of Advaita. If Advaita is correctly understood, none will have anything to object. One may not accept Advaita as the path suited for oneself, but going about misrepresenting Advaita and misleading the questioners and unwary readers of their blogs is what is unfortunate.

It is enough to show just one or two instances to prove that the entire QA document is flawed.

The document has a fine example in it for the idea of adhyāsa: mistaking Shankaran Advaita to mean so many things that it is really not.

The above article is available for download here:āsa_and_an_example_thereof.docx










  1. The great confusion of words. The most abused is the word “god”.

    Very nicely explained. Keep up the good work sir…

  2. Dear sir, it has been an honour to read your blogs, which dispels the evil affect of the author(s) of Narayanastra BlogSpot. Great explanation of Advaita Vedanta, each word pregnant with truth. At the end, I would like to know if you are interested in having a discussion on the Kali Kula Shaktism of East India, as I am an adept initiated in it. Jai Ma.

    • Dear Ma,

      This particular blog is addressed to some misconceptions about Advaita by another blog maintained by a dvaitin: Dvaita-Advaita QA

      Since I have not studied the school of which you mention, I will not be able to join any discussion there.


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