The Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika and Shankara’s Commentary
Kārikā, verse 2.33
भावैरसद्भिरेवायमद्वयेन च कल्पितः ।
भावा अप्यद्वयेनैव तस्मादद्वयता शिवा ॥ ३३ ॥
bhāvairasadbhirevāyamadvayena ca kalpitaḥ |
bhāvā apyadvayenaiva tasmādadvayatā śivā || 33 ||
33. This (the Ātman) is imagined both as unreal objects that are perceived and as the non-duality. The objects (Bhāvas) are imagined in the non-duality itself. Therefore, non-duality (alone) is the (highest) bliss.
The reason for the interpretation of the previous verse is thus stated: Just as in a rope, an unreal snake, streak of water or the like is imagined, which are nonseparate (non-dual) from the existing rope,—the same (rope) being spoken of as this snake, this streak of water, this stick, or the like,—even so this Ātman is imagined to be the innumerable objects such as Prāṇa, etc., which are unreal1 and perceived only through ignorance, but not from the standpoint of the Ultimate Reality. For,2 unless the mind is active, nobody is ever able to perceive any object. But no action is possible for Ātman. Therefore the objects that are perceived to exist by the active mind can never be imagined to have existence from the standpoint of the Ultimate Reality. It is therefore this (non-dual) Ātman which alone is imagined as such illusory objects as Prāṇa, etc., which are perceived, as well as the3 non-dual and ultimately real Ātman (which is the substratum of illusory ideas, such as Prāṇa, etc.) in the same manner as the rope is imagined as the substratum of the illusion of the snake. Though4 always one and unique (i.e., of the nature of the Ātman), the Prāṇa, etc., the entities that are perceived, are imagined (from the standpoint of ignorance) as having the nondual and ultimately real Ātman as their substratum. For, no illusion is ever perceived without a substratum. As “non-duality” is the substratum of all illusions (from the standpoint of ignorance) and also as it is, in its real nature, ever unchangeable, non-duality alone is (the highest) bliss even5 in the state of imagination, i.e., the empirical experiences. Imaginations alone (which make Prāṇa, etc., appear as separate from Ātman) are the cause of misery.6 These imaginations cause fear, etc., like the imaginations of the snake, etc., in the rope. Non-duality7 is free from fear and therefore it is the (highest) bliss.
Ānandagiri’s Ṭīkā (glossary):
1 Unreal—It is because the one characteristic of these perceived forms of objects is their changeability.
2 For, etc.— From the standpoint of Ultimate Reality, there is no Kalpanā, or ideation which makes the Bhāvas or the perceived objects appear as separate from Brahman. From that standpoint Brahman is always everything and everywhere. This ideation is due to ignorance—an explanation which is given from the empirical standpoint.
3 The non-dual, etc.—This non-dual characteristic of the Ātman is a correlative of the duality. Hence this conception of non-duality is not free from ignorance. In contrast to the changeable Bhāvas, the Ātman is imagined as the non-dual entity. Hence they stand and fall together. Ātman is beyond all Kalpanā or mental activity. Therefore Ātman, from the highest standpoint, cannot be called one, if the term is used as a contrast to the many or duality. Non-duality is a negation of all thoughts of duality.
4 Though, etc.—Such entities as Prāṇa, etc., which are perceived to exist, are from the highest standpoint identical with Ātman. They are like the dream objects which are found, on waking up, to be identical with the mind. Only from the waking standpoint we know them as illusion; and seeking a cause for such illusion we point out Ātman as its substratum.
5 Even, etc.—Even when the mind moves in the empirical plane it attains peace when it discovers the unity underlying the variety. Non-duality alone dispels our doubts and makes us happy.
6 Misery, etc.—Kalpanā or imagination that makes the Bhāvas, or the objects that are perceived appear as separated from Brahman, is the cause of fear, as in that state of duality people are assailed with all kinds of fear arising from hatred, jealousy, animosity, etc. When the snake, imagined in the rope, is perceived to be other than the rope, it gives rise to all kinds of fear, etc.
7 Non-duality, etc.—When the student attains to the state of non-duality, he enjoys real bliss, as in that state there exists nothing of which he can be afraid.
This verse explains the previous one as well as the two other verses in the Āgama Prakaraṇa (17 and 18). The highest teaching of Vedānta is that Brahman alone is real. What are known as Bhāvas or multiple phenomena are nothing but Brahman. As the snake is identical with the rope from the standpoint of knowledge, or as the dream objects are nothing but the mind, so are the various objects perceived by us nothing but Brahman. When one perceives the snake as other than the rope, he is afraid. This fear is based upon ignorance. Similarly, when one finds the objects as separate from Ātman he feels attached to or disgusted with them and suffers accordingly. But the highest bliss is realised when one finds everything as Brahman. From the standpoint of Truth, Prapañca or the phenomenal world or even the idea of perceiving them does not exist as separate from Brahman. Therefore no birth or death can be predicated of what exists ultimately. Therefore to a man of the highest wisdom there is nothing to be added to or subtracted from. All is non-dual Ātman. Even what appears as unreal Bhāvas to the ignorant is non-dual Ātman to the Jñāni.