Friday, May 19, 2017

The Role of A Teacher in Teaching Advaita Vedanta

The Role of A Teacher in Teaching Advaita Vedanta
By Dhanya
  
[Dhanya, a fellow-Blogger at Advaita Vision, has been interested in sanAtana dharma and Eastern philosophy since about the early 1970s. In 1973, she traveled to India in search of a guru to guide her on the spiritual path. While there she encountered disciples of Neem Karoli Baba. His teachings of bhakti and karma yoga very much influenced her life from then on. She studied Vipasana meditation, met HWL Poonja, and other advaita teachers like Jean Klein and Sri Ranjit Maharaj. Finally she found a resonance in her current teacher, Dr. Carol Whitfield, a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Dhanya has undertaken a deep study of Advaita Vedanta as the means to Self-knowledge with Carol. Dhanya lives in Northern California, and often writes on Non-duality.

I am very grateful to Dhanya for contributing this crisp and highly insightful Post for publication at our Blog – ramesam.]


The Role of A Teacher in Teaching Advaita Vedanta
By Dhanya

In the teaching of Vedanta, we say Vedanta is a 'pramANa' (a means of knowledge) that uses words for teaching.  So we don't go by 'presence of the teacher' or 'transmission' or other things that some in the non-dual scene seem to feel are effective. We just go for pointing out, through words, what the student's own direct immediate experience already is, in order that he or she recognizes it.

So if a teacher uses words as pointers, and we are using those words to point to something that is already 'here,' but isn't here as an object, then those words have to be handled very carefully, and also understood very carefully.

Language is inherently dualistic.  All words point to something that exists in duality.  Even the words 'Atma' or 'brahman' will initially conjure up a concept in the mind of the student. (They certainly did for me!).

So then, how can words, which initially point and refer to objects, be used to point to your “Self” which isn't an object and yet is here to be recognized?

The teacher needs to 'knock off,' or negate, the initial, primary, i.e. usual, meaning of the word prior to using it as a pointer to the Self.  And this requires skill on the part of the teacher, and an openness to understanding on the part of the student.  

Doing this is the first part of the dual process of negation and positive assertion.  Vedanta employs for this purpose various methods which in the end lead to the recognition of 'aham brahmasmi,' 'I am that brahman (Non-dual Existence/Consciousness) alone.'

So for instance with the word 'Consciousness,' the teacher negates from that word all the ideas and definitions one has around it, as well as negating all the other concepts one has about who one is.  

Once the 'initial' meanings of the word have been knocked off through negation, then the teacher introduces what is called 'the secondary meaning of the word,' or ‘the positive assertion’, and uses that meaning to point to the Self which one already is (conscious/being).  

It might be better to first talk about is-ness or existence, rather than beginning with an explanation of the word consciousness, as everything obviously has is-ness and the ‘consciousness’ part may not be always evident. Even something that doesn't exist has is-ness conceptually, whereas in one's initial understanding of the meaning of the word 'Consciousness,' not everything has consciousness.

Many people know about the negation aspect of the teachings--the neti, neti, 'I am not this, not this.'  But many do not know about the 'positive assertion'-- how words are used to point out “THAT” which one truly is.

The teacher needs to be skilled to know how to do both the negation and positive assertion.  I think that some in the modern non-dual scene think that once everything you are not has been negated, what you are, naturally kind of pops up, or automatically gets revealed. I have heard such statements from modern Western Non-dual teachers.

But Vedanta would say this is not so--that the positive assertion--the pointing to That which you are--is as important to the recognition of 'aham brahmasmi' as is the negation of what you are not.

IMO, the interesting thing is the 'consciousness' which we initially assume to be a product of the body/mind, and different from everyone else's consciousness, actually is Non-dual Consciousness.  


So a teacher needs to know how to use words to negate from the student's mind the notions about all that he or she is not; and then, using words again, point out that the Existence/Consciousness one takes oneself to be, minus the 'overlay' of the individual body mind, *is* the Non-dual. 

(Courtesy: Kathy Moffitt)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Science of the Upanishads

The Science of the Upanishads
By Karthikeyan Sreedharan


[Shri Karthikeyan Sreedharan has been posting at the IndiaDivine.org Web site crystal clear and crisp explication of the principal Upanishads bringing uniquely the convergence in the ancient Indian message of Advaita taught by different Sages. So far four major Upanishads have been covered and seven more to go.


When I requested Shri Karthikeyan for a few lines about himself to serve as an Intro at this Blog, he said that "Kindly introduce me as a student of Vedanta. My expertise, background, interests, etc. are to be discerned from my writings, not from my claims. For, my writings reflect them all."  Though he has been so humble and reticent in talking about himself, his understanding of the Aupanishadic philosophy undoubtedly surpasses many of those who claim themselves as Pundits. 


I am grateful to Shri Karthikeyan for his ready consent to let me post at our Blog an abridged version of his Introduction to the Science of Upanishads.  Shri Karthikeyan can be reached by e-mail  -- ramesam.]



The Science of the Upanishads
By Karthikeyan Sreedharan

Upaniṣads are treasures of Indian spiritual thoughts of ancient times. The ten most ancient Upaniṣads belong to the period of 1500 BC to 600 BC, according to commonly agreed estimations. They are called the Principal Upaniṣads and are considered to be the most authentic ones.
There is another Upaniṣad by name Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad belonging to a later period, but viewed at par with the Principal Upaniṣads, considering the dexterity and erudition with which the subject matter is dealt with therein.
***
Upaniṣads represent philosophical postulations either extracted from these three or compiled independently. Of the eleven Principal Upaniṣads, one (Īśa Upaniṣad) is part of a Samhita (Śukla Yajurveda), four (Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Chāndogya, Kaṭha, Kena) are parts of Brāhmaṇas and two (Aitareya, Taittirīya) are parts of Āraṇyakas. The remaining four (Praśna, Muṇḍaka, Māṇḍukya of Atharva veda and Śvetāśvatara of Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda) are independent compilations. 
***
Upaniṣads are not like ordinary spiritual texts which dwell on glorification and appeasement of an almighty god through prayers, rituals and offerings with an intention to secure protection, prosperity, happiness and long life. The primary concern of Upaniṣads is not the physical life as such, but the ultimate principle that sustains the physical life. Upanishads recognize the existence of an entity beyond the phenomenal world. They advance the concept of reality from a relative plain to the absolute state, to the reality that is free from all limitations of time and space. This advancement is the greatest achievement that Indian meditative mind accomplished and it is the greatest ever height that human mind scaled in speculative thinking.
***
[Upanishds] being extracts from other three parts of the Vedas, most of the Principal Upaniṣads contain some portions that do not fit well with the main theme under discussion in that particular Upaniṣad. Therefore, while interpreting the Upaniṣads to derive lessons therefrom, these portions have to be omitted from detailed consideration. In the present endeavour we concentrate on those teachings that a rational mind should take note of and assimilate into its own cognitive constitution; in this process we simply ignore those contents which are rather ritualistic or purely mythological in nature.
***
The Links to the respective essays are given below:
1.  IshAvAsya 
3.  ChAndogya
4.  KaTha

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Does Advaita Make Us Insensitive and Heartless?

Does Advaita Make Us Insensitive and Heartless?

Questioner:  I find a tendency toward spiritual reductionism in modern non-duality--- everything is just X, and X doesn't really change. Whether that is God, or being, or consciousness, or sat-chit-ananda doesn't really matter. The point is there is a real and an unreal, and the unreal is not really valued. For example, saying that love arises from ourselves only, and is projected onto spouses, babies, and puppies seems to me to place the focus on the inner core to the exclusion of the outer manifestations. If our core is changeless and transcendent, and if all our core is the same core, and nothing really changes, well, then---- nothing really matters. 


Consider another approach. Instead of a false projection, what if objects were an expression? What if each moment was a unique and wonderful droplet of perfection, never to be repeated? What if instead of an error, the entire universe was an artistic creation? 

What about the hopes and dreams and the many small things that cause this particular vibration to be unique? I am not just a core of awareness, but an unbounded pool of thoughts, energies, and expressions that is not the same and yet indistinguishable from the rest of the world and the cosmos. What if, in fact, everything really matters?

I'm not saying that the first version is wrong or incorrect, but it leaves me feeling hollow. I cannot generate warmth and kindness--- real warmth and kindness, the wondrous sweetness of the heart, for a projection that is ultimately just me in disguise. Nor does it require a sense of self and other, because immersing into this sweetness obliterates concepts of self and other.

 Ramesam:  Your “What-if” questions are not any alternate doubtful scenarios. They are all affirmed statements in the teaching of Advaita Vedanta. 

As expressed in Bhagavad-Gita (BG) Chapter 10, every form that you perceive, and interact with is nothing but a Godly manifestation. BG IV – 24 says more explicitly that everything including you, the sentient doer, the insentient instruments that help in performing an action and the doing itself are all brahman.

Yes, Sir, consummation in the Totality dropping the sense that 'I am a separate person,'  and thus “immersing into this sweetness obliterates concepts of self and other,” (as you say) undoubtedly and with certitude. The fact that "the sense of a “me” to be separate from the rest is just an illusory belief" will be understood and the individual ego dissolves completely in that moment.

As far as Advaita is concerned, I would like to point out that the so-called ‘reductionism’ you are attributing to Advaita is different from the “reductionist” approach in Science. Yes, the teaching does talk of the irreducible Oneness, Consciousness, brahman or ‘X’ – call It whatever you like – it is but a step in imparting the Advaita message. 



Unlike what some people may think, Advaita is NOT about changing the world; it is also NOT about improvements to our puny imagined ‘self’ or 'selves.' It’s just an illumination that exposes in its brilliance our false beliefs and identities. It explicates that “What-Is” is all “That IS” and proclaims unhesitatingly that “You are That (brahman)” and not merely the tiny body-mind which you mistakenly take yourself to be.

The teaching does not end there. 
It’s only a halfway house. 

After having a taste of that ‘X,’ the student is asked to find out Its nature and “experientially realize” the same by himself/herself. Advaita does not provide any ready-made formula as an answer. There are no ‘theorems’ like:

a2 + b2  =  c2

which you can learn by rot, then take to the market for application carrying a setsquare and T. The seeker has to intuitively feel the Ultimate Advaita understanding, grok it, and live it.

Advaita tells you that the usual worldly perspective is misguided.

We normally value the ring, necklace, bangle etc. We worry and take care to preserve and embellish their shape and utility. The shape is the noun in our speech. Their real substance, gold, is just a ‘changeable’ adjective in our syntax – a golden ring, a silver bangle etc.  Advaita points out to the misplaced accent in that. It tells you that the variable form is NOT the real thing. Gold is the true substance of value. It is more appropriate to talk of ring-y Gold, necklace-y Gold, bangle-ly Gold. Gold is the true unchanging One ‘substance’ while forms are merely changing appearances. brahman is the Gold and all the entities in the world are the varying forms like ring, necklace etc. in the above metaphor.

Advaita does not ask you to destroy the form or act differently. There are no injunctions in Advaita. It’s not a religion with a laundry list of Dos and Don’ts. It only nudges one to let all the action spring from that "understanding" of Oneness as Oneness through Oneness within Oneness after a full realization of the non-existing illusory finite ‘me.’ The Consciousness that you called 'X' is not a crass cold clod of clay, insentient and insensitive. 


Consciousness is the very Life living Itself, ever fresh, always anew and ever in the Now without any claim for the agency (ownership) of action. A river flows. It does not claim ‘I am flowing.’ It does not mind an impediment in its path. It goes around it forever happy and bubbling. If it does not flow, it is no more a river. It just stays as a water pool.

Rupert Spira said in 2014:

"Knowingness itself raises as Attention and appears as thought.
Beauty itself raises as Perception and appears as the world.
Love itself raises as Devotion and appears as the beloved (God)." 

To that I added:
                                                                     
Tranquility itself raises as Equanimity and appears as justice.


An author explains: " Equanimity is even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response borne of reactivity or emotion. It stresses the importance of balance. A balanced heart is not an unfeeling heart. The balanced heart feels pleasure without grasping and clinging at it, it feels pain without condemning or hating, and it stays open to neutral experiences with presence."  


Questioner:  The Gold is real and the ring, bangle, etc. are not. That is one view. The other view is that the gold is valuable, but so is the ring --- you can now wear as an ornament. In fact, a well crafted artistic ring is much more valuable than the gold, even though its form is temporary. There is an interdependence between the gold and its forms--- just as there is no ring apart from the gold, there is no gold aside from its various manifestations.

Ramesam:  Advaita would want you to carry your inquiry into the dream and deep sleep worlds too and not just stop with the awake world. If you do that, you will see that the POV of 'economics' of the awake world will not work anymore in the other states.

The inquiry also challenges you to inqu
ire into "gold" (or any object) without any form of manifestation.

Just as you say "there is no gold aside from its various manifestations," the above inquiry will lead you to discover that there is no object of any type anywhere aside from " mind."


Questioner:  Why should I enquire into the other states? My questions pertain to the waking-me.

Ramesam:  Our aim in our inquiry is to find the ultimate reality. In order to obtain a full answer, I ought to inquire into all the sates in which a 'me' exists. Otherwise, the result of the inquiry will only be partial. You never experience of an absence of yourself. So we have to find what is happening to the objects we value in the awake state or dream state in addition to what is the meaning of the very word "value" we seem to give importance in the awake state.


Questioner:  Is a human Guru essential for a seeker?

Ramesam:  The traditional Vedantins (TV) believe in the necessity of receiving an instruction only from a Guru.  In the good old days, there were no external storage media for the teaching preserving the correct pronunciation of the words etc. So all transmission of knowledge was through oral means of communication. The students too were taken at a very young age before their brains were fully mature. Such young lads had also to be trained in different fields of education like language, logic, arithmetic etc. The present times are different. The seekers are much older. They have basic education, they are reasonably trained in their ability to critically examine issues with focus and determination and so on. They come with certain level of maturity in the pursuit of inquiry. 

Shri Atmananda, who propounded the Direct Path (DP),
himself did NOT insist anywhere in his own writings about the necessity of a human guru though he did meet in-person his guru - Yogananda. Nityatripta who recorded and reported Atmananda's conversations with the seekers writes that Atmananda sometimes spoke about the importance of a direct contact with a Guru. However, that could more possibly be a reflection of his own slant.

I remember that a question was posed to Nisargadatta Maharaj about the necessity of a human guru. He clearly told the questioner that even the "word" in the book would carry as much effect as his verbal sound even after hundreds of years after he was gone!

One comes across in India
 stories from folklore and the ancient Indian Puranas that tell us how the flutter of a tree leaf, the grunt of a pig etc. worked as "triggers" to evoke the 'tipping point' in a mature seeker.

I concede, however, the presence of a fully-awakened Guru will be highly useful for a seeker to clear his doubts immediately and authentically saving the time of the disciple who, otherwise, may have to spend time in the searching within the storage media (print/multimedia etc).

Other than that, I go perfectly with JK who said that "it is the guru who needs the disciples and not the other way" or something to that effect and also with UG who is known as the anti-Guru guru! 


What is important is the unswerving earnestness and sincerity of the seeker in his/her quest to find the Truth. The Grace is always there everywhere. It may arise in any form as per the need. It appears as though it is the teaching or the teacher coming in search of you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Two Courses to Advaitic Truth - 2

The Two Courses to Advaitic Truth - 2


  Oftener than not, the "loyalty" factor plays an important role in the philosophical pursuit of the people who are strongly bound by the apron strings of their background religion. Most of them take easily to monotheistic or other dualist philosophies. Those of them who migrate to Non-duality from such a background tend to carry the vestiges of their religious belief structures and amalgamate the same into their Non-dual teachings. The manifestation of the loyalty factor may take several forms with varied grades of intensity -- a servile devotion to the Guru (teacher), worship of a higher power, adherence to elaborate rituals, clinging to a personal deity etc. They would insist that the only way a spiritual aspirant  should proceed is to approach a master, who is well-versed in the scriptures and had realized the ultimate Truth "carrying with him a faggot of wood" and get the initiation only from him (the realized Guru knowledgeable of the scriptures). They deride and despise other forms of obtaining the Supreme Knowledge. They chant and sing rhapsodies and laudatory hymns adoring their favorite Godhead or many other godly forms who can bestow specific boons. They honor tradition, they are conservative in approach, very disciplined and devotional by nature. They entertain an unshakable faith in the concept of 'rebirth.'  They have detailed descriptions of the way how their subtle body travels after the death of the gross physical body carrying the effects of their past actions in the form of 'tendencies' along with it. They firmly believe in the 'Theory of karma.'

[Interested readers may see here my essay on the "Infirmities in karma theory":  Click ]

The ending of "the cycle of births and deaths" is 'Liberation' for them. It is bondage to be subjected to "the cycle of births and deaths." Hence a created world and 'birth and rebirth' occupy an important place in their approach. They have many prescriptive dictates to be rigorously observed placing themselves at the center as the "Doer" of those practices. They hope to be rewarded from a meticulous implementation of the stipulated methods. Their initial goal is to achieve the most subtle world called 'brahma loka' as a result of performing meritorious deeds and strict observation of the rituals. The Lord Brahma is expected to reveal to the eligible seeker the final Truth whereby he/she attains the Self-realization. Thus Liberation, they hold, can be attained in a progressive manner. The followers of this system use frequently a mantra, a deity or some such prop for repetitious daily rituals and once they get habituated to it, they experience its tranquilizing effects. There is a danger that some of the seekers may mistake that sort of happiness itself as the ultimate and be lost in a "comfort zone" they may etch for themselves and begin to deify the prop used by them. [Sometimes it is also possible that the seeker may get into a dependency syndrome on the guru and be attached to the guru or in worse circumstances it can be a mutual dependency of the student and Guru with one another - a symbiosis of sorts. ]

I will like to call them as the followers of the Religious path.  "Devotion"  and a Master - slave attitude is firmly believed and expected to lead them gradually in progressive stages to the final Non-dual realization. Almost all of the persons who claim to be the followers of "traditional Vedanta" can be put in this group.

The traditional Vedantins subscribe to the view that the three states of awake, dream and deep sleep we go though in our daily life are not real and the three states appear and disappear on a background which never disappears and is constantly present behind them as their substratum. The unchanging substratum is called as the Fourth (in Sanskrit, turIya). turIya is said to be the true nature, the Ultimate Reality unavailable to the mind and inexpressible in words.

The traditional system is mostly in vogue in India and is also claimed to be followed by many of the organisations that promote traditional Advaita through their centers in a few of the developed countries. 

What is to be noted is that the Advaita teaching does not invoke or need a God. Even if a reference is made to a God as a provisional statement in an argument, not a moment is wasted in declaring that 'you' yourself  are that God!  In the words of the well-respected Advaita scholar, Shri V. Subrahmanian, "In the method of Advaita Vedanta, theism is only a means and not an end. Theism is a starting point for spirituality and the transcending of theism is the end of spiritual process. Thus, the Vedanta introduces (adhyAropa is the technical term) God concept and portrays God as the cause of the observed world. Its intention is to turn the aspirant’s mind away from the world where she is engrossed and fix it in the Creator-God by enabling the aspirant to appreciate the glories of this Creator-God. Here comes the role of worshiping the God who is attributed with omniscience, omnipotence, etc. Once this is accomplished, the work of Vedanta is to take the aspirant further to the point where the creator-concept is dropped, the created-universe idea is dropped (apavAda) and the aspirant-consciousness alone is the all-important one, being unnegatable, undeniable. This consciousness is shown to be the infinite, free of body-mind apparatus. Thus theism is not the end of Vedanta.” [Emphasis added by me.]

We find that the sequence of creation mentioned in different Upanishads is not uniform. Creation is described in multiple ways. The main purpose of the various Upanishads "is not in establishing a real creation but only to teach us about the One 'Creator', brahman.  In other words, the creation shruti-s (scriptural statements) are only an upāya (means) to drive home the idea of the Sentient Cause, brahman, but not in the reality of a created universe."  Shankara tells us that the gist of Upanishadic teaching is essentially that "nothing is ever born; there is no cause for birth." It is also said that the purported teaching about the Laws of karma is only to nudge the dull-witted towards true Vedantic understanding.

Advaita Vedanta is not a system that teaches approved and prohibited observations to be practiced. It does not have a list of dos and don'ts. It is not about changing the world or working towards self-improvement. Advaita is an inquiry into the incontestable really real Reality, the Ultimate Truth. Advaita equips the seeker with a few time-tested tools to enable him/her to conduct a bias free inquiry, verifiable by oneself through one's own experiential understanding at each stage of the inquiry. It does not lay out a "path" proceeding by which the seeker is guaranteed to reach a goal.

The inquiry into Truth begins with an analysis of one's own experience. The two principal components of all experiencing are: the "I,"  the experiencer and the object that is experienced. So two simple questions launch the seeker on the course of his/her Self-investigation: "Who Am I?" and "What is this world that is being experienced?" This is what I would like to call as the logical or analytical stream.

The 20th century Advaitin trio Atmananda Krishna Menon, Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj popularized this method of approach which is christened as the "The Direct Path." It was Atmananda who gave the name "Direct Path."  The seeker is upfront made to realize the hollowness of the commonly assumed presence of a 'me,' a touchy-feely solid entity, living somewhere inside the body-mind. Next s/he is shown to be not separate from or different from what is perceived around, including his/her own body-mind. When this is firmly ingested by the seeker, s/he has to work towards bringing about his/her body-mind to be fully aligned in this understanding in its day to day functioning. The followers of the Direct Path consider that the awake and dream worlds are two modulations of the Deep sleep and the experience they have in the Deep sleep itself is their true natural position of Happiness. Thus, for them, turIya and Deep sleep are one and the same.


We see that The Direct Path of Advaita is spreading fast and has become quite popular in the Western countries.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Two Courses to Advaitic Truth - 1

The Two Courses to Advaitic Truth - 1

  There appear to be two distinct courses which a seeker may take, metaphorically speaking, on the journey upstream to find his/her Source - i.e. the Ultimate Non-dual understanding (Advaitic Truth) that says there is neither a seeker, nor a source to reach; neither a movement nor even a path to tread on. All is "What-Is" as IS right here and now at this moment.  I would like to call one as the "Religious stream" and the other as the "Philosophical or Analytic stream." The distinction between the two paths, though broadly apparent from a distance, could appear to be pretty hazy and porous or fading at the edges when looked at closely or under a lens. It may be easy to discern the differences between the two streams if I describe the broad characteristics, practices, and the geographic spread in their popularity. One may not fail to notice the distinguishing shades between the two routes, perchance, if I provide some names of their most prominent preceptors, as type examples.

Those people who take the route to Advaita with a strong base in religious thought, go by the belief-structures that their religion demands.

It is not difficult to surmise that ever since the “modern man,” Homo sapiens sapiens, discovered in the good old times the advantages of group-living and learnt the dynamics of managing interrelationships and also realized his capability for abstract thinking, religion played a pivotal role in the development of his life and activities.  It  helped  to evolve conceptual schema which in turn contributed to establishing a mature and harmonious society. It didn’t matter whether it was a tribal society or a nomadic one, religion served as a binding force for the group-members. It was looked upon as the arbiter of justice within the society. It was the stipulator of the prescriptive norms that specified the acceptable code of conduct to be followed in living the daily life by each member of that group.

Comparable to the concept of ‘allegiance to a written or unwritten constitution’ in the modern day nation states, religion acted in the distant past as the ultimate authority to be loyal to. It was their symbol even to die for. It provided a purpose for life. Unquestioning belief in the concepts promoted by that religion and also a formidable faith in a supervising Godhead that would police the acts and dispense justice formed the most crucial (and necessary) components of a religious framework. For example, an ‘Astika’ is defined as one who has firstly an unquestionable allegiance to Vedas, secondly believes in the existence of other-worldly experiences, and thirdly, subscribes to the doctrine of rebirth. The concept of rebirth, where it is present, is strongly shaped by the other 'religious belief structures’ within that particular society. 

Whatever it is, 'Rebirth' as a 'reward and punishment' mechanism remained a very useful in the repertoire of tools for the maintenance and assured management of a secure and harmonious society. It became a very successful and irreplaceable ‘meme.’ Let me quote here what I wrote in an essay in 2004 regarding the functional value of a Godhead in a religion:


 “... ... instead of having an external enforcer of the regulations constantly monitoring the behavior of the individuals, self-regulation increases the total efficiency of the system. A Godhead is a policeman internalized within each individual to ensure, through self-regulation, a behavior that is in line with the designed objective of overall welfare, comfort and well-being of not only the individual, the whole society but also the total environment.”

Religion demands “loyalty.”

But the important question has to be to what should an inquirer’s loyalty be? For an honest inquiry, it cannot be to the form in which or how the Ultimate Truth is expressed but to the Essence of the Truth.

Can there be then a conflict between two individuals who have a clear understanding of the Truth?

(To Continue ... Part - 2)


Wishing All Our Readers

Seasons Greetings and
Best Wishes For a Happy And Prosperous
New Year

Friday, November 18, 2016

Physics of Reality - 9: Complexity, Action, Time and Causation



  1. Why Doesn’t Time Flow Backwards?
  2. Do Cause and Effect Really Exist?
  3. Where Does Complexity Come From?
  4. What (or How Entropy) Powers the Earth?
  5. What Is the Purpose of Life?
The above are some of the questions that all curious and observant persons ask at one time or another. Those very questions are at the base of all human investigation – be it a scientific quest or a philosophical contemplation. 
Many such Questions were raised and answered by the ancient Indian Sages and Seers. What they narrate begins with ‘brahman.’ By definition brahman is a pointer to that primordial unknown and unknowable “Is-ness” which has the potential for anything and everything, but by Itself is simple, formless, featureless, homogeneous, non-acting and beyond space and time. Scriptures describe brahman to be the cause (kAraNa) and  the jagat (the world) as the effect (kArya). However, the shruti is vague on the transformation from One to many (brahman to the manifested manifold which we call as the world).
The principal difference amongst the various philosophical theories and propositions rests on this point of explaining the relation between brahman and jagat. Advaita holds that the shruti is vague about brahman to jagat transformation because the very appearance of jagat is an illusory (bhrama) superimposition (adhyAropita) on the changeless brahman. It also says that a cause-effect relationship does not really exist because ‘time,’ without which causation cannot arise, itself is non-existent.
It is interesting to note that leading theoretical physicists also arrive at a similar argument like Advaita with reference to the unreality of the ‘arrow of time’ or the non-existence of cause-effect operation.  Causation is said to be no more than a name we give to a pattern we ‘think’ we observe in nature.
Here is a link to five short (3 min odd) Videos of Sean Carroll,  a well-known physicist from Caltech answering the five questions given at the beginning of this Post.  He explains in the Videos in simple terms the laws of Physics behind the emergence of complexity from simplicity; how there is no possibility for action happening  in a simple system which is at its equilibrium; how we get a sense of the ‘arrow of time’ and other related phenomena.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Notice What You are Noticing by Sky Nelson

Notice What You are Noticing 
by Sky Nelson

[Please see here for an Intro about Sky Nelson - ramesam.]



“You” evolve out of the experiences you have

“Attention”, or “Noticing”, is something that seems to come from inside of us. When we “pay attention”, we “send” our focus to our environment. Just as when we pay money we get a product, when we pay attention we get information. Without paying attention, we can’t receive information.

 To see what I mean, try this. Sit quietly with your eyes open. Soften your gaze. Let your mind wander to your plans for tomorrow. Although your eyes are receiving light from the objects around you, you aren’t paying attention to them. Since you are not taking in that information, you may not even be aware of some of the things right next to you.

Now, keeping your eyes unfocused, notice something in your peripheral vision. You are taking in information about what you see. After having paid attention, you can describe what is around you. Before that, even though the same light was entering your eyes, you were not aware of your surroundings. Without paying attention, you cannot gain information.

Quantifying Attention

Let’s say the amount of attention you pay is equal to the amount of information you learn or gain. This is handy because information is easy to describe in physics.

If you gain information, “entropy” goes down. Although the entropy (or “disorder”) of the whole universe always goes up, this is not true for each individual thing. For instance, when you eat, even though a lot of food is destroyed, your body becomes more ordered as you grow. The world as a whole becomes more disorganized overall, but a tiny little slice of it called you becomes more organized. The world is full of pools of relative order and disorder, shifting and moving like the surface of the ocean, and attention is part of what drives that “shifting”.

Try looking at a bookshelf with focused attention. As you observe it, you learn definite facts about the bookshelf (e.g. all the books are fantasy novels), and remove other possibilities that can no longer be true (e.g. there are no books about physics). By paying attention, you have clarified the actual titles and removed other possible titles. You have created a small amount of order by applying your attention. Attention is paid, information is gained, and disorder goes down.

This may seem abstract, but it can be very practical.

Information Changes You

Awareness is necessary to gain information. But how does the information affect you? Information has to have an impact on you, or it is not information! According to a leading theory by Giulio Tononi, “effective information” is the relative increase in information that comes from your measurement. A key feature of a conscious being is the effective information that is generated with each interaction. When you receive information, you change in a measurable way. You literally become a different person with each bit of information you take in because you integrate it into who you are.

Tononi says “Information that is not integrated is not associated with experience, and thus does not really exist as such.” Information only has existence in relation to a “conscious observer who exploits it to achieve certain (goals).” Without you, the world around you does not evolve. Without the world, you do not evolve.
Integration can be thought of as the blending and balancing of new information with the information that, until this moment, you called “you”. As you integrate new information, you assume a new concept of yourself.

The process of “I”-dentification

Who is that mysterious yet familiar person called “I”? You know it intuitively from your direct experience. It is you, your ability to observe, choose, and experience the world.

We might say that “you” are the information that you “I”-dentify with.
Take the recent campfire I had with my daughter. It was a cold night, with a warm fire, and the sticky-sweet taste of burnt marshmallows. All of this information was taken in by her senses.

Let’s say she didn’t like the cold air of the night. She may have subconsciously thought “I am someone who doesn’t like being outdoors at night.”
But when she took in the warm fire and friendly people she may have thought, “I am someone who likes being around a warm campfire with my friends and family.” Then she tasted the sticky marshmallow, and identified with that experience by thinking “I love roasting marshmallows!” Her identity was changed by her experiences.

“I”-dentification with experience is what creates the “I”.
You are what your mind eats. In other words, every piece of information you receive changes your sense of who you are. Where you put your attention determines who you become. Since attention can be quantified, we might say that the more you pay attention the faster you evolve.

Use Your Attention Effectively

To notice the quantity and quality of your own attention, try these steps:
     
     1)   Sit quietly. Allow the first thoughts to come and go. Begin to notice the things around you.
     2)   Notice your attention. Pick something to notice. What is it like to “see” that thing? What is it like to gain information about that thing? Can you imagine looking at it and not learning something about it? Is it possible to turn off your attention?
     3)  Think about how you are changed by the things you pay attention to. Notice small changes. If you read the title of a book off a shelf, it may remind you of a book you read in high school. It has an effect on your thinking and maybe your emotions. It may inspire you to read the book, or remind you that you are in the middle of a book you are enjoying. The information you gain can actually cause you to take some kind of action, so it has changed you.
     4)  Now, pay attention to your attention. Instead of sending your attention outward, send your attention back to itself. Notice yourself noticing. This is very powerful. You may notice your body relax, and your spine spontaneously straighten on its own. By training the power of your attention back on itself, you gain information about your awareness itself. This induces a natural settling and sense of well-being.

     As you go through your day today, notice where your attention goes, and how you change as a result of the information you gather. How have you identified with your experiences? Since your attention is busy every waking moment of the day, make conscious decisions about what experiences you turn your attention to. Those experiences influence who you become.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Up The Creek With No Canoe By Elena Romanoff


[Elena is an accomplished concert pianist by education and training. Her life took a new turn when she listened to UG's dialogs.  After 30+ years of being a pianist she no longer practices or plays piano and hardly even listens to the classical music which was her field of expertise. I am grateful to Elena who has been kind to share at our Blog a few tidbits of her experiences - ramesam.] 


 I never looked for any moksha, liberation and yet what Ramesam describes….., it hits home every time. I first come across something extraordinary for me and then some time later an explanation comes from unexpected sources. 

Not only I have not realized at that time that I am "realized," I didn't even stop to notice all the bewildering phenomena that started leaking into my daily life seemingly out of nowhere, creating symmetrical events that were intertwined also with dreams. And also having recognition of this same thing permeating my earlier life, but without recognition. Now I see it. Knowing that I was not likely to find a satisfactory explanation for those, I never asked or mentioned it. 

I now witness the world as if my mind itself is symmetrically  shaped.  Earlier, there was a me, a dog, a cat, a president out there - all standing on their own. Now the feeling is we are all drawn in one stroke by some giant pencil that never ever was taken off paper at all. And I see symmetrical events appearing almost daily. People, fabrics, buildings, cars, jobs, actions of myself or others, photographs, plants, all intertwined, often in the funniest of ways, logic-forgotten and irrelevant. It is totally bewildering.

My life began immersed in music and piano. I was called a "prodigy," a "talent," was accepted into one of Russia's most prestigious and rigorous music schools of the time. Later I delved into philosophy as well. 

I did a lot of reading all by myself. I liked solitude, reading, playing piano. I did have friends and was highly secular and social, partly due to constantly performing.  From Kant and Schopenhauer to Goethe, Metherlink to Thomas Mann, to even Marx and Lenin - my reading was paramount. I was not satisfied. I never thought of looking into bible.  There was no bible in Russia. Later, when I could look into it, I experienced complete aversion, closed it and never went back to it. 

At some point in the 90's, I read Bhagavad-Gita and Mahabharata, because someone put these two books in my hand. I think I got rather deeply impressed; I even went to a couple of Hare Krishna's meetings, appreciated what was said there, declared to my parents that Krishna alone was God. That unsettled them terribly. God was never talked about in my family, not at all. But nothing happened, life went on, nothing developed into anything.
I immigrated to US in 1993 after the collapse of the USSR.

*** 

 I had my share of difficulties before establishing my piano studio, launching on a lucrative teaching career, performing, working in UW School of Music, recording, playing with orchestras etc. I was a busy piano teacher with a lot of students, bringing up my son from first marriage, divorce from the second husband etc. During that time, I came across UG Krishnamurti's video. I picked it up in a library thinking that it was another Jiddu Krishnamurti talk. 

Making long story short, 11 years of listening to UG's every word followed, internalizing it and holding up to it all the daily events like a cashier might hold to light a $100 bill to check if it is real. Three years on into this practice, though no one told me what I should do, I stopped teaching. I stopped most of piano activities. I let go of that piano-self, the only self I've known. Not that I would recommend this sort of thing to others. In my case after hearing to UG, piano just could not stay.

A barrage of odd jobs followed.

 One week I was without any cash after having paid rent and bills. The next paycheck was several days away. With 50c in my pocket, I went to the store to get a banana. Upon exiting the store I saw a sealed cold gallon of milk, standing right by the door on the street side. I waited. No-one came. I took the milk. Now looking back I call it Brahman's Milk! This - after being able to afford two cars, a luxury apartment in Kirkland, pleasure trips etc. I was a self-made pauper, and was aware of it. But I never once thought of going back to piano or teaching. Since that time objects started to appear in a strange way, or come into view at just the moment of corresponding thought appearing - as if there is a person there responding to me.

At 49, I had my own ‘calamity’ in the form of advanced cancer. But because I was already out of dualistic thinking patterns, I treated it as unreal. I didn't even realize I was that ill. It then felt like I was just a salt doll falling down the ocean. There was no more thinking - and yet I was still there. I thanked the cancer for showing me the depth of that ocean...It was right after that I started getting rapidly much better to everyone's shock and surprise.

About a week before I saw Ramesam’s Video “You are Brahman," I was in a strange state.

I kept asking myself: if I am here and I go over there, did I go over there? No, because when I am over there, in that "over there," I will still be “here.”  So I cannot really stay ‘here,’ go over ‘there’ and from ‘here’ say to myself - I am over ‘there.’  I can never be "over there" and look at myself from ‘here.’ So I am only and always “here.” Then how come I can also go over there at the same time? That is like I am already there, waiting for me to go there, and meeting myself that is coming there. That means that “I” am some sort of a ‘space’ that is here, there and everywhere. And these hundreds of spatial and time coincidences I have been witnessing for some time in bewilderment  fell somewhat into this "I am a space" formula. I am a place I said to myself, and was done. 

One day coming home I was stopped in my tracks with the "You are Brahman" video. As I was watching it, Ramesam was describing exactly the processes that were happening and I have been trying to get my mind around for several years. "That's IT" I said to myself. 

For you to realize how deeply unfamiliar I am with Brahman discussions outwardly - I only heard the name Brahman from Ramesam's video. I never ever heard what satsang meant until now. I only listened to UG and was deaf to everyone else until Ramesam came into view.

Tears came down spontaneously. It was like there was UG Krishnamurti in the beginning of being instructed from within, putting UG there, next to one's heart, and closing all other venues of influence. And now this video saying “You are Brahman” after an incubation of about 11 years. I didn't know of Brahman, because I never heard UG using this word in his interviews. I did never aim at being “brahman.” That’s why I say my story is certainly up the Creek with no canoe.  

*** 
I am of the view that there is no thought and no mind separate from the body. It is one whole process. And the body consists of just diamond-like eternal structure, completely symmetrical, completely objective. That's THE BODY. This structure has a way to squeeze impurities out of itself – a mechanism of nature. I don't know more. But the direct experience of the diamond structure is very clear, in hundreds of incidences, I lost count. It is funny that UG never talked about such things, and they appeared in my life without warning.

For example, the other day "I" thought of going out and getting a white paper for the printer. "I" is going to a Safeway store. On the way suddenly it sees a posh car.  The car is making lots of noise, and as "I" is looking on, the car makes an unauthorized U-turn, goes into a parking lot in front of 7/11 store that "I" is passing by at that moment. The car begins to park facing the "I" whereas all other cars are parked the opposite way.

"I" proceeds to its Safeway destination. On its way "I" thinks, "I should also get a candle wick, and Safeway won't have it, but the Rite Aid might". "I" heads in another direction, enters Rite Aid store, searches for candle wick, does not find it, takes some white printing paper and the cashier at the register says the total to be paid is $7.11. 

I that wanted something, went somewhere, changed its mind – it was like surfing through symmetrical structure of some sort . At no point in this occurrence a preplanned ‘thinking’ can be pinned on me. Was 7/11 and $7.11 just waiting out there on the street for me to come and check it out? "I" doesn't even come into it.

A more recent example is what happened when I went for a walk after attending to some e-mail correspondence with Ramesam. I found a white paper lying on the sidewalk with the word "Free". I liked the word. I picked it up, put it in my purse. After some time I am returning home, and a bus, an empty bus, suddenly stops as I happen to pass by the bus shelter. A friendly driver offers a ride, says “I am going this way anyway, and it is the end of my shift. The ride is Free.” 

I think at that moment:  "This is a new one. After a lifetime of waiting for the bus, running after the bus, collecting the right fare for the bus, being in over-crowded buses, especially in my years in Russia, as there were not too many cars back then, suddenly here is the bus, just for me, and I didn't have to wait for it, I didn't do anything. And it is Free!  It was then I remember the paper with the word "Free" in my purse.   

***

I decided to make a mala the other day,  gave it to my son. In the next few days his girlfriend is finding a new job position, her new boss's name is Mala. It goes on and on here. Drawn with one pencil-all the way through. All-pervasive.