Shankaracharya on the nature of the jiva I

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sat Mar 29 16:34:06 CST 2003

In the course of other discussions, some statement in the shastras have
been mentioned and it would be useful for readers to know what the the
Advaita posion on them is.

Ishopanishad 9. says

The person who worships ignorance enter into a blinding darkness but into
greater darkness then that enters the one who worships knowledge.

ignorance (avidya) = karma because intentful actions are only possible for
one who falsely believes he is a distinct person with desires and volition
of his own. knowledge (vidya) = meditation, etc.  where the mind is
focused on a particular God or mantra or principle etc.  This is still not
good enough because it still involves the concept of "I" and some thing
outside "myself."  Such people are blinder because they think they
are better off somehow than the first class when in fact they are in
exactly the same boat.  The true goal of the Vedas is jnana (which
unfortunately we also have to translate as knowledge in English although
it is different to vidya. So I will call it supreme knowledge.)  This
supreme knowledge is the realization (mentioned in verse 7) that "all
beings are the Self (atma.)"

Where does "he enter" (pravishanti)?  In verse 3 it says

The non-shining states  are cloaked in blinding darkness.  The killers of
self go there when they die.

The use of the word loka here might suggest the translation "worlds" and
imply there is a planet or planets called Asura (non-shining) where people
go when they die or something.  However the usage here is a state of
perception.  Compare the cognate English word "look."  If we say some
"looks suspicious", it means they have a set of of characteristic
mannerisms we associate with suspicious behavior.  So the person who
desires the consequences of action (karmaphala) e.g. "one who wishes to
live here for 100 years" (verse 2)also has a "look" about him.  These
behaviors of the seeker of karma are perceivable.  after death they lead
to constant rebirth.  A wise man knows that no amount of action will stop
this relentless cycle.  So he calls such behavior asura -- not-shining
because it is only the reflected light of consciousness not a apprehension
of consciousness itself.  Those people who don't know this are killers --
deniers -- of the true nature of the self and their ignorance is
comparable to blinding darkness.  why not use Asura in its' typical sense
of demon?  Because in relation to jnana, even the Devas are non-shining.
They are committed to good deeds rather than bad but deeds nonetheless.

So pravishanti for us doesn't indicate being consigned into an eternal
hell but rather being in a state of ignorance.  The level of ignorance can
make it difficult to escape but escape is _always_ possible.

In my next post I'll discuss some of the Gita verses mentioned before.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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