What are Vivartavada and Ajatavada?


1. Vivartavada:

  • Sanskrit word विवर्त means [1] transformation, more precisely [2] apparent form in Vedanta philosophy. Vivartavada means the doctrine of apparent transformation.

  • According to Adi Shankaracharya Jagat (word) is actually apparent transformation of Brahman under the effect of illusion. That means the transformation is only apparent (illusory/virtual) i.e unreal.

  • Just like snake appeared in rope in dark is due to ajnana or avidya i.e ignorance/illusion, world appears in Brahman due to ignorance/illusion but as the real thing - rope doesn't change/transform into the snake, Brahman doesn't change. The similar example is of gold and ornaments

  • Note that Vivarta is different from Vikara (विकार). Vikar stands for real transformation but Vivart stands for apparent transformation as explained.

  • It is the doctrine of Adi Shankaracharya for karya-karan (cause and effect) relation/law.

Thus, Vivartavada is a doctrine of Vedanta which explains Jagat (world) as apparent transformation of Brahman (which doesn't change) because of ajnana or avidya which has two Shakti 1.Aavaranshakti 2.Vikshepshakti.

(Refer Adi Shankaracharya's prakaran-grantha like Vivekachudamani, Aparokshanubhuti etc. for clear understanding of his doctrine)

Quoting some verses from Vivekachudamani that say Jagat is nothing but Brahman:-

  1. All this universe which through ignorance appears as of diverse forms, is nothing else but Brahman which is absolutely free from all the limitations of human thought.

  2. A jar, though a modification of clay, is not different from it; everywhere the jar is essentially the same as the clay. Why then call it a jar ? It is fictitious, a fancied name merely.

  3. None can demonstrate that the essence of a jar is something other than the clay (of which it is made). Hence the jar is merely imagined (as separate) through delusion, and the component clay alone is the abiding reality in respect of it.

  4. Similarly, the whole universe, being the effect of the real Brahman, is in reality nothing but Brahman. Its essence is That, and it does not exist apart from It. He who says it does is still under delusion – he babbles like one asleep.

  5. This universe is verily Brahman – such is the august pronouncement of the Atharva Veda. Therefore this universe is nothing but Brahman, for that which is superimposed (on something) has no separate existence from its substratum.

  6. If the universe, as it is, be real, there would be no cessation of the dualistic element, the scriptures would be falsified, and the Lord Himself would be guilty of an untruth. None of these three is considered either desirable or wholesome by the noble-minded.

  7. The Lord, who knows the secret of all things has supported this view in the words: "But I am not in them" … "nor are the beings in Me".

  8. If the universe be true, let it then be perceived in the state of deep sleep also. As it is not at all perceived, it must be unreal and false, like dreams.

  9. Therefore the universe does not exist apart from the Supreme Self; and the perception of its separateness is false like the qualities (of blueness etc., in the sky). Has a superimposed attribute any meaning apart from its substratum ? It is the substratum which appears like that through delusion.

2. Ajatavada:

  • Sanskrit word जात means originate or create/born and अजात means no-origination or no-creation/unborn. Ajatavada means the doctrine of no-origination or non-creation.
  • According to Gaudapada there is no creation and dissolution. The supreme truth is not subject to creation, transformation and delusion.
  • This is also called paramarth satya.

Quoting some verse from Gaudapada Karika on Mandukya Upanishad:

2-32 There is neither dissolution nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.

3-2 Therefore I shall now describe Brahman, which is unborn, the same throughout and free from narrowness. From this one can understand that Brahman does not in reality pass into birth even in the slightest degree, though It appears to be manifest everywhere.

3-15 The scriptural statements regarding the creation, using the examples of earth, iron and sparks, are for the purpose of clarifying the mind. Multiplicity does not really exist in any manner.

3-26 On account of the incomprehensible nature of Atman, the scriptural passage "Not this, not this" negates all dualistic ideas attributed to Atman. Therefore the birthless Atman alone exists.

3-36 Brahman is birthless, sleepless, dreamless, nameless and formless. It is ever effulgent and omniscient. No duty, in any sense, can ever be associated with It.

3-48 No jiva ever comes into existence. There exists no cause that can produce it. The supreme truth is that nothing ever is born.

4-13 There is no illustration to support the view that the effect is born from an unborn cause. Again, if it is said that the effect is produced from a cause which itself is born, then this leads to an infinite regress.

4-14 How can they who assert that the effect is the cause of the cause and the cause is the cause of the effect, maintain the beginninglessness of both cause and effect?

4-15 Those who say that the effect is the cause of the cause and that the cause is the cause of the effect maintain, actually, that the creation takes place after the manner of the birth of father from son.

4-22 Nothing whatsoever is born, either of itself or of another entity. Nothing is ever produced, whether it be being or non—being or both being and non—being.

4-28 Therefore neither the mind nor the objects perceived by the mind are ever born. To see their birth is like seeing the footprints of birds in the sky.

4-30-31 If, as the dualists contend, the world is beginningless, then it cannot be non—eternal. Moksha (Liberation) cannot have a beginning and be eternal. If a thing is non—existent in the beginning and in the end, it is necessarily non—existent in the present.

4-58 Birth is ascribed to the jivas; but such birth is not possible from the standpoint of Reality. Their birth is like that of an illusory object. That illusion, again, does not exist.

4-71 No jiva ever comes into existence. There exists no cause that can produce it. The supreme truth is that nothing ever is born.

Thus, Ajatavada rejects the blame of Avidya, Maya, Jagat, Jiva, Samsara etc. on Aatman.

Note that Vivartavada and Ajatavada are the doctrine/philosophy/trick{helpful analogy} for explaining the absolute truth according to the level of intellect.

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