From Ramana Maharshi Self-Enquiry
M:Whatever thoughts arise as obstacles to one's sadhana (spiritual
discipline)—the mind should not be allowed to go in their direction,
but should be made to rest in one's self which is the Atman; one
should remain as witness to whatever happens, adopting the attitude
"Let whatever strange things happen, happen; let us see!" This should
be one's practice. In other words, one should not identify oneself
with appearances; one should never relinquish one's self. This is the
proper means for destruction of the mind (manonasa) which is of the
nature of seeing the body as self, and which is the cause of all the
This method which easily destroys egoity deserves to be called
devotion (bhakti), meditation (dhyana), concentration (yoga), and
knowledge (jnana). Because God remains of the nature of the Self,
shining as "I" in the heart, because the scriptures declare that
thought itself is bondage, the best discipline is to stay quiescent
without ever forgetting Him (God, the Self), after resolving in Him
the mind which is of the form of the "I"-thought, no matter by what
means. This is the conclusive teaching of the Scriptures.
D: Is enquiry only the means for removal of the false belief of
selfhood in the gross body, or is it also the means for removal of the
false belief of selfhood in the subtle and causal bodies?
M: It is on the gross body that the other bodies subsist. In the false
belief of the form "I am the body" are included all the three bodies
consisting of the five sheaths. And destruction of the false belief of
selfhood in the gross body is itself the destruction of the false
belief of selfhood in the other bodies. So inquiry is the means to
removal of the false belief of selfhood in all the three bodies.
Generally, in advaita, Manonasa implies the destruction of the mind and non-identification with ALL sariras. Manonasa is Sine Qua Non for realization in advaita.
From Who am I,
Therefore, the exercise of breath-control is only an aid for rendering
the mind quiescent (manonigraha); it will not destroy the mind
From Jivanmukti Viveka of Vidyaranya
We shall now address ourselves to the means which lead to Jivanmukti
(Liberation in this Life). These are Jnana, manonasa and
For Jivanmukti the obliteration of latent impressions
(vaasanaa-kshaya) and dissolution of the mind (mano naasa) are the
From Yoga Vasishtha
Oh best of intellects, vasasa-Kshaya, Jnana and Manonasa, must be attended
to simultaneously for sufficient length of time, if not,...Jivanmukti can
never be realised, even at the end of a hundred years.
The advaita bodha deepika devotes an entire chapter:
Manonasa-The Extinction of the Mind
- D.: Let it be so. How can the mind be extinguished [manonasa]?
M.: To forget everything is the ultimate means. But for thought, the
world does not arise. Do not think and it will not arise. When nothing
arises in the mind, the mind itself is lost. Therefore do not think of
anything, forget all. This is the best way to kill the mind.
35-37. D.: Has anyone else said so before?
M.: Vasishta said so to Rama...details from yoga vasistha.
YOGA VASISTA SARA says in the chapter Manonasa [DISSOLUTION OF MIND]
When the mind is dissolved [manonasa], everything is dissolved. What
remains after that is the SUPREME BRAHMAN, peaceful,eternal and free
Ribhu gita [sanskrit verson] says similar
The state of firm abidance in that thought-free after Mano nasha
constitutes moksha. This is the Truth.
Ribhu gita [tamil version] states the same.
There are several quotations from Upanishads too. Amritabindu upanishad verse 5,
The mind should be prevented from functioning, until it dissolves [manonasa]
itself in the heart. This is Jnana
Shankara in vivekachudamani says
- The Yogi’s mind dies, being constantly fixed on his own Self.
- This apparent universe has its root in the mind, and never persists after the mind is annihilated. Therefore dissolve the
Many more verses are on this in vivekachudamani.
Manonasa is of two kinds, viz., (i) Svarupa Manonasa, and (ii) Arupa Manonasa, occurring to jivanmuktas and videhamuktas, respectively. In all cases, manonasa leads to self-realization. In his Brahma Sutra Bhashya Shankara clearly states that Videha Mukti does not constitute a higher state than Jivanmukti or vice-versa. So we do not need to go into this.
When the vasanas are removed, this results in the destruction of ignorance/mind (manonasa) and this leads to direct knowledge (aparoksha jnana) and self-realisation (atma sakshatkara).
I have not come across any literature from Shankara that says self-realisation is possible while maintaining the sookshma shareera and without the dissolution of the mind.
In fact, the bhashyas of upanishads and Brahma sutras by Shankara are very clear on this. For example, in chapter 4 of Brahma sutras, Shankara clearly states
When Brahman is realized, the non-clinging and destruction of the
subsequent and previous karma respectively.
Mundaka Upanishad II.ii.8 - "
Sundered are the knots of the heart, torn off are all his doubts, and
the seeds of his karma disappear when the [experiential] knowledge of
Brahman is obtained.
Thus, karmas are all gone on self-realisation and manonasa. Traditional advaita holds that jnanis but continue to experience prarabdha karma until their body dies [i.e., till the jnani attains mahanirvana]. Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi denies this saying that this is only told to ignorant people because people do not understand how the jiva functions after manonasa.
Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, verse 33:
The statement that the jnani retains prarabdha while free from
sanchita and agami is only a formal answer to the questions of the
ignorant. Of several wives none escapes widowhood when the husband
dies; even so, when the doer goes, all three karmas vanish.
Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 1146:
Prarabdha will never fail [to take its course] in the case of a body
that has been born to exhaust it. But the jivanmukta who has severed
the chit-jada knot, and thereby become distinct from the body, has
But how does a jnani function after manonasa? The ignorant ask how can the jnani still think, act, talk and remember as there is no mind left after manonasa.
The same question is asked Rama to Vasistha:
Rama: The result will be dullness like that of stones or wood [after
Vasishta: Not so. All this is only illusion. Forgetting the illusion,
you are freed from it. Though seeming dull, you will be the Bliss
Itself. Your intellect will be altogether clear and sharp. Without
getting entangled in worldly life, but appearing active to others
remain as the very Bliss of Brahman and be happy. Unlike the blue
colour of the sky, let not the illusion of the world revive in the
pure Ether of Consciousness-Self. To forget this illusion is the sole
means to kill the mind and remain as Bliss. Though Shiva, Vishnu, or
Brahman Himself should instruct you, realisation is not possible
without this one means [manonasa].
Mind is merely a reflection of Consciousness. When the reflection is destroyed, Consciousness shines through in all its glory through the jnani when the mind is absent. However, to the ignorant who are unsatisfied with the answer that one can function without the mind, it is said that sattvic mind works through the jnani. This is explained as:
Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Talk 68
Vritti belongs to the rajasic (active) mind. The satvic mind (mind is
repose) is free from it. The satvic is the witness of the rajasic. It
is no doubt true consciousness. Still it is called satvic mind because
the knowledge of being witness is the function of abhasa (reflected
consciousness) only. Mind is the abhasa. Such knowledge implies mind.
But the mind is by itself inoperative. Therefore it is called satvic
Such is the jivanmukta’s state. It is also said that his mind is dead
[after manonasa]. Is it not a paradox that a jivanmukta has a mind
and that it is dead? This has to be conceded in argument with ignorant
Satvic mind is surmised of the jivanmukta and of Iswara. “Otherwise,”
they argue, “how does the jivanmukta live and act?” The satvic mind
has to be admitted as a concession to argument.
The satvic mind is in fact the Absolute consciousness. The object
to be witnessed and the witness finally merge together and Absolute
consciousness alone reigns supreme. It is not a state of sunya (blank)
or ignorance. It is the swarupa (Real Self). Some say that mind arises
from consciousness followed by reflection (abhasa); others say that
the abhasa (reflection) arises first followed by the mind. In fact
both are simultaneous.
In any case, after the mahasamadhi wherein the body of the jnani dies, there are no karmas and sariras left. If all sariras and karmas are destroyed on realisation, how is rebirth of a jnani possible? However, Shankara accounts for the possibility of jnanis [in rare cases] to be born again even after realisation and equates this to equivalence of the Prarabdha karma.
Brahma-Sutra 3.3.32: Sanskrit text and English translation.
यावदधिकारमवस्थितिराधिकारिकाणाम् ॥ ३२ ॥
yāvadadhikāramavasthitirādhikārikāṇām || 32 ||
Rishi Apantaratama was born again as Vyasa. Sanatkumara was born as
Skanda. So also other Rishis like Vasishtha and Narada were born
again. Now these Rishis had attained the knowledge of Brahman, and yet
they had to be reborn. Ordinarily a person after attaining Knowledge
is not reborn. But the case of those who have a divine mission to
fulfil is different. Those perfected sages have one or more births
until their mission is fulfilled, after which they are not born again.
But then they never come under the sway of ignorance although they may
be reborn. The divine mission of these people is comparable to the Prarabdha Karma.
Therefore, in some sense, they may considered as "Avatars". For example, Rishi Apantaratama is considered avatar of vishnu and Narada as avatar of Brahma (this is from Narada charitram).
From a paramarthika viewpoint, of course, there is no avatar, jiva etc. But from a vyavaharika view, Avatars and jnanis are different. Though both are Nirguna Brahman at the essence, there is a distinction in the vyahavarika level. The sariras of a person are due to his past karma and are destroyed by jnana and subsequently on mahasamadhi. However, the sariras of an avatara are not due to karma, but rather are created by Ishvara from time to time to fulfil the mission of the world and maintain dharma.