Śrī Praśānt Neti

The Purpose of Avasthātraya Teaching

When exposition of three states (waking, dream and DeepSleep) is given in Bṛhadāraṇyaka between IV.3.7 to IV.4.22, is it given for the purpose of teaching how self ‘goes through’ three states i.e. is it given to re-confirm the common man’s viewpoint that self-experiences these three states one after the other?

Or is it for the purpose of teaching something else? Before answering this question, first of all, we need to ask ourselves what is the subject matter (i.e. which self is referred to) in those Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras IV.3.7 to IV.4.22?

Is it the limited self (i.e. self which is supposed to be subject to transmigration aka Jīva) which is the subject matter or is it the supreme Self (i.e. transcendental Self) itself that is being referred to?

This is a very important question to ask, because, if the self which is subject matter in those mantras is really the limited self then it is very much apt to consider that the purpose of the teaching is only to re-confirm the common man’s viewpoint (i.e. limited self-viewpoint) that self-experiences waking, dream and DeepSleep one after the other.

On the other hand, if the self-referred to in those mantras is indeed the transcendental Self, which is however pointed through the so-called experiences of the transmigrating self, then it is correct only to conclude that the actual purpose of this teaching is not to re-confirm the experiences of the transmigrating self per se, but the purpose of those mantras is to provide the viveka required to sublate such idea of ‘going through experience’ by showing it as an erroneous idea and while doing so, the ultimate purpose is to point to the Ātmā‘s asaṅgatvam as self-evident truth intuited through a direct pointing into DeepSleep.

A clear implication when seekers do not accurately understand the purpose of this teaching becomes very well evident in how they put their arguments in discussions related to Avasthātraya vicāra. For example, if your conclusion from the enquiry into three states is a ‘belief’ that there is ignorance which exists really in all three states and if your rationale to support such conclusion is based on the very experience (i.e. the common man’s idea) of ‘going into’ and ‘coming out of’ these waking, dream and DeepSleep states, then it is a clear indication that you have not understood the purpose of this teaching.

The purpose of this teaching is not to re-confirm what we already take for granted out of duality. In this essay, we will see what is the correct purpose of this teaching, by making a sincere attempt to understand Bhagavān Bhāṣyakāra’s words and thereby grasp the correct sampradayic method of interpretation/teaching.

Going back to the question ‘which self is referred to’ in those Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras, to answer that question properly we need to first of all understand a very important point in the siddhānta of VedāntaVedānta teaches Jīva Brahma aikyam (identity of Jīva & Brahman). When we say that Vedānta teaches ‘Jīva Brahma aikyam’, we never mean to accept some sort of positive existence to the Jīva and based on it, provide Vedānta as a means to ‘really attain’ Brahman. The siddhānta is not that, as of now, there is really a Jīva and through Vedānta śravaṇa manana nididhyāsana this Jīva ‘really attains’ Brahman. Also, the siddhānta is not that, though Jīva is Brahman, as of now this Jīva owing to a positive root ignorance, really forgot itself to be Brahman and that through Vedānta study Jīva eventually really comes to regain/merge-in Brahman. But the siddhānta is, ‘Jīva was never Jīva but always Brahman’ i.e. there is no real entity called Jīva that really ever existed.

Jīva/Jīvatvam which also includes with it, the inseparable notions of Jagat (world around) and Īśvara (the supreme lord also as the primordial cause) is always an epistemological error (erroneous idea) about what alone truly exists i.e. Brahman. There is no entity that really exists corresponding to these notions. This is analogous to snake-in-a-rope where snake is only an erroneous idea about what alone always exists i.e. rope. There is no snake that really exists corresponding to the notion (i.e. perception) of snake-in-a-rope. Just as rope never (not even momentarily) transforms in to a snake in that snake-in-a-rope perception, similarly Brahman also never really transformed into Jīva/Jagat/Īśvara. Moreover, when we ask what is meant by removal of ignorance/error (or in other words having right knowledge) in that snake-in-a-rope instance, we do not mean that snake really transforms or merges back into rope with the raise of right knowledge. But, it only means that with the sublation of the idea of snake, rope shines forth as the self-evident truth. ‘Right knowledge’ here neither implies that snake ‘transforms into’ or ‘merges back into’ rope nor it implies that a positive instruction about rope is needed over and above the sublation of wrong idea called snake. Therefore, Jīva Brahma aikyam is the truth pointed through a sublation of the idea of Jīva/Jīvatvam and it is not a process of Jīva’s real transformation or real merging back into Brahman. And most importantly throughout the process of instruction of truth, it does not involve emphasizing Jīva/Jīvatvam as something which is ‘relatively real’.

Therefore, it is important to understand that the subject matter (i.e. the self that is alluded to) in those Upaniṣad mantras is not to affirm ‘experience of states’, not to affirm ‘causality relationship between them’ and it is clearly not to affirm the ‘nature of limited self’. That means, the nature of transmigrating self is not the subject matter, but, the subject matter is transcendental Self alone. You can also understand it as, affirmation of Snake is never the subject matter of instruction because as long as snake is explained, you remain with the idea of snake. Whereas through that so-called perception of an apparent snake when the reality superimposed on snake is negated through a simultaneous probing into the cause of snake, then rope shines forth. Here we also need to note that probing into the cause of that ‘apparent’ snake is only a tool/method and it does not mean that rope ‘really caused’ the snake. Does the Rope really ‘cause’ the snake? No. But it is only that the probing (enquiry) happens to be along the lines of cause-effect. That much only. Neither establishing a real causal relationship is the goal nor establishing a ‘relatively real’ causal relationship is the goal. The goal is only to point to the truth which is beyond the causal framework and such pointing involves understanding falsity of causality. That means, only from the apparent perception of snake, saying that ‘rope caused the (idea of) snake’ is admissible and at best, it is only a figurative expression and nothing more. As long as we take that those Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras are giving the description of nature of transmigrating self, we remain within and reinforce the idea of being the transmigrating self. Whereas, when we understand that the true purpose of those mantras is to sublate the reality superimposed to transmigratory self, that sublation itself points to the self-evident truth1. That means, the objective of Upaniṣad is to determine the true nature of what is taken to be as transmigrating self as that which is in reality, ‘not transmigrating self but transcendental Self’ – Jīva is not Jīva but Brahman, is the siddhānta.

Here we may encounter an objection viz, ‘if those mantras are indeed having the transcendental Self as its subject matter then does it not mean that it amounts to reducing the transcendental Self into the triad of experiencer-experienced-experience i.e. does it not amount to reducing true nature of Self into duality?’

The answer to this objection is:

Duality is already a default position from where this very enquiry/teaching has started. Therefore, it is not the teaching/enquiry which is establishing or upholding the duality, but, the very start of enquiry itself is owing to duality. Vedānta’s teaching is, such duality is only ‘as it were’. Hence from that default viewpoint, it appears as if the mantras are also in line with the dualistic way of understanding in terms of cause-effect. That means, from that default viewpoint alone, it appears ‘as if’, the mantras are re-confirming the experience of Jīva. That much only. Therefore, we should not say that the purpose of the teaching is either to establish duality as the ultimate truth or say that the purpose is to give affirmation to experience of the states. We should not say that those mantras are ‘upholding the experiences of Jīva’, but we should understand that those mantras are simply pointing us to the fact that the very way of thinking in terms of ‘Jīva going through an experience’ is totally wrong (i.e. such thinking is an erroneous idea) when compared to true nature of Self as Vedānta points to. This erroneous idea is only owing to lack of right knowledge about nature of Self. There is no ratification from Vedānta for the experience per se, because experience is what we ourselves take for granted we are going through and we do not need Vedānta to come along and reconfirm the same to us or explain the detailed mechanics of such experience. What Vedānta does is, it simply takes such default position of ours as the start point of its teaching and first of all it brings into the discussion the transcendental Self which by its very nature is not possible to be brought into words, by superimposing certain features which are not really pertaining to it. It is in this aspect that we need to understand that the causality is superimposed to DeepSleep. Out of ignorance, I seek for a cause. Vedānta in response to such seeking, superimposes causality aspect on to Brahman and brings Brahman in to discussion and later on recants it to ultimately establish the absolute identity between Jīva and Brahman as self-evident truth by pointing to nature of DeepSleep. In doing so, again, the purpose of Vedānta is not to re-confirm the idea that ‘there is a Jīva that is yet to liberate’. Instead, make a note that ‘I am in bondage’, ‘I am a limited being’ are my pre-accepted notions from where the enquiry started and only in response to such already accepted notions, the Vedānta started its teaching. Ignorance is the ground where Vedānta instruction takes place inasmuch as Vedānta also belongs to the realm of ignorance from the ‘viewpoint’ of truth. Having said that, Vedānta should not be taught/understood in a way to reinforce and strengthen that ground.

This subtle point of the siddhānta and the correct method of understanding the Avasthātraya mantras is very important as Śrī Bhagavatpāda himself alludes to the need for such correct understanding. In Brahma Sūtra I.3.42, he alludes to the importance of understanding these subtle points where he says that taking verbatim meaning of those Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras as an affirmation of Jīva going through experience (i.e. taking them to be an explanation of Jīva‘s transmigration) will only make the seeker go in an entirely opposite direction to the intended goal.

A clear indication of going astray from the intended goal is evident whenever the seeker argues saying that the ‘experience of the state’ is ‘real to some extent’ aka ‘relatively real’. The purpose of teaching is neither to give provision to experience as ‘relatively real’ truth nor to re-confirm that experiences (of waking, dream and that of DeepSleep when explained from waking) are what a separate entity called Jīva really goes through. But the purpose of teaching is only to drive home the point that considering oneself to be Jīva by showing the argument of ‘going through an experience’ is nothing but an error and such error is what we call avidyā/adhyāsa, which is again only owing to lack of right knowledge of non-dual Self.

Keeping in view this ultimate purpose of the teaching, when we look into those mantras and their Bhāṣya which talk about ignorance in waking, dream and DeepSleep, it becomes clear that ‘ignorance’ (i.e. bondage) and ‘overcoming ignorance’ (i.e. liberation) are both ideas which are very well grounded and applicable only within the sphere of ignorance alone. That means, purpose of Śāstra is not to propose ‘ignorance’ as either a truth or as a ‘relatively real’ truth. But the purpose of the Śāstra is solely to contrast the true nature of Self by pointing it as that which is unlike what we take for granted as the nature of self to be. In Brahma Sūtra I.3.42, Bhagavatpāda says that the Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras IV.3.7 to IV.4.22 are not referring to the transmigrating self but they refer to the transcendental Self only. Given below is the entire Bhāṣya for Brahma Sūtra I.3.42. Going forward in this essay, as the Bhāṣya and the provided notes are next to each other, to differentiate them, notes are inserted within curly brackets and applied blue colour. These notes are given as an attempt to give the Bhāṣya vākya manana right direction as intended by the Bhāṣya vākya while corroborating with the siddhānta and staying aligned to śrutiyukti and anubhava.

Brahma Sūtra I.3.42:


Sūtra translation: Because of the declaration of being different in sleep and at the time of departure, (the supreme lord is the subject-matter of teaching).

Bhāṣya & its translation (with notes given in blue within curly brackets) is as follows:


The portion, “Because of the declaration” follows (from the earlier aphorism) to complete the sense.

बृहदारण्यके षष्ठे प्रपाठके ‘कर्तम आत्मेदिर्त योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु हृद्यन्तर्ज्यो/दिर्तः पुरुषः’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.७) इत्युपक्रम्य र्भेूयानात्मदिवषयः प्रपञ्चः कृर्तः । र्तत्कि? संसारिरस्वरूपमात्रान्वाख्यानपरं वाक्यम्, उर्तासंसारिरस्वरूपप्रदिर्तपादनपरदिमदिर्त दिवशयः। दिकं र्तावत्प्राप्तम्?

Doubt: In the sixth part of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, the start is made with, “(Of all the entities cognized through the idea of ‘I’) which is the Self? ‘This infinite entity (Puruṣa) that is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs, the self-effulgent light within the heart (i.e. in the intellect)’” (BU IV.3.7), and then the subject of the Self is amply elaborated. The doubt arises whether that text is concerned simply with the explanation of the true nature of the transmigrating soul, or with establishing the true nature of the transcendental Self. What should be the conclusion?

{Note: Here a doubt is taken up whether the self-referred to in those Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantras is ‘transmigrating self’ or the ‘transcendental Self’. What is the conclusion?}

संसारिरस्वरूपमात्रदिवषयमेवेदिर्त। कुर्तः? उपक्रमोपसंहाराभ्याम्। उपक्रमे ‘योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु’ इदिर्त शारीरत्किङ्गार्त्; उपसंहारे च ‘स वा एष महानज आत्मा योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु’ (बृ.उ. ४.४.२२) इदिर्त र्तदपरिरत्यागार्त्; मध्येऽदिप बुद्धान्ताद्यवस्थोपन्यासेन र्तस्यवै प्रपञ्चनादिददिर्त —

Opponent: It is concerned only with the true nature of the transmigrating soul.

How do you know? From a consideration of the start and finish. At the start, an indicatory sign of the embodied soul is found in, “the entity that is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs” (BU IV.3.7), and the non-rejection of that soul is found at the end in, “That which is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs is this great birthless Self” (BU IV.4.22); that very soul is dealt with elaborately in the middle also through a presentation of the waking state etc.

{Note: To the above doubt, an opponent says that those mantras refer to transmigrating self (Jīva) alone. The reason to say so, as this opponent gives is, that the starting and ending of these mantras which sets the context are the indicatory signs that the mantras are referring to Jīva alone. Here Bhagavatpāda is about to say, if anyone concludes that based on the starting and ending portions of these mantras, they refer to transmigrating self then such conclusion is wrong. He is about to give his explanation why it is indeed wrong to conclude that these mantras refer to Jīva.}

एवं प्राप्ते ब्रूमः – परमश्वे रोपदेशपरमेवेदं वाक्यम्, न शारीरमात्रान्वाख्यानपरम्। कस्मार्त्?

Vedāntin: Under these circumstances, we say: This text is meant for speaking about the supreme Lord alone, and it is not meant for speaking further about the embodied soul. Why?

सुषुप्तावुत्क्रान्तौ च शारीराद्भेदेन परमेश्वरस्य व्यपदेशार्त्। सुषुप्तौ र्तावर्त् ‘अयं पुरुषः प्राज्ञेनात्मना सम्परिरष्वक्तो न बाह्यं दिकञ्चन वेद नान्तरम्’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.२१) इदिर्त शारीराद्भेदेन परमश्वे रं व्यपदिदशदिर्त; र्तत्र पुरुषः शारीरः स्यार्त्, र्तस्य वेदिदर्तृत्वार्त्; बाह्याभ्यन्तरवेदनप्रसङ्गे सदिर्त र्तत्प्रदिर्तषेधसम्भवार्त्; प्राज्ञः परमेश्वरः, सवज्ञत्वNक्षणया प्रज्ञया दिनत्यमदिवयोगार्त्।

Because in the state of DeepSleep and at the time of departure from the body, the supreme Lord is mentioned separately from the embodied soul. In sleep for instance, the supreme Lord is mentioned separately from the embodied soul in, “So this Puruṣa, being fully embraced by the supremely intelligent Self (i.e. Prājña Ātman) does not know anything at all, either external or internal” (BU IV.3.21). In that text the Puruṣa must be the embodied soul, since it is he who is the knower inasmuch as the knowledge of anything external or internal can be denied only when the possibility of knowing exists. And the supremely intelligent Self is the supreme Lord, for He is never separated from intelligence (prajñā) which is of the nature of omniscience.

{Note: Please pay attention here that Bhagavatpāda is saying that the Puruṣa who is fully embraced by supreme intelligent Self is the embodied soul (which we call Prājña / प्राज्ञ) from the aspect of ‘not knowing anything’. That means, here the Puruṣa which is spoken of in the aspect of ‘not knowing anything’ is the Prājña. He says, even for the aspect of ‘not knowing anything’, there must be ‘knowing’ as a pre-requisite. Note here that through the idea of ‘not knowing anything’ he is drawing our attention to the very knowing of that ‘not knowing anything’. That means, the call here is to pay attention to the reason that ‘not knowing anything’ is also a ‘knowing’. Therefore, while enquiring into DeepSleep the call is, not to consider DeepSleep as a mere ‘not knowing anything’ state but the call is to pay attention to the subtle point that such ‘not knowing anything’ is also after all based on a ‘fundamental knowing’. The ‘fundamental knowing’ is the pointer where focus must be applied but not that the focus has to be on the ‘not knowing anything’ aspect of the DeepSleep. If you focus on the ‘not knowing anything’ aspect of DeepSleep and simply glance over it as a mere state then know for sure you are entering wrong direction.

Now having shifted our focus to the ‘fundamental knowing’ aspect of DeepSleep, let us also conclude the fact that such ‘fundamental knowing’ which is the basis of all objectified knowing (including the ‘not knowing anything’ type of knowing) must be the same fundamental knowing even to this waking state. Is it not? If it is not, then it amounts to saying that the ‘fundamental knowing’ which is the substratum of waking state is different to the ‘fundamental knowing’ which existed in DeepSleep. Then we encounter with possibility of two fundamental knowings which are different. Because of both being fundamental and also because of being different to each other, how is it that each one knows the existence and the content of the other? Therefore, it is surely not possible that the fundamental knowing can be different in each state. Thus, there must exist one fundamental knowing which is common to both these states and that is what we call as Sākṣin! Thus, Sākṣin must transcend the waking as well as DeepSleep. Without a common Sākṣin which survives through the states, there is no way to even think about the possibility of DeepSleep state from waking standpoint. As you can see, Sākṣin, also called Īśvara in this vicāra spans across the waking (as well as dream, though I have not elaborated here on the dream aspect) and DeepSleep states, as their witness.

Now let us take the enquiry into another subtler level by asking, between the waking state abhimāni i.e. the waker, and the Sākṣin, which is the true Self? Note here that we are now after the true nature of Self. From here on, our own logic (the waking mind’s logic) is of least use. Because waking mind will always have partiality to waking. It is here in the subject matter of true nature of Self that Śruti alone becomes a pramāṇa. What does Śruti say about the true nature of Self is? It says, it is not the waker, it is not the dreamer and it is not the sleeper. Watch here that Śruti is pramāṇa in not giving a positive description of what the true nature of Self is, but it is pramāṇa by negating what is not the true nature of Self is. Therefore, by negating (or better to say sublating) the waker, by sublating the dreamer and by sublating the sleeper, the true nature of Self is pointed by the Śruti. Here sublation of waker/waking state and sublation of dreamer/dream state is nothing but sublation of reality to those states which is again nothing but negating the objectified knowerhood (and enjoyerhood) i.e. ‘the separatedness’ which appears as it were. But what is sublation of sleeper/sleeping state really mean? It means sublation of the idea of ‘not knowing anything’. It is here we need to ask, who is it after all, that has this idea of ‘not knowing anything’? It is always the waker who says ‘I did not know anything’ in DeepSleep and no one else. While in sleep, the anubhava is never that “Ah! I am not knowing anything now”. While in sleep, the anubhava is never that “Ah! now I know that I am not knowing anything”. Thus, the idea of ‘not knowing anything’ during the DeepSleep is only an idea within waking. After waking up alone it is said that ‘I did not know anything’. Thus, the so called objectified knowing which is of the form of ‘not knowing anything’ and the subsequent idea of ‘Sākṣin’ (the fundamental knower aka witness which illumines also the ‘not knowing anything’) are both only ideas of the waker. Thus, the entire vicāra has to be turned into waker-centric. Once you turn entire vicāra in to waker-centric and apply śruti pramāṇa that Ātman is not the waker, then one last question remains ‘who am I’ after all? The answer is again from the śruti vākya tat-tvam-asi. That Thou Art! That Thou Art again is a via negativa way of saying, you are not even the fundamental knower. THAT cannot be put into words because when it is attempted to put into words, it sounds like Sākṣin. However, Sākṣin is also not the final truth because, the final truth is beyond the triad of knower-known-knowing as taught by Bṛhadāraṇyaka śruti pramāṇa II.4.14: “When all has become his own Self, then what could a person see and with what?”. The true nature of Self is not even Sākṣin but it is THAT where there exists no pramāṇaprameyapramātā-pramā vyavahāra. That Thou Art. This is exactly like DeepSleep. When you put DeepSleep into words, the best we can describe is, saying that ‘I did not know anything’ at that time. But we have seen above how Vedānta takes that very idea that ‘I did not know anything’ during DeepSleep and point to the Sākṣin in DeepSleep. But this Sākṣin is also after all an idea of waking mind. THAT alone takes the name ‘Sākṣin/Witness’ in the context of being the substratum of all objectified knowing. One cannot put THAT into words but its existence is always self-evident and it is THAT which remains on its own as unattached to anything exactly as the nature of DeepSleep. Therefore, the teaching here is, self of DeepSleep is Prājña only from the viewpoint of ignorance. That means the idea of ‘not knowing anything in DeepSleep’ which is the idea that a waking mind has, that very idea is the Prājña. The first step to correct this is by introduction of Īśvara on to the DeepSleep by shifting attention away from ‘not knowing anything’ towards the presence of fundamental knowing aka Sākṣītvam. This introduction of Īśvara on to the DeepSleep (i.e. the introduction of Īśvara as the primordial cause) is what is called vaidika adhyāropa. Thus the wrong idea of DeepSleep (i.e. the idea that it is a state of ‘not knowing anything’) has to be first of all provisionally corrected as a causal state where there is fundamental knowing (Īśvara/primordial cause/Sākṣin) and later on, Īśvaratvam is also recanted through the sublation of the very knower-known-knowing triad on the basis of śruti pramāṇa that such triad cannot and do not exist at all in non-dual Self. Pay attention here that all this vicāra is one complete process of instruction where Īśvara (samaṣṭi DeepSleep) holds the key. By superimposing Īśvaratvam onto Brahman (to enable Brahman into discussion so that it can be pointed at) and then later on recanting it, Vedānta points to JīvaBrahma aikyam as a self-evident truth by pointing to DeepSleep. It is THAT true nature of DeepSleep which we point to as the asaṅga Ātman. Therefore, paying attention to those śruti passages which explain DeepSleep as a state where it is said that one becomes ‘merged in’ (or ‘embraced by’) the supreme lord and where such ‘merging’ is not given for waking and dream states is the key. From adhyāropa standpoint alone, DeepSleep is spoken of as a causal state with avidyā bīja. It is to the ādhyāsika notion that ‘I am a limited individual separate from the unlimited lord’, there is a corresponding vaidika adhyāropa which points to ‘merging’ with lord in the DeepSleep. To my ignorant notions of being a separate individual ‘going into’ and ‘coming out of’ DeepSleep, the Vedānta points to merger with lord followed by re-emerging out of such merger as a provisional truth. But from apavāda standpoint i.e. from the standpoint of sublating Sākṣītvam/Īśvaratvam the same DeepSleep stands as a pointer for self-evident asaṅga Ātman which was never in relation-to/touching anything, because, there really exists nothing apart from Ātman with which a relation/touch/merger is really possible, teaches śruti. If the siddhānta is that Ātman is ever liberated then there must be a pointer in sārvatrika anubhava (universal experience) where it can be pointed to as ‘ever liberated’. DeepSleep is only such universal ‘experience’. A simple glance over it as a mere state of ignorance will only make the seeker go in the wrong direction.}

र्तथोत्क्रान्तावदिप ‘अयं शारीर आत्मा प्राज्ञेनात्मनान्वारूढ उत्सजन्यादिर्त’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.३५) इदिर्त जीवाद्भेदेन परमेश्वरं व्यपदिदशदिर्त; र्तत्रादिप शारीरो जीवः स्यार्त्, शरीरस्वादिमत्वार्त्; प्राज्ञस्तु स एव परमश्वे रः।

So also, at the time of departure the supreme Lord is mentioned separately from the individual in, “So does the embodied soul, being presided over by the supremely intelligent Self, go making noises” (BU IV.3.35). There too the embodied soul must be the individual being, since it is the master of the body; but the supremely intelligent One must be the supreme Lord Himself.

र्तस्मात्सुषुप्त्युत्क्रान्त्योर्भेदेन व्यपदेशात्परमेश्वर एवात्र दिववत्किक्षर्त इदिर्त गम्यर्ते।

Therefore, from the separate mention in sleep and at the time of departure, it is to be understood that the entity sought to be taught here is the supreme Lord.

{Note: Here Bhagavatpāda is saying that the self which is referred to when Vedānta speaks in the context of DeepSleep and departure is nothing but the supreme Self alone and not the transmigrating self. Always note that the siddhānta is, it is not ‘really a Jīva’ which ‘really enters’ the body. It is not ‘really a Jīva’ which ‘really resides’ in the body and finally it is not ‘really a Jīva’ which ‘really leaves’ the body. But men owing to their default position i.e. lack of knowledge, ‘consider’ the ideas of ‘entering into’, ‘residing within’, ‘leaving out’ based on the adhyāsa between Self and body-mind complex. It is to give instruction to this default viewpoint called adhyāsa, that karma portions of Veda speak of a transmigrating soul entering into the body, residing in it and finally leaving the body. Whereas the jñāna portion of Veda (Vedānta) finally corrects these erroneous notions under the label of ‘liberation’. As a part of such process of correction of the ignorance, though the teaching goes in the language of ‘entering into’, ‘departing out’, it is only to facilitate the discussion. But we never ever accept that a separate entity (not even a relatively real entity) called Jīva ever really existed. We always point to the truth that there is only non-dual Self without a second that really exists to which there is no ‘entering into’ and ‘going out’. And the method of such pointing comprises first of all talking in terms of ‘entering into’ and ‘going out of’ for the great birthless Self. This is only to match the language of ādhyāsika notions that appear to exist as it were. However, such vaidika adhyāropa i.e. ‘entering into’ and ‘going out’ which are given for sake of instruction are followed by immediate recantation by pointing to the true nature of Self where no ‘entering into’ and ‘going out’ is possible. If it is not for such adhyāropa followed by apavāda, there is no other way to carry out the instruction of non-dual Self which is by its very nature not accessible for a positive description. So understanding the true purpose of the teaching is important, because if we forever keep with the ideas of ‘entering into’ and ‘going out of’ DeepSleep by always only looking up on DeepSleep from the lens of waker’s partiality to waking, by calling it as that where nothing is known and Ātman is something more than that, we only go round and round in circles and the so-called liberation ever remains as a yet to be attained status. Siddhānta is not to emphasize that Jīva is not yet liberated. But the siddhānta is to enable giving up the idea that you were in bondage by pointing to the truth that Ātman is ever liberated (i.e. it was never in bondage to start with and That Thou Art!, the great birthless Self). Therefore, there is only one correct way of understanding this siddhānta i.e. there is only one correct way of doing the vicāra which is adhyāropaapavāda}.

यदक्तमाद्यन्तमध्येषु शारीरु त्किङ्गार्त् र्तत्परत्वमस्य वाक्यस्येदिर्त, अत्र ब्रमूः — उपक्रमे र्तावर्त् ‘योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु’ इदिर्त न संसारिरस्वरूपं दिववत्किक्षर्तम् — दिकं र्तदिह?

In answer to the argument that from the indicatory signs of the individual soul at the start, middle, and end, it follows that this text is meant for presenting the soul, we say: The nature of the transmigrating soul is not sought to be presented at the start in the sentence, “that is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs”. What is meant then?

अनूद्य संसारिरस्वरूपं परेण ब्रह्मणास्यकैर्तां दिववक्षदिर्त; यर्तः ‘ध्यायर्तीवेायर्तीव’ इत्येवमाद्युत्तरग्रन्थप्रवृदित्तः संसारिरधमदिनराकरणपरा क्ष्यर्ते; र्तथोपसंहारेऽदिप यथोपक्रममेवोपसंहरदिर्त — ‘स वा एष महानज आत्मा योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु’ इदिर्त; योऽयं दिवज्ञानमयः प्राणेषु संसारी क्ष्यर्ते, स वा एष महानज आत्मा परमश्वे र एवास्मात्किर्भेः प्रदिर्तपादिदर्त इत्यथः;

The intention is to show the identity of the transmigrating soul with the supreme Self after a restatement of the former’s characteristics. For the succeeding text, viz “it meditates as it were, it runs as it were” etc. (BU IV.3.7), is seen to be devoted to the elimination of the characteristics of the transmigrating soul. Similarly, at the end, as at the start, the conclusion runs thus, “That Self which is identified with the intellect and is in the midst of the organs is this great birthless Self” (BU IV.4.22). The idea conveyed is that the transmigrating soul, that is perceived as identified with the intellect and in the midst of the organs, is proved by us to be but this great birthless Self, the supreme Lord.

{Note: This portion of Bhāṣya is the confirmation of what is the right method of understanding these texts. Though Vedānta at BU IV.3.7 first of all says, “self is that Puruṣa which is identified with the intellect in the midst of organs”, the mantra immediately proceeds to say that the effects of such identification with intellect viz, meditation, running etc are only “as it were”! Through such pointer, what Bhagavatpāda is concluding is that though the first portion of mantra sounds as if the subject matter is transmigrating self (owing to identification with intellect), the latter portion of the mantra confirms that the activities such as meditation, running etc which are effects of such intellect are only ‘as it were’. It is the Upaniṣad’s use of इव (iva / as it were) śābda which confirms that the effects of the intellect are only ‘as it were’. With this, it actually sets the context that the self which is about to be explained in the subsequent mantras is nothing but the supreme Self alone, says Bhagavatpāda. Recall how the opponent initially pointed to the start portion of this set of mantras and concluded that the subject matter is transmigrating self. To such contention, Bhagavatpāda is clarifying that when we put the start portion of the mantras into proper adhyāropaapavāda framework they actually set the context to be transcendental Self and they are not an affirmation of existence of transmigrating self. He is giving a call to understand the combined meaning of former and latter portion of the mantra and thereby understand that the subject matter is transcendental Self alone. He also draws our attention to the last mantra BU IV.4.22 where there is a positive affirmation that the subject matter so far was indeed ‘great birthless Self’ and thus he concludes that both at the beginning and at the end of this group of mantras the subject matter is only supreme Self. It is not that at IV.3.7 the starting point it is about Jīva (transmigrating self) and at IV.4.22 it is about the transcendental Self. Right from the beginning, all through the middle until the end of those mantras, śruti is only pointing to Brahman based on the elimination of the characteristics not pertaining to Brahman by saying that the effects of the intellect viz running, meditating etc are only ‘as it were’. Through a discussion about characteristics not pertaining to Ātman/Brahman and giving a call to sublate them, the Vedānta is pointing to the true nature of Ātman/Brahman. Without paying attention to the true method of the teaching i.e. adhyāropaapavāda, the seekers should not get carried away with verbatim meaning of statements in the adhyāropa portions and conclude that the message of Vedānta is that there is ignorance in all three states. The Vedic passage is meant to establish true nature of Ātman out of this enquiry. Instead of that, by following non-sampradāyic method, seekers unfortunately take up the notion that there is really ignorance in all three states and await for liberation as a task yet to be achieved. This is totally against Bhāṣya, against siddhānta and it is a clear sign of not understanding that there is only one correct method of instruction.}

यस्तु मध्ये बुद्धान्ताद्यवस्थोपन्यासात्संसारिरस्वरूपदिववक्षां मन्यर्ते, स प्राचीमदिप देशं प्रस्थादिपर्तः प्रर्तीचीमदिप दिदशं प्रदिर्तष्ठेर्त; यर्तो न बुद्धान्ताद्यवस्थोपन्यासेनावस्थावत्त्वं संसारिरत्वं वा दिववत्किक्षर्तं

But if anyone thinks that because there is an exposition of the three states of waking, dream and dreamless sleep, it follows that the text means to teach the true nature of the transmigrant, he might as well turn his face towards west when setting out to travel east. For the presentation of the states of waking etc., is meant neither to imply the possession of any state nor of transmigration.

{Note: It cannot get any clearer and more direct than this portion of Bhāṣya. It is possible that owing to my default notion that ‘I am a limited self’ which is undeniable for everyone, we can argue that after all the experience of waking, dream and DeepSleep have got some sort of truth in them. It is also possible that we can take Vedic statements which talk about the states and the experience in those states viz outwardly cognition in waking, inwardly cognition in dream etc and based on it, infer some sort of ‘relatively real’ existence to these states. To all such wrong understandings, Bhagavān Bhāṣyakāra says, the purpose of the teaching is neither to imply possession of any state nor it implies existence of transmigration. You need to pay attention to the clarity he is giving here. If he would have said only that ‘there is no implication of any state’ without saying that ‘there is no transmigration’ then it would have been possible to argue that such ‘no implication of state’ is from Brahman’s viewpoint, whereas for Jīva there is a state. But his immediate statement ‘there is no transmigration’ (न संसारिरत्वम् वा) confirms that there is also no Jīva that ever really existed. Moreover, when we pay close attention to the anubhava, it is evident that waker and waking state are really not two distinct entities. But they are actually one. No waker exists (i.e. no waker continues as waker) outside waking state. It is also very well within our anubhava that waking individual and dream individual are not the same. That is why it is not possible to draw a hard line between waker and waking state as they both put together is the state/avasthā. Therefore JīvaJīvatvamAvasthā (state) they all mean the same entity as per anubhava though we may coin different definitions to them. On the basis of perceiving the apparent differences between them, it is what adhyāsa is all about. Here some people may further argue that both absence of states as well as absence of transmigration are again from viewpoint of Brahman only, but from viewpoint of Jīva they both exist, of course as ‘relatively real’ truths. To this I would say, this argument only indicates too much attachment to the ignorant viewpoint we hold by default. It is similar to saying snake is a relative truth in rope. Is snake a relative truth or is it only that ‘we considered’ snake ‘to be the truth’ as long as rope is not known? Was dream a ‘relative truth’ while it lasted or is it that while it lasted it was ‘taken to be truth’? Snake is mithyā is a teaching and in the same way, Jīvatvam is mithyā is a teaching given to the default notions that ‘Snake is truth’ and ‘Jīvatvam is truth’. Bhāṣya always teaches that ‘as Jīva’ it is always only an error, but not that Jīva/Jīvatvam is a relative truth. Moreover, based on yukti and anubhava too, by enquiring into waking and dream states, Jīvatvam/Individuality has to be concluded only as an error. The same is also extended into the perception of duality within nondual Self. Just as sugar coating the idea of snake in that snake-in-a-rope perception by calling it a relative truth is of no benefit as far as the raise of right knowledge is concerned, suggesting duality also to be a relative truth (lower level of reality) only spoils the entire spirit of Vedānta. Duality is, at best, only a viewpoint, teaches śruti when it says Duality is ‘as it were’. It is a ‘viewpoint’ of the sole Reality (i.e. sole existence) which is Ātman/Brahman. It is against śrutiyukti and anubhava to say that Duality which is only an appearance is a ‘lower level of reality’ and/or describe Duality as ‘relatively real’. Therefore, Bhāṣya do not allow such teaching. Have you not seen above where Bhagavatpāda said that the Self referred to in the beginning of the mantras is nothing but transcendental Self alone? He knocks off the idea of referring to a Jīva’s existence right in the beginning of those mantras. Where is that affirmation of Jīva/Jīvatvam in these mantras or its Bhāṣya that it can make us consider these mantras as a ratification to ignorant viewpoint which upholds the idea that there is a limited entity called Jīva that exists? If seekers really understood that these mantras are not referring to limited Jīva then why do they keep putting forward objections viz “If DeepSleep is indeed the true nature of Self why is Jīva not liberated when Jīva enters DeepSleep?” Is it not an invalid question when it is understood that the subject matter is ever liberated non-dual Self? Therefore, a sincere seeker must adopt the right prakriyā and understand the Avasthātraya vicāra in the right spirit. When understood in the wrong spirit i.e. when understood in a way as if these mantras are describing the states and taking them to be giving a positive affirmation to संसारिर स्वरूप (nature of transmigrating soul), it is nothing but going in the wrong direction. Adhyāropaapavāda alone is the method to understand the Vedānta.}

दिकं र्तदिह? — अवस्थारदिहर्तत्वमसंसारिरत्वं च। कथमेर्तदवगम्यर्ते? यर्त् ‘अर्त ऊर्ध्वं दिवमोक्षायैव ब्रूदिह’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.१४) इदिर्त पदे पदे पृच्छदिर्त; यच्च ‘अनन्वागर्तस्तेन र्भेवत्यसङ्गो ह्ययं पुरुषः’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.१५) इदिर्त पदे पदे प्रदिर्तवदिक्त; ‘अनन्वागर्तं पुण्येनानन्वागर्तं पापेन र्तीण/ दिह र्तदा सवाञ्शोकान्हृदयस्य र्भेवदिर्त’ (बृ.उ. ४.३.२२) इदिर्त च। र्तस्माद् असंसारिर स्वरूप प्रदिर्तपादनपरमेवैर्तद्वाक्यदिमत्यवगन्तव्यम्॥

What is meant then? What is meant is freedom from the states and transmigration. How is that known? Because at every turn Janaka requests Yājñavalkya: “Please instruct me further about Liberation” (BU IV.3.14-16, 33), and because the answer given at every step is: “He is untouched by whatever he sees in that state, for this infinite Being is unattached” (BU IV.3.15-16). Further, it is stated, “(This aspect of his) is untouched by good work and untouched by bad work, for he is then beyond all the woes of his heart (intellect)” (BU IV.3.22). Accordingly, it is to be understood that this text is meant for establishing the nature of the supermundane Self.

{Note: Here Bhagavatpāda draws our attention to another important reason that Janaka always asked Yājñavalkya to instruct about liberation to which Yājñavalkya responds by alluding that Self is never in bondage. By Yājñavalkya’s way of answering “it is never touched by good work and never touched by bad work” and his way of pointing to Self as that “which is beyond all the woes of the heart” by pointing to DeepSleep, it is clear indication that suṣupti stands as a pointer not where the ‘process of liberation’ takes place, but it is a pointer for Self which is never in bondage. Therefore, asking a question “why am I not liberated when I went into DeepSleep” is the most invalid question, given the siddhānta is that Self was never in bondage. Therefore, in these mantras as Bhagavatpāda clarified, there is no affirmation of any sort to the states per se and also no affirmation to the experience of states or transmigration per se as the subject matter. The reference to states, its experience is what ‘we take’ by default and Vedānta is only using what we take by default and through them points to asaṅgatvam of Ātman (never in bondage and complete unattachment of Self) as ever existent truth through and through all those erroneous notions of bondage and attachments. I would also draw your attention here to the Kena Upaniṣad mantra II.4 which says प्रदिर्तबोध दिवदिदर्तं मर्तम् अमृर्तत्वं दिह दिवन्दर्ते [Brahman is really known when it is known with (i.e. as the Self of) each state of consciousness, because thereby one gets immortality]. Please pay attention to the Bhāṣya vākya to this mantra where Bhagavatpāda says:

सवप्रत्यय दश त्किचच्छदिक्तस्वरूपमात्रः प्रत्ययैरेव प्रत्ययेष्वदिवत्किशष्टर्तया क्ष्यर्ते; नान्यद्द्वारमन्तरात्मनो दिवज्ञानाय।

Bhāṣya translation: “Being the witness of all cognitions and by nature nothing but the power of Consciousness, the Self is indicated by the cognitions themselves, in the midst of cognitions, as pervading (all of) them. There is no other door to Its awareness.”, says Bhagavān Bhāṣyakāra.

{Note: Thus, intuiting into the true nature of suṣupti alone is the right sampradāyic method. Downplaying suṣupti as mere state of ignorance based on verbatim meaning of mantras without applying the correct sampradāyic method of adhyāropaapavāda and promoting the need of ‘special samādhi state’ (wishfully imagining it to be different to DeepSleep) or wishfully waiting for liberation as something ‘yet to be attained’ while attempting to ‘still the mind’, all these are clearly akin to what Bhagavatpāda says स प्राचीमदिप देशं प्रस्थादिपर्तः प्रर्तीचीमदिप दिदशं प्रदिर्तष्ठेर्त (analogous to the case of a person who turns his face towards west when setting out to travel east). Every seeker must therefore make a sincere attempt to understand when/how is it that suṣupti is spoken of as a state with ignorance along with a clear understanding how the same suṣupti Ātman is the highest that Upaniṣads speak of ‘attaining’, except that there is no real attainment per se because THAT is what you already are.

Correct teaching is not that which goes in the lines of positively establishing Ātman’s bondage and thereby giving a call for liberation and through its explanation about the means of liberation, goes on to suggest liberation as an event in time. Instead the correct instruction is always that the Ātman was never in any bondage to start with. If the reply to such instruction is, “it doesn’t appear to me as such” then we say (for the ‘sake of instruction’) that owing to not knowing the true nature of Self alone it appears to you as such. Therefore, ignorance is after all only a teaching tool to point to the non-dual Ātman as the only Real existence where there is no scope for any iota of ignorance. We should never try to positively affirm/establish ignorance in all three states of experience. Doing so will surely be an immense siddhānta hani and makes Ātman’s asaṅgatvam into a belief system. In our enquiry and in our application of logic the aim should always be to challenge the default notion we hold on to by pointing to the mithyātvam of the reality assigned to the waker/waking state and turn entire vicāra into waker-centric and thereby sublate the reality to waker by pointing to śruti vākya (apavāda portion vākya) as a pramāṇa for the final truth. In this adhyāropaapavāda prakriyā though DeepSleep is first of all provisionally spoken as that where causal ignorance is superimposed, the same suṣupti alone will later on remain as the undeniable source for intuiting into it as the true nature of Ātman. Such suṣupti Ātman is what you are right now even in this so-called waking state irrespective of waker’s opinion about status of liberation. That suṣupti Ātman is what irrespective of their liberation status the ‘so-called everyone’ in that ‘so called night’ appears to ‘attain’, teaches śruti (here note that attain is in quotes). We do not know when we are there because, the one who takes knowing for granted is the waking state individual (viśva) and it is viśva which devalues the suṣupti as a mere state where nothing is known, and viśva does so on the basis of taking self to be a knower which is again only an erroneous notion owing to duality as it were. Having the Jīvabhāva as the starting point of Avasthātraya vicāra is understandable, but, completing the Avasthātraya vicāra with the same Jīva bhava by saying ignorance really exists in all three states is a misunderstanding. Moreover, based on such wrong understanding of teaching, saying that Self is ‘really something beyond’ these three states and subsequently concluding that such Self is ‘yet to be attained’, is surely a very big misunderstanding. To some extent, it is correct to say that the true nature of Self is that which is beyond the three states, but, considering that such Self is ‘really yet to be attained’ to be the conclusion of Avasthātraya vicāra will ruin the purpose of the entire vicāra. Therefore, one must make a sincere attempt to understand in what sense it is that the Self is really beyond the three states and most importantly in what sense it is that the Self which is beyond the three states is what you already are. Thus, it is down to the right understanding of adhyāropa apavāda prakriyā to unlock the maze (i.e. a maze ‘as it were’).}

Oṃ Tat Sat

  1. In ignorance we ‘superimpose reality (existence)’ to that which is unreal (non-existent) – ‘we take’ that which is unreal to be real. Snake is ‘taken to be real’. To such default position, the teaching is ‘snake is only an appearance’ (i.e. snake is not real) and ‘rope alone is real’. The phrase I used i.e. “reality superimposed on snake” here means “considering snake to be real”. The teaching of truth (i.e. the truth that rope alone exists) always starts from a position where ‘snake is taken to be real’. The ignorant never takes ‘snake as an appearance’. Instead the ignorant always ‘takes snake to be real’. That is why the teaching is needed and the teaching is ‘snake is only apparent and not at all existent’. Snake is “wrong knowledge” (mithyājñāna) about rope. ‘Taking snake to be real’ is a part and parcel of that “wrong knowledge”. [It should not be forgotten that adhyāsa is the mutual superposition of the properties of sat on asat, and those of asat on sat. N.d.C.]