Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 7/12:

[Part – 6/12]                                         

NDM: What would you say are the odds of someone being “enlightened” also becoming a Jivanmukta?

Ramesam Vemuri:  Advaita holds that everyone is already a Jivanmukta.  Some scriptures unequivocally declare that the mind is most important.  If it knows clearly that it is unbound, it is free.  If it thinks it is bound, it is in bondage!

And incidentally, the Advaita teaching does not say one “becomes” a Jivanmukta. The teaching is that “You are That.”  It is not to ‘become’ but just to ‘be.’

Enlightenment or the first glimpses of ‘realization’ may entitle one to be called as a Jivanmukta.  But to be unceasingly in/as brahman, one has to overcome several of the distractions that the mind keeps posing.

NDM: The one question that really interests me is what someone can do about their vAsanA-s if they are enlightened, but still have problems with them? 

Ramesam Vemuri:  Yes, Sir.  This is one question that bugs every seeker at every stage until he is firmly established in turIya.

The first thing that needs to be appreciated is that the seeker should be conscious of the hindering behaviors that are coming in his way. Next is that he should not be swayed by them and pulled down back into the phantasmagoric world.  This Awareness itself will help him to overcome the problem.  But it will be useful to come to grips with the impediment as perceived in the ‘now’ rather than attribute the problem to a distant (unknown) cause called vAsanA and try to kill it as though it is the ‘culprit.’  One surely cannot be a Don Quixote (fighting with an imaginary enemy)!

Next is nididhyAsana – discussions with co-seekers and or with established Jnanis are useful so that the actual inhibitory kink in the “Understanding” could get identified.  Identifying the misunderstanding (or the doubtful understanding which is coming in the way of abidance as brahman) may act as a remedy to the problem.

A related and significant point is ‘sat sAngatya’ or association with noble people. It is not merely in terms of human relationships but also in terms of the total interactions with the environment also need to be ‘satvic’.  Such a facilitating environment will and can bring about changes even in the thought patterns and wean away the seeker from the blocks being faced by him.

Present day science too recognizes the important role that the environment plays in the genetic expression.  In fact the environmental influence modifies the genetic expression from the very next moment after the formation of a zygote (in the mother’s womb).  The physio-chemical environment in the mother’s womb exerts a great influence on the developing fetus.

There is not a single week these days without significant research findings on the influence of the environment on the brain being reported in scientific journals.  For example, these are some of the research findings this week:

a) Tumor suppression by enriched environment (The link is presently not working).

b)  What You Really Feel  – Click here.

c)  Of bugs and brains: Researchers discover that gut bacteria affect multiple sclerosis –  Click here.

Thus satsAngatya, a facilitating environment, and food may help overcome the problem.

Finally, I can’t help but quote Peter Dziuban, Author and Non-duality teacher (Web Site: Consciousness is All) in response to similar questions. It is hardly possible to better his inimitable, direct and pointed expression.

Excerpts from his Site:

A situation or problem may appear to present itself, maybe it even seems to be recurring.

The only One who is conscious is Self Itself, NOW Itself.  The “apparent” situation really has no prior status, no foothold of existing whatsoever, no qualities of being lingering or tenacious, NO MATTER HOW IT MAY SEEM.  To this NOW-Awareness, there having been nothing besides Itself, there can be nothing besides Itself that NOW is interested in, or that “gets Its attention.”

Bodies are left entirely out of consideration.  It is ALL about NOW only, for IT is the only One being conscious–not “us.”  There are no situations that NOW has to “work over” or “be worried about” because there have been no prior situations.  NOW has to be, in fact IS, “solely interested” in Its “never-before-Alive Presence” because there simply is nothing else present.

Then the thought may come, “Yes, but the problem still appears to linger.”  This is where one must “put one’s spiritual foot down” and “stand one’s ground” as Never-before-ness, because only this is “honest” and consistent with the way Life actually NOW is present.  The claim of lingering-ness or tenacity isn’t true–for that, too, only would be a current thought trying to arise.  There has been no long past in which something could have lingered.  Where we get unclear is in accepting the seeming (and sometimes seemingly very persistent!) suggestion that there has been a prior time in which all this began.  And then, if accepted, this notion will add feelings of guilt, inadequacy, etc. etc. because there’s a feeling that “I” haven’t been spiritually clear enough to have this apparent situation dissolve.  That’s why “Peter” is left entirely out of consideration.  The responsibility of being NOW is entirely up to NOW–there is no middleman called a Peter-awareness that has to be as good at being NOW as NOW Itself is.  (Italics were by the Author himself).

(To Continue … Part: 8/12)

56 thoughts on “Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 7/12:

  1. Dear Ramesam

    Forgive me, but I thought the last question was a non-sequitur, and Peter Dzubian’s response was neo-advaitic gobbledygook. What an incredibly long-winded and obscure way of saying that all problems are just thoughts; and you are that which observes thoughts, and not the perceived sufferer.

    best wishes,

    • Thanks, Venkat for your comment.
      I had a good laugh when I read it.

      John, the Questioner, is a Buddhist as you may know and he had gone through very rigorous Yoga techniques like 40-day fasting, meditating in a Sensory Deprivation chamber and gained experience in advanced Buddhist methods. I think he took some Advaita courses in an Ashram a few years after the date of my interview.

      He was quite a bit fascinated by the concept of “vAsanA-s” at that time and as you may have noted, a number of his questions were focused on that subject.

      All in all, you may also bear in mind that his questions were more to inform the general public about the Advaitic concepts and some of his questions may not sound very relevant to an advanced seeker like you. I would place Peter’s response too in that category — addressing the needs of a novice in Non-duality, more to inform than to teach the intricacies.


  2. Dear Ramesam,

    Apologies for not thanking you before for re-posting this discussion.

    As you know, I am in the process of writing a book that examines numerous ‘confusions’ amongst seekers, particularly with respect to the relevance of knowledge versus experience. I am just in the process of briefly referencing jIvanmukti and videha-mukti, so obviously I looked to your series.

    The key aspect of my book is that it justifies everything I say by quoting from Shankara or immediate disciples. Subsequent to these, many strange and erroneous ideas entered the teaching. And many of these have been amplified and become accepted elements of Advaita teaching. Basically, one can no longer trust any modern teacher/writer unless one is happy that what they say is in accordance with what are considered to be authentic Shankara/Sureshvara/Padmapada works.

    As regards jIvanmukti and videha mukti, I have so far been unable to track down any references. Of course the terms became really well-known from Vidyaranya’s ‘jIvanmukti viveka’ but he is already suspect because of his addition of samAdhi to shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsan. I believe Yogavasishta was also a source?

    I think that maybe Mandana Mishra around the time of Shankara may be the one who first introduced the term(s) and he is probably the original miscreant to suggest that knowledge alone was insufficient to give enlightenment. So, again, one has to doubt what he says.

    Any help you can give to point to original source material would be much appreciated.

    (P.S. Of course I accept that any teaching that ‘works’ is ok and, in a sense, ‘valid’. What I am interested in doing is showing what the authentic traditional teaching of Advaita is, this being the form that has been proven to work for many seekers. After all, a new seeker wants to learn something that he/she can be sure is authentic, not some random variant that may have worked for the odd person.)

    Best wishes,

  3. I just looked in Jacob’s ‘Concordance’ and the only scriptural reference to jIvanmukti and videhamukti appears to be in the muktikopaniShad, which does not really count since it was obviously a much later work, since it was able to reference all of the other Upanishads.

  4. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for your observations.
    There is undoubtedly a great need for a book like what you are preparing especially in these days when the popularity of Non-duality is growing quite a bit in the West with equally rapidly mushrooming number of gurus taking advantage of the market situation. A source book for authentic information on Advaita in simple understandable language is a glaring gap and I wish all success for your endeavor.

    Regarding scriptural sources for Jivanmukti and Videhamukti, Late Shri S.N. Sastri, whom we all respect very much, mentions the following references in a short article he was kind to contribute to the Blog I maintain:

    Mundaka Upanishad – 2.2.8
    Sankara’s Upadesa saahasri – 10.13
    Naishkarmya siddhi – 4.69
    Sankara’s Vakya vrittis – verses 52, 53
    Sankara Bhashya On Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – 3.2.11; 4.4.6
    Sankara Bhashya on Bhagavad Gita – II.51, V.24, VI.27

    The article is titled: JIVANMUKTI AND VIDEHAMUKTI
    The Link is: https://beyond-advaita.blogspot.com/2010/02/jivanmukti-and-videhamukti.html


  5. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you for the SSSS link.

    What SSSS denies in the relevant paragraphs # 161 and 162 is differentiation of jIvanmukti and videhamukti based on the type of “mukti.”
    But, the paras cited do not mention anything about differentiation of jIvanmukti and videha mukti based on the presence or the absence of the body.

    Yogvasishta also does NOT differentiate the two mukti-s. It says that the mukti-s are identical. At one point, if I remember correctly, Sage Vasishta says that a jIvanmukta has also the freedom to choose when to drop his body (I have to check the exact reference).

    It is quite useful to distinguish the two in practical terms during the discussions on the doctrinal aspects. However, things can become very controversial and confusing if we bring in the related issues of the presence or absence of a “mind” or the issue of avidyAlesha or prArabdha in a jIvanmukta.
    Sage Vasishta discusses these issues in Yogavasishta at three or four places and offers tangible replies from different angles.

    Gaudapda speaks about how a liberated individual (though he did not use the word jIvanmukta) lives in his kArikA at 2.36 and 2.37. Shankara’s explanation at the latter verse does show that the jIvanmukta’s life goes on as if he takes a double-horse ride (taking support from both the body and the AtmA).

    Further, when muNDaka, 1.2.12 asks one to go to a brahma niShTha and shrotriya, obviously the Guru must be a jIvanmukta (one who obtained liberation when he still has the body). When BG 15.6 refers to “My Supreme Abode, to which having gone none return,” clearly, it is a reference to videhamukti.

  6. Dear Ramesam,

    Thanks for those references. I had in fact already found the article on your blog via Google after my last post. I looked at them all and, to be frank, did not find anything relevant. Regarding your reference to BG 15.6, surely this is just saying that, having realized Brahman, there is no ‘un-realizing’. There is nowhere actually to ‘go’ (or come back) since one is already Brahman, just had not previously appreciated this.

    Certainly, the teacher to whom one goes for instruction should be a j~nAnI and a shrotriya. But there is no indication that he/she should (also?) be a jIvanmukta. If j~nAna and jIvanmukti are synonymous, of course, no problem. videha mukti seems superfluous. (Note I am still scanning jIvanmukti viveka, so this is not necessarily my final word!)

    Regarding SSSS, I have many electronic versions of his works and a couple of hardcopy. I had thought I actually had ‘Essentials’ as a small paperback but haven’t (yet) found it.

    It would seem that, prior to enlightenment, one has ‘ignorance’ and thinks that one is separate. Once Self-knowledge is gained however, it is known that there is only Brahman. There is no ‘being bound’ and ‘being liberated’ and certainly no ‘merging’ or ‘going’ anywhere. What is there other than knowing this or not knowing it?

    Best wishes,

  7. Dear Dennis,

    You leave me a bit confused.

    We all are aware that the ultimate teaching of Advaita is that there is neither liberation nor anyone seeking it as said in 4-5 Upanishads like amRitabindu and also in GK 2.32. We also know that liberation is getting what is already got and which was never lost.

    But in order to arrive at that understanding experientially (not merely intellectually), one may have to follow some method or path which is convenient for him/her, as Sureshwara said:

    यया यया भवेत्पुम्सां व्युत्पत्तिः प्रत्यगात्मनि ।
    सा सैव प्रक्रिया साध्वी ज्ञेया सा चानवस्थिता ॥ — 1- 4 – 402, br. up. bhAshya vArtikA.

    Meaning: That path alone by following which a man becomes grounded in the knowledge of the “I-Principle,” is the right path for him. There is no single path which suits all alike.

    Any path or method gets developed based on a conceptual “model.”
    Each “model” in turn comes with its own “elements” or “components.”
    Such components may not, understandably, be commonly valid across all models nor is it reasonable to insist that they should be.
    Those elements may sometimes be “coined” newly or could arise from certain pre-existing concepts having vague descriptions in the existing literature. The concept of “mithya” is a famous example for this and it was introduced by Shankara himself though the early Upanishadkars never needed such a word.

    To my mind, the concepts of Jivanmukti and Videhamukti are such words which got introduced at a later time defining more technically some already existing descriptions in the literature.

    Hence, one may not find the exact terminology, say, in the prasthAna trayI, though the seeds of the concepts may be present. Are we not foreclosing the issue, if we insist that the very same terms should exist in the only acceptable hallmark for us, viz. Shankara bhAShya-s?

    “Why a body continues to exist (conventionally) for a jIvan mukta is discussed in Chandogya 6.14.2 and also in brahma sUtra 4.1.15.
    Katha 2.3.14 and it’s bhAShya are often cited as a pramANa for jIvan mukti.
    The word jIvanmukta appears in the bhAShya in only one place at BG 6-27.”


    • Of course I agree entirely that, if a set of ideas leads a seeker to realization of non-duality, it has been successful/worthwhile/valid (whatever word you like) for that seeker. What I am interested in is that set of ideas that has been proven time and again to work for a variety of seekers, to generate the least confusion and so on. And what I have found is that the ‘methodology’ systematized by Shankara fulfils those requirements.

      ‘Alien’ (to Shankara) ideas that have been introduced in later centuries do not satisfy those criteria. In particular, in modern times, ideas promulgated by Ramakrishna/Vivekananda and by supposed ‘disciples’ of Ramana have led to no end of confusion. These have their roots in other teachers stretching back to Mandana Mishra around Shankara’s time, and writers and academics picking up on some of those strange ideas have only confused matters even more.

      I don’t honestly see how introduction of concepts such as jIvanmukti and videha mukti help. Surely they just complicate matters? Self-knowledge means that I know (now) that I am Brahman. I am not the body-mind so that my ‘liberation’ cannot be in any way dependent upon the life or death of that body-mind.

      I agree that there is room for further books etc. to elucidate and help others to understand the scriptures. This is especially necessary for those that are unable to have access to a traditional teacher. (After all, that is essentially what I try to do!) But I do not believe that this can be extended to the introduction of new concepts that did not exist at the time of Shankara. And I am beginning to see that this is more prevalent than perhaps I had previously thought. Much of what we learn about Advaita comes from books that are written by modern writers who have read other books by older writers, who have read… Many of these writers cannot even read Sanskrit! Misconceptions become amplified in this way until some seekers start to really believe that, for example, we need to go into samAdhi for extended periods of time in order to ‘experience’ Brahman and gain enlightenment!

      I’m not clear why you reference Chandogya 6.14.2 and brahma sUtra 4.1.15. I have never argued against prArabdha karma (although of course, in reality, no one is ever born etc.).

      Regarding Katha 2.3.14, Shankara says: “he who was before enlightenment mortal becomes immortal after enlightenment – by virtue of the elimination of death constituted by ignorance, desire and deeds.” I.e. Self-knowledge eliminates ignorance and therefore one realizes one’s already-existent immortality, irrespective of the existence of an apparent body-mind.

      I’m afraid I don’t see the word jIvanmukta in BG bhAShya 6.27 (I’m looking at ‘The Complete Works of Sri Sankaracharya’ from Samata Books.)

      Best wishes,

  8. Dear Ramesam

    Logically if avidya is wrong identification with a separate body-mind, which is not real, then with jnana, when this avidya is removed, there is no separate body-mind in the view of the jnani. So to talk about Jivanmukti and Videhamukti is only in the view of seekers.

    Thank you for the reference to MK 2.37. I have read this in the past, but never picked this point up: Sw Nikhilananda comments that this verse refers to the (advanced) seeker; and that MK2.38 indicates the condition of a jnani. I’d concur with him, as Sankara in 2.37 talks about the seeker forgetting the consciousness of the Self, to eat etc, whilst in 2.38 he says that the jnani never loses the consciousness of the Self.

    MK2.37 (and Sankara’s Bhasya) is an instruction to the seeker to keep one’s mind in Brahman and ‘depend upon chances’ for food, clothing. MK2.38 makes clear that a jnani never loses the consciousness of the Self (and implicitly therefore vyvavaharic existence and a separate body/mind has no further concern for him).

    Does that make sense?

    Best wishes,

  9. Dear Venkat,

    Hope you will not mind if I try to do a little bit of hairsplitting what you said to bring out, IMHO, better clarity.

    The conditional clause, “if avidya is wrong identification with a separate body-mind,” will not lead us to say “there is no separate body-mind” as and “when this avidya is removed.”
    It can only lead us to say that there is “no wrong identification” with a separate body-mind.

    The point I want to highlight is that the body-mind will not disappear! It will just stay as an another entity in the totality of the world.

    Secondly, “avidya” does not automatically mean, IMHO, that “the body-mind is not real.”

    Why I am pointing out the above is to demo how some teachers and teachings innocuously mix up different models.

    One “model” is about “The wrong identification with a finite body-mind” and without destroying anything, leaving the body-mind and everything as it “IS,” expanding what I thought as “my” consciousness to be the Infinite Consciousness in the whole manifest and unmanifest Universe. The Consciousness is “seen” to be not confined to the body-mind and, in fact, extends much beyond, It being “unlocatable.”

    It is a different “model” to treat the ever “changing” body-mind (and the world) to be unreal and discover the “unchanging” eternal immanent, immutable and immortal (change implies mortality) *principle* in all that is changing. In this “model” we find the Universal “Beingness-Consciousness” that is present everywhere.

    Both “models” take the seeker to the Infinity.

    I am fully with you when you say that “to talk about Jivanmukti and Videhamukti is only in the view of seekers.” Perhaps, it is quite unobjectionable to say that “all talk / teaching” and not merely the “models” that involve Jivanmukti and Videhamukti, are relevant “only in the view of seekers.”

    Please pardon me if I sounded impertinent.


    • Dear Ramesam:

      Everything, it seems, “is in the view of seekers”, as you put it above.

      Maha Yoga by “WHO”, Page 170


      That the Sage is in his real nature mindless, and does not will the actions he seems to do, will be seen from the following: Once the Sage was going about somewhere on the Arunachala Hill, when he accidentally disturbed the hive of a community of wasps, hidden by the dense foliage of a shrub. The wasps got angry and settled upon the offending leg and went on stinging. The Sage stayed there motionless till the wasps were satisfied, saying to the leg: “Take the consequences of your action.” This incident was narrated by the Sage to many disciples, and so it was known to all. Long afterwards a disciple-devotee put him the following question: “Since the disturbance of the wasp-hive was accidental, why should it be regretted and atoned for, as if it had been done intentionally?” The Sage replied: “If in fact the regretting and atoning is not his act, what must be the true nature of his mind?” Here the Sage met the question by another question.The disciple knew his Guru to be a Sage. But it seems that at the time he was not fully aware of the truth that a Sage is one who is a native of the Egoless State and is therefore mindless. Hence he assumed that the act in question was done by the Sage, and based his question on that assumption. The Sage graciously pointed out that the assumption was wrong, and indicated that the so-called mind of a Sage is not really mind, but Pure Consciousness; the Sage has confirmed this teaching many times, saying that the mind of a Sage is not mind, but the Supreme Reality.


      • But you also have the following from from an acute Ramana scholar: (A mistaken interpretation, I think)
        One very clear illustration of his unbounded and absolutely impartial compassion and love was an incident that occurred when he was a young man. One day while he was walking though a thicket his thigh accidentally brushed against a hornet’s nest, disturbing its numerous occupants, who immediately flew out in a rage and began to sting his offending thigh. Understanding their natural response, and feeling sorry for the disturbance that he had accidentally caused them, he stood quite still and, in spite of the intense pain that they were inflicting upon him, patiently allowed them to string his thigh until they were all fully satisfied and returned to their nest. In later years, when Sri Muruganar wrote a verse (which is now included in Guru Vachaka Kovai as verse 815) asking him why he felt repentant and allowed the hornets to sting his thigh even though the disturbance he caused them was not intentional, he replied by composing verse 7 of Upadesa Tanippakkal, in which he said:

        Though the swarming hornets stung the leg so that it became inflamed and swollen when it touched and damaged their nest, which was spread [and concealed] in the midst of green leaves, and though it [the act of disrupting their nest] was a mistake that happened accidentally, if one did not at least feel sorry [pity for the hornets and repentant for the trouble caused to them], what indeed would be the nature of his mind [that is, how thoroughly hard-hearted and insensitive it would be]?

        By his own life and example Sri Ramana taught us the great importance not only of kindness, love, tender-heartedness, consideration, compassion and ahimsa, but also of humility, selflessness, desirelessness, non-acquisitiveness, non-possessiveness, non-wastefulness, generosity, contentment, self-restraint, self-denial and utter simplicity of lifestyle. None of these qualities were cultivated or practised by him with any effort, but were all quite effortless, because they were natural effects of his absolute egolessness.

        • I prefer the story quoted by Krishnan Sugavanam somewhere on this site:

          “I remember a story which once Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati narrated. There was a King in whose court there were a number of preceptors from various philosophies, including one from Advaita. The King was very close to the Advaitin and the other philosophers were looking for the first opportunity to prove the Advaitin wrong. One day, when the King and his retinue were walking in a forest, suddenly there appeared a wild elephant. The Advaitin was the first one to take off and run for cover.

          Later, when all of them assembled in the King’s court, preceptors of other philosophies wasted no time in grasping the opportunity to point out to the King, that though the Advaitin taught everything was mithyA, he was the first one to run on seeing the wild elephant – and they asked ‘Why would the Advaitin run on seeing the wild mithyA elephant?’ The Advaitin responded calmly: ‘yes I did run – but who said my running was satyam – it was also mithyA’. :-)”

          Presumably Ramana was not familiar with the concept of mithyA…

  10. Dear Ramesam,

    ‘impertinent’ – of course not. That is the reason for commenting – to clarify!

    I agree my words were confusing, though I did intend to emphasise “separate” in “no separate body mind”, and did not intend to imply the body-mind disappears.

    Though I’d be interested in your thoughts about MK2.37 and 38, esp wrt Sankara’s differentiation between a seeker (who rests on Atman and body) and jnani (who only is conscious of the Self) – implying no consciousness of body, given his comment on 2.37?

  11. I will pick up on Ramesam’s response tomorrow but, briefly, here is what I said on MK 2.37-38 in ‘A-U-M’:

    “(K2.37) The way of life of the Brahmin (literally one possessing sacred knowledge, i.e. knowledge of Self) – the Indian scholar or priest – around the time of Gaudapada involved four ‘stages’ or Ashrama-s. He began his life as a student or brahmacharya, unmarried, religious and chaste. He then married and had a family – this is called the period of the ‘householder’ or gRRihastha. He then retired from life with its pursuit of pleasure and wealth and became a so-called ‘forest dweller’ or vAnaprastha. He then lived the life of a hermit and continued his religious studies. The final stage was called saMnyAsa and involved complete renunciation. He relied entirely on charity for food and clothing and spent the remainder of his life in meditation and control of the senses. The practice still continues, albeit to a much lesser degree of course, up to today.

    “It was generally accepted that the serious seeker would follow this path and finish his life as a saMnyAsin. Gaudapada says here that a saMnyAsin is no longer bound by the ritual practices followed by a gRRihastha. Nor does he seek praise or devotion from others for his accomplishments. He is unconcerned about where his shelter and food come from, happy to trust that these will be provided when needed. (Wandering ascetics were always treated with respect in ancient India and householders willingly provided them with alms as a sacred duty.)

    “Shankara says that the saMnyAsin knows him or herself is always the unchanging Atman but that, for ordinary activities such as eating, he or she effectively re-identifies with the body for that purpose.

    “(K2.38) Once the truth has been realized, and it is known that both oneself and the external world are nothing other than name and form of brahman, one has ‘become one with reality’ and will naturally remain always mindful of that knowledge, and take no further interest in any dualistic phenomena. The unenlightened tend to believe that they are their mind. Since the mind changes, they think that ‘I’ change also. Sometimes I may think that I know the truth and feel positive and happy about this. Then something happens that upsets this false knowledge and I become pessimistic again. The truly enlightened are steady in their knowledge and remain unaffected in the face of adversity. They know that ‘I’, the Atman, is unchanging and that is my real nature. They look on everything with equanimity, knowing that it is their own Self.”

  12. Dear Dennis, Ramesam and Shishya

    This could be a real interesting conversation!

    Shishya, thank you for the very pertinent Maharishi quote from Lakshmana Karma – I think it gets to the heart of it.


    I was reflecting on your ‘models’ approach to infinity, and that they shouldn’t be confused. I’m sure this is not your intent, but by talking of models, it implies they are techniques to make the mind understand truth. I’d suggest that they are actually different perspectives on truth, and the ‘trick’ is to understand how they can both be reconciled as true and mutually compatible. There are no parts to Brahman, and there is only Brahman. I (mis-)conceive a world in which my body-mind acts in its own interests; but my projections of separate body-mind-world is unreal, in the sense that separation is misconceived, but also that what changes can only be relative to what is changeless. So for the jnani, it is not possible to say that the body-mind will stay as “another entity in the totality of the world”. This I think is the essence of Shishya’s bolded quote from Maharishi.

    You also said that avidya does not automatically mean that the body-mind is not real. But avidya is confusing what is not really there to be what is really there. Body-mind, distinct nama-rupa of Brahman, is what Vedanta says is not true, because Brahman is partless.

    Now I must apologise for my impertinence, given you are far better versed in this than me – please understand these assertions in the nature of statements of my understanding at this stage, and welcoming clarification.


    Thank you for your elucidation of the Mandukyakarika, which is what I understood. I think I take it a step further than you would though. When you say “take no further interest in any dualistic phenomenon”, it is like Ashtavakra’s ‘dry leaf blown by the wind’; there is no sense of a separate ‘I’ that is trying to self-preserve or achieve anything. Maharishi’s life is a model of this. So the sadhana of renunciation (living by what comes to him by chance) of MK2.37, and what Sankara constantly extols elsewhere (e.g. Brhad 3.5.1: “Since scholarship regarding the Self cannot come without the elimination of desires, therefore the renunciation of these is automatically enjoined by the knowledge of the Self”) , leads to an attenuation of the ego-mind that then makes it ready to assimilate, even through mere hearing, the mahavakyas. In effect the sadhana models the behaviour that non-volitionally is lived by a jivanmukta. So I’m not sure it is right to say that sannyasa was simply a function of its historical timing and attitudes.

    best wishes,

  13. Venkat,

    I don’t really want to get sidetracked into discussing saMnyAsa. I feel that this was largely a societal issue of the time and is not particularly relevant today. We know that Shankara was particularly keen on this and the discussion in Br.U. 3.5.1 is an example of this.

    But there is a danger from your quote of getting into a knowledge versus experience discussion again (which I also want to avoid, since the new book is principally about that, and dedicated anonymously to you). It is true that knowledge of the Self entails loss of desire. But that does not ‘then make it ready to assimilate’. The idea of ‘scholarship’ implies you are talking about a separate, prior ‘mere intellectual knowledge’ and I would refute such a notion. This interpretation is not suggested by the extract, I think. Please quote the precise words (and Sanskrit) if you disagree.

    Best wishes,

  14. Dear Dennis,

    I am addressing here what seems to be your main concern – the rubber-stamping of the word “jivanmukti” by Shankara.

    I shall come back in a bit (the day has proved a little unfortunate for me) regarding the other points made by you and other friends.

    It is unfortunate that the AdvaitashArada database of Sringeri has been inaccessible for me since yesterday. So I had to search for other sources for BGB of Shankara. I am copying below what I found:

    From: https://archive.org/details/BhagavadGitaBhashyaAdiSankara2/page/n235

    Part of Shankara’s commentary at BG 6.27:

    ब्रह्मभूतं **जीवन्मुक्तम्** ‘ब्रह्मैवसर्वम्’ इत्येवं निश्चयवन्तं ब्रह्मभूतम् अकल्मषं धर्माधर्मादिवर्जितम् ||
    [brahmabhUtam *JivanmuktaM* ‘brahmaiva sarvam’ ityevam nishcayavantam brahmabhUtam akalmaSham dharmAdharmAdi varjitaM || ]

    Meaning: “… who has become a Jivan-mukta (a man whose is liberated while still alive), convinced that all is brahman ; who has no blemish whatsoever, who is not affected by dharma and adharma.” — Translation by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry, first edition 1897, 7th 1977, Samata Books , Chennai.

    I trust that the above will put at rest about your apprehension that Shankara did not use that “word.”

    Secondly, it is also unfortunate that you regard that anything that does not appear in prashtAna trayi bhAShya-s is suspicious. We know that Shankara adopted mainly the “adhyAropa and apavAda” model in the bhAShya-s. Undoubtedly it is a powerful explanatory “model.” He himself used other “models” in his works like short treatises and monographs. But ingenuously, some people dispense them away as unauthentic for the reason that he did not use the “adhyAropa and apavAda” approach, as though the extra-ordinary genius of Shankara was so limited that he did not know any other way of teaching Advaita!

    Had you been a bit more considerate to take a benevolent look at the slightly condensed translation of Yogavasishta available at your Web site, it would have helped dispel the doubt and fear that make you to say: “I don’t honestly see how introduction of concepts such as jIvanmukti and videha mukti help. Surely they just complicate matters?”

    As you are aware, Yogavasishta is a well-respected treasure house of Advaitic wisdom since time immemorial. Sage Vasishta used the concepts of jivanmukti and videhamukti very profitably bringing absolute clarity to a seeker lost in confusion. The word jivanmukt and its variations appear in the version at your site right from the 2nd chapter till the last one, the total number of occurrences being 123. This large frequency of its appearance in Sage Vasishta’s discourses should tell us how useful the Sage must have found the concept in imparting Advaitic message.

    I typed a long response which the system just swallowed up before I could post it. (Third reason for the day being unfortunate for me !).

    I shall come back re: other points soon, as I already said.


  15. Dear Ramesam,

    First of all my humble apologies for not reading Yogavasishtha again in recent years. I read the Venkatesananda ‘Supreme Yoga’ version many years ago and found much of it fascinating. I always intended to re-read but there is always a list of things to read and it has never quite reached the top of the list.

    Thanks for the BG 6.27 quote. I have now found it in the ‘Complete Works’. I have to admit to my poor ability to read Devanagari as an excuse! (I have to keep a crib sheet next to me.)

    The Sastry translation of the shloka is: “Supreme bliss verily comes to this Yogin, whose mind is quite tranquil, whose passion is quieted, who has become Brahman, who is blemishless.” He then goes on to give the translation of Shankara’s comment as you have written. But one cannot help noting that the comment “(a man who is liberated while still alive)” is in brackets. I.e. it was not Shankara who said that. Do we have a literal, word-by-word translation? It would make far more sense if Shankara meant by jIvanmukta ‘someone who has gained Self-knowledge and therefore now knows that he is already free and unlimited’. There is also the implication (from the shloka) that the stillness of mind etc. has to be gained PRIOR to getting the Self-knowledge, not a reward for getting it.

    I don’t think that this single usage can possibly justify any claim that Shankara understood and used the terms jIvanmukti and videha mukti in the manner that they are now used.

    P.S. I hope the final part of your day has been more satisfactory!

    Best wishes,

  16. Hi Dennis

    In Madhavananda’s translation of BrUp, Sankara’s bhasya on 3.5.1 includes:

    Objection: Since this Upanishad seeks to inculcate Self-knowledge, the passage relating to the renunciation of desires is just a eulogy on that, and not an injunction.

    Reply: No, for it is to be performed by the same individual on whom Self-knowledge is enjoined . . . Self-knowledge, renunciation of desires and begging would be connected with the same individual only if these were obligatory . . .

    Objection: Suppose we say that being under the category of ignorance and being desires, the abandonment of the holy thread, etc is a mere corollary to the injunction on Self-knowledge, and not a separate injunction

    Reply: No, since this is connected with the same individual along with the injunction of Self-knowledge, the obligatory nature of this renunciation as also the begging is all the more clearly established.


  17. Hi Venkat,

    I’m not clear what point you are making. I have agreed that Shankara is talking about saMnyAsa here (and also said I am not really interested in discussing this as it relates to cultural aspects and not directly to the mechanism of gaining enlightenment). Obviously he thought that the lifestyle of a saMnyAsI was conducive to study and I dare say it was (although not necessarily). But clearly it was even then not a sine qua non, as kShatrIya-s and gRRihastha-s are also referred to as j~nAnI-s in the scriptures. I don’t understand why this is relevant to the jIvanmukti issue.

    Best wishes,

  18. Hi Dennis

    I was responding to your comment to me at 14:37 where you asked:

    ” It is true that knowledge of the Self entails loss of desire. But that does not ‘then make it ready to assimilate’. The idea of ‘scholarship’ implies you are talking about a separate, prior ‘mere intellectual knowledge’ and I would refute such a notion. This interpretation is not suggested by the extract, I think. Please quote the precise words (and Sanskrit) if you disagree.”

    I understood you were challenging me on ‘mere intellectual knowledge’. Hence the quote from Sankara says that renunciation and begging is obligatory alongside gaining Self knowledge.


  19. Apologies, Venkat. I had forgottent the earlier thread. (Part of the aging process, I’m afraid!)


  20. Hi Shishya

    Nice to see you here after a long time!

    I agree with you when you say: “Everything, it seems, “is in the view of seekers.” ”
    After all, as you know, all communication can happen only in duality.

    Like you, I guess I will also be inclined to go with the first version of the story. The key take home message seems to be in the last lines of your first quote: “the mind of a Sage is not mind, but the Supreme Reality.”

    If one becomes too nitpicky at this stage, questions like “Does a Sage possess a mind?; Can the Supreme Reality be reduced to be a tiny mind in a human body?; What will be the nature of a mind of a Sage?; Can we call it by the name ‘mind’ if it is different from the mind of a man on the street? etc. etc.”

    These become issues for considerable deliberation and debate and one may not arrive at a reasonable conclusion unless one follows one single internally consistent teaching “model.” IOW, it is difficult to find a solution to the questions in such a way that it can satisfy across all teaching models. (Because, on the attainment of Self-realization, some assume that the mind would be destroyed, some others invoke vAsanA-s; some postulate prArabdha; yet others say that the world will exist as it is but the ‘perspective’ of the Sage changes; others hold that the world will be diaphanous like a dream etc. etc.).

    • Thank you for your reply, Ramesam, especially this part…
      “Like you, I guess I will also be inclined to go with the first version of the story. The key take home message seems to be in the last lines of your first quote: “the mind of a Sage is not mind, but the Supreme Reality.”
      In my opinion the second interpretation is superficial and misses a deeper point by getting mired in the bathos of “compassion” etc, which is just a projection of the writer’s mind. It matters very little that this is verse 815 in Guru Vachaka Kovai or other “authentic” sources as certified by the writer and others. I give more importance to the spoken word, Shruti, as opposed to “teachings” written and polished by collaborating poets in the throes of devotion…

      In this realm, it seems to me, If it is not effortless, it is worthless.
      The Sage replied: “If in fact the regretting and atoning is not his act, what must be the true nature of his mind?”
      So what is the deeper point I mentioned above?

      The first thing to notice is that RM felt regret for the act and the urge to atone for it which he did in a somewhat quixotic way, respectfully. Refer to Dennis’s remarks for a sarcastic take on this point..

      The second thing is that he tells you that these acts are NOT his, in other words, it undercuts Dennis’ sarcasm by noting that all the outer phenomena involving the body-mind are not Real. Yes, even your “innermost” thoughts are merely outer phenomena. They do not supervene over the Real, but are totally apart from it.

      Reality is an altogether different dimension.

      It is silly to draw kindergarten illustrations of “compassion” from this episode, in my opinion. Hope I have not offended anyone.

      To quote from your reply again:

      The key take home message seems to be in the last lines of your first quote: “the mind of a Sage is not mind, but the Supreme Reality.”

      All that remains is for Martin to pitch in with his insights and we can ring the bell concluding the first round….


  21. Dennis,

    In SSSS’ Essential Adi Shankara,

    Note 201: “Karmas if performed by a mumukshu with an ardent desire to obtain moksha, either in this present birth or previous births, but before the dawn of Jnana Utpatti, become the principal means or root cause for Brahma Jnana, through the sublation or removal of demerits – which are impediments on the spiritual path of intuiting Brahman . . . therefore those karmas become, by virtue of Parampara, the cause for Mukti, the final goal of human existence, which is attained actually as a result of Brahma Vidya, which in turn is attained by practising Antaranga Sadhanas (internal, introverted mental disciplines) like Shravana, Mañana and Nidhidhyasana.”

    In Note 214: In response to “So where is the question of a person who has attained jnana in his Grihastha Ashrama itself practising Sannyasa and thereby going to a forest at all?”
    He replies: “Because he has realised the truth that there is no benefit whatsoever accruing from any of the karmas of these ashramas, the jnani attains Paarivraajya (the wondering life of a religious monk or recluse).”

    Your response to Shishya with the Dayananda story of an advaitin and elephant, and subsequent comment on Ramana’s understanding of mithya, is not actually in consonance with the sense of total loss of volition that SSSS also points to. For a jivanmukta the body is already irrelevant, even before death.

  22. Dear Venkat,

    Re: Your kind observations on *‘models’ approach to infinity.*

    You say that a model “implies they are techniques to make the mind understand truth.”

    I agree that the end objective is “to make the mind understand truth.” But I may hesitate to call it a “technique,” though some times a model may also be a technique. The model is mainly a conceptual schema, you may say. Each concept follows certain prior assumptions, definitions, a number of components and their inter-relationships, and so on. These factors may vary from one model to another.

    You say that you would like to “suggest that they are actually different perspectives on truth, and the ‘trick’ is to understand how they can both be reconciled as true and mutually compatible. ”

    That statement itself can be the basis of drafting/developing a different model, IMHO.

    My comment that “that the body-mind will not disappear! It will just stay as an another entity in the totality of the world” seems to have caused some confusion.
    Let me try to clarify on that.
    The initial position is that my ‘consciousness’ (i.e. knowing ability / sentience) is confined within my body. I am the “knower.” What is out there is the “known” by me. What is “known” is the matter or world which is “insentient.” I can ‘see or know’ the tree in front but the tree does ‘not see or know me.’

    But Consciousness (brahman) is formless and all-pervasive. It is seamless and undivided Infinite Oneness.

    So the first ‘model’ helps me to internalize and experientially realize that what I thought is “my” consciousness is NOT merely within this body which I have been claiming to be “mine,” but it permeates all That-IS. Therefore, the world and all entities in it are also sentient, the sentience being unlimited. When everything that “IS” in the world is thus realized to be One unbroken Consciousness, the entities do continue but shine with Consciousness. What I claimed thus far as my-body is not anymore claimed to be ‘mine’ and it continues its “beingness” like all other forms in the world. On realization, the world does NOT disappear to a Jivanmukta. The body which so far housed him/her is a part of the world and hence it will also be within the world seamlessly integrated with all that IS.

    I am not anymore the owner for that body or the tree or the river or the mountain rock.

    Next, you say that ” avidya is confusing what is not really there to be what is really there.”
    “adhyAsa” IMHO is the term for confusing one thing for another. “avidyA” could be the source for adhyAsa. The confusion can also occur because of a defect in the instrument of perception (e.g. double moons).

    Re: “Body-mind, distinct nama-rupa of Brahman, is what Vedanta says is not true, because Brahman is partless.”

    Say, you take your hand as an example. You may see the entirety as just One entity. But you can fragment it “notionally” as palm, little finger, ring finger etc. and further into digits, color, front, back,wrist, nails and so on introducing nAma and rUpa.

    And also, please note that nAma and rUpa stand for all ideas and things; or mind and matter; time and space; thought and perception etc. when used in Vedanta, as per context. The ID-tags and divvying the Oneness into fragments is a contribution of our using the mind and senses as the instruments through which we gain ‘knowledge’ (prama). So mind and the sensing apparatus are introducing the distortion in what is perceived.

    • Dear Ramesam

      (1) You talked of the importance of not confusing distinct “models” – in this case, one based on wrong identification with a finite body mind and a second based on an ever-changing body mind that is unreal compared to the unchanging eternal. But I don’t believe Gaudapada / Shankara worry about such distinctions of models – in MK chapter 2 they move seamlessly between talking about the equivalence of waking and dream and their unreality; to the jiva (subject) imagined to be acting in a separate world (object) (vide 2.16); to the real (unchanging) nature of the rope to be seen (2.18); to the atma which is non-separate but appears separate (2.30). I’m not sure this distinction of models is important: we confuse what is changing to be unchanging, which is basically equivalent to saying we (the unchanging Brahman) falsely identity with the finite, changing body mind. And the outcome – cessation of identification of being-consciousness with a finite body-mind and its expansion to being seen as everywhere – is the same. So perhaps an overly-puritanical approach?

      (2) Next you pulled me up for confusing (:-) avidya with adhyasa. Fair enough, but SSSS also uses these interchangeably, as in his note 25 for the Essential Aid Sankara: “Avidya means misconception, delusion or wrong knowledge of reckoning one thing as another. This misconception or delusion is caused by conceiving a characteristic feature or quality in a particular object or thing in which that particular characteristic or quality really does not exist. `this wrong conception is called adhyasa”. So perhaps splitting hairs?

      (3) With regard to your point about Nama-rupa in Brahman, Gaudapada would say that the universe is just a dream, an imagination in consciousness. As such the ‘hand’ model supports a materialistic perception of the world, which can be readily superseded by the realisation that every experience in consciousness can only be consciousness – and hence the partlessness of Brahman.

      (4) Finally, as you know, in eka jiva vada, on moksha, the world in all likelihood would disappear!

      with mischievous intent,

      • Dear Venkat,

        I agree with all your points above.

        I feel I totally lost now after hitting over half century of all our comments, the thread of my thinking with regard to why I said what I said. Did you not initially want me to explain how I processed in my mind about the possible continuity of the appearance of a body even after one realized the Self – the ground for the development of the terminology of jIvanmukta and videhamukta?

        Anyway, under that impression, I was perhaps trying to spell the way I understood various terms and reason out finally why all “This As-IS is brahman,” as the mahavAkya-s aver. The “This” in that sentence is what we perceive and call as the world wrongly, as you said. The body is a part of the world but we claim it as ‘me or mine’ under ignorance of who we truly are.

        Then our attention got shifted to different issues and I lost the connection to this convo. Maybe, we can start afresh, if you think it will be useful.


  23. Dear Dennis,

    You say: “I don’t think that this single usage can possibly justify any claim that Shankara understood and used the terms jIvanmukti and videha mukti in the manner that they are now used.”

    I really wish you had that level of skepticism about the teachings of some of our modern Swamis!

    Though, understandably, I cannot produce any direct “evidence,” doubting Shankara’s ‘understanding’ is, IMHO, indefensible, particularly from one who would like to swear by Shankara’s word for Advaita tradition.

    However, I do have enough reason to assert that Shankara must have had been knowledgeable of the concepts of Jivanmukti and Videhamukti. The evidence comes from what he writes in his commentary at chAndogya and also BSB when the “departure” of the subtle body of an ajnAni and that of a Knower of brahman is discussed.

    I am giving below briefly the general scheme of things. (Unfortunately, the Sringeri database is still playing truant and hence I cannot quote the exact references).

    Death is inevitable for everything and everyone that is born (vide the famous BG verse 2.27) – be s/he an ajnAni or a jnAni.

    The body of a Knower of brahman does not just drop dead the moment Self-knowledge is acquired. It has to mark its time for a certain period. He is referred to as a jnAni or sthita prajna or jnAna niShTha or sthitadhIH etc. during that period of time. The remnant “impressions” of the jnAni will be of the form of brahman (Universal) unlike that of the ajnAni whose vAsanA-s will have a “particular” (vishesha) form specific to that individual. The life-force at the end of the jnAni’s life does NOT “travel” anywhere. It just gets absorbed into the five fundamental elements right where he dies — irrespective of the place of death — whereas the mind and life-force combo of the ajnAni will go in search of another body.

    As and when the body of the jnAni gets dropped, he attains eternal mukti which we refer to as the “videha mukti (liberation without the body). There is absolutely no time gap between the two eventa (or rather’non-events’), as Shankara avers.

    From the detailed descriptions that Shankara gives in BSB with respect to the departure, we can infer that Shanakra was well aware of the difference between Jivanmukti and videhamukti.


  24. Dear Ramesam,

    I suggest you are playing with words for effect here. You say that “doubting Shankara’s ‘understanding’ is, IMHO, indefensible”. I am not in the slightest doubting his understanding. On the contrary, I am questioning those who apparently misunderstand Shankara or who attribute things to him that he never said. What I am saying is that one use of the word ‘jIvanmukti’ in his entire oeuvre cannot possibly justify todays connotations of jIvanmukti and videha-mukti as being commensurate with Shankara’s teaching of Advaita. That is all. Surely, had he considered it to be an important topic, he would have said rather more on the subject?

    However, I have just read through BSB 3.3.27 and it is certainly true that Shankara did talk about all of this sort of thing (and shuklagati and related topics at length elsewhere in BSB). So I concede that he was aware of the sorts of ideas entailed in the two concepts, even if he never used the terms.

    But you must admit that the way that you phrase your statements implies that you consider today’s understanding to be correct almost without question. And you are looking for Shankara quotations to show that he also understood it correctly! (I do admit that it was I who asked you to do!) I have encountered so many occurrences of this type in my research for the new book that I think it is worth pointing out this danger. So many misunderstandings have crept into today’s teaching of Advaita that it is not at all surprising that many seekers are confused!

    To return to the jIvanmukti-videha mukti question, surely there is no need for this complication. Once a seeker understands and accepts the import of the mahAvAkya-s, that is it. He always was Brahman; now he knows it. The body-mind continues until death but Consciousness is not affected one way or the other. (In reality of course there are no two ways.)

    One also gets the idea that much of the more obscure ideas in Advaita were devised simply to provide some adhyAropa ‘explanation’ for the then-existing beliefs regarding the world, life, death etc. People believed in avatars, for example, so Shankara had to provide rationale for ‘People with a mission’ (Topic 19 in BSB)…

    Best wishes,

  25. Dear Venkat,

    The SSSS site is still down, I’m afraid so haven’t managed to look at ‘Essential Shankara’.

    Is there a Shankara reference for the first note? I certainly agree that the idea that mumukShutva can be the result of karma in previous life is commensurate with traditional teaching. And previous karma can make the gaining of sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti much easier or even unnecessary. But I don’t accept that previous karma can obviate the need for the final gaining of Self-knowledge. Clearly that was not acquired in a previous life; otherwise there would be no current life. Consequently, the final piece has to be acquired now.

    Much of the new book specifically talks about how action (or action combined with knowledge) cannot be the cause of mokSha. I am pretty sure that the arguments will convince even you! Unfortunately there is much too much material to reproduce here so you will have to wait. (I promise to send you a free advance copy!)

    As regards the second note, I have to repeat that I do not want to discuss saMnyAsa. I do not know enough about it and am not interested in the topic, having decided long ago that it was not relevant to gaining mokSha (for myself or the vast majority of seekers today).

    Regarding elephants and hornets: One sees that many Self-realized go on to become teachers and help others who are still suffering in Self-ignorance. One sees that they still eat and drink (or even smoke beedies). Does all of this happen without volition? If feeding the body happens naturally (for whatever reason), why would protecting it from multiple, unnecessary stings not also happen? Is it not far more likely that this is simply an apocryphal story to attract the interest of potential seekers?

    Best wishes,

  26. HI Dennis

    I think you misunderstand my point. I’d agree with you that Sankara is clear that liberation is not a function of action plus knowledge. So no argument there.

    I’m saying that he goes further” that renunciation of action together with self-knowledge is OBLIGATORY as per my Brhad Up Bhasya quote.

    Indeed, in US 18.222 (Alston translation) he very clearly writes:
    “In order to perform the discrimination necessary to find the meaning of the word ‘thou’ there MUST be renunciation (sannyasa) of all action”

    I find it logically inconsistent that you argue that we should be precise about understanding exactly what Sankara’s words were, and yet when he says renunciation / monastic life is OBLIGATORY, you conveniently shift to say that this was just a cultural factor of the times, and may be helpful but not necessary. SSSS clearly sticks to Sankara’s words and has not made such a ‘cultural’ accommodation!

    Best wishes

  27. Dennis

    Another quote from Sankara’s bhasya from yet another source: MK2.36

    “The intention of the sruti passage is this: The Supreme Self can be realised ONLY by the sannyasins (men of renunciation), who are free from all blemishes, who are enlightened regarding the essence of the upanishads, and never other.”

  28. Dear Dennis,

    I could agree I was being a little mischievous when you say that I was “playing with words for effect here.”

    As you may appreciate, it was partly a reflection of my frustration about the “undue” importance you are assigning for the appearance or the frequency of usage of a word to decide on the “validity” or significance of the underlying philosophical concept. Such an approach is typical of the research in modern day linguistics and my fear is that those tools may not be very appropriate when it comes to drawing conclusive inferences in the matters of ancient Indian philosophical lore. You may, in fact, be aware of the fact that for that very reason, the entire corpus of historiography in India is undergoing a relook in present day by academicians who are reinterpreting the ancient history of India (e.g. The Aryan Invasion theory; The Saraswti river; Dating Mahabharata etc.).

    Let me re-state my case beginning with where we have absolute agreement.

    The ultimate purpose, whether it is of the prasthAna traya bhAShya of Shankara or other revered texts of Advaita like Yogavasishta, aShTavakra smahita and so on, is, as you put it: “Once a seeker understands and accepts the import of the mahAvAkya-s, that is it. He always was Brahman; now he knows it. The body-mind continues until death but Consciousness is not affected one way or the other. ”

    In order to impart that teaching, a teacher may adopt different approaches depending on the prevalent mental states, cultural enthronement, social ethos as well as the ‘information load’ of the time in the minds of the seekers.

    We all know that the preferred “model” used by Shankara towards that end in his bhAShya-s was superimposing the creation as though it exists and rescinding it later on establishing that there has never been a world at all.

    As I was pointing out in my comments addressed to Venkat, that model invokes certain concepts and components. It necessarily introduces the concept of birth, action, rebirth etc. The concept of “jIvanmukti,” though may have a value in such an approach, it does not play a key role.

    In a text like Yogavasishta which upfront declares and treats the world as “non-existent,” exploits the concepts of jIvanmukti and videhamukti as central to its arguments. Accordingly, those words appear more frequently in this work.

    Thus, the paucity of the occurrence of the term in the three bhAShya-s could be because of the relative emphasis in the approach and is not because of the inherent invalidity of the term.

    If we place the Yogavasishta text to be chronologically of the same time as that of Shankara or prior to his date, it cannot be that he would be unaware of these two terms. In fact, BG refers to the “concept” of jIvanmukta several times (Shri V. Subrahmanian points out several instances in one of his 50-page doc. on “The concept of Jivanmukti in Advaita). Hence it will be foolhardy to assume that Shankara poohpoohs the concept.

    If we do not worry for the specific “form” of the word but examine the prevalence of the “concept” of being liberated while in the body, as you also admit, Shankara does refer to the jIvanmukti as a concept at many places like what you yourself have quoted.

    I hope you will see the reason for and will agree that the concept of Jivanmukti-videhamukti need not be jettisoned simply because Shankara did not use those words in his bhAShya-s.


  29. Dear Dennis,

    I forgot to add another important point.

    The principal aim of Shankara was not merely “imparting liberation to a seeker.” He had, perhaps, if not more but equally weighty, objective of demolishing opposing theories and re-establishing the glory of the Advaita Vedanta. As a matter of fact, his bhAShya-s were his ‘white paper,’ the basic document, for his debates with the contesting theories prevalent in his times.

    Yogavasishta, in contrast, is singularly focused on the liberation of a committed seeker and is not aimed at developing arguments with opposing theories.

    So, before we take the bhAShya-s as the ONLY acceptable gold standard for Advaita terminology, the fallout from the underlying ‘drive’ behind the text should also be kept in mind.


  30. Dear Venkat,

    I take your point about seeming inconsistency. But I don’t think this alters my position with respect to action and knowledge.

    If you accept that only Self-knowledge can give enlightenment (I don’t think you do yet, actually), then any ‘action’ prior to enlightenment can only be relevant to gaining sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. (And ‘giving up action’ is itself an action.) Once you have gained enlightenment, you know that you are Brahman and Brahman does not act. So action cannot be relevant to anything post-enlightenment.

    I feel that the prior practice of ‘giving up action’ is really just an aspect of the karma yoga necessary to prepare the mind for j~nAna yoga (shravaNa manana). (Dedicating the results to Ishvara etc.)

    The context of US 18.222 according to Alston is refutation of the prasa~NkhyAna vAdin (the notion that one has to ‘do’ something after gaining Self-knowledge – a notion that I address specifically in the new book, and one rejected by Shankara in Br. U. Bh. 4.4.20). He is quoting from dharma shAstra in the US verse.

    But I don’t see how you can deny that it is cultural. How many saMnyAsins are there in India today other than the in the Shankara maths? How would it be if all teachings proclaimed that, in order to gain enlightenment, we had to go naked in the world and beg for food?

    Best wishes,

  31. Dear Venkat,

    You say: “Another quote from Sankara’s bhasya from yet another source: MK2.36”

    I think you mean 2.35. He does use the word ‘saMnyAsin’ but the content of what he says is that only those who “are devoid of attachment, fear, anger and all other defects, who are practising contemplation, who can discriminate between the real and unreal” etc. can realize Atman. And, in the cultural aspects of the time, the only Ashrama in the position to practise/attain these aims was the saMnyAsa. There is no indication that it means anything more than that (or could do).

    Best wishes,

    • Sorry Dennis, you are right about the verse number, but I believe wrong in your conclusion. In MK2.37, both Gaudapa and Sankara write “he should be satisfied with those things for his physical wants that chance brings to him”.

      SSSS makes clear that this sannyasa that Sankara talks of is different from the Ashrama stage, and that those who are not qualified for this stage, can still take it up. In note 202 he writes “scriptural sentences stipulating as injunctions Sannyasa of all Karmas for both classes of people, viz Jnanis and Mumukshus.


  32. Dear Ramesam,

    I essentially agree with all that you say – very clearly expressed!

    I think you will see more clearly where I am coming from after you have read the book. As we said at the outset, there are many possible ways of teaching Advaita and, if a particular approach works for someone, then it has been appropriate.

    The problem is that we started with the ‘white paper’ of Shankara and then we had vartika, bhAmatI and vivaraNa. Then we had A, B and C interpreting and explaining these; then X, Y and Z commenting on those. All the way down to Vivekananda, who was influenced not only by the legacy of all those but by Ramakrishna’s mysticism, Yoga, science, the Brahmo Samaj and Christianity. There has been so much commenting and reinterpretation by many who were probably only academics and not themselves enlightened at all. The result, simply, is lots of confusion and propagation of wrong ideas.

    Hence, simply, my attempts to get back to what Shankara really said.

    I suppose I am a bit wary of Yoga Vasishtha. It is not mentioned by Shankara (or vice versa as I understand) and contains ideas which are not from Advaita. According to Wikipedia “The Yoga Vasistha is a syncretic work, containing elements of Vedanta, Yoga, Samkhya, Saiva Siddhanta, Jainism and Mahayana Buddhism”. Assuming this to be true, it automatically discounts it from my present consideration.

    Hope you understand a bit more where I am coming from.

    Best wishes,

  33. Dear Dennis

    I think SSSS answers your point about “giving up action is itself an action” in note 214:
    “The jnani attains paarivraajya (the wandering life of a monk)of the nature of Eshanaa Vyutthaana (giving up all desires exhaustively and rise to sublime heights in spiritual sadhanas). Because paarivraajya is an abhaava (non-existent phenomenon) of the form of Eshanaa Tyaaga (giving up or renunciation of all desires exhaustively) and not any Kriya (action or function), there is no scope for anyone to raise the objection of the type – ‘Why exclusively paarivraajya?” – or to compare it with other karmas, whatever they may be. In case there is any impediment for the jnani to take recourse to the way of life of Paarivraajya, the jnani will invariably be performing the respective karma for the general welfare of society around him”

    And note 216:
    “Hence those who are mumukshus must per force adopt this Paramahamsa Paarivraajya exclusively”.

    And note 203:
    “Sri Sankaracharya has taught that – “Quite different from this there exists one Paramahamsa Paarivraajya alone as the Vedanta Jnanaanga Sannyasa (the genuine ascetic way of life which is the essential requisite for jnana and which is propounded in the vedas); further for a paramahamsa, barring human virtues or excellences like Shama, dama, etc, no other karmas attach themselves or are enjoined in the scriptures”

    In any event, your last comment suggests that we are actually in agreement – that karma yoga (given up fruits of actions) progressing to the giving up the desires that lead to action – are necessary to prepare the mind for jnana yoga.

    But isn’t this the sense in which Sankara in Brhad Up says self-knowledge, renunciation of desires and begging are obligatory?

  34. Dear Venkat,

    I have still not managed to obtain the E-book. The root URL – http://www.adhyatmaprakasha.org – now links to something called ‘Sri prasanna vidya ganapathi mandali charitable trust’ which does not appear to be anything to do with SSSS. Without being able to read the relevant material, I cannot really comment. I don’t recognize most of the terms.

    It is certainly true that at least a modicum of attainment in the practices of sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti are necessary. Otherwise the seeker will not be able to pay sufficient attention to what the teacher is saying and exercise discrimination in what is heard. Common sense, really. Desires will obviously tend to distract the attention! But I don’t recall that ‘begging’ is one of the shamAdi ShaTka sampatti…

    Best wishes,

  35. Dear Dennis

    You asked earlier:
    “How would it be if all teachings proclaimed that, in order to gain enlightenment, we had to go naked in the world and beg for food?”

    (1) This is an irrelevant question. We are discussing what Sankara actually wrote, and you stated that your objective in writing your book is to clearly use his words to explicate advaita, and thereby dismiss the confusion caused by later commentators. But it seems that you too are now putting your own gloss on Sankara’s words, conveniently ignoring or explaining away what he cogently said was “obligatory”.

    (2) As I have indicated in previous discussions, Dayananda, has set up a construct which argues that Atman vichara is just sruti vichara, and that knowledge arises in the mind simply as a result of unfolding the teaching in a book. I think you have also said that a jnani may continue to do sadhana in order to finally attain jivanmukti. For a start this is easy to dismiss, as does MK and SSSS. But, as you imply in your question, this is a far more accessible form of enlightenment, than the arduous path that Sankara has actually indicated.

    (3) Your rejoinder to this will be to set up a straw man, which says that those who believe otherwise, are arguing that you need to combine action (by which I assume you mean some form of karma yoga and meditative practices to experience nirvikalpa samadhi) with jnana yoga. But this is a gross mis-characterisation. As SSSS makes clear – and which you also seem to agree with – sadhanas (such as karma yoga, concentration, etc) are necessary in order to purify the mind. And as Bhagavad Gita makes clear Arjuna cannot simply jump straight to sannyasa, when he is still immature and needs to go through karma yoga. Ultimately this needs to end in giving up all action, sannyasa, again as SSSS and Sankara make clear.

    (4) So what is this “purification’ of mind? If you look at the nature of the sadhanas that are prescribed, they essentially serve to attenuate the ego (do your actions but give up the desire for the fruits) and to turn the mind inward, such that it can whole-heartedly and constantly focus its attention on the “twam” inside, discarding (neti, neti) all that it is not. Another way of looking at these sadhanas, is to see that they essentially model, through effort, the effortless, non-volitional behaviour of a jnani – as Arjuna asked Krishna in ch2 on how does a jnani behave.

    (5) If you argue that this inward focusing is essentially an action, as is sannyasa (“giving up actions is also an action’), then I disagree with you in including these in Sankara’s definition of action. The themes of neti, neti and renunciation being key factors in self realisation abound in Sankara’s writing, such that your interpretation of action cannot be correct.
    Brhad Up bhasya 4.4.15:
    “Since in spite of the truth being presented in a hundred ways, the Self is the last word of it all, arrived at by the process of ‘not this, not this”, and nothing else is perceived either through reasoning or through scriptural statement, therefore the knowledge of this Self by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and the renunciation of everything are the ONLY means of attaining immortality . . . {saying this Yajnavalkya left to become a monk] . . .The discussion of the knowledge of Brahman culminating in renunciation is finished. This much is the instruction, this is the teaching of the Vedas, this is the ultimate goal, this is the end of what a man should do to achieve his highest good”.

    best wishes,

  36. Dear Dennis,

    Regarding Yogavasishta:

    You begin the para in your above comment saying that you are “a bit wary” about it and you referred to Wikipedia to support your contention. You chose to quote, out of so much material at the page, one sentence about its “structure” where it is called “a syncretic work.” I am afraid that it is very much unjustified and you are, sorry to say, tending to cherry pick what would suit your view.

    Undoubtedly, Yogavasishta is a compendium (I described as a treasure house) of several Advaitaic methods, (much like what one finds in Bhagavad-Gita too), but it never deviates from its main thesis of establishing the “unreality” of the world based on ajAti vAda. Immediately following that sentence which you quoted, the Wikipedia page also gives a one line description of each of the six chapters based on Swami Venkateshananda’s work. I hope you have seen that too.

    If I were you, I would have quoted the following sentence prefacing with the words “According to Wikipedia”:

    “The traditional belief is that reading this book leads to spiritual liberation. The conversation between Vasistha and Prince Rama is that between a great, enlightened sage and a seeker of liberation. The text discusses consciousness, cosmology, nature of the universe and consciousness, the ultimate dissolution of body, the liberation of the soul and the non-dual nature of existence.”

    I was happy to find that the Wikipedia page gives a link to the Yogavasishta version at your Web site also.


  37. Dear Venkat,

    Many thanks for the link. Don’t know how I missed this when searching. I will now have a look at the material to which you have been referring.

    I am not going to be drawn into a discussion of action and knowledge here. As I said, I have spent months investigating and have written many pages on the subject. I will be open to further discussion after you have seen all of this, if you still have reservations.

    Regarding saMnyAsa, I did say at the outset that I did not wish to discuss this as I know so little about it and had it rejected it as relevant to today’s seeker. However, you have convinced me that it is relevant to any discussion about ‘confusions’ for the modern seeker. Accordingly, I will add a new section in the book and carry out some serious investigation to formulate an understanding. So, on this subject too, I will have to ask you to wait. I guess you might feel this is a cop-out but obviously I cannot engage in sensible discussion until I have done this.

    I only hope I do reach the considered conclusion that it is irrelevant. If not, it hardly bodes well for any Western seeker (and probably for Eastern ones too)!

    (One point I can comment on is that I do not suggest that one can continue sAdhana after enlightenment in order to become a jIvanmukta. What I suggest is that one can continue nididhyAsana – more reading, discussion, teaching etc., i.e. ‘going over’ the teaching in one form or another.)

    Best wishes,

  38. Dear Ramesam,

    You seem to have misunderstood my comment about YogavasiShta. My ‘wariness’ is that I did not think it was really relevant to the book I am writing – and I am restricting all of my Advaita studies at present to material that is relevant. I had been under the impression that it dated from a period much later than Shankara and that it did not contain elements that had led to modern-day confusions about Advaita.

    I had included references to Vidyaranya and Sadananda because I knew that there were problems there (and of course Vivekananda and Ramana as already mentioned). I also reference Mandana Mishra since he was around at the time of Shankara. If, however, as I now understand, YV may have existed at the time of Shankara then maybe I do need to consider it. And if it has also given rise to confusions about jIvanmukti and videha mukti, then I am obliged to mention it! I haven’t got around to talking about states of consciousness or levels of reality yet, so it may well be that I would have realized then that I had to include it.

    But, relevance to my book apart, I had already indicated my intention to re-read it eventually and the fact that I found it interesting the first time I read it. I have certainly never disparaged it in any way!

    Hope this clarifies my position!

    Best wishes,

  39. Dear Dennis,

    I definitely go with your noble aim of weeding out the chaff from the grain in the so-called modern Advaita teachings.

    But in that process, one has to be like Caesar’s wife.
    Though not exactly relevant to the issue of Jivanmukti / samnyAsa that are the main stream topics being discussed here, a side issue raised by you deserves to be clarified and quickly disposed of so that we don’t appear to be biased.

    While responding to Shishya, you recalled a story of elephants and hornets.

    Not for any credit but to set the records correct, I happened to allude to that “story” with the Sanskrit quote “gajopi mithya mama palAyanopi mthya” twice at this site — during 2015 and 2016.

    Appropriating that story to SW-D or remarking that Ramana was not aware of “mithya” seem to sin the very thing you were cautious to avoid, viz “likely that this is simply an apocryphal story to attract the interest of potential seekers.”

    Probably concocted by dualists to make fun of Shankara’s teaching, the common version (referred to as the adage: “gajopi mithya mama palAyanopi mthya”) goes something like this:

    “Once when Adi Sankaracharya was passing through a forest, an elephant came rushing towards him. To save himself, Sankara too started running. Seeing this from a distance, a disciple shouted rather mockingly ‘Kim palAyanam; Gajopi mithya?’ (Why run; the elephant too is an illusion?).

    The seer was said to have replied: ‘mama palayanopi mithya!’ (Even my running is an illusion).”

    What the teacher was pointing to was the faulty logic of the disciple (or dualists) in considering one part of the same incident to be real and another part to be ‘mithya.’ Such category confusion of the levels of reality will lead to illogical conclusions.


  40. Well put, Ramesam!

    The situation is that I remembered the story. I searched my computer for the reference and the link that came up was to a post from a previous blogger on this site – Krishnan Sugavanum (although he said that it came from Swami D – but I doubt that the latter would have claimed to have originated it). Your blogs are not on my PC so would never have been returned from the search.

    It was the other stories about bees and hornets that prompted it. I would make use of it in a book like ‘Book of One’, which was intended to ‘entertain’ to some degree as well as instruct; but I would certainly not use it in a book such as this which, whilst still intended to be readable, is also meant to be very serious.

    Similarly, I would never make a statement such as that Ramana was unaware of mithyA, without concrete evidence. That was a throwaway jest in response to a comment made in a blog environment, as I thought was apparent from the context. But I agree that it should not have been made – it was almost as bad as your phrase ‘one of your ilk’… We should both try harder!

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks, Dennis.

      As I said, this specific issue was an inconsequential incidental and has to be disposed quickly. I deleted the offending phrase in my previous comment.

      [BTW, I thought “ilk” is a respectable old English word. I have checked online Dic now and did not find it has a pejorative sense! Thanks for letting me know about its current usage in the UK.].

  41. Dear Dennis,

    Reverting to the issue of jIvanmukti.

    You raised a question in your comment on the 25th July (at 11:53) regarding the reference to chandogya 6.14.2 and BSB 4.1.15 in relation to jIvanmukti.

    You said: “I’m not clear why you reference Chandogya 6.14.2 and brahma sUtra 4.1.15. I have never argued against prArabdha karma (although of course, in reality, no one is ever born etc.).”

    My intention was not about prArabdha karma.
    The point I was making a reference to was the admission in the 6.14.2 of the chAndogya Upanishad that there is a time gap between the attainment of brahma jnAna by a seeker and the death of the physical body. “There is no further perpetuation of samsAra after the fall of this body, in which the Atmajnana dawned, is clear from the ‘eva’ of the mantra.”

    IOW, there are two clear phases — (i) the seeker living with a body in the ‘world’ even after gaining the jnAna and (ii) liberation from the samsAra (annihilation of the world) after the body dies.

    What is wrong then to assign two clear words, jIvanmukti and videhamukti, to distinguish the two phases respectively in the life of a “realized” seeker?
    The two words add to clarity rather than create any confusion.

    Likewise, Shankara asserts at 4.1.15 of BSB that “no difference of opinion is possible here as to whether or not the body is retained for some period (after enlightenment) by the knowers of Brahman.”

    We would like to now identify clearly that phase of the life of a realized seeker with the word jIvanmukta.

    All in all, my submission is that both the scripture and Shankara bhAShya-s do contain the concept of jIvanmukti within them, though this specific word does not appear. Moreover, if we take BG, the concept comes up in several verses using different words each time, as recalled by Shri V. Subrhamanian in his 50-page document I already cited.

    Regarding kaTha upa 2.3.14, you wrote: “Shankara says: “he who was before enlightenment mortal becomes immortal after enlightenment – by virtue of the elimination of death constituted by ignorance, desire and deeds.” ”

    But Shankara continues to say something more. He adds, “[the realized seeker] becomes brahman even here (there being no necessity of going, death resulting in a going having been destroyed) like fire extinguished, all bondage being destroyed.” — Translation by Shri S. Sitarama Sastri, 1923.

    Clearly Shankara also identifies a distinct phase in the life of a “realized” seeker who, he says, attains immortality “here” in this world (i.e. when he is still alive with a body). Thus he establishes that the “mukti” obtained while alive with the body “here” is not different from the mukti later after the body gets dropped.

    Now we have two words for these two phases of life — jIvanmukti and videha mukti, the ‘mukti” itself being not different whether with a body or without it.


    (I wish not to labor further on this point and I will like to move on to GK 2.37 in my next comment).

  42. Dear Ramesam,

    No need to prolong this. I have been reading Brihad. U. B 4.4.6 and the differentiation is clear there also. I agree that the concepts are there even though the words are not.

    The idea of ‘becoming Brahman’ (or ‘merging with Brahman’) are ideas that have to be quashed though. We are always already Brahman; there can be no ‘becoming’, only realizing. It looks like the actual words used by Shankara for kaTha upa 2.3.14 bhAShya were ‘samashnute brahma’. As far as I can make out from my very limited knowledge, this means ‘he reaches/attains/gains Brahman’. I think maybe it would not be at all unreasonable to understand this as ‘he realizes Brahman’ and not ‘he becomes Brahman’. Knowing what Shankara says elsewhere (e.g. Brihad. U. B 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.”) I think this is a far more acceptable, and plausible translation.

    Best wishes,

    • Dear Dennis,

      Happy to note that the two words jIvanmukti and videhamukti now attained “nativity Certificate” to make entry into your prospective book and will not be treated as illegit aliens to be deported 🙂 !

      Re: ‘merging’ and ‘becoming’:

      I presume that when the Indian translators use the words like merge, become etc., it shows up the influence of our vernacular language. Merge does not always necessarily imply the coming together of two distinct separate entities. So also ‘become’ does not always imply one thing changing to another. Many popular teachers giving discourses to the common public at large in India use those words and surprisingly even not-so-highly educated housewives seem to understand the meaning in a Vedantic sense!
      Perhaps the long tradition and culture has a role to play in this.

      Having said that, I agree, “samushnute” translates better, as you say, as “reaches/attains/gains .” But then, I can’t bet my life on that either. After all brahman is:
      — NOT something I have to reach (I am already right there, do not have to travel);
      — nor attain (It is already present – prAptasya prAptiH);
      — nor even gain (It is already gained – siddha not sAdhya). 🙁 🙁 🙁

      I guess, we can’t escape without long explanation, whatever word, we may choose!


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