The Disappearing World

The recent post by Ramesam – Ignorance goes, but mAyA remains? – continues to draw discussion. It has now reached nearly 50 comments! Ramesam’s last comment kindly referred to Gaudapada’s kArikA 1.17 and, looking this up in my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, I found that I had put together a very useful post to the Advaitin E-group back in 2009. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to post this here and, since it is longer than a simple comment, I am starting a new thread.

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 A favorite topic on the Advaitin discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Advaitin/) (where I am one of the moderators) has been what exactly happens when a person is enlightened or ‘gains mokSha’.  A popular, although somewhat incomprehensible, belief is that the world somehow ‘disappears’; that, for the j~nAnI, there simply is no longer any duality. Quite how the j~nAnI (apparently) continues to eat, drink and converse is not adequately explained by those who hold such a view. But Gaudapada approaches it from a different and even more dramatic angle.

Prior to my enlightenment, I make the mistake of identifying myself with the body-mind, believing myself to be a separate entity. This is the result of my Self-ignorance – not realizing that I am the unlimited Atman. Gaudapada says that this ignorance is beginningless (anAdi) (K1.16). At the dawn of Self-knowledge, I recognize that I am not the waker, dreamer or deep-sleeper but the non-dual turIya.

As to whether or not the world then disappears, Gaudapada effectively asks: how can it disappear when it didn’t exist to begin with? “If the visible world actually existed, there is no doubt that it might stop (i.e. disappear) (as soon as j~nAna was gained). (But) this (apparent) duality is merely mAyA (and) the absolute truth is non-dual.” (K1.17)

The world does not disappear because it never existed in the first place! What actually goes away is the mistaken belief that there was a world. Shankara begins his commentary with a supposed objection. The previous verse states that the jIva realizes Advaita when he ‘wakes up’ from ‘sleep’, i.e. dispels self-ignorance. If one can only realize Advaita when duality has gone, then how can there be non-duality while the world still exists?

Shankara answers this by pointing out that this would only be a problem if the world actually exists to begin with. And he refers to the inevitable rope-snake metaphor: To speak of the snake disappearing when knowledge of the rope is gained is incorrect. Since the snake never existed in the first place, it cannot go away. Similarly, the world never existed, so to speak of it going away upon enlightenment is wrong. A non-existent thing neither comes nor goes away. (The world is, of course, mithyA, being neither real nor unreal but having brahman as its substratum.) So, what actually goes away upon obtaining j~nAna is not the perceived dualistic universe but the error (bhrama) that we made in thinking that there was a dualistic world.

And, of course, the j~nAnI’s supposed body-mind-intellect is equally a part of this supposed dualistic world. So the j~nAnI him- or herself does not go away either!

If it were the case that, upon gaining j~nAnam, the (now) j~nAnI no longer perceived a dualistic world, (and thus no longer used a mind and senses to communicate with it etc) then this would be a clear break with what had gone before. And so mokSha would become an event in time. But the fact of the matter is that all (apparent) jIva-s are already free and unlimited, being not other than brahman. The problem is that they do not know it and make the error of thinking themselves to be separate and limited. Upon realization, all that goes away is this mistake. The j~nAnI sees the world as brahman and never sees any appearance or disappearance. He continues to see this brahman-world and continues to interact with it whilst in the body but (and of course this but makes all the difference) he now knows that it is all an appearance only. He knows that the world is mithyA and nothing detracts from the turIya status.

Swami Chinmayananda points out (Ref. 3) that the first line of the mantra says, in effect: “The universe does not exist; if it existed it would disappear (on being enlightened). It does not disappear, therefore it does not exist”.

Paradoxically, the very same argument applies to the (apparent) duality of the knowledge that brings about enlightenment. After all, it is the result of being taught the wisdom of such scriptures as this that triggers the ‘enlightenment event’ (akhaNDAkAra vRRitti). But we cannot say that Self-knowledge eliminates the duality of guru and disciple for the same reason as above: there was no duality there before. Again, it is analogous to asking if the snake goes away once the rope is known. There is no knower-known duality to be eliminated; what goes away is the mistaken belief that there was a duality to begin with. (K1.18)

Richard King sums this up nicely (Ref. 14):

K1.18 is an attempt to circumvent one of the greatest paradoxes of a non-dualistic soteriology` – if duality is an illusion how is it that the dream is not broken by the first enlightened being? This presents no real problem for the Gaudapada-kArikA for the following reasons:

  1. Duality as mAyA is not in conflict with non-duality as the ultimate reality (paramArtha) since the former is merely an appearance of the latter.
  2. The idea of a liberated individual is an erroneous one; no jIva is ever liberated, since no jIva has ever entered bondage.

Outwardly, nothing changes – what was there before is still there. Both the j~nAnI and the aj~nAnI still see the world; the j~nAnI knows it to be non-dual. The sunrise metaphor applies again. Or, for a change, the earth is felt to be steady and unmoving despite the fact that we know it is rotating rather quickly, and travelling around the sun at a rate of knots. Combined with the fact that the entire galaxy is moving and the universe expanding, this means that the earth is anything but stationary!

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(More about the book at http://www.advaita.org.uk/extracts/a_u_m_unreal.html)

34 thoughts on “The Disappearing World

  1. Dear Dennis and Ramesam

    The focus of Sankara’s bhasya on Gaudapada’s MK1.17 is to explain how non-duality could exist even as the manifold is perceived; rather than whether manifold is no longer perceived after enlightenment. And in THIS context, he explains that it is because it is illusory and never existent in the first place.

    Also worth referencing

    MK2.17 Sanakara’s bhasya: A rope that is not well ascertained in its true reality, is imagined variously as a snake, etc just because it has not been determined earlier – for if the rope had been ascertained earlier in its own essence there would NOT HAVE BEEN SUCH IMAGINATIONS AS OF A SNAKE etc.

    MK2.18: As illusion ceases, and the rope alone remains when the rope is ascertained to be nothing but the rope, so also is the ascertainment about the Self.

    I would also critique Dennis’ statements:
    “At the dawn of Self-knowledge, I recognize that I am not the waker, dreamer or deep-sleeper but the non-dual turIya”
    ” The j~nAnI sees the world as brahman and never sees any appearance or disappearance. He continues to see this brahman-world and continues to interact with it whilst in the body but (and of course this but makes all the difference) he now knows that it is all an appearance only”

    Both reify the jiva. But enlightenment as Sankara describe it, is that there is simply no one there to know anything. This is the purport of ‘neti, neti’ and Sankara’s US18.5: “When thou [mind] has ceased to function there is no notion of difference, through which one suffers through illusion, the delusion that there is a world”

    It is not that the mind has gained some knowledge; rather it no longer has any ‘I’ thought. And Gaudapada / Sankara / Suresvara make clear that the jnani no longer has any dealings with the world.

    In this context worth remembering
    BG4.24: The ladle is Brahman, the oblation is Brahman, the offering is poured by Brahman in the fire of Brahman.”
    From Sankara’s bhasya:
    “Therefore all actions cease to exist for the man of realisation who knows the Brahman Itself is all this . . .
    Some say: That which is Brahman is the ladle. It is surely Brahman itself which exists in the five forms of accessories . . . there the ideas of ladle etc are not eradicated, but the idea of Brahman is attributed to the ladle . . .
    Response: But those who maintain that one has to superimpose the idea of Brahman on the ladle . . . cannot be the intended subject matter dealt with here, because according to them ladle etc are objects of knowledge. . . KNOWLEDGE IN THE FORM OF SUPERIMPOSITION OF AN IDEA CANNOT LEAD TO LIBERATION AS ITS RESULT.”

    Finally, it is worth quoting Sankara’s bhasya on BU2.4.12:
    “After attaining this oneness, the Self, freed from body and organs, has no more particular consciousness . . For it is due to ignorance, and since ignorance is absolutely destroyed by the realisation of Brahman, how can the knower of Brahman possibly have any such particular consciousness? Even when a man is in the body, particular consciousness is sometimes impossible {as in deep sleep]; so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs?

    best wishes,
    venkat

  2. Dear Dennis,

    I thank you for posting your 2009 article on ‘The Disappearing World’ in the context of our discussions here. One could not have got an access to it otherwise because, as you know, Yahoo closed their discussion groups.

    I am certain that the article must have received many accolades at that forum at that time because it precisely treads in the same footsteps of Swami Vidyaranya’s presentation.

    While the sort of explanation that you have given is undoubtedly quite popular (especially because such an approach protects the idea of “jIvanmukti” as a status rather than a passing transient ‘state’), it is beset with a serious problem. You are not unaware of that problem because you yourself point it out often in the arguments of many others! And that problem is innocuous mixing up of “levels”!

    The mix up will stand out glaringly evident, if we tabulate the statements made in the presentation into two columns taking the appearance/disappearance of the snake in the snake-rope metaphor. The world is represented by the snake in this analogy. But as we begin to replace the snake by the world, we tend to misclassify the statements.

    And, IMHO, you will find it hard if I turn the tables on you and ask for “references” from Shankara bhAShya-s in support of the stand you take.

    BTW, you did not clarify to my question of what additional bhAShya references you were looking for when you asked me for references from Shankara** on what I posted at the other thread.

    Anyway, after posting the long comment at the previous thread, I searched for the phrase “अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापित” in Shankara’s commentaries. I could count nearly a dozen times. The phrase means “established by nescience.”

    For example:

    BGB 13.2: अविद्यामात्रं संसारः यथादृष्टविषयः एव । न क्षेत्रज्ञस्य केवलस्य अविद्या तत्कार्यं च ।

    BSB 1.2.12: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितस्वभावत्वाच्च सत्त्वस्य सुतरां न सम्भवति ।

    BSB 1.2.20: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितकार्यकरणोपाधिनिमित्तोऽयं शारीरान्तर्यामिणोर्भेदव्यपदेशः, न पारमार्थिकः ।

    BSB 1.2.22: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितनामरूपपरिच्छेदाभिमानिनः तद्धर्मान्स्वात्मनि कल्पयतः शारीरस्योपपद्यते ।

    BSB 2.1.22: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितनामरूपकृतकार्यकरणसङ्घातोपाध्यविवेककृता हि भ्रान्तिर्हिताकरणादिलक्षणः संसारः, न तु परमार्थतोऽस्तीत्यसकृदवोचाम etc. etc.

    [Meaning: We have stated more than once that the mundane existence, characterized by the non-accomplishment of beneficial results etc., is an error arising from the non-recognition of the difference (from the self) of the limiting adjunct constituted by the assemblage of body and senses which are a creation of name and form called up by ignorance. It does not exist in reality. This (false notion) is of a piece with the notions that one has birth, death, injury, wound etc.]

    BSB 2.2.2: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितनामरूपमायावेशवशेनासकृत्प्रत्युक्तत्वात् । तस्मात्सम्भवति प्रवृत्तिः सर्वज्ञकारणत्वे, न त्वचेतनकारणत्वे ॥

    BSB 2.3.40: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितत्वात्कर्तृत्वभोक्तृत्वयोः ;

    BUB 4.3.32: अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितां विषयेन्द्रियसम्बन्धकालविभाव्याम् अन्यानि भूतानि उपजीवन्ति

    BUB 2.1.20: अपि च यथाप्राप्तस्यैव अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितस्य क्रियाकारकफलस्य आश्रयणेन इष्टानिष्टप्राप्तिपरिहारोपायसामान्ये प्रवृत्तस्य तद्विशेषमजानतः तदाचक्षाणा श्रुतिः क्रियाकारकफलभेदस्य लोकप्रसिद्धस्य सत्यताम् असत्यतां वा न आचष्टे न च वारयति, इष्टानिष्टफलप्राप्तिपरिहारोपायविधिपरत्वात् ।

    BUB 2.4.13: यस्तु अविद्याप्रत्युपस्थापितः कार्यकरणसम्बन्धी आत्मनः खिल्यभावः,

    6.5, prashna: अविद्याकृतकलानिमित्तो हि मृत्युः ; तदपगमेऽकलत्वादेव अमृतः भवति ।

    BSB 2.1.33: न चेयं परमार्थविषया सृष्टिश्रुतिः ; अविद्याकल्पितनामरूपव्यवहारगोचरत्वात् ,
    ब्रह्मात्मभावप्रतिपादनपरत्वाच्च — इत्येतदपि नैव विस्मर्तव्यम् ॥

    I hope to make a separate post giving the context and meanings of the above references.

    regards,

    ** – I mean Shankara reference on which particular point of mine is being sought by you.

  3. Sorry, Ramesam, but could I please ask you to give Sanskrit quotations in some sort of Romanized form? Personally, I can work them out (given time!) but you are excluding potentially many seekers from participating, or at least following, if they are unable to read Devanagari at all.

    I will read the posts more carefully when I can read them without laboriously working out out what the words are. Then perhaps I may think about a response (although I did not originally mean to get involved in this discussion again).

    Meanwhile, my very brief comment regarding Shankara references was in regard to your explicit statement that “Shankara clearly says in BSB as well as in BGB that the appearance of a world takes place only when there is an absence of Knowledge of Reality.” I still haven’t seen a Shankara quote that EXPLICITLY says this. I.e. it is only when one chooses to interpret what he actually said in this peculiar manner that this misunderstanding might occur. When you say that ‘Shankara clearly says…’, I expect a more or less literal translation to that effect.

    But, even if there is such a literal statement, reason would still dictate that one should understand that what is meant is that Self-knowledge replaces the BELIEF that the appearance is satyam with the KNOWLEDGE that it is mithyA.

    To Venkat: You may not have seen my remark on the earlier thread requesting you to confirm your source. You have now again quoted US 18.5 but, despite looking in several different US versions, I have been unable to find your quoted translation at that location. Indeed, it did not seem to be about this subject at all.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  4. Dennis – I apologised at the other post that it actually related to US19.

    I wrote my earlier response on this thread, before I saw your question and realised my mistake.

    venkat

  5. Dear Dennis,

    Re: “Shankara clearly says in BSB as well as in BGB that the appearance of a world takes place only when there is an absence of Knowledge of Reality.”

    The distilled gist along with all the references cited there in that comes out of the Series of the Posts titled “The Ignorance that Isn’t” and “The Lie of Upanishads” is essentially pointing to the above only. Even otherwise, I did refer to Shankara’s adhyAsa bhAShya, 4.5.15 brihadAraNyaka, and BGB 13.2 wherein the conclusion as summarized by me is inescapable, IMO.

    For example, in the adhyAsa bhAShya, he says: “Now this superimposition, the wise consider to be avidyA. And the ascertainment of the True nature of Reality as It is, they call vidyA.” A little later, he adds, “All the Upanishads are begun to show how the Knowledge of the Unity of Atman is to be attained for getting rid of the source of all these evils.”

    We can see that there is no ambiguity above in calling the “superimposition” to be ignorance (avidyA). And we know the perceived world is nothing but a “superimposition.” The second sentence quoted above calls it to be an “evil” (anartha) and to get rid of it, the vidyA (Self-knowledge) as taught by the Upanishads has to be attained.

    I also referred to 13.2 BGB (in posts on The Ignorance that Isn’t) and also in my post under the previous thread, wherein Shankara says: “‘samsAra’ is only based on avidya and exists only for the ignorant man who sees the world as it appears to him. Neither avidya nor its effect pertains to Kshetrajna, pure and simple.”

    Once again it is a clear statement that the apparent world is because of “ignorance” and “it exists for a man who sees the world.” It is obvious then that for a man who has lost the avidyA (i.e. who is Self-realized) the world cannot exist because its causal factor avidyA is no more existent.

    And, IMHO, nothing can be clearer than the brihadAraNyaka quote 4.5.15 wherein Sage Yajnavalkya says very emphatically that the dualistic world cannot be seen once the Unity with brahman (Self-realization) is attained. Shankara cites this mantra at 13 more places in his commentaries as follows:

    1.1.12 BSB (intro part); 1.2.20 BSB; 1.4.22 BSB; 2.3.40 BSB; 4.3.14 BSB;
    1.11.4 taittirIya;
    1.4.10 brihat; 3.5.1 brihat; 4.3.20 brihat;
    1.1.1 aitareya (intro)
    6.3 prashna;
    1.2 GK; 2.32 GK;

    That itself should establish that the sense of a separate “me” being dissolved, the “seen” too melts (pravilApyate) into the Universal Oneness.

    I will write a separate post on these giving the context etc. later on.

    Re: “Sanskrit quotations in some sort of Romanized form?”

    As I already said in the above comment of mine, I am in the way preparing a more detailed post wherein I shall give the bhAShya quotes in Roman script with English translations etc.

    regards,

    P.S. I am getting a bit hung up on the idea that the romanticization and glorification of Living Liberation (jIvanmukti) is a later phenomenon – post-Shankara. (Of course I am excluding here the jIvanmukta-s Shankara mentions at 3.3.32 BSB). I wonder if you could share with me (at least by e-mail) the findings of your own research on the subject. Much of what I am writing in these posts will have a bearing on that too, as you may appreciate.

    2) I verified with the Sanskrit text of upadesha sAhashri and Venkat is right. The verses appear in the 19th Chapter (tRiShNA jwara nAsha prakaraNam).

  6. Dear alll,

    In “Maharshi’s Gospel”, there is a chapter called The Jnani and the World. In this a questioner relentlessly pursues Ramanamaharishi on the question we are discussing here.

    The questioner is believed to be the seemingly omnipresent Maurice Frydman. The responses are quintessentially Bhagavan. And is close to Ramesam’s articulation.

    best wishes,
    venkat

  7. Hi All,

    Thanks for all references. I will certainly check out at least BrU 2.4.12 and 4.5.15 as I want to understand how these confusions arise for Vol. 2 of my book.

    In the meantime, though, could I please reduce this to an extremely basic, logical exchange so that we can see the reasoning. I would like to begin with a very simple question and ask that you supply an equally simple answer and we can see where this takes us. My question is this:

    (Following Gaudapada, whom you have quoted) If the world does not exist to begin with, how can it disappear on gaining enlightenment?

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  8. Dennis

    To whom does the world appear? As BG13.2 says, the person to whom it appears, is also part of the ignorance.

    As I noted earlier, you are implicitly re-ifying the jiva – and that the jiva attains knowledge of Advaita. Whereas the import of all the verses quoted above, of Vedanta, is that there is no jiva, and enlightenment involves the dissolution of that erroneous notion (neti, neti).

    Does not the Kena Up say that “he who thinks he knows does not know”? Which is the same point as Sankara’s bhasya on BG’s ladle is Brahman: “knowledge in the form of superimposition of an idea cannot lead to liberation as its result.”

    Best wishes
    venkat

  9. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for the poser.

    Okay, The first and primary “equally simple” observation of mine is that beginning an inquiry with a conditional “If …” clause is sure to throw us down a rabbit hole. IOW, for an inquiry in Vedanta to be fruitful, IMHO, one should begin the inquiry from a position of where one is rather than with an hypothetical situation that begins with “If …”

    Having said that, for whatever it is worth, the simplest and straightforward answer to your query is what you yourself have already referred to – 2.4.12, BUB.

    As Shankara says there, ‘There is alone the eternal Sindhu that flows. A lump of salt (Saindhava) separated out of it as a solid. When the lump mixes back into the flow, only the flow remains – no separate lump can be found even by an expert! In this analogy, the world/jIva is the lump of salt.’ The dissolution back is gaining enlightenment.

    regards,

  10. Venkat,

    This is precisely the sort of point I was making. For whom can the world disappear if there IS no world (and therefore no jIva-s)? The question of ignorance is superfluous.

    So, if you want to assert that the world disappears (and talk about ‘ignorance’), you have to assume its prior existence. You cannot say that it is only a ‘mistaken appearance’ because you would then have to answer the question: ‘to whom is it a mistaken appearance?’ This is all firmly in the empirical realm.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  11. Ramesam,

    I think you are avoiding the question, and you are referring to shruti (which I asked that we not do). I will rephrase it:

    “There is no creation (ajAti vAda). Therefore, how can the world disappear on enlightenment? For whom would it disappear?”

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    P.S. I am about to go out for most of the day so will not be able to continue this fascinating conversation until later…

  12. Dennis,

    Hope you have not yet left!

    You are taking a strange position. You object to my quoting shruti.
    But your reformulated query begins quoting a shruti (ajAti vAda)!

    So you have to rephrase the question once more please ! 🙂

    regards,

  13. You are being silly now, Ramesam!

    You are saying that the world is only an appearance and that this appearance goes away on enlightenment.

    Similarly, Venkat last said: “Whereas the import of all the verses quoted above, of Vedanta, is that there is no jiva, and enlightenment involves the dissolution of that erroneous notion (neti, neti).”

    (Both of) you cannot have it both ways. If there is no world, how can it go away? If there is no world, there cannot be any jIva-s either. If there is no jIva, who is it who is enlightened?

    The point I am making is that you both seem to be mixing levels in these attempts to justify your position.

    The answer can only be that IN REALITY there is only Brahman. IN APPEARANCE, there is a world and ignorant jIva-s. When one of those ignorant jIva-s is enlightened, the fact of the first statement is realized by the mind of that jIva. The appearance of the second statement continues.

    Please supply simple reasoning (no scriptural references) for your understanding.

  14. Venkat,

    Here is what you quoted from Br. U. 2.4.12:

    “After attaining this oneness, the Self, freed from body and organs, has no more particular consciousness . . For it is due to ignorance, and since ignorance is absolutely destroyed by the realisation of Brahman, how can the knower of Brahman possibly have any such particular consciousness? Even when a man is in the body, particular consciousness is sometimes impossible {as in deep sleep]; so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs?”

    But you omitted the bit following your first ellipsis:

    “No more is there such particular consciousness as ‘I so and so am the son of so and so; this is my land and wealth; I am happy or miserable’.”

    I.e. all that Shankara is saying is that, on enlightenment, we realize that we are not the body etc. I.e. an end to ahaMkAra, mamakAra; nothing to do with the world disappearing.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  15. Hi Dennis

    I am not invested in trying to prove whether the world disappears or not. I’m just saying that the scriptures can be interpreted that way.

    I am clear however, that enlightenment is about the dissolution of the ‘I’; not simply gaining the positive knowledge that ‘I am Brahman’. And therefore, if there is any subsequent living, it is totally disinterested in the world.

    And I can appreciate Ramesam’s argument that if the subject disappears, then there is no longer an object either.

    I found this in SSSS’ commentary on MK 2.16 (page 152 of The Essential Gaudapada), which is similar to what Ramesam wrote elsewhere:

    “ ‘First they imagine, conceive’ does not mean first temporally. For a universe comprising the whole gamut of distinctions – like time, space, causation, action, means of action, fruit – is appearing co-evally, co-existentially with the waking state. Therefore the expression here – ‘They first of all conceive of Jivatwa’ – means that by forging ahead with the concept of Jivatwa, then on the strength, basis of that rudimentary concept (called ‘I’ concept), all other concepts are entertained.
    Thus beginning with the jiva-concept at the root of all other thoughts, and on the strength of that fundamental ‘I’ concept the other concepts are entertained – in fact for conceiving internal concepts and external percepts this basic ‘I’ concept is alone the support”
    [I have paraphrased here and there for ease of typing]

    This is what Ramanamaharishi said too. So if the jiva dissolves, everything else goes too.

    best wishes,
    venkat

  16. Dennis

    One more thought . . .

    You asked:
    “If there is no world, how can it go away? If there is no world, there cannot be any jIva-s either. If there is no jIva, who is it who is enlightened? Please supply simple reasoning (no scriptural references) for your understanding.”

    It should be said that there are simple answers to your questions:

    “If there is no world, how can it go away?”
    Following Gaudapada, our waking world and dream world disappear in deep sleep every day, as Gaudapada points out. It goes away regularly, along with our ‘I’-thought, as SSSS is saying above, and as Ramanamaharishi pointed out.

    “If there is no jIva, who is it who is enlightened?”
    Wrong question! The question, as per Sankara’s BG bhasya to 13.2 and in BSB, is who is it that is ignorant? ie as long as there is a person there asking questions, that is ignorance. In the absence of that person there is no ignorance. Hence.why deep sleep is regarded as an approximation to jnana.

    Best wishes,
    venkat

  17. Hi Venkat,

    So, assuming we can agree that Shankara had eliminated ignorance, you are saying that he spent the remainder of the life of his body-mind in a permanent condition resembling deep-sleep? (Incidentally, you keep referring to scriptures. I wanted to keep this extremely simple, using only reason and ‘everyday’ knowledge – i.e. pramANa-s OTHER than shabda.)

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  18. Hi Dennis

    You started the conversation insisting on scriptural references from Ramesam. He (and I) provided you with a number of such references, and rather than engage directly with those, you switched to asking for reason and everyday knowledge. I think my last response, albeit using the three states methodology, addresses that ‘everyday’ perspective.

    I would also add that, many Vedantins (including yourself) argue that jnana cannot come from ‘everyday’ knowledge, and that scriptures are a pre-requisite. How can a dream character understand the nature of a dream, from within a dream?

    As far as Sankara goes, he is a figure in your perception. Advaita tells us that you and he are not real, not substantial, an illusion in Gaudapada’s terms. Therefore your question is asking how one non-existent jiva should view another non-existent jnani and his apparent behaviour in the world. It is a non-starter if you accept ajata vada.

    Cheers,
    venkat

  19. Hi Venkat,

    I didn’t actually want to get involved in this discussion at all again! The reason I asked Ramesam for references is because he was stating that Shankara said such and such. Because scriptures are so often translated in accord with the translator’s prior beliefs, I wanted to check those sources for myself.

    My primary objection to all of this ‘world disappearing’ nonsense is that it is totally contrary to reason and I have already quoted Shankara’s statement to the effect that, if scriptures say something that is contrary to reason, we should ignore it. (BG 18.66 I believe)

    I agree entirely that j~nAna can only come from shabda pramANa but there is no need to resort to that in this instance. Simple reasoning shows that it cannot be the case.

    In your dream metaphor, we are talking about what happens IN THE DREAM. If you (the dreamer ego) become lucid, you realize you are dreaming but the dream continues. I.e. the dream character DOES understand the nature of his dream but the dream world does not disappear.

    Your last paragraph does not really make any sense, mixing levels of reality.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  20. One other point has just occurred to me. We have previously discussed saMnyAsa to some degree (and Venkat wrote a long article on the subject). I seem to recall that both Ramesam and Venkat claimed that renunciation was necessary even after the dawn of knowledge. (Apologies if this is mistaken.) Certainly, saMnyAsa post-enlightenment is a topic covered by Shankara.

    The thought that occurred is simply that, if the world disappears for the enlightened one, what would there remain to be renounced?

    • Dennis, on this point, I’d refer you to my response above at 19:29:

      I am not invested in trying to prove whether the world disappears or not. I’m just saying that the scriptures can be interpreted that way.

      I am clear however, that enlightenment is about the dissolution of the ‘I’; not simply gaining the positive knowledge that ‘I am Brahman’. And therefore, if there is any subsequent living, it is totally disinterested in the world.

  21. Dennis:
    Deep-sleep is characterized by ignorance. It is not regarded (by Gaudapada or Shankara) as an approximation to j~nAna.

    My response – from Sankara’s bhasya to BU4.3.21:

    “You asked me why, in spite of its being the light that is Pure Intelligence, the self fails to know in the state of profound sleep. I have told you the reason – it is unity, as of a couple fully embracing each other. Incidentally it is implied that variety is the cause of particular consciousness; and the cause of that variety is, as we have said, ignorance, which brings forward something other than the self. Such being the case, when the Jiva is freed from ignorance, he attains but unity with all. Therefore, there being no such division among the factors of an action as knowledge and known, whence should particular consciousness arise, or desire manifest itself, in the natural, immutable light of the self?”

    “It may be asked, can that form not be divided from other things, that exist, or is the self the only entity that exists? The answer is, there is nothing else but the self. How? Because all objects of desire are but the self in this form. In states other than that of profound sleep, i.e. in the waking and dream states. things are separated, as it were, from the self and are desired as such. But to one who is fast asleep, they become the self, since there is no ignorance to project the idea of difference. Hence also is this form free from desires, because there is nothing to be desired, and devoid of grief.”

  22. Sorry, Venkat, but as I keep saying, I am trying to keep this simple, using clear reasoning. Then, everyone can follow and understand. This is why I asked that we avoid quotations from scriptures and Shankara-Gaudapada.

    Your quotation above is not relevant. Certainly deep-sleep is effectively ‘merging with Self’, but it is still ignorance because we wake up again afterwards and are no nearer to j~nAna. Otherwise we would not need to find a qualified teacher; we would just need to go to sleep!

    But that aspect was already diverging from the main topic.

    To return to topic and keep things simple, could you please just respond to the non-scriptural comments.

    1) “So, assuming we can agree that Shankara had eliminated ignorance, you are saying that he spent the remainder of the life of his body-mind in a permanent condition resembling deep-sleep?”

    2) “In your dream metaphor, we are talking about what happens IN THE DREAM. If you (the dreamer ego) become lucid, you realize you are dreaming but the dream continues. I.e. the dream character DOES understand the nature of his dream but the dream world does not disappear.”

    3) “For whom can the world disappear if there IS no world (and therefore no jIva-s)?”

    • In Advaita, j~nAna is equated to Self-knowledge and is permanent, once attained. Whatever happens or not in the deep-sleep state does not remain once the jIva moves to the waking or dream states. If this were not the case, all that we would need to do to gain enlightenment would be to go to sleep.

      Because the mind is dormant, it does not make any errors and ‘ignorance is bliss’! I.e. waking and dream states are characterized by both ignorance and error, whereas deep-sleep is characterized by ignorance alone. Only turIya is both ignorance-free and error-free.

      The deep-sleep state is nirvikalpa, so that we can say that we are ‘merged with the Self’ if you like. But we are already the Self, because there is only the Self. The point is that it is a non-permanent ‘state’.

  23. With respect to your questions:

    1) You are speaking from the POV of a particular consciousness looking at another body (Sankara). What the state of his consciousness is, is outside your knowledge. You are just observing a body-mind. That body-mind may be functioning automatically as a result of its genetic / environmental programming, without an intervening ‘I’-thought, or eka jiva vada could apply. There are all sorts of philosophical explanations.

    2) Gaudapada basically equates waking and dream states. Taking it a step further one could simply say that there is pure consciousness and periodic episodes of an illusory waking/dream arising on that substratum. Full stop.

    3) Exactly. There is no world and no jiva. See (2) above. Which takes you to eka jiva/ brahman vada.

    3)

  24. 1) So every Shankara bhAShya and independent work that we have is the result of an automata programmed by genetics and environment? Doesn’t do much to recommend Advaita to anyone!

    2) Not sure what point you are making here. I said that the dream world does not disappear for a lucid dreamer, just as the waking world does not disappear for a j~nAnI. We already have the situation that there is deep-sleep (merged with Self but still ignorant) with periodic episodes of a mithyA world or illusory dream. The non-lucid dreamer thinks the dream is real; the unenlightened waker thinks the world is real.

    3) This where your reason and credibility break down; eka jIva vAda was never advocated by Shankara and does not stand up to logical analysis.

  25. Dennis

    You are being silly.

    (1) If MK2.32 says there is no jiva, then there is no Sankara, apart from in ignorance.

    (2) Only MK of all the upanishads, talks about Turiya.

    (3) Bertrand Russell stated, to his disappointment, that solipsism is an unassailable philosophical position. So sorry, eka jva vada, does absolutely stand up to logical analysis. You may not like it, but this is a different matter,

    Your mental model is that there somehow exists a relative world in which there are jivas and Jnanis, vs an absolute level in which there aren’t. Given your keenness on logical argument – there is no logical coherent argument for that. All that you can do is to say you are mixing up levels. Which doesn’t explain anything.

    The upanishads only talk about the relative level, as something that is subsequently discarded.

    Best wishes,
    venkat

  26. Venkat,

    1) Who is being silly, now? See comments below, after 3)

    2) You are still avoiding the question. I believe it was you who introduced Gaudapada (“Following Gaudapada, our waking world and dream world disappear in deep sleep every day, as Gaudapada points out…”). Mandukya and kArikA are the places in which the ‘states of consciousness’ are most comprehensively discussed. In any case, my question does not need either – it refers purely to what we already know through pratyakSha. The whole point about shabda pramANa is that it provides knowledge that comes from no other pramANa. And if it contradicts what we know from other pramANa-s we can ignore it.

    3) I wrote at length about eka-jIva-vAda in https://www.advaita-vision.org/the-devils-teaching-part-1/ and do not intend to enter into that again.

    My ‘mental mode’ is following the teaching of Shankara. I agree with your last sentence apart from one crucial change. You say: “The upanishads only talk about the relative level, as something that is subsequently discarded.” What you mean is that: The upanishads talk AT the relative level (something that is subsequently discarded) ABOUT the absolute reality.

    You say: “Your mental model is that there somehow exists a relative world in which there are jivas and Jnanis, vs an absolute level in which there aren’t. Given your keenness on logical argument – there is no logical coherent argument for that.”

    Clearly you accept the relative world, since you are engaging in discussion, typing at your computer etc. And, since the site is devoted to Advaita, I assume that you accept sarvam khalvidam brahma etc. So one can only concluded that you share this peculiar mental mode!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  27. “Bertrand Russell stated, to his disappointment, that solipsism is an unassailable philosophical position.”

    Russell, however, never embraced solipsism. In general, Russell’s view was that solipsism is both irrefutable and unbelievable. “As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me.”

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