The Forum dedicated to Arunachala and Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi => The teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi => Topic started by: Subramanian.R on January 29, 2013, 05:24:25 PM

Title: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on January 29, 2013, 05:24:25 PM
Jnana Yoga:

The qualifications that Sankara prescribes for the aspirant, set a standard that appears to be so demanding as to exclude
all but the most superior of seekers. One suspects that those who fulfill the requirements would already be on the verge of
Self Realization. Yet Sankara is not unwilling to provide instruction for the pupil who is not so adequately prepared. He speaks of
students who have not acted in accord with dharma, who are careless in everyday matters and who are lacking in firm preliminary
knowledge . (Upadesa Sahasri, gadyabandha (prose portion) 1.4.). Sankara suggests that such pupils might follow the restraints
and observances (yama-niyama), which, of course, constitute the first two stages of the ashtanga yoga. In a similar vein, he utilizes
the distinction drawn in the Yoga Sutra Bhashya of Vyasa between the indirect means (the first five arigas) and the direct means
(samyama) of yoga practice. In applying this notion, to the Upanishads, he describes ritual action as constituting the remote means
(bahyaatara) to follow the restraints and observances, which, of course, constitute the first two stages of the ashtanga yoga. In 
a similar vein, he utilizes the distinction drawn in the Yoga Sutra Bhashya between the indirect means and the direct means of yoga
practice. In applying this notion to the Upanishads, he describes the ritual action as the remote means to knowledge in contrast to those direct (pratyasanna) means such as attaining the calmness of mind. (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 3.4.27; 4.1.18).

One of these themes which runs throughout the whole of Sankara's work is his insistence that ritual action (karman and knowledge (jnana) are not o be combined (samuccaya) as a means to liberation. (Sankara's frequent discussion of the subject suggests that many
Vedantins of his day accepted the validity of combining ritual action and knowledge.).

Since ritual actions are dependent upon an agent, they are not regarded as the means to knowledge of Brahman,which is self established. Even in the context of the Bhagavad Gita, where karma yoga, the way of disciplined activity, is held in such high esteem.
Sankara still maintains his position that the two are not to be combined. In order to diminish the prominent place given in the Gita
to karma yoga, Sankara emphasizes a way of knowledge, jnana yoga, as the means to liberation. But he concedes that karma yoga
can be a means to jnana yoga. A series of preliminary disciplines may serve to prepare the aspirant for jnana yoga.


Arunachala Siva.                   
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on January 30, 2013, 01:39:29 PM


In Bhagavad Gita Bhashya 5.12 and 5.24, Sankara goes so far as to sketch out the stages of spiritual discipline in which this
progression would occur. However, he does not fully elaborate upon the way in which such a plan may be carried out. Indeed,
he may well have suggested that it simply a device to demonstrate the essential harmony between the techniques advocated in
the Gita and those of his Advaita Vedanta. Yet judging from the nature of his practical instructions, in the Upadesa Sahasri, there
is good reason to believe that the method outlined in the Gita Bhashya may have been folllowed by his students.

Sankara's scheme serves as a useful point of reference for an analysis of the Advaita method of spiritual discipline. Sankara enumerates
the following stages: a) purification of the mind - sattva suddhi; b) the advent of knowledge - jnana prapti ; c) renunciation of all ritual
actions - sarva karma samnyasa; and 4) steadiness in knowledge (jnana nishta)

Of the four functions of ritual action which Sankara describes  as production of (utpada), attainment (apti), modification (vikara)  and
purification (samskara), only purification has a particular place in jnana yoga. Certainly it is not Brahman, the eternally pure (nitya
suddha) that stands in need of purification.  Concerning the aspirant, however, there is something to be purified, so long as there are
obstacles that prevent him from engaging in the path of Knowledge. It is in order to remove such barriers, as an accumulation of demerit that the seeker practices purification of mind. To this end, he might involve himself in sacrifice, the giving of gifts, study of Vedanta. austerity, and fasting.  (S. Mayeda for instance, asserts that Sankara contradicts himself in accepting actions such as purification while
demanding the reunciation of actions. Sengaku Mayeda, A Thousand Teachings, Upadesa Sahasri of Sankara, Tokyo, 1979).

Yet, it is not for the sake of knowledge that these rituals are performed, but merely to purify the mind to facilitate the arising of knowledge.


Arunachala Siva.         
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on January 31, 2013, 12:48:47 PM

This 'arising' serves to indicate the second stage of the path. Since the first step was a preliminary, it (b) Jnana Prapti, which more
properly signifies the commencement upon the path of knowledge. Sankara stresses throughout his works that the aspirant must
renounce all ritual actions, that is, (c) What exactly is it that the student is expected to do? Sankara's position on the renunciation
of ritual action certain appears problematical. Several scholars are inclined to argue that his views are on the subject is wholly contradictory. (S. Mayeda). How indeed can the aspirant embark upon the way of knowledge, if he must also renounce all ritual

Sankara's understanding of the nature of the aspirant may well shed some light on this problem. He sets out four preconditions for the
aspirant: (1) an  ability to distinguish between the temporal and the eternal; (2) dispassion for the enjoyment of the fruits of one's
actions both here and hereafter; (3) attainment of the means of tranquility, self restraint and the like; (4) the desire for liberation.


Arunachala Siva.
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on February 01, 2013, 04:20:26 PM

At first glance, all but the fourth of these qualifications might easily be mistaken for indications for Self Realization. (Paul Deussen
notes this peculiarity but does not elaborate. The Systems of Vedanta, tr. C. Johnson, Chicago, 1912.). The process of (1),
discrimination, involves the ability to distinguish the Self from the non-Self, rope from the snake. If the aspirant were already able to
effect this discrimination, he would immediately understand the meaning of tat tvam asi.  There would be nothing further for him
to do. The qualities designated in (3) raise a similar question. Sankara is undoubtedly referring to Brhadaranaya Upanishad 4.4.23.
Yet, this passage contains the description of a sage who is ALREADY a knower of Brahman. There is only one logical explanation for the
stipulation of these prerequisites.  Although the aspirant, is expected to demonstrate such qualities, he would not as yet have fully
established them as the sole characteristics of his personality. It is for this reason, that Sankara advises the teacher to repeatedly
relate the teachings to the student until they are firmly grasped. (Upadesa Sahasri - prose portiion -1.2.)

It would seem that (4) mumukshutva, is contingent upon (2), renunciation (viraga), in as much as the harboring of worldly or even
other worldly desires is incompatible with the desire for liberation. (Sankara enumerates three types of desires which are to be abandoned: those relating to this world, which can be obtained through sons; those of the realm of ancestors which are sought through rites; and the world of gods which can be reached through meditation. See BU Bh. 3.5.1)

But what is more significant here is that Sankara has not required in (2) that one must renounce all ritual actions as he did in stage
(c) of the discipline set out in Gita Bhashyam.  Rather, he asks only that one have dispassion (viraga) for the results one obtains from
his actions. This notion is very close to the idea presented in Gita 4.20.: 'for having abandoned attachment to the fruits of action....                   
though engaged in karma he does not do anything.'  But Sankara differs markedly from the Gita in his assertion that one should renounce all ritual actions. The Gita, on the other hand, insists that one must engage in activity.


Arunachala Siva.   
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on February 02, 2013, 03:44:25 PM


If Sankara's statements on renunciation are taken strictly on face value, he would me enmeshed in self contradiction. For
surely, the student must engage in ritual activity in approaching the teacher, or even in hearing the sacred word, both of
which are essential to the practice of Advaita. It seems unlikely that Sankara could have totally ignored the common sense
argument presented in Gita 3.8. The gist of the argument is that without action one could not even maintain the life processes
of the body. Sankara obviously did not want to support this position. He purposely obscures the meaning of the text by
suggesting  a very different confront Sankara here concerning his stand on renunciation, his response might be that one need not
cease the act of respiration, but should simply renounce the idea that " I am breathing". This is the position he takes in BU Bh. 1.4.7.
He argues that there is no need for injunctions to meditation. For these can only suggest that a meditator is separate from the
object of meditation. Yet, he does not dispute the need for meditation. Sankara's stance becomes still clearer, in Upadesa Sahasri,
Padya padam, 13.17: "how can concentration, on non concentration, or anything else, which is to be done, belong to me? It is only
based on this awareness that he proceeds to uphold the value of meditation: 'With concentrated mind one should always know everything as Atman."


Arunachala Siva.
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on February 03, 2013, 01:49:11 PM


It may be well to summarize here the implications of Sankara's position on renunciation. (1) Engaging in ritual action cannot be
conjoined with knowledge as a means of libneration. Since all actions are dependent upon the notion of agency, they are
ultimately the effect of ignorance (avidyai-karyatva). As true knowledge and ignorance are wholly incompatible, it becomes the
impossibility for the aspirant to continue to perform ritual actions. (2) Yet ritual action is not wholly rejected, but rather delegated
to the role of an indirect means or preliminary to Jnana Yoga.  (3) Ritual action is not to be literally abandoned, but all the attachment
to action based on the notion 'I am the agent' is to be rejected outright.  (Sankara himself engaged in a great deal of activity in the
course of his short lifetime. His prolific writings and extensive travels point to the fact that he did engage in activity in the spirit
of Gita 4.20.  The question remains as to why Sankara urges the aspirant to renounce all ritual action, instead of providing him with
more precise and literal instructions.  Mayeda's observation that Sanakra wished to shock the students into new awareness may
well be on the right track. (S. Mayeda, A Thousand Teachings, The Upadesa Sahasri of Sankara).

Having renounced all ritual actions, the aspirant, desirous of release, enters upon the final stage in the path of knowledge, Jnana nishta. Sankara has adopted this expression from the text of Gita 18.50 (nishta jnanasya) and uses it throughout GBh to denote the
yoga of knowledge. (Sankara defines nishta as 'completion' (paryavasanna), in order to suggest that Jnana yoga is the culmintation of the other types of yoga described in the Gita.  Nishta also signifies 'devotion'. In GBh 18.55 Sankara cites jnana yoga as the equivalent to ananya-bhakti, single minded devotion, which the Gita takes as the highest form of bhakti. In Mundaka Upanishad Bhashya, 1.2.12, Sankara states that the expression brahma nishta signifies one who, having abandoned all ritual action is absorbed only in the non dual

For Sankara, jnana-nishta refers to the process by which steadfastness of knowledge is achieved  and designates the culmination of jnana yoga.

He explains jnana nishta as "the determined effort of establishing a current of thought concerning in the inner Self." GBh 18.55.


Arunachala Siva.

Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on February 04, 2013, 12:58:48 PM


Sankara's reference to a 'current of thought' is certainly suggestive of meditation. (Sankara explains meditation in terms of
a current, samtana in Prasna Upanishad, 5.1. and similarly in as samtata in GBH 13.24. Both terms are synonymous with
pravaha which he utilizes to describe meditation in BS Bh 4.1.8. and GBh 12.3). But he is careful to point out that the process
of jnana-nishta is not needed to establish true knowledge. Effort is not required for the sake of knowledge. The current of thought
is only maintained with regard to stopping the conception of the Self in terms of what is not-Self. (GBh 18.50).

At this point, the somewhat hypothetical scheme of Jnana Yoga must be left aside. The very idea that there can be a progression
in a path of knowledge is 'merely an antecedent of the true knowledge of the
Self in which there can be no successive stages.' (Brahmasutra Bhashya BSBh 4.1.3, tr. Tainaut, Volume 11).

Ultimately Sankara's teaching on liberation relies upon the concept of two truths. Meditation can only be assigned a place, in the
lower order of reality. For the practice of meditation entails the notion of multiplicity. There must be a meditator (sadhaka), an object of meditation (sadhya), and act of meditation, (sadhana). With his iinsistence on non duality Sankara, is, in a way challenging the validity
of the scriptures and the teacher.


Arunachala Siva.               
Title: Re: Jnana Yoga - Jonathan Bader: Mountain Path, Deepam, 2007.
Post by: Subramanian.R on February 07, 2013, 01:16:58 PM


If there is to be no distinction between the guru and his disciple, then what is the point of his teachings? Sankara contends that
until true knowledge presents itself, the conventional notion of reality remains valid and that there is indeed an aspirant who follows
his teachings. (Brahmasutra Bhashya, 4.1.3. tr. Thibaut, Volume 11).

Therefore the aim of the scriptures in prescribing meditation is not to invoke immediate knowledge, but merely direct the aspirant's
attention to it. Mediation, then, will not lead to the highest truth.

If Sankara is to develop a method of liberation that is in conformity with the principles of his Advaita Vedanta, it must function from the
standpoint of the highest truth. Insofar as his notion of Jnana-nishta involves a discriminative awareness of the differences between
the Self and not-Self, it provides a glimpse of teachings which Sankara presents to the true seekers of liberation.

For them, there is nothing to be attained. But they must find a way to remove the misconceptions that cause the Self to appear as
not-Self. To this end, Sankara has proposed a process, whereby the aspirant cultivates the faculty of discriminative insight, based
solely on the assertion of non dual reality.


Arunachala Siva.