Shankara at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka

Revered Shankara is by nature such a perfect and committed bhAShyakAra (Commentator) that he never deviates from the text on which he is commenting upon. He always stays within the bounds of the purport of the textual line that he abhors to venture out to  exploring the connected lanes and bylanes related to the topic or give vent to his own ideas based on his knowledge. However, in the entire corpus of the bhAShya literature  of his, there are a handful or about half a dozen places where he takes liberty to make certain observations of his own. Very rare precious gems, unavailable for the reader anywhere else in the whole gamut of shruti and smriti lore come out from his pen in those few occasions. One that immediately comes to mind is his expanded commentary at 13.2, BGB where he lets out the fact that the ignorance of not knowing one’s own true nature belongs to that very person who thinks he has ignorance. He raises the question and answers himself:

“ सा अविद्या कस्य इति

Whose ignorance is it? [You say that the entire appearance of the world is ignorance. But you also argue that the only One that exists, the Self, cannot have ignorance. If that is the position, who has ignorance?]

यस्य दृश्यते तस्य एव  

Whosoever sees ignorance, it is his only.”

Another significant instance when he refers to the incredulity of the Upanishads is available at his long Intro to the 4th section of the 2nd chapter of the aitareya Upanishad. He raises a question and answers himself again about the improbability of creation and the ‘pravesha shruti’:

“ अन्यत्र सर्वगतस्य सर्वात्मनो वालाग्रमात्रमप्यप्रविष्टं नास्तीति कथं सीमानं विदार्य प्रापद्यत पिपीलिकेव सुषिरम्? 

Seeing that there is not so much (of a space) as a point of hair unoccupied by brahman, the all-pervading Atman of all, if it be asked how It entered cleaving the head as the ant enters a hole?

नन्वत्यल्पमिदं चोद्यम् बहु चात्र चोदयितव्यम् 

We say, this is a small matter to raise a question about and there is much more here deserving to be questioned!”

However, he quickly adds that the Upanishads do so only in the interest of the student who is normally, otherwise, incapable of understanding the Truth if delivered straight. Perhaps, his commentary at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka is another place where he reveals hidden gems in his Advaitic thoughts.

Though the Creation models in Advaita refer to Ishwara as the mAyAvi, the controller of mAyA and the Creator, Shankara tells us that an entity which has a cause to assume different forms cannot be eternal in the context of  refuting the vRittikara’s (probably, Upavarsha’s) argument that the word brahman at 1.4.10 brihadAraNyaka refers to saguNa brahman. Shankara writes at the beginning of his commentary that, “There is no such thing in the world that really assumes a different state through some cause and still is eternal.” In other words, nirguNa brahman can never manifest Itself as the multiplicity. This observation once again underlines the fact that there is no creation whatsoever.

But, unfortunately, our entire perceptual knowledge is capable of showing us only the ‘form’ and not the substance. Unaware and unconscious of the disconnect between the actual Reality that IS and what our own perception shows to us, we hypothesize that we see ‘substance.’ In order to be able to see the real ‘substance,’ we need to have a different “vision,” a vision that is filled with Self-knowledge, as Shankara describes as:

 ” दृष्टिं ज्ञानमयीं कृत्वा ” | — 116, aparokShAnubhUti.

This would obviously then give raise to the question, as Shankara poses at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka:

“Has the seer then two kinds of vision, one eternal and invisible, and the other transitory and visible?”

Once again, he himself answers it to help the Non-dual seeker, with an emphatic ‘Yes.’ He writes:

“Reply : Yes! The (first is the) transitory vision (which) is familiar to us….

[The second is] that unfailing eternal vision, which is identical with It and is called the self-effulgent light. Through that the Self always sees the other, transitory vision in the dream and waking states, as idea and perception respectively, and becomes the seer of sight. Such being the case, the vision itself is Its nature, like the heat of fire, and there is no other conscious (or unconscious) seer over and above the vision, as the vaiseShika-s maintain. It, brahman, knew only Itself, the eternal vision, devoid of the transitory vision etc. superimposed on It.”

As our colleague, Vijay, pointed out at another thread, Shankara also clarifies further that the words “It knew only Itself,’ only means the cessation of the superimposition of ignorance, and not the actual cognizing of the Self as an object,” a very significant observation to really decipher the gravitas of the message. Shankara adds to mitigate any further doubts on how It became all:

“Since by the cessation of the superimposed notion of not being brahman, its effect, the notion of not being all, was also gone, therefore, It became all.”

The process of becoming all, if it can be described as a process, it is something akin to saying that a man feels satiated as he eats the food (Shankara’s words).

Shankara also gives a very important and helpful ‘indicator’ to a seeker at 1.4.10, brihadaraNyaka. He says:

“As in the world a form is revealed as soon as the observer’s eye is in touch with light, similarly the very moment that one has the Knowledge of the Supreme Self, ignorance regarding It must disappear. Hence, the effects of ignorance are impossible in the presence of the Knowledge of Brahman, like the effects of darkness in the presence of a lamp.” Even Gods cannot stop the disappearance of ignorance on the attainment of Self-knowledge.

However, the body being an effect of the past karmic load that had already begun to show its results (i.e. the prArabdha), the body persists after the attainment of the Self-knowledge. Shankara observes that “until the body falls, it cannot but produce, as part of one’s experience of the results of past work, just so much of false notions and the evils of attachment etc. Self- knowledge cannot stop that, for they are not contradictory. Self-knowledge, however, stops the effects of ignorance which are contradictory to it and are about to spring up from (the ignorance lying in) the self.” We may understand that to be the causal body, the embodiment of ignorance. But Shankara assures us a little later that the man of Knowledge is not affected by any of those false notions, when they happen to raise because the Truth is already known to him. Shankara clarifies that “the acts of seeing etc. together with their results, which are dependent on many factors created by ignorance, are possible only in the state of ignorance, when the Self, the Reality that has no second, appears as something else, like a second moon when one has got the disease of double vision.”

Shankara, in fact, avers that “The whole of this Upanishad is exclusively devoted to showing the distinction between the spheres of Knowledge and ignorance.” And this section 1.4.10 is a gist of that objective.

[Note: All the translations of the brihadAraNyaka Upanishad in the above essay are from Swami Madhavananda’s work.]

59 thoughts on “Shankara at 1.4.10, brihadAraNyaka

  1. Dear Ramesam,

    Ignorance is a complex topic! I have been studying and writing about it for several months now and have still not finished. ( I have yet to cover the Satchidanandendra vs Doherty ‘discussions’!)

    There is shruti and Shankara support for the locus being either jIva or Brahman. (BhAmatI favors the former and VinvaraNa the latter.) I will be coming down in favor of the common-sense approach I think (ignorance is in the mind and is simply lack of knowledge) and consigning all of the post-Shankara arguments to academia!

    (P.S. I don’t want to open this up for a ‘disappearance of the world’ marathon. I am presently devoting all my time to checking the final proof of ‘Confusions 1’. Then I want to get back to SSSS vs D.)

    Best wishes,

  2. Ramesam seems like you are on a roll to crack advaita myths! Even this post!
    First, whose ignorance it is?
    The second, Brahman enters into Jiva!
    And the third on Ishwara or Saguna Brahman:
    Shankara clearly states that Brahman in 1.4.10 is certainly not Saguna Brahman or Ishwara. In fact, being a cause, it does not qualify to be eternal.
    Shankara has more clearly stated this in BS bhasya 2.1.14 ” god’s rulership, omniscience and omnipotence are contingent on limiting adjuncts conjured by nescience, but not so in reality be such terms as ruler, ruled, etc be used with regard to Self shining in its own nature after the removal of all adjuncts thru illumination”. Then, what does Brahman sees itself means is explained per your post. And IMHO All of this eventually points to Mandukya Karika 2.32.
    ” There is no dissolution, no creation. …. ”
    No Creation!

  3. Thanks Vijay for your astute observation and posting an interesting comment highlighting a common theme in the three quotes from 13.2, BG, 2.4.1, aitareya and 1.4.10, brihat. The credit of breaking the myths of traditional views goes to Shankara himself!

    While every traditionalist routinely talks of birth and rebirth, Shankara dares to question at 1.1.4, BSB whether birth is first or karma; for, no birth can take place unless there is some karmic load to be expended and no karma would have been accomplished unless there is birth! 🙂
    It leads to an unjustifiable infinite regress of mutual dependency.
    He also raises a question on who is the ‘doer’ of the action ‘birth,’ because birth is an action and no action can happen without a karta. 🙂
    A genius and master logician that he is, Shankara says, therefore, ‘birth’ itself is an impossibility and a mere AbhAsa — appears but impossible to exist!

    Thus right in the beginning parts of the Veddanta sUtra-s, he establishes the dictum of his paramaguru, quoted by you at the end of your comment.


  4. Dear Dennis,

    I wholeheartedly agree with all that you said.

    I am certain there are many like me who eagerly await the results of your long study on ‘ignorance.’

    In the meanwhile, if I may share my 2 c worth ideas, it appears to me that ignorance is not an animal sitting somewhere up there observing everyone of us with a telescope wantonly misdirecting and misleading us from ‘knowing’ the Truth.

    Ignorance is just a euphemism, a notional entity, and if one keeps to the simple words of Shankara, ignorance is a word that indicates our failure to realize Oneness and “conjure up” (a phrase Shankara often uses at BGB,BSB etc.) in its place a multiplicity of nAma-rUpa or doership and experiencership. Another way he expresses it to be is “everybody, being brahman, is really always identical with all, but one thinks that he is not brahman and not all,” as at 1.4.10, BUB. Shankara did not give, IMHO, a “formal definition” for ignorance.


  5. Dear Ramesam,

    Yes. My view is that ‘Ignorance’ is ‘lack of knowledge’, not a ‘positive thing’; just a word that we use to express a state of mind.

    Shankara sort of defines it at the start of his adhyAsa bhAShya as being equivalent to superimposition:

    tametam evaMlakShaNam adhyAsaM paNDitAH ‘avidyA’ iti manyanta. tadvivekena cha vastusvarUpAvadhAraNaM ‘vidyAm’ AhuH
    The learned persons hold this superimposition of the said character to be ‘nescience’ (avidyA); and the determination of the true nature of the thing by discrimination, they call ‘knowledge’.”

    Best wishes,

    P.S. The ‘ignorance’ volume of the ‘Confusions’ book will not be out for at least 18 months, I think!

  6. Dear Dennis,

    The adhyAsa bhAShya quote almost reads like “nescience” is just another name for ‘superimposition’ of multiplicity. It does not give the “feel” that it rigorously defines what ‘ignorance’ is. That was the point I was making.

    Secondly, being a pedantic yourself, I would not think that you will really agree to say, ‘Ignorance’ is ‘lack of knowledge.’ Knowledge is not lacking nor has It to be newly acquired. As you also say, It is already available, but somehow seems to have got obscured/veiled/buried.

    If I remember right, Shankara attributes the defect of “vision” to the inadequacy of the perception apparatus we are endowed with. He compares to the seeing of the double moon by an eye affected by ‘timira’ (partial blindness or cataract).

    May I also draw your attention to the Conclusion part in the Series of Posts titled “The Ignorance that Isn’t.” I wrote there: “Shankara avers that ignorance really cannot exist. He leaves no scope to doubt if ignorance is more than anything but a convenient placeholder to explain the appearance of the One Self as a multiplicity. Because of our inability to discern the Self from not-Self, we attribute the qualities of Consciousness, the subject onto the objects that are perceived.”


  7. Dear Ramesam,

    That was MY point – that Shankara implies that avidyA is ‘just another name’ for adhyAsa.

    I don’t understand your statement that ‘knowledge is not lacking’. Surely it is precisely that. We are already free, the world is mithyA and so on – but we do not know this. We need shruti (and a qualified teacher’ to explain it to us. Hence ‘shabda pramANa’ – shruti is the source of that knowledge.

    I don’t know what point you are making with the timira metaphor. We remove the cataract in order that we can see properly; we remove the ignorance in the mind in order that we can realize the truth.

    Could you provide the link to your ‘ignorance that isn’t’ post. I would very much like to read it (again).

    Best wishes,

  8. Dear Dennis,

    Good Morning.

    I am glad that we both agree that Shankara did not provide any formal ‘definition’ as such for ignorance. Though, while giving the adhyAsa bhAShya quote, you began to say that he gave ‘a sort of definition’ in your previous post, we agree, it’s just another name that he mentions it as.

    2. Me talking about “lack” sounds like carrying coal to New Castle.
    Dictionary meaning for “lack” is:
    (n) Deficiency or absence;
    (vt) To be missing or deficient; To be in need of something;
    — as per American Heritage.

    i. an insufficiency, shortage, or absence of something required or desired; ii. something that is required but is absent or in short supply;
    — as per Collins.

    Self-knowledge is brahman and that’s what we truly are.
    We do not ‘lack’ It or in want of It. At no time we are without It.
    It is temporarily occluded. So, IMHO, we may not say, we ‘lack’ Knowledge.

    3. shruti is only a “reminder” not the source, as per Shankara’s own words (1.4.10, brihat).

    4. I am not too sure you would like to use a phrase like, “we remove the ignorance in the mind.” It posits the ‘mind’ as though it’s a container for ignorance and also projects ignorance as bhAvarUpa (which you also disagreed). Mind is finite and insentient and the formless Knowledge cannot be contained within it.

    In fact, the projection of the multiplicity happens because of the “defective” perceiving apparatus which includes the 5 senses + mind. So any vision through them (as medium) can’t but show duality.
    As Shankara mentioned at 1.4.10, brihat, quoted in the blog Post, we have to jettison the whole perceptual apparatus and use the other “vision” which is intrinsic to the Self. (Please see the part in the post that begins with: “Has the seer then two kinds of vision, one eternal and invisible, and the other transitory and visible?”).

    Please do not misunderstand me; I just wrote as Bullets so that it saves time to read.

    5. The link to the Series of Posts on “Ignorance that isn’t” starts here:

    Further links to the continuing parts are given within each post.
    Hope that helps.


  9. At one point in his Adhyasabhashya Shankara does say that avidya is another name for adhyasa. In his opening sentences, however, he describes adhyasa as due to avidya, suggesting that avidya is the cause of adhyasa. They probably should be taken as describing two aspects of the same thing, viz. that which characterizes and causes the experience of error and illusion, in which something appears as what it’s not, and is taken to be what it should not be taken to be. What is avidya from a psychological and epistemic angle, is adhyasa from a logical and descriptive angle.

    In an interesting passage the Panchapadika explains why Shankara begins his commentary on the Brahma-Sutra with adhyasa instead of avidya even though as Shankara says the ‘learned persons’ (panditah) prefer ‘avidya’ to indicate nescience. The word ‘avidya’, says the author of Panchapadika, denotes the function of concealing the inner Self. This function by itself is not a source of any misery. During deep sleep this avidya persists by concealing the inner Self, without causing any affliction. The word ‘adhyasa’ on the other hand-from the derivation point of view-denotes the function of projecting the unreal not-Self on the concealed inner Self. It’s this projecting aspect (adhyasa) which is the direct cause of all miseries. So, had Shankara also begun his commentary with avidya-as others have done-then the student would have missed here the projecting aspect which is the direct cause of miseries. It is to root out this source that the Upanishads are taught. The learned rightly feel concerned about rooting out avidya because it is this nescience which by concealing Reality, prepares the ground for adhyasa. The common man suffering from countless miseries is more concerned with eradicating them by destroying their immediate cause adhyasa. Looking at the problem of miseries, Shankara preferred to begin his commentary with adhyasa.

  10. Thanks Rick for the pancapAdika reference. From the way you write, it looks:
    1. adhyAsa is equivalent to vikShepa and avidyA is equivalent to AvaraNa. Can that be right?
    2. Projection per se cannot be a cause for misery; on the other hand, a kaleidoscopic projection is enjoyable. Misery comes because of ‘claiming of ownership’ or ‘false identification.’ Please consider this.


  11. Excellent points, Rick. I did not know about the pa~nchapAdika reference. I will add some more words to my writing. Presumably the way that you are interpreting avidyA and adhyAsa could be seen as foreshadowing the post-Shankara ideas of AvaraNa and vikShepa!

    • Dennis, Michael Comans traces “the post-Shankara ideas of avarana and vikshepa” to Shankara himself (see his ‘Method of Early Advaita Vedanta’, pages 246-267). According to Comans, “There is sufficient evidence in the writings of Shankara that he accepts some sort of veiling and creative power which we may call maya or avidya.” So it’s “not difficult to see how later Advaita…could look upon avidya as having the double aspect of concealing (avarana) and projecting (viksepa).” As we know, Shankara often though not always treats ‘avidya’ and ‘adhyasa’ as synonyms.


  12. Dear Ramesam,

    Yes – I too am guilty of ‘sloppy’ use of language. It is difficult not to use words in the way that everyone normally uses them!

    I know perfectly well what ‘lack’ means; and you know perfectly well that I do! As you also no doubt knew I was questioning your use of the word. And you also no doubt guessed that what I was doing was objecting to your equating ‘knowledge’ and Brahman. When you ‘have’ Self-knowledge, you know that you are Brahman. It is meaningless to say that you know that you are Knowledge. Where does Shankara say such a thing?

    It is also the case that we are Brahman now, even if we do not know it. But it is meaningless to say that we are never without Self-knowledge. If that were the case, what would be the need of shruti, Shankara and a guru?

    Let us refer to the tenth man story. Yes, the man who thinks one of the party is lost is really the tenth man all the time. But he does not know this. When he is told, he ‘realizes’ this – ‘Ah, yes, of course!’. But I would not call it the telling a ‘reminder’, would you? What are Shankara’s ‘own words’ that say this?

    The ‘sloppy language’ I admitted to was to say ‘we remove the ignorance in the mind’. But if I was being sloppy, you are being pedantic. Let us say instead ‘providing shabda pramāṇa’.

    But I am not clear what you are saying with “Mind is finite and insentient and the formless Knowledge cannot be contained within it.” Are you claiming that enlightenment is something other than Self-knowledge becoming firm in the mind? If so, I think I will have to give up!

    Also, pardon me if I am being obtuse, but what point are you making from Shankara’s Br. U. 1.4.10 quote?

    Best wishes,

    P.S. Thanks for the link to your ‘Ignorance’ posts. I did eventually find it by searching for the full title. The new search engine actually works! I will read them again with more active interest since the topic is so relevant at present.

  13. Dear Dennis,

    Wow! You seem to be in a full attack mode.

    I am not too sure if the exchange through these columns by writing long comments will be a suitable fast-response system to be able to resolve all the issues — maybe a face to face talk has an advantage.

    I shall, however, proceed slowly answering the questions raised by you to the best of my ability and as I understand your objections.

    First and foremost, thank you for sparing your time to take a look at my blog posts on ‘Ignorance.’

    1. Re: “what I was doing was objecting to your equating ‘knowledge’ and Brahman”:

    2.1.1, taittirIya itself says satyam jnAnamanantam brahma.
    As Shankara explains there in his commentary, all the three words, satyam, jnAnam and anantam severally and together mean brahman. The word jnAnam, as you know, is usually translated as Knowledge (not as accumulated information-base but as ‘knowing’ as Shankara himself clarifies).

    Further, Shankara writes at this mantra: “The words ‘satya’ etc., are unrelated among themselves, since they subserve something else; they are meant to be applied to the substantive. Accordingly, each of the attributive words is thus related with the word brahman, independently of others: styam brahma; jnAnam brahma; anantam brahma.”

    At the same mantra, Shankara states a little later: “Hence it is said brahman is jnAnam. jnAna means Knowledge, Consciousness. The word jnAna conveys the abstract notion of the verb (‘jna’ to know).” (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

    Also, we have many sentences like vijnAnam brahma, vijnAnamAnandam brahma (3.9.28, br), prajnAnam brahma (3.1.3, aita) etc. sprinkled all through the prasthAna trayi.

    Therefore, Knowledge = brahman.

    2. Re: “It is meaningless to say that you know that you are Knowledge. Where does Shankara say such a thing?”

    You yourself have answered it in the next line: “It is also the case that we are Brahman now, even if we do not know it.”
    If we substitute the word ‘brahman’ with its equivalent word ‘Knowledge,’ vide Point # 1 above, the sentence will read as:
    “It is also the case that we are Knowledge now, even if we do not know it.”

    3. Re: “But it is meaningless to say that we are never without Self-knowledge. If that were the case, what would be the need of shruti, Shankara and a guru?”

    We are ever brahman (= satyam, jnAnam, anantnam = Knowledge). We are nothing but That. We are NOT never but Self = brahman = satyam, jnAnam, anantam. But because of the ‘upAdhi,’ which we happen to assume as an individual, that ‘Knowing’ is obscured (vide 1.4.10, brihat).

    What then is the function of shruti or guru or AptavAkya etc.?
    Shankara answers it at 1.4.10, br. He says:

    विज्ञानस्य च मिथ्याज्ञाननिवर्तकत्वव्यतिरेकेणाकारकत्वमित्यवोचाम । न च वचनं वस्तुनः सामर्थ्यजनकम् । ज्ञापकं हि शास्त्रं न कारकमिति स्थितिः ।

    Meaning: And Knowledge, as we have said, only removes the
    false notion, it does not create anything. Nor can a scriptural statement impart any power to a thing. For it is an accepted principle that the scriptures are only “informative,” not creative. (Translation: Swami Madhavananda).

    4. Re: “Let us refer to the tenth man story. ”

    The Tenth Man story has a very unique point that is somehow usually glossed over. All the nine co-students are “outside” available for the perceptual knowledge using ‘the sense organs + mind’ combo.
    That is to say, the nine are available to the ‘ordinary” vision that we are all familiar with — the vision-1 that Shankara spoke about at 1.4.10, br.

    Unfortunately, as kaTha also says at 2.4.1, our perceptual apparatus is cursed. “Therefore, one sees externally and not the internal Self. Someone (who is) intelligent, with his eyes turned away, desirous of immortality, sees the inner Self.” (Trans: V. Panoli).)

    Hence, in order to get the “realization,” about the Truth, one has to leave the outward object oriented perceptual apparatus and turn inwards proverbially. In this Vision-2 (vide 1.4.10, br), the Truth dawns. Thus neither the 5 senses nor the mind come into play in this vision. As Shankara put it, “that unfailing eternal vision, which is identical with It (i.e. the Self) and is called the self-effulgent light.”

    5. Re: “Are you claiming that enlightenment is something other than Self-knowledge becoming firm in the mind?”

    I am with you when you say that “enlightenment is not something other than Self-knowledge.”

    When the question of “becoming firm in the mind” comes, we will be going down the slippery slope of the state of ‘mind’ in a Self-realized individual. That is a huge huge topic to bite into here, IMHO. In passing, I may be allowed just to say that it helps one to remember that the ‘mind’ is nothing but a vibration, a movement, a thought. It cannot be a ‘container’ to hold anything.

    Trust, I am able to clarify at least some of the points to some extent! 🙂


  14. Re: brahman = jnAnam = Knowledge:

    While looking for something else this morning, I also found Shankara explaining at GK 3.33, without any ambiguity whatsoever, that “The Knowers of brahman describe knowledge, i.e., the mere essence of thought, which is unborn and free of all imaginations as *non-different from brahman,* the ultimate Reality, which is also the object of knowledge.”

    Swami Nikhilananda adds in a footnote (in order to dispel any doubt, presumably): “The jnAnam or knowledge is the same as brahman; …”

    Re: “Are you claiming that enlightenment is something other than Self-knowledge becoming firm in the mind? If so, I think I will have to give up!”

    As I read it over and over again, I am not sure I understood the question correctly. Will be grateful if you can cite a Shankara quote/reference to show that enlightenment is “Self-knowledge becoming firm in the mind.” It will give me chance to read the actual words of Shankara in his bhAShya-s.


  15. Dear Ramesam,

    I did not mean my comments to come across as an ‘attack’ – sorry!

    I agreed to look at your ‘Ignorance series’ and have just copied the posts across to MS Word. Apparently I did join in discussions for the first few episodes but clearly gave up later because they became heated and involved and I was trying to write about something else at the time. I also see a reference to Sri YSR as a source of some of the material and, since I already responded not altogether favorably to the book you helped translate, I am now not so inclined to study it in depth. However, I will read through again and will get back to you with anything significant that occurs to me.

    Regarding satyaṃ, jñānamanantaṃ brahma, Shankara does NOT say that each word, separately means Brahman. The words are in samānādhikaraṇam (in apposition). The effective noun is Brahman and the other three words are effectively adjectives, in fact ‘pointers’ to Brahman. It is the complete (4 words) sentence that functions as a ‘definition’ of Brahman, NOT Brahman and any one of the other words. Shankara devotes considerable effort to explaining this. Each ‘pointer’ has to be further qualified by the other two words in order not to mislead. Brahman as the ‘limitless existent’ is not inert so requires jñānaṃ to impart Consciousness to the pointer. If you translate it as knowledge, then you are left without Consciousness! It is the Consciousness that is present in knower, known, instrument of knowledge, and knowledge itself. So jñānaṃ cannot be translated as mere ‘knowledge’.

    You say that Shankara actually states “Hence it is said brahman is jñānam. jñāna means Knowledge”. Could you please quote the actual words that Shankara uses. What I found was the following:

    “By defining Brahman as jñāna svarūpam, the pure consciousness (jñānam brahma iti) two misconceptions are eliminated. The word jñānam is used (prayujyate – along with satyam and anantam) to negate (nivṛtyartham – in Brahman) kārakas like knower, known and knowledge (kartṛtva ādi-kāraka) which have limitations and which undergo changes, and also to negate the inertness (acid-rūpatā-nivṛttyartham ca) like that of the pot etc. (mṛdādivat).”

    Brahman as the material cause of creation is not inert and the word jñānaṃ is used to counter this possible confusion. This covers your points 1 and 2.

    I don’t understand your point 3. I said that the seeker needs shabda pramāṇa in order to gain enlightenment. Are you refuting this?

    I cannot follow your point 4. I was simply using the tenth man story to illustrate how shabda pramāṇa gives enlightenment.

    Regarding point 5, let us agree not to pursue the point about ‘becoming firm in the mind’. It can happily be dropped from the sentence I used without changing what I wanted to say.

    Regarding GK 3.33, why are you still reading Nikhilananda? Did I not send you a copy of ‘A-U-M’? I am most insulted. ;-(

    Gaudapada and Shankara are explaining that the knower is non-different from what is sought to be known. There is no knower-known-instrument of knowledge in Self-knowledge. There is only Brahman. There is nothing to the effect that Brahman IS knowledge as far as I am aware. Please quote the Sanskrit that states this. As I have pointed out before (and cover in depth in ‘Confusions Vol. 1’), one has to be very careful with translations and commentaries by followers of Vivekananda!

    As regards the question that you are puzzling over, I have said many times that enlightenment is the event in the mind when it is doubtlessly realized that ‘I am Brahman’. What you were saying implied that you may still disagree with this absolutely fundamental point. If you are still laboring under the misapprehension that we need to ‘experience’ Brahman or ‘merge into’ Brahman or some such, then I do not wish to continue the discussion. The way I phrased it was intended to imply that I don’t really think that this is the case.

    Best wishes,

  16. Dear Dennis,

    As I already mentioned in a post above, the meaning that brahman is jnAna swarUpa (brahman is intrinsically of the nature of jnAna) comes out all through the three canonical texts. Another point we have to keep in mind, IMHO, is that, though jnAnam is usually translated as ‘Knowledge” or “Consciousness,” in English, irrespective of which word is used, as Vedantins we have to take them together in order to understand the connotation of the Sanskrit word jnAnam. IOW, jnAnam is Consciousness-Knowledge (hyphenated). For simplicity, we may use just one of those words.

    Another point is that the part you quoted from 2.1.1 taittirIya is about Shankara’s defence of why the three words are NOT descriptive but defining. Any way, cutting short all other explanations/argumentations, I think the equivalence of brahman as Knowledge gets expressed in a straight and simple manner in kena Upanishad vAkya bhAShya of Shankara. For example:

    Shankara at 1.4: “इदं तु विज्ञानानपेक्षम् । कस्मात् ? विज्ञानस्वरूपत्वात् ।”
    Meaning: “This brhaman does not require knowledge of it.
    Because It Itself is of the nature of Knowledge.”

    Again, a little later, “अन्तर्गतेन नित्यविज्ञानस्वरूपेण आकाशवदप्रचलितात्मना अन्तर्गर्भभूतेन स बाह्यो बुद्ध्यात्मा तद्विलक्षणः, अनग्निरिवाग्निः अर्चिर्भिरिवाग्नेः प्रत्ययैराविर्भावतिरोभावधर्मकैर्विज्ञानाभासरूपैरनित्यैः अनित्यविज्ञान आत्मा सुखी दुःखी इत्यभ्युपगतो लौकिकैः, अतोऽन्यो नित्यविज्ञानस्वरूपादात्मनः । ”

    Meaning: “The unmoving Atma is innermost, and of the nature
    of eternal knowledge; it pervades all like space, and is like the inner womb of all; external to that Atma is the intellect, the locus of [particular] knowledge – that intellect is different than Atma. Atma and this intellect are like the fire and its moving sparks in the following way: by the thoughts that have the nature of rising and falling, which reflect the Consciousness, which are of the nature of impermanent knowledge, people in the world [falsely] imagine these to be the qualities of Atma, the Self, e.g. that the Self is happy or sad.
    Therefore, that (intellect reflecting consciousness) is
    different than the Self of the nature of eternal knowledge – there alone (in that intellect) is the necessity for particular knowledge and the possibility for erroneous knowledge; not in Atma which is
    eternal knowledge.”

    Both translations by Swami Bhodatmananda of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, 2015.


    P.S.: I am not extending the discussion on all other points.

  17. Rick (and Dennis),

    Shankara writes at 13.2 BGB:

    अविद्यायाः तामसत्वात् । तामसो हि प्रत्ययः, आवरणात्मकत्वात् अविद्या विपरीतग्राहकः, संशयोपस्थापको वा, अग्रहणात्मको वा ; विवेकप्रकाशभावे तदभावात् , तामसे च आवरणात्मके तिमिरादिदोषे सति अग्रहणादेः अविद्यात्रयस्य उपलब्धेः ॥

    Meaning: “avidyA is born of Tamas. As partaking of the nature of a *veil,* avidyA – whether causing perception of what is quite the contrary of truth, or causing doubt or causing nescience or non-perception of a truth – is a tamasic notion, i.e., a notion born of Tamas; for, on the dawn of the light of discrimination, it disappears; and (for instance) we find the same three modes of avidyA – such as
    nonperception, etc., arising also from timira (an eye-disease), which is tamasic, as partaking of the nature of a *veil*.” (Translation: A.M. Sastri).

    Please notice that the *veiling* property of avidyA (put in asterisks by me) is expressed by Shankara himself. Shankara also stresses the fact that it inheres only in the ‘organ’ (the instrument of perception) like the disease timira. The moment the defect in the ‘seeing apparatus’ is cured, avidyA does not exist anymore.


  18. Dear Ramesam,

    Unfortunately I do not have a transliterated version of Shankara’s bhAShya on Kena Up. I have tried to locate one online without success. I cannot afford the time to try to work it out from the Devanagari so I will have to pass. As things stand, however, I accept Shankara’s full description of the way that ‘satyaM j~nAnamanantaM brahma’ functions in the Taitt. Up. The translation you provide of the Kena comments must be deficient, incomplete or incorrect.

    I didn’t understand what you were saying about ‘Another point’ regarding Taitt. 2.1. You just seem to be repeating what I said in my response, implying that you actually agree. Except that Shankara argues that you have to take all of the words together to make them defining of Brahman. You cannot take just one, such as ‘knowledge’ and claim that ‘Brahman = knowledge’.

    Best wishes,

  19. Dear Dennis,

    Sorry, I seem to be unnecessarily belaboring on the issue.
    jnAna, vijnAna, prajnAna – all the three words – point to the same One ‘thing.’ “prajnAnam brahma” is well known, usually translated as “Consciousness is brahman” or Absolute Knowledge is brahman.

    The “Another point” in my Comment speaking about the hyphenation of the two words Knowledge-Consciousness was my reaction to your observation in your comment up above, saying: “Brahman as the ‘limitless existent’ is not inert so requires jñānaṃ to impart Consciousness to the pointer. If you translate it as knowledge, then you are left without Consciousness! It is the Consciousness that is present in knower, known, instrument of knowledge, and knowledge itself. So jñānaṃ cannot be translated as mere ‘knowledge’.”
    The point I was making is that, whichever word is used – Consciousness or Knowledge – we have to take both as hyphenated one word to get the feel of the Sanskrit word jnAnam.


  20. Dear Ramesam,

    Can you point me to somewhere that Shankara states that j~nAnam can be understood as ‘Consciousness’. Monier-Williams does not give this as a possible meaning.

    (And even if it was, the long Taitt. explanation by Shankara still says that you need all three words – satyam, anantam AND j~nAnam) to act as lakShaNa for Brahman.) So I still maintain that you cannot say ‘Brahman is knowledge.)

    Best wishes,

  21. Dear Dennis,

    You ask: “Can you point me to somewhere that Shankara states that j~nAnam can be understood as ‘Consciousness’.”

    At 2.1.1, taittirIya itself we have Shankara saying:

    ज्ञानं ज्ञप्तिः अवबोधः,

    Swami Gambhirananda translates it as: “jnAna means knowledge, consciousness.” (I would have preferred to capitalize both words – Knowledge, Consciousness).

    With regard to your comment above in parenthesis, I can draw your attention to what Shankara himself said at the same mantra:

    “The words ‘satya’ etc. are *unrelated* among themselves, since they subserve something else…. Accordingly, each of the attributive words is thus related to the word brahman, independently of others.”


  22. Dear Ramesam,

    You did not complete that sentence. It ends with Shankara saying that the word j~nAnam is a lakShanam of Brahma (brahma visheShaNatvAt), which goes along with satyam and anantam (satyAnantAbhyAM saha) which define Brahman as the non-changing limitless eternal one.

    Could you please provide the Sanskrit for where Shankara says that “The words ‘satya’ etc. are ‘unrelated’…”

    Best wishes,

  23. No Dennis.
    What I wrote is a complete sentence, as far as my understanding goes. As you must have noted, Shankara is talking about 3 concepts here.

    1. The meaning of jnAnam;
    2. The abstract notion implied by the word jnAnam here; and,
    3. The absence of Agentship.

    What you referred to by “brahma visheShaNatvAt etc.,” is in relation to the third concept. The reason for the denial of agentship is given in the next sentence – after the one quoted by you.

    The Sanskrit words corresponding to, “The words ‘satya’ etc. are ‘unrelated’…”

    सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं सम्बध्यन्ते, परार्थत्वात् ; विशेष्यार्था हि ते । अत एव एकैको विशेषणशब्दः परस्परं निरपेक्षो ब्रह्मशब्देन सम्बध्यते


  24. We will have to agree to disagree (again)! 😉

    I have spent over an hour trying to locate the Sanskrit in your final quote but without success so will have to abandon unless you can point me more accurately as to where I can find it.

    Best wishes,

  25. Dear Dennis,

    You have not given a clue which is the Sanskrit source you were looking into? Was it the Shringeri database or some other text on taittirIya?

    The quoted words come from a part which is a few sentences ahead of “brahma visheShaNatvAt etc.,” which you had located.

    If you desire, I can send a facsimile of the screenshot highlighting that sentence from the advaitasharada.sringeri


  26. Dear Ramesam,

    My source is ‘taittirīyopaniśad with śaṅkarabhāṣyam Vol. 1, Divyajñāna Sarojini VaradarajAn, Selva Nilayam, Coimbatore, 2014. No ISBN.’

    I can’t even find the original words now, I’m afraid, let alone your ‘few sentences ahead’. However I did find this fairly close to the beginning of that section:

    “Since (tasmāt) the word jñānam is used (jñānaśabdasya prayogād) along with the other two revealing adjectival words ‘satyam’ and ‘anantam’ (satya-ananta-śabdābhyāṃ saha viśeṣaṇatvena) therefore the word jñānam (jñānaśabdaḥ) should be (released from the limited meaning of knower, known or knowledge and be) given its root meaning, which is pure consciousness principle, bhāva svarūpam (bhāvasādhanaḥ – present in all the three, knower, known and knowledge).”

    This seems pretty unambiguous to me.

    Best wishes,

  27. Dear Dennis,

    Sorry to note that you are struggling with tertiary sources when the primary “searchable” database is readily available and would have helped you locate the words in a jiffy.

    Please see:

    Please copy paste the words: सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं
    at the Search page of advaitasharada.sringeri
    Select prasthana traya
    Select taittirIya (at the top of right hand side column)
    Click Search (anveshaNaM)
    It will directly show the words highlighted in yellow.

    You can then click ‘agre paThantu’
    It will show the entire text with the words सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं highlighted in yellow.

    The words “सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं ” come 4-5 sentences ahead of what you are quoting — bhAva sAdhana etc.

    As I explained, 3 different concepts are talked by Shankara in the sentence where he talked about bhAvasAdhanaH – please see my comment of Mar 02, 2022, @ 22.02

    Concept # 1: ज्ञानं ज्ञप्तिः अवबोधः
    Concept # 2: भावसाधनो ज्ञानशब्दः
    Concept # 3: न तु ज्ञानकर्तृ

    The reason for not being the ‘agent’ (ज्ञानकर्तृ) is given next in: ब्रह्मविशेषणत्वात्सत्यानन्ताभ्यां सह ।

    Much before getting into these things, Shankara explained the सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं – The words ‘satya’ etc. are unrelated ….

    I cannot see any reason to get confused or to give up. Sorry again.
    If I were you, I will stick to Swami Gambhirananda whose translation has high fidelity to the original.


  28. The reason to give up, Ramesam, is that I do not know Devanagari as you do. It takes me an age just to work out the transliteration, I cannot look at a page of Devanagari and just pick out a particular word.

    I had a go at following your instructions to use the Sringeri site but it is all in Devanagari! Clicking ‘search’ requires you to know what this looks like in script. Your instructions, whilst detailed, were not sufficiently detailed! And, even if I found the words in Devangari, this would be of no help to me as I cannot translate them! The reason I am trying to find them in the book I mentioned is so that I can read the context in English and see how the translator translated them.

    Gambhirananda is no good because he does not give the Sanskrit and show word translations of what Shankara actually said.

    I am sure you must realize and understand all this. My knowledge and understanding of Advaita may be quite good but my knowledge and understanding of Sanskrit isn’t!

  29. Dear Ramesam,

    Problem solved. It was your use of the word ‘ahead’ in “The quoted words come from a part which is a few sentences ahead of “brahma visheShaNatvAt etc.,” which you had located.” To me, that word means that what you are referring to is LATER than the passage that I quoted. ‘ahead’ = ‘further on from’. What you meant, I discover, is BEFORE, earlier than!

    So I have now found the part to which you are referring. And I agree that each word is an independent lakShanNa: j~nAnam = brahman; satyam = brahman; anantam = brahman. They work together to ‘define’ brahman. But you have to understand j~nAnam as ‘Consciousness’, not as ‘Knowledge’, as I explained above. And Shankara explains all this in more detail later.

    Best wishes,

  30. Dear Dennis,

    Ha Ha Ha!
    Glad you found it finally and it all ended as a storm in a tea cup!
    Happy to note that you also agreed that “that each word is an independent lakShanNa.”

    As a matter of fact, I did use “BEFORE” too in a sentence above, to say: “Much before getting into these things, Shankara explained the सत्यादिशब्दा न परस्परं – The words ‘satya’ etc. are unrelated ….”

    And, in a comment of mine on Feb 28th (Yes, Sir, 5 days back!) I did say: “As Shankara explains there in his commentary, all the three words, satyam, jnAnam and anantam severally and together mean brahman. ”

    Please note “severally and together” which summarizes everything.

    Also, re: Knowledge and consciousness, we find both words used to translate jnAnam by the stalwart-Swamis of Advaita Ashrama. You may recall, I expressed (Mar 01) that “in English, irrespective of which word is used, as Vedantins, we have to take them together in order to understand the connotation of the Sanskrit word jnAnam. IOW, jnAnam is Consciousness-Knowledge (hyphenated). For simplicity, we may use just one of those words.”

    My only ambition left, (putting it in a lighter vein – please don’t take it seriously), perhaps, is to see that some day you agree that there is really no “Shankara quote/reference to show that enlightenment is ‘Self-knowledge becoming firm in the mind’.”
    Ha Ha Ha


  31. In Mayeda’s translation of Upadesasahasri 1.16.66-69, Shankara refers to firmness of understanding, being firm in the path of knowledge, and says, “If one has attained the absolutely pure and non-dual Knowledge, which is self witnessed and contrary to false assumptions, and rightly holds a firm belief, he will go to eternal peace, unaccompanied [by anything].” In his commentary on this passage Anandagiri firmly opines that for Shankara one who desires liberation from transmigratory existence must have the knowledge of Brahman “firmly entrenched in his mind”.

  32. Thanks Rick for the US reference.
    Of course not specified by me, but what I had in mind was any Shankara reference from the prasthana traya bhAShya.
    Even if you like to go by US, the particular quote of 1.16.66-69 appears to be an advice for a “seeker,” and Shankara does not seem to refer to a Self-realized (= Enlightened) individual in these verses.
    Sorry, I am unable to locate where I lost the US I downloaded long back (Sanskrit text). So, I am unable to offer more specific response.
    Anyway, as you may know, Gaudapada clearly says at GK 3.30-32 that as long as a mind is present, a dualistic world gets engendered.
    How do you like to relate the two statements of US and GK?
    All the best,

  33. In US – per Alston’s translation, Sankara writes confirming Knowledge = Brahman.

    9.7-8: Knowledge is constant and without an object. Hence no second thing exists beyond it. The knowledge of the true knower is said to be constant and eternal, for it persists when objects of knowledge disappear in dreamless sleep. The subject-object knowledge of the waking state is held to arise from nescience. Know, therefore that its objects are unreal.

    Then coming to the quote at hand, Alston’s translation logically follows from 9.7-8:

    16.69: IF A MAN ATTAINS DEFINITIVELY TO THAT RIGHT KNOWLEDGE WHICH IS ITS OWN WITNESS, extremely pure, non-dual, opposed in nature to all false judgements, he transcends duality and goes to eternal beatitude.

    He continues on how this can be attained:
    16.70: This supreme mystery, the highest goal of man should be studied by those who have shed their psychological defects and are without pride. They should then constantly keep the truth in mind, while living in rectitude. Indeed, no one who accords reality to anything but his own true Self is a knower of truth.

    And culminates in the dissolution of the mind.

    18.25: Therefore the enlightened one resorts to the Upanisads and reason and beholds the homogeneous eternally luminous principle, free from any imaginary second thing, whether conceived as real or unreal, and goes into extinction, like an extinguished lamp.

  34. Dear Ramesam,

    “Having attained the extremely pure, non-dual Knowledge” seems to refer not to a “seeker” but to one who has the knowledge leading directly to liberation, provided that knowledge is “firmly entrenched in his mind.”

    All the best

  35. No, Rick.
    Thanks, anyway for the clarification given by you.
    2. I got confused by the number 1 you placed before 16 when you referred to 1.16.66-69.
    3. At Ch 16 – pArthiva prakaraNa, Shankara has not yet come to Self-realization part. He is still discussing the body, its composition etc.
    4. As Venkat has shown the translation of 16.69, it starts with a conditional clause, an ‘if-statement.’ It is NOT about a realized individual, IMHO. And mind you, it is not conceivable for me that a Realized individual having had im-mediate and intuitive understanding should have to wallow in “beliefs” as the translation quoted by you says: “rightly holds a firm belief.”
    5. AG’s comment of ‘firmly entrenched in his mind’ refers to ‘belief’ and hence again, it cannot be about a realized individual. As Venkat pointed out at the end of 16.70, ‘mind’ would have dissolved.
    The Sanskrit text I had contained within it AG’s comments also, but unfortunately, I am not able to find it immediately. I have to search in my older computer, if I can open it! 🙂
    6. The 16.70 translation cited by Venkat confirms my point.


  36. Ramesam,

    Please do not assert that I now agree with you! As I said at the outset, in the expression satyaM j~nAnamanantaM brahma, you cannot take any of the three words on its own; they have to be considered together. Here is how Alston explains it:

    “They each negate that part of the meaning of the other that is contradictory to themselves. They show, taken together, that the Absolute stands beyond the meaning of each term as it is ordinarily understood in everyday life. Each of them, however, when taken as modified by contiguity with the others, still refers to the Absolute and indicates its nature negatively by marking it off from what it is not. It is that which is not unreal, not non-conscious and not finite, and that is the most that we can say about it.”

    Best wishes,

    P.S. Welcome back Venkat! (But I refuse to begin another discussion on manonASha! Everyone knows by now, I hope, that neither I nor Shankara took this literally.)

    • Dennis, perhaps you missed US 9.7-8:

      Knowledge is constant and without an object. Hence no second thing exists beyond it. The knowledge of the true knower is said to be constant and eternal, for it persists when objects of knowledge disappear in dreamless sleep

  37. Ramesam,

    Regarding ‘Self knowledge becoming firm in the mind’, how about this for starters:

    “Whoever has knowledge of his true Self that contradicts his (previous) conviction that he was identical with the body AND IS AS FIRM AS THAT PREVIOUS CONVICTION will be liberated even against his own will.”
    Upadesha SAhasrI 4.5, A. J. Alston translation.

    Best wishes,

  38. US 4.5 refers to a seeker – as BG says who turns away from the world and dwells on the innermost Self, like a constant stream of oil. That conviction leads to disembodiedness and dissolution of the ego. Hence “. . . will be liberated . . . ”

    Alston / Sankara makes this clear in US 12.6 that the Self is not knowable through mental cognition.

    12.6: When a yogi receives a mental presentation in which there is the reflection of the Self, like the reflection of a face in the mirror, he thinks ‘The Self has been seen’

    12.7 BUT if he sees that neither this nor any other deluded presentation pertains to the Seer, then he and no other is the dearest of Yogis. There is no doubt about this.

    As Kena Up notes those who think they know do not know; only those that don’t know, know.

    Knowledge and ignorance of the mind are objects, as is the mind. As Sankara notes, when the ego is extinguished, then only Knowledge remains. That is that is meant by ‘becoming Brahman’.

  39. Ramesam,

    For seconds, how about:

    “…by mere knowledge all the obstacles are gone. This is so because the only obstacle between the jīva and mokṣa is in the form of ignorance. There is no other obstacle because mokṣa is one’s eternal nature, and also one’s intrinsic nature.”
    Muņḍaka upaniṣad bhāṣya 3.2.9

  40. Venkat,

    No one said anything about knowing Brahman. We all know that this is not possible. Enlightenment is realizing that ‘I am Brahman’. Advaita is all about Atma-brahman aikyam.

  41. So your concept of realisation is that the ego-I has the thought that ‘I am Brahman’, without knowing what Brahman is. Mmmm. Let alone the implicit dualism.

    Whist Sankara says the mind can help in the path to Jnana, but when understanding properly arises, mind itself is extinguished as it has no more purpose or action.

  42. Hi Rick,

    Hope you are still there around reding the comments!

    I spent almost a sleepless night trying to find the US with AG’s TIkA (annotation). I am glad, I could retrieve it with the help of a friend.

    You wrote in your comment: “In his commentary on this passage Anandagiri firmly opines that for Shankara one who desires liberation from transmigratory existence must have the knowledge of Brahman “firmly entrenched in his mind”.”

    That is a superb example of a glorious MISUNDERSTNDING!
    HA HA HA 🙂

    Please note at 16.64-67, Shankara refuted the other philosophies as inappropriate and urged at 16.58 that a Non-dual seeker “aspiring for liberation may be steady in the path of Knowledge and be free from doubts arising from other’s doctrines.”

    On that point, AG commented:
    praNunnA – nirAkritAH |
    para vAdebhyo vyapeta shankAH tat pramANikatva shankA varjitAH ata eva sthirA nishcalAH jnAnapathe mumukSuvaH syuriti yato2taH prayojanAt praNunnA iti sambandhaH ||

    So what is being stressed by AG is to reject (nirAkritAH) all doubt caused by other philosophies (para vAdebhyo) and be unwavering (nishcalAH) and stable (sthirA ) in the Vedanta only (ata eva).

    It is obvious that itis addressed to a seeker only.

    All the best,

  43. Dennis,

    Glad you have taken my comment with a sportive spirit.

    In the citation given by you from 4.5, US, you are referring to FUTURE – “will be liberated.” Hence it is addressed to a seeker who is still in duality and the mind that projects the duality (vide GK 3.31-32).
    It’s the same mistake as that of Rick!

    And in your comment citing 3.2.9, muNDaka, I am unable to see any reference to “Self knowledge becoming firm in the mind.”


  44. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    Vedanta teachers often give the example of the “fire” of Knowledge igniting a faggot of wood and burning it and after the wood is completely burnt away, the fire does not survive. It extinguishes itself.
    Likewise the teaching of the scripture and the word of a brahmaniShTha guru (as fire) ignites the mind (the faggot) and burns it away and extinguishes itself after that – the residuum being brahman.

    Another example, even Shankara gives is that of the paste from Water-purifying-fruit. The paste as well as the mud settle down together leaving the waters clean and pure.

    If the dualistic mind keeps surviving, it tantamount to keeping the mud or continuing with the faggots – depending on which analogy one follows, IMHO.


  45. Dear Ramesam,

    Of course Shankra is addressing a seeker! There would be little point addressing someone who was already enlightened would there?? This is the nature of ‘teaching’.

    The seeker WILL be liberated as soon as Self-knowledge is firm in their mind. Ergo and ipso facto, one who was a seeker and NOW has Self-knowledge firm in their mind IS liberated.

    Please explain the ambiguity.

    Oh, I forgot. You think that the seeker will no longer HAVE a mind once liberated. Silly me!

    Best wishes,

  46. Dear Dennis,

    Ha Ha Ha
    You may taunt me to your heart’s content, but to say “Liberation is Self-knowledge being firm in the mind” is as much a red-herring as saying “Ignorance is not the reason for the appearance of the world!”

    One may use the same four letters – M I N D – to what structure serves as an internal organ at the stage when one is still a seeker and also after one attains “Realization” at which stage the body is left like a slough that a snake sheds (vide 1.4.7, brihat). But structurally and texturally, the m-i-n-d does NOT remain the same in the two stages – before and after – as the scriptures tell us.

    If I quote from Yogavasishta, you will not appreciate, perhaps, because Sage Vasishta’s name doesn’t unfortunately start with a D or P. 🙂
    How about referring to Swami Krishnananada?

    He says in his explication of the chAndogya: “With the present state of (our) mind it is not possible to understand what the perception of a Jivanmukta could be. We can only have comparisons, illustrations and analogies. But what actually it is, it is not possible for us to understand.”

    Or you take even the concept of AtmAkAra or akhaNDAkAra vRitti.
    The m-i-n-d ‘BEFORE’ is finite, limited, bound and local. But ‘AFTER,’ it loses its finiteness breaking its bound, taking on the “nature” (AkAra) of Infinite brahman, thereby becoming identical with brahman. This is also described by some teachers as manonAsha or dissolution or upashama or breaking of the hRidaya granthi (2.2.9, muNDaka).

    Of course, if all this has no value and if one believes in just adding a little bit of additional ‘information’ that ‘I am brahman’ to the existing information-load of the finite mind, like telling it to remember that Lady Camilla will be “Queen consort” and if one believes that that itself is the Supreme MokSha – made easy, well, I can say ‘Good for them!’


  47. P.S.:
    It may not be out of place to share here an excerpt from a Comment of mine when one of Dennis’s friends asked me for my views on a paper. I wrote there:

    “With all its ingenuity and excellence in consciousness and intelligence, the human brain may be able to know what elements exist in distant stars, colonize other planets, create marvelous carvings in hard stones along with designing the tools for doing so, conceive enthralling romantic dramas like Kalidasa or Shakespeare, or thrilling crime stories like an Agatha Christie, convert the vast globe into a village through Cybernet, develop unparalleled expertise in brain surgery or rocket science; but all these subtle and excellent works are still the functions of a “particular” consciousness only as per Advaita. “khilyaH” as Sage Yajnavalkya tells his wife Maitreyi (2.4.12, brihat).”

    In contrast, “Consciousness which is Universal (not particular), i.e. akhilam, indivisible, eternal, unborn and immortal, all-pervasive, formless and featureless is brahman.”

    Instead of identifying oneself from being Mr. or Ms. So and So, spouse of XYZ, who stores in his/her puny mind the info ‘I am brahman,’ completely identifying oneself with that all-pervasive Infinite Indivisible Consciousness is “MOKSHA.”

  48. Dear Ramesam,

    I’m not repeating all of the arguments that I have made before. You will have to wait for Vol. 1 of ‘Confusions’, where those arguments are backed up by quotations from Shankara and Sureshvara (not by sages whose names begin with D or P OR V! – Vidyaranya, Vivekananda and Vashishtha are much more unreliable. Not including Venkat in this, of course!)

    I realize that you will claim that it is not you who is confused, but I can assure you that your views are not in accord with those of Shankara.

    Best wishes,

  49. God speaks directly to GW Bush. And Shankara talks directly to Dennis. 🙂

  50. Dear Ramesam,

    This is not a comment directly on this post or subsequent discussion but there is no other suitable place to put it. You mentioned above your series on ‘The Ignorance that Isn’t’ and I have now re-read it.

    You say near the end of the last part ( “Shankara says that if we stop identifying with the not-Self, ignorance will not affect us. Ignorance is not inherent to us; it is imagined. It cannot exist in the subject that is perceiving an object.”

    The first sentence is self-evident – when we realize that we are the Self, that is Self-knowledge and necessarily the end of Self-ignorance. But could you explain the last sentence. If ignorance is not in the perceiving subject, what is happening when we see a snake where there is actually a rope?

    Best wishes,

  51. Hi Dennis,

    I’m sure he’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Ramesam may be alluding to Advaita’s theory of perception. As we know, for Advaitins an object becomes manifest through the manifestation of consciousness underlying it. One can think of the analogy of an object becoming visible. An object becoming visible implies the condition of the visibility of the light associated with the object: the object emerging so to speak from the shroud of its darkness. Manifestation of an object likewise means the manifestation of consciousness underlying it. An object can’t be perceived until the veil of ajnana hiding it from the perceiver is withdrawn and the underlying consciousness becomes manifest. The veil of ignorance hiding the object before its perception is a derivative phase of the primal and cosmic nescience (mulavidya) of which the entire cosmos is a transformation. Nescience conceals Brahman, its locus. But the individual, derivative, subsidiary modes of nescience conceal or shroud each of its products. It’s necessary to withdraw individual modes of nescience in order to uncover what’s perceived by an individual so that the underlying consciousness may become manifest. Without contact with the perceiving self, the object lies shrouded by ignorance. Nescience as unknowing and unknown envelops all things, living and nonliving. The perceptuality of the percipient and the perceptibility of the perceived object means the temporary removal or the withdrawal of the two aspects of nescience. What is unperceived remains veiled by nescience.

  52. Hi Rick,

    Sorry but I couldn’t follow that. It is not the ‘Advaita theory of perception’ with which I am familiar (Consciousness going out to the object and forming a vRRitti etc. as per Dharmaraja Adhvarindra). Do you have any references for this?

    In any case, I don’t think Ramesam can mean this. There are no ‘separate objects’ in Srinivasa Rao’s philosophy – he is an eka-jIva-vAdin.

    But let’s see what Ramesam says about it.

    Best wishes,

  53. Dear Dennis and Dear Rick,

    Thank you both for your kind observations and comments.

    I thank Dennis for the time he could spare to read the Series on Ignorance. I do not know if Rick has had the chance to take a look.
    I am also happy that Dennis did not have any major differences with what is presented in the articles.

    I thank Rick for his nice summary presentation of the ‘mechanics’ of object cognition in Advaita as described by Dharmaraja. I do not know why Dennis thinks it differs from Vedanta paribhASha.

    Regarding the sentence that Dennis asked for clarity: “It cannot exist in the subject that is perceiving an object.”

    It is a sentence from the last section, “Conclusion.” Obviously, each sentence in this section tries to telescope different concepts into a short compact line. Admittedly, there can be improvements as well as better formulations. Anyway, the idea in the sentence can be explained with the example of the “double moon vision” that Shankara cites in his bhAShya on 13.2, BG.

    If a man sees two moons, instead of one in the sky, the defect is not in the “seer” (the subject) but in the instrument (the eye) he is using. Similarly, if a jIva sees the multiplicity, the defect is not in the Consciousness part of the jIva, but in the upAdhi part, for the Consciousness part of jIva is non-different from brahman (jIvo brahmaiva na aparah).

    Before closing, I do not know why Dennis got the idea that Shri YSR was an eka jIva vAdin. I am not sure there is any reference to ‘eka jIva vAda’ in the articles on Ignorance. Within time-space-causation domain, multiple objects do exist and as long we are within that realm, none can deny the multiplicity. Finally, though not related to the topic under discussion here, I wish someone can explain why eka jIva vAda is called a vAda (doctrine; thesis); it looks to me to be more of a prakriyA (technique for practice).


  54. Dear Ramesam,

    I am unclear how you conclude that “Dennis did not have any major differences with what is presented in the articles”. This is not the case. Various points leapt out, such as ignorance being ‘dispelled through discrimination’, the individual ‘being knowledge itself’, use of the words ‘knowingness’ and ‘beingness’, anātma ‘melting into ātmā’, ‘bhakti, yoga, karma ‘dissolving into Consciousness’, the separate self ‘expanding into being the supreme Self’. But I did not want to raise these – I am sure we must have discussed them before and you know from the book review that I do not agree with everything that YSR says.

    Apologies to Rick if he was just expressing Vedānta Paribhāsā view. It may well be that I have never really understood this (although I was impressed by Chittaranjan Naik’s book bringing this up to the present). I suppose that I have never really seen its relevance.

    Yes, I suppose I am falling into the ‘confusion of metaphors’ trap, with my question regarding ‘two moons’, Ramesam. This is a metaphor for the ‘obstruction’ of ignorance that impedes our realization that we are Brahman. That ‘fault’ is in our mind, not our eyes. The scientific explanation for seeing two moons is a cataract in the eye, which is an instrument for seeing. Just as an operation can remove the cataract, so the providing of Self-knowledge by shruti and guru can remove the ignorance. But when it comes to seeing a snake instead of a rope, the eyes are not defective. The ‘defect’ is only in the mind making what it can of partial information. But the remedy is the same – shruti and guru giving us new information and ‘shining a light onto the matter’. So no disagreement there!

    Finally, why do I say that YSR is an eka-jIva-vādin? Well, he clearly says in his book that the world disappears on enlightenment. E.g. “When ignorance disappears, all appearances (world and individual) will dissolve, without a trace, into Consciousness because they were only imagined to begin with!” This means that all the other jīva-s also disappear. It seems pretty unequivocal to me.

    Also, it seems obvious to me that it eka-jīva-vāda is a ‘belief’ rather than a ‘practice’. It is, after all, effectively the same as dṛiṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda which is a ‘theory’ about creation. You cannot really practice theories.

    Best wishes,

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