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Lakshmana Sharma’s Introduction to Verse Nos.10 & 11.


We have just said that duads and triads are all unreal. The most important duad is the pair ‘jnAnam-ajnAnam’.  Among the triads the important one is: ‘knower, known and knowing’.  These also are unreal. In addition to explaining that in the state of Self-Realisation these don’t survive, the main topic of this work is called ‘Self-Knowledge’ (Atma-jnAnam).  Therefore the meaning of the word ‘jnAnam’ is taken up for explanation in the four stanzas 10 to 13.


Of these four, the first one below explains how all the knowledge that is accrued by an ajnAni is nothing but ajnAnam (ignorance), and not jnAnam (true knowledge). ‘Knowledge of the Self is the only Knowledge’ says Verse #10. So we get the meaning that any knowledge of non-Self is only ignorance.  That except for the Self-Knowledge all other things are only ajnAnam is further clarified in verse #11.



Verses #10 & #11


aRiyAmai viTTu aRivu inRu Am;

aRivu viTTu avvaRiyAmai inRu Agum;

‘anda aRivum aRivAmaiyum Arkku’ enRu

ammudalAm tannai aRiyum aRivE aRivu.


aRivu uRum tannai aRiyAdu;

ayalai aRivadu aRiyAmai anRi, aRivO?

aRivu ayaRku AdhArat-tannai aRiya

aRivu aRiyAmai aRum.



Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)


#10. Knowledge is never and nowhere in the world separate from ignorance, neither is ignorance at any time and for any one separate from knowledge. True knowledge is the awareness of the original Self, which becomes manifest by the Quest ‘Who is this I in the form of Ego to whom belong both of these’, nothing else.


#11. How can the knowledge of objects arising in relative existence, to one that knows not the truth of (himself) the knower, be true knowledge? If one rightly knows (the truth of) him in whom both knowledge and its opposite subsist, then along with ignorance (relative) knowledge also will cease once for all.


Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)


#10. There is no knowledge without ignorance; and without knowledge ignorance cannot be. To ask, `Whose is this knowledge? Whose this ignorance?' and thus to know the primal Self, this alone is Knowledge.


#11. Without knowing the Self that knows, to know all objects is not knowledge; it is only ignorance. Self, the ground of knowledge and the non-Self, being known, both knowledge and ignorance fall away.

Translation (Osborne)


#10. Ordinary knowledge is always accompanied by ignorance, and ignorance by knowledge; the only true Knowledge is that by which one knows the Self through enquiring whose is the knowledge and ignorance.


#11. Is it not, rather, ignorance to know all else without knowing oneself, the knower? As soon as one knows the Self, which is the substratum of knowledge and ignorance, knowledge and ignorance perish.



#10. Word by Word


aRiyAmai viTTu : Separated from ignorance

aRivu : knowledge

inRu Am.:can never be

aRivu viTTu: Separated from knowledge

aRiyAmai: ignorance

inRu Agum. there never is.

Arkku: Whose (or, to whom)

Anda aRivum: (belong) that knowledge

aRiyAmaiyum: (and) ignorance ?

enRu : (By  questioning) thus,

aRivE  that knowledge alone

aRiyum : that knows

ammudalAmtannai: the ‘I’ in the form of Ego which is the source of everything

aRivu: is the (true) Knowledge.


#11. Word by Word


aRiyAdu:  Without knowing

aRivu uRum tannai  the truth of the self who knows (tan, tAn: one’s own; self)

aRivadu:  to know

ayalai :  all else (foreign to Self; non-self)

aRivO? :  Is it Knowledge

aRiyAmai anRi : other than Ignorance ?

aRiya : (Once we ) know

AdhArattannai : the root-source

aRivu ayaRku : For both  knowledge and the non-self (the known thing)

aRivu aRiyAmai :  (the duad of) knowledge and ignorance

aRum:  will perish.


#10. Tamil Commentary by Lakshmana Sharma


The two words ‘knowledge’ and ‘ignorance’ refer to the knowledge and ignorance of worldly matters and things. These two arise from the Ego as pointed out in the last verse. They appear to be true so long as the Ego is live.  But the Ego vanishes in the state of Self-Realisation; so knowledge and ignorance are unreal.


The worldly knowledge is not jnAnam, as we usually think.  It is only ajnAnam (Ignorance).  One reason for this is stated here; namely, knowledge and ignorance form a duad – one cannot be isolated from the other. Things that form a duad have this property of non-separability. In the same manner worldly knowledge and ignorance are inseparable. When we have knowledge of one thing there is ignorance of another thing. What is knowledge for one may be ignorance for another.  In other words the concepts of knowledge and ignorance are impermanent.  All such knowledge belong to the Ego which is the root of all Ignorance.  So all these are only ajnAnam.


Two more reasons will come out in the next stanza. ‘I know, I don’t know’ –these are statements of the JIva; but they arise only in the state of non-realisation of the True state of the JIva which is the Atman.  When the Atman is realised, the knowing and non-knowing disappear. Therefore they are both ajnAnam.


Further ajnAnam itself is a non-existing entity. It is our delusion that creates it.  This will be explained in Verse #13.


Since now we have said that whatever we think as jnAnam (knowledge) is actually ajnAnam (ignorance), the question arises: What exactly then  is jnAnam? Whose are these two kinds of ajnAnam? The reply to this will come as: “It is for me”.  “Who is this I?” is the next question which is the basic question for the Self-Quest. If one makes his mind one-pointed in that quest, the result will be the destruction of the ego-centric I.  This is jnAnam. The words ‘mudalAm tan’ of the verse mean this Ego. This is the one which is the source of all the body, mind and intellect. When this ego is destroyed, the ever effulgent pure experience of the Atman will manifest without any obstacle. This is the true state of jnAnam. It is by the destruction of the Ego that this state becomes one’s own: -- this is explained in Verse #27. 


‘Separated from Ignorance there is no Knowledge’ -- In these words of the verse the word Ignorance may also mean the ‘I-am-the-body’ feeling  that constitutes the Moola-ajnAnam (Root-Ignorance). From this one can interpret that worldly knowledge occurs only to those who have no knowledge of the Atman and that those who have the Self-Knowledge would not have the worldly knowledge.


#11. Tamil Commentary of Lakshmana Sharma


The ‘I’ that says “I know the things of the world” is the chid-AbhAsa, (relected Consciousness) the false feeling of ‘I’.  It is like the snake seen on the rope, or the son of a barren woman.  It is totally unreal – we saw this earlier itself.  It will be again explained later. It is none other than the Ego.  To quest in search of the source of this Ego is the means of attaining jnAna, that is mukti. He who does not know himself by this means is not the knower of the real Self.  He thinks that this chid-AbhAsa is the Atman.  This is the root-ignorance (moola-ajnAnam). Those who are subject to this do not know the world as it truly is; therefore whatever he knows as knowledge was said to be ignorance only.


A devotee asked Bhagavan: “How can we say the world that we see directly is unreal?”.  Bhagavan replied to him: “The world laughs at you because it says ‘How can you, you who do not know yourself, know the truth of me?’”. The way the jnAni knows the world and the way the ajnAni knows the world are totally different – this will be known by the verse #18. The ajnAni ignores the groundbase-Brahman (adhishTAna-brahman)  and cognizes  the superposed (Aropitam) names and forms and their differences and takes them as real, thereby imprisoning himself in bondage. For the jnAni however, only the base-brahman manifests. So the jnAni does not incur any bondage.


Thus there are two kinds of ajnAnams in ajnAnis. One is the ignorance known as ‘Ignorance’. The other is the ignorance known as ‘knowledge’.  Both these have to be eradicated.  It is ignorance to think that one of them should go and the other should remain.


There is another reason for contending that both these are ajnAnam. Both are destroyed at the onset of Self-Realisation. This is the content of the last two lines of this verse.


In other words in the state of Self-Realisation, both these don’t exist.


In the text, the word ‘ayal’ which means ‘foreign’ has two interpretations.  Ignorance is the opposite of Knowledge, is one. The other meaning is: ‘It is the known that is thought of as distinct from the knower’. The mind which takes the place of knower and the known worldly matter  which is manifested by it  -- the source for both is the Ego.  And its Truth goes back to the Atman.

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