pratibandha-s – part 5 of 10

Read Part 4


Shankara differentiates what might be called ‘ordinary’ or ‘intellectual’ knowledge (j~nAna) from ‘transformative’ knowledge (vij~nAna). The knowledge becomes transforming – i.e. making it efficacious in conveying the status of jIvanmukti – when the gaining of it has been preceded by successful sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. In his bhAShya on muNDaka upaniShad 2.2.8, he says:

“Wise, discriminatory people (dhIrA) see through vij~nAna; vij~nAna is a special (vishihtena) knowledge (j~nAna), born out of the teaching of shAstra and AchArya (shAstra AchArya upadesha janitam), and received in a specially prepared mind, born (udbhutena) out of total detachment (vairAgya), having control of inner and outer organs (shama and dama), and which is therefore capable of upAsanA to begin with and later of nididhyAsana which together are called meditation (dhyAna). Through such a vij~nAna, wise people realize that the nature of the Atman (Atmatatvam) is non-different from the nature of Brahman (brahmatatvam)…” (Ref. 10)

‘Who am I?’ in communication

Who are we speaking of when we use the words ‘I’ and ‘you’ in writing and speech?

Since we are Advaitins, there are actually three possibilities:

  1. ‘I’ could mean Atman/Brahman, if used from the ‘as if’ pAramArthika viewpoint;
  2. ‘I’ could mean the reflected Consciousness (chidAbhAsa);
  3. ‘I’ could mean the usually understood ‘named person’.

If I am speaking to a relatively new seeker, 1) is a distinct possibility. A teacher will often make ‘absolute’ statements, whether or not directly quoting from scriptures. ‘aham brahmAsmi’ – ‘I am Brahman’ is an obvious example. But this is relevant only in a teaching context. One should never use this meaning in ordinary conversation! There is really no need tacitly to acknowledge that we are aware of the truth, even while we have to speak of mundane topics. Although not using the word ‘I’, Neo-advaitin teachers in particular were often prone to use expressions such as ‘there was pain in the body’ instead of ‘I had a pain’. This way of talking even had a name – the ‘Lucknow syndrome’, so-named because one of the first satsang-style teachers, Sri Poonja, lived and taught in Lucknow in India. It was used to convey to the listener the (assumed) fact that the speaker knew that they were not the body. But (for me at least) it came across as an affectation.

If I am talking about Advaita with a knowledgeable seeker, 2) is also quite likely. But it is unlikely that it would be used without acknowledging ‘chidAbhAsa’ at some point so as to avoid possible misunderstanding.

If I am talking to a ‘normal’ person, who is ignorant of Advaita, then I will certainly mean option 3).

In the context of an on-line discussion, where many of the readers will not be participants but observers (after the event), it really only makes sense to use the third option: ‘I’ means the named person who is writing. When ‘I’ speak to ‘you’ or when I write the word ‘I’ in a post to an on-line discussion, I cannot be Atman/Brahman. The pAramArthika Atman/Brahman is non-dual. It is neither actor nor enjoyer. It does not do anything. It does not speak and it does not write. If I do want ‘I’ to mean Brahman, I need to add additional words to make this obvious. E.g. I might write that it is ‘as if’ Brahman. As noted earlier, this means that it is a teaching trope only and not meant to be taken literally.

The chidAbhAsa concept is a metaphor to explain how it can be that I am really Atman/Brahman and yet appear to be a conscious, embodied, independent entity. It relates the appearance to the reality. But I am not a metaphor. Similarly, when I address ‘you’, I am speaking/writing to the named individual ‘you’. I would scarcely have the temerity to write to Brahman (and what would be the point?)! And, again, it would not be meaningful to address a metaphor. See the ‘Who am I?’ section below for an example of how this is used.

Accordingly, when using the word ‘I’ in a communication, it is only really meaningful when it relates to an (apparently) independent entity A speaking or writing etc. to another (apparently) independent entity B.  B doesn’t know in advance what A is going to say or write. All of this is empirically familiar and obvious. There is no need to complicate things unnecessarily. Occam’s razor reigns supreme!

To summarize:

  1. When person A gains Self-knowledge, he/she then knows that, in reality, he/she is Brahman. He/she also knows that person B is Brahman, the world is Brahman, and everything is Brahman. But B probably still does not know this. I.e. it is the person who gains Self-knowledge.
  2. When A gains Self-knowledge, A simultaneously knows that he/she is free (or has mokSha/mukti). A was already free but did not previously realize this. Thus, liberation is not ‘gained’, it is ‘realized already to be the case’. You cannot ‘gain’ what you already have. Therefore, mokSha can only be a ‘phalam’ in a figurative sense, even if it is described as a phalam in shruti.
  3. There may be a time gap between gaining Self-knowledge and becoming a j~nAna niShThA or jIvanmukta. 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.

‘Who am I?’ in thinking

The situation is rather different when it comes to thinking. I do not have to convey anything to anyone else. The ‘thinking I’ is always going to be the intellect – buddhi animated by Consciousness; ‘I’ the chidAbhAsa ego. The problem lies in the extent to which the issues are understood by this intellect. I may, for example, say ‘I am Brahman’ without realizing that this is just a thought in the mind. I need to have a deep understanding of some key aspects of Advaita; not just ones such as chidAbhAsa but also the difference between paramArtha and vyavahAra.

I have said on a number of occasions that I do not believe that vivekachUDAmaNi was written by Shankara – there are several aspects that contradict what Shankara has said elsewhere in texts that are agreed were almost certainly written by him. Nevertheless, it is certain that the author of vivekachUDAmaNi was a brilliant teacher. He uses the various metaphors from shruti to explain the teaching of Advaita in a lucid manner. If a seeker is only able to study one text, there is good reason to make it this one. One does not have to be an advanced seeker to appreciate the material but even advanced seekers are likely to learn something by studying it.

A significant portion of the text is devoted to the pa~ncha kosha teaching from Taittiriya Upanishad, and it has to be said that it is explained much better in vivekachUDAmaNi than in the Upanishad or in Shankara’s bhAShya for that Upanishad. From around verse 184 to around 206, the author addresses the topic of vij~nAnamaya kosha – the ‘intellect’ sheath, otherwise known as buddhi. It is here that the discriminative faculties operate and here that the ahaMkAra notion of ‘I’ appears, since it is here that the metaphorical operation of chidAbhAsa takes place and the reflection (pratibimba) of the original Consciousness (bimba = Atman/Brahman) occurs.

So it is not surprising that the question ‘who am I?’ should be answered (by the unenlightened seeker): ‘I am the buddhi’, or at least ‘I am the (decision-making component of the) mind. It is vij~nAnamaya kosha that feels, sees and hears (verse 185); it is the doer and the enjoyer (186), the ‘owner’ of the three avasthA-s (waking, dreaming and deep-sleep) as well as the experiencer of pleasure and pain (187). It is effectively the intellect that is the jIva. In the metaphor of the five sheaths, this is because it receives the ‘light’ of Consciousness directly, whereas the lower sheaths are only ‘illuminated’ by the reflected light from buddhi. The jIvAtman is essentially reflected Consciousness in a vij~nAnamaya kosha. Consciousness is one but reflections are many, just as the sun is reflected in all of the puddles after heavy rain.

The interesting thing is that neither the mind on its own, nor Consciousness on its own can say ‘I’. The body-mind on its own is inert and can do nothing. Consciousness on its own (paramAtman) is satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma but does not (and cannot) act. There is nothing else – it is perfect and complete. Accordingly ‘I’ cannot be either intellect or Consciousness on its own. Action at the level of the world only becomes possible when Consciousness is reflected in the intellect – the jIvAtman. Then it becomes possible to say ‘I’. Accordingly, ‘I’ has to be a ‘mixture’ of Consciousness and intellect. [Note that I am using the word ‘mixture’ in order to convey the idea. There cannot be a ‘mixture’, since ‘Consciousness’ is the term we are using to refer to the pAramArthika, non-dual reality and ‘intellect’ or ‘mind’ are terms firmly in the realm of vyavahAra. It is not possible for satyam and mithyA to ‘combine’ in any way. C.f. in the rope-snake metaphor, the mithyA snake is an erroneous superimposition on the satyam rope; there is no ‘mixture’ of rope and snake. This point must be borne in mind in the remainder of this section.]

This state of affairs is illustrated in the Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1 – 3 by the metaphor of the two birds in the tree. Here, jIvAtmA and paramAtman are clearly differentiated. paramAtman, all pervading, manifests in the mind as jIvAtman, which is not all-pervading. One bird (the jIvAtman) is attracted by the fruits on the tree and indulges itself (does karma, gains phalam and is bound by saMsAra), while the other (paramAtman) sits there watching and does not eat anything. The tree is the body; ripening fruits are the karmaphala resulting from past action.

Atman manifested in the limited mind (chidAbhAsa) is called jIvAtman – a ‘mixture’ of jIva and Atman, both literally in the word and metaphorically in the empirical world. The unlimited, all-pervading Atman is called paramAtman to differentiate. It is the presence of Atman that enables action, enjoyment, witnessing etc, even though Atman itself does nothing. We figuratively refer to it as the ‘witness’.

Shankara’s commentary states that “on this tree, ‘Atmeshvarau’ (Atma and Ishvara) are perched like two birds”. He actually uses the word ‘Ishvara’ here, rather than paramAtman. And he uses a metaphor to explain how jIvAtman is ‘empowered’ by paramAtman: “Just like a king who, by his mere presence, is able to direct or prompt his people to do the work, so also the very presence of paramAtman activates jIvAtman as well as the universe.”  (Ref. 10)

Mantra 3.1.2 says that our grief and samsara continue as long as we remain seduced by the fruit of the tree. Once we realize that we are the satyam Atman and not the mithyA jIva in this jIvAtman ‘mixture’, the ‘glories of the paramAtman are ours’.

Read Part 6

17 thoughts on “pratibandha-s – part 5 of 10

  1. Hi Dennis,

    On your first quote, I think it is actually Mundaka 2.2.7 (not 8). Sw Gambhirananda
    gives a slightly different translation:

    “Through special knowledge, emerging from the instruction of scriptures and the teacher, and arising from the control of inner and outer organs, renunciation of everything and detachment, the discriminating people realise as existing in its fullness everywhere”

    Best wishes,

  2. Hi Venkat,

    I think the confusion over numbering comes about because muNDaka 2.2.7 and 2.2.8 are usually taken together. You will see that the Gambhirananda verse 7 is twice as long as the others. Most of the other versions do the same and they have 11 verses in 2.2 whereas the one I quoted from is 2.2.8 in Varadarajan, where there are 12 verses in 2.2.

    It is very interesting to see how different teachers ‘translate’ the text. I did not see a word meaning ‘renunciation of everything’ anywhere but I could easily be wrong. I have two other versions which contain Shankara’s bhAShya – Som Raj Gupta and Prof. J. H. Dave. Both refer to ‘renunciation’. The Dave translation is: “This real nature of Atman is perceived fully and from all sides by discerning people with the help of special knowledge arising as a result of the instructions of the shAstra and the preceptor and produced by the control of the mind, control of senses, meditation, renunciation of everything and non-attachment to worldly objects.”

    I would have assumed that the word virAgyam is being translated as ‘renunciation’. virAga means ‘total indifference to worldly objects’ according to Monier-Williams. But, to me, ‘indifference’ means you can take it or leave it, not that you have ‘renounced’ it. Also, Dave translates as though there are two phrases – ‘renunciation of everything’ AND ‘non-attachment to worldly objects’.

    Are you able to clarify?

    Best wishes,

  3. Hi Dennis

    I’m afraid Sw G does not specify the Sanskrit word used by Sankara.

    In Sw Nikhilananda’s translation he says:
    “One obtains this knowledge from the scriptures, as explained by a qualified teacher and assimilated through such spiritual disciplines as control of the mind and senses, meditation, detachment from desires and renunciation of material objects.

    It is interesting to recall our discussion on Brhad 3.5.1 where a knower of Brahman has knowledge of the Self and eliminates all ideas of non-Self, which is akin to this detachment / renunciation.

    best wishes,

  4. Hi Dennis and Venkat,

    Thanks for kicking of a sober and somber discussion on the muNDaka quote in the beginning of the Part – 5/7.
    [sober = cool, reasonable; somber = earnest, solemn]

    Here are a few assorted observations of mine – relevant, or related to the issue and to some extent, perhaps, irrelevant too.

    1. Looks the Series has grown itself from 6 to 7?

    2. To whose work does the “Ref 10” at the end of the muNDaka quote refer to?

    3. Re: Numbering the muNDaka mantras:
    We have now fortunately, the AdvaitashArada, the official searchable online Database of the Shringeri Peetham available. We may accept it as the de facto standard for settling the questions on the numbering of the various mantras in different scriptures published therein.

    The Second khaNDa of the second muNDakam has 12 mantras as published by them. The Shankara commentary referred by Dennis does belong to the mantra 2.2.8 as per that database.

    4. Yes, Shankara’s explanation for the word “vijnAna” in his commentary does begin with “vishiShTena” (विशिष्टेन).

    But the word here does NOT imply “special” like in vishiShTAdvaita. Special in Vedantic sense implies ‘particular,’ not common etc.

    IMHO, “vishiShTena” (विशिष्टेन) should be taken here to mean “distinguished” or “pre-eminent” or “excellent” or “respectable.” All these words also are the correct meanings for the word as listed in a Dic.

    Accepting the convention we (at least I) have been following, I would also like to capitalize the word Knowledge (to distinguish the parAvidyA from ‘knowledge’ which constitutes the aparA vidyA-s).

    Overall, then the two words “special knowledge” need to be written as “Preeminent or distinguished Knowledge (of the Self).

    4. Shankara did use shama, dama and dhyAna but did not mention “upAsanA.” This is an extraneous introduction by the translator.
    In fact, Shankara very unequivocally says that such steps like upAsanA etc. are useless to reveal the Self in his later part of the commentary.

    5. Shankara uses the word “pari pashyanti” (परिपश्यन्ति) which seems to have been translated insipidly as “see.” The significance of this word is not coming out in the translation quote, in my view.

    Shankara himself amplifies what it means: सर्वतः पूर्णं पश्यन्ति (Finds Perfecton in all respects, from all angles).

    As the knowledgeable explain: “The prefix “pari” contributes significantly to enhance the dimensionality of a word in the Sanskrit language. For example, prashna means question. By adding the prefix pariprashna (used in Bhagavad-Gita, verse 34, Ch 4) means questioning from all sides. Other examples are draShTu (view) and paridraShTu (a 360 deg view) as used in prashna Upanishad; pasyanti (look) and paripasyanti (all round look) as used in muNDaka Upanishad; pUrNam (perfect) and paripUrNam (perfect from all angles); samApti (complete) and parisamApti (complete in all respects).

    How the prefix ‘pari’ modifies a noun is like what the qualifier “spherical” does when we say “spherical symmetry” instead of simply saying ‘symmetry’ in Physics.”

    6. Dennis says, if I have not misunderstood:
    “I did not see a word meaning ‘renunciation of everything’ anywhere but I could easily be wrong.”

    Shankara does say ” सर्व त्याग वैराग्य ”
    He not only said सर्व = everything, he also used both words त्याग (dropping down, relinquishing) and वैराग्य (detachment, dispassion) which is strictly speaking “pAramArtha renunciation.”

    7. Last but not the least IMPORTANT point:

    Before a committed seeker takes up a study of muNDaka upa, one thing should be very clearly understood. And that is the word “muNDaka” in the title of the Upanishad.
    “The muNDaka stipulates that one should be truly baldpated (shaved) to understand its teaching. In fact, it gets the name muNDaka (meaning shaven head) because of that stipulation. The shaving off the head is symbolical. It does not mean just cutting the hair. One should shave off all kinds of thoughts. One has to give up all thoughts concerning the objects of the world. Unless one has reached that level of “vairAgya,” its teaching does not mean much.

  5. P.S.:

    I have forgotten to mention about the meaning of the word “indifference.”

    Yes, as contended by Dennis, it may mean “you can take it or leave it.”

    But that exemplifies the typical modern day attitude of the “Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD)” understanding.

    to be indifferent as per Advaitic sense is to be “unaffected,” lAbhAlAbhau samobhUtva as BG says at 2.38. A total sense of उदासीनता (udAsInatA).
    Also in some way upekShA (उपेक्षा).

  6. Dear Ramesam & Dennis

    As I read this latest comment, a feeling of being utterly fortunate and privileged to be able to ask questions, read your commentaries, and thereby think through the nuances of our scriptures, came over me. Thank you.


  7. I agree with Venkat that we are fortunate to be able to participate in these “sober and somber”, and above all ‘informed’ discussions.

    To respond to Ramesam’s questions:
    1) I noted in an earlier comment that I was adding an extra part to cover ‘Post-Shankara Contributions to the Concept’.

    2) Ref. 10 is The MuNDaka UpaniShad with ShankarabhAShya, compiled by Divyaj~nAna Sarojini VaradarajAn, Selva Nilayam, Coimbatore, 2010. No ISBN. It is excellent! As also is her two-volume Taittiriya.

    3) AdvaitashArada – thanks for that. I wonder if it would be possible for you to post a brief summary of this – what it is, what it can do and how to do it? I’ve had a quick look and it all seems to be in Devanagari – not much use for the relatively ignorant ones (like me!).

    4) Happy with this, although I would have understood ‘not common’ etc. as synonymous. What is the vishiShTAdvaita meaning?

    4) (second one!) Yes. The translator did not in fact say that Shankara used the word upAsanA. The related part-sentence in full reads: (detachment, control of inner and outer organs), “and which therefore is capable of upAsanA to begin with and later of nididhyAsana which together are called meditation (dhyAnam).”

    5) The quotation I gave is actually incomplete. The last sentence continues: “which is realized (pashyanti = upalabhante) in its fullness (pUrNam), when one becomes aware of its existence everywhere (paripashyanti = sarvataH pUrNaM pashyanti), and of its deathless and Ananda rUpam.” And it continues – I didn’t copy out the entire passage.

    6) What I was querying was the implication that there were two occurrences of the ‘giving up’ concept. In fact the Varadarajan translation seems to miss out the word tyAga altogether, although it is clearly present in the Devanagari she gives. I assume this was a genuine mistake rather than deliberate! Incidentally, could I please ask that you give Sanskrit quotes in ITRANS or IAST rather than Devanagari? I can work them out with a bit of effort but would prefer not to have to! I do think (hope) that there are lots of visitors who cannot even do that.

    7) Good point! It surely also implies that the teaching applies primarily to a saMnyAsin? But it will be one of my contentions that saMnyAsa, though extremely relevant from a societal aspect back in Shankara’s time, the need for physical renunciation was not actually something that Shankara insisted upon. Nor what he meant when he talked about ‘giving up of actions’.

    8) My ‘take it or leave it’ was deliberately slightly flippant – I do agree with your interpretation. (I hadn’t come across WEIRD before!)

    Best wishes,

  8. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    Thank you both for your observations,
    I note the points made by Dennis in his response to my comments.

    Below are a few remarks of mine, as per my understanding, on a couple of issues that I felt need to be further clarified from my side.

    1. “WEIRD”:

    I think the term WEIRD was more than a decade old.
    It was a humerous dig at the “Sample” used in Psychological and Behavioral Research done at the Western University campuses.

    Such studies are usually based on a sample population (local university students that need some quick money) which is usually “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies — who represent as much as 80 percent of study participants, but only 12 percent of the world’s population and who are not only unrepresentative of humans as a species, but on many measures they’re outliers.” (: (:

    2. “muNDaka upa”:

    I guess, Dennis, that you are very right when you say that “the need for physical renunciation was not actually something that Shankara insisted upon.”

    The “formal Ashram samnyAsa” with all the extraneous symbols is not implied by the muNDaka Upanishad too, IMHO.

    I can say so because the Upanishad itself mentions in its mantra 1.1.3, while narrating the Agama succession in the transmission of the message, the name of Saunaka who was said to be a mahAshAla ( = great householder ) and not a formal samnyAsi.

    But the most important caveat is the ABSOLUTE and UNCOMPROMISING sense of renunciation. Only that can lead to the im-mediate understanding of the Knowledge of the Self (unlike the mediate knowledge as our Venkat explained, supported by innumerable quotes, in these columns).

    I believe that whenever the scripture refers to the man who is said to be a “Knower,” we should keep in mind the im-mediated understanding only in line with 4.4.21, brihadAraNyaka.

    3. “vishiSTa”:

    In spite of all its well-known “precision” for expression, in the Sanskrit language, each of the words come with a wide range of meanings and also multiple meanings. The word-meaning innocuously morphs into a different connotation depending on the context. It is necessary that one has to pick the appropriate meaning as per the context. That is why it is insisted in Advaita Vedanta that only a man who is “knowledgeable” of the scripture has to teach and it cannot be “learnt” from books. The words are not “fixed” in their meaning.

    Advaita honors, values and exhorts us to find that which is the “Universal” or “sAmAnya.” The sAmAnya is ‘brahman,’ Ordinarily It is the “sat-cit” combo (asti – bhAti). That is implicitly then all-pervasive and formless. Hence It is not ‘located’ or specific to any individual. Such a thing can only be One, not two.

    Anything that is “special” in occurrence, location, character or description to its own self becomes the particular and non-universal. Hence it will have a describable form and its occurrence is located to specific space or time.

    The visiShTAdvaitins, though accepted the Universal nature of the ‘cit,’ could not accept the universal nature of the ‘material’ cause for creation. As a result, they separated out the Creator Ishwara from all that is created. Though on one hand they say that God is everywhere, they also say that He is in VaikhunTa and the seeker (who is not made of the same “common” material) cannot merge or dissolve in Ishwara, but at the best, can become a part in Him gradually (samIpya, sAlokya, sArUpya, sAyujya).


  9. I wasn’t intending to post on renunciation, Venkat. I am already posting far more than I had intended from the next book with this pratibandha series. It is also currently being repeatedly delayed by all of this discussion, plus I anticipate adding a fair bit more to my treatment of jIvanmukti.

    This does not prevent you from posting on the topic of course! Although I will not be in a position to indulge in much discussion until I have done more research. Indeed, a post from you could help regarding that! How about you put something together for posting in a few weeks’ time?

  10. Dennis, Will try to do my research and pull some material together – bear with me, as a bit busy at work.

  11. Dear Dennis,
    The article will help a seeker fine tune some aspects of advaita teaching. However, it has given rise to a confusion with respect to ego.
    Below are three extracts from ‘Who am I?’ in thinking’
    1) The ‘thinking I’ is always going to be the intellect – buddhi animated by Consciousness; ‘I’ the chidAbhAsa ego.
    2) The interesting thing is that neither the mind on its own, nor Consciousness on its own can say ‘I’. The body-mind on its own is inert and can do nothing. Consciousness on its own (paramAtman) is satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma but does not (and cannot) act. There is nothing else – it is perfect and complete. Accordingly ‘I’ cannot be either intellect or Consciousness on its own. Action at the level of the world only becomes possible when Consciousness is reflected in the intellect – the jIvAtman. Then it becomes possible to say ‘I’. Accordingly, ‘I’ has to be a ‘mixture’ of Consciousness and intellect.
    3) [Note that I am using the word ‘mixture’ in order to convey the idea. There cannot be a ‘mixture’, since ‘Consciousness’ is the term we are using to refer to the pAramArthika, non-dual reality and ‘intellect’ or ‘mind’ are terms firmly in the realm of vyavahAra. It is not possible for satyam and mithyA to ‘combine’ in any way. C.f. in the rope-snake metaphor, the mithyA snake is an erroneous superimposition on the satyam rope; there is no ‘mixture’ of rope and snake. This point must be borne in mind in the remainder of this section.]
    My comments
    1) gives an impression that ‘I’, the ego is on account of reflected consciousness. 2) says that ‘I’ cannot be consciousness and that it is a ‘mixture’ due to reflection. Here ‘mixture’ is with reference to reflection. But in 3), ‘mixture’ is stated with reference to rope-snake metaphor which metaphor is of superimposition and not reflection. Therefore there is inconsistency.
    My understanding of Ego is different, if not contrary. Birth of ego is because of mutual superimposition between the intellect and original consciousness. Reflected consciousness has apparently no role in the superimposition. Original consciousness is the Self because it is the source of original ‘I’. Due to superimposition, ‘I’ of original consciousness is transferred to the conscious intellect (conscious due to reflected consciousness) giving birth to the ego, the sense of ‘i ‘ [ lower case to distinguish from ‘I’]. Reflected consciousness has role to the extent that the intellect is now conscious , which is necessary for the ego, i.e. sense of ‘ i ‘ . Verse 25 of Atmabodha is relevant.
    Following explanations on verse 25 are from Atmabodha- Reflections by Swami Gurubhaktananda.
    VERSE 25: The Fundamental Error – Birth of EGO
    Anyonya (or Itaretara) Adhyaasa: Mutual Superimposition
    Vedantic analysts have used this expression to explain what is being described in this verse. Anyonya Adhyasa means “mutual superimposition”, one upon the other.
    “Unholy Wedlock” – Creation of the False Ego
    Pujya Swami Chinmayanandaji used to call the association of the intellect and the Self by the term “unholy wedlock”. This is what the verse is referring to as “indiscriminate blending of the two”. The verse tells us that such an association has brought about a misplacing of identity, or a shift in our identity from the Self to a pseudo-Self identified with thoughts. The latter is what we commonly call the ego-self or ego-sense or just Ego. The unholy wedlock of the intellect and the Self is similar to that of the fire and the ball. Self has Absolute Reality, intellect has only Vyavaharik reality. When the two merge,
    they become a compact one. They share each other’s qualities. The Sat and Chit aspects of the Self are “I am” and “I know”. The intellect is the instrument of analyzing our thoughts. The marriage results in the thought “I am this thought…” From this, a whole train of thought identification ensues. Due to ignorance and an undeveloped sense of discrimination in the intellect, this resulting thought train is mistaken to be our Self, when it is in fact our pseudo-
    Self, the Ego.
    Best wishes,

  12. Dear Bimal,

    Your comments are certainly valid. The different opinions on the birth of “ego” are arising because you and Dennis are using the metaphors of two different schools.

    Dennis has used the metaphor of the Vivarna school (pratibimbavada) when he talks of “ego” as reflected consciousness. You are, as you rightly say, using Shankara’s original metaphor of superimposition as that of fire with an iron ball.

    You are also right in your observation that Dennis changes the metaphor by brnging in the rope-snake analogy later, which is the metaphor of superimposition rather than reflection.

    I had observed this anomaly but I did not comment on it because I was perceiving the drift of his main argument to do with pratibandha-s. But yes, eventually Dennis does need to look into this if he wishes to follow Sankaracharya rather than Vivarna school in his writings.

    Warm wishes,

  13. Hi Bimal,

    I have no problem with using more than one metaphor to explain something. If the reader prefers one, he or she can use that one and ignore the other. The ‘actual state of affairs’ is not equivalent to either; the metaphor is only to help give insight. As I said, ‘there cannot be a mixture’ in reality. Just as there cannot be a ‘reflection’ or a ‘superimposition’.

    [[My understanding of Ego is different, if not contrary. Birth of ego is because of mutual superimposition between the intellect and original consciousness.]]

    But this amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? ‘I’ is not the original Consciousness; it is a superimposition of Consciousness on the inert mind. I.e. a ‘mixture’ of the two. It has to be because Consciousness does not act and the mind ‘on its own’ cannot act. Whether you call the ego a superimposition or a reflection is simply a choice of metaphor.

    Hi Anurag,

    As I point out in my posts on chidAbhAsa (beginning :
    “But the origins of both [i.e. pratibimba vAda and avachCheda vAda] can be found in Shankara’s own writing and, in particular, the reflection metaphor is found in his commentary or bhAShya on brahma sUtra (II.3.50) (AbhAsa eva cha). Shankara says on this: ‘The individual soul is not directly the highest Atman, because it is seen to be different on account of the upAdhi-s; nor is it different from the Atman, because it is the Atman who has entered as the jIvAtman in all the bodies. We may call the jIva as a mere reflection of the Atman. But just as when one image of the sun in some water trembles, the other image in other portions of water need not, even so if one soul is connected with actions and fruits thereof, the others need not be so connected. So there would be no confusion. And, as the reflection itself is the effect of avidyA, the whole of the saMsAra as connected with this reflection is also the effect of avidyA. Naturally, with the destruction of the avidyA there will be the destruction of the so-called reflection of the Atman on buddhi, and the consequent justification of the instruction that the soul is nothing but the brahman.’”

    Best wishes,

    • Thanks, Dennis, for the quote from Shankara’s Bhashya. I checked it out and found it to be the case. Actually it later came to be called Abhasavada attributed to Suresvara, because in pratibimbavada of Vivarna school, the reflected consciousness is also considered real. In Abhasavada, the reflected consciousness is considered unreal.

  14. Hi Anurag,

    Thanks for the comment on AbhAsa vAda. I had overlooked this and will be adding a new subsection. I don’t know why you say it is attrbuted to Sureshvara though; Shankara covers it at length in upadesha sAhasrI – and it would seem to tie in perfectly with the idea of ‘I’ being a ‘mixture’.

    Best wishes,

  15. Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for considering my input. Regarding Abhasavada being attributed to Suresvara, I had done some quick research on the internet and found at least two sources mentioning him to be the propounder of this system. The Wikipedia article on Abhasavada too, mentions Suresvara as the propounder.

    This should not be an issue because Suresvara’s teachings are seen to be eminently faithful to Shankaracharya. Yes, you are right that Shankaracharya propounds Abhasavada mostly in Upadesha Sahasri. Again, quick internet research shows me that he also touches on avaccheda-vada in the first chapter, pratibimba-vada in the third chapter and abhasa-vada in the rest of the chapters.

    I have not read Upadesa Sahasri so you will have to cross-check whatever I have stated here about the three vadas.

    Between abhasa-vada and avaccheda-vada I align with avaccheda-vada more 🙂 as is mentioned by Gaudapada in Mandukya Karika (apart from the Bhamati school)

    Warm wishes,

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