What Happens After Self-realization? – 1/3

[What exactly happens to the “sense of separate self” after “realization of the Self” depends on whether one seeks saguNa brahman (a favorite Godhead or Ishwara) or nirguNa (attributeless) brahman. The Vedanta sUtra-s in the Section 3 and those at the later part of Section 4 of Chapter 4 deal with the result of following the former. The aphorisms # 534 to 542 in Section 4 of the Chapter 4 tell us about the latter. We shall in this Series of three Posts consider the latter case of following nirguNa brahman.]

“What happens after Self-realization?” is a tantalizing question many of us would like to ask.

But before a sensible answer is given to that question, one should have a very clear idea of two other closely related questions: “What is liberation?” and “Who is it that gets actually liberated?”

There can be many answers to these three questions. The answers will vary depending on one’s own understanding, teaching model followed, the explanatory theories used, devices adopted for practice and so on. However, any given answer has to be within the bounds of an overarching condition that circumscribes the Advaita philosophy. That is to say that the answer has to smoothly and seamlessly segue into the two aspects that the Advaita doctrine holds supreme and uncontestable. The two aspects are:

1. “What “IS” is Being (brahman or Consciousness or Awareness or Self) Alone without a second” as 6.2.1, chAndogya tells us; and,

2. “No individual (jIva) is ever born (or created), there being no reason for creation,” as Gaudapada explicates in his kArikA-s at 3.48 and 4.71.

Following from the above two basic principles and as a corollary to them arises a third aspect.

3. The perceived world of multiplicity is:

i)  Not really “Real”;

ii) Ever-changing;

iii) Limited and finite;

vi) An aberration like a single moon appearing as multiple moons due to cataract in the eye (2.1.17, BSB; 1.4.10, BUB; 2.13.1, chAndogya bhAShya; 13.2, 18.48, BGB etc.) or the bluish dome-like appearance of the outer space (adhyAsa bhAShya; 1.2.8, BSB; 18.17, BGB; 3.2.1, BUB; etc.) is because of our ‘ignorance’; and, therefore, there is a “Disconnect between Perception and Reality.”

We shall attempt to answer the three questions raised in the beginning in the reverse order keeping in the background of our mind the three above described overarching aspects.

 Who is it that gets actually liberated?

The provisional reply to this question can be: Each one of “us” whoever had observed and experienced the world and determined that there is no ever-lasting and unceasing happiness in it. But then, who or what exactly is that “us” or the individual ‘me’ that “us” (or “me”) points to? What does that comprise?

The best answer, as far as I could find, comes from Swami Krishnananda. He says that his reply is based on the ‘pancAgni vidyA’ in chAndogya Upanishad and also from brihdAraNyaka. He writes:

[The sense of a separate self or ‘me’ or] jIva or soul, for the purpose of our subject, is a concentrated point of desire. The [self] that we are discussing about here is not the Universal [Self]; it is rather the bound [self] and no one can be bound unless there is a “centralization” of desire at a spatio-temporal point.”

In other words, what we think we are is, at its center, none other than a condensed mass of “desires.” He continues:

“We must first of all know what we mean by the ‘self’ that takes birth. What is the ‘separate self’? What is it made of? We have a wrong notion of the word, generally speaking. People imagine that ‘the separate self’ is a kind of substance – a little ball, mercury-like – moving inside the body. All sorts of funny ideas everybody has about the Jiva, Atma, soul, and all that. It is nothing of this kind, really.”

Swami Krishnananda declares, without mincing words:

“It is desire that is born, not a child!

The human being is a shape taken by a mass of desires.”

What Swami Krishnananda says gels well with the Upanishad teaching that the annulment of desires is itself liberation because it is the desire that binds one down to the world of action, experiencing the results of action and carrying those consequences unendingly. It leads us to the next question, ‘What is Liberation.’

What is Liberation?

Freedom or liberation from the endless cycle of cause and effect in the world propelled by desires is “liberation” as the ‘shruti’ tells us:

यदा सर्वे प्रभिद्यन्ते हृदयस्येह ग्रन्थयः 
अथ मर्त्योऽमृतो भवत्येतावद्ध्यनुशासनम्   —  2.6.15, kaTha Upanishad.

Meaning:  When all the knots of the heart are destroyed, even while a man is alive, then a mortal becomes immortal. This much alone is the instruction (of all the Upanishads). (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

Shankara adds in his explanation at this mantra: “The concepts arising from ignorance are, ‘I am the body,’ ‘This wealth is mine,’ ‘I am happy or unhappy,’ etc. When the bondages of ignorance are destroyed by the rise of the opposite Knowledge of the identity of the Self and brahman in the form “I am brahman indeed and am not a transmigrating (separate) self,” then the desires originating from the knots become totally eradicated. Then a mortal becomes immortal. This much only is the instruction; the expression “of all the Upanishads,” should be supplied to complete the sentence. There should not be any anticipation that there is more.” (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

The muNDaka Upanishad says:

भिद्यते हृदयग्रन्थिश्छिद्यन्ते सर्वसंशयाः 
क्षीयन्ते चास्य कर्माणि तस्मिन्दृष्टे परावरे   —  2.2.9, muNDaka Upanishad.

Meaning:  When that Self, which is both high and low, is realized, the knot of the heart gets untied, all doubts solved, and all one’s actions become dissipated. (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

Shankara writes in his explanation of the mantra 2.2.9, muNDaka: “The knot of the heart” is the host of tendencies and impressions of ignorance, in the form of desires that hang on to the intellect. He also clarifies that “Of the man whose ignorance has been removed, the actions that preceded the rise of illumination, but not yielded results in earlier lives (i.e. so far) get dissipated. However, the actions that produced the present life (body), because they have already begun to bear fruit and, like an arrow shot, would continue till their momentum ends.” (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda – with slight editing).

[Note: The word “soul” used by different authors in the citations given above is changed as “self’ or “separate self” by me as the word ‘soul’ is a loaded term.]

(To Continue … Part – 2/3)

38 thoughts on “What Happens After Self-realization? – 1/3

  1. As indicated by Ramesam, not much is written about “what happens after realization” other than calling it indescribable. I am presenting yet another reference, a translation of *Swami Akhandananda’s talk in Hindi that gives a glimpse of what “that” state would be like.

    मोक्ष माणस्य ज्ञानफलम् स्वर्गवत् न परोक्षम् किन्तु त्रृप्तिवत् प्रत्यक्षम्

    (I do not have a reference other than what Swami Akhandananda recited)

    JnAnaphalam (fruit of Self Realization) or state after the realization is not like the experience of heaven that one may experience only after death in Vaikunth (Vishnu’s abode) or Brahmaloka (achieved after performing self-less karma). Then what is this experience like? It is “truptivat”! The plain english translation of truptivat is “like contentment”.
    One experiences “trupti” after fulfillment of a desire. One does not require eyes, ears or any other instruments of knowledge for this experience. One needs to wear a pair of eyes to see a pot but trupti is “sakshibhasya” appearing in the witness. Trupti is the closest one to the Self, hence this metaphor.
    Obviously, Atmananda or Atma-trupti is certainly not like common trupti that comes and goes. This kind of trupti is “desha-kala parichchinna” dependent on time and space. One experiences trupti only at a given time or given place during the desire fulfillment period. The state of Self Realization is “Atma Trupti” which comes by itself, and stays forever.

    Bhagavat Gita and Ashtavakra Gita have some references to atma-trupti.
    As stated in Bhagvat Gita 3.17
    यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानव: |
    आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते || 17||
    But those who rejoice in the self, who are illumined and fully satisfied in the self, for them, there is nothing to do.

    Ashtavakra Gita AG 16.4 also describes this state in an amusing manner

    व्यापारे खिद्यते यस्तु निमेषोन्मेषयोरपि ।
    तस्यालस्यधुरीणस्य सुखं नाऽन्यस्य कस्यचित् ॥ ४ ॥
    Happiness belongs to no-one but that supremely lazy man for whom even opening and closing his eyes is a bother.
    This state is also expressed in many stories in BhAgavat e.g., story of Jada Bharatha
    *Swami Akhandananda is a legendary advaitin from Kashi who died in 1982.

  2. I am reluctant to get involved in any discussions on this topic. Anyone who wants to be reminded of my views can read the three-part series on ‘Enlightenment’ beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/enlightenment-akhandakara/ and the 12-part (I think!) posts on pratibandha-s, beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/pratibandha-s-part-1-of-6/ . Ramesam and I have argued quite a few differences of understanding before and I do not think anyone would benefit from a repetition of these!

    However, I would ask for clarification of the opening statement regarding ‘seeking’ or ‘following’ saguṇa or nirguṇa Brahman. Surely Self-realization is knowing that ‘I am Brahman’, is it not? In which case, I do not understand such dualistic distinction. If one seeks (or even finds) a ‘god’, then one has not attained Self-realization.

  3. Hi Vijay,

    Thanks for your Comment.
    I could be wrong but such statements like satiation or contentment are more eulogistic. Or putting it in modern ‘marketing terminology,’ if you don’t mind, it’s sales talk!

    Recollecting that ‘Liberation’ is the denial of the concepts of ‘I am the body’ or ‘I am the mind’ etc., we can be pretty sure that an ID carrying body with my name tag or even the mind with the ideas of ‘me-mine’ could not be present after Self-realization. For, if they continue to exist, there is still work to do. (Of course, a body may continue to be because of the prArabdha, but the seeker who attained Self-realization will not continue to identify himself/herself with the body-mind. S/he is now identified with the Supreme Self).

    Next you refer to the contentment of the Self. Shankara at many places talks about the absence of any such ‘experiencing’ by the brahman (Self).

    Then who or what exactly gets the feeling of satiation? I suggest you ask this question to yourself. Even Maharshis seem to differ in their view in answering the above question. This forms the Part-3 of my article.


  4. Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for your observations and the references to your articles. You also alluded to our past debates at this site on a ‘related issue.’

    I said “related issue” because the topic under the present Series is quite a bit different (though some overlap may be there). I submit that we did not discuss this topic before. So I hope you will retain your interest to read the other two articles too and offer your knowledgeable views.

    Please be forewarned, however, that I am going to propose a bit of a debatable idea on the ‘structure’ of a jIva in Part-2. I look forward to your comments.

    Regarding your Question wrt the followers of saguNa and nirguNa brahman:

    Most of the seekers who come to Advaita come from a theistic and religious background. (Please see: https://beyond-advaita.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-two-courses-to-advaitic-truth-1.html).

    The followers of saguNa brahman use their favorite deity as a perch to hang on to and cannot give up their dependency on that god/goddess easily. They follow upAsana methods mainly with a strong devotional approach.

    Shankara refers to them at 1.4.10 BUB, and also at kaTha Upanishad as well as at several places in BSB. I already cited the Vedanta aphorisms where a seeker attaining liberation are discussed in my opening statement. One of the aphorisms (see 4.4.17, BSB) says that these seekers, even after attaining the Self, their ‘powers’ are limited (for example, they cannot participate in creation and maintenance of the world).

    Further, as you rightly said, they will not become brahman directly. They initially attain the world of the god/goddess they worship. They will not, however, be reborn. They receive further instructions for the Realization of the Self in the Loka they reach and eventually get “realized.” This way of realization is called “kramamukti.” It is a one-stopover journey for them. Shankara comments at , 2.6.5, katha that this is a very arduous and difficult path and urges that a seeker “should make effort for the realization of the Self here itself.”


  5. Ramesam
    Thanks for your comments.
    I like that you are building your case enriched with precious quotes from Scriptures and SB. I am curious and looking forward to how will you close “what happens after Self realization”. I am assuming that you will cover the case where the body is still there due to prarabdha.
    I have read about several possibilities and metaphors:
    1.Truptivat – something like feeling of complete fulfillment without any desire left (you ruled this one out already:))
    2.Swapnavat – world appears like dream
    3. “Jnani sees like like everyone except he knows it is not real”
    4. Totally asanga (disembodied) – his body lays like slough of snake (Br.U 4.4.7)
    5. World appears like a faint painting on a worn out mud wall
    6. Aha! moment like a bolt of lightning and the world collapses
    I am looking forward to part 2 and part 3 and your conclusions.

    • “6. Aha! moment like a bolt of lightning and the world collapses
      I am looking forward to part 2 and part 3 and your conclusions.”

      Let’s hope Ramesam doesn’t have his Aha! moment before posting parts 2 and 3 and thereby finds himself without a world in which to post them (or for that matter, his ‘conclusions’)

      • My Wish for all the Readers here is the opposite of what you say, Rick!

        May All the Readers here have their “Aha!” moment much sooner “thereby find themselves Alone without a world in which to look for posts (or for that matter, any ‘conclusions’)!!!” 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Dear Ramesam,

    Yes – I cannot refute the claim that gradual paths and kramamukti are described in the scriptures; but you can guess that I do not regard this teaching very highly! Like all teaching, it is aimed at those who find it useful and is rescinded later. It does seem a bit incongruous that one can talk about ajAti vAda on the one hand and then about going to heaven and being taught, reborn etc. later!

    I believe there are incontravertible quotes from Shankara that only knowledge can bring enlightenment and that ‘devotion’ etc. is only of any value in preparation.

    You will also know that, as regards ‘what happens after Self-realization’, my unswerving belief is Vijay’s No. 3 – the j~nAnI still sees the world but now knows that it is mithyA.

    Best wishes,

  7. Dear Ramesam,

    You reference BS 4.4.17 above: “One of the aphorisms (see 4.4.17, BSB) says that these seekers, even after attaining the Self, their ‘powers’ are limited (for example, they cannot participate in creation and maintenance of the world).”

    It may not be quite within the scope of your post but, since you are refencing it, how is this reconciled with your views on dŗṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, eka-jīva-vāda, and ajāti-vāda? Or, if you don’t want to enter into such areas, how is it reconclied with non-duality and ‘becoming’ Brahman on ‘gaining’ mokṣa? There is a clear implication that a jIva retains individuality on getting enlightened – an idea that I seem to recall you have refuted many times.

    Since (hopefully) these posts are read by all levels of seeker, even moderately knowledgeable ones may find this confusing!

    Best wishes,

  8. Dear Dennis,

    You raised a very important and highly thought-provoking point, IMHO.
    I hope and wish Rick and Venkat are also reading these posts and offer their valuable inputs as they both are good at readily citing relevant bhAShya references.

    Yes, Sir. A reference to 4.4.17 is not connected to my present post. I happened to cite it only as a valid example for the existence of the two streams of seekers and Shankara’s recognition of these two groups – the saguNa brahman followers and the nirguNa brahman followers.

    While at every opportunity in his commentaries, Shankara does say that creation is a mentation only and not real, it is unfathomable for me why he does talk of the two routes to liberation.

    Forget 4.4.7, still more impossible to understand and truly enigmatic to me is his commentary at 3.3.32, BSB! Shankara talks about Sages like Apantaratamas, Vasishta and others who are assigned a mission as AdhikAika purSha-s to take care of certain responsibilities in the maintenance of the created world. Does that mean that there is a creation to be looked after and a created world to be taken care of?

    Regarding reconciliation with my views on dŗṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, eka-jīva-vāda, and ajāti-vāda etc.:

    There is no problem at all!
    One need not have to invoke or invent such ideas as “a jIva retains individuality on getting enlightened.” For, those ideas are absolutely contrary to the very definition of Self-realization. Self-realization is defined as the shedding up all mis-identifications and attachments of oneself with the body-mind, ego, individuality etc. If one feels attached and clinging to a body-mind, a sense of separate ‘me’ (individuality) etc., s/he has not yet attained liberation. S/he is in duality only as many Upanishads indicate (even a slight thought of difference is duality).

    How does this gel with what Shankara says with respect to the saguNa brahman followers vis a vis nirguNa followers?

    ‘saguNa brahman followers still retain their subtle body (or some of them may get another suitable upAdhi, as Shankara explains) after the death of the gross body. Hence, they are not said to have attained liberation. They move to the subtler words of their favorite deity after death. But they will NOT be reborn on the earth. They may take 1000s of years there and get mukti along with that deity or sooner after they receive further tutoring in that loka.

    From the above it is clear that the saguNa brahman follower’s cit-jaDa granthi is NOT broken and vAsanA-s (or pUrva jnAna – a term used in bhAShyas) are still functional. The complete break of the knots in the heart is the end of all VasanA jnAna and hence the sense of a me will also end on the attainment of mukti. The saguNa followers will get it after a stopover at the loka of their deity. The nirguNa followers can get mukti right here on the earth while living.


  9. [Ramesan says] “Forget 4.4.7, still more impossible to understand and truly enigmatic to me is his commentary at 3.3.32, BSB! Shankara talks about Sages like Apantaratamas, Vasishta and others who are assigned a mission as AdhikAika purSha-s to take care of certain responsibilities in the maintenance of the created world. Does that mean that there is a creation to be looked after and a created world to be taken care of?”

    So it seems Ramesam, although this appears to contradict other statements by Shankara on the subject. For example, “Knowledge,” Shankara tells us, “arises of itself and cancels ignorance, and on account of that, this entire world of names and forms together with its inhabitants, which had been superimposed by ignorance, vanishes away like the world of a dream (BSB 3.2.21) Again: “All the Upanishads declare that, in the supreme state (paramartha-avastha), all empirical experience is absent (sarva-vyavahara-abhava) (BSB 2.1.14). Elsewhere he asserts that the material elements are dissolved (pravilapita) by knowledge of Brahman “like rivers entering the ocean,” after which they disappear (vinasyanti). At this point, he declares, “pure knowledge-infinite, supreme, pellucid-alone remains.” (BrUB 2.4.12)

    The Gita insists that work for the welfare of the world is compatible with Self-knowledge. Shankara agrees (BGB 3.25, 4.20). The Brahma Sutra at 3.4.51 teaches the possibility of attaining knowledge in this life (aihikam). At 4.1.13 it declares, in the spirit of the Gita, that action does not cling to the realized sage. Shankara indicates that this is because the knower (jnanin) has realized that the Self is not the agent of action. As we see, BS 3.3.32 teaches that certain realized sages may do more than merely remain alive. If God has given them a special office or mission (adhikara), they may retain their individuality after death and even return to earth to do good works by taking on additional bodies. In his commentary, Shankara explains: “We see from the epics and Puranas that some, though knowing Brahman, attained new bodies.” Rather like Mahayana bodhisattvas, liberated persons may take on multiple lifetimes in order to fulfill their unique responsibilities.

    Commenting on BS 3.3.32, also 4.1.15, and 4.1.19, Shankara indicates that the knower does not achieve his final goal until after his prarabdha karma is exhausted. Only with the “fall of the body” (sharira-pata) that comes with the dissipation of karmic momentum, he says, does the knower achieve perfect “isolation” (kaivalya) or “rest” (kshema), terms connoting complete transcendence of all empirical awareness. Only when this occurs does the knower truly “attain Brahman (brahma sampadyate).” And as Swami Sivananda points out, “The divine mission of these Rishis like Sri Vyasa, Vasishtha, Apantaratamas, can be compared to the Prarabdha Karma of Jivanmuktas”.

  10. Dear Rick,

    That’s EXCELLENT!
    Many thanks for the various citations bringing them all together at one place.

    It makes perfect sense to me.
    I will make two other points which may be shot down or supported;
    of course, nothing new. I did mention them earlier too at this site, but the context demands that I repeat.

    i) The “prArabdha” is for the body only.
    We see that shruti and Shankara too give the example of an arrow which is already having been released has to take its course till its momentum ends; it cannot be stopped in-between. The inert body here composed of the five fundamental elements is to be compared to the arrow. Arrow does NOT represent the jIva. (I hope to dwell on this aspect in the Part-2 of my articles). But please note, as you said, the Self Itself is unaffected and is not the agent of the activity of the body. The liberated individual is now identified with the Self.

    The combined intermixed entity of Self and not-Self (i.e., the jIva) does not exist anymore, all the “imagined” paraphernalia like the fallacious ‘I’ and its counterpart of ‘a world’ having dissolved. The inevitable question of what functions in this body as a mind with some memory, guiding the daily routine, protection of the body etc. needs an answer. The usual explanation is that a ‘form’ of the mind, like a burnt rope, takes over those functions.

    ii) The appearance of a world will be there, as Shankara says at many places, only when there is an intermix of the Self and not-Self exists supported by a body-mind, organs etc. which are a result of ‘ignorance.’ Hence, those who see a world out there to be existent are in duality only.


  11. Dear Ramesam

    It seems that Sankara is contradicting himself in, at what moment, talking about the unreality of the world and of non-duality, and in another, discussing other worlds, rebirth to fulfil a mission, etc.

    However if you regard Sankara’s stand-alone Upadesa Sahasri, or Suresvara’s writings or Guadapada’s Mandukyakarika there is no such confusion.

    Let’s consider BSB 3.3.32, Badarayana’s aphorism is:
    “Those who have a mission to fulfil continue in the corporeal state as long as the mission demands it”

    The arc of Sankara’s commentary on this is instructive:
    – beginning with the doubt about the sages of old who are said to have been reborn, which Sankara presumably interpreted Badarayana’s aphorism to be addressing
    – he initially explains that it is possible for enlightened ones to move from body to body with perfect liberty to fulfil a mission
    – but then he pivots towards the end of his commentary, to linking this to prarabdha karma
    – and then goes on to say that liberation follows inevitably from knowledge, and is an “immediately felt direct result”, and further, hints at his dismissal of the aphorism with “some great sages succumb to the lure of other kinds of meditation resulting in mystic powers, but later they become detached . . .”

    Therefore, I would conclude that Sankara rather than dismissing out of hand the puranas and other religious teachings for those who need to worship a god and are not ready for ajatavada, instead tries to accommodate them, and yet point to a higher level.

    best wishes,

  12. Dear Venkat,

    That’s BEAUTIFUL!
    Thank you very much for teasing out the real inner meaning of Shankara’s words at 3.3.32, BSB and directing our attention to the stand-alone texts like Gaudapada’s kArikA-s, Shankara’s own US and Sureshwara’s vArtika-s.

    You are right that the “Vedanta sUtra-s” of Sage Badarayana is not really an instructional text; it’s a ‘nyAya prasthAna’ to help in the process of ‘manana,’ where different questions and doubts that arise in a seeker’s mind are discussed and answered.

    Moreover, the Puranic characters, whether Sages or Kings or their conquests, are not real and are merely eulogistic , as the original Author, Sage Vyasa himself said towards the end of bhAgavata

    कथा इमास्ते कथिता महीयसां विताय लोकेषु यश: परेयुषाम् ।
    विज्ञानवैराग्यविवक्षया विभो वचोविभूतीर्न तु पारमार्थ्यम् ॥
    — 12.3.14, SrimadbhAgavata purANam.

    Meaning: (Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: O’ Mighty Parikshit) I have related to you the narrations of all these great kings, who spread their fame throughout the world and then departed. My real purpose was to teach transcendental knowledge and renunciation. Stories of kings lend power and opulence to these narrations but do not in themselves constitute the ultimate aspect of knowledge.


  13. Dear Rick, Ramesam and Venkat,

    Rick:- I have quoted extensively from BSB 2.1.14 in Vol. 1 of Confusions. This does seem to be possibly the best reference for Shankara’s views on the subject. But I still await some reasonable explanation as to why, after gaining enlightenment and thus realizing that the entire universe, gods and scriptures and everything else is mithyā, a realized man may have to play out some ‘special mission’ assigned by one of said mithyā gods.

    Ramesam:- Do you have a reference for your statement that prārabdha is ‘for the body only’? This makes no sense to me. The body is inert matter. It can do nothing without the mind; and the mind, being subtle matter, can do nothing without Consciousness. To the extent that karma exists at all (which of course it doesn’t in reality), it has to apply to the jIva. So the arrow also DOES have to apply to the jIva. (And the ‘usual explanation’ of a burnt rope taking over after enlightenment is, of course, nonsense!)

    Venkat:- I think you have got it right here. Shankara is obviously in tune with other ‘paths’ and with the levels of seeker following Advaita. There are many places where he acknowledges the value of karmakāṇḍa for example, so it is perfectly reasonable that he would interpret the BS in such a way as not to ‘upset’ those with traditional, interim beliefs.

    Best wishes,

  14. [Dennis says] “I still await some reasonable explanation as to why, after gaining enlightenment and thus realizing that the entire universe, gods and scriptures and everything else is mithyā, a realized man may have to play out some ‘special mission’ assigned by one of said mithyā gods.”

    Dennis, it has been said that the Lord works in mysterious ways. We’re told certain rishis and others happened to be appointed to their particular offices in order to preserve the world through the promulgation of the Vedas – a laudable ambition – but further details are not forthcoming. They continue to be in their own bodies as long as their special offices last. Likewise Bhagavan Sun, having exercised the powers of his office over the world for a thousand Yugas, at the end experiences complete isolation (kaivalya) i.e. final release, and is free from the diurnal rising and setting, as stated by the scriptures (ChU 3.11.1). Do we also need to seek a reasonable explanation why the sun experiences liberation? What would such an explanation look like and who would believe it? This is storytelling after all, which may or may not have a certain degree of internal coherence and in that sense allow for a ‘reasonable’ explanation of specific happenings within its framework. It’s easy to put too fine a point on such matters.

  15. Dear Rick,

    it is fine (and necessary) to start at the bottom of the ladder and work ones way up, discarding earlier concepts and stories as appropriate in approved adhyAropa-apavAda fashion. But the title of this post is ‘What happens after Self-realization?’ After Self-realization, one knows that world and Ishvara and (Advaita) are mithyA. So how can it be reasonable NOW to talk about ‘fulfilling missions’ etc.?

    It seems to me that it could only start to make sense if we talk about the ‘arrow’ of prArabdha referring to the complete jIva, with a mind which still has its prior conditioning and beliefs. It still has its sense of right and wrong and, perceiving injustices, poverty etc., would naturally continue to act for the ‘others’. Perhaps in order to maintain the ideas regarding seekers and enlightenment, notions of ‘special missions’ then become relevant.

    I agree – it is ‘storytelling’.

    It is clear that the scriptures contain a large proportion of material that, whilst presumably relevant several thousand years ago to match current understanding of world and ‘spirit’, is now counter-productive. If we are trying to attract seekers to study Advaita as a proven route to realizing the truth, talking about ‘Bhagavan Sun’ does not seem appropriate! (And certainly not necessary!) Not quite in the same vein, but I suggest talking about ‘missions’ is also not necessary.

    Best wishes,

  16. Dear Rick and Dennis,

    Rick: Thank you. I go with what you say. The moment a ‘creation and / or created world’ comes into picture, we are already in the realms of ‘imagination’ spurred by ignorance (i.e. ignorant of our true Beingness).
    Sage Vasishta says:
    स्वप्नोऽयं जगदाभोगो न किंचिद्वा खमेव च ।
    निर्मलं ज्ञप्तितामात्रमित्थं सन्मात्रसंस्थितम् ।। — 6 (2).62.39, Yogavasishta.
    Meaning: We may consider this world to be equivalent to a dream or a void or simply as Consciousness-Self! It will all depend on the viewpoint one takes.

    Dennis: You ask for a ‘reference for my statement that prārabdha is ‘for the body.’ Below are some examples from searchable texts I readily have:

    i) “the only evil left unburnt would be that to which the birth of the present *body* had been due.” — 5.24.3, chAndogya bhAShya.

    ii) “Inasmuch as even these Karmic Residua which have not become
    operative must bring about their results, when the present *body* falls, there must be produced another *body,* for the experiencing of the results of those actions which had not become already operative”–But this is not right …” 6.14.2, chAndogya.

    iii) “the residue of Prarabdha work is the cause of the persistence of the *body* after knowledge. In other words, that resultant of past work which led to the formation of the present *body* (Prarabdha), being the outcome of false notions …” — 1.4.10, brihat bhAShya.

    Next you say, “The body is inert matter. It can do nothing without the mind; …”

    That is true. But what exact aspect of the ‘Inner organ’ does the word ‘mind’ here refer to?
    IMHO, to the sense of “I am the agent of what I do or in one word, ‘the ego.’ But don’t we know that millions of actions take place in the body without the conscious “me-mine” sense of ‘agency’?

    Leave alone the actions that happen within the body at a metabolic, respiratory, neuronal, hormonal levels etc.; even visible external actions happen without the sense of a ‘me’ as the ‘agent.’ For example, when you hastily withdraw your leg, while walking, from stamping on to some snake etc. on the path.

    Or you must have observed while in the shower, how the hands automatically pick up the detergent and apply to the body and finish bath though your attention is totally somewhere else. Similarly, body functions by itself in driving, dancing etc.

    Body’s functions go on as per the program already it is habituated to do even when there is no conscious ‘agent’ to govern and direct its actions. In fact, the body is much happier WITHOUT a ‘me’ interfering! And post Self-realization, the body can and will work as an automaton!!! 🙂

    You also state: “And the ‘usual explanation’ of a burnt rope taking over after enlightenment is, of course, nonsense!”

    Well, don’t you agree that such statements would need some shruti or bhAShya support for acceptability — in the same way that you asked me for citations regarding ‘the prArabdha and body’?


  17. Dear Ramesam,

    In order to substantiate your claim regarding prArabdha applying only to the body, you need a reference where it is clear that the mind is specifically excluded. In all of the quotations that you have provided so far, ‘body’ clearly implies ‘body-mind’.

    I don’t accept your attempts to separate out autonomous aspects of mind and relate these to ‘body’. These are still functions of the mind, not of the inert body.

    Are you claiming that an enlightened person continues to eat, regulate the functions of the body, use all of the sense organs, respond to questions intelligently, etc. without any ‘governing function’ of the mind? How does all of this happen? Is Consciousness no longer being ‘reflected’ in an intellect (or whatever model you prefer)? And, if it is, how is this different from the situation prior to enlightenment? (Or perhaps you are saying that no one has ever been enlightened, since the world still appears?)

    Best wishes,

  18. Dear Dennis,

    You end your above post asking me “how is this different from the situation prior to enlightenment?”

    Going by your ‘model,’ the “realized” seeker is supposed to retain the sense of individuality or ‘ahamkAra’ (and hence kartrutva, bhoktrutva, bheda buddhi etc.) and a world external to him/her. So, it is actually my Question to you, “how is this different from the situation prior to enlightenment?” 🙂 🙂

    At every place the shruti and Shankara bhAShya do talk of “sarvAtma bhAva” (the annulment of the sense of individuation) on “realization”!

    [‘ahamkAra’ (अहङ्कार) means ego; self-consciousness; individualization; the conceit or concept of individuality etc. It is also the fallacious ‘I.’]

    You say, “In all of the quotations that you have provided so far, ‘body’ clearly implies ‘body-mind’.”

    No, Sir.
    It doesn’t.
    I checked once again the quotes I gave above from chAnd and brihat.
    Shankara used clearly one word — sharIra.
    He did not combine with mind, or intellect or memory or even ahamkAra.

    Re: your question, “Are you claiming that an enlightened person continues to eat, regulate the functions of the body, use all of the sense organs, respond to questions intelligently, etc. without any ‘governing function’ of the mind?”

    I thought I did already answer that. The point that I made was **without any ‘governing “ahamkAra” function’ of the inner organ (antah karaNa).**

    I spent quite a few hours today looking into various Shankara bhAShya references on this subject. My notes became too long (nearly 6 A4 sheets) to fit here into this column. Specifically, I guess, the relevant material is at 3.27; 4.18; 18.49-50 of BGB, 2.13.1; 5.24.3; 6.14.2 (last part) of chAndogya, 1.4.10, BUB, several of the aphorisms and Shankara commentary on them etc.

    From your observations, I can see that you will disagree with the “model” I am going to present in Part-2 of this Series; but I think one will not be able to shoot it down.

    Maybe after the completion of this Series, I would make a separate post on the material I compiled today.


  19. Dear Ramesam,

    I’m afraid I am not convinced. When we refer to a ‘car’ on the road, it is understood that it contains an engine; we never specifically mention it (unless it breaks down!). Similarly, I suggest, when we refer to a man/woman who is still alive and functioning, it is understood that he/she ‘contains’ a mind.

    The entire theory of karma depends upon mind-related tendencies etc. that survive death and continue in a new body. Bodies do not reincarnate.

    Best wishes,

  20. Dear Dennis,

    I don’t know if I am wrong; but the impression I have is that ‘birth and death’ are for the body only.

    ‘Mind’ is an expression of the vAsanA-s in the causal body. The causal body is equated to ‘Ignorance’ which is “anAdi.” Therefore, none can say when it is born. As we all know, the subtle body that comprises mind, prANa etc. and the causal body do not die with the gross body. Advaita siddhAnta holds that the subtle + causal body have an end only when Self-realization dawns and hence, the shruti and Shankara exhort us to try to achieve Self-realization right in this life.


  21. Dear Dennis and other Friends,

    Another piece of information also comes to my mind. I would like to share it.

    When a human baby is born, it does not come equipped with a mind that is capable of separating a ‘me’ vs. the other. Both our ancient philosophy and modern Neuroscience also agree on this. There are several research reports on the neural development that takes place in the brain of a child after birth onward and how cognition of an infant differs from that of a baby after a year and so on. This need not be disputed.

    The baby views everything that appears as a single mass without the ability to separate various objects. Philosophers like Nisargadatta, Ramana are also on record to say that the mind and a sense of ‘aham’ appears only after a year or so of the baby.

    So, Dennis, we cannot say that a baby and a car on the road are similar when they are first born.


  22. Dear Ramesam,

    None of this is relevant. The car was merely a metaphor. The point is that, after enlightenment, the j~nAnI does continue until death of the body and obviously does have a mind. Otherwise, for example, there would be no qualified teachers of Advaita.

    Here is Shankara:

    “…the merit and demerit that has already begun to unfold in the life in which enlightenment is attained must run its course. For actions that have been performed in the numerous births which occurred before that in which enlightenment is attained are divisible into two classes from the point of view of merit and demerit – those that are and those that are not in the course of fructification during the life in which enlightenment is attained. As regards the actions which have begun to fructify in the life in which enlightenment is attained, it implies defects and the experience of the deserts of merit and demerit incurred on the part of the agent concerned.

    “Otherwise, if there were no defects, the merit and demerit could not have begun to fructify at all (and the life in which enlightenment took place could never have begun). For no one is ever found here on earth engaging in action bringing pleasure or pain in the absence of attachment and aversion and other defects. Defects therefore arise (even in the case of a man liberated in life) through action performed (in previous births) for the sake of results, and they must be extirpated with efforts proportionate to their gravity. Otherwise they might lead to further interested action.” And later: “…the acts proceeding from the psychological defects of the enlightened one arise merely from merit and demerit that has already begun to fructify (prārabdha) and must complete its course like an arrow that has left its bow.”

    (adhyātma paṭala bhāṣya from the āpastamba dharma sūtra, prashna 1, paṭala 8, khaņḍa 23)

    Best wishes,

  23. Dennis: In order to substantiate your claim regarding prArabdha applying only to the body, you need a reference where it is clear that the mind is specifically excluded. In all of the quotations that you have provided so far, ‘body’ clearly implies ‘body-mind’.


    How does the mind cease to be the mind? This is being answered:

    3.32: When, following the instruction of scriptures and the teacher, the mind ceases to think as a consequence of the realisation of the Truth that is the Self, then the mind attains the state of not being the mind; in the absence of things to be perceived, it becomes a non-perceiver.

  24. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    Venkat: Thank you for the reference about the ending of the mind on the “realization” of the Self.

    Dennis: As you are aware, we are discussing two topics here simultaneously. The two are:
    i) What takes birth; and,
    ii) The nature of the mind in the body after its former claimant of ownership has realized the Self.

    As you yourself said, the Apastamba quote you cited does not seem relevant to both the above issues. It talks of the effect of prArabdha in general terms and that is not in disagreement.

    There are many ill-informed concepts that are, unfortunately, prevalent.

    1. One is the thought that rebirth happens to the jIva. No, Sir.

    Only the gross body has ‘birth’ and it is composed of the five quintupled fundamental elements, as I said above.

    “Birth” is an improper term for jIva. A jIva only transmigrates – attains “dehAntara prApti.” (See Monier – Williams).

    The Garbha Upanishad of Krishna Yajurveda discusses the above matters. it says:

    ॐ पञ्चात्मकं पञ्चसु वर्तमानं षडाश्रयं षड्गुणयोगयुक्तम् ।
    तत्सप्तधातु त्रिमलं द्वियोनि चतुर्विधाहारमयं शरीरं भवति ॥

    Meaning: The body is fivefold in nature (the five elements), existing in the five, depending on the six supports (tastes of food), connected with the six qualities, [consisting of] seven dhātus (tissues), three impurities, having two yonis (sexes), and [nourished by] four kinds of food.

    A jIva occupies it in about the 7th month during gestation. See what the Upanishad says:

    सप्तमे मासे जीवेन संयुक्तो भवति ।

    Meaning: In the seventh month, [the embryo] comes to have the jīva (conscious self).

    2. The other myth is: “Otherwise, for example, there would be no qualified teachers of Advaita.”

    On the face of it, such an argument looks logical; but, sorry to state, that is a very ill-informed concept.

    For, for example, with the first MahA pralaya, all Vedas should have ended. It doesn’t happen like that.

    The real repository for Vedas is NOT a teacher. They come with and reside in the Creator of each phase of creation. In the scenario of aneka jIva-s, there will always be ignorance within a particular phase of creation, and like the two sides of a coin, ignorance and Self-knowledge will always exist. How?
    Because, as long as a creation lasts, there is a Creator and his breath is Vedas (in which Vedanta is a part). For, the shruti says,

    अरेऽस्य महतो भूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्यानान्यस्यैवैतानि निश्वसितानि ॥ — 2.4.10, brihat

    Meaning: My Dear, the Rgveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, AtharvangIrasa, History, Mythology, Arts, *Upanishads,* verses, aphorisms, elucidations, and explanations are (like) the breath of this Infinite Reality. They are like the breath of this (Supreme Self). — Translation: Swami Madhavananda.

    Moreover, it never happens that all the existing jIva-s get mukti at a single stroke. As Shankara says at 13.2 BGB, most people do not even bother to inquire and follow the preceptor and it is only a very very rare one that really “gets It.”


  25. Dear Ramesam and Venkat,

    We have discussed manonāṣha before. It means figurative destruction of the mind – recognizing that it is mithyA, like the rest of so-called creation. Gaudapada calls it amanībhāva. In the metaphor of the clay and pot, we ‘destroy’ the pot figuratively when we realize that it is only name and form of clay. But we do not literally destroy it – we carry on using it to hold water! The vāchārambhaṇaṃ sutras from Chandogya don’t require us to go around breaking things; it is a recognition by the mind that is advocated.

    After the realization, we carry on using the mind, knowing that every ‘thing’ is mithyā, including the mind itself. Why would it need to be destroyed anyway, since it is not real? Just as the clay is the substratum of the pot, so ātman is the substratum of the mind. Do we want to destroy that? How would this work anyway? Before enlightenment, we have an active mind, assimilating knowledge about the nature of reality viz a viz the world. Then, some final, liberating bit of knowledge arrives and – poof! – the mind disappears and nothing is known for evermore??

    Emotions, morals, beliefs etc. all belong to the mind, not to the body (or to ātman). If only the body of the enlightened carried on, where would be the altruism and compassion etc. of the jñānī?

    See my post on the subject (with more details and expansion of some of the above) at https://www.advaita-vision.org/manonasha-not-the-literal-death-of-the-mind/.

    Your post on rebirth, quintuplication etc. is only of academic interest. I respectfully suggest that 90% of seekers have no interest in any of that stuff, which is clearly just pseudo-scientific explanations corresponding to the understanding and religious beliefs of the time; relevant and appropriate then, counter-productive now. In fact, I think it would be very useful sometime to compile a list of all the topics in the scriptures that can be safely ignored by seekers – I think quintuplication would certainly be in the top few!

    Unfortunately, the topic of karma cannot really be ignored as it entails some valuable adhyāropa aspects.

    The reference to Gaudapada kārikā 3.32 does not provide a very helpful translation. It seems increasingly to me that many of the misconceptions in Advaita stem from reading a poor or biased translation. It does not say that the mind ‘ceases to think’ or that it ‘attains the state of not being the mind’. The key to understanding the verse is Shankara’s reference to vācārambhaṇa sutra. On Self-realization, it is known that mind and world are both mithyā – name and form of Brahman. Both effectively cease to exist as entities in their own right. They do not literally cease to exist – Brahman is changeless and eternal. It is like realizing that the movie is just a projection on the screen. You still watch it and enjoy it but are never taken in again of thinking that the disasters and celebrations are actually happening in front of you.

    Best wishes,

  26. [Dennis says] “I think it would be very useful sometime to compile a list of all the topics in the scriptures that can be safely ignored by seekers”

    Certainly there are enough duds to go around. My guess is that some might agree to most items on such a list and most to some, but any list would be tendentious and likely promote heat instead of light. Best to leave the selection of what topics are to be fruitfully explored up to one’s teacher, assuming the need for one was not deemed among those topics contemporary seekers can safely ignore, as seems often to be the case.

    • Agreed! I wasn’t planning to compile such a list any time soon. It would be interesting, though… If someone objects and argues why they object, it could prove helpful to the originator.

  27. Dear Venkat and Dennis and Rick,

    While I was looking for something else, I found these very specific statements by Shankara regarding the ‘memory’ aspect of the mind on the “Realization of the Self”:

    “As soon as the Knowledge of the Self arises in consequence of hearing a dictum delineating It, it necessarily destroys the false notion about It. It could not arise otherwise. And when this false notion about the Self is gone memories due to that, which are natural to man and concern the multitude of things other than the Self, *cannot last.*

    Therefore, the memories of notions about the non-Self *die out* when the Self is known. As the only alternative left, the train of remembrance of the Knowledge that the Self is one, which comes automatically, is not to be prescribed. Besides, the memory of the Self removes the painful defects such as grief, delusion, fear and effort, for, these defects spring from the opposite kind of knowledge. ” Shankara at 1.4.7,BUB.

    The Sanskrit word used by Shankara in both the sentences are स्मृतय: or स्मृती (memories).

    It is also interesting what Sage Vasishta says:

    यथास्थितमिदं विश्वं सम्यग्बोधाद्विलीयते ।
    यथास्थितं च भवति न च किंचिद्विलीयते ।। — 6 (2).137.58, Yogavasishta.

    (Meaning: The entire visible world melts away (i.e. the world disappears) in perfect Knowledge. But at the same time, it does not go anywhere; it stays as it is!


  28. Dear Ramesam,

    This is still the same problem. It cannot be meant literally, can it? If sages lost their memories on enlightenment, how would they quote all of the relevant passages from shruti to their students? Oh, sorry! What students? They have all disappeared!

    The YV quote should make it obvious that what is meant is that the world is no longer seen as a separate entity after enlightenment – it is now known to be mithyA. The names and forms are still there but are now known to be Brahman.

    Best wishes,

  29. There is an interesting Sankara comment in Taittiriya Up, which is to the effect that avidya is the cause on the waking and dream states. Therefore all duality that is perceived in waking and dream is ignorance – including mental modifications of the mind. Implying that the removal of avidya . . .

  30. Dear Venkat and Dennis,

    My mentor and Vedic Pundit Shri K.V. Krishna Murty explained to me the implication of the Shankara bhAShya at 1.4.7, BUB as follows:
    “It means – bandha kara smRiti-s will go. To be more precise, the bandha karatva in smRiti-s will go.”

    What it means is that those memories which cause bondage will dissolve, or more precisely, the bondage causation in the memories will dissolve.

    He also added that we should not forget that Advaita teaching is always done in a Guru-shishya tradition and, therefore, the importance of a guru in teaching. He said that neither the shruti nor the bhAShya always explain such details at nuts and bolts level.

    Regarding the YV shloka:

    One explanation: “We do not have an appropriate metaphor to illustrate this.

    “We may adopt light and darkness as an approximate example. When there is light, darkness goes away completely. If light goes away, darkness returns. Where did darkness go away to and from where has it returned? We may postulate that darkness retreated to a corner where there is no light and it has returned from there. The existence of such a corner could be valid with respect to the usual darkness and light. As far as the Illumination of Pure Consciousness is concerned,
    there is no place where the Illumination does not exist. Hence we have to say that in the case of Pure Consciousness-Knowledge, the darkness-like world stays as it is where it is.”

    Peter Dziuban, however, gives a modern metaphor, perhaps, unavailable in the times of Sage Vasishta. He says, form his experience, it will be like in a matinee show in a cinema hall. When the hall is dark, you keep seeing the film projected on to the screen. Suppose, someone opens the curtains or doors letting the bright sunlight to flood the screen. The picture on the screen gets totally faded. He asks, “Where has the picture gone?”


  31. Dear Rick and Dennis,

    [Dennis says] “I think it would be very useful sometime to compile a list of all the topics in the scriptures that can be safely ignored by seekers”

    [Rick says] “My guess is that some might agree to most items on such a list and most to some, but any list would be tendentious and likely promote heat instead of light. Best to leave the selection of what topics are to be fruitfully explored up to one’s teacher, assuming the need for one was not deemed among those topics contemporary seekers can safely ignore, as seems often to be the case.”

    History shows that many persons tried to cherry pick and/or weed out. Some of them hived off with their own schools.

    Ramanuja of the 11th CE; Madhwa of the 13th CE; Dayananda, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, SSSS (?) of the 19th CE; Dayananda of the 20th CE and many more come to mind.

    But, none, literally NO ONE, could make a real dent on the shruti or Shankara bhAShya-s, IMHO.


  32. “By whichever [method] people can develop understanding of the inner-Self, that method should certainly be known as good and as consistent [with the main teaching].” – Sureshvara – Br. Up. Bhash. vartika 1.4.102

  33. [Rick says] “Certainly there are enough duds to go around.”

    My good man, I forgive you for cherry picking my statements, but in truth I was merely echoing in the apparently provocative vernacular judicious sentiments I’ve gleaned from my studies:

    “The scriptures are endless, and what is to be learned is vast. Our lifespan is brief and hindrances are many. We need to understand and assimilate the essence of scriptures, even as a swan separates milk from a mixture of milk and water.” (Uttara Gita 3.1)

    Says Sri Ramakrishna, “What will you achieve by mere study of the scriptures? The scriptures contain a mixture of sand and sugar, as it were. It is extremely difficult to separate the sugar from the sand. Therefore one should learn the essence of the scriptures from the teacher or from a sadhu.”

  34. Dear Rick,

    Honestly I did not “cherry pick” from your comment.
    I just wanted to give a reference link to your post because I chose to reply on the main thread. Continuing the conversations in the sub-thread becomes so awkward here that it will get so thin that a single letter string can only be seen eventually. So, I moved to the main thread.
    i have modified that part of the quote in my earlier post.
    Hope you will condone.

  35. Dear Ramesam,

    I remember Swami Tattvavidananda likening a close group of us to travelers who meet on a train platform and proceed to journey together enjoying each other’s company for a few hours, until each traveler arrives at his destination and they must part to go their own ways. That reality gains greater pathos the older I get. True happiness, Swami TV said, cannot be found in the things that change and pass away and blessed are those who know it. Perhaps. But I do enjoy and profit from our give and take here, and knowing that all this too shall one day pass I would never take offense at any of your good-hearted observations.

    So yes, I do condone!

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