The Jiva, as a thinker/doer/experiencer is tossed in the dualities of samsara – pain and pleasure, good and bad, right and wrong, ignorance and enlightenment. As a Jiva, he is always trying to “become”: become good, become better, become knowledgeable, become detached, become enlightened.
However, with the rise of Jnana, his perception shifts from duality to non-duality instantaneously. Knowing his essential nature to be Self, the Jiva becomes a Jnani freed from all notions of duality. This freedom and perfection is instantaneous with the rise of direct Knowledge. Freed from the notion of being a thinker/doer/experiencer, the Jnani is freed not only from all notions of becoming but also from all works, including the notion of good works and bad works.
Thereafter, there is nothing left for the Jnani to attain or lose, in any way, no matter what acts are seen to be performed by him. While others may judge his acts in terms of duality – such as good and bad, he knows that he does nothing and that all acts are Self. The body of the Jnani carries on till his prarabdha karma exhausts and it finally drops. Then he attains videha-mukti.
This is a true account of the rise of Jnana and the status of a Jnani. But many people find themselves in disagreement with many facts stated in this account. To dispel their doubts I am writing this article, quoting passages from Chapter 4 – Results of Knowledge (Jnana Phala), Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Shankaracharya (Translation by Swami Gambhirananda), addressing all erroneous notions.
Here is the sequence of events that I believe represents the traditional understanding:
A would-be seeker practices sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti for a length of time in order to gain the qualities of mind (and the overriding desire to attain mokSha) needed to qualify for ‘approaching a qualified teacher’.
The seeker gains Self-knowledge from listening to a qualified guru, i.e an enlightened shrotriya [someone with deep knowledge of the shruti, including Sanskrit], who belongs to a qualified sampradAya [teaching lineage]), as he explains the scriptures. This is the stage of shravaNa.
When there are no further doubts, the ‘final hearing’ triggers akhaNDAkAra vRRitti (same as brahmakAra vRRitti, but used more frequently) and the seeker thereby immediately becomes a j~nAnI.
Whilst there are still doubts, the seeker asks questions of the teacher to clarify and explain. This is the stage of manana. shravaNa and manana are then repeated for as long as needed.
The gaining of Self-knowledge simultaneously means that the seeker now knows that he or she is already free. (You can say that they are ‘simultaneously liberated’ if you really want, but this conveys the erroneous notion that they were not free before.) Note that the phalam of ‘j~nAna phalam’ cannot simply refer to mokSha (mukti) because you cannot gain as fruit something that you already have!
If the seeker had done sufficient sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti (SCS) previously, he or she also simultaneously gains the phalam (= become a jIvanmukta). (See Section 3o for a discussion on the topic of jIvanmukti.)
If their SCS was insufficient, they do not immediately gain the phalam. I.e. they have pratibandha-s and they need to do more nididhyAsana in order to remove them. Thus, they may get the phalam later in life. If they do not, they get videha mukti at death of the body-mind (when the prArabdha karma is used up). (see section 3p)