Many are in a quandary regarding the reality of the world. Regarding this dilemma, allow me to draw a comparison. With the Christian bible, orthodox followers believe virtually every word to be the direct utterance of "God the Father". They are not open to the fact that, over the centuries, passages were removed as well as inserted by the lineage of popes. Sir Francis Bacon in fact did the major part of rewriting it for esoteric purposes, since the masses were not ready for certain concepts such as reincarnation, or that Jesus was in fact married to Mary Magdalene, as stated in the Gospel of Thomas (which was discovered buried near the sphinx in 1959 in a collection of gospels known as the "Naj Hammadi library"). Nor were they ready to hear that he made a pilgrimage through places like Tibet, Nepal and India to learn from various yoga masters (as the Buddhist Pali canon reveals, concurrent with the "lost 18 years"). They speak of a seeker/shiShya whom they saw as exceptionally gentle and humble and referred to as "Saint Issa").
So I believe this could be possible with the words of Shankara, whose immediate guru was, as we know, Govindapada, whose guru in turn was Gaudapada, and the transmission was in effect once removed. However, this is only part of it and, I'd say, the insignificant part.
To me, in regard to apprehending the nature of parabrahman, the idea of saying it is nirguNa is itself putting a definition on it, by denying that it could as well be with guNas, as well as classically thought of as beyond guNas. This is why in my heart I can only settle on anirvachanIya as approaching its essential satyam. Thus, parabrahmam is a mystery!
I could be wrong in all I'm saying but I will urge all to seek within for the answerless answer. Consider, thus, if "nirguNa" is yet a vRRitti, a concept.
Here's another quote from Sri Ramana, from ‘Day By Day With Bhagavan’, 2nd reprint 1977, p164:
"It is not at all correct to say that advaitins or Shankara deny the existence of the world or that they call it unreal. On the other hand, it is more real to them than to others. Their world will always exist, whereas to others the world will have origin, growth and decay, and as such cannot be real. All is Brahman, nothing exists but Brahman, and the world as Brahman is real."
The quote is a long one and needs to be studied to achieve good clarity. The gist of what guru Ramana goes on to say is that because Shankara is referred to as a "mAyAvAdin" doesn't mean he teaches that mAyA is mithya. Quite the contrary, he is a supporter of the phenomenon of mAyA! MAyA, according to Shankara, is equally anirvachanIya as well as nir-Adi and nir-anta (without beginning or end).
Above all - and this is monumentally important - we can find (I daresay, if we can be uncompromisingly honest with ourselves) many apparent yet blatant contradictions in the teachings of not only Shankara, but Ramana, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, etc. etc. .... simply because they are not only speaking to different people on different levels of comprehension and soul development, but more importantly because the essence of Reality (Brahman) is inscrutable and ineffable ... an eternal insoluble Mystery, wherein the relative mind never was, nor will it ever be invited! and we as brahman Itself wouldn't want it any other way. Why not? The solution of the Mystery would spell the existential death of Love, Beauty, and Truth Itself. Truly (as the theosophists say) the Mind is the slayer of the Real!
Also consider this: Bhagavan Ramana was BOTH compassionate and dispassionate. As one inmate of Sri Ramanashramam had whispered to his friend, "you could fall right in front of [him] and break your skull and he wouldn't even blink an eye." and yet on another occasion, a mother knelt before Ramana with her dying son in her arms and Ramana was not only visibly moved, but had tears in his eyes.
So, we can say what we want philosophically, but we have the fortune of having literally hundreds of firsthand accounts of the living demeanour of a paramagurudev in modern times, which speak volumes if we would simply read these accounts!
OM namo bhagavate sri vasudevaya!
OM OM OM svaha!
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