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Re: Different States of jiva

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Mon Jun 07 1999 - 18:13:46 PDT

Sri B. Narasimhan, a new member of our group, has posed
a question concerning the Mandukya Upanishad and its
meaning according to Visishtadvaita. 

It is indeed a pleasure to have this question before us.
This Upanishad is likely to boggle the mind, no matter
what one's philosophical persuasion is.  It is extremely
cryptic, as it is shorter than any other Upanishad. The entire 
text can easily fit on one page; yet volumes have been written 
about it by scholars over the years.

I want to first make a few brief comments, and then followup
in a later post with something more substantial.

a)  As Sri Narasimhan and Sri Anand have mentioned, the
    Mandukya refers to the four states of consciousness
    of the self, and their corresponding relation 
    to the highest reality, Brahman.

    The four states are:

    a) awake             -- when we are normally conscious
    b) dreaming          -- when we are conscious of things
                            in our dream
    c) deep sleep        -- when we are apparently
                            conscious of nothing
    d) fourth (turIya)   -- exact meaning is debated by
                            various philosophers, but generally
                            refers to moksha or moksha-like state

    These four states are discussed several times in the
    Upanishads and other texts. 

    [  Note: As Anand mentioned, the Pancaratra texts associate 
             four forms of Narayana with four states. However, in
             some Pancaratra texts, the fourth state is taken to
             be 'mUrchcha' or swooning, leaving moksha as yet
             a further state not included in this classification.

             These classification that includes 'mUrchcha' is 
             different and should _not_ be confused with the 
             Mandukya classification. I think Anand may have 
             done so; Sri Uttamur Swami himself writes,
             "AtmA tAvat catushpAt sphuTabahiranubhUH suptisushvApa-
              moksha-sthAnaH..." (Vedanta Pushpanjali) and
             translates in Tamil that moksha is the fourth state.  ] 

    The exact relation between these four states and Brahman is
    what is debated by the different philosophical schools.

b) Ramanuja's position

   Since the Mandukya is not discussed by Badarayana in the
   Brahma-Sutras, Ramanuja has not left us any direct thoughts
   on the text.  However, the Mandukya very closely parallels
   a section of the jyotir-brAhmaNa of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad.
   In fact, some have held that the key to understanding the
   Mandukya is first understanding the jyotir-brAhmaNa. Ramanuja
   has left some thoughts on this text and we can draw parallels

c) Post-Ramanuja commentators

   Since Ramanuja did not author any direct commentaries
   on the Upanishads, and the works of earlier Visishtadvaita
   philosophers such as Tanka and Dramida were no longer 
   extant, it was left to later acharyas to explain the
   Upanishads word for word.

   Vedanta Desika would have been ideally suited for the task, 
   but for reason not quite clear, he chose to comment only 
   on the Isa Upanishad.

   We do however have two Visishtadvaita commentaries on the 
   Mandukya by outstanding scholars.  The first is by Kuranarayana
   Muni, grandson (?) of the legendary Kurattalvan.  The second
   is by Ranga Ramanujacharya (16th century), who wrote commentaries
   on all the principal Upanishads and is therefore known as
   "Upanishad Bhashyakara" in our sampradAya.  These two
   commentaries differ here and there, but their overall trend is
   the same.

I will elaborate further based on what little I know in a
future post.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan