[Advaita-l] How can one claim to know Brahman?

Ajit Krishnan ajit at mudgala.com
Wed Mar 23 11:33:27 CST 2005

The following book extract presents Sureshvara's view on the subject of
eligibility. Here is the synoposis: Before commencing the formal enquiry
into vedanta, a general knoweldge of the contents of the vedanta, as
established by the required adhyayana of the veda should be had. After this,
when one becomes a mumukshu, sannyasa is absolutely required before
embarking into the formal systematic study of vedanta.


>From the section "eligibility for brahman-knowledge" in the introduction of
the book "Taittiriyopanishad bhashya vartika of Sureshvara" by R.

It may be argued that it is impossible for one to be in possession of the
fourfold means of eligibility without the study of the Vedanta. It is only
after studying the Vedanta and realizing the nature of Brahman that it will
be possible for one to discriminate the eternal from the transitory and
develop non-attachment towards transitory things. The problem which has to
be solved may be stated in the form of a dilemma. If Brahman is not known,
eligibility for knowledge is not possible; and if it is known, eligibility
is not necessary.

Sureshvara contends that there is a way out of this dilemma as the
alternatives are not collectively exhaustive. It is not a case of
Brahman-Atman being either known or not known; but it is a case of
Brahman-Atman being both known and not known. And so there is a third
alternative which has not been taken into consideration by the critic. Even
before one beings to inquire into the Vedanta with a view to known
Brahman-Atman, one has a general knowledge (ApAta-gyAna) of it through the
formal study (adhyayana) of the Veda. ... Though one has this knowledge in a
general way even before the commencement of the inquiry into Brahman, such a
knowledge is not free from doubt, and is not firmly established, because it
has not been systematically inquired into. Though to start with, one has
only a general knowledge as a result of the formal study of the Veda along
with the auxiliary disciplines, it has kindled an intense desire for
attaining a firm knowledge of Brahman. Such a person is, indeed, eligible
for the study of the Vedanta. Sureshvara observes: "Eligibility results even
for him who, although ignorant, possesses a general knowledge about the
truth of Brahman-Atman and who desires knowledge oand release
[Sambandha-Vartika 283]"


The act of renunciation for the purpose of knowing Brahman
(vividiShA-sannyAsa) must be preceded by (1) the performance of obligatory
and occasional rites (nitya-naimittika-karmAnuShThAna), (2) purification of
the mind (cittashuddhi), (3) the conviction about the utter uselessness of
the things of the world (saMsArAsAratA-dR^iShTi), (4) the desire to renounce
the world (saMsArajihAsA), (5) the giving up of desire for son, etc
(eShaNAtraya-tyAga), and (6) an intense desire to known Brahman (vividiShA).
It is only when a spiritual aspirant has come to the stage of
vividiShA-sannyAsa, i.e. renunciation of karma as well as the things of the
world for the purpose of knowing Brahman, that he is called upon to
undertake the enquiry into Brahman by means of guided study (shravaNa),
rational reflection (manana), and repeated contemplation (nididhyAsana). 
The requirements for the study of the Vedanta are undoubtedly stiff, and the
stage as well as the importance of renunciation as formulated in Advaita is
not to be trifled with.

-----Original Message-----
From: On Behalf Of S Jayanarayanan

--- Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
<rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com> wrote:
> [Not to be construed as "bashing"!]
> In the upadeshasaahasrii, part 2 of the prose section, the
> model
> student enquiring the teacher is presented as brahmachArin.

It is true that traditionally non-sannyAsins have studied
VedAnta. If the GItA can be considered a VedAntic text (which it
is), arjuna is an example. So was appayya dIkshita. But it is
equally true that tradition has placed great emphasis on
sannyAsa for a student of VedAnta.

H.H. Chandrashekhara Bharati taught that IDEALLY, study of
Vedanta ought to commence only after taking sannyasa:

Disciple: ... does it not amount to saying that if a
person without the four prescribed qualifications
takes up the study of the Vedanta it is quite wrong?

H.H: What doubt is there? That is why the Sastras say
"saMnyasya shravaNaM kuryAt.h" "Study the Vedanta
after taking Sannyasa".

The entire dialog is at

> In the prashna upanishad bhAShya, sha.nkara points out that
> while
> knowledge is accessible to people in all 4 stages of life, it
> is more
> difficult for householders since they may have to resort to
> lies or
> adharmic things to sustain a family. So, knowledge is mainly
> accessible to the people in the other 3 stages. In any case,
> it's
> certainly not only for people in the sanyaasa aashrama.

In the case of non-sannyAsins, study of VedAnta is not
prohibited. However, the GYAna obtained by the study of VedAnta
by these people (including the BrahmachArin of the
upadeshasAhasrI, householders etc.) has to be supplemented by
vidvat sannyAsa for the GYAna to be established firmly.

> Rama



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