Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 3/5)

Samuchchay (continued from Part 2)
8.31 Knowledge is to be followed by action
Advocate (K3) of this view holds that Self- knowledge arises in two stages, namely, knowledge through sravan followed by the knowledge through meditation. The sravan stage knowledge falls short of realization that is converted by meditation into realization and liberation. K3 also argues that even if knowledge arises at the stage of sravan, the common experience is that it gets weakened gradually with the rise of adverse emotions and ignorance takes over. Therefore, it is argued that knowledge acquired by sravan is not sufficient to destroy ignorance for good. It needs further support by way of karmas, such as meditation.
8.32 Refutation
The Acharya does not agree. He says that proper sravan is sufficient to give liberation. No new knowledge is acquired by meditation. Mediation, etc, is needed for sAdhanA chatushtAya sampathi so that a seeker becomes an adhikAri for Vedanta teaching. Sravana is the primary sAdhanA for Self-knowledge and liberation. All other sAdhanAs are subsidiaries. The AchArya is firm that once ignorance is gone, in no way it will come back otherwise it will be in violation of the maxim, namely, ignorance is beginningless. Then the question is why does one entertain adverse notions of duality, suffering after gaining knowledge? The explanation is that ignorance is not responsible for the emergence of erroneous notions. The vAsanAs are responsible. JnAna destroys avidyA, not the avidyA vAsanas. The next question is whether any karmas are required to cure adverse vAsanAs. No, says the Acharya. NidhidhyAsana, i.e., Vedantic meditation (not yogic meditation) is sufficient to firm up jnAna vAsnAs so that whenever adverse vAsanAs arise, jnAna vAsanAs should get automatically triggered for a good seeker and neutralize the opposite emotions. He need not deliberately invoke jnAna vAsanA. It is to be noted that nidhidhyAana does not give any new knowledge. Knowledge is full and complete at the sravan stage.

8.41 Knowledge from sravan is non-liberating
The Acharya in sambanddha to verse 67, chapter1, NS, takes the opportunity to briefly mention, as a prelude to the full-length discussion in chapters 2 and 3 of NS, two Vedantist schools of samuchchayvad that hold that knowledge at the sravan stage is non-liberating and that a seeker has to follow up with meditation for a long time to gain mental conviction and convert it into liberating knowledge. In support is cited BrU – IV.i.2- ‘Having become a god by mediation, he joins god (after death).’ The first school argues that a clear understanding of a mahAvakya is not sufficient, meditation is required to develop the necessary conviction. The second school’s argument is that a sentence is a combination of words that stand in relation to one another as regards their meanings. At this stage, the sentence gives relational (sentential) knowledge. To upgrade it to non-relational (non-sentential) knowledge, a person has to meditate on the meaning of the sentence. In the case of a mahAvAkya, the word Brahman also stands in relation to other words, whereas, Brahman is asanga. Therefore, knowledge received from a mahAvakya is unable to give realization. To convert it into realization, mediation on such knowledge is required continuously like the flow of Ganga. In support is cited mantra IV.iv.21 of BrU which interalia says:”तमेव धीरो विज्ञाय प्रज्ञां कुर्वीत ब्राह्मणः“- tameva dhīro vijñāya prajñāṃ kurvīta brāhmaṇaḥ .Meaning:- A wise aspirant of Brahman, knowing about It alone, should attain intuitive knowledge.

8.42 Refutation
The AchArya sets aside the views of the two schools. As regards the second school, he says that though generally a sentence gives relational knowledge, in an exceptional case of a mahAvAkya, it gives non-relational knowledge. As regards the first school, he says that a clear understanding of mahAvAkya is sufficient to destroy ignorance. Once the ignorance is gone, it cannot resurface. There is no need for meditation. SwAmi ParmArthaAnanda says that the pUrva paksha may counter that if mediation is not required, why does BrU instruct- “srotavya, mantavya, nidhidhyAsitavya” – “hear, clear doubts and meditate”. He clarifies that mediation is not among the six pramAnas. As regards mantavya, nidhidhyAsitavya, they are to help those seekers who suffer from mental blocks. One mental block is non-conviction. The seeker thinks that the knowledge received from sravan is not sufficient and it is to be supplemented by some (mystic) experience. Another mental block is an entrenched habit. The seeker is habituated to identify himself with the mind-body complex, and not as AtmA. Manan and nidhidhyAsana do not give any new knowledge. The knowledge is full and complete at the sravan stage.

As regards reliance on the mantra 4.IV.21, BrU, it seems (to me) that it is misplaced as would be clear from ShankarAchArya’s commentary thereon[ extracted from https://texts.wara.in/vedas/upanishads/brihadaranyaka.html].

“The intelligent aspirant after Brahman, knowing about this kind of Self alone, from the instructions of a teacher and from the scriptures, should attain intuitive knowledge of what has been taught by the teacher and the scriptures, so as to put an end to all questioning — i.e. practise the means of this knowledge, viz renunciation, calmness, self-control, withdrawal of the senses, fortitude and concentration.”

It is proposed to discuss some related topics.
9.1 JnAna is a form of karma and moksha is a karmaphala
The pUrva paksha may cite BrhadarnAyaka Upanishad (BrU), verse (I.iv.7) “may you meditate upon the AtmA and the verse (II.iv.5) “AtmA has to be seen” and claim that Vedic commandments are to do actions because they are apUrva vidhis, i.e., injunctions for new actions. Therefore, AtmajnAna and AtmadhyAna are actions only.
9.2 Refutation
The AchArya does not agree. First of all, there are fundamental differences between knowledge and action.
(I)The process of action is determined by the subject whereas, the process of knowledge is determined by the object. Take the example of reading a newspaper. The reader chooses the news that he wants to read and turns to the relevant page. This is action based on the reader’s decision and control. After turning to the relevant page and using the eyes, the reader gets the knowledge reported on the page on which he cannot exert his choice. Thus, knowledge and action are different. Action is required only for bringing together the pramAnam (relevant instrument) and prameyam (object to be known) and pramAtA (knower) For Sravan, bringing together the triad – pramAtA, pramAnam and prameyam is karma. Till this stage, it is action over which the pramAtA has a choice. Thereafter, the knowledge that results because of bringing together the triad is not under the control of the pramAtA and is, therefore, not action. Karma is done by the choice of the kartA, whereas jnAna happens without the choice of the pramatA. Expressing in a different manner, in karmendriya’s function there is the individual’s choice; in jnAnendriya’s function, the choice is absent. Furthermore, as jnAna is different from karma, no commandment is possible regarding jnAna. JnAna is not subject to any vidhi. The pUrva paksha says that if there is no vidhi for jnAna, it cannot produce any result. VidhivAkya karmas produce punya, while nishiddha karmas produce pApa. A Vedantin clarifies that there is no need of vidhi (positive statement) or nishedha (prohibiting statement) to know what is jnAna phala as it is already known. It is drishta phala, namely, ajnAna nivritti.
(III) Knowledge reveals a thing “as it is”. Karma brings about a change in the object in one of the four ways: (i) uttpatti (production),(ii) apti (attainment),(iv) samsuddhi (preparation), and (iv) vikAra ( transformation).Self-Knowledge does not come under any of the four ways. It does not produce liberation. It only reveals the fact of liberation.
Coming back to the verses from BrU cited above, the AchArya clarifies that they refer to niyama vidhis, i.e., they do not prescribe unknown activity. They refer to an already known subject, namely, the Self to the exclusion of non-Self. SwAmi ParmArthAnanda says that there are similar verses prescribing niyama vidhis in BG, namely, that verse 8, chapter V: “while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, reclining, breathing etc., the knower of Truth should understand ‘I do not do anything at all” and the verse 18, Chapter V: “the wise see the same Brahman”. The essence is that a jnAni, while doing various activities, should not forget his true nature of AtmA (continued)

2 thoughts on “Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 3/5)

  1. Excellent summary, Bimal! Not altogether ‘easy’ reading but well worth it.
    I especially like the quote that ‘Self-knowledge does not produce liberation; it only reveals the fact of liberation’. I think many readers may not have thought about it like that before.

    My only worry is that the fact that this was inspired by the talks of Swami Paramarthananda may cause some (not mentioning any names!) to ask if some of the comments attributed to ‘AchArya’ are actually ‘interpretations’ by Swami P. Are you happy that all the conclusions are indeed made by Sureshvara himself? This might particularly apply to the pointers to pratibandha-s (although that word is not specifically mentioned).

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Dennis,
    I have tried to mention SwAmi P wherever I think that the narrations do not follow( though not contradictory) from the verse of NS, e.g.,8.42 of the post. Narrations in paras 8.31 and 8.32 follow from verse 38 and its sambandha in NS. Their translations extracted from the notes of Sw P classes should clarify.
    Sambandha to verse 38: “But” it may be said “even if perfect knowledge is strong, we have cases in which, it is cancelled by erroneous knowledge originating from false sources. It is for this reason that even a person enlightened about Reality is subject to feelings of being an agent of actions and of being an experiencer of pleasure and pain, and subject to desire and aversions, all of which originate from ignorance” “If perfect knowledge had not been stultified, such impressions contrary to it would not at all arise”. “This is not true. Why not?”
    Verse 38: As ignorance has been stultified, it cannot cancel enlightenment. The impressions left by enlightenment arouse the remembrance of knowledge, which does remove the impressions of ignorance.
    Best wishes,

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