Liberation and citta vRtti nirodha

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NAC.AC.ZA
Mon Jul 17 03:03:07 CDT 2000

On Thu, 13 Jul 2000, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

> I've been hard pressed for time lately, hence the delay in responding.

I know the feeling only too well.

> I would still appreciate other comments and translations.

I second that: it is an important passage that you have selected.

> Is this the Anandasrama (Pune) edition? That reads kartavyatayA
> avagatatvAd vidheyatvam.

IshAdidashopaniSadaH, Works of Shankaracarya in original Sanskrit,
Vol.1, Motilal Banarssidas, 1964.  And, yes, it reads that way.

> arthAntaram seems to indicate, "a different meaning".

Well, "antara" can also mean "similar", e.g. Panini's use in
sthAne.antaratamaH 1.1.50, and M-W dictionary 91b includes
"a similar case" amongst the contrary meanings for "arthAntara".

The way I read the passage, stressing the similarity or difference
seemed stylistic rather than semantic.  A few lines earlier Shankara
gives (Madvananda):

      Therefore memories of notions of the non-Self die out when
      the Self is known.  As the only alternative left, the train
      of remembrance of the knowledge that the Self is one, which
      comes automatically, is not to be prescribed.  Besides, the
      memory of the Self removes the painful defects such as grief,
      delusion, fear and effort, for these defects spring from the
      opposite kind of knowledge.

My sense is that the objector picked up on the last sentence quoted
above, and not the previous one, and that his point was that other
(different) means, such as Yoga, can also (similarly) negate those
defects through control of the mind.  To this Shankara responds --
importantly -- that such means do not lead to liberation.

The essential point (for me) here, is that the mere negation, or
suppression of the guNAH, leads to avyakta and is only temporary,
whereas the *positive* counterpart (Self-knowledge) is necessary
for liberation -- transcending the guNAH, whether they are active
or not.  It is this *positive* counterpart that makes Advaita
superior to other systems.

> jnAna-pravRtti here really means nivRtti from action.

WOW!  That's magnificent!  jnAna-pravRtti is a beautiful description
for the "conscious" actions of a realised man -- again, it is the
*positive* counterpart of niSkAma karma.

I grant that naiSkarmya transcends that seeming polarity, but until
full realisation, the positive aspects should also be appreciated
-- those on the jnAna marga could learn something from the bhaktas,
who seem to go to the other extreme of over-emphasising the positive.

I like it, jnAna-pravRtti -- like vyaSTi saguna brahman: pUrNam adaH
pUrNam idam ...  Faith in, and devotion and surrender to, the Guru,
makes a lot more sense now!

> This is an admission that the tendency towards
> naishkarmya generated by the freshly acquired knowledge may be
> weaker than the prior tendency towards doing action. Of course, this
> is not a global admission, but is only meant to take into account
> that he who gains steady jnAna immediately upon hearing the veda-vAkya
> is quite rare. The niyama is meant for those who are not steady in
> jnAna.

That sounds reasonable; I'll go along with that.

> niyantavyA bhavati - the sense in which the word is used in the
> technical context of mImAMsA. The very next sentence in the bhAshya
> admits that the sentence, vijnAya prajnAM kurvIta, may be interpreted
> as a niyama vidhi (a restrictive or specifying injunction). Hence,
> I would translate this as, "becomes necessary" or "is to be specified."

Grammatical question: I had understood that the future passive
participle may be used as the main verb in a sentence, giving the
sense of vidhi li"n, and that an auxilliary verb was then not used,
and hence I took niyantavyA in apposition to saMtatir; how else
does bhavati fit in here ?

Returning to Shankara's commentary: he seems to be saying that, until
jnAna is steady, continuous memory of Self-knowledge is enjoined as
the positive counterpart of tyAga etc. -- from which I imply: to prevent
getting again caught in the guNAH (siddhis etc).  Now isn't this exactly
what is given in the first verse of the IshopaniSad:

      IshA vAsyam idam sarvam yat-kinca jagatyAm jagat
      tena tyaktena bhunjIthA mA gRdhaH kasyasvid dhanam

All this -- whatever is changeful in the world [activities of speech,
mind and body = guNAH] -- is to be covered by the Lord [continuos
memory of Self-knowledge].  Protect [the realisation of that knowledge]
through such renunciation [tyAga etc]; do not covet the benefit [such
as siddhis] of any [of the guNAH].

If nothing else, this exchange has brought that first pAda to life
for me.  Thanks!

> The objector is actually referring to the notion that Yoga practice
> needs to be enjoined as a means to final liberation. Sankara objects
> to this, and turns the argument around. Without Self-knowledge as
> obtained from the Vedanta, there is no sure means to attain even the
> Yogic  goal, he says. And once Self-knowledge is gained, citta vRtti
> nirodha follows effortlessly, from its mere remembrance. In other
> words, the Vedantin argues, the forceful methods to control the
> turnings of the mind, as used in some kinds of Yoga, essentially put
> the cart before the horse. (Another chariot metaphor here!)

I think we agree here: I went over the top and, to pick up on your
metaphor, pointed out that the charioteer cannot see where he is
going -- and may also get his feet bitten by the horses!

> Also, Yogasutras and the commentary on them indicate that asamprajnAta
> samAdhi and dharmamegha samAdhi are considered the highest peak of
> Yoga, not nirvikalpa samAdhi.

Thanks for the correction.

> In the asamprajnAta stage, as the word
> indicates, there is not even that awareness of a void, but whether this
> indicates a non-dual state is a different matter.

"[W]hether this indicates a non-dual state" -- that is the whole point!
The *positive* counterpart of Self-knowledge is precisely why Advaita
is superior to other systems: as the recent argument about Buddhism on
this list has shown, there is no knowing where such a system may lead.
Without an ultimate positive Entity, how can there be faith -- at all --
for those caught in samsAra ?

> >Vidya, you have the ability to produce exactly the right bit of
> >scripture at precisely the right time!  Thanks for the opportunity
> !!! Well, no real credit to me here. I was just following up on some
> routine things about two years ago, and chanced upon this passage.

It may seem like serendipity to you, but from my perspective you
are the instrument of the Lord for showering His Grace upon us!

Consider: as soon as the voluminous debate about Buddhism had been
stopped, you begin a thread with "There is a lot of confusion about
..." :-)   Then you give Shankara's passage stating that there is no
means to liberation known to VedAnta other than knowledge of the
identity of Atman ans Brahman -- that should be the final nail in
the Buddhist coffin for (aspirant) Advaitins.

In fact, the whole Buddhist argument was flattened in its early
stages by Anand's post of 12 June under the subject "advaita-siddhi
- 16 BrahmavAda and ShUnyavAda", which brought up the logical
necessity of a counter-positive (illusion must have a substratum,
negation must have a counter-positive).

For me, the positive counterpart is a *practical* necessity: how
can one work through the koshAH, use anvaya-vyatireka and viveka,
without a *positive* unchanging element ?  Even neti neti could
lead to nihilism without its positive counterpart of ayam AtmA

And now, withe excellent timing, Rama has started a series on the
"Exegesis of mahAvAkya-s", and Jaldhar on "Vakyavrtti of Shri
Shankaracharya".  So now we have a cluster of threads: the logical
indication to the positive Reality underlying the phenomenal world,
the direct expositions of that positive Reality, and this thread
linking them through the practical importance of continuous memory
of the Self.  Positive, positive, positive! Four instruments to
shower His Grace upon us!  May the Lord bless all four: Anand,
Jaldhar, Rama and Vidya!

I may have unintentionally hijacked your original purpose in
starting this thread; if so, you have my sincere apologies.
I look forward to the translations and comments of others on
this passage.

Regards, Charles.

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

Archives :
Help     : Email to listmaster at
Options  : To leave the list send a mail to
           listserv at with
           SIGNOFF ADVAITA-L in the body.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list