[Advaita-l] Bh.Gita verse 18.73 - Was Arjuna an 'aparoksha Jnani'? - Part 1

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Jun 26 20:28:46 CDT 2010

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

A couple of years ago the question of whether Arjuna had indeed secured
aparoksha Jnanam (and thereby become liberated from samsara) had arisen in
the light of the verse 18.73 of the Bhagavadgita and the Bhashya of
Bhagavatpada Shankara.  Independent of the Bhagavadgita, it is known from
the Anugita, a part of the Mahabharata, that Arjuna had sought the knowledge
from Lord Krishna, much after the Mahabharata war too.  Someone said that
Arjuna did indeed become liberated much later as reported in the
Mahabharata.  However, the verse in question in the Bhagavadgita and the
Acharya's bhashya give us an impression that Arjuna had indeed become
liberated even within the context of the Bhagavadgita.  Hence the question.

A close friend of mine to whom I posed this question undertook a detailed
analysis of the Bhagavadgita and the Bhashya and wrote a paper, quite a
lengthy one, which impressed me very much.  Since this question has come up
in this forum now, I thought of presenting that paper here, in a few parts.
The first part is here.

Dear Sri VS,

Namaskarams. In one of the mails sent by you a fortnight ago on the subject
of Arjuna’s enlightenment, you had wanted  me to think about and jot down
the points favoring the view that Arjuna had not become an aparoksha-jnani
when he uttered verse 73 of Chapter 18 of the Gita. I pondered over the
issue and have put together whatever ideas that came to my mind. I would
like to caution you that you may have to do a lot of sifting to get the
grain separated from the chaff.

For my own convenience, I have typed out here the translation of the Sloka
(18.73). The translations are mostly from the book dear to my heart.:-) (The
Warrier book which has both the original and the commentary, unfortunately
printed together. :-))“O Achyuta, delusion has been destroyed and memory has
been regained by me through your Grace. I stand with my doubt removed; I
shall follow your instruction.” The translation of Bhagavatpada’s commentary
on this verse is: “O Achyuta, *mohah*, delusion born of ignorance and the
cause of all evil in the form of mundane existence and difficult to cross
like an ocean; *nastah* has been destroyed. And *smrtih* memory regarding
the reality of the Self on the acquisition of which follows the loosening of
all the bonds; *labdha* has been regained ; *tvat* *prasadaat* through Your
Grace *maya* by me, who am dependent on Your Grace. This expression proves
that the fruit of mastering this sastra is the destruction of confusion and
the winning of the memory of the Self. The Sruti after mentioning, “I, a
non-knower of Self, am grieving, ‘proceeds to show freedom from all bonds
through Self Knowledge.. There are also the words of the Upanishadic verses,
“The knot of the heart gets untied”, “At that time what delusion and what
sorrow can be there for that seer of oneness.” Now *sthitah* *asmi* I stand
under Your command, *gata* *sendehah* with my doubts resolved, I shall
follow your *vacanam* instruction. By your grace, I have fulfilled all my
duties. The idea is that nothing more remains to be achieved.”

The prima-facie view that Arjuna had become enlightened stems from his
averment, “*Tvat* *prasadaat* *mayaa,* *nashto* *mohah*, *gata* *sandehah*”.
Further, the bhashya and, particularly, the Upanishadic passages cited
therein speak of Ultimate Realisation and its fruit, cessation of all
misery. In fact, Bhagavatpada ends the commentary interpreting Arjuna’s
answer as “I have fulfilled all my duties. The idea is that nothing more
remains to be achieved.” While it is possible to interpret Arjuna’s words,
per se, as not pointing to his experience of Ultimate realisation but only
as confirmatory of his understanding of Bhagavan’s  teaching about the Self,
the bhashya seems to favour the position that Arjuna had actually become a
brahmajnani and that his avidya had perished. This is the challenge (?) in
front of us. Hence, you will find me quoting more from the Bhashyam in this

First of all, I wanted to see if there is any evidence in the Gita or in the
Bhashya to show that Arjuna obtained liberating knowledge by himself even as
the Gita was being taught. Alternatively, has Bhagavan indicated anywhere to
Arjuna that he had secured liberation by His Grace? There is no such
evidence in the Gita bearing proof of Arjuna having secured liberating
knowledge by himself. On the contrary, Bhagavatpada says that being a Karma
Yogin, unlike sankhya-yogins, Arjuna was very much dependent on Ishwara for
securing liberation. The Bhashya for 12.12 reads as follows: “The verse
“they attain me alone (12.4) states that the worshippers of the Imperishable
freely attain ‘Aloneness’ while 12.7 (“I am the deliverer”) shows the
dependence of others (karma yogins) on the Lord... and since the Lord is
surely the greatest well-wisher of Arjuna, He imparts instructions only
about Karma Yoga, which involves perception of duality and is not associated
with full illumination ...”. So it was up to the Lord to grant Arjuna
freedom from samsara.

It now boils down to the question whether Bhagavan has indicated anywhere to
Arjuna about His gracing the latter with liberation?  No.  Bhagavan only
advises Arjuna about the fruit of Karma Yoga, that is liberation. The
following are some samples:

2.51 Wise men united with the intelligence of evenness, discard the fruits
of works; they are liberated from the bondage of birth and attain the status
which is free from all sufferings.

12.6 Those who surrender all works to Me, making me their Supreme Goal and
worship Me, meditating on Me in a state of undivided union;

12.7 Of them, all who have set their thoughts on Me, I shall soon be the
deliverer from the sea of empirical life leading to death, O Arjuna.

18.56 Though performing all works continuously, in total dependence on Me,
due to My grace, one achieves the eternal and immutable Bliss.

18.57 Mentally surrendering all works to Me, setting Me above all and
resorting to concentrated understanding, fix your mind unceasingly on Me;

18.58 With your mind fixed on Me you will overcome all obstacles due to my

18.62  O Bharata! Seek refuge in Him alone with all your heart and all your
soul. Due to His Grace you will win peace supreme and status eternal.

Bhagavan goes to the extent of promising liberation to Arjuna, but never
says “I have already liberated you.” Here is the verse concerned:

18.65 Set your mind on Me; be My devotee; sacrifice unto Me; prostrate
before Me; you will surely attain Me. Truly do I promise thus for you are
dear to Me.

Bhagavatpada introduces the next verse as follows:  “Having thus concluded
the supreme secret of the discipline of Karma Yoga, namely self-dedication
to the Lord, *He declares now the fruit of the discipline of Karma Yoga, or
the right perception which forms the quintessence of the Upanishads.”*

18.66 Give up all dharma, seek refuge in Me alone. I shall liberate you from
all sins; grieve not.

Thus, it could be seen that though Bhagavan clearly instructs about Karma
Yoga and assures Arjuna of its fruit, liberation, but there is no evidence
of His having liberated Arjuna while the Gita was being taught, that is till
verse 18.72. In the light of this, would it not be preposterous to assume
that Arjuna who was an ajnani till verse No 18.72, all of a sudden, became
an aparoksha-jnani when he uttered sloka 18.73, sans doing any sadhana
prescribed by Bhagavan?

If we go a step backward and take a look at the question posed by the Lord
in response to which Arjuna uttered verse 18.72, we will appreciate this
even more. Here is the Lord’s question: “Have you, with concentrated mind
listened to this (teaching of mine)? Has your confusion wrought by
ignorance, been dispelled?” Under no stretch of imagination can any one
interpret this enquiry of Bhagavan to mean that He was finding out from
Arjuna if he had secured liberating knowledge. In fact, Bhagavatpada Himself
writes in His introduction to this verse, “In order to ascertain whether or
not the disciple has comprehended the meaning of the Scripture, the Lord
asks the following question. If he has failed, he may be instructed again -
such is the idea of the teacher.” He further elucidates the words of
Bhagavan, “Has your native non-discrimination, born of nescience, perished?
It was for this that you took the trouble to listen to Me and I to impart
this Sastra.” Had Bhagavan wanted to get a confirmation whether Arjuna had
attained Jnana, his question would have been altogether different.

I also went about seeing how Bhagavan treats Arjuna, especially in the last
chapter, whether a) as a Jnani or b) as a disciple yet to attain jnana
through Karma Yoga. Till the end of the chapter, Bhagavan has not at all
transacted with Arjuna as a Jnani. In fact, He deals with him only as a
seeker and this is clear from His advices to him to implement His teaching.
In 18.63 Bhagavan asks him to think about His teaching carefully and
implement what he deemed fit. “Thus has been declared to you knowledge most
secret by Me. Taking full account of it, do as you deem fit” Bhashya:-
“Taking full account of it and pondering over this mandate this group of
ideas in its entirety as set forth - do as you think fit.”

He even warns Arjuna in 18.58. He says (after advising Him to perform works
with a mind focused on Him), “But if, egoistically, you pay no heed, you
will perish.” It would be unreasonable to think that Bhagavan will warn an
aparoksha-jnani like this to perform works with dedication to Ishwara or
else he will perish. He even avers (18.60), “What through delusion you don’t
desire to do, bound by your own work, born of nature, you will inevitably
do.” Finally, He condescends to give the following advice, so

18.63  “Again listen to My Supreme word - the most exalted mystery; for you
are indeed dear to Me. So I shall say what is good for you.”

18.64   Here Bhagavatpada unequivocally writes the import of Bhagavan’s
teaching, “Not out of fear nor due to desire to gain some end, do I speak
but because you are consistently dear to Me indeed. I shall say what is good
- *the best means of securing knowledge*. This knowledge is the highest good
indeed. Obviously, Bhagavan is clear that he is only teaching an ajnani,
Arjuna, to follow the path of Karma Yoga and attain liberation. Otherwise,
why would Bhagavan teach an aparoksha-jnani the path to Jnana?

[To be continued]

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