[Advaita-l] Nachiketa-God Yama

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Apr 5 15:47:25 CDT 2005

On Tue, 29 Mar 2005, ramesh badisa wrote:

> Ø A jnani amongst Devatas is in the same position as a jnani jivanmukta
> amongst humans.
> · Can you give some references on this?

Having established that it is possible for men to achieve jnana, the doubt
arises: is jnana possible for other intelligent beings such as the Gods?
This is discussed in Brahmasutra 1.3.26

taduparyapi bAdarAyaNa.h saMbhavAt || 26 ||

Those higher also says Badarayana because of possibility.

According to Maharshi Badarayana, the higher beings can get jnana because
it is possible to pursue the means.  Naturally because Badarayana is the
author of the Brahmasutra, this is considered the siddhanta.

Shankaracharya says that the Devas being living beings posessed of
consciousness also can desire moksha.  Because they have bodies they can
learn the Vedas, meditate, practice yoga etc which are means of pursuing

(the other sutras in this adhikarana upto 33, are also interesting in what
they say about the nature of the Devas but not directly relevant to your

> When it is said, “jnani amongst Devatas” when was this jnanam achieved?
> A person can get jnanam while on earth. In that case, the jnani won’t
> become a god after death, but becomes divine, as the jnani’s aim would
> be for salvation. On the other hand, if this jnanam can be achieved in
> some other loka, then show some reference in this regard.

As per Advaita Vedanta, jnana can occur in any time and place because it
is not bound by time and place.  The sutra previously mentioned, says that
the Devas have the capacity to pursue jnana.

Shankaracharya mentions Chandogyopanishad 8.11.3 where Indra learns
brahmavidya and Taittereyopanishad Brghuvalli where Varuna teaches his
son Maharshi Bhrgu (implying that he already has jnana himself.)  And of
course this story is an example.

> · Nobody would know that. On the other hand, do we have any references
> to show the above statement?
> If God Yama is present everywhere at all the times, then, it also means
> as per the context that Nachiketa, who is in discussion with God Yama at
> that time should also be present every where at all the times along with
> God Yama. Then only discussion between them would be possible.

In Brahmasutra 1.3.27, there is an objection to the idea that the Devas
have bodies.  If A is doing a yajna in Kashi and Agni is physically
present there, how could B do a yajna in Prayaga at the same time?  The
answer given is that the Devas can assume multiple bodies at will and as

> In the
> first valli of Katha Up., it is said that Nachiketa had waited 3 days at
> God Yama’s home when God Yama was gone elsewhere. Now, if God Yama is
> everywhere at all times, then how come Nachiketa stayed at a particular
> location (God Yama’s home) for 3 days? The absence of God Yama at his
> home for 3 days, and staying of Nachiketa clearly indicate that God Yama
> cannot be everywhere at all the times. On the other hand, if the
> assumption that God Yama is everywhere is correct, then, God Yama could
> have known immediately that Nachiketa was waiting for him at his home.
> Having known this, God Yama should have come immediately to meet
> Nachiketa. Because, as per God Yama’s own words (Kata Up. 1.7 to 9), it
> would
> be a curse to keep a Brahmin guest starving at one’s home. The fact is
> that God Yama himself acknowledged his absence from his home for 3
> days, and then in order to pacify, God Yama wanted to offer 3 boons to
> Nachiketa. These incidents clearly indicate that Yama cannot be present
> everywhere at all the times.

As far as Advaita Vedanta is considered, God does not arbitrarily give or
withhold rewards to his creatures on a whim.  He impartially awards to
them what their own karma has wrought.  Furthermore per the Mimamsaka
view, all stories etc. in the shastras are only for the purpose of
encouraging or prohibiting actions of various kinds.  Nachiketa doesn't
get jnana as a boon, but because his own renunciation had prepared him for
it.  The "curse" and "boon" are just a contrivance on the part of Lord
Yama which inter alia also teaches us that it is a sin to not serve a
guest.  ("atithi devo bhava", the taittereyopanishad says.)

> On the same lines, can we say that Lord Brahma (Ch. Up. 8.9.1 to end of
> this Upanishad) is also present everywhere at all the times? If it is
> correct, then how come God Indra visited Lord Brahma many times, before
> the latter gave the atma gyan to the former? If Lord Brahma is not
> localized at one place, then how is it possible for God Indra to make
> many visits to Lord Brahma?

Because of his lack of understanding, it took Lord Indra several tries
before he was prepared for jnana.  On the other hand we read of e.g.
Hastamalakacharya, the disciple of Shankaracharya who despite being deaf
and dumb, only had to look at his Guru before he became enlightened.  In
both cases, it is the preparedness of the pupil not the whim of the
teacher which is responsible for jnana.

> As per Brahma Sutra 4.3.10, all lokas
> including Brahma Lok (BL) will get destroyed at pralaya. If Lord Brahma
> is present everywhere at all the times, then how can his abode, BL, be
> destroyed at pralaya. Destruction is possible when a particular thing is
> localized. The fact that BL will also be destroyed at pralaya indicates
> that Lord Brahma is not present every where at all the times, but
> localized at a particular place. Thus, the conclusion is that God Yama,
> Lord Brahma etc cannot present everywhere at all the times. If this is
> incorrect, then quote some proof.

Destruction is a poor translation for what happens at pralaya.  It is more
like reabsorption.  All the names and forms of God (who is saguna brahman)
are shed much like a snake sheds his skin and only pure brahman remains.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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