[Advaita-l] the qualification to be an advaita guru

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Aug 19 01:41:03 CDT 2011

On Thu, 11 Aug 2011, Raghav Kumar wrote:

> Namaste ...
> Pertaining to the following doubt:
> whether a Guru can be a brahmaniShTha without sAstra-vicAra...
> <  and one more doubt here...can a person become brahmanishTa without any
> knowledge of shAstra??  >
> Its very interesting that bhAShyakAra himself says "yes" to the above
> question and goes to great lengths to justify why shravana etc are not the
> only means for jnAnam. He says that brahmajnAna can take place through
> independent alternative means like tapas, shraddha, past-karma etc etc. TOO.
> (Brihadaranyaka bhashya 1.4.2)

I am reading that text and I don't think that's right.

> It is noteworthy that bhAShyakAra by givng the example of *alternative means
> of perception (like the yogis can "see' with the mind)* gives independent
> and complete status to these other means like tapas, shraddhA etc and not as
> merely a means of getting antaHkaraNa shuddhi.

No there is a subtle difference.  For Shankaracharya alternative means of 
perceptions are still just perception.  Just as seeing through a telescope 
is still just seeing.  The purvapakshi wants to claim them as being in a 
class by themselves.  It is the same with shabda pramana.  Viraj had a 
perfect celestial body beyond the capabilities of a human body but he used 
it in the same way a human Vedanti would have to use his.  (Incidently 
it is noteworthy that Shankaracharya quotes the Vayu Purana here.  It's 
one of the few places he refers to the Puranas.) In fact it is manana 
which is the topic of the shruti text being commented on.  sa hAyamIkShAM 
chakre yanmadanyannasti kasmAnnu bibhemIti  "He thought 'If there is 
nothing other than me, what am I afraid of?"  It is not tapas or shraddha 
etc. but jnana alone which he "sees."  In every kalpa the "see-ers" 
(Rshis) rediscover this knowledge and pass it down to us.

>  He does not also resort to
> the device that - a person must have done enough shravaNam in the last birth
> and is only now getting the result through these other alternative means.

Actually he mentions this in the bhashya on the previous kandika.  He says 
prajApateH phalabhUtasya sR^iShTisthitisaMhAreShu jagataH 
svAtantryAdivibhUtyupavarNanena GYAnakarmaNorvaidikayoH phalotkarSho 
varNayitavya ityevamarthamArabhyate | "This [4th brahmana] is put forth to 
describe the results of Vedic knowledge and action by describing the 
powers such as independence etc. of Prajapati won by his creation, 
maintainence, and destruction of the world [in the previous kalpa-cycle.]"

[note: Prajapati is a synonym of Viraj.]

Then explaining the shruti text sa yatpUrvaH "because he was first" he 
says sa cha prajApatiratikrAntajanmAni samyakkarmaGYAnabhAvanAnuShTAnaiH 
sAdhakAvasthAyAM yadyasmAtkarmaGYAnabhAvanAnuShTAnaiH prajApatitvaM 
pratipitsUnAM pUrvaiH prathamaH san "and 'because he' -- Prajapati who in 
his previous life was a sadhaka who perfected the practice of action and 
knowledge and because of that perfection of action and knowledge 'was first' 
-- first amongst those who attained the position of Prajapati by that 

> While it is indeed true that shravaNam etc provides a nice and clearcut path
> to atma-jnAnam, the great number of sages, avadhutas, saints etc who graced
> the Indic civilisation (who, we gather from their words and compositions
> etc) talked and lived profound advaita without studying elaborate bhAShya
> and sanskrit etc, *their number is far too large for them to be set aside as
> exceptions* to the rule that shravanam alone confers brahmajnAnam.

Leaving aside the issue of whether all the saints who are retroactively 
labeled Advaitins actually belong in that category or not, yes there have 
been many who did not engage in formal study of shastras.  But they lived 
in an environment steeped in Vedantic concepts.  They thought about those 
concepts and they put them into practice.  So it is still 
shravana-manana-nidhidhyasana only by a different medium.  Just as if you 
try and understand the teachings of your guru which you hear in an mp3 it 
is just as much s-m-n as if you heard it by sitting in front of him.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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