[Advaita-l] BrahmaGYAna and jIvanmukti - 3 (Non-contradiction with other Vedantic texts)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 18 22:33:55 CST 2006

The previous posting considered the example of YAGYavalkya, who had
attained saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna but not jIvanmukti. He had to
take up vidvatsannyAsa to eliminate his vAsanAs. In this posting,
some of the reasons for such cases will be considered, following the
jIvanmuktiviveka (JMV) of svAmI VidyAraNya (SV). This will
automatically lead to a reconciliation of the JMV with other Vedantic

Definition of jIvanmukti

The JMV defines jIvanmukti in the opening chapter on vAsanAkshaya

  atha jIvanmuktisAdhanaM nirUpayAmaH . 
  tattvaGYAnamanonAshavAsanAkshayaastatsAdhanam.h . ata eva 
  vAsishhTharAmAyaNa upashamaprakaraNasyAvasAne 
  'jIvanmuktasharIrANAm.h' (laghuyogavAsishhThe 28.116) 
  ityetasminprastaave vasishhTha Aha -

  vAsanAkshayaviGYAnamanonAshA mahAmate .
  samakAlaM chirAbhyastA bhavanti phaladAyinaH ..

  "Now we will discuss the means to jIvanmukti. The knowledge 
  of the Truth (tattvaGYAna), the annihilation of the mind 
  (manonAsha) and the effacement of latent tendencies
  (vAsanAkshaya) are the means of jIvanmukti; for this, 
  at the end of the part known as the upashama prakaraNa, 
  i.e. the chapter on perfect tranquility of the 
  VAsishhTha rAmAyaNa, VasishhTha says, while dealing with 
  the body of the jIvanmuktas:

  'Simultaneous practice of the effacement of the latent 
  tendencies, knowledge, and the annihilation of the mind, 
  for a long time, O wise (Rama), brings about the result.' 
  (Laghu-yoga-VAsishhTha 28.116)"

Thus, the JMV refers to the Laghu-yoga-VAsishhTha (LYV) to make the

  jIvanmukti = tattvaGYAna + vAsanAkshaya + manonAsha

Now, a doubt may arise - perhaps by 'tattvaGYAna', mere shAstra-GYAna
is meant, and not really saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna. The case of
YAGYavalkya pointed out in the previous posting refutes this
objection and shows that SV takes tattvaGYAna to mean
saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna only. Here are some more quotes to
reinforce this concept [2]:

  'idaM sarvam Atmaiva, pratiyamAnaM tu rUparasAdikaM 
  jaganmAyAmayam na tvetad vastuto.asti' iti nishcayas 
  tattvaGYAnam . tasyAnutpattau rUparasAdivishhayANAM 
  sadbhAve sati tadgocarAH chittavR^ittayo na nivArayituM 
  shakyante yathA prakshipyamANeshhvindhanAdishhu vahnijvAlA 
  na nivAryate tadvat .

  "'All this is verily the Atman, the apparent world beginning 
  with the form, taste and the like is illusory; it is not 
  really existent' - such conviction is the knowledge of the 
  Truth (tattvaGYAna). In the absence of such knowledge, sense 
  objects such as form, taste etc. continue to exist..."

Therefore, tattvaGYAna is saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna. This point is
reiterated [3]:

  sati cha tattvaGYAne, mithyAbhUte jagati naravishhaaNaadaaviva
  dhIvR^ittyanudaatmanaH cha dR^ishhTatvena ...

  "With knowledge of the Truth (tattvaGYAna), the world becomes
  unreal, and no mental modification about this unreal world takes 
  place, just as a transformation of the form 'horns of a man' 
  never takes place; further mental transformation is 
  unnecessary since the Atman is already seen..."

Those acquainted with Sankara's works may find fault with the above
definition of jIvanmukti, for it would imply that even after
saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna, one still does not have mukti. The
reconciliation of SV's viewpoint with that of Sankara's will be taken
up in the subsequent sections of this posting.

The jIvanmukta as the sthitapraGYa

The route to reconciling the JMV with Sankara's works becomes much
clearer when we consider that the JMV also accepts that jIvanmukti as
exactly identical to AtmaGYAna - provided the AtmaGYAna is steady (or
firm) [4]:

  nanu praGYAH sthityutpattibhyAM praagapi saadhanatvena 
  raagadveshhaadiraahityamapekshitam.h .

  "It may be asked that as a means to the knowledge of the Truth,
  it is necessary to be free from attachment and aversion, etc.
  and also after the realization to make it firmly set."

  bADham.h; tathApyasti visheshhaH, sa cha 
  shreyomArgakaarairdarshitaH -

  'vidyAsthitaye prAGYe saadhanabhuutAH prayatnanishhpaadyAH .
  lakshaNabhuutaastu punaH svabhaavataste sthitAH sthitapraGYe ..

  jIvanmuktiritImAM vidantyavasthAM sthitAtmasaMbodhAm.h .
  baadhitabhedapratibhaamabaadhitAtmAvabodhasaamarthyAt.h ..'

  "Indeed so. But there is some distinction, and that has been 
  pointed out by the author of the shreyomArgaH -

  'All that led to the realization are to be brought about by 
  effort; they are the means. To the sthitapraGYa, they remain
  as natural characteristics.
  This state of ABIDING SELF-KNOWLEDGE (sthita-Atma-saMbodha)
  is called jIvanmukti, wherein all sense of separatedness is 
  counteracted in consequence of unhindered Self-knowledge.'"

Therefore, according to the JMV:

  sthitapraGYa = jIvanmukta

The above will be easily accepted by all traditional advaitins, and
forms the foundation for a reconciliation with Sankara's works.

Two kinds of BrahmaGYAna: sthitaM and asthitaM

The JMV however claims that there is a difference between steady and
unsteady BrahmaGYAna [5]:

  bhagavadgItAsu dvitIyAdhyAye sthitapraGYaH paThayate -

  arjuna uvAcha -
  'sthitapraGYasya kaa bhaashhaa samaadhisthasya keshava .
  sthitadhiiH kiM prabhaashheta kimaasiita vrajeta kim.h .. 2.54 ..

  praGYA tattvaGYAnam.h . tad.h dvividhaM sthitaM asthitaM cha iti .

  "In the second chapter of the Bhagavad GItA the sthitapraGYa
  has been mentioned thus:

  Arjuna said: 'What is the definition of him who is unsteady 
  in the supreme knowledge and in profound meditation? O Keshava,
  how does he, whose knowledge is steady, speak, sit and walk?'

  praGYA means knowledge of Truth (tattvaGYAna) [6].
  That is of two kinds - steady (sthitaM) and unsteady (asthitaM)."

According to the JMV, it is possible for BrahmaGYAna to be both
saMyak and aparoksha, yet asthitaM. The difference between a
BrahmaGYAnI (one who knows Brahman) and a sthitapraGYa (one who is
steady in knowledge of Brahman) is that of subset and superset - i.e.
all sthitapraGYas are BrahmaGYAnIs, but not all BrahmaGYAnIs are
sthitapraGYas (e.g. YAGYavalkya, who can be called a 'GYAnimAtra').
Therefore, vAsanAkshaya and manonAsha are required only to make
steady the knowledge of a GYAnimAtra whose Self-knowledge is
unsteady. When steadiness is attained, the BrahmaGYAnI is a
sthitapraGYa and jIvanmukta.

But why should there be two different kinds of BrahmaGYAna at all?
This is answered in the next section.

Two kinds of disciples: kR^itopAsti and akR^itopAsti

At the very outset of his Brahma sUtra BhAshhya (BSB), Sankara
declares the pre-requisites for an enquiry into Brahman to be a
perfection in sAdhana-chatushhTaya [7]:

  tasmAtkimapi vaktavyaM yadanantaraM brahmajiGYAsopadishyata iti .
  uchyate - nityAnityavastuvivekaH, ihAmutrArthabhogavirAgaH, 
  shamadamAdisAdhanasaMpat, mumukshutvaM cha .
  teshhu hi satsu prAgapi dharmajiGYAsAyA UrdhvaM cha shakyate 
  brahmajiGYAsituM GYAtuM cha na viparyaye .
  tasmAdathAbdena yathoktasAdhanasaMpattyAnantaryamupadishyate .

  "Therefore something has to be pointed out as the prerequisite 
  after which it is taught that the deliberation on Brahman 
  can proceed. The answer is: They are discrimination between 
  the eternal and the non-eternal; dispassion for the enjoyment 
  of the fruits (of work) here and hereafter; a perfection of 
  such practices as control of the mind, control of the senses 
  and organs, etc.; and a hankering for liberation. Granted the 
  existence of these, Brahman can be deliberated on or known 
  even before or after an enquiry into virtuous deeds (dharma),
  BUT NOT OTHERWISE. Therefore by the word "atha" is ENJOINED THE

The gravity of the above statments is often overlooked by people who
embark on a study (and practice) of VedAnta, for they imagine
Sankara's works to be merely an intellectual exercise, which anyone
with a sharp intellect can pursue. But Sankara does not impart his
instruction to the student of mediocre qualifications - he is
interested in instructing only those with a PERFECTION in
sAdhana-chatushhTaya. Sankara actually RULES OUT the possibility of a
student deliberating on Brahman with imperfect sAdhana-chatushhTaya.
If such stringent standards were imposed on all of the students on
VedAnta, very few would remain!

This is accepted as a matter of fact by svAmI VidyAraNya in the
jIvanmuktiviveka [8]:

  sAdhanachatushhTayasampannasya pashchAdbrahmaGYAnamityeshha
  sarvapurushhasaadhaaraNaH prauDho rAjamArgaH .

  "One should accomplish sAdhanachatushhTaya first, and then
  BrahmaGYAna follows - this scheme is the well-known
  royal road (rAja mArga) for all people in general."

The rAja mArga mentioned above refers to Sankara's prescribed path to
BrahmaGYAna through the practice of shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana
(SMN), following a perfection in sAdhanachatushhTaya:

  Karma Yoga -> sAdhanachatuShTaya -> sannyAsa -> SMN -> AtmaGYAna

The entirety of Sankara's works, including the BSB, is therefore to
be interpreted in the context of AtmaGYAna dawning for a student with
perfect sAdhanachatushhTaya. Hence every single statement in the BSB
is conditional to the student of advanced qualifications, as for
example, the statement about jIvanmukti:

  jIvanmukti = BrahmaGYAna
  (If the student has prefect qualifications.)

But what if the student does not have perfect sAdhanachatushhTaya -
will his AtmaGYAna also result in jIvanmukti?

In answering this question, the JMV distinguishes between two kinds
of students [9]:

  tathA hi - vidyAdhikArI dvividhaH, 

  "The student entitled to knowledge is of two kinds. One who 
  has undergone the discipline of worship (kR^itopAsti) and the
  other who has not yet done so (akR^itopAsti)."

The discipline of worship is the practice of prescribed VaidIka Karma
along with the upAsana (as mentioned in the Ishopanishhad, for
instance). This is equivalent to the Karma Yoga of the Bhagavad GItA:

  Karma Yoga = Karma + upAsana

Practicing Karma and upAsana vigorously strengthens one's
sAdhanachatushhTayasaMpatti. Therefore, the first kind of student of
VedAnta (i.e. kR^itopAsti), has firm sAdhanachatushhTaya. SV declares
his BrahmaGYAna to be the same as jIvanmukti:

  tatropAsyasAkshhAtkAraparyantAmupAstiM kR^itvA yadi GYAne 
  pravarteta tadA vAsanAkshayamanonAshayordR^iDhataratvena 
  GYAnAdUrdhvaM vidvatsaMnyAsajIvanmuktI svata eva sidhyataH . 
  tAdR^isha eva SAstrAbhimato mukhyo vidyAdhikArI . tatastaM 
  prati SAstreshhu sahopanyAsAt svarUpeNa viviktAv api 
  vidvatsaMnyAsavividishhAsaMnyAsau sa~NkIrNAviva pratibhAsete .

  "If one has performed worship (upAsana) till he has had the 
  vision of his ideal and then attempts at knowledge, 
  his vAsanAkshaya and manonAsha will be stronger, i.e.,
  of superior strength due to which his vidvatsannyAsa 
  and jIvanmukti will happen, of their own accord, immediately 
  after knowledge. The scriptures recognize him to be the 
  best student fit for knowledge. For such students, 
  vidvatsannyAsa and vividishhAsannyAsa, although 
  distinctly different, have been mentioned together in the 
  scriptures, hence they appear to be mixed up."

Thus, there is a good reason why Sankara has not mentioned
vividishhA-sannyAsa and vidvat-sannyAsa separately - because his
students are so advanced (kR^itopAstis) that the two kinds of
sannyAsa "overlap" into each other. For these elite students of
VedAnta, who have performed Karma and upAsana till they have reached
a firm grounding in sAdhanachatushhTaya, VASANAKSHAYA AND MANONASHA
BEGINS. Hence their BrahmaGYAna is immediately steady, and is the
same as jIvanmukti.

This however is not the case for those who have taken up the study
and practice of VedAnta before performing the prescribed upAsanas

  idAnIM tanAstu prAyeNAkR^itopAstaya evautsukyamAtrAt.h 
  sahasA vidyAyAM pravartante . vAsanAkshayamanonAshau cha 
  tAtkAlikau saMpAdayanti . tAvatA shravaNamanananididhyAsanAni 
  nishhpAdyante . taishcha 
  sAt.h tattvaGYAnaM samyag udeti . uditasya 
  punarutpattikAraNAbhAvAchcha nAsti tasya shaithilyam .
  vAsanAkshayamanonAshau tu dR^iDhAbhyAsAbhAvAdbhogapradena 
  prArabdhena tadA tadA bAdhyamAnatvAchcha 
  savAtapradeshadIpavatsahasA nivartete .

  "But most modern students, even with no previous practice of 
  meditation (upAsana), just out of curiosity, suddenly attempt to 
  attain enlightenment. They accomplish effacement of latent 
  impressions and the dissolution of the mind for the time being. 
  And with that also accomplish study, reflection and meditation 
  (shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana) of VedAnta by repeated and vigorous 
  practice which in turn leads to the destruction of ignorance, 
  doubt and opposite ideas and consequently the knowledge of Truth 
  arises perfectly. In the absence of any counteracting cause of 
  the knowledge and also in the absence of any cause to make the 
  destroyed reappear - the knowledge stays settled. But in 
  the absence of rigorous practice and being influenced from time
  to time by the fructifying operative deed (prArabdha karma), the
  manonAsha and vAsanAkshaya are extinguished as the lamp by a 
  blowing wind."

Obviously, students of the second kind will have to make effort to
practise vAsanAkshaya and manonAsha AFTER BrahmaGYAna to attain
jIvanmukti. The route that they follow would be:

  SMN -> AtmaGYAna -> vidvatsannyAsa -> vAsanAkshaya-manonAsha
                                        = jIvanmukti

Now that the groundwork for SV's ideas is almost complete, the next
section will take up the reconciliation of the JMV with Sankara's

Reconciling the JMV with Sankara's works

The "reconciliation" meant here will NOT be in the sense of:

  "This is exactly what Sankara says."

Rather, it will take the form:

  "This does not contradict Sankara's works."

The way to reconcile the JMV with Sankara's works should now be
obvious: Sankara accepts only those students with perfect
sAdhanachatushhTaya (kR^itopAsti), while SV includes students with
imperfect sAdhanachatushhTaya also (akR^itopAsti) and explains the
path followed by them in detail. For the former, BrahmaGYAna is
steady and hence the same as jIvanmukti; but not so for the latter,
who have to practice vAsanAkshaya-manonAsha to steady their

It is therefore a completely false notion that:

  "Swami Vidyaranya has deviated from Sankara's teachings."

When actually the correct understanding is:

  "Swami Vidyaranya is considering THOSE STUDENTS WHO HAVE DEVIATED 
  from Sankara's prescribed Raja-Marga."

An analogy may be appropriate here. Suppose the Mathematics
department in a certain university offers two classes - Algebra and
Calculus, the pre-requisite for the latter being a passing grade in
the former. The professor of Calculus at this university proudly
states, "All students who take my class via the regular curriculum
will get an A-grade." Now, a student who has not yet taken Algebra
pleads with the professor to be accepted as into the Calculus class.
The professor relents and at the end of the course, the student
secures a B-grade. The student tells the professor, "But you said
that all your students get an A-grade!" To which the professor
responds, "But you missed the clause concerning those 'who take my
class via the regular curriculum'!"

Another analogy - a doctor prescribes some medicine to be taken by a
patient every day, and says, "If you follow this regimen, you will be
cured in a week." The patient fails to take the medicine on the
second and third days, and at the end of a week, complains to the
doctor, "You said I would be cured in a week!" The doctor responds,
"That would have been the case had you followed my advice! Since you
have not, you will have to undergo another drug regimen!"

One doesn't have to look too far or hard to find those who study
VedAnta without perfect qualifications. For this, a little
introspection would suffice. Most of us in this list have not
performed the Karma and upAsana that has been enjoined on us, but
instead have begun studying VedAnta quite prematurely. SV's statement
about "modern students" deviating from Sankara's prescribed
rAja-mArga and taking to VedAnta out of "curiosity" applies very well
to most (all?) of us in this list, if not to all modern students of
VedAnta. Therefore, the relevance of the JMV in the modern context is
hardly debatable.

Evidence of vidvat-sannyAsa in the scriptures

Since most of the scriptural references to sannyAsa mention it as
preceding (i.e. for the sake of) AtmaGYAna, one might imagine that
vidvat-sannyAsa is nowhere mentioned in the scriptures, and that it
has been "fabricated" by SV. But SV provides a definite reference
from the BR^ihadaaraNyaka upanishhad (BU) that establishes
vidvat-sannyAsa in the Vedic tradition [10]:

  kaholabrAhmaNe.api vidvatsaMnyAsa AmnAyate - 'etaM vai tam 
  AtmAnaM viditvA brAhmaNAH putraishhaNAyAshcha 
  vittaishhaNAyAshcha lokaishhaNAyAshcha vyutthAyAtha 
  bhikshAcharyaM charantIti .' [BU 3.5.1]
  na chaitadvAkyaM vividishhAsaMnyAsaparamiti sha~NkanIyam.h,
  pUrvakAlavAchino 'viditvA' iti ktvApratyayasya brahmavidvAchino 
  brAhmaNashabdasya cha bAdhaprasa~NgAt.h .

  "In the Kahola BrAhmaNa also this vidvat-sannyAsa is 
  mentioned thus: 'Having realized this very Self, 
  BrAhmaNas become mendicants, giving up desires for offspring, 
  wealth and heaven (other worlds) etc.' (BU 3.5.1).
  This upanishhadic text should not be considered to refer to 
  the vividishhA-sannyAsa, because, that will not 
  agree with the "ktvA" suffix in "viditvA" indicating 
  the past tense, and the word BrAhmaNa, meaning one who has
  known Brahman, the Supreme Self."

The above quote from the BU is a reference to sannyAsa AFTER
Self-realization (because it speaks of BrAhmaNas giving up desires
and becoming bhikshAcharyas AFTER knowing the Self) - i.e.
vidvat-sannyAsa. Hence this kind of sannyAsa DOES have scriptural
sanction, although it is mentioned only rarely.

Treating references to BrahmaGYAna in the scriptures

The most obvious objection to the JMV would come from those who have
studied VedAnta directly from the upanishhadic statements - for it is
easy to find references to BrahmaGYAna being the final goal in the
scriptures, so the thesis that something needs to be accomplished
after BrahmaGYAna seems impossible to defend.

SV's reply to this objection is [11]:

  ityatra taireva rAgAdyabhyupagamAt.h . na chAtra 
  parasparavyAhatiH, sthitapraGYe GYAnimAtre cha vachanadvayasya 
  vyavasthApanopayuktatvAt.h .

  "There is no contradiction between these two positions inasmuch
  as they can be so arranged as to fit in with a sthitapraGYa and
  a simple Knower (GYAnimAtra)."

That is, all scriptural references to BrahmaGYAna = jIvanmukti are to
be read as "steady BrahmaGYAna of the sthitapraGYa", while the
consideration of the JMV includes the "unsteady BrahmaGYAna of the

Thus far, we have considered the JMV's stance on the differences
between BrahmaGYAna and jIvanmukti, and in which cases the
differences occur. The next posting will consider a scriptural
reference that unambiguously states that the two are different - the
Apastamba dharma sUtra


[1] JMV-SM, page 75.
    JMV-RG, page 117.

[2] JMV-SM, pages 80.
    JMV-RG, page 119.

[3] JMV-SM, page 82.
    JMV-RG, page 121.

[4] JMV-SM, pages 51-52.
    JMV-RG, page 101.

[5] JMV-SM, page 43.
    JMV-RG, page 95.

[6] It is to be noted that the JMV refers to the Bhagavad GItA verse
2.54, where praGYA means only saMyak-aparoksha-BrahmaGYAna, and
states, "praGYA tattvaGYAnam.h". Therefore, tattvaGYAna is

[7] Brahma sUtra 1.1.1. Sankara's commentary available online at
I have followed the English translation of Sankara's commentary by
Swami Gambhirananda.

[8] JMV-SM, pages 150-151.
    JMV-RG, page 159.

[9] JMV-SM, pages 107-108.
    JMV-RG, pages 135-136.

I did an internet search to see if this term has been mentioned
elsewhere, and came across a website that states that madhusUdana
sarasvatI also uses the same terms to distinguish between the two
kinds of students in the advaita siddhi. It would be interesting to
see if this is indeed correct.


Swami Bhajanananda

Swami Bhajanananda was the editor of Prabuddha Bharata from 1979
through 1986, and has contributed many articles to various Vedanta
journals. Swami Bhajanananda is an Assistant-Secretary and Trustee of
the Ramakrishna Order. This article was published in the May, 1981
Prabuddha Bharata.

"After practicing upasana for some time it becomes easier to practice
nididhyasana. In fact, Madhusudana Sarasvati in his Advaita Siddhi
classifies aspirants for jnana into two groups: kritopasti (those who
have attained proficiency in upasana) and akritopasti (those who go
directly to inquiry without practicing upasana)."

[10] JMV-SM, pages 9-10.
     JMV-RG, page 75.

[11] JMV-SM, page 154.
     JMV-RG, page 161.

Sponsored Link

Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. 
$310k for $999/mo. Calculate new payment! 

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list