[Advaita-l] BrahmaGYAna and jIvanmukti - 7 (Summary)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 19 11:31:01 CST 2009

This will be the final posting in the series on the jIvanmuktiviveka (JMV) of svAmi VidyaraNya (SV), tying up loose ends from prior discussions.

The State of the GYAnimAtra

The JMV is primarily a text for the GYAnimAtra who has taken up vidvat-sannyAsa, i.e. one who has attained BrahmaGYAna but still has some residual vAsanAs that have to be eliminated by the practice of Yoga.

The gradation among the various persons concerning Atma-GYAna is:

  aGYAnI -> Indirect and Unsteady knowledge of Brahman.
  GYAnimAtra -> Direct but Unsteady knowledge of Brahman.
  sthitapraGYa (jIvanmukta) -> Direct and Steady knowledge of Brahman.

The state of the GYAnimAtra has not been dealt with in detail in VedAntic texts earlier than the JMV, and SV describes this state in the JMV [1]:

  bhagavadgItAsu dvitIyAdhyAye sthitapraGYaH paThyate .

  arjuna uvAcha:

  sthitapraGYasya kA bhAshhA samAdhisthasya keshava .
  sthitadhIH kiM prabhAshheta kimAsIta vrajeta kim.h .. (GItA 2.54)

  praGYA tattvaGYAnam.h . tad dvividhaM sthitamasthitaM cheti .

  In the second chapter of the BhagavadgItA, the sthitapraGYa has
  been mentioned thus.

  Arjuna said: "What is the definition of him who is steady
  in the supreme knowledge and in profound meditation (sthitapraGYa)?
  O Keshava! How does he, whose intelligence is stable,
  speak and sit and walk?" (GItA 2.54)

  Supreme knowledge - praGYA, means the knowledge of
  Reality. That is of two kinds - Steady and Unsteady.

  yathA jAre.anuraktAyAH nAryAH sarveshhvapi vyavahAreshhu
  buddhirjArameva dhyAyati, pramANapratItAni kriyamANAnyapi
  gRRihakarmANi sadya eva vismaryante
  tathA paravairAgyopetasya
  yogAbhyAsapATavenAtyantavashIkRRitasyotpanne tattvaGYAne
  tadbuddhirjAramiva nairantaryeNa tattvaM dhyAyati
  tadidaM sthitaM praGYAnam .

  As in the case of a woman who is involved in an illicit
  love affair, and always thinks of her paramour in all
  her activities, while attending to the house-work which
  she perceives normally through the senses, easily forgets,
  similarly one who has attained the highest degree of
  detachment, and who has fully controlled his mind by
  expertise accomplished through practice of yoga and
  on whom has dawned the highest knowledge, like the
  lover, constantly thinks of the Truth - and this
  is 'Steady Knowledge'.

In order to illustrate Steady BrahmaGYAna, SV gives the analogy of a woman who is always thinking of her lover, to the extent of completely forgetting what is immediately perceived - the housework that she is involved in. Similarly, the sthitapraGYa is always absorbed in the Self, and does not deviate from GYAna even when his body apparently goes through all sorts of modifications.

This is however not the case with the GYAnimAtra who has Unsteady Knowledge:

  uktaguNarahitasya kenApi
  puNyavisheshheNa kadAchidutpanne.api tattvaGYAne
  gRRihakarmavattatraiva tattvaM vismaryate
  tadidamasthitaM GYAnam.h . 

  Someone without such qualities as mentioned, but by the
  force of some merit, sometime may realize the Truth,
  but soon forgets it as the lover forgets the housework,
  and this is 'Unsteady Knowledge'.

In the case of Unsteady Knowledge, the GYAnimAtra, who does not possess the qualities (i.e. pre-requisites or sAdhana-chatushhTaya-saMpatti) required for Steady GYAna, may actually "forget" (or lose the firm grip on) the Self, and will attain Steadiness in the Self only after vAsanAkShaya-manonAsha [2].

There is yet another way SV helps us understand the state of the GYAnimAtra. The context is when the opponent objects to SV allowing for pride, anger and other vAsanAs to exist in a GYAnI (i.e. a GYAnimAtra) [3]:

  nanu GYAnino rAgAdyabhyupagame dharmAdharmadvAreNa
  janmAntaraprasa~Nga iti chet .
  maivam . adagdhabIjavadavidyApUrvakakAmAdereva
  mukhyarAgAditvena punarjanmahetutvAt . GYAninastu
  dagdhabIjavadAbhAsa eva rAgAdayaH . 


  utpadyamAnA rAgAdyA vivekaGYAnavahninA .
  tadA tadaiva dahyante kutasteshhAM prarohaNam ..
  (varAha upanishhad 3.24-25) iti.

  Objection: If attachment and such things are permitted
  for a GYAnI (i.e. GYAnimAtra), then they will surely bring
  about virtue and vice and they in turn will lead to rebirth.

  Reply: It is not so. Desire, etc. generated by ignorance
  are the real attachment etc. and are, like unbaked seeds,
  the cause of rebirth. As for the GYAnIs, like baked seeds,
  the attachment etc. are just appearances (i.e. cannot
  cause rebirth).

  The idea is expressed thus:

  'Attachment etc. as soon as they arise, are burnt out then
  and there by the fire of discrimination. Whence should they
  sprout again?' (varAha upanishhad 3.24-25)

Hence although the GYAnimAtra does not have Steady GYAna like the sthitapraGYa, he is not subject to rebirth, because the trace of ignorance existing in him is only like a burnt seed that cannot germinate.

Why then talk about the state of the GYAnimAtra as different from the sthitapraGYa at all - they have both gotten rid of the possibility of rebirth, and hence both may be considered as jIvanmuktas. But the sthitapraGYa cannot possibly have any vAsanAs:

  tarhi sthitapraGYasyApi te santviti chet,
  na, tatkAle mukhyavadevAbhAsAnAM bAdhakatvAt .
  rajjusarpo.api mukhyasarpavadeva tadAnIM
  bhIshhayannupalabhyate, tadvat .

  Objection: Then let the sthitapraGYa also have them
  (attachment etc.).

  Reply: Not so, because at that time they, even the apparent
  attachment etc., cause hindrance to the state of the
  sthitapraGYa just like the real ones. Even the rope-snake
  at the time of its perception causes fear as the real snake.
  Like that.

According to SV, admitting of vAsanAs in the sthitapraGYa or jIvanmukta is untenable, because the vAsanAs may still "bother" him and it cannot be claimed that he has conquered all his miseries and attained mukti. Hence a GYAnI who has not yet eliminated his vAsanAs cannot be called a sthitapraGYa. How then can the GYAnimAtra rise to the status of the sthitapraGYa?

  nanvAbhAsatvAnusaMdhAnAnuvRRittau na ko.api bAdha iti chet,
  chiraM jIvatu bhavAn . iyamevAsmadabhimatA jIvanmuktiH . 

  Objection: In that case they, the attachment etc., cannot
  cause any hindrance if they are remembered as mere appearances.

  Reply: Then we say, "May you live long. (Since) this is the
  jIvanmukti we approve of."

Although both the GYAnimAtra and the sthitapraGYa perceive duality, the former may still be "bothered" by the apparent duality, whereas the latter is firmly established in the realization that all duality is unreal, and hence is not bothered in the least by any appearance of duality. For this reason, only the sthitapraGYa can be called a jIvanmukta.

Yoga and advaita VedAnta

There is already a long and deep series on Yoga ongoing in this list. This section will only give a quick overview of the role of Yoga in advaita VedAnta.

1. Yoga before BrahmaGYAna: preparation for GYAna (chitta-shuddhi)

This is the "standard" practice of Yoga in advaita VedAnta, which is commonly taught to a beginner aspiring for GYAna. The practice aims to attenuate or eliminate the vAsanAs and attain chitta-shuddhi or purity of the mind, thereby preparing the student for VedAnta-vichAra.

A reference to this is Sankara's commentary on the GItA verse 2.51 (beginning with "karmaja", or "born of karma", i.e. bondage):

  "...paramArthadarshanalakshaNaa... karmayogajasattvashuddhijanitaa
  buddhiH darshitaa..."

  "...Perceiving the Supreme in the intellect purified of Karma-Yoga..."

Sankara says that GYAna is attained after purification (sattva-shuddhi) following Karma-Yoga.

The same sentiment is expressed by H.H. chandrashekhara BhAratI mahAswamigaL's commentary on the VivekachUDAmaNi [4]:

  "To realise Brahman, intensive study of VedAnta has to be
  pursued. To be qualified for VedAntic study, one should adopt
  the saMnyAsa Ashrama with its attendant nivR^ittidharma or
  withdrawal from worldly activity. To qualify for saMnyAsa,
  one should cultivate vairAgya or detachment. VairAgya is acquired
  only by purity of mind or chittashuddhi. Chittashuddhi itself
  can be secured only if actions are performed without desire
  for their fruits (nishhkAmya Karma)."

The only difference between Sankara and HH is that the former uses the terms "Karma-Yoga" and "sattvashuddhi" whereas the latter prefers the terms "nishhkAmya karma" and "chitta-shuddhi". Otherwise, the essence is the same: (Karma-)Yoga results in purification of the mind and prepares one for GYAna.

The practice of Yoga in this context is by one who has not yet taken up sannyAsa. For example, Krishna's exhortation to Arjuna to become a Yogi - "tasmAdyogI bhavArjuna" [5] - is to be interpreted as a preparation for BrahmaGYAna (Arjuna was obviously not a sannyAsI).

(Note: it is a commonly held belief that "Karma results in chitta-shuddhi". Rigorously speaking, this belief is incorrect, because Karma by itself, or Karma practised with desire leads only to bondage. It is only nishhkAmya karma or Karma-Yoga that leads to chitta shuddhi.)

2. Yoga after BrahmaGYAna: for steadiness in GYAna

This is the primary subject-matter of the JMV, which deals with the case of the GYAnimAtra who practises Yoga to eliminate residual vAsanAs and attain steadiness in BrahmaGYAna. This has been dealt with in previous postings and hence a detailed discussion is omitted here.

Here, yoga is practised by one who has taken up (vidvat-)sannyAsa.

To one who says that "Yoga has only a minor role in VedAnta - it is merely for the sake of chitta-shuddhi or purity of the mind", the reply is: in VedAnta, chitta-shuddhi is everything. If one has scaled the heights of chitta-shuddhi, BrahmaGYAna is trivial. If one has not yet attained chitta-shuddhi, BrahmaGYAna is far off. Hence chitta-shuddhi is of paramount importance to and is at the very heart of VedAnta.

In his BSB 1.3.33, Sankara quotes the Yoga-sUtra as a smR^iti and clarifies that it is referring to the same "yoga" as the shvetaashvatara upanishhad. Hence the practice of Yoga is very essential to advaita VedAnta.

The Universalism of advaita VedAnta

There is hardly any doubt that advaita VedAnta is THE universal religion and philosophy. But it should also be equally obvious that advaitins are very strict regarding doctrinal issues, and various other darshanas are refuted with great care by every AchArya including Sankara.

In what sense is advaita universal and accepting, and in what sense is it rigorous and stringent?

The JMV offers a route to respect persons adhering to other darshanas without necessarily accepting their doctrinal conclusions [6]:

  nApi lokAyatikavyatiriktaH sarvo.api tairthiko moksham
  a~NgIkurvan . yogicharite.api visaMvaditumarhati
  yogAdimokshashAstraprameyasya nAnAvidhitve.api
  mokshasAdhanasya yamaniyamA-dyashhTA~NgayogasyaikavidhatvAt.h .
  tasmAdavisaMvAdena sarvasaMmato yogIshvaraH . 

  Adherents of all creeds, except the materialists, who believe
  in liberation are not able to disagree with the activities of
  a Yogi. Because the scriptures of the Jaina, Bauddha, Vaisheshhika,
  naiyAyika, Saiva, VaishhNava, SAkta, sAMkhya, Yoga and the like,
  dealing with the final emancipation, in spite of their differences
  in the nature of it, have the agreement in the very same means to
  it as the yama, niyama etc., i.e. the eight-limbed Yoga. Therefore
  the master Yogi is undisputedly honored by all.

This indeed is the universalism of the advaitin - so long as the people of all religions practice Yoga, the advaitin (or anyone else for that matter) cannot find any faults with the actions of the Yogi. Thus, in spite of the fact that there can be no leeway in granting the truth of the Jaina/Bauddha/Nyaya doctrines, the advaitin can respect the followers of these and other paths who practice Yoga with diligence for purity of the mind.

It is interesting that SV singles out the school of Materialism for its opposition to mukti. It is as if SV is willing to grant credit to the practice of Yoga in the Jaina and Bauddha schools, but cannot see any such "saving grace" in the Materialist school.

Authorship of the VivekachUDAmaNi

There have been some discussions in the past on the list concerning the authorship of the VivekachUDAmaNi (VC). I do not believe the author to be Sankara, since there is very strong evidence that the author was influenced by the JMV.

Here are some examples of the influence of the JMV on the VC:

1) As already mentioned in a previous posting in this series, Sankara does not explicitly distinguish between GYAna and mukti, whereas the VC does so (verse 267: GYAte vastunyapi...), just like the JMV.

2) Verse 271 of the VC speaks of several vAsanAs:

  lokavAsanayaa jantoH shAstravAsanayaapi cha .
  dehavAsanayaa GYAnam.h yathaavannaiva jaayate ..

The three vAsanAs described here are - lokavAsanA, shAstravAsanA and dehavAsanA. As far as I am aware, none of these terms are used by Sankara, but all of these, using exactly the same terminology, are extensively discussed in the JMV, which contains excellent suggestions on how one can remove these vAsanAs from oneself.

3) The VC disparages study of scripture (verse 59: aviGYAte pare...),
whereas Sankara does not. This is also very similar to JMV's discussion of shAstra-vAsanA, where the shAstras are belittled lest one think that study of shAstras alone can give one GYAna, devoid of the Grace of the Guru.

The similarity between the two texts is striking. There are two possibilities here: either the VC was influenced by the JMV, or vice-versa.

I'm inclined to believe that the VC was written after and influenced by the JMV. The reason is that the JMV provides references to all the texts that it touches upon, but omits the VC. The VC on the other hand does not provide any references at all. I find it likely that the JMV would have contained a reference to the VC had the author of the JMV actually referred to the VC, but the absence of any such reference makes it more plausible that the author of the VC borrowed from the JMV rather than the converse.

Besides, for every verse in the VC that refers peripherally to a topic, the same topic is dealt with in depth in the JMV. This is probably because the VC is a condensation of the essence of all VedAnta, and the author of the text had consulted a large number of VedAntic works (without noting the reference) - including the JMV.

Ramana Maharshi's teachings and the JMV

There are many commonalities between the teachings of Ramana Maharshi (RM) and the JMV. A couple of these will be discussed in this section.

1) RM quotes the JMV's distinction of the kR^itopAsti and akR^itopAsti, saying that the former will quickly achieve dR^iDha GYAna whereas the latter will take more effort to do so [7]:

  "Some extraordinary persons get drdha jnana (unshaken knowledge)
  even on hearing the Truth only once (sakrchhravana matrena).
  Because they are krthopasakah (advanced seekers), whereas the
  akrthopasakah (raw seekers) take longer to gain drdha jnana
  (unshaken knowledge)."

and [8]:

  M.: The seekers fall into two classes; kritopasaka and
  akritopasaka. The former having already overcome his
  predisposition by steady devotion, his mind thus made pure,
  has had some kind of experience but does not comprehend it;
  as soon as instructed by a competent master, permanent
  experience results.
  The other class of seeker needs great effort to
  achieve this end.

2) Like the JMV (and also Sankara), RM also teaches that the path to Self-enquiry is only for one who has purified the mind through Yoga [9]:

  D: Although I have listened to the explanation of the
  characteristics of enquiry in such great detail, my mind has
  not gained even a little peace. What is the reason for this?
  M: The reason is the absence of strength or one-pointedness
  of the mind.

  D: What is the reason for the absence of mental strength?
  M: The means that make one qualified for enquiry are
  meditation, yoga, etc. One should gain proficiency in these
  through graded practice, and thus secure a stream of mental
  modes that is natural and helpful. When the mind that has
  become ripe in this manner, hears about this enquiry, it will at
  once realize its true nature which is the Self, and remain in
  perfect peace, without deviating from that state. To a mind
  which has not become ripe, immediate realization and peace
  are hard to gain through hearing about the enquiry. Yet, if one
  practises the means for mind control for some time, peace of
  mind can be obtained eventually."

RM advocates the practice of Yoga to gain "mental strength" and only then embark on the route to Self-enquiry.

Conquest of Mind and Mukti

I will end this series with the English translation of Ramana Maharshi's Tamil translation of the devIkAlottara-Agama, verses 6-7:

  "If one is to describe the person who can bring under
  control his mind, which is restless and turbulent like a
  whirlwind, and maintain it in a tranquil state, he is verily
  Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; he is Indra, King of the devas,
  and Lord Subrahmanya; he is Brihaspati, the guru of all devas;
  he is a supreme yogi, and one who has achieved the result of
  performing all austerities; he is a great scholar (who has
  mastered all the Vedas and sastras), and an outstanding man;
  he is one who has achieved the true spiritual goal."


[1] JMV-SM page 43, JMV-RG pages 95-96.

[2] Someone who likes to nitpick may notice that the first analogy of the sthitapraGYa compares:

(Thinking of the) Lover <--> (Knowledge of the) Self
(Engaged in) Housework <--> (Living in the) World

But then, SV says that the state of Unsteady Knowledge is like the woman "forgetting the Self - like the housework". One may question whether or not it would have been better to say, "forgetting the Self - like forgetting the lover", because the Self is compared to the lover in the previous analogy.

The analogy given by SV is most correct, because to explain Unsteady Knowledge, he compares the "forgetfulness of the Self" to the "forgetfulness of what is immediately perceived - i.e. the housework". In the case of Unsteady Knowledge, the comparison is:

Forgetting the Self (immediately perceived)
Forgetting the Housework (immediately perceived)

Hence in the second analogy, the Self is compared to housework instead of the lover.

[3] JMV-SM pages 155-6; JMV-RG pages 161-2

[4] English ranslation of HH's commentary by Sankararaman, page 9.

[5] GItA 6.46.

[6] JMV-SM page 306, JMV-RG page 251.

[7] Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, # 289, 30th November, 1936.

[8] Ibid, #95, 13th November, 1935.

[9] Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, Self-Enquiry, 19-20.


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