[Advaita-l] Jnana and ajnana (Bhakti vs. Jnana)

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sun Jul 3 05:45:17 CDT 2011

On Sat, Jul 2, 2011 at 3:30 AM, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com
> wrote:

> RV: Let me see if you understand what is Avidya with a basic question. As
> ajnana is always with respect to an object, jnana of the object of ajnana is
> a pre-requisite for ajnana. So, how can ajnana arise at all in the face of
> jnana with respect to the same object? If ajnana does not exist, then there
> is no question of jnana arising with respect to that object. Pl. let me know
> the advaitin response to it.

It is common knowledge that we seek to know something only with an *a priori
*perfunctory knowledge of it.  I know that a certain town called
'Tiruvannamalai' exists where there is a temple for Lord Arunachala.  I
desire to go to the place.  So I seek further information about the
location, the mode of transport from my place, the cost, the time, the place
of stay there, etc. With my basic knowledge of the name of the place
'Tiruvannamalai' and the name of the deity 'Lord Arunachala' whose temple is
there, I proceed seeking all that I want to know.  I approach the
appropriate sources of these pieces of information and finally succeed in
getting all that I want to know about Tiruvannamalai.

We can clearly see in the example that there is both jnana as well as ajnana
with respect to the same object to start with.  One can also easily discern
that the jnana possessed at this juncture is not complete and that is why
there is ajnana and the need to seek more knowledge.  Thus there can be
perfunctory knowledge which term itself presupposes an element of ignorance
too about the same object.

Then this last part of the question:
//If ajnana does not exist, then there is no question of jnana arising with
respect to that object. Pl. let me know the advaitin response to it.//

I presume that the question is directed at the Advaitin's final position
that 'there is no such thing called ignorance'.  There is no difficulty in
answering the above question since the Advaitin's stated position is only
from the ABSOLUTE standpoint.  In the relative plane the Advaitin does very
well admit the presence of ajnana.  Even in the example we saw above, when
one has known everything pertaining to Tiruvannamalai he would boldly say,
when anyone asks him, 'I know Tiruvannamalai.  I can guide you to that
place.'  He is not in doubt about the absence of ignorance about that
place.  He can easily see for himself the vast difference between the
initial  position in which he was, trying to know all that he wanted to
about this place, and the present position where he is an expert in this
field, having made several trips and stays there.  Now he has no ajnana.

In the case of Brahman-Atman knowledge, the case is different somewhat in
the sense that upon getting the knowledge/realization he would experience
'ignorance was not, is not, will not be'.  It is only from this
post-realization stand-point that the Advaitin says there is no ajnana and
what is, was and will be is the Adviteeya Brahman.

Let it also be clearly known that this very Advaita jnani can refer to his
past days of sadhana and seeking while recalling those days or relating the
course he went through to an aspirant/disciple. While doing this, he knows
very well that it is the vyavaharika.  However, from the parmarthika point
his conviction is as stated in the earlier paragraph.

Actually a dvaitin-scholar-pontiff (name withheld to protect privacy)
recently asked me this question.  As usual, even this question has been
anticipated by Shankara and answered.  In the bhashya for the sutra 'अथातो
ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा’ Shankara raises a question:

तस्माद्ब्रह्म विजिज्ञासितव्यम् ।तत्पुनर्ब्रह्म प्रसिद्धमप्रस्द्धं वा स्यात्

यदि प्रसिद्धं न जिज्ञासितव्यम् । अथाप्रसिद्धं नैव शक्यं जिज्ञासितुमिति।

Therefore (from the shruti passage: यतो वा इमानि भूतानि
जायन्ते....तद्विजिज्ञासस्व तद्ब्रह्मेति of the Taittiriya Up.:  That from
which all this is born....seek to know That; That is Brahman') Brahman is to
be (sought to be) known. Then, that Brahman is to be either well known or
not well known.  If well known there is no need to undertake an enquiry into
it.  If it is not at all well known then it is impossible to initiate on an
enquiry into it.

[Here Shankara raises the question that RV has articulated. ]  Shankara
proceeds to reply:

उच्यते | अस्ति तावद्ब्रह्म नित्यशुद्धबुद्धमुक्तस्वभावं, सर्वज्ञं,
सर्वशक्तिसमन्वितम्  । ब्रह्मशब्दस्य हि व्युत्पाद्यमानस्य
नित्यशुद्धत्वादयोऽर्थाः प्रतीयन्ते, बृहतेर्धातोरर्थानुगमात् ।

There does exist Brahman which is of the nature of eternal, pure,
consciousness, omniscient and omnipotent.  When the derivation of the word
'brahman' is done all the above become evident as this is in accord with the
root 'brhm'.  Besides the existence of Brahman is well known from the fact
of Its being the Self of all; for everyone feels that his Self exists, and
he never feels, 'I do not exist'.  Had there been no general recognition of
the existence of the Self, everyone would have felt, 'I do not exist'.  And
that Self is Brahman.

I am skipping some portions of the translation which one can easily get from
the Swami Gambhirananda translation and proceeding straight to the most
relevant portion below:

सर्वस्यात्मत्वाच्च ब्रह्मास्तित्वप्रसिद्धिः।सर्वो ह्यात्मास्तित्वं प्रत्येति
,न नाहमस्मीति   ।यदि हि नात्मास्तित्वप्रसिद्धिः स्यात्सर्वो लोको नाहमस्मीति
प्रतीयात् ।आत्मा च ब्रह्म ।

यदि तर्हि लोके ब्रह्मात्मत्वेन प्रसिद्धमस्ति ततो ज्ञातमेवेत्यजिज्ञास्यत्वं
पुनरापन्नम्  ।न  ।तद्विशेषं प्रति  विप्रतिपत्तेः ।

If in the world Brahman is quite well known as one's Atman then it amounts
to saying that Brahman is already known and therefore the need to initiate
enquiry to know Brahman is not there.

To this the siddhAnti answers:  Not so. for there is indeed confusion
pertaining to its (Brahman/Atman's) particularities.  These are the various
ways in which one is confused pertaining to one's Self:

देहमात्रं चैतन्यविशिष्टमात्मेति प्रकृता जना लौकायतिकाश्च प्रतिपन्नाः   ।

इन्द्रियाण्येव चेतनान्यात्मेत्यपरे  ।मन इत्यन्ये   ।विज्ञानमात्रं
क्षणिकमित्येके   ।शून्यमित्यपरे   ।अस्ति देहादिव्यतिरिक्तः संसारी कर्ता,
भोक्तेत्यपरे   ।भोक्तैव केवलं न कर्तेत्येके   ।अस्ति तद्व्यतिरिक्त ईश्वरः
सर्वज्ञः सर्वाक्तिरिति केचित् ।आत्मा स भोक्तुरित्यपरे   ।

एवं बहवो विप्रतिपन्ना युक्तिवाक्यतदाभाससमाश्रयाः सन्तः   ।

तत्राविचार्य यत्किञ्चित्प्रतिपद्यमानो निःश्रेयसात्प्रतिहन्येतानर्थं चेयात् ।

तस्मात्ब्रह्मजिज्ञासोपन्यासमुखेन वेदान्तवाक्यमीमांसा तदविरोधितर्कोपकरणा
निःश्रेयसप्रयोजना प्रस्तूयते    । । १  । ।

Thus, the question is replied by the statement that: even though there is a
generalized, hazy, aspaShTa knowledge about any object initially, there
coexists ajnAna too about that very object with respect to the
particularities.  That is how every knowledge-activity takes place in the
world and so also about Brahman/Atman.

One can appreciate that Shankara has raised that question and answered it on
behalf of the Shruti and the sUtrakAra.  The Shruti said: यतो वा इमानि
भूतानि जायन्ते....*तद्विजिज्ञासस्व* तद्ब्रह्मेति .  The sUtrakaara said:
अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा.  Shankara takes upon Himself the burden of answering
the natural question that can arise which we have seen and replied in detail
in the foregoing.



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