neti neti

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 23 10:29:49 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.

>>   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 right. 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.
 Of course, after becoming a jnaani, one may find that there is no
 liberation and no bondage, no seekers, etc. In the Chhaandogya
 upanishad, the story is told of how a man is brought blindfolded
 from the Gaandhaara desha and left in a dense forest. He must then
 find out his way back home by receiving instructions, going from
 one village to another. This story is referred to in many advaitic
 works. For example, the Samkshhepa Shaariiraka, which is said to be
 a condensation of the Brahmasuutra Bhaashhya of Shankara, says that
 due to avidyaa, even though a person listens to statements being
 made about Brahman, still he/she remains unrealized.

 Furthermore, one of the qualifications of a student of advaita,
 mentioned over and over again in advaitic works is mumukshhutva,
 the desire for liberation. If the student in question, instead
 thinks, "There is no liberation, no bondage. Why do I need the
 instruction of the Guru?" This will be a most negative thought
 on the part of such a student, to say the least. As has been pointed
 out on this list before, removing ajnaana or avidyaa may be like
 removing a thorn with another thorn, jnaana. Once the thorn or
 avidyaa is removed, both thorns can be discarded. But it does not
 make sense to deny the thorn of avidyaa and, of course the pain
 caused by it, _before_ it is removed. After the removal of the thorn,
 the foot may heal so much that one may even forget that the foot had
 been injured once by a thorn.


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