[Advaita-l] The Human aspect of Jnanis - 2
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jul 13 13:53:43 CDT 2010
The nature of the Jnani is a much discussed topic in Advaita. The genesis
of this discussion stems from the thinking of many a newcomer to Advaita
studies that since the world which includes the body, mind, senses, is held
to be mithyaa, the Jnani who has the aparoksha Jnana, the immediate
realization, 'Aham Brahma asmi', 'I am Brahman', nothing of the mithyA will
be left in the Jnani. The nature of the Jnani becomes an enigma to the
newcomer to Advaita as he is unable to see how a Jnani would live in the
world for the rest of the period of his destined bodily life. With a view
to address some of the questions that an aspirant would get, a presentation
is now commenced of incidents from the lives of those personages that the
world of Advaita accepts as Jnani-s. History, both Puranic and
contemporary, is replete with instances of emotions - desire, anger,
attachment, etc. manifesting in the Jnani-s. Sage Durvasa is very well
known for his fierce anger. Sage Narada is given the appendage: kalahakAra,
the trouble maker.
At the outset I quote from the book 'The Crest Jewel of Yogis' - Vol I
authored by Sri R.M.Umesh. This book is a life sketch of the Jivanmukta
Yogi Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha MahaswamigaL, the 35th Acharya of
the Sringeri Sharada Peetham. (Published 1984). On page 644 under the
heading: BEHAVIOUR OF GREAT PERSONAGES it is recorded:
// Jivan Mukti would remain purely a theoretical concept unless there
existed Jivan Muktas to demonstrate its possibility. Consider Shankara
Bhagavatpada. No advaitin has any doubt regarding His freedom from the
bonds of ignorance and His being a Jivan Mukta. Still, the Madhaviya
Shankara Vijaya records that violating the norms for a Sanyasi, He went to
Kalady to be at His mother's side during her last moments and even chose to
Himself cremate her. Is this not a case of apparent attachment?
When His former relatives refused to co-operate He cursed them to the
effect that thereafter their crematoriums would be in their backyards. Is
this not a case of apparent anger? These do not detract from Bhagavatpada's
merit for none of these deeds shook His steady Wisdom.
If we take up the life of Lord Rama as depicted by Valmiki, we see that He
exhibited very intense grief on Sita being abducted by Ravana. Are we then
to assume that Rama was an ignorant, dejected, common person and not an
In Sri Krishna's life too we have clear-cut manifestation of apparent human
weakness. Vyasa writes that after Arjuna had vowed to either kill Jayadratha
by sunset on the following day or to commit suicide, Krishna was *worried*.
In fact, He spent a sleepless night and in the middle of it sent for His
charioteer Daruka and remarked to him, 'I cannot bear to see a world without
Arjuna.' Would this anxiety mean that Krishna was not an Avatara?
We can even consider the cases of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana whom
Acharyal acknowledges as Jnanis. That will help to throw light on the
behaviour of comparatively recent personages.
In 'Sri Ramakrishna - The Great Master', Swamy Sharadananda records Sri
Ramkrishna saying, 'Akshay (Sri Ramakrishna's nephew) died. I felt nothing
at that time....The next day I was standing there (pointing to the east of
the room near the court-yard of the Kali temple). Do you know what I felt? I
felt as if my heart was being wrung in the way a wet towel is wrung. My
heart was feeling for Akshay like that.'
In 'Ramana Maharishi and the path of Self Knowledge' Osborne records the
following incident relating to Alagammal, Sri Ramana's mother:
'In 1914 she went on a pilgrimage to Venkataramana Swamy shrine at Tirupathi
and stayed at Thiruvannamalai on her way back. This time she fell ill there
and suffered severely for several weeks with symptoms of typhoid. Sri
Bhagavan tended her with great solicitude. *The verses he composed during
her sickness are the only instance known of any prayer of his to influence
the course of events. * 'Oh Lord! Hill of my refuge, Who curest the ills of
recurrent births, it is for Thee to cure my mother's fever.'
Sri K.S. Swaminathan in his book 'Ramana Maharishi' records the episode of a
lady named Echammal. who came to Sri Ramana in 1906. Her husband, son and
daugher had died. She adoped a girl named Chellamma and subsequently got
her married. Chellamma had a son who was named Ramana. One day Echammaal
received a telegram to the effect that Chellamma had died. She ran and
handed over the telegram to Sri Ramana.
as he read it, he wept. Echammal then went to attend her daugher's funeral
and returned with her grandson. She placed him in Sri Ramana's arms for
blessing. He wept again. Surely this is not a case of indifference and is
an apparent case of manifestation of grief.
Even in non-Hindu scriptures we find illustrations of important personages
exhibiting human weaknesses. In the Gospel of Matthew we encounter a vivid
description of Jesus Christ being subject to the severe torture of being
nailed to a cross and left to die. As his end approached, Jesus cried out,
'My God! My God! Hast Thou forsaken me?'. Are we to infer from this that
he had lost his unflinching faith in God? The answer is in the negative.
The above examples should be sufficient to reveal apparent human failings
even in those who are regarded as perfected ones. Hence, on a similar note,
it is but natural that Acharyal too exhibits a human aspect, though it does
not shake His steady abidance in the Self.
A possible explanation:
It may be that there is nothing incongruous in a Jivan Mukta exhibitng grief
and anger without his knowledge of the Self being destroyed and it may also
be that great ones and even incarnations have exhibited some human
failings. But is this reason enough for Acharyal to do the same? Can He
not avoid giving room to any manifestation of grief, anger or anxiety? None
is competent to judge Him or to truly explain His conduct, for is it not
lokottarANAm chetAmsi ko hi vijnAtumarhati
[ Who indeed can comprehend the minds of those who have transcended the
dharmavyatikramo dRShTa IshvarANAm ca sAhasam
tejeeyasAm na doShAya vahneH sarvabhujo yathaa (Srimad Bhagavatam)
[In the case of great ones, transgression of Dharma and impetuousness are
seen. This does not constitute a defect for the ones blazing with spiritual
splendour, just as oblations do not defile fire which consumes all that is
put into it.]
I close quoting from that book: 'The Crest Jewel of Yogis' .
I would like to raise a question: the upanishad says: "tatra ko mohaH kaH
shokaH ekatvamanupashyataH?' [Where can there be deusion and grief for the
one who has the vision of unity, non-duality, oneness across all beings?]
Is there not a violation of this Advaitic vision-born benefit of absence of
delusion and misery in these incidents in the lives of Jnanis? Are these
instances of Jnanis manifesting attachment, anger, anxiety and desire and
the like render them unworthy of our reverence? Has the world of aastika-s,
aspirants, rejected them and reduced these great personages to the level of
ajnanis? The answer is an emphatic no. We do hold these personalities in
high esteem and regard them as our marga darshi-s. We look up to their
guidance and grace.
Some more instances shall be taken up in the next part.
Obeisance to the Mahatmas that have lived an illustrious life.
Om Tat Sat
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