[Advaita-l] BrahmaGYAna and jIvanmukti - 5 (Other References)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 21 18:29:46 CST 2007

When talking of residual vAsanA-s and their removal after the rise of jnAna, 
and what Sankara bhagavatpAda says about it, there are two things we must 
bear clearly in mind. This is a very complicated topic that I have struggled 
to understand over the years, so the following is the best general 
explanation I can write up at this time, for whatever it is worth.

1. There is one position that is called prasaMkhyAna vAda, which says that 
the jnAna obtained through SravaNa is never enough to result in liberation. 
Therefore, meditation on brahman needs to be done and this will generate 
fresh jnAna, which results in liberation. The proponents of this view 
further say that this meditation is enjoined as a fresh action that needs to 
be accomplished by one who has known brahman through hearing the vedAnta 
sentences. In technical terms, this is called an apUrva vidhi.

maNDana miSra is said to propound this theory in his brahmasiddhi, but 
Sankara bhagavatpAda and sureSvarAcArya are quite opposed to this argument. 
Firstly, the content of the jnAna of brahman is not something new nor other 
than the jnAna taught in the upanishad-s and heard through SravaNa. 
Secondly, if meditation is a fresh action that is enjoined, the results of 
that action will also be temporary, as results of all action. It can never 
be the eternal knowledge of brahman. vAcaspati misra is said to attempted an 
accommodation of maNDana's views with Sankara's views in the bhAmatI.

Not having studied brahmasiddhi and bhAmatI in any depth, I am not sure to 
what extent these authors can be tied in with the above positions. While I 
have learned not to rely upon other scholars when it comes to making these 
kinds of judgements, I have sufficient confidence in Swami Saccidanandendra 
Saraswati's critical scholarship to think, for now, that maNDana and 
vAcaspati do support a prasaMkhyAna argument.

2. That Sankara bhagavatpAda is opposed to the above line of argument does 
not mean that he is opposed to the necessity for meditation on brahman. What 
he does is to set forth the firm principle that jnAna is never a result of 
action. The best qualified seeker (uttama adhikArin) needs nothing else to 
immediately know brahman. In that case, meditation on brahman is not needed. 
Therefore, one cannot hold that meditation is to be enjoined as a fresh 

However, Sankara bhagavatpAda also recognizes that there will always be 
gradations in qualifications among the seekers of knowledge. Not everybody 
is qualified enough to immediately know, understand and experience the 
truth. It is for those who have lesser qualifications that meditation is 
taught. Even in this case, meditation on brahman is not to be enjoined as a 
fresh action. It is at best an accessory, and is therefore interpretable 
only as a niyama vidhi (limiting injunction) or parisaMkhyA vidhi (excluding 
injunction). Sankara bhagavatpAda, in the same bRhadAraNyaka passage (1.4.7) 
clearly affirms a niyama vidhi viewpoint, as I have pointed in various posts 
on the Yoga and Advaita Vedanta series. He is very consistent in this 
interpretation as a niyama vidhi, in the brahmasUtra, bRhadAraNyaka and 
chAndogya bhAshya-s. Yoga fits in here simply because the end result of 
knowledge and its steady recollection (smRti saMtati/saMtAna) is identical 
to the goal of Yoga (citta vRtti nirodha). As one can see, it is this 
confluence of mImAMsA (the SAstra of injunctions and prohibitions), Yoga 
(the SAstra of meditation) and vedAnta (the SAstra of knowledge) that makes 
this topic an intensely complex one to comprehend and leads to numerous 
points of view and debates.

Coming to vidyAraNyasvAmin, as far as I understand his works, he nowhere 
falls into the prasaMkhyAna position described in 1 above. What he does is 
to expand upon why and in what cases the niyama of meditation upon brahman 
is specified. The very reason he distinguishes between a jnAnimAtra and a 
full jnAni who is established in brahman is because he does not subscribe to 
the prasaMkhyAna vAda. Nowhere does vidyAraNya rule out the case of the best 
qualified person for whom jnAna is immediate upon teaching. This is unlike 
the prasaMkhyAna proponent, who does not distinguish between best, moderate 
and low qualifications. For the prasaMkhyAna proponent, it is not a question 
of qualifications at all.

Conclusion: Sankara bhagavatpAda is actually vastly more flexible and subtle 
in his thinking on this matter than he is understood to be, by many modern 
scholars/teachers (including Swami Saccidanandendra Sarasvati too). That 
meditation is not enjoined as a fresh action does not mean that meditation 
on brahman cannot (or should not) be done. Nor does it exclude its being 
enjoined in a limited sense, instead of as a fresh action. There is nothing 
that prevents Sankara and his followers to even recommend and teach the 
details of the various ways in which this meditation can be done. Indeed, 
Sankara not only recommends the meditation in various places, after the rise 
of knowledge, he even goes to the extent of seeing it in the light of a 
limited injunction. Note that Sankara also has a chapter in upadeSasAhasrI, 
called parisaMkhyAna, describing details of one such meditation. Note also 
that academic scholars like Hacker and Mayeda think this is a 
self-contradiction in Sankara's teaching.

However, the minute Sankara says this is a niyama vidhi (or by extension, a 
parisaMkhyA vidhi) there has to be someone upon whom this meditation is 
enjoined. It follows, from the rigor of his own logic, that this someone is 
not the one who does know brahman fully and is established in brahman. For, 
if one is indeed established in brahman, one IS brahman, and there is 
nothing that can be enjoined upon or prohibited to such a person. It is for 
the person in an intermediate state that all this is required. Not to 
recognize this fact results in grossly misunderstanding what Sankara 
bhagavatpAda intends and in seeing self-contraditions where none exist. And 
not to recognize that vidyAraNya also describes only greater details for 
those in these intermediate states is to misunderstand vidyAraNya also.

Best regards,

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