Debate with BhattaBhaskara

Who was BhattaBhaskara?

BhattaBhaskara was a sholarly exponent of the Bhedabheda philosophy. He was a resident of Ujjain and had authored many texts and had won many in debates. During his Dig VijayaYatra the Acharya visited Ujjaini and sent his disciple Padmapada to meet BhattaBhaskara and invite him for a debate.

BhattaBhaskara alsoarrived, and he entered into arguments with Sankara on philosophical topics.

Bhatta: "Your position is that it is Prakriti or Maya that causes the distinctionbetween Iswara and the Jiva. Now, Prakriti must beresting either on Iswara or Jiva, and this will require the pre-existenceof the distinction between them."

The Locus of Avidya and Pre-existence of the Jiva

SANKARA: "No. Prakriti can create the distinction betweenJiva and Iswara resting on Pure Consciousness, wherein there isno such distinction, Take the example of the mirror which causes.the distinction between an object and its image. No image existsbefore the mirror is held before the object. The image only succeeds,and not precedes, the mirror, Thus, Prakriti can be sa'id to beof Pure Consciousness without' there being the Jiva, Hence thepre-existence of the distinction between Iswara and Jiva is notnecessary for accepting Prakriti as the common Upadhi of both.Though Prakriti is an Upadhi (adjunct of Brahman), it does netaffect Brahman, just as the mirror does not affect the object. Theimage, however, is affected by the adjunct; the mirror. So also isJiva, the image of Brahman, in the reflecting adjunct of Prakriti."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "It is irrational to say that Prakriti, whichis inert and of the nature of ignorance, has got its locus in Brahmanwho is Pure Consciousness. For, how can Pure Consciousnessand pure unconsciousness co-exist in one and the same entity?So it must have its locus only in Jiva who is ignorant."

SANKARA: "Do not conclude like that. The fact is otherwise.There is no authority to support the view that Prakriti has itslocus in the Jiva, who is qualified by the internal organ (mind)."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "In individuals, there is the feeling 'I amignorant'. This direct experience is itself the authority for thethesis that the Jiva, qualified by Antalikarana (mind), is the locusof Prakriti."

SANKARA: "If what you pointed out is the authority, the knowledge'I am a self-conscious being' has also to be attributed to theunconscious entity Antahkaraita. How can unconsciousness givethe sense of self-consciousness?" .

BHATIA BHASKARA: "It can be explained like this. A piece ofiron, though cold.becomes red-hot in the proximity of fire. Justlike that, the unconscious entity, the Antahkarana, appears tobe a conscious entity by the association of Pure Consciousness."

SANKARA: "If this is granted, it will also have to be grantedthat the feeling, 'I am ignorant' is also not a result of Prakritiassociating with the internal organ, but with Pure Consciousness.For Pure Consciousness permeates both alike."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "As the insentient Antahkarana (mind)and the sentient consciousness are contradictories, we cannot say that self-consciousness is a product of Antahkarana, but consciousnesscan be superimposed on it by Pure Consciousness. Asboth Antahkarana and Prakriti are insentient, it can be said thatPrakriti (Ignorance) is dependent on Antahkarana."

SANKARA: "Then this defect arises: Your statement wouldmake Antahkarana, which is itself a product of Prakriti, the objecton which Prakriti (Ignorance) depends. Further, if this Ignorance(Prakriti) is dependent on the mind, it must be present in deepsleep also. But, we have no such experience in deep sleep as 'I amignorant'. Such a feeling is not present in deep sleep. So, thereis no proof to show• that Prakriti depends on the mind. Its basemust only be Pure Consciousness."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "In Sushupti (deep sleep), Ignorance is nowhere. To say that it is therefore in Pure Consciousness ismeaningless. In the Sruti, it is said that, in Sushupti, the Jivaattains oneness with PureConsciousnes.s: Satasaumyatadasampannobhavati, svayamapi"tobhavati. Then there is no questionof Maya (Ignorance, Prakriti)."

SANKARA: "In the Veda it is only said that having gained unitywith Brahman, they do not know anything: sati sampadyanaviduh. By saying 'they do not know', it is implied that it existsin Sushupti, only one has no awareness of it."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "The Sruti you have quoted only assertsunity, but is not an admission of persisting Ignorance. On theother hand, it is an authority for the contention that, in deep sleep,there is no Ignorance (Maya)."

SANKARA: "The Vedic sentence 'sati sampadyanaviduh' (attainingthe Paramatman, man knows nothing), asserts only that,in sleep, men do not know about the presence of Ajnana (Ignorance).This implies that Ajnana is existing."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "'Knows nothing' only emphasises theunity. It is not an admission that Ignorance persists. Besides,if Ignorance is located in Pure Consciousness, is it permanentlylocated or only temporarily? It cannot be permanent, because itis inconceivable how eternal Consciousness and eternal Ignorancecould co-exist. Temporary presence of Ignorance in Pure Consciousness cannot also be accepted, because there is no agency toremove its presence in Pure Consciousness. Immediately you say'Ignorance exists in Pure Consciousness', it means it is irremovablypresent there. What the light of Pure Consciousness cannot eradicate,cannot certainly be eradicated by any unconscious principle.Viewed in this light, Ignorance must be conceived as existing in allstates without any means of eradicating it. This is unacceptable.So Ignorance, whether you call it permanent or temporary, cannotbe located in Pure Consciousness. Then, the question will comewhatis the cause of Samsara? One will have to reply that it is themind's tendency to grasp things in a contrary way, and its pronenessto illusory perception (Bhrama)."

SANKARA: "Then, please define Bhrama or illusory perception."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "'I am a man, not Iswara'-this is Bhramaor illusory perception; 'I am Brahman' is Prama or valid knowledge."

SANKARA: "You who say that the perception 'I am a man andnot Brahman's is illusory, have forgotten the fundamental doctrinesof your Bhedabheda (Identity-cum-difference)-a doctrine whichadmits of admixture of identity and difference in all entities and therefore, accepts the reality of everything. In such a theory,how can there be any Bhrama or unreal perception? For example,you say that the perception 'I see a cow with broken horns' is true.How can you then deny reality to the universally felt perception'I am an ignorant man.' Reasoning also-leads to the same. 'I amthe man I perceive myself to be' is the conclusion. The reason forthis is that identity and difference co-exist. The illustration is theperception of a cow with broken horns."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "A different inference is possible. The propositionis: The perception 'I am a man' is not true. The reasonfor this is: 'I am Brahman, and not man'. The illustration is thatin the illusory perception, when corrected, the object seen is foundto be nacre and not silver, the silver being a false perception."

SANKARA: "Even this interpretation will not suit your philosophy which takes all perceptions as real. Take the perception,'This is not a cow with broken horn, but a hornless cow'. Evenwhen you arrive at this conclusion, the first notion of it as a cow with broken horn remains. For, all perceptions are real for you.So, even when the preception that it is a hornless cow arises, thefirst perception remains, and you cannot have any settled conclusionabout anything."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "When a perception 'This is such andsuch a thing' is found incorrect and is corrected by this later perception,the first perception is Bhrama or illusory perception. Suchis my view and not as you put it."

SANKARA: "Even this will not help you. Because, accordingto your philosophy, the first perception 'This is a cow with brokenhorn' is as much true as the second perception, 'This is a hornlesscow.' When both these perceptions are real, how can the idea ofBhrama or false perception arise at all? How can you have a settled conviction ?"

BHATTA BHASKARA: "My statement is not inconsistent orwithout sufficient reason. In the statement about 'a cow withbroken horn,' 'broken horn' is not denied in the perception ofthe cow, but in the next perception of the cow as hornless. Whenthat perception comes, the earlier one goes and the settled convictionthat the cow is hornless arises. Where is inconsistency inthis ?"

SANKARA: "Your reasoning is certainly uncertain. Is yourdenial of 'broken horn' in mere 'hornlessness', or in 'a cow that ishornless?' It cannot be in the former, because the very perceptionof a mere 'broken hom' in more 'hornlessness' is impossible. Theirrelevance consists in the fact that, for the perception of a 'broken horn', mere 'hornlessness' can never be the cause. The secondalternative also cannot hold good. As soon as denial is made of'hornlessness' pertaining to the cow, that denial applies immediatelyto the cow in which the qualification of 'horulessness' inheresand vice versa. So, you do not see 'broken horns' and 'hornlessness',as separate from the cow. You have, therefore, two perceptions- first the cow with broken hom and next the hornless cow.According to your philosophy, both these perceptions are equallyreal, and so it is confused and inconclusive reasoning."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "What we say in our system of thought isthis: Even after it is settled that an animal is a hornless cow,still the idea of, or the proposition about, the cow with brokenhorn stands."

SANKARA: "So also, according to your philosophy, if all perceptions are real, the experience 'I am a man' must persist even if theconsciousness 'I am Brahman' arises. For, both are real."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "The Sruti says: 'When one experienceseverything as Atman, who sees whom?' So, when by such Vedicsentences one realises the self as Brahman, the experience 'I am aman' cannot stand. How can you say that such experience stands?"

SANKARA: "According to your philosophy, such a questionas is posed by the Sruti cannot arise, as it goes against your assumptionthat both difference and unity are real. It is relevant only inour philosophy, and when you put this question, you are onlyslipping into our system of thought. In our system of thought,it is the absence of knowledge of Supreme Brahman that is thecause of ignorance and the consequent perception of the many.

When the knowledge of Brahman arises, the world of multiplicityborn of ignorance is dissolved. 'There is no question of the 'many'when the Absolute is realised. But; your system of Bhedabhedamaintains that the world of the 'many' is real. So, its effacement,including your sense of individuality, is not possible:"

BHATIA BHASKARA: "In our system identity-in-difference isasserted only of five pairs of opposites. These are: species andindividual; attrihute and substance; cause and effect; qualificationand the qualified; part and whole. We do not maintain that thereis identity-in-difference between body and spirit. So, your objectionwill not hold good here. The dawn of identity of the spirit withBrahman can efface the sense of identity with the body."

SANKARA: "Is identity-in-difference applicable to all these fivepairs of opposites together, or to each pair separately? It cannotbe the first because all those five pairs of opposites of diverse kindcannot occur together. If it is in each of the pairs, then it mustoccur, according to your doctrine, in the pairs of opposites youdescribe as part and whole (Anga and Angi). Body and spiritare 'Anga and Angi' in your system, and so, identity-in-differenceholds good in regard to them, an~ the feeling '1 am an embodied being' can never disappear. Further, if you ever maintain that identity-indifference holds good only with one of the five, namely, cause and effe(:t, then, since spirit 'and body have that relation, identity-indifference must hold good in regard to them also viewed in this way."

Bhrama and Prama cannot be distinguished in Identity-in-difference BHATTA BHAsKARA: "Body is an effect produced by Iswara andnot by the Jiva."

SANKARA: "As you admit Jiva and Iswara are identical, to bethe effect of one is to be the effect of the other also. In your doctrine,where even false perception (Bhrama) is equated with Prama(right knowledge)-when the false and the true are not clearly distinguished-the very use of the word Bhramais.irrelevant andout of place. For even Bhrama is Prama for you. So, you cannever say that Samsara. (worldly existence) is due to Bhrama orfalse identification. Now to show your inconsistency further, I askthe question -whose is this Bhrama according to you? Is it of theAntahkarana (mind) or of Pure Consciousness? It cannot be ofAntahkarana, because it is the Consciousness (i.e., the self) thatexperiences Bhrama. If Antahkarana is what is affected, the selfcannot be involved."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "By association with a red flower, a crystalcan look red. In the same way, because of association with anAntahkarana that is affected by Bhrama, the Self or Consciousnessalso appears to be under Bhrama. By this, I do not admit that Consciousness is altered into the Bhrama state."

SANKARA: "If that is so, what is the nature of the relationof the Bhrilma based on Antahkarana with the Self? Is it a realor a false relation? It cannot be the first, because in your philosophy,the association of the quality of one substance with anotheris not real. So the Self and Bhrama cannot be related in a realsense. But at the same time, as the experience of Bhrama isimmediate and direct, the relation cannot be called unreal In this way, the contention that Bhrama is an off-shoot of Antahkaranais refuted. Now if you are going to contend that Bhramais an off-shoot of the Self (Atman), that too is unacceptable. Howcan the Atman, who is accepted as partless and unaffected, changeinto any effect? If at all it changes, that change can only be of thenature of Pure Consciousness, and not of Bhrama. Atman iseternal and is of the nature of Pure Consciousness, and no Bhrama,which is of the nature of awareness of unreal things, can occur toit. Two contradictory qualities of being-of the nature of PureConsciousness, and of being possessed of illusory consciousnesscannotco-exist in the Self."

BHATIA BHASKARA: "Chit or Pure Consciousness is not a quality. It is substance, the• very Self itself. So, your objectioncannot hold good as far as Chit is concerned."

SANKARA: "Still it cannot have the transformation of Bhrama(illusory knowledge). A quantity of gold made into the ornamentcalled Kataka can be the base for only that ornament at a time,and not also for another called Ruchaka at the same time. So alsothe Atman, which is eternally of the nature of knowledge, cannot be of the nature of ignorance also at the same time."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "If the word Bhrama is not suited, let usleave it and say the tendency for false perception (Bhrama-samskara),or incapacity to grasp the truth, is the cause of Samsara."

SANKARA: "If there is no Bhrama at all, how can there beBhrama-samskara or tendency for false perception (Bhrama) andincapacity to grasp the truth? All these are only aspects of Bhrama.As for non-perception, since Chit (Pure Consciousness) is eternal,its non-perception by itself is inconceivable. If it is the absenceof mental modification that is meant by non-perception, theluminous Self shines even then."

BHATTA BHASKARA: "If this is the position, there is no way ofovercoming the sense of ignorance, suffering and falsity in whichthe Jiva finds himself."

SANKARA: "Not so. It can be done by the unmodified mentalmode apprehending the unity of the Jiva and Iswarageneratedby the Upanishadic sentences like 'Thou art That'. But, if yourdoctrine of Bhedabheda, characterised by the equal validity ofboth unity and difference, is accepted, a confusing situation wouldarise, which would make both life in the world and life of abandonmentimpossible."

In this way, by his brilliant arguments, Sankara,the divine sage, silenced even that great scholar BhattaBhaskaraand put down the dominance of doctrines contrary to the teachingsof the Vedas. The glory of Sankara's life and teachings spreadeverywhere in the world like the light of the moon in a sky thathas been cleared of all clouds with the onset of the spring season.

Great scholars of Avanti like Bana, Mayura and Dandin abandonedtheir perverse' doctrines and became devoted to the study of.Sankara's commentaries.