[Advaita-l] Vikalpa, Savikalpa, and Nirvikalpa

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 24 13:24:54 CDT 2012

> > advaita paramArtha jnAna (or dawn of Atmaikatva) can happen to an able 
> adhikAri through shAstra vAkya. But before pursuing this vedAnta mArga, 
> he has to complete sAdhana chatushtaya. As you know this has been 
> discussed in the very first sUtra of brahma sUtra. Yes, as you have 
> rightly observed, an anadhikAri though get a 'knowledge' that shruti is 
> teaching us 'brahman is nirvikalpaka' that would not be a paramArtha jnAna 
> of the jnAni. At the best, it is a knowledge of any other mortal subject. 

Please note, paramArtha jnAna is always only through SAstra vAkya. And I am
not talking about an an-adhikArI, but of people with various middling levels of
adhikAra, i.e. the vast majority of us. The an-adhikArin will find nothing of value
in vedAnta teaching. He will turn his attention to other things. The one with
moderate levels of adhikAra may have some level of sAdhana-sampat, but his
or her understanding of paramArtha jnAna will still be like knowledge of any
other subject, if there is a failure to adequately understand the role of one's
own antaHkaraNa in the process of attaining jnAna.
> purport of veda and vedAnta. So, IMHO, for controlling the antaHkaraNa 
> and to purify that antaHkaraNa and to train and make it suitable for 
> receiving vedAnta jnAna sAdhana chatushtaya recommended, and after that 
> sharavaNAdi 'direct sAdhana-s' advised. However, yOgAbhyAsa like yama 
> niyama, Asana, prANAyAma, prtyAhAra very much required to keep us in good 
> shape healthwise. 

It is about much more than being in good shape healthwise. Let us get very
practical here. You and I, along with everyone else on this list, have read the
upanishadic passages umpteen number of times. We have probably heard the
vAkya-s tattvamasi and ayam AtmA brahma spoken, by somebody or the other,
again an umpteen number of times. As such, you and I, along with everyone
else on this list, already have the SAstra janita jnAna, albeit perhaps only as
an objectified jnAna like anything else. If we didn't have even that, we would
not be here talking about it. 
I am curious to know what you and others who seem have major objections to
any talk of nirvikalpa samAdhi have in mind when you distinguish the SAstra
janita paramArtha jnAna of a jnAni from the SAstra janita jnAna that you and I
have. What distinguishes the jnAna of a jnAnI from what yours and mine? Surely,
you would not take the position that the jnAna that we have is not SAstra janita? 
And surely, you would not hold that vedAnta SravaNa has properly been done 
only by those who have had saMnyAsa initiation, as you have been at great pains
in the past to show (correctly) that jnAna can arise in any ASrama. Is there
something magical about the jnAnI's antaHkaraNa that can distinguish it from
your and my antaHkaraNa-s? Is there something mysterious about the antaH-
karaNa of the jnAnI that allows SAstra to generate paramArtha jnAna in it while
failing to generate paramArtha jnAna in yours and mine? If yes, could it be that
at least in some cases, this mysterious, magical something is a prAg-anubhava
of samAdhi, perhaps even the dreaded nirvikalpa kind? If not, then how is it
that at least two people exist, you and I, who have SAstra janita jnAna and who
are still not paramArtha jnAnI-s? 

It is a quite false dichotomy to think of the purification of antaHkaraNa as being
totally prior to SravaNa and that what is needed after SravaNa is some other
"direct sAdhana" that presumes an antaHkaraNa of the utmost purity. Ultimately,
all the manana and nididhyAsana that take place after SravaNa are also taking
place in the antaHkaraNa of the SrotA. They are effective in an antaHkaraNa that
has some Suddhi in it and they further do nothing more than continue to purify
the antaHkaraNa and remove its self-imposed tamas, so that the jnAna shines
forth on its own. And manana and nididhyAsana do not take place in the absence
of sahakArI kAraNa-s like yama-niyamAdi yogAnga-s. Please see gItA bhAshya
on amAnitvAdi guNa-s in this regard. These comments apply to everyone, from
a green and wet behind the ears entry level student of vedAnta to saMnyAsins
and pundits of advanced learning and training.

> Sure, one can argue that the mithyAtva of the distinction has been 
> understood at this stage. But it
> is still possible for an antaHkaraNa to intellectually understand "brahma 
> nirvikalpakam"
> and it is possible for that same antaHkaraNa to intellectually understand 
> the vedAnta
> vAkya "ayam AtmA brahma", but the antaHkaraNa still remains, establishing 
> its own
> subject-hood for itself and objectifying brahma vishaya jnAna. 
> > prabhuji kindly clarify do you mean to say here brahma jnAna to have 
> its complete effect, antaHkaraNa should go in the jnAni, or tAdAtmya jnAna 
> should be sublated?? For the ajnAni-s, a paramArtha jnAni too has to 
> maintain his own subject-hood and he has to do 'vishayeekaraNa' of the 
> brahma vishaya jnAna to teach it to others is it not?? So, IMHO, 
> antaHkaraNa tAdAtmyabuddhi only will get sublated and antaHkaraNa would 
> not be effaced. 

Interesting that you should take this line, Bhaskar! You are saying that a jnAnI
is a person who has an active antaHkaraNa, which maintains its subject-hood
in order to teach brahma vishaya jnAna to ajnAnI-s. If you think about it a bit
more and with unforgiving logic, the argument you have just made leads directly
to a stance that ends either in dvaita or in an admission of an avidyA-leSa or a
vAsanA or a saMskAra that accounts for the continued enlivening of the body
and mind of the jnAnI.
What I am saying is much simpler. I am merely saying that some people like to 
take a very negative attitude towards the words nirvikalpa and samAdhi, but in
reality, they do not realize that the state of abiding in brahmajnAna where one
nAnyat paSyati, nAnyac chRNoti, etc, (sees nothing else, hears nothing else) is
ultimately the same as the state that is called nirvikalpa samAdhi. That is all.
How one gets there, whether through AtmavicAra or through a scholastic study
of the prasthAna traya and the bhAshyas or whether through more regimented
yoga practice, is not important at that point. And as for the further implications
with respect to avidyAleSa/vAsanA/saMskAra/prArabdha karma, I will leave
them aside for now, because they are quite secondary to my fundamental point 
above, i.e. that the natural state of the Atman is indistinguishable from the state
that is described as nirvikalpa samAdhi.
> After such jnAna has taken birth, does the antaHkaraNa in which this jnAna 
> was born vanish as it were, in
> an infinite ocean of non-duality? Or does it persist, trying to 
> "finiticize" the infinite? If
> the former, then this is Atma-saMsthiti, which I submit, is really nothing 
> other than
> what is called nirvikalpa samAdhi by those who take a more yogic flavour 
> in their
> personal approach to sAdhana. 
> > My doubt here is can this Atma saMsthiti can be achieved without 
> experiencing the yOgic flavoured nirvikalpa samAdhi?? If no, then we have 
> to say 'after' shAstra vAkya janita jnAna, there needs to be do something 
> or experience something to 'literally' establish oneself in Atma without 

Again, see above and combine with my previous posts where I have clearly and
repeatedly stated that there is nothing particularly "yogic flavored" about nirvikalpa
samAdhi. The very term has its origins and use in a vedAnta related discourse, not
in the texts of the yoga darSana. And Br. Up Bhashya 1.4.7 has the root answer that
everybody else has elaborated upon, for the last thousand odd years - Atma-vijnAna
smRti saMtati, aided by tyAga and vairAgya. As per the idea that one is either a jnAnI
or an ajnAnI, with no shades in between, the above advice of bhagavatpAda is quite
meaningless. A jnAnI does not need to be told to "do" smaraNa of Atma-vijnAna, let
alone be advised to bolster jnAnanishThA with the values of tyAga and vairAgya. It
would be redundant as a piece of advice on niyama for the jnAnI. On the other hand,
for those who understand that here bhagavatpAda is talking of the cases where SAstra
janita jnAna has taken birth but the antaHkaraNa is still not ready to give up its limited
ahaM-kAra, the above advice makes perfect sense. I don't need to, but I will reiterate
here that bhagavatpAda explicitly says that such sMrti saMtati is the invariable means
to citta vRtti nirodha, which is a three word substitute for the one word, samAdhi.
For smRti to take place, something prior known/experienced has to be there, so it is
clear that this has been said by bhagavatpAda with reference to one who has already
had SAstra-pramANa-janita-brahmAtmaikya-vijnAna. And there has to be a knower/
experiencer and an instrument (karaNa) in which such smRti takes place. Till such time
as an antaHkaraNa considers itself the knower/experiencer and does not fully realize
that it is only a karaNa that reflects the light of the Self, till such time as a trace of a
limited ahaM-kAra remains, this smRti is obviously to be "done."

We can talk till we are blue in the face about purusha-tantra dhyAna vs. vastu-tantra
jnAna, but a sAdhaka in whose antaHkaraNa the SAstra janita jnAna has taken birth,
albeit only as a vishaya-oriented jnAna like any else, has two choices. One, s/he can
realize that dhyAna, while being undoubtedly purusha-tantra, is also praised as an
antaranga of samyag-darSana by the very same bhagavatpAda who wrote the sUtra
bhAshya and so do precisely what Br. Up bhAshya advises - tyAga, vairAgya, vijnAna-
smRti-saMtati, which ultimately leads to citta vRtti nirodha, as affirmed by Sankara
(ananya sAdhana for nirodha) and sureSvara (pratyag jnAne nirudhyante) explicitly.

Or, s/he can carry along a negative attitude towards any talk of samAdhi, nirvikalpa
or otherwise, (or perhaps not want to be called a yogi who has hijacked the vedAnta
tradition) and think as follows, "anyat paSyAmy anyac chRNomi, paraM tv idam anyad
vastu mithyety ahaM bhAshyAdi grantheshv apaTham. brahma-vishaya-jnAnam asty
eva, tac ca brahma-jnAnaM vastu-tantraM, ahaM tu purushaH, na mayA purusheNa
kiMcit kartavyam asti, yat kiMcit karishyAmi tasya purusha-tantratvAn na tat jnAna-
sAdhakam." The crucial issue, which none else but that person can honestly address,
is whether such a person's life really exemplifies the deep implication of "na kiMcit
kartavyam" or not. If any desires exhibit themselves and work themselves out, even
if they only are "good" desires (such as building temples or hospitals or schools or
libraries, or talking and writing about advaita vedAnta and brahmajnAna in speeches
and books and online mailing lists), then that is still an indication that such a person
has not yet grasped it kara-tala-Amalaka-vat. Such a person will still experience and
idenfity with the ups and downs of life like any other person. 
> the trace of individual self-hood. As you know Atmaikatva jnAna is not 
> any vyavahArAteeta jnAna or avasthAteeta jnAna it is only bheda nivrutti 
> (bAdha of bheda jnAna), shankara explains this vidyA phala in geeta 
> bhAshya beautifully : kriyAkArakaphalabheda buddhiravidyA Atmani nitya 
> pravruttA, 'mama karma', ahaM kartA, amushyai phalAyedaM karma karishyAmi 
> iteeyamavidyA anAdi kAla pravruttA, asyA avidyAyAH nivartakaM 
> 'ayamahamasmi kevalOkartA akriyOphalO na mattOnyOsti kashchit' 
> ityevaMrUpamAtmavishayaM jnAnamutpadyamAnaM, karmapravruttihetubhutAyAH 
> bheda buddhenivartakatvAt'(geeta bhAshya 18-66). And for this jnAna to 
> happen shankara recommends yajna, dAna, tapas, shamAdi shatsampatti and 
> veda vAkya shravaNAdi sAdhana under the guidance of shrOtreeya 
> brahmanishTa guru. And the phala of this vAkya janita jnAna would not 
> have to wait for subsequent step. vAkyArthajnAnasamakAle eva tu 
> paryavasitO bhavati, clarifies shankara in mundaka bhAshya. 

The crucial thing to be investigated here is "what is that kAla when vAkyArtha
jnAna arises?" If you go back to the naishkarmyasiddhi passage that has been
cited earlier in this thread and in multiple previous discussions, tat tvam asyAdi
vAkyArtha parijnAna comes at the end of a long process, with saMnyAsa of
karma and its sAdhana, yogAbhyAsa and cittasya pratyak pravaNatA as the
intermediate steps. One can have one's own opinion on what constitutes the
yogAbhyAsa here in sureSvarAcArya's scheme, but note that in the traditional
setup, vedAnta vAkya SravaNa is an integral part of taking up saMnyAsa and
giving up of all karma. If you hold that vAkyArtha jnAna does not arise from
SravaNa directly, then you are falling into the camp that says manana and
nididhyAsana generate a new jnAna that is the cause of liberation. If you hold
that vAkyArtha jnAna and its phala are born at the moment of SravaNa, then
you still have to ask yourself why is there ANY need for Sankara to talk of
Atma vijnAna smRti saMtati after samyag-jnAna prApti and why sureSvara
has a place for yogAbhyAsa (whichever way you understand it) post-saMnyAsa
(which includes vedAnta-vAkya-SravaNa) and prior to vAkyArtha parijnAna.

> Why, even the brahmasUtra has an adhikaraNa that begins, AsInas saMbhavAt, 
> in the conclusion to which, Sankara bhagavatpAda unambiguously states that 
> padmAsana and other postures are taught in the yoga
> SAstra as aids in the process of vicAra. And it is not just Asana there; 
> dhyAna is also
> given its due place. 
> > IMHO, we have to take this yOga practice till pratyAhAra because 
> dhAraNa, dhyAna & samAdhi terms have different contextual meaning in 
> advaita vedAnta, jnAna mArga sAdhana. 

And IMHO, those who take this opinion are making a distinction without a
difference. All I can recommend is a repeated reading of the gItAbhAshya.
> > I agree with you prabhuji, mOksha is beyond words. But we have the 
> AchAryOpadesha which promptly tries to explain us the inexplicable. As 
> you know mere terms like samAdhi, nirvikalpa and nirvikalpa samAdhi wont 
> trouble us, trouble starts only when we try to link this to the 
> patanjali's ashtAnga yOga & indispensability of samAdhi anubhava in a mind 
> inert state for the advaita's ekamevAdviteeya jnAna.

The trouble exists only for those who make the above distinction without a 
difference, not for others! Inasmuch as Atma vijnAna smRti saMtati is the
ananya sAdhana towards citta vRtti nirodha (Sankara in Br Up Bhashya), and
inasmuch as the citta and its vRttis cease in pratyag-jnAna (sureSvara in the
corresponding vArttika), the state of advaita's ekamevAdvitIya jnAna, or the
brahma-saMsthiti or Atmany evAvasthAnam IS indeed what some later authors
describe basically as samAdhi and further as nirvikalpa samAdhi. If it were not
so, bAdarAyaNa could have saved us all the trouble and worded his sUtra
"samAdhy abhAvAc ca" quite differently. Or Sankara could have saved us all
the trouble and said what you would have liked him to say about yoga and
samAdhi. Instead he merely says samAdhi is taught (upadishTa) as the
Atmapratipatti prayojaka means here and goes on to quote bRhadAraNyaka
on SravaNAdi and muNDaka on dhyAna. Earlier, under the sUtra "etena yogaH
pratyuktaH," while setting aside the dualistic pAtanjala yoga, he had already
quoted the same Sruti vAkya-s with the statement, "yogo hi vede vihitaH".
This particular link to pAtanjala yoga and the upadeSa of dhyAna/samAdhi
is made not by neo-Vedantins like Swami Vivekananda or by sadAnanda 
who wrote vedAntasAra or even by vidyAraNya; it is there, right there, in
the sUtra-s by bAdarAyaNa and the bhAshya by Sankara bhagavatpAda.

Rather than reiterating that samAdhi anubhava is not indispensible, those
who think that samAdhi is totally dispensible should really take the trouble to
reexamine the prasthAna traya and the bhAshyas carefully, with an open mind.
> > prabhuji, once in a blue moon day I would get time to write mails, I 
> may not be able to participate regularly, whenever I get time, I would try 
> to write something, which may result in multiple mails in a single day!! 
> What is your suggestion to me prabhuji?? 

Consolidate as much of the responses as possible. We have a guideline
about two posts per day, but we don't mean to clamp down on the number
strictly. Only when the number of posts per person per day exceeds the 
number 5 do we moderators start hearing about it from other list members.
Best regards,

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