During the mid-part of the last century when we were in our adolescence, the most common ambition of an average educated Indian was to go abroad. So we used to have a fancy to learn some foreign language. I tried Chinese but could go hardly beyond two pages of a book I bought from the Higginbotham’s. Deutche (German) was the next attraction because that was still the Lingua franca for Science in those days. I forgot all of what I learnt but one thing that stuck to me was a charming quote which expresses the German spirit of approach in developing their expertise. It goes something like this:
“Es gibt nichts Praktischeres als eine gute Theorie.“
The quote means that “there is nothing more practical than a good theory.”
IMHO, the statement is a delight to every theoretician and undoubtedly very dear to all those oriented to jnAna mArga (Self-inquiry).
If one understands the theory correctly and clearly in its minutest detail, putting anything then to practice is just a child’s play.
I have no claims of being a jnAni or jIvanmukta. You may dispense me away with the wave of a hand, if you like. With this caveat, I venture to submit my understanding of GK: III-40 and some concepts that are raised in its context, at least in terms what the Advaita “theory” (as per my comprehension) says in relation to them.
1. GK: III-40:
GK: III-40 is an argument in progress. It is like a developing story in a newspaper. The verse by itself is neither an injunction nor a direction and it is least bit an instruction.
It is actually an innuendo!
You can see it for yourself if you take the overall context and the sequence of the Revered Teacher’s poetic discourse.
GK III-38: Provides the pointer to Brahman Knowledge. Says It’s a freedom from all acts of the mind – i.e. being free from exercising any value judgments in terms of acceptables and rejectables.
GK III-39: Introduces a ‘name’ for this Doctrine of Knowledge Path. Gaudapada christens it as ‘asparsha yoga’ (Path of seamless Union = impartite Oneness).
And remember revered Gaudapada was enunciating this Doctrine to a crowd steeped in yogic and tantric approaches during the late 6th – early 7th century. They were the believers that something has to be ‘done’ to get a result. They heavily leaned on the side of a yogic ‘action models’ for liberation – after all, was it not Lord Krishna who said that “loke2smindvividhA niShTha …” III-3, BG? (Shankara, as we all know, took a head on fight with this prevailing system two generations later).
Without mincing words, Gaudapda clearly says that the Path of ‘asparsha yoga’ is a hard nut to bite for the guys with the “have to do something” approach (i.e. yogis).
Out and out an upholder of the supremacy of the Knowledge Path, Gaudapada AchArya takes a further dig in III-40 at this “To Do” yogic gang.
GK III-40: The followers of yogic practices (i.e. yogis) have to struggle to discipline their minds through the technique of ‘control.’
Shankara makes it much more explicit in his commentary:
“We have already stated that no duty (effort), whatsoever, exist for a jnAni. But those other yogis who are also traversing the path (leading to Truth), but who possess inferior or middling understanding and who look upon the mind as separate from but related to Atman, and who are ignorant of the knowledge regarding the reality of Atman – the yogis belonging to this class can experience fearlessness as a result of the discipline of the mind.” (from the translation by Swami Nikhilananda, 1949).
In the next verse, Gaudapada points out to the impossibility of an approach through mind control and hilariously ridicules it by giving a metaphor.
GK III-41: The effort in controlling the mind is similar to the effort of trying to empty an Ocean using the acicular tip of a blade of Big cordgrass (Botanical name: Desmostachya bipinnata).
Can any one even think of emptying an ocean like that at all?
So GK III-40 is not a conclusion. It is not any stand-alone statement to be taken to the heart, discussed and offered as a guide.
Read along with III-41, one has to infer that mental control is a wasted effort at attaining Self-Knowledge.
2. Incidental benefits to the mind:
If one is talking of benefits, it is obvious that a distinct beneficiary exists, there is also a benefactor and the process of benefiting. Obviously the tripuTi is operational and it is a clear indicator of not having attained jnAna. The person (= separate self) is continuing at this stage when one looks for and hopes to draw benefits.
3. Process vs. Self-Knowledge:
As per Advaitic understanding only action (karma) can yield fruits (phala). Action is always a process and all processes fall within the domain of ignorance (avidya). avidya is the state when a sense of separate self persists. Self-Knowledge is not a process that yields fruits.
Instead of once again getting into this concept (which does not make any sense), I choose to quote here the statement made in 2008 by Shri S. N. Sastri, the redoubtable Scholar in Sanskrit and also a practitioner of truly traditional Advaita Vedanta:
VedAntins do not speak of mukti as ‘jnAnaphala’ because a phala means that it is something produced and is perishable, while mukti is not produced and is eternal.
We are all brahman but only the person who has given up completely his identification with his body is a jnAni. It is not an easy thing to become a jnAni. With respect , I must say that we have scholars in this group, but no jnAni. I am nowhere near that. As I said above, there is no jnAnaphalam separate from jnanam. When the jnAnam is not merely intellectual, and becomes aparoksha anubhUti then the person is a jnAni. Till then he is only a scholar who can give beautiful lectures and write good articles. [Please see my Post at: Expert on Truth vs. Knower of Truth – ramesam]
mukti is not considered to be a phalam because it is not the attainment or production of anything new, but only the removal of the wrong notion that one is the BMI. Shri Shankara says in his bhAshya on br.up.4.4.20.:—- jnaanam cha tasmin paraatmabhaavanivr.ttiH eva.——————— iti ubhayam api aviruddham eva.
“The knowledge of Brahman means only the cessation of identification with external things (such as the body, etc). Identity with Brahman is not something which requires to be attained, since it is always there. Everyone is in reality always identical with Brahman, but wrongly considers himself to be something different (due to ignorance). Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be attained, but only that the false identification with things other than Brahman should be given up.
When the identification with other things (such as the body) is eradicated, the identity with one’s own Self, which is natural, prevails. This is what is meant by the statement that the Self is realized. In itself the Self is unknowable, that is to say it cannot be made the object of any means of knowledge (pramaaNa)”.
Thus mukti is not something produced by knowledge and so it is not a phalam. Any phalam has an origin and so will have an end also. But mukti is eternal.
Shri Shankara says in his bhAshya on the brahma sUtra `athAto brahmajij~nAsA’ that only a person who has acquired sAdhanacatuShTayam is eligible to take up inquiry into brahman. Even if one takes up shravaNa, etc, before acquiring these, they will not become effective until he has acquired these four pre-requisites and has made his mind pure and free from all desire. So a person for whom akhaNDAkAra vRitti has arisen should already have acquired the sAdhanacatuShTayam. This is what I have heard from my teachers and this is the generally held view. But VidyAraNYa takes a different view in jIvanmuktiviveka, as you may know. I do not know whether Swami Paramarthananda expresses this view in the reference you have made. But there is no difference of opinion about mukti not being a phalam.
In fact Shri Shankara says that liberation is identical with the Self:–
br.up.3.3.1. bhAshya — na aapyo api aatmasvabhaavatvaat ekatvaat cha.
Liberation is not something to be attained because it is identical with the Self and (the Self) is one (without a second). I am aware that you know all this. I am stating all this only to make this presentation complete and for the benefit of those members who are beginners and may not know these details.”
(Note: Emphasis added by me at some places.
[P.S.: Apologies for making this as a new blog post instead of posting as a Comment at the topic titled, “Knowledge and the Fruit of Knowledge.” I hope the matter will be kept open for review instead of sticking to the “interpretation and explanation provided by Swami P” as said at the twin post of this topic at another forum.”]