According to mayavadi philosophers, vedanta refers to the sariraka commentary of Shankaracharya. When impersonal philosophers refer to vedanta and the Upanishads, they are actually referring to the commentaries of Shankaracharya, the greatest teacher of mayavadi philosophy. After Shankaracharya came Sadananda-yogi, who claimed that the vedanta and Upanishads should be understood through the commentaries of Shankaracharya. Factually this is not so. There are many commenatries on vedanta and the Upanishads made by the vaishnava acharyas, and these are preferred to those of Shankaracharya. However, the mayavadi philosophers influenced by Shankaracharya do not attribute any importance to the vaishnava understandings.
There are five different sects of vaishnava acharyas – the shuddhadvaita, vishishtadvaita, dvaitadvaita, dvaita and acintya-bhedabheda. All the vaishnava acharyas in these schools have written commentaries on the vedanta-sutra, but the mayavadi philosophers d o not recognize them. The mayavadis distinguish between Krishna and Krishna’s body, and therefore they do no recognize the worship of Krishna by the vaishnava philosophers.
Lord Chaitanya admitted that Shankaracharya was an incarnation of Lord Siva, and it is known that Lord Shiva is one of the greatest devotees (a mahajana) of the bhagavata school. There are twelve great authorities on devotional service, and Lord Shiva is one of them. Why, then, did he adopt the process of mayavadi philosophy? The answer is given in Padma Purana, where Lord Shiva states:
pracchannaM bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitaM devI
“The mayavadi philosophy is veiled Buddhism.” In other words, the voidist philosophy of Buddha is more or less repeated in the mayavadi philosophy of impersonalism, although the mayavadi philosophy claims to be directed by the Vedic conclusions. Lord Shiva, however, admits that this philosophy is manufactured by him in the age of Kali in order to mislead the atheists. “Actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead has His transcendental body,” Lord Shiva states. “But I describe the Supreme as impersonal. I also explain the vedanta-sutra according to the same principle of mayavadi philosophy.”
In the Shiva Purana the Supreme Lord says:
dvAparAdau yuge bhUtvA
svAgamaiH kalpitais tvaM ca
janAn mad-vimukhAn kuru
“In the beginning of the dvApara-yuga, directed by My orders, many sages will bewilder the people in general by mayavadi philosophy.”
In the Padma Purana Lord Shiva personally tells BhagavatidevI:
SRNu devI parakShyAmi
pAtityaM jNAninAm api
atra ca pratipAdyate
naiSkarmyaM tatra cocyate
“My dear devi, sometimes I teach mayavadi philosophy for those who are engrossed in the mode of ignorance. But if a person in the mode of goodness happens to hear this mayavadi philosophy, he falls down, for when teaching mayavadi philosophy, I say that the living entity and the Supreme Lord are one and the same.”
Sadananda-yogi, one of the greatest mayavadi acharyas, has written in his book, vedanta-sAra: “The Absolute Truth of eternity, knowledge and bliss is Brahman. Ignorance and all products of ignorance are non-Brahman. All products of the three modes of ma terial nature are covered by ignorance, and all are different from the supreme cause and effect. This ignorance is manifested in a collective and individual sense. Collective ignorance is called vishuddha-sattva-pradhana. When that vishuddha-sattva-pradhana is manifest within the ignorance of material nature, it is called the Lord, and the Lord manifests all kinds of ignorance. Therefore He is known as sarvajNa.” Thus according to mayavadi philosophy, the Lord is a product of this material nature, and the living entity is in the lowest stage of ignorance. That is the sum and substance of mayavadi philosophy.
If, however, we accept the import of the Upanishads directly, it is clear that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is a person with unlimited potency. For example, in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad it is stated that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the origin of everything and that He has multiple potencies. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is transcendental to the cosmic manifestation. He is he origin of all religion, the supreme deliverer and the possessor of all opulences. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is just like the sun, profusely distributes His energies while situated beyond the cloud of this material cosmic manifestation. He is the master of masters and He is the Supreme of the supremes. He is known as the greatest Lord, the Per sonality of Godhead. His energies and potencies are multiple and variously distributed. It is also stated that Vishnu is the Supreme and that saintly persons are always anxious to see His lotus feet (Rg veda 1.22.20). In the aitareya Upanishad it is als o stated that the cosmic manifestation came about when the Lord glanced over material nature (1.1.1-2). This is also verified by the Prashna Upanishad (6.3).
In the negative descriptions of the Lord which occur in Vedic literature (as in apani-padah) there are indications that the Lord has no material body and no material form. However, He does have His spiritual transcendental body and His transcendental fo rm. Because the mayavadi philosophers misunderstand His transcendental nature, they explain Him as impersonal. The Lord’s name form, quality, entourage and abode are all in the transcendental world. How can he be a transformation of this material nature? Everything connected with the Supreme Lord is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge.
In effect, Shankaracharya preached mayavadi philosophy in order to bewilder a certain type of atheist. Actually he never considered the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, to be impersonal or to have no body or form. It is best for intelligent persons to avoid lectures on mayavadi philosophy. We should understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vishnu is not impersonal. He is a transcendental person, and the basic principle of the cosmic manifestation is His energy. mayavadi philosophy canno t trace the energy of the Supreme Lord, but all Vedic literatures give evidence of the Supreme Lord’s various energetic manifestations. Vishnu is not a product of material nature, but material nature is a product of Vishnu’s potency. The mayavadi philosophe rs understand Vishnu to be a product of material nature, but if Vishnu is a product of material nature, He can only be counted amongst the demigods. One who considers Vishnu to be a demigod is certainly mistaken and misled. How this is so is explained in Bhagavad-gItA: “Deluded by the three modes, the whole world does not know Me who am above the modes and inexhaustible. This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome, but those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Bg. 7.13-14)
When explaining the first aphorism of the vedanta-sutra, Shankara most unceremoniously tried to explain that Brahman, or the Supreme Absolute Truth, is impersonal. He also cunningly tried to switch the doctrine of by-product into the doctrine of change. For the supreme Absolute Truth, there is no change. It is simply that a by-product results from His inconceivable powers of action. In other words a relative truth is produced, out of the Supreme Truth. The Supreme Absolute Truth, Brahman, is immutabl e, and when we find a by-product – the living entity or this cosmic manifestation – it is a transformation, or a by-product of the Supreme. It is like milk being transformed into yogurt. In this way, if we study the living entities in the cosmic manifes tation, it will appear that they are not different from the original Absolute Truth, but from Vedic literatures we understand that the Absolute Truth has varieties of energy and that the living entities and the cosmic manistation are but a demonstration of His energies. The energies are not separate from the energetic; therefore the living entity and cosmic maniestation are inseparable truths, part of the Absolute Truth. Such a conclusion regarding the Absolute Truth and the relative truth should be acceptable to any sane man.
The Supreme Absolute Truth has His inconceivable potency, out of which this cosmos has been manifested. In other words, the Supreme Absolute Truth is the ingredient, and the living entity and cosmic manifestation are the by-products. In the Taittriya Upanishad it is clearly stated, yato va imani bhutani jayante: “The Absolute Truth is the original reservoir of all ingredients, and this material world and its living entities are produced from those ingredients.”
Unintelligent persons who cannot understand this doctrine of by products cannot grasp how the cosmic manifestation and the living entity are simultaneously one and different from the Absolute Truth. Not understanding this, one concludes, out of fear, tha t this cosmic manifestation and the living entity are false.
The sun has been producing unlimited energy from time immemorial, and so many by-products result from the sun; yet there is no change in the heat and temperature of the sun itself. Despite its being a material product, if the sun can maintain its origin al temperature and yet produce so many by-products, is it difficult for the Supreme Absolute Truth to remain unchanged in spite of producing so many by-products by His inconceivable energy? Thus there is no question of transformation as far as the Supreme Absolute Truth is concerned.
In Vedic literatures there is information of a material product called “touchstone” which simply by touch can transform iron into gold. The touchstone can produce an unlimited quantity of gold and yet remain the same. Only in the state of ignorance can one accept the mayavadi conclusion that this cosmic manifestation and the living entities are false or illusory. No sane man would impose ignorance and illusion upon the Supreme Absolute Truth, who is absolute in everything. There is no possibility of change, ignorance or illusion being in Him. The Supreme Brahman is transcendental and completely different from all material conceptions. In the Supreme Absolute Truth there is every possible inconceivable energy existing. In the Svetashvatara Upanishad it is stated that the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead is full of inconceivable energies and that on one else possesses such energies.
By misunderstanding the inconceivable energies of the Supreme, one may falsely conclude that the Supreme Absolute Truth is impersonal. Such a deluded conclusion is experienced by a living being when he is in an acute stage of disease. In Srimad Bhagavatam also there are statements to the effect that the supreme atma, the Lord, has inconceivable and innumerable potencies. (Bhag. 3.33.3) It is also stated in Brahma-sutra that the supreme spirit has many variegated and inconceivable energies. Nor should one think that there is any possibility of ignorance existing in the Absolute Truth. Ignorance and knowledge are conceptions in this world of duality, but in the Absolute there is no duality. It is simply foolishness to consider that the Absolute is co vered by ignorance. If the Absolute Truth can possibly be covered by ignorance, how can it be said to be Absolute? Understanding the inconceivability of the Absolute is the only solution to the question of duality. This is because duality arises from the inconceivable energy of the Absolute. By His inconceivable energies, the Supreme Absolute Truth can remain unchanged and yet produce this cosmic manifestation with all its living entities, just as touchstone can produce unlimited quantities of gold an d yet remain unchanged. Because the Absolute Truth has such inconceivable energies, the material quality of ignorance cannot pertain to Him. The true variegatedness which exists in the Absolute Truth is a product of His inconceivable energy. Indeed, it c an be safely concluded that this cosmic manifestation is but a by-product of His inconceivable energies. Once we accept the inconceivable energies of the Supreme Lord, we will find that there is no duality at all. The expansion of the energy of the Supr eme Lord is as true as the Supreme Lord. As far as the manifestation of the Supreme energy is concerned, there is no question of transformation. The same example can be cited: in spite of producing unlimited quantities of gold, the touchstone remains th e same. We therefore hear same sages say that the Supreme is the ingredient or cause of this cosmic manifestation.
Thus this cosmic manifestation is not false, as Shankaracharya maintains. Actually there is nothing false here. The mayavadis say that this world is false because of their ignorance. It is the conclusion of vaishnava philosophy that this cosmic manifesta tion is a by-product of the inconceivable energies of the Supreme Lord.
Sripada Shankaracharya has inceremoniously obscured the Krishna consciousness described in the purusha-vedanta-sutra by manufacturing an indirect interpretation and abandoning the direct interpretation. Unless we take all the statements of vedanta-sutra as self-evident, there is no point in studying vedanta-sutra. Interpreting the verses of vedanta-sutra according to one’s own whim is the greatest disservice to the self-evident Vedas.
Actually in the first two chapters of vedanta-sutra the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord is explained, and in the third chapter the discharge of devotional service is explained. The fourth chapter deals with the relationship which results from discharging devotional service. The natural commentary on vedanta-sutra is Srimad-Bhagavatam. The great acharyas of the four vaishnava communities (sampradayas) – namely, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Vishnuswami and Nimbarka – have also written commnetaries on vedanta-sutra by following the principles of Srimad-Bhagavatam. At present the followers of all the acharyas have written many books following the principles of Srimad-Bhagavatam as the commentary on the vedanta. Shankara’s commenta ry on vedanta-sutra, known as sariraka-bhashya, is very much adored by the impersonalist scholars, but commentaries written on the vedanta written from the materialistic point of view are completely adverse to the transcendental service of the Lord. Consequently Lord Chaitanya said that direct commentaries on the Upanishads and vedanta-sutra are glorious, but that anyone who follows the indirect path of Shankaracharya’s sariraka-bhashya is certainly doomed.