neti neti

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Wed Mar 25 07:33:53 CST 1998


The last exchange of posts did not result in much of progress and I would
like to go back to the previous step.

On Mon, 23 Mar 1998, Anand Hudli wrote:

>  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.

>  [...]
>  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.

>  [...]
>  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.

>  [...]
>  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.
>  [...]

In all the above quotes, the point is well made that to deny ajnAna
while still being in ajnAna is spiritual suicide, is counter-productive
etc. I do not deny that, and I share the viewpoint to some extent.

My thinking on this matter is the following: Is it necessary to worry
whether the spiritual life of a particular vedanta student (or the
spiritual life of a student with a particular vedanta approach) is
doomed or not ? What good does that do to *our* spiritual progress ?
Shri RamaNa's approach in this type of discussion would be the most
appropriate. (I do not know if Shri RamaNa ever answered this type of
question. But, looking at His answers to similar type of questions, I
would venture that Shri RamaNa's answer would be: "Why worry about
whether vedanta student X's spiritual life is doomed or not ? Have you
set your mind in order to know who you are ?")

So, rather than putting the questions the way Shri Anand Hudli has
phrased them, I would put them in the following way and seek response
from Anand and also from the List.

1. Is it or is it not necessary for a jeeva to get over the feeling
that "I am ajnAni" to proceed forward in attaining Brahma vidya
(knowledge of the Brahman) ?

2. If the answer to the above is yes, then what makes one get over the
feeling "I am ajnAni" ?

3. Is there any advantage to the repeated revival of the thought "I am
ajnAni" ? Why does one need to hold to that thought "I am ajnAni" ?
Would there be any spiritual progress in that ? Is there not danger of
stagnation ?

4. What is premature denial of ajnAna ? How does the decision and by
whom is it made whether it is premature if not by the individual jeeva
(assuming that the jeeva is a sincere aspirant of moksha) ?

5. Anand brought up the matter of mumukshutvam as a necessity. I think
every vedanta student is a mumukshu (aspirant of moksha). If he/she is
not a mumukshu, then there is no point in following vedantic studies and
the ego would have forced the jeeva to give up vedanta studies long ago
and would have forced the jeeva to follow the so-called worldly pleasures.
It has to be accepted that every vedanta student is a deeply committed,
sincere aspirant of moksha. Even the aspiration for moksha would die out
in a committed vedantin and perfect vairAgya settles in.

4. Is it not more advantageous for spiritual progress of the vedanta
student to think that he/she is a jnAni ? If not, what is the purpose
of the innumerable works by Shri Shankara and other great teachers
equating the Atman with the Brahman ? I am sure Shri Shankara did not
write them only for the jnAnis. I give the example of serial postings by
Shri Mantralaura on the garland of sacred knowledge. In that, statements
are made " I am unattached ... etc. The statements do not say "I am an

5, As Anand pointed out, in other schools of philosophy, it may be
acceptable and may be necessary to consider oneself to be an ajnAni. But
in advaita, why consider oneself to be ajnAni perpetually ? It is not
convincing to me at all. I see the difficulty with the ego claiming the
prize. However, there would be a stage in the spiritual evolution of the
vedanta student where the ego is kept in check  and the thought or crutch
"I am ajnAni" can safely be thrown out for good.

>  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