The Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika and Shankara’s Commentary
Kārikā, verse 1.17
प्रपञ्चो यदि विद्येत निवर्तेत न संशयः ।
मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतमद्वैतं परमार्थतः ॥ १७ ॥
prapañco yadi vidyeta nivarteta na saṃśayaḥ |
māyāmātramidaṃ dvaitamadvaitaṃ paramārthataḥ || 17 ||
17. If the perceived manifold were real then certainly it would disappear. This duality (that is cognized) is mere illusion (Māyā). Non-duality is (alone) the Supreme Reality.
If1 the knowledge of non-duality (Turīya) be possible.after the disappearance of the perceived manifold, how could non-duality be said to exist (always) while the perceptual manifold remains? This is explained thus: This would have been true if the manifold really existed.2 This manifold being only a false imagination, like the snake in the rope, does not really exist. There is no-doubt that it would (certainly) disappear if it really existed.4 The snake imagined in the rope, through false conception, does not really exist and therefore does, not disappear5 through correct understanding. Nor, similarly, does the illusion of the vision conjured up by the magician exist and then disappear as though a veil thrown over the eyes of the spectators (by the magician) were removed. Similar is this duality of the cognized universe called the Phenomenal or manifold, (māyāmātraṃ dvaitaṃ) a mere illusion. Non-duality Turīya like the rope and the magician (in the illustrations) is alone the Supreme Reality.5 Therefore the fact is that there is no such thing as the manifold about which appearance or disappearance can be predicated.
Ānandagiri’s Ṭīkā (glossary):
1 If—This is the contention of the opponent : Your assertion that there is anything like the non-dual Turīya cannot be a fact : for, a second entity known as the manifold universe does exist, and is perceived. But if you say that the realisation of the non-dual Turīya is not inconsistent with that of the dual manifold, because Turīya can be realised as such only by the destruction of the manifested manifold, then, so long as the manifold is there as reality and does not disappear, Turīya cannot be established as the eternally existent non-duality.
2 Existed—The manifold does not exist in the sense of a separate Reality. If it had any such existence then alone could it obstruct the eternally non-dual nature of the Turīya by the appearance (of the manifold). If anyone says that the manifold disappears that is only because he believes in its reality. But this is not the Truth, because the appearance of the manifold is only an illusion and not a reality.
3 Really existed— People say that duality disappears only because they believe in its reality. But really duality does not exist, therefore it does not disappear. If any one believes in the reality of such illusory appearance then can one believe in the reality of the disappearance.
4 Does not disappear—The rope is mistaken for an illusory Snake. There is no real snake. When one is pointed out the real rope, no such thing as a snake actually disappears, for no such filing as a real snake existed. It is the illusion due to ignorance that makes one see the snake that disappears but no real snake. The illusion disappears because it is not a reality. That which is liable to be negated cannot be said really to exist at all.
5 Supreme Reality—That is, it is never absent. If one contends that Turīya does not exist when the manifold is seen, we reply that the manifold is nothing but Brahman; only the illusion which manifests the manifold as separate from Brahman comes and goes but the manifold, having for its substratum Brahman, always exists.
This Kārikā deals with the crux of the Vedānta Philosophy. Vedānta says that non-duality (Turīya) alone is real and ever-existent. But the opponent points out to him the fact of the existence of the universe which incontestably proves duality. If this universe be real, then non-duality (Turīya) cannot be a fact. If non-duality is realised only after the disappearance of the objective universe, then non-duality cannot certainly exist so long as the universe exists.
Vedānta shows its boldest genius in answering this question. It at once states that non-dual Brahman alone exists. Whatever is, is nothing but Brahman. The manifold is Brahman. As Brahman, it always exists and never undergoes any change. If a man realises the universe as Brahman, then he is never subject to any illusion regarding its reality. The difference between a Jñāni and an Ajñāni is that a wise man sees the universe as Brahman and therefore never sees in it any appearance or disappearance. But the ignorant person believes in the reality of the universe as apart from Brahman and therefore talks about its disappearance. What really disappears is the illusion that the manifold exists as something other than Brahman. The universe as Brahman does not appear and disappear. It always is. The meaning of the disappearance of the universe really is the disappearance of one’s notion of the illusion (i.e., the existence of the universe as something other than Brahman). It is like the illusion conjured up by the magician. When the real nature of the rope is pointed out, what disappears is only the illusion which presented the rope as other than it is. The on-looker, after his error is pointed out, realises that what her considered as snake is really the rope. It is illusion which made the rope appear as other than what it is. Knowledge removes this illusion. This illusion is unsubstantial and unreal, hence its appearance and disappearance cannot affect the nature of Reality.