nididhyAsana is recommended to remove any mental impediments that remain. This may consist of any activity that serves to consolidate the knowledge and fully assimilate the teaching – e.g. reading scriptures, listening to talks from qualified teachers, writing about Advaita oneself, discussing with other seekers and so on. The logic is simple: these activities produce puNya karma which ‘cancels out’ the pratibandha-s.
The vivekachUDAmaNi (267 – ) speaks about this at length:
“Even after knowing that substance (the Atman), powerful desire, which is beginningless (in the form of ‘I am the doer and enjoyer’), which is the cause of the world, does not die. It remains there. What can be done with that? You must do away with that desire carefully, because that is freedom – the lessening of desire. That should be done even after realization.
“The idea of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ remains in the body and in other things that are non-Self. This is called adhyAsa, and should be given up by the sage identifying himself with the Atman.
“Knowing the real Self, which is the witness of the intellect and its actions, by this thought, ‘I am That’, conquer the false idea of ‘I am’ in the non-Self.
“First, give up following the world, then following the body, and then following the scriptures and, in that way, do away with your ignorance of identifying the Self with the non-Self.” and so on… (Ref. 62)
As soon as the person gains Self-knowledge, he/she simultaneously knows that he/she is free. This is frequently referred to as ‘gaining’ mokSha but, as was pointed out earlier, mokSha is not ‘gained’ – the person was already free but did not previously realize this. Thus, liberation is ‘realized already to be the case’. You cannot ‘gain’ what you already have. Therefore, mokSha cannot be a ‘phalam’ in any sense other than figurative. It may be the case that it is used in shruti but, where it is, it has to be figurative.
There is no time gap between gaining Self-knowledge and the ‘as if’ gaining of mokSha. On the other hand, there may be a time gap between gaining Self-knowledge and gaining the so-called ‘fruits’ of knowledge. This is because there may be pratibandha-s associated with the prArabdha that still have to be worked out before the body-mind dies. The destruction of the pratibandha-s is synonymous with the gaining of j~nAna phalam and becoming a j~nAna niShThA or jIvanmukta. If the j~nAnI’s body-mind dies before this happens, then videha mukti results [liberation at death].
The point is that the j~nAnI still has a mind and that mind has had its habitual reactions to situations throughout the lifetime of this embodiment. They are not going to go away instantly, because he or she has now realized identity with Atman. It requires constant alertness for a prolonged period not to react in habitual ways. This process is called vAsanA kShaya – bringing the habitual reactions to an end. Their continued existence means that the j~nAnI will still be subject to moments of desire, aversion, greed, delusion etc. – whatever characteristics were present in the mind before enlightenment, unless they had already been eradicated by spiritual sAdhana-s. It is the function of nididhyAsana to remedy the situation and, once these negative traits have gone, jIvanmukti or j~nAna niShThA results.
Another term used in the sense of pratibandha is viparIta bhAvanA. Literally, this means contrary/perverse/wrong (viparIta) impressions or thoughts in the mind (bhAvanA). As noted above, it is the function of nididhyAsana to remove/destroy these by consolidating or cementing the Self-knowledge in the mind. Swami Advayananda of Chinmaya International Foundation suggests that samAdhi would serve the same function so that this idea could help to explain why some teachers point to samAdhi as being the ‘final stage’. If it does work in this manner then, although it would not be a means of attaining j~nAna or mokSha, it could be a means of attaining j~nAna niShThA or jIvanmukti.
“When these obstacles (pratibandha) of viparIta-bhAvanA-s are brought to a termination, the pure Self shines of its own accord. This is the exact role of nididhyAsana and samAdhi in gaining Liberation; nididhyAsana and samAdhi are not for gaining Knowledge. They are only for destroying the anAtma-vAsanA and viparIta-bhAvanA-s. Knowledge has already been gained by shravaNa and manana – by reflecting on the message of the mahAvAkya-s – but then as long as there are the pratibandha-s (obstacles) of anAtma-vAsanA and viparIta-bhAvanA-s, establishment in Knowledge is impossible.”
He goes on to explain the terms:
“These habitual notions that are contrary to Self-Knowledge are collectively termed ‘viparIta bhAvanA-s’ or ‘contrary notions’ and they have their source in the deep-seated vAsanA called the ‘anAtma-vAsanA’ (the ‘seed’ or ‘causal form’ of the notion ’I am the body-mind-intellect’) – that exists in the kAraNa-sharIra (causal body). As long as the anAtma-vAsanA exists, viparIta-bhAvanA-s will keep sprouting and prevent the birth of brahmakAra vRRitti, which alone has the capacity to put an end to avidyA (ignorance). For seekers who have already completed the first two steps of shravaNa (listening) and manana (reflection), it is this causal anAtma-vAsanA and its effects of viparIta-bhAvanA-s that are the obstacles (pratibandha) to Realisation.” (Ref. 188)
He clearly believes that shravaNa-manana can be ‘completed’ but then nididhyAsana and samAdhi are needed to ‘cement’ the knowledge and gain j~nAna phalam. It appears that he also equates ‘realization’ with ‘jIvanmukti’, since for him the ‘end of ignorance (brahmakAra vRRitti)’ does not come until the ‘end of pratibandha-s’. I.e. he supports the notion of pratibandha-s but confuses j~nAna and jIvanmukti. He also falls foul of the mistake of believing that samAdhi has a place in the mokSha.
This is yet another term that might be construed as being equivalent to pratibandha. The word lesha means ‘trace’, ‘small part or portion’ and the idea is that, following enlightenment, there may still be a trace of ignorance remaining in the mind to cause problems. D. B. Gangolli raises this in Ref. 190. (He also mentions other synonyms: avidyA ChAya, avidyA gandha, avidyA vAsanA, avidyA saMskAra.) And he points to a statement in Shankara’s bhAShya on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “Knowledge and ignorance cannot co-exist in the same individual, for they are contradictory like light and darkness.” (Ref. 8)
But this is not appropriate in this context. It is obvious from our own experience that we may have knowledge of Chemistry, for example, but ignorance about economics. When we are talking about j~nAna, we may be ‘enlightened’, having gained knowledge about the Self. But this does not, in itself, negate the possibility of habit still triggering desires. We can know that satisfying a desire to eat a cream bun will not do our figure or health any favors, yet still knowingly give in to that desire. Nisargadatta’s beedis have already been mentioned. Consequently, this situation is not a case of ‘knowledge and ignorance co-existing’.
D. B. Gangolli concedes that the notion of avidyA lesha is part of the larger topic of mUlAvidyA, the so-called ‘root cause’ of ignorance. This topic is not relevant here and will be discussed as part of the large topic of ‘Ignorance’ in Volume 2.