Refutation of the impersonal understanding of the Absolute
(Shankaracharya vis Ramanujacharya)
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Shankaracarya said: "In half a verse, I am summarizing the truth that has been expressed by volumes and volumes of scripture. Within only half a verse I shall give the essence of all truths: brahma satyam, jagan mithya. Brahman, spirit, is true - this world is false. And the jiva is nothing but Brahman. This is the substance of all the scriptures." Proper knowledge is not possible under the philosophical systems of Buddha and Sankaracharya. If what they say is true - the world is false - then we must ask, "Why do you speak? And to whom? If everything is false, is your philosophy also imagination?" We will have to ask Sankaracharya, "Does your coming to this world and your endeavor to refute Buddhism and establish oneness as the ultimate truth have no meaning? Who have you come to preach to? Why have you come to preach if this world has no reality? If this world is false, then why are you taking so much trouble to explain your philosophy? For what? Is your mission also imagination?"

The first great opponent of Sankaracharya was Ramanuja. Ramanuja's refutation was very strong and based on a sound foundation. Ramanuja argued: "What is the necessity for Sankaracharya to endeavor with so much energy to establish his philosophy if it is all fictitious? To this Ramanuja say, the world is false, is a suicidal position. Has he come here to do nothing? He has come to correct us and free us from error, but there must be errors. Error or misconception has reality, otherwise, what is the necessity of spending so much energy refuting so many propositions? Maya exists. Maya is eternal. The individual soul is eternal, and maya is also eternal."

The basis of material existence is the possibility of the tatastha jiva committing a mistake and developing misconception. The soul is anu cetana, atomic consciousness. And as atomic units of consciousness, our freedom is not perfect. Our defective freedom is the cause of this illusion. The soul must have freedom. Before a crime is committed, the possibility of committing a crime is present in the ordinary peace-loving subject. The possibility of disease is there, so hospitals, medicine, and special diets are all necessary. In the same way, the possibility for misconception is there in the soul because we are weak and limited.

Maya, the world of measurement, is unnecessary for the Absolute, but necessary for those in the relative position. When there is only one self-interest, maya is not necessary. But where there is division, differentiation, and distribution, when there are many ideas of self-interest, maya is necessary.

Within the world of misconception, maya is the law of the land. The law helps the law-abiding, and the law punishes the law-breaking. The law is the same for everyone and that same law means protection for the good and suppression for the bad. Law means to divide rights.

from the book: SUBJECTIVE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
chapter: A FLOATING WORLD OF EXPERIENCE p.90