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(being selected passages from Sankara's Commentary on Mandukya Upanishad and Karika)

by T.M.P. Mahadevan
Ganesh & Co. (Madras) Private Ltd., Madras-17

(the following is copied in gratitude, but, admittedly, without permission)

The great Indian Saint, philospher, mystic, poet, scholar, reformer, Sankara, lived from 788-820, and was a revered expounder of Vedanta, becoming the main representative of its Advaitic form, or that of Hindu nonduality.

As a rope is the substrate of the appearance of snake, so the nondual self which is the absolute reality is the substrate of the appearance of prana. Similarly, the entire world of speech, which has for content the appearances of the self in the form of prana, is the syllable OM alone. And, that (OM) is of the nature of the self alone, for it is its expression.

When the whole universe gets resolved, there is the attainment of nonduality. The self resident in all beings will be seen to be one; and all beings will be seen in the self. Otherwise, the inner self would be what is conditioned by one's own body. Then there would not be the special teaching of the Scripture that is nondual.

Those who theorize about creation think that creation is the expansion of God. Those who are intent on the supreme truth, however, do not support any theory of creation. Seeing a magician throw a rope on to the sky, climb it fully armed, go up beyond sight, get torn up in battle, fall and rise again, one does not believe in the reality of the magic that he does. Similar to the throwing up of the rope by the magician is the appearance of sleep, dream, etc. Other than the rope and the one that mounts it, is the real magician; he remains on the ground, hidden by his own magic, and unseen. Like him is the supreme reality which is called Turiya. Therefore, noble aspirants for release are intent only on meditating thereon; they have no concern for any theory of creation, which is futile.

It is not as if the snake that is assumed illusorily in the rope, exists there in fact, and then is removed through discrimination. Nor is it that the magic produced by the magician exists in fact and is then removed when the veil is lifted off the sight of the onlookers. Even thus, here, the duality which is called the world is mere illusion. And nonduality, which is like the rope and the magician, is the supreme truth. Hence, no world, either as evolving or dissolving, exists.

Just as is the case with the world, which is like magic and rope-snake, so it is with the assumption of difference of pupil from preceptor; this is conditioned by the need for teaching before the awakening. Thus, all this talk of pupil, preceptor, and sacred texts, is for the sake of teaching. When the aim of teaching, namely knowledge of the supreme truth, has been gained, there is no duality.

The fruitfulness of food and drink, seen in waking, is contradicted in dream. A man who, having eaten and drunk in the state of waking, feels satisfied and free from thirst, falls asleep, and is afflicted with hunger and thirst as if he had been without food and drink for days and nights; even as having eaten and drunk in dream, he may wake up without feeling satisfied. Therefore, what is perceived in waking is observed to be contradicted in dream. Hence, we think that too is undoubtedly non-real, even as the things perceived in dream are perceived to be non-real.

When there is the ascertainment that 'this is only rope', there is the removal of the assumption that it is a snake. Similarly, when there arises knowledge -- like the light of the sun -- through the sacred teaching, 'Not this, not this,' that expounds the Reality which is void of all empirical characteristics, there is the realization of the nature of the self thusly: "All this is the self; it is without antecedent and consequent, without internality and externality; it is without and within, and beginningless; it is without decay and death, and is fearless, and one, without a second."

Just as an imaginary city in the sky, filled with shops stocked with vendable articles, houses, palaces and villages teeming with men and women, although seeming to be real, is observed to vanish suddenly, and as dream and illusion are observed to be unreal, even so all this universe of duality in its entirety, is seen to be non-real.

As nonduality, which is of the nature of the quiescence of all evil, is auspicious and fearless, knowing it thus, direct your mind to the nondual self; concentrate your mind for realizing nonduality. And realize that nonduality thusly: 'I am the supreme Brahman'. That is, having known the self which is beyond hunger, directly immediate and unborn, and devoid of all empirical usage, live in the world as one who is inert, that is, without making known, 'I am so and so'.

That which is supremely real is nonduality; through maya it appears as different, even as the plurality of moons on account of defective eyesight, or the rope appearing differently as snake, and not in reality, for the self is partless. Indeed, it is a whole-of-parts that becomes different due to change of parts, even as clay appears in different forms, such as a pot, etc. Therefore, the partless unborn reality can by no means become different. This is the meaning. If what is immortal, unborn, and nondual were to become really different, then it would become mortal, like fire becoming cool. But that is not acceptable, for a change in one's nature into its contrary, is opposed to all evidence. The unborn nondual self becomes different only through maya, not in reality. Therefore, duality is not the supreme truth.

Nothing whatever is born. That which is said to be born cannot be born of itself, of another, or of both, as real, as unreal, or as real and unreal. Of that, by no means is birth possible. From its own form which has not come into existence, a thing cannot be born, like a pot from the very same pot. Nor from another, from what is other than itself, as cloth from pot. Similarly, not from both, because of contradiction, just as from pot and cloth neither pot nor cloth is born. Now, it may be said that from clay the pot is born, and from father/mother the child is born. True. For the ignorant there is the cognition as well as expression that 'something is born'. But those two -- cognition and expression -- are examined by the intelligent ones thusly: Are they true, or are they false? When examined, it turns out that the entity which is the content of cognition and expression -- pot, child -- is mere word, for there is scriptural text, "(the modification) is given rise to by speech." If something is real, it is not born, because it is real, like clay or mother/father. If unreal, even then it is not born, because it is unreal, like the horns of a hare. If real and unreal, then also it is not born, because there cannot be a contradiction in one and the same thing. Thus it is established that nothing whatever is born.

From the standpoint of the supreme truth, the relation of cause and effect is not intelligible of anything and in any manner. How? The unreal cannot be the cause of the unreal; indeed, the horns of a hare which are unreal cannot by the cause of the sky-flower, which is also unreal. Similarly, the real (a pot, for example) cannot be the effect of the unreal, such as the horns of the hare. So also, the real pot cannot be the effect of another thing known as real. How, then, is it possible for the unreal to be the effect of the real? It is not possible to have the relation of cause and effect in any other way. Therefore, for the wise one, there is no relation of cause and effect of anything.

Just as from the magical mango seed, a sprout of the same nature arises, and that sprout is not eternal, nor is it destroyed, the same applies in regard to the birth and destruction of things. The meaning is that the birth and destruction of things is not intelligible from the standpoint of the supreme truth.

Things that exist, like scripture, etc., exist only illusory assumption. Scripture is assumed, as it is the means for the cognition of the supreme reality, and it exists illusorily, and not in truth.

"Now," one may offer, "if scripture, etc., are illusory, then to say 'unborn' will also be an illusory assumption." Yes, this is true. It is only through the illusorily assumed scripture, etc., that the term 'unborn' is used. From the standpoint of the supreme truth, it (the self) is not even unborn.

The supreme reality is nondual, devoid of difference of cognition, object of cognition and cognizer.

Nonduality Salon (/ \)