neti neti

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 23 13:51:16 CST 1998

 Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
>Now, how clear and distinct is the boundary between a jivanmukta
>(jnAni) and non-jivanmukta (ajnAni) ?

 This depends on which standpoint you are looking from. A jiivanmukta
 may not consider the difference but from a vyaavahaarika view, there
 is a sea of difference. The obvious difference being, that the
 person with ajnaana identifies the Self with the body, possessions,
>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.

 Regardless of whether jnaana comes suddenly or over a period of time
 (depending on the person), the point I was trying to make is that
 jnaana or vidyaa will result in the destruction of ajnaana. And
 this acquistion of jnaana is an event, which is also the end of
 ajnaana. As you said, the event may be short or spread over a
 period of time; it is an event nevertheless. As
 Shankara says emphatically over and over again, in his works,
 for example, vidyaiva ajnaanahaanaaya (upadeshasaahasrii).
 So to deny ajnaana to begin with, ie. before the dawn of jnaana,
 would be missing the point.

>In that transition stage, use of neti neti is justifiable. I suspect
>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.

 I agree. That is what I was saying in my previous message.

>>   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

 That is alright. But I was trying to point out that it is not
 correct to deny ajnaana prior to becoming a jnaani. Such denial
 will probably be the equivalent of spiritual suicide.

>>   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
>>   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
>shruti reference. My feeling is: all the bondage we are under is all
>imagined bondage. UpAdhi, the superposed has all the bondages, not the

 No advaitin will assert that bondage is real in an absolute sense.
 But at the same time, it is asserted in the texts that ajnaana or
 avidyaa has no beginning. It is only by receiving proper jnaana
 (called samyak jnaana) that this ajnaana or bondage comes to an end.
 In the Chhaandogya upanishhad, a story is told about how a man is
 brought blind folded from the Gaandhaara desha to a forest. He has
 to find his way back home, and he can only do so by receiving proper
 instructions, and go from village to village until he reaches his
 destination. The point here is that for a person in ajnaana, seeking
 proper jnaana is essential. Otherwise, he cannot free himself from
 samsaara. There is no use in denying bondage at that stage. In fact,
 such denial will be counter productive.

 In the samskshhepa shaariiraka, which is an abridged explanation
 of the Brahma suutras based on Shankara's commentary, the author
 Sarvajnaatman makes the point that due to avidyaa, a person even
 after listening to statements about Brahman will not be in position
 to truly understand them.

 Furthermore, one of the essential qualifications of a student of
 advaita, mentioned repeatedly in the texts is that of mumukshhutva,
 the desire for liberation. Without this desire for liberation, the
 learning and instruction will not be effective. Now how does a
 desire for liberation arise? Necessarily, by the recognition that
 one is in bondage in the present state. This being so, if the
 would-be student thinks, "There is no bondage, no liberation, no
 seekers after liberation. Why do I need the instructions of the
 Guru?", this will be a most negative attitude. The spiritual life
 of the student is doomed.

 Again, to clear up any misunderstanding, there may be no meaning to
 bondage and liberation when one is established in that fourth
 "turiiya" state. But bondage and liberation are significant for
  those who are yet to realize that state. If there were to be no
 such significance, all the shruti's and teachings of the AchAryas
 would be without a purpose. The only true purpose of such teachings
 is the removal of ajnaana. As has been pointed out earlier in this
 list, removal of ajnaana by jnaana is like removing a thorn with
 another. Once the thorn which is causing pain in the foot is
 removed, both the thorns will be discarded. But  when the
 thorn is still stuck in the foot, one cannot deny its presence!
 It may very well be the case, that once the thorn has been removed,
 the foot heals to such an extent that one forgets being injured by
 the thorn.


Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list