Verse1 of Drg Drsya Vivek- An analysis of

Verse 1 of Drk Drsya Vivek (DDV) is translated by Swami Nikhilananda:
“The form is perceived and the eye is its perceiver. It (eye) is perceived and the mind is its perceiver. The mind with Its modifications is perceived and the Witness (the Self) is verily the perceiver. But It (the Witness) is not perceived (by any other).”
Analysis
A seeker understands on the basis of experience that the sense organ is the perceiver of the perceived sense object. On the same basis, it is accepted that the mind is the perceiver and the sense organ is perceived. The two levels of perceiver and perceived are validated by experience. In the third level, the verse says that the Self is the perceiver of the perceived mind and there is no perceiver of the Self. Is this based on experience or reason, or a combination of both?
Pure Consciousness (PC) is the other name for Self. As PC is beyond the realm of experience, it would mean that the third level is to be understood intellectually only. However, a seeker could (rightly) say: I experience the thoughts, i.e., modifications of the mind and therefore the third level is also validated by experience. A little probing would expose the fallacy. Who is ‘I’? It is not PC, it is ego, the conscious mind, the locus of I thought. Thus, in the third level, the ego is the perceiver of perceived modifications of the mind. As the mind is inert and the ego is sentient, reason tells us that its sentiency must have its source outside the inert mind and body complex. The source is PC. And it is to be (only) intellectually understood that PC is the perceiver of the perceived ego and there is no perceiver of PC. It is the fourth level. Please note that in this, ego is perceived.
A guess: The fourth level is merged with the third level ( treating mind and ego as the same) in the verse for the sake of brevity and/or to conform to the requirement of a verse or for a commentator to do the separation.

14 thoughts on “Verse1 of Drg Drsya Vivek- An analysis of

  1. Dennis,

    Let me pick up here on your comments on BG2.21 in your Pratibandhas article. Because Sankara’s bhasya at 2.21 is fascinating, complex and cogent in equal measure, and a careful reading clarifies a lot of confusion.

    In the flow of BG 2.19-2.21, Krishna is saying that the Self is not the agent of action. Many take this to mean having the knowledge that one is not the in reality an agent of action is enlightenment.

    But Sankara is more nuanced than this. He begins by saying that the enlightened man has no actions. This is his liiteral meaning, rather than ‘knowing’ that in reality he is the Self and cannot act, as he immediately clarifies with an objector’s question.

    An objector (Dennis in pratibandhaas?) says the enlightened man is distinct from the immutable Self (ie as in Dennis’ article, because the jnani knows this), and thus can continue to act in the world:
    Obj: “We cannot indeed say that a man who has known an immovable pillar can have no action to do.”

    Sankara responds:
    “This objection does not apply. For, the enlightened man is identical with the Self. ENLIGHTENMENT DOES NOT PERTAIN TO THE AGGREGATE OF THE BODY, ETC. Therefore, as the only other alternative, the enlightened man should be identical with the Self, who is not included in the aggregate and is immutable. No action being possible in the case of an enlightened man, it is but just to deny all action”

    He goes on to say that “the Self is imagined to be enlightened, merely because of avidya associating Him with that intellectual perception – which is unreal”, comparing it to the Self, which through ignorance / superimposition is imagined to be the perceiver of objects.

    So the thrust of his argument here is that the enlightened man is identical with the Self, rather than simply having knowledge of it.

    He then goes on to clarify a sorely misunderstood point. Krishna is saying to Arjuna – who is not yet ready for jnana – to do his actions in the world with detachment, by understanding that he is not really the agent. Sankara goes further to say that for the enlightened no action remains and therefore enjoins renunciation for the jnani and the earnest seeker.

    At this point he posits an objector who argues (like many today) “there is no renunciation of the acts of speech and body”, and that “renunciation of all MENTAL acts only is meant”.

    Sankara disposes of this immediately:
    “No. Since all acts of speech and body are preceded by mental activity, they cannot exist when the mind is inactive”.

    The objector tries again:
    “Let us then construe the passage thus: Neither acting nor causing another to act, he, the disembodied soul of the enlightened man, deposits all activity in the body (i. e., knows that all activity belongs to the body, not to the Self) and rests happily.

    [Note this is a popular concept amongst teachers today, that one can continue to act in the world, ‘knowing’ it is the body and not the Self]

    Sankara emphatically responds:
    “No: Everywhere (in the sruti and· in the smriti) it is emphatically asserted that the Self is immutable. Moreover, the act of resting presupposes a place to rest in, whereas the act of renunciation does not presuppose it. And the Sanskrit verb sam+nyas’ means ‘to renounce,’ not ‘to deposit.’ Therefore, the Gita-Sastra teaches that he who has acquired a knowledge of the Self should resort to renunciation only, not to works.”

    Sankara’s argument is not just that moksha is not possible through a combination of action and knowledge; he goes far beyond this to say that Knowledge and action cannot coexist, because the enlightened man is identical with the Self, and thus has no desires, and therefore cannot act or cause to act.

  2. Hi Venkat,

    You know that I aways like to refer back to Shankara as the authority for interpreting concepts in Advaita. But even here, there are always two provisos to be borne in mind: 1) Even Shankara and shruti cannot override reason, as he himself points out; 2) One has to beware of translations. Sometimes a translator will ‘stretch’ or even ‘twist’ what Shankara actually said in order more closely to match their own prior (mis-)understanding.

    You quote Shankara as saying: “ENLIGHTENMENT DOES NOT PERTAIN TO THE AGGREGATE OF THE BODY, ETC.’ (Your capitalization!) Presumably, then, you are saying that (Shankara says that) enlightenment pertains to Brahman?? (I don’t think that there is any other option.) But surely it makes no sense to say that Brahman becomes enlightened. Accordingly, there is no other option but to interpret enlightenment as pertaining to the jIva. And since the jIva is Brahman plus body-mind (Consciousness ‘reflected in’ the mind), and enlightenment cannot pertain to the Consciousness part, then it MUST pertain to the mind. Please correct this reasoning if you disagree.

    You go on to add: “So the thrust of his argument here is that the enlightened man is identical with the Self, rather than simply having knowledge of it.” But everything is already always Brahman. The unenlightened man is also identical with the Self – he simply does not know it. Advaita is all about teaching us what is already the case.

    As regards the rest of what you say, it is certainly unarguable that the Self does not act. The j~nAnI knows this but his body-mind has its prArabdha karma to exhaust. Thus, ‘action’ continues for the remainder of the life of the body-mind but without desire and without attachment to the results. Again, this is in accord with reason. We all accept that Shankara roamed around having discussions, ‘defeating’ opponents, building maTha-s etc. and no one would think of suggesting he wasn’t a j~nAnI. How could this stack up with ‘not acting’? Shankara actually adds in BGB 2.21: “From the statement that action is impossible for a man of realization it is understood that the conclusion of the Lord is that actinons enjoined by the scriptures are prescribed for the unenlightened.” I.e. it does not mean that a j~nAnI does not act but that a j~nAnI no longer needs to follow karmakANDa. He no longer has any ‘duties’.

    BGB 2.21 goes on to say: ““The śruti says ‘It is to be realized through the mind alone, (following the instruction of the teacher)’ (bŗhadāraņyaka upaniṣad 4.4.19). The mind that is purified by the instructions of the scriptures and the teacher, control of the body and organs etc. becomes the instrument for realizing the Self.”

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  3. [Dennis says]: 1) Even Shankara and shruti cannot override reason, as he himself points out; 2) One has to beware of translations. Sometimes a translator will ‘stretch’ or even ‘twist’ what Shankara actually said in order more closely to match their own prior (mis-)understanding.

    And yet, Dennis, according to Shankara any reasoning that contradicts the Veda is fallacious. When he criticizes the Vaisheshika theory that the Self has desires, etc., Shankara says that the arguments which they advance are wrong, because they contradict the Veda. While Shankara believes that the meaning of scripture can never be contradicted by reason and always agrees with reason (BrUB 4.3.22) and that one pramana cannot be contradicted by another, he also believes that what scripture says may not agree with empirical experience. For example, scripture says that Brahman is both the material and efficient cause of the world, while in experience we never find the same thing being both a material and efficient cause. In such cases, Shankara says, we should remember that this is a matter that doesn’t fall within the domain of inference (BrUB 2.1). For Shankara, while scriptural teaching does not contradict reason, it is supra-rational.

    When I read your comment about translators I was reminded of a similarly worded opinion by the great Sanskrit scholar S.K. Belvalkar somewhere in his lectures on Vedanta. Belvalkar, however, is referring to Shankara and other classical commentators who he maintains invariably have an axe to grind and ‘stretch’ or even ‘twist’ the meaning of a text to suit their own preexisting agendas.

  4. I hear what you say, Rick. But, being a reasoning creature, I am obliged to agree with Shankara’s statement in BGB 18.66: “The validity of the Vedas holds good only with regard to matters… which are not known through such valid means of knowledge as direct perception… because the validity of the Vedas lies in revealing what is beyond direct perception.”

    Also (I cannot immediately locate the reference) he says somewhere that no amount of scriptural argument could convince that water is dry or fire cold. (This wasn’t the actual comparison but was something similar.)

    As for nothing being both an efficient and a material cause, shruti itself uses the example of the spider and its web.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  5. Thanks Rick for your intervention.

    Dennis,

    Sankara in BG2.21 contradicts many of your positions – even anticipating your arguments via the objector. When it comes to the matter of enlightenment, it is beyond the purview of words and reason, since our minds and thoughts are also part of the ignorance. That presumably is why scripture is needed.

    You can throw up why Sankara went about teaching; etc etc but then the onus is on each of us to try to explain the apparent contradiction between his very clear bhasya and his apparent actions . . . in order to penetrate the meaning.

    In this case, one possible explanation is that of Janaka – his actions were purely for the benefit of the world and not for himself. And Sankara himself seems to believe this is a rare exception.

    In any event our disagreement always revolves around whether the mind is part of the ignorance or whether the ignorance is in the mind. With the former position, then the commentary around moksha equating to dissolution of the mind, and of becoming Brahman can be explicated. With the latter, there is an object (mind) which has ignorance, and which can then gain knowledge – but that then implies parts to Brahman which contradicts sruti. One can escape down the relative vs absolute reality hatch, but note that Sankara never uses this.

    Sankara in BG2.21 firmly contradicts the latter interpretation. A cool careful read of it makes is unmistakable.

  6. Venkat,

    All of my reading of scripture, Shankara and commentaries has led me to believe that Shankara was NOT anti-reason. The teaching of Advaita was shruti supplemented by reason. This is why we have manana after shravaNa. If you believe everything you read without question, you bring Advaita down to the level of any fundmentalist religion – do this because it says so in the book (regardless of the fact that this has been transcribed and translated by those who may not have understood the original message).

    Your bald claim that our disagreement “revolves around whether the mind is part of the ignorance or whether the ignorance is in the mind” is interesting. This then means that you believe that ignorance is a real entity (separate from Brahman, presumably, since Brahman is knowledge – and thereby refuting Advaita). I have written many thousands of words so far on the topic of ‘ignorance’ for Confusions Vol. 2, having read many, many references. And the end is not yet quite in sight. But I have definitely come down on the side of believing that ignorance, as taught by Shankara, is NOT an entity in its own right. It is simply ‘lack of knowledge’ – as reason clearly tells us.

  7. Dennis,

    1) “If you believe everything you read without question . . .”

    Trust me, I don’t. And that is not just in the field of philosophy.

    2) Everyone – including you – states that Sankara is THE authority on interpreting Vedanta. He has applied his reasoning to interpret them in what he believes is a coherent whole.
    Now you come along and say, well ‘take this element of Sankara and not that one, because I have done extensive reading and I know what is true’. So now you have beoome the authority.

    3) “you believe that ignorance is a real entity (separate from Brahman, presumably, since Brahman is knowledge – and thereby refuting Advaita) . . . ignorance, as taught by Shankara, is NOT an entity in its own right. It is simply ‘lack of knowledge’”

    So WHO has the lack of knowledge??? Surely not Brahman; which in itself implies separation from Brahman. “Thereby refuting advaita”.

    We can play logical games all day long, but logical reasoning cannot resolve this. That is why there are so many philosophical perspectives and religions in the world.

  8. 4) BG 2.21 is one of the key slogans. Every para within it contradicts your interpretation.

    Lets take an early para, which Sankara specifically wrote to answer what he saw as potential objections:

    (Objection,) :-What special reason for the absence of action in the case of an enlightened man does the Lord see when denying actions in the words “how does such a man slay?

    (Answer) :-The immutability of the Self bas already been given as the reason for the absence of all actions.

    (Objection) :-True, it has been given; but that cannot be a sufficient reason, since the
    enlightened man is distinct from the immutable Self. We cannot indeed say that a man who has known an immovable pillar can have no action to do.

    (Answer) :-This objection does not apply. For, the enlightened man is identical with the Self. Enlightenment does not pertain to the aggregate of the body, etc. Therefore, as the only other alternative, the enlightened man should be identical with the Self, who is not included in the aggregate and is immutable.

    My interpretation is that the objector is saying an enlightened man can know the immovable, unchangeable, but still act. Sankara refutes this and says for the enlightened man there is no action because he is identical with the Self. So how do you interpret this – or is this one to be dismissed because it does not accord with reason, even though Sankara went out of his way to hypothesise an objection?

  9. Hi Venkat,

    <<< “If you believe everything you read without question . . .” Trust me, I don’t. And that is not just in the field of philosophy. >>>

    Not sure how you can claim that, Venkat. It seems to be precisely what you are doing. You read what Gambhirananda (?) has translated as what Shankara said and you accept it verbatim, rather than saying ‘this does not accord with reason; what can Shankara have meant, or what did he actually say?’ In writing the Confusions books, this is what I am doing. If a quotation does not seem reasonable, I have been comparing other translations and even going back to the Sanskrit and getting Ramesam kindly to help me with the literal translation. So far, I have been able to rationalize incongruous statements and have found quite a few examples of subtle mis-translations.

    But obviously I am not going to attempt to explain all of the justifications for my conclusions, not just from reading Shankara’s bhAShya-s but from commentaries on those, with refutations and counter-arguments from the likes of Sureshvara, Padmapada and Ramanuja, Vimuktatman, Sarvaj~nAtman, Vidyaranya to Satchidanandendra. I know I made similar ‘excuses’ when we had our discussions on ‘world disappearing’ but I assume you can accept that it would simply be impossible (55,000 words so far on ‘Ignorance’ and not yet finished).

    <<< Everyone – including you – states that Sankara is THE authority on interpreting Vedanta.... So now you have become the authority. >>>

    Now you are being silly. I am not making any statements ‘based on my authority’. Everything I say remains in accord with Shankara, as understood in the context of reason and other Advaita teaching. As I indicated, what I am doing is exercising manana, following my reading of Shankara. Obviously Shankara is not able to answer any doubts in person so we are obliged to utilize any other source we can. What I am not doing is blindly taking as gospel what Gambhirananda happens to give as translation, as you appear to be doing!

    As regards your argument about the enlightened man not acting, I refer you to BG 5.8-9 – naiva ki~ncitkaromIti yukto manyeta tattvavitH etc. I talk about this in my post on manonAsha, which is another topic upon which you have wrong understanding if I recall correctly. Please (re-) read https://www.advaita-vision.org/manonasha-not-the-literal-death-of-the-mind/.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  10. Yes, yes everyone is confused that doesn’t agree with you. Why don’t you actually present you interpretation para by para of Sankara’s bhasya on BG2.21?

  11. In his incisive book-length commentary on Shankara’s Bhashya for Gita chapter 2, Swami Chidananda Puri of the Dashanami Sampradaya explains that part of Shankara’s commentary on 2.21 quoted by Venkat: “The objector raised a valid question: just by knowing the Self how can you say that the knowledge is one with it. The knower does not acquire the quality of the known, he just knows it. If a person knows a pillar to be immovable, he himself does not become immovable. This objection is refuted by stating that the pillar is different from the one who knows it; whereas the Self is Itself the knower. Knowing is not a function of the body-senses conglomerate, but of what is within you. And what is within you is the Self. There is no question of knowing it distinct from you. The Self is not the same as other objects like the body or senses or their conglomerate. They are all subject to mutation like birth, growth and decay. But the Self is beyond all mutations and is the basis on which all changes take place. The knower of the Self, being Self Itself, is therefore beyond all actions. He has no karma. Therefore Bhagavan’s question ‘how does he kill or cause to kill’ is quite appropriate.”

  12. Venkat,

    I am not prepared to expend the necessary effort to interpret BGB 2.21 ‘para by para’. If you specify the particular quotations (Sanskrit and translation) that you think I am not understanding, I will endeavor to have a look. But I assume here that we are talking specifically about the nature of ignorance. I am not interested in pursuing the fact that the Self does not act. As far as I can see, there is no dispute here, as my post on manonASha will attest.

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