[Advaita-l] Sankara and maNDana - jnAna, jnAna-karma samuccaya and prasaMkhyAna

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Thu May 6 09:54:24 CDT 2010

Can we not say in one sentence that Jnana alone gives the liberation and the liberated one does karma for Lokasangraha as the Lord said that He Himself performs action though He is not required to do so?
Sunil K. Bhattacharjya

--- On Mon, 5/3/10, Suresh Marur <suresh.marur at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Suresh Marur <suresh.marur at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Sankara and maNDana - jnAna, jnAna-karma samuccaya and prasaMkhyAna
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Monday, May 3, 2010, 10:18 PM

One of the most beautiful examples I have heard on jNana and its impact on
the mind is from one of the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda on Chapter 6
of the Gita (which you refer to in your post below "Shanaih Shanaih.
uparamet...). He gives the example of the "perception" of the sun revolving
around the earth as the perception. Wih knowledge, we know that it is the
earth that rotates that causes the impression that the sun revolves. This
does not imply that after the arrival of this knowledge, my perception of
the sun's revolution of the earth changes. I however see the "fact" behind
the apparent reality. When I am firmly rooted in knowledge, I am not
affected by the world as I see it as superimposition on Brahman (vikshepa).

Similarly, after jNana, the jNani continues to act externally. By virtue of
his jNana however, he does not attribute this action to his mind (which
"was" on account of ignorance). This is because he has disidentified the I
from the mind and is firmly rooted in Brahman. So, any apparent action on
his part does not imply karma because karma by definition is action with the
notion of doership. The mind continues to be embodied until the prarabdha
that caused the embodiment is exhausted. Once that is exhausted, the jNani
attains videha mukti.

Two questions therefore haunts all seekers but (and as as seeker myself, I
am convinced) can never be answered because it depends on the prarabdha and
degree of preparation of the mind of the mumukshu:

a) How long should I do sravanam-mananam-nidhidhyasanam before knowledge
"dawns"? This is a function of how pure the mind is and the "possession" of
the shatka sampattis. It is the test of the shraddha of the mumukshu to
continue his sadhana until knowldege dawns with the grace of the guru and

b) Once knowledge "dawns" what will happen to "me"? This is a function of
the pararabdha. With knowledge, there is no more sanchita and agami karma to
keep the jiva in bondage.

I think both questions indicate ignorance and jNana leads to the cessation
of the question from arising in the mind.

Sri gurubhyo namah,

- Suresh

On Tue, May 4, 2010 at 3:39 AM, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <
svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Given the small excursus comparing Sankara and maNDana in a recent
> discussion,
> I thought I would share a few observations with the list.
> Sankara bhagavatpAda is uncompromising in his view that jnAna alone (and
> not a
> combination of jnAna and karmA) is the means to moksha. This is a direct
> corollary
> of the fact that the highest jnAna (I am brahman) entails the knowledge
> that the
> Self is never an agent nor an experiencer (nAham kartA bhoktA vA) of action
> and
> its fruits.
> The basic problem, as I see it, is that it is the same seeker who
> graduates, so to
> speak, to the status of the jnAnI. The same person, who has been thinking
> of
> himself as a doer of actions and experiencer of their consequences, needs
> to let
> go of all action, including the very notion that he is a doer and an
> experiencer.
> What this means for Sankara bhagavatpAda and his tradition is that there
> needs
> to be a full renunciation of action for the seeker of liberation and then
> there is no
> fresh action enjoined upon the jnAnI.
> Other thinkers construe the situation differently. There is one strand of
> thought,
> countered in Sankara bhagavatpAda's commentaries, that man can never escape
> from action as long as he lives in a body and therefore karmA and jnAna
> need to
> be combined for as long as one lives (yAvaj-jIvam). One of the bases for
> this line
> of thinking is that if prescribed daily and occasional ritual actions
> (nitya and
> naimittika karmA) are not performed, that leads to sin. Therefore, there
> can be no
> total and full renunciation of ALL actions; only a renunciation of actions
> motivated
> by desire (kAmya karmA) can be done. The central advaita answer to this is
> that
> the jnAnI who knows that the true referent of the word "I" is brahman, does
> not
> even have the notion, "I am an agent" and therefore naturally renounces ALL
> actions, including the prescribed daily and occasional ritual actions. No
> sin can
> apply in such a case.
> There is yet another take on the situation and I believe maNDana miSra, the
> author of brahmasiddhi, falls under this category of thinkers. Here, it is
> said that
> although hearing the teaching of the vedAnta (SravaNa) tells the seeker
> that he
> is in reality a non-agent, such knowledge is not enough for moksha, because
> the
> notion "I am a doer of action" is not thereby eradicated. So, what is
> needed is
> continued meditation (sometimes equated with manana and nididhyAsana),
> which
> generates the liberating knowledge in the seeker's own personal experience.
> This
> stance is presented as one pUrvapaksha, in the upadeSasAhasrI as
> "prasaMkhyAnam
> ataH kAryaM yAvad AtmA anubhUyate." It is unclear to me whether
> prasaMkhyAna-
> vAda intends that one should repeat "ahaM brahmAsmI" like a japa, or
> whether it
> involves a sustained and uninterrupted dhyAna on the notion of "ahaM
> brahmAsmi".
> In either case, there are problems. It seems to me that the prasaMkhyAna
> vAdin
> wants to be partly in the jnAna-karma samuccaya camp till the AtmAnubhava
> moment and partly in the Sankaran camp after the moment of AtmAnubhava.
> Maybe because of this very reason, the refutation by Sankara bhagavatpAda
> and
> sureSvara of this position also seems to be a very misunderstood one. Even
> as acute
> a scholar as Sengaku Mayeda, who has made an excellent translation and
> study of
> the upadeSasAhasrI, thinks that there is a self-contradiction involved when
> Sankara
> rejects prasaMkhyAna vAda in a verse chapter of the upadeSasAhasrI and then
> goes
> on to teach parisaMkhyAna meditation in the third prose chapter of the same
> text.
> As far as I can see, there is no self-contradiction at all here. What is
> needed is to
> refine one's understanding of what Sankara bhagavatpAda actually says about
> this.
> There is no denying the fact that for most people, a one-time SravaNa does
> not lead
> to understanding and that further contemplation is needed. This is
> addressed in one
> passage of the brahmasUtra bhAshya where the repeated instruction of tat
> tvam asi
> to Svetaketu is discussed. There is also no denying the fact that jnAna
> culminates in
> anubhava - as Sankara bhagavatpAda himself says in the sUtra bhAshya -
> anubhava-
> avasAnattvAt (no matter in what sense we take the word avasAna).
> However, what he objects to is the idea that manana-nididhyAsana leads to a
> new
> knowledge that is different from what is contained in the SravaNa. What is
> needed is
> for the seeker to understand the ultimate reality of his own non-agency and
> to really
> and naturally renounce all action. Merely sustaining a dhyAna on the notion
> of "ahaM
> brahmAsmi" or repeating it like a japa, without understanding and examining
> what it
> means, is not going to generate a new kind of liberating knowledge. The
> content of
> whatever has been conveyed through the vedAnta vAkya will not change
> between
> SravaNa and manana-nididhyAsana. If the correct liberating jnAna can arise
> as a
> result of manana-nididhyAsana, it cannot be a new thing, but only a better
> grasp
> of the correct liberating jnAna that was already conveyed through SravaNa.
> Indeed,
> there can be cases of people for whom even a one-time SravaNa of the
> vedAnta
> vAkya is sufficient to result in the rise of the correct jnAna at once. If
> one objects
> that this is only a theoretical possibility, that is not quite the same as
> proving that
> it is an IM-possibility. On the one hand, if one does not truly understand
> the purport
> of the vedAnta vAkya and is never prepared to renounce all actions, then no
> amount
> of contemplation on an un-understood sentence will result in liberation
> from action.
> On the other hand, if one does not truly understand the vedAnta vAkya and
> never
> takes the required steps to properly understand it, then one is left with
> the same
> avidyA as before.
> It is true that meditation without proper understanding of the vedAnta will
> not lead
> to moksha. However, this does not mean that after properly understanding
> what is
> taught by the SAstra and the guru, meditation should not be done! All that
> is called
> jnAna-nishThA by Sankara bhagavatpAda is nothing different from what the
> correct
> relationship is between meditation and jnAna. A total renunciation of all
> actions,
> saMnyAsa, is a prerequisite in Sankara bhagavatpAda's teaching here. It is
> also only
> for this that he then goes on to describe parisaMkhyAna in a prose chapter.
> This
> "meditation" is basically a brief analysis of Atma-anAtma-viveka and
> reasoning to
> fully grasp the teachings about brahmAtmaikatva in the upanishads. Once the
> proper
> jnAna is grasped, nothing  remains to be done, except for renouncing all
> action. This
> is called vidvat saMnyAsa in later texts. If the renunciation of action was
> already
> done prior to this process, that is called vividishA saMnyAsa.
> Now, one may ask, isn't the "renouncing of all action" itself an action?
> Doesn't the
> gItA caution us about karmA and a-karmA? The answer is that the gItA
> teaching is
> all about the correct reasons behind renouncing all action. If I decide to
> formally
> renounce all action in an impulsive moment today, only to have desires for
> one thing
> or another awaken again tomorrow, that is not conducive to my good. Or, if
> I want
> to renounce the correct course of action only because I am afraid of what
> its results
> and consequences will be, I will have accomplished neither what can be
> accomplished
> through action nor what is learnt through its renunciation. However, for
> one who does
> not even have the notion of doership, who has transcended even the need for
> action,
> the renouncing of all karmA will be a natural event. For the seeker who has
> made a
> prior and firm commitment to liberation and therefore formally renounced
> all karmA,
> the gItA also teaches in the dhyAna-yoga chapter, SanaiS Sanair uparamed
> buddhyA
> dhRti-gRhItayA, and the entire apparatus and process of vedAnta SravaNa,
> manana
> and nididhyAsana are there for his aid. It is only for this reason that
> sureSvara says
> in the naishkarmyasiddhi, that there is indeed an injunction for saMnyAsa
> as a part of
> the path to moksha - tvam arthasya avabodhAya vidhir apy ASritaH. This
> vidhi is
> really unique. Rather than impelling one to do a new action, it tells you
> to renounce
> all action! It takes the person who thinks of himself as a doer of actions
> and tells
> him, "renounce action (because you are not really a doer of any action)."
> Another question can be, isn't a mind needed to process the vedAntic
> analysis and
> reasoning? What then of the much vaunted "destruction of mind" (manonASa)
> that
> advaitins talk about? The answer is again in my favorite bRhadAraNyaka
> bhAshya
> passage, 1.4.7 - liberation cannot be achieved by forcibly trying to
> quieten the mind,
> but the steady recollection of the AtmajnAna taught in the upanishads will
> itself lead
> to the quiescence of the mind (citta vRtti nirodha). As gauDapAdAcArya has
> already
> mentioned, prior to Sankara bhagavatpAda himself, manaso hy amanIbhAve
> dvaitaM
> naivopalabhyate and amanastAM tadA yAti grAhyAbhAve tad agraham.
> Regards,
> Vidyasankar
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