neti neti

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Fri Mar 20 08:46:11 CST 1998

On Thu, 19 Mar 1998, Anand Hudli wrote:

>   Considering the fact that the upanishadic principle "neti neti"
>   is taught by a Guru to a disciple who is not necessarily a
>   jiivanmukta already, I do not see why only a jiivanmukta should
>   be using it. Your response above seems to be implying that.
>   If a non-jiivanmukta should be using "neti neti", he certainly
>   cannot have realized, to begin with, that the jagat, jiiva, and
>   Ishvara are not real. When he learns the "neti neti" principle
>   from the Guru, he then realizes the unreality of jiiva, etc.

Now, how clear and distinct is the boundary between a jivanmukta
(jnAni) and non-jivanmukta (ajnAni) ?

My thinking is, it is an evolutionary process. A person does not turn
into a jnAni overnight, although such is possible. Most will see the
light over a period of time. As the human steadily becomes a jnAni
(or to say more correctly, as progressively his/her ajnAna is removed),
the human sees (i) the unreality of the joys of the present day life,
(ii) the unreality of the sorrows of the world, (iii) the unreality of
the world, (iv) and unreality of the jeeva.

In that transition stage, use of neti neti is justifiable. I suspect that
it is only in this transition state, neti neti is heard most; because
a dense ajnAni does not understand and hence has no use for neti neti,
a jivanmukta does not have to say neti neti.

>   A more important point I am trying to make here is that according
>   to advaita, ajnaana or avidyaa has no beginning, but it does have
>   an end for those receive jnaana! From some of the points made on
>   this list, it seems to me that some people here are of the opinion
>   that ajnaana has no beginning and no end either because it simply
>   does never exist. While this may be true from the paaramaarthika
>   view, we (at least most of us!) are not born liberated. So we
>   accept that there is ajnaana which must be got rid of.  The

My understanding is the following. AjnAna is like darkness. When the
light is switched on, darkness disappears. Darkness does not get pushed
into another room. That is, the density of darkness in the other room
does not increase. The darkness in the lighted room simply vanishes.
This is the same with any type of true knowledge. Can we remember how
we were before we learnt the alphabets ? In the same way, once ajnAna
is destroyed, there is no way ajnAna will return to us again. Then for
a jnAni state, was ajnAna there ? Probably no, just as we do not know
when we were illiterate. From that perspective, ajnAna may never be

>   The
>   argument that if one merely thinks he is liberated he is indeed so
>   and if he thinks he is in bondage he is indeed so, is faulty in that
>   it makes a mockery of shruti and various teachings that our
>   Achaaryas have left behind.

I would be most grateful for clarification of this part, particularly the
shruti reference. My feeling is: all the bondage we are under is all
imagined bondage. UpAdhi, the superposed has all the bondages, not the

>  Anand

Gummuluru Murthy
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute   Katha Upanishhad II.3.14

When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list