[Advaita-l] The Enlightened Eminently Engage in Empirical Endeavours - Part I

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Mar 2 16:05:43 CST 2010

Shreegurubhyo namaH
Obeisance to the Auspicious Guru
[Namaste.  In this two-part article the topic of Jivanmukti is discussed
elaborately.  The article is posted in two parts keeping in mind the length
constraint per post.]

An inviolable Law of Vedanta is:

//One who denies a BMI for a Jnani denies a Jnani.

He who denies a Jnani denies himself the Liberating  Jnana.//

It is the conclusion of Shankara in Gita verse 4.34:

//..By this the Lord means to say that that Knowledge alone which is
imparted by *those who have realized the Truth* – and no other knowledge –
can prove effective.//

In this verse the Lord teaches that the aspirant has to approach a Jnani,
bow to him, serve him and pose questions on the Atman.  If there was no BMI
to a Jnani how can one implement the Lord’s instruction?

We encounter two types of teaching in the Scripture and Shankara’s
commentaries.  For example, in the Brahmasutra Bhashya we find these two
typical teachings:

Teaching 1: ‘The embodiedness of the Self is caused by wrong conception and
so the person who has reached true knowledge *is free from his body* even
while still alive (Brahma sutra bhashya 1.1.4). [This is termed ‘sadyomukti’
or instant liberation]

Teaching 2: [Sutra bhashya 4.1.15]‘’The knowledge of the Self being
essentially non-active destroys all works by sublating wrong knowledge; but
wrong knowledge – comparable to the appearance of a double moon – *lasts for
some time even after it has been sublated*, owing to the impression it has
made.  Moreover, it is not a matter for dispute at all whether the body of
the Knower of Brahman continues to exist for sometime or not. For how can
one contest the fact of another possessing the knowledge of Brahman –
vouched for by his heart’s conviction – and at the same time continuing with
the body? This alone has been elaborated in the Shruti and Smriti in the
form of teaching of the Sthitaprajna (Man of steady Knowledge).  [Here we
have the ‘jivanmukti’ or liberation while alive being depicted]

Now, are these two teachings contradictory? Far from it.  They are actually
complementary to each other.  Nor are they two optional types of teaching
where one can choose one and leave out the other.  In simple terms, Teaching
1 is the depiction of the Absolute State of Brahman-Atman, the true state of
the jiva.  That state is the Goal, the end to be attained. Teaching 2 is the
means to this end.  Since the two teachings are related as means and end,
they cannot be contradictory or optional.  An aspirant, Mumukshu, has to be
well informed and be clearly aware of teaching 1, the Goal.  Keeping this
end in mind, he has to internalize that teaching through the medium of the
teaching 2.  Why is this so?  It is because unless he is able to relate the
Teaching 2 in terms of living it, he cannot attain the goal specified in
teaching 1.
Some Parallels:

We can see some parallels in scriptural literature regarding the above
concept of two types of teaching.  In the Bhagavad Gita, for example, in the
second chapter the Lord teaches the nature of the Self.  Atman is not born,
never dies, can never be cut, wet, burnt, etc., It is Immutable.  This is
teaching 1.  Soon after this, in this very chapter the Lord, upon a question
from Arjuna, gives out the seminal teaching of the Sthitaprajna (the
Jivanmukta) the traits of a Man of Steady Knowledge.  This is teaching 2.  The
Lord knows that unless teaching 1 is demonstrated in the life of a human, it
is impossible to grasp, work for and attain it.  This teaching 2 is further
elucidated with more traits and examples in the 12 th  chapter (parA Bhakta)
and the 14th chapter (GuNAteeta).  In the 14th ch. Arjuna asks for the
specific  marks of a guNAteeta in order to internalize them.  And Krishna
gives out those specific marks.

Another parallel can be seen in the Acharya’s Brahmasutra Bhashya itself.  The
adhyAsa Bhashya, the preamble, contains the teaching 1.  Herein the Acharya
makes the categorical statement that the problem of samsara, embodiedness
(BMI), and the means to get out of it, viz., the scripture teaching
Liberation, all are within the realm of avidya alone.  The Self is free of
the BMI and therefore cannot have any transaction based on pramatru, pramana
and prameya (the triad of knower-knowing-knowable).

After explicitly proclaiming that the Moksha Shastra, the Veda, too operates
in the realm of avidya alone, Shankara, in the rest of the Sutra bhashya,
embarks upon a detailed, brilliant analysis of the very Vedic passages in
their hundreds.  He does not create a divide between the teaching 1 of the
Atman being unconnected to anything, even the veda, and the very relevance
of the veda as applicable to the human in bondage.  He makes the rest of the
Sutrabhashya an unmatched teaching no.2 where the various aspects of the
Veda as relevant to the life of the human in bondage are brought to the
fore.  Thus Shankara strikes the Gita-type, the Upanishad-type and  even  the
 Brahma Sutra-type relationship of ‘Goal and Means’ between teaching 1 and
2.  Two instances of these types we saw already quoted above.

Why is the teaching of jivanmukti (which can never be divorced from the
concept of prArabdha) so crucial to the Knowledge of Brahman?  Shankara
answers this question in the Gita Bhashya 2.55:

//All over the Scripture the characteristics of one who is established in
Brahman that are mentioned *are the very means* for attaining that state,
for this is attainable by effort.//

That shows that teaching 2 cannot be brushed aside as something unimportant
or comparatively ‘lower’  in gradation compared to teaching 1.  Attaining
Brahman Knowledge depends upon practicing the jivanmukta traits.  It is a *sine
qua non*.  If such were not the case, the Scripture and Shankara would have
stopped with just mentioning the nature of Brahman.  That would have meant
that there have to be just the first two chapters of Brahmasutra – the
samanvaya and avirodha.  The third and fourth – saadhana and phala – could
have been eliminated.  But Vyasacharya takes pain to include these two
chapters and Shankara  comments on those two chapters too.  Again, Lord
Krishna need not have cared to teach the traits of the Jivanmukta if He had
found them useless and could have stopped with the Atman-nature teaching in
the second chapter.

Nowhere does Shankara or Vyasacharya or Krishna say that the Jivanmukta and
his conduct is the imagination of the ajnani.  On the other hand they all
insist that it is imperative on the part of the seeker to give the utmost
attention to the jivanmukta and his conduct, for this and this alone will
give mukti.  Teaching 1 is incomplete and impossible in the absence of
teaching 2.  Again, teaching 2 by itself will not be effective unless
teaching 1 is imbibed free of doubt and misconception.
Sri Sureshwaracharya solves the problem

[The following essay is largely adapted from the explanatory notes appearing
in the book titled ‘The Naishkarmyasiddhi of Sureshvara’, Madras University
Philosophical series No. 47 – General Editor: Dr.R.Balasubramanian ,
Director, Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, 1988]

The question of the Jnani’s action or otherwise has been variously
discussed.  Sri Sureshwaracharya in his Naishkarmyasiddhi handles this
question in a deft manner, in accordance with the Advaitic tenets, and
without contradicting  Shankara.

A question about the conduct of the man of wisdom was raised by him in the
verse 4.54:  whether a jnani would be governed by scriptural injunctions and
prohibitions, or whether he would behave according to his likes.  He
answered this question by saying that, since the man of enlightenment has no
sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and has no more identification with the BMI complex
after the destruction of avidya, there remains nothing to be accomplished by
him by following scriptural injunctions and prohibitions and that moral
laxity is inconceivable in his case.  The man of enlightenment who has
realized the Self and who remains as the Self is no more embodied, *even
though he is living*, since wrong knowledge which is the cause of embodiment
has been removed.     In the words of Shankara ‘The embodiedness of the Self
is caused by wrong conception and so the person who has reached true
knowledge is free from his body even while still alive (Brahma sutra bhashya

Sureshvara says  in the introduction to verse 4.60 of Naishkarmyasiddhi that
there is another traditional, , sAmpradAyika,  answer to the same question.
Though the knower of Brahman is not bound by the aggregate of BMI and is,
therefore, disembodied *from his own perspective*, yet *from the vyavaharika
perspective* the body which has been sublated as false continues for
sometime till the exhaustion of prarabdha karma through experience.  Sureshwara
drives home the point by calling our attention to the experience of fear and
trembling which continue  for some time even after the removal of the
illusion of the snake by the knowledge of the object in front  as rope.  This
is called bAdhitanuvritti.  In the same way, the continuance of the BMI
complex after the sublation of avidya by the knowledge of the Self is a case
of badhitaanuvritti.  It may be noted that there is no incompatibility
between the continuance of the BMI complex and liberation.  …Its continuance
itself is not bondage.  On the contrary, *attachment to* the BMI is bondage.
The Jnani certainly has no such attachment to the BMI.  Such a Jnani who is
liberated in life plays the role of a preceptor, AchArya, and is engaged in
action of his own accord for the sake of lokasangraha, for the preservation
of the world-order, for social service, without the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.
What Shankara says in His commentary  on the Brahma sutra 4.1.15 is worth
quoting here:
‘’The knowledge of the Self being essentially non-active destroys all works
by sublating wrong knowledge; but wrong knowledge – comparable to the
appearance of a double moon – lasts for some time even after it has been
sublated, owing to the impression it has made.  Moreover, it is not a matter
for dispute at all whether the body of the Knower of Brahman continues to
exist for sometime or not. For how can one contest the fact of another
possessing the knowledge of Brahman – vouched for by his heart’s conviction
– and at the same time continuing with the body?’’

The next verse (4.61) of Naishkarmya siddhi is:

//Just as the destruction of an uprooted tree takes place only through the
process of withering away, even so the destruction of the body of the one
who has known the Self takes place only through the removal (of prarabdha

In this context, it would be relevant to see what Sureshwaracharya says in

This man of enlightenment, seeing within himself the Self, not subject to
acceptance or rejection, [conducts himself as follows]:

//He accepts everything and rejects everything.  *Acceptance is admission of
the world of duality [from the empirical standpoint], and rejection is [its
denial] on account of its not being real.//*

If one keeps in mind the distinction between tattva drishti and vyavahara
drishti,, the distinction between the perspective of reality and that of the
empirical world, one will notice that there is no inconsistency in
Sureshwara’s position.  Since the man of knowledge knows the truth, he
rejects the world of plurality as non-real.  A person who knows the shell is
no more deceived by the appearance of silver therein, and is in a position
to speak of the shell-silver;  even so the man of wisdom knows that it is
BrahmanAtman which appears as the world of plurality.  It means that he
accepts the pluralistic universe as an appearance, ie, as empirically real.
Since ‘acceptance’ and ‘rejection’ are from two different standpoints, there
is no defect of inconsistency in Sureshwara’s statement.

Moreover, this above stand of the Jnani’s vision of the Truth and at the
same time the interaction with the world is accepted by Shankara.  In His
commentary to the BhagavadGita verse 2.16, Shankara concludes by giving out
the message of the verse:

 // Thus, taking recourse to the way the Jnanis adopt,  Arjuna, you too
practice forbearance of the opposites viewing them as ‘these are really
nonexistent, yet they appear to be real’.//

Thus Shankara unambiguously states that the Jnanis perceive the world but
with the clear understanding that it is a mere appearance without any
reality of its own.

It is in the light of the foregoing that some verses (denying the concept of
prArabdha ) of the Aparokshanubhuti are to be understood.  Clearly, these
verses denying prarabdha to the Jnani, are from the Jnani’s drishti, or
tattva drishti (teaching 1).  That which has been stated by Shankara in the
prasthanatraya Bhashya categorically in over a dozen places affirming the
fact of Jnani’s prarabdha (teaching 2) are to be seen, undoubtedly, from the
vyavahara drishti.  Shankara never confuses the aspirants.  A
competent  Acharya
would make it clear to the aspirant the difference in the two standpoints
and remove the confusion that could perhaps arise reading the two apparently
contradictory teachings given out  by Shankara.

In fact, the verse preceding the ‘denial’ of prarabdha in Aparokshanubhuti

//Oh Bright one! Never losing sight of  Self-Knowledge, live the rest of the
life experiencing the prarabdha in its entirety.  While doing so never give
room for *anger, grief, etc*.  // 86.

This verse is essentially the teaching 2.  How? See the crucial word ‘anger,
etc.’  This is known as ‘udvega’ in Sanskrit.  One can see this word
occuring  in the Gita multiple times in the context of jivanmukta lakshana.

The verses following the above verse in Aparokshanubhuti constitute the
teaching 1.  In this case, it is only that teaching 2 precedes
teaching 1.  Nevertheless,
the teaching is not confusing either.  What is to be noted is that when
prArabdha is denied in the pAramarthic sense, it is definitely emphasized in
the vyavaharic sense.  Why is this?  Is it not that we have to give up the
vyavaharic and get hold of the paramarthic?  True.  But it is impossible to
give up the vyavaharic unless it is sublimated to naturally dove-tail into
the paramarthic.  That is the reason why jivanmukti is inevitable for the
attainment of sadyomukti.  Thus, there is absolutely no contradiction in the
Aparokshanubhuti with the other statements of Shankara emphasizing
prArarbdha, both in this work and in His other works.  In fact the
Vivekachudamani  (verses 450 onwards) too denies prArabdha from the ultimate
standpoint.  The commentary of the Renowned Jivanmukta Acharya Sri
Chandrashekhara Bharati Swamiji of Sringeri could be read for these verses.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has brought out an English translation of this

Shankara emphasizes the prArabdha concept  even in His
SopAna/sAdhana/upadesha panchaka, the Manisha panchaka, the Kaupina panchaka

A synopsis of the above discussion:

·        A Jnani has the tattvadrishti, the absolute, paramarthika, view of
the Self that  he is never embodied.  He has the knowledge of the unreality
of the world that he lives in and interacts with.  This is the vyavaharika

·        Prarabdha is admitted to a Jnani by Shankara and Sureshwara only
from the vyavaharika standpoint. This is because even the concept of a Jnani
is relative.  For, we find in the Gaudapadakarika a verse: na nirodho na cha
utpatti….(From the absolute, pAramarthika viewpoint, there is no creation,
no dissolution, no seeker, no bondage, no liberated.)

·        It is only the lack of discrimination between the two clearly
different standpoints adopted by the scripture and the Acharyas that creates

·        Seen from the two standpoints, the dozens of statements of the
Acharyas can be neatly docketed in the appropriate slots without overlapping
and contradicting.

·        Shankara says in the BG verse ‘upadekshyanti te jnanam’ that the
teaching received from a Jnani alone will be fruitful.  This comment of
Shankara speaks volumes of His/the scriptural view of the Jnani operating
with a BMI.

Peace be to All

[To be continued in Part 2]

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