Advaita Vedanta, Shastra

Shakti and Divisions of Brahman in Advaita Vedanta

Question: What is the concept of shakti in Advaita-vada?

Answer: Brahman has no shakti but Isvara has.

Question: From where does Isvara get his shakti? If Brahman, the cause, doesn’t have it, how can the effect have shakti? What is their explanation? Is is anirvacaniya (that which cannot be specifically described as real or as unreal)?

Answer: No, this is not anirvacaniya. They accept three realities, isvara, jiva and prakriti. Isvara exists at the vyavaharika (empirical) level and He is anadi (beginningless). So his shaktis are without a cause.

Question: Maya and vidya are two divisions of Brahman. Are they energies or some portion of Brahman?

Answer: Maya and avidya are two divisions of prakriti, not of Brahman

Question: Where does prakriti come from if it is all Brahman? Is some portion separated from Brahman? If Brahman is covered by avidya and vidya, that means prakriti exists simultenously? Then are there two main principles?

Answer: Prakriti is also anadi, jiva is anadi and isvara is anadi. But according to Advaita Vedanta they are only at the vyavahrika level. At the paramarthika (absolute) level only Brahman exists.



Question: I have noticed that in your posts you write that shastras are the only pramana. I do agree with it. Now my first question is, what is the definition of shastra that you refer to.

Answer: Shastra means Vedas and books based on the Vedas. The definition of shastra is that which gives you knowledge that cannot be attained by any other means. For example the existence of atma in a body is known from shastra.

Question: The 2nd question is what are all the titles in this category. As I understand, this includes all our Vedas, Puranas, and Upanishads. But what else? Please name the other categories.

Answer: Mahabharata and Ramayana, called Itihasa; Smrtis, such as Manu Smrti; and Agamas, such as Narada Pancaratra Agama.

Question: The 3rd and most important question is that I have noticed that you seldom quote Bengali Gaudiya texts like CB, CC, etc. As I understand from your CV, you know Bengali, so it is not a constraint for you, but maybe for others who do not know Bengali texts. Is that why you do not quite them? Or do these Bengali texts not come under the definition of shastra? Kindly clarify

Answer: Yes, you are right. I do not cite Bengali texts because they are not known to everyone.

Question: Now this is a bit different question from the above subject. In Sri Chaintanya Charitamrita, the supremacy of Shri Krishna is clearly and elaborately defined both in the beginning by Shri Kaviraj Krishnadas and then in Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Shri Sanatana Goswamipad. Is such lucid and elaborate description given earlier in any shastra (Sanskrit text)?

Answer: Yes, in Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma samhita, Mahabharata and some of the other Puranas. This is especially brought out by Jiva Gosvami in Krishna Sandarbha.




4 thoughts on “Advaita Vedanta, Shastra”

  1. what force make brahman to change from paramarthik to vyavaharik? or this is anirvachnia? or vyavaharik is just a perception like one sees snake in a rope?


  2. Dear Bābājī,

    Bhanu Swāmī’s translation of Viśvanātha Cakravarti’s comment on 4.9.16 reads like this: “Though appearing to have no śaktis, within the Brahman are always (aniśam) seen successively (ānupūrvyāt) various śaktis such as vidyā.”

    This seems an important statement, but I have doubts if it is translated correctly. Would you kindly comment?

    1. This is Babaji’s translation of this verse and his commentary, quoted from Bhagavat Sandarbha, Anu 13:

      Varieties of mutually conflicting energies, such as knowledge and ignorance, are constantly arising within Your Brahman aspect, each in its turn. I take shelter of this Brahman, the ground of the universal creation: one, infinite, original, consisting of bliss alone, and changeless. (sb 4.9.16)¹

      Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī now gives further evidence that Bhagavān has mutually opposing potencies. In this verse Dhruva Mahārāja prays to the Lord, who is standing before him in His personal form, yet he refers to the Lord as Brahman. He is “bliss alone” (ānanda-mātra), unlimited (ananta), and without transformation (avikāra). In fact, these attributes apply equally to both unqualified Brahman and to the Supreme Person. The very fact that Bhagavān, a person, is nondifferent from unqualified Brahman is itself contradictory.

      Bhagavān is the source of the cosmos (viśva-bhava) and yet He undergoes no transformation, even though generally a source or cause undergoes some change when producing something else, such as a seed transforming into a sprout. Bhagavān is unlimited and allpervading, and is nonetheless a person. This is contradictory, yet all such contradictions are reconciled in the Supreme Lord, who is the Absolute Truth. Hence, the Absolute Truth may be defined as that all-inclusive Reality wherein all contradictory extremes meet and are reconciled.

      As explained earlier, Brahman is nondifferent from Bhagavān; therefore, the nature of Brahman is included in Bhagavān as well. The distinction lies in the vision of the particular transcendentalist, in pursuance of his individual mode of worship. For the jñānī-bhaktas, he appears as Brahman; for those somewhat more advanced in bhakti, He appears as “the ground of cosmic creation” (viśva-bhava), and for the most advanced devotees, He appears as the Supreme Person, who is the source of all bliss (ānanda-mātra). The Śruti gives examples of some of these opposing characteristics:

      The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk. He is far way, but He is near as well. He is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything.
      (īśa 5)

      Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad states, “He sees though He has no eyes, and He hears though He has no ears” (śu 5.19).³ Additionally, in Bhagavad Gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:

      The Supreme Self is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the guṇas of nature, and at the same time He is the master of the guṇas of nature. (gītā 13.14)

      In the previous section, the cited verse said that the Lord’s energies are the object of dispute among various philosophers. But no description of these energies or the nature of dispute was given.
      Now in this anuccheda, the verse directly mentions energies, such as knowledge and ignorance, and offers more details about the functions of these energies.

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