Lakshmana Sharma.s Introduction to Verse No.12


If both Ignorance and Knowledge are gone, then what remains must be a void.  Is it so?  – is the question that arises. What so remains is not a void. The Consciousness that is the Nature of the Atman is what remains. This is the content of this verse. The Self-Realisation where there is neither knowledge nor ignorance is what is known as the (ultimate) Knowledge Supreme.  It is the nature of the Atman;  it is not a quality or attribute of Atman – so says this verse.


Verse No.12


aRivu aRiyAmaiyum aRRathu aRivAme;

aRiyum athu uNmai aRivu AhAthu.

aRithaRku aRivittaRku anniyam inRAy avirvathAl,

tAn aRivu Ahum; paazh anRu, aRi.


Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)

Know that that alone is true knowledge, in which there is neither  knowledge nor ignorance; the (so-called) knowledge of objects, understand, is not at all true knowledge. The Real Self shines always alone, with neither things for Him to know, nor persons to know Him; therefore He is only Consciousness; do not think He is non-being.



Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)

 True Knowledge is being devoid of knowledge as well as ignorance of objects. Knowledge of objects is not true knowledge. Since the Self shines self-luminous, with nothing else for It to know, with nothing else to know It, the Self is Knowledge. Nescience It is not.


Translation (Osborne)

 That alone is true Knowledge which is neither knowledge nor ignorance. What is known is not true Knowledge. Since the Self shines with nothing else to know or to make known, It alone is Knowledge. It is not a void.


Word by Word


aRivAme: (True) Knowledge

aRRathu :  (is) devoid of

aRivu: Knowledge

aRiyAmaiyum : and Ignorance.

aRiyum athu : What knows

AhAthu: will not be

uNmai aRivu: True Knowledge.

avirvathAL : Because it shines

inRAy: without (the necessity of the presence of)

anniyam: a distinct object

aRithaRku: for (either) to know

aRivittaRku: (or) to be known,

tAN : the Real Self

Ahum: is

aRivu: Consciousness (True Knowledge)

pAzh anRu: (It) is not a non-being or void.

aRi: Know (this).


Commentary (in Tamil) by Lakshmana Sharma.


‘Self Realisation is the only True Knowledge; all else is just Ignorance’ –this thought has already been said in Verse No. 10. The same thing is being reconfirmed here for emphasis. Knowledge and Ignorance subsist only when the Ego has its sway on samsAra. In the turIya there is only Pure Knowledge that is unmixed with Ignorance and which has no relationship with Ignorance. Therein there is no duality of knowledge and ignorance, nor there is the triad of knower, knowledge and the known.So there is no concept of ‘difference’ there. But the common knowledge-triad is full of concepts of difference and so is in relationship with Ignorance.  Therefore it is nothing but Ignorance,  says the second line of this verse.


One might ask: Why do Knowledge and Ignorance both get destroyed in turIya? Why not Ignorance alone meet with destruction and Knowledge survive?  The knowledge that is being spoken of in this question is itself nothing but Ignorance – we have mentioned this already. The reason that both Knowledge and Ignorance do get destroyed in turIya is that the latter is the state of mokshha; there is no second thing there. This is what has been said in the third and fourth line of this verse. There is nothing distinct from the Supreme and so there is no question of the Supreme ‘knowing’ anything. So the knowledge that is spoken of in the knowledge-triad is not there in the Atman. Again in order that It, the Atman, may be shown to exist as the ‘known’ (an object of knowledge), there has to be a distinct intelligence other than the Atman. There is no such.  Actually this truth was what was already meant through the second meaning of the very first line of Mangalam – 1: ‘What sense distinct from It makes explicit what exists as Real Consciousness?  The Atman does not shine by an ‘outside’ something, but shines by its own self-effulgence, which is its natural state of Pure Knowledge. So it is not inert and by that very fact thre is no Ignorance there. It is the Complete totality which has neither ignorance nor the opposite of it.


By this very fact of Self-effulgence, it follows that the Atman’s very nature is the shine of True Knowledge. This is the conclusion of all Vedanta and this is stated here by the words “tAn aRivu Ahum” (The Real Self is Consciousness).


There are those who do not understand that what exists as Absolute reality is the Knowledge-Supreme and that whatever appears in the world is the mithyA that has as its support (adhishhTAnam) this Knowledge-Supreme. These are the ones who complain that the Atman is equivalent to a void. To guard against this pitfall of delusion, Bhagavan says “Understand that this is not a void”. What makes all this world exist, by what shine all this shines, that cannot be a void.


Those who believe that the Atman is a void, would consider the experience of the material bliss of the heavenly world as most desirable. They do not know the true nature of happiness. The heavenly bliss of happiness in the other world has many faults, and further, it has an end.  So it cannot be permanent Bliss. On the other hand the Bliss that comes from Self Realisation has none of these faults and it is infinite.


Now we can understand what it means to say ‘Self-Knowledge’.  It may mean two things: ‘Knowledge of Self’ and ‘Knowledge that is Self’.  The first meaning implies the knowledge that knows the Self.  But this will make the Self an object that is known or is to be known. In other words the Self becomes an object of knowledge and the knowledge that knows it as distinct from it.  But the Self is non-dual and we already mentioned that it does not afford the triad of knower-knowledge-known. Thus the first meaning is to be discarded.  The second meaning which says the Self itself is Knowledge indicates that the Self is of the nature of Knowledge. This is what Bhagavan says by the words ‘tAn aRivu Ahum’. Thus it follows that it is wrong to say either that we do not now know the Self or that we will one day know the Self.  ‘Knowing the Self’ can only mean ‘Being the Self’.  In fact this meaning will be made explicit in Verse No. 33.

Lakshmana Sharma’s Introduction to Verse No.13


Now Bhagavan takes up the question of ‘What is Real?’ and ‘What is unreal?’.  He answers the question about how the unreal appears to shine like real and establishes the advaita conclusions clearly. The Atman is the only Reality; taking that as its support (adhishhTAnam), the superposed universe appears as if it is real.  – This is the advaita siddhAnta (Final Conclusive Verdict).


Verse No.13


jnAnam Am tAne mey; nAnA Am jnAnam ajnAnamAM;

poyyAm ajnanamume jnAnamAm tannai anRi inRu

aNikaL tAm palavum poy

meyyAm ponnai anRi uNDO ? puhal.


Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)


This Self, (here) declared to be Consciousness, is alone real, without a second; all knowledge which is manifold is only ignorance; this ignorance – which (being a negation) is non-existent – has no existence apart from the Self who is Consciousness. Say, do the unreal jewels exist apart from the gold which (alone) exists?


Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)


The Self that is Awareness, that alone is true. The knowledge which is various is ignorance. And even ignorance, which is false, cannot exist apart from the Self. False are the many jewels, for apart from gold, which alone is true, they cannot exist.


Translation (Osborne)


The Self, which is Knowledge, is the only Reality. Knowledge of multiplicity is false knowledge. This false knowledge, which is really ignorance, cannot exist apart from the Self, which is Knowledge-Reality. The variety of gold ornaments is unreal, since none of them can exist without the gold of which they are all made.


Word by Word


tAne : The Atman (the Self)

jnAnam Am : whose nature is Knowledge

mey:  is the true Reality.

jnAnaM : the (worldly) knowledge

nAnA Am: which is multifold

ajnAnamAm: is only Ignorance.

ajnAnamume: And that Ignorance also,

poyyAm : which is non-existent

inRu : cannot be

tannai anRi :distinct from the Self

jnAnamAm: whose Nature is Consciousness.

aNikaDAm palavum : All the multi-formed ornaments

poy:  are false

ponnai anRi: Apart from the gold

uNDO ? Is there anything?

puhal:  Tell (me).


Commentary in Tamil by Lakshmana Sharma.


In the previous verse it was said “tAn aRivu Ahum” (The Self is Consciousness). This Self which is of the Nature of Consciousness is the only Reality – that was mentioned right in the beginning , namely, the Existent Reality (“uLLa poruL” – cf. Mangalam-1, 2nd line) , because it is One and remains unchanging. This is the meaning of “jnAnam Am tane mey”. In other words, the Self is Existence-Consciousness – sat-chit. therefore it is Brahman.


There is the question whether the multiple appearance of the world –the Individual, Ishvara and the universe – is true or not. The reply is given by the statement “nAnAvAM jnAnam ajnAnamAm”.  The knowledge of multiplicity that is referred to here indicates only the manifoldness of the world’s appearance.  For, other than knowledge – meaning, other than the thoughts created by the mind – there is no universe.


What is being said here is a definition of the discrimination between what is real and what is unreal.  Being One is the characteristic of Reality. Appearing manifold is the characteristic of Unreality.


The purport of the statement that the world is Ignorance is to say that the world arose from Ignorance. And Ignorance is nothing but Ego.  That is not something that is material; this is the truth that Bhagavan teaches as the fundamental truth in this work. Ignorance means the absence of Knowledge; and that again tells us that Ignorance is like Darkness. It is not a material substance. Darkness cannot be present in the presence of Light.  So also Ignorance cannot persist in the face of the Light of the Self. How can such a destroyable Ignorance be the Existent Reality?  This is what is meant by the words “poyyAm ajnAnamume”. 


Ignorance is not a material substance – this is the conclusion of Vedanta.  If it were so, then the universe and the bondage that arise from it would have an element of truth in them. An immature disciple is told as if there were an Ignorance that caused the bondage. In reality there is no such thing – this is the bottom line teaching. Therefore the question: “Wherefrom did I get this Ignorance?” is an absurd question. The question presumes there is a relationship between the Existence-Knowledge Brahman and the transmigratory cycle of samsAra.  There is no such relationship. The Vedanta teaching is: “asango-hyayam purushah”, that is, the Atman that is Brahman is associationless and relationless. This is technically known as “ajAta-siddhAntaM”. It means that from the Absolute point of view there is no universe arising from Ignorance, no JIva,  no bondage, no seeker, no mokshha.  What is Real is an ever-pure, ever-knowing, ever-free Atman only (*nityashuddha, nityabuddha, nitya-mukta AtmA*). This is the experientially-confirmed Truth of the JnAnis who live in that experience. Bhagavan says that Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, right in the beginning of the second chapter, declared this truth to Arjuna but the latter was struggling to absorb it and that is why Krishna gave him several other teachings.


Though the relationship does not exist in reality, for the purpose of teaching, an imagined relationship has to be talked about.  But this does not in any way affect the Reality that exists.


This universe – that is, the individual, the Ishvara and the universe - which is an expansion of Ignorance, appears as if it is real. The reason for this is that their adhishhTAnam (substratum, base) is that Existent Reality namely, the Atman. They have been superposed on the sat-chit Nature (svarUpa) of the Atman. From this it is clear that the universe has no existential reality of its own. Such an existential reality is there for the Atman; for, it shines in purity without the appearance of the universe, in the turIya that is Knowledge-experience (jnAna-anubhava).  Therefore it is said that the Atman is real and the universe is mithyA.


‘The universe is mithyA’ means the differences of names and forms superposed on the substratum of the Atman are mithyA. After throwing off the differences what remains as the adhishhTAnam (support) is the real truth of the universe – this prompts us also to say that the universe is real. Thus the two statements ‘the universe is mithyA’ and ‘the universe is real’ are not contradictory. If one understands it this way without the contradiction, both the statements are true.


The analogy for this comes from the case of gold and golden ornaments. The golden ornaments are at all  (three) times only gold; before they are  made into ornaments, after they are made and are handled as ornaments, and when they are destroyed back into gold. In all three states of time the truth of the gold is unchanged. Further, gold is one whereas the ornaments are many. Therefore, as per the definitions indicated earlier, gold is more real than the ornaments; ornaments are unreal. In the two statements in the verse: namely, “aNigal tAm palavum poy” and “meyyAm ponnai anRi uNDO”, notice that the two words ‘poy’ (false) and ‘mey’ (true) are used in juxtaposition. When you look at it as gold, the ornaments don’t appear; therefore they are false. When you look at it as ornaments, their false names and forms hide the truth of the gold.  The gold that is hidden is the truth. Worldly people say that both are the truth. If that were so, the analogy would not match the situation; so Bhagavan deliberately uses the two words here.  The purport of this is: “The ornaments are many and (therefore) false, have as their adhishhTAnam the one, and (therefore) real, gold; so also, the knowledge, which is only Ignorance, that imparts an inherent nature of multiplicity, and (therefore) falsity, to the world, has as its adhishhTAnam the Atman, which is the One Reality-Consciousness and consequently appears as if it is real”.


If Bhagavan had not added the words ‘poy’ (false) and ‘mey’ (true) here, a wrong interpretation may be attributed to Bhagavan that in addition to the ornaments being dense with gold, their differences of forms and names are absolutely true; and this may be followed up by the analogous  inference that in the same manner in addition to  the world being dense with Brahman their differences of names and forms are also true in the absolute sense. In order to prevent such a wrong interpretation these two words appear here as said.


The same thought appears in Tirumoolar’s Tirumandiram in the verse:


Marattai maRaittadu  mAmada yAnai,

Marattil maRaindadu mAmada yAnai;

Parattai maRaittadu pArmudal bhUtam,

Parattil maRaindadu pArmudal bhUtame.




The gigantic elephant hides the wood,

The gigantic elephant is (also) subsumed in the wood.

The earth and the elements hide the Absolute,

The earth and the elements are (also) subsumed in the Absolute.


In more explanatory words, in the wake of Ignorance, the Absolute is hidden by the five elements and appears as those elements and their ramifications.  In the wake of Enlightenment, the elements do not appear, only the Absolute shines in all Glory.


Thus, what has been said is nothing but what the analogy of the rope and the superposed snake would have implied.


Thus the appearance of the world is false. This implies that even during the time of its appearance, it is not there. This meaning would become explicit in Verse No.37.

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