[Advaita-l] Re: Vivekachudamani vs Bhashyas

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 18 16:31:49 CDT 2003

> >  prabhuji, IMHO the shankara bhashya on Br.Up. 1.4.7 requires rather a
>careful study.  The vidhi or we can say sustained effort to *maintain*
>muktihood should not be taken literally.  This duty  is not to be taken as
>resting on an original injuction (vidhi), coz. this duty can be considered
>as a duty without *doer* as vidya prabhuji rightly pointed out above.

Yes, these should not be taken as "original injunctions" or apUrva vidhi in 
the technical terms of mImAMsA.

Nevertheless, Sankara is the first to tell us that these are niyama vidhis 
or restrictive injunctions. In bRhadAraNyaka commentary 1.4.7, he quotes 
vijnAya prajnAM kurvIta (BU 4.4.21-22) and in the commentary on that 
sentence, he says, after obtaining vijnAna, "prajnA kAraNa sAdhanAni 
saMnyAsa Sama dama uparati titikShA samAdhAnAni kartavyAni". Note that the 
word samAdhAna is a noun form that is very close in derivation and meaning 
to samAdhi. Note also that in the same context, Sankara interprets the 
upanishad word "pravrajanti" (simple present tense, plural) as "pravrajeyuH" 
(injunctive mood) and also explicitly calls it a vidhi. In one place in the 
brahmasUtra commentary, he quotes "tajjalAn iti SAnta upAsIta" and takes it 
not as an injunction to do upAsana, but as an injunction to develop Sama or 
SAnti (Sama-vidhi vivakShayA ... uktam). One may also look at taittirIya 
commentary, where yoga, the Atman of the vijnAnamaya koSa, is defined by 
Sankara as "yogo yuktis samAdhAnam".

In brahmasUtra commentary, 2.3.39, he tells us that presuming the sAdhaka's 
sense of oneself as a doer, samAdhi is taught as the means to know the real 
Self, and quotes chAndogya sentence, "sa anveShTavyas sa vijijnAsitavyaH" 
along with muNDaka and bRhadAraNyaka quotations. In the relevant commentary 
on chAndogya upanishad itself, he says, "anveShTavya vijijnAsitavya iti ca 
niyama vidhir eva." Again, as one can see, he does have room for 
injunctions, specifically the niyama variety.

>Hence, commentaries like above should be understood without disturbing the
>shankara's mUla siddhAnta.  So, texts like,  a jnAni who has acquired

Taking the above references into consideration, what exactly is Sankara's 
mUla siddhAnta? It is that the vedAnta does contain restrictive injunctions 
(niyama vidhi-s) in the context of Self-knowledge. This is at a pedantic 
level of interpreting scripture. Practically speaking, what does this mean? 
The one who seeks to know has to work on the sAdhana-s. Sankara says as 
much, explicitly, in taittirIya commentary (samAdhAna lakShaNaM ... tapas 
sAdhanam anuShTheyaM) and in gItA commentary 18.50, where he says yatna 
(effort) is necessary not to reveal the light of Atman, but to remove the 
superimposition of anAtman through avidyA. It is quite clear that in 
Sankara's mind, this effort is dhyAna yoga, for in numerous places in the 
gItA commentary, he says that dhyAna yoga is an integral part (antaranga) of 
the right vision (samyag-darSana), while those who maintain the right vision 
(samyag-darSana-niShThA) are immediately liberated (sadyomuktAH). Obviously, 
yoga, dhyAna, samAdhi and the niShThA of jnAna precede sadyomukti. It is the 
jnAna-niShThA of vedAnta that gets to be termed nirvikalpa samAdhi in texts 
like VC.

>knowledge of the self alone, he should practise repeated affirmation
>(Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtati),  must be contextually understood as
>restrictive injuction, prompting one to adhere strictly to remember the
>knowledge of the self, this remembrance happens automatically for him as
>this is state is pramAtru, pramANAtIta.  Who will be there to put efforts

For him who has this remembrance automatically, no restrictions really 
apply. However, the discussion in bRhadAraNyaka bhAShya 1.4.7 is primarily 
for those who have a strong tendency towards further action (karmaNo 
balIyastvAt) and for whom the newly acquired tendency towards knowledge is 
weaker (prApta jnAna-pravRtti daurbalya), even after the rise of right 
knowledge (samyag-jnAna prAptAv api). Now, either Sankara is contradicting 
himself with respect to samyag-jnAna, or we have to conclude that this is 
meant not for the perfect brahmajnAnI, but for those of manda-madhyama 
qualifications. Nevertheless, Sankara allows that samyag jnAna may have 
already arisen, and then a niyama vidhi comes into operation. For such a 
person, it is necessary to specify a process (niyantavyA bhavati) in which 
the constant remembrance of Self-knowledge (Atma vijnAna smRti saMtati) is 
emphasized. I submit that this is exactly what comes to be called 
vAsanAkShaya in other texts.

I would also like to point out that earlier in the same commentary passage 
that Sankara has already anticipated that this is the same as citta vRtti 
nirodha. For, just two or three paragraphs before the conclusion, he says 
"ananya sAdhanatvAc ca nirodhasya. na hy Atma vijnAna tat smRty saMtAna 
vyatirekeNa citta vRtti nirodhasya sAdhanam asti".

What does all this mean? Firstly, note that one cannot recollect or remember 
what one does not already know. It is only the known entity that can be 
remembered. Therefore, the true Self has to be already known, before it can 
be recollected. The steady recollection of Self-knowledge is acknowledged to 
be the only means to achieve the Yogic goal of citta vRtti nirodha. The same 
steady recollection of Self-knowledge is taken as a niyama vidhi, a 
restrictive injunction, AFTER the rise of samyag jnAna. And all of this 
comes from the bRhadAraNyaka commentary, a primary and important text that 
defines Sankara's thought.

Either we have to revisit our view of what exactly is Sankara's mUla 
siddhAnta or we have to wonder if Sankara is contradicting himself, or else 
we have to wonder if the author of bRhadAraNyaka commentary is different 
from the author of brahmasUtra commentary. I opt for the first alternative, 
because as far as I can see, there is no contradiction between these two 
texts. The contradiction lies in our own notions of what exactly is 
Sankara's basic teaching and what lies outside of it.

>towards what??  This question may be asked here if the *human effort* is
>required to maintain jnAna .  So, the knowledge (paramArtha jnAna) one has

It is not a question of human effort to maintain jnAna. Nor do I think that 
VC says human effort is required to maintain jnAna. After all, it talks of 
the non-apprehension (agrahaNa) of the anAtman (technically called dRSya). 
And it talks of obtaining the glimpse of jnAna in samAdhi.

In this context, see sureSvara's naishkarmyasiddhi verse 1.88, which says, 
"niyamaH parisaMkhyA vA vidhy artho 'pi bhaved yataH anAtmA-adarSanenaiva 
parAtmAnam upAsmahe." - "Whether seen as a niyama injunction or a 
parisaMkhyA injunction, we worship the highest Self only by not seeing the 

As far as I can see, sureSvara's "not seeing the non-Self" (anAtmA-adarSana) 
is synonymous with the VC author's "not apprehending the seen" 
(dRSyasya-agrahaNa). I therefore see a much larger degree of continuity 
between Sankara, sureSvara and the prakaraNa granthas which have generally 
been seen as deviating from Sankara's mUla siddhAnta, his core teaching. I 
rather think that Sankara's mUla siddhAnta has been often misunderstood in 
modern times.

As far as vidhis are concerned, see also verse 3.126 in naiShkarmyasiddhi, 
where sureSvara says, "tvam arthasya avabodhAya vidhir apy ASrito yataH". 
The injunction referred to here is exactly what Sankara refers as relating 
to Sama and pravrajyA in brahmasUtra and bRhadAraNyaka commentaries. How 
does one develop Sama and the other qualities without practising yoga? 
sureSvara himself recognizes this. That is why, in naishkarmyasiddhi 1.52, 
he says yogAbhyAsa should be done after renunciation 
(sarva-karma-tat-sAdhana saMnyAsas, tato yogAbhyAsas, tataS cittasya 
pratyak-pravaNatA, tatas tattvamasyAdi vAkyArtha parijnAnam ...). Note that 
in the traditional setting, the moment of taking up saMnyAsa is the moment 
of SravaNa of the upanishad mahAvAkya-s. So, even sureSvara, Sankara's 
direct disciple, recognizes the value of yoga practice (yukti/samAdhAna in 
taittirIya commentary, AtmavijnAna smRti saMtAna in bRhadAraNyaka 
commentary, which is the only means to stilling the mind, citta vRtti 
nirodha, as explicitly mentioned by Sankara himself) AFTER taking up 
saMnyAsa, which traditionally involves the SravaNa of tattvamasi from the 
mouth of the guru. And he puts this yogAbhyAsa before the full meaning 
(parijnAna) of the sentence tattvamasi manifests itself.

Under the circumstances, why should we think that any prakaraNa text that 
talks of yoga in one way or the other should automatically be non-genuine?


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