[Advaita-l] A matter for Adjudication

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 13 10:51:00 CDT 2010

> Here we go again. A member is allowed to have and state an opinion, and take sides.

The freedom to have and state one's opinion has never been denied to anyone
on this list, at any point of time, by anybody here. For that matter, it is nobody's
prerogative or responsibility to either grant it or deny it. What I or Jaldhar or Ravi
say in our capacities as list-members needs to be separated from what we say
as list-moderators. None of us has appointed ourselves to be judges of what is
allowed or not allowed to be stated. As such, each of us has the same freedoms
as list-members, no more and no less, as compared to anyone else on this list.
And I believe all three of us have made it very clear as to when we wear which
hat, list-member or list-moderator, so nobody should have any complaints on that
score. For the record, everything I state in the following is in my individual capacity
as a member of this list, not as one of its moderators.

> This is not side-stepping the argument. Let me try to be as clear as I can in my stand. The problem is that your definition of jnAni is different than mine. A jnAni has been cut asunder from the Body-Mind-Intellect, she has no trace of avidya left, pure secondless spirit. Whatever is left (if there is any merit/demerit left) belongs to the field, not the knower. 

Bhaskar adds:
>The vidya, no matter whether it is first one or last one or continuous 
>one which removes avidyA without any trace is called jnAna says shankara 
>in bruhad bhAshya....after samyak jnAna there is no question of avidyA 
>lesha.....if there is any lesha of that avidyA then there is no samyak 
I am glad you brought this up.
The history of the advaita tradition, beginning with Sankara bhagavatpAda,
shows that there is a much more modulated description of the person of the
jnAnI. Your narrow definition of the jnAnI and the nature of jnAna has no room
for what Sankara bhagavatpAda says in bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 1.4.7 about
the need for Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtAna AFTER the rise of samyag-jnAna. It
has no room for what he says about the daurbalya of jnAna-pravRtti compared
to the momentum of the prArabdha karma when it comes to vAk, manas and
kAya. It has no room for what the same bhagavatpAda describes as paripakva
of jnAna in the gItAbhAshya. It also has no room for what the muNDakopanishat
and bhAshya describe as "brahmavidAM varishThaH". For Sruti to describe one
jnAnI as a varishTha would be meaningless if we resolutely refuse to admit the
gradations of vara and varIyas among jnAnI-s. For Sankara bhagavatpAda to
talk of smRti-saMtAna, which is itself a manana-dharma, AFTER the rise of
samyag-jnAna, there has to be a manas/citta operating in the person of the
jnAnI. This means that his view of whether a jnAnI has any residual connection
to the body, mind/intellect and speech is quite different from yours. And for
Sankara bhagavatpAda to even talk of the paripakva of jnAna means that his
description of a jnAnI is different from the narrow definition that you champion.

You admit only the avasAna, while everybody else, beginning with the sUtrakAra
and the bhAshyakAra, down to us so-called sampradAyavAdIs on the internet,
admit also the process leading to that avasAna. For us, that process includes
a stage of jnAnotpatti, where there is a rise of samyag-jnAna, followed by a
stage of jnAna-paripAka, aided by the strength of tyAga-vairAgyAdi sAdhana
(as per bRhad bhAshya 1.4.7) prior to the "phala" of anubhavAvasAna of jnAna
(as per brahmasUtra bhAshya). If you would like to say that those on these
intermediate stages are called jnAnI-s only as an upacAra, and are not really
jnAnI-s by your definition, and that they cannot ever be called jIvanmukta-s,
so be it. However, do note that you clearly part company with Sankara
bhagavatpAda there and have the courage of your convictions to accept that.
If you do not really wish to part company thus, do revisit your definition of a
jnAnI and do rethink the logic behind it. Or else, show me a single quote from
the bhagavatpAda where he says that the rise of samyag-jnAna is an either/or
event and that there are no stages whatsoever after its rise OR that anybody
at an intermediate stages after the rise of samyag-jnAna is called a jnAnI only
as an upacAra and I will revisit my thinking. If I am convinced, I will also go one
further and exhort all other so-called sampradAyavAdins on this list to revisit
their thinking too.

In all this, we have not even started to talk of mUlAvidyA or bhAvarUpAvidyA
or avidyA-leSa yet! 

> The recent threads
> > on the topic have
> > brought out quotes from a galaxy of authorities, including
> > sarvajnAtman,
> > citsukha, vidyAraNya and madhusUdana sarasvatI, all of whom
> > are extremely
> > incisive writers and justly famous for their contributions
> > to advaita vedAnta
> > as a darSana. What is meant by these and other traditional
> > authors when
> > they use the term avidyA-leSa has also been discussed in
> > ample detail in
> > the recent threads.
> > 
> It may be so. I don't think there is a need to read 20 different commentators/authorities to understand a concept. 
> I am not an academician, and neither should all become academicians. My problem is to figure a way out of samsaara, so I am a jignaasu. Those interested in history and the academics of advaita can pursue the lines above.

There is indeed a need to read the other commentators, both for those who want
to castigate them all as being quite mistaken, and for those who want to know
whether this characterization is really correct or not. It is easy to hang on to one
concept and ignore all the other concepts that Sankara bhagavatpAda teaches.
One doesn't need to be an academician to pursue these lines of thought.

> > The fact also remains that there exists an argument against
> > avidyA-leSa
> > (which in recent times has been done vociferously) and
> > almost the entire
> > post-Sankaran tradition has been damned in the process. So
> > to categorize
> > the argument as pointless would not be acceptable to either
> > side, I would
> > think. Rather, it would be useful if someone can take up
> > the specific quotes
> > from the post-Sankaran authors over the centuries and
> > demonstrate how
> > they are mistaken (either on a purely logical basis or on
> > grounds of having
> > misunderstood Sankara). Failing which, there needs to be a
> > re-evaluation
> > and a possible redrawing of the parameters of this debate.
> > 
> I do believe we differ here, we should agree to disagree and leave it at that. There are canons of literature which stand testimony to both sides, we as a list don't need to be bogged down by this again and again, unless you want to redefine the charter of the list. As has been mentioned by quite a few, there are no objective arbiters on this list. We have seen the consequence of these debates over the past 15 years - totally polarized with no conclusions. It is best to accept that others can state their understanding just as you do yours and co-exist. It may be better to embrace our common denominators and progress on our paths. 
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that what you really want this list
to do is to disallow all discussion of these topics. Is it for mere fear of getting
into a polarized and inconclusive discussion? It was never the intention of this
list to have anyone as an arbiter on such discussions, objective or otherwise,
and the charter of this list is simply to discuss the tradition of advaita vedAnta.
Like it or not, topics like this will keep reappearing, if for no other reason than
that we keep adding new members to the list all the time. Most current members
on the list have not been here from the beginning of the list and I'm sure you are
well aware of that. The most that we moderators do is to simply close a thread
when it gets to be too polarized; we don't actively decide what gets posted to
the list and we don't decide in favor of one or the other paksha, *as moderators*.
We may take sides with one or the other paksha, *as members* of the list. On a
purely statistical basis, I seem to express myself more frequently as a member of
the list than the other two moderators. However, as I said right at the outset of
this post, all of us have made it very clear where our member role ends and where
the moderator role begins. I believe we have managed quite decently for the last
15 years.
Personally, I saw Sri Subrahmanian's last post as an invitation to NOT get into
a polarized state and as an invitation to move the debate away from being an
inconclusive and interminable stalemate. With many independent posters and
readers on this list, some may change their minds one way or the other, while
others may decide to agree to disagree. Please note that on this list, Sri
Subrahmanian is a relatively new member and deserves the same right to state
his views as strongly as Bhaskar expresses his or I express mine or you yours.

> > It is not a question of consensus-building or even
> > vote-taking about the
> > topics being discussed. It is a matter for every reader's
> > judgment, to ask
> > and answer for themselves, whether the post-Sankaran
> > tradition has really
> > misunderstood Sankara bhagavatpAda (as contended by one
> > side) or
> > whether the opposite is the case (as maintained
> > traditionally). It is, as
> > Ravisankar pointed out, a very abstruse and advanced level
> > of discourse
> > here, but I think a great level of explanation has already
> > been done and
> > anyone interested in the details of the debate can follow
> > the threads of
> > argument if they have sufficient patience.
> > 
> A sincere reader/jignasu doesn't need to be coaxed by the electronic list to do this. I hope they are doing this already.

I hope so too. The most that any discussion on this list can hope to achieve
is to act as an incentive for deeper reflection. However, that can only happen
if we have a discussion in the first place. To shun all debate, with an a priori
agreement to disagree, or for fear of getting into a polarized debate, doesn't
serve the purposes of this list or any other discussion list for that matter. We
are not here merely to pay lip-service to the idea of discussion, but to engage
in meaningful and purposeful discussion. I, for one, think that it is possible to
find meaning and purpose even when we discuss contentious topics, and that
we don't have to paint ourselves into a corner so tightly that we see no way
but to disagree.
Best regards,
The New Busy think 9 to 5 is a cute idea. Combine multiple calendars with Hotmail. 

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