[Advaita-l] A Perspective - 23

Kuntimaddi Sadananda ksadananda108 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 11 00:40:24 CST 2010

Obstacles to Spiritual Progress - 2:

We are discussing the obstacles to our spiritual progress. Krishna says in
Gita- 4th chapter – sloka 40 that there are three main obstacles for
spiritual progress: - 1. avidya (ignorance) 2. ashraddha (lack of faith) 3.
samshaya (doubts about the goal and the means). Here avidya is the moola
avidya or the fundamental ignorance about one owns self. The self-ignorance
can only removed by self-knowledge. For that scripture alone is the pramaaNa
since the object of investigation is the subject which cannot be
objectified. We continue our discussion in terms of the role of mahaavaakya
in eliminating this self-ignorance. Scriptures communicate the knowledge
using words. Truth, which scriptures declare cannot be described in words
(yato vaacho nivartante apraapya manasaa saha), is being described. Hence
the need of a proper teacher is emphasized by the scriptures themselves in
order to unravel the truth using words.

Analysis of the knowledge communicated by words can be classified into two
1. Descriptive words 2. Introductory world.

We can think of four possibilities.

Case I. Let us say we learned about Mr. Jones either through books or
through words of those who knew him, but we have never met Mr. Jones. This
knowledge we have gained by the books or by hearing from a third party
involves descriptive words and it is only indirect knowledge. There is no
anubhava or experience of knowing Mr. Jones personally. I will say I am
longing to meet Mr. Jones whom I know indirectly. We have jnaanam but no

Case II. Suppose we met a person without knowing that he is Mr. Jones and we
had some encounter and learned about him except that we do not know that he
is Mr. Jones. Here, we have anubhava or experience of meeting Mr. Jones, but
we do not know that he is Mr. Jones whom we wanted to meet. Here we have the
knowledge at the same time we do not have the knowledge of Mr. Jones
although we had experience of him. We still say I want to know Mr. Jones and
want to have experience of him. (We have anubhava but not supported by
knowledge and Knowledge not supported by anubhava).

Case III. Suppose when we meet Mr. X, and we were introduced as this is Mr.
Jones with all the qualifications that Mr. Jones has – that is we are
directly introduced to him and by way of introduction learned all about him.
These introductory words that describe Mr. Jones as I am seeing him
directly, gives the direct knowledge as well as experience or anubhava of
knowing him personally.  Thus in the introductory word description we have
knowledge plus anubhava or experience (Vijnaanam).

Case IV. We have learned all about Mr. Jones through a book, but we never
met him in person. Here we have indirect knowledge but no direct experience.
Suppose I just ran into him in a party and someone introduced him as Mr.
Jones about whom I have studied. Now I have prior back ground knowledge plus
direct experience or anubhava to give me experiential knowledge (jnaanam and

The seventh chapter of Gita is entitled jnanaa-vijnaana yoga.

When Vedanta talks about Brahman – we have descriptive words – but when
Vedanta says you are that Brahman – then the words of the mahaavaakya form
introductory words. You are introduced as Brahman via the mahaavaakya, tat
tvam asi. Not only I have understood the real meaning of tvam by study of
scriptures and logic of anvaya-vyatireka, and the meaning of tat also by the
study of scriptures, and via equation of tvam = tat, the knowledge of the
identity between the two, introduction of myself is complete. It is not only
description but introductory words since tvam is myself who is directly
present as I am. Hence anubhava or experience of myself is all the time
there (in fact it is there in all experiences) now via scriptural
declaration I have direct experiential knowledge of my true nature via the
mahaavaakya – tat tvam asi – vijnaanam.

In Pancadasi, vidyaaranya says:

avaantareNa vaakyena parokshaa brahma dhiiH bhavet|
sarvatraiva mahaavaakyavicaaraat aparoksha dhii|  7-69

Brahman has been described in Upanishads using avaantara vaakyaas or
indirect statements or by taTastalakshanas as in: yato vaa imaani bhuutaani
jaayante, yena jaataani jiivanti, yat prayantyabhisam vishanti, tat
vijijnaasasva, tat braheti|– or janmaadyasa yataH – or yat adreshyam
agraahyam agotram .. etc.  He is the creator, sustainer and annihilator of
the universe or he is the sarva adhiShTaanam or the substantive of the whole
universe of things and beings from which the whole world arose, by which it
is sustained and into which it goes back – etc. These secondary statements
or avaatara vaakyaas –give only the indirect knowledge of Brahman. However,
when we understand the mahaayvaaka-s such as tat tvam asi – You are that
Brahman- it provides a direct introductory statement, since the scripture is
introducing you to you as entity different from what you think as yourself.
To make sure we heard it right, scripture reinforces the introductory
statement nine times. However, In spite of the direct introductory
statements called mahaavaakyaas, the knowledge that is supposed to be
immediate does not take place immediately.

This is because of the doubts that how can the limited I be that limitless
Brahman, as it contradicts all my normal experiences and conclusions or
transactions involving myself and the world of objects. Hence, it is an
introduction of myself, which I cannot believe. No wonder that Krishna says,
it is a wonder of all wonders and it is a super or kingly secret since no
one believes if when the scriptures reveal the truth. Ascharyavat pasyati
kaSchidenam aascharyavat vadati tathaiva chaanyaH| aascharyavacchainam anyaH
SRiNoti SRitvaapyenam veda na chaiva kaSchit|| 2-29. There are many great
philosophers, who do not accept that introductory statement and reinterpret
these statements of the Upanishads as introduction of someone else, another
avantara vaakyaas or indirect statement about Brahman, or statement of
introduction that agrees with the previous misconception of the individual
self as I am not that.

Since scriptures cannot be wrong, or need not have to describe something
that we already know without reading scriptures (as in I am not that), and
are revealing a fact that I cannot know otherwise, even if I do not believe
it, one has to do vicaara or inquiry into these aphoristic statements to
have the direct knowledge of truth expounded in the Upanishads.  The
knowledge is now aparoksha or direct since mahavaakyaas form direct
introductory words, introducing the correct description of -who that I am –
is in contrast to what I think I am. Here the obstacle for knowledge is lack
of shraddhaa – or faith in the mahavaakyaas.  This can be illustrated taking
the story of the famous missing10th man.

This will be analyzed next.

Hari Om!


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