Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 5/5)

14 Bhedha-abhedha-vAda
Bhedha-abhedha-vAda is the doctrine of difference in identity, i.e., Brahman and jIva are both different and identical. Brahman is homogeneous, one total. It becomes plural by undergoing real differentiation to form the world and individual jIvas. More importantly, both the total and plural are Satya (Real).

Refutation
In verse 78, the AchArya refutes: “The doctrine that the Absolute is known through a conjunction of knowledge and action is difficult to maintain in the case of those whose Absolute is not devoid of differentiation” [Translation, AJ Alston]. He asks a bhedha-abhedha-vAdi: whether Brahman and jIva are identical or are different and then proceeds to establish the invalidity of the possible answers.

1 Suppose the answer is that they are identical. In that case, nescience could be the only reason for the jiva not realizing the truth of its identity with the Brahman. As knowledge alone removes the nescience, action is useless in this regard.

2 Suppose the answer is that they are different. If jIva is essentially different from Brahman, logically one cannot become another. No sAdhanA (practice), e.g., karma, or knowledge, or their conjunction can convert jIva into Brahman. It means that moksha is impossible. “Even supposing there were some causes that could make them identical, one could not attain the nature of the other without undergoing destruction” [AJ Alston]. It needs some explaining. That the jIva attains Brahmanhood and also retains the jIvabhAva is not possible because it is finite and Brahman is infinite. Even if, hypothetically, it does so, there will be no liberation since the jIva retains the jIvabhAva.The alternative that the jIva attains Brahmanhood and drops the jIva status does not serve the purpose because there will be no jIva. In Advaita, a jIva does not become Brahman. It is already Brahman and (re)claims Brahmanhood by dropping the notion:‘I am jIva’.

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Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 4/5)

10 Is moksha attained by means of every karma or by all the karmas put together?
A Vedantin asks pUrva paksha, “whether every Vedic karma will lead to liberation or all the karmas put together will give liberation?” If every karma can give liberation, all other karmas become redundant. Then, why should the Veda prescribe so many karmas? If moksha results through all the karmas put together then all karmas prescribed in the scriptures will have to be done to attain moksha. But no individual can do all the Vedic karmas for the reason that different Vedic karmas are prescribed for different varnAsramas. This would mean that moksha will not be possible for any person. A suggestion that the performance of all karmas prescribed for a particular varnAshrama will give moksha is unpractical. The categories of karmas performed by people of different varnAshramas will be different yet all will result in moksha. It would imply that moksha sAdhanAs can be different and if sAdhanAs are different, sAdhyAs also will be different. Results are different for different karmas is an accepted principle. On the other hand, there is only one moksha. A suggestion that if one or all karmas cannot give liberation, then specific karmas could do so has no scriptural support because results for various karmas are indicated in the Veda and moksha does not figure there. A desperate proposal that some karmas for which no fruits are prescribed could work is devoid of any merit.

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Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 3/5)

Samuchchay (continued from Part 2)
8.31 Knowledge is to be followed by action
Advocate (K3) of this view holds that Self- knowledge arises in two stages, namely, knowledge through sravan followed by the knowledge through meditation. The sravan stage knowledge falls short of realization that is converted by meditation into realization and liberation. K3 also argues that even if knowledge arises at the stage of sravan, the common experience is that it gets weakened gradually with the rise of adverse emotions and ignorance takes over. Therefore, it is argued that knowledge acquired by sravan is not sufficient to destroy ignorance for good. It needs further support by way of karmas, such as meditation.
8.32 Refutation
The Acharya does not agree. He says that proper sravan is sufficient to give liberation. No new knowledge is acquired by meditation. Mediation, etc, is needed for sAdhanA chatushtAya sampathi so that a seeker becomes an adhikAri for Vedanta teaching. Sravana is the primary sAdhanA for Self-knowledge and liberation. All other sAdhanAs are subsidiaries. The AchArya is firm that once ignorance is gone, in no way it will come back otherwise it will be in violation of the maxim, namely, ignorance is beginningless. Then the question is why does one entertain adverse notions of duality, suffering after gaining knowledge? The explanation is that ignorance is not responsible for the emergence of erroneous notions. The vAsanAs are responsible. JnAna destroys avidyA, not the avidyA vAsanas. The next question is whether any karmas are required to cure adverse vAsanAs. No, says the Acharya. NidhidhyAsana, i.e., Vedantic meditation (not yogic meditation) is sufficient to firm up jnAna vAsnAs so that whenever adverse vAsanAs arise, jnAna vAsanAs should get automatically triggered for a good seeker and neutralize the opposite emotions. He need not deliberately invoke jnAna vAsanA. It is to be noted that nidhidhyAana does not give any new knowledge. Knowledge is full and complete at the sravan stage.

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Karma, jnAna and moksha (Part 2)


5.1 A sentence is useful if it suggests positive action. A statement of fact alone does not give the result.
K2 claims that a sentence has to necessarily have a verb and a verb suggest action. If a sentence is without a verb, it is reduced to merely a jumble of words. As a verb is the most important part of any sentence, it is to be concluded that karma is the central teaching of any Veda-vakya. K2 argues that the sentences presenting Self-knowledge in the Veda do not constitute teaching. They are statements of facts without commanding any action and have no utility. For example, the statement, ‘water is available in the container’, is a statement of fact that serves no purpose. One has to follow up with the action of fetching and drinking the water. A mahAvakyaA does not have such a verb. Therefore, it does not convey the teaching of Veda.

5.2 Rebuttal

While accepting that verb is necessary, the AchArya explains that there are two types of verbs, namely, action revealing and fact revealing, and depending on the contexts appropriate verb is to be supplied. In mahAvAkyas, ‘I am Brahman’ and ‘Thou art that’, the verbs ‘am’ and ‘art’ enable the mahAvakyas to convey information about the AtmA without applying any of the six modes of changes that action can bring about. Verse 98 of chapter 1 of NS says
“Since the sentences like, ‘that thou art’, teach the existence of reality that is revealed as self-evident, not even gods can introduce new meaning into them other than the one they already possess.” [Translation A J Alston]
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Karma, JnAna and moksha- Part 1


Veda exhorts that moksha, i.e., liberation from the cycles of birth and death is the ultimate goal of a human being. A person escapes rebirth when his karmic (samskAr) account is nil at the time of death. Advaita Vedanta claims that with the rise of Self-knowledge (Brahman-knowledge, Self is Brahman) samskArs become nil when the body is dropped thereby putting a stop to re-birth. Roles of action and knowledge are at the core of any discussion on liberation. The main source of what follows now onwards is the class notes of lectures by SwAmi ParmArthAnanda on Naishkrama Siddhi (in short, NS) of SureswaryAchArya (in short, the Acharya) available on the website of Arsha Avinash Foundation. There are occasional references from the translation of NS by A J Alston [second edition 1971].
2 Three schools
In Updesa Sahasri (Chapter 1 of Part II) ShankarAchArya emphasizes that JnAn, independent of karma, leads to moksha. In the first chapter of NS, the AchArya undertakes a project to establish that knowledge alone is responsible for liberation. The Acharya with all humility acknowledges that the subject matters of NS have already been dealt with by his guru, ShankarAchArya and he cannot make any improvement. Verse 6 of chapter 1 of NS explains. “This Book is written, “neither to gain fame nor to earn wealth nor deferential treatment but in order to test (metal of) my own knowledge at the touch-stone of God-realized sages.” [ Reference translation by A J Alston]. As a reader goes along, he will see that the Acharya deals with the topic from various angles. No wonder, he devotes more than 90 verses of a total of 100 verses in chapter 1 of NS.

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“The world is Brahman”

Gaudapada makes it clear throughout his Mandukya-Karika that the ‘world is Brahman’ (he never uses this phrase as far as I recollect) only in the sense that the dream is the dreamer. It has no other reality – however nuanced by the word “relative”. For the jnani, both Gaudapada and Sankara write, this dream world is to be discarded, such that there is no further compulsion to action.

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Gaudapada on the logical incoherence of the cessation of a non-existent world

Swami Ghambirananda provides a clearer understanding of MK1.17:

MK17. It is beyond question that the phenomenal world would cease to be if it had any existence. All this duality that is nothing but Maya, is but non duality in reality.

Sankara extract: “If one is to be awakened by negating the phenomenal world, how can there be non-duality so long as the phenomenal world persists?

The answer is: Such indeed will be the case if the world had existence. But being superimposed like a snake on a rope, it does not exist. There is no doubt that if it had existed, it would cease to be. Not that the snake, fancied on the rope through an error of observation, exists there in reality and is then removed by correct observation.

Therefore the purport is that there is no such thing as the world which appears or disappears.”

An illusory snake superimposed on a rope cannot be said to cease to exist, when it never did have existence. The illusion of the snake is dispelled and the rope remains. And remembering that the jiva that ‘perceives’ the illusory snake is also part of the illusion and is dispelled.

A world of difference.

Gaudapada on the Non-disappearance of the world

प्रपञ्चो यदि विद्येत निवर्तेत न संशयः ।

मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतमद्वैतं परमार्थतः ॥… १।१७

prapañco yadi vidyeta nivarteta na saṃshayaḥ |

māyāmātramidaṃ dvaitamadvaitaṃ paramārthataḥ ||… 1.17

Gaudapada: If the perceived manifold were real then certainly it would disappear. This duality (that is cognized) is mere illusion (māyā). Non-duality is (alone) the Supreme Reality.

Shankara:  If the knowledge of non-duality (turīya) be possible after the disappearance of the perceived manifold, how could non-duality be said to exist (always) while the perceptual manifold remains? This is explained thus: This would have been true if the manifold really existed. This manifold being only a false imagination, like the snake in the rope, does not really exist. There is no doubt that it would (certainly) disappear if it really existed. The snake imagined in the rope, through false conception, does not really exist and therefore does not disappear through correct understanding. Nor, similarly, does the illusion of the vision conjured up by the magician exist and then disappear as though a veil thrown over the eyes of the spectators (by the magician) were removed. Similar is this duality of the cognized universe called the Phenomenal or manifold (māyāmātraṃ dvaitaṃ) a mere illusion. Non-duality turīya like the rope and the magician (in the illustrations) is alone the Supreme Reality. Therefore the fact is that there is no such thing as the manifold about which appearance or disappearance can be predicated.

Nikhilananda: The manifold does not exist in the sense of a separate Reality. If it had any such existence then alone could it obstruct the eternally non-dual nature of the turīya by the appearance (of the manifold). If anyone says that the manifold disappears, that is only because he believes in its reality. But this is not the Truth, because the appearance of the manifold is only an illusion and not a reality.

People say that duality disappears only because they believe in its reality. But really duality does not exist, therefore it does not disappear. If anyone believes in the reality of such illusory appearance then can one believe in the reality of the disappearance.

Extracts from:

The Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika and Shankara’s Commentary, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1932. No ISBN.

Q. 500 Thinking about chidābhāsa

Q: How can I be sure that the true nature of Brahman is happiness? Also, can Brahman’s nature be happiness if happiness has objective qualities, and Brahman doesn’t?

A: Brahman cannot be described. If it had a property, it would have to ‘not have’ the opposite property. And Brahman is non-dual – there is nothing other than Brahman. All ‘adjectives’ apparently used to describe Brahman are not in fact adjectives in the usual sense. They are ‘pointers’ to help you to understand Brahman intuitively.

Read my answer to Q. 446 – https://www.advaita-vision.org/q-446-satyam-jnanam-anantam-brahma/

Read the 3-part post on the subject beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/satyam-gyanam-anantam-brahma/

Q: Oftentimes in my inquiry, phrases will pop up that say, ‘I am not thought,’ ‘I am not that which I am aware of,’ ‘I am the awareful witness,’; however, aren’t these phrases simply just contained, and being said by thoughts themself, thus invalidating their truthfulness? – thought is not awareness, thought is thought.

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Q.499 Svadharma

Q: On your website ‘Advaita vision’” in the article ‘Consciousness, Ego and Self-knowledge’ is the axiom mentioned that the subject (observer) is different from the object (observed):  the Seer-Seen discrimination (dŗg dŗśya viveka). Are there other such fundamental axioms within Advaita Vedanta and if so, can you give an overview of the main ones?

A: I would say there are not really ‘axioms’ in Advaita. What there are is ‘prakriyā-s’. These are teaching ‘techniques’ to help you to an understanding. The end-point of the teaching – that there is only Brahman, the world is mithyā and you are Brahman – is not provable. It is ‘realized’ to be true when you have listened to the teaching and cleared any doubts. Hence ‘Self-realization’. Seer-seen discrimination is a practical exercise to bring you to the understanding that anything that you are aware of cannot be ‘you’; that you are the ‘ultimate subject’. Read any good book on the essentials of Advaita and other prakriyā-s will be given.

Q: Thank you for your almost instant reply and clear explanation. 

First I would like to complement you with your website, which carries a valuable treasure of information. I am exploring every part. Secondly I would like to ask your reflections on a question I have.

Background
In our daily western life I see many people unhappily following the path they are on, not having the strength to make a change. In my view this is mainly the result from the way they are (more fundamentally) conditioned: materialistic, externally and scientifically oriented, as well as having a strict dualistic paradigm. At the same time I see how difficult it is for most of the Westerners to switch to a (more spiritual oriented) approach of introspection, in finding a more profound meaning in life and happiness. As I am convinced the ‘internal way’ is ‘the only way out’ in finding real happiness, I have adopted a personal mission: the endorsing of the spiritual regeneration of people around me. The challenge I faced was finding an approach to make this successful, instead of annoying people with my convictions. 

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