Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 38

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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III - The cause produces only name, form and function

The question that arises out of this discussion is as to what the cause produces, when the effect is pre-existing in it. When the pot is made, what exactly is it that comes into being. The clay, which has been a lump, is now in a different form. The clay in the new form can be now put to particular uses. Since it has a specific form and particular uses, this clay now gets a new name, namely, the pot, for identifying it during the daily transactions. The effect that the cause brings about is production of name, form and function. Kärya is näma, rüpa and karma. When the clay is shaped into different forms with different uses, the same clay gets different names. Even so, many names, forms and functions do not mean many substances since all of them are made only of clay. When we say pot, there is no independent substance called the pot but only clay from which the pot is made.


Causation does not bring about any change in clay as a substance. In the following conversation, clay enlightens the pot-maker on this point: 


Pot-maker to clay:  See what I have done!  You were earlier a lump of clay; I have now converted you into a shapely pot.


Clay:  What do you mean?  I have not become anything different. I continue to be the same clay as before.


Pot-maker:  How is it that you miss very evident things? Earlier you were a lump.  Now you are shapely. Earlier you had no particular use. Now you can be used for carrying water and for a variety of other jobs. Earlier you were called clay. Now you are called a pot. Are these not changes?


Clay:  I do not understand you. With shape or without shape, I am only clay. With use or without use, I am only clay. I may be called a pot or anything else; but I continue to be only clay. Now tell me what change has taken place to me as clay? I have undergone no change at all!


      The pot-maker had no answer to give to clay!


The word “pot” sits on the tongue only and does not cover any substance. Chändogya Upaniñad says:  Pot is only a name dependent on speech. The product is merely a verbal distinction. In reality, only clay exists. [259]


We have only words and their meaning. We think that there are tangible objects for which we have the words. But, these are just words and their meanings. The word, “pot” has its meaning which we understand and we can communicate it to others. This is vyavahära or transaction. But, we consider that the object that we perceive is the meaning of the word. But our notion does not give the pot, for example, that kind of tangibility. This is because “pot” has no being, as the is-ness of the pot belongs to clay. The capacity to go beyond the pot and see clay without doing anything to the pot or the clay is Vedänta. The pot continues to be pot and clay continues to be clay. But, our understanding of them becomes different. 


IV - What exists is the clay and not the pot


The reality that underlies all changes of forms is the substance itself. Change of form does not produce any change in substance. Every time we see the pot, the substance that we see is nothing but clay. When the substance remains the same in all forms and the change does not affect the substance, the change into forms cannot be considered as change, as far as the substance is concerned. So, from the angle of the substance, the change is not considered as real. For example, Devadatta, sitting, standing or lying is considered to be the one and the same person. In the case of the clay and the pot, we, however, tend to think of the pot not as an apparent change of the clay but consider the pot as a new substance and call it a clay pot. If we hold it in our hand and ask someone as to what it is, we would invariably get the answer that it is a pot. However, when we touch the pot, we are only touching clay. When we see the color of the pot, we are seeing only the color of clay. When we feel the texture of the pot, we are feeling the texture of only clay. The weight of the pot is only the weight of clay. However, we regard the substance 'clay' as a substance 'pot'. We can use the two words, pot and clay for the same thing only when both words mean the same thing. The clay must be the pot and the pot must be the clay. To arrive at this conclusion, pot must pass the anvaya-vyatireka test. Applying this test, we find that whenever the pot is present, clay is also present. Therefore, there is anvaya or invariable co-existence. However, whenever the pot is not present, clay can be present as a lump or as many other objects made of clay like the lid, bowl, and lamp. So, there is no vyatireka or invariable co-absence. Since the pot and the clay have not stood the test, they cannot be equated and used as synonyms.


Again, when we say ‘clay pot’, pot becomes the substantial noun and clay as the attribute of pot becomes an adjective. Nevertheless, in reality, clay is the substance and pot is the attribute, which is a particular form and usage of clay. Therefore, clay has to be the noun and pot has to be the adjective. The right expression would therefore be ‘potty clay’ and not ‘clay pot’. The grammatical error in the expression ‘clay pot’ arises out of the error in understanding. We confer substantiality on pot that does not have any substantiality being only a name, form and function of clay and deny substantiality to clay, which is the actual substance. When we say, “pot is”, the is-ness or existence belongs to clay and not to the pot. The is-ness of the pot is entirely borrowed from clay. Overlooking this fact is the basic error.

259. Vacärambhaëaà vikaro nämadheyam | Måttikä-iti-eva satyam | (Chändogya Upaniñad, 6.1.4.).

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