[Advaita-l] An inseparable pair of concepts in Vedanta Vichara / Sadhana

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat May 22 07:31:59 CDT 2010

ShrIgurubhyo namaH

In the Brahmasutra 4.1.15  bhashya of Bhagavatpada we have this famous

बाधितमपि तु मिथ्याज्ञानं द्विचन्द्रज्ञानवत् संस्कारवशात् कञ्चित्कालं
अनुवर्तत एव ।
कथं ह्येकस्य  स्वहृदयप्रत्ययं ब्रह्मवेदनं देहधारणं च अपरेण प्रतिक्षेप्तुं

शक्येत ?

’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).

This vaakyam has two distinct features:

ब्रह्मवेदनं and   देहधारणम्.  The two put together denote jivanmukti.
While the first word

is concerned with the anubhava that liberates the jnani (from the
samsara that earlier persisted,
the second word is all about his continuing in the body for the rest
of his life.  It is interesting to
note that these two features are significantly noticeable in several other

scriptural and bhashya statements.  We shall look at some of them in the sequel.

In the BSB on the samanvayasutra there is this another famous sentence:

तस्मात् मिथ्याप्रत्यय*-*निमित्तत्वात् सशरीरत्वस्य*, *सिद्धं *जीवतोऽपि*विदुषो
*ऽशरीरत्वम्* 11.4

//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).//
Here again we have two key terms:  अशरीरत्वम् and जिवतोऽपि.  While the first
one refers to the anubhava, ब्रह्मवेदनं of the earlier quoted sentence, the
second word here  corresponds to देहधारणम्.  Actually, अशरीरत्वम् and
जिवतोऽपि are completely opposed to each other; they are like tamas and
prakaasha and can never coexist.  Yet, the beauty of Vedanta is that their
compatibility is a fact undeniable.  This is jivanmukti.  There is jeevatva
and mukti from jeevatva coexisting.  The former is tamas, now baadhita, the
latter is prakasha, never can be sublated; it is nityamuktatva svabhaava.
The state of jivanmukti is this strange, impossible, yet undeniable
combination of these two.  Jeevatva is fiction and muktatva is fact.  They
coexist in a Jnani who has the simultaneous full knowledge of the falsity of
the former and the facthood of the latter.

The Bhagavadgita has these verses to support the above:

नवद्वारे पुरे देही नैव कुर्वन् न कारयन्  5. 13
(The Jnani remains in the nine-gated city, the body, neither doing nor
causing anything to be done)

Here, the nine-gated city, the body, is the jeevatva, dehadhaaraNam.  naiva
kurvan na kaarayan, is the muktatva, the ashareeratva, brahmaवेदनम्.
Embodiedness and disembodiedness both coexist.  The Jnani has the full
knowledge of the falsity of the former and the facthood of the latter.  The
Jnani is aware of the working of the body-mind apparatus and its falsity.
'इन्द्रियाणि इन्द्रियार्थेषु वर्तन्त इति धारयन्’ as the Gita itself teaches
the state of jivanmukti and the jnani's engaging in vyavahara.  The Lord
Himself says about Himself:

न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन ।
नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि ॥  3.22

The first line and the first half of the second line speak of His
brahmavedanam, ashareeratvam, muktatvam.  The last quarter of the verse
shows the dehadhaaraNam, prANavattvam (jeevato api).  In fact the Lord had
just before this spoken of the Jnani too in the same terms:

आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टः तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते

नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो न अकृतेनेह कश्चन ।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्चिदर्थव्यपाश्रयः ॥  3.17 and 18

Here, the Lord teaches that the Jnani 'has nothing to accomplish'.  He has
nothing to gain from doing anything, nor by not doing anything.  He is not
dependent on anything in the world for anything.  This is the brahmavedanam,
the muktatvam..  In the subsequent verses the Lord wants the Jnani too to
engage in work that will uplift others, be a role model for others.  This is
the dehadhaaraNam, jivato api.

The Lord has further talked about His dehadhAraNam:

जन्म कर्म च मे दियम्...4. 9
[My birth and My action are 'divine' - Maaya]

He continues in the same strain:

एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वत:, त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन

He who knows thus, about the Maayic nature of  My birth and My action, is
himself freed from rebirth, attaining Me.  He is freed from ignorance.  Here
(again) we find that Maya of Ishwara is the same power that sustains the
birth and action of the jiva too.

These strange partners, brahmavedanam and dehadhaaraNam, constitute the
foundation of the Vedanta as a moksha shaastra.  It is impossible for anyone
to get the liberating moksha jnaanam without the medium of a body.  The
Lord's manifestation is a proof of this.  The availablility of Jnanis is the
proof of this.  The Gita and the Upanishads teach that one should approach a
shrotriya brahmanishTha to gain this knowledge.  It is only when this
combnation of brahmavedanam and dehadhaaraNam is possible the very
dissemination of the Jnana is possible.  Even in instances where there is no
human/embodied Teacher visible, the implicit availability of this medium is
undeniable.  The direct or indirect role of this two-combined medium cannot
be set aside.

Another important feature to be noticed is that the dehadhAraNam of Bhagavan
is possible due to His Maya shakti.  The dehadhAraNam of the Jnani is
sustained by the avidya shakti.  Bhagavatpada says this in the 4.1.15
bhashya we have seen earlier.  The word for the sustaining avidya shakti,
also known as avidya-lesha,  is: *'samskAra vashaat.'*  That it is (kArya)
avidya is denoted by the word (s): (bAdhitamapi)
*mithyAjnAnam*(anuvartate). The functional distinction between the
Maya shakti and avidya
shakti is kept in mind although there is no such distinction.

*Two extremes of ajnAna, ignorance:*

The two concepts, brahmavedanam and dehadhAraNam discussed above have become
the basis for distinguishing between two types of ajnAna, ignorance.  Let us
take up the second one: dehadhAraNam first.  Bhagavan Krishna laments in the
Gita 7.24, 25:
अव्यक्तं व्यक्तिमापन्नं मन्यन्ते मां अबुद्धयः ।
परं भावमजानन्तो ममाव्ययमनुत्तमम् ॥
The foolish regard Me as the unmanifested coming in manifestation, knowing
not My higher, immutable, unsurpassed nature (paraA prakRti).

Shankaracharya comments:  Not knowing My higher nature as the Supreme Self,
the ignorant think that I have just now come into manifestation, having been
unmanifested hitherto, though I am the ever luminous Lord.  To what is their
ignorance due to?  Listen:

नाहं प्रकाशः सर्वस्य योगमायासमावृतः ।
मूढॊऽयं नाभिजानाति लोको मामजमव्ययम् ॥

I am not manifest to all, veiled (as I am) by Yoga Maya.  This deluded world
knows not Me, unborn and impreishable.

Commentary:  I am not manifest to all people; that is to say, I am manifest
only to a few who are My devotees.  I am veiled by Yoga Maya.  This is the
Maya which is none other that the yoga or union of the three guNa-s.  Or
Yoga is the firm will of the Lord ....wherefore people are deluded and know
Me not as unborn and imperishable.  [Bhagavatpada is here talking about the
AvaraNashakti, otherwise called MUlAvidyA,  that veils Brahman, forming the
ground for vikshepa.  Of course, that this shakti, is admitted by the Lord
too goes without saying.]

In these two verses, we can see how ignorance is manifest in the form of
considering only the manifest form of Brahman, dehadhAraNam, and remaining
ignorant of the 'Brahmavedanam', the ultimate Reality, the pAramArthika.

Now, the second extreme of ignorance is taken up:

Quite contrary to the above, there is another group of people who give up
totally the 'dehadhAraNam' aspect and conclude that the only truth is the
'brahmavedanam'.  That this view is founded on ignorance is not in doubt.
The offshoots of this ignorance is manifold.

   1.  It does not account for the Vedanta artha sampradAnam, the tradition
   of disseminating the Vedanta teaching to the humanity.
   2. There is no way a Jnani can give the teaching to others.
   3. There is no possibility of knowing how a stithaprajna would conduct
   4. There is no way a teaching is sought from a Brahmavit, Jnani
   5. This view is in complete contrast to and disregard of the teaching of
   the Shruti, the Lord in the Gita and Bhagavatpada in the Bhashya
   6. The Lord specifically speaks of His manifestation in the world, for
   example, in the 4th Chapter:
   7. The Lord has a purpose in manifesting Himself.  That purpose is the
   giving out of the Liberating Knowledge.  He has said of Himself:
   वेदान्तकृत् for which Bhagavatpada has commented: वेदान्तार्थसम्प्रदायकृत् -
   The One who gives out the Vedantic teaching.
   8. In view of this, to disregard the 'dehadhAraNam' of Bhagavaan and a
   Jnani is against the teaching of Bhagavan and Bhagavatpada, yukti and
   9. Bhagavatpada has specifically said in the Gita bhashya:
   सर्वशास्त्रविदपि असंप्रदायवित् मूर्खवदेव उपेक्षणीयः -  Even if one is an
   adept in all the branches of learning, if his learning is not in tune with,
   in accordance with,, the sampradaaya, he has to be rejected as one would
   reject what a fool says.

We have seen above that 1. It is ignorance to be unaware of the
Brahmavedanam. 2. It is ignorance, unsaampradaayic,  to reject the
'dehadhAraNam'.  A question arises as to what is the view free of these
defects?  To this we answer:  That which recognizes that the 'dehadhAraNam'
of Bhagavaan and a Jnani is with the sublime purpose of enabling us to reach
the goal of 'Brahmavedanam'.  It would be impossible to realize this goal
unless we accept, rever, honour and surrender to 'dehadhAraNam'.  Bhagavan
has said in the Gita: ज्ञानिनः तत्त्वदर्शिनःउपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानम्
'The Jnanis will teach you'.  While ajnani-s either take only dehadhaaraNam
without knowing the Brahmavedanam aspect, or take only the Brahmavedanam  to
the disregard of the dehadhAraNam aspect, the Jnani's method is to
appreciate both Brahmavedanam and dehadhAraNam with the mature knowledge
that the former is impossible without the latter and the co-existence of
both alone helps anyone else to tread the path of realization.  This is the
'sampradaya' of the Upanishads, the Gita and Bhagavatpada. It is the
deviation/giving up/disregarding this 'sampradaya' that makes one an
'asampradAyavit' according to Bhagavatpada.


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