[Advaita-l] FW: Avidya, Jnanis and SSS' views

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 27 18:12:06 CDT 2010

I got the following in a private email from Sri Subhanu Saxena, who used to be an active participant
on our list in its early days. I'm forwarding this to the list with his permission. I quite agree with him
about the irony and limitations that he mentions in the first paragraph below! 





I have been reluctantly dragged in to a discussion on another list on Avidya-lesha and SSS’ views on this topic particularly as it relates to BUB 1.4.7 and BSB 4.1.15. Reluctantly, since I kind of feel that a heated debate amongst ajnAni’s as to how a jnAni sees  the world is replete with irony and subject to its limits. It’s a bit like two people who have just learned to ride a bicycle arguing vehemently about how a jet fighter pilot flies using brakes and pedals! In any case, I was made aware of some of your posts with requests for direct references of Sri Swamiji's statements and thought I would send you some references in Sri Swamiji’s writings so you can look at them directly for yourself. I decided to add a few comments of my own based on my understanding also. 
A couple of general remarks first, with some references to SSS’ works, followed by some of Suresvara’s points. You will see Sri Swamiji has no problem with Shankara’s bhashya:
·         Shankara does reject degrees of knowledge quite clearly as it relates to moksha even though means of knowledge may possibly effect degrees of perfection in its own result.  Shankara only calls the highest knowledge alone as entitled to be called as such and says tasmAt tasyAm chirAchirotpattirUpo’tishayo bhavan bhavet. Na tu muktau kashchidatishayasambhavo’sti [BUB 3.5.52] , “Therefore gradation in knowledge is possible, if at all, only by its appearing earlier or later. But there can be no gradations whatever in freedom”. In the Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta page 74 Sri Swamiji goes on to say “Freedom therefore has only to be realized through knowledge. Rightly viewed, even knowledge does not admit of any degrees or grades, for the highest knowledge which is incapable of being stultified is the only true knowledge in the strict sense of the term. Knowledge may arise earlier or later according to the difference in degree of the intensity of the effort employed to achieve it. So freedom is bound to accrue simultaneously with knowledge”
·         So is this contradicting BUB 1.4.7 which talks of steadying such knowledge which may be weak, or does Sri Swamiji take a more rigid view than Shankara, and does Shankara take a “more flexible” view of samyag-jnanam in all situations? No, Sri Swamiji agrees perfectly with the pragmatic stance of The Revered Commentator. Sri Swamiji clarifies his stand as clearly consistent with Shankara on this point in Vedanta Prakriya Pratyabhijna Ch 4.73 : “tatrodite AtmavijnAne tatsmritisantateravshyam bhAvAnnaiSA vidheyetyAchAryaiH pratyAkhyAtas teSAm pakshaH. Astu vA vidhirapi niyamArthA prAradbdhakarmavashAt prApte jnAnasantatidaurbalye-iti prauDHivAdena vidhimangiichakrur bhASyakArAH.  apUrva-vidhim tu sarvathA nirAkritam taiH. Alston translates as “but (The Revered Commmentator) also offered an alternative view, purely as a consession to the ways of thinking of other people, through which an injunction could be accepted. If so it must be a niyama-vidhi applicable to the assumption (made only as a concession) that knowledge has weakened with time, under the force of merit and demerit that had initiated the life in which enlightenment was obtained. The Revered Commentator altogether rejected and refuted the possibility of an apUrva vidhi in this context”.
Suresvara’s vArtikAs on this topic re BUB 1.4.7 are also quite clear.  He describes Shankara’s acceptance of this niyama vidhi as only a hypothetical acceptance in BUBV1.4.922-1024 :
Na kashchidapi sambhAvyo yathoktanyAyagauravAt ।
Vidhiryato ‘bhyupagmAniyamoktiriyam tataH ॥ [BUBV1.4.922] 
He then goes on to say:
Uktam cha nyAyamApekshya niyamo’tyantadurlabhaH ।
Vidher daurbalyasiddhyartham ato bhASyakriduktavAn ॥ [BUBV 1.4.931]
“And having regard to the reason already stated (we have to say) that the restriction (niyama) is difficult to obtain, therefore the bhashyakara has stated all this only to establish the weakness (read meaninglessness) of the injunction (in respect of the knowledge of Atman)”
In BUBV 1.4.932 Suresvara then sets up the later discussion in BUB1.4.10 re prArabdha “in the case of a released arrow” etc. BUB 1.4.10 is indeed important to understand BUB 1.4.7 in its proper context. On the way in BUBV 1.4.1007 he makes the clear statement pratyagAtmani vijnAte nAjnAtam avasiSyate .
BUBV 1.4.1166-1589 are Suresvara’s lengthy deliberation on BUB 1.4.10, and demand careful study as the position becomes quite clear therein (Note: other points also emerge in these vartikas- eg in 1170-1171, 1326 that the cause of our confusion is lack of critical reflection and no material cause whatsoever as there is no entity as anatman, only Atman is a vastu. We also have 1180 that namarupa is avidyakalpita, 1184, 1217 avidya is a false notion and nothing more , we even have an echo of adhyasa bhashyam’s opening at 1395! ) .
Some important vartikas from BUBV on 1.4.10 as they relate to the topic in hand are:
sakridAtmaprasUtyaiva niruNaddhyAkhilam bhavam ।
dhvAntamAtranirAsena na tato’nyAnyathA matiH ॥ [BUBV 1.4.1451-note this verse is exactly the same as NS 4.57!! curious that Suresvara has used the same verse twice without change: do you know if anybody has done a study of repetitions in the vartikas and naishkarmya siddi?(]
By its rise only once does knowledge check samsara
by merely removing ignorance. There is not any knowledge (to be sought) other than that
And explicitly at the end of 1454 Suresvara emphatically rejects the need for further activity after the dawn of knowledge in sakrinnivritter bAdhyasya kim kAryam avashiSyate [BUBV 1.1.1454 2nd line]
Suresvara follows his teacher with the analogy of simply shining a lamp to reveal, and nothing more is needed, unlike eating and hunger and he says very clearly na cha sati jnAna-santatiriSyate [BUBV 1.4.1512] “therefore the continuity of knowing  in the case of a Jivanmukta is not desired”.
So how does prArabdha-karma operate in a jnAni: we have Suresvara saying as follows:
ArabdhaphalasheSaikahetutvAdehasamsthiteH ।
rAgAdipratyayodbhUtir iSuchakrAdivegavat ॥ [BUBV 1.4.1529]
“because there remains the body on account of the mere remainder of the fruit of actions which have begun and the rise of experience of attachment there is just like the speed of an arrow or a wheel.”
Ie from the empirical standpoint of an ignorant observer the so-called fruits of prArabdha must simply be exhausted as “ the arrow has been shot already” (cf tattvabodha -prArabdhakarmaNAm bhogAdeva khsayaH). So, for Suresvara and Shankara, it is only a matter of time not activity . So there is nothing more for the jnAni to do. Indeed Suresvara raise 2 key points in this regard in BUBV 1.4.90 and 1.4.1533: If once knowledge had arisen it could be lost (and needed to be held by some mystic practice) there would be loss of faith to study the scriptures as they would be futile. Also If knowledge of Atman does not ward away activity which has begun to show fruit then there would be no certainty it would destroy that activity also which has not begun to show fruit!
Suresvara also answers the question as to why there is no fall of the body after the rise of samyag-jnAnam in BUBV 1.4.1547 by reference to the above verse. Also, Shankara makes it pretty clear in BSB 1.1.4 that a jnAni is ever disembodied so the notion of primary and secondary liberation in life and at death is wrong. We also have in BSB 3.3.32 “The sentence tattvamasi can by no means be made to mean “though will become that after death”....hence the immediate attainment of freedom has no exception in the case of one who has got knowledge”. Suresvara echoes the same sentiment in BUBV 4.4.558. 
Sri Swamiji reflects similar views to the above in his deliberation of BSB 4.1.15 in Vedanta Prakriya pratyabhijna Ch 10.204. Sri Swamiji is therefore quite aligned with Shankara and Suresvara’s views in both BUBV 1.4.7 and BSB 4.1.15. Sri Swamiji's fundamental objection was the notion that a remnant of an entity "avidyA-leSa" hangs around a jnAni “like a bad smell” creating pleasure, pain etc and requiring continuous mystical practices to quell and remove and that final release only occurred after death.  Sri Swamiji argues in mulavidyanirasa 21 (I think this is now available again via the Karalaya) that it is impossible for knowledge and ignorance to co-exist as light and dark cannot, so the notion of a remnant of ignorance in a jnAni is nonsensical. Suresvara states this very also in BUBV 2.4.209:
samyagjnAnam yadAshritya tanmoho’pi tadAshrayaH ।
abAdhitam tamo’trAsta ityuktir jaDavaktrakA ॥ [BUBV 2.4.209]
"Only a fool would claim ignorance and knowledge could co-exist in the same seat, and that ignorance of a thing could remain on, uncancelled, after the thing had been rightly known"
 In addition, there is a  lengthy discussion by Swamiji in Kleshapaharini 4.54-59 where he gives the view  as per the above and quotes the important vartika BUBV 1.4.255 “bAdhya-bAdhakayor yogaH..” which means that that which is destroyed (ie ignorance) cannot come back and destroy its destroyer (knowledge).
Finally, we have the unambiguous statement in the traditional verse quoted by Shankara at the end of BSB 1.1.4 that after the dawn of knowledge nothing remains to be done:
gauNa-mithyAtmano’sattve putra-dehAdibAdhanAt ।
sadbrahmAtmAham ityevam bodhe kAryam katham bhavet ॥ (BSB 1.1.4 first Sundara Pandiya shloka)
After the realization of oneself as the eternally true Brahman, how can there be anything to be done, for there is neither the figurative or false Atman consequent on the sublation of the idea of a Son as well as a body or other associates of the Self?
As is well known, BSB 4.1.13 is one statement of the jnAni’s view of the world:
“As opposed to the entity known before as possessed of agentship and experience by its very nature, I am Brahman which is by nature devoid of agentship and experiencership in all the three periods of time. Even earlier I was never an agent and experiencer not am I so at present, nor shall I be in so the future”. Shankara then adds the sentence “From such a viewpoint alone can liberation be justified”.
The fact that a realised soul may still be in this world is nothing contradictory-you may recall the traditional story of Vasishtha and Viswamitra on the riverbank in this context.
So what does this mean for me a simple ajnAni? Well the first is to recognise this is written from my standpoint so I can take inspiration that the sadhana I undertake will culminate in that knowledge which can never be annihilated and will reveal my true nature. I will seek out those wise souls who have gained this knowledge to learn from them. It is fashionable to quote Ramana Maharshi Talks 445 and 141 which echo BUB 1.4.7 as justification for various mystical practices after the dawn of knowledge to remove an actual entity. Well, Maharshi also tells us in Talks 383 and 513 that this is all from the standpoint of an ignorant observer and for the benefit of an onlooker.
I Hope the above is helpful with some direct references to Sri Swamiji’s statements on this topic. I am sure that yathA matayastathA vichArAH, as long as there are minds at work so will there be many opinions. I just hope people in the debate can see past the point scoring and use arguments from both sides to deepen their sadhana.
 (PS I leave it to your discretion if you want to share on the advaita-l list or not)
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