The Instability of Non-dual Knowing: Post-gnosis Sādhana in Vidyāraṇya’s Advaita Vedānta
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The Advaita Vedāntic path to liberation is often characterized as being constituted by, and as culminating in, gnosis or advaitic awakening. In his fourteenth century work, the Jīvanmuktiviveka, Vidyāraṇya, however, argues for a broader conception of Advaita Vedāntic sādhana, which revolves around the problem of post-gnosis obscurations. In this paper, I examine Vidyāraṇya’s understanding of the causes of post-gnosis hindrances and how they inform his articulation of two stages of renunciation and their corresponding disciplinary schemes and liberative results. I also explore the way in which Vidyāraṇya situates the JMV’s yogic approach in relation to his Śaṃkarite sampradāya.
KeywordsAdvaita Vedānta Vidyāraṇya Jīvanmukti Sādhana Saṃnyāsa Yoga Non-duality
Aitareya Upaniṣad Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
Bhagavad-Gītā Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
Brahma Sūtra of Bādarāyaṇa
Brahma Sūtra Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
Chāndogya Upaniṣad Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
Taittirīya Upaniṣad Bhāṣya of Śaṃkara
- Upad G
Upadeśasāhasrī Gadyabandha of Śaṃkara
- Upad P
Upadeśasāhasrī Padybandha of Śaṃkara
The Advaita Vedāntic sampradāya at the Śṛṅgeri maṭha in southern Karnataka was a tradition favored by the early Vijayanagara kings, particularly during the Saṅgama dynasty (c. 1346–1485). Philosophical, praxeological, and integrative shifts introduced in the works of the patronized scholars associated with the maṭha played an important role in shaping the trajectory of Advaita Vedānta into the modern period. Historically, the most well-known teacher at Śṛṅgeri was the fourteenth century brahmin scholar-renouncer Vidyāraṇya, a mahant of the maṭha who was hagiographically linked to the very establishment of Vijayanagara kingdom.
Vidyāraṇya’s influential work, the Jīvanmuktiviveka (“Clarifying liberation-while-living”) [JMV1], has been boldly called “the most important” (Olivelle 1992: 17) independent2 medieval text on renunciation (saṃnyāsa).3 The core theological problem underpinning the JMV’s account of the saṃnyāsic path to liberation-while-living (jīvanmukti) is the instability of non-dual realization. In general, Advaita Vedāntins hold that liberation is none other than the realization that the pure presence at the basis of subjectivity (called ātman) is non-different from the all-pervasive, universal consciousness (called brahman). Various positions were articulated within the tradition to explain the philosophical and practical problem of how hindrances could arise after awakening and whether or not perfect liberation was truly possible while still living or only after the “fall of the body” (Srivastava 1990; Prajnanananda 1992; Nelson 1996; Fort 1998; Suthren Hirst 2016).4 In the JMV Vidyāraṇya argues that the perfection of non-dual knowing—or liberation-while-living—is indeed possible here and now. However, he also emphasizes the instability of advaitic realization and draws attention to a number of obstacles encountered by the awakened sage or “knower of brahman” who is not yet considered a jīvanmukta (or liberated-while-living).5
In what follows, I analyze, and explore the implications of, the specific post-gnosis obscurations posited by Vidyāraṇya in the JMV. I explicate how such obstacles are counteracted, or prevented, through a disciplinary program that is designed for the knower of brahman who is not yet a jīvanmukta. Before turning to these issues, I first introduce the renouncer audience of Vidyāraṇya’s work as well as his account of two sequential forms of saṃnyāsa: the renunciation for the one who seeks gnosis (vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa) and the renunciation for the gnostic (vidvat-saṃnyāsa).
The Saṃnyāsic Path to Liberation-While-Living
The JMV assumes an audience of Advaita Vedāntin saṃnyāsins who are called paramahaṃsas. According to Vidyāraṇya the renouncer of the paramahaṃsa class exhibits the highest degree of detachment (vairāgya, virakti) as well as an urgent desire for non-dual liberation.6 Vidyāraṇya describes the paramahaṃsa saṃnyāsin as having cultivated a form of detachment that is not dependent on, or a reaction to, changes that occur within the saṃsāric world, such as the dispassion that may arise temporarily due to the loss of wealth, son or wife (cf. JMV 1.0.6–8). In contradistinction to the intellectual pursuits of paṇḍitas or those who pursue knowledge of the arts out of eagerness for learning, the paramahaṃsa is single-mindedly focused on liberation in the same way that an intensely hungry person seeks only food (cf. JMV 1.2.38–39). I will return to the issue of prerequisite qualities later but here it suffices to say that the paramahaṃsa is one who is ready to “cast off” (saṃ+ni√as) all objects, experiences, and relationships that constitute saṃsāric life, typified in the utterance “may there never be a world of rebirth.”7
In his celebrated dharmaśāstric commentary on the Parāśara-Smṛṭi, called Parāśara-Mādhavīya (PāM [Mādhava 1893]), Vidyāraṇya mentions two types of renunciations undertaken by paramahaṃsa class renouncers: the renunciation for the one who seeks gnosis (vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa) and the renunciation for the gnostic (vidvat-saṃnyāsa).8 In the JMV Vidyāraṇya thoroughly elaborates on this issue, explicating the theological rationale and praxeological implications of both stages of renunciation through a siddhāntin-pūrvapakṣin debate. He stipulates that “even though the state of paramahaṃsa has been established as the same [for both renunciations], a sub-distinction (avāntarabheda) should also be acknowledged because they are of the nature of opposite dharmas.”9 I will return to the nature of this dharma qua sādhanic disciplines shortly but want to first make clear the fruition, or liberative results, of each renunciation. With regard to vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa, Vidyāraṇya holds that knowing alone is the fruit of the renunciation for the one who seeks gnosis (vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa).10 “Knowing” here is what Vidyāraṇya elsewhere calls tattvajñāna, or the recognition of the non-dual nature of reality, which is the experience11 and conviction that consciousness is “all this.”12 The aspirant who comes to this recognition is then called a gnostic or knower of brahman and is enjoined to undertake the renunciation for the gnostic (vidvat-saṃnyāsa), which is the cause of liberation-while-living (jīvanmukti).13 “Therefore,” Vidyāraṇya summarizes, “in the same way that vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa ought to be carried out for the sake of knowing, so also vidvat-saṃnyāsa ought to be carried out for the sake of liberation-while-living.”14 Implicit here is Vidyāraṇya’s key distinction between the soteriological status of a gnostic and a jīvanmukta. As I show later in this paper, Vidyāraṇya argues that the gnostic or knower of brahman remains susceptible to certain post-gnosis hindrances while the jīvanmukta is beyond all obstacles.
Drawing on his most frequently cited source text, the Laghuyogavāsiṣṭha (LYV [Pansikar 1985]),15 Vidyāraṇya correlates the saṃnyāsic path to liberation with three main soteriological-eudaimonic aims: the recognition of reality (tattvajñāna),16 the establishment of mental quiescence (manonāśa17) and the effacement of latent tendencies (vāsanākṣaya).18 In different contexts, the categories of tattvajñāna, manonāśa, and vāsanākṣaya are employed in reference to not only soteriological goals but also the disciplines through which each goal is realized.19 With regard to such disciplines, Vidyāraṇya succinctly notes that “the means of tattvajñāna begins with listening (śravaṇa) [to the scriptures, etc.], the means of manonāśa is yoga, and the means of vāsanākṣaya is developing opposite tendencies [i.e., pure tendencies].”20 These three interdependent aims,21 and the dharmic disciplines associated with them, are pursued with different emphasis during each stage of renunciation: “for the renouncer who seeks gnosis tattvajñāna is principal while manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya are subsidiary; however, in the case of the renouncer who is a gnostic, it is just the opposite.”22 In other words, during vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa, the aspirant principally pursues the recognition of non-dual reality “through the proper practices of listening (śravaṇa), reflection (manana) and deep contemplation (nididhyāsana),”23 particularly with regard to the “great statements” (mahāvākyas) of the Upaniṣads that disclose advaitic truth.24 This śruti-mediated, gnoseological approach must, however, be supported by the practices of manonāśa,25 which culminates in mental cessation, as well as vāsanākṣaya,26 which involves the uprooting of ego and object-oriented tendencies through the cultivation of pure dispositions. The mendicant who comes to the direct realization of brahman27 through the disciplinary scheme of vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa is considered a gnostic and is enjoined to undertake vidvat-saṃnyāsa.
It is during vidvat-saṃnyāsa that the renouncer, who is now a knower of brahman, “should carry out manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya for liberation-while-living.”28 In other words, during vidvat-saṃnyāsa the disciplinary scheme is inverted so that manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya are the principal sādhana (qua dharma) while tattvajñāna is subsidiary. Since brahman has already been realized, tattvajñāna here entails the application of discernment or viveka as a means of undercutting impure tendencies that cause mental disturbances.29 In that way, tattvajñāna, once realized, cannot be abrogated30; however, non-dual reality must be continuously recognized and thus safeguarded (√rakṣ) from obscuration.31 The post-gnosis sādhana carried out during vidvat-saṃnyāsa is therefore designed for the preventing or removing of obstacles (pratibandha-nivāraṇa32) so that non-dual knowing, or the perpetual “awareness of the all-encompassing essence,”33 is uninterrupted. Once the knower of brahman is beyond the possibility of all impediments, advaitic knowing is considered secured and the gnostic is regarded as a jīvanmukta.34 Before outlining the specific post-gnosis hindrances identified in the JMV, which the dharmic disciplines of vidvat-saṃnyāsa are designed to counteract, it is useful to consider some of the ways in which Vidyāraṇya situates his innovative saṃnyāsic-soteriological project in relation to his Śaṃkarite sampradāya.
Contemplative Prerequisites and Vidyāraṇya’s Contemporaries
It is well known that Śaṃkara, the systematizer of Advaita Vedānta, held an aspirant as qualified for inquiry into brahman only if the person had cultivated a number of prerequisite qualities,35 including discernment (viveka), detachment (vairagya), desire for liberation (mumukṣutva), quiescence (śama), control of the senses (dama)—and, on the basis of BṛUpBh 4.4.23, other virtues such as withdrawal (uparati), forbearance (titikṣā), focused attention (samādhāna) and trust (śraddhā).36 With this foundation in view, it will be recalled that Vidyāraṇya requires that the paramahaṃsa renouncer who undertakes vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa possesses the highest degree of detachment as well as an urgent desire for liberation—both of which imply the presence of discernment (otherwise detachment and liberative aspiration would be baseless). Indeed, it is clear that Vidyāraṇya considers one who undertakes vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa as mapping on to the Śaṃkarite adhikārin.37 From Vidyāraṇya’s vantage point, the prerequisite qualities established by Śaṃkara are pure vāsanās, some of which overlap with dispositions required in the development of mental quiescence or manonāśa.38 It should also be noted that Śaṃkara teaches that purification of the mind (citta-śuddhi), through various methods, is necessary for inquiry into brahman. Vidyāraṇya, of course, argues that tattvajñāna, which is none other than the realization of brahman, must be supported by manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya, which involves the development of attentional stability and the cultivation of pure or sattvic tendencies.
Although Vidyāraṇya does not detail what he specifically means by upāsana, the term is generally understood by Advaita Vedāntins as referring to various kinds of venerational and contemplative practices that are engendered by micro-macro correspondences, among other issues.45 Śaṃkara describes upāsana as bringing about a “flow of identical thoughts”,46 a description that resonates with the development of a one-pointed mind in the meditational yoga valorized in the JMV.47 Vidyāraṇya may have avoided pinning down an exact definition of upāsana not only because it entails a range of disciplines—or a culture of contemplative “attending”48—but also because he implicitly takes a functional approach that is more concerned with the results of upāsana training (e.g., developing an uninterrupted flow of identical mental events) rather than with the specific nature of the disciplines involved.49 Upāsana therefore provides a range of meanings, and a compelling tradition-internal logic, that facilitates Vidyāraṇya’s integration of yogic practice into Advaita Vedāntin soteriology.50
Contemporary [practitioners], however, generally do not carry out contemplative training (upāsti42) and proceed towards gnosis rashly and out of mere impatience. Moreover, they accomplish both vāsanākṣaya and manonāśa momentarily. [Having done] this much, they perform listening, reflection and deep contemplation. … However, since [such practitioners] lack a resolute practice and on account of being harassed at times due to [the ripening of] operative karma,43 which produces [empirical] experience, vāsanākṣaya and manonāśa quickly blow out like a lamp in a windy place.44
This notion of the inability to sustain non-dual awakening on account of insufficient preliminary training dovetails with a distinction Vidyāraṇya makes elsewhere between a steady or stable (sthita) realization and one that is unstable (asthita).51 In the former case, given that the practitioner has the proper disposition, “when tattvajñāna arises…he continuously attends to reality.”52 However, if there is a lack of the necessary attitudinal and attentional qualities, tattvajñāna is unstable and, eventually, “the reality is forgotten.”53 Considering that non-dual awakening is susceptible to obstruction, or the “forgetting” of reality,54 the disciplinary program of vidvat-saṃnyāsa is enjoined to remove obstacles in order to secure non-dual knowing or the “the continuous remembering of reality.”55
Enlightenment and the Karmic Body
In the passage from the JMV on upāsana cited above, Vidyāraṇya points out that a knower of brahman may be “harassed at times by (the fructification of) operative karma.” Vidyāraṇya does indeed hold that karmically determined experiences can impede or obstruct (pratibandha) the recognition of reality (tattvajñāna).56 Not unlike the issue of dharma, karma is a law-like feature of the cosmology assumed by brahmanical traditions.57 Within this cosmological understanding, the person, as a karmic body, is forced to reckon with the experiential consequences of actions carried out across innumerable lives within an intersubjective, karmically coordinated world.58 In particular, Vidyāraṇya inherits the view established by Śaṃkara that there are two types of karma that constitute the karmic continuum of a particular jīva: (1) that which is accumulated (saṃcita) and extinguished with the dawning of gnosis59 and (2) that which is operative or currently manifesting (prārabdha) and “ceases only when the momentum is spent; this kind of karma produces experiences that must be lived through to exhaust it.”60 (ChUBh 6.14.2 in Potter 1981: 266) From this vantage point, “knowledge has no power” (BSBh 4.1.15 in Potter 1981: 178) to terminate prārabdha-karma, which must fructify on its own accord.61
Working within this relative framework, Vidyāraṇya argues that non-dual realization (tattvajñāna) removes ignorance (avidyā) and its products,62 including accumulated or stored (anārabdha) karma that is “the cause of future births.”63 Tattvajñāna, however, is unable to dissolve the appearance of the present embodiment because it is fixed or sustained by fructifying or activated (prārabdha) karma, which is already in motion, as it were, and can only be extinguished through experience (bhoga).64 However, since the sukha-duḥkha spectrum of experiences determined by prārabdha-karma are merely mental events,65 manonāśa is a counteragent (pratīkāra66) because “it is possible to neutralize (abhi√bhū) all mental events by the practice of yoga,”67 i.e., during absorptive concentration or samādhi.68 In that way, rather than dismissing the karmic nature of the relative world as inconsequential, it is, in fact, crucially important to Vidyāraṇya’s rationale for the yogic oriented sādhana of vidvat-saṃnyāsa, which is designed to prevent obstacles that can obscure non-dual knowing.
The Mind and Embodied Conditioning
Although the inner instrument is an āvidya-derived adjunct of unbounded consciousness, the very nature of the mind, according to Vidyāraṇya, is bound up with a sense of agency or doership. Given the continuation of the mind-body complex after awakening, what is implicit here is the need for the gnostic, or knower of brahman, to keep at bay the reemergence of any agential framework. This is, in part, why the knower of brahman must continue to restrain the mind through the yogic methods of manonāśa, which are enjoined as a principal dharma of vidvat-saṃnyāsa.
And one should not doubt the complete absence of agency in the knower of reality because even if the agency that is superimposed on the Self-consciousness is removed through gnosis (vidyā [=tattvajñāna]), agency, which is naturally established in the delimiting factor that is the mind, which is [itself] endowed with a shadow of consciousness and associated with innumerable modifications, is not removed given that it exists as long as the material substance [exists].70
As noted above, the karmically determined body is multi-layered and includes a subtle, transmigrating “body” that is, not unlike the inner instrument, conditioned by psychic-behavioral imprints or tendencies (vāsanā). Vidyāraṇya explains that “impure tendencies, such as egoity, personal ownership, desire, anger, etc., arise in the present birth, without instruction from another, due to the intense conditioning [that is acquired] over many lives.”71 These predilections, or residual impressions (saṃskāra72), are also, of course, accrued during one’s present life in every passing moment of agential, egocentric experience. Vidyāraṇya interestingly identifies three main areas around which habits cluster: “tendencies related to society, tendencies related to tradition, and tendencies related to the body.”73 He argues that “although the three [categories of] latent tendencies pertaining to society, tradition, and the body appear acceptable to one who lacks discernment, they are to be abandoned by those with discernment because they obstruct the arising of understanding in those desirous [of knowing] and obstruct the stability of knowing in the gnostic.”74 Notwithstanding the radical non-dual metaphysics of Advaita Vedānta, Vidyāraṇya sets forth here a rather pragmatic concession to the way in which people are acculturated and habituated into dualistic frameworks that reinforce the felt-sense of being a bounded, temporal, and vulnerable self in a world of apparently intractable objects.
On this account, residual tendencies may obscure non-dual knowing so that a “poor vision” resumes, which entails the mistaken construal of appearances as inherently real. In that way, what disappears after advaitic realization (or tattvajñāna) is not the shared world of public experience but rather the erroneous belief that experience is actually bifurcated into subject and object. Latent tendencies, however, are powerful enough to overcome (para√vaś78) non-dual seeing and to activate a delusional relationship with an apparently independently existent alterity.79
A person of such a nature, being subjugated by vāsanās, is confused [in thinking that] a thing which he sees is real. On account of losing control of himself in the momentum of latent tendencies he abandons his true nature. A person with poor vision therefore sees everything confusedly as if under the influence of intoxication.77
Vāsanā entails more than object saliency or the configuring of phenomenality but also, crucially, attitudinal and dispositional ways of relating to “objects”—that is, not merely seeing x but seeing x in a certain affective and value-laden way. Elsewhere called affective dispositions (bhāva80), latent tendencies not only concretize “objects” but also color them with desire. Indeed, there are a number of instances where Vidyāraṇya treats vāsanā as synonymous with desire (kāma81), such as having a taste (rasa) or thirst (tṛṣṇā) for objects.82 Kāma, of course, implicates the interpretive framework of a separate self since valuing, pursuing, or craving objects not only reinforces the apparent dualism between a desiring subject and desired object but shapes the delimited ahaṃkāric space of experience in relation to egoic aims.83 That desire is part and parcel of egoity is made plain when comparing the (apparent) ahaṃkāric entity to the ever-present “full” (pūrṇa84) consciousness that is its substratum. Indeed, consciousness, which is unbounded and infinite (ananta85), lacks nothing and thus desires nothing. Since there is nothing other than it, it is “complete” (i.e. pūrṇa) and so quiescent or peaceful (śānta86). A sense of lack (or incompleteness) and thus desire is, however, endemic to persons who think and feel themselves to be limited, temporal and located entities, even if passingly or suddenly.
The interrelationship the JMV posits between the mind, vāsanās and prāṇa also means that impure latent tendencies impel mental movements and prāṇa, and vice versa.87 In particular, Vidyāraṇya argues that “when there is a lack of mental quiescence (citta-viśrānti [=manonāśa]), doubt (saṃśaya) and erroneous understanding (viparyaya) may result.”88 Vidyāraṇya elaborates that “saṃśaya and viparyaya, which are of the nature of the impossibility of [liberative] knowledge (asaṃbhāvanā) and contrary understanding (viparītabhāvanā) respectively, obstruct the fruit of tattvajñāna.”89 In other words, without mental quiescence, which ultimately requires vāsanākṣaya, doubts and contorting ideation may arise and obscure non-dual knowing or the perpetual awareness of “the self-illuminating space that is consciousness.”90 The post-gnosis program of vidvat-saṃnyāsa is therefore necessary to eliminate the possibility of obstructions, such as misunderstanding and doubt, which may occur if the gnostic has a “mind that lacks quiescence”.91
The perfection of mental quiescence (manonāśa, citta-viśrānti) is absorptive concentration or samādhi, which Vidyāraṇya highlights as a practice useful in counteracting lapses in advaitic knowing.92 The Advaita Vedāntin gnostic, who has advanced through the disciplines of vidvat-saṃnyāsa, is, in fact, heralded as “the lord among yogins” (yogīśvara93). This is not surprising considering that Vidyāraṇya posits that the three subdivisions of jīvanmukti are distinguishable by their respective degrees of quiescence (or viśrānti [=manonāśa]).94 Notably, in the first two stages of jīvanmukti, the jīvanmukta is capable of emerging (vyutthāna) from non-conceptual concentrative absorption (nirvikalpa-samādhi) albeit with differing levels of difficulty; however, in the third and final stage there is no emergence from objectless samādhi but merely absorption in “the one natural condition”95 that is brahman.96 However, unlike the gnostic or “mere knower,”97 when a jīvanmukta comes out of nirvikalpa-samādhi no lapses are possible. In that way, for the jīvanmukta, the phenomenal “appearance of duality is [continuously] annulled”98 and there is the “state in which knowing of the Self is stabilized.”99
According to Vidyāraṇya the perfection of non-dual knowing is supported by pure latent tendencies such as viveka: “even if [the jīvanmukta] apprehends [apparent objects] whenever there is the sudden circumstance of emergence [from samādhi], joy, etc., do not arise because of the absence of any [dualistic] sense of rejection or acceptance, owing to the strength of viveka.”100 The pure residue of viveka thereby ensures the continuous knowing of all appearances as consciousness so that apparent objects are not apprehended as if separate or independently existent. Vidyāraṇya also links the stabilization of non-dual knowing to the pure residues cultivated through samādhi: “the one who is established in the practice of samādhi, due to the power of latent tendencies derived from that [practice], maintains perfect lucidity in the circumstance of emergence [from samādhi] even while carrying out transactional interactions with the senses.”101 Indeed, in the case of a jīvanmukta only sattvic or translucent tendencies that support “the functioning of the senses with continued [non-dual] realization”102 persist after awakening.103
Vidyāraṇya’s multi-staged model of liberation-while-living conceptualizes how a jīvanmukta is perfectly awakened while active in the (apparent) world and, eventually, remains in nirvikalpa-samādhi as pure, self-knowing consciousness (i.e., consciousness knowing itself).104 The stabilized non-dual knowing of a jīvanmukta—that is, when out of samādhi—entails uninterruptedly seeing all “things” through the equality (samatva) of consciousness only (cinmātra). On Vidyāraṇya’s account, the transcendental status of such a jīvanmukta is distinct from that of the “knower of brahman”, who is susceptible to obstacles or re-identification with an enworlded self. Insofar as re-identification is possible, the gnostic, unlike the jīvanmukta, remains, at least potentially, a cosmological entity subject to karma and dharma.105 This is why Vidyāraṇya asserts that “because even when there is gnosis (jñāna[=tattvajñāna]), the one bereft of quiescence (viśrānti[=manonāśa]) is not one who has ‘done what is to be done’ since he is not fulfilled [and] because there really remains something that ought to be done, namely the procuring of quiescence.”106 The gerundive here cues us to the fact that what ought to be done is the “dharma that is the inner quiescence of the mind;”107 namely, the continued practice of manonāśa during vidvat-saṃnyāsa until the “fulfillment” of liberation-while-living, which is none other than one’s very own nature (svarūpa).
Addressing the Advaita Vedāntic renouncer community presumably under the jurisdiction of the Śṛṅgeri maṭha, Vidyāraṇya’s JMV provides an influential systematization of the dharma of paramahaṃsa saṃnyāsins. The underlying theological problem that the JMV addresses is the instability of non-dual knowing, which formalizes the problem of post-gnosis hindrances (or “forgetting”), an issue with cryptic antecedents in the works of Śaṃkara and his early successors. Indeed, in the JMV, the rationale underpinning the necessity of vidvat-saṃnyāsa, which culminates in jīvanmukti, is precisely the need to counteract post-gnosis obstacles in order to ensure the stabilization of non-dual knowing. In his explication of post-gnosis obscurations, Vidyāraṇya pays particular attention to the fructification of prārabdha karma, the inherent agency-provoking structure of the mind, as well as the stubborn persistence of latent tendencies. All of these issues can lead to mental disturbances, such as erroneous understanding and doubts, which obscure advaitic realization. Given the possibility of obscurations, Vidyāraṇya argues that the knower of brahman must carry out disciplines, such as samādhi, in order to prevent or neutralize obstacles that trigger re-identification with an enworlded self. While Vidyāraṇya’s articulation of the saṃnyāsic path to liberation coheres and builds on earlier positions evident in his sampradāya, it also elevates the role of yoga in Advaita Vedānta, an intervention that would have important reverberations in the development of the Advaita Vedāntic tradition into the early modern and colonial periods.
Citations to the JMV are to Robert Goodding’s (2002) critical edition. All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.
In other words, the JMV is not a commentary on a singular source text.
The JMV was a key intervention in the development of the yogic-oriented renouncer stream of the Advaita Vedāntin tradition (Madaio 2016a). The work is also a conversational partner with present-day advaita related movements. Works attributed to Vidyāraṇya are continuously reprinted and widely translated into Indian vernacular languages; they are also utilized in the public teaching courses and monastic training curriculum of contemporary transnational religious organizations, such as the Ramakrishna Mission and Chinmaya Mission. This is, of course, no less the case among the “traditional” Advaita Vedāntic maṭhas. A publication of the Śṛṅgeri maṭha, for example, declares that Vidyāraṇya’s works are the “…greatest treatises of post-Shankara Advaitic literature…. His marvelous interpretative skill reconciled many apparent differences in philosophic texts. No other thinker and writer acquired a reputation close to that of Adi Shankara in spreading the truths of Advaita. Special importance has been given to two of his popular works on Vedanta—Panchadasi and Jivanmukti Viveka” (Sringeri Mutt 2012 : 57). In the important collection Preceptors of Advaita that was compiled in conjunction with the Kāñcī maṭha and dedicated to Candraśekharendra Saraswatī, the purported sixty-forth Śaṃkarācārya of the Kāñcī Kāmakoṭī Pīṭha, T. M. P. Mahadevan points out that Vidyāraṇya “takes his rank with the best preceptors of Advaita after Śaṅkara. His contribution to Advaita is as immense as it is abiding” (Mahadevan 1968: 189).
In this paper I employ “knower of brahman” and “gnostic” interchangeably in reference to the one who has realized brahman (but is not yet a jīvanmukta). Vidyāraṇya uses various terms in the JMV to indicate the soteriological status of such a gnostic, including vidvat, jñānin, tattvavit, and brahmavid.
Olivelle notes that “Vidyāraṇya…makes two significant theological statements regarding renunciation [in the JMV]. First, he grounds renunciation solidly on the internal disposition of the renouncer: the only legitimate motive for renunciation is detachment…. Second, Vidyāraṇya bases the classification of the higher types of renunciation on their objectives….Paramahaṃsas seek liberation in this very life” (Olivelle 1993: 172). Moreover, Olivelle identifies the Jābāla Upaniṣad (JU) as the locus classicus for the understanding that renunciation is based on detachment (vairagya) within the context of brahmanism (Ibid.: 118–119, 178). Vidyāraṇya quotes the relevant verse from the JU at JMV 1.0.3.
punarāvṛttisahito loko ‘yaṃ māstu kaś cana at JMV 1.08.
samāne ‘pi paramahaṃsatve siddhe viruddhadharmākrāntatvād avāntarabhedo ‘py abhyupagantavyaḥ. JMV 1.2.24. On the different dharma of each renunciation also see JMV 1.2.32.
vedanasyaiva vividiṣāsaṃnyāsaphalatvāt. JMV 1.2.14. Also see “vedanahetuḥ paramahaṃsāśramaḥ” at JMV 1.1.15. Also see “vedanahetūnāśramadharmān” at JMV 1.2.26. It should be noted that there are two types of vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa and that both are considered causes of knowing (“vedanahetuḥ saṃnyāso dvividhaḥ” at JMV 1.1.11). The first type is the formal renunciation taken up by a mendicant who has entered the saṃnyāsa-āśrama, which is our main concern here. The second type of vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa is a mental or internal renunciation which is available to those who are unable to undertake the renunciate stage of life. Interestingly, Vidyāraṇya argues that women are eligible for such an internal renunciation (JMV 1.1.13–15). While the JMV addresses a formal renouncer audience, Vidyāraṇya’s stipulation regarding the possibility of an informal renunciation suggests that the advanced teachings of the work are not necessarily out of reach of householders.
sarvadānubhava at JMV 5.4.46. Also see “aparokṣeṇa anubhūyate” at JMV 1.2.12.
“The recognition of the reality (tattvajñāna) is this conviction: the Self alone is all this. While forms, tastes, etc., are experienced (as if other than consciousness), they do not ultimately exist but comprise the phenomenal illusion which is the world.” idaṃ sarvam ātmaiva, pratīyamānaṃ tu rūparasādikaṃ jaganmāyāmayam na tv etad vastuto ‘stīti niścayas tattvajñānam. JMV 2.2.8. Vidyāraṇya later reiterates that tattvajñāna entails the understanding of (1) the non-dual nature of brahman, the substantival cause of everything (sarvajagad-upādāna), and (2) that the “world”, which is merely names and forms (nāma-rūpa), is superimposed on brahman. See JMV 4.1.47. Vidyāraṇya also argues that the dawning of tattvajñāna, which is the result of vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa, prevents any future rebirth. On the latter issue, see infra 63.
“vidvatsaṃnyāsasya jīvanmuktihetutvāt” at JMV 1.2.22. On the knower of brahman as qualified to undertake the renunciation for the gnostic see vidvatsaṃnyāsādhikāra- at JMV 1.9.2.
tasmād vedanāya yathā vividiṣāsaṃnyāsa evaṃ jīvanmuktaye vidvatsaṃnyāsaḥ saṃpādanīyaḥ. JMV 1.2.46. The renunciation for the gnostic is also described as being “the fruit of that (renunciation for gnosis)” (tatphalarūpaṃ vidvatsaṃnyāsam) at JMV 1.2.22.
On Vidyāraṇya’s usage of the LYV see Raghavan (1938–1939).
Strictly speaking, tattvajñāna—employed in its ultimate sense as synonymous with brahmajñāna—is not something that is gained, caused or achieved but ever-present and atemporal. One, then, can speak of tattvajñāna as a goal or aim only from the relative standpoint of the seeker or from the point of view of a person who thinks they are not brahman (abrahmatva, JMV 2.3.64).
Often rendered as “destruction of the mind”, manonāśa would be better translated literally as the disappearance or end of the mind (i.e., in samādhi). See infra 25.
“The recognition of reality, mental quiescence, and the effacement of latent tendencies are the means to that [liberation-while-living].” tattvajñānamanonāśavāsanākṣayās tatsādhanam. JMV 2.1.2.
These three aims comprise Vidyāraṇya’s understanding of genuine well-being and maximal human potential. The polyvalent character of the categories can be seen in relation to the term sādhana from √sādh meaning “to go straight to any goal or aim” as well as “to accomplish.” So, for example, manonāśa can be used in reference to not only mental quiescence but also to the disciplines by which quiescence is achieved, i.e., yoga. On yoga as the means of manonāśa, see infra 20.
tattvajñānasya śravaṇādikaṃ sādhanam, manonāśasya yogaḥ, vāsanākṣayasya pratikūlavāsanotpādanam…. JMV 2.2.16.
On the interdependence of tattvajñāna, manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya see JMV 2.1.1–2.2.16. In short, Vidyāraṇya argues for their mutual causality so that the practices associated with each aim must be carried out simultaneously. In that way, an unwavering non-dual realization requires manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya. Likewise, the perfect establishment of manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya ultimately necessitates tattvajñāna since it is precisely the realization of non-duality that renders the apparent multiplicity of the saṃsāric world incapable of catalyzing the dualistic framework at the basis of mental agitations and impure tendencies. Similarly, mental quiescence cannot be truly established unless one has uprooted latent tendencies since residual impressions, in conjunction with prāṇa, provoke the desires of an intentional mind (and vice versa). On prāṇa see infra 87.
vividiṣāsaṃnyāsinas tattvajñānaṃ pradhānam, manonāśavāsanākṣayāv upasarjanabhūtau;
vidvatsaṃnyāsinas tu tadvaiparītyam…. JMV 2.3.2. Also see JMV 2.3.27.
“samyaganuṣṭḥitaiḥ śravaṇamanananididhyāsanaiḥ” JMV 1.2.1.
On the mahāvākyas see JMV 3.10.8, 5.2.18, 5.2.41.
Drawing on the PYŚ, Vidyāraṇya defines manonāśa as the development of mental restraint (nirodha, JMV 2.3.3–5) which ultimately results in samādhi. Indeed, a restrained (niruddha) mind entails an increasing flow of quiescence (praśama pra+√vah, cf. JMV 3.6.19), culminating in the cessation (virāma, uparama) of mental transformations (vṛtti) (cf. JMV 3.6.26). It is principally in chapter three of the JMV that Vidyāraṇya explicates the methods of manonāśa, including a graduated (krama) scheme of practices from the LYV (cf. JMV 3.2.1–3.4.33). At JMV 3.5.1, Vidyāraṇya turns his attention to the aṣṭāṅga yoga taught in PYŚ, particularly absorptive concentration (samādhi). Drawing on PYŚ 3.9, he defines nirodha-samādhi as the cessation of mental transformations (JMV 3.6.1–2, 15), which is the same definition he provides for manonāśa. The culmination of nirodha results in asaṃprajñāta-samādhi (or nirvikalpa-samādhi). Given the mutual causality of tattvajñāna, manonāśa, and vāsanākṣaya (see supra 21) there are, however, multiple ways (upāya) of bringing about mental quiescence, including gnostical means (see JMV 1.3.27, 3.2.8–9). On Vidyāraṇya’s engagement with PYŚ, also see Fort (1999).
Particularly in chapter two of the JMV, Vidyāraṇya sets out a number of methods of effacing impure (aśubha, malina) or negative (dur-) tendencies through the cultivation of pure (śubha) or good (su-)—that is, soteriologically efficacious—predilections. In particular, he teaches a number of contemplative remedies (pratīkāra) for counteracting impure tendencies, and stresses the importance of pure tendencies accrued from absorptive meditation (samādhi), discernment (viveka) and the esoteric practice of consciousness-only (cinmātra). On the tendency of samādhi see JMV 1.6.26; on viveka see JMV 2.8.1–8, 2.10.1–49; and on cinmātra see JMV 2.11.1ff. Vidyāraṇya also emphasizes the cultivation of virtues, such as the divine (daiva) qualities taught in chapter 13 and 16 of the BhG, as well as kindness (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), empathetic joy (muditā) and patience (upekṣā). On the latter virtues see LYV 4.5.21 at JMV 2.6.3, PYŚ 1.33 at JMV 2.7.1, and JMV 2.7.1–27. Although PYŚ 1.33 is Vidyāraṇya’s main source (which is correlated with the LYV), these virtues are also representative of the broader yogic-śramaṇic context shared with the Jain and Buddhist traditions and taught in, for example, the Aṅguttara-nikāya, Majjhima-nikᾱya, and Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga. It should be noted, however, that the cultivation of (or habituation toward) virtues such as kindness is an ethos Vidyāraṇya clearly locates within a non-dual metaphysics.
As Vidyāraṇya puts it, “the direct realization of brahman is achieved by the means of listening, reflection and deep contemplation.” śravaṇamanananididhyāsanaiḥ sādhyaṃ brahmasākṣātkāraṃ. JMV 1.2.6. Also: “the renunciation for the gnostic is carried out by gnostics who have known the ultimate reality by properly practising listening, reflection, and deep contemplation.” samyaganuṣṭhitaiḥ śravaṇamanananididhyāsanaiḥ paratattvaṃ viditavadbhiḥ saṃpādyamāno vidvatsaṃnyāsaḥ. JMV 2.1.1
“In the same way the renouncer seeking gnosis should carry out listening (śravaṇa), etc., for the sake of tattvajñāna, the renouncer who is a gnostic should carry out manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya for the sake of jīvanmukti.” yathā vividiṣāsaṃnyāsinā tattvajñānāya śravaṇādīni saṃpādanīyāni, tathā vidvatsaṃnyāsināpi jīvanmuktaye manonāśavāsanākṣayau saṃpādanīyau. JMV 1.2.16.
On the application of viveka post-gnosis, see JMV 2.8.7, 2.10.9, 2.10.15, 2.10.30. On viveka as a prerequisite or means to gnosis see infra 36 and 37.
See JMV 2.4.3, 2.4.6. Ultimately, tattvajñāna is ever-present and therefore never “gained” nor “lost”; however, from a relative standpoint, it can be obscured or forgotten.
One of the purposes (prayojana) of jīvanmukti, which is realized through vidvat-saṃnyāsa, is the stabilization or safeguarding of gnosis (jñānarakṣā). See, for example, JMV 4.1.1ff.
See JMV 5.1.38.
Vidyāraṇya posits three subdivisions (avāntarabheda) of jīvanmukti (see below).
BSBh 1.1.1 refers to śamadamādi; I have unpacked the list of attributes here that have become standardized within the tradition by at least the time of Ānandagiri (c. 1300) who grouped them together in his commentary on BSBh 1.1.1 (Nyāyanirṇaya in Shastri, 1980). My thanks to Jacqueline Suthren Hirst on this point. The attributes of the adhikārin are perhaps best viewed as a working framework given that Śaṃkara and other Advaita Vedāntins also emphasize other virtues, such as compassion (karuṇā), etc. The cultivation of prerequisite tendencies should also be understood within the context of a teacher-student relationship (Suthren Hirst, 2005). Vidyāraṇya likewise stipulates that an aspirant must have a teacher who is compassionate (guru-karuṇā) and introspective (antarmukha, JMV 2.4.51). He reiterates the issue when he describes the student’s trust in the teacher whom he depicts as an introspective yogin (JMV 4.2.18). Vidyāraṇya’s depiction of the Advaita Vedāntin teacher as a yogin dovetails with other epithets that signal the yogic orientated renouncer context of the JMV (see infra 93 and 97).
Vidyāraṇya points out, at PāM v. 175, that the “paramahaṃsa who seeks gnosis is qualified for the knowledge that is ātman” (paramahaṃsasya vividiṣor ātmavidyādhikāraṃ) (Olivelle 1986: 125). In the JMV Vidyāraṇya cites the Nāradaparivrājaka Upaniṣad (NpU) which states that “in order to acquire the knowledge of Brahman a man bearing the name Paramahaṃsa should equip himself with all the requisites such as tranquility and self-control.” brahmavijñānalābhāya parahaṃsasamāhvayaḥ | śāntidāntyādibhiḥ sarvaiḥ sādhanaiḥ sahito bhaved || NpU at JMV 1.2.9. For the translation of NpU see Olivelle (1992:196). Vidyāraṇya makes a similar point when he notes that dharmic qualities, presumably in reference to those associated with the Śaṃkarite adhikārin, are already present in the one who undertakes vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa (JMV 4.3.3–4). Inversely, he argues that impure tendencies in a seeker indicate a lack of the means (i.e., prerequisites), such as śamadamādi, which thereby prevents the dawning of gnosis (JMV 2.2.10). On śāntidānti as pure vāsanās and śamādi as a cause (hetu) of gnosis see JMV 2.2.6 and 2.2.14; for daiva-vāsanās as a means (sādhana) to gnosis see JMV 2.3.76; and for viveka as a means to gnosis see JMV 2.8.6–7. Further, JMV 2.7.21 is suggestive of how pure vāsanās can be understood to conceptually map the path to liberation. Indeed, “bondage is just the bondage of latent tendencies [and] liberation is just the effacement of latent tendencies.” bandho hi vāsanābandho mokṣaḥ syād vāsanākṣayaḥ at LYV 4.5.20 at JMV 2.6.2. Also see JMV 2.3.15.
See JMV 2.4.2–2.4.6. Vidyāraṇya holds that the practitioner of upāsana is depicted as the foremost qualified for gnosis (mukhya-vidyādhikarin) in the śāstras. Nakamura points out that the semantic range of upa√ās includes “service done in an attitude of self-dedication as well as the sense of [mental] continuity [established] through repetition” (Nakamura 2004: 737).
In this case the post-gnosis program of vidvat-saṃnyāsa is not necessary as such because the aspirant is already in a suitable condition to sustain non-dual realization. In other words, “vidvat-saṃnyāsa and jīvanmukti are fulfilled naturally, as it were, on their own” (vidvatsaṃnyāsajīvanmuktī svata eva sidhyataḥ, JMV 2.4.2).
It is worth pointing out that various forms of meditation were indeed advanced in the BS as a necessary component of the vedāntic path. For details see Nakamura (1983: 519ff).
Vidyāraṇya uses upāsana and upāsti interchangeably with the latter having the more literal sense of “adoration” or “worship”. See infra 49.
For a discussion of operative or activated (prārabdha) karma, see below.
idānīṃtanās tu prāyeṇākṛtopāstaya evautsukyamātrāt sahasā vidyāyāṃ pravartante. vāsanākṣayamanonāśau ca tātkālikau saṃpādayanti. tāvatā śravaṇamanananididhyāsanāni niṣpādyante. … vāsanākṣayamanonāśau tu dṛḍhābhyāsābhāvād bhogapradena prārabdhena tadā tadā bādhyamānatvāc ca savātapradeśadīpavat sahasā nivartete. JMV 2.4.3.
Śaṃkara depicts upāsana as being carried out in a seated position and as constituted largely by substitution and identification or intentional superimposition. For upāsana in the works of Śaṃkara see, for example, TaitUpBh 1.3.2–3; BhGBh 12.3; BṛUpBh 1.3.9, 1.4.7; BSBh 4.1.7–11, and the introduction to ChUpBh. Helpful here is Nakamura’s discussion of upāsana in the works of Śaṃkara and his remarks on how the term overlaps with, and is distinguished from, dhyāna, nididhyāsana and samādhi (Ibid: 734–755). Also see Bader (1990) and Dalal (2016).
tulyapratyayasantatiḥ at TaitUpBh 1.3.4 [Śaṅkarācārya 2007]. Also see Goodding (2002: 59). Śaṃkara’s description certainly aligns with the kind of attentional training evident in a range of classical Indian works. For example, the bhāṣya on PYŚ 3.2 explains that “the flow of the mental modifications relating to the same object of meditation being continuous, i.e., being uninterrupted by any other knowledge or thought is known as Dhyāna or meditation” (Hariharānanda 1977: 251).
Putting aside the disputed authorship of the Pātañjalayogaśāstravivaraṇa, the earliest commentarial literature attributed to Śaṃkara does not indicate that he taught the kind of yogic disciplines evident in the “yogic advaita” (Fort 1998) espoused in the JMV. It is worth noting though that Śaṃkara only rejects Sāṃkhya and Patañjali on matters of explicit disagreement. In fact, Śaṃkara occasionally quotes Patañjali approvingly and he does not argue against yogic praxis in a preliminary context. On related topics see Sundareśan (2003) and Rukmani (2006). Further, if there were indeed sampradāyas on the ground linked to Kapila or Patañjali in the eighth century, one suspects that Śaṃkara would have been inclined to draw out the differences between his views and theirs (which are, in fact, strikingly similar in terms of the nature of the seer, i.e., ātman/puruṣa). Unlike Śaṃkara, Vidyāraṇya, in the fourteenth century, does not engage with Sāṃkhya or Patañjali as rivals but rather as pan-brahmanical traditions/technologies prevalent among the renouncer community he is addressing. Likewise, Vidyāraṇya is not concerned with differentiating Advaita Vedānta from Mīmāṃsā or Mahāyāna Buddhism, two traditions that, in different ways, deeply shape Śaṃkara’s articulation of the advaita he inherited from Gauḍapāda.
For an interesting discussion of upāsana in the works of Śaṃkara, and among contemporary Advaita Vedāntins at Śṛṅgeri, see Dubois (2015).
According to Vidyāraṇya, for the aspirant who has successfully carried out upāsana, “the object contemplated is directly realized” (upāsyasākṣātkāra- at JMV 2.4.2). Whatever Vidyāraṇya was intending as the upāsya of upāsana—and I believe he is intentionally open-ended on this point—it could include “reverent concentration on a visualization to be realized” (Nakamura 2004: 735). The taking of a deity as an object of upāsana is already indicated in Śaṃkara’s well-known account at BṛUpBh 1.3.9 which describes the continuous contemplating on a deity (devatā) until one’s sense of self becomes that of the deity. This type of contemplation qua identification is not unlike the meditation (dhyāna) technique Vidyāraṇya derives from PYŚ wherein one identifies oneself with the mythical snake Ananta (JMV 3.3.5). In any case, while some upāsana practices are oriented toward identification, a deity could also serve as the object or support for a continuous flow of identical thoughts. This type of upāsana practice perhaps anticipates Advaita Vedāntic descriptions of bhakti that utilize yogic models of the mind during the early modern period. While bhakti is not at all central to the concerns of the JMV, Vidyāraṇya does proffer an example of a teacher imparting knowledge (vidyā) of saguṇa-brahman to an aspirant who is afflicted by a type of impure tendency called addiction to study (pāṭhavyasana). See JMV 2.4.50. On the issue of faith and devotion among contemporary practitioners at Śṛṅgeri, see Sawai (1992).
This is not unrelated to the development, and systematization, of the renouncer tradition at Śṛṅgeri, which was part of a wider yogic-ascetical milieu that included non-brahmanical traditions (Madaio 2016a). Interestingly, the model of saṃprajñāta-samādhi, derived from PYŚ, frames the way in which Vidyāraṇya describes advaitic realization (Madaio, 2016b). While much work remains to be done in mapping the integration of yoga with Advaita Vedānta, it is well-known that from at least the medieval period onward meditational yoga was valorized by Advaita Vedāntins (Comans 1993; Fort 1998; Madaio 2017). Further, during the early modern period, Advaita Vedāntin engagement with yoga broadened to include disciplines featured in Haṭha and Rāja yogic traditions (Bouy 1994). For example, Advaita Vedāntin compilations on yoga, such as the Yogacintāmaṇi by Śivānanda Sarasvatī (c. early seventeenth century), incorporate tantric, epic and purāṇic yogas in addition to Haṭha and Rājayoga (Birch 2013). For echoes of Vidyāraṇya’s JMV in the teachings of certain contemporary Śaṃkarācāryas, see Madaio (2013) and infra 73.
Vidyāraṇya makes this point in his discussion of the sthitaprajña depicted in the BhG, which he understands as referring to a jīvanmukta (JMV 1.6.1 ff.).
“utpanne tattvajñāne … nairantaryeṇa tattvaṃ dhyāyati” at JMV 1.6.3. Vidyāraṇya here likens the continuous knowing of reality to a besotted woman who uninterruptedly thinks of her lover. A similar analogy is used by Śaṃkara in reference to dhyāna: “The meaning of the term concentration is this, namely the setting up of a continuous stream of similar thoughts. The verb ‘to concentrate’ is applied figuratively to one having his limbs relaxed, gaze fixed, and mind concentrated on a single object, as in such sentences ... ‘The woman who has her lover in exile has her mind fixed (on him)’” (BSBh 4.1.8 in Gambhīrānanda 2009 : 831). Also see BSBh 4.1.1.
“tattvaṃ vismaryate” at JMV 1.6.3.
As in the LYV: “when one’s own nature, which is true [and] pure, is forgotten, even for a moment, the world-appearance emerges like a cloud in the rainy season.”
svarūpe nirmale satye nimeṣam api vismṛte |
dṛśyam ullāsam āyāti prāvṛṣīva payodharaḥ || LYV 6.9.220.
“punaḥ punas tattvānusmaraṇam” at JMV 2.3.4.
See JMV 1.3.5. Technically the pūrvapakṣin asserts this view here but it is assented to by the siddhāntin.
Vedāntic-brahmanism posits a multi-tiered cosmos, which undergoes cycles (yuga) of emergence and dissolution and is structured by the language of the Veda and sacrificial ritual (yajña). Within this world—which is saṃsāra—there are many types of beings, of various orders, which endure affliction in a transmigratory existence in accordance with karmic causality. From an Advaita Vedāntic perspective, however, the cosmos issues from ignorance (avidyā) and is generally regarded as indeterminate (anirvacanīya) or as having a merely transactional (vyāvahārika) ontological status. As will become clear, identification with the non-real world (including the mind-body complex) is not so easily terminated despite advaitic awakening.
Vidyāraṇya appears to link operative karma to aspects of the natural world, such as the rising of the moon, which suggests a sense of collective karma: “Prārabdha-karma brings about by itself certain objects of sensory perception that cause happiness and suffering such as the rising of the moon and darkness. As for other [objects], such as houses, fields, etc., [it brings them about] by the intermediary of human effort. Among [these various objects], the rising of the moon, etc., cease to appear only on account of a previous samādhi consisting in the withdrawal of sense-organs, not otherwise. But [objects such as] houses, etc., cease even without samādhi.” prārabdhaṃ karma sukhaduḥkhahetūn kāṃścid viṣayāṃś candrodayāndhakārādirūpān svayam eva saṃpādayati. Anyāṃs tu gṛhakṣetrādīn puruṣodyogadvāreṇa. tatra candrodayādayaḥ pūrveṇendriyasaṃhāralakṣaṇena samādhinaiva nivartante, nānyathā. gṛhādayas tu samādhim antareṇāpi nivartante. JMV 1.6.17.
Only meritorious and de-meritorious karma “that have not begun to yield their fruits [apravṛtta-phala] and that were accumulated in earlier lives [janma-antara-saṃcite] or even in this life before the dawn of knowledge are alone destroyed” (BSBh 4.1.15 in Gambhīrānanda 2009 : 839). On liberation and related issues in the works of Śaṃkara, see Nelson (1996), Fort (1998), and Suthren Hirst (2016).
The arrow example is also employed in BSBh 3.3.32 and BṛUpBh 1.4.3. Some variant of this view was already evident at SK 67 (Mainkar 2004) and BS 4.1.15.
“…[S]ince the resultant past actions that led to the formation of the present body must produce definite results, speech, mind and the body are bound to work even after the highest realization, for actions that have begun to bear fruit are stronger than knowledge; as for instance an arrow that has been let fly continues its course for some time” (BṛUpBh 1.4.7 in Mādhavānanda 2008 : 93, my emphasis). Also see BSBh 3.3.32, 3.4.51, 4.1.15, 4.2.19; ChUpBh 6.14.2; BṛUpBh 1.4.3, etc.
“Indeed, this triad, starting with the knot [=superimposition], on account of being a production of ignorance, is removed by seeing the Self.” tad etad granthyāditrayam avidyānirmitatvād ātmadarśanena nirvartate. JMV 1.2.42. The triad here includes superimposition (adhyāsa), doubts (saṃśaya) and stored or un-commenced (anārabdha) karma. However, despite the fact avidyā has apparently been removed—see infra 64—tattvajñāna can be obscured, causing a reemergence of superimposition and doubts. This is, in part, why post-gnosis obstacles must be prevented through disciplines carried out during vidvat-saṃnyāsa. On the post-gnosis arising of superimposition (or “erroneous understanding”) and doubts, see infra 88 and 89.
karmāṇy anārabdhāny āgāmijanmakāraṇāni, JMV 1.2.42. According to Vidyāraṇya, the gnostic who has eliminated un-commenced karma has simultaneously realized “bodiless liberation” (videhamukti) in the sense of freedom from a future body (cf. JMV 2.3.73). Also see JMV 2.3.55. This innovative reading of videhamukti is why Vidyāraṇya can claim, at the start of the JMV, that vividiṣā-saṃnyāsa causes videhamukti (JMV 1.1.1), which, given statements he makes later in the text, clearly means here liberation from any future birth/body. Vidyāraṇya, however, also employs videhamukti in the more traditional sense of liberation after the fall of the body when it suits his exegetical agenda. On this more typical usage of videhamukti, see infra 96 and 103.
“This [present] body, however, has already commenced, therefore even by gnosis it is not possible to prevent the commencement of this [body]. Nor is gnosis resulting in the ceasing of this body because even for people who are not realized this body ceases at the time of the exhausting of operative karma.” ayaṃ tu dehaḥ pūrvam evārabdhaḥ, ato jñānenāpi nāsyārambho vārayituṃ śakyate. etaddehanivṛttir api na jñānaphalam, ajñānaninām apy ārabdhakarmakṣaye tannivṛtteḥ. JMV 2.3.55. Vidyāraṇya does not, however, directly address the problem of what the substratum of prārabdha karma could be if tattvajñāna (i.e., brahmajñāna) vanquishes avidyā. While this issue was not systematically treated by Śaṃkara, the great ācārya did concede that a residual impression of avidyā remains until prārabdha karma dissipates, not unlike how an ocular illusion persists for some time even after one realizes that it is an illusion (also see infra 74). Later Advaita Vedāntins, who endorse the jīvanmukti position, attempted to explain how a jīvanmukta could be perfectly liberated if an impression, trace, shadow or scent of avidyā remains in order to sustain post-gnosis phenomenality until the dissipation of prārabdha karma. They also grappled with how any remnant of avidyā could persist post-awakening given that ignorance is utterly antithetical to gnosis (see, e.g., Nelson 1996; Fort 1998). In the JMV, which is not a polemical work, Vidyāraṇya’s account of jīvanmukti is not shaped by these philosophical problems and critiques.
“sukhaduḥkhayoḥ prārabdhakarmaprāpitatvāt” at JMV 1.6.11. For operative karma as the cause of empirical experience (“bhogapradena prārabdhena”) see JMV 2.4.3.
On manonāśa as a remedy or counteragent (pratīkāra) to karmically determined experiences see JMV 2.3.25.
sarvāś cittavṛttayo yogābhyāsenābhibhavituṃ śakyante at JMV 1.3.4.
Vidyāraṇya therefore asserts that “since operative-karma is more powerful than tattvajñāna, let it be that yogic-practice is more powerful than [operative] karma.” athavā prārabdhaṃ karma yathā tattvajñānāt prabalaṃ tathā tasmād api karmaṇo yogābhyāsaḥ prabalo ‘stu. See JMV 1.3.11. Compare supra 61.
On this view, fructifying karma constitutes a range of empirical experiences whilst vāsanā pertains to the conditioning or character of the transmigrating jīva who identifies with those experiences. The first is determined while the latter is malleable.
na ca tattvavidi kartṛtvasyātyantābhāvaḥ śaṅkanīyaḥ cidātmany āropitasya kartṛtvasya vidyayāpohitatve ‘pi cicchāyopete ‘ntaḥkaraṇopādhau vikriyāsahasrayukte svataḥsiddhasya kartṛtvasya yāvad dravyabhāvitayānapohitatvāt. JMV 5.1.36. For dravyabhāvita see Nyāya-Sūtra 3.2.47. The innumerable (or “thousand”) changes (vikriyāsahasra) mentioned here is used in reference to mental dispersion or agitation (vi√kṣi) at JMV 5.1.29. Later in this paper I discuss the problem of mental disturbances that may arise after awakening if the gnostic has not sufficiently established manonāśa and vāsanākṣaya.
bahuṣu janmasu dṛḍhabhāvitatvenāsmiñ janmani vinaiva paropadeśam ahaṃkāramamakārakāmakrodhādayo malinavāsanā utpadyante…. JMV 2.4.41. Elsewhere mind is described as āśānidhāna or the storehouse of desires (cf. LYV 5.10.22 at JMV 3.12.7).
“Latent tendency (vāsanā) is a residual impression (saṃskāra) in the mind, which is the cause of particular mental activities, such as anger, etc., which are arising suddenly without reflection on antecedent [causes] and subsequent [consequences].” pūrvāparaparāmarśam antareṇa sahasotpadyamānasya krodhādivṛttiviśeṣasya hetuś cittagataḥ saṃskāro vāsanā.... JMV 2.2.5. Vidyāraṇya elsewhere points out that tendencies may be “recognized unexpectedly like grass, etc., when on a path.” …pathigatatṛṇādivad āpātataḥ pratītā vāsanārūpāś ca. JMV 1.6.8. This is instructive because it points to how vāsanās are not in the conscious field of the mind until they are triggered or suddenly arise.
lokavāsanā śāstravāsanā dehavāsanā. JMV 2.4.43. He includes subsets for the aforementioned types and also adds a fourth category he calls mental tendencies (mānasa-vāsanā), which are afflictive emotions he identifies with the demonic conditions (āsura-sampad) enumerated in the BhG. Vidyāraṇya’s typology of vāsanās—and the verses he cites from the LYV on this and other issues—were certainly influential on later Advaita Vedāntins, as well as recent Śaṃkarācāryas (Bhāratī 2008 : 42, 431–32; Tīrtha 2010 : 27–39; Sri Vidyatheertha Foundation 2017: 610–13) and “Neo-Vedāntins” such as Swami Śivānanda (Sivananda 1994 : 135–36).
tad et al. lokaśāstradehavāsanātrayam avivekinām upādeyatvena pratibhāsamānam api vividiśor vedanotpattivirodhitvād viduṣo jñānapratiṣṭhāvirodhitvāc ca vivekibhir heyam. JMV 2.4.85. Also: “Impure latent tendencies persist in knowers of brahman beginning with Yājñavalkya.” brahmavidāṃ yājñavalkyādīnām asty eva malinavāsanānuvṛttiḥ …. JMV 2.9.28. Also see JMV 2.9.2. Vidyāraṇya’s account here is reminiscent of certain scattered remarks of Śaṃkara, such as those in his introduction to the eighth chapter of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad: “in the case of persons who have realized Brahman ... it is not easy to divert, all at once, the longing for objects of sense gratification that has grown through long continued indulgence extending over several births ….” (Jha 1942: 413). On the continued “power of impressions” (saṃskāra-vaśa) after realization, see BSBh 4.1.15. Also BṛUpBh 1.4.10. On related issues in Śaṃkara, see Suthren Hirst (2016).
saty api bodhe jāyamāno brahmavittvābhimānādir bhogārthāpāditakāmādiś ca dhīdoṣaḥ…. JMV 1.4.16.
dṛḍhabhāvanayā tyaktapūrvāparavicāraṇam | yad ādānaṃ padārthasya vāsanā sā prakīrtitā || LYV 5.10.48 at JMV 2.4.8. Vāsanā is equated here with the seizing (ādāna) of things, which is caused by firm conception (dṛḍha-bhāvanā). The term bhāvanā derives from √bhū meaning, among other definitions, to become or to arise, as well to cultivate or to perform habitually (Monier-Williams,  1956: 760). While bhāvanā is used in other contexts to refer to meditation, it suggests here a repetitive attachment that is also an imaginative act (on the latter sense see Shulman ). With regard to the verse cited, vāsanā connotes an impulsive, conceptual evocation, or “coming into being” of “things”, which is to say the imagining of objects as if they were truly “existent” (from the Latin existere meaning to “stand forth, come out, emerge”).
tādṛgrūpo hi puruṣo vāsanāvivaśīkṛtaḥ | saṃpaśyati yad evaitat sad vastv iti vimuhyati || vāsanāvegavaivaśyāt svarūpaṃ prajahāti tat | bhrāntaṃ paśyati durdṛṣṭiḥ sarvaṃ madavaśād iva || LYV 5.10.50–51 at JMV 2.4.10–11.
See JMV 2.9.25, 3.6.4.
The susceptibility of non-dual knowing to the arising of latent tendencies assumes that the gnostic has not sufficiently established vāsanākṣaya and manonāśa before realization (tattvajñāna). With regard to impure vāsanās that arise post-gnosis, Vidyāraṇya pays particular attention to anger, desire, and pride, highlighting a number of scenarios in which learned gnostics, despite being knowers of brahman, demonstrate impure tendencies. Implicit in a number of these examples is a critique of object-oriented learning as well as the predilections associated with brahmanical intellectuality. Indeed, Vidyāraṇya’s view of soteriological transformation emphasizes the limits of knowledge when learning is pursued outside of a meditational and virtue-centered path.
Citing, and then glossing LYV, Vidyāraṇya explains: “‘Now if an inauspicious affective disposition compels you into difficulty then that earlier disposition, sir, is to be conquered by your own effort.’ Affective disposition (bhāva) indicates latent tendency (vāsanā).” atha ced aśubho bhāvas tvām yojayati saṃkaṭe | prāktanas tad asau yatnāj jetavyo bhavatā svayam || bhāvo vāsanā. JMV 1.3.22 (citing LYV 2.1.8). The sense of bhāva as a “way of thinking or feeling” and “the seat of the feelings or affections” (Monier-Williams,  1956: 754) is useful in this context.
See JMV 1.6.8, BāU 4.4.5 at JMV 2.4.16, and verses from the BhG, which are cited as examples of āsuric vāsanās (e.g., BhG 16.10–12 at JMV 2.4.22–24).
The equivocation of vāsanā and kāma is part of Vidyāraṇya’s exegetical genius that skilfully correlates and repurposes positions across a range of scriptural resources, particularly, Upaniṣadic works, the LYV, the BhG, and PYŚ. On Vidyāraṇya’s glossing of taste for objects as “mental thirst” (raso mānasī tṛṣṇā) see JMV 1.6.17; for other usages of tṛṣṇā see JMV 3.11.40–44 (which cites PYŚ 1.15–16) and JMV 4.5.7 (which cites LYV 5.7.24).
At JMV 2.6.6 Vidyāraṇya suggests another way of modeling vāsanic conditioning that correlates mānasa-vāsanā with impressions formed from desiring (√kam) phenomenal experiences and viṣaya-vāsanā with impressions formed from undergoing (√bhuj) those experiences.
The understanding that ultimate reality is the plenum or pūrṇa (“fullness”, “complete”, “satisfied”, “accomplished”) is well-known from BāU 5.1.1; for usage of pūrṇa in the JMV, see LYV 4.5.43 at JMV 2.1.31 and LYV 6.15.78 at JMV 4.21.55–56.
See, for example, the well-known phrase “satyaṃ jñānam anantam brahma” at Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.1 and Śaṃkara’s gloss that anantam is a liṅga of brahman. Also see BSBh 1.1.22.
Vidyāraṇya describes the “self that is peace” (śāntātman), which is without adjuncts (nirupādhika-), as follows: “that [self] exists as ‘all this’ being interiority and exteriority. The self that is peace, which is within everything, is of the same essence as consciousness.” tad etat sarvam antarbahirbhāvena vartate. śānta ātmā sarvāntaraś cidekarasaḥ. JMV 3.8.2.
On mental disturbances see, for example, vyagracitta- at JMV 1.9.16, citta- vi√kṣi at JMV 1.9.21, cittakāluṣya- at JMV 1.9.24, manaśceṣṭā- at JMV 3.4.1, etc. Given the reciprocal relationship between vāsanās, prāṇa, and the mind (cf. 3.2.11, 17)—a position also found in medieval Haṭha and Rāja yogic works—Vidyāraṇya teaches regulated breathing (prāṇāyāma) as a means of subduing the mind and impure vāsanās (cf. 3.2.11ff).
cittaviśrāntyabhāve saṃśayaviparyayau prasajyeyātām. JMV 4.1.3.
saṃśayaviparyayābhyām asaṃbhāvanāviparītabhāvanārūpābhyāṃ tattvajñānasya phalaṃ pratibadhyate. JMV 4.1.21. During Vidyāraṇya’s explication of yoga at JMV 3.11.1ff., he cites PYŚ’s depiction of afflicted and unafflicted mental modes (vṛtti), including erroneous understanding (viparyaya). This includes Patañjali’s definition of viparyaya as an error or a “mistaken cognition based on the form of something appearing as what it is not.” This definition, of course, parallels the Advaita Vedāntic account of superimposition (adhyāsa, adhyāropa). See PYŚ 1.8 at JMV 3.11.7. (PYŚ 1.8 in Larson and Bhattacharya 2008: 162). I have indicated above that Vidyāraṇya glosses viparyaya with viparītabhāvanā or contrary understanding; it is worth noting that viparīta connotes the sense of “turned around, reverse, inverted.” In other words, it is a misconstrual or contortion of the true non-dual nature of experience.
svayam prakāśamānaṃ cidvyoma, JMV 1.4.12.
aviśrānti-citta- at JMV 4.1.25.
Drawing on chapter two of the BhG, Vidyāraṇya points out that “the practice of samādhi (is carried out) to remove occasional bouts of inattentiveness” kādācitkapramādaparihārāya samādhyabhyāsaḥ. JMV 1.6.21.
See, for example, JMV 4.5.1.
See JMV 4.1.32–58. Also relevant here is JMV 1.5.3. Vidyāraṇya’s explication of the avāntarabheda of jīvanmukti is based on his adaption of the sapta-bhūmi model(s) of yoga posited in the LYV. See Sprockhoff (1970).
svabhāvaikaniṣṭhatva-, LYV 3.9.123 at JMV 4.1.44
The final stage of jīvanmukti is by implication indistinguishable from the traditional understanding of videhamukti, or liberation after the fall of the body, which is “like wind that stops moving” (pavano ‘pandatām iva, LYV 3.1.98 at JMV 1.5.2) so that it remains in its own nature (svarūpenāvatiṣṭhate, JMV 1.5.3). See infra 103.
jñānimātra- at JMV 2.9.15. Vidyāraṇya deferentially refers to the “yogin paramahaṃsa” as greater than the “mere paramahaṃsa” (kevalaparamahaṃsa, JMV 5.1.24). Indeed, the gnostic who is also a yogin (i.e., the gnostic who has secured mental quiescence) remains in the very nature of the highest consciousness (paramātmasvarūpatva, JMV 5.1.27) as opposed to the gnostic who is a non-yogin (ayogin, JMV 5.1.28) who may be distracted by outward conditions.
“bādhitabhedapratibhām” at JMV 1.6.30. Vidyāraṇya is quoting here an unknown work that he refers to as śreyomārga. Vidyāraṇya, however, may not be referring to the title of a work but simply switching to metre to deliver key teachings about the “superior path”. On śreyomārga see Goodding (2002: f.38, 116).
avasthāṃ sthitātmasaṃbodhā- at JMV 1.6.30.
kadācid vyutthānadaśāyām āpātataḥ pratītāv api vivekadārḍhyena heyopādeyatvabuddhyabhāvād dharṣādirāhityam upapadyate. JMV 1.4.14.
samādhyabhyāsayuktas tadvāsanābalād vyutthānadaśāyām indriyair vyavaharann api prasādaṃ samyak prāpnoti. JMV 1.6.26
“bodhānuvṛttyā sahita indriyavyavahāraḥ” at JMV 2.4. 42. Pure latent tendencies are likened to dried seeds (saṃbhṛṣṭabījavat, LYV 1.1.12 at JMV 2.4.19) because they do not cause rebirth nor do they provoke dualistic frames of reference. Similarly, at JMV 2.7.14ff., yogic practice (yogābhyāsa) is not considered an action that causes rebirth because it is undertaken without a sense of desire.
Following the LYV, Vidyāraṇya distinguishes between jīvanmukti with form and jīvanmukti without form (JMV 3.12.1–13). The former, which has been discussed here, involves the presence of sattvic qualities. The latter, or jīvanmukti without form, is synonymous with bodiless liberation (videhamukti), or liberation after the fall of the body, wherein sattvic qualities are reabsorbed (pra+√lī, LYV 5.10.27 at JMV 3.12.10), as it were, into the all-pervasive consciousness.
Vidyāraṇya’s model for understanding the jīvanmukta, who is also glossed as the bhagavadbhakta (cf. JMV 1.7.1ff.), casts a large interpretative net capable of making sense of a range of awakened sages that has proved influential from the medieval to contemporary periods. Sivananda (2011), for example, includes selections from the JMV in his Jīvanmukti Gītā, along with verses from certain Yoga Upaniṣads, the Avadhūta Gītā, and the Ātmavidyāvilāsa of Sadāśiva Brahmendra.
In other words, the jīva, who is impelled across a range of embodiments on account of karma, is also inscribed by dharma, the law-like sense of “what is to be done” that is inherent to the brahmanical conception of the veda-informed saṃsāric/cosmological world. The gnostic, who is not yet beyond all hindrances, is therefore enjoined to carry out the dharma of vidvat-saṃnyāsa. The jīvanmukta, on the other hand, who has stabilized non-dual knowing, is considered “the one who is beyond castes and stages” (ativarṇāśramin, JMV 1.4.7 and 1.10.1ff.); that is, beyond injunctive dharma and the hindrances that would otherwise arise from prārabdha karma, etc.
saty api jñāne viśrāntirahitasya tṛptyabhāvena viśrāntisaṃpādanalakṣaṇakartavyaśeṣasadbhāvena kṛtakṛtyatvābhāvāt. JMV 5.1.36.
“cittoparama āntaro dharmaḥ” at JMV 5.1.15.
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