[Advaita-l] GITA - 2.29

Amuthan aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Fri Feb 24 12:50:10 CST 2006

namo nArAyaNAya!

the self, though ever present, is quite difficult to
know because of it's extremely subtle nature. because
of this fact, the self, self knowledge and the knower
of the self, all these three are wonderful. this is
taught by kRShNa in a 'wonder'ful verse, 

Ashcharyavatpashyati kashchidenaM
Ashcharyavadvadati tathaiva chAnyaH.
AshcharyavachchainamanyaH shRNoti
shrutvApyenaM veda na chaiva kashchit.. 29

someone sees this (the self) as being wonderful.
similarly, someone talks of it as being wonderful.
some other person hears it as being wonderful. even
after hearing about it, someone surely doesn't know

a note on translation: the last pAda of this verse can
be translated in two different ways - 1. veda na
kashchit - nobody knows it, 2. na veda kashchit -
someone does not know. a lot of existing translations
of the gItA translate the last pAda of this verse in
the first way, i.e. 'shrutvApyenaM veda na chaiva
kashchit' is translated as 'even after hearing about
the self, no one knows it'. this translation is WRONG
since it contradicts both the shruti-s and the gItA
itself. the second alternative is the correct one and
is in tune with AchArya's bhAShya. this ambiguity in
understanding the shloka is noted by MS and he
explicitly states that the first alternative is wrong.

here, 'Ashcharyavat' can be understood with respect to
the self, self knowledge or the knower of the self.
these are wonderful in the sense that they are
extremely difficult to know. kRShNa tells this in
order to console arjuna, who did not comprehend the
self even after repeatedly hearing about it, from
grief on account of his inability to know his self.   

the self, though without any attributes, is perceived
as possessing a body, mind etc due to avidyA. the fact
that the supreme self, which alone is the reality, is
falsely perceived to be something else due to avidyA
is indeed a wonder since avidyA itself is nonexistent.

someone - an uttamAdhikAri - who is endowed with
sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti, directly experiences the
pure self when he hears the vedAnta mahAvAkya-s. this
experience is essentially a continous and unchanging
modification of the mind in the form of the supreme
self and is known as akhaNDAkAra vRtti, samAdhi etc.
this modification of the mind arises immediately after
he gains aparokSha tattva j~nAna. 

aparokSha tattva j~nAna, being a modification of the
mind, is itself a product of avidyA. this being the
case, it is a wonder that it destroys avidyA and in
the process destroys itself leaving behind the ever
present self. 

the knower of the self, upon directly knowing his own
self, remains as the self. his mind attains samAdhi
pariNAma in the form of an akhaNDAkAra vRtti. inspite
of this, it is a wonder that his mind emerges from
samAdhi due to the strange power of prArabda karma and
that he is seen to interact with the world. though the
mind is not still, he remains as the self and hence,
experiences experiences the self even during his
interactions with the world. in other words, a j~nAni
is in a state of constant self awareness irrespective
of the state of the mind. such j~nAni-s are wonderful
since they are as rare as kRShNa Himself! 

only one who knows the self directly can teach it to
others. such a knower of the self talks of the self as
a wonder and teaches the nature of the self solely
based on his anubhUti, using the shAstra-s only as a
tool. that a knower of the self speaks of the self is
itself a wonder since the self can be known only by
nirvikalpaka sAkShAtkAra and cannot be expressed by
words, as is evident from shruti-s like 'yato vAcho
nivartante. aprApya manasA saha'. 

it is a wonder that someone - an uttamAdhikAri - hears
about the self from vedAnta mahAvAkya-s like
'tattvamasi' and immediately realizes it's true
nature. the self, though not the content of words,
which are normally used to describe objects,
nevertheless is realized upon hearing the mahAvAkya-s
just as a person who is sleeping wakes up when someone
calls his name.  

even one who hears of the self is a wonder, what then
to say of the one who realizes it upon hearing it?
some hear about the self and realize it after the
perfection of manana and nididhyAsana. even after
hearing it, someone surely does not realize it. this
shows that self knowledge is indeed difficult to
obtain and is possible only with the destruction of
all obstacles that prevent it's origination. 

this verse can also be interpreted to mean that to an
ignorant person, it is a great wonder that the
innermost self can be seen, spoken of or heard. 

thus, it can be seen that the purpose of this shloka
is to eulogise the self, self knowledge and the knower
of the self. 

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

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