[Advaita-l] The meaning of the Bhashyam expressions - 'dehavAniva lakshyate', etc.
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jul 27 17:35:56 CDT 2010
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashyam, the Acharya makes a comment:
'....dehavAniva lakshyate... [(The Jnani) appears to be one with a body].
In the sequel is presented the method of understanding the meaning of this
[Although I have myself seen this quotation, i am unable to trace its
reference. I request Shri Bhaskar ji to kindly provide the reference. I
thank him for providing me the 'food' for this thought that expresses itself
in the analysis that follows.]
The word 'dehavAn' has two components: 1.deha and 2.'vAn'. The first means:
body. The second means: a suffix called in Sanskrit grammar: matup.
In order to appreciate the usage of this suffix, one may look into the
Bhagavadgita Bhashya of Shankaracharya for the verse 13.12 where the word
'anAdimatparam' is analysed. In this verse the word Brahma for which the
matup is used is in neuter gender, napumsaka. When this suffix is used in
the masculine form, it takes the form: vaan like 'veeryavaan', 'shaktimaan,'
etc.. (In the feminine it is 'vatee' or 'matee' like 'ojovatee',
In our context, the word 'dehavAn' means: one who has the body. In order to
arrive at the exact meaning of the usage here, in the Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad context where a Jnani is discussed, let us first take a look at a
similar word used in the Bhagavadgita verse 12. 5.:
avyaktA hi gatirduHkham dehavadbhiravaapyate
//For them who have their minds attached to the Unmanifested the struggle is
greater; for, the Goal which is the Unmanifest is attained with difficulty
by the embodied ones. (dehavadbhiravaapyate)//
Shankaracharya, while commenting on the word /dehavadbhiravaapyate/ writes:
dehAbhimAnavadbhiH avaapyate. This means: //that is avapyate, attained;
duhkham, with difficulty; dehavadbhih, by the embodied ones, *by those who
identify themselves with the body.*//
Thus, according to the Acharya, the term: dehavadbhiH means: Those who have
dehaabhimAna, identification with the body.
In the above usage, the word 'dehavadbhiH' is the same as: dehavAn.
'dehavAn' is in the nominative case, prathamA vibhakti, singular, eka
vachanam. 'dehavadbhiH' is in the instrumental case, tRteeyaa vibhakti,
plural, bahuvachanam. Both the words have the 'matup' suffix. It is to
show this similarity this Gita verse was taken up.
Now, reverting to our topic, the word 'dehavAniva lakshyate' in the
Brihadaranyaka Bhashya, the meaning is: the Jnani appears to be identifying
with the body. To whom does the Jnani appear to be identifying with the
body? For the ignorant people who do not know that he is a Jnani and who
have no initiation in the Vedanta Shastra and who are not Vedanta sadhakas.
They see the Jnani as any other person, as themselves, engaged in all the
types of actions like eating, bathing, sleeping, working, having experiences
of joy, sorrow, cold, heat, disease, and death too. They consider him as
one identified with the body-mind apparatus, just like themselves. This is
what Shankaracharya is saying in the Bhashyam: 'dehavAniva lakshyate'.
It is by no means to be understood as 'ajnani-s superimposing a body for a
Jnani'. It is a case of ajnani-s seeing the Jnani, without being able to
appreciate his Jnanam and the consequent disidentification from the
body-mind apparatus by him. However, the other Jnanis, sadhakas and those
who know the meaning of a jivanmukta as taught by the scripture, will not
see him as a 'dehavAn', that is , as someone who identifies with the body.
[A similar usage is made by the Acharya in the commentary to the Gita verse:
shAreeram kevalam karma kurvan na aapnoti kilbiSham
Here, Bhagavan says that the Jnani having given up all wants and without any
longings and of controlled mind lives doing only that minimum which is
required to maintain his body. By doing just this much he earns no evil
karma (binding karma). Shankaracharya takes up a lengthy discussion to
decide on the meaning of the word 'shAreeram' (related to the body) and
concludes that this word only means: the Jnani works just as much is
necessary to the upkeep of the body. Thus, confirming the scriptural
position that the Jnani has a body to maintain which he does just so much of
action as is necessary. However, he himself is not attached to even this
work and it is only the others think that he has kartRtvam. The relevant
bhashyam passage for our purpose here is:
//shareera-sthiti-maatra-prayojanam 'kevala'shabdaprayogaat 'aham karomi'
ityabhimaanavarjitaH shareeraadicheShTaamaatram lokadRShTyaa kurvan na
apnoti kilbiSham// The meaning of this is covered in the above paragraph.
Here the signifcant aspects to be noticed are:
1. The Jnani has a body
2. He works for the upkeep of this body
3. This work expresses itself in the body, etc. (shreeraadi) doing one or
the other activity - chEShTaa
4. He has no identification with this action in the form of 'I am the
5. However, the others seeing his body, etc. engaged in such action think
that 'he is doing these actions'.
6. This by no means amounts to saying: 'the ajnanis superimpose a body,
etc. for the jnani.' On the other hand, Shankaracharya clarifies 'the
others only superimpose the doership, kartRtva, on the Jnani. The Jnani
himself is free of even this kartRtva.'
7. This is a proof of Scripture and Shankara teaching that the Jnani has
no identification, abhimaana with either the body or the doership.
The above is the only method of correctly understanding the Bhashyam
expression. If it is understood in any other manner, it will contradict the
teaching of the Scripture and Shankaracharya. How? Shankaracharya Himself,
for instance, in the BSB 4.1.15 challenges those who contest the Jnani
continuing in a body (as taught by the Bhagavadgita 5.13 where the Lord
teaches that the Jnani lives in the body for the rest of the period of his
destined life), even while having the Realization of Brahman:
//‘’The knowledge of the Self being essentially non-active destroys all
works by sublating wrong knowledge; but wrong knowledge – comparable to the
appearance of a double moon – lasts for some time even after it has been
sublated, owing to the impression it has made. Moreover, it is not a matter
for dispute at all whether the body of the Knower of Brahman continues to
exist for sometime or not. For how can one contest the fact of another
possessing the knowledge of Brahman – vouched for by his heart’s conviction
– and at the same time continuing with the body? This alone has been
elaborated in the Shruti and Smriti in the form of teaching of the
Sthitaprajna (Man of steady Knowledge).//
Another Bhashyam expressions pertaining to the Jnani that is also grossly
misunderstood in the absence of a proper analysis:
'ashareeratvam' - used in the BSB 1.1.4 in the sentence meaning:
//"...since embodiedness is the result of a false perception, it is
established that the enlightened man has no embodiedness even while
Here, if the word 'ashareeratvam' (no embodiedness) ,is taken to mean:
'there is no body for the Jnani', it opens Shankaracharya to the fault of
self-contradiction. How? For, has He not said in the BSB 4.1.15 -
// For how can one contest the fact of another possessing the knowledge of
Brahman – vouched for by his heart’s conviction – and at the same time
continuing with the body?//
What is the correct way of understanding the word 'ashareeratvam' of the BSB
1.1.4 if it is not intended to contradict the teaching of the Scripture and
Shankaracharya? Again, we go back to the 'dehavAniva' meaning arrived at
above. 'ashareeratvam' only means that the Jnani will not have the
attachment, identification with the body. It is not that 'there will be no
body for/of the Jnani.' If Shankaracharya had intended to give this meaning
He would have used the word: shareeraabhaavaH. It is one thing to say
'there is no body for a Jnani' and quite another to say 'the Jnani has no
identification with the body'.
This alone is the meaning of the term for this additional reason: This very
sentence uses the word 'jeevato api' which means: 'even while living.'. One
can see the glaring self-contradiction if the word 'ashareeratvam' is to
mean 'absence of body' 'even while living'!! How can one be alive while the
body is absent? It is commonsense that one cannot be alive when the body is
gone. The very word 'alive' presupposes the presence of a body where the
praNa, etc. are active. Shankaracharya would not be making such an
illogical statement so as to mean 'the Jnani will not have a body while he
Again, we can easily see the perfect consistency in His statements when we
compare the one-to-one correspondence between the two bhashya sentences:
1.1.4 and 4.1.15. Both of them contain the words 'jeevatopi' (even while
living) and 'dehadhAraNam' (continuing to possess the body). And the other
two key words: ashareeratvam (disembodiedness) and brahmabhaavaH (the
realization of one's Brahman nature).
The expression 'jeevato api ashareeratvam' only means, just as the
expression 'dehavAniva' ( a 'vyatireka' comparison is made here just to
bring out the meaning), 'the Jnani, even while living is free of the
body-identification.' This is the only way this term can be understood if
one decides not to contradict the Scripture, Shankaracharya and reasoning.
We can appreciate readily that neither the Scripture nor Shankaracharya
indulges in self-contradiction.
Om Tat Sat
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