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Accueil > Oriente > Dyczkowski : Advaita Vedanta


Dyczkowski : Advaita Vedanta

Integral Monism of Kashmiri Shaivism

vendredi 9 mars 2018

Advaita? Vedānta emerged, to a large extent, as a critique of Sāmkhya dualism. Classical Sāmkhya posits two realities, both eternal but of contrary nature?. One is Puruşa, ‘the Person’, the other Prakŗti or ‘Nature’. The Person is the Self who, as pure sentient consciousness, is the witness of the activity? of all that lies in the sphere of objectivity. The latter includes not only the outer physical world but also the body and mind? the Person inhabits, vitalising and illumining it with his conscious presence. Although varied and constantly changing, all that lies in the sphere of objectivity shares a common nature. All thoughts, perceptions or physical phenomena are equally part of the play of Nature—Prakŗti—which manifests in this way to fulfil the need of the Person for phenomenal experience. In this experience the Person represents the principle of sentience and Nature that of change and activity. Just as insentient Nature cannot view itself, and so is as if blind, similarly the Person does not act or change, and so is as if lame. The two together make experience possible. The content of this experience is real but unsatisfactory. The Person is bound by Nature ; it experiences the changes in Nature as if they were its own and so suffers their painful consequences. The Person is freed when he discriminates between himself and Nature. The latter then retires into its original unmanifest [35] state severing its association with the Person.

Īśvarakrşna explains :

Just as a dancing girl retires from her dance after performing for the audience, in the same way Nature (Prakŗti) retires after exhibiting herself to the Person.

In this way the Person achieves a state of transcendental detachment (kaivalya). But because the Person is an independent reality, already separate from Nature, he can in fact neither be bound nor released.

Therefore, no one is actually bound, no one released and no one transmigrates. [It is] Nature, the abode of diversity that transmigrates, is bound and released.

Ultimately, bondage is unreal and no relationship is possible between an eternal subject and an equally eternal object?. The problem is that they cannot be related to one another unless this relationship is also eternal. In order to preserve the transcendental integrity of the Person, the reality of Nature must be denied. Not only does the Advaita Vedānta do this, but it also denies that there is a plurality of Persons. The Self, each individual’s most authentic identity, is beyond the specifications of the qualities of Nature, and so nothing can distinguish one ‘self’ from another. The Self is one only and hence none other than the Brahman?, the absolute?, free of all specification. From this point of view the one reality can only be grasped through negation. However, although this safeguards it from predication it also implies that the empirical (vyavahāra) is itself a negation of absolute reality. As Kşemarāja puts it : “the Brahman is what the world is not.” And so the world is less than real. The Brahman is always empirically unmanifest (avyakta?). It is beyond the reach of the senses but, like the Person, is the witness (sākşin) of all things. It can never be an object of knowledge? for “who can know the knower ?” Ultimately it is that which cannot be grasped or perceived. The world which is ‘grasped’ and ‘perceived’ cannot be the Brahman and is consequently less than real.

Absolute Being is not an existing quality to be found in things ; it is not an object of thought or the result of production. It is that from which both speech and mind turn back, unable to comprehend its fullness. To make this point Sankara Shankara
quotes a passage from a lost Upanişad in his commentary on the Brahmasūtra. Baskali, an Upanişadic sage, is being questioned by his disciple about the nature of the absolute. He sits motionless and silent. “Teach me, sir,” prayed the disciple. [36] The teacher continued to be silent. When addressed a second and third time he said : “I am? teaching, but you do not follow. The Self is silence.”

The undetermined and unthinkable character of the Brahman is a consequence of the absolutes’s eternal and immutable nature. To concede the existence? of a real universe is, from the Vedāntin’s point of view, to posit the existence of a reality apart from the Brahman. Nor can we simply identify a real universe with the absolute unless we are prepared to compromise its unchanging, absolute status. The criterion of authenticity is immutability. Reality never changes ; only that which is less than real can appear to do so. Reality is constant in the midst of change. What this means essentially is that there is change although nothing changes. This impossible situation is reflected in the ultimate impossibility of change itself. That which does not exist prior to its changing and at the end, after it has changed, must be equally non-existent between these two moments. Although the world of change appears to be real, it cannot be so. Change, according to the Vedāntin, presupposes a loss of identity. Reality cannot suffer transformation ; if it were to do so, it would become something else and the real would be deprived of its reality. The immortal can never become mortal, nor can the mortal become immortal. The ultimate nature of anything cannot change. Change of any sort is merely apparent (vivarta) ; the world of change and becoming is a false superimposition? (adhyāropa, adhyāsa) on the absolute.

In cosmic terms, the mistake (bhrānti) consists of the supposition that the real Brahman is the unreal universe and the unreal universe is the real Brahman. In microcosmic terms, it is the mistake of falsely conceiving the body, mind or even one’s personality to be the Self. In the same way as the image of a snake is falsely superimposed on a rope, similarly the universe is falsely projected onto the real substratum, the Brahman. Ignorance? is not merely a personal lack of knowledge, but a cosmic principle. As such it is called “Māyā,” the undefinable factor (anirvacanīya) that brings this mistake in identity about. The reality status of this cosmic illusion? is also undefinable : on the one hand it is not Brahman, the sole reality ; on the other hand it is not absolutely non-existent like a hare’s horn or the son of a barren woman.

Brahman is the source of world appearances only in the sense of being their unconditioned ground or essential nature. The universe is false not because it has no nature of its own but because it does have one. Just as the illusion of a snake disappears when one sees that it is nothing but a rope, similarly cancellation (bādha) of the empirically real occurs when the absolute reality of the Brahman is realised. Thus, according to Vedānta, appearance implies the real, while the real need not imply [37] appearance. To appear is essentially to appear in place of the real, but to be real is not necessarily to appear. All things exist because the absolute exists. It is their Being. Thus the very existence of phenomena implies their non-existence as independent realities. When they are known to be as they are, in the fullest sense of their existence, their phenomenal nature disappears leaving the ground of Being naked and accessible. This approach was validated by a critique of experience. The Vedānta established that space, time and the other primary categories of our daily experience can have no absolute existence. It was therefore necessary to make a distinction between a relative truth—that accepted by the precritical common man—and an absolute truth discovered at a higher level of consciousness.

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