Ignorance goes, but mAyA remains?

Some Non-dual teachers maintain that on the collapse of the sense of a separate self, i.e. on the realization of the Supreme Self, only “ignorance” is lost. They hold that the sway of “mAyA” remains showing a world. Such a concept implies that Self-realization happens in stages; mAyA and ignorance are two distinct entities with their own specific locus, object, distinguishable features and source. It would also mean that the “sense of separate me” is not part of the domain of the world.

Does the prasthAna trayi or Shankara support such a view?

I know some groups talk of Ishwara sRiShTi and jIva sRiShTi, but that is not supported by Upanishads, IMHO. At the most what can be called as jIva sRiShTi is the individual’s false assumption that s/he is limited. That assumption is his creation.

Thanks in advance for any inputs and comments.


51 thoughts on “Ignorance goes, but mAyA remains?

  1. Dear Ramesam

    Interesting question. Initial response – though from Ashtavakra (as I have just read it):

    18.73 Only the illusion of the world prevails. The reality of the world vanishes with the knowledge of the Self. The wise one lives without the feeling of ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’, and attachment.

    Also when Sankara talked about a jnani likely to adopt a monastic form of life, detached / disinterested in the world, implicitly he is allowing for a “world” to continue.

    Warm wishes,

  2. ramesam, I’m not sure this is entirely relevant to your concern, but for the mukta, says Yajnavalkya, there is no experience of the world at all (BU 4.5.15). Shankara says, “Knowledge arises of itself and cancels ignorance, and on account of that, this entire world of names and forms together with its inhabitants, which had been superimposed by ignorance, vanishes away like the world of a dream.” (BSS 3.2.21). Again: “All the Upanishads declare that, in the supreme state (paramartha-avastha), all empirical experience is absent (sarva-vyavahara abhava) (BSS 2.1.14). Elsewhere Shankara asserts that the material elements are dissolved (pravilapita) by knowledge of Brahman “like rivers entering the ocean,” after which they disappear (vinasyanti). At this point, he declares, “pure knowledge-infinite, supreme, pellucid – alone remains.”(BUBh 2.4.12).

    Where Sankara does grant continued empirical experience for the mukta, it is under the analogy of a person with an eye defect. Even though they know better, he suggests, persons with double vision may continue to see two moons where, in fact, there is only one (BSS 4.1.15). The second moon does not disappear, despite knowledge of the true situation. The false appearance remains. Nevertheless they know that it is not really there; they are aware of it as a false perception. Mandana also uses this analogy-which shows it was current before Sankara-and so does Padmapada (BSdh 1, PP 9). It is common in the later literature.

    The use of this “two-moon” analogy to explain the experience of the mukta shows that in Advaita there is no such thing as what has been called nondual perception, that is, immediate awareness of phenomena as not different from the Absolute. Phenomena may continue in the state of living liberation. But insofar as they do, they are experienced as false perceptions.

    ओम् तत् सत्,

  3. Hi Rick,

    It is only your sense of politeness that shows up in the way you prefaced your comment with the words of uncertainty (“I’m not sure this is entirely relevant to your concern”).

    I believe you are spot on and my understanding too is the same as you say.
    Thank you for the BSB and BUB citations. (The abbreviation you wrote as BSS is BSB (bhAShya), I guess)).

    The reference to the appearance of two moons is to explain, I suppose, to a “lag effect” that may persist for a short time after Self-realization. I say “short” because we have from chAndogya 6.14.2 that the body that housed the seeker thus far gets dropped “soon.”

    तस्य तावदेव चिरं यावन्न विमोक्ष्येऽथ सम्पत्स्य इति ॥ — 6.14.2, chAndogya.
    For him, only so long is the delay as he is not liberated (from the body) and then immediately he is merged in Being. (Trans: Swami Swahananda).


  4. Venkat,

    Thank you for your observation and the quote from aShTAvakra samhita.

    The translation of the verse at 18.73 by Nityaswarupananda (1940) reads “In the world existing until Self-realization, only mAyA prevails. The wise one lives without the feeling of “I-ness,” “mine-ness” and attachment.”

    The previous verse in the chapter at 72 makes it clear that the world will not be seen.

    I hope you are not saying anything to the contrary.
    Regarding the monastic life suggested by Shankara for a jnAni that you are making a reference to, may I know the exact citation so that the context can be understood.


  5. Hello Venkat and Rick,

    I trust you read my response above to your comments.

    On second thoughts, it looks to me that it is also important to keep in mind from whose viewpoint we answer the question raised by me in the OP.
    The actors involved are:
    The former seeker who is now “Realized”;
    The body which so far housed the former seeker;
    Other onlookers in the world.

    The world will not appear for the jnAni who is now himself/herself is brahman.

    There will be a world for the body until it completes its life-period (like the arrow that was shot will stop only after it reaches the target).

    Other onlookers are still burdened with nescience (that’s why they see a world) and therefore, the world will not end for them. The body of the former seeker which is part of the world they see will also appear to them until it dies.

    Your thoughts / observations on the above points are welcome.


  6. Hi Ramesam,

    Apologies for delayed response – only just visited the site.
    You know that I do not accept that the world ‘disappears’ on enlightenment. I think this passage from Vidyaranya explains it best:

    “By a knowledge of the nature of the world and the jIva, the world and the jIva-hood are negated , but they do not cease to be perceptible to the senses; the knowledge leads to the conviction of their illusory character. Were it not so, people would find emancipation without trouble during dreamless sleep or on fainting. When the reality of Brahman as the one sole existence is realized, Atman remains as the reality, identified with paramAtman. This realization does not lead to a complete forgetfulness of the world; otherwise there would be no such thing as liberation in life (jIvanmukti).” (Panchadashi 6.13-14)

    It is not that the world disappears but that the belief in the world as a separate entity disappears. It is now known that it is mithyA. Gaudapada asks (1.17) how the world could disappear when it never existed to begin with and Shankara comments:

    “One might wonder how non-duality could be the truth when the world is still continuing and when enlightenment can only arise through the cessation of the world…) The objection would apply if the world really existed. But the world of plurality no more exists that a snake imagined in a rope.“ (Quoted in Satchidanandendra’s ‘Method of the Vedanta’)

    Finally, if it were the case that the j~nAnI no longer sees a world, how would we ignorant seekers find someone to teach us the truth?

    Best wishes,

  7. “Finally, if it were the case that the j~nAnI no longer sees a world, how would we ignorant seekers find someone to teach us the truth?”

    Alas, we ignorant seekers would see the jnani as part of the mithya world, but how in heaven’s name would the jnani be aware that there were any seekers to teach? I suppose the Advaitin might answer that he condescends to perceive the world for purposes of instruction only!

  8. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for your observations.
    I have been, in fact, eagerly waiting for your inputs.

    At the outset it is disappointing to see that you, who always insist on nothing less than citations from the Shankara bhAShya-s, chose to resort to a quote from pancadashi to support your position. Does that not indicate that Shankara himself has not categorically said anywhere in his Commentaries that a world will continue to appear after Self-realization?

    OTOH, as Rick Riekert showed, Shankara’s position is the very opposite to What what you suggest.

    2. Regarding the commentary of Shankara at 1.17 of GK:

    The argument presented in Shankara’s commentary is a bit convoluted and needs great care in understanding because Shankara framed it in a sarcastic way while responding to the pUrvapakShi. He clarifies a little later that “The multiplicity is only a false imagination, like the snake in the rope. It does not really exist.”

    Implicitly then, the Knower of the Truth (a Self-realized individual) would not have seen any multiplicity even in the first instance. Therefore, Shankara continues, “there is no question of a previously seen manifold now disappearing for him.”

    Shankara makes things very clear when he concludes his argument at 1.17, GK, in the following words: “Therefore, the fact is that there is no such thing like the manifold about which appearance or disappearance can be predicated.” [Translation by Swami Nikhilananda.]

    IOW, a world can appear only to one who is overtaken by ignorance. It cannot stand to logic that the manifold will continue to appear even after the ignorance is gone.

    3. The final argument that you mention saying that there would be no teacher left if everyone is Self-realized is very weak. A similar point was raised by the opponent at BG 13.2 that none will be left to guide on ritualistic karma when everyone is Self-realized. Shankara sneers at such an objection. He says that such fears need not be entertained because “for very rare is the person who attains wisdom. It is, indeed, only one among many that attains wisdom. As we now see. Nor do the ignorant follow the wise men; for, attachment and other evil passions necessarily lead (the ignorant) to action.” [Translation by A. Mahadeva Sastri.] The implication is that there will always be ignorant people and some teachers available for them.

    Moreover, at the time of, say, mahA pralaya, all the scriptures and all the teachers would be dissolved. It does not mean that the scripture and the Knowledge of the Self has been irretrievably lost then. So teachers and teachings will always be alive and available to a genuine seeker.

    It is also interesting to see what Sage Vasishta told Rama about how a Self-realized teacher appears to teach a student. He says that a teacher appearing and teaching taking place are an imagination on the part of the student himself.


  9. Hello Friends,

    There is another way to look at this problem, IMHO.

    Why not consider the Deep sleep state?
    During the dream-free deep sleep, we do not see any world. Nor do we have even the sense of a body / mind being present to us.
    But we come back to see the dream world and the awake world after a period because the “sense of ‘I am a separate self'” is not lost for good; it still exists but folded up. So, when the ‘sense of separate self’ or ego is absent even on a temporary basis, the appearance of the body and the world ceases to be.

    Now, on Self-realization, the sense of the separate self (the ego) is irretrievably lost. IOW, in the absence of an ego, the finite onlooker cannot exist anymore. When the finite onlooker is absent, there cannot be anything to see, because the seer-seen pair coevolves and are codependent. Secondly, as the sense of separate self is lost forever on Self-realization, there is no scope for the now “realized seeker” to come back into a world that the ego sees.

    Thus, the deep sleep state should give us a clue to know about what happens when the separate self totally collapses.


  10. Hi Ramesam,

    I quoted Vidyaranya, not because he is someone to whose authority I usually defer, but because his was the clearest explanation of the situation that I had found.

    I do not actually see how anyone can maintain the argument that the j~nAnI no longer sees the world. You clearly accept that Shankara was enlightened. How is it, then, that we find bhAShya-s and prakaraNa grantha-s written by him? What was going on here if there was no longer a world for him? Was there a (still-ignorant?) ‘Shankara-body-mind’ continuing to move about (in a dream?) writing zombie-like while ‘Shankara-Atman’ was now ‘merged’ into space-like Brahman?

    I would imagine that the reason there are no categorical quotes is that he did not see the need to emphasize something that ought to be obvious. But here is a bit more of Shankara being sarcastic if you are saying that the world really only exists in the mind of the ignorant, prior to enlightenment.

    This is the belief of the vij~nAna vAda Buddhist and it is rejected by Advaita. Badarayana rejects it in Brahmasutra 2.2.28: “(External objects are) not non-existent, for they are perceived.” Shankara’s commentary on this sutra is quite scathing and even sarcastic to the pUrvapakSha-s that he puts forward to support the claim. He asks how someone can perceive an external object via his sense organs and simultaneously claim that the object does not exist. He says that this is like someone eating and enjoying his food claiming ‘I do not eat, nor do I get any satisfaction’. The vij~nAna vAdin objects that he is not saying that; what he is saying is that he does not perceive anything apart from the perception. Shankara replies: “Yes, you do speak like that, since you have no curb to your mouth.” Something other than perception has to be conceded, just because it is perceived. “We do not cognize a perception to be a pillar; rather we cognize the pillar as an object of perception.”

    When scriptures and Shankara speak of the world no longer existing, what is meant is that, having gained Self-knowledge, one no longer believes that what is (still) perceived is actually separate; it is now known to be the non-dual Brahman. I.e. the ‘magical power of mAyA’ no longer deceives. Just as the mirage still appears even though we now know there is no water there.

    But the simplest way of looking at it is this: the world was already Brahman before X was enlightened. When X is enlightened, all that happens is that the ignorance in the mind of X is removed and the truth now realized. This truth is that everything, including the world, is Brahman. So why should it disappear? The only difference is that X now knows that the world is Brahman. Accordingly, the apparent duality that X still sees is now known to be only apparent.

    Best wishes,

  11. As I said, I think this is an interesting question because one can find arguments for both cases in Sankara (and indeed Ramanamaharishi).

    On Asktavakra Gita, it is as I translated it, in the third edition of Nityaswarupananda, dated 1969:
    18.73 Only the illusion of the world prevails. The reality of the world vanishes with the knowledge of the Self. The wise one lives without the feeling of ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’, and attachment.

    I looked up V.S.Iyer’s translation of this and it is the same:
    “In the world existing as duality or separate entity only till Self-realisation, only Maya prevails. The wise one lives without the feeling of ‘I-ness” and ‘mine-ness’ and attachment.”

    Atmananda translates it as:
    “In samsåra, existing only until you know it, måyå prevails. The wise one lives without the feeling of ‘I-ness’, ‘mineness’ and attachment.”

    I’m afraid that I can’t find the passages that Rick is referencing.

    Indeed BUB 4.5.15 reads:
    “the renunciation of their homes by the [ancient] sages can take place simply by their knowing the world of the Self” implies a jnani continues to live in the world but has no home.

    This is also stated in Aitreya Up Bhasya 1.1:
    “From the fact that a fresh injunction of renunciation, despite its emergence as a matter of course (in the case of a man of illumination), is met with, it becomes evident that it is obligatory for the man of illumination.”

    BUB 2.4.2 gets closest to Ramesam’s case, when it talks about the destruction of individual or particular consciousness, which is the most interesting to ponder over But the fuller passage from Rick’s extract reads:
    “As the reflections of the sun, moon, etc vanish when their causes are removed, and only the sun, moon, etc remain as they are, so the endless infinite and limpid Pure Intelligence alone remained”

    But note the “reflection” can be seen as analogous to how the ego receives, registers and reacts to the sense impressions – if you recall JK, he used to say can you perceive in the moment without registering an experience in memory?

    Guadapada in MK writes:
    2.31: “As are dreams and illusions or a castle in the air seen in the sky, so is the universe viewed by the wise in Vedanta”

    2.36: “Therefore knowing the Atman to be such, fix your attention on non-duality. HAVING REALISED NON DUALITY BEHAVE IN THE WORLD LIKE AN INSENSIBLE OBJECT”
    And Sankara states “Having known this non-dual brahman, behave with others as one not knowing the Truth; let not others know what you are and what you have become”

    2.37: “He should have this body and the Atman as his support and depend upon chances, ie he should be satisfied with those things for his physical wants that chance brings to him”

    Suresvara in NS writes:
    4.51: “The enlightened man accepts everything and also negates it. The apparent rise of distinctions constitutes his acceptance; the fact that they are by nature not-self constitutes his negation of them”

    4.69: “In the case of one who has achieved enlightenment, virtues like non-enmity persist naturally and without effort. They are no longer practised as a means to any end”

    To conclude for myself, I think the key lies in Dennis’ statement:
    “the apparent duality that X still sees is now known to be only apparent”.

    Where I differ from Dennis, is that there is no longer an X that registers ‘an experience’ or ‘knows’ anything. He is child-like: balya.

    The point is that as there is no longer any separation, there can be no cause for any EMPIRICAL DEALINGS or actions in the world. When Sankara says there is no longer any experience of the world, he means it as JK has said it: he does not react to it from an I-sense. Hence he has no possessions; not that he has decided to give them up – he just has no motivation to maintain/accumulate anything.


  12. Ramesam – apologies, I didn’t make clear that Iyer and Atmananda translated Ashtavakra as you have given it. My counter-point would be:

    “The wise one lives without the feeling of “I-ness,” “mine-ness” and attachment.”

    It implies living in the world, without an ego sense, and without attachment.

  13. Thanks Venkat.

    Here is a quick reply re: the 18.73, aShTAvakra samhita cited by you.

    I have taken from the 1940 Edition available as pdf here:

    You can see the author gives word meanings for each word in addition to the full translation. The verse 18.73 occurs at p: 218/254 of the pdf.

    When a body moves without I-ness, me-ness and clinging to anything/anyone, it does seem to be Zombie-like (a phrase used by Dennis in his comment above). Hence, I suggest that the body so moving now is the one that housed the former seeker who used to claim “ownership” to the body thus far and does not exist anymore. The body is an integral part of the world along with all other objects like mountains, rivers, stones, trees and people who see it because of their ignorance.

    As I said in a previous comment above, the reference-frame (from whose POV we are answering my question) becomes important and you seem to answer from the viewpoint of the “body” post-realization of the seeker.

    Hope you have seen the verse at 72 (same page as above in the pdf). It speaks of the seeker who is now realized as the Infinite (brahman). The verse is unambiguous wrt his viewpoint. He does NOT see any relative world.

    [I shall come back in a bit regarding the other points made by you.]

  14. Dear Dennis,

    Before I get into locating Shankara’s bhAShya quotes regarding the disappearance of a world on gaining the Self-knowledge, I want to make a couple of quick points for your consideration.

    You say, “You clearly accept that Shankara was enlightened.”
    I am afraid taking this route of analyzing the personality of highly revered people may not help us much.
    [Of course, I have an explanation for your question, but I will come to it later. But my comment for now is different.]

    For example, if anyone asked you or me about Sage Yajnavalkya, the central character of the sadvidyA in brihadAraNyaka, do we ever say that he was not fully Self-realized? At least I will not have any competency to judge him.
    But Swami Vidyaranya, whose quote you gave above degraded the Sage Yajnavalkya as a mere Knower but not liberated. And mind you, none including Badarayana, Shankara and so on declared him to be so in all the preceding millennia of years until Swami Vidyaranya.

    The second point I wish to mention is that you suggest that the Self-realization is so simple and easy so as to make you declare, “having gained Self-knowledge, one no longer believes that what is (still) perceived is actually separate; it is now known to be the non-dual Brahman.”

    If it were to be such a simple affair, are you not trashing what Krishna says at 7.3, BG – only a rare one in a million makes an effort to know the Reality and only a rare one among such seekers does really “get” It? Shankara too asserts at several places in his commentaries that Self-realization is not that easily achieved (one example I already quoted above – from 13.2 BG). Are you not implying that those statements are wrong?

    Another quick point I would like to submit for your contemplation is that if the phantasmagoric world were to continue post-Realization, it would violate the Upanishadic statement that Self-realization is disembodiment (asharIratva). You will also have to be able to explain other related questions raised by me in my original post (OP).

    Of course, I am deeply aware that I am no authority and that is why am indulging in this equally deep inquiry.

    [I request you to please take a look at the reply I have given to Venkat re: aShTavakra quote. I shall come back regarding the other points made by you in your post above.
    You may also recall we exchanged some mails regarding the shift in the concept of jIvanmukti with time from the period of the Upanishads to modern day. I said that it seemed to have become a Status symbol from being a mere transitional state. You told me that you were also seized with the problem and would be writing a post on the subject. I have been waiting for your post on this interesting subject too.]


  15. Dear Ramesam,

    I did not think I was analyzing anyone’s personality. I have no idea what Shankara’s was and do not consider it relevant. I merely meant that the material deemed to have been written by him must strike us as unambiguously coming from someone who was enlgithened.

    I disagree about ‘competency’. I suggest that both you and I are sufficiently acquainted with Advaita to be able to make considered ‘judgment’ about the pronouncements we encounter in the scriptures and their commentaries, even if modesty prevents you from admitting this.

    I think there is a great danger of jumping on specific words used in Advaita, without considering all aspects regarding context, translation etc. Does Vidyaranya specifically say that Yajnavalkya was a knower but not liberated? I believe Shankara says that these are synonyms in any case. We are all always ‘free’; it is only the ‘knowing’ that changes. Initially we are ignorant; then we know.

    I’m afraid I do not see the relevance of your statements regarding the rarity of Self-knowledge. Why does what I said negate those?

    On use of words, again, Shankara points out that where the primary meaning of a word encountered goes against reason, one has to take the secondary meaning. ‘Disembodiment’ is surely an obvious example. It should be understood as ‘realizing that one is not the body’.

    The same goes for the aShTAvakra quote. 73 says ‘Only the illusion of the world prevails. The reality vanishes…’ I.e. the world is now known to be mithyA. 72 says ‘not seeing prakRRiti’. This seems likely to refer to now knowing that the dualistic Sankhya concept is not true. Nityaswarupananda translates it as ‘relative existence’ but I think this is misleading. It just means now knowing that ‘all this is Brahman’.

    Regarding the post on ‘jIvanmukti’, I thought I had mentioned somewhere that I will not now be posting this. The reason is that it is rather long. I had already posted the 10-part topic on pratibandha-s, which is a related topic. These are all from my next book on ‘Dispelling Confusions’. If I posted everything, there would be nothing left for the book!

    Best wishes,

  16. Dear Ramesam,

    In BG chapter 5, Krishna says (and Sankara’s commentary reinforces):

    8-9: ‘ I do nothing at all’ ; thus would the truth-knower think, steadfast, though seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, going, sleeping, breathing, speaking, letting go, seizing, opening and closing the eyes, remembering that the senses move among sense-objects.

    13: Renouncing. all actions by thought, and Self-controlled, the embodied one rests happily in the nine-gated city, neither at all acting nor causing to act.

    Then, Chapter 10 of Upadesa Sahasri (referring to Alton’s translation) is titled Vision of the True Seer. Some pertinent verses:

    5: The succession of sufferings pertaining to the body, senses and intellect is other than myself and does not belong to me, since I am changeless, and also because it is unreal. It is unreal like the succession of visions beheld by a dreamer.

    13: He who though seeing duality when awake, yet on account of his awareness of non duality does not see it as if he were asleep, and who is apparently active yet really actionless for the same reason – he alone is the knower of the Self.


  17. Dear Venkat,

    I am not sure that I understand the purpose of your quoting 5.8-9 of BG in this discussion. These are the practices (sAdhana) to be followed by a seeker. Krishna is only describing here how a seeker should conduct himself. As one Pundit explains, the last line in the verse at 5.9 reveals that fact (“remembering that the senses move along sense-objects).

    In fact, if you read the Intro to this chapter written by Shankara, he mentions 2-3 times that “Wherefore it is but right to say that, for him who has realised the Self and who is free from illusory knowledge, Karma-Yoga which is based upon the illusory knowledge is impossible.”

    A little later, in the commentary, he says, “It is not possible to imagine even in a dream that the man who knows the Self can have anything to do with Karma-Yoga, so opposed to right knowledge and entirely based upon illusory knowledge.”
    [The quoted translation is from Alladi Mahadeva Sastri, 1923.]

    The questions raised by the opponent and the answers given by Shankara towards the end of 5.13 are very instructive. A fully Self-realized individual does not merely think that what is seen by him is “mithya” (unreal). He is totally “detached and does not concern himself” — it is absolute detachment that is unlike any “mere” intellectual acknowledgement of the falsity of the world.

    The citations that you give from the upadesha sahashrI do describe the situation that 5.13 BG spoke of. I do not have Ashton’s translation. But I find that the Sanskrit word in the verse is “suShupti.” So I would like to suggest that the phrase Ashton used “as if he were asleep” maybe read as “as if he were in deep sleep.” And none sees a world in deep sleep.


  18. Dear Ramesam

    I think BG 5.8-9 relates to the jnani, as is evident from Sankara’s opening comments on these verses “The truth-knower is he who knows the true nature of the Self, who sees the Supreme Reality”.

    Similarly the commentary in 5.13 reads:
    “Though a man has attained discriminative wisdom (i.e., has realised his true Self as distinguished from the not-Self) and has renounced all concern with action, still, it may be said that he rests in the nine-gated city of the body as in a house, inasmuch as his personal consciousness (of resting arises only with reference to the body in virtue of the traces of the unspent portion of the prarabdha-karma-the karma which brought the present body into existence-still continuing to be felt. Thus the
    qualification ‘ he rests in the body ‘ has a meaning, as pointing to a distinction between the respective standpoints of the wise and the ignorant.”

    With respect to US 10.13 he juxtaposes SEEING duality when awake, and yet not seeing it as in [deep] sleep. Ramanamaharishi similarly referred to waking sleep, as the state of a jnani. So what can this juxtaposition mean? – surely that though seeing, he is totally unmoved, unaffected, disinterested by what is seen.

    Your point about the man who knows the Self cannot ever do karma yoga, I entirely agree with, and is an outcome of this juxtaposition point above. That was exactly the point I was making in the renunciation articles I posted.

    And I posit that is why only one in a million achieve jnana. One can have the intellectual knowledge, even some degree of conviction. But if one was really ‘convinced’ of non duality, then he can no longer be interested in any action (hence action incompatible with knowledge) and he can have no possessions (because there is no desire to acquire, accumulate or protect). Hence he lives by what comes to him by chance. But few of us have this level of penetrative understanding of tat twam asi, such that these things drop away of their own accord.

    As I said previously, it may not be the case that a jnani does not ‘see’ the world – it is rather that there is no one there to take any interest in it. Or, to put it differently, the ego-mind that is there is like a burnt rope, insubstantial.

    Best wishes

  19. Dear Dennis,

    Our discussions are getting into many tracks.

    I am answering a very narrow and pointed question you have asked of me: “Does Vidyaranya specifically say that Yajnavalkya was a knower but not liberated? I believe Shankara says that these are synonyms in any case.”

    Though a bit tedious to read and at a later stage of the discussions descends to some recriminations, the long post dated Nov 04, 2006 by Mr. S. Jayanarayanan answers comprehensively the question. The link is:


    The post also talks about Shankara’s view on samnyAsa being a must – the stand that Venkat often refers to in these columns.


  20. Dear Ramesam,

    Had a quick skim through that. I agree it is ‘tedious’. I really cannot be bothered with writing that takes scriptural characters as real and argues about their status and attitudes. Whether or not they actually existed, such discussion is now entirely academic; nothing can ever be decided or ‘proven’.

    I’m afraid that saMnyAsa is in the same category as jIvanmukti – I have written a considerable amount on the topic and hopefully refuted such ideas as its ‘being a must’, using relevant quotations and reasoning. But you will have to wait for the book to see if I do so to your satisfaction – sorry!

    Best wishes,

  21. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for your time to go through the post about Swami Vidyaranya’s reasoning in considering Sage Yagnyavalkya to be not a jIvanmukta.

    One can extend similar reasoning about Shankara too (e.g. his eagerness to debate with and demolish opposing arguments; the incident of contesting with Mandan Mishr ; his desire to occupy the Throne of sarvajnatva in Kashmir etc.). My point is not that I therefore project Shankara in a different light.

    I just would like to underline what you said already that one cannot be sure whether or not such events actually happened and any “such discussion is now entirely academic; nothing can ever be decided or ‘proven’.”

    Hence, we may not be able to advance our knowledge by raising questions on Shankra’s teaching (whether he did as a jIvanmukta or not) or by relying on the quotes from Swami Vidyaranya.


    • Just a quick note here. Your ‘hence’ in the last paragraph is a non sequitur. I was saying that statements concerning the lives of people such as Shankara are entirely speculative and frequently apocryphal. But what people such as Shankara have WRITTEN is unarguable and can be debated so as to advance our knowledge.

      • Dear Dennis,

        That is precisely my point and I do not see we are speaking any differently.

        Of course, any day you are the authority for the English language – after all, it is your mother tongue. But I am unable to see how the usage of “Hence” by me could be wrong.

        I used “Hence” as a conjunction which has as its immediate antecedent the statement that quoted you, viz., “such discussion is now entirely academic; nothing can ever be decided or ‘proven’.” Would you say that such a usage to be “non sequitur”?

  22. Dear Venkat and Dennis,

    The strongest quote in support of what I am trying to present comes from, as you know, brihadAraNyaka. For ready reference, here is what the mantras say:

    “(But) when to the Knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one smell and through what, what should one see and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one know and through what?” — 2.4.14, brihat

    “But when to the Knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what, what should one smell and through what, what should one taste and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one touch and through what, what should one know and through what ? Through what should one know that owing to which all this is known?” — 4.5.15, brihat.

    Shankara explains at 2.4.14: “Shankara explains: “When to the knower of Brahman everything such as name and form has been merged in the Self and has thus become the Self, then what object to be smelt should one smell, who should smell, and through what instrument? Similarly, what should one see and hear? Everywhere an action depends on certain factors; hence when these are absent, the action cannot take place; and in the absence of an action there can be no result. Therefore, so long as there is ignorance, the operation of actions, their factors and their results can take place, but not in the case of a Knower of Brahman. For to him everything is the Self, and there are no factors or results of actions apart from It.”

    [All translations above are from Swami Madhavananda’s work.]

    In addition, please note what chAndogya says so clearly about the Infinite brahman:

    Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is the Infinite.” — 7.24.1, chAnd. Up

    After one realized the Supreme Self, i.e. after one has identified himself/herself with the Self (aka Self-realization), nothing else will be seen!

    Shankara says in his commentary on the ArambhaNAdhikaraNa:

    “When the (false) notion that the embodied self is the real Self is removed, all those activities become sublated which are based on that assumption, which are created by ignorance and for supplying a rationale for which a separate a separate diversified part is imagined in brahman.” — Shankara at 2.1.14, BSB.

    Further down in the same commentary, Shankara makes it explicitly clear by writing, “In the case of one who has realized brahman as the Self, all (empirical) dealings cease that are concerned with actions, instruments and results. It cannot be said that this negative knowledge is not sublated even when he wakes up.”

    Shankara is very emphatic when he adds, “Thus all the Upanishads speak of the cessation of all empirical dealings in the state of the Highest Reality.”

    [All the above translations are from Swami Gambhirananda’s work on BSB.]

    Next, about the oft raised question of “How teaching happens when one is Self-realized, I request anyone who has a doubt, to please read the exhaustive explanation of Shankara and elaborate further explication by Swami Nikhilananda in the latter’s work on mANDUkya kArikA at 1.18.
    I am not reproducing here to save space.

    Based on the above absolutely unambiguous quotes, I submit that it is only a self-satisfaction to claim “Realization” after a mere intellectual understanding of the Non-dual message and it does not equate to Self-realization conforming to 2.3.9, muNDaka, “brahmaveda brhamaiva bhavati,” if one were to continue dabbling with the nAma-rUpa-vyavahAra within the transactional reality.


    [Apologies for the unavoidable length of the post.]

  23. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi explains matters plainly, in a way that is perhaps less likely to strain credulity:

    “A lion made of sandlewood is real to a child, but to a grownup it’s a piece of sandlewood. For a child, the wood is concealed, revealing only the lion. The grownup may also enjoy the lion, but he knows it is not real. For him, the wood is real but not the lion.

    “In the same way, to a jivan mukta, the entire universe is nothing but the essence, the “wood”, that everything is made of, the Absolute Brahman or Consciousness.

    “The world does not disappear before the jivan mukta’s eyes. Everything continues as it is. Nothing changes. The sun doesn’t stop rising on the eastern horizon when someone attains realization. However, a change happens inwardly. You perceive the world from a different level of consciousness. For the jivan mukta, everything is permeated with God, with pure undivided Consciousness. Just as the wooden lion is still a piece of wood to a grownup, the jivan mukta beholds everything as the Paramatman, the Supreme Self. The world of names and forms still exists, but he perceives the inner essence of everything. Being in the state of jivan mukti doesn’t mean that you lose your body. You can stay in your body and continue to function in the world, but your identification with the body has ceased. You become an observer, a witness. You stop experiencing the world from the outside. You observe everything from within, from the true center of existence.”

  24. Dear Ramesam

    Hopefully you would agree that I have never asserted that intellectual understanding is equivalent to realisation!

    I too agree that Brhad Up passages are cogent assertions. I have also quoted similar cogent passages. I also find similar positions in Ramanamaharishi’s work. So hoe to reconcile two apparently different conclusions. One position is to say that a lower truth is being sublated by a higher one. But I’m not sure that is the sense in which the passages I quote are given.

    Alternatively therefore, when Brhad Up speaks of no more particular consciousness, and MK of no-mind, then I conclude that realisation involves a dissolution of the ego, the cessation of body-mind identification (and identification with the all), like a salt doll dissolving in water. Ramanamaharishi talks about searching for the ‘I” will lead to its destruction.

    Does this involve no more perception of the world, or simply no more ‘I’ to respond to it, and have empirical dealings with it? I suspect the latter, hence my view of why sannyasa was a corollary of realisation for Sankara.

    However Ramanamaharishi would also say it doesn’t matter – why speculate on these things? Until you search for the ‘I’ and eradicate it, then only will you know the truth of either postulate. I would also suggest that from a practical point of view, it is easier to constantly look for and observe the ‘I’-thought, whenever it arises in daily actions. To the extent that it diminishes one asymptotically approach realisation. That perhaps is a more useful ‘personal’ yardstick, than speculating on the appearance / disappearance of the world for a jnani?

    Best wishes,

  25. Dear Ramesam

    I didn’t express myself very well in the last paragraph.

    There are a number of followers of Ramanamaharishi who believe that they need to practise until the world disappears. So they continue running around in the world, and spend their spare moments meditating hoping that the world will disappear. But this is a kind of mystical attainment – and another acquisitive desire of the ego. Mysticism makes it almost out of reach, subject to esoteric instruction and practice. And nirvikalpa samadhi can become a milestone in this path.

    Whereas all that Vedanta, Ramanamaharishi, Nisargadatta and JK talk of is actually a negation, a relinquishment, ultimately of the ego. So have gained the intellectual knowledge of Vedanta, which basically says to lose body-mind identification, because you are not (limited by) that – then all that remains is to be ‘passively’ aware of the pervasive, super-imposed I-thought in every thought, feeling and action. And then leave it to atma’s grace as Katha Up says. Ramanamaharishi used the analogy of an uninvited wedding guest; when you looked for him, he would quietly disappear.

  26. Dear Ramesam,

    Just a few points on your long post.

    Mundaka ‘knower of Brahman become Brahman’: How can this be interpreted literally? The seeker is ALREADY Brahman before realization of the fact. The belief that he isn’t is bhedAbheda vAda, not Advaita. We ‘become’ Brahman in the sense of realizing that we were-are-always will be ONLY Brahman. c.f. the tenth man story.

    Regarding Mandukya 1.18, I referred to this explanation by Richard King in my book ‘A-U-M’:

    “K1.18 is an attempt to circumvent one of the greatest paradoxes of a non-dualistic soteriology` – if duality is an illusion how is it that the dream is not broken by the first enlightened being? This presents no real problem for the Gaudapada-kArikA for the following reasons:
    1. Duality as mAyA is not in conflict with non-duality as the ultimate reality (paramArtha) since the former is merely an appearance of the latter.
    2. The idea of a liberated individual is an erroneous one; no jIva is ever liberated, since no jIva has ever entered bondage.”

    Regarding ‘merging’ in Brahman, Shankara specifically addresses the term in his bhAShya on the 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.”

    Regarding statements such as “After one realized the Supreme Self, i.e. after one has identified himself/herself with the Self (aka Self-realization), nothing else will be seen!”, these only mean that before realization one believes that ‘things seen’ have a separate existence; after gaining Self-knowledge, one knows that ‘sarvam khalvidam brahma’. ‘Nothing ELSE’ is seen because it is known that there IS nothing other than ‘I’-Brahman.

    Best wishes,

  27. Dear Rick,

    Thanks for you intervention.
    Are you referring to the Kerala based Hugging Saint “Amma” or some other saint?

    What you say is very apt and useful as a part of the teaching method by a teacher to a student. The scenario described will give some idea to the student about the life of a jIvanmukta.

    The way I am postulating and presenting the issue is in a different context. I am discussing from POV of a seeker who has already completed the shravana-manana phases and deep in nididhyAsana. S/he is at a stage to assess himself as one who “grokked” It.

    Secondly, it appears to me that the model offered by the Saint quoted by you does not conform to the way “perception” takes place in a body. She is right spot on, IMHO, when she says, “However, a change happens inwardly. You perceive the world from a different level of consciousness. For the jivan mukta, everything is permeated with God, with pure undivided Consciousness.”

    I am trying to go into a bit more detail into that specific points about the “change that happens inwardly.”

    The human cannot perceive anything unless there is a “difference.” When everything is God for a jIvanmukta, the sensory system (5 senses + mind) CANNOT notice a difference. Our eyes cannot distinguish, for example, a “white” colored object from within the same white colored background.

    Moreover, as I pointed out in an earlier comment above, the seer and the seen are mutually dependent. Unless there is a ‘seer,’ there cannot be ‘the seen.’ Similarly, unless there is a ‘seen,’ there cannot be a ‘seer.’ They are codependent and co-evolve. If, as the lady says, that a jIvanmukta (for whom the sense of “I am a seer has dissolved) sees a multitude of finite objects, there obviously the presence of a ‘finite and separate seer’ exists in him. Then that would violate the very definition of jIvanmukti.


  28. Dear Venkat,

    I think I followed the thrust of both your posts. I agree with you that we should “focus” on the subject-end rather than the object-end. That is to say, instead of asking whether the world has disappeared post-Self-realization, one should check within himself whether the “me-ness as a separate seer” has ended or not.

    The very fact that one is tempted to examine himself on those lines shows to me the presence of the ‘me’ – in whatever tenuous / rarefied form it may be!

    Now the next question comes, as I already pointed out in a previous post. When there is no “seer” to whom does a world appear?

    It is a difficult question for the finite mind even to “think” of an answer. IOW, a non-jIvanmukta cannot “conceptualize” such a situation – though, we have the example of a burnt rope or burnt folded sari. These analogies refer to the “state” of the mind but not precisely about the perceptual processes in a jnAni.

    Perhaps, that is the reason why Ramana used to advise his questioners not to speculate on how a jIvanmukta lives in this world, but first focus on attaining the state of jIvanmukti.

    You maybe familiar with the Swami LalitAlAlitaH who is often very curt and but highly precise in his comments at the Advaitic discussion fora. He does not tolerate even a minor mistake and comes out as impolite. I took the courage and referred my post to him expecting him to rudely dispose me off. He clarified many issues very courteously (of course in cryptic phrases) and I am still in correspondence with him.

    What I have gathered from him thus far is that “Actually, self-realization arising from mahAvAkya doesn’t destroy avidyA or mAyA in any vAda, only it’s last instance does. That last instance occurs just before videhamukti (mind that I’m not using the word death, since there is no rule that every jIvanmukta attains videhamukti, see bharata for example).

    So, there are two types of brahmaGYAna, charama (the last one) and everything apart from that.”

    From the above I construe that the bhAShya and Upanishad quotes I am giving pertain to “carama jnAna” (Ultimate resolution). The rest of the understandings are not anywhere near it, IMHO!

    [Oh, Great! As I am typing my reply to you, I received a response from him – it must be 1:30 AM in India and so nice of him to respond at such a late hour.]

    He seems to confirm what I said. He writes, “videhamukti will be happening next xaNa after charama-GYAna.”

    After having a more detailed look at his reply, I shall come back to you if there is anything I have to share.


  29. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for your brief observations.

    My submission is as follows on what you say:

    1. Re: “The seeker is ALREADY Brahman before realization of the fact. The belief that he isn’t is bhedAbheda vAda, not Advaita.”

    The seeker comes with the embedded sense of ‘ahamidam’ and ‘mamedam.’ As per the adhyAsa bhAShya of Shankara, that is the outcome “of a mixing up of Reality with unreality as a result of superimposing the things …”

    As you yourself explained under bhAga tyAga laxaNa, the seeker is brahman ONLY AFTER the mixing up gets sublated. Therefore, IMHO, it (the belief that “he isn’t brahman”) is not a concept from Chaitanya prabhu’s bhedAbheda.

    One may also refer to the “dvA suparNa” model of 3.1.1 of muNDaka too in this connection. There are two birds until the “Realization” happens.

    Further, one need not also think of “become” in too literal a sense. The usage “become,” as you are well aware, “is but a figurative one” in a manner similar to the way you clarified about “merger” a little later quoting Shankara 4.4.6, BUB.

    2. Re: ““K1.18 is an attempt to circumvent one of the greatest paradoxes of a non-dualistic soteriology` ”

    I am not so sure why anyone has to take such an apologetic route to explain 1.18, GK.
    Shankara is very unambiguous and crystal clear when he writes in his commentary giving no scope for any doubt: “These ideas, namely, the ideas of teacher, taught, and scripture are (therefore appear) true till one realizes the Highest Truth. But duality does not exist when one, as a result of the teaching, attains the Knowledge, i.e., realizes the Highest Reality.”

    Why should we not accept Shankara’s simple and direct statement given as a reply to the opponent’s question?

    3. Re: “… these only mean that before realization one believes that ‘things seen’ have a separate existence; after gaining Self-knowledge, one knows that ‘sarvam khalvidam brahma’. ‘Nothing ELSE’ is seen because it is known that there IS nothing other than ‘I’-Brahman.”

    I see some problems in taking a stance like the above.
    I am not sure why you like to overlook them.

    One is that “I-brahman” (the so-called ‘realized’ seeker) that presently exists in this apparent nAma-rUpa-kriya world is a doer and experiencer. He “sees,” and “transacts” with and “experiences” an “other-brahman” and goes on adjudicating (correct word?) after the seeing/transacting etc. that “everything seen to be separate is all actually brahman.” This “I-brahman” also experiences hunger etc.
    It implies that “kartrutva and bhoktrutva” exist for this I-brahman.
    Will niShkriya brahman have such attributes?

    Secondly, the “here” where the “I-brahman” is is nAma-rUpa-kriyAtmaka world.
    Can that be possible?

    Therefore, I suppose that all such understandings are still under the domain of what maybe described as “mediate” Knowledge (borrowing the phrase from Venkat) and not im-mediate experiential “Understanding.”

    Perhaps, we have to agree with Shriman LalitAlAlitaH and admit that it is something other than carama jnAna.


  30. Dear Ramesam,

    As an Advaitin, I’m not clear how you can apparently deny that the seeker is already Brahman. The present belief of ahaMkAra/ mamakAra is due to ignorance, not a fact. Not sure which bhAga tyAga you are referring to. The site definition – http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/definitions/bhAga.htm – actually begins “We are already That… We do not need to (nor can) do anything to bring about this already existing fact.”

    The ‘two birds’ metaphor is no different. As long as we remain in ignorance, we believe that we are separate, seduced by the fruit of the tree. Once we realize that we are the satyam Atman and not the mithyA jIva in this jIvAtman ‘mixture’, the ‘glories of the paramAtman are ours’. There are never really two birds; there is never really a seeker separate from Brahman.

    The Richard King quotation was actually aimed in a slightly different direction. I gave it because it also addressed your point (as I understood it). You are still insisting on taking the literal, rather than the reasonable interpretation of Shankara’s commentary. When one realizes the truth, one also knows that there never was a separate teacher and seeker; one now knows that there is actually only Consciousness. It does NOT mean that the teacher, seeker and world names and forms suddenly disappear!

    This world continues to APPEAR to exist. ‘Both’ teacher and seeker continue to APPEAR to act and enjoy (or not). But ‘both’ now know that this is only an APPEARANCE. They continue to play their role in vyavahAra, being fully cognizant of the fact that they are the pAramArthika Brahman.

    Best wishes,

  31. Thanks to all for the valuable comments / observations.

    In a discussion on an unrelated topic at another group today (Sep 17 2020), Shri V. Subrahmanian (Subbu) writes:

    “The Kanchi Acharya, in his Advaita Sadhana, that was painstakingly translated
    by Prof V.K. ji and published in Advaitin forum years back, says: Shiva or
    Shakti leads the sadhaka to the ultimate realization and once that happens,
    erases itself. Vyavaharika satya comes to an end.”

    Shri Subbu, Prof. VK et al are active colleagues of our Dennis at the Advaitin forum. I suppose Dennis has access to those files.

    Will you (Dennis) throw more light on how does one understand the last sentence in the above quote (Vyavaharika satya comes to an end)?


  32. It would seem one is obliged to conclude that no one has ever been enlightened, including Dakshinamurti, Yajnavakya, Shankara, Sureshvara… And, of course, the Kanchi AchArya himeself.

  33. Hi Dennis, Ramesam

    Aren’t there only 2 logical answers to this debate – and each of you has adopted one of them:
    1) A consciousness-led approach, ie eka jiva vada
    2) A materialistic / science-based approach which recognises that all the material world is made of the same building blocks.So while we perceive difference, we can know it is non-different ie gold in ornaments, clay in pots.

  34. Hi Venkat,

    I would say that there is a third way which follows the guidance of Shankara – namely follow shruti guided by reason. I.e. take the shabda pramANa of shruti but take secondary meanings where the primary contradicts reason and pratyakSha.

    This would seem to be the middle way. Your first is not traditional Advaita (IMHO) and the science does not go nearly far enough in recognizing satyam-mithyA.

    Best wishes,

  35. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    I requested to Shri V. Subrahmanian (VS) or the reference and the exact words of the Kanchi Swami Ji’s talks from where he quoted the above statement.

    It looks that VS wrote those lines out of his memory. But fortunately, the actual text from which the above alleged quote comes is available right here at AV.

    The link is: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/sadhana.pdf

    The actual reference is a paragraph at p,185, chapter 67. It says:

    //From the beginning Ishvara did not reveal Himself as the one who was granting the progress step by step. Even now he only plays ‘blind and seek’. Now and then he takes the sAdhaka to samAdhi and later permanently makes him a JIvan-mukta or a videha-mukta. However there is a major difference. In earlier stages, all the cleaning up or purification and other touches-up that were happening in the mind, had Him as their Cause. But now He destroys the very mind itself! Once the mind has vanished, how can this (sAdhaka) get to know Him (the saguNa Brahman)? And that is why even now the work of Ishvara is a black box to the JIva! But though it is not visible to the eyes, it is million times proximate in the sense that there is a unification between ‘this’ and ‘that’ NirguNa. The saguNa Ishvara who makes the JIva a nothing, also makes Himself a nothing and shines only as a sat-cit-Ananda tattva only. [The Mahaswamigal laughs here] I said ‘shines’; is it the light of a bulb of one thousand watts? We are running out of language here! We are only talking at our level like this in order to attempt to communicate! //

    What the Swami Ji seems to indicate is more in line with the world as we see being not anymore continuing as it is, IMHO.


  36. Sorry, Ramesam. I don’t understand the original quotation or the additional commentary. All a bit too ‘mystical’ for me. Any reference to samAdhi as being relevant immediately raises alarm bells.

    If you can refer to a prasthAna traya and/or Shankara commentary in support, I will certainly consider it.

    Best wishes,

  37. Dear Ramesam / Dennis

    The illusion of the world – body – mind is perceived. Who is it that perceives it? If it is the individual jiva-mind that perceives (projects) the world, and its own thoughts-feelings, then liberation could be said to end all perception too.

    If however the ‘Knower of the field’ is Brahman . . . ie that all perceptions of the world-body-mind, including that of the inmost thoughts-feelings are all occurring on the ‘screen’ of Consciousness . . . and therefore ignorance is the superimposition of an illusory ‘I’-thought (and identification with the proximate body-mind) on the Knower of the field . . . then cessation of that illusory ‘I’-thought doesn’t necessarily affect the picture that is showing on the screen.

    Does that make sense?

    best wishes,

  38. Dear Venkat,

    Where is the doubt?
    Why would you still like to leave your comment with a choice?

    Shankara very clearly says in adhAsa bhAShya: ”

    “The Vedantin answers: Since a man without self-identification with the body, mind, senses etc. cannot become a congnizer, and as such, the means of knowledge cannot function for him,
     since perception and other activities (of a man) are not possible without accepting the senses etc. (as his own);
     since the senses cannot function without (the body as) a basis;
     since nobody engages in any activity with a body that has not the idea of the Self superimposed on it;
     since the unrealted Self cannot become a cognizer unless there are all these (mutual superimposition of the Self and the body and their attributes on each other; and
     since the means of the knowledge cannot function unless there is cognizership;
    Therefore, it follows that the means of knowledge, such as direct perception as well as the scriptures, must have a man as their locus who is subjected to nescience. [Translation: Swami Gambhirananda.]

    Secondly, Krishna himself says in BG:

    There are these two beings in the world the perishable and the imperishable : the perishable comprises all creatures, the immutable is called the imperishable. — BG 15.16.

    Shankara explains introducing the next verse, 15.17: “Distinct from these two, the perishable and the imperishable, and untainted by the evils of the two upadhis of the perishable and the imperishable, eternal, pure, intelligent and free by nature is the Highest Spirit. [Translation: A. M. Sastry, 1897.]

    Krishna says at 15.18:
    Because I transcend the perishable and am even higher than the imperishable, therefore, am I known in the world and in the Veda as ‘Purushottama,’ the Highest Spirit. — 15.18, BG

    Shankara comments: “Because I transcend the perishable, the tree of illusory
    samsara called Asvattha, because I am higher than even the imperishable which constitutes the seed of that tree of the illusory samsara, because I am thus superior to the perishable and the imperishable, I am known in the world and in the Veda as the Highest Spirit.”

    Thus all my references are to that brahman (parama AtmA, the Supreme Self) with which identity gets established on Self-realization (carama jnAna, in the words of Swami LalitAlAlitaH.


    [Venkat, I presume you are referring to kshetra and kshetrajna of the 13th chapter in the BG in the 2nd para of your comment.]

  39. Thanks for this fascinating conversation.

    I wonder if all of this isn’t more direct than it is sometimes made to be. I’m thinking of many things, particularly the early line in the Avadhuta Gita which essentially asks in multiple translations, “who would I worship?”

    In other words, since all things have been perceived from the one perspective as long as the perceiver has had the window of consciousness through which to perceive something… everything that appears is inside this window. The very notion of anything outside of the window occurs inside of it.

    I feel this is in Shankara as well, though I”m not well-versed on which texts are truly authored by him or not. I would agree that “proving” which texts he wrote or didn’t is ultimately irrelevant and not going to change much at the end of the day. But for various individuals, such things could settle certain matters.

    In the Atma Bodha, at least, it seems that the constant practice of self knowledge we are urged to maintain is all that is required to experience the oneness. All the words that appear inside of it are neither relevant nor irrelevant to that experience. Only sticking with it matters, or at least realizing after you “fall” back into the jaws of the crocodile, etc. that such experiences too were the “same” consciousness and you were just as present… even if the ego was not.

    Language seems to me both the problem and the solution to working it out and neutralizing any doubt or tension around realizing that whatever it is, THIS is it.

  40. Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the very thoughtful comments.
    I am in agreement with what you say.
    Yes, Language may be useful to a large extent, but it may prove itself to be a hindrance too at some stage because of its basic dualistic structure.

    Texts like Avadhuta Gita follow what may be called as the “Direct Path.”
    In contrast Shankara’s commentaries on the three canonical texts adopt the “Superimposition-Sublation” model of teaching Advaita, as you know. Of course, leaving aside the dispute of the authenticity of authorship as you suggest, his short treatise aparokShAnubhUti follows the Direct path of teaching.

    The ultimate message, as you say, is to abide as that Ultimate Truth. The question, admittedly a hypothetical one, how would the world appear to a seeker who is now fully Self-realized and abides as brahman.


  41. Dear Ramesam

    There is a bit of a chicken and egg problem with:
    “since the unrelated Self cannot become a cognizer unless there are all these (mutual superimposition of the Self and the body and their attributes on each other”

    The mind – which in itself is not real – cannot project a world-body-mind, which is then subject to mutual superimposition on the Self, and thence the cause of the appearance of the world-body-mind.

    Therefore the illusion must in itself be a projection of the Self / Brahman (rather than a non-existent jiva); and that illusion then has the thought (in awareness) that it is the perceiver, when actually the perceiver of the illusion is the Self. Therefore on enlightenment, the illusion does not necessarily disappear – there are just no (or minimal) thoughts pertaining to an ‘I’.

  42. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for the point you make.
    You have surely touched on what may perhaps be called the “weakest link” in the entire dialectics of Advaita!

    Neither Shankara nor the Upanishads ever spent any time to clarify the point raised by you, IMHO, because they never felt it was needed. Their firm position is that creation never happened!

    Again it is my feeling that the Vedanta teachers who came after Shankara (e.g. Abhinavagupta, Ramanuja, Madhwa) too found the stance of Shankara difficult to swallow and hence came up with their own modified theories of Vedanta. This has led people like Appayya Dixita (16th Cent) even to come up with the idea of establishing “harmony” between the four major schools of thought by proposing a pecking order within them – with Shankara’s Advaita at the top and Madhwa’s dvaita at the bottom (see “Chaturmata sAra samgraham” of Dixitendra).

    The post-Shankara Advaitins actually muddied up the situation under the relentless onslaughts of the Ramanuja and Madhwa followers. The situation led to Swami Vidyaranya (14th Cent) declaring that the world continues to appear even after Self-realization – vide 6.13, Pancadashi. Let us not forget that it was the same Swami Vidyaranya who considered the Sage Yajnavalkya of brihat upa fame and who could bless Emperor Janaka announcing that the latter had “realized the Self” to be not a jIvanmukta! So pardon me if I take Swami Vidyaranya’s explanation on the appearance of a world after Self-realization with a double pinch of salt!

    Finally, I wish to draw your kind attention to an unsupported assumption you seem to make in your contention. You appear to presume a sequential operation of cause-effect relationships on a temporal scale in the superimpositions and the appearance of a world at an instance where “time” itself did not exist!

    Shankara clearly says in BSB as well as in BGB that the appearance of a world takes place only when there is an absence of Knowledge of Reality. One may call it as nescience or avidyA or alternately invoke the inexplicable mAyA as an artifact. Therefore, we may perhaps say that the rise of a throb of ignorance and the appearance of a world are coeval. Just as the appearance of a dream world (including age old dream mountains, eternal rivers etc.) suddenly appear with no reason or rhyme, the world too appears at once, the moment the truth is obscured by a wave of ignorance.

    P.S. : You may kindly recall the Series of the posts on “The Ignorance that isn’t.”


  43. “Shankara clearly says in BSB as well as in BGB that the appearance of a world takes place only when there is an absence of Knowledge of Reality.”

    References please, Ramesam!

    Best wishes,

  44. Dear Ramesam,

    Good point about time and causality.

    I don’t think you and I are that far apart. Consider the following:

    US10.13: He who though seeing duality when awake, yet on account of his awareness of non duality does not see it as if he were asleep, and who is apparently active yet really actionless for the same reason – he alone is the knower of the Self.

    US 14.29: When the idea of ‘I’ and the notion ‘mine’ implying that anything belongs to one privately have both become meaningless, then one becomes a knower of the Self.

    US 18.231: For a man does not engage in action for the sake of obtaining that to which he has become indifferent.

    I take this to mean that in the absence of the limiting ‘I’ thought, there is no one there to act, desire, – hence his life is that of a renunciate (but naturally so rather than volitionally). Knowledge incompatible with action.

    You take it a step further to argue that no world appearance continues. In favour of your argument there is:

    US18.5: When thou [mind] has ceased to function there is no notion of difference, through which one suffers through illusion, the delusion that there is a world. For perception (of difference) is the cause of this rise of illusion. When sense of difference is absent (as in dreamless sleep), no one experiences any illusion (Maya).

    US18.26: The enlightened one, having thus beheld that attributeless One which is not knowable as an object to those who know it as none other than their own Self – that enlightened one, who no longer beholds the attributes of the world, does not fall into delusion, being relieved of the fault of taking his perceptions for real.

    US18.27 We do not accept that there is any other way of bringing false perceptions to an end. And it is false perception alone that is the cause of wrong ideas. False perception itself has no cause, and it can be brought to final extinction like a fire deprived of fuel

  45. Dear Venkat and Dennis,

    Thank you very much, Venkat, for your post above. You have come as a Savior to me!

    I was literally aghast and lost by the two-word challenge thrown by Dennis, saying “References please.”

    I have been pouring through various references from Shri S.N. Sastri, SSSS and others wondering how to concisely respond to Dennis.

    After all, we know that the entire purport of Shankara bhAShya texts is to establish the unreality of the world which is an outcome of the ignorance (avidyA) and to show that what remains after the world gets sublated is Self-knowledge which is the same as brahman. Every one of the bhAShya vAkya-s thus appear to be relevant in this context and on that basis, I would end up copying all Shankara’s Commentaries as a reply to Dennis!

    In fact, the references and citations we have already discussed in the two posts titled, “The Lie of the Upanishads” and “The ignorance that Isn’t” are adequate to answer Dennis’s query, unless I misunderstood his question. In addition to those, we have had referred to some more in our comments above under this thread. I was wondering what else should I quote.

    At the best, I could mention what Shankara said in his adhyAsa bhAShya:

    तमेतमेवंलक्षणमध्यासं पण्डिता अविद्येति मन्यन्ते । तद्विवेकेन च वस्तुस्वरूपावधारणं विद्यामाहुः ।
    [Meaning: Now this superimposition, the wise consider to be avidyA. And the ascertainment of the True nature of Reality as It is, they call vidyA.]

    अस्यानर्थहेतोः प्रहाणाय आत्मैकत्वविद्याप्रतिपत्तये सर्वे वेदान्ता आरभ्यन्ते ।
    [Meaning: All the Upanishads are begun to show how the Knowledge of the Unity of Atman is to be attained for getting rid of the source of all these evils.]

    Shri S N Sastri writes in his Handbook of Advaita, “According to Advaita, creation is not real, but is only a superimposition on Brahman, which alone is real in the absolute sense.”

    But those quotes are not unknown to Dennis, IMHO.

    The short document titled, “The Upanishadic approach to Reality” by SSSS cites a large number of Upanishad and bhAShya quotes that are quite relevant in the present context. One may take a look into that work for more references.

    My thanks to Venkat for the upadesha sAhashrI quotes.

    Once again, at the cost of repetition, I may mention the point that was highlighted by Venkat previously and we had some discussion on it. It is always more beneficial, IMHO, to ask whether the subject end (a finite ‘seer’) exists or not after achieving Self-realization, rather than discussing the object end (whether a world is seen or not). Only a ‘finite and limited seer’ can see other finite forms and objects (i.e. the world). In the absence of the finite seer, there is no possibility of forms and their ID-s to be seen to be present — this is a point emphasized by Shankara too as I referred to in my previous comment addressed to Venkat. But it is Swami Vidyaranya who interprets the above to suggest that “The world is sublated – means not its becoming imperceptible but only to say that it is now known to be unreal.”

    We may also recall Shankara’s comments at 13.2 BG and 4.1.3 BSB both of which run almost similar:

    From 13.2, BGB:
    The puzzled Discussant: सा अविद्या कस्य इति ।
    [(You say that the entire appearance of the world is ignorance. But you also argue that the only One that exists, the Self, cannot have ignorance. If that is the position, who has ignorance?) Whose ignorance is it?]
    Vedantin: यस्य दृश्यते तस्य एव ।
    [Whosoever sees ignorance, it is his only.]
    Discussant: कस्य दृश्यते इति ।
    [Who is that to whom avidyA appears? What is his ID?]
    Vedantin: अत्र उच्यते — ‘अविद्या कस्य दृश्यते ? ’ इति प्रश्नः निरर्थकः ।
    [Is your question about whom does avidyA appear to? Such a question is meaningless. It is a waste of time to raise such a doubt.]
    Discussant: कथम् ?
    [How come? Why is it a meaningless question?]
    Vedantin: दृश्यते चेत् अविद्या, तद्वन्तमपि पश्यसि ।
    [If avidyA has been noticed by someone, s/he would also have noticed the owner of avidyA right there. Wherever one finds avidyA, its owner will also be present along with it.]
    Vedantin (continuing): न च तद्वति उपलभ्यमाने ‘सा कस्य ? ’ इति प्रश्नो युक्तः।
    [When the owner of the ignorance is already visible along with the avidyA, it is unwise to ask to whom does ignorance belong.]

    From 4.1.3, BSB:
    Opponent: प्रत्यक्षाद्यभावे श्रुतेरप्यभावप्रसङ्ग
    [In the absence of perception etc., the Vedas also cease to exist.]
    Vedantin: न, इष्टत्वात् ;
    [That is no defect since that position is admitted by us.]
    Opponent: कस्य पुनरयम् अप्रबोध
    [Who is it then that has ignorance (unenlightenment)?]
    Vedantin: यस्त्वं पृच्छसि तस्य ते — इति वदामः ।
    [We say that it is you yourself who ask thus.]
    Opponent: ननु अहमीश्वर एवोक्तः श्रुत्या
    [Is it not stated by the Upanishad that I am God?]
    Vedantin: — यद्येवं प्रतिबुद्धोऽसि, नास्ति कस्यचिदप्रबोधः । योऽपि दोषश्चोद्यते कैश्चित् — अविद्यया किल आत्मनः सद्वितीयत्वात् अद्वैतानुपपत्तिरिति, सोऽपि एतेन प्रत्युक्तः । तस्मात् आत्मेत्येव ईश्वरे मनो दधीत ॥
    [If that is so, you are already an enlightened man, and so nobody has unenlightenment. Hereby also is refuted the criticism of some people who say that the Self becomes associated with a second entity owing to the very presence of nescience, so that Non-dualism becomes untenable. Hence one should fix one’s mind on the Self which is God.]

    Further, Shankara often quotes the 4.5.15 of briahadAraNyaka in his commentaries to impress on us that “when to the Knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what, what should one smell and through what, what should one taste and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one touch and through what, what should one know and through what ? Through what should one know that owing to which all this is known?” I have referred to this already in my comment of Sep 13, 2020.

    It is useful to recall what Gaudapada says in his kArikA at 1.17: “If the manifold universe were to actually exist, it would have to be banished before attaining Advaita. This duality is only a magical appearance. In truth, there is Non-duality alone.”


  46. Dear Venkat,

    I have tried to locate your US references (I assume upadesha sAhasrI) without success. I am referring to you 18.5, 26 and 27. I have looked in several different books but find no correspondence. Could you please check them. (And let us know whose commentary you are using.)

    Best wishes,

  47. My apologies Dennis – it is from US’ final chapter 19, rather that 18. I am using Alston’s translation.

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