[Advaita-l] Jivanmukti - Jnana plus Sannyasa

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 24 21:16:46 CDT 2009

I am presenting here, a humble attempt at a cohesive synthesis of the traditional positions, on this topic, over the course of a multi-part series. The issues that seem to be in play include the necessity of anything neeing to be done after the attainment of aparoksha jnana, something that seems prima facie a contradiction in terms, and the necessity of vidvat sannyasa after jnana has been obtained for the purpose of jivanmukti.
Part 1.
Jivanmukti - Jnana plus Sannyasa
What is Jivanmukti? It is verily the pinnacle of human perfection, where a human attains to the status of the Supreme by a complete annihilation of his ignorance of his intrinsic non-individuality. It represents a release from the the pairs of opposites of sorrow and joy and represents an abidance in that Bliss that is one’s very intrinsic nature- the swarupananda. Yah vai bhuma tat sukham – that which indeed is the iInfinite Incalculable Unexcelled Innumerable – these are its synonyms; that is sukham, Bliss. On a particle, a minute fraction, of that Bliss alone does every creature live – Br Up 4.3.32 It is the attainment of the fullness of one’s own Self – so’snute sarvan kaaman saha (– Taittr Up 2.1.1) all his desires are fulfilled and he attains to a state of complete desirelessness -ihaiva sarve praviliyanti kaamah – (Mundaka 3.2.1) It is the State of Absolute Peace (paramam shantim – BG 18.62) that is unconditioned and intrinsic,
 of one’s very nature (Taittr Up 1.6.2). Such a person has transcended the clutches of Time and mortality and revels in His intrinsic Eternity. The highest joys in the Universe are akin to droplet of water in the Ocean of Bliss that is a jivanmuktas intrinsic nature says Shankara in the Br.Up. In recent times we can look to the Shankaracharyas of Sringeri (His Holiness Bharata Tirtha) or Kanchi (His Holiness Chandrasekhara Mahaswami) or Bhagwan Ramana, among many others, as examples of such Oceans of Supreme Peace (only to help us gain a frame of reference of what or who is a jivamukta). In the words of Madhusudana Saraswati - among thousands of people, a seeker who sincerely adopts the janana marga is extremely rare; even among such men it is very rare to find one who has reaped the fruit of his jnananishta
Now can there be gradations in such mukti? The answer according to Shankara as contained in the BSB is a emphatic “no.” And the reason he offers is that Brahman being homogeneous, mukti which is the very nature of Brahman, also has to be ekarasah homogenous as well… “Because the Upanishads have definitely ascertained that state to be the same. For in all Upanishads, the state of liberation is determined to be uniform in nature, the state of liberation being nothing but Brahman itself. Brahman cannot be of
many sorts, since Its characteristic indication is declared to be uniform by such texts….”
On the other hand ….“knowledge (of Unity) can take place over a short time or can take longer…” One thus understands this mukti or the status of a jivanmukta to be without any differentiations or gradations of any sort – “it” – in and of itself, representing the Absolute.
So one can understand the status of a jivanmukta as being uniform with no kind of gradations of any sort possible. 
Jnana – or the liberating knowledge is the proximate cause of Moksha. Being a praptasya prapti – the gain of the already gained – it represents a removal of ignorance or aviyda – so that I realize that my intrinsic nature is of Purnatvam – in other words  - I am Brahman – aham brahmasmi. Now this knowledge is obtained by a repeated process of shravanam, mananam and nidhidhyasanam. A person who thus has a doubt-free knowledge of Truth can be said to be a knower. In the Brhad Up we have such a knower as one of the principal teachers in the form of Yajnavalkya. It is important to note that Yajnavalkya was not a jivanmukta. He was knowledgable about tat tvam asi but was not yet established in Brahman. To gain knowledge OR ATMAJNANA he did  not need to renounce anything – he could remain ensconced in his householder status – have not one but two wives – debate and score points over his opponents and actually teach people about Brahmavidya.
 But when it came to attaining jivanmukti - Yajnavalkya had to renounce – tyage na eka amrtatvam – and leave his family and renounce his possessions and retire to the forest to live the life of a mendicant so that he may obtain nishta in the knowledge. In his Br Up vartika Sureshwaracharya comments thus: 
..Yajnavalkya a householder who possessed knowledge of that wich surpassed all excellence (i.e. atmajnana) obtained the highest place of Vishnu after attaining the state of renunciation…
Indeed renunciation (tyaga eva hi) is for all the best means to liberation (mokshasahdana) for it is ONLY by ONE WHO HAS RENOUNCED that the highest state (paramam padam) of the individual consciousness can be attained.
So the question remains as to whether after the dawn of doubtless knowledge, is there anything more that needs to be done? The answer is no. There is nothing that needs to be DONE once knowledge has been gained, but there may be something that needs to be UNDONE – particularly in the case of the unprepared mind or a unprepared student. 
Interestingly centuries ago, Swami Vidyaranya talks of “modern” (!) students being unprepared and hence needing sadhana after the acquisition of knowledge has been seen to be relevant at least for the past few centuries! 
What about Shankara? Does he deal with his scenario of the non-synchronicity of jnana and moksha? First of all it is important to remember that in Shankara’s schema, Vedanta shravana has to begin with sannyasa. In his Upadesha Sahasri he explicitly mentions that the teaching should be given ONLY to a total renunciate. In more recent times both the Sage of Kanchi as well as His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Sringeri among others have also talked about it being “ideal” for a student to be a renunciate prior to exposition to Vedanta shravana. In his commentary on the Vivekachudamani His Holiness Chandrasekhara Bharati comments.“ sannyasya shravanam kuryat one should hear ONLY after ordination as a sannyasin”. So in the multitude of places where Shankara emphatically states in his bhashyas that as soon as one gains the understanding of tat tvam asi in that very instant one is liberated, we should also remember that he has already made clear who
 this tat tvam asi upadesha should be given to and what kind of a adhikari he has in mind. It is like a Professor of surgery saying that if you spend 2 weeks in practice with him he expects you to be competent in performing an appendix removal – it goes without saying that what this Professor has in mind is someone who is already a medical student and has completed the requisite study of anatomy, and pathology, etc – you cannot now hold him responsible if an unprepared sixth grader, spends two weeks in training with him, and is unsure of how to even hold a scalpel in his hand. So when one wants to read what Shankara’s views are on jnana and mukti one cannot ignore the entire context in which his teachings are based and the very critical assumptions he is making about the student. After all in his age and time, this upadesha was a Royal Secret, and could only be transmitted by one Guru to his direct shishyas after of course ascertaining their mental
 competency for the same. 
There can be no denying that this would be a ideal situation – perhaps too ideal to be practical in today’s age of freedom, of "google-able" information and its widespread dissemniation. So it is safe to assume that, with rare exceptions, all Vedanta students today are not ideally prepared as they devote themselves to Vedanta vichara and as a consequence, in these students, knowledge may be seen to arise with no concomitant fruit –i.e. jivanmukti. 
Having said that, there are instances even in Shankara’s bhashyas where he clearly differentiates jnana and mukti, and of the consummation of the former leading into the latter.
(to be continued)
Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyoh namah


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