Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jnana + Sannyasa - Jivanmuti

Jivanmukti - Jnana plus Sannyasa

What is Jivanmukti? It is verily the pinnacle of human perfection, where a human attains to the status of the Supreme by a complete annihilation of his ignorance of his intrinsic non-individuality. It represents a release from the the pairs of opposites of sorrow and joy and represents an abidance in that Bliss that is one’s very intrinsic nature- the swarupananda.

Yah vai bhuma tat sukham – that which indeed is the iInfinite Incalculable Unexcelled Innumerable – these are its synonyms; that is sukham, Bliss. On a particle, a minute fraction, of that Bliss alone does every creature live – Br Up 4.3.32

It is the attainment of the fullness of one’s own Self – so’snute sarvan kaaman saha (– Taittr Up 2.1.1) all his desires are fulfilled and he attains to a state of complete desirelessness -ihaiva sarve praviliyanti kaamah – (Mundaka 3.2.1)

It is the State of Absolute Peace (paramam shantim – BG 18.62) that is unconditioned and intrinsic, of one’s very nature (Taittr Up 1.6.2).

Such a person has transcended the clutches of Time and mortality and revels in His intrinsic Eternity. The highest joys in the Universe are akin to droplet of water in the Ocean of Bliss that is a jivanmuktas intrinsic nature says Shankara in the Br.Up. In recent times we can look to the Shankaracharyas of Sringeri (His Holiness Bharata Tirtha) or Kanchi (His Holiness Chandrasekhara Mahaswami) or Bhagwan Ramana, among many others, as examples of such Oceans of Supreme Peace (only to help us gain a frame of reference of what or who is a jivamukta). In the words of Madhusudana Saraswati - among thousands of people, a seeker who sincerely adopts the janana marga is extremely rare; even among such men it is very rare to find one who has reaped the fruit of his jnananishta.

Now can there be gradations in such mukti? The answer according to Shankara as contained in the BSB is a emphatic “no.” And the reason he offers is that Brahman being homogeneous, mukti which is the very nature of Brahman, also has to be ekarasah homogenous as well…

“Because the Upanishads have definitely ascertained that state to be the same. For in all Upanishads, the state of liberation is determined to be uniform in nature, the state of liberation being nothing but Brahman itself. Brahman cannot be ofmany sorts, since Its characteristic indication is declared to be uniform by such texts….”
On the other hand ….“knowledge (of Unity) can take place over a short time or can take longer…”

One thus understands this mukti or the status of a jivanmukta to be without any differentiations or gradations of any sort – “it” – in and of itself, representing the Absolute.So one can understand the status of a jivanmukta as being uniform with no kind of gradations of any sort possible.

Jnana – or the liberating knowledge is the proximate cause of Moksha. Being a praptasya prapti – the gain of the already gained – it represents a removal of ignorance or aviyda – so that I realize that my intrinsic nature is of Purnatvam – in other words - I am Brahman – aham brahmasmi.

Now this knowledge is obtained by a repeated process of shravanam, mananam and nidhidhyasanam. A person who thus has a doubt-free knowledge of Truth can be said to be a knower.

In the Brhad Up we have such a knower as one of the principal teachers in the form of Yajnavalkya. It is important to note that Yajnavalkya was not a jivanmukta. He was knowledgable about tat tvam asi but was not yet established in Brahman. To gain knowledge OR ATMAJNANA he did not need to renounce anything – he could remain ensconced in his householder status – have not one but two wives – debate and score points over his opponents and actually teach people about Brahmavidya.

But when it came to attaining jivanmukti - Yajnavalkya had to renounce – tyage na eka amrtatvam – and leave his family and renounce his possessions and retire to the forest to live the life of a mendicant so that he may obtain nishta in the knowledge. In his Br Up vartika Sureshwaracharya comments thus: ..Yajnavalkya a householder who possessed knowledge of that wich surpassed all excellence (i.e. atmajnana) obtained the highest place of Vishnu after attaining the state of renunciation…Indeed renunciation (tyaga eva hi) is for all the best means to liberation (mokshasahdana) for it is ONLY by ONE WHO HAS RENOUNCED that the highest state (paramam padam) of the individual consciousness can be attained.

So the question remains as to whether after the dawn of doubtless knowledge, is there anything more that needs to be done? The answer is no.

There is nothing that needs to be DONE once knowledge has been gained, but there may be something that needs to be UNDONE

– particularly in the case of the unprepared mind or a unprepared student. Interestingly centuries ago, Swami Vidyaranya talks of “modern” (!) students being unprepared and hence needing sadhana after the acquisition of knowledge has been seen to be relevant at least for the past few centuries!

What about Shankara? Does he deal with his scenario of the non-synchronicity of jnana and moksha? First of all it is important to remember that in Shankara’s schema, Vedanta shravana has to begin with sannyasa. In his Upadesha Sahasri he explicitly mentions that the teaching should be given ONLY to a total renunciate.

In more recent times both the Sage of Kanchi as well as His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Sringeri among others have also talked about it being “ideal” for a student to be a renunciate prior to exposition to Vedanta shravana. In his commentary on the Vivekachudamani His Holiness Chandrasekhara Bharati comments.“ sannyasya shravanam kuryat one should hear ONLY after ordination as a sannyasin”.

So in the multitude of places where Shankara emphatically states in his bhashyas that as soon as one gains the understanding of tat tvam asi in that very instant one is liberated, we should also remember that he has already made clear who this tat tvam asi upadesha should be given to and what kind of a adhikari he has in mind. It is like a Professor of surgery saying that if you spend 2 weeks in practice with him he expects you to be competent in performing an appendix removal – it goes without saying that what this Professor has in mind is someone who is already a medical student and has completed the requisite study of anatomy, and pathology, etc – you cannot now hold him responsible if an unprepared sixth grader, spends two weeks in training with him, and is unsure of how to even hold a scalpel in his hand.

So when one wants to read what Shankara’s views are on jnana and mukti one cannot ignore the entire context in which his teachings are based and the very critical assumptions he is making about the student. After all in his age and time, this upadesha was a Royal Secret, and could only be transmitted by one Guru to his direct shishyas after of course ascertaining their mental competency for the same.

There can be no denying that this would be a ideal situation – perhaps too ideal to be practical in today’s age of freedom, of "google-able" information and its widespread dissemniation. So it is safe to assume that, with rare exceptions, all Vedanta students today are not ideally prepared as they devote themselves to Vedanta vichara and as a consequence, in these students, knowledge may be seen to arise with no concomitant fruit –i.e. jivanmukti.

Having said that, there are instances even in Shankara’s bhashyas where he clearly differentiates jnana and mukti, and of the consummation of the former leading into the latter.

In Br.Up 1.4.10 "Morover false notions do not arise in a Realized Man........however sometimes memories due to the impressions of false notions antecendent to the dawning of knowledge, simulating those notions, suddenly appear and throw him into the error of regarding them as actual false notions…" showing that there may be lack of constancy in the conviction of Oneness at least in some Realized men – i.e. Knowers.

Certainly this cannot be seen to be applicable to jivanmuktas as that Status, of Vishnor paramam padam, by accounts of both Shruti and Smrti has been shown to be clearly an Absolute, a point of no-return.

Furthermore in the same Upanishad Shankara also says even after the rise of right knowledge (samyag-jnAna), due to the strong effect of prior karma, whose momentum is like that of a released arrow, and the relatively weakness of the newly acquired tendency towards jnana, it is necessary to maintain a steady recollection of Self-knowledge(Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtati), accompanied by renunciation (tyAga).

In the Mandukya Karika as well we have a very similar description of a steady recollection (– see the identical use of the term smrtim) of self-knowledge
Mandukya 2.36 Vidityva enam HAVING KNOWN it evam thus YOJAYET SMRTIM one should fix one's memory ADVAITE on non-duality. And Shankara clarifies here – one should practice recollection for the realization of nonduality. And having comprehended that nonduality, having realized directly and immediately that Self, AND after attaining the consciousness I am the Supreme Brahman lokam acharet jadavat one should behave in the world like a dull-witted... Here we find a very clear cut distinction between knowledge and the direct realization thereof. The “having known” here refers to aparoksha jnana – in other words aham brahmasmi - alone – but this knowledge now needs to be constantly and incessantly contemplated upon by directing one’s thoughts exclusively towards it.

Furthermore, Shankara says in his Up Sah that The Knower who has renounced everything unreal does not get bound again, AND further, when the desires of a man of self-knowledge vanish he becomes immortal. Were the knower to automatically mean a muktA – these type of assertions would be rendered totally meaningless – if a person is a Knower, a Brahmavit, and he is already a jivanmuktA – then why qualify such a knower by saying “The Knower WHO HAS RENOUNCED EVERYTHING” – why not simply say the Knower does not get bound again….and similarly so for “when the desires of a man of self-knowledge….”

Elsewhere too, in the words of the Vivekachudamani - Pramado brahmanishtayam na kartavyah kadachana - In respect of brahmanishta one should not be guilty of negligence and Atah pramadanna parosti mrtyuh vivekino brahmavidah samaadhau For the man of discrimination who IS A Brahmavit is in deep concentration there is no other death than inadvertence
Now if aparoksha jnana of Brahman as “aham brahmasmi” that was fully mature after shravana and manana had already resulted in jivanMukti, then is it not extremely incongruous to talk of pramada or lassitude for that same “individual”? Here is an individual who has achieved the Supreme State of Peace and Immortality, from which there is no return and here is advice to him – be careful of unmindfulness??
Clearly there is a distinction made between one who is a Knower of Brahman – Brahmavit - and yet lacking in consummation of that Knowledge or jnananishta.

It is important here to note that the content or construct of the knowledge itself does not change. It is not as if the knowledge of aham brahmasmi is in anyway going to get transformed – in other words aham brahmasmi in the case of a “knower”, a Brahmavit, is in every sense of the term samyag jnana or aparoksha jnana. There are some who contend that this type of “non-liberating” knowledge is only paroksha jnana (in the case of a non-mukta knower) and that by deep and constant meditation it has to be converted into a different kind of special knowledge - a suprasensory knowledge or special experience in order to convert it into “aparoksha” jnana and thence only does he obtain mukti – this viewpoint has been firmly negated by Shankara in the Br Up 1.4.7 (“Others say that meditation generates a new, special kind of consciousness concerning the Self, through which the latter is known and which alone removes ignorance….this view is wrong.”.)

So if the knowledge itself is not going to change, and any further action is not possible for a knower, as he knows himself to be a akarta on account of his right knowledge, then what further remains to be done or can be done for Mukti?The answer is provided by both Shruti and Shankara – the Mundaka Up says - Those to whom the entity presented by the vedantic knowledge has been fully ascertained AND who ENDAVOR assiduously with the help of the Yoga of Monasticism (become free) – and Shankarra comments here that Monasticism is meant as a subsidiary of the knowledge of Brahman FOR ITS FULL MATURITY.
A similar line of reasoning is used in the Brahmasutra bhashyas as well (BSB 3.4.20)… injunction about steadfastness in Brahman HAS to be admitted..meaning that there is such a thing as steadfastness or abidance or nishta in the knowledge of aham brahmasmi. To be more clear, when we talk of ordinary knowledge – such as knowledge of an apple, we do not talk of this knowledge and then abidance in this knowledger as two separate things. But when in repeated instances, both the Shruti as well as Shankara talk about such a thing as jnana nishta – one has to understand that this is something that is being differentiated from jnana – i.e. it is something more than jnana itself.

In the 18th chapter of the Bhagawad Gita, Shankara bhashya talks about this in very clear terms… “…..Even after removing the defects in the organs and the mind, there arises the possibility of acceptance of gifts either for the maintenance of the body or for righteous duties; discarding them as well, i.e. becoming a mendicant of the param-hamsa class; nirmamah, free from the idea of possession, becoming devoid of the idea of 'me' and 'mine' even with regard to so much as one's body and life; and for the very same reason, santah, serene, withdrawn; the monk who is effortless and steadfast in Knowledge, kalpate, becomes fit; brahma-bhuyaya, for becoming Brahman… he, the one who is of this kind and steadfast in Knowledge, labhate, attains; param, supreme; madbhaktim, devotion to Me, to the supreme Lord
Opponent: Has it not been contradictory to say, he knows Me through that which is the supreme steadliness (nistha) in Knowledge?

{Here the opponent asks about this thing called steadfastness - nishta? What is it? Is it not a contradiction in terms to talk of knowledge and then talk of steadfastness in knowledge? Is not knowledge so defined only when it is steadfast?}

Vedantin: If it be asked, How it is contradictory? Opponent: The answer is: Whenever any Knowledge of something arises in a knower, at that very moment the knower knows that object. Hence, he does not depend on steadfastness in Knowledge which consists in the repetition of the act of knowing. And therefore, it is contradictory to say one knows not through knowledge, but through steadfastness in knowledge which is a repetition of the act of knowing.
Vedantin: There is no such fault, since the culmination of Knowledge-which (Knowledge) is associated with the causes of its unfoldment and maturity, and which has nothing to contradict it- in the conviction that one's own Self has been realized is what is referred to by the word nistha (consummation): When knowledge-which concerns the identity of the 'Knower of the field' and the supreme Self, AND WHICH REMAINS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RENUNCIATION OF ALL ACTIONS that arise from the perception of the distinction among their accessories such as agent etc., and which unfolds from the instruction of the scriptures and teachers, depending on PURITY OF THE INTELLECT etc. and humility etc. which are the AUXILLARY CAUSES of the origin and maturity of Knowledge-continues in the form of the conviction that one's own Self has been realized, then THAT CONTINUANCE is called the Supreme steadfastness (nistha) in Knowledge.

What does jnana nishta entail? Jnana nishta entails a continuous stream of thoughts directed at self-awareness. Just as a flickerless flame, the mind constantly and steadily resolves all thoughts of the non-self in the self in a absorptive Self-contemplation. In Shankara’s own words – “Yatha, as; a dipah, lamp; nivata-sthah, kept in a windless place; na ingate, does not flicker; sa upama, such is the simile; yoginah, for the yogi; yata-citasya, whose mind is under control; and yunjatah, who is engaged in; yogam, concentration; atmanah, on the Self, i.e. who is practising Self-absorption.By dint of practising Yoga thus, when the mind, comparable to a lamp in a windless place, becomes concentrated.” and elsewhere - “steadfastness in Knowledge consists in being TOTALLY ABSORBED in MAINTAINING A CURRENT OF THOUGHT with regard to the indwelling SELF.”
This is of course a continuation of the process of nidhidhyasana. Shankara defines nidhidhyasana as nischayena dhyatavyah – meditation with intensity/determination. Sureshwara considers it a culmination of the process of shravana and manana – a process where in the perfunctory modes of thought that are opposed to Brahman are negated. Bh Ramana synthesizes the two beautifully when he says that when focuses one’s train of thoughts exclusively towards the Self the non-self automatically falls away. In the context of an unprepared mind that has acquired the knowledge of tat tvam asi (perhaps the vast majority) for this to be a uninterrupted activity every living moment of the day, becomes not just difficult but literally an impossibility, because of the sheer force of raga-dveshas which have not (yet) been appropriately sublimated prior to the onset of Vedanta vichara.
Here alone, nididhyasana assumes two roles – vasana kshaya and manonasha. Muktim prahih tadiha munayah vasanatanavam yat: The munis say what is called mukti is the attenuation of vasana. Vasanakshaya or durvAsanAkShaya is the eradication of our Ego – in particular its negative tendencies. These tendencies serve to hijack our thoughts and distract us from being focused towards the Atman. Once these vasanas are adequately purged, the mind is rendered incapable of again relapsing into the old mode of behaviour – thus rendering the mind infertile to sprout new weeds of vasanas is what is referred to as manonAshah. Even in the Brahmasutras we find that jivanmukti is said to be possible here itself ONLY IF there is absence of any obstruction - apratusta pratibandhe.
His Holiness Chandrasekhara Bharati while commenting on the Vivekachudamani puts it thus : ata eva svanubhavah ityuktam, viparIta-bhAvanA-nivartaka-nidhidhyAsana-abhAve SravaNamananAbhyAm jAyamAna-anubhavah saushThvam nASnuta iti - Therefore is said svanubhava - as in the absence of the nidhidhyAsana which prevents thoughts opposed [to Brahman], the experience borne out of SravaNa and manana does not attain completeness / excellence.
By vasanakshaya and manonasha alone is there a gradual removal of these obstacles.

While the term manonasha is frequently thought to be post-Shankaran – we find reference to this in the Mandukya karikas

- idam dvaitam manodrshyam - this duality is seen by the mind - when the mind ceases to be the mind manasa amanibhave dvaitam na upalabhyate duality ceases (Mandukya 3.31)
atmasatyanubodhena na sankalpayate yada...when by the realization of the Self the mind ceases to imagine....and is endowed with discrimination.. (Mandukya 3.32-33)

Shankara also talks about this in relation to sattvika buddhi in the BG 18th chapter - Yat, that joy which is; iva, like; visam, poison, a source of pain; agre, in the beginning-when it first comes in the EARLY STAGES OF KNOWLEDGE - detachment, meditation and absorption - since they involve great struggle; but amrtopamam, comparable to nectar; pariname, IN THE END, when it arises from the MATURITY OF knowledge, detachment, etc.; and which atma-buddhi-prasadajam, arises from the purity (prasada), trasparence like water, of one's intellect (atma-buddhi); - 'arising from the high degree of clearness of that atma-buddhi (knowledge of or connected with the Self)'; In his treatise Aparoksha anubhuti Shankara asserts thus: Blessed dhanyaah indeed are those who at first know(vijaananti) the (self as) Brahman (i.e. are Knowers) AND having known (jnatva), develop it more and more (vardhayanti). The usage of the term vijanati clearly indicates a Self-knower – someone who has clearly discerned the Self from the non-Self.

This very same Knower is now being asked to develop this knowledge by means of concentration.
Then what?
– the differentiation between this type of Knower who develops his knowledge into maturity i.e. jnananishta by a long and deliberate process of steadfast and incessant absorption in this knowledge, and the other type of Knower, who though knowing does not, because of attachment, allow this to happen is now being clearly mentioned

- They, in whom this consciousness of Self (vrttih) being ever present grows into maturity (paripakka), ONLY THEY attain to the state of Brahman (praptah sadbrahmataam); OTHERS merely deal with words!(shabdavadinah)
Such persons are only clever in discussing about Brahman (kushala Brahmavaartaayam) but have no realization (vrtti-heenah), suraaginah being attached (to the world) they too as a consequence of their ignorance are born and die again and again.

This is where renunciation assumes centerstage. As long as one is a active member of society, there are certain inescapable domains that are still operative in one’s functional status. One has duties, and responsibilities. The most basic necessities to support life – food clothing and a home - need to be taken care of. For this what is needed is wealth. If one is young this means having a occupation that generates wealth. If one is older and retired, one may not need to work but one is then concerned about making sure that the wealth already earned is maintained with interest or that one’s pensions, or 401Ks, are accruing appropriately.
In addition one has to relate to one’s relations – and fulfil various duties – spouse, child, parent, and in-law and even grand-parent,etc – every member of society will have at least one if not all of these roles that require to be played and played actively in every spirit of those roles. Trying to cultivate an aura of detachment or disinterest as even one is fully enmeshed in this societal role-playing can be disastrous and is certainly not advisable/if it were even possible, and can only lead to conflict situations. If you are an employee you cannot let atmavichara allow your productivity to be hampered nor as a spouse can you excuse yourself from the innumerable obligations that go along with that role.

At every stage of life, there are countless sources of worries and tensions – personal progress at work, illnesses in one’s immediate and even extended family, death of near and dear ones, taxes, education and marriage of one’s children – the list goes on and on. How can such a life be made compatible with the ideals of constant and unrelenting atmavichara? It is simply impossible for it to be so. Any attempt at it can only be at the cost of seriously failing in one’s roles as a active member of society and can assume significant ethical and moral repercussions and dilemmas.

So the solution according to Shankara is the ageless prescription found in the Shruti itself - etaM vai tam AtmAnaM viditvA brAhmaNAH putraishhaNAyAshcha vittaishhaNAyAshcha lokaishhaNAyAshcha vyutthAyAtha bhikshAcharyaM charantIti."Having realized this very Self, BrAhmaNas give up desires for offspring, wealth and heaven, and take to mendicancy."Here it is important to note that Brahmanas here refers to people with Self-knowledge – according to Shankara who states this in categorical terms. It is not referring to people with pandityam or Vedic scholarship, but specifically to “knowers of Self”As a matter of fact Shankara in the BUB (2.4) holds that renunciation is prescribed AS PART OF the instruction about Brahman asya brahmavidyayaa angatvene sannyaso vidhisitah.
He also is clear-cut that this renunciation which is characterized by abandonment of all actions IS SUBSIDIARY TO the knowing of Brahman - Parivrajyam sarvasadhana-sannyasa-lakshanam angatvena vidhitsyate.

In the same vein as well, in his Br Up vartika, Sureshwaracharya expresses this quite explicitly.An ascetic (yatih) who has not given up desire may not attain liberation EVEN IF HE IS A KNOWER OF BRAHMAN (brahmaveditve) Therefore the COMBINATION of knowledge of Brahman WITH RENUNCIATION (sannyasena samucchayah) is mentioned here as a means to liberation (mukti).…I do not think we can find a more clear-cut assertion than this! and further Sureshwaracharya clarifies...and uses a beautiful expression here for nidhidhyasanam..
Therefore having COMPLETELY abandoned actions which proceed only from infatuation the one of clear intellect overcomes ignorance by knowing of Oneness; he of himself meditates on his own Self as the Atman which itself is knowledge (jnanamevaatmanaatmanamupaseeno) and becomes immortal (amrto bhavet)And he quotes a Shruti here – Bhallavi Shruti – sarvah sannyasatkarmeva jnanaatkaivalyamashnute – ONLY HE who has taken to sannyasa attains liberation through knowledge.

The institution of sannyasa, as a ashrama, thus becomes both sacrosanct and indispensable for a Self-Knower. This is because one is ethically, and within the realm of dharma, dissociating oneself from society. The innumerable spheres of responsibilities and the entire gamut of societal obligations are formally and permanently severed in toto. And this is where a ritualistic or formalized procedure is generally prescribed and described to reinforce what is ultimately a inner or mental renunciation.

And it cannot be underscored enough what a blessing it is to have such a formalized process in Sanatana dharma since beginning less time. It is interesting in this context to see what Elgin Skorpen’s views are: “So from either perspective, strict Kantian or compatible life-ideals, the result is the same. What the modern candidate for religious renunciation in the West is considering is, in fact, a "teleological suspension of the ethical," and that is something that ex hypothei he will not and cannot do lightly, and he may well experience fear and trembling if he does” and contrasts it with “the Hindu thoroughly internalizes morality as a representative of a class, so that moral conflicts are resolved not by modern reason but by appeal to authority -- in this case the authority of scripture” And he draws the following conclusions -

1.Western religious renunciation cannot be justified from the moral point of view;

2.the Hindu pattern, in contrast, is acceptable from the moral point of view given the premise that renunciation is a necessary means to self-realization, and

3. though Hindu religion and anthropology are "ill-suited to Western social practice," nevertheless, the Hindu pattern of renunciation "proposes a course of human growth leading up to renunciation that might better serve the renunciate ... than does the Western pattern."

One consumes one’s body mentally to the funeral pyre, and with this comes the strong conviction that all societal ties are severed in toto with no exceptions. This alone liberates the individual to now focus all his efforts and time exclusively towards atma vichara in an all-encompassing manner. Then alone can there be a gradual dissolution of the perfunctory mental modes of indisciplinary content, and a resulting enhancement of singleminded and one-pointed devotion to the Self.

This is what Shankara means when says “For the other has not got his conviction about differences removed. ..because of his seeing hearing thinking and knowing differences he believes "I shall get this by doing this". In the case of such a man who is engaged thus there CANNOT be any establishment in Brahman for he is possessed of the ideas arising from his attachment to false transformations”

Elsewhere Shankara again says this: Indeed, it is not possible that one who wants to go to the eastern sea and the other who wants to go in the opposite direction to the western sea can have the same course! And that (jnana-nishtA) is opposed to coexistence with duties, like going to the western sea. It has been the conclusion of those versed in the valid means of knowledge that the difference between them is as wide as that between a mountain and a mustard seed! Therefore it is established that one should have recourse to steadfastness in Knowledge ONLY BY relinquishing ALL rites and duties.It is the effacement of these ideas of non-self alone that constitute vasanakshaya.

And in this sense alone is vidwat SANNYASA the PROXIMATE cause of jivanMUKTI – in the words of Swami Vidyaranya – vidvat sannyasasya jivanmukti hetutvat.Even a trace of vasanas has the effect of quickly dragging the seeker downhill – akin to a ball - prachyutakelikandukah – a sport ball that has fallen from the hand – and which very rapidly falls down the stairs, to use a poignant analogy from the VC.

The Shurti beginning with shanto dantah prescribes concentrated contemplation for the sannyasin who has performed Vedanta shravana is order to be established in the sarvatmabhava (sarvatmasiddhaye) or kaivalya. Yatih – the sannyasin – to him alone can arise the state of being established in Brahman asat anusandhim vihaya giving up thinking about asat remaining steadfast in the contemplation of aham brahmasmi brahmani nishta svanubhutya by the realization of one’s real nature as self-effulgent and everblissful.

In the same vein, Shankara makes his position clear in the BSB as well :“And then it has to be considered as to whether that steadfastness is meant for anyonebelonging to any one of the four stages of life or to the MONK ALONE?.....the conclusion will be that the MONK ALONE can be STEADFAST in BRAHMAN..

Opponent:How can the term steadfast in Brahman, used in its derivative sense, and possible application to people in ALL the stages of life be confined to the monk alone?

{Here the opponent takes the position that how can you restrict what is a generic term of being established in Brahman to one particular class of humans i.e. the renunciates – why cannot people in all walks of life, including those that are active as members of society, attain to steadfastness in Brahman?}

Vedantin's Reply : The term steadfastness in Brahman implies a conusmmation in Brahman a total absorption in Brahman which is the same as the absence of ANY OTHER PREOCCUPATION except THAT - and that is NOT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE IN THE OTHER THREE STAGES.”

So we see that the exclusivity of jnana-nishta for ONLY sannyasis has nothing to do with the external characteristics which are only trivial incidentalities but to the extremely crucial aspect of a consummation that requires a unwavering and absolute commitment that is simply impossible unless one has severed links with society – especially in a formal(ized) manner.

This severance – this ritualized self-immolation imagery is as profoundly stark as it is irreversible. It is not a matter to be trifled with neither dismissed as being trivial. Once a man commits to sannyasa he is as good as dead to the world. If 2 days after this his child gets diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition he cannot be at her bedside nor, if some other calamity befalls his family of birth, can he change his mind a month later. He is bereft of any possessions, completely vulnerable and exposed to the elements – be they pesty mosquitoes or more deadly snakes and scorpions, inclemental weather, bodily illness or the lack of food. In his autobiography Swami Tapovan describes many of these incidents in vivid terms – same has been written of Bhagwan Ramana as well. His only strength is that of his conviction of his Oneness with the Supreme – that conviction alone is his only strength as Shankara says in his Brh Up bhashya.

Expressed in a stark manner – sannyasa is nothing short of a ritualized suicide from the kind of lifestyle we consider “normal” – and what is so supremely ironic? The fact that this life of joys and sorrows which we all hold on to so tencaciously is what Shanara in the Up Sahasri says is atmahatya the real Suicide. Let us pause for a moment to reflect on that – this thing we call “LIFE” with all its variety, and vivacity, for which we endeavor so assiduously to cling to, with much fanfare and passion and zest – is in Shankar’s words a suicide….the suicide we know is a “suicidal dying”; the suicide that Shankara laments about is our collective “suicidal living”!

In the Mandukya 2.35 we find this very vividly presented - This Self ayam that is beyond all imagination nirvikalpah and free from upasama the diversity of this phenomenal world prapancha and nondual advayah has been seen drshtah by the contemplative people munibhih the enlightened souls versed in the Vedas vedaparagaih and unafflicted by desire fear and anger. Shankara clarifies that the idea is that the Supreme Self is realizable ONLY BY THE MEN OF RENUNCIATION who are free from blemishes, who are learned, and who are devoted to the Upanishads... and not to those whose hearts are tainted by attachment. Further in the next verse it is said that the Knower “should behave as if dull-witted” ... What does this mean – behave in the world as if dull-witted is clarified in clearcut terms next verse

Mandukya 2.37

The mendicant should have no appreciation for greetings and he should be free from rituals He should have the body and soul as his support and he should be dependent on circumstances.

Shankara clarifies further -

"that is to say having given up all desire for external objects and having embraced the highest kind of FORMAL RENUNCIATION, in accordance with the Vedic text "Knowing this very self the Brahmanas renounce and lead a mendicants life (Br 3.5.1)and the Smrti With their Self identified in that..Gita 5.17) – An interesting term is used here in the karika chalachalaniketa - Shankara says chala is the changing body and the achala is the unchanging Self - whenver perchance impelled by hunger, etc such a one thinks of oneself as "I" by forgetting the reality of the Self, which is one's niketa support and which is by nature unchanging like the sky then the cala the body becomes his niketa i.e. place of abode. The man of illumination who thus has the changing and the unchanging as his support but not the man who as external obkects as his support. Also yadrrchikah bhavet he should merely depend on strips of cloth coverings and food that come to him by chance for the maintenance of the body

Only then the next karika clarifies does one not only become identified tattvibhutah with the Real, and have one's delight tadaramah in the Real and such a one does not waver aprachyutah fromthe Real.

The type of austerity or tapas that a sannyasi undergoes can never be even remotely matched by a grhastha or a householder. In the Mundaka bhashya Shankara says that “the Self is known by tapas, by making the mind and senses one-pointed. it is known from the smRti-s that "the greatest tapas is making the mind and the senses one-pointed" - that form of tapas characterized by single-pointedness is alone, by its very nature, conducive to atma darshana.. in fact such tapas IS verily Brahman. It is only when knowledge is accompanied by both tyaga renunciation and tapas austerity, that it can lead to the dissolution of the mala the dirt that clouds the antahkaranam and prevents the liberating knowledge from conferring the highest fruit of jivanmukti and Supreme Peace.

“The Atman is attained through truth, austerity, correct knowledge and Brahmacharya (self-control), observed CONTINUOSLY WITHOUT A BREAK.”(Mundaka Up)

Suppose one takes the stance that jnana and karmayoga also can lead to the same? Shankara completely refutes this position. "..."Since the avidya of the SELFKNOWER has been abolished he CANNOT undertake karmayoga that is rooted in error....therefore it is rational to maintain that Karmayoga is out of question for the self-knower...the self-knower having discharged all; duties has no further purpose to fulfil..renunciation and karmayoga equally promote liberation refers to the non-self-knower....which is distinct from the TOTAL RENUNCIATION of a self-knower

“Since it is IMPOSSIBLE that renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga can be undertaken by a knower of the Self, therefore, to say that both of them lead to Liberation, and to call his Karma-yoga as superior to renunciation of action-both these positions are absurd…"

"...But in the case of the knower of the Self, since it is impossible to pursue both renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga, therefore, to say that they lead to Liberation and that Karma-yoga is superior to renunciation of actions is illogical..."

Here we can see in categorical terms Shankara dismissing the very idea of nishkamya karma or karmayoga for a Self-knower who is "akarta asanga nityamukta"

With regard to this the Opponent asks a very pertinent question : "Is it that renunciation of actions and Karma-yoga are both impossible for a knower of the Self, or that one of the two is impossible? If one of the two be impossible, then is it renunciation of actions or Karma-yoga? And the reason for this impossibility should also be stated."

Shankara summarizes all the various portions of the Gita in his answer here-As to this, the answer is: In the case of the knower of the Self, since there has occured a cessation of false knowledge, Karma-yoga, which is based on erroneous knowledge, will become impossible. What is being established in various places here in the scripture (Gita), in the various portions dealing with the ascertainment of the real nature of the Self, IS THIS:

Having stated that for the knower of the Self, who has realized as his own the Self which is actionless owing to Its being free from all such transfromations as birth etc. and from whom false ignorance has been eradicated as a result of full enlightenment, there follows renunciation of all acitons characterized by abiding in the state of identity with the actionless Self, it is then stated that because of the contradiction between correct knowledge and false ignorance, and their results, Karma-yoga-which is opposed to renunciation of actions, which has false ignorance as its basis, which is preceded by the idea of agentship, and which is preceded by the idea of agentship, and which consists in being established in the active-self-is nonexistent for him. This being so, it will be logical to say that Karma-yoga, which has erroneous knowledge for its source, is impossible for the knower of the Self who has become freed from false knowledge.”

In other words – karmayoga involves dedicating “my” actions to the Lord and also relinquishing "my" attachment to the results of “my” actions – ishwara arpana buddhi and prasada buddhi. To a knower who has the knowledge “I am forever unattached, I am akarta satchitananda svarupa Atma” karmayoga is incompatible with this thought process. How can such a self-knower do karmayoga?? The very idea is so absurd, that Shankara rightfully dismisses it in toto.

Until the dawn of self-knowledge karmayoga is an indispensible tool to attain chittashuddhi - to enable one to gain self-knowledge – but after doubtless self-knowledge has been acquired and assimilated by repeated shravanam and mananam – a thought of being a “karmayogi” betrays a lack of assimilation of knowledge, and is certainly unhelpful and actually contrary to absorption in this knowledge.

Even in the case of someone, who with exceptional discipline, restricts himself to performing ONLY nitya karmas and does not indulge in ANY kaamya karmas (a purely theoretical possibility only) – even then those karmas will beget results. And so samsara will continue – Shankara makes this very clear in the 18th chapter of the Gita

– Objection: Well, is it not that they say the daily obligatory (nitya) and the occasional (naimittika) rites and duties have no results at all?

Reply: This defect does not arise. It is the intention of the Lord that the nitya-karmas (daily obligatory duties) also have results; …it is only in the case of sannyasins (monks) alone that there is no connection with the results of actions.

Elsewhere too in the Upadesha Sahasri Shankara repeats the same idea : Up Sah Four things only are the results of actions – production, acquisition, transformation, and purification. All actions with their accessories SHOULD therefore BE GIVEN UP – and this includes ones nitya and naimittika karmas as well.

The two contradictiory ideas I am Brahman and I am an agent cannot coexist – nahi brahmasmi karteti viruddhe bhavato dhiryo.

In his short treatise the vakya vrtti as well – Shankara repeats - The renunciation of ALL actions in order to discriminate the meaning of the word thou becomes the means to Self-knowledge according to the teaching controlling the internal and external senses (Br Up 4.4.23)

This is why at numerous instances in the Gitabhashya whenever Krishna talks about a parabhakta or a jnani or a gunateeta or a sthitaprajna or a Supreme yogi, Shankara quietly but explicitly introduces the term “sannyasi” to make it clear that such a person has to be one who has renounced ALL actions – not simply a mental renunciation of the doership notion, which can never ever be absolute, but a total physical renunciation in toto.

Ch 2 …that man who has become thus, the sannyasin, the man of steady wisdom, the knower of Brahman; adhi-gacchati, attains; santim, peace, called Nirvana, i.e. he becomes one with Brahman; yah, who; vihaya, after rejecting; sarvan, all; kaman, desires, WITHOUT A TRACE, fully; carati, moves about, i.e. wanders about, making efforts only for maintaining the body; nihsprhah, free from hankering, becoming free from any longing EVEN FOR the maintenance of the body;

Ch 3Two kinds of Convictions, viz the Conviction concerning Reality, and the Conviction concerning Yoga, associated with detachment from and engagement in action (respectively), which are dealt with in this Scripure (Gita), have been indicated by the Lord. As to that, beginning with 'When one fully renounces all the desires' (2.55) and ending with the close of the Chapter, the Lord, having stated that sannyasa, monasticism, HAS TO BE resorted to by those who are devoted to the Conviction about the Reality (Sankhya-buddhi), has also added in the verse, 'this is the state of being established in Brahman' (2.72), that their fulfilment comes from devotion to that alone.…with regard to the seekers of Liberation, renunciation of ALL actions has been prescribed as an ACCESSORY of Knowledge by all the Upanisads, Itihasas, Puranas and Yoga-scripures.

3.3 O unblemished one, two kinds of steadfastness in this world were spoken of by Me in the days of yore-through the Yoga of Knowledge for the men of realization; through the Yoga of Action for the yogis.Now then, which is that steadfastness of two kinds? In answer the Lord says: The steadfastness jnanayogena, through the Yoga of Knowledge-Knowledge itself being the Yoga; had been stated sankhyanam, for the men of realization-those possessed of the Knowledge arising from the discrimination with regard to the Self and the not-Self, those who have espoused monasticism from the stage of Celibacy; itself, those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained (see Mu. 3.2.6)-,the monks who are known as the parama-hamsas, those who are established in Brahman alone. Ch 66.10 From the uise of the qualifying words, 'in a solitary place' and 'alone', it follows that (he HAS TO undertake all these) after espousing monasticism. And even after renunciation, he should concentrate his mind by desisting from all acquisition. This is the meaning.

Ch 8

8.15 Upetya mam, as a result of reaching Me who am God-as a result of realizing My nature; mahatmanah, the exalted ones, THE MONKS; gatah, who have attained; the paramam, highest; samsiddhim, perfection, called Liberation; na, do not; apnuvanti, get; this kind of punarjanama, rebirth.

Ch 12

The group of qualities of the MONKS who meditate on the Immutable, who have renounced all desires, who are steadfast in the knowledge of the supreme Goal-which (qualities) are under discussion beginning from 'He who is not hateful towards any creature' (13)…

Ch 15

The disciplines leading to the state of transcendence of the qualities, 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. But when they become FIRMLY INGRAINED, they become the indications, perceivable to himself, of a monk who has transcended the qualities.

BG:Ch 18

But the enlightened ones who have realized the supreme Truth are competent only for steadfastness in Knowledge, which is characterized by renunciation of all actions

In his sadhana panchakam – a very short treatise containing the very essence of sadhana for jivanmukti, Shankara stresses initially adherence to svadharma and karmayoga (vedo nityamadeeyatam etc) for chittashuddhi and subsequently vividisha sannyasa (nijagruhathurna vinirgamyatham) in a very explicit and clearcut sequence

- Daily (pratidinam) take the medicine of food gotten as alms (bhikshaushadham bhujyataam). In solitude (ekante) live joyously (sukhamaasyataam) and quieten your mind in the Supreme Lord (paratare cheetah samadhiyatam) and only thereby brahmasmi iti vibhavyatam Be ever established in the conviction I am Brahman.

To summarize the ideal path for jnanamarga according to Shankara is

Performance of nitya karmas --> Karmayoga --> Chittashuddhi --> Strong Viveka/Vairagya/ Mumukshutvam --> Vividhisha Sannyasa --> Shravana,Manana and Nidhidhyasana (available only from a shrotriya brahmanishta and with great difficulty) --> Aparoksha JNana --> (in some cases vidwat sannyasa) --> JivanMukti

This is explicitly described as much by Sureshwaracharya

- nityanaimittika karmanushtana --> chittashuddhi --> samsara yathatmyavabodha (knowledge of true nature of samsara) --> vairagya --> mumuksha --> tad upaya paryeshana (longing for the means to the end of samsara) --> vividisha sannyasa (renunciation of all desires – putra/vitta/loka) --> shravana manana nidhidhyasana --> tat tvam asi adi vaakyartha parijnana --> avidyoccheda/brahmajnanaavagati --> Moksha

As this is clearly not the path that is followed in today’s day and age (with rare exceptions) we have a significant detour in this pathWeak or Feeble Viveka/Vairagya/ Mumukshutvam/ +/- intellectual curiosity --> Vedanta shravana,manana, nidhidhyasana (freely available) --> Aparoskha Jnana --> internal sannyasa with continued nidhidhyasana with vasanakshaya+manonasha --> continuing into vidwat sannyasa --> jivanMukti

May the Grace of the Acharya and our Guru bless us all with advaita jnana, jnana-nishtA and jivanmukti.

(Dedicated at the Lotus feet of my Guru Pujya Swami Paramarthananda)


sudha said...

The Guru's grace is truly seen in your interpretations and explanations. At this stage you are in, can you say that you are a Jnana-Nishta ?
Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

pl correct the spelling on top of page - should be jivanmukti not jivanmuti