[Advaita-l] Physical death of the Jnani and related issues

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Mar 2 05:03:19 CST 2010

The Chandogya Upanishad, in the mantra 6.15.1, says thus:
The man on the verge of passing out is found to respond to questions from
those surrounding him so long as his speech does not subside in the mind and
the mind in the prana and the prana itself in the tejas, bodily heat and
finally the heat also (not) dissolving in the Sat. But as soon as the
successive dissolving of the faculties occurs, the man stops responding to
the others’ questions.  In the description of the death, the faculties of
speech, mind, life force (VAk, manas and prana) are shown to merge in tejas,
fire and tejas itself in Sat.  The Sat is the material cause from which
matter consisting of fire, etc. has emerged and into which all these
dissolve in the end.


*Chandogya Up. mantra 6.15.2:

//"But when his speech is merged in his *mind, his mind *in his  prana, his
prana in heat and the heat in the Highest Deity, then  he does not know


Shankara's commentary for mantra 6.15.2 :

संसारिणो यो मरणक्रमः, स एवायं विदुषोऽपि सत्सम्पत्तिक्रम इत्येतदाह -...

//The process of death of a transmigrating soul is the SAME as the process
of attaining Sat, Existence, by a man of KNOWLEDGE also.  The text speaks of
this as follows:

The ignorant man, re emerging from Sat, enters into the states of a tiger,
or a man...in accordance with his past thoughts.  But the man of Knowledge
does not return after entering into Sat which is Brahman identified with his
own Self, and which is revealed by the lamp of knowledge produced by the
scriptures and instructions of the Teacher.  This is the process of
attaining Existence (Brahman).  //

Shankaracharya comments thus for the mantra 6.15.3:

//When replied thus, Shvetaketu asks: *If the process of passing out is the
same for the Knower (JnAnin) and the ignorant, *ajnAnin, why is it that only
the ajnAnin returns to samsara and not the JnAnin who gets liberated?//

*The Reply:*
The reply is given in the mantra 6.16.1, 2 and 3 through an example (of the
offenders caught by the police).

In the foregoing we have seen the *Scriptural evidence for the existence of
the Mind for the Jnani and Shankaracharya's confirmatory comments for the
fact of the mind existing for the Jnani till the death.

*Here follows Shankaracharya's commentary, based on the Chandogya mantra
6.14.2, establishing the prarabdha karma phala bhoga for a Jnani:

The reproduction is from the Bhashyam translation of Sw.Gambhirananda:

//...Those actions which have started yielding results, and those by which
the body of the man of Knowledge (Jnani) has been moulded, get exhausted
ONLY THRU ENJOYMENT, just as an arrow etc. that has gathered momentum after
being shot towards a target, stops only with the exhaustion of its momentum
and not because it has no purpose to serve at the time it pierces the
target.  Similar is the case here.  But other actions which have not started
yielding results, and which were done here before the dawn of Knowledge or
after it, or those which are being performed, or those which were done in
past lives but had not started yielding results, they become BURNT by
Knowledge, just as sins are burnt by expiation.  ...the enjoyment of the
results of actions that have become active is INEVITABLE FOR THE JNANI, EVEN

A discussion on similar tenor is found in the Acharya's Bhashya for the
Bhagavadgita 13. 23.  Here the Acharya makes a very emphatic statement:

..एवं शरीरारंभकं कर्म शरीरस्थितिप्रयोजने निवृत्तेऽपि आसंस्कारवेगक्षयात्
पूर्ववद्वर्तत एव । [..so also, though the purpose of the bodily existence
has been gained, the effects of actions which have produced the body
continue as before till the exhaustion of their inherent energy. ]

It is in these sample instances that we can find the unmistakable evidence
for the concept of 'avidyaa lesha' for a Jnani, in Shankara Bhashya.
'आसंस्कारवेगक्षयात् ' is what is translatable as 'avidyaa lesha'.  Shankara
has also very categorically clarified in the Briharadaranyaka Bhashya 1.4.10
that the prarabdha / avidyaa lesha of a Jnani is ONLY that much as is
required to experience the effects, bhoga, of the pararabdha karma and NOT
to create samsara afresh.  Thus, the concept of 'avidyaa lesha' is quite
justifiable, based on the bedrock of Shankara's bhAshya and the Shruti.  All
advaitins accept, on the lines of the teaching of Shankaracharya, that
samsara is 'avidyA-kRta', or caused by ignorance/adhyasa.  What manifests in
prarabdha bhoga is only the effects of action.  The Br.Up. says: The
ignorant one desires and the desireful one acts.  Thus, there is a cause
effect relationship between ignorance and action, avidya and karma.  Thus
when action, performed in the state of ignorance, is now yielding its fruit,
after one has gained aparoksha jnanam, there is absolutely no defect in
terming it 'avidyaa lesha'.  Especially, when we have Shankara's explicit
support in the sample bhashya vaakyas we have quoted above, and also
Shankara's explicit clarification that:  //that the prarabdha / avidyaa
lesha of a Jnani is ONLY that much as is required to experience the effects,
bhoga, of the pararabdha karma and NOT to create samsara afresh//

All this does not, however, militate against the Shruti proclamation of
'Brahmavit Brahmaiva'.  Shankaracharya does not give room for any confusion
or mixup between this Shruti and the handling of the prarabdha bhoga for a

In and through all this discussion we aught to remember that the mind is as
much physical in its make up as is the body; as per the Chandogya Upanishad,
the mind and body are evolutes/transformation of 'annam, water and fire' the
three elements.  Thus, just as the physical body of the Jnani, even the mind
and speech faculties continue till the extinction of the body-mind
apparatus.  This is the upshot of the foregoing discussion.

Shri Bhaskar ji, pl. note this is what I had said regarding the 'kombu'.  It
is the 'akhanDAkAra vritti'  that is likened to the kombu. That is the
dArShTantika and NOT the mind itself, as you have mis-comprehended from my

// The jnani, owing to his sadhana under a Guru, has trained his mind and
made the 'akhanDAkAra vritti' jnAnam possible.  This special vritti which
has the Atma for its form destroys the avidya aavaraNam and itself gets
destroyed.  The example given is the 'veTTiyAn's kombu'.  He kindles the
fire in the grave yard with this kombu and finally consigns the kombu too
into the fire. //

And the proof for this is in the Acharya's Bhashyam to the Mandukya
Upanishad  7th mantra नान्तःप्रज्ञम्.. :

//  *प्रतिषेधविज्ञानप्रमाणस्य..*.ज्ञानस्य द्वैतनिवृत्ति-क्षण-व्यतिरेकेण *
क्षणान्तर-अनवस्थानात्* । अवस्थाने च अनवस्थाप्रसङ्गाद् द्वतानिवृत्तिः । //

[The instrument of knowledge (which is what is known as ''akhanDAkAra
vritti') ...has no other action on Turiya, apart from eliminating the
unwanted attributes like .......for knowledge (as a mental state, vRtti), *does
not continue for a second moment following that of the cessation of

Om Tat Sat

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