Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

adhyAropa - apavAda
(Method of Deliberate Superimposition and Negation)
V. Subrahmanian

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(Posted to the Advaitin Egroup May 2006.)

Srigurubhyo NamaH

In the Vedanta, even though the Supreme Purport is in Advaita, we do encounter passages declaring creation implying the duality of a created world (and jIva-s) and the Creator Brahman. This suggests a cause-effect relationship between Brahman and the world. One can appreciate this seeming contradiction, that is, the declaration of Advaita on the one hand and the presence of creation passages on the other, by understanding the principle of adhyAropa - apavAda or the Method of Deliberate Superimposition and Negation.

The source of this idea is the explanation of the principle by Swami Paramarthananda in the course of his mANDUkya kArikA discourse.

The example of a pot is considered for the purpose of understanding the principle. I have a 'pot' vision. The teacher wants to change this vision of mine as he wants me to have the correct vision, that of the clay. This is accomplished in FOUR stages:

Stage 1. The pot is presented as the effect of clay.
Stage 2. Clay is presented as the cause of the pot.
Stage 3. Now, the teacher asks me to find out if I can see the pot without the clay. I look at the pot on all sides and conclude that everywhere it is clay alone. It is not available as different from clay, its cause. The conclusion: the effect is non-different from the cause.
Stage 4. This much is not enough, for the concept of cause and effect does exist. Now the teacher states that since it was concluded that the effect does not exist apart from the cause, it would be correct to hold that the cause alone really exists. But this still limits the cause as a cause. The vision born of wisdom is: There is no longer any need to call the clay as the cause. As clay alone matters in that wise vision, it would be appropriate to divest the clay of its status of a cause. Thus, divested of this status, clay remains as the one that transcends the cause-effect duality.

The first two stages are the 'adhyAropa' stages where the 'effect'- hood of the pot and the 'cause'-hood of the clay were superimposed deliberately. This is done in order to afford the foundation for finally negating them and driving home the non-dual nature.

The latter two stages constitute the 'apavAda' stages where the supposed effect-hood of the pot is negated and even its substantiality is shown to be only in the clay. The pot is shown to be insubstantial as apart from its substance, the clay. Next, and finally, even the causehood of the clay is negated, for when the effect-hood is admitted to be of no consequence, to accord the cause- status to the clay is meaningless. The clay can exist without that definition as the cause.

The creation passages of the shruti are there to show that the universe has to be admitted as the effect of a superior principle, Brahman. And Brahman is to be known as the cause of the entire universe and looked upon as such. This stage is essential in the teaching methodology to draw the attention of a totally ignorant person and fix his attention on this relationship. This is essential to prepare the ground, in other words, the cultivating of the mental make up of the aspirant by applying suitable sAdhana-s of karma yoga and upAsana, meditation of the Supreme with attributes. The concept of Ishvara is upheld and the aspirant is taught to relate himself to Ishvara. A deliberate cultivation of duality is taken up here. So far is the method of 'adhyAropa', deliberate superimposition by the Veda. Once this is achieved, the teaching now takes on a different phase. The stage is set for the Advaita Upadesha. The shruti passages appropriately show that the world is non different from Brahman (Vacharambhana shruti of the Chandogya, for example). This step culminates in the appreciating of the Absolute Advaitic nature of Brahman, shAntam, shivam, Advaitam, as the turIya is taught in the mANDUkyopaniShad. This is the 'apavAda' or the negation of what was superimposed deliberately earlier.

Once this is also done, the shruti having accomplished its Supreme Purpose of enlightening the jIva, goes into 'silent mode'. There is no more anything to instruct. There is no more anything for such a realised soul to know. So he too goes into 'silent mode'. He has attained to a state of a 'non persona'.

The avowed objective of all the Upanishads is to uproot all the concoctions that we have entertained in us regarding so many things. Creation and cause-effect are just two of them. When the final picture is seen or at least understood, then no question will arise about the correctness or otherwise, of holding Brahman as the material cause; it will then be understood that the Upanishads actually teach that Brahman is not at all a cause, as transcending the cause-effect realm. The turIya is taught as the pAda-traya [three states of counsciousness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep] vilakShaNa [causeless state], as asparsha [intangible, touchless]. It is not touched by the cause-effect realm at all.

But in the beginning it is essential to teach that the turIya pervades the three pAda-s. The AchArya says that if this is not shown this way, there will be no way that the aspirant can identify, locate, the turIya. But once the identifying, locating, is successfully done, there is no need any longer to hold on to the earlier teaching. Swami Paramarthananda uses the example of the parable of the seventeen elephants. Three heirs to a large estate were faced with the problem of dividing seventeen elephants among themselves in the willed proportion: half to the first brother, one-third to the second and one-ninth to the third. Seeing their predicament, a wise person 'offered' to donate his elephant to the lot of seventeen and accomplished the task thus: The first man got nine elephants, the second got six and the third got two. Having distributed the seventeen elephants of the estate thus, the wise man walked away with his own elephant. The Swami says that the shruti first introduces creation, causehood of Brahman, etc and ultimately withdraws the concept of creation, etc.

Om Tat Sat

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