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.
Therefore the knowledge of this Self by the process of ‘Not this, not this’ and the renunciation of everything are the only means of attaining immortality . . . The discussion of the knowledge of Brahman, culminating in renunciation, is finished. This much is the instruction, this is the teaching of the Vedas, this is the ultimate goal, this is the end of what a man should do to achieve his highest good.
– Sankara’s Bhasya on Brhadaranyaka Up 4.5.15
I can think of no better contemporary commentary on the essence of Sankara’s meaning than the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Renunciation / samnyAsa – enjoined on the aspirant and inevitable for the jnani
The inevitable conclusion of the foregoing considerations, is that renunciation is a prerequisite for jnana. In a sense, it is preparatory modelling of how a jnani-jivanmukta is: for how one thinks, affects how one acts; and how one acts, affects how one thinks.
With regard to the seekers of Liberation, renunciation of all actions has been prescribed as an accessory of Knowledge by all the Upanishads, History, Puranas and Yoga scriptures.
– Bhagavad Gita Bhasya, 3 introduction
The purport is that It is not gained through knowledge unassociated with monasticism (samnyAsa).
– Mundaka Up Bhasya, 3.2.4
The purpose of this article is to explore the evidence – and rationale – for renunciation in Advaita, as exemplified in Sankara’s own words. I have focused on sharing a plethora of extracts, that make the argument for themselves. The quotes are primarily drawn from Swami Gambhirananda’s translations of Sankara’s commentaries on various scriptures – unless otherwise stated. With thanks to Ramesam for reading and correcting an earlier draft; and to Dennis for prompting me to research this topic and synthesise my findings.
Greetings all ’round! 🙂
Per Advaita, does one (jiva) have free will? (This obviously applies only to vyavaharika, in paramarthika there is no jiva, freedom, will, etc.)
If yes, who or what exercises this free will? And what is the proper way to do so?
If no, should one simply surrender to what-is, sit back, relax, and watch what’s happening as if it were all a movie?
Hi everyone. 🙂
From the (as if) paramartha level, the level where one thinks and talks about ultimate Reality, can one (correctly) say anything positive about brahman? E.g. Brahman is … <whatever>. Or is it only correct to negate that which is not brahman (neti neti)?
Thanks to you guys for helping me see that I am going around in circles with my attempt to fathom Brahman. I often enjoy circling, the repetition is soothing. But it slows down the forward momentum of my path.
So for now I’ll put my Brahman obsession on the back burner. If Brahman comes up in my studies, I’ll think of it in the way that has given me least trouble over the years:
Brahman is what-really-is.
Dennis suggested my next stop be Swami P’s commentary on the Vivekachudamani. Onward ho!
Part 3 of 3
Renunciation and its benefits
The knowledge that the Self is akartA is Karma SanyAs. Renunciation of work refers to giving up the sense of doer-ship. There is a simple and effective method to get over the notion of doer-ship. Krishna advises Arjuna to dedicate all works to the Him while abiding in the Self. It enables one to get rid of the sense of doer-ship and to remain detached, i.e., no expectations and no desires. Selfish action creates mental disturbances called vritties which again propels rAjasik action. Action dedicated to the Lord is ego-free. Ego-free action arrests creation of vritties. Continue reading
Part 2 of 3
Benefits of Detached Action
Krishna instructs Arjuna to perform action, i.e., engage in war and fulfill the obligatory duty. By performing work without attachment, one realizes the Supreme. He gives His example. There is nothing in the world for Him to achieve, yet He engages Himself in action. For, otherwise all other people would follow Him and the creation will be destroyed.
A person who is content with whatever comes by itself (without desiring for it), who is free from delusion and jealousy, who is equipoise in both success and failure, is not bound by action even by performing actions. The mind is focused on the work. It is a working mind as distinct from thinking and wavering mind. As a result the work becomes skilled. Attachment to the fruit of action creates impressions on the mind called samskArs which is the cause of cycle of birth and death. Attachment smacks of selfishness and egoism. Conversely, detachment creates no samskArs and one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death. Detached, karma yogis perform works for purifying the mind, e.g., sacrifice, charity and penance. Continue reading