[Advaita-l] Is an ISvara compatible with advaita vedAnta?

Stig Lundgren slu at bredband.net
Mon Feb 14 09:25:11 CST 2005

Dear Sri Amuthan Arunkumar R,

> > jnAni's vyavahAra will be with a sublated (bhAdita
> > jnAna)  knowledge of
> > world!!
> that a sublated knowledge of the "world" will exist
> for a jN.Ani is precisely the point questioned.

In Brahma Sutra Bhashya 4.1.15., Shankara describes what is happening to the
past virtues and vices after the rise of knowledge of Brahman. According to
Shankara, those past virtues and vices are destroyed who have not yet begun
to bear fruit when knowledge dawns "but not so are those destroyed whose
results have already been partially enjoyed and by which has been begun this
present life in which the knowledge of Brahman arises."

But does this mean that even the person who has gained
brahmajnana is still ignorant, and that he (or she) has to wait for death
and the demise of the body before getting finally
liberated from avidya (ignorance)? According to numerous later vedantins,
liberation in life (jivanmukti) is of secondary importance since the
liberated person still has a body, due to remnants of avidyA. True mukti,
they argue, is possible first after death and liberation without the body
However, Shankara himself seems to be of a different opinion when he writes:
"Perhaps you will say that disembodiment can only occur when the body falls
at death, and not in the case of a living person. But this is not correct.
For the notion that one has a body at all is prompted simply by wrong
knowledge. One cannot suppose that the Self possesses a body except through
erroneus knowledge, taking the form of identifying the Self with the body.
For we have already
explained how the bodilessness of the Self is eternal as it is
not the result of any act." (SBh.1.1.4.)

However, the one who realizes the knowledge of the absolute is not subject
to avidyA, since avidyA exists only from the
empirical (vyavahArika) standpoint. To someone who has realized knowledge of
Atman, there is of no importance whatsoever if he (or she) still has a body
from the empirical point of view. The one who has the metaphysical knowledge
of the absolute is not affected by his body or the empirical world, since he
knows that the body and the empirical world is really not existing at all.
But why then is the enlightened person still aware of his body? This has to
do with what Shankara says in Brahma Sutra Bhasya 4.1.15., namely results
from earlier lives (or from the present life before the rise of knowledge)
which has already begun to bear fruit in this present life. But the
important point is that the enlightened person is in no way affected by his
bodily life.
Of course, he might get ill or bodily hurt like any other person. But he
knows (really KNOWS) that this
does not affect his true nature (Atman/Brahman) at all. The body is of no
importance to him. He knows that from the standpoint of the absolute
(pAramArtika) there is no death, birth, time, space, waking, dream,
deep-sleep, illness, plurality or whatever. By the way, consider the
following: If the jivanmukta still remained ignorant to some degree then he
would not been able to teach us about the absolute reality since he didn´t
knew it himself! In other words, we would never have the opportunity to know
the truth even from
the greatest of gurus.

So when Shankara says that false knowledge (mithyAjnAna) continues for a
while due to past tendencies (SBh 4.1.15.), he simply means that the body
(and the empirical world) continues to exist due to impressions, experiences
etc. in earlier lives. It could be compared to what happens when a potter
rotates the wheel. When the potter stops the wheel, it continues to rotate
for a while - in spite of being stopped - due to its own momentum. (SBh.
4.1.15.) Or when you see a snake in front of you laying on the ground:
Suddenly you realise it is actually a rope, not a snake. But your heart
continues to beat faster for a few seconds, even though you are 100%
perfectly sure it is a rope.

At the dawn of jnAna, the seeker gets the conviction that
avidyA never existed at all. The knower of Brahman does not
wrongly indentify himself with the body. The Brihandaranyaka
Upanishad says: "Just as the slough of a snake worn out and cast off, lies
in an anthill, so does this body lie here, and AS FOR HIMSELF, he is verily
bodiless, immortal, Life, Brahman indeed, Light itself." (Br.4.4.7.)
Shankara´s commentary to this is as follows: "Now this other, the knowing
one who is compared in the Shruti to the snake, has become free, identical
with all. Like the snake in the illustration, he is verily bodiless.
Although he continues to be there, he is no more an embodied being as before
[...] he was embodied and mortal before this because of his
pre-conceived identity with the body owing to desire and action. Now that he
is free from either, he is bodiless, and hence immortal." (Br.Bh.4.4.7.).

Warmest regards
Stig Lundgren

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