Atma Bodha Verse 05

Hari AUM

ajnAnakalusham jIvam jnAnAbhyAsAdvi nirmalam |
krtvA jnAnam svayam naSyet jalam katakareNuvat ||

Translation :
Stained by ignorance(ajnAna), the jIva should purify itself by the constant pursuit of jnAna. Once jnAna is attained, the jIva self-destructs, just as the kataka nut dissolves after cleansing turpid water.

Explanation :
    This verse picks up from the previous verse on the theme of avidya and the jIva. So far, we have seen how jnAna destroys avidya and how that this "destruction" cannot be brought about by any external agent. But, the removal of avidya has to be brought about by someone/something. Here, bhagavatpAda states that it is the jIva that should do this.

    First of all, what is the jIva? The jIva cannot be an external entity to the Atman because ShrI Shankara has clearly stated already that no external agent can bring about the destruction of avidya. Here, ShrI Shankara defines the jIva as nothing but the Atman "contaminated" by ajnAna ( ignorance or avidya ). Hence, the jIva must attempt to remove this contamination by the constant pursuit of jnAna.

    OK, fine. The jIva pursues jnAna and eventually attains it. Then what? Then, the jIva ( along with avidya ) is destroyed. What this means is that the jIva loses its ignorance and realizes its true Self(Atman). So, what is destroyed here is jIva-ness, which is the ignorance(avidya). This process is similar to the process of cleaning turpid water in India. The powder of the kataka nut is mixed with the turpid water. This powder aggregates the impurities which sink to the bottom due to their weight, leaving clean water on top. Having accomplished its task, the powder also disappears (dissolves and binds with the impurities ). Hence, the jIva brings about its own destruction only to reveal its true Self(atman) to Itself!

NOTES on themes

    We have seen a persistent theme in the verses discussed so far. After touching upon the qualifications and utility, ShrI Shankara dwelled upon avidya, its definition, its removal, the method of its removal and the agent of its removal. From the next verse onwards, we shall see other topics addressed. In the end, there will be a summary and a terse re-statement of the concepts presented so far.

    The method employed adheres to the three fold subject matter of advaita. Namely,
1. Brahman alone is Real
2. The world is un-Real
3. The true Self(atman) of the jIva is nothing but Brahman.

    ShrI bhagavatpAda has started with 3) first. Because, this is the most immediate knowledge, knowledge of one's Self. This is akin to the "bottoms-up" approach. This can also be likened to the "inside-out" approach. After teaching us about our true Self, he would now address the nature of the world and finally conclude with the nature of Brahman (Ultimate Reality). In the end, he would summarize all three views to state the advaitic concept, The Ultimate Reality is noting but our True Self.