How do we respond to the Mayavadi notion of a two-level Brahman?

by Chaitanya Charan dasDecember 31, 2012

Mayavadis say that the saguna Brahman with form is lower and the nirguna Brahman without form is higher. How do we refute this conception?

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Chaitanya Charan das
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  • krishna dasa
    November 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Hare Krishna Prabhuji

    Shrila Baladeva vidhyubhusana in his commentary on Vedanta sutra chapter 1 has described about these notion ,that some try to propagate .It goes as follows :

    Objection: There are actually two kinds of Brahman: Saguna Brahman (Brahman enmeshed in the modes of material nature), and Nirguna Brahman (Brahman untouched by the modes of material nature). The first, or Saguna Brahman, has a form constructed of the mode of material goodness. This Saguna Brahman is the omnisicent, all-powerful creator of the material universes. The second, or Nirguna Brahman, is pure transcendental existence only. This Nirguna Brahman is pure, perfect, and complete. The Saguna Brahman is the shakti (potency) described by the Vedas, and the Nirguna Brahman is the tatparya (meaning) of the Vedas.

    Shrila Vyasadeva refutes this argument by explaining, in the sutra 10:

    ” gati-samanyat ”

    “(This is not so) because the Vedas describe only one kind of Brahman. ”

    Purport by Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana

    In this sutra the word gati means “conception.” The Vedic literatures describe Brahman as full of transcendental knowledge, omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, complete, pure, the all-pervading Supersoul, the original creator of the material universes, the object of worship for the saintly devotees, and the bestower of liberation. The Vedas do not describe two kinds of Brahman: Nirguna and Saguna. Rather, the Vedas describe only one kind of Brahman. This one Brahman is described by Lord Krishna in the following words (Bhagavad-gita 7.7):

    mattah parataram nanyat

    kincid asti dhananjaya

    mayi sarvam idam protam

    sutre mani-gana iva

    “O conqueror of wealth, there is not truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon me as pearls strung on a thread.”

    Thus the Vedic literatures describe only one kind of Brahman: Nirguna Brahman. Shrila Vyasadeva describes this Nirguna Brahman in the next sutra:

    Sutra 11

    shrutatvac ca

    shrutavat—because of being described in the Vedas; ca—and.

    (There is only one kind of Brahman: Nirguna Brahman), because Nirguna Brahman is described throughout the Vedic literatures.

    Purport by Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana

    Nirguna Brahman is described in the following statement of Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6.11):

    eko devah sarva-bhuteshu gudhah

    sarva-vyapi sarva-bhutantaratma

    karmadhyakshah sarva-bhutadhivasah

    sakshi ceta kevalo nirgunash ca

    “The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself as the all-pervading Supersoul, the witness present in the hearts of all living entities. He witnesses all activities of the living entity. He is the supreme living force. He is transcendental to all material qualities.”

    In this way Nirguna Brahman is described in the shruti-shastra. The shruti-shastra does not say that it is impossible to describe Brahman. Some say that Brahman may be understood not from the direct statements of the Vedic literatures, but merely indirectly, or from hints found in the Vedic texts. This is not the correct understanding, for if the Vedic scriptures had no power to directly describe Brahman, then naturally they would also not have any power to indirectly describe Him or hint about Him. The Vedic literatures may say that Brahman has no contact with gunas (either qualities, or the three modes of material nature), and He cannot be seen by material eyes (adrishya), still it does not say that the words of the Vedas have no power to describe Him.

    At this point someone may raise the following objection: Is it not said in the Vedas that Brahman has no gunas (qualities)? Your statement that Brahman has qualities contradicts the description of the scriptures.

    To this I reply: This is not true. You can only say this because you do not understand the confidential meaning of the word nirguna. Because the Supreme Brahman is all-knowing and possess many transcendental qualities, when the scriptures say that He is nirguna, it should be understood to mean that He has no (nih) contact with the three modes of material nature (guna).

    This is confirmed by the following statements of smriti-shastra:

    sattvadayo na shantishe

    yatra caprakrita gunah

    “The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who possesses numberless transcendental qualities, is eternally free from the touch of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance.”

    samasta-kalyana-gunatmako ‘sau

    “The Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses all auspicious qualities.”

    For all these reasons it should be accepted that the Vedic literatures have the power to describe the perfect, pure, complete Supreme Brahman. When it is said by the scriptures that the Supreme Brahman has no names, forms, or qualities it should be understood that the Supreme Brahman has no material names, forms, or qualities, and that His names, forms and qualities are limitless and beyond the counting of limited spirit souls.

    At this point someone may object, saying that the literal interpretation of the Vedic statements is that Brahman is without qualities (nirguna), and your interpretation of the word nirguna is wrong.

    To this objection I reply: Does this description that Brahman has no qualities help to positively understand Brahman? If you say yes, then you have to admit that the Vedas do have the power to describe Brahman; and if you say no, then you have to admit that your careful studies of the Vedic literature have been a great waste of time, and as a result you remain wholly ignorant of Brahman’s real nature.

    Thus it is clear that vedas talk only about nirguna brahmana ,but this word nirguna should be understood properly , and not in the way the mayavadis conceive of it .

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