[Advaita-l] j~nAna, aj~nAna and sarvaj~natvam

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Thu Aug 11 03:50:44 CDT 2011

On 9 August 2011 22:34, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> RV: Yes. I am not saying that a jiva becomes a particular form of Isvara
> but
> when he becomes Brahman, he does become Isvara, devoid of attributes. There
> is nothing that is known or unknown to Him because He is the Self of all.
> We
> cannot say that water is distinct from the ocean or the wave either.


The j~nAnI understands his svarUpa to be brahman by seeing through his
jIvatvam as mithyA (and likewise he also sees Ishvara's Ishvaratvam as
mithyA, a tree's treeness as mithyA and so forth). The jIva is not the self
of all, brahman is. But brahman is not a knower, the jIva is. I hope you see
the difference.

Technically, the jIva who sees his jIvatvam as mithyA can even be wrong on
vyavahAra specifics. It does not affect his brahmaj~nAna in any way because
vyavahAra itself is mithyA. Please note also that knowerhood is mithyA and
brahman is not a knower.

When avidyA is destroyed, the concept of visheSha aj~nAna is rendered
meaningless because pramAtRtvam itself is seen to be mithyA. A brahmaj~nAnI
will not identify with the mithyA pramAtA and be upset by, say, his lack of
knowledge of Chinese. It does not mean that the mithyA pramAtA should have
no visheSha aj~nAna-s left.

Just as the brahmaj~nAnI does not expect his mithyA sharIra to be disease
free, he does not expect the mithyA pramAtA to know every specific thing in

Just as the sharIra as mithyA, so is the disease. Just as the pramAtA is
mithyA, so are the specifics known or unknown to the pramAtA. Knowing more
specifics in vyavahAra adds nothing to his sarvaj~natva, and knowing fewer
specifics subtracts nothing from his sarvaj~natva because all such specifics
are mithyA.

The dRk-dRshya-viveka says:

asti bhAti priyaM rUpaM nAma chetyaMshapa~nchakam
Adya traya brahma rUpam jagadrUpam tato dvayam

The first 3 factors (asti bhAti priyaM) pertain to brahman and are therefore
invariable (pAramArthika)

The remaining two factors (rUpa and nAma) pertain to the world and are
variable (mithyA)

nAma-rUpa implies distinctions and sarvAtmabhAva implies seeing distinctions
as mithyA

If one insists that a brahmaj~nAnI should know all specific details of
vyavahAra then the whole idea that mukti can be obtained through mithyAtva
nishchaya regarding the pramAtA and nAmarUpa is rendered meaningless.


> RV: I am sorry but it only means that. If it is undifferentiated knowledge
> or non-dual knowledge, it is called jnapti or advaya jnanam. With reference
> to Isvara, when we say He is sarvajna, Sankara clearly says it is an
> attribute due to maya (BSBh 2.1.14).


It has been explained that a sarvaj~na is one who has brahmaj~nAnam.
Generally, the term sarvaj~na is applied to Ishvara and not to brahman. We
don't say that (nirvisheSha) brahman is a sarvaj~na, as brahman is
j~nanasvarUpa and not a knower.

Ishvara is brahman with the upAdhi of mAyA, and so when we talk of Ishvara
mAyA is already admitted. Of course, Ishvara is unaffected by mAyA in a
manner analogous to a brahmaj~nAnI being unaffected by avidyA. In that
sense, Ishvara is sarvaj~na and so is a brahmaj~nAnI. But Ishvara in the
sense of the samaShTi is also a sarvavid (knower of all vyavahAra specifics)
which is a different point. Attains brahmaj~nAna is not going to turn a jIva
into a sarvavid.

I don't want to comment on AchArya madhusUdana's works without a proper
investigation. However, what I have written above is the general position of
the saMpradAya.


> RV: Yes. But if he is just expressing his opinion based on his knowledge of
> subject, grammar and words, his ideas will have errors. And erroneous
> knowledge is not beneficial and sometimes dangerous for blind followers.
> Sastras are beneficial because they are the eternal truths. In the same way
> an acharya's words are valuable becausethey are devoid of faults. We have
> examples of faultless presentation in Sankara and Madhusudana, for example.


A brahmaj~nAnI, by definition, has no doubt that he is nitya mukta. So there
is no scope for error here. But to teach this, he also needs to know the
method of the shAstra including grammar etc, which is why the tradition
emphasizes that the guru must be both shrotriya and brahmaniShTha. If every
brahmaj~nAnI knew the method of the shAstra, there would be no need to
emphasize shrotriyatva separately.

Regarding 'faultless' presentation, strictly speaking, 'faultlessness' is
ascribed only to the apauruSheya shruti and even there the interpretation
can be faulty. Within the saMpradAya, AchArya-s may disagree with each other
and occasionally even point out durukta-s. Indeed, the very fact that the
saMpradAya is willing to recognize durukta-s, albeit on extremely rare
occasions, shows that the tradition itself does not expect brahmaj~nAnI-s to
be accurate on all specifics of vyavahAra.

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