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Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 57


VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal


D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.

 

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II – We cannot bypass the prescribed qualifications

Unfortunately, many of us remain a saàsäri-jéva even after listening to the çästra for a considerable length of time from a competent guru. Kaöha Upaniñad says: “In spite of listening, many people do not understand” [344]. In the Upaniñads themselves, only a few like the ideal disciple Naciketas [345] gain the knowledge immediately. In the case of Çvetaketu, who had spent twelve years in the gurukula, his father had to explain it nine times through different examples [346]. As regards Indra who was taught by Prajäpati, he first misunderstood ätmä to be the body in the waking state, later as body in the dream state, then again as the body in the deep sleep state and only later as consciousness. A demon king, Virocana, who had also learnt from Prajäpati understood that the body in waking state is ätmä and never realized that his understanding was wrong [347].

 

The reason is that self-knowledge can be grasped only by those who possess the qualifications prescribed by the çästra. Çästra has prescribed the qualifications so that the severity of our mental orientation based on self-ignorance may be neutralized. While listening to the teaching, only on being qualified, it would be possible for us to relieve the I-sense of functioning in the dual state as the knower seeking knowledge from the guru. While teaching, the guru is himself the pramäëa and is in an impersonal state. We should also be in a similar state as the receiver of the pramäëa [348]. Otherwise, what is revealed would not be clear to us, as our mental condition would be opposed to the knowledge. So, we have no option at all except to become at least reasonably well qualified to receive the knowledge.

 

III - Çravaëam, mananam and nididhyäsanam

 

The second part of the discipline prescribed by the çruti (i) for receiving the knowledge; (ii) for gaining certainty of the knowledge; and (iii) for freeing it from obstructions is [349]. “The self, my dear, is worthy to be seen (known) [350],  and is to be heard of (from a guru) (çravaëam), analyzed (mananam) and contemplated upon (nididhyäsanam)”. As no commandment is feasible in respect of knowing, the prescription for knowing is taken as a likeness of injunction. The injunction about çravaëam, mananam and nididhyäsanam is categorized as a niyama-vidhi, or that which has to be compulsorily followed.

 

Çravaëam is consistent and systematic study of Vedänta for a length of time from a live guru who has learnt it according to the sampradäya. Under the guidance of the guru, we inquire [351] into and analyze the meaning of the statements of the text and arrive at a distinct and exact understanding of what they say. We learn to correctly interpret the apparently contradicting statements and understand the purport of the çästra properly. We arrive at the exact revelation under the guidance of the guru, after clearing the doubts that arise in this regard. Through çravaëam we accomplish

 

. cessation of ignorance about the self (ajïäna-nivåtti);
. freedom from the doubts about the competence of the means of knowledge to reveal the self (pramäëa-asambhävanä-nivåtti); and
. freedom from the doubts arising from the seeming contradictions in the text (çruti-virodha-nivåtti).

 

Invariably, during çravaëam, our intellect with its own presumptions and inferences  challenges the knowledge, just as in the case of any other knowledge that is gathered. In the case of this knowledge of non-duality, our doubt is deep rooted, since our perception establishes only duality. We have also great reluctance in accepting that we are essentially the same as Éçvara. We have the serious doubt, “Are we really what the çruti says?”

 

As for solving this problem, perceptual knowledge, which is based on the duality of the subject and the object, cannot reveal the non-duality of the self. Therefore, it is now the job of the very same reasoning intellect to realize through logic [352] that neither can non-duality be disproved nor can duality be established. Fortunately for us, Gaudapädäcärya has logically proved in the karkikäs (commentary in verse) written on Mäëòükya Upaniñad that Vedänta is beyond argument and contradiction.

 

Doubts also arise from the contentions of various schools of thought and the teaching of charismatic personalities. The differences that arise are wide ranging. Scientists and Cärväkas do not accept whatever is not available for observation and so, ätmä does not exist for them. Among those who admit its existence, there are wide differences about its nature [353]. Their views are examined and the distortions of reasoning introduced by them are established through reasoning. This matter has been dealt with in detail by Vyäsäcärya in the second chapter of his Brahmasütra and by Çaìkaräcärya in his commentary thereon. Thus, all obstructive fallacies entertained are cleared by the intellect until they no longer raise any objection to the knowledge received. This process is called mananam. Through mananam we achieve

 

. removal of doubts about the validity of the revelation made by the means of knowledge (prameya-asaàbhävanä-nivåtti);

. removal of doubts arising out of seeming contradiction between the revelation and reasoning (çruti-yukti-virodha-nivåtti);

. in effect, the removal of all doubts (saàçaya-nivåtti).

 

344. ..çåëvaëto’pi bahavo yaà na vidyuù .. 1.2.7.
345. In Kaöha Upaniñad. King Janaka is another. (Båhadäraëyka Upaniñad, 4.2.4.)
346. Chändogya Upaniñad, 6.8.7. to 6.16.3.
347. Chändogya Upaniñad, chapter 8, section 7.
348. We had earlier referred to this situation as “surrender”.
349. ätmä vä are drañöavyaù çrotavyo mantavyo nididhyäsitavyo maitreyi (Båhdäraëyaka Upaniñad, 2.4.5.)
350. The word used is drañöavyaù and it means pradarçaëéyaù or prakarñeëa dåañöum yogyaù, which means fit or worthy to be known. It is taken as vidhi-chäyä (likeness of injunction). But çrotavyaù, mantavyaù and nididyasitavyù are taken as vidhi (injunction) and they must be done.
351. Çravaëam is derived from the root, çru and has the meaning of both ‘to hear or listen’ and ‘to inquire’ (into the purport) (vedäntänäà tätparya niçcayaù.)
352. This is called yukti saha cintanam or mananam.
353. None of them accept that there is only one ätmä. Its nature is variously described as inert (Nyäya-Vaiçeñika), mixture of sentient and insentient (Bhäööa section of Pürva-mémäàsakas), momentarily sentient (Vijñänavädin among Buddhists).

This section to be continued...

 

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