pratibandha-s – part 2 of 7

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prArabdha

The ideas that the person ‘ends’, mind is ‘destroyed’ etc. when one gains enlightenment all contradict one of the key teachings of Vedanta – karma. Of course, if one takes the pAramArthika viewpoint, the theory of karma has to be rescinded along with everything else (according to adhyAropa – apavAda), but it plays a key role in the teaching. The ‘person’ (body and mind) is here because of past karma. And it is taught that the person’s life continues until that part of the karma that caused this embodiment is exhausted. And this applies to the j~nAnI also. This is undeniable because the person’s life does not come to an end on gaining enlightenment.

On enlightenment, the j~nAnI realizes that he was never the body-mind; that these are mithyA, just as the dream is realized to have been completely unreal after awakening. That being the case, he also knows that the idea of prArabdha too belongs to this mithyA appearance. But that does not stop the whole thing continuing to play out from the standpoint of vyavahAra. The world does not ‘disappear’ either! (Creation and all its ramifications will be discussed in Volume 2 of the ‘Confusions’ book.) The prArabdha belongs to the mithyA body-mind, not the satyam Self, and both body-mind and world continue from the empirical standpoint. It is true that the j~nAnI no longer identifies with the body-mind but the body still eats and sleeps; the mind still responds to sensory input and so on.

There is no doubt that Shankara acknowledged that a j~nAnI would still experience prArabdha karma post enlightenment. In his bhAShya on Chandogya Upanishad 6.14.2, he says:

“Those actions which have started yielding results, and those by which the body of the man of Knowledge has been moulded, get exhausted only through enjoyment, just as an arrow etc. that has gathered momentum after being shot towards a target, stops only with the exhaustion of its momentum and not because it has no purpose to serve at the time it pierces the target.  Similar is the case here.  But other actions which have not started yielding results, and which were done here before the dawn of Knowledge or after it, or those which are being performed (*), or those which were done in past lives but had not started yielding results, they become burnt by Knowledge, just as sins are burnt by expiation.” (Ref. 23) [* ‘being performed now’ means that no new AgAmi karma is acquired from actions performed in this life.]

It seems to be effectively the substitution of a synonym to say that the j~nAnI will still have ‘obstacles’ after enlightenment. ‘Having to experience something in life’ (as a result of karma done earlier in this life or in a previous life, when that karma has started to mature), regardless of whether or not one ‘wants’ to experience it, or whether the experience is ‘pleasant’ or ‘unpleasant’, is surely an obstacle to the ‘unalloyed bliss’ that some teachers insist is associated with the gain of Self-knowledge.

Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3 and 4 are also concerned with the bow and arrow metaphor:

“Having taken the bow, great weapon of the Upanishads, one should fix an arrow indeed sharpened by spiritual practice. Having drawn it with mind absorbed in That alone, know (penetrate), O handsome one, that imperishable goal (target).

 “OM is the bow, the self indeed the arrow and Brahman Reality is said to be that target. One with steadied mind, knowing That, should become one with It, like the arrow.” (Ref. 186)

The metaphor is advocating taking up investigation into the meaning of OM (as carried out by Mandukya Upanishad for example), which understanding will give immediate realization of oneness with Brahman.

Shankara, in his bhAShya on these verses, concludes:

“Similarly, just as the success of the arrow consists in becoming one with the target (sharasya lakShya-ekAtmatvam phalam bhavati), so also one should bring about the result (phalam ApAdayet), of becoming one with (ekAtmatvaM) Brahman (akSharam), by eliminating the vAsanA-s of the body etc. (dehAdi Atma pratyaya tiraskAre~na).” (Ref. 10)

And here is what Shankara says in his bhAShya on Brahmasutra 4.1.15 (Swami Gambhirananda translation):

“After the acquisition of knowledge, those virtues and vices that have not begun to yield their fruits and that were accumulated in earlier lives or even in this life before the dawn of knowledge are alone destroyed, but not so are those destroyed whose results have already been partially enjoyed and by which has been begun this present life in which the knowledge of Brahman arises.” (Ref. 5)

He goes on to use the metaphor of the potter’s wheel  continuing to spin after the potter ceases to operate it and the metaphor of  continuing to see two moons after the removal of an eye-defect. He concludes:

“Furthermore, no difference of opinion is possible here as to whether the body is retained (after knowledge) for some time or not by the knowers of Brahman. For when somebody feels in his heart that he has realized Brahman and yet holds his body, how can this be denied by someone else? Hence the conclusion is that only those virtues and vices are washed away by knowledge which have not begun to bear fruit.”

 Vidyaranya also supports this view of the relationship between gaining Self-knowledge and the continuance of prArabdha karma. In the pa~nchadashI (7.176 – 179), he says:

“The knowledge of the spiritual truth and the fructification of prArabdha karma refer to different objects and are not opposed to one another. The sight of a magical performance gives amusement to a spectator in spite of his knowledge of its unreality.

 “The fructification of karma would be considered to be opposed to the knowledge of truth if it gave rise to the idea of the reality of the external world; but mere enjoyment of an experience does not imply the reality of what is experienced.

 “The imaginary objects seen in a dream become sources of joy and sorrow to no small extent; we therefore infer that the objects of the waking state can do the same (without being real).

 “If knowledge of the real destroyed the world it would be incompatible with the continued presence of the fructifying karma. But it does not do so. It ‘destroys’ the world only in the sense of producing the conviction that it is a mere illusory display (a mAyA).” (Ref. 99)

vAsanA-s

Regarding how we understand the key practices of shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana, confusion may arise according to whether one interprets Advaita according to the bhAmatI tradition or the vivaraNa. According to P. S. Roodurmun, the bhAmatI “holds the view that all of them (i.e. shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana) are of a cognitive nature.” But according to the vivaraNa:

“manana sweeps off from the mind the defect of asambhAvanA [doubts] as regards the identity between Brahman and jIva by setting aside all contrary proofs and reasonings about the same. nididhyAsana purges the mind of all viparIta-bhAvanA-s [errors] still standing in the way of the realization of reality. Despite the conviction of Absolute Oneness, firmly established by manana, there may be now and then a reassertion of old habits of thoughts, deep-rooted instincts and false notions of empirical glories and pragmatic values.” (Ref. 32)

This interpretation is also acknowledged by N. Veezhinathan: “nididhyAsana removes the unconscious reassertion of old habits of thought such as ‘I’ and ‘mine’ with reference to the physical body and its characteristics, which are counter-productive (viparIta-bhAvanA).” (Ref. 187) [viparIta-bhAvanA – error; the opposite stream of thought; It is said to be removed by contemplation. (Ref. 103)]

Just as the arrow in the bow and arrow metaphor, although it has hit the target, may fall out again if the point was insufficiently sharp, so the jIva if insufficient prepared by sAdhana may not completely acquire j~nAna phalam or the Self-realization may not be firm. The vAsanA-s that have to be eliminated are threefold:

  • the notions that ‘I am the body’ and ‘I am the mind’ (deha vAsanA);
  • the desire for worldly things (viShaya vAsanA) [viShaya means ‘object’, as opposed to ‘subject’ ; or can refer to the topic of discussion or argument]; and
  • the attachment to scriptures, forgetting that once the message of scriptures has been received and understood, they are of no further use (shAstra vAsanA).

It is because of these potential problems that the idea of becoming a renunciant (saMnyAsin) post-enlightenment arises. If one is effectively ‘removed’ from the world with its associated distractions, one is less likely to succumb to them – or at least so the argument goes! (Note that the discussion on saMnyAsa follows later as a separate topic.)

It certainly seems obvious that some residual ‘problems’ are likely to remain. Why would gaining Self-knowledge eliminate them? E.g. we know that Nisargadatta continually smoked his ‘beedis’, although we all assume he was enlightened. Why would he do this, presumably realizing that he was injuring the body thereby? The simple answer is out of habit – vAsanA-s. The mind continued to generate the addict’s desire and Nisargadatta gave into this. You can say that, knowing that he was not the body-mind, he had no reason to give in or not give in but this is to ignore the point that such pratibandha-s often remain, post-enlightenment.

Read Part 3

23 thoughts on “pratibandha-s – part 2 of 7

  1. Talk 115.
    25th December, 1935
    Mr. M. Frydman: Even without any initial desires there are some strange experiences for us. Wherefrom do they arise?
    M.: The desire may not be there now. Enough if it was there before. Though forgotten by you now it is bearing fruit in due course. That is how the Jnani is said to have prarabdha left for him. Of course it is only according to others’ point of view.
    ————————
    Talk 116.
    D.: Jiva is said to be bound by karma. Is it so?
    M.: Let karma enjoy its fruits. As long as you are the doer so long are you the enjoyer.
    D.: How to get released from karma.
    M.: See whose karma it is. You will find you are not the doer. Then you will be free. This requires grace of God for which you should pray to Him, worship Him and meditate on Him. The karma which takes place without effort, i.e., involuntary action, is not binding. Even a Jnani is acting as seen by his bodily movements. There can be no karma without effort or without intentions (sankalpas).
    Therefore there are sankalpas for all. They are of two kinds (1) one, binding – bandha-hetu and the other (2) mukti-hetu – not binding.
    The former must be given up and the latter must be cultivated. There is no fruit without previous karma; no karma without previous sankalpa. Even mukti must be the result of effort so long as the sense of doership persists.
    —————————-
    Talk 383.
    Swami Lokesananda, a sanyasi, asked Sri Bhagavan: Is there prarabdha for a jivanmukta?
    M.: Who is the questioner? From whom does the question proceed? Is it a jivanmukta who is asking?
    D.: No, I am not a mukta as yet.
    M.: Then why not let the jivanmukta ask the question for himself?
    D.: The doubt is for me.
    M.: Quite so. The ajnani has doubt but not a Jnani.
    D.: According to the creed that there is no creation (ajatavada), the explanations of Sri Bhagavan are faultless; but are they admissible in other schools?
    M.: There are three methods of approach in Advaita vada.
    (1) The ajatavada is represented by no loss, no creation, no one bound, no sadhaka, no one desirous of liberation, no liberation. This is the Supreme Truth. (Mandukya Karika, II – 32). According to this, there is only One and it admits of no discussion.
    (2) Drishti Srishtivada is illustrated thus:- Simultaneous creation. There are two friends sleeping side by side. One of them dreams that he goes to Benares with his friend and returns. He tells his friend that both of them have been in Benares. The other denies it. That statement is true from the standpoint of one and the denial from that of the other.
    (3) Srishti Drishtivada is plain (Gradual creation and knowledge of it).
    Karma is posited as past karma, etc., prarabdha, agami and sanchita. There must be kartritva (doership) and karta (doer) for it. Karma (action) cannot be for the body because it is insentient. It is only so long as dehatma buddhi (‘I-am-the-body idea’) lasts. After transcending dehatma buddhi one becomes a Jnani. In the absence of that idea (buddhi) there cannot be either kartritva or
    karta. So a Jnani has no karma. That is his experience. Otherwise he is not a Jnani. However an ajnani identifies the Jnani with his body, which the Jnani does not do. So the ajnani finds the Jnani acting, because his body is active, and therefore he asks if the Jnani is not affected by prarabdha.
    The scriptures say that jnana is the fire which burns away all karma (sarvakarmani). Sarva (all) is interpreted in two ways: (1) to include prarabdha and (2) to exclude it. In the first way: if a man with three wives dies, it is asked. “can two of them be called widows and the third not?”
    All are widows. So it is with prarabdha, agami and sanchita. When there is no karta none of them can hold out any longer.
    The second explanation is, however, given only to satisfy the enquirer. It is said that all karma is burnt away leaving prarabdha alone. The body is said to continue in the functions for which it has taken its birth. That is prarabdha. But from the jnani’s point of view there is only the Self which manifests in such variety.
    There is no body or karma apart from the Self, so that the actions do not affect him.
    D.: Is there no dehatma buddhi (I-am-the-body idea) for the Jnani?
    If, for instance, Sri Bhagavan be bitten by an insect, is there no sensation?
    M.: There is the sensation and there is also the dehatma buddhi. The latter is common to both Jnani and ajnani with this difference, that the ajnani thinks dehaiva Atma (only the body is myself), whereas the Jnani knows all is of the Self (Atmamayam sarvam), or (sarvam khalvidam Brahma) all this is Brahma. If there be pain let it be. It
    is also part of the Self. The Self is poorna (perfect).
    Now with regard to the actions of the Jnani, they are only so-called because they are ineffective. Generally the actions get embedded as samskaras in the individual. That can be only so long as the mind is fertile, as in the case of the ajnani. With a Jnani the mind is surmised; he has already transcended the mind. Because of his
    apparent activity the mind has to be inferred in his case, and that mind is not fertile like that of an ajnani. Hence it is said that a jnani’s mind is Brahman. Brahman is certainly no other than the jnani’s mind. The vasanas cannot bear fruit in that soil. His mind is barren, free from vasanas, etc.
    However, since prarabdha was conceded in his case, vasanas also must be supposed to exist. If they exist they are only for enjoyment (bhogahetu). That is to say, actions bear twofold fruits, the one for enjoyment of their fruits and the other leaving an impress on the mind in the form of samskaras for subsequent manifestation in future births. The jnani’s mind being barren cannot entertain seeds of karma. His vasanas simply exhaust themselves by activities ending in enjoyment only (bhogahetuka karma). In fact, his karma is seen only from the ajnani’s standpoint. He remains actionless only. He is not aware of the body as being apart from the Self. How
    can there be liberation (mukti) or bondage (bandha) for him? He is beyond both. He is not bound by karma, either now or ever. There is no jivanmukta or videhamukta according to him.

    D.: From all this it looks as if a Jnani who has scorched all the vasanas is the best and that he would remain inactive like a stock or stone.
    M.: No, not necessarily. Vasanas do not affect him. Is it not itself avasana that one remains like a stock or stone? Sahaja is the state.

  2. Could you tell us what point(s) you are making, Shishya? The extracts you have given only serve (for me) to emphasize how potentially confusing Nisargadatta and Ramana can be. It is not at all clear what the ‘bottom line’ is for you subsequent to these quotations.I am specifically trying to avoid this situation, whereas you seem to be cultivating it!

    If you wish to participate in the discussion, could you first state your own understanding and then provide a quotation to substantiate it. This supporting reference should ideally be from prasthAna traya, Shankara bhAshya or Shankara-attributed text. Next best is from a Shankara disciple, then later authors such as Vidyaranya. By all means quote more recent teachers, such as Ramakrishna, Ramana but bear in mind that they carry much less weight from the perspective of proven traditional methodology and may well confuse seekers significantly and even be wrong.

    • Dear Pundit Dennis:

      You have asked me to explain the reason for my post above so here goes:

      “Seeing” prarabdha (in my eyes, losing one’s sense of agency completely) IS liberation because there is then nothing to be free of, or from. It is passive awareness taken to the limit. But how does this happen?

      I am full of appreciation for your scholarly writings about advaita and cannot hope to argue against your positions from traditional texts.
      Nevertheless, I find your interpretation of “knowledge” and “experience” very superficial, which may be a limitation of the texts themselves, trying to “eff” the ineffable. For example, on this very issue your reply to me a year ago about how knowledge of the earth’s rotation (instead of sun’s revolution around the earth) did not change people in any fundamental way seriously depreciates this whole quest for liberation or whatever term you choose. If you think that is what “knowledge” is in this context, then I have nothing more to say.

      We have had this kind of exchange before, please note Martin’s contribution.

      Shishya on January 10, 2019 at 00:12 said:
      From Dennis’ comment near the beginning of this thread –
      ———————-
      1. Since there is ONLY brahman in reality, we must already BE brahman.
      2. So what is the problem? Clearly it must be that we do not KNOW this to be so.
      3. No action (whether karma or upAsana) can bring about this knowledge.
      4. We have to acquire this knowledge from somewhere.
      5. Since it is totally counter-intuitive, it is not going to arise in the course of our daily activities – everything in our perception and action is dualistic. We have to acquire it from somewhere. It is ‘contained’ in the scriptures and traditionally explained by a guru. We have to listen to this (shravaNa) and ask questions until we understand it (manana). We probably then have to assimilate it until it is completely accepted (nididhyAsana). [Action is now relevant because we have realized the truth through knowledge. The rest is down to prArabdha.]
      —————————————
      “Shishya says that ‘even more important is the following’:
      “The understanding of oneself is not a result, a culmination; it is seeing oneself from moment to moment in the mirror of relationship – one’s relationship to property, to things, to people and to ideas.”

      What has this got to do with Advaita? How can continuing to see duality help one to understand the nature of reality?
      ——————————————-
      Points 1 and 2 are in contradiction – you assert something is so (true) and then claim that we don’t know it is so (true). What is the basis of your assertion then?
      On the other hand, your facile (effortless) assertion may be because you “grok” this stuff better than I do, and can really “see” it….unfortunately beyond me.
      It is not clear to me what you mean by “know” because you have consistently denied any mystical connotation to the word in this context.
      I will not bring up JK again but I think there is a large overlap between your points and what he said, except for Point 1 as above.

      • Dennis on January 10, 2019 at 12:26 said:
      Points 1 and 2 are not in contradiction. c.f. It is a fact that the earth rotates on its axis, making it appear that the sun is orbiting the earth. Nevertheless, people once did not know this to be the case and really believed the appearance was truth. Knowledge in this case is having the justified, true belief that day-night is really caused by the earth’s rotation.
      =========================
      amartingarcia on January 19, 2019 at 11:14 said:
      Venkat wrote (18.1.19) “Sankara has said that there can be no positive knowledge of Brahman; all that can happen is the removal of ignorance, which is ‘not this, not this’”. That is correct, but there is the other fundamental method in Advaita Vedanta: adhyaropa-apavada, and this has to do with the mind and with intuition, anubhava, which no one seems to be mentioning lately (actually, Dennis has just produced many quotations from shruti on ‘knowledge of brahman’ – brahmavidya, which is cogent with what follows). What this means is that the mind can be transformed at the moment of that intuition. This is also the teaching of SSSS, as well as, certainly, that of Shankara.:
      ‘… the Mind is completely pervaded by Atman alone (manifested) in our intuitive experience to help realize that ‘Everything is Atman alone’… there is no question of cognizing anything whatsoever by objectifying it, and hence the Mind becomes no-Mind (quoting Karika 3-32).
      ‘When this absolute truth is Intuited by us, then it is said that ‘He has attained, acquired Atmanubhava (Intuitive experience of the Self as Being-Consciousness-Bliss).—‘The Basic Tenets of Shankara Vedanta’ (SSSS).
      You will see that the above is not just neti-neti, that realization is something very positive, a world-transforming event as seen from vyavahara p.o.v.
      =================
      Shishya on January 20, 2019 at 01:04 said:
      Martin says above at the end of his first paragraph:
      “[…] What this means is that the mind can be transformed at the moment of that intuition […]”.
      That is – “seeing/being/knowing” – is a dynamic process and is always in the active present, experiencing, not experience.
      It is neither “positive”, nor “negative” IMHO.
      ==================================

      • Thanks Shishya for taking the time to pull these strands together.

        I am not sure if there is any meaningful mystical enlightenment experience or if it is just another experience in the waking world.

        Common sense tells us that the ‘I’ that I think I am a fleeting phenomenon in an uncaring (no value judgement intended) universe which happened to be born, and will soon die. As such, ‘I’ strive for some deeper meaning, which remains elusive.

        Gaudapada and Ramana quietly dismiss this entirety of experience as no more real than a dream, and advise not to pay attention to that, but the underlying consciousness to which the entirety of experience appears. JK takes a slightly different approach by saying that the ‘I’ is the sum of all past experiences and that we have to die to the past – essentially that the ‘I’ has to be seen as unreal and so discarded.

        Whichever way you look at it, these sages, and indeed Buddhism more generally, tells us that there is no substance to the world or ourselves. If we deeply intuit that, these sages hold out the promise of a life lived without suffering or angst. Again common sense tells us that this insight must be right; that the ‘I’ is the cause of our suffering.

        Once this is understood, is there any seeking left? All that can be done is to watch for the ‘I’ whenever it arises, and to look for its reality. Right action, right living surely must then follow, without any volition on ‘my’ part. My view of the Vedantin / Shankaran way to that [neither negative nor positive] outcome is via negativa; which logically makes sense to me, since the point is to remove the accretion, rather than add to it. But that is just quibbling.

        There is a school of Advaitic thought, that on realisation the world is no longer seen. It is a matter of contention whether this is meant literally or not. Again it doesn’t really matter – except that those who take it literally, then set themselves up to ‘achieve’ an experience of non-perception of the world as the final goal; but that just brings in an ‘I’ again trying to achieve something.

        I would be interested on your perspectives on this.

        best wishes,
        venkat

        • Dear Venkat:

          Will reply shortly, meanwhile please look at the JK link below, sure you’ve read it many times but just read it again, if you don’t mind.

          https://www.jkrishnamurti.org/content/learning

          In response to Dennis’ comment upthread I’ve decided to only link quotes, not paste them in full.

          “Could you tell us what point(s) you are making, Shishya? The extracts you have given only serve (for me) to emphasize how potentially confusing Nisargadatta and Ramana can be. It is not at all clear what the ‘bottom line’ is for you subsequent to these quotations.I am specifically trying to avoid this situation, whereas you seem to be cultivating it! “

  3. Dennis,

    You are confusing prarabdha karma with your theory of obstacles to jnana phalam.

    Sankara clearly says that prarabdha karma continues for the body, in your first arrow metaphor from Chand Up. But the fact that the body continues to experience pain and pleasure after realisation, is not in debate. After all, in BG2.56, Krishna says

    “That monk is called a man of STEADY wisdom when his mind is unperturbed in sorrow, he is free from longing for delights and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger”

    So the body may continue to experience its prarabdha karma, its sorrow and joy, but the jnani has become Brahman, and is therefore no longer identified with a specific, separate body-mind. I understood that is the gist of what Shishya has posted from Ramana Maharishi’s talks. Clearly the bodies of Ramakrishna, Ramana and Nisargadatta all suffered intensely from cancer – -they sometimes moaned in pain – but does that mean that they were not jivanmuktas? If they were not, there is not much hope for anyone else!

    You have then confused the matter by sandwiching another arrow metaphor used by Sankara in Mundaka Up, which is actually talking about a single minded focus on realising and ‘merging’ with Brahman, with the prarabdha karma related arrow metaphor that Sankara used in Chand Up. They are clearly being used by him in different contexts! You complete the sandwich be reverting to another quote from BSB to make the point again about prarabdha karma.

    The Vidyaranya quote just re-makes the point of the body’s prarabdha karma, which is not in contention.

    Finally you assert that the obstacles to jnana phalam are the three-fold vasanas. Just taking the first of these: “the notions that ‘I am the body’ and ‘I am the mind’”. This is not an obstacle to jnana phalam. This surely is an obstacle to jnana, realisation.

    BG7.2 is interesting in that it differentiates conceptual knowledge from realisation of that knowledge: “I shall tell you in detail of the Knowledge, which is combined with realisation, after experiencing which there remains nothing else here to be known”.

    Sankara: Thus he who knows Me in reality becomes omniscient. This is the idea. THEREFORE KNOWLEDGE IS DIFFICULT TO ATTAIN BECAUSE OF ITS SUPER-EXCELLENT RESULT.

    Madhusudana comments on this verse:
    “Knowledge about Me, which by its very nature is immediate, is indirectly spoken of as mediate, when it fails to produce its fruit owing to such obstacles as asambhavana. But the Knowledge which, on the removal of asumabhavana as a result of the perfection of vicara, arises from that valid means itself, is said to be immediate when it produces its result owing to the absence of obstacles. That itself is vijnana, realisation, because it is generated by maturity of vicara . . . He says – yat jnatva, after experiencing which Knowledge, of the form of eternal consciousness – ie after making It the content of the mental modification arising from the Upanishadic texts, there remains nothing else whatsoever here on the empirical plane to be known. When, through the knowledge of the absolute Existence, which is the basis of all, Existence alone stands as the residue after the sublation of everything imagined, then you will become Self-fulfilled through the very knowledge of That alone.

    So perhaps are argument is simply definitional – by jnana you mean conceptual / book / mediate knowledge, whereas I think Ramesam and I (and Sankara, as evident from BG7.2) mean realisation of that knowledge, vijnana – which you define as jivanmukta.

  4. Hi Venkat,

    **You are confusing prarabdha karma with your theory of obstacles to jnana phalam.**

    On the contrary, I am ‘equating’ them. As I said in the post: “there are clear indications of the idea. pratibandha-s are effectively the negative elements of prArabdha karma.”

    **“That monk is called a man of STEADY wisdom when his mind is unperturbed in sorrow, he is free from longing for delights and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger”**

    Yes. But I am equating j~nAna niShThA with jIvanmukti, not j~nAna.

    **So the body may continue to experience its prarabdha karma, its sorrow and joy, but the jnani has become Brahman,**

    The j~nAnI does not ‘become’ brahman; everyone is already brahman.

    **Clearly the bodies of Ramakrishna, Ramana and Nisargadatta all suffered intensely from cancer – -they sometimes moaned in pain – but does that mean that they were not jivanmuktas? If they were not, there is not much hope for anyone else!**

    I never suggested they were not jIvanmukta-s. The point about a jIvanmukta is that they ‘experience’ pain but they do not ‘suffer’.

    **You have then confused the matter by sandwiching another arrow metaphor used by Sankara in Mundaka Up, which is actually talking about a single minded focus on realising and ‘merging’ with Brahman, with the prarabdha karma related arrow metaphor that Sankara used in Chand Up. They are clearly being used by him in different contexts!**

    The point of the Mundaka Upanishad quotation was to refer to Shankara’s commentary on the need for “eliminating the vAsanA-s of the body etc.” in order to “bring about the result (phalam ApAdayet), of becoming one with (ekAtmatvaM) Brahman”. It is not “confusing the matter” but elucidating!

    **You complete the sandwich be reverting to another quote from BSB to make the point again about prarabdha karma.**

    Shankara’s statement that “Hence the conclusion is that only those virtues and vices are washed away by knowledge which have not begun to bear fruit.” makes it clear that, although a seeker may gain j~nAna from shravaNa-manana, he or she will not necessarily destroy all of the ‘virtues and vices’. The ones that are related to prArabdha will continue.

    **The Vidyaranya quote just re-makes the point of the body’s prarabdha karma, which is not in contention.**

    Again, I am equating prArabdha and pratibandha-s. Vidyaranya is also making it clear that enlightenment does not make the seeker or world disappear (as some teachers claim).

    **Finally you assert that the obstacles to jnana phalam are the three-fold vasanas. Just taking the first of these: “the notions that ‘I am the body’ and ‘I am the mind’”. This is not an obstacle to jnana phalam. This surely is an obstacle to jnana, realisation.**

    Yes, but if the vAsanA is not completely eliminated, it can still provide an obstacle to j~nAna phalam (= jIvanmukti) post-enlightenment. These notions are paving the way to the discussion of saMnyAsa in the next topic.

    **BG7.2 is interesting in that it differentiates conceptual knowledge from realisation of that knowledge: “I shall tell you in detail of the Knowledge, which is combined with realisation, after experiencing which there remains nothing else here to be known”.**

    BG7.2 is differentiating j~nAnam, meaning ‘lower’ knowledge of saguNa brahman from vij~nAnam, meaning ‘higher’ knowledge of nirguNa brahman. Swami Gambhirananda explains that “From the statement ‘j~nAsyasi, you will know’ in the earlier verse, one may conclude that the Lord is speaking of indirect or theoretical knowledge. The word ‘idam, this’ rules out such a conclusion…”

    **So perhaps our argument is simply definitional – by jnana you mean conceptual / book / mediate knowledge, whereas I think Ramesam and I (and Sankara, as evident from BG7.2) mean realisation of that knowledge, vijnana – which you define as jivanmukta.**

    As noted, vij~nAna does not mean this. I do not deny that knowledge of saguNa and nirguNa brahman (j~nAnam and vij~nAnam) equals enlightenment. But it is this in conjunction with removal of pratibandha-s, that equals jIvanmukti. I still do not accept that anything that Shankara said negates this.

    • Just because a jnani continues to experience pain (“prarabdha karma”) as did Ramakrishna and Ramana) these cannot be defined as obstacles to jnana phalam, especially as you have acknowledged that they were jivanmuktas. ie prarabdha karma will continue for a jivanmukta as moch as it will for a jnani.

      But that is the point of the BG quote showing that a man of steady wisdom may continue to experience sorrow but is unperturbed.

      Therefore prarabdha karma cannot logically be equated with pratibandhas. The issue is whether one is perturbed by whatever subsequently happens in life (whether you attribute such happenings to prarabdha karma or chance).

      With respect to BG7.2, the explanation you quote from Sw Gambhirananda, relates to the previous verse 7.1, and is explaining that “you will know Me” is not meant in a theoretical way. He goes on to say (which you haven’t quoted!): “it has also been said that this Knowledge is ‘savijnanam COMBINED WITH DIRECT EXPERIENCE, realisation’. So the sense of Gambhirananda’s explanation is also that of Madhusudhana – mediate vs immediate Knowledge.

      • prArabdha karma continues until death of the body-mind, *by definition*. So, of course, it also applies to the jIvanmukta.

        I never suggested that pain would prevent jivanmukta. What I said was: “The point about a jIvanmukta is that they ‘experience’ pain but they do not ‘suffer’.” It is the ‘subtle attachment’ to desires, fears etc. that constitute the pratibandha-s that prevent j~nAna phalam.

        The quote from Swami G refers to BG7.2, NOT 7.1 (at least according to the version I have). I do concede that I omitted the last part but it was the point about the word ‘idam’ that was relevant.

        • Dennis,

          A few points:

          (1) The point of Swami G’s note is to say that Knowledge = savijnanam + direct experience / realisation.
          ie Knowledge is more than indirect or theoretical knowledge

          (2) So both Swami G and Madhusudhana re:7.2, talk about jnana as a discriminative knowledge plus direct experience, after which there is nothing else to be known. And Sankara’s commentary refers to this Knowledge being difficult to attain because of its super-excellent results.
          So we can conclude that Knowledge, Jnana is, on its realisation (which is difficult to obtain), to be associated with super-excellent results (jnana phalam) and with nothing else to be done (hence jivanmukti).

          (3) Prarabdha karma itself should not be ‘equated’, as you initially mentioned in your response to me, with pratibandha-s.
          So just because the scriptures / Sankara talk of prarabdha karma post-realisation, this cannot be contended as evidence to support your theory of obstacles to jnana phalam.

          • Venkat,

            You are making more of BG7.2 than is there. The verse itself simply says that Krishna will explain in full that knowledge which, once it is known, will mean that there is nothing else that remains to be known in the world.

            Krishna Warrier’s translation of Shankara’s bhAShya is:
            “2.1. That knowledge together with its experience I shall set forth in its entirety. In order to secure the attention of the listener, the Lord extols that knowledge. Once it is grasped, nothing else will remain here to be known as means to any human goal. The idea is that one who knows the truth about the Lord becomes omniscient. Yielding excellent fruit, this knowledge is extremely rare.”

            But he mistranslates vij~nAna as ‘experience’. The verse is differentiating j~nAna as knowledge of saguNa brahman and duality from vij~nAna as knowledge of nirguNa brahman and non-duality. Both together represent complete knowledge. The verse is saying that, once one knows brahman, one knows everything. Nothing at all about remaining experience in the world, obstacles or otherwise, jIvanmukti or videha mukti.

            And, when I ‘equated’ prArabdha and pratibandha, I did not mean they were synonyms – there would be little point in that (other than deliberate confusion!). I meant that they go together. We have pratibandha-s because we have prArabdha; or an aspect of prArabdha is pratibandha-s. What, after all, is the meaning of prArabdha? Does it not mean that there were things ‘left undone’ that we wanted or needed to do in our past life(s) that require another birth in order to fulfil or expiate? And are these things not potential ‘obstacles’ to our gaining of Self-knowledge and actual obstacles to our ‘happiness’ in this life?

            Since we are only on part 2 of this topic of pratibandha-s, I suggest that you hold off from any further ‘repudiation’ attempts until you have seen all my arguments.

  5. Dear Dennis,

    May I ask you a couple of simple and straight questions?

    Do you swear by and stand by the principal principle of Advaita doctrine that “nothing is ever born and there is no cause for birth”?

    One word answer, Please. Without ifs and buts and other conditional clauses.

    Do you believe as a committed Advaitin in rebirths and the concept of carrying forward the effects of the actions done in unknown past births?

    Again, one word answer, Please. Without ifs and buts and other conditional clauses.

    And May Brahman Bless That Our Understanding and Explanations of Advaita Ever Waver Not Even By A Hair’s Width From That Position!

    • You cannot take that stance, Ramesam. Otherwise, we might as well close down this site now as we will not be able to say anything at all. We are discussing the ‘teaching’ of Advaita, not its conclusions. The seeker is presently firmly in vyavahAra and that is where we (the ‘teachers’) have to take our stance also.

      Let me ask you a vounter-question. Do you not accept that adhyAropa-apavAda is fundamental to the teaching of Advaita?

  6. Hi Dennis,

    Nice post. I enjoyed reading it.

    You said Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3 and 2.2.4 are concerned with the bow and arrow metaphor.

    I agree that 2.2.4 which says “OM is the bow, the self indeed the arrow and Brahman is the target …” is a metaphor.

    But 2.2.3 which says “Use the Upanishads as the bow, highly focused single pointed concentration as the arrow and penetrate the target (which is Brahman)” is NOT a metaphor, rather it is a DIRECT INSTRUCTION. That’s all there is to it. If one can follow this direct instruction of the Mundaka Upanishad and succeed then Avidya gets destroyed and one gets the Self-Realisation.

    Now practically is it that easy? Can one read just this one sloka, understand it fully and succeed in gaining the knowledge of Self-Realisation?

    If it is not that easy then what else one needs to do? Can this website help in anyway? This has been my objective ever since I have started engaging for the past few weeks. Prolonged engagement with people here forced me to continuously think on a daily basis and helped me gain some new understanding and also forced me to think on how to express my thoughts in a very very simple manner.

    What this website can do is to provide some new information and some new reasoning that could help and nudge a seeker towards realising the Self. Here is my sincere attempt towards achieving that objective.

    Let us say I am watching an interesting movie and totally engrossed in it. That means my 100% concentration is on the movie. At that moment the whole mitya Jagat goes missing. I am not aware of the outside world, not aware of my body, mind and ego-self. I just exist as an Awareness, being aware of, the happenings in the movie. At that moment if I were to ask myself “who is being aware of the movie?”. The answer would be “I”. “who is this I?”. The answer would be “I am Awareness”.

    The situation is exactly the same if I am engrossed in witnessing a game, playing a game, reading a book, writing something or any other activity I enjoy doing. That means whenever I concentrate 100% percent on anything at that instant I exist as pure Awareness and mitya Jagat vanishes during that time. Aha!! That’s the power of concentration, Samadhana (Chitta Ekagratha – single pointed concentration) of Shad Sampatti.

    Here I am using our day to day common activities to help one exist as Pure Awareness, Pure Consciousness.

    I mentioned above that I gained some new understanding. Here it is.

    When a person is totally concentrating on a movie at that moment the person exists, the person exists as Consciousness losing the individuality (mitya Jagat) and is enjoying the moment (in Bliss). That means during that brief moment the person exists as Sat-Chit-Ananda Swarupa. Every person seems to like existing as this Sat-Chit-Ananda Swarupa without the mitya Jagat and this happens whenever a person is in 100% concentration doing a particular activity such as watching a game, playing a game, reading, writing, singing, dancing, etc. including sex.

    Sometimes a person puts oneself to extreme risk such as rock climbing. One wrong step and it could be a matter of life and death. Hence one is FORCED to concentrate 100% because of that risk and thus exist as Sat-Chit-Ananda Swarupa without mitya Jagat. We normally call this as Thrill. Activities like Bungee Jumping, Para Diving, Racing, etc. belong to the same category.

    At least now we know that Advaita is at play whenever a person involves fully in so called pleasurable activity or an activity one likes.

    However in all these activities though there is pleasure, it is temporary and does not last long. Another main thing is though the mitya Jagat is not present when a person is concentrating 100% it is still NOT pure Sat-Chit-Ananda swarupa because as Adhyatma Prakasha website calls it “Vedhana Anubhava” is present. Though Vedhana literally means pain, here it is used to mean the presence of all kinds of emotional feelings such as pain, joy, anger, anxiety, thrill, surprise, etc. Thus in all the activities that a person could possibly engage and enjoy, the emotional feelings are very much present be it movie, game, reading a book, etc. The realisation is also not there that during that moment one is existing as Pure Awareness.

    Now the task has been simplified to exist as Pure Awareness without mitya Jagat and also without any kind of emotions.

    This could be achieved if one indulges in 100% concentration, concentrating on the breath for few minutes. No need to alter or adjust the breath. Just single pointed 100% concentration on how deep the breath is going and returning and how it is feeling while entering or exiting the nostrils. After few minutes when one realises that silence has been achieved and one is silently observing the breath, then leave the breath alone and become aware of the silence. At that moment one exists as pure Awareness, being aware of, the silence. By sincere and earnest practice of what has been mentioned in this one paragraph one could succeed in existing as Silent Awareness and have the Aparoksha Anubhuti, the Direct Experience or the Atmanubhava. This is exactly what is instructed by Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.3.

    Regards
    Arun

  7. Dear Dennis,

    You say: “The seeker is presently firmly in vyavahAra and that is where we (the ‘teachers’) have to take our stance also.”

    First, many thanks for your kind observation elevating all of us to the level of Teachers of Advaita! I am not sure I would be competent for that title, though.

    Secondly, as Gaudapada and Shankara also recognized, there are different levels of seekers. All the seekers may not be “firmly” in vyavahAra.
    And, if they are so firmly entrenched in it, as Krishna advised in BG 3.26; 18.67, better not disturb them. After all, Advaita does not go for proselytization, as you are aware. There is no compulsion to awaken all like the Catholics believing in conversions.

    And then you ask: “Let me ask you a counter-question. Do you not accept that adhyAropa-apavAda is fundamental to the teaching of Advaita?”

    As you are well aware, brihadAraNyaka suggests the “neti-neti” approach where everything that is not the Pure Self has to be negated until one discovers (literally!) the Self.

    Likewise the Direct Path teachings, as you know, also do not need that “something” has to be first superimposed and then sublated later. That sort of teaching by superimposing the “creation” myth and sublating is meant for the slow learners who “believe and think” that they are born into a pre-existing creation – more the followers of sRiShTi dRiShTi doctrine.
    Those that are ready for the dRiShTi sRiShTi doctrine, do not need the superimposition as a first step.

    The first two parts of kena Upanishad, aShTAvakra samhita, aparokShAnubhUti essentially follow a method of teaching that does not require an ‘a priori’ superimposition, IMHO.

    In the muNDaka example of the arrow directly hitting the target through “AUM” also does not require births and rebirths. Self-inquiry or the vicAra mArga is the forte in all such methods.

    Hence, as Sureshwaracharya said in brihat vArtika, there are many ways by which one can arrive at the basic “I”-principle that Advita points to. Shankara too repeatedly says that the “fundamental” aspect of the Advaita teaching is Self-realization and not ‘creation’ in his bhAShya-s — for example 2.1.33, BSB; at many places in BG etc.

    regards,

  8. The word ‘teachers’ was in quotation marks! And, yes, even Shankara was in vyavahAra. Also, in order to be able to ‘neti’, we have to first acknowledge the ‘asti’. There would be no need to negate, and no possibility to negate if we did not initially believe the seeming duality.

  9. Dennis

    To be read in conjunction with my response to your BG7.2 comment earlier:

    The point is that the jiva either has avidya / confusion, or there is no confusion (and therefore no avidya). Not sure you can have partial confusion?

    The concept that you can have knowledge, and yet have obstacles, means that you aren’t a jnani, a knower of Brahman (given that a knower of Brahman IS Brahman).

    There is or is not confusion / superimposition.

    If there is Knowledge, there can be no longer be any superimposition, and therefore no longer perturbation by what happens to the body-mind. Talk of a jnani that still has to overcome obstacles to be a jivanmukta makes an entity of a jnani. That is illogical in the context of realisation, of no jiva / no birth. I think this is in accordance with Ramesam’s comments.

  10. Having Self-knowledge is being a j~nAnI. Having Self-knowledge and obstacles means not being a jIvanmukta. No contradiction.

    Saying that ‘a knower of brahman IS brahman’ is no argument at all. A non-knower of brahman is ALSO brahman.

    The fact that there is no longer any superimposition does not preclude the existence of pratibandha-s. I can know that spinach is good for me and even that it is name and form of brahman but still not like it!

    Can we please wait for more parts to be posted before continuing this.

  11. Dear Dennis,

    I can appreciate your reason and I honor and respect your repeat appeals to wait for the publication of the total Series before going into a discussion of the details on it.

    Your “arguments” may be impeccable and your deductions could be logical. But if the initial conditions themselves are shaky or the definitions are weak, the subsequent spotless superstructure based on them will still be of doubtful strength, IMHO.

    Venkat did make an excellent case supported by many prasthAna trayI quotes that firstly there is a difference between mediate-knowledge (jnAna) and im-mediate-Knowledge (vijnAna), and secondly as normally understood, jnAni is one who obtained the im-mediate-Knowledge.

    For example, the word jnAni appears in BGB 20 times including in the shloka-s 3.39; 4.34; 7.17; 6.46 and so on. In all these places, it comes out loud and clear that the word jnAni is used to indicate one who has got im-mediate Knowledge only.

    Perhaps, it may not be as easy to prove what the word ‘jIvanmukta” connotes because it appears only at one place in BGB (at 4.27) and it came into more popular usage at a later day in the Shankara tradition.

    Don’t you like to consider the above as the datum for a definition of who a jnAni is, before you develop further arguments based on it?

    Likewise, Shankara very categorically mentions at many places, BSB as well as BGB and Upanishad commentaries that there is no “gap” between obtaining immediate-Knowledge and Liberation. This has to be another datum line.

    The third point I would like to bring to your attention is about the concept of vAsanA-s. I am unable to recollect the exact source, but you must be aware of the fact that there is a difference between the two words: vAsanA-s and samskAra-s (though, some authors treat them as synonyms).

    vAsanA-s are said to be merely a potential. Much like seeds. Unless they sprout under some enabling conditons, they cannot have an “expression” to act as ‘obstacles or facilitators’ right in this life. Only samskAra-s can.

    Hence, if something is coming in my way of the “Realization of the Self” in the “now,” should it be vAsanA-s or samskAra-s?

    Finally, one more point.
    When we talk of deha-vAsanA, loka-vAsanA, shAstra-vAsanA etc. as some of the possible impediments to our gaining the Self-knowledge in the now, the word vAsanA simply refers here to our “attachments” in the “now” to the body, the world and the sacred texts respectively and not to the potential seeds.

    BG and kaTha clearly say that because our senses have an outward object orientation, they are tempted by the worldly objects and the more we are in association with the objects we get more “attached” to them (BG 2.60-65). So as a remedy, Gita and other scriptures suggest “detachment; dispassion; relinquishment etc. on top priority.” Instead of appealing to an unknown and unknowable ‘effects of past lives as vAsanA-s’ for surmounting those hindrances, one should develop utter detachment even to one’s own body in order to obtain the Self-knowledge.

    Thus, we can know the correct remedial action, only if we know and use the definitions of the words correctly, thereby establishing that the primary step should be the correct definitions and understanding of the words rather than the subsequent highly refined arguments.

    My 2c

    regards,

  12. Thank you Ramesam; I agree with all that you say! The point is, though, that I am dealing specifically with the topic of pratbandha-s – and this is a section from my book ‘Confusions’. The topic occurs at the end of one of the major sections – Enlightenment. At this point, I have already dealt with related aspects such as merging.gaining,seeing Brahman, manonAsha, jIvanmukta and many others. ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Scriptures’ are two other major sections It is simply not possible to post and discuss all this material here.

    I don’t think I have ever denied that “the word jnAni is used to indicate one who has got im-mediate Knowledge”. My point is that such a one may still have pratibandha-s.

    Nor have I ever claimed that is a “gap between obtaining immediate-Knowledge and Liberation.” I have openly stated this to be the case. But, as I keep repeating, liberation means ‘knowing that I am brahman’; it does not mean ‘unalloyed bliss’.

    I take your point about vAsanA-s versus saMskAra-s. I used to differentiate but now treat them as synonyms but I think that maybe I do need to make this a new topic (although probably in volume 2). I’m not sure that it would help the present discussion. Whether pratibandha-s ‘result’ from one or the other is not really relevant to the fact that they may exist.

    Regarding your last point, this topic segues into the one on saMnyAsa so this will effectively be covered (as you will see in part 6).

    But very useful input, thank you!

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