Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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The Next Question

Hari OM

'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]

Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. Please use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text.

We are in the section of the text which is discussing the 'three bodies' of our existence. We saw first the gross (sthuula shariira). Then subtle body (suukshma shariira), which also had two sub paragraphs on the indriyas. Now,  the sishya recalls that there was a third body and asks about it.

कारणशरीरं किम्
अनिर्वाच्यानाद्यविद्यारूपं शरीरद्वयस्य कारणमात्रं
सत्स्वरूपाज्ञानं निर्विकल्पकरूपं यदस्ति

kaaraNashariiraM kim 
anirvaacyaanadyavidyaaruupaM shariiradvayasya kaaraNamaatraM
satsvaruupaaGYaanaM nirvikalpakaruuapaM yadasti

"What is the causal body?"
"that which is inexplicable, beginningless, in the form of ignorance, the sole cause of the two bodies (gross/subtle), ignorant of one's own true nature, free from duality is the causal body."

A little on grammar here; Sanskrit can be quite a literal language as well as highly contextual. Vidya means 'knowledge'; a-vidya means 'without knowledge', which is to say, ignorant. Negation is part of the substance of the language, but also the philosophy and much of the Guru's presentation is about negation. Thus, similarly, the word 'anirvaachyam' is used first. Vaachyam is to explain; nirvaachyam is to explain very well ('nir' = beyond); by negation, a-nirvaachyam is to be something unexplainable. How so? Causative self has no shape. It is not something we can 'see'. Without shape, it cannot, then, be defined in terms of size, weight, quality - nothing which can be grasped by our minds can truly express it. For everyday purpose, we thus must say that we are ignorant of it - lacking in knowledge  and understanding. Lack of such vidya does not mean that the kaarana shariira therefore has no existence, for we experience its effects. We are told this by the phrase 'shariiradvayasya kaaranamaatram', that it is indeed the cause of the two bodies we can perceive, the gross and the subtle. An effect must have a cause. As we cannot perceive it, it is might be thought of as 'nothingness', yet it unquestionably does a great deal - this makes it an inexplicable power. The term 'sat', which appears to start another of the conjunct words here, is actually related to this phrase.


Sat and asat** are important things to note.  Sat is that which is permanent, unchangeable, ever present, goodness, truth, beingness, existence. Therefore, if we place the a- before it, conforming with grammar, asat means the exact opposite. By using 'sat' after stating the kaarana shariiram is the cause of the two bodies, the Guru is saying that, when we come to the fuller process of negation of Maya, the truth of this statement will become apparent. It is an authoritative usage, alerting the listener to the fact that the matter is unquestionable, but will be further explored.

Another term of negation used here is 'anaadi'. Naadi is beginning, therefore it is said to be beginningless. Frequently we associate something which has no beginning as not being able, therefore, to end. However, we come to a more subtle tone for the use of 'a' as negation; that it can 'have the feeling of'. The term is used in conjunction with the expression that it is 'in the form of' ignorance (avidyaruupam). What is one thing we know about ignorance?

It can, in fact, be ended. Until we know something, we are ignorant of it. Once known, ignorance is immediately dispelled. Ignorance itself cannot be known except by its removal. However, without knowledge of a thing ignorance is there and we cannot at all say it has a starting point. We can only know we have been ignorant once it is removed by the light of knowledge. If we were to say that we know our ignorance to begin at a particular time, it would suggest one of two things; either that there was a void from which it emerged - (but only nothing can emerge from nothing!), or knowledge existed before the ignorance - which is a physical impossibility. Have you ever tried to 'unknow' something?! Thus we must say that ignorance has no beginning, but we are also now aware that it can end and even if we are currently ignorant of the Truth of our True Being, as the remainder of the paragraph teaches, we are given hope that we can finally make that knowledge our own. Further this ignorance is said to be 'nirvikalpakaruupam', non-dual. There is no variance in ignorance. Your ignorance is the same as the next person's and the person next them… there are those who prefer to remain in ignorance, as it provides a certain 'bliss'! Ignorance is always ignorance and it has no levels or degrees, thus it is also unthinking - vikalpa = thoughts, nirvikalpa = beyond thoughts.

The term 'sat' is applied to 'svaruupa-ajnaanam' as it also implies that this term is unequivocal though still to be discussed. Svaruupa' (sometimes swaroopa) is the true nature of the Self - one's Blissful Nature. Jnaanam is another term for knowledge. By now you are realising that the 'a' before it means the opposite. Thus we are ignorant of the Truth of our Being. It can be said "I know I exist" ("I think, therefore I am"!) - yet who is this "I", the ever-present awareness which is thinking at this stage that perhaps there is more to this story? This is the crux of the matter!!

**please remember that the 'a' in Sanskrit is sounded more like the 'u' in hut.

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