Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On the Role of 'bhakti' in Advaita:

On the Role of 'bhakti' in Advaita:


  [bhakti has a role even in the Knowledge Path (jnAna mArga) of Advaita. It is useful at three levels in the Knowledge path. I am giving a brief note below where bhakti is useful for a seeker.]

"Devotion" to a deity, object, mantra, ritual etc. serves the seeker: 

(i) In the initial phase in disciplining the mind and sharpening its focusing ability so that it can be made mature and fit to carry out an incisive and unbiased Self-inquiry; 
(ii) At a post-enlightenment stage to stabilize oneself to abide "as brahman" without break. bhakti helps in restricting the habituated mind to returning to its ways of reacting like a separate entity.

If the mind feels too agitated or disturbed also, bhakti can be used to calm it down and bring it back to the brahman-thought.

There will be situations where the mind has no work. Then the seeker can think of a favorite god and keep praying to him and thus keep the mind occupied.

(iii) After liberation bhakti may also be useful for a jIvanmukta.

The situation described here is, strictly speaking, not about the seeker. It is about the body that previously housed the "now liberated seeker."  The body of the seeker who successfully went through the preparatory drill (called sAdhana catuShTaya sampatti - the Fourfold Aids of Seeking), is already re-orientated in its behavior, responses and interactions (no greed, avarice, no  immoral thoughts/actions etc. etc.). It is now well-disciplined with no desires and acquired a pious code of conduct. It is filled with dispassion and detachment. But there is no more any finite individuated person who claims it as "me or mine" to perform motivated actions. Still that body has to live until it perishes in its own time. It has no goal or target to achieve in this world. 

What will it do? It will continue to carry on the same way of living that it got used to before the enlightened "owner" left it. (speaking figuratively). 'bhakti' towards a Godhead is quite handy for such a body which formerly housed the seeker who was seeking. The body spends its time in symbolical surrender to that nirguNa brahman, praising and singing hymns in Its glory in diverse saguNa forms. This is what we see in the lives of people like Shankara, Nisargadatta, Ranjit Maharaj and many other realized people, IMO. 

***
For "understanding" the actual reality, devotion (any sort of master-slave relationship) can be a detriment. Because there is a danger of the disciple becoming too dependent on and attached to his object of devotion (deity, guru, scripture, mantra etc). Moreover, 'liberation' will not come as a result of any action "done." Shankara defines devotion as " The seeking after one’s own real nature is designated as devotion. Or The inquiry into the truth of one’s own self is devotion"  in Vivekachudamani (verse 31-32).

***

In spite of the above limitations, one can use "bhakti" to train one's mind in feeling "Oneness" with all.

Some people are more emotional in nature. They like devotion and they have a tender nature, more kindness etc. They do not like to be too analytical. 
These type of people can like and love others easily. They also like to have a Godhead to believe in as a protector, guide and so on. A loving devotional approach is good for them.

Some other people are too analytical, questioning everything and they like to argue and debate on each point. They cannot like and love everyone unless they are like-minded. So this type of people feel more at home with   a logical approach.
Actually it DOES NOT matter which approach one takes. 
In both cases the MAIN POINT OF ADVAITA TO BE UNDERSTOOD is that :

"I am not just this body and mind;
I am not a distinct and separate individual who lives in a world with others also living in it.
That means to say that I am everything and everyone I perceive.
There is no world or any "other" which is not me.
In other words What-IS is all ONE." 

Some Questions & Answers:

1.  Is bhakti just as valid as the path of knowledge?
Bhakti will take you a long way, no doubt. 
In the very last stages of bhakti, one comes back to the Knowledge. But at that stage, it makes little difference whether you call it bhakti or knowledge.

2.  How do chanting, singing and other bhakti practices, including karma yoga to the deity connect to taking one's stand as Awareness?
All such activities train the mind to be calm, kind, compassionate and less and less oriented to taking the interests of one's own little 'self.'  
A person becomes more considerate, and helpful to others.
Such attitudes helps in reducing the difference of "me" from "other."
It thus helps to more quickly fell the absence of differences and feel Oneness with all.
Otherwise, it is more difficult to break the walls of separation between me, my property, my image, my family and "others."

3.  Could you please shed light on the same? 
Bhagavad-Gita and Upanishads also say that you can worship and pray to a god form.
Our mind is comfortable to deal with clear shapes and well defined objects.
It cannot imagine, for example, a thing without any dimensions. Your mind can think of very very minute size - like a subatomic particle. Or it can think of a huge galaxy of stars.
But try and think of dimensionlessness, or a thing which has no qualities.
Or another example.

Think of "Gold." Just gold but not in the form of an ornament, or nugget or lump or even with the colors of yellow etc. Can you think?

NO.
Therefore, it is much more  difficult, no, it is impossible for the mind to think of brahman.
Hence, it is good practice to think of a great God, all his good qualities, think of him as your protector and helper. Do all things in his name, as an offering to him.
The Upanishads say that that God form will help you. How?
After all, every god form is a force. Like a boson. Your mind will know by worshiping that god form (force) ways to use that force even without your conscious knowing. So the mind will get to take help of that force and act with its help. That power will then take you to its place (abode). There you will get further instructions in an easy way about reaching brahman.
All this is said in the Upanishads.

4.  The purana-s say chanting is the best form of practice in kali Yuga. Could you please comment on that?
Chanting is the easiest way to keep continuous touch with the force of your choice (God form).
It can be done at all times, places and just in your mind. No elaborate procedures, instruments, coconuts, mantras etc. etc, are necessary. You will always be in touch with the chosen force.
The force itself will take over the control about how you behave and act. It will help you in breaking the walls of separation between you and the world and feel Oneness.

You may like to see the 2-part Blog Post here:  “The Two Courses to Advaitic Truth – Part 1 and Part 2.

And Also "On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 2" (Discusses how a Devotee approaches the deity in devotion)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Four Questions by A Buddhist on Advaita

Four Questions by A Buddhist on Advaita


Advaita very clearly states that anything "known" or "perceived" or objectively "experienced" is NOT It. Rupert also makes this point in the Video  “Awareness's knowing of Itself.”

In fact, the mANDUkya mantra 7,  which is the bedrock foundation for trying to convey what brahman is, rules out any type of 'conceptualization' by the mind about brahman. ‘brahman’ is simply unthinkable. No words can express It.

We have from taittirIya – II-iv-1; "Failing to reach brahman, words, along with the mind, turn back."

kena Upanishad admits the helplessness of teaching It: I-3: "The eye does not reach there, nor speech, nor mind, nor do we know (Its nature). Therefore, we don’t know how to impart instruction (about It)."

  So it is impossible to even to take recourse to a metaphor to say what Awareness is.

With all that impossibility, still It is not totally unknown to us, though not knowable through the mediums of mind and sensory organs. It is a non-objective immediated intuitive knowing only.


B:  My background is Buddhist thought... mainly Tibetan, with a little bit of Zen. I’m inquiring despite the somewhat combative tone…

To me,  Rupert seemed to imply in the short video posted that Awareness does know itself directly.

But, he also mentions there are schools who say knowingness itself is unknowable directly, so it is known only by implication: “I am that.”

But this is a debate within Buddhism also. Is awareness self-reflexive or not? Does light “light itself up” or not?

If not, how do we know we’re aware... only by implication? If we do know self-reflexively, in what way do we know? 


R:  When Rupert says that “Awareness knowing itself,” the main point is that from the perspective of Awareness (caricaturing for the moment as though It has a perspective, just to drive home a point), there is no "other" for It to know. It is a rhetorical statement.

Suppose we ask "What does the 'saltiness' taste to itself?" what would be the possible answer of Saltiness? It never has to taste itself. It knows the taste by being itself. Likewise, Awareness knows Itself by being Itself. IOW,  Awareness and Beingness become synonyms.

That is why Rupert invariably adds that Awareness knows Itself “by being Itself.”  It does not have specifically anything “to do" to know Itself.

You mention that Rupert also says that "there are schools who say knowingness itself is unknowable directly."
Yes, Awareness is unknowable directly to a limited or finite mind (a ‘me’ or ‘you’).

Awareness is Infinite. Mind is limited.  The greater cannot be contained in the lesser.

When you say that Awareness is known only by implication: “I am that,”  are you  referring to the famous 'aham brahmasmi'? The statement that “I am brahman” is NOT made is not a conclusion by implication. That statement is made by a seeker after total doubtless realization that what s/he calls as “I” is really brahman.

Awareness can never be known by "implication."
The "knowing quality" is with Awareness alone. There is NO other entity which has that quality. In fact, that knowing quality Itself is Awareness. There are no two things - Awareness and a 'knowing quality' possessed by Awareness. Therefore, It is A-dvaita (no-two).

I would like add as follows:

The whole thrust of Advaita is to make us understand that It is Awareness only which knows. There is no we (or a 'me') which knows. That knowing element Itself is 'we' or 'I.'
If by "we" (or I ) you mean to refer to the body-mind in your question, Advaita emphatically declares that the 'knowing element" is NOT the body-mind. Therefore, Awareness (which is not 'located' or restricted to the body-mind) is aware of Itself.

It can best be understood by a little thought experiment.
Imagine a self-luminous open infinite space. Suppose there is a pot in that space. There is space within the pot as well as outside the pot. It is all the same self-luminous brilliantly shining one space all over. Can and does the pot really able to separate or break the open infinite space? The luminous space within the pot does not have to illuminate itself by self-reflectivity. It has inhered that quality of luminescence.

B:  "Does the current moment of awareness know the same moment of mind or the previous moment of mind? Does one aspect of mind know another aspect of mind?"

R:  I like to first clarify on the terminology.

Per Advaita, mind is not separate or distinct or different from Awareness.
There are several models that Advaita gives to understand 'mind.'

One general model is that those two are related like a mass of air and breeze. Breeze is nothing but air in movement. Likewise, Consciousness in movement is mind. Mind stable is Consciousness (or Awareness).
Another model is mind is like a ripple (a throb) in Awareness.
Still another helpful model is that Infinite Awareness when of Its own volition and freedom ignores Its own Infinity and 'imagines' a finiteness to Itself, we call It mind.
As mind is movement, first ‘time’ and then ‘space’ arise with the movement. Unless and until there is a movement, there is no time-space in Awareness. And hence, no world.

When Awareness looks at Itself through that little ripple(called mind), It sees Itself as the ‘world.’  So Advaita holds that 'Perception itself is Creation' (dRiShTi reva sRiShTiH). If there is no perception there is no creation, no world.

Once a challenge was posed by a theoretical Physicist to express Quantum Physics in 120 characters on the twitter. A clever guy said: "If you look, it's a particle; if you don't, it's a wave."
I paraphrased it for Advaita: "If you look, it's a world; if you don't, it's brahman."
The three periods of Time as past present and future arise only in the world. Awareness is prior to spacetime.
I often give the thermometer metaphor. A thermometer can and always will function in the present. It cannot give you the temp of a minute ago or tomorrow's temp. The thermometer has no past or history and memory. It is the mind that has a memory. Like the thermometer, the Real Perceiver, which is Awareness, is already and always in the Now. Like a room having several windows in it, several minds can be within One Awareness.

B:  For me, the "Screen analogy"   is not a good analogy. The light does affect the screen. It warms the screen as some of the light is absorbed and some of it is reflected. What is seen is not on the screen. It is the light reflected off the screen. What I mean to say is that awareness is creative and aware. It can't be creative-aware without that which is inseparable from awareness, being created, and being known.

R:  I also agree that it "is not a good analogy."
We have no attachment to it. After all, it's a metaphor.
We can always go for a better one.

A metaphor is only a "messenger" to convey an immediately incomprehensible 'idea' or a 'concept' or a 'theory' (siddhAnta) which is the real message. We will not and cannot kill the message by killing the messenger.

What would be a better analogy for the Advaitic understanding we are discussing here?

Shankara wrote a short work of 68 verses titled "Atma bodha."
Every verse contains a beautiful simile as the second line for what is taught in the first line of the verse. A lovely text. It is definitely worth the time to study it.


B:  Awareness never appears without giving rise to and knowing, so to talk about it as though it existed independently ..... strikes me as somehow subtly incorrect.
Awareness never appears without giving rise to and knowing, so to talk about it as though it existed independently - especially in a context where the dividing line between awareness and everything else has fully dissolved - strikes me as somehow .


R:  Let's take the simple case of the 'sensing ability' of a TV antenna.

We know that the antenna has the 'capability or power' to detect a program (irrespective of the type, quality, content, mood etc. of the program). We know so only from the fact that it "gives rise to and knows" a program.

Suppose we are not watching any program. Will it be then "subtly incorrect" to say that 'that quality of detecting sensitivity' of the antenna "exists independently" (independent of the program being played or not)?

[Acknowledgements: This post is carved out of a FaceBook Conversation.
The Picture of Buddha with a Swan is adopted from  here. ]

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Science of Enlightenment and Brain

The Science of Enlightenment and Brain

As we come to a close of this year, I post here two very fascinating Videos about the scientific work that is going on in some places in the USA relating to brain and the changes in it on the general topic of our interest - Enligtenment.

1.  UVA DOPS Faculty: Do We Survive Death? A Look at the EvidenceAbout 2 hr 30 min containing the Talks of five experts (+ Q & A) on:

        (i).  Mr. Jeff Olsen:  Shares his real life inspiring and moving story of Out of Body and Near Death Experience

       (ii).  Dr. Bruce Greyson:  Near Death Experiences

       (iii). Dr. J. B. Tucker:  Young Children Who Remember Past Lives

       (iv). Dr. J. K. Penberthy:  Mindfulness and Altered States of Consciousness

       (v).  Dr. E. F. Kelly:  Consciousness is more than a Brain Activity


      
2.  Finding our enlightened state by Andrew Newberg:  15 min 01 sec

     

Trust you will find them informative and enjoyable.

[Added on Jan 09, 2018: Our Readers may be interested to watch this Video of Dr. Klee Irwin. He explains the Physicist's approach to the problem of Consciousness.
Click here.]


Wishing All Our Readers

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Videos explaining Infinity, Complexity, Sentience and Consciousness

Videos explaining Infinity, Complexity, Sentience and Consciousness

I present this month links to four Videos which I felt are outstanding in their ability to communicate latest developments in Science that have a relevance to Advaita.  Three of them are by Prof. Neil Theise, MD, a diagnostic liver pathologist and adult stem cell researcher at the Beth Israel Medical Center of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the fourth by Vsauce. (The original sources for the Videos are available at the links).


1.  Non-Dual Conscious Realism (2015), 36:24 min:

"Prof. Theise proposes a generalized theory of “Non-Dual Conscious Realism” addressing the fundamental issue of consciousness. This theoretical framework posits the universing arising from an undifferentiated, non-dual field of pure conscious awareness. From within this universal consciousness emanate the complementary phenomena of Planck scale quantum vacuum and quantum foam, generating space and time, matter and energy."

2.  Complexity Theory and Panpsychism (2016), 21:34 min:

Prof. N. D. Theise and Prof. M. C. Kafatos say that "Philosophical understandings of consciousness divide into emergentist positions (when the universe is sufficiently organized and complex it gives rise to consciousness) vs. panpsychism (consciousness pervades the universe). A complexity approach shifts autopoietic theory from an emergentist to a panpsychist position and shows that sentience must be inherent in all structures of existence across all levels of scale." 

3.  Everything Only Looks Like a Thing (2017), 33: 46 min: 

"Prof. Theise presents Complexity Theory's applications to biology and explains how the self-organizing principle depends on randomness. He advances the dialogue between science and spirituality, reminding us that non-duality implies duality, and that nothing is independent or permanent."

4.  The Banach–Tarski Paradox (2015), 24:13 min:

"The Banach–Tarski paradox is a theorem which states the following: Given a solid ball in 3‑dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball. In other words, adding or subtracting anything from Infinity does not change it. It reminded me of the pUrNa madaH ... shAnti mantra from brihadAraNyaka upanishad."


[It may please be noted that some of the ideas of Prof. Theise are considered too speculative. For example, see here (2016), 18:55 min.]

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Beautiful Lady Inside and Outside!

A Beautiful Lady Inside and Outside!


Gommateshwara
Abhinaya (Abby) Vedula is my lovely daughter  who has a flair for writing. When she was a little kid we went on a trip to visit some of the famous places in Karnataka, India. She was quite excited to see the larger than life (59 feet) 10th century image of Gommateshwar carved out of a single rock at Shravanabelegola. She wrote a fascinating account about the statue. However, at the end, she said that one thing she couldn't appreciate - Why Gommateshwar was left embarrassingly naked!

 Now Abby is a mature adult taking care of not only her own family but also me and her mother with love and affection. She recorded her feelings at her own Blog on the expiry of my wife.  Making an exception, I present a link to her Post here on our Blog.


Please Click hereA beautiful lady inside and outside!  

Vijay Pargaonkar has been kind to send a pleasant and soothing flute recital by him - please click to listen -- ramesam



(Credits for the Pic of Gommateshwara:  By Rvsssuman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21275331)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Jhana Meditation and Vedanta by Stan Kublicki

Jhana Meditation and Vedanta 
by Stan Kublicki


[Stan has been a seeker ever since he could remember. He grew up mainly in Christian tradition. He had many epiphanies as a teenager. He was drawn to the psychedelics during his adolescence and strongly believed that he could find God.  He began to practise what he would now call as “samadhis.” Later he studied Zen and became a Zen monk. Subsequently, he got involved with the tides of worldly life, marriage, business, and so on. When the business and the money were good, he shut shop and left for the Polish mountains.  He and his wife nursed his mother-in-law 24/7 during her terminal illness. That was then his spiritual yearning again blossomed when he reviewed his life and spiritual experiences.  It was as though the God responded. He had an extended period of intense inquiry that resolved his doubts and fears. It was an epiphany that felt that the `weight of the world` lifted instantly. He describes the state of joy he was in at that time in unassuming simple words:  “Nothing spectacular; just like a car struggling up a steep hill and getting to level ground at the top. I realized I was not the doer!”  After the death of his mother-in-law, they moved to England. He came across Ramji’s (James Swartz) writings and the tongue in cheek enlightenment test that James included.   The test showed that Stan was already a sage! LOL .  He got hooked to James’s teachings and writings. Deeply impressed by the Vedanta, he felt that his knowledge was still a little too subjective to understand the panorama of Non-duality in full. He eventually reached a level of contentment and peace presently to declare that he is “rich in all respects now. A loving wife, a beautiful home in a beautiful area. Not much money but plenty of time to appreciate this wonderful life.” He lives now in the UK.

I am obliged to Stan for his ready consent to share the story of his experiences in his investigation of Reality. These are excerpted from his conversations on FaceBook at his favorite site here - ramesam]


Jhana Meditation and Vedanta 
by Stan Kublicki

Question:  There are apparently 8 stages of jhana and I am wondering if you can elucidate the experience with them?

Stan Kublicki: I went through all the stages long ago and also a 'step beyond' so to speak. I practiced those stages just prior to my study of Vedanta thought by then I realized I was not the doer. However, my knowledge of Vedanta was partial and all the doubts I had were not removed.


Stan’s Home in Poland
 I started to re-experience the old jhana samadhis in the early stages of reading James` book on "How To Attain Enlightenment."  I was getting spontaneous samadhis during my contemplation in those days.

Oddly enough, despite being a samadhi junkie for a long time, they made me laugh during the Vedantic Self-inquiry and I couldn`t practice them anymore. They just got in the way!

I even hit the `highest` level and although it was very pleasant but that highest high was not `high` any more. No special distinction. I just packed it in after that and never sat again. No point to it anymore.

I`d like to mention that most of my meditation over the years has been the `Just sitting with no deliberate thought` of Soto Zen and I view Jhana meditation as different as there is a very definite object of meditation, especially to start off with.

I at one time, long ago now, noticed that if I looked at the reflection of my face and concentrated on being very still...looking at my eyes but keeping the rest of the image visible and still, I eventually started to `lose myself` in the image and experienced a somewhat elated feeling. It felt as if I could go a lot deeper and that there was another dimension drawing me in deeper.

I had naively believed during my teens that that I could find God directly. I went to two boarding schools run by monks and was greatly shocked that they actually couldn`t contact God directly and their knowledge was all talk. I figured that the main reason must have been that they didn`t believe they could experience God directly and consequently never tried to do so. I reckoned, come what may, I will give it my all. The idea of failure was not a possibility for me. I decided that by strong one pointed concentration, I could `break on through` and experience God.

My meditation developed into sitting with my eyes open and looking at any object that was in front of me keeping absolutely still. I practiced this indoors and outdoors with great determination and found that as I progressed, whatever was in front of me started to `disappear` but I couldn`t get past that point for a long time.


As you asked me to summarize the stages, I will give one memorable example for me, of how I experienced them (I don`t really regard them as stages), and where they eventually led me. I can see why people use the word `stages` as the flow of concentration feels like overcoming repeated obstacles and this becomes familiar...i.e., getting beyond the senses being one of them. I never thought to count these `stages` as I didn`t see the point and the whole process felt linear at heart.

On one occasion, I was outdoors sitting high up in a rocky gorge and looking out towards the other side. I picked out a colorful tree, a particular branch and then a leaf that I could see clearly.

I sat perfectly still as usual and concentrated hard on never letting my sight leave it.

Eventually, as always, the surroundings started to disappear and only the leaf and the rhythm of my breathing remained.

After a further while, the surroundings started to sway and bend ...a bit like being on LSD but I knew that if I hung on and kept my body and eye focus even more still whilst concentrating on the leaf, the swaying and moving would stop, and it did. I now had a perfectly still image of the leaf 'glowing' in the middle of its surroundings and it was now 2-dimensional and not the 3-d image we normally have. This caused an uplifting and 'rising' feeling.

I let the uplifting feeling lead me on. It felt perfectly natural. As I did so, the leaf lost its prominence and the whole image seemed to be made of crystal. It was sharp clear and bright and a feeling of euphoria ensued.

I felt drawn to go further but couldn`t. At this point I felt as if my whole body was as heavy as the universe, as if I was feeling it`s weight for the first time. After a while, this passed and I `moved on` again.

The next `stage` was that I felt as if I had moved right into the image as if through a very fine subtle curtain. Almost imperceptible and all sense of an outside world disappeared. This was accompanied with a feeling of rapture and wanting to go deeper.

After some time, everything was replaced by a feeling of being in infinite space. If you can imagine sitting in a skyscraper on a chair, and all of a sudden the chair and the whole building just disappears from under you. This stage always for me seems quite thrilling... I can see why some people like bungee diving!

The next `stage` was of everything dissolving into clear light with even more uplifting rapture.

When this had settled for a time, a far stronger light started to take over. It seemed as strong as looking right into a welding torch. So powerful that I wondered if it would be painful. It turned out to be pain free and a feeling of ecstasy followed.

After this comes an experience of neither light nor no light. Just vast empty stillness and experiential bliss. Even the bliss eventually is not evident anymore and it seems like there is nowhere further to go....usually.

On this example I’m referring to, the feeling of being drawn deeper didn`t stop but there was an impasse. It always feels possible to ‘return’ but, this isn`t the end of the road.

It seemed like I was drawn to the edge of a precipice of unknown depth where I would have to risk all by diving into it.

I hesitated out of fear but decided to see if I could have a little `look over the side`. What I saw made me gasp in amazement and wonder. I saw what seemed like the universe as the top of a colossal fountain, constantly renewing and surpassing itself in ecstatic beauty. There was nothing objectifiable there but everything was in a state of infinite possibility. I dived in!

As I 'fell,' it felt as though I was falling past dim floors or levels where I could get off at any time but a silent voice kept saying...`not this, not this` until I arrived at the bottom with the gentleness of a feather landing on a cloud. I do apologize for the language but that`s how it felt. LoL .....

As I looked around, it seemed as if I had landed on the bottom of a brightly lit ocean. I could see the light coming from above me with wisps of wave-like subtle light trails appearing and disappearing. Everything was perfect (almost) stillness and peace. It then felt as if I gathered myself to back up to a position as if against a wall, to gaze further into where it was that I found myself.

I recall thinking ...so, this is it. Having travelled the universe I had gone full circle just to get home again! Finally!

But then, the thought occurred... wait a minute, Home? What is home? And as I looked again, it felt as if the whole universe crashed down and collapsed and only I was left. That was the mother of all `double takes` on reality I ever had and it took me 30 years , having found Vedanta to fully understand what that `double-take` or knowledge is. It being that I am whole and complete, unborn, non-experiencing, self-luminous awareness. I can finally put words to it as I know what it means.

I didn`t have the words at the time, for what had happened and needed the words from Vedanta to remove my remaining ignorance as I didn`t understand the full implications of the knowledge that had occurred to me. If I could have only met a Vedanta teacher then!

I scampered down the `stages`, couldn`t quite get out of the Light stage right away and wondered whether I was alive or not ...I couldn`t tell anymore. I was curious though and I emerged into a bright new beautiful world. It was still here! I knew that all joy is in me...objects are only a trigger for it and that there is no `outside` world and life was wonderful.

I needed to repeat the experience 30 years later in slow motion with nothing left out. When I found James, he told me that there was only one or two things I needed to know and life was already blissful. Little doubts can remove a lot of bliss though!

When I bought James’s book, I had to give up my blissful life and it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done but, the reward, if you could call it that, is far beyond any worldly value. It is the gift of eternal life and my gratitude can never be repaid to James and Vedanta.

I know that if I had stuck with the higher stages of Jhana meditation, I could have been stuck there for life or just given up and lived a half a life from then on. It is pretty hard work after all!

If I hadn`t stumbled forward to what I now know was a savikalpa samadhi, the mind of inquiry would probably not have taken hold in me and I would have chased experiential enlightenment for who knows how long?

Funnily enough, I can still `enter` those jhana stages if I try. I think I mentioned that I had a stint of meditation a while back and hardly noticed the higher stages as standing out from the rest of the experiences. I am the meditation. There is nothing to meditate on any more. Unless you call inquiry into Self-knowledge to be meditation.

Sorry to drag this out but I thought some context might have been helpful in seeing the limitations of Jhana meditation. Anyway, it takes a lot of effort to keep up and I’m too lazy for that indulgence nowadays.

A View from Stan’s old Home



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Satsang hijinks" terminology from Greg Goode

As Non-duality (Advaita) is becoming more and more popular in the West, many Gurus are having a field day. In order to either catch more clientele or to make things simpler for the disciples, several new definitions and  compromises in the teaching of the Non-dual message got introduced. New fads also have become common to prove oneself to be more Non-dual than the next fellow-disciple. Greg Goode who is not unknown to our readers, happened to compile some of those novel and hilarious hijinks. Here are a few of those terms (adopted from Sarlo's Guru Rating Service):

LUCKNOW DISEASE - Linguistic malady befalling seekers at Papaji's.  Characterized by never using the word "I" - to encourage one's self and also show others that there is no one at home here.  Instead, they would say stuff like "This form is going to the rest room."

ADVAITA SHUFFLE - Conversational gambit.  What Andrew Cohen accused Gangaji of doing when she didn't want to talk about ethics and enlightenment.  Jumping to the absolute level at odd times.  Like when the receptionist asks why you were late for your doctor's appointment.  "There's no one here to go anywhere or be late for anything."

LANDING - Losing one's enlightenment.  What Gangaji accused Andrew Cohen of having done.   Term used by those who think of enlightenment as a kind of thing that can be lost.  Something like claiming enlightenment and then getting peevish and petty over who pays the tip at the diner.

NONDUAL POLICE - Those who badger others to use nondual terminology.  Whenever they hear someone saying something like "I'm going out for coffee," they barge in:  "WHO is going out for coffee??"  Nondual police want everyone to always be in constant Ramana-self-inquiry-mode.

THE EYE THING - Keeping eye contact with the other person as long as possible.  Whoever drops their gaze first is not as established in the Beloved.  Some blinking is OK, but not too much.  The deeper into the Self you are, the longer you can hold it.  Used by many satsang teachers.  One of my friends can out-stare anyone.  He kinds of drops into a Candida-mind-fog, and hours can go by.

***

Here's one of the more obvious "beyond-shtick" shticks I've heard of -- a guru telling their followers to read THE GURU PAPERS.  This story was told to me by a person who has known this particular guru for about 20 years.  My contact knew this person a long time before the latter launched into guru-dom.  Right now the guru has sort of a beyond-it-all, angelic, evanescent appearance, with lightly draping silk and cotton "consciousness clothing" in cloudy pastel colors.  Before gurudom, there were other forays into the spiritual world, including psychology and psychotherapy, attempts to find investors to set up a new-age educational system (which never got off the ground), then therapy leadership and Buddhist meditation.  When first launching out into the world of giving satsang, this teacher would talk about shtick and the bad things that could become of it.  As if initiating the students into the secrets of "beyond," and as if showing there was no such nonsense going on *here*, they would recommend the students to read THE GURU PAPERS...

***

Another thing to look for is the self-serving relationship between the criteria-giver and the criteria.  The person in the chair at the front of the room -- check to see if their recommendations serve to direct you right back to them! One teacher I won't name does this in satsang:

Question from seeker: "What should I look for in a teacher?"

Answer:  "The most important thing to look for is ... "

...  ...  ...  (a minute or 2 go by)...

 "a silent mind ... "

Yeah, right!!!!!

***

A recent "find" we like to add to the above listing is a new terminology introduced into Advaita in order to make things easy for Western disciples (as claimed by one such disciple). It is "The Non-dual Infinite Realization of my finite little 'self.' Oh, yes, it actually has been christened with a Sanskrit combined with English name. It is called Self-Realization with pratibandhakas - as though one can attain a conditioned salvation! 



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.