pratibandha-s – part 8 of 10

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Yogic Advaita

This is a term, which I had not encountered before, coined by Fort in Ref. 200. He uses it to refer to those teachers and texts that incorporate elements of sAMkhya and yoga philosophy into their supposedly Advaitic teaching. This applies to texts such as yogavAsiShTha and jIvanmukti viveka, as was already indicated in the discussion on vidyAraNya above. There are also 20 of the later, minor Upanishads that relate to Yoga (see and there is a danger of referring to these to support ideas that are actually alien to traditional Advaita. These ideas are characterized by the notion that Self-knowledge gained through the usual route has to be supplemented by something else before liberation is achieved. Typically, this might be samAdhi or destruction of ego/mind, as discussed above (and below) but even ideas from other traditions might be incorporated. The yogavAsiShTha also has much emphasis on the ‘illusory’ nature of the world. The j~nAnI acts or does not act without any attachment, according to circumstances.

Rather than prArabdha, yogic Advaita tends to refer to vAsanA-s as being the key ‘obstruction’ to mokSha. While we have them, we are bound to the body; once they are purified, we are freed from saMsAra. When destroyed, we gain videha mukti.

In the yogavAsiShTha itself, there is reference to the fact that ‘impressions’ may remain after gaining Self-knowledge. It differentiates two ‘levels’ of ridding oneself of ‘impressions’. The first is called ‘Contemplation-based Eradication of Impressions’ and the higher level, achieved after practicing nirvikalpa samAdhi, is called ‘Wisdom-based Eradication of Impressions’. “While he is in the Nirvikalpa Samadhi state, his current sufferage (prArabdha karma) comes to an end.  His body dies.” (Ref. 206) The text continues:

The person who practices Contemplation-based Eradication of Impressions is Liberated in this Life.  The one who practices Wisdom-based Eradication of Impressions is liberated and without body.  As far as liberation is concerned, both are same.  Sorrow does not affect either of them.  But one is Arisen (arisen from deep meditation – Samadhi).  The other continues to be in deep meditation (Samadhi).  The former is with the body, but untroubled.  The latter is without a body.

This is not clear. If the body has dropped, one would have assumed that the ‘person’ no longer exists, Atman having ‘merged’ with brahman as it were.

Finally, the text adds (the key part is in bold):

Hence Rama, we cannot for sure hold that ending of egoism is equivalent to Wisdom-based Eradication of Impressions and the person would die because the current sufferage (prArabdha) is totally annihilated.  In case there is some residual balance of current sufferage, termination of impressions and eradication of ego will stop at the stage of Contemplation-based Eradication of Impressions.  He is liberated but he will not die.

It seems that there is differentiation between j~nAna and videha mukti but no intermediate state of jIvanmukti. But it is necessary to clear outstanding prArabdha after gaining Self-knowledge. As he says: “Even liberated persons have to necessarily go through the effects of their past deeds (prArabdha)” (Ref. 206) And the laghu yoga vasiShTha states: “Those jivanmukta-s who have disentangled themselves from the meshes of vAsanA-s will but live in this world to wear out their prArabdha, like a potter s wheel continuing to roll on of itself through the impetus given by the potter.” (Ref. 207)

Later the Yoga practices that the sage Uddalaka goes through in order to achieve final liberation are described and it is noted that “The residual nescience that is the root cause for experiencing prArabdha began to dissolve.  The reason for the continued existence of his body was prArabdha.”

Vidyaranya, in his jIvanmukti viveka, also emphasizes the importance of yoga in attaining liberation. He states that physical renunciation is key, not simply the mental attitude that one does not act. This is clearly in contradiction of Shankara. Shankara states that prArabdha karma is ‘stronger than’ knowledge (Brihadaranyaka Up. 1.4.7 quotation in the introduction to this section). But, as was discussed in the section on jIvanmukti above, Vidyaranya says that the practices of yoga are stronger than prArabdha in that they are able effectively to overcome those obstacles that maintain the bodily existence and give liberation before the death of the body, i.e. jIvanmukti. “Because operative action is more powerful than knowledge of truth, we could take it that yogic discipline is more powerful than this action [1.3.11].” (Quoted in Ref. 154)

According to Vidyaranya, gaining liberation is achieved via a three-pronged attack. Certainly, one has to gain the Self-knowledge from scriptures and guru, but also one has to destroy the mind and thereby clear the obstacles that still remain. He quotes from laghu yoga vAsiShTha 28.116 in his jIvanmukti viveka: “Simultaneous practice of the effacement of the latent impressions (vAsanA kShaya), [the means to] knowledge (vij~nAna), and the annihilation of the mind (manonAsha), for a long time, O Wise (Rama), brings about the result.” (Ref. 152)

For the seeker who becomes a saMnyAsin prior to gaining knowledge (a vidviShA saMnyAsin), the key factor is now to gain Self-knowledge. But for the one who is already a j~nAnI (vidvat saMnyAsin), in order to become a jIvanmukta, the other two factors have to be pursued. I.e. vidyAraNya clearly accepts that there are likely to be ‘obstacles’ to be removed following the gaining of Self-knowledge. Indeed, if yoga is not practiced after gaining Self-knowledge, doubt (saMshaya) and error (viparyaya) may still arise. Vidyaranya says that the knowledge has to be ‘protected’:

“It may be asked – what is the necessity of protecting knowledge? The question of sublation does not arise inasmuch as the knowledge of Reality has been obtained through proper evidence.

The answer is this – in the absence of tranquility of the mind doubt and error may creep in.” (Ref. 152)

The solution is manonAsha: “But when by the dissolution of the mind the world itself is dissolved for him whose mind has reached the state of tranquility, there remains no question of doubt and misapprehension then.” (Ref. 152) This topic has been addressed and refuted earlier.


It seems to me that Vivekananda’s primary aim (in respect of teaching Advaita) was to present the ‘general idea’ to a naïve Western audience. As such, he was either not interested in differentiating the finer points in his talks or, conceivably, he had never considered them for himself. Needless to say, he does not use the word ‘pratibandha’ even once in all 9 volumes of his ‘Complete Works’. He does occasionally speak of prArabdha karma and, in Volume 3, he talks about the difference between a j~nAnI and a jIvanmukta.

In his talk ‘The Free Soul’ (New York, 1896), he speaks of seeing a mirage whilst crossing a desert in India and says:

“Once known it had lost its power of illusion. So this illusion of the universe will break one day. The whole of this will vanish, melt away. This is realization. Philosophy is no joke or talk. It has to be realized; this body will vanish, this earth and everything will vanish, this idea that I am the body or the mind will for some time vanish, or if the Karma is ended it will disappear, never to come back; but if one part of the Karma remains, then as a potter’s wheel, after the potter has finished the pot, will sometimes go on from the past momentum, so this body, when the delusion has vanished altogether, will go on for some time. Again this world will come, men and women and animals will come, just as the mirage came the next day, but not with the same force; along with it will come the idea that I know its nature now, and it will cause no bondage, no more pain, nor grief, nor misery. Whenever anything miserable will come, the mind will be able to say, ‘I know you as hallucination.’ When a man has reached that state, he is called Jivanmukta, living-free, free even while living. The aim and end in this life for the j~nAna-Yogi is to become this jIvanmukta, ‘living-free’. (Ref. 49)

So he clearly distinguished between a j~nAnI and a jIvanmukta, the latter being a j~nAnI who has eliminated any outstanding karmic ‘remnants’, in the same way as the earlier post-Shankara teachers discussed above. (Quite how he justifies saying that “if the Karma is ended it [i.e. the world] will disappear, never to come back” and yet state several sentences later that “He is a jIvanmukta who can live in this world without being attached.” is another question!)

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30 thoughts on “pratibandha-s – part 8 of 10

  1. Hi Dennis,

    You are misunderstanding Vivekananda.

    When he says “jnana yogi”, as per your quote, and occasionally also his shorthand usage of “jnani” he means one who is on the path of jnana (see first quote below, from Complete Works). He implicitly equates an actual jnani with a jivanmukta (see for example the last three quotes which talk about the actions of a jnani / jivanmukta)

    From complete works:

    “The jnani says the mind does not exist, neither the body . . . His meditation therefore is the most difficult one, the negative; he denies everything and what is left is the Self. This is the most analytical way. The Jnani wants to tear away the universe from the Self by the sheer force of analysis. It is very easy to say’I am a jnani’, but very hard to be really one . . . The jnani seeks to tear himself away from this bondage of matter by the force of intellectual conviction. This is the negative way – ‘neti, neti'” (p.1006)

    “After realisation, what is ordinarily called work does not persist, It changes in character. The work which the jnani does only conduces to the well being or the world”

    “In real work there is no touch of work. But for those who work after being jivanmuktas do so for the good of others. They do not look to the results of works. No seed of desire finds any room in their mind. And strictly speaking, it is almost impossible to work like that for the good of the world from the householder’s position. In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the instance of King Janaka in this respect. But you nowadays want to pose as Janakas . . .” (p.3096)

    “With the axe of knowledge cut the wheels asunder, and the Atman stands free, even though the old momentum carries on the wheel of mind and body. The wheel can now only go straight, can only do good. If that body does anything bad, know that the man is not jivanmukta.; he lies if he makes that claim.”

    Finally, unrelated but interesting nevertheless:

    “I want to prepare you by saying that this method [jnana yoga] can be followed only by the boldest . . . You must be able to reason, but also to follow the dictates of your reason. If your reason tells you that this body is an illusion, are you ready to give it up? Reason tells you that heat and cold are mere illusions of your senses; are you ready to brave these things? If reason tells you that nothing that the senses convey to your ind is true are you ready to deny your sense perceptions . . . It is very hard to believe in reason and follow truth. This whole world is full either of the superstitious or of half-hearted hypocrites. I would rather side with superstition and ignorance, than stand with these half-hearted hypocrites” (p.4240)

    Hence why Sankara enjoined neti, neti WITH renunciation as the conclusive teaching of vedanta.

  2. Hi Venkat,

    I am criticising Vivekananda from the standpoint of traditional Advaita. It is obviously rather difficult to do this if he uses Advaita terms to mean something different from what is meant in Advaita. (Or one might say that this condemns him without further comment if he is claiming to be representing Advaita!)

    Can you tell me how he defines his version of j~nAna? What does one have to do to be a (seeker) j~nAnI?

    If he says that a j~nAnI acts in such and such a way, are we to assume he is talking about a ‘j~nAnI’ or an ‘actual j~nAnI’?

  3. Dennis

    Forgive me, I think you are nitpicking. He was not seeking to write a textbook. These were by and large recordings of speeches, and occasionally articles he had written. And he was writing for a wide audience, who would have been at very different stages of spiritual development. As such, he was not trying to dissuade people from whatever level they were at, even if that be at the devotional, Bhakti level.

    Again, finger pointing to the moon – directionally what he was saying about jnana yoga is not incorrect. Indeed much of his works are inspirational – they draw one in to investigate further. I think that was his purpose in his talks. Judge a person by what lasting legacy has been left: he set the foundation for the Ramakrishna monks and Advaita Ashrama; and there has been no better consolidator and translator of Vedanta sruti than these monks.

    Finally I wrote the above to make clear that Vivekanda did not distinguish between a jnani (in the way we are speaking) and a jivanmukta; yes agreed, he may have used the term jnani sloppily whilst speaking; but then Sankara also talked of a Brahmana and a true Brahmana in Brhad Up – as we discussed previously. The point is not to get overly hung up on linguistics, but look at what they are pointing to: neti, neti.

    Best wishes,

  4. PS If you read the context of what he is saying, rather than just doing a search+find for a particular quote, then the meaning and intention of the quote is clear.

  5. Fair points, Venkat. But in making those points you are really agreeing with me are you not? The title of the book is “Confusions… for the seeker in Advaita Vedanta”. It is the failure of teachers to follow the texts of the prasthAna traya and use the laid-down saMpradAya methods for conveying them that causes confusion in the seeker. And Vivekananda is worse than most because he actually disparaged the scriptures.

    Here is another quote (no doubt taken out of context):

    “The Jnani says, the mind does not exist, neither the body. This idea of
    the body and of the mind must go, must be driven off; therefore it is foolish to
    think of them. It would be like trying to cure one ailment by bringing in
    another. His meditation therefore is the most difficult one, the negative; he
    denies everything, and what is left is the Self. This is the most analytical way.
    The Jnani wants to tear away the universe from the Self by the sheer force of
    analysis. It is very easy to say, “I am a Jnani”, but very hard to be really one.
    “The way is long”, it is, as it were, walking on the sharp edge of a razor; yet
    despair not. “Awake, arise, and stop not until the goal is reached”, say the

    And another: “Sense-happiness is not the goal of humanity. Wisdom (Jnâna) is the goal of all life.”

    And: “This is what the Jnana-Yogis teach. Therefore, dare to be free, dare to
    go as far as your thought leads, and dare to carry that out in your life. It is very
    hard to come to Jnâna.”

    And he quotes from Vivekachudamani:

    “One that is present always as consciousness, the bliss absolute, beyond all
    bounds, beyond all compare, beyond all qualities, ever-free, limitless as the sky,
    without parts, the absolute, the perfect — such a Brahman, O sage, O learned
    one, shines in the heart of the Jnâni in Samâdhi. (Vivekachudamani, 408).

    “Where all the changes of nature cease for ever, who is thought beyond all
    thoughts, who is equal to all yet having no equal, immeasurable, whom Vedas
    declare, who is the essence in what we call our existence, the perfect — such a
    Brahman, O sage, O learned one, shines in the heart of the Jnani in Samadhi.
    (Ibid., 409)”

    These quotes certainly seem to me to be saying that a j~nAnI is someone who has realized the truth.

    I certainly found quotations that support your contention that he often used the term to apply to a seeker following j~nAna yoga. But I think you must concede that a seeker could easily be confused. If he were to read the entire Complete Works, he might realize that the term referred to a seeker. But then he would also believe that Self-knowledge alone was insuffcient to gain liberation; that he also needed some sort of experience, to be gained through samAdhi…

    Best wishes,

  6. Dennis,

    I think we are agreeing!.

    I concur that Vivekananda used jnani sometimes in the sense of a realised person and sometimes in the sense of a seeker on the jnana path. However reading the full article usually makes clear his intention.

    I also concur that his works are not a means to gain knowledge – but rather a pointer towards further investigation.

    Note that whenever Vivekananda used the term Samadhi, it is always in the context of raja yoga. He has never used it in the context of jnana yoga. And as your quotes and mine show, his conception of jnana is not at odds with our understanding.

    For some reason – perhaps others can resolve this? – he tended to speak of 4 paths (Raja, Bhakti, Karma and Jnana yoga) to freedom, without clearly saying that knowledge, jnana, was the final step that all paths had to culminate in. Perhaps it was to not discourage people in their own stage of development; when they were ready, they would inevitably stumble onto the path of jnana; no need of a decree.

    I feel something of his raison d’être, his emphasis on karma yoga, comes out in the following:

    “Why then don’t I do so [sit in a Himalyan cave in Samadhi]? And why am I here? Only the sight of the country’s misery and the thought of its future do not let me remain quiet anymore! Even Samadhi, and all that, appear as futile. Even the sphere of Brahma with its enjoyments becomes insipid. My vow of life is to think of your welfare”

  7. Hi Venkat,

    I’m sure we are not too far apart on this. I certainly applaud Vivekananda for doing a supreme job in introducing Advaita to the West. And, as you say, his legacy of monks and monasteries is unparalleled. We must indeed be grateful.

    It is unfortunate that there is such a danger of being misled by the things that he says. Clearly many have been. The ‘Confusions’ book started life as an intention to write a new edition of ‘Back to the Truth’ because I am aware that there are lots of things in there, quotations from many teachers, that I would no longer support. And many of them, I think, probably stem from what has been said by Vivekananda.

    On the ‘four paths’ topic, I quote from Vivekananda earler in the book:

    “There are various ways of attaining to this realization. These methods have the generic name of Yoga (to join, to join ourselves to our reality). These Yogas, though divided into various groups, can principally be classed into four; and as each is only a method leading indirectly to the realization of the Absolute, they are suited to different temperaments.”

    I believe he says elsewhere that each can, on its own, lead to realization.

    Best wishes,

  8. Hello Dennis,

    Yoga Advaita has almost subsumed the teachings of Gaudapada and Shankaracharya so it is important that we revive these teachings in their true form. I appreciate your efforts in this regard.

    Warm wishes,

  9. Venkat: ‘For some reason – perhaps others can resolve this? – he [Vivekananda] tended to speak of 4 paths (Raja, Bhakti, Karma and Jnana yoga) to freedom, without clearly saying that knowledge, jnana, was the final step that all paths had to culminate in.’

    Dennis: “There are various ways of attaining to this realization. These methods have the generic name of Yoga (to join, to join ourselves to our reality). These Yogas, though divided into various groups, can principally be classed into four; and as each is only a method leading indirectly to the realization of the Absolute, they are suited to different temperaments.”

    The different approaches or methods – in connection with Vivekananda – can be reduced to two: ‘experience-based’, and ‘knowledge-based’– as was published in AV in 19.8.19.

    A defender of the experiential approach (SK) wrote: ‘Intuition is never the same as the experience of true self. Intuition is however a higher faculty than logic or pure reason. However, in front of the experience of true self, even intuition we experience reading the scriptures when we get some understanding is paltry in comparison. So in my opinion, again, one has to go even beyond intuition, though intuition is necessary step in the process on the path to true self. So on all fronts, experience trumps intellectual knowledge and understanding obtained from books.’

    Martin: It is not just reading books. I understand your position, which is in accord with Muktipada Behera (in Quora): ‘… there are two traditions – (1) Pramana based and (2) Experiential approach. Swami Paramathanananda of ArshaVidya is from (1) Pramana based tradition. Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Ramana Maharhsi are from (2) Experiential approach … ‘

    Since I have studied both I don’t see any confusion. Rather I see harmony in depth. Both traditions are not contradictory, rather complementary.’ With some caveats, I cannot disagree with the above.

  10. Hello Martin,

    As you have quoted, a defender of the experiential approach writes,

    “Intuition is never the same as the experience of true self. Intuition is however a higher faculty than logic or pure reason. However, in front of the experience of true self, even intuition we experience reading the scriptures when we get some understanding is paltry in comparison. So in my opinion, again, one has to go even beyond intuition, though intuition is necessary step in the process on the path to true self. So on all fronts, experience trumps intellectual knowledge and understanding obtained from books.”

    My own questions/repsonses to a defender of the Experiential approach are.

    “Can the true Self be available for any discrete experience?” or more simply, “Can the true Self ever be “experienced”?

    Experience implies the duality between the experiencer and the experienced. True Self is non-dual – partless, so there can be no question of the experience of True Self. Who is the “experiencer” of the True Self?

    Lastly, since Self is all that exists, it is the substratum of all experiences, so any experience can be inquired into and its essential nature would be found to be Self. One needs no special experience for this.

    So actually, there cannot be harmony in these two approaches unless one says that even if one is taking the experiential path, it is Knowledge only which leads to final liberation. Experiences are Upasanas/Meditations helpful for the culmination of final Knowledge/Intuition of Self.

    Warm wishes,

  11. Hi Anurag, pleased to meet you. Understood: you take the same position as Dennis with respect to ‘experience’, which, prima faciae, implies duality.

    But, is that not the same case with the terms ‘witness’, ‘Knower’, etc.? These are (only) epithets sanctioned by the Advaita tradition. Dennis just wrote that he might use a number of metaphors, depending on the context, and you mentioned Suresvara’s Abhasavada in connection with the ‘reflection theory’ (real for the Vivarana school, unreal for Abhasavada), though this is something different.

    Thus, I would have no scruples in equating ‘Knowledge’ (or ‘Witness’!) with ‘Pure Experience’, or using the expression, ‘Knowlege-Experience’.

    ‘I am the Witness-Self; I am the basis of all experience; I am the light that makes experience possible’ – ‘World within the Mind’ – 16th discourse, from Yoga Vasishta.

  12. Dear Martin,

    Thanks for your remarks and pleased to meet you too 🙂

    Please find my clarifications for the same.

    You write, “But, is that not the same case with the terms ‘witness’, ‘Knower’, etc.?”

    The word Witness/Sakshi is used by Shankara and even Gaudapada to denote Self. I (and so is Dennis) am following the traditional teachings of Gaudapada-Shankara. The Upanishads use different words to denote Self but they are all negated at the end. Even the word Witness is negated “intellectually” as Self, by Shankara, because without Maya, Self cannot be a Witness to anything because nothing else apart from itself exists. Self is known as Witness only with respect to Maya. The word Witness is used to denote the Self, as, that which remains constant and unchanged with respect to the three states of waking, sleeping and dreaming.

    The word “knower” though used by Upanishads in some places, is negated and replaced by Witness when a seeker moves to higher understanding. The term “knower” tends to create confusion in the seeker’s mind if he/she conflates it with the knower of the dream and waking states where there is the duality of knower and known. The use of word Witness overrides this error. In a ‘conventional’ sense there is no knower in the sleep state so once again the knower is not something constant in all three states.

    The same problem comes with the word “experiencer/experience”. They can be easily conflated by seekers with the experience/experiencer in the dream and waking states which have a duality. This includes all samadhis. By negating the word experience/experiencer I am negating the Yoga or Yoga-Advaita approaches which say that any special kind of samadhi experience (nirvikalpa or sahaja) is required for enlightenment. One only requires intuitive knowledge of Self/Witness, which is available in each and every mundane experience. One does not have to practice any samadhi for this or even go for manonasha/vasanakshaya. Once the Self is revealed through direct knowledge, all samadhis are superfluous (part of Maya) because Self is eternally perfect and accomplished.

    Your quote from Yoga Vashishtha (though it champions the Yoga approach to Advaita) actually validates my arguments outlined above. The quote says that the Witness is the basis of all experience, it is the light that makes experience possible. So it actually goes on to show that the Witness is not experience or experiencer, but their basis.

    Warm wishes,

    • Anurag, agree with all you say. But why is it so difficult – or impossible – to dispense with or avoid the word ‘experience’ when referring to the highest reality despite the risks involved? Dennis states that we ‘experience’ the Self all the time. The expression ‘avagati matra’ renders experience as ‘pure experience’. Can we not say that pure experience – equivalent to brahmanubhava – is the nature of Brahman?

      Unquestionably, there are two kinds of experience: empirical (laukika), and transcendental (brahmanubhava or paramarthika) – iow, pure experience. In the same way, the expression ‘pure knowledge’ is unobjectionable on all counts.

      Is brahmanubhava not essentially an inward experience? According to Shankara, brahmanubhava, like the experience of pain and pleasure, is purely inward.

      • Hello Martin,

        When Dennis is saying that one is experiencing the Self all the time, that is exactly what he is saying. It means that there is nothing called “pure experience” of Self. It means every experience is Self.

        Shankara, if ever, talks of experience of Self, talks only in terms of “intuitive experience” which happens as a flash. It is a flash that destroys ignorance. There is actually no dual experiential element involved in it like pleasure, pain etc. What happens in this is that you come to ‘know’ that you are Self. How do you experience yourself? How do you experience your existence? There is nothing to mediate between you and Self when Maya is removed because you are Self. It is an immediate experience, beyond space and time. You know Self through Identity. Period

        After the destruction of ignorance, everything is seen as experience of Self because Self only exists. Where is the question of impure and pure Self? Where is the question of inward and outward when there is only Self.

        These terms are only used for a seeker to help him differentiate between Self and Maya, between the Witness and its objects.

        After Maya is seen through, it is understood that Maya is also Self from the vyavaharika point of view. From the paramarthika point of view, only Self exists because Self only is real. Maya is only apparently real.

        Warm wishes,

        • Hello Martin,

          I read your reply to Venkat, after I posted this comment. So it seems we are at least agreeing on the term “intuitive experience”

          Warm wishes,

          • Though I see that we use the terms “intuitive experience’ differently! I wrote this in my reply to your post on Venkat’s comment.

  13. Martin, thank you for your comments on Vivekananda, and your observation of two approaches – pramana-based and experiential-based. This girl me thinking – and I’d posit that Sankara meant them to be one and the same.

    We have, I think, mis-interpreted Sankara’s statement that Knowledge is the only means to liberation, and that sruti is the only pramana for gaining Knowledge. Here is my train of logic:

    1) Ignorance is the superimposition of the body-mind as an ego-I, onto Brahman.

    2) Sankara logically states that only Knowledge can remove this ignorance. Erroneous superimposition cannot co-exist in the light of Knowledge.

    3) The Knowledge that Sankara says need to be acquired is through a process of negation: neti, neti. All of the sruti is there to justify and rationalise this process of negation.

    Brhad Up 4.4.20 bhasya:
    “The knowledge of Brahman means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (such as the body). The relationship of identity with It has not to be directly established because it is already there. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be established. but that the false identification with things other than That should stop.”

    4) Sankara distinguishes between knowledge of Brahman through scriptures and the actual knowledge of Brahman.

    Brhad Up 4.4.21 bhasya:
    “The intelligent aspirant after Brahman knowing about this kind of Self alone, from the instructions of a teacher and from the scriptures, should attain intuitive knowledge of what has been taught, ie practise the means of this knowledge viz renunciation, calmness, self-control, withdrawal of the senses, fortitude and concentration.

    Brhad up 4.4.23 bhasya:
    “Such a man becomes a Brahmana is the primary sense of the word. Before living in this state of identify with Brahman, his Brahmanahood was but figurative”.

    5) Sankara states the means of Knowledge, provided by the scriptures, is through neti neti AND the application of this negation in living: renunciation of desires and concomitant actions.

    Brhad Up 3.5.1
    “What a knower of Brahman should do is to eliminate all ideas of the non-Self . . . After having known all about scholarship and strength, which respectively mean Self-knowledge and the elimination of ideas of the non-Self, he knows all about meditativeness too – and becomes a knower of Brahman. Because he has reached the goal therefore he is a Brahmana . . . for then his status as a knower of Brahman is literally true”

    Note here that:
    a) Sankara differentiates between an end-goal Brahmana (in the primary sense) and the knower of Brahman through knowledge of scriptures (in the figurative sense).

    b) Suresvara, in his Vartika on this chapter writes:
    173: The word panda ‘erudition’ is the word used for knowledge obtained through intellect and they call him a pandit ‘an erudite person’ in whom has arisen that panda. It is that person who is enjoined here in the sruti.
    175-6: Having secured the final condition of erudition in respect of the knowledge of the Atman, from scripture and/or the preceptor, a mendicant should rest himself on that strength. The removal of the knowledge of all the non-Atmans is signified by the word balya; having obtained that strength a person of purified intellect should have attained the nature of a wise person and then become Brahman, ie Brahmana.
    203-4: Only renunciation of all activities effects liberation. They (sruti) say aloud by resorting to the way of purity (suddhanyaya) does one obtain the status of a Brahmana.

    c) Compare with Vivekananda above – he talks about boldness, whilst Sankara, strength:
    “This method [jnana yoga] can be followed only by the boldest . . . You must be able to reason, but also to follow the dictates of your reason. If your reason tells you that this body is an illusion, are you ready to give it up? Reason tells you that heat and cold are mere illusions of your senses; are you ready to brave these things? If reason tells you that nothing that the senses convey to your ind is true are you ready to deny your sense perceptions . . . It is very hard to believe in reason and follow truth.”

    6) Therefore Martin’s two approaches of pramana and experience can be reconciled in the sense that sruti provides the theory and logic for the method of negation and renunciation – and this has to be applied in living, to ‘experience’ (for want of a better word) the dissolution of particular consciousness into universal consciousness, ie the removal of the superimposition of the jiva.

    If one considers Ramanamaharishi, he essentially applied, with one-pointed concentration, this method of negation and renunciation in his ‘death experience’ as a child, and thereby became free. He, exceptionally, did not learn this from sruti, but stumbled upon it himself; it was only later that reading sruti, he found his experience conformed with what was described therein.

    best wishes,

    • Yes, Venkat, pramana is not the only means to gain Self-knowledge, as you say. But before neti-neti, what is essential is intuition (anubhava), on top (or beside) reading the scriptures. Those two are the essentials, following SSSS. You mention ‘intuitive knowledge’ under # 4, which comes to the same thing, bearing in mind that ‘knowledge’ and intuition are not the same (intellectual vs real). You may read my reply to Anurag today.

      • Hello Martin,

        In Advaita, intuitive experience/anubhava of Self is the culmination of self inquiry and reading of scriptures.

        Venkat says that one does not necessarily need a pramana for Self Knowledge on the strength of his account of Ramana.

        Yes, Ramana had a ‘death experience’ but that was not his liberation. He did not start off his ashram and made himself available as a teacher after his death experience. What did he do after that? He did self-inquiry. The death experiennce confirmed to him that he was not the mind-body but he did not yet know the Self. He sat for seventeen years in Virupaksha caves. And during this time he certainly came across the teachings of Advaita as people did visit him.

        I am not an expert on Ramana but I hope I am not wrong on my facts.

        Warm wishes,

        • Hi Anurag, your points about Ramanamaharishi’s enlightenment are, I suspect, taken from Swartz who confidently asserts this – I guess to support his belief in sruti pramana. He is however making this up – there is not a single account to support his assertion.

          Ramanamaharishi, in his own words, says the death experience rendered him free; thereafter, in the years in the cave, he was simply abiding in that, because there was nothing else to interest him. He had not read any scriptures at the time. This is covered in biographies by Arthur Osborne and Narasimha Swami.

          • Hello Venkat,

            Facts are facts. Ramana spent 17 years on the cave. First he meditated in the temple hall. But he was ‘disturbed’ by children pelting stones at him, so he moved to the inner vault of the temple. The children found him there too and would disturb him so one of his benefactors would stand guard over him. All these activities don’t show a man simply sitting uninterested. Also what happened that he suddenly walks out and makes himself available as a teacher and start an Ashram. It requires a big stretch of imagination to contend that he would undergo seventeen years of hardships and privations, and then come out and start leading a normal life in public, and then to say that those seventeen years were just time-pass 🙂

            I have done some reading on Ramana. I am not a scholar on him but I did read somewhere that there were some visitors to him during these seventeen years. If I get a reference to this, I shall share the same. Even Ramakrishna had to take the help of Totapuri.

            It’s not James only, but the entire tradition of Vedanta that stresses the importance of scriptures and teacher.

            Warm wishes,

            • Dear Venkat,

              So here is some research about Ramana Maharshi :
              (all information from Wikipedia article on Sheshadri Swamigal)

              The man who protected Ramana during his ‘samadhi state’ in the temple vault was a renowned Swami called Sheshadri Swamigal.

              Seshadri Swamigal and Ramana Maharshi were contemporaries. Seshadri actually arrived at Arunachala six years earlier than Ramana. When Ramana Maharshi came to Tiruvannamalai seven years after Seshadri Swamigal’s arrival, Seshadri took care of Ramana Maharshi. Sri Seshadri tried to protect the young swami who seemed quite unaware of his body and surroundings. He cleansed Ramana’s blood-oozing wounds and revealed Ramana as a [saint] to the world.

              Regarding Seshadri Swamigal, the article mentions

              At the age of 19, he met Sri Balaji Swamigal, a wandering saint from North India, who gave Seshadri sannyas and instructed him in the Mahavakyas. Shortly after Seshadri started to travel to various spots in Tamil Nadu eventually ending up at Tiruvannamalai, at the age of 19. Seshadri Swami moved about Tiruvannamalai for 40 years, an ascetic with a total disregard for either name or form.

              So Ramana was in contact with an Advaitin ! And this was before he moved to virupaksha caves for his next seventeen years.

              Warm wishes,

              • If you actually read Arthur Osborne or Narasimha Swami, they quote Ramana’s own words about his death experience, and his realisation at that time itself.

                Nothing from your wikipedia research contradicts Ramana’s biographers or his own words.

                • Dear Venkat,

                  Here is the quote from Ramana’s Death experience from Ramana’s website

                  The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered, ‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.”

                  1. I can corroborate from my own experience that it is an experience of direct self knowledge.

                  2. It seems to me that he was in a state of Nidhidhyasana after that and as I said in my quote of Gaudapada, he was more of a Yogi rather than a Jnani so he felt the need to stabilize this knowledge through manonasha.

                  Warm wishes,

  14. Hello Venkat,

    None of the verses you have quoted from Shankara talk about experience. What they are only distinguishing is indirect knowledge and direct knowledge of Self.

    You have talked in great detail regarding the preparation – sadhana chatusthaya – for arriving at direct knolwedge of Brahman. Sadhana chatusthaya is the means for antahkarana shuddhi and develop adhikaritva for getting direct knowledge. Your quotes from Vivekananda and Suresvara pertain to the same. No one is arguing that one should not develop the qualifications. Depending upon one’s vasanas, developing the qualifications takes years of sustained effort. Direct knowledge of Self, on the contrary, happens in a flash, when the mind has become ready after years of sadhana.

    Warm wishes,

  15. Hi Anurag,

    Sadhana chatusthya is a preliminary requirement BEFORE approaching a teacher and being taught the scriptures. Renunciation / sannyasa is not expected at this stage.

    In Bhagavad Gita Bhasya 5.26, Sankara writes:
    “It has been said that those who, renouncing all actions, remain steady in right knowledge obtain instant liberation. It has often been and will be declared by the Lord that karma-yoga, which is performed in complete devotion to the Lord and dedicated to Him, leads to moksha step by step: first the purification of the mind, then knowledge, then renunciation of all actions, and lastly moksha”

    As you know, this purification of mind is through karma yoga and sadhana chatusthya.

    Knowledge and renunciation follow thereafter. The Brhad Up talks about this practice of neti, neti and renunciation AFTER the scriptures have been mastered. This is not simply a sadhana; this is abiding steadfastly in Brahman, which is living through the strength of negating the non-Self.
    “Therefore the knowledge of this Self by the process of ‘Not this, not this’ and the renunciation of everything are the only means of attaining immortality” – Brhad Up Bhasya 4.5.15

    best wishes,

  16. Dear Venkat,

    There is no sadhana after ‘direct’ knowledge of Self because after Self Knowledge the doer is cancelled. The Jnani knows that he is the Self/Witness and not the doer so how can he practice anything? All actions done by him are burnt in the fire of Self Knowledge ( Bhagavad Gita). From the vyavahrika point of view his mind/body and it’s actions are existing only because of prarabdha karma. There is no action for the Jnani from the Paramarthika point of view as he is ever free, ever perfect, ever accomplished Self.

    What you mention are the steps which are required to convert indirect knowledge of Self to direct knowledge of Self.

    This step (of converting indirect knowledge to direct knowledge) is not required for all seekers. It depends upon the grade of the seeker/adhikari. For the highest grade of adhikari, the mere listening of scriptures (shravana) is enough for getting Direct Knowledge of Self. For middle grade of adhikaris, shravana has to be constantly supplemented by Manana and Nidhidhyasana till direct Self Knowledge is gained. In the inferior grade of adhikari, even sadhana chatusthaya has to be done. So many people know of Atma and Self in India. They know all this without doing sadhana chatusthaya. My parents, for instance, know that Atma exists. They don’t deny this at all. But they are complete samsaris and would have to do undergo years of sadhana chatusthaya, shravana,Manana and Nidhidhyasana to convert this indirect knowledge to direct knowledge. My wife has been listening to me about Self in greater detail about Self and Advaita for the last eight years. She even agrees to every logic which shows that one’s true nature is Self/Witness; but what is missing is Sadhana Chatusthaya, Manana and Nidhidhyasana. Her Shravana is complete.

    In my own case, I came to Direct Self knowledge within just a month of reading one basic book of Advaita and the teachings of James Swartz on internet. This was because I had done almost twenty years of sadhana chatusthaya and my mind already had intense vairagya.

    I did have to go through a further phase of stabilization in Self Knowledge (Manana and Nidhidhyasana) for next seven years, either because I was a middle grade adhikari or because I did not have a good teacher grounded in the traditional teachings of Gaudapada/ Shankaracharya. A good teacher would have cleared my subtle doubts and my phase of stabilization in Self Knowledge would have happened very much faster. Most of my doubts had to do with difference between Advaita and Yoga, Advaita and Buddhism, Advaita and Krishnamurti and differences within different schools of Advaita. I never for a moment had a doubt on Self/Witness but a doubt as to why and how different schools are talking about the final truth in different terms. All these doubts are dealt by Gaudapada and Shankara or by any teacher who is grounded in the sampradayic teachings of these two. I did not find any so I had to do my own reading of Gaudapada and Shankara to quench my doubts. I got immense help also from the books of Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati.

    Warm wishes,

  17. Anurag – I think we are saying the same thing. How to convert indirect / scholastic knowledge into direct Knowledge. I agree that Sankara said that for a mature seeker, just sravana would be enough.

    The key to this is Brhad Up bhasya 3.5.1. Gangolli, transliterating SSSS’ work, in The Essential Adi Shankara, comments on this verse extensively. I will post separately.

  18. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for the reply. I know the verse you are referring to 🙂 Dennis has quoted it in his pratbanda-s Part 1

    Good to know that you are reading Gangolli’s transliterations of SSSS’ work. Coincidentally, I am reading The Essential Gaudapada right now. Man, one really has to sweat through his works 🙂 But he is the one I follow.

    Warm wishes,

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