neti neti

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 25 16:43:52 CST 1998

 At the outset I would like to clarify one thing. It is not
 fair for me to respond to what neither I have said nor any of the
 AchAryas in Shankara's tradition. For example, you have asked
 the question what advantage there is in the repeated revival of
 the thought "I am an ajnaani" (please see below).
 But I have not said such a thing! No teacher in advaita has said
 that either. So why bring it up? If this is a result of a
 misunderstanding of what I wrote, I apologize.
 In that case, I request you to re-read what I have written

 What I have been arguing for is a sincere acknowledgement
 from every aspirant that he/she is afflicted by ajnaana and that
 he/she needs to wipe out that ajnaana by means of jnaana. An
 acknowledgement of ajnaana is not the same as condemning oneself
 to ajnaana for ever. Such an acknowledgement is required before
 one can receive jnaana. Arjuna, out of sheer despair, not knowing
 what to do, approached Krishna on the battlefield, and asked to
 be considered His disciple (shishhyaste .aham). Even Shri Raama
 approached the sage VasiShTha, considering Himself to be afflicted
 by ajnaana, and asked for enlightenment as per the Yoga VaasiShTha
 that has been referred to in the recent past on this list.

 Keeping this in mind, I will try to answer some of the questions.

 Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
>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 ?")

 This forum being that of discussion, one has to point out what
 he/she perceives to be a misunderstanding or mistake on the part
 of others in following advaita, and also, of course, learn from
 others if one's own understanding is not correct. Participating
 in such a discussion does not amount to worrying about the
 spiritual life of someone else.

>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) ?

 It is. But the jiiva needs to recognize the fact that it needs to
 overcome ajnaana. Again, please do not read this as saying that
 the jiiva should keep reminding itself that it is an ajnaani.
 Being aware of one's limitations is one thing and adopting a
 pessimistic attitude ("I will always be in ajnaana") is quite

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

 The acquisition of jnaana.
>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 ?

 I have already commented that I did not say nor imply that one
 must have the repeated revival of the thought " I am an ajnaani."
 And attributing such a statement to any of the advaitic teachers
 would be indicative of a misunderstanding, at best. So the question
 is not relevant.

>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) ?

 This is a good question. If ajnaana is a disease (which it
 actually is), premature denial would be akin to the denial of
 a patient, who is actually suffering from the disease, that he/she
 has the disease. Such denial will certainly not cure the patient!
 What the patient needs is medicine administered by a qualified
 physician. But in order to  take the medicine, the patient must
 first recognize or admit that he/she has the disease, and approach
 the physician appropriately. Then by properly and regularly
 taking the medicine, the disease gets cured. Of course, the
 physician may insist on some discipline/restrictions to be followed
 in taking the medicine. Such discipline will have to be followed.
 If the patient takes the medicine without following the restrictions/
 discipline laid out by the physician, there will be no cure of the

 The decision of approaching the physician for medicine must be
 taken by the jiiva, typically.

>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
>Shri Mantralaura on the garland of sacred knowledge. In that,
>are made " I am unattached ... etc. The statements do not say "I am an

 Again, I point out that I did not make any statement to the effect
 that one has to keep repeating "I am an ajnAni."
 The only purpose of all works of advaita is to remove ajnaana.
 They accomplish this removal of ajnaana by first pointing out
 the superimposition caused by ajnaana on the Self (adhyaaropa),
 and then by negating this superimposition (apavaada).
 They do _not_ merely_ resort to praising the reader as a jnaani.
 At the same time, please do not misunderstand them to be condemning
 the reader as a perpetual ajnaani!

 But I still contend that one must not be under the (false)
 assumption that he/she is a jnaani at the stage when he/she is
 seeking instruction on jnaana. The simple reason being that if
 one is already a jnaani, one does not need any such instruction,
 be it from Shankara or any other teacher. The only purpose of a
 Guru is to remove the disciple's ajnaana or at least help in
 removing the ajnaana. If the (so-called) disciple is already a
 jnaani, there is nothing that a Guru can offer!

>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.
>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
>vedanta student where the ego is kept in check  and the thought or
>"I am ajnAni" can safely be thrown out for good.
 I have responded to this in my previous message.


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