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Re: Do we need to ask Him?

From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan (vidya_at_cco.caltech.edu)
Date: Thu Dec 05 1996 - 16:19:25 PST

On the topic of the requirement of jnana in prapatti,

On Mon, 2 Dec 1996, Krishna Kalale wrote:

[...]

> This becomes a close parallel to the traditional, Visistadvaita-Advaita
> controversy of - need for upasanatmaka knowledge of brahman, instead of just
> "vakyartha jnana" ie. or the understanding of words "tatvamasi" alone. I
> dont fully understand this controversy either, since advaitic view is so
> diverse in this matter. Note, that upasanatmaka knowledge needs karma as an
> anga while, vakyartha jnana does not need it.


Over the years, I have come to the impression that this debate between
upasanatmaka and vakyartha jnana would not even be an issue for
Sankaracarya. When he analyzes "tattvamasi", it is clear that he intends
the seeker to understand more than the words, or just the meaning of the
words. Under his analysis, really knowing what "tattvamasi" is, requires
much more than what is called vakyartha jnana. The advaitic meaning of
tattvamasi is evident in nididhyasana, which might be called upasana. Note
that according to advaita, the true jnana is not at the ordinary waking
state level at which speech is understood, but at the turiya level. 

That said, Sankaracarya would deny that nididhyasana is a karma at all,
i.e. karma in the vaidika sense. It is not nitya, nimitta or kamya karma.
Also, since Sankara wants to maintain both the ontological and
episemological primacy of brahman, which is synonymous with jnana for
him, he would not accept that brahma-jnana is somehow an effect of
nididhyasana/upasana. In other words, upasana constitutes a means (the
how) to knowledge, but it is not the reason (the why) for the dawn of
jnana. So long as this fundamental issue is kept in mind, I think the
whole Visistadvaita-Advaita debate more or less vanishes. Without denying
the philosophical differences between the two systems, as far as the place
of upasana is concerned, we seem to be trying to say the same thing in
different ways. Am I missing something important here? 

Namo Narayanaya,
Vidyasankar