[Advaita-l] BGB4.5 on past lives (branch from Ends not Means thread )

Murali Karamchedu murali_m_k at msn.com
Fri Apr 28 21:04:15 CDT 2006

On 4/28/06, Aditya Varun Chadha <adichad at gmail.com> wrote:

>Most Astika hindus recognize the yogic ability to witness past lives.

While I’ve heard this often, my understanding from BGB 4.5 leads me to think 
that the ability to know past lives is not available to one who is still in 
the realm of dharma and adharma. Here is how I understand the issue:

Krishna says that he(Krishna) knows all his prior births; whereas Arjuna 
does not know all of his past lives because Arjuna's jnanaSakti is bound by 
dharma, adharma etc. ( dharmAdharmAdi pratibaddhajnanaSaktitvAt). Here 
Anandagiri elaborates the word 'Adi' (etc) as follows - "Adi Sabdena 
rAgalobhAdayo grahyante" [The word Adi - etc - comprehends raga, lobha etc, 
i.e attachment, greed etc]. Wheras because of Krishna's 
nitya-shuddha-buddha-mukta svabhAva his jnAnaSakti is unimpeded.

Now, the implications of this appear to be:

1. The very factors that constrain our knowledge of our numerous births are 
also the factors that constrain our knowledge of brahman. This is because 
avidya and dharma and adharma are concomitant.

2. The constraining factors, the avidya, is because of attachment and
identification with this body and this birth

3. If one wishes to get past the identification with this body and this 
birth; what is necessary is Atma-anAtma viveka; the very thing necessary for 
avidya nivritti ultimately.

4. Therefore, the pratibaddhajnAnaSakti, which causes us to know only this 
birth is a 'side effect' of avidya in general.

5. Is the converse then true? i.e if one were to have clear and
unconstrained knowledge of prior lives, can one conclude that 
avidya-nivritti has 'occured' for that person (say jada bharatha ?). If so, 
such a yogi is no routine sadhaka, but one who is a brahmavit. What 'use' 
would they have for such trivialities?

If this line of reasoning is correct, it appears then that it is only 
Ishvara or a jIvanmuktA that can know the past lives and not just any 
sadhaka or yogi.

Murali Manohar

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