Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 3.5.1 – Attaining Self-Knowledge: Panditya and Mouna

In “The Essential Adi Sankara”, D.B.Gangolli tranliterates a work by Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji.  In note 207, he provides a superb commentary on Brhad Up 3.5.1, which I have set out below.  He starts of saying that sravana can be sufficient for a qualified seeker.  But then goes on to detail what should be done if sravana does not yield jnana nishtha.  By imputation then, these practices are already inherent in the qualified seeker, who merely needs sravana but once.

In Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (3-5-1) it is stated that – “Even after acquiring Paanditya (scholarly erudition), which is of the form or nature of cognizing the essence of the Self (Aatma Jnaana Roopa), without anything left out of reckoning (Nissesha), the seeker should pursue spiritual practices like ‘Baalya’ and ‘Mouna’“.

Besides in the Geeta (18-54,55) it is taught that – “One who is established in Brahman should attain Parabhakti (Supreme devotion), know or cognize Paramaatman after clearly identifying Him and then should enter into Him.

If one examines all such statements, it will have to be acknowledged that – “Even after one attains Aatma Jnaana there remains something to be done or practised.”

Only in the case of those aspirants who do not attain Aatma Vijnaana (Intuition of the Self merely by Shravana, the repetition (or continuation) of spiritual practices (Saadhanas) like Manana, Nididhyaasana etc. will have to be preached.

As regards the statement in the Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad, the word ‘Paanditya‘ means – “After completing without any remainder Aatma Viljnaana from both the spiritual preceptor (Guru) and the Aagama (the traditional methodology of teaching that is implicit in the Upanishadic texts), eventually one should practise Sarva Karma Sannyaasa (renunciation of all karmas entirely)”

The word ‘Baalya‘ means – “Having acquired or being fully equipped with Jnaana Bala (the spiritual strength gained from Jnaana), the true aspirant should be rejecting disdainfully ‘Anaatma Pratyaya’ (any perceptual or conceptual knowledge of the not-seIf).  Or in the alternative, like a Baala (an innocent child who does not usually exhibit pride. egoism, conceit etc.), the ardent seeker should practise Amaanitwa (absence of egoism). Adambhitwa (humility, modesty, without exhibiting his Jnaana), Adhyayana (learning or study of the scriptural texts), Dhaarmikatwa (his being endowed with spiritual virtues or excellences) etc

The word ‘Mouna‘ means – “Getting fully established or rooted in Intuition (Anubhava) of the Self which is the natural fruit of Anaatma Pratyaya Tiraskarana (total rejection with disdain the perceptual or conceptual knowledge of the not-self).

In truth, the purport of the Shruti statement is – “Only if the seeker attains this Mouna, he can be said to have become a Brahma Nishtha (the one established or rooted in Intuitive experience of the Self, a genuine, consummate Jnaani par excellence).

For the Geeta sentence too we must have a similar Interpretation. ParaBhakti, Jnaana Nishtha – both these philosophical terms are nothing but intuitive conviction (Anubhava), which is the natural product or fruit accruing as a result of human excellences or virtues like Amaanitwa, Adambhitwa etc. which are in tum the Sahakaari Kaaranas (complementary causes), which are spiritual practices or disciplines attained through Sarva Karma Sannyaasa (total rejection with disdain of all physical and mental actions) needed invariably for the ripening or consummation of Jnaana Utpatti (attainment of Self-Knowledge).

The true seeker clearly and correctly intuits Paramaatman (Brahman), by means of Bhakti (devotion) alone which is verily of the essential nature of that Jnaana Nishtha. In order to significantly teach this Viveka (Intuitive deliberation, discrimination), the traditional teachers call this Intuitive Knowledge, born out of the study of the scriptural texts and which is of the form or nature of Paanditya (scholarly erudition), initially ‘Jnaana’, but in the ultimate analysis after the culmination or consummation in Jnaana Nishtha comes to fruition here and now they call that ‘Anubhava‘ (Intuitive experience) by the name of ‘Vijnaana‘ (Supreme Knowledge).

After the seeker attains Paanditya and Baalya. although the third discipline of Mouna by itself – and quite naturally – accrues, as a result of Praarabdha (the Karma which has ripened already and has yielded its fruits) Bheda Darshana (appearance of variegated or distinctive objects or phenomena) may become quite strong or imperative, the scriptures in these contexts stipulate, rather alert, the seeker that he should immerse himself and stabilise his mind in Aatmaanubhava (Intuitive non-dual experience of the Self) alone.

As all these spiritual practices or disciplines are meant exclusively for the Sannyaasin (a recluse, ascetic), who is necessarily a Vividishaa Sannyaasin (one who aspires to attain the Intuitive experience of the ‘Tattwa’ or the Ultimate Reality of Brahman) alone it need not be gainsaid that such a Vividishaa Sannyaasin has no duty or responsibility of performing any other mundane Karma whatsoever (pertaining to the Avidya Kshetra or region of ignorance or delusion). Especially when the seeker (Saadhaka) attains Self-Knowledge or Intuition (Jnaana) these Saadhanas too become, or are rendered invariably, ‘Mithyaa’ (false, unreal).

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  1. From Suresvara’s Vartika:

    173: The word panda ‘erudition’ is the word used of knowledge obtained through the intellect and they call him a pandita an ‘erudite’ person in whom has arisen that panda from various means of knowing. It Is that person who is enjoined here in the sruti.

    175-6: Having secured the final condition of erudition in respect of the knowledge of the Atman, from scripture and/or the preceptor, a mendicant should rest himself on that strength; the removal of the knowledge of all the non-Atmans is signified by the word balya; having obtained that strength, a person of purified intellect should have attained the nature of a wise person and then become the Brahman, ie Brahmana.

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