Moksha is not escapism


Four human goals called purushArthas are kama, artha, dharma, and moksha. Moksha is the final goal. It means freedom from rebirth or samsAra (worldly life) because human suffering is part and parcel of samsara. So, moksha also means freedom from suffering. According to Vedanta, our true nature is consciousness that is distinct from mind and body, and further that consciousness is all-pervasive, infinite, and complete. Human suffering is due to our ignorance that our real nature is consciousness, and we are already complete. Completeness implies contentment, peace, and happiness. Instead of identifying ourselves with infinite consciousness, we identify with finite mind-body and suffer. The root cause of suffering is this misidentification due to ignorance. The remedy is Self-knowledge. JnAn yoga is the method to gain Self-knowledge. It is not knowledge of any object. It is knowledge of the subject requiring sufficient preparation of mind to make it pure and focussed. SAdhanA chatusthyAya meaning four-fold qualifications are prescribed for this purpose. One of the qualifications is an intense yearning for moksha. Thus, four purushArthas and four-fold qualifications together suggest that an intense desire for moksha is required for achieving the goal of moksha. A qualified seeker of moksha who undertakes jnAn yoga in the form of hearing, reflecting, and mediating gains Self-knowledge. S/ he is a jnAni and achieves moksha. It means a jnAni transcends human suffering and is free from rebirth and samsAra.

The above narration may suggest that a jnAni desires to run away from the world because it is suffering-laden. A critic would argue that moksha is escapism. Prima-facie it seems so. Nonetheless. a deeper examination is called for.

A jnAni knows that the world is a manifestation of Brahman and Brahman is the Self. Therefore, s/he ‘sees’ the same Self everywhere. Yajnavalkaya in the course of teaching his wife Maitreyi expounds in verse 2.4.5, Brahdarnayka Upanisad:
“It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one’s own sake that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of wealth, my dear, that it is loved, but for one’s own sake that it is loved. It is not for the sake of the BrAhamana, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the Kshatriya, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the worlds, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of the gods, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are· loved. It is not for the sake of the beings, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of all, my dear, that all is loved, but for one’s own sake – that it is loved. The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized-should be heard of, reflected on, and meditated upon. By the realization of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection, and meditation, all this is known.” [Source: Brahadarnayka Upanisad, Translation by Swami Madhavananda, Advaita Asrama publication]
Thus, the Self is the dearest. Since a jnAni ‘sees’ Self everywhere, s/he has the same (highest) love for every object of the world. There is no scope for hatred at all. Any trace of hatred means the person is not a jnAni. This is what Yajnavalkaya further says in Br Up (2.4.6).
“The BrAhaman ousts one who knows him as different from the Self. The Kshatriya ousts one who knows him as different from the Self. The worlds oust one who knows them as different from the Self. The gods oust one who knows them as different from the Self. The beings oust one who knows them as different from the Self. All ousts one who knows it as different from the Self. This BrAhaman, this Kshatriya, these worlds, these gods, these beings, and this all is the Self.” [Source: as above]. Swami ParmArthAnanda explains that ‘oust(s) one’ means ‘oust(s) one from moksha’.

If I wish the present life to be my last birth, I indirectly reject the world. Then moksha will reject me. Escapist moksha is an intermediate stage concept when a seeker is taught that the world is anAtmA and is the cause of sorrow. For an advanced seeker, the teacher’s instruction is to upgrade the concepts of the world and moksha. For a jnAni, conventional moksha does not make sense- so is said in verses 18.80 and 20.12 of Ashtavakra Samhita. BG (12.13) glorifies a jnAni as one who does not hate anyone.   Advaita’s final word on moksha is that it is not running away from the world, it is embracing the world as a manifestation of AtmA. 

Conclusion: Moksha is not escapism

 

 

 

 

51 thoughts on “Moksha is not escapism

  1. Thank you for that, Bimal! It provides another interesting slant on an off-line discussion that I am involved in at present. I was maintaining that ‘sarvam khalvidam brahmA’ literally means that the world is Brahman, whereas others are claiming that it does NOT literally mean that.

    The word ‘ousts’ is an ambiguous one. It is scarcely ever encountered in ordinary speech today. Madhavananda actually puts the word ‘slights’ in brackets after the first occurrence. That is slightly (!) more common. Som Raj Gupta says that prayer, power, world would ‘desert’ him. Nitya Chaitanya Yati says that the brAhmaNa, kShatriya etc ‘rejects’ him.

    The Sanskrit word used is ‘parAduH’. I presume that is a verb. I don’t know how to conjugate verbs but I assume it comes from (Monier-Williams) ‘parAdA’, which it translates as ‘to give up or over, deliver, throw away; to give in exchange for; to exclude from’.

    You say that “Swami ParmArthAnanda explains that ‘oust(s) one’ means ‘oust(s) one from moksha’”. Since Messrs. Ramesam and Venkat have a very negative opinion of Swami P, do you have some further justification for this statement?

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  2. “Thus, the Self is the dearest. Since a jnani ‘sees’ Self everywhere, s/he has the same (highest) love for every object of the world.”

    Hi Bimal,

    We might read Yajnavalkya’s talk in verse 2.4.5 as a statement that the husband, wife, and so on have value as expressions of the Self. But this is not what Yajnavalkya is saying. He’s expressing the renouncer’s devaluation of phenomena in favor of the supreme value of the Absolute. “With the intention of teaching non-attachment, the means to immortality,” Shankara explains, “Yajnavalkya creates a distaste for the wife, husband, sons, and so on, so they may be renounced” (BUB 2.4.5). Reverence or love for the things of life and nature, according to this view, is misdirected. It should be redirected toward its proper object: the Self. Yajnavalkya advises Maitreyi, “It is the Self [not the husband] that should be seen, heard, reflected upon, meditated upon.” BU 1.4.8 says, “One should meditate on the Self alone as dear.” Expanding this notion, Vidyaranya tells us that, since the Self is the highest object of love, one should become indifferent to all objects of experience and transfer one’s love to the Self. Objects of experience exist only for the sake of the experiencer, the Self (Panchadashi 12.32; 7.202, 206). In this way of thinking, value is located in the Self alone. Far from being worthy of reverence or love, all that is other than the Atman, including the natural world, is without value. Thus Sureshvara says in his commentary on Shankara’s bhashya on the Taittiriya Upanishad, “That supreme [Brahman-Atmanl is declared to be the savor (rasa) of this effected [world], which is itself without savor.” In verse 4 of the popular Aparokshanubhuti we read, “Pure non-attachment is disregard for all objects-from the god Brahma down to plants and minerals-like the indifference one has toward the excrement of a crow.” Describing his experience of the liberated sage in his Samksepasariraka, Sarvajnatman declares, “I see my body as the cast-off skin of a snake … and the universe as if it were a burnt rope.” According to Vidyaranya the world of duality, if it remains after attaining moksha, is like a dead rat or a corpse, i.e., a repulsive object that we would naturally seek to avoid. It is an edgeless weapon, once dangerous but now no longer able to harm. Even brahma-loka, the highest heavenly world, is seen to be “like straw” (Panchadashi 7.279-81, 6.285).

  3. Hi All,

    Thanks to Dennis and Rick for their very apt observations.

    It appears to me, in general, that a “tighter” definition of the various terms used in the post will help understand better what is being communicated.

    We have from the Samanvyaya sUtra BSB, 1.1.4 – तदेतदशरीरत्वं मोक्षाख्यम्
    tadetat aśarīratvaṃ mokṣākhyam
    meaning: “That this bodylessness called mokṣa”

    So, on mokSha prApti, essentially, the post-Gnosis “realization” is asharIratva — sharIra here does not merely mean the gross body but any ‘covering’ that delimits One.

    If one feels in his/her heart that one is “realized” but is also burdened with a body as Shankara alludes to at 4.1.15, BSB, the implication is perhaps not that one manages to live a long worldly life in such a state. As Shankara explains in his commentary at 4.1.19, Vedanta sUtra, “He has to tarry so long as the body does not fall, and then he merges (in Brahman).” (Trans: Swami Gambhirananda).

    How long does a potter’s wheel keep turning on by itself after the potter stopped working or how long does a fan run on its inertial energy after the power is switched off?

    A significant aspect that is often ignored in this illustration is the fact that the potter’s wheel is neither the efficient cause (the potter) nor the material cause (the clay). It is just an enabling ‘instrument.’
    So is the human body – an instrument. That instrument CANNOT be the jnAni.

    Another important point we have to note is that the word “love” in noun form or as a verb, in common parlance, is a “relational term.” But when used in Advaita or Non-dual philosophy, it does NOT imply a relationship between two entities (like I love my dog; I love Darjeeling chai; I love my wife etc.). “Love” here means lack of ‘separation’ indicating absolute seamless Oneness, a point made out also by Rick.

    regards,

  4. Thanks, Ramesam. Whatever their differences, all the writers I mentioned assume that any experience of the world is somehow based on a remnant of ignorance or karmic residuum. The ideal state must then be one in which there is no empirical experience, of nature or anything else. Hence the common use, even in Shankara, of the term “isolation” (kaivalya) – borrowed from the dualistic Sankhya-Yoga – to describe the final goal. In kaivalya, the mukta attains complete disjunction from the world. Mind, body, and nature are left behind. This is the Advaitin’s true aim. Shankara’s sannyasin yearns to be disembodied (videha). Liberation in this life is an exalted achievement, but literal disembodiment at death – videhamukti – is the preferred state. “The liberated sage whose karma requires him to bear temporal existence suffers, Vidyaranya tells us, like someone enduring forced labor (Panchadashi 7.143).

  5. Dear Rick,

    ” one should become indifferent to all objects of experience and transfer one’s love to the Self. Objects of experience exist only for the sake of the experiencer, the Self (Panchadashi 12.32; 7.202, 206). In this way of thinking, value is located in the Self alone. Far from being worthy of reverence or love, all that is other than the Atman, including the natural world, is without value.”

    I don’t believe this, as written, can be the intended meaning. What is intended is that one should cease to see the ‘things of the world’ as separate objects but as Brahman. There is no such entity as ‘all that is other than the Atman, including the natural world’.

    Certainly it is true that ‘value is located in the Self alone’ and that is the point. See that the ‘value’ of wife, husband, sons etc. is not in the form or role and so on – these things are mithyA – but in Brahman that is the essence of all of them.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  6. Hi Dennis,

    There being allegedly ‘no such entity as ‘all that is other than the Atman, including the natural world’” hasn’t stopped classical Advaitins from heaping many a disparaging word on these non-entities.

    I can’t claim to know the Panchadashi’s intended meaning, but my take on the words as written seems to me to be in keeping with the purport of other statements made throughout the work and in many other classical Advaita texts regarding the devaluation of all that is deemed the non-Self.

    Cheers

    • Rick, you say:
      “I can’t claim to know the Panchadashi’s intended meaning, but my take on the words as written seems to me to be in keeping with the purport of other statements made throughout the work and in many other classical Advaita texts regarding the devaluation of all that is deemed the non-Self.”

      I think Swami Vidyaranya’s other treatise – Videhamukti Viveka throws more light on his POV. Good summary at this link.
      https://www.shastras.com/articles-and-summary/jivanmukti-viveka-summary/
      ——————–
      Sannyasis of two kinds, known as Vividisha Sannyasa and Vidvat Sannyasa, or, renunciation of the seeker and renunciation of the knower. (These terms will become clear as we proceed further). The first is the cause of liberation after death (Videha mukti) and the second of liberation while still living in the body (Jivanmukti). The essential pre-requisite for both these kinds of Sannyasa is detachment. Detachment is of three kinds — weak, strong and stronger. The detachment that arises on the occurrence of some calamity such as the death of a dear one, or loss of possessions, is not lasting and is categorized as weak. Such a temporary feeling of detachment is of no use and does not make a person eligible for Sannyasa. The determination not to marry, beget children and live the life of a householder is categorized as ‘strong’ detachment. There are four varieties of Vividisha Sannyasa. These are — Kutichaka, Bahoodaka, Hamsa and Paramahamsa. The detachment described as ‘strong’ makes the person eligible only for the varieties of Sannyasa called Kutichaka and Bahoodaka. Both of them are ‘Tridandins’ i.e. they carry three long thin sticks knotted together, emblematic of the triple renunciation of everything connected with body, mind and speech. The Kutichaka resides in a secluded hermitage. The Bahoodaka keeps moving from one holy place to another. The choice as to which of these two varieties a person with the kind of detachment described as ‘strong’ should take depends on whether he is physically fit to move about from place to place or not.
      ——————————————–

  7. I really ought to have said earlier that, irrespective of the sometimes excellent use of metaphor by Vidyaranya (if it was him) in Pa~nchadashi, I would warn against ever regarding his understanding of Shankara as reliable. I pointed out several instances of his misleading teaching In ‘Confusions Vol. 1’ (ref. samAdhi, manonASha and influence of Yoga philsophy).

    • Dennis:
      “I really ought to have said earlier that,….”

      But you have said it, really, especially in the Pratibandha sequence. Whenever I see something new (to me!) I first go back to find out if you’ve already written about it…90% probable.

      This site is massively repetitious, redundant, back and forth ad nauseam within the previously referenced dogmatic boundaries.

      Not a criticism, just an observation.

  8. Shishya,

    I meant (as I’m sure you realize) that I hadn’t mentioned it in THIS thread. I’m pleased that you are so familiar with the site that you are aware of all the other material that has been posted. I wish I could say the same! It is, however, just possible that we occasionally get new visitors who have no prior knowledge of the site at all. Accordingly, I make no apologies at all for repetition!

    • I wrote –
      “But you have said it, really, especially in the Pratibandha sequence. Whenever I see something new (to me!) I first go back to find out if you’ve already written about it…90% probable.”
      You (Dennis) responded –
      ,,,”I’m pleased that you are so familiar with the site that you are aware of all the other material that has been posted.”…
      =========================================
      I am glad you put it that way, because if not you, either Rick, or Ramesam, or Venkat, has already mentioned it. Lately, Ramesam’s suggestion about Dvaita/Ramanuja has set me thinking.!

      Regarding the Panchdasi I would notably exclude Mr. Swartz’s effusions, but that is my shortcoming.

      Shishya

  9. “Advaita’s final word on moksha is that it is not running away from the world, it is embracing the world as a manifestation of AtmA.”

    Firstly, from Suresvara’s vartika on BU2.4:
    “Yoga is characterised b activity and knowledge by renunciation. Therefore having preferred knowledge (to yoga) the intelligent one should renounce this world”

    With all due consideration to Ramesam’s comment re: tighter definitions of words, it is hard to see what mental acrobatics would be required to replace “renounce” with “embrace”.

    Even Shankara makes the point that the main lesson to be taken from the Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi dialogue is the importance of renunciation in moksha. Suresvara, in his vartika, underscores this point. Moreover the whole gist of story is about a king, with empire, wealth, two wives and Knowledge, still feels he has to give all of this up, in order to be Liberated. To Dennis’ point on Sw P. if this is how he interprets Sankara, then there is not much point in paying credence to him.

    • Dear Venkat, you said –
      “With all due consideration to Ramesam’s comment re: tighter definitions of words, it is hard to see what mental acrobatics would be required to replace “renounce” with “embrace”.”
      ————————————
      It seems to me that the term “detachment” should always be preferred to “renunciation”, to convey the absolute lack of agency in any of the jnani’s responses. In my opinion, this detachment taken to the limit is Jivanmukti ie pratyahara, dharana,dhyana, samadhi per Patanjali.
      ———————————————————————–
      Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism – Richard King’s PhD thesis on the GaudapadiyaKarika discusses some of these issues, I give two intro quotes below.
      ——————————————————————
      “Thus, when the GK states that the mind “does not touch
      an external object” (GK IV.26) it is not putting forward an idealistic
      doctrine (that the world is the creation of the mind), rather it is stating the fact that the mind deals with the experience or appearance of Objects and not objects in themselves.”
      ——————————————————————
      The central themes of the GK are the twin concepts of ajativada
      and asparSayoga. Both are philosophically dependent upon the
      Madhyamaka and Yogacara schools. Our analysis of the early Yogacara with which the author(s) of the GK would have been acquainted and the text’s own philosophical position casts doubt upon the traditional designation of both as ”idealistic,” stressing the need for an appreciation of the meditative background and ontology of these systems of thought.
      It is argued that one cannot appreciate the final position (siddhanta)
      of an Indian philosophical school such as the Yogacara without a
      recognition of the distinction between mundane awareness (vijnana)
      and ultimate gnosis (jnana). The Gaudapadian doctrine of non-
      origination is dependent upon Madhyamaka sources and involves an
      inversion of the latter school’s basic position-taking what is in fact
      a criticism of others as a wholesale endorsement of the GK’s own
      (absolutistic) view. The Gaudapadian belief that its own absolutism does not conflict with any other views (avirodhavada) is shown to be
      dependent upon the implications of Nagarjuna’s critique of all views
      (drshti). This is exposed via a comparison of Nagarjuna’s MulaMadhya-makakarika and the Gaudapadiya-karika.
      —————————————————————–

      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(philosophy)#In_psychology
        Human agency
        See also: Action (philosophy)
        Agency is contrasted to objects reacting to natural forces involving only unthinking deterministic processes. In this respect, agency is subtly distinct from the concept of free will, the philosophical doctrine that our choices are not the product of causal chains, but are significantly free or undetermined. Human agency entails the claim that humans do in fact make decisions and enact them on the world. How humans come to make decisions, by free choice or other processes, is another issue.

        The capacity of a human to act as an agent is personal to that human, though considerations of the outcomes flowing from particular acts of human agency for us and others can then be thought to invest a moral component into a given situation wherein an agent has acted, and thus to involve moral agency. If a situation is the consequence of human decision making, persons may be under a duty to apply value judgments to the consequences of their decisions, and held to be responsible for those decisions. Human agency entitles the observer to ask should this have occurred? in a way that would be nonsensical in circumstances lacking human decisions-makers, for example, the impact of comet Shoemaker–Levy on Jupiter.

    • Dear Shishya

      Thanks for your note.

      I agree that detachment is a v.good word. But taken to its limit it means renunciation (as well as jivanmukti). It is not the volitional renunciation of a seeker (which JK excoriates), but the non-volitional inevitability of renunciation of a jivanmukta. Both Sankara and Suresvara point out that if one is desireless and with detachment from the individual body (disembodied), then there logically cannot be any reason to act. And if one does not act then one does not accumulate anything in the world. And in the absence of accumulation, shelter and planning for the future become irrelevant. This is why Sankara said a jnani would not even live ‘detached’ as a householder, but would be homeless; Astavakra, “like a dry leaf blown in the wind’. I don’t believe that this is meant as an injunction / methodology for people to follow (again JK would excoriate), but rather a description of an inevitable outcome. Ramana said renunciation would come like a ripe fruit falling from a tree.

      As for MK and idealism. It is hard to come to any other response than some form of idealism (subjective or objective), if one accepts the non-dual position – that everything is a form in consciousness. If not, you have to be attributing reality to objects, which thereby admits of parts.

      The issue then is whether that consciousness is of the individual mind or of ‘universal’ consciousness. Vedanta says that the individual mind is itself a superimposition on consciousness – hence the drive to attenuate the ego, which is the driver of all the thoughts / desires that we have. On this, even JK focused.

  10. “Advaita’s final word on moksha is that it is not running away from the world, it is embracing the world as a manifestation of AtmA.”

    I wonder if any shruti or bhAShya statement to support the above claim can be cited. If available, I will be grageful if it is quoted in the original.

    To the best of my information, that is the position taken by the Order of the Monks of the Ramakrishna Mission. Their latest young Swami on the block, an IIT grad and a Ph.D. from the USA, is in fact propagating such an idea saying that it was the teaching of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa himself. Perhaps, they are inspired by some of the Talks by Swami Vivekananda.

    regards,

  11. At the risk of straying from the straight and narrow, “embracing the world as a manifestation of Atma” is an attitude in keeping with non-dual Kashmir Shaivism which its followers would argue expresses a more profound mystical realization than Advaita Vedanta. Classical Advaita achieves its nonduality by denying the reality of objective existence, which is excluded from its statically conceived Absolute. As I mentioned before, it aims ultimately for a state of isolation (kaivalya) in pure spirit, from which the world is obliterated. Shaivism, on the other hand, offers a more thoroughgoing non-dualism in which the universe is accepted and experienced-as divine Consciousness itself in dynamic motion. This allows the Shaiva yogin to enjoy the Infinite as a vivid, vibrant reality at the level of the senses. For Shaivism, the world is an abhasa, but abhasa or appearance is real. The abhasas prove the glory and richness of Shiva. Moksha here is not leaving the world behind, but rather transforming the yogin’s vision of the world to the point that it is seen as Śiva (or the Goddess Mahādevī ) sees it, that is, as divine.

  12. Why then even pretend to be an Advaitin – just paying a mere lip service? Why not be honest, assign equal reality to the world too, and enjoy the joys of life following Ramanuja’s foot steps?

    regards,

  13. My good man, sorry if I’ve offended your partisan sensibilities. I wasn’t extolling Shaivism. I’m non-partisan in matters of religion. As in art and science, in matters of religion I believe there is room for many different approaches, styles, techniques, and opinions. How we attempt to come to terms with the mystery of being is fascinating to me. Thus I’m not formally a committed member of any creed or sect and hold no particular religious view or doctrine as absolute. And yes, I do relish life’s joys.

    shalom

  14. Dear Rick:
    Here I go, chancing my arm, the furthest I can stray from the straight and narrow.

    The First And Last Freedom by J. Krishnamurti
    https://selfdefinition.org/krishnamurti/Jiddu_Krishnamurt_The_First_And_Last_Freedom.pdf
    From the Foreword by Aldous Huxley

    “In every region and at every period of history, the problem has been repeatedly solved by individual men and women. Even when they spoke or wrote, these individuals created no systems – for they knew that every system is a standing temptation to take symbols too seriously, to pay more attention to words than to the realities for which the words are supposed to stand. Their aim was never to offer ready-made explanations and panaceas; it was to induce people to diagnose and cure their own ills, to get them to go to the place where man’s problem and its solution present themselves directly to experience.”

  15. Entering an Advaita devoted site, I guess none can complain that it is ‘partisan’ to Shankara’s philosophy, just like dipping into ocean waters none can say that it is partisan to brine. That is its ‘svabhAva.’

    But “Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita.”

    We still wait for a shruti and/or Shankara bhAShya quote to claim “Advaita’s final word on moksha is that it is not running away from the world, it is embracing the world as a manifestation of AtmA.”
    Just to remind: not from KS or Ramanuja or others.

    regards,

  16. I don’t think you will find a quotation either way, Ramesam. Knowing that the world is mithyA and no longer having any desires, what motive would there be for either?

    Most of the quotations talk about renuciation (since it is now known that I do not act). Some talk about loka saMgraha – ‘acting’ for the good of the world, since there are seemingly many ignorant jIva-s still floundering in saMsAra.

    But either attitude is irrelevant once you accept ajAti vAda.

  17. Bhagavad Gita bhAShya (Gambhirananda) 5.13:

    “Even in the case of one in whom has arisen discriminating wisdom and who has renounced all actions, there can be, like staying in a house, the continuance in the body itself as a consequence of the persistence of the remnants of the results of past actions which have started bearing fruit, because the awareness of being distinct (from the body) arises while one is in the body itself.”

    SSS comments:

    “Here it is said that when all a person’s action has ceased he may rest in the body, conforming to what has been cancelled and known to be false. From this we see that it is quite intelligible that such a person should continue to feel ‘I am not doing anything’ even in the act of giving teaching.”

  18. Shankara bhAShya on Brihad. Up. 4.4.6:

    “In fact, the enlightened one is already the Absolute here on earth. Though he appears to have a body, yet (as the text puts it) ‘being nothing but the Absolute, he dissolves in the Absolute’. It is because he has no desires to cause the limitation of feeling that he is not the Absolute that one can say of him ‘being nothing but the Absolute, he dissolves in the Absolute’, while he is still in this world, not after the death of the body. For when the enlightened person passes away he does not enter any new state different from the one he had while alive. The phrase ‘he dissolves in the Absolute’ only means that he does not pass to
    any other body.”

  19. Thanks for your observations, Dennis.
    I completely agree with you that one cannot find a shruti or bhAShya quote to support the claim that “i) mokSha is not running away from the world; or ii) mokSha is embracing the world as a manifestation of AtmA.”
    It is so simply because there aren’t any!

    As mentioned by you very rightly, the “final word” of Advaita is “ajAti.”
    As many as 4 Upanishads and at least 2 prakaraNa granthas instruct us so.

    With regard to the other two posts of yours wherein you refer to 5.13, BGB and 4.4.6, BUB, I feel we discussed them in the past in these columns under different threads; and I also hope to touch on them in the last part of my current Series on “sarvAtmabhAva.”

    However, for now let me quote here a few short excerpts from 1.1.4, BSB to muse over in this connection:

    a) Liberation is the state of identity with brahman.
    b) Unembodiedness of the Self is eternal.
    c) Unless it be through the false ignorance of identifying the Self with the body, there can be no embodiedness for the Self.
    d) Since embodiedness is the result of false perception, it is established that the enlightened man has no embodiedness even while living.
    e) Happiness and sorrow do not touch one who has become definitely unembodied.
    f) For one who has realized the state of the unity of the Self and brahman, it cannot be proved that his mundane life continues as before. For, this contradicts the Knowledge of the Unity of brahman and the Self arising from the Vedas which are a valid means of Knowledge.
    g) In the case of an enlightened man there is a total absence of any connection with any impulsion to work. Hence, a man who has realized his own identity with brahman cannot continue to have worldly state just as before, whereas the man who continues to have the worldly state just as before has not realized his identity with brahman.

    And from chAndogya:
    h) Disembodiedness is the intrinsic nature of Atman (brahman), 8.3.4.
    i) For an embodied being, there can be no eradication of unhappiness and sorrow to be sure, 8.12.1.

    regards,

  20. I agree that we must have discussed all of this before, Ramesam, as Shishya so thoughtfully reminded us.

    The only objection I see to your list of quotes is that there is the implication that ‘unembodied’, referring to the j~nAnI is to be understood literally. Reason (which I appreciate is rejected by Venkat) tells us that it has to be figurative only, since an unembodied j~nAnI would hardly be able to teach, write etc., let alone continue to (apparently) live out the rest of a vyAvahArika existence!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

      • I really do not have the time or patience to track down where you have said this, Venkat, but I am pretty certain that we have discussed this precise point and you denied the relevance of reason vis a vis scriptures. This despite the fact that Shankara specifically says that we should ignore any scriptural statement that claims water is dry or fire is cold (or something to this effect).

        Accordingly, what I said is neither ad hominem, nor substance-less.

        • No Dennis, I don’t appreciate this kind of nonsense.

          Your comment was totally irrelevant in the context of what is currently being discussed. And your further impatient response is just frankly stupid.

          I won’t bother further with these interactions.

        • [Dennis says] “[Venkat] denied the relevance of reason vis a vis scriptures. This despite the fact that Shankara specifically says that we should ignore any scriptural statement that claims water is dry or fire is cold (or something to this effect).”

          Hi Dennis,

          Since Shankara believes that scripture is always in accordance with reason and any reasoning that contradicts the Shruti is a fallacy (BUB 4.3.23) it seems to follow that if we are to ignore scriptural statements that claim water is dry or fire is cold it is not because they are contrary to reason, but because they are not in accord with perceptual experience, and shastra is not a valid source of knowledge in matters that fall within perceptual experience. Its meaning lies only in the cognition of unseen things.

            • Rick,

              I agree with you that fire not being cold is what we perceive, rather than what we ‘deduce’. Not a good example!

              But it is usually said that conclusions about Advaita have to be in accord with ‘shruti, yukti and anubhava’. I would have said that ‘perception’ falls into the category of anubhava, not yukti.

  21. Dear Dennis,

    It is interesting that you raise the point of “figurative vs. primary” meaning wrt to “unembodiedness” of a Self-realized individual.

    Maybe Venkat will respond taking into consideration the past discussions and what he highlighted earlier. Let me, in the meanwhile, say that the aspect of where and by whom this question of primary vs. figurative meaning of a word is explained by Shankara himself at 1.1.4, BSB with reference to another issue raised by the Opponent. Irrespective of the issue, I am confidant you will not disagree with the operative principle that Shankara annunciates to be behind which meaning (primary or secondary) will be applicable in which context.

    But, before that, let us also agree that, as used by Shankara in his commentary, “unembodiedness” and mokSha are synonyms and mean the same. Quite a few times, he keeps writing “unembodiednesss which is also known as mokSha …” Sw-G also explains parenthetically that mokSha is brahman. Thus, mokSha (liberation), unembodiedness, brahman are all equivalents and interchangeable words! I guess every sincere seeker on the Advaita path has to recognize the above FACT.

    About primary and secondary meanings of words:

    Shankara is very categorical that (I quote) “It is well-known that words and ideas can have primary and secondary senses only to a man to whom the differences of things are obvious, as for instance, when he knows it well enough through the methods of agreement and difference …, but not so to whom the differences of the two beings are not apparent. In the latter case, the application of words and ideas to things other than those implied by them is not figurative; rather it must be the result of ignorance.” Shankara makes his point clearer through several examples including that of unembodiedness.

    So I see no reason to take “unembodiedness” as figurative in this case.

    regards,

  22. Then we are left with the conclusion you reached in earlier discussions, namely that Shankara wrote lots of bhAShya-s and prakAraNa grantha-s, established matha-s, etc. without a body, and presumably without a mind also. Quite an achievement! (The alternative conclusion, of course, being that he was not enlightened at the time.)

    And yes, we are going round in circles, Shishya, and repeating ourselves, so don’t bother drawing attention to it again…

  23. Dennis: “Then we are left with the conclusion you reached in earlier discussions, namely that Shankara wrote lots of bhAShya-s and prakAraNa grantha-s, established matha-s, etc. without a body, and presumably without a mind also.”

    I guess “you” (referring to me) is a typo.
    There are many more options that the scripture gives, as we all know.

    Shishya: “Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism – Richard King’s PhD thesis on the GaudapadiyaKarika …”

    Agreed Dr. RK is a Prof. now; but it’s a pity if one relies on a greenhorn academician’s thesis of 27 yrs ago to interpret as profound a text as GK.

    Rick: Re: the comments that begins with “Since Shankara believes that scripture is always in accordance with reason …etc. etc.”

    I suppose one should also bear in the mind what Shankara’s says at 18.66 BGB and 3.3.1, BUB on the matter of shruti statements.

    Venkat: “Vedanta says that the individual mind is itself a superimposition on consciousness …”

    I can’t agree more.
    Maybe it is preferable to capitalize the ‘C’ in “Consciousness” to accent on Its Universal nature (and to distinguish from the individual finite consciousness).

    regards,

  24. <<< Venkat: “Vedanta says that the individual mind is itself a superimposition on consciousness …”. I can’t agree more. >>>

    Could R or V explain who it would be that is doing the superimposition and what mechanism they would be using?

  25. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Borrowing the M from the M-Theory, I would say that it is the M-Question of Advaita!

    While most of us may know what S says in his AB, it will be interesting to see how D answers it in BT^3

    regards,

    • You can’t hide behind humour, Ramesam! Both yourself and Venkat have claimed that “the individual mind is itself a superimposition on Consciousness”. I have never claimed this.

      Accordingly, it is only reasonable that (so as not to confuse our readers further) you (or Venkat) explains what the mechanism is for this superimposition. Obviously it cannot be an action of the mind (in any of its aspects) if the mind itself is a product of the superimposition. And it cannot be Brahman, since Brahman does not act. So what exactly are you saying??

      Best wishes,
      Dennis

  26. No other obstacle to liberation is admitted except Ignorance. Accordingly, when Ignorance has been destroyed, then a person is liberated already in this life even before he is finally liberated from rebirth at the death of the body. The Upanishad has already taught this earlier in the text ‘Being nothing but the Absolute, he dissolves in the Absolute’ (Br. Up. 4.4.6). No later Upanishadic passage, therefore, could make us believe that liberation depended on the death of the body. (Br. Up. bhAShya vArtika 4.4.559-60)

  27. Ramesam,

    You said: “Unembodiedness is the same as mokSha!” and “So I see no reason to take “unembodiedness” as figurative in this case.”

    The only way that this can be made sense of is by accepting that the word ‘unembodiedness’ was the 8th century shorthand (?) for saying ‘knowing that one is not the body’. This is because:
    • the Self is never embodied (as you have pointed out);
    • the Self does not need liberating;
    • (following on from those) the only meaningful way of understanding the word mokSha is that it is the realization that we are already liberated.

    Then the expression “Unembodiedness is the same as mokSha!” resolves into “Knowing that we are not the body is the same as realizing that we are already free”. This makes perfect sense!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  28. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you.

    The topic of ‘asharIrata’ you have raised above has the potential seeds for a very prolonged discussion. Shall we take it up so late after over 40 comments? Secondly, do you have the time to indulge in till we can come to a logical conclusion?

    Quickly,

    It helps to remember that ‘unembodiedness’ is a word shruti herself uses and not an aberration/coinage of the 8th CE. It appears, for example, at 1.2.22, kaTha, 4,4,7, Brihat, 8.12.1-2, chAn Upanishads. Also BG in a different way.

    Secondly, we need to take relook at the (statistically speaking) ‘Null Hypotheses’ you make based on which your logical derivations proceed. For example, Is mokSha just the realization that ‘we are already liberated’? Or is it more appropriate to say that it is the realization that ‘I am All (i.e. The Infiniteness) with no second (advitIya)’? Such a reframing can bring in very subtle but significant variation in understanding.

    Similarly, does “Knowing that we are not the body is the same as realizing that we are already free” adequate for mokSha? Or do we have to negate not only the visible gross body and also the mind-body, vital (prANa) body, etc. – the whole enchilada of the five sheaths that the taittirIya talks about? Is it even conceivable then what will one will be left out with?

    regards,

  29. Dear Ramesam,

    No, I don’t really want to embark upon a prolonged discussion. I must say though that I don’t actually see that any of your ‘additions’ or ‘refinements’ makes any difference to the point I am making. You can reword my rewording if you want:

    “Knowing that we are not the five sheaths is the same as realizing that we are the infinite”.

    Also, the fact that the word ‘unembodiedness’ (ashIratva) occurs in the Upanishads makes no difference to my argument. Just change ‘8th century’ to something else to indicate its longevity.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  30. Dear Dennis,

    Essentially, then you also see the equivalence of all the terms – mokSha; liberation; Unembodiedess; Realization of ‘I am not the 5 sheaths’; ‘I am Infinite’; etc. etc. Obviously this will lead us to conclude that “Unembodiedness” is not a “figurative” usage.

    regards,

  31. Yes – but it is the case that ‘unembodiedness’ actually means liberation, realization that I am not the 5 sheaths etc.

    NOT that

    liberation, realization etc means that I no longer have a body!!

    A world of difference!

    The ESSENTIAL point is that ‘unembodiedness’ should not be taken literally!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  32. Dennis,

    Thanks.
    A little clarification is needed on the two points you summed up because I am still struggling for a proper closure.

    1. “NOT that liberation, realization etc means that I no longer have a body!!”

    A good point.
    So, your position is that “I,” the now-liberated mukta, possess a body as before, and hence I have claims of ownership to it, and therefore, implicitly I am still attached to the body which is mine.

    2. “The ESSENTIAL point is that ‘unembodiedness’ should not be taken literally!”

    Good point again.
    Because you also agreed the equivalence of the different terms like unembodiedness, liberation, mokSha, ‘realization that I am not the 5-sheaths’ etc., the stand at # 2 would imply that mokSha too “should not be taken literally!”

    regards,

  33. Dear Ramesam,

    1. Yes, a j~nAnI still ‘possesses’ a body and is aware that it is ‘his/hers’. This ‘claiming of ownership’ is in accordance with the continuance of prArabdha karma until the body drops. (As has been discussed ‘ad nauseam’ before – as Shishya will point out – especially during the pratibandha series if I recall correctly).

    2. You know perfectly well that I just explained that ‘unembodiedness’ has to be understood as ‘realizing that I am not the body’. So mokSha is equivalent. Take them both as true for the one who has gained this knowledge.

    Thank you for insisting on my spelling this out syllable by syllable in case anyone might have misunderstood!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  34. Dear Ramesam,

    I agree that the thread on this topic has become rather long. Accordingly, in the interest of drawing it to a close, perhaps you could address the earlier unanswered point.

    I noted on Dec. 7th that “Both yourself and Venkat have claimed that ‘the individual mind is itself a superimposition on Consciousness'”.

    Again in the interests of clarifying this for our readers, I invited you to explain what the mechanism is for this superimposition. Obviously it cannot be brought about by the mind (in any of its aspects) if the mind itself is a product of the superimposition. And it cannot be instigated by Brahman, since Brahman does not act. So who or what is ‘doing’ the superimposition?

    I myself do not understand what you are suggesting here so maybe many of our readers do not either.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  35. Dear Dennis, Venkat and Other Followers of this Thread,

    With this post of mine, we ae hitting half a century mark of Comments!

    As Dennis has already hinted, it’s time to close this thread. However, two major issues stand out deserving a little more examination. These two have been separately indicated by Dennis in the two immediately preceding comments of his.

    1. Issue # 1 is the Question of “superimposition.”

    Partly I am guilty of not responding because of the fact that my attention has been elsewhere — The ‘sarvAtmabhAva’ Series (which incidentally received good appreciation at the FB Group where I posted a link); Coordination of a small group discussing “avidyA”; Shankara Advaita Vedanta Group etc.

    I propose to take it up as a separate independent post here at this AV site (anticipating “No objection” from Dennis). I hope to “Moderate the Discussions” for focus on the topic announcing some conditions. I hope and trust that will be acceptable to all and everyone participates in the discussions.

    For now, I would only say that under the stipulations that Dennis imposed (“it cannot be brought about by the mind (in any of its aspects) if the mind itself is a product of the superimposition. And it cannot be instigated by Brahman, since Brahman does not act”), it is an “Explanatory Gap.” Let me also cite two short interesting links in this context:

    i) Please watch for a couple of minutes from 45 min into this Video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk8-uHvOCxo
    ii) Please listen to the Swami for about 5 mins from 10 mins into this Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfB6BmYrBqU&list=PLMddRSWoHnQY9kX3hpmMgw2WZg0b0fJ82

    We shall discuss more under the new post.

    2. Issue # 2 is the importance of “asharIratva.”

    The shAstra’s “promise” is that “The Knower of brahman attains the Supreme (2.1.1, taittirIya).” The Supreme position is “amRtatva” (Immorality) — ‘Lead us from mortality to Immortality’ is our prayer (BU).

    According to ‘shruti,’ amUrtata (Formlessness) is amrutatva (Immortality) because all forms decrepit and are subject to disease, decay and death. As long as a form exists, it will undoubtedly lead to sorrow and misery (chAn.U.). Further, any linkage to a form is ‘bondage.’ True mukti (freedom) is ‘total detachment from any form’ or, IOW, Formlessness. One cannot have both form and formlessness together like one cannot be sitting and standing at the same time.

    Maybe further discussions on this topic too need to be carried forward to a new thread,

    regards,

  36. By all means take these topics onto a new thread, Ramesam. But please try to word the presentation of the problem in such a way that it does not imply an answer if you want a fair discussion (as I’m sure you do!). For example, you are now introducing the word ‘formlessness’, which is clearly another version of ‘unembodiedness’.

    Obviously the form of a ring or bangle would be irrelevant to the table on which they were resting. It is the mind of the sentient observer that puts name and meaning to them. So again it comes back to enlightenment referring to a mind that has realized this and knows that both ring and bangle are mithyA. And not to a jIva who is now ‘unembodied’ or a mind that is no longer ‘superimposed’!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

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