The Crest Jewel Of Discrimination

IMG_0031Below are selected quotations from Swami Paramarthananda’s commentary of VivekaChudamani, the Crest Jewel of Discrimination. VivekaChudamani, is a prakarana grata, a systematic teaching, written by 8th century Vedantic luminary, Adi Shankaracharya. It contains 580 verses and is considered to be a magnified version of the Tattvabodhah. The Tattvabodhah is a foundational Vedanta text, also attributed to Adi Shankaracharya, that provides an overview of Vedantic teachings.

I have included statements in [brackets] to clarify Sanskrit words, to offer praphrases and additional information. As this is an extensive text, I will be adding to this share for many months to come. The complete commentary, both audio and text, is available online by doing a keyword search – VivekaChudamani & Swami Paramarthananda.

The first 50 verses provide the introduction and setup. In verse 48, the student asks the teacher seven important questions. The teacher then responds, providing answers which share the teachings of Vedanta through 500 plus verses.

Thank you to Swami Paramarthananda for your impeccable commentary.  Eaden Shantay


Sadashiva Samarambhaam Shankaracharya Madhyamaam, Asmad Acharya Paryantaam, Vande Guru Paramparam:

[From the first guru, pure existence consciousness, down to Shankaracharya in the middle, and my teacher at the end, I prostrate the guru-disciple traiditon].

[Isvaro Guratmeti, Murthi Bedha Vibaghine, Vyomavad Vyapta Dehaya, Dakshinamurthtiyaa Namaha:

[Isvara, my guru, is beyond form and duality. Beyond space and the body. I bow to Isvara in the form of he who brings Self knowldge].

(Verse 1)

Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta, Gocharam Tamagocharam, Govindam Paramanandam, Satguru Pranatoshmahaam

[The import of all the Vedas, is beyond the known and the unknown, it is limitless bliss and unborn light. I worship this reality as my guru].

Vedanta has three primary source texts:

1. The Upanishads [are a collection of mantras taken from the second portion of each of the four Vedas. There are over a hundred known Upanishads though ten are considered principle because they were commented on by Adi Shankaracharya. The Upanishads are considered the main source of Vedantic scripture and are revealed knowledge (aparoksha), meaning not from human origin].

2. The Bhagavad Gita, [which is a teaching story featuring Krishna as the guru and Arjuna as the student, offers a complete teaching on moksha or liberation]. The Gita was compiled and written by the great scribe Vyasacharya, and unlike the Upanishads, it contains practices that prepare the mind for Jnana or knowledge.

3. The Brahma Sutras, also written by Vyasacharya, provide logical support for the Vedantic teachings, not logical proof, [because the truth of the Self is beyond both logic and perception].

There are also many commentaries, known as prakarana granta, by great acharyas (teachers) like Vyasacharya, Adi Shankaraycharya and Vidyaranya Swami, which offer the teachings in a very systematic way, helpful for students.

Viveka means discrimination and has three meanings:

  1. The power (shakti) or faculty of discrimination.
  2. The action (kriya) or process of discrimination.
  3. The knowledge (jnana) gained by discrimination.

Through discrimination, we gain clarity of mind.

Viveka between what and what? Truth and falsehood, reality and unreality, sat and asat, dharma and adharma.

While viveka means discrimination, chuda means head and manai, is a crested jewel.

The real jewel of a person is their Vedantic virtues, their qualifications and values they hold dear.

Vedic life begins with viveka, even before coming to Vedanta. One should lead a life of karma and have knowledge of what is dharma and adharma. Leading a virtuous life.

Viveka involves being clear about our priorities in life.

[Discrimination is one of the four qualifications, or four preparations, neccessary for a student of Vedanta who wishes to attain moksha or freedom. The other three are dispassion, the six disciplines and burning desire for moksha.]

Shankara’s advice is, “do not take this human life for granted.” It is rare and precious indeed. [We are endowed with a freewill and it is best to use it wisely.]

(Verses 2)

jantūnāṃ narajanma durlabhamataḥ puṃstvaṃ tato vipratā
tasmādvaidikadharmamārgaparatā vidvattvamasmātparam |
ātmānātmavivecanaṃ svanubhavo brahmātmanā saṃsthitiḥ
muktirno śatajanmakoṭisukṛtaiḥ puṇyairvinā labhyate

Vedanta is talking about the highest stage of sanyasa [renunciation], in which a person does not depend on anyone, and in moksha, there is not even dependence on the Lord. We travel from world dependence, to God dependence to Self dependence.

[The shastra, our teachers, our Ishta Devatas are all stepping stones.]

[There is a dfference between learning Vedanta and living it.] Dharma is not for speaking, dharma is for practice. The proof of Vedic learning is in the change of character.

[A question is raised about introducing Vedenta to a wider audience but Swamiji warns against this in his commentary. The qualificiations need to be in place, which can take years of study and application. So it is best to share the dharma shastra, teachings on dharma from the first section of the Vedas – rituals, attitudes and values, also known as karma yoga.]

[With karma and upsasa yoga we prepare the mind for Vedanta or jnana yoga, also known as self inquiry. With self inquiry, a teacher is needed but how do we find one?] Pray to Ishvara/Bhagavad and a guru will be provided at the right time and place.

(Verse 3)

The shastra (teachings of Vedanta) is like a mirror, independent thinking like the eyes. Both are necessary for jnanam.

All our teachers brought us to the place we are now. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Prayers to Isvara help.

Isvara’s grace, from punyam, from noble karmas and upasanam (see upasana yoga) in the past. Yet results come from so many factors, seen and unseen.

On  Grace. To be a human is rare. Mumukshutvam, a burning desire for freedom, must be there. Along with association with a great guru. A qualified student meeting a qualified teacher will lead to moksha, or liberation.

Qualities that support the seeker’s journey towards moksha: Independent thinking. Strength of mind. Clarity of mind. Freedom from emotional complexes. Vedanta – knowledge.

The ultimate goal of life is jnanam (Self knowledge) and moksha.

(Verse 4)

Punyam (grace) is beyond perception and inference. It is gained through actions as prescribed in the verse section of the Vedas, the Karma Kanda.

Consciousness is known through the second section of the Vedas, the Jnana Kanda. [This section is synonymous with the Upanishads and Vedanta.

No one can do this spiritual journey for us, just as another can eat for you. We each have to do the work for moksha. Alone, to the alone, all alone.

(Verses 5)

A leaning mind is a weak mind, dependent on aspects of Maya.

Questions to ask oneself: Do we convert knowledge, religion and talent into money or spirituality? The former describes a materialistic society [or person]. Do we seek gold in the mountains and forests or a temple or teacher?

Only two purushartas [human pursuits] are sought in a materialist culture, [artha – security and kama – pleasure]. The third and fourth pursuit are found in a spiritual culture, dharma – virtue and moksha – liberation.

Independent consciousness cannot studied by science [via the scientific method] and mathematics. We study it through the shastra [the teachings as shared in knowledge section of the Vedas]. Through Self knowledge and Self inquiry.

Karma yoga cannot give moksha, upasana yoga cannot give moksha, only jnana yoga can give moksha. But karma yoga and upasana yoga are necessary and prepare the mind for jnana yoga.

All karmas [actions] are accomplished and the results are given in time which is limited.

Phalam, is a result of an action. Phalam is that which is perishable.

We are not attempting to attain moksha but rather attempting to discover (or reveal) moksha as an eternal fact.

(Verse 6)

(Verse 7)

(Verse 8)

It’s not that we don’t create security or enjoy pleasures as a jiva but rather we prioritize our time, and place moksha first.

Regarding a teacher. The teacher should be a brahmanista, one who is one with Brahman and able to wield the Vedantic methodology with skill. What he/she teaches and what he/she is are not two different things. The teacher teaches about Brahman and is Brahman.

The scriptures provide a knowledge of the self that perception and logic cannot reveal. The Vedas are not teaching an experience to know. The Vedas are giving knowledge directly, like the sense organs communicate knowledge, smell for nose. The Vedas provide a prananam [means] of Self knowledge. With study of the Vedas, we need shraddah [faith].

First karma yoga, then upasana yoga, then jnana yoga – vichara (Self-inquiry).

Proper use of free will. Isvara, guru and scripture’s grace. Self effort is most important.

Gain the benefits of karma and then renounce them.

Formal Sanyasa – renounce all religious rituals, family roles [and cultural obligations].
Informal Sanyasa – mental detachment but with some rituals.

(Verse 9)

(Verse 10)

Self knowledge cannot come from perception or inference which are based on the senses, only the shastram.

How does the Shastra do this? The example of a mirror is helpful. You cannot see your own eyes unless you look into a mirror. The shastra is the word mirror that reveals our essential nature.

Formally, sanyasi ashrama. Renouncing the karmas. Detachment of mind from karmas. Finding quality time.

Vedanta is not talking about an extraordinary or mystical experience but rather a clear understanding of ordinary consciousness.

Consciousness awareness is available in every experience. [Swami P used the word is and not are, because consciousness and awareness are one and the same]

Each class the teacher must:

– Have the capacity to think logically.
– Then convert thoughts into words of expression.
– Then the student needs to covert the words back into thought.

Scholarship is important but the person who seeks freedom must have viveka, the discrimination that leads to dispassion, and mumukshutvam [burning desire for freedom. Click on the four qualifications to learn more].

(Verse 11)

Jnanam [Self knowledge] is the means to attain moksha.

[With regards to the snake and rope metaphor. In the daylight we see the rope. At night we see neither rope nor snake. In the twilight, when we have a mixture of light and dark, knowledge and ignorance, we can mis-perceive the coiled well rope and believe it to be a snake.] [Jnanam is the light that allows us to see the rope as a rope.]

I know that I am but I don’t know that I am Brahman. Shastra gives extra light.

Wrong knowledge: I am a jiva. Shastra shares [right knowledge], I am Brahman.

Self inquiry is served best with the support of an adept guru.

With fear of snake, born of ignorance, offering charity or doing pranayama (breathing exercises),… will not work. Only knowledge that the snake is a rope will work.

Verses 14,15,16, commentary below:

Preparation [for moksha is supported by] Sadhana chitushtayam sampatti, the four qualifications, and formally approaching a guru. Shastra and teacher are vital but the student must be prepared. The teacher reveals the meaning of the shastra to the student.

[In relationship to the first qualification, viveka, independent thinking is very important. Not just faith but the ability to think logically.  Knowledge is a function of thinking.

[Learning requires] an analysis of the scripture. The ability to understand, retain, analyze and reason (is this or that logical), taking and or rejecting accordingly.

There are qualifications of intelligence but morals and balanced emotions [are also necessary].

Verses 17 -22, commentary below:

The 4 D’s (Qualifications): Sadhana Catustayam
– Discrimination (viveka)
– Dispassion (vairagya)
– Discipline, six fold: Sadhana chatushtaya sampatti
– Desire for freedom: mumukshutvam

There are two types of words:
– Shastric
– Guru’s words

1st stage of preparation
– Language
– Reasoning
– Analysis

2nd stage of preparation
– 4 D’s: discrimination, dispassion, discipline and desire for freedom.

More detail on the four qualifications (Sadhana Catustayam):

1. Viveka (Discrimination): between nitya (that which is permanent) and anitya (that which is impermanent). Conclusion: real security only comes from holding on to nitya – the Self.

Discrimination between Nityam & Anityam. Creation is impermanent. Whatever is born will die. Everything is perishable. If everything is perishable, what is eternal? It can’t be perceived through the senses. Shastram says there is something eternal – Brahman. With Bhagavan, we can imagine a form. Bhagavan – religion. Brahman – philosophy.

2. Vairagya (Dispassion): detachment from sensory pleasures that come from karma. Sensory pleasures are anityam. Pleasures come and go. They lead to dependency. Dispassion is the result of viveka. A dispassionate mind is a mature mind.

Prepare to lose the lose-able. Either avoid the lose-able or be prepared to lose the lose-able. Even prepare for death. With regards to every impermanent pleasure. Beginning with the physical body. Loss is inevitable.

3. Samadhi-Satka-Sampattih (Six-Fold Disciplines): Inner wealth. Spiritual wealth.

A. Sama: Mastery of the Mind: The regulation and direction of our mental energy. This is likened to the damming of a river and channeling the water so it can be utilized properly. Controlling the mind does not mean suppression, but learning to consciously regulate, channel and direct our thoughts to avoid anxiety, stress and depression.

B. Dama: Mastery of the Senses: It is up to us what we wish to experience via the senses. This too allows us to channel our energy wisely. Dama is the ability to direct our focus by paying attention to where we put our energy.

C. Uparama: WIthdrawal from Sense Objects: Avoiding excessive extroversion. True success comes not from enjoyment but from growth.

D. Titiksha: Forebearance

E. Shraddha: Faith in the teacher and the teavhings, pending the results of our investigation.

F:Samadhana: Concentration

4. Mumukshutvam (Burning Desire for Freedom): Passion for freedom, passion for spirituality.

More to come…

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