Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

bAdha - part 3

Definition - Dr. K. Sadananda

Here are some simple rules on bAdha - negation or sublation.

1. That which is real cannot be negated - In fact we use this as a definition of ‘real’: ‘that which can never be negated (at any time) is real’.

2. That which is unreal need not be negated – e.g. the son of a barren woman. There is no need to negate those things that have no existence or locus of existence at any time.

3. Only that which appears to be real but is not really real can be negated. What we are negating is our assumption of reality to the transients - all the so-called human suffering arises due to our giving importance to the transient dualities – e.g. heat and cold at the body level, pleasure and pain at the mind level and pride and insult at the intellect level, since they are all transients and do not have any existence in say deep-sleep state. Hence Krishna says that forbearance is required by recognizing their transient nature and by understanding that which is changeless in the transients.

Many philosophers only subscribe to the first and the second aspects and not to the third. Yet, many of them do recognize that their 'real' can be of two types - that which is changeless and that which changes. They may not make distinction between the two, even though the distinction is obvious. These changeless and changing entities, Advaita Vedanta calls pAramArthika and vyAvahArika satyam, respectively.

Advaita subscribes to the third aspect also as apparently real but really not real.

Any change is a transformation and there is a rule of transformation that there is a matter/energy balance during the transformation which is conserved. The conserved one is the substantive that remains the same during the transformation and therefore does not undergo transformation. 'bAdha' therefore involves 'transformation' and that which never undergoes any transformation has to be infinite and is therefore always 'real'. The absolutely infinite can only be one - that is Brahman.

Krishna emphasizes this law of conservation in a cryptic form (B.G. II-16) in the famous statement:

nAsato vidyate bhAvo nAbhAvo vidyate sataH - that which non-existent cannot come into existence and that which exists cannot cease to exist.

He applies this law to the existence of the jIvAtma-s in the beginning of his teaching:

na tve vAham … there was never a time I was not there, nor you, nor these kings in front of us… etc.

Creation therefore involves a transformation of something that is already there which never ceases to exist.

We now introduce a few additional rules to our list.

4. Only the finite can undergo transformation. Transformation involves change or bAdha, and change can be recognized only from the point of a changeless reference. From this it follows that:

5. Brahman cannot undergo transformation since by definition Brahman is infinite. Hence Brahman can be the absolute reference from which all changes can be recognized. The last statement is 'tongue in cheek' since, Brahman being infinite, there cannot be 'anything' other than Brahman. Therefore, all transformations, including the reactants and products of transformations, have to be in Brahman. But there is nothing in Brahman other than Brahman. If there appears to be, it is only seemingly present and that which is seemingly present can be negated or it is bAdhitam - seemingly present but not really present.

6. Hence all transformations in Brahman are only apparent transformations and not real since no real transformation can occur in Brahman or for Brahman. There is only name and form but no real substance to transform reactants and products other than Brahman which never undergoes any transformation. Therefore recognition of their apparent nature is the 'bAdha' or sublation that is required by those who think the names and forms are real and suffer as a consequence of that misunderstanding.

Now we take this to the another extreme case.

Any transformation can be recognized only by a conscious entity who himself does not undergo any transformation - One who knows past (before transformation) and future (after transformation) but himself remains as witness of the transformation, without undergoing any transformation - is the subject I. Hence 'I' cannot undergo any transformation since if 'I' undergoes transformation, I need another subject which does not undergo transformation to recognize this transformation of 'I'. The subject 'I' can never become an object for transformation! Hence I can never be bAdhita vastu. I am a conscious-existent entity, similar to Brahman who is also satyam-j~nAnam and anantam, as per the scriptures. I cannot undergo transformation and neither Brahman can undergo transformation. Hence the scripture declares that I am that Brahman - aham brahmAsmi.

Hence, the ultimate 'bAdha' or sublation is the negation of my notion of what I am - by negating what I am not. I am the subject and not an object for any transformation; anything that transforms cannot be 'I'.

Now applying rules 1 to 3, I am the only one that is real and everything 'else' is only apparent and therefore negatable or sublatable. I am satyasya satyam - absolutely real; never negatable since I am the subject who subjects all objects to negation as I move from waking to dream to deep-sleep states.

This process of negation is nididhyAsana and has to be done constantly until I am fully established in myself as myself. In that understanding even the bAdha is itself sublated since there is nothing other than I. Abidance in that clear understanding is nididhyAsana.

Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012