On the insistent questioning of the highly determined Naciketas, Lord Yama had no alternative but to reveal the secret code to ending the transient mortal world and realizing the “immortality” that one actually and already is. It is not some thing new that one acquires. It is prAptasya prAptiH (प्राप्तस्य प्राप्ति:). Or, as kaTha says at 2.5.1, विमुक्तश्च विमुच्यते (i.e. becoming freed, one becomes emancipated. In other words, he does not take up a body again).
Shankara explains it in his own inimitable way unpacking the involved intricacies in simple words. He writes in his commentary at 1.3.14, kaTha in the following way:
एवं पुरुषे आत्मनि सर्वं प्रविलाप्य नामरूपकर्मत्रयं यन्मिथ्याज्ञानविजृम्भितं क्रियाकारकफललक्षणं स्वात्मयाथात्म्यज्ञानेन मरीच्युदकरज्जुसर्पगगनमलानीव मरीचिरज्जुगगनस्वरूपदर्शनेनैव स्वस्थः प्रशान्तः कृतकृत्यो भवति यतः , अतस्तद्दर्शनार्थमनाद्यविद्याप्रसुप्ताः उत्तिष्ठत हे जन्तवः | — Shankara at 1.3.14, kaTha Upanishad.
Meaning: Having thus melted** (pravilApya) into the puruSha, the Atman, all the three, i.e. name, form and karma, which are produced by false knowledge and are of the nature of action, agents and fruits, by a Knowledge of the true nature of the Atman, as the water in the mirage, the serpent in the rope and the color of the space, disappear by seeing the true nature of the mirage, rope and the space, one becomes free from anxiety and calm, his purpose accomplished. Therefore, to know that, Arise, Oh, living beings sleeping in beginning-less ignorance, i.e., turn towards the acquisition of the Knowledge of the Atman; and Awake, i.e., put an end to the sleep of ignorance, horrible in form and the seed of all misery. (Translation: S. Sitarama Sastri, 1923).
[** – The author used the word “merged” which is replaced by me as “melted” in order to convey the true philosophical sense of the “process of pravilApana.” The accent on “disappear” is also by me.]
Shankara takes up the issue of dissolving (melting or sublating) the apparent world for a detailed discussion at 3.2.21, sUtra bhAShya. He asks the Questions:
कोऽयं प्रपञ्चप्रविलयो नाम ?
किमग्निप्रतापसम्पर्कात् घृतकाठिन्यप्रविलय इव प्रपञ्चप्रविलयः कर्तव्यः?
आहोस्विदेकस्मिंश्चन्द्रे तिमिरकृतानेकचन्द्रप्रपञ्चवत् अविद्याकृतो ब्रह्मणि नामरूपप्रपञ्चो विद्यया प्रविलापयितव्यः ?
Meaning: “What is meant by this sublation of the universe of manifestations?
Is the world to be annihilated like the destruction of the solidity of ghee ( solidified melted butter) by contact with fire ?
Or is it that the world of name and form, created in brahman by nescience like many moons created in the moon by the eye-disease called timira (similar to cataract), has to be destroyed through knowledge?” (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).
And he himself gracefully answers leaving no scope for further doubt. His Answer is:
तत्र यदि तावद्विद्यमानोऽयं प्रपञ्चः देहादिलक्षण आध्यात्मिकः बाह्यश्च पृथिव्यादिलक्षणः प्रविलापयितव्य इत्युच्यते, स पुरुषमात्रेणाशक्यः प्रविलापयितुमिति तत्प्रविलयोपदेशोऽशक्यविषय एव स्यात् । एकेन च आदिमुक्तेन पृथिव्यादिप्रविलयः कृत इति इदानीं पृथिव्यादिशून्यं जगदभविष्यत् । अथ अविद्याध्यस्तो ब्रह्मण्येकस्मिन् अयं प्रपञ्चो विद्यया प्रविलाप्यत इति ब्रूयात् , ततो ब्रह्मैव अविद्याध्यस्तप्रपञ्चप्रत्याख्यानेन आवेदयितव्यम् — ‘एकमेवाद्वितीयं ब्रह्म’ ‘तत्सत्यꣳ स आत्मा तत्त्वमसि’ (छा. उ. ६ । ८ । ७) इति | तस्मिन्नावेदिते, विद्या स्वयमेवोत्पद्यते ; तया च अविद्या बाध्यते, ततश्च अविद्याध्यस्तः सकलोऽयं नामरूपप्रपञ्चः स्वप्नप्रपञ्चवत् प्रविलीयते — अनावेदिते तु ब्रह्मणि ‘ब्रह्मविज्ञानं कुरु प्रपञ्चप्रविलयं च’ इति शतकृत्वोऽप्युक्ते न ब्रह्मविज्ञानं प्रपञ्चप्रविलयो वा जायते ।
“Now if it be said that this existing universe of manifestations, consisting of the body etc. on the corporeal plane and externally of the earth etc., is to be annihilated, that is a task impossible for any man, and hence the instruction about its extirpation is meaningless.
Moreover, (even supposing that such a thing is possible, then) the universe, including the earth etc., having been annihilated by the first man who got liberation, the present universe should have been devoid of the earth etc.
Again, if it be said that this universe of manifestations superimposed on the one brahman alone through ignorance has to be sublated by enlightenment, then it is brahman Itself that has to be presented through a denial of the manifestation superimposed by ignorance by saying, “brahman is one without a second” (chAndogya, 6.2.1), “That is Truth, That is the Self, That thou art (Svetaketu)” (chAndogya 6.8.7-16). When brahman is taught thus, Knowledge dawns automatically, and by that Knowledge ignorance is removed.
As a result of that, this whole manifestation of name and form, superimposed by ignorance, vanishes away like things seen in a dream.
But unless brahman is (first) taught (by scripture etc.), neither does the Knowledge of brahman dawn nor is the universe sublated even though the instruction, “Know brahman, sublate the world”, be imparted a hundred times.” (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).
It is also helpful here to recall Shankara’s observations at 2.4.13, brihadAraNyaka:
सा कार्यकरणसङ्घातोपाधौ प्रविलापिते नश्यति, हेत्वभावात् , उदकाद्याधारनाशादिव चन्द्रादिप्रतिबिम्बः तन्निमित्तश्च प्रकाशादिः | —Shankara at 2.4.13, brihadAraNyaka Upanishad.
Meaning: When the individual existence of the self that is superimposed by ignorance and is connected with the body and organs is destroyed by Knowledge, the particular consciousness connected with the body etc., consisting of a false notion, is destroyed on the destruction of the limiting adjuncts of the body and organs, for they are deprived of their cause, just as the reflections of the moon etc., and their effects, the light and so forth, vanish when the water and the like, which form their support, are gone. (Translation: Swami Madhavananda).
The very subtle point that the Advaita makes is that one need not and, in fact, should not try to dabble with or meddle with the “perceived” (i.e. the world) but correct one’s own vision (दृष्टि – dRiShTi). Just like correcting the cataract vision will make the blurred double-moon disappear, the multiplicity, which in Reality has never been there at all, will disappear once the “particular” consciousness ends. Then the Universal Consciousness will automatically shine.
Same problem as before I believe – namely taking words too literally.
You have actually misquoted Sastri. He says ‘merged’ into puruSha, not ‘melted’!
The word pravilApya literally means ‘to be completely annihilated’. Clearly the translator realized that this could not be intended and chose a somewhat milder word! But ‘merging into Brahman’ is a misunderstanding addressed in depth elsewhere. I suggest that ‘resolved’ is the intended meaning. As regards the world disappearing, Shankara subsequently says that ‘this resolving of the universe is an intellectual event accomplished by gaining the knowledge of the real nature of AtmA (svAtma yAthAtmya j~nAnena) just as knowledge of the truth of the real nature of the mirage, rope and space (marIchi rAjju gagana svarUpa darshane naiva) makes all the difference in the cases of mirage-water, rope-snake and spatial contamination (marIchudaka rajjusarpa gaganamaAni) by pointing out the mithyAtvam in them.
I will post again if I have any comment on the rest of your post.
1. “Melted” is a more appropriate meaning of the word “pravilApya.”
IMHO, “merged/resolved etc.” don’t convey its meaning correctly.
2. The phrase “merging into Brahman” is NOT a misunderstanding. This topic was discussed several times before. I wrote a detailed Comment on this issue on July 27, 2019.
Shankara himself said that it was a phrase which is उपचारमात्रमेतत् (figurative) in his bhAShya at 4.4.6, BUB. All of us know its significance and usage and limitation in Advaita.
I hope we are not getting infected by “Lucknow disease.”
3. May I know whose translation you quote when you say that “Shankara subsequently says that ‘this resolving of the universe is an intellectual event.”
I do not see any such words used by Shankara to give a meaning to say “this resolving of the universe is an intellectual event.”
I am afraid such a translation amounts to not only misquoting Shankara but also distorting his teaching.
The column space here is inadequate and unsuitable for a detailed explanation of the above points. It is very important that one should study very diligently Shankara bhAShya at 2.1.14, BSB and 2.4.1, aitareya (Introduction) to truly appreciate the vision and profundity of Shankara’s teaching.
I hope to prepare a more exhaustive Note through a separate Series of posts covering all the above points. So please do let me know any additional comments / observations of yours on my Post.
Thank you for the references.
“Thus all the Upanishads speak of the cessation of all empirical dealings in the state of the Highest Reality”. BSB bhasya 2.1.14
“Not that a thing perceived under lunacy or through eyes affected by the Timiira disease, continues to be exactly so when the disease is cured, that vision being contingent on lunacy or Timira. Accordingly it is proved that for the knower of the Self, there can be neither wantonness nor engagement in any other duty apart from renunciation” – Aitareya Up bhasya, introduction
Whether or not the world is seen by a jnani, it is a matter of irrelevance to him / her – it is just a false appearance. There is no desire for anything other than the Self, and therefore no cause for action. Sankara says a disinterested, monastic life is an inevitable outcome of knowledge, and therefore an injunction for those who seek it.
Thank you for the kind words and very relevant quotes.
George Thibaut (The Vedanta sutras, The Clarendon Press, Orford, 1890) is much more categorical and accurate in his translation. The corresponding sentence of Shankara at 2.1.14, BSB, is rendered by him as follows:
“In this manner the Vedanta-texts declare that for him who has reached the state of truth and reality the whole apparent world does not exist. ”
I suspect that the D-group had no appreciation for the word “pravilApana.” For, as recently as a year ago or so, Dennis said that I was using a Non-Shankara word and that he did not come across that word in his studies, when I wrote about “pravilApana.” I had to show him several references from prasthAna trayi where the word appeared.
Unlike a solute dissolving in a solvent, or unlike two entities (e.g. corporations / land areas) merging to become one unit or unlike even destroying something through annihilation, “pravilApana” is a way of homogenizing with the “Primary One” without any ID of the thing being left out anymore. It is derived from the Sanskrit root “lI” with two prefixes “vi” and “pra” – a very significant point. These are not concepts we are familiar in our day to day life.
Before closing, let me also state, inspired by what you wrote in the last para of your comment, that, as sincere seekers, it is of little benefit for us to “reverse engineer” being a jIvanmukta merely based on what we “think” a jIvanmukta is. It is much more salutary and advisable that we pursue dissolution of our “ignorance” rather than trying to emulate a speculative concept of how a jIvanmukta would be ‘living’ his life.
The comparison of the world to a dream which is common in Advaita, clearly suggests that once Brahman is known, the sleeper awakens and the dream disappears, the false appearance dissolves. In BSBh 3.2.21, already referenced by Ramesam, Shankara tells us that “Knowledge arises of itself and cancels ignorance, and on account of that, the entire world of names and forms together with its inhabitants, which had been superimposed by ignorance, vanishes away like the world of a dream”. When we wake up we not only realize that in some sense the dream was a false appearance, but also the dream itself ceases to be. In BSBh 2.1.14, as quoted by Venkat, Shankara says that “All the Upanishads declare that in the supreme state (paramartha-avastha) all empirical experience is absent (sarva-vyavahara-abhava)”. Elsewhere he asserts that the material elements are dissolved (pravilapita) by knowledge of Brahman “like rivers entering the ocean”, after which they disappear (vinasyanti). Shankara then declares, “Pure knowledge – infinite, supreme, pellucid – alone remains” (BUBh 2.4.12).
Other classical Advaitins have chimed in with their opinions about the dissolution of the world. In the ‘Panchapadika vivarana’, Prakashatman teaches that the jivanmukta cannot simultaneously be aware of the world and his identity with Brahman. When the knower falls into consciousness of duality it’s because the continued activity of his bodily karma remains as a defect (dosha) to cloud his vision (PPV p.786).
In ‘Vivarana Prameya Sangrah’, Bharatitirtha says it is impossible for the jivanmukta to have at the same time experience of the oneness of the self and cognition of duality, calling them “mutually contradictory”. “For” he writes, “we do not assert their simultaneity, but rather that they arise and are overpowered in succession.” (VPS 9.32)
In his Gita commentary on 3.18, Madhusudana Sarasvati describes the 3 stages of the attainment of jivanmukti. In the final stage, the yogin has absolutely no cognition of differentiation, being constantly and completely identified with the self and totally cut off from empirical experience. In this condition, “the most excellent knower of Brahman”, abiding in supreme bliss, must rely completely on others to take care of his physical needs.
Whatever we think of them, these ideas are consistent with the traditional advaitic teaching that only Brahman is fully real, that the divine is untouched by the pollution of the world, and that the natural universe is ultimately unimportant (tuccha).
Many Thanks Rick for the additional references from post-Sureshwara Advaitins.
I am out of my depth here, but this paragraph leaped out at me:
“Whatever we think of them, these ideas are consistent with the traditional advaitic teaching that only Brahman is fully real, that the divine is untouched by the pollution of the world, and that the natural universe is ultimately unimportant (tuccha).”
This is one of the most disheartening things I have read about advaita but it is always good to have the unvarnished truth.
Classical Advaita represents a profound spirituality. We should recognize, however, that this kind of spirituality generates alienation from and disdain for, the natural world.
In Advaita metaphysics, the suspect world of change and multiplicity is objectified and devalued. This process includes, of course, the human mind and body.
In the words of Panchadasi (similar statements could be multiplied indefinitely), “The defects of the body, mind, and objects of experience are innumerable. The discriminating have no more liking for them than for milk-porridge vomited by a dog.”
At a time in our history when the viability of the natural environment is a pressing concern, we would do well to examine the question whether an “Advaita for the 21st Century”, instead of teaching the irrelevance of nature to spiritual life, can help us cultivate a vision that looks to nature with respect or even reverence.
Dear Rick and Venkat:
Reading your replies brought to mind this Q&A between BLVR (Tamler Sommers) and Galen Strawson. (DMR is deep moral responsibility)
BLVR: Well, maybe there’s one more interesting question left in the debate. If living the fact can be done, with hard work, should it be done? In other words, if someone accepts the conclusion of the basic argument, that DMR is impossible, would you recommend that he try to live according to this belief?
GS: It might take years of spiritual discipline to get to “living the fact” (though actually one can get quite a way by ordinary secular reflection). But let’s suppose you could achieve it immediately, just by pressing a button. You’re asking, Should you press that button?
Well, it might be blissful…but I think it might take you out of the range of normal human relations. You wouldn’t mind that consequence once you were there. I’m sure you’d be absolutely clear that it was right to be where you were once you were there. But it might be frightening to contemplate trying to get there, leaving behind all this thick human comforting mess. It might seem bleak from this side, sad, ruling out truly personal relations. I’m not sure it can accommodate romantic love as we ordinarily conceive it. But it would not touch a capacity for compassion, and it would not eliminate reactive attitudes like gratitude, it would just change them deeply from within. It would turn them from moral to aesthetic attitudes. Which, in the end, is all they can properly be.
I want to say more but have not yet found the words for my thoughts.
Thanks again for both your responses…I am not really interested in traditional advaita except insofar as it helps me reconcile myself somewhat to this peculiar world.
Shishya, apropos of nothing, reading that exchange with Galen Strawson reminded me of a lecture I attended as a 19 year old student, at the invitation of my instructor. The talk was by Galen Strawson’s dad, Peter Strawson, and was based on an article called “Self-Reference, Contradiction and Content-Parasitic Predicates” which Sir Peter had recently published in the Indian review of Philosophy. I was completely dazzled by Strawson’s talk and left the room wholly in the dark about what he had just so brilliantly unfolded. When I was forced to admit, or more accurately, reveal, my utter lack of comprehension to my instructor he said he thought it important for me to hear Strawson’s talk anyway. At the time I couldn’t understand why he thought so, but I eventually came to regard that lecture as one of the most valuable, because humbling, lessons I learned as a know-it-all undergraduate.
Rick, you probably know Melvyn Bragg and his podcasts.?
In Our Time
Thu 10 mar 2011
Why Shishya? If we do not take ourselves and “ours” seriously, as important, then surely that is the only hope for the world? It is not that I am real, and the world is unreal. Remember the Vedantic neti, neti is focused on me and mine.
The prefix pravilA occurs in only 3 places in the entire shruti and smRRiti:
. Mundaka 3.2.2
. Muktika 2.2.17
. Gita 4.23
So I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable that I have not come across it before now!
In the first one, Mundaka 3.2.2, the word used is pravilIyanti and the sense of the mantra is that DESIRES dissolve when one realizes the truth.
In the second one, Muktika 2.2.17, the word used is pravilIyate and the sense here is ‘when IMPRESSIONS (vAsanA-s) die out’:
samyagAlochanAtsatyAdvAsanA pravilIyate .
vAsanAvilaye chetaH shamamAyAti dIpavat.h
“vAsanA perishes through well-conducted deliberation and truth. Through the absorption of vAsanA-s, manas attains quiescence like a lamp (without oil).” (Ref. ‘112 Upanishads, translated by Board of Scholars, Edited and revised by Joshi, Bimali, Trivedi, Parimal Publications, ISBN 81-7110-243-3 (2 vols.))
In the third one, Gita 4.23, it is ACTIONS that get totally destroyed. “Of the liberated person who has got rid of attachment, whose mind is fixed in knowledge, actions undertaken for a sacrifice get totally destroyed.” (Gambhirananda translation)
I know that we tend to pick and choose those translations that best suit our prior understanding BUT…
You say that a better translation is ‘melted’ and I do see that some other dictionaries translate it as this. But I use only Monier-Williams and ‘complete annihilation’ is the only translation given. Also, I do not think you can take the liberty of changing the words in a translation that you are quoting. The author uses ‘merging’ so I think you are obliged to do so also, certainly if you do not admit that you have changed it on your own authority.
I don’t understand what you are saying with respect to ‘merging’. Since we all agree that it is figurative, it seems that you are rejecting Sastri’s translation because you want ‘melting’ to be literal! You seem to want the apparent authority of a published author but then give it your own slant. Indeed it is worse than that – you are actually altering the intended meaning of that author to suit your own view.
Why do you think Shankara uses the metaphors of the mirage, and color of space, in his sentence about ‘disappearance’? Surely it is precisely because one still SEES the water and color even after realizing that these are illusions! If he had wanted to convey the sense that the world ACTUALLY disappears, he would have added something like ghost on post to the rope-snake metaphor instead.
“this kind of spirituality generates alienation from and disdain for, the natural world . . . At a time in our history when the viability of the natural environment is a pressing concern, we would do well to examine the question whether an “Advaita for the 21st Century”, instead of teaching the irrelevance of nature to spiritual life, can help us cultivate a vision that looks to nature with respect or even reverence”
Rick – I cannot disagree more with this statement; and indeed I’d say you’ve missed the deepest ramifications of advaita.
I accept that advaita does not articulate any theory of nature and its treatment – but I don’t think any religion does, focused as they are on the human condition and that of suffering.. The notable exceptions are the spirituality of the aboriginal tribes – that the West wiped out in its rapacious quest for land and resource accumulation
Advaita takes the transcendental step of negating the ‘I’ and the ’mine’. An advaitin proper can no longer greedily accumulate and consume – which are THE causes for the rapidly declining “viability of the natural environment”. Further the advaitin, in his disregard for the personal body-mind treats all alike equally. So there can no cause for greed or conflict.
It is our system of rapacious capitalism that has led us to where we are today. Tweaking capitalism with spirituality (advaitic or otherwise) is not going to work. The system itself is inherently anti-spiritual – that is why the jokers who sell advaita courses to individuals or corporates are – well jokers.
If you are an advaitin, you can no longer take part in a fundamentally corrupt civilisation – hence the emphasis on renunciation and a monastic life.
One need look no further than Ramana Maharishi as an exemplar of this ascetic life
– What carbon footprint did he leave behind – not setting a foot outside Arunachala from the moment he arrived?
– What meat did he consume, one of the most significant drivers of methane release and resource depletion?
– What clothes / consumer goods did he accumulate – recycling even paper to make notebooks?
And look at the respect and love he showed the animals, and how they flocked to him.
Or look at Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna monks. Or the advaitins who live reclusive lives in the Himalayas.
These are advaitins true to their philosophy.
No indeed, you have totally missed the import of advaita. I fear most advaita is taught in a dry academic / theoretical fashion ala Swami D or Swartz re: just gain this “knowledge” and you’ll be free and can go on on doing what you were doing before (as we have been debating on these pages). If you are learning your advaita from this type of teacher, I’d suggest finding another source.
Advaita whilst it may not be prescriptive about how a jivanmukta will live (though in many ways Sankara does) – it is pretty easy to think through the implications of how one would live, if this philosophy was TRULY realised and assimilated.
JK captured the point I am making in the following, which in my view is the essence of advaita
“If, in each one of us, the centre of the ‘me’ is non-existent, with its desire for power, position, authority, continuance, self-preservation, surely our problems will come to an end.”
“What is love? We are not discussing the theories of what love should be. Can a man who is ambitious love? Can a man who is competitive love? And you are all competitive, aren’t you? Better job, better position, better house, more noble ideas, more perfect images of yourself; you know all that you go through. You have to negate everything which is not love: no ambition, no competition, no aggression, no violence either in speech or in act or in thought. When you negate that which is not love, then you know what love is.”
“To negate everything that is not love, is love. So we completely negate jealousy, totally negate attachment, negate every form of possessiveness. Out of that total negation comes love. Through negation you come to the positive. And the most positive thing is love. One of the odd things about love is that whatever you do will be correct if you love. When there is love, action is always right, in all circumstances. And when there is that quality of love, there is compassion. Compassion means passion for all. Love and compassion with their intelligence is the endless truth. To that truth there is no path. Only when there is that immense sense of compassion that comes when there is the ending of sorrow, then that which is, is truth.”
Thank you for your response arguing based on legalities and technicalities !
You begin with the observation that “The prefix pravilA occurs in only 3 places in the entire shruti and smRRiti:”
Is that not a very strange, invalid and unacceptable criterion to discuss ShAnkara Advaita?
Using such a criterion, you conclude that “I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable that I have not come across it before now!”
If you were to apply the same criterion for the search on “mithya,” you will find it appearing only at: 2 places in BG and effectively 1 place in GK. That being the case, you should find yourself to be TOTALLY a stranger to that word, “mithya,” and thereby to the entire philosophical approach of Shankara! 🙂 🙂
The Shringeri Sharada Database on prasthAna trayi bhAShya shows that “pravila” occurs 34 times! Out of that at BSB itself it occurs at 14 references. At one place Shankara uses the word and its variants as many as 20 times in 10 or so sentences.
Recently, you started quoting vivekacUDAmani. “pravila..” occurs at as many as five verses!
So, it would make it strange if you continue to argue that you find the word pravilApana unfamiliar.
2. Next you speak of Monier-Williams as the “Go To” dictionary. You hold that “complete annihilation is the only translation given.”
Unfortunately, I cannot produce the facsimile of the page of the dictionary I found Online. It claims to be Monier-Williams and it DOES show “melting” too as a meaning.
3. I consulted Sanskrit language experts regarding the derivation and meaning of “prvilApana,” and this is what they tell me:
Viewed from a grammatical angle, from the Sanskrit root लीङ्ग – श्लेषणे (lIng – shleShaNe) ( = melding into another (like in union)), the following word forms are derived:
vilAlayati – te
vilApayati – te
vilInayati – te
vilAlayati – te.
These are based on the standard text, “dhAtu rUpa prakAshika.”
vilApayati has the grammatically derived meaning of “melting.” That is the reason that Shankara too gives the example “melting” ghee in his bhAShya-s.
There is a principle in Grammar that says that “when a prefix is joined, the root meaning gets forcefully altered.” This is expressed as “upasargeNa dhwAtvartho, balAt anyatra nIyate.”
Because of it, the words “vilApayati” give the meaning of “melting.” By addition of the prefix “pra” (usually means prakRiShTena), it has become a technical word in Vedanta.
It has given raise to the well-known maxim:
कारण व्यतिरेकेण कार्यस्याभाव निश्चयः |
What it essentially tells us is that between cause and effect, you will find that an effect does not exist without the prior existence of a cause. A pot cannot have existence beyond clay. So proceed at every stage firmly establishing that the effect is no different from the cause. Such a deduction is called absorption (or “melting”).
4. Next you accuse me of tampering with a quote – replacing the word ‘merge’ with ‘melt.’
Okay, I concede here.
Perhaps, it is immaterial now how I justify myself or what are the reasons for taking the liberty to change, because of the “technicality” of the issue.
So I am changing the offending part in my post by suitable amendment.
5. You also accuse me of “actually altering the intended meaning of that author to suit your own view.”
I do not think so. In 1923, when his book was published, none has given a distorted meaning to the word “merge” as it is done now a days by people affected by the “Lucknow disease.”
OTOH, I think you are actually changing his intended meaning by suggesting some other word like “resolving.”
6. After this, you questioned why Shankara used a particular analogy. As Shankara himself stated, any analogy has to be viewed in a very NARROW sense for which it is used. You cannot stretch it to draw further unintended inferences from the analogy.
7. Finally, I am sorry to point out that you have not supported your statement by quoting the words of Shankara to say that “this resolving of the universe is an intellectual event” as you said in your previous post.
I had to look back up the thread to try to work out what on earth the latest posts were talking about. I’m afraid you have lost me completely.
And, Shishya, if it is true that you are “not really interested in traditional advaita except insofar as it helps me reconcile myself somewhat to this peculiar world”, why exactly are you even visiting this site??
Your question to Shishya “why exactly are you even visiting this site?” contains the answer: to “help me reconcile myself somewhat to this peculiar world”.
What else, pray, is philosophy for?
Thank you for your response, Venkat; what else is there to say?
It is important to look at the glass half-full, so I should have said:
“I am really interested in traditional advaita only insofar as it helps me reconcile myself somewhat to this peculiar world”.
As Shankara would say in some other situations, Advaita will ask you, half-teasingly, “Is that all your question? You can ask us much bigger issues!”
And will add that “for solutions that concern the relationships and relationship management in a dualist world, even lower order systems like deference to an authority or Godhead can help you. After all, everything keeps decaying and dying in the world including the dualist answers and the Gods you get in duality. (Don’t forget the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Advaita will take you to that very immortal, immutable and infinite solution you idealize to have and show that it has been already and always with you!” 🙂
I must obviously defer to your superior knowledge of Sanskrit, and your ability to use the Shankara search site. I wonder if I could ask you to post a brief ‘instruction manual’ for this – it would be incredibly useful. And I would then be able to check where Shankara used a word for myself and not have to suffer the ignominy of being corrected in this way! 😉
Having looked back at what I said, I realize that I did not include Shankara’s explanation of the term ‘merging’. It is in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.6): “(Therefore) the statement ‘He is merged in Brahman’ is but a figurative one, meaning the cessation, as a result of knowledge, of the continuous chain of bodies for one who has held an opposite view.” (Madhavananda translation)
I apologize if my comment appeared rude. Of course you are welcome to visit the site, and even make appropriate comments on posts. If doing so helps you to “reconcile yourself somewhat to this peculiar world”, then our efforts have been of value. But the entire thrust of Advaita is to help those who want to be helped by Advaita and who enter the process with appropriate humility rather than with criticism and a readiness to dismiss the teaching as being of no value.
Dennis, I didn’t find your comment rude at all because I have asked the same question of myself…but our exchange was useful because it is good to know that Venkat shares my expectations of philosophical studies.
Thanks for your response.
I did not intend to show off any superior knowledge nor did I have any desire to subject you to “have to suffer the ignominy of being corrected.”
Let me hasten, as you already know, I have a very high regard to you and to your knowledge of Advaita and the thoroughness with which you take up a topic. I do, of course, sometimes regret your over-reliance on Sw-D and P and I think it is their deficiency that shows up.
Reg. the use of “merge,” and citing 4.4.6, BUB, I did mention about it in my Comment of Dec 20 @ 04:23 way up above.
Coming back to the important point of our present discussion, the very authentic and very prasthAna trayi concept of “pravilApana,” is both an Advaita doctrine (siddhAnta) and also a very handy upAsana krama if some one desires to have a step by step process as an instruction.
The detailed step by step process, for example, appears at Section 80, Ch:6, Nirvana, Book 1 in Yogavasishta – p: 159-164 in the pdf at your site at the link:
I translated “pravilApana” as Absorption in that text; however, I feel now (older and wiser??) that “melting” is a better translation for that word because, as I explained already in a comment above, that no trace of the ID of that which gets ‘melted / merged / dissolved / absorbed will be identifiable after the pravilApana. Only brahman remains.
No need to apologize. You know that I value your erudition and contributions to the site. I do, of course, sometimes regret your over-reliance on Yoga Vasishtha and I think that its distortion (with elements of Yoga philosophy) shows up. 😉
Please do consider my request for you to post instructions on how to use the Sringeri site (https://advaitasharada.sringeri.net/). This need only be along the lines of translating the menus and a summary of how and where to enter the search term.
I guess your mistaken allergy for the word “Yoga” in VAshiShTa Yoga is a vestige of the D_P prejudice. The Yogavasishta Sanskrit predates the Sanskrit we are familiar with.
Much like the word “Yoga” in BG, the word means ‘union’ or ‘Oneness’ or a ‘Path’ as used in the Yogavasishta. IOW, the Yoga vAshiShTa text is about the Oneness as taught by the Sage Vasishta. It is out and out an Advaita text. So, please banish all such thoughts that tell you that the word Yoga in Yogavasishta has anything to do with Patanjali yoga or Samkhya-yoga systems.
2) I posted a short Note on the Shringeri database as suggested by you. But the Pics have not come out as well as I hoped they would.
I have admitted that I have not studied Yoga Vasishtha but I do not believe I have a ‘mistaken allergy’. Vidyaranya quotes extensively from laghu YV in his jIvanmuktiviveka for example. Mistaken ideas such as manonaSha and requirement for samAdhi come from there for example. both of which you have advocated, confirming your adverse influence.
Unlike your antipathy to Swamis D and P, my antipathy to such ideas has support from Shankara!
Many thanks for the post on the database. I will study this tomorrow.
“samAdhi” is another word you are misunderstanding – like “yoga.” It has several definitions and Sage Vasishta mentions more than ten or so, if I remember right. You cannot fix a rigid iron frame of a fixed meaning for the Sanskrit words. So ‘samAdhi’ always does not refer to Patanjali yoga samAdhi. Patqnjali’s is a dualist system and Yogavasishta is an Advaita text.
I remember I referred to an explanation of “manonAsha” as explained by Sage Vasishta when Sitara used to be active at this site (almost b.c.!). “manonAsha” refers to the position as explained in muNDaka 2.2.9 (breaking the knot at hridaya).
So I cannot understand how you have some fixated ideas (that too wrongly!) on the usage of certain words in Yogavasishta, a highly revered text by Advaitins in India. And you cannot cite Swami Vidyaranya as he is not really your accepted “Go To” standard
Aparoksha Anubhuti is a good example of how Yoga Terms of Patanjali are different than those of Shankara – for example:
निर्विकारतया वृत्त्या ब्रह्माकारतया पुनः ।
वृत्तिविस्मरणं सम्यक्समाधिर्ज्ञानसंज्ञकः ॥ — 124, aparokShAnubhUti.
[The complete forgetfulness of all thought by first making it changeless and then identifying it with brahman is called samAdhi, known also as Knowledge.]
Unlike the yoga system which asks the seeker to merge with what is meditated upon, Shankara teaches that anything that is meditated upon has to dissolve as ‘Me.’ It has to merge in ME. Because the firm modulation of the mind with which the meditation is happening is that “I am brahman, there is nothing other than Me.” Even Ishwara merges in Me.
“And you cannot cite Swami Vidyaranya as he is not really your accepted “Go To” standard.”
That is precisely my point! I do not accept many of the things that he says and many of the quotations that he uses come from LYV. I was citing him as the reason that I have problems with YV.
I am aware of the different usages of the term ‘samAdhi’. I have written at length about these confusions in Vol. 1 of the book (if I ever complete it, since I am still diverted to Vol. 2 with the world-disappearance issue).
I don’t dispute that YV is ‘highly revered’ and I was also impressed when I read a version many years ago. But it is clearly post-Shankara and, as I think you must accept, many ideas with which Shankara would have taken exception have crept into Advaita since his death.
Thanks for your comment above re: Yogavasishta.
I am sure you will admit such statements like “many of the quotations that he uses come from LYV” are too general and cannot be intelligently commented upon unless a specific quote and context is known. Based on such vague generalities, one cannot condemn an entire sacred text.
Let us keep in mind these indisputable facts:
1. Strictly speaking none knows the exact date of the original Yogavasishta.
2. I asked a few people why Swami Vidyaranya in the 14th Cent chose to use only the abridged version (LYV) of 6,000 verses and not the original of 32,000 verses and who was the author of that LYV which has less than 19% of the original.
Nobody could give me an answer.
I will appreciate if you can share any information on the above, if you have.
3. Yogavasishta contains a huge basket of approaches toward the realization of Oneness – “I am brahman.” There is no system that Shankara speaks and you will not find it in Yogavasishta. There are more methodologies that, in fact, Shankara does not talk about, but are discussed in Yogavasishta. Hence it covers a wider spectrum of methods and techniques.
4. Shankara expends lot of his time in his bhAShya-s on debating and demolishing the opposing views. OTOH, Yogavasishta does not waste its time in disproving others – it is exclusively FOCUSED on the seeker and in making him realize the Self by explaining the intricate counter-intuitive Non-dual concepts through illustrations, concocted stories, parables, allegories and excellent metaphors and analogies etc.
5. YV openly says that none, repeat NONE, will be left not-realizing the Self, if the entire text is followed. It is designed and built in such a way that the subject is dealt recursively, offering both the doctrine and praxis repeated from different angles and dimensions. Thus it uniquely gives an opportunity to learn and also assimilate what one has learnt.
6. The general public give as much value to YV as they give to the other work of Sage Valmiki, namely, Ramayana. As a matter of fact, YV is also called Maha Ramayana and VAsishta Ramayana.
7. YV is the fountain from which 4 or 5 valued Upanishads have emerged, repeating verbatim its verses as mantras-
I hope you will set aside your preconceived notions on the Yogavasishta text in the light of the above factual info.
P.S.: And wrt your comparison to my feelings on the Sw-D, P, we had already shown several times how they compromise, cut corners etc. in Shankara Advaita in order to gain more acceptability. Surely, I do not have to repeat them here.
My version of jIvanmuktiviveka is that translated by Swam Mokshadananda, ISBN 81-7505-182-5 and it gives source references for all the non-original verses that are used. Open the book virtually anywhere and you see quotations from LYV. He even takes his definition of jIvanmukti from there!
“(5.92) He, who is awake in sleep, who has no waking, whose understanding is devoid of desires, is called jIvanmukta.
(20.36) He, whose mind while awake, is ever free from the mental transformations even as the mind in the sleeping state is unaware of objects and who being a man of knowledge, like the full moon whose company is sought after by the wise, is known as jIvanmukta.” (Ref. 152)
It seems that you are agreeing with me that YV is likely to be a source of confusion if it deals with all the various theories and does so without criticism. My aim in the ‘Confusions’ book is specifically to cut through all the later accretions and modifications to determine what Shankara himself said on the relevant subject.
. . . Unless what Sankara said was figurative, or a cultural artefact of his times.
Including that. Indeed, particularly that, if literal interpretation leads to confusion or misunderstanding.
You have also misunderstood Shankara’s commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.13. What it is saying is that when the body-mind of a j~nAnI dies, the chidAbhAsa consciousness dies with it, since there is no longer a mind to reflect the ‘original’ Consciousness. It does not say anything at all about the world disappearing or about the individual j~nAnI in any way disappearing prior to death of the body. The chidAbhAsa for the j~nAnI will continue until death. The world will continue to be seen by that j~nAnI even though it is now known to be mithyA.
Your two latest comments @ 16:12 (on Yogavasishta) and @ 17:52 (on 2.4.13 brihat) are totally different from one another and each is a very major issue.
It is impossible to present a comprehensive answer (which will undoubtedly lead to more debate anyway) in a few sentences, as you can appreciate.
So I am responding to each of them through separate blog posts. I trust you will agree with this approach.
I thought YV preceded Gaudapada – and therefore cannot be a post-Sankara accretion, as Dennis implies?
As with many texts in Advaita, dates are very hazy and (for some reason) much argued. If I intimated that YV was post-Shankara, this is largely because Shankara did not (to my knowledge) reference it in any of his writing. Since it is clearly an important work, this would be most strange if were already existent when Shankara was writing. My understanding therefore is that it must have been either around the same time or later. The only other conclusion would be that Shankara deliberately ignored it!
Dennis says that “If I intimated that YV was post-Shankara, this is largely because Shankara did not (to my knowledge) reference it in any of his writing.”
That indeed is a strange, and to say the least, an odd “criterion.” If we accept that as a ‘deciding’ criterion, we have to put the holy text of Ramayana, Ashtavakra samhita, over 50-60 Upanishads, Bhagavata and even Kalidasa’s significant Sanskrit works abounding in Advaitc concepts to post-Shankara period!
I wish people stop idolizing Shankara as a deity. One should realize that he was a teenager when he entered the world with a zeal to revive the Vedanta, standing up against entrenched oldies like me and Dennis (and perhaps others) of his time. So he armed himself with certain documents that were necessary for supporting his thesis. He did not avow to review all the extant Advaitic lore existing in his time. That was not the purpose of his bhAShya-s. So there is hardly any justification to say that ‘if Shankara did not mention, it is either inferior or has to be post-Shankara.’
Thanks for this caution, Ramesam…exactly the impression I have formed of Shankara, if such a character existed as portrayed in various scholarly works. So when he tells me to Bhaja Govindam and avert my gaze from navels and breasts, I doubt he knew what he was talking about, let alone the “bigger issues” you mention. Which is also why I think your earlier reply to me unsatisfactory.
Relationship to objects, ideas, people is “life” itself; the quotation marks to signify that the word is not the thing.
“As Shankara would say in some other situations, Advaita will ask you, half-teasingly, “Is that all your question? You can ask us much bigger issues!”
And will add that “for solutions that concern the relationships and relationship management in a dualist world, even lower order systems like deference to an authority or Godhead can help you. After all, everything keeps decaying and dying in the world including the dualist answers and the Gods you get in duality. (Don’t forget the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Advaita will take you to that very immortal, immutable and infinite solution you idealize to have and show that it has been already and always with you!”
Thanks for your comment and the JK link.
I immensely enjoyed reading the long Convo between the directionless mendicant and JK extending to two sessions.
I am no JK nor a Shankara. But I could clearly see that the Questioner had no clue at all about what JK was talking about.
For over half the time both were throwing questions at each other – the mendicant anxiously seeking answers in the way he would like to hear and JK shooting questions to direct his attention to, well, Attention Itself! And it doesn’t seem to me that the man really understood anything at all about what JK was telling him.
I could see a great similarity in what Shankara would have answered and what JK spoke about – as JK put it, tearing the envelope we cocooned ourselves in is the real answer. Instead, most of the time, we want solutions keeping our separate identities in tact and we think that is “life.”
That was also what I hinted when I said that Shankara will say that management of relationships is a small issue and gives only ephemeral solutions. The real answer to have an Absolute everlasting true “Relationship” is something spherical – in all dimensions, as JK said. For that to happen one cannot try to continue to be in one’s own self-created limited envelope (upAdhi is the Advaitic term) and still look for answers. One has to literally break from one’s individualized private sense of self (consciousness, the envelope) and see how the spaces of separation are no more than non-existing mental constructs.
The mendicant did not get it but tried to show off that he understood by quoting about thoughts, and he got a slight and polite admonition from JK for the mechanical regurgitation of a quote missing the essence of the message. JK was also careful to point out that as long as we continue to be separate individuals, there can never arise Oneness, though the mind may pretend to say the opposite.
Advaita also says that as finite objects, we remain separate. That would be the dualist world of multiple objects (+ humans) and that is the reason I said that seeking solutions for “relationship” maintenance would remain fanciful. As separate objects, all solutions for relationships is only minor tinkering. Lasting Advaitic solution will come when one sheds the sense of “particular consciousness” as Sage Yajnavalkya taught Maitreyi at 2.4.12, brihat, a topic we are in a way discussing here when I quoted in my post the next mantra at 2.4.13!
Sorry, you found my comment “unsatisfactory” – obviously you missed my intention. Hope you could see now the rationale.
I made my first comment on Shankara because I found what you wrote promising in the context of Deutsch, as below:
I wish people stop idolizing Shankara as a deity. One should realize that he was a teenager when he entered the world with a zeal to revive the Vedanta, standing up against entrenched oldies like me and Dennis (and perhaps others) of his time. So he armed himself with certain documents that were necessary for supporting his thesis. He did not avow to review all the extant Advaitic lore existing in his time. That was not the purpose of his bhAShya-s. So there is hardly any justification to say that ‘if Shankara did not mention, it is either inferior or has to be post-Shankara.’
Our criterion of philosophical truth or significance is not whether a particular system of thought is consistent with some other body of work; rather, it is whether that system of thought is “consistent” with human experience. Philosophically, we judge a system of thought in terms of its adequacy in organizing the various dimensions of our experience; in terms of its providing us with new ways of looking at, of gaining insight into, the nature of the world and of our life in it; and in terms of the kinds of arguments used to sustain these insights. Further, most of us who are acquainted with the ancient Indian religious-philosophical texts are quite convinced that they do not express a single, consistent viewpoint, but that they express a very rich diversity of experience and reflection upon it.
Unfortunately for me, in your next comment you said:
That was also what I hinted when I said that Shankara will say that management of relationships is a small issue and gives only ephemeral solutions.
Ramesam, I think you miss the point totally if you think that this man was concerned about “management” of relationships…you simply under-estimate the depth of his enquiry.
Krishnamurti: The very movement to tear through the other envelope, or extend outside of your own, is the very affirmation and the action of your own envelope: you are the envelope.
Questioner: That reminds me of the old statement about thought: it is a thief disguising himself as a policeman in order to catch the thief.
Ramesam, tell me, was Krishnamurti irritated by valid insights if they were even slightly “traditional”? Was he a vain person? You see, these are important questions and I have my own opinions.
Finally, to top it off, there is the unconscious irony in your next comment:
… Slight and polite admonition from JK for the mechanical regurgitation of a quote missing the essence of the message.
Anyway, I think I’ve commented enough for the next couple of months, so it is back to lurking.
Wait, Wait, Shishya before you go into “lurking” or whatever!
After all, you make some accusations, whether they are so or not as per your thought, but then you cannot suddenly declare hibernation!!
You say that I miss the point “that *this man* was concerned about “management” of relationships.”
Who is “this man”? Are you referring to yourself or the mendicant in Convo with JK?
If you are referring to yourself, you clearly said in a comment above that, “I am really interested in traditional advaita only insofar as it helps me reconcile myself somewhat to this peculiar world”.
Thus you have firmly based yourself in a “dualistic world” – with a “you” at one end as an entity and the “world” as another out there. Your interest is in “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is an issue of “relationship” between two parties. Both JK and Shankara will hold that such duality based solutions can provide transient relief and not an everlasting one.
The Advaita, in contrast dissolves the notion of a ‘me’ here and an external ‘world’ out there bringing in effectively a position of non-difference between me and the world, thus offering a time invariant solution.
So what is my crime in saying the above?
If you are referring to the questioner in the JK reference by “this man,” let me know. I will explain how relevant is what I said.
This is part of what you wrote:
“I am no JK nor a Shankara. But I could clearly see that the Questioner had no clue at all about what JK was talking about…. And it doesn’t seem to me that the man really understood anything at all about what JK was telling him.The mendicant did not get it but tried to show off that he understood by quoting about thoughts, and he got a slight and polite admonition from JK for the mechanical regurgitation of a quote missing the essence of the message.”
So here is a man who says he has semi-abandoned his family and is seeking answers, and you somehow discerned that he wanted to “show off” before JK. Whereas I got a completely different picture of an individual who realized his predicament very clearly.
“Both JK and Shankara will hold that such duality based solutions can provide transient relief and not an everlasting one.”
We are all firmly anchored in duality and that is where we have to start. If there is unity beyond duality, I know nothing of it and refuse to fantasize about it.
It leads to what Rick wrote about in an earlier post:
“Classical Advaita represents a profound spirituality. We should recognize, however, that this kind of spirituality generates alienation from and disdain for, the natural world.
In Advaita metaphysics, the suspect world of change and multiplicity is objectified and devalued. This process includes, of course, the human mind and body.”
At the practical level – at the level of physics, instead of META physics you have the example of Sri Ramana for whom I have the greatest respect.
But his (needless, to me) self-flagellation was extreme, especially when he inadvertently stumbled into a beehive and was grievously stung, etc..which incident he later re-interpreted (!) as recounted in the book Maha Yoga by WHO, pg 169 I think.
We all know that ‘there are many paths up the mountain’ as the metaphor has it and that ALL teachings have to be dropped in the end. So, yes, YV on its own may well be effective. Even neo-Advaita may help some to realization – who can say.
But it can be no coincidence that Shankara has become the ‘gold standard’ for many. His bhAShya-s form a (mostly) consistent, reasonable, effective, systematic methodology that has been time-proven. It is for the purpose of having a reference point against which conflicting messages may be measured that I endeavor to refer everything back to Shankara. I am aiming to do this with the ‘Confusion’ book that I am writing precisely so that seekers do not continually have to try to resolve conflicting guidance.
I hope you are still there and not gone away to your “lurking” or hibernation or observation of silence.
I am befuddled by all the different and unrelated issues you are combining into a smorgasbord and raising here. You suddenly introduced the issue of “self-flagellation and Ramana and Who” in your latest comment. That deserves to be dealt totally on its own and hence I will refrain talking about it.
Thanks to you that you clarify to me that you meant the Questioner by your reference to “this man.” You are obviously impressed by his CV and highlight it to prove his commitment and sincerity.
Well, there was no observation of mine re: his sincerity or commitment. The very narrow and specific point that was pointed out by me was the fact that he was unable to follow what JK was telling him. That fact is as clear as daylight to me! [Of course Indian summer daylight – not the wintry snowing or cloudy haze in upper latitudes 🙂 ]
Commitment and sincerity is one issue and being able to follow JK’s thought is altogether a distinctly different matter.
Yes, I do hold that it does not seem to signify anything to me if the man talks about “thoughts” which is totally unrelated to what JK was telling him at that point. His quote was irrelevant and JK did indicate it to be so — obviously with a hope that he would come back to the trajectory.
You also brought up the issue of Rick pointing out that classical Advaita tries to grow a disdain for the world. Yes it does – but not out of any disrespect or to talk about some imaginary abstruse ethereal world. It does so to bring the attention of the seeker to that very “attention” a tool with which the seeker observes the world and what goes on in there. Advaita tries to keep that “Attention” center stage, and asks the seeker to be aware and ‘be’ that very attention instead of being lost in that which is observed, as you may have known by this time. Therefore, the disdain for the world is not the goal of Advaita. It is half-way house.
Sorry, you seem to lump up too many issues and swallow all of them in one gulp. It will not help, IMHO. We have to stay on course focused on each topic so that we can understand it from all angles and then take up another topic.
The simplest way to think of Advaita teaching is to “model” the awake world we think we are “anchored in” to our last night dream. Then carefully evaluate what importance, relevance or impact that dream has to our wakeful life. We give usually excess weightage to the 10 or so hrs of our wakeful life and look for solutions to life’s problems; whereas Advaita considers in its philosophy all the three stages that we go through in a 24 hrs day in providing its answers. Even the scariest of your dreams and dream worlds disappear when you wake up. Advaita is concerned about “waking you up from the awake world too.”
Dear Shishya, Ramesam
The ‘disdain’ for the world, is as Ramesam says, a halfway house. But that disdain is for the objects of desire, of the traditional goals of society. Please remember that the teaching of karma yoga is to arrive at nishkama karma – desireless action – ie action that is not motivated by a sense of me and mine. Such action can be nothing but selfless, treating others’ welfare equivalent to one’s own. What better basis of relationship can there be – it is fundamental to what JK talks about in meeting someone as if for the first time, without pre-conceived notions (which are the product of an ‘I’).
So I think you are mistaken in your despair of what Rick calls ‘disdain’. It is rightly called detachment or better desirelessness or egolessness. So for one who is firmly anchored in duality, there is no need to prematurely fantasise about unity – surely, even without advaita, one can see the sanity of attenuating the ego, of acting without the me and mine?
The ultimate purpose of advaita is not to teach us how to behave in the world. It is ultimately to see through the “me” and thereby the world. In the meantime the sadhanas, that focus on attenuating the ‘I’, has as a BY-PRODUCT, behaviour that is most beneficial to the world and to relationships – lacking in selfishness, greed, vanity and fear. The more the ‘I’ is attenuated the more that behaviour shines.
We do not need to prematurely jump to a conclusion of what model we should follow as an brahman-jnani; or as to whether the world is real or unreal. This is an intellectual exercise equated to jnana, which has been emphasised by the likes of Swami D, missing the vitally important sadhanas. If you simply seek to intellectually confirm that the world is unreal, then yes I can see why you might “despair” with the “disdain”. But remember traditionally this knowledge has only been imparted to one who has completed the sadhana, and is deemed ready. You and Rick’s angst with advaita, exemplifies the other problem with Swami D and Dennis’ thesis, in arguing that sadhana can be completed after “realisation of jnana”, in order to become a jivanmukta.
To repeat advaitic jnana is solely focused on freedom from the me. What happens to the world thereafter is speculation, and irrelevant to this primary purpose. But in pursuing this freedom from the me, no harm can be done to the world (which is the best that any of us can do, and most fail miserably).
Dear Venkat, thanks for taking the trouble to write this long reply.
My over riding concern in all my reading and studying is to NOT THROW THE BABY out with the bathwater.
Lately, I have taken to preserving the bathwater also in secondary storage out of abundant caution.
For example, you say:
”But that disdain is for the objects of desire, of the traditional goals of society.”
When I read some of the original texts it does seem a valid pov which I am pursuing further.
Will say more later.
[Ramesam] “You also brought up the issue of Rick pointing out that classical Advaita tries to grow a disdain for the world. Yes it does – but not out of any disrespect…the disdain for the world is not the goal of Advaita. It is half-way house.”
[Venkat] “The ‘disdain’ for the world, is as Ramesam says, a halfway house. But that disdain is for the objects of desire, of the traditional goals of society.”
Michchami Dukkadam. My brief comments were and are offered as a critique rather than as a criticism, of classical Advaita, from an inevitably limited point of view, as it relates to the relevance of nature to the spiritual life.
Advaita stresses the supreme value of the self. Shankara explains in BU.Bh 2.4.5, “Yajnavalkya creates a distaste for the wife, husband, sons, and so on, so they may be renounced.” Reverence for the things of life and nature, what Venkat presumably refers to as “the objects of desire of the traditional goals of society”, is according to this view, misdirected, and should be redirected toward its proper object: the self. All that is other than the atman, including nature, is without value. Sureshvara tells us, “That supreme [brahman-atman] is declared to be the savor (rasa) of this effected [world], which is itself without savor.” (TU.BhV 2.421).
Advaita embraces the negative evaluation of life in the natural world and inculcates fear of it. It’s no accident that Shankara requires the practicing Advaitin to be a celibate world-renouncer. For Shankara and his disciples the universe of birth and death (samsara) is a “terrible ocean” teaming with sea monsters. We are drowning in it and need rescue (see Shankara’s purported commentary at the end of the Mandukya Karika). What should our attitude be to participation in life? Shankara answers that we should regard samsara as a terrible (ghora) and vast ocean, existence in which should be feared, even despised. (ChU.Bh 5.10.8)
Non-human species, including trees and plants, instead of being valued as fellow embodiments of the spirit, are held up as symbols of the suffering experienced in samsara. Souls are born as plants as the result of evil karma, to serve as bodies in which the results of sins may be experienced through reincarnation (see BSBh 3.1.24 and Vedanta Paribhasha, chapter 7). Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7-8 promises birth as a dog or a pig to those whose conduct has been evil.
In order to overcome his natural identification with, and attachment to, his false phenomenological supports, the ascetic practices seeing their defects. He must convince himself that the body is inert (jada) and “besmeared with endless impurities” (Aparokshanubhuti 36-37). “Pure non-attachment”, according to the same popular text, “is disregard for all objects – from the god Brahma down to plants and minerals – like the indifference one has toward the excrement of a crow (kaka-vishtha).
My point is to ask whether this inspires us to revere nature as spiritual life, or teaches us the irrelevance of nature to spiritual life. I merely observe, sans angst, that our attitude entails important consequences for our natural lives.
You have not responded to any of the points that I made, in my original response to you.
You talk about revering natural life – could you explain what you mean by “revere natural life”? And how christianity or buddhism revere natural life more substantively than advaita?
Before you do so, you might want to google ahimsa, and take a look at the wikipedia entry. And re-read my original response to you.
[Venkat] “You talk about revering natural life – could you explain how christianity or buddhism revere natural life more substantively than advaita?
“you might want to google ahimsa, and take a look at the wikipedia entry.”
Venkat, I do not see Advaita as engaged in a competition with Christianity or Buddhism, nor do I feel qualified or inclined to assign them comparative grades. Anyone eager to do so is free to make the relevant enquiries and make up his own mind.
Thanks for the google reference.
Your post @ 12:52 on Dec 26, 2020.
Kudos to you for the very comprehensive and excellent observations — concise but touching on all the relevant points.
Hope it answers Shishya’s concerns and his mind feels rested.
You say: “My point is to ask whether this inspires us to revere nature as spiritual life, or teaches us the irrelevance of nature to spiritual life. I merely observe, sans angst, that our attitude entails important consequences for our natural lives.”
As I read your impressive post with good citations, I wondered if you are a Professor teaching Eastern philosophy.
Most of the academic and even modern professional “teachers” of Advaita catering to the Western audience usually seem to allocate more of their teaching time on the sAdhana avastha. I may be wrong, but I find they miss on dealing with the siddha avastha. All the references you cite and your poser in your post too reflects, IMHO, a little such imbalance of inadequate attention to the siddha avastha.
Yes, a lot of emphasis is given during the sAdhana period to devalue the worldly objects and sensory experiences. It is done because the seeker will otherwise be unable to overcome his/her dehAtma buddhi. To be able to transcend the feeling that “I am this body-mind transacting with a world out there” is a very hard nut to crack. it is the biggest impediment in the Realization of the Self. Any slight inclination toward worldly pleasures / concerns derails the seeker as BG, the Upanishads and Shankara repeatedly tell us.
But the picture changes when one successfully understands and attains Self-knowledge im-mediatedly. As shwetAshwqtara 1.12 says, the realized jnAni understands that the one brahman Itself plays all the three roles of the jIva-jagat-Ishwara – showing absolute non-difference between them.
The realized man sees, as brihadAraNyaka says at 4.4.20, all the three with absolute equanimity with the same one ‘vision.’ (eka dhaivAnu draShTavyam). With the im-mediate understanding that “I am brahman” dawning, s/he will see ONLY herself everywhere (AtmAnamevAvet), 1.4.10, brihat. As a result, everything becomes herself (tasmAt tat sarvam abhavat). What greater reverence can ever be there?
And as you know, the very first mantra of Isha says, “experience everything, after all it’s all your own; you do not have to covet it.” So you treat the entire triad of jIva-jagat-Ishwara as you yourself alone – a totally egalitarian and equanimous view. You are the Sun and all the perception is your glow; You are the Lord and all that IS your Treasure; You are the swarUpa and all that IS is your vibhUti (vide BG, ch 10). The realized You and what is become indistinguishable.
My observation in the West is that people here cringe at the concept of giving up their personality, their property, their sex, their status etc. but still want the Non-dual “Bliss.” Shamelessly, some teachers with organized structures mold their teachings (or perhaps I should say, doctor their teachings) presenting Shankara as too much world-denying etc. etc.
Pity! Such approaches do not really work for Self-realization.