[Advaita-l] Commentary on Ramana's Forty Verses

Akilesh Ayyar ayyar at akilesh.com
Thu Jun 17 10:15:12 EDT 2021

On Thu, Jun 17, 2021 at 5:15 AM Ven Balakrishnan <ventzu at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

> Ramanamaharishi never said anyone must do anything.  It is evident that
> the more intense a person’s vairagya, disidentification with body-mind, the
> more naturally the actions and possessions will fall away.

Untrue. To take just one example from Talks:

An examination of the ephemeral nature of external phenomena leads to
vairagya. Hence enquiry (vichara) is the first and foremost step *to be
taken*...If, however, the aspirant is not temperamentally suited to Vichara
Marga (to the introspective analytical method), he *must* develop
bhakti... If an aspirant be unsuited temperamentally for the first two
methods and circumstantially (on account of age) for the third method, he
*must* try the Karma Marga"

This is not a volitional giving up, but an inevitable giving up as a result
> of seeing the world as unreal, illusory.  To tell all and sundry that
> visited him, and who were not advanced on their path, to become monks would
> have been preposterous - so he gave them advice at their own level.

He could have said, just as he did above, that monkhood was eventually
required, but that it had to be done only when one was ripe.

But he *never* said that. In fact, he said all the time the opposite.


D: Is solitude necessary for a sannyasin?
M: Solitude is in the mind of a man. One might be in the thick of the world
and yet maintain perfect serenity of mind; such a person is always in
solitude. Another may stay in the forest but still be unable to control his
mind. He cannot be said to be in solitude. Solitude is an attitude of the
mind; a man attached to the things of life cannot get solitude, wherever he
may be. A detached man is always in solitude.

> In response to your question, here is Ramana in GVK:
> 829. Since it is impossible to know beforehand the last moment of one’s
> life, it is best for one who has a firm determination [to put an end to
> birth and death] to renounce at the very moment he gets disgust for
> the body and world.
> 830. Just as a fruit falls from the tree when ripe, so an aspirant will
> certainly renounce his family life like saltless gruel as soon as he
> becomes fully mature, *unless his prarabdha interferes as an obstacle*.

I've bolded the relevant portion. None of the rest is relevant. It may be
"best" for someone who has disgust for the body and world to physically
renounce, but it is not a necessity for realization.

> In BG, Krishna is teaching Arjuna the path of karma yoga, because he
> recognises that Arjuna is not yet mature enough for renunciation - which is
> what Arjuna wanted to do, but this was a volitional renunciation based on
> his egoistic will of not wishing to fight his family; not a ’natural’
> renunciation that comes from understanding.
> Hence Krishna teaches Arjuna desireless action - naiskama karma.
> Krishna’s 'seeing action in inaction' is this very point - simple physical
> renunciation, but with all the desires and thoughts running in one’s mind
> is not true renunciation.

No, Krishna's point is that physical inaction is not inaction, period, end
of story. The mind is where the point is, and if the fruit of the action is
given up, it does not matter what one does.

"He who has abandoned all atttachment to the fruits of action, always
content, not dependent, when when performing action, does, in effect,
nothing at all." (BG 4:20)

And at the end of the BG, despite not physically renouncing, Arjuna ends up
a jnani.

> In BG 14.21 Arjuna asks Krishna what is the behaviour of one who has
> transcended the three gunas.  In Sankara’s bhasya to Krishna’s reply in
> 14.25 he writes:
> "'’who has renounced all enterprise’ i.e. WHO IS APT TO GIVE UP ALL
> FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF THE BODY; he is said to have gone beyond the
> qualities. The disciplines leading to the state of transcendence of the
> qualities [gunas], which have been stated (in the verses) beginning from
> ‘he who, sitting like one indifferent,’ and ending with ‘he is said to have
> gone beyond the qualities’ have to be practised by a monk, a seeker of
> Liberation, so long as they are to be achieved through effort”

Yes, Sankara has this position vis-à-vis his Brahmin disciples. Yet Sankara
also acknowledges that Janaka is a jnani. Janaka, who *clearly* has not
physically renounced. Obviously, Sankara's advice is limited to a certain
class of people.

> Sankara throughout his bhasyas explains that renunciation is an inevitable
> corollary of knowledge that one is not the body-mind, and of unity of all.
> He often asks if one knows one’s unity with all, what desires can there be,
> and in the absence of desires what action can there be.  *The only
> exception* to action that he makes is for ’the good of the world’ - like
> a Janaka - such action is obviously free from personal desire.

Yes, well through this exception whole universes can fit. What the jnani
does without desire *is* for the good of the world.

If Janaka is a jnani, all the other stuff you say about Sankara's
injunctions to leave household work cannot, by definition, be universal.
Janaka did not leave work to obtain jnana, nor did he leave work after he
attained it.

Indeed, Krishna says one *should* act, and in fact everyone *does* act,
including the wise.

"Perfection was attained by kings like Janaka with action alone.
For the mere maintenance of the world, You should act." (BG 3:20)

"One acts according to one's own material nature. Even the wise man does
so. Beings follow their own material nature; What will restraint
accomplish?" (3:33)

> Advaita is a path of truth, of utter desirelessness and austerity.  There
> is a movement to make it more palatable to a larger (Western) 'market', by
> diluting Sankara’s oft-repeated words, saying they are an outcome of their
> times, and focusing on the knowledge aspect rather that the concomitant
> desirelessness aspect.  That is simply picking and choosing bits of sruti
> that appear more congenial.  Moreover Ramanamaharishi’s life in the 20th
> century exemplified Sankara’s description of a jnani / jivanmukta - so
> invalidating the argument that Sankara was just talking in the cultural
> milieu of life a 1000 plus years ago.

Real understanding shows that such rigid views about what constitutes
renunciation run against the spirit of nonduality, in which obviously every
single creature up to Ishwara himself is constantly acting. Some particular
physical act of renunciation being necessary for Self-knowledge, which is
natural and ours by right, is a profound misunderstanding.

> On 17 Jun 2021, at 03:04, Akilesh Ayyar <ayyar at akilesh.com> wrote:
> Show me where in his written works it is said that one MUST take to
> monkhood and give up the householder life. Not once does he say that.
> His talks, as you well know, all contradict that idea, and so do the
> spirit of his words.
> The burden is on you to show why he didn’t say it was a must if it is so
> important. Why didn’t he say, as Sankara clearly does in his texts to his
> Brahmin disciples, “you MUST give up the householder life”?
> If we are taking Ramana’s words “LITERALLY,” and jnanis are “literally”
> dead to the world, then, again, why do jnanis eat?
> Again, verbal gymnastics will not save you from an inadequate
> understanding. Literalness yields nonsense in nonduality.
> In the BG Krishna clearly says over and over again that non-action is not
> the same as the way of monkhood. Arjuna and Janaka are just two examples of
> non-monk jnanis.
> On Wed, Jun 16, 2021 at 6:25 PM Ven Balakrishnan <ventzu at yahoo.co.uk>
> wrote:
>> It is a source of amusement to see so-many self-proclaimed jnanis
>> passionately emphasise that renunciation, utter desirelessness is not a
>> concomitant of jnana.  I wonder why that could be?
>> And the verbal acrobatics to justify this position, arguing a phrase here
>> is figurative, whereas a phrase there should be taken literally.
>> Bhagavan in the recorded Talks was talking at the level of the seekers
>> that asked him questions.  After all, in the BG, Krishna said only very few
>> would ever achieve jnana.  And there can be some question over whether the
>> recorder of the talks was accurate in his note-taking and interpretation.
>> So his written works like Ulladu Narpadu and GVK have to be the best
>> authority for his teaching.
>> I suggest you find something in his written work (incl GVK) that would
>> support the contention that utter desirelessness / disassociation with
>> body-mind is not what is meant by jnana.  If he said it "many times”, then
>> surely he or Muruganar must have written it down as well.  Whereas I can
>> find you quite a few written quotes, like your own in this second verse,
>> that makes exactly that point; let alone the guidance he gave to some of
>> his closest disciples who lived lives of renunciation and austerity around
>> him - Muruganar, Annamalai Swami, Chadwick, Sadhu Natananda, Sadhu Om, to
>> name but a few.  Find a realised disciple in Ramana’s constellation who
>> lived the life of a householder.
>> The argument that Gaudapada / Sankara / the Upanishads were aimed at
>> monks is a novel one, as opposed to elucidating what they believed was the
>> highest truth to all.  Again, it is case of taking some teaching as gospel,
>> and others as figurative or a product of their cultural times.  Convenient,
>> no?
>> Ramana’s actionlessness and renunciation from the outset - without having
>> read any sruti - exemplifies exactly what  Sankara described as the life of
>> a jivanmukta.  As Sw Chinmayananda said of him, ‘he is the cream of the
>> upanishads’.
>> On 16 Jun 2021, at 21:11, Akilesh Ayyar <ayyar at akilesh.com> wrote:
>> On Wed, Jun 16, 2021 at 3:09 PM Ven Balakrishnan <ventzu at yahoo.co.uk>
>> wrote:
>>> Four responses:
>>> 1) I’m just replaying your quote.  Do you believe Ramana was
>>> exaggerating for effect?  What was his intention in writing such a strongly
>>> worded phrase - surely not to mislead?
>> Not at all to mislead. It has to be understood, as I put it in my
>> commentary: "By dying to what is changing — to what one thought one was,
>> but in fact is not — one  realizes oneself to actually be the unchanging."
>> The unchanging has no truck with either doing or not-doing. Those
>> categories do not apply.
>>> 2) Recall that Bhagavan when he arrived at Tiruvannamallai, sat
>>> indifferent to his body and the insects biting him, let alone requirements
>>> for food, for days on end.  He had to be force fed.
>> Yes, yes, and Bhagavan has said many times that his path is not for
>> everyone and not required for jnana.
>>> 3) Lakshmana Sarma - who received personal instruction on Ulladu Narpadu
>>> from Bhagavan - wrote this in HIS commentary on this verse:
>>> “The knowledge born out of personal experience that worldly life is
>>> riddled with sorrow turns one through dispassion towards nivritti marga,
>>> the path of withdrawal from activity or of renunciation.
>> Nivritti marga agani has to be understood. True renunciation is the
>> renunciation of the ego, not of gross physical activity, as both Ramana and
>> the Bhagavad Gita have said repeatedly.
>>> 4) Then there is Gaudapada, MK 2.37:
>>> “He should have this body and the Atman as his support and depend upon
>>> chances, ie he should be satisfied with those things for his physical
>>> wants, that chance brings him”
>>> Sankara underscores this in his bhasya to this verse
>>> “He entirely depends on circumstances, that is to say, he maintains his
>>> body with whatever food or strips of cloth, etc are brought to him by mere
>>> chance”
>> Yes, we understand that these are the monastic traditions they worked in.
>> But that's because these Upanishads were geared towards monks. This is not
>> the requirement for jnana for everyone.
>>> Hope that clarifies what ‘dead to themselves and their possessions’
>>> means.
>>> > On 16 Jun 2021, at 16:44, Akilesh Ayyar via Advaita-l <
>>> advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
>>> >
>>> > If so, why would they eat?
>>> >
>>> > On Wed, Jun 16, 2021 at 4:07 AM Ven Balakrishnan <ventzu at yahoo.co.uk>
>>> wrote:
>>> >
>>> >>
>>> >> Ramanamaharishi is entirely consistent with Sankara saying a jnani
>>> will
>>> >> inevitably take up the life of a paramahamsa ascetic, since s/he has
>>> no
>>> >> desires, no fear, no attachments, not even to body-mind - like a
>>> snake that
>>> >> has shed its skin.
>>> >>
>>> >>
>>> >> Sent from my iPad
>>> >>
>>> >>> On 15 Jun 2021, at 17:26, Akilesh Ayyar via Advaita-l <
>>> >> advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
>>> >>>
>>> >>> Namaste,
>>> >>>
>>> >>> This is the commentary on the next verse.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> From
>>> >>>
>>> >>
>>> https://www.siftingtothetruth.com/blog/2021/6/15/commentary-on-ramanas-forty-verses-invocatory-part-two-of-two
>>> >>> :
>>> >>>
>>> ARE
>>> >>> THEY.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> *Commentary:* All fear is rooted in the fear of death. But death can
>>> only
>>> >>> afflict what is born, that is, what is changing: that is, what is
>>> >> thought.
>>> >>> We have just seen that what is Real is unchanging, and that what is
>>> Real
>>> >> is
>>> >>> us.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> The Lord who has neither birth nor death is none other than this very
>>> >>> Reality, the Heart. This Lord may go by many other names — Shiva or
>>> >> Vishnu
>>> >>> or God or the Goddess, for example. But ultimately they all refer to
>>> this
>>> >>> unchanging Reality.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> In order to take refuge at the feet of this Lord, all else must be
>>> given
>>> >>> up. This giving up is a kind of death. By dying to what is changing
>>> — to
>>> >>> what one thought one was, but in fact is not — one realizes oneself
>>> to
>>> >>> actually be the unchanging. What seems mortal has in fact never been
>>> born
>>> >>> to begin with, and what is immortal cannot die. And the thought of
>>> death
>>> >>> cannot occur to the immortals, which are those who have given up
>>> their
>>> >>> stake in everything changing.
>>> >>>
>>> >>> At any time, see all the forty verses posts that I have published so
>>> far
>>> >>> here
>>> >>> <
>>> https://www.siftingtothetruth.com/blog/tag/Forty%20Verses%20Commentary
>>> >>> .
>>> >>> Akilesh Ayyar
>>> >>> Spiritual guidance - http://www.siftingtothetruth.com/
>>> >>> ᐧ
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>>> > ᐧ
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