Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha on samnyasa

Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha was the 35th Sankaracharya of Sringeri, regarded as a jivanmukta, living in the 20th Century.  The following are extracts from “Exalting Elucidations”

D: Should actions be renounced?

A: Unnecessary actions should not be done. In spiritual life, one should not try to discard all actions right at the beginning, but should dedicate them to Īśvara. It may be noted that actions themselves will leave one as one’s mind gets purer and purer. Just as cleaning-nut powder settles down at the bottom along with the impurities in water, all actions dissociate themselves from an advanced person on their own. That is the period best suited for one to take up saṁnyāsa.

D: Should saṁnyāsa be taken up before or after the attainment of jñāna?

A: The saṁnyāsa taken up after the attainment of jñāna is called vidvatsaṁnyāsa while that taken before knowledge is termed vividiṣāsaṁnyāsa. The former is superior to the latter.

D: What state of mind qualifies one for saṁnyāsa?

A: After properly analysing the world, one concludes that one will not get any lasting happiness from it, and leads a spiritual life. Subsequently, when one becomes unconcerned about actions and their renunciation, then indeed one is truly fit for saṁnyāsa. One should have attained equipoise prior to taking up saṁnyāsa.

D: Can one take up saṁnyāsa even at a young age?

A: Yes, provided one has intense vairāgya.

yadahareva virajet tadahareva pravrajet43

(JU, 4) (Let him take to saṁnyāsa on the very day that he attains intense vairāgya.)

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D: If a saṁnyāsin does not get food for some days, should he make efforts to get food or should he keep quiet thinking, “I will not try to get it even if my spiritual life is affected.”

A: The saṁnyāsin who has realised the Truth need not worry about food or death.

******

D: Will a man who has attained jñāna care for saṁnyāsa? Why should one lead a saṁnyāsin’s life after jñāna dawns?

A: It is not that he puts in great effort and takes up saṁnyāsa. Actions wither away from him of their own accord. Thus, he becomes a vidvatsaṁnyāsin to remain as an undisturbed jīvanmukta.

******

D: Why are jñānin-s compassionate?

A: Prior to the dawn of knowledge, a jñānin’s mind should have been very pure, for jñāna dawns only after the mind is thoroughly purified. Hence, compassion should have been cultivated earlier. That manifests itself more prominently after realisation of the Truth. Jñānin-s have nothing to attain through any action. They are ever content, having attained what is to be attained. Therefore, it may be said that they live only for the welfare of others.

28 thoughts on “Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha on samnyasa

  1. Dear Venkat,

    Sri Abhinava says :

    “A: It is not that he puts in great effort and takes up saṁnyāsa. Actions wither away from him of their own accord. Thus, he becomes a vidvat–saṁnyāsin to remain as an undisturbed jīvanmukta.”

    Actions wither away from whom? The Jnani as Self? The Jnani is one who knows that he was actionless in all three periods of time ( past, present and future). (Reference to my article on The Rise of Jnana : Destruction of good works and bad works) That is the only understanding of liberation. Therefore also, the Jnani/Self never put any effort – great or small. If a Jnani is seen taking sannyasa it is his prarabdha.

    Undisturbed Jivanmukta? Does a Jivanmukta have to ‘abstain’ from anything or anyone to remain undisturbed? In this case he is a doer/experiencer. A Jivanmukta’s is never disturbed by any time place of circumstance because he knows he is not the experiencer. The experiencer is Vishwa.

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

  2. Hi Venkat,

    I was about to ask effectively the same question. I haven’t actually begun the topic of saMnyAsa in the book yet but an still preparing! Regarding vidvat saMnyAsa:

    Having gained Self-knowledge, one realizes that ‘I do not act’. Therefore, how can one ‘give up’ actions? A) one cannot give-up something if one is not already doing it; B) (if one could) wouldn’t the ‘giving up’ itself be an action?

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  3. Hi Dennis

    Two observations:

    (1) The realisation that ‘I do not act’ is a thought, of the same order as the thought that promoted the action. So the mind is telling itself “I do not act’ when it acts.

    (2) I suggest that what Sankara, Suresvara and Sri Abhinava are saying is that in the absence of desire / volition / disinterestedness (which arises out of Knowledge) there is minimal action. Hence why he says:

    “It is not that he puts in great effort and takes up saṁnyāsa. Actions wither away from him of their own accord.”

    best,
    venkat

  4. Dear Venkat,

    As you say,

    “The realisation that ‘I do not act’ is a thought, of the same order as the thought that promoted the action. So the mind is telling itself “I do not act’ when it acts.”

    This is an entirely wrong observation for the following reasons,

    1.) You are conflating thought with realization. One cannot have two words to mean the same things. A thought is a thought and a realization is a realization.

    2.) What is the difference between a thought and a realization? A thought does not result in a shift in identity. The thought, “I do not act”, it is just like all other thoughts appearing to a thinker.

    3.) Now, what is Self Realization. It is a thought which causes an instantaneous shift in one’s identity. What is the shift that occurs? One cognizes and becomes Self/Witness to the thinker and the thought. This is knolwedge by identity. The thinker/doer/experiencer is seen as not-Self and so are all thought, feelings and sensations.

    4.) You say, “So the mind is telling itself “I do not act’ when it acts.”
    This is not Self Realization. In Self Realization, the mind, which was initially your identity and therefore the subject, becomes an object to the Witness. The mind does not exist across all three states but Self/Witness does. Self realization isolates the Self from mind through discrimination produced by Knolwdge.

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

    • 1. You wrote:
      “A thought does not result in a shift in identity”
      & the very next sentence:
      “what is Self Realization? It is a thought which causes an instantaneous shift in one’s identity”

      No logical contradiction there then.

      2. “[Self Realization] is a thought which causes an instantaneous shift in one’s identity. What is the shift that occurs? One cognizes and becomes Self/Witness to the thinker and the thought”

      As you constantly repeat, one is always the Self. So who is the “One” that “becomes” the Self / Witness?
      And who is left as the thinker/doer?

      If on Self Realisation one becomes the Witness, what is it that is left over that continues as an actor, which according to you, continues being driven by all the gunas? Sounds like a split personality disorder.

      • Dear Venkat,

        Good to see that you have finally come to the position of asking your doubts on my statements. I shall be most happy to clear them.

        1.) Please read my statements carefully. I said that Akhandakara vritti is a thought unlike other thoughts which don’t cause any shift in identity. Only the Akhandakara vritti causes the shift in identity.

        2.) One is always the Self but ignorance of the mind covers it up. The akhandakara vritti/knowledge breaks this ignorance. The ignorance is the conjunction between Self and mind/body/intellect or you can say ignorance is that which superimposes mind/body/intellect on Self. When the akhandakara vritti takes place, this ignorance ends and mind and Self are discriminated.

        The actor is the mind/body/intellect. The Self/Witness has always existed, except that the ignorance was superimposing the characteristics of Self to mind/body/intellect and the characteristics of mind/body/intellect to the Self. So a samsari though being Self, in ignorance, superimposes the characteristics of mind/body/intellect such as birth, change and death on Self. Conversely, the samsari thinks the mind/body/intellect to be sentient, whereas, they are just appearing to be sentient because of borrowing characteristics from the Self. Since the samsari does not know Self as separate from the adjuncts, he attributes mind/body/intellect to be sentient.

        I again suggest that you please read my last article: ‘The Rise of Jnana : The Destruction of Good Works and Bad Works”. They are all quotes by Shankaracharya from Brahmasutra Bhashya.

        Warm wishes,
        Anurag

  5. Dennis,

    A few other reflections on your question about giving up actions:

    1) BG18.50 bhasya: “Hence, effort is not needed for knowledge, but only for the REMOVAL OF THE NOTION OF WHAT IS NOT-SELF.”

    2) BG18.53: (That person) having DISCARDED EGOTISM, force, pride, desire, anger and superfluous possessions, free from the idea of possession, and serene, is fit for becoming Brahman.

    3) BG13.2 bhasya: The ignorant man engages in action owing to his desire for results. On the other hand, in the case of an enlightened person who has realized the changeless Self, ENGAGEMENT IN ACITON IN IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE OF THE ABSENCE OF DESIRE for results. Hence, when the activities of the aggregate of body and organs cease, HIS withdrawal from action is spoken of in a figurative sense

    4) Sankara, and repeated by Suresvara: No one engages in activity in matters towards which he is indifferent. For what should the one desirous of liberation strive, seeing that he is indifferent to everything in the three worlds?

    • On point 4, see BG 3:22, when the Lord says:

      “For me, O Arjuna, there is nothing whatever to be done in the three worlds, nor is there anything not attained to be attained. Nevertheless I engage in action.”

      That’s really the key point. I think for a certain temperament of person, then “upon” “Self-realization” actions appear to fall away from the body-mind in sannyasa… but this is far from a hard and fast rule.

      Ishwara is the perfect example of the realized soul which appears to act with incredible energy.

      • Dear Akhilesh,

        This is quite a synchronicity. I was actually thinking about the exact same quote 🙂 I would just like to take this as an opportunity to clarify two points for the sake of readers

        1.) (Since some may misunderstand your words) The jnana phala or the result of Knowledge is nothing but knowing your true identity as Self. So there is not even the action of “actions appear(ing) to fall away” from the Jnani’s standpoint. He just realizes that he has never been a doer and shall never be. The prarabdha/gunas decides whether the body/mind renounces the world and becomes a sannyasi or whether the body/mind continues without any physical renunciation. It hardly matters to the Jnani as the actionless Self.

        The explanation of Prarabdha is offered from a Vyavahrika/empirical reality standpoint for others. From the Paramartika/absolute reality, point of the Jnani, there is no Prarabdha as the Jnani is the Self. Prarabdha is an explanation to others, for one who appears in body-mind as a Jnani.

        2.) (Again as some may misunderstand) You gave the example of Ishwara as an example of the realized soul acting. Ishwara is as much an appearance in Maya as the body of the Jnani. As Self, there is no distinction of Jiva-Jagat-Ishwara.

        Warm wishes,
        Anurag

        • Anurag, I mostly agree but I would take your first point one step further. ‘Realizer’ and ‘realization’ are themselves merely mental concept, and as such maya. There is therefore really no such thing as a ‘jnani’ — only timeless Jnana.

    • Worth reading the surrounding verses to give some context.

      BG3.20: For Janaka and others strove to attain Liberation through action itself. You ought to perform your duties keeping also in view the prevention of mankind from going astray
      Extract from Sankara: If Janaka and others had not attained fullest realisation, then they gradually became established in Liberation through action, which is a means of purification of mind.

      BG3.21: Whatever a superior person does another person does that very thing! Whatever he upholds as authority, an ordinary person follows that.

      BG3.22: As you quote

      BG3.23: FOR, O Partha, if at any time I do not continue vigilantly in action, men will follow My path in every way

      BG3.25: As the unenlightened act with attachment to work, so should the enlightened act, without attachment, being desirous of the prevention of people from going astray.
      Sankara: Neither for Me who am a knower of the Self, nor for any other knower of the Self, is there any duty apart from working for the welfare of the world.

      • Dear Venkat,

        Just taking one verse B.G Bhashya 3.20 (which you have quoted above) from Shankaracharya (Swami Gambhirananda)

        20. For Janaka and others strove to attain Liberation through action itself. You ought to perform (your duties) keeping also in view the prevention of mankind from going astray.

        Shankara’s Commentary:

        “If it be that they were possessed of the fullest realization, then the meaning is that they remained established in Liberation while continuing, because of past momentum, to be associated with action itself—without renouncing it—with a view to preventing mankind from going astray.
        Again, if (it be that) Janaka and others had not attained fullest realization, then, they gradually became established in Liberation through action which is a means for the purification of the mind. The verse is to be explained thus.
        On the other hand, if you think, ‘Obligatory duty was performed even by Janaka and others of olden days who were surely unenlightened. There by it does not follow that action has to be undertaken by somebody else who has the fullest enlightenment and has reached his Goal’, nevertheless, tvam, you, who are under the influence of past actions; arhasi, ought; kartum, to perform (your duties); sampaśyan api, keeping also in view; loka-saṅgraham, the prevention of mankind from going
        astray; even that purpose.”

        So,

        1.) “If it be that they were possessed of the fullest realization, then the meaning is that they remained established in Liberation while continuing, because of past momentum, to be associated with action itself—without renouncing it—with a view to preventing mankind from going astray”

        These words clearly say that it is the “past momentum” doing the work in the case of one who is Liberated. You left out this part in your quote

        Swami Dayananda Saraswati has quite an extended commentary on this, I am quoting the relevant part

        “Once knowledge is gained, any action is spontaneous. Whatever is to take place, will take place. No one is going to stop it. Therefore, if Janaka were to continue being the king, he would be the king. If he were to renounce everything and continue and continue his life as a sannyasi, he would have done so. It all depends on what was stored in his prarabdha.”…………………”In the wake of self-knowledge, free will is not a factor. Then prarabdha alone takes care of your life. If it is in your prarabdha to teach, you teach. If you are to sit quietly, then that is what you do and if you have to rule a kingdom, you rule the kingdom just as Janaka did.”

        And further, for this part of Shankara’s commentary, “Thereby it does not follow that action has to be undertaken by somebody else who has the fullest enlightenment and has reached his Goal’, ”

        Swami Dayananda says,

        “Krsna might have said to Arjuna, “Suppose you look upon youurself as a wise man. Are you going to say, “I am a wise man; therefore, I should not do action? Is there any rule which says that a wise man should not do action? If a so called wise man, deciding he is wise, does not do karma, it means that he is bound by karma because he is taking himself to be a karta, a doer. And if he is bound by karma, he is definitely not wise”

        Warm wishes,
        Anurag

      • I’m afraid Dayanada, like you, jumps through mental hoops to explain away the logical coherence of Sankara and Suresvara, and their very clear pronouncements on renunciation of action, unless it is for the good of the whole. I’ve even shown that a recent Sankaracharya of Sringeri has said the same.

        Let’s not go any further. We disagree.

        • Dear Venkat,

          Yes, we do disagree!

          I have quoted Shankaracharya directly also from Brahmasutra Bhashya on the same issue. It’s for you to see.

          There is nothing but the mind that can talk or build concepts. The Self doesn’t 🙂

          Take care

          Warm wishes,
          Anurag

          • Shankara’s words (not mine)….

            “Hence the conclusion is that only those virtues and vices are washed away by knowledge which have not begun to bear fruit.”

            – Bs.Bh – IV.i.15

  6. Dear Venkat,

    Quote BGBh. 13.2 (A M Shastry)

    “If, on the other hand, they really see the immutable Kshetrajna, they would desire neither pleasure nor action with the attachment ‘let it be mine’; for, pleasure and action are but changes of state. Thus, then, it is the ignorant man who, longing for results, engages in action. The wise man, on the contrary, who sees the immutable Self, cherishes no longing for results and does not therefore engage in action ; and when, as a consequence, the activity of the aggregate-of the body and the senses-ceases, we say, only figuratively, that He abstains from action.”

    1.) The wise man ceases action on seeing Self. He has attained perfection and has become a non-doer because he has nothing to attain. But then he does not drop dead instantly. The assemblage of his body-senses continues because of Prarabdha Karma

    2.) And when all Prarabdha Karma has got exhausted, his assemblage of body-senses ceases. When they cease, then we figuratively say that He (Jnani) has stopped acting. Why figuratively and not literally? This is because Jnani had stopped acting at the time knowledge dawned on him. On that day itself, he actually became a non-doer. But his assemblage continued and others could see his assemblage act. That is why when HIS – which means only for the Jnani – we can say that his actions stopped figuratively and not literally. But in the case of a samsari, who is acting till the end; for him, we have to say that when his body dies, his actions stop literally. Why literally? Because he never came to know himself as Self/non-doer, so his actions continued till his body dropped.

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

    • Anurag, I suggest you stop making things up to accord with your preconceived notions. There is no mention in this para on prarabdha karma, or indeed anywhere in 13.2

      All that Sankara says about prarabdha karma is that the circumstances into which a body-mind is pre-realisation will continue to be there, The jnani simply endures them without desire or fear. And Sankara very clearly states that a jnani will either be a renunciate, or if his prarabdha karma places him in such a position, his actions will only be for the benefit of others. I have referenced these a number of times now. And exactly as Sri Abhinava has written in the final quote of this post.

      Simply making things up does not serve to counter the very clear writings of Sankara and Suresvara on these matters.

  7. Dear Venkat,

    I guess you did not read my article on the Arising of Jnana : The Destruction of Good Works and Bad Works. It talks about prarabdha karma by Shankaracharya in Brahmasutra Bhashya. And it matches completely with what I have said here. I have provide full quotes of Shankaracharya in that.

    Can you please point out my preconceived notion so that we can talk about it clearly?

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

    • Dear Venkat,

      Here is just one quote from Shankaracharya on Prarabdha karma from the article I have referenced above. Nothing can be more clear.

      “As for the knowledge of Self as the non-performer of any act, that destroys the results of works by first sublating false ignorance, even when sublated, continues for a while owing to past tendencies like the continuance of vision of two moons. Furthermore, no difference of opinion is possible here as to whether the body is retained (after knowledge) for some time or not by knowers of Brahman. For when somebody feels in his heart that he has realized Brahman and yet holds the body, how can this be denied by somebody else? This very fact is elaborated in the Upanishads and the Smritis and in the course of determining the characteristics of “the man of steady wisdom” (sthitaprajna – Gita, II.54). Hence the conclusion is that only those virtues and vices are washed away by knowledge which have not begun to bear fruit.”

      – Bs.Bh – IV.i.15

      Warm wishes,
      Anurag

  8. Anurag,

    Let me address your BSB quotes, as I have not done so. I must admit that I have not studied BSB in depth – it is quite a difficult text, and whilst the introduction to the first chapter is important, covering adhyasa, much of the rest goes into concepts of creation, refuting other doctrines, meditations & rituals and what happens at death.

    1) Firstly, it is important to note that when we read Sankara, we need to try to read him holistically – which means two things:
    – understand the context in which he is talking (e.g. the BG3.22 quote given above, needs to be read in the context of the preceding and following verses)
    – needs to be reconciled with any apparent contradictions in what Sankara has written in one text vs another. As such we may disagree on how we reconcile and interpret these apparent contradictions. But we cannot simply ignore or cherry-pick quotes – especially when Lord Krishna, Suresvara and (in this article) Sri Abhinava make similar points.

    2) Even BSB in 3.4, there is quite a long exposition on sannyasa and continence. E.g. 3.4.17: Sankara refers to Jabala Up: “‘One should embrace monasticism even from the stage of Brahmacharya’, and in such other texts where monasticism is a well-recognised fact”
    3.4.20: “Hence it is the people in the earlier three stages of life that achieve the virtuous worlds, while the remaining one, the monk, attains immortality . . . The term steadfastness in Brahman implies a total absorption in Brahman, which is the same as the absence of any other preoccupation except that. And that is not possible for people in the other three stages”

    3) Now taking your quote from BSB4.1.15. When he talks about “results of works” he is talking about the karmic implications of actions and how they impact one’s next life. So the quote “only those virtues and vices are washed away by knowledge which have not begun to bear fruit” is referring to the results of past work, which may not yet have manifested, and so may not be experienced; only those results which have already begun to bear fruit (prarabdha karma) will continue for a while.

    Note also that this verse is not talking about the behaviour / actions subsequent to jnana, which Sankara has clearly said elsewhere is either a homeless ascetic or, if the prarabdha is such, working for the welfare of others / the world.

    4) BSB 4.4.13 is interesting with respect to “the knower of Brahman has no idea of agentship whatsoever with regard to actions in the future” {or past / present]. Note that this does not logically negate Sankara’s views on the sadhana required for a seeker, or the expectation of sannyasa / working for welfare of others for a jnani. It simply means he is not personally attached to the outcome of the actions, or concerned about credit / blame. And as he no longer has identification with a PARTICULAR body-mind and has turned away from the world, it is logical that he either has no desire to motivate any action, or if he acts, it is not through any differential preference for his body-mind. Hence why it can be reconciled to Sankara’s other bhasya around this.

    5) Your BSB quote refers to BG2.54 – the characteristics of a jnani. But if your proposition is correct, there would be no defining characteristics, as he could act in any random, irresponsible way.. Note that in 2.54 et seq, Sankara talks about man of steady wisdom renouncing all desires, a monk unperturbed by sorrows and longing, who neither welcomes nor rejects whatever comes. He does not talk about being the witness, the non-doer, watching the body-mind do / feel whatever it wants to, as would be your proposition.

    To recap: we act in the world as if we are the body-mind, needing to accumulate on behalf of the part (me / mine) vs the whole. Realisation means that that false identification is dropped, so everything is Brahman – or nothing is (all an illusion, like a dream). In the case of the former, your actions will not logically be selfish; in the case of the latter, there is no reason to act. In either case your mind will, according to Sankara, be absorbed in Brahman.

    In MK2.37, Gaudapada writes:
    “He should have this body and the Atman as his support and depend upon chances, ie he should be satisfied with those things for his physical wants that chance brings him”.
    Sankara explains: “Whenever perchance, impelled by the need of eating, one thinks of oneself as ‘I’, by forgetting the reality of the Self (one’s unchanging nature like the sky), then the changing body becomes his support. The man of illumination thus has the changing and the unchanging as his support. And he should merely depend on strips of cloth, coverings and food that come to him by chance for the maintenance of the body”
    First note that Sankara is saying that a jnani is absorbed in Brahman, and will only identify himself with the body-mind in order to get some food for the bare maintenance of the body; one therefore imputes that in the absence of such identification he is turned inward, with no reason for the body to act. Note also the correspondence of these words with Sri Abhinava of Sringeri.

  9. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for the quotes. I shall address each of them in greater detail in separate article/s after reading their context and interpretations etc.

    For now, I would just like to comment on a central theme that runs through your long comment, which is

    ‘First note that Sankara is saying that a jnani is absorbed in Brahman, and will only identify himself with the body-mind in order to get some food for the bare maintenance of the body; ”

    Please understand, what you are saying, implies these things

    1.) When you say Jnani is absorbed in Brahman, you are bringing in a duality between the Jnani and Brahman. The Jnani is Brahman. You are That. And not only is the Jnani Brahman, everyone, every moment is Brahman in their essential nature. The Jnani is the one who knows this not only for himself but for the whole world in all three states.

    2.) If you say that the Jnani is absorbed in Brahman, then Jnani being referred to is the thinker/doer/experiencer who is not Brahman from the Paramarthika point of view. It is obvious by the fact that he needs to be “absorbed” or doing something. It also imputes that Brahman is an object that can be experienced. Since you are Brahman, Brahman is never available as an object of experience in which the mind can be absorbed. This is Nidhidhyasana stage, prior to direct knowledge. My quotes from BsBh in my article have shown clearly that once direct knolwedge is attained, nothing is left to be done because the Jnani has realized he is Self who was never an actor in the past and shall never be in the future. (I have given this quote below)

    3.) You accentuate the doership of Jnani further, by saying that a Jnani “will only identify himself with the body-mind in order to get some food for the bare maintenance of the body; ”

    This is a more grosser manifestation of doership/experienceship being imputed to a Jnani/Self. It shows choice, will, doership and experienceship, which never exist in Jnani as actionless Self. As written above, the Jnani knows that he was never a doer/experiencer and shall never be.

    Here is the relevant quote from Shankara,

    “The knower of Brahman has this realization: “As opposed to the entity known before to possessed of agentship and experience by its very nature, I am Brahman which is by nature devoid of agentship and experienceship in all three periods of time. Even earlier I was never an agent and experiencer, nor am I at present, nor shall I be so in future”. From such a point of view alone can liberation be justified.”

    – Bs.Bh – IV.i.13

    3. ) Lastly, since you have quoted Mandukya in your comment, I shall draw your attention to something which I have often done.

    All acts are only of the gunas, not of Self/Jnani.

    All acts of doing – being absorbed in Brahman, doing good, trouncing the world etc. are acts done in only one of the three states – waking state, where there is a plural world with a duality between subject and objects. This world completely transforms in dream sleep. A renouncer and a do gooder could be doing something very different in his dreams. The sleep state, is more conclusive – there is no world because the mind – the thinker/doer/experiencer has completely dissolved. The renouncer, the do gooder, the world and it’s objects are completely gone. So what exists even at that time, when the thinker/doer/experiencer has dissolved along with the entire world. That is the actionless, formless, eternal Brahman/Self/Awareness, which you are.

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

    • I’ve already disposed of your gunas point previously – see BG14.25 bhasya:
      “. . . he who has given up all undertakings needed merely for the maintenance of the body . . . is said to have gone beyond the gunas . . . The disciples leading to the state of transcendence of the qualities have to be practised by a monk so long as they to be achieved through effort. But when they become firmly ingrained, they become the indications, perceivable to himself, of a monk who has transcended the qualities”

      You don’t seem to want to accept any words by Sankara that imply non-action / renunciation / behaviour of a jnani. I understand this is what Dayananda teaches. But these are not the words of Gaudapada, Sankara and Suresvara. If you disagree with these quotes of Sankara / Suresvara / Gaudapada then let’s just move on.

      • Dear Venkat,

        Well, I am only on Shankaracharya. Now let’s take BG 14.25

        Verse no 14.25
        manapamanayostulyastulyo mitraripaksayoh
        sarvarambhapratiyagi gunatitha sa ucyate

        mana-apamanayoh tulyah – who is same towards respect and insult

        mitra-aripaksayoh tulyah – the same towards the views of friend and enemy

        sarva-arambha-pratiyagi – one who has given up all undertakings

        guna- atitah – one who is beyond gunas

        sa ucyate – he is called

        who is the same towards respect and insult, the same towrads the view of a friend or an enemy, who has given up all undertakings – he is called the one who is beyond the gunas.

        Here are the Shankarcharya Bhashya B.G 14.25 quotes

        Swami Gambhirananda Translation :-

        Further, tulyah , ̣ he who is the same, unperturbed; māna-apamānayoh , ̣under honour and dishonour; tulyah , ̣ who is equally disposed; mitra-aripaks ayoh both towards the side of the friend and of the foe—although from their own standpoint some may be unattached, still, in others’ view
        they may appear to be siding either with friends or foes; hence it is said, ‘equally disposed both towards the side of the friend and of the foe’; sarva-ārambha-parityāgī, who has renounced all enterprise (—those which are undertaken are ārambhāh , ̣ actions intended for seen or unseen results—), that is who is apt to give up all undertakings, who has given up all actions other than those needed merely for the maintenance of the body; sah , ̣ he; ucyate, is said to have; gun ātītah , ̣ gone beyond the qualities.

        “The disciplines leading to the state of transcendence of the qualities, which have been stated (in the verses) beginning from ‘he who, sitting like one indifferent,’ and ending with ‘he is said to have gone beyond the qualities,’ have to be practised by a monk, a seeker of Liberation, so long as they are to be achieved through effort. But when they become firmly ingrained, they become the indications, perceivable to himself, of a monk who has transcended the qualities. Now the Lord gives the reply to the question, ‘And how does he transcend the qualities?”

        A M Sastry Translation :-

        Though neutral from their own standpoint, some appear to others as if they were on the side of friends or on the side of foes; but this man appears to be same to friends and foes. He renounces all actions, productive of visible and invisible results, except . those which are necessary for the bare maintenance of the body.

        The attributes described in xiv. 23, 24, 25. form a rule
        of conduct laid down for the samnyasin who seeks moksba,
        so long as they are to be achieved by effort ; but when they
        are firmly ingrained in his nature, as may be perceived by
        himself, they form marks indicating that the devotee bas
        risen above the gunas

        Note by A M Sastry

        These attributes, such as indifierence to the various modifications .and functions of the gunas, have to be acquired with special effort prior to the attainment of. Self-knowledge (vidya) : and the aspirant for Self-knowledge should therefore cultivate these virtues, as they are the
        means of attaining it. But, on the rise of Self·knowledge, when the aspirant becomes a Jivanmukta (one who is liberated while still living in the body,) all the attributes mentioned here form part and parcel of his nature and serve as marks of liberation which he can perceive for
        himself.

        My Comments

        1.) “although from their own standpoint some may be unattached, still, in others’ view they may appear to be siding either with friends or foes”. What does this show? That others still perceive the Jnani as partial, though from his own viewpoint he is not. Why? Because as a non-doer, he has not initiated any action at all – he is a sarvarambha pratiyagi.

        2.) There is no mention of the word ‘monk’ in the sanskrit verse. Shankara has got that word in as he is addressing monks only.

        2.) So, all these were disciplines prescribed for monks before liberation (Gambhirananda and Sastry translate this as same)

        2.) After liberation, they continue “effortlessly” as indications perceivable to himself. These indications are for monks. They are his prarabdha.

        3.) The prarabdha for non-monks is different. Krishna was not a monk. Nor was Janaka, who Shankara talks about. Anyways…….

        In the very next verse, B.G 14.26, Shankara talking about Bhakti Yoga, talks about triunatitha state both for monks and non-monks.

        B.G Bhashya – A M Sastry – Verse

        “And he who serves Me with unfailing Devotion of Love, he, crossing beyond those three gunas, is fitted for becoming Brahman.”

        A samnyasin ( yati ), or even a man of works ( karmin ), who serves Me-the Isvara, Narayana-dwelling in the heart of all beings, with a never-failing Bhakti· Yoga, in devotion to discriminative knowledge,-this Bhakti-Yoga being indeed the result of the Grace and Mercy of the Lord, he crosses beyond the three gunas mentioned above and
        fit for becoming Brahman, i e., for moksha.

        Warm wishes,
        Anurag

        • So you seem to agree that Sankara said a jnani has gone beyond the qualities, and his behaviour is no longer driven by them – rather his behaviour is effortlessly that which, pre-realisation, had to be done with effort.

          With respect to your comments:
          1) I don’t disagree that others may seem him as partial. But he is impartial.

          2) Sankara has said elsewhere that knowledge is most likely attained by one who has renounced all actions. And he explains Janaka as either one who still has to attain self-realisation or as one who, because of the situation he is in due to his prarabdha, is acting for the sake of others. As also Krishna in BG3.22, et seq

          I have often noted that Sankara said that the sadhanas to remove blemishes pre-realisation will continue effortless post-realisation. You imply this is only for a monk – why wouldn’t it be the case for a householder as well? Vide Sankara:

          “From the fact that a fresh injunction of renunciation, despite its emergence as a matter of course (in the case of a man of illumination), is met with, it becomes evident that it is obligatory for the man of illumination. And renunciation is obligatory even for the unillumined soul that hankers after emancipation”
          – Aitreya Up Bhasya, 1.1

          3) You and I both agree that yogas are not a means to liberation. They are however a subsidiary means to knowledge. This can be the way to explain why it is also addressed to householders.

          • Dear Venkat,

            Please find my responses

            1.)So you seem to agree that Sankara said a jnani has gone beyond the qualities, and his behaviour is no longer driven by them – rather his behaviour is effortlessly that which, pre-realisation, had to be done with effort.

            1a.) No, I did not say that. I said that the prarabdha acts and that the prarabdha of a sannyasi was what Shankara was talking about. He was only talking about monks in that particular quote. He addresses both the householder and Sannyasi in the next quote. I have commented on this below.

            2.) I don’t disagree that others may seem him as partial. But he is impartial.

            2a.) Good ! We agree. But for me this is not a psychological trait, it is because a Jnani knows himself as actionless Self. He knows that he neither acts nor obtains their results. I have quoted Shankara on this a few paras below.

            3.) ” Sankara has said elsewhere that knowledge is most likely attained by one who has renounced all actions. And he explains Janaka as either one who still has to attain self-realisation or as one who, because of the situation he is in due to his prarabdha, is acting for the sake of others.”

            3a.) This is not true at all. What Shankara says is this, B.G Bhashya 3.20

            “If it be that they were possessed of the fullest realization, then the meaning is that they remained established in Liberation while continuing, because of past momentum, to be associated with action itself—without renouncing it—with a view to preventing mankind from going astray.
            Again, if (it be that) Janaka and others had not attained fullest realization, then, they gradually became established in Liberation through action which is a means for the purification of the mind. The verse is to be explained thus.
            On the other hand, if you think, ‘Obligatory duty was performed even by Janaka and others of olden days who were surely unenlightened. There by it does not follow that action has to be undertaken by somebody else who has the fullest enlightenment and has reached his Goal’, nevertheless, tvam, you, who are under the influence of past actions; arhasi, ought; kartum, to perform (your duties); sampaśyan api, keeping also in view; loka-saṅgraham, the prevention of mankind from going
            astray; even that purpose.”

            It means that if we assume that Janaka was enlightened, he was acting because of his prarabdha karma. If we assume that he was not enlightened, he was acting as Karma Yoga to purify his mind. And lastly non-performance of actions is not a criteria for enlightenment. So you (Arjuna) must act to prevent mankind from going astray (because Arjuna is still taking himself to be a doer)

            4.) I have often noted that Sankara said that the sadhanas to remove blemishes pre-realisation will continue effortless post-realisation. You imply this is only for a monk – why wouldn’t it be the case for a householder as well?

            4a.) I do not disagree with this at all. I have often said that because of the Sadhana Chatusthaya and Jnana Yoga, tremendous Vairagya would have already developed within a householder and these qualities would definitely continue post realization as part of his prarabdha.

            But being a Jnani, he has become Actionless Self. His gunas are at work.

            This is a quote from Shankara on the gunas acting while the Self is not and the Jnani has got no relation to any actions as they are ignorance.

            “The Supreme Self, the Indestructible, being beginningless and without attributes, O Son of Kunti, though present in the body, does not act and is not tainted.”
            (Bh.G.XIII.31)

            Shankar’s Commentary : Though present in the body: this means that we are aware of the presence of the Self in our bodies. Still, it does not act. And because it does not act, it is not tainted by the results of any act………
            Who is it, then, who does act and become tainted in our bodies?…….The Lord has already answered this, saying ‘But it is Nature (implying Ignorance) that acts.’ (V.14). For the notion that the Self acts or is tainted is itself of the nature of mere Ignorance. There is no action or taint in the highest Self from the standpoint of the highest truth.

            3.) Yoga is not a means to liberation, but subsidiary means to knowledge. Yes, this is true. But see what the quote says, Shankara here is not talking of the normal Bhakti Yoga (which is a subsidiary means) He is talking about the love for discriminative knowledge. This is Jnana Yoga. Please see again,

            “A samnyasin ( yati ), or even a man of works ( karmin ), who serves Me-the Isvara, Narayana-dwelling in the heart of all beings, with a never-failing Bhakti· Yoga, in devotion to discriminative knowledge,-this Bhakti-Yoga being indeed the result of the Grace and Mercy of the Lord, he crosses beyond the three gunas mentioned above and
            fit for becoming Brahman, i e., for moksha.”

            Regarding your injunctions for monks and how they are finally an illusion, I shall comment afresh, as space is getting less and less 🙂

            Warm wishes,
            Anurag

  10. Dear Venkat,

    Here is the relevant verse from Shankara Bhashya on BG Verse 5.17 explaining what is the meaning of the words, “absorbed in Brahman”

    B.G.V.17
    tatbuddhayastadatmanastannisthastatparayanah
    gacchantyapunaravrittim jnananirdhutakalmasah

    Translation by Swami Gambhirananda

    “Those who have their intellect absorbed in That, whose Self is That, who are steadfast in That, who have That as their supreme Goal— they attain the state of non-returning, their dirt having been removed by Knowledge.”

    Sankar’a’s Commentary: Tat-buddhayah ̣, those who have their intellect absorbed in That, in the supreme Knowledge which has been revealed; tat-ātmānah ,whose Self is That, who have That (tat) supreme Brahman Itself as their Self (ātmā); tat-nist ̣hāh , ̣ who are steadfast in That—nisthā – is intentness, exclusive devotion; they are called tat-nisthāh ̣ who become steadfast only in Brahman by renouncing all actions; and tat-parāyanāh ̣, who have That as their supreme (para) Goal (ayana), who have That alone as their supreme Resort, i.e. who are devoted only to the Self; those who have got their ignorance destroyed by Knowledge—those who are of this kind—, they gacchanti, attain; apunarāvr ttim, the state of non-returning, non-association again with a body; jñāna-nirdhūta-kalmas āh, their dirt having been removed, destroyed, by Knowledge. Those whose dirt (kalmasa), the defect in the form of sin etc., which are the cause of transmigration, have been removed, destroyed (nirdhūta), by the aforesaid Knowledge (jñāna) are jñāna-nirdhūta-kalmasāh, that is the monks

    Please note here two points,
    1.) “Whose Self is That” & ”Who have That supreme Brahman Itself as their Self” – This is how they renounce all actions : By knowing their true nature as Self

    2.) They attain the state of non-returning, non-association again with a body (through negation of superimposition by knowledge)

    Translation by Swami Satchidanandendra Sarasvati

    “With their minds on that, identified with that, absorbed in that, intent on that, they go to the state of non-return, their sins dispelled by knowledge”

    Sankara’s Commentary : Those whose minds have attained to the Absolute, who accept the Absolute as their own Self, who are absorbed in the Absolute, that is, who are established in the Self alone, having abandoned all action – that is the meaning of ‘absorption’. ‘Intent of that’ means regarding that as their highest goal, that is, having their joy in the Self alone. Those whose ignorance of the Self has thus been removed by knowledge are never again linked with a body. Their sins are dispelled or removed by the knowledge just mentioned. The reference is to those whose sins and other defects which lead to further transmigration have been dispelled by the knowledge; that is to say ascetics (yati)

    The funny thing is how both Swami Gambhirananda and SSS introduce the word “monk” and “ascetic”, where there is no mention of that word anywhere in the Bhagavad Gita sanskrit verse quoted. Swami Dayananda has given a word to word translation which is quite clear and does not have any sanskrit word here referring to monk. This word may have been introduced by Shankaracharya in his bhashya 🙂

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

  11. Dear Venkat,

    All practices, restraints etc. fall in the realm of ignorance. The final goal is Self – Quotes from Gaudapada and Shankara Bhashya on Mandukya Karika

    – by SSS

    The Method of the Vedanta – Page 153

    The monk should know from the beginning what has to be rejected, what has to be realized in immediate intuition, what disciplines have to be adopted and what has to be neutralized. It is traditionally held that, apart from the Self that has to be realized, the other three categories (what has to be rejected, adopted and neutralized) are illusory. (G.K.IV.90)

    Sankara’s Commentary: The three worlds of waking, dream and dreamless sleep have to be rejected as non-existent in the Self, as an imaginary snake has to be rejected as non-existent in the rope in which it has been imagined. What has to be realized in immediate intuition is the supreme reality beyond the four modes of judgment.*

    The true discipline is to become a monk and give up the three desires for a son, wealth and advantages in the life to And then one has to cultivate the qualities of wisdom, strength (or childlike simplicity) and sagehood. Psychological defects like attachment, aversion, infatuation and the like have to be rooted out.
    The monk must know that his discipline lies in all these things that have to be rejected, realized in immediate intuition, adopted or neutralized. And he must know all this right from the start.

    Apart from what has to be realized in immediate intuition apart from the One, the Absolute, the supreme reality – the other three classes of things which have to be rejected, adopted or neutralized are an illusion, mere figments of Ignorance. This is the traditional teaching of the knowers of the Absolute. It means that these three classes of things are not ultimately real.

    * (The four modes of judgment are given at G.K.IV.83. The author translates the verse as follows at M.R.V., English intro. p. 46: “It is; it is not; is and is not; neither is nor is not” – he who has seen that Glorious One untouched by these four one-sided viewpoints by which He seems to be forever obscured, he verily is the all-seer’. T.N.)

    (5) No soul is ever born. The Self undergoes no birth. That is the highest reality where nothing is born. (G.K.III.48)

    Sankara’s Commentary: All these disciplines such as restraint of the mind are mere projections of the imagination, like the objects of clay or iron imagined as real entities distinct from their material cause. So also are the various prescribed meditations. The idea is that they are mere means to apprehension of the supreme reality, not that they are themselves the final truth. The final truth is that no soul was ever born, no individual capable of action and experience. This reality is something superior to the ‘realities’, previously treated of as mere means to ends. In this reality, which is the Absolute, nothing is born, not an atom.

    Warm wishes,
    Anurag

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