Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Ego, Mind and Body of a j~nAnI
V. Subrahmanian

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Shri shaMkarAchArya has set at rest all doubts and disputations that might arise / have arisen among seekers regarding this issue: whether or not the ego, mind and body which include, by default, sense / motor organs, exist for a j~nAnI. While there is incontrovertible evidence for this, even for the cursory reader, for example in the fifth chapter of the bhagavadgItA, yet, while deliberating on the topic of the post-enlightenment state of a person (now j~nAnI), in the brahmasUtra, the bhASyakAra has this to say while commenting on Sutra 4.1.15:

Moreover, it is not a matter for dispute at all whether the body of the Knower of brahman continues to exist for sometime or not. For how can one contest the fact of another possessing the knowledge of brahman vouched for by his heart's conviction and at the same time continuing with the body? This very fact is elaborated in the upaniShad-s and the smRRiti in the course of determining the characteristics of 'the man of steady wisdom'.

From the above statement, we see the AchArya is confirming the presence of the ego, mind and body in one go. The sentence that does this is:

For how can one contest the fact of another possessing the knowledge of brahman vouched for by his heart's conviction and at the same time continuing with the body?

1. For the presence of ego, the word the bhAShya gives is: 'his'. In the original, the word is: 'sva'. Shri SacchidAnandendra Saraswati SwaminaH (SSS) has translated this in Kannada as 'tanna'. This is the word one uses to refer to him'self', her'self', one'self'. Here, in these usages, the 'self' is undoubtedly the ego, translated in Sanskrit as ahaMkAra.

2. For the presence of 'mind', the word the bhAShya gives is: 'heart's'. In the original, the word is: 'hRRidaya'. SSS has translated this in Kannada as 'hRdaykke'. In order to add emphasis to the fact that it is a realization that is available only to that j~nAnI concerned, SSS adds the word 'mAtrA' in Kannada, which restricts the realization to that particular j~nAnI (paricchinna hRRidaya). The original expression is 'sva-hRRidaya', which means: one's heart or one's mind. The word hRRidaya is given the meaning of hRRidaya, manas, buddhi, etc., to denote the one faculty: mind across the bhAShya literature. (Ishwara sarvabhUtAnAm hRddeshe Arjuna tiShThati of the 18th chapter of the bhagavadgItA).

3. For the presence of the body, the word the bhAShya gives is: 'continuing with the body'. SSS uses the same word of the bhAShya 'dehadhAraNam' in the Kannada translation.

4. There is an additional component to the presence of the mind in a j~nAnI, that is crucial in the above bhAShya statement: the word 'pratyaya'. pratyaya is 'conviction', a thought, etc. In this context, the appropriate word is 'conviction'. It is common knowledge that a conviction can and does exist only in the mind. Atman cannot have any properties of the mind. So, the bhAShya word 'heart's conviction' or 'sva-hRRidaya-pratyaya' gives absolutely no room for any doubt that there is the mind for the j~nAnI. SSS confirms this by the Kannada word: 'tiLiyabaruva'. This means: the knowledge that one 'gets to know, comes to appreciate', etc. Certainly no such vyApAra can be admitted in the Atman.

The original words of the bhAShya confirm the presence of all the three - ego, mind and the body to the j~nAnI in one go: sva-hRRidaya-pratyayam dehadhAraNam cha.

Those who belong to the tradition of shaMkarAchArya vedAnta have cherished the above sentence of the AchArya as the one where the revered AchArya gives expression to his own realization, svAnubhava.

Those outside the tradition of shaMkarAchArya vedAnta who deny the concept of jIvanmukti and therefore the possibility of shaMkarAchArya being a j~nAnI, however, do not accept that the above sentence is the AchArya's expression of His own anubhava. In any case, a traditional follower of shaMkarAchArya vedAnta, would not be able to contradict the fact conveyed by the statement: 'That none can challenge the experience had by the j~nAnI that he has the brahman-experience simultaneously with the knowledge that there is the body continuing.'

In fact, shaMkarAchArya, if one grants is a j~nAnI, was able to say this statement, or rather write this bhAShya, only because He had the ego, mind and the body. In the absence of these, we would not have had the blessing of having His bhAShya. There is evidence from His own words in the bhagavadgItA and taittirIya bhAShya and even the Sutra bhAShya where the presence of 'ego' in Him is expressed by Himself.

In no place has the sarvaj~na shaMkarAchArya made the statement in the prasthAna-traya bhAShya that it is an aj~nAnI who posits a body, mind, etc., on a j~nAnI. The above bhAShya statement itself is a testimony to that.

We do not value any mahAtma's statement that contradicts what shaMkarAchArya has said on these matters. All statements of all mahAtma-s will be acceptable to the follower of shaMkarAchArya advaita only if they do not contradict shaMkarAchArya's statements, expressed or implied. If they are found to contradict what the AchArya has said, they will have to be rejected, as shaMkarAchArya Himself has taught in the bhagavadgItA bhAShya, as 'asampradAyavit's statements'.

Om Tat Sat

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012