Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 30

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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Go to Part 29

I - Satyaà jïänamanantaà brahma (continued)

The word satyam is a commonly used word with the meaning of “the real” and is taken to mean anything that exists and is available for transactions. This direct meaning of the word does not distinguish it from everything else. So, even when we hear “satyaà brahma”, we may think that it is some object that exists. Since we do not see Brahman, this word would lead us to think that Brahman would exist at a certain place and time, and that it would be limited like other objects. This is the commonly understood direct meaning of the word and it is called as väcyärtha [207]. But satyam, as used here, cannot have that direct meaning, as the word anantam, which is also used in respect of Brahman means limitless. So, the direct meaning of the word cannot indicate Brahman.


When the direct meaning of the word does not fit in, we have to go in for its indirectly expressed meaning or lakñyärtha. As for its lakñyärtha, everything has two aspects:

• it has existence (sattä); and

• it has a particular name and form (näma and rüpa).

When we say, “wood”, the word not only communicates the name and form (attributes) of the wood but also its existence. While name and form are limited, existence is not limited as, regardless of the changes in name and form, existence continues unchanged. For example, when “wood” undergoes different changes, it would be known as: “plank”, “furniture”, “wood pieces”, “shaving”, “saw dust” or “ash”. But existence, which is conveyed by these different words, is constant. Shifting our vision from particular objects to everything, we cannot conceive of any particular location at any time where existence is not there. So, existence has no limitation of space or time. All these mean that satyam has to be understood through its lakñyärtha as existence without any limitation or as sat [208]. This word is therefore for understanding that Brahman is real for the reason that Brahman, which is existence, is there everywhere, at all times. It cannot be negated anywhere at anytime.


Jïänam means awareness, consciousness or knowledge. Knowledge is generally associated with an object; for, when we hear this word, immediately we ask, “The knowledge of what?” Knowledge is born of consciousness illumining a våtti or thought modification in the mind. Våtti relating to the object is only as big as the object. Its time span is also limited since it disappears after appearing. So, jïäna-våtti is not anantam or limitless. The direct meaning of this word will not therefore indicate Brahman. We are now obliged to adopt its lakñyärtha. Like satyam, jïänam has two aspects consisting of

• name and form (näma-rüpa), which is the jïäna-våtti; and

• consciousness or cit, which makes it known.

Thoughts come and go; but consciousness is always there. Even when there are no thoughts as during deep sleep, consciousness is there since we know that we enjoyed our sleep. Thus, while the våtti aspect of jïänam is limited both in content and time, the cit aspect of jïänam is limitless. So, the lakñyärtha of jïänam is the cit aspect of jïänam, which is the limitless, undifferentiated consciousness and it has to be taken as the meaning.


As regards the word anantam, besides indicating the meaning of limitless in terms of all factors that cause limitation, namely, time (käla), space (deça) and entity (vastu), it ensures that both satyam and jïänam are not misunderstood.


It would be noted that these words do not define Brahman through their direct meaning but indicate Brahman through their lakñyärta or their intended meaning. This is because positive expressions, being limited in content, cannot refer to limitless Brahman through their direct meaning. Only what Brahman is not can be exactly stated. All positive expressions with reference to Brahman, which necessarily have only their intended meaning, have their exact direct negative meaning. Being sat excludes all ideas of non-being; being cit or jïänam excludes all ideas of non-intelligence and insentience; being anantam excludes all ideas of incompleteness.


II - Existence (sat) with reference to the body-mind-sense-complex


We had seen the position of consciousness, which is the self, with reference to its presence in the body-mind-complex earlier. We may now do so in respect of existence (sat) with reference to the body-mind-complex and the objects of the world. Since existence (sat) is consciousness (cit), it is the same as it is for consciousness and is set out below:

•Existence (sat), which is consciousness (cit) and which is the self (ätmä), is not a part, property or product of the body-mind-sense-complex or of any object, since

• Existence is an independent and all-pervading entity, which lends existence to the body-mind-sense-complex and objects.

• So, the manifesting mediums of existence, which are the body-mind-complex and objects, do not limit the presence of existence to them; it is present both in them and outside them in the unmanifest condition.

• Existence is not affected in any way by the presence, absence or change of the manifesting mediums; and

• Existence, being limitless, is present always and everywhere; but it is not recognizable as existence wherever the manifesting medium is not available.


207. The method of communication through direct meaning is called abhidhä-våttiù.
208. There are three methods of arriving at the lakñyärtha; these are discussed in Chapter 16. The method used here is dropping, on valid grounds, of the incompatible part of the meaning.

Go to Part 31


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