saguNa and nirguNa are the same

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 23 14:26:04 CST 1999

On Mon, 22 Nov 1999 17:43:33 -0500, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
<ramakris at EROLS.COM> wrote:

 Thanks for a well thought out post.

>I'll first give an outline of my understanding, as a series of
>"claims". I'll justify my claims separately. This approach
>will help in two ways: the first is that it summarizes my
>understanding. The second is that is any of my claims is
>wrong, it can be easily pointed out.
>claim 1: jIvanmukti is attained by GYAna alone. It need not
>and should not be combined with karma.

>claim 2: saguNopAsana or meditation on Gods leads to
>kramamukti. saguNopAsana has to necessarily be combined with
>karma. Only when saguNopAsana combined with karma leads to
>kramamukti. saguNopAsana without karma leads to undesirable

 I have difficulty in agreeing with this. MadhusUdana SarasvatI,
 for example, was a sannyAsin and yet he practiced bhakti/upAsana.
 Many sannyAsins do many kinds of upAsana such as praNava(OMkAra)
 upAsana. If there is a restriction that upAsana must be done
 in combination with karma, these would not have been able to
 do such upAsana. upAsana is defined as "samAnapratyayapravAhakaraNam.h"
 as per Shankara or also as dhyAna -
 tailadhArAvat.h santato .avichchhinnapratyayo dhyAnam.h,
 dhyAna (meditation) is the continuous and unbroken thought, like the
 flow of oil - (Shankara's gItA bhAshhya 13.24). So if upAsana/dhyAna/
 bhakti towards saguNa Brahman is practised as fixing the mind entirely
 on the object - saguNa Brahman, I do not understand why karma should
 be brought in and insisted upon. But I do agree partially, taking a
 cue from MadhusUdana's gItA bhAshhya. upAsana/bhakti can be of three

  1) karma-mishra - mixed with karma
  2) shuddha - unmixed with karma (or GYAna)
  3) GYAna-mishra - mixed with GYAna

 Shankara himself makes this comment, recognizing different types of
 upAsana :

 kAnichit.h brahmaNa upAsanAni karmasamR^iddhyarthAni kAnichit.h
 abhyudayArthAni, kAnichitkramamuktyarthAni teshhAM guNavisheshho-
 pAdhibhedena bhedaH |  (sUtra bhAshhya 1.1.12)

 Some upAsanas of Brahman are meant for increasing the fruit of
 actions, some for bringing about prosperity, some for bringing
 about Krama-mukti. The differences among them are due to the differences
 in attributes (assigned to Brahman) and the limiting adjuncts (assigned
 to Brahman in the upAsanas).

 upAsana may be mixed with karma (initially). Such meditations are
 prescribed in the Vedas and may be combined with Vedic karmas. This is
 clear. But it is not right to say that all upAsana's are to be
 combined with karma.

 Besides, it is impossible to mix GYAna-mishra upAsana with karma
 for the simple reason that GYAna and karma are like light and darkness!
 These two cannot be mixed even in the slightest way. If one could mix
 GYAna-mishra upAsana with karma, one could have a situation where one is
 practising karma in conjunction with GYAna- an impossibility. In other
 words, karma-upAsana samuchchaya is possible, upAsana-GYAna samuchchaya
 is possible, but not karma-GYAna samuchchaya, not karma-upAsana-GYAna
 samuchchaya. The only comment I can make at this stage about the
 shuddha type of upAsana is that it should ultimately lead to the
 GYAna-mishra type.

 And Shankara does endorse upAsana-GYAna samuchchaya in his gItA
 bhAshhya, for example in commenting on (the famous verse) 9.22:

 ananyAshchintayanto mAM ye janAH paryupAsate |
 teshhAM nityAbhiyuktAnAM yogaxemaM vahAmyaham.h |

 Note how Shankara comments on the first line of the verse:

 ananyAH apR^ithagbhUtAH paraM devaM nArAyaNaM Atmatvena gatAH
 santaH chintayantaH mAM ye janAH sannyAsinaH paryupAsate ...

 They are non-different (from Me) who consider the Supreme God
 nArAyaNa as the Self. They, the sannyAsins, who meditate on Me
 and worship Me in all ways... Therefore, it is clear that sannyAsins may
 also be engaged in upAsana, upAsana that is not combined with karma in
 any way. And it is this type of upAsana that confers krama-mukti.

 Shankara also states the common ground or similarity between
 advaitaGYAna and upAsana in his introduction to the chhAndogya
 upanishhad bhAshhya:

 yathA advaitaGYAnaM manovR^ittimAtraM tathA anyAnyupAsanAni mano-
 vR^ittirUpANi ityasti hi sAmAnyam.h |

 Just as advaitaGYAna is only a modification of the mind (destruction
 of the superimposition "adhyAsa" deeply rooted in the mind), so also
 the other upAsanas are modifications of the mind. Herein lies the
 similarity (between advaita-GYAna and upAsana).

>claim 3: saguNopAsana by itself does not lead to mukti, it is
>absolutely dependent on the realization of unconditioned
>brahman. Just before the end of the yuga, the souls in
>brahma-loka attain knowledge of the unconditioned brahman or
>Justification for claim 2:
>b. but, suguNopAsana has to be combined with karma:
> [...]
>Please read the bhAshhyas to verses 8-11 carefully. karma is
>an *integral* part of saguNa-upAsana.

 Please see my remarks above. The IshAvAsya verses would have
 to be interpreted so that the upAsana/vidyAs mentioned here
 are of the lower type, ie. the karma-mishra upAsanas, not
 the GYAna-mishra upAsanas for obvious reasons.

>c. saguNopAsnana without karma is undesirable:
>Refer bhAshhya to verse 9 of the Isha Up.

 Sure, it may refer to the lower upAsanas.

>Since saguNopAsana is absolutely co-dependent on karma and
>finally dependent on "the unqualified brahman", we cannot say
>saguNopAsana and GYAna are the "same". All we can say is that
>they finally lead to same result, but with clear understanding
>of the difference. One involves upAsana and the other involves
>GYAna. The two are **vastly different**.
>If we say saguNa and nirguNa are the same just because the
>"final results" are the same, we must also admit karma and
>GYAna to be the same. Note that we can say karma finally leads
>to mukti and indeed S himself points this out in the bhAshhya
>to 4.1.18. Here sha.nkara clearly says that we can say karma
>leads to mukti, *if it is understood* that karma is followed
>later by shravaNa etc.

  There is a vital difference between karma and upAsana. Nowhere
  does Shankara or any advaitin say that krama-mukti can be achieved
  by karma. True, karma-yoga makes one eligible for GYAna at
  which stage one *must* resort to the shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana
  discipline. In other words, mukti is NOT automatic after
  karma. But there is no such obligatory discipline to be
  followed in the krama-mukti process of upAsana. When one
  attains the Brahmaloka through upAsana, there is no requirement
  that one must undergo shravaNa, manana, and nididhyAsana in
  that state. MadhusUdana, in fact, explicitly says that the great
  truths of the upanishhads automatically become revealed with no
  effort in the Brahmaloka. And this is not the case in karma.

>worshiper and worshiped "the same"? Only when the limiting
>adjuncts of *both* are removed. But, that is the same as GYAna
>and vastly different from upAsana. In fact there is no scope
>for upAsana to be combined with GYAna. The two vastly
>different. I hope this clears up things a bit.

 See my remarks above regarding GYAna-mishra upAsana.

>What is the meaning of this story? Lord Siva says Siva or
>Vishhnu who are brahman limited by adjuncts are not the
>ultimate truth. When the limiting adjuncts are removed, that
>is the "unqualified" brahman. All this means is that the same
>brahman appears *as if* possessed by attributes and only in
>this sense can be said to be the qualified brahman also. This,
>however, seems to be **completely different** from what the
>prabodasudhAkara is saying. In any case, we cannot say that
>the effect of saguNopAsana are GYAna are the "same" for the
>reasons I gave above.

 Again, the effects are the same only if "mukti" is viewed
 as the end-result. If one is interested in jIvanmukti, of course,
 GYAna is an absolute must. My  point and also the point of the
 prabodhasudhAkara seems to be that upAsana/bhakti can be combined
 with GYAna and upAsana is also a moxa-sAdhana. Even if upAsana
 is not used as moxa-sAdhana by the aspirant, it can be used as a
 preparation for GYAna.

 I will end with a quote from Shankara's commentary on the Katha
 upanishhad (2.15) where he talks about the praNava (OMkAra) upAsana:

 OM shabdavAchyaM OM shabdapratIkaM cha brahma | aparaparabrahmaNoH
 hi pratIkaM etadaxaram.h | etaddhi eva axaraM GYAtva (brahmetyupAsya)
 yo yadichchhati paraM aparaM vA tasya tat.h bhavati |

 Brahman is represented by the OMkAra sound and symbol. This letter
 (AUM) is the symbol of (both) the lower and Higher Brahman. Knowing
 this letter (AUM), doing upAsana of AUM, one attains whatever one
 desires, the Higher or lower (Brahman).

 Compare this with gItA 8.13:

 oMityekAxaraM brahma vyAharan.h mAmanusmaran.h |
 yaH prayAti tyajan.h dehaM sa yAti paramAM gatim.h ||


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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