What is a jivanmukta’s experience? (Part 3)

In BGB 18.48, Sankara concludes that in jivanmukti, when avidya is no more, logically there can be no action.

“The One Existence, the sole Reality, is by avidya, imagined variously, as so many things undergoing production, destruction and the like changes, like an actor on the stage . . . [Action] is ascribed to the Self through avidya, and it has therefore been said that no ignorant man (avidvan) can renounce action entirely even for a moment (iii. 5). On the other hand, he who knows the Self is able to renounce action entirely, inasmuch as avidya has been expelled by vidya or wisdom ; for, there can be no residue left of what is ascribed by avidya. Indeed, no residue is left of the second moon created by the false vision of the timira-affected eye, even after the removal of timira” – A.M.Sastry

“it is only the one entity called Existence that is imagined variously through ignorance to be possessed of the states of origination, destruction, etc. like an actor (on a stage) . . . An unenlightened person is incapable of totally renouncing actions even for a moment (cf. 3.5). The enlightened person, on the other hand, can indeed totally renounce actions when ignorance has been dispelled through Illumination; for it is illogical that there can (then) remain any trace of what has been superimposed through ignorance. Indeed, no trace remains of the two moons, etc. superimposed by the vision affected by (the disease called) timira when the disease is cured” – Gambhirananda

“Reality is one only, which like an actor, plays numberless roles, assuming attributes like appearance and disappearance due to nescience . . . Through nescience it [action] is superimposed on the Self. The ignorant man cannot wholly give it up. But the wise man, once nescience is dispelled through knowledge can indeed do so; for there is no residue for an ignorantly precipitated superimposition. The double moon, seen with the diseased eye, is not seen once the disease is cured” – A.G.Krishna Warrier

What is a jivanmukta’s experience? (Part 2)

BGB 13.2 provides more detail to BGB 2.69 – in which Sankara establishes that all objects of perception (ie world – body – mind) perceived by the organs of perception, are products of avidya and do not belong to the cogniser. He therefore logically concludes what this means for jivamukti (there can be no jivanmukta per se), where avidya / ignorance has been removed.

When timira is removed by the treatment of the eye, the percipient is no longer subject to such perception, which is therefore not a property of the percipient. Similarly, non-perception, false perception, and doubt, as well as their cause, properly pertain to the instrument, to one or another sense organ, but not to the Kshetrajna, the cogniser. Moreover, they are all objects of cognition and cannot therefore form the properties of the cogniser, any more than the light of a lamp. And because they are cognisable, it follows also that they can be cognised only through some organ which is distinct from the cogniser; and no philosopher admits that, in the state of liberation wherein all the sense organs are absent – there is any such evil as avidya. If they (false preceptiont etc.) were essential properties of the Self, the Kshetrajna, as the heat is an essential property of fire, there could be no getting rid of them at any time” – A.M.Sastry

Just as blindness of the eyes does not pertain to the perceiver since on being cured through treatment it is not seen in the perceiver, similarly notions like non-perception, false perception, doubt, and their causes should, in all cases, pertain to some organ; not to the perceiver, the Knower of the field. And since they are objects of perception, they are not qualities of the Knower in the same way that light is of a lamp. Just because they are objects of perception, they are cognized as different from one’s own Self. Besides, it is denied by all schools of thought that in Liberation, when all the organs depart, there is any association with such defects as ignorance etc. If they (the defects) be the qualities of the Self Itself, the Knower of the field, as heat is of fire, then there can never be a dissociation from them” – Gambhirananda

When the eye is cured by right treatment, the cogniser’s vision ceases to be defective. Similarly non-apprehension, etc are due to the defects of the instruments of perception, and not to the field-knower who perceives. Besides being objects of knowledge, these defects cannot pertain to the perceiver in the way that light pertains to the lamp. Being knowable, these defects have to be cognised by a principle other than themselves; for all disputants agree that in the state of mukti, where instruments of cognition no longer exist, the perceiver has no flaws like nescience. If any attributes pertained to the Self, who is also the field-knower, as for instance heat does to fire, it would never be free from it” – A.G.Krishna Warrier

What is a jivanmukta’s experience? (Part 1)

Dennis: “The body is inert. How can it do anything unless Consciousness is enabling it to do so?”

Rick: “Are fully realized and liberated jivanmukti conscious during deep sleep?”

BGB 2.69, which is considered to be the quintessence of the Bhagavad Gita, and arguably all of Advaita, sheds light on these questions. Three translations of Sankara:

“And all organs of knowledge (pramanas) are so called because they ultimately lead to a knowledge of the Self. When the knowledge of the true nature of the Self has been attained, neither organs of knowledge nor objects of knowledge present themselves to consciousness any longer.” – A.M Sastry

“Surely, after the realization of the true nature of the Self, there is no scope again for any means to, or end of, knowledge. The last valid means of (Self-) knowledge eradicates the possibility of the Self becoming a perceiver.” – Gambhirananda

“Once Self-realisation is won, it is no longer possible to discuss the distinctions between the means of knowledge and their objects. The last means of knowledge indeed liberates the Self from its status as a knower” – A.G.Krishna Warrier

What exactly is “Self-Knowledge”?

There is a lot of earnest discussion, here and elsewhere, on self-knowledge, self-realisation. But what exactly is it? What does knowing that ‘I am Brahman’ actually mean, when Brahman cannot be known?

For all the words that have been written by Sankara: on creation, on satyam / jnanam / anantman, on ‘tat twam asi’, on knowledge rather than action – what is the essence of it all?

Surely the essence is this, and this only. Self-Knowledge is the utter dis-identification with the not-Self, the most difficult of which is the body-mind.

And That (which remains, which cannot be defined) is the ananda, the peace, of a jivanmukta.

The sruti is the means of knowledge, in that it points this out. Sruti is said to be the only means of knowledge, because normal sense perceptions and reasoning would not inevitably lead to this very radical self-challenge: I am not what I fundamentally believe that I am.

The seeker hears it, mulls over it, develops the conviction that it is true that s/he is NOT the body-mind, and lives on the strength of it. And in so doing that habitual body/mind – identification is dissolved. Hence why desirelessness is both a path to and a fruit of knowledge – if there is no body/mind identification, then what desires can there be?

And sruti tells us that utter desirelessness is the cause of the highest joy.

What is jnana?

In his bhasya to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.21 (the Yajnavalkya – Janaka dialogue), Sankara goes to great lengths to explain what is knowledge, ‘merging with Brahman’ or ‘unity with all’, by comparing it to the deep sleep state. I will take a large part of the quote – it is well worth the read:

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Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3 & 4.4

Brhadaranyaka means ‘great forest’; it is one of the longest Upanishads covering a breadth of topics, and one on which Sankara wrote the most extensive of commentaries.  As a result it is easy to get lost in this forest, to pick out specific trees within it, without seeing its broad sweep and context.

In BU4.3 and 4.4, Janaka is helped by Yajnavalkya, step by step to attain liberation.  At each significant step, Janaka offers Yajnavalkya a boon of a thousand cows as gratitude and to progress the teaching further; until at the final stage, when he is liberated, he offers his entire kingdom and himself.

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Ignorance – the cause of the world

I think it is worth recaping the discussion to date. Dennis made two critical assertions:

(1) ”Ignorance is not the cause of the world; it is the reason that we fail to realize that the world is Brahman.”

As part of this discussion Dennis also disagreed that Sankara ‘approximated’ deep sleep to jnana.

(2) ”we superimpose ‘things’ upon the non-dual reality. That is adhyAsa. But that is not the ‘cause’ of the world.”

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Suresvara on action, knowledge and renunciation

Naiskarmya Siddhi

Suresvara, in his very first chapter of this independent work, establishes that Knowledge is the only direct means to liberation, but he also acknowledges the role of action to purify the mind.  He essentially says desireless action leads to turning within and renunciation of all actions, which facilitates the assimilation of knowledge, which destroys ignorance and yields moksha.

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Bhagavad Gita on ajata vada, jnana yoga and sarva karma sannyasa

The Upanishads say that the path of Jnana is like walking along a razor’s edge.  This is perhaps most true in acquiring a proper understanding of the Bhagavad Gita, which teaches both the path of Knowledge and the path of Action, and also has chapters referring to Bhakti Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, etc.   It can indeed be a razor’s edge to know which is being referred to at different points of this text.  Hence it is critical to be guided by Sankara’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and to assimilate it as a whole.  In this article, I restrict myself predominantly to quotes from BG and Sankara’s bhasya thereon, in order to maintain Sankara’s consistency in exegesis, and also as BG is said to be the epitome of the Upanishads.

Chapter two of BG is said to articulate all that needs to be known, and the rest of the book is just an elaboration thereof, because Arjuna did not quite understand Krishna’s teaching.  In this chapter, Krishna articulates directly ajata vada, in verses 19 to 21. Let’s consider verse 21 as it is exemplary of this, and Sankara’s bhasya is extensive, covering many salient points:

2.21: “O Partha, he who knows this One as indestructible, eternal, birthless and undecaying, how and whom does that person kill, or whom does he cause to be killed”

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