Friday, March 20, 2015

Question on dhyAna and Thoughtless State

Q:  Is dhyAna a meditation technique? 

R:   dhyAna is not a 'technique' of meditation
       dhyAna means meditation.   

Q:  dhAraNA is concentration, with techniques,  which naturally leads to dhyAna (true meditation or merging)

When you say that "true meditation" is merging, what is to merge with what?

The word "merging" implies the presence of two things. Are there two things at all?  -- advaita teaching tells us that "What IS" is all One only. Two separate 'things' are not there.

From this advaita understanding we can deduce that the sense of a separate I,  a separate "me" being present, is an imagination. It does not really exist. This imagined separation has to merge with "What IS." In other words, the imagination has to end. Hence it is ending the sense of separation, not a question of merger.

Ending the sense of separation, thus, does not mean investing any effort to change "What IS".  Meditation  does not require any effort to exclude something using the practice of concentration as a technique. (The practice of concentration implies preferring the presence of one thing to the exclusion of all other things).  

Therefore, ending the sense of separation cannot come through concentration.  

Hence dhyAna or meditation is merely "dropping" the false notion of a separate "me", separate from "What All IS."

If "What IS" is a fluctuation, I do not have to change/suppress/ modify the fluctuation. In fact, it cannot be done! For, there is nothing else other than the fluctuation at that moment. That's "What IS."

If What IS is deep sleep, "It" is deep sleep.  If "What IS" is awake world, "It" is the awake world.

Q:  Does it not mean that we are all indeed successful yogis every night when we sleep! 

Yes, but, remember, there is no "we" in deep sleep. 

As advaita says, "I am eternally "unchanging" and ever the same."  

Then how can I be something 'different' any other time? 

As advaita says:  "It is only a false imagination to think that you are different or a separate person when you are awake."  

So I am also the undivided  totality of the entire wakeful world - the oneness of all the perceptions, sensations, and 'thoughts.'
(Thoughts are not excluded you see!). 

The position is just like in the deep sleep. I am the entire "Whatever IS", in the deep sleep.
I am the entire What IS in the awake state.

Q:  My question to you is have you ever had an extended period without thought? If so what was your experience?

In the light of the above explanation, it is easy to find the answer to the two questions.

Unless I consciously "separate" myself in order to place a "me" at a distance from "What All IS," why would I have to wrestle with thoughts in the awake world? As we said above the "What IS All" includes the thoughts also.

I have not tried any "gimmicks" towards that end of perceiving a world and feeling sensations but stilling the thoughts exclusively - i.e. experience the perceptions of the world, sensations of the body but be thoughtless. 

I try, instead, to be conscious of a separate "me" arising.
That is to say, I keep a watch if the thought "I am separate" or its kind arises.

If a thought of  a separate "me" arises,  the best thing (or perhaps the only thing) to be done is to just 'notice' it.

Having any 'agenda' with it to change or suppress the 'thought' will go only  to strengthen it! That would be counterproductive.

Hope I am able to respond to your query.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Does a reflection control the reflecting medium?

Q:  Is Ishwara  the reflected conscious?
mAyA is said to be the reflecting medium of original Consciousness - brahman. It is also said that Ishwara controls or has full control over mAyA.
How can the reflection (Ishwara) have control over the reflecting medium - mAyA? For example, if i see myself in a mirror how my reflection (image) can control the reflecting medium - the mirror?

Ramesam:  As you may be well aware, the main thrust of the “teaching method” adopted within the Advaita philosophical system is to point out one’s mis-directed worldview and reorientate his/her view towards the one Reality which is Absolute, Immutable and Attributeless. 
Ordinary folk on the street believe that there is a ‘me’ confined and contracted within ‘my body-mind’ and a ‘world’ exists 'out there' external to a ‘me’ which is 'here.' Similarly, they believe in the reality of the body because of the sensations and the existence of a mind because of the thoughts and images. The falsity of this belief structure about the body and the mind and the illusory nature of the objective world (including all percepts) have to be convincingly conveyed to the spiritual aspirant.
Several approaches are adopted by a teacher towards that end depending on the mental makeup and attitude of the inquirer. None, absolutely no one of these methodologies adopted by a teacher have unqualified validity or unquestionable sanctity. All these devices have to be ultimately discarded once the final understanding is attained.
For one who starts with a belief in the perceived creation, the model of Ishwara, mAyA and reflected Consciousness is given as a first approximation. In this model, it is visualized that the attributeless unchanging brahman (= original Consciousness) appears as the illusory ‘self’ which is comparable to a virtual image (reflection) seen in a mirror. The name given to the very first virtual image appearing is Ishwara who is pure satva with a very very little amount of other guNa-s. Ishwara is said to be the cause for the subsequent multiplicity (i.e. the created world). When once you begin to believe in this model of creation, you will naturally get two doubts. By what powers does Ishwara create the world and how does the world get controlled and managed?
Just like the saying -- if you lie once, you are bound to lie  a hundred times to protect yourself – goes, you have to fabricate further fiction to answer the above two doubts.
So the teacher talks of an inexplicable power of Ishwara to explain his ability to create. This power is named ‘mAyA.’ By giving just a name, it does not mean that there is something real and tangible called mAyA on which you can put your finger on. It has to be taken merely as an explanatory artifact.
Because the created world is illusory (like the virtual image in the mirror) and because it has emanated as an effect of ‘mAyA’, the reflected image (world) is also sometimes referred to as mAyA. So the word ‘mAyA’ connotes both the ‘power’ of the Creator, Isswara and the ‘world’ which is the result of His creation.
Now what is it that corresponds to a mirror, the reflecting medium, in this whole game?
The honest answer is “none.”
Why so?
In this entire analogy, nobody is talking of an actual reflection taking place. The comparison is only to the “virtual” nature of a reflected image in a mirror. You see big mountains and houses and trees in the mirror. Are there really mountains and houses and trees in or behind the reflecting surface of the mirror?  If they are not there, how come they appear as if they are there behind the mirror, the reflecting medium?
The metaphor used tries to convey the “unreality” of the world by comparing it to the “unreal” quality of a reflected image. So do not worry about where is the mirror placed, what sort of mirror it is and what is controlling the mirror. Focus only on the “unreality” aspect of the image.
Therefore, your question on how Ishwara, who is a reflection, controls the medium (mirror) does not arise. [At this stage, we may not enter into a highly involved debate about theories of pratibimba vAda, abhAsa vAda, avacheda vAda etc. developed by the followers of Shankara.]
Incidentally, mAyA is not the reflecting medium. You can imagine it to be something like an ‘operator’ in a mathematical equation. Suppose you say,
x + y = z                                                                                         --1.
Correspondingly, you can write the equation,
brahman mAyA thought = Ishwara                                          --2.
Ishwara mAyA thought = world                                                --3.

What has happened to “ + ”  when you move to the right side in the equation (1)?
Which member is controlling the plus sign?
The role and significance of ‘mAyA  in equations (2 and 3) is like “+” in the equation (1).
In Vedanta, all similes used are said to be “ekadesIya” – i.e. they are specific to a point being illustrated. You will lose the meaning and purpose if you stretch it or extend beyond that specific point under illustration.

Hence, the moral of the story is: do not mix the similes or extend them beyond the point being discussed at that level.


From a humble start in Feb 2009, the Blog completed six great years. I express my heart-felt thanks to the Readers for their support and encouragement, to the Teachers for their valuable contributions to the Blog, and to all our Members for their useful discussions and Comments.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Meditation - The Paradox of Practice by Kentaro Toyama

Meditation - The Paradox of Practice
by Kentaro Toyama
[Dr. Kentaro Toyama is a Computer Scientist and presently the W. K. Kellogg Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. He is  a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformation at MIT, and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. He has some experience with Zen practice mostly in the Rinzai tradition. 
Kentaro delivered a TEDx talk in Tokyo in May 2010. He maintains a Blog and Web site where his Contact details are available.  I am grateful to Kentaro for this very enlightening contribution to our Blog and I am sure all our Members will find  it quite interesting -- ramesam] 

Meditation - The Paradox of Practice
by Kentaro Toyama

When Hongren, the Fifth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism was looking for a successor, it’s said that he held a poetry contest to see which monk had the best understanding of Zen. Initially, only the senior monk Shenxiu dared to submit a poem:
               The body is a Bodhi tree;
               The mind is like a mirror
               Always strive to polish it –  
               Let no dust alight.
Most of the other monks ooh-ed and aah-ed over this concise statement of the Zen exhortation to meditation. But when the illiterate, low-level monk Huineng heard the poem, he offered a different understanding:
            The Bodhi has no tree;
            The mirror has no stand.
            In essence, there are no things.
           Where can the dust alight?
The Fifth Patriarch Hongren recognized Huineng’s superior understanding of Zen and passed his robe and bowl to Huineng, thereby making him the Sixth Patriarch.
Kentaro Toyama
At least, that’s how the story goes. It is one of the best-loved stories in Zen Buddhism despite its dubious historical authenticity. The tale is told and retold in Zen books and by Zen teachers. For me, though, the anecdote captures one of the most vexing contradictions of Zen – an issue which I also see frequently in discussions of Advaita and non-duality. The question is this: Does meditation help lead to Awakening?
On the one hand, Huineng’s response seems to say that meditation is a second-class activity that has little to do with Awakening. On the other hand, Zen practice is dominated by meditation. The word “Zen” itself (via Chinese “Chan”) is a transliteration of “dhyana” which is typically translated into English as “meditation.” So again, Should you meditate in order to Awaken?
Seasoned thinkers about non-duality – and I use the word “thinkers” very deliberately – often pile on with a range of well-worn answers to this question: We are already Awake, so it is pointless to try to do anything special such as meditation to achieve it. There is no person who Awakens, and there is no person who meditates. And, many people who have tasted Awakening seem to recant their previous practice. The brilliant Zen master, Rinzai, for example, said, “When you look for it you go further from it, when you seek it you turn away from it all the more.”
At first blush, these comments seem to say that there’s no point in taking action toward Awakening. They seem to suggest that meditation itself is a waste of time. But there are plenty of other pointless activities, so why are meditation and its variations given special status in most mystic traditions? Obviously, there’s something unique about it.  Zen almost revels in this paradox – maybe the point of meditation is that it’s pointless.
I’m a strong believer, however, that most of the supposed logical contradictions of Zen are readily explained by relative explanations. I – the relative “I” – am by no means Awakened, nor have I ever experienced the universe as One or All or Zero. Yet, what I understand through my rational mind is sufficient to explain in purely relative terms why meditation increases the likelihood of Awakening, and how best to interpret the seemingly paradoxical advice not to strive for Awakening. I’ll use two analogies.
The first is an analogy of Awakening with the ability to play a difficult piece of music or to master a challenging sport. Both activities require years of practice to achieve mastery and facility, and notably, practice is different from theory. I could study music theory, commit musical scores to memory, and read every book there is on piano technique, but none of that would get me closer to being able to play a Beethoven Sonata. Nothing short of years of practice will get me there. The same is true for boxing. No amount of intellectual knowledge of the sport can ever replace the need to practice jabs and hooks over and over and over. Sure, by reading books about boxing, I can learn descriptions of proper form and tactics against an opponent, but that kind of factual knowledge is different from the knowledge that comes with years of practice.
And the same is true of Awakening. It’s possible to have an intellectual, fact-based knowledge of it that can be read in books or blogs and recited by mouth. My rational mind can understand that “I” am simply present experience or consciousness; that the sense of a person with a timeline and a physical body is itself just another experience projected by this brain; and that for any given instance of experience, only that experience exists. But none of that is Awakening – the intellectual knowledge isn’t the same as the special configuration of neurons and synapses in which the brain stops discriminating and stops projecting the separate sense of “I.” The former type of knowledge is factual and can be learned through books or conversation, but the latter type of knowledge requires a re-jiggering of brain matter that comes best through practice. (Or occasionally, luck – once in a rare while, a monkey at the keyboard will hammer out a Bach Minuet; and once in a while, a person has an Awakening experience without explicit practice.) Increased practice makes one more likely to achieve the relevant state of mind. That elusive thing called grace comes more often to people who have practiced. As Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
So far, so good, but there’s at least one way in which the meditation-as-skill analogy falls short. Whereas musicianship and athletic ability are acquired skills, Awakening seems to be the unacquiring of a skill. In an absolute sense, we are all already and always Awakened, but our relative brains have learned a habit of constantly generating discriminating thoughts that distract us from Original Experience. In other words, the brain needs to unlearn a habit that it has spent a lifetime acquiring. It’s like trying to relax a permanent muscle spasm.
That brings me to the second analogy: I suspect that the unlearning needed for Awakening is some generalized version of unlearning how to read. Those of us who can read fluently cannot easily suspend the reflexive association we make when we see a written word. Immediately, a concept and a   pronunciation come to mind. It’s all but impossible to see text in our own language as the meaningless collection of lines and curves that it actually is. (Try it with these words (Panel - A)! Thoughts and subvocalized sounds come to you unbidden before you have a chance to suspend them .) Yet, we know that as children, it took us great effort to learn to read; and, we can still recapture a sense for the original mystery when we see foreign scripts (Panel - B). 
The question of how to come to Awakening, then, is similar to the question of how to learn to not read. Some kind of practice is required, even if it is to unlearn something that we once had to practice to learn. It might even be, actually, that a very similar practice works both for Awakening as for unreading, involving an attempt to suspend discriminatory thought. (In fact, I would be curious if people who have had Awakening experiences found in those moments that text went back to being mere scribbles. And if it didn’t, doesn’t that mean discriminatory thinking was still happening?) 
So where does that leave us with Huineng? Both with playing the piano and with Awakening, over-thinking and over-stressing can be an impediment to the goal… but only at advanced levels of practice. In music, after one has put in the requisite practice, the overly self-conscious thought, “I must play well” can interfere with a performance. Similarly after one has put in the requisite hours of meditation, the overly self-conscious thought of trying to achieve Awakening is probably an obstacle. In both cases, though, any advice against practice or conscious thinking applies only after sufficient practice has been undertaken. If one has never practiced the piano, not thinking about playing well won’t make one a virtuoso.
To be fair to old masters, it’s worth remembering that they didn’t expect their teachings to be widely disseminated. In Zen, training methodology was often kept a secret because teachers tailored their teaching to each student. A story that might help one student might not be appropriate for another. What I understand of the various prescriptions “not to try” is that they were directed at advanced students who were already at a reasonably accomplished level of meditative practice. For them, it must have helped to be told to stop trying so hard, just as a coach might tell a boxer not to overthink it in the ring. But for someone like me, I would have to do a lot more meditation before I’m ready for the advice to “stop trying so hard.” Putting the lesson in its full context: If you haven’t yet practiced a lot, practice hard; but if you’re hitting a wall after lots of practice, maybe you should relax a bit; stop trying so hard; try not to force it; let it come.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Direct Path - Dr. Greg Goode Interviewed by Jerry Katz

The Direct Path - Dr. Greg Goode Interviewed by Jerry Katz
[Dr. Greg Goode is a well known teacher, author and Non-dualist, highly respected in both the Eastern and Western Non-duality circles. Jerry Katz interviewed Greg recently. Their very informative and educative discussion comes in two parts.

Maybe a slight slip or I may not have heard Greg correctly. At about a few secs after 27 min in Part -1, Greg says that the Chinmaya Mission follows Qualified Non-dualism (Visishta Advaita). Qualified Non-dualism is the theory of Ramanujacharya, a 12th Century philosopher. Both the Chinmaya and Ramakrishna Missions profess to follow Shankara's Advaita only, though, strictly speaking, they cut a few corners compared to the Monasteries established by Shankara himself - like for example the one at Sringeri in India.

I suggest that the Part-2 of the Interview may be heard first. The guided inquiry in this Part in order to locate the presumed 'self' is quite illuminating and very instructive. Greg also compares the Emptiness teachings with Advaita during his discussions -- ramesam.]

Jerry Katz in conversation with Dr. Greg Goode:
Date of Interview:  23 Nov 2014. Broadcast on Radio in Dec 2014.

Part - 2  -- 58:23 min

Part -1   -- 52:27 min

Wishing All Our Readers
Seasons Greetings and
Best Wishes For a Happy And Prosperous
New Year

Friday, November 21, 2014

Knowledge of Self vs. knowledge on Self

Knowledge of Self vs. knowledge on Self

Recently at one of the Advaita online discussion fora, one of the participants made the following observation:

"By philosophy I mean a formal academic body of knowledge – complete with its theories, literature, methodologies, technical terminology etc.  Any debate on Advaita Vedanta would then necessarily have to be restricted to this domain .. because in a debate every one must talk about the same subject matter.

If it is said that the stand taken by mere “theoretician” Advaitins is not probable, it implies perhaps that a personal ‘direct’ experience is more powerful and meaningful than mere theories. That may be so. But then, that cannot be the subject of a debate because only ideas and concepts can be debated. Ideas and concepts formulated into a coherent theory and through that theory subjected to critical inquiry can only survive the test of time. This is the case with Advaita Vedanta also."


The view expressed by the discussant reflects the way we are educated about gaining knowledge on a subject like Physics, Engineering, Medicine or skills like carpentry or car driving etc. etc.

The well defined layout spelt out by him about what should constitute the platform and ground rules suit excellently in the acquisition of and discussions on “knowledge” that pertains to mundane worldly subjects.

But Advaita is a philosophy that tells us about "the ineffable, unthinkable and inexpressible Self".
['Self' being the word used as a pointer to that which is indicated by mantra 7 of mANDUkya.]

If one is desirous to obtain “knowledge of Self” in an academic sense in a pedantic atmosphere using pedagogic tools, there’s no need to look any further than the approach suggested by the discussant.

If, however, one is desirous to obtain “Self-Knowledge,” the design prescribed by him is eminently unsuited and is also improper.

Why?  Because there is a difference between 'knowledge' (lower case 'k') and "Knowledge (upper case "K")." The difference is explicit in the Upanishads – “Knowledge” is that “knowing which all is known.”

We should remember that ‘knowledge’ is accumulative, makes one an ‘expert’ and it is always based on memory and hence belongs to the past and therefore, considered ‘dead.’ OTOH, “Knowledge” is ever fresh, alive and cannot be stored in memory.

Acquisition of ‘knowledge of Self’ may make one an ‘Expert on Truth'; but it does not make him/her a “Knower of Truth.”  (For an explanation of these terms, please read: here )

Honouring the desire of a sincere seeker who goes in search of “Self-Knowledge,” the objectives and direction of goal of any discussion groups on Advaita have to be as broad and as “inclusive” as possible.


What does constitute a discussion on “Knowledge” and how does it differ from a discussion on ‘knowledge’?

“Discussion” amongst seekers on “Knowledge” is more in the spirit of ‘nididhyAsana’ (contemplative meditation after learning the Non-dual message and reflecting on what is learnt) in order “to grok” the subject but not to prove or disprove anything. The human mind, however intellectual and intelligent it may be, cannot prove anything which is beyond itself.

Hence discussions by committed seekers are only done with the purpose of surmounting one’s own impediments (pratibhandaka-s — shAstra vAsana (what is taught) is one of the most difficult pratibhandaka-s to get rid of. I have a post  on this topic here) in the process of ingesting the ultimate Truth. This is in stark contrast to a discussion on ‘knowledge’ because this sort of discussion is aimed at proving one’s statement and disproving another’s and such an exercise often unfortunately morphs into an ‘egofest.’

A genuine question may arise then that if word meanings are not standardized, any debate may be totally incomprehensible to the participants at large. The answer to this lies in the fact that one should carefully assess the meaning of a ‘word’ as used by a teacher instead of trying to declare his expression to be wrong. Further, knowledgeable Vedanta Pundits say that our scriptures hardly tied themselves into knots giving significance to sabdArtha (the word meaning); they went for bhAvardha (the salience of the content) in a spirit of true learning. Hence it will help matters if a discussant defines upfront his/her usage of terms to avoid confusion. After all, the meaning of any word depends on what meaning 'you' give to it.

The seeker's interest is in converting the knowledge on Self gained by him to Self-Knowledge.

Admittedly, knowledge of "Self" has to be obtained first before the 'tipping point' occurs when finally even the Knowledge along with itself burns away all knowledge acquired, like fire (true Knowledge) also ends after burning away a faggot of wood (the bundle of accumulated knowledge).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Enhancing Our Senses

Enhancing Our Senses 

Melinda Wenner Moyer writes:

Our world is determined by the limits of our five senses. We can't hear pitches that are too high or low, nor can we see ultraviolet or infrared light—even though these phenomena are not fundamentally different from the sounds and sights that our ears and eyes can detect. But what if it were possible to widen our sensory boundaries beyond the physical limitations of our anatomy? In a study published recently in Nature Communications, scientists used brain implants to teach rats to “see” infrared light, which they usually find invisible. The implications are tremendous: if the brain is so flexible it can learn to process novel sensory signals, people could one day feel touch through prosthetic limbs, see heat via infrared light or even develop a sixth sense for magnetic north.
Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke University, and his colleagues trained six rats to poke their nose inside a port when the LED light above it lit up. Then the researchers surgically attached infrared cameras to the rats' head and wired the cameras to electrodes they implanted into the rats' primary somatosensory cortex, a brain region responsible for sensory processing. When the camera detected infrared light, it stimulated the animals' whisker neurons. The stimulation became stronger the closer the rats got to the infrared light or the more they turned their head toward it, just as brain activation responds to light seen by the eyes. Then the scientists let the animals loose in their chambers, this time using infrared light instead of LEDs to signal the ports the rats should visit.
At first, none of the rats used the infrared signals. But after about 26 days of practice, all six had learned how to use the once invisible light to find the right ports. Even after months of doing so, the rodents were able to respond to whisker neuron stimulation in addition to the infrared light, which suggests that sensory neurons can, when necessary, respond to multiple types of cues. This approach could help scientists create “sensory channels” for prosthetics users that provide constant sensory feedback to and from artificial limbs, facilitating control. The findings also suggest that the human brain can handle an expanded sensory repertoire—that we might one day be able to see, hear, touch and smell what we now cannot.

Sourced from:  Click

Your Thoughts Can Release Abilities beyond Normal Limits: 

Ozgun Atasoy writes:  (13 Aug 2013)
There seems to be a simple way to instantly increase a person’s level of general knowledge. Psychologists Ulrich Weger and Stephen Loughnan recently asked two groups of people to answer questions. People in one group were told that before each question, the answer would be briefly flashed on their screens — too quickly to consciously perceive, but slow enough for their unconscious to take it in. The other group was told that the flashes simply signaled the next question. In fact, for both groups, a random string of letters, not the answers, was flashed. But, remarkably, the people who thought the answers were flashed did better on the test. Expecting to know the answers made people more likely to get the answers right.  

Our cognitive and physical abilities are in general limited, but our conceptions of the nature and extent of those limits may need revising. In many cases, thinking that we are limited is itself a limiting factor. There is accumulating evidence that suggests that our thoughts are often capable of extending our cognitive and physical limits.

As this line of research advances, we will likely discover new ways of taking control of our mindsets. Weger and Loughnan, the researchers who improved people’s knowledge test results with a bogus prime, wrote, “People have significant psychological resources to improve their well-being and performance, but these resources often go unused and could be better harnessed.” The mind and body are not separate; our thoughts have remarkable control over our bodies; and our mindsets are capable of improving our brains’ performance.
-- Ozgun Atasoy

Sourced from:  Click

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sexual Instincts and Spiritual Pursuit - A Question

Sexual Instincts and Spiritual Pursuit - A Question 

[Sitara Mittag, herself an accomplished Non-dualist, is a Coach and Consultant in personal and spiritual matters. She is also an Astrologer publishing a monthly column of forecasts. After following Osho’s teachings for a couple of decades, she pursued initially the Western style of Non-duality and soon moved on to the traditional Advaita Vedanta. She had spent many years in India and loves the Indian culture. Sitara teaches Advaita to several students mainly on a one-to-one basis. In addition to maintaining her own Web Site, she also blogs regularly at Advaita Vision, UK. She lives in Germany and can be reached by e-mail
I am grateful to Sitara for readily consenting to provide her mature advice and guidance on a sensitive question that puzzles everyone’s mind but rarely gets asked – ramesam]

Question:  Sexual instincts are natural to the gross physical body. How does one balance these physiological desires with the aspirations of pursuing the spiritual goal of knowing the Absolute Advaita Truth while living the life of a householder in the modern day world?

Sitara Mittag: 

The key to this question is in identification or attachment.

Sitara Mittag
All senses can be experienced with or without attachment. Remember the chariot analogy of Katha Upanishad. What counts, is the buddhi (Intellect), as the driver of the chariot (body). The Upanishad compares the body to a chariot, the senses to the horses, and manas (mind) to the reigns). If the buddhi is sharp and clear and knows the goal, all will follow her. That does not mean that the chariot or the horses or the reigns should be dropped. No need for that.

As much as you may enjoy a delicious meal, a beautiful piece of music or your children’s laughter, equally you may enjoy sexuality with your spouse. It is a natural and a beautiful way to express love and intimate closeness. Just take care that your sexual activity is not egocentric and is not disconnected from the heart. Share the enjoyment in making the experience enjoyable for both. This is the dharmic way: treat the other the way you would like yourself to be treated.

By practicing sexuality like this, it becomes a spiritual discipline. In the end it is like meditating together. Lust is not anymore in focus but for a sense of ‘offering’ and surrender to the flow of love where ‘me’ as doer is absent.

Such sexuality will not come in the way of spirituality.

I have discussed these matters in my interviews with Non-Duality Magazine and can be found here and here.

A Question on 'Sexual Desire and Happiness' was also answered by me and my co-bloggers here.
                                                                                         --  Sitara

Friday, August 22, 2014

The three states (avasthA traya) according to Shri Ramakrishna

The three states (avasthA traya) according to Shri Ramakrishna
by Guy Werlings

[Shri Guy (pronounced in French as 'gi' in give) Werlings was born into a religious Roman Catholic family.  At the tender age of ten, he lost his father in an accident and that shook his faith in an embodied saviour God. Being deeply spiritual yet analytically inclined as he was, Guy was soon drawn to the teachings of “jnAna yoga” by Swami Vivekananda. As a teen ager, he was initially under the tutelage of Rakhal, the disciple of Swami Siddheswarananda and a monk at the local Ramakrishna Mission near Gretz. He then moved on to study many Advaita texts including the advanced works like the Mandukya Upanishad and karika of Gaudapada, Drig Drisya viveka of Shankara, several books by Shri V. S. Iyer, Swami Ishwarananda and others. Guy acquired some knowledge of Sanskrit and dedicated over 50 years of his life in the pursuit of avasthA traya vicAra. He translated many Advaita writings from English to French for local dissemination. Post retirement, he lives with his wife Rachèle in Corribert, a small village in Champagne district, about 125 km east of Paris.

I am obliged to Shri Guy for his short contribution to our Blog and look forward to his active interaction in the future – ramesam.]

The three states (avasthA traya) according to Shri Ramakrishna
by Guy Werlings

Guy Werlings
Sometime in 1990, after having pursued Advaita for 30 years, I wondered if Shri Ramakrishna had ever talked on the three states of consciousness (avasthA traya). When I decided to check on this, I was pleasantly surprised to note that Shri Ramakrishna did in fact discuss this subject, though his exposition of the avasthAtraya approach was not in the style and manner of Gaudapada or Shankara.  I found reference to the three states in the index of the book called “Gospel of Ramakrishna,” – a compilation of the notes taken by his lay disciple Mahendranath Gupta, known as “M.” The book was originally written in Bengali but later got translated into English by Swami Nikhilananda. I translated the relevant excerpts into French.

I am presenting here a few instances, though not exhaustive, to show how Shri Ramakrishna used avasthA traya in his talks with his disciples. I have provided full citation and reference to the extracts to facilitate further study. At a few places, I could not refrain from interspersing, within brackets, short remarks of my own.

All the quotes are from “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,” New York, 1952, Second Edition.
1.  Chapter 21 — A day at Dakshineswar,  Saturday, April 5, 1884 [Page: 417]
According to Vedānta the waking state, too, is unreal.
Once a wood-cutter lay dreaming when someone woke him up. Greatly annoyed, he said:  “Why have you destroyed my sleep? I was dreaming that I was a king and the father of seven children. The Princes were becoming well versed in letters and in military arts. I was sure on my throne and ruled over my subjects.
“Why have you demolished my world of joy? Fool!,” said the wood-cutter.  
‘But that was a mere dream’ said the other man. ‘You do not understand my becoming a king in the dream was just as real as is my being a woodcutter. If being a wood-cutter is real, then being a king in dream is real also’”.
2. Sunday, October 26, 1884, Page: 651
(To Mahimacharan) “In the light of Vedantic reasoning the world is illusory, unreal as a dream. The Supreme Soul is the Witness – the witness of the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep. These things are in your line of thought. The waking state is only as real as the dream. Let me tell you a story that agrees with your attitude.
[Here I note that the alleged illiterate non-advaitin seems to have at least heard something about the matter — Then he proceeds with one of these vivid illustrations, sometimes inopportunely termed as parables which were very typical of him, (it is true he was only a Bengali priest of peasant origin – and definitely not a pundit)].
Shri Ramakrishna, Dec 1881
There was a farmer who lived in the countryside. He was a real jnani. He earned his living by farming. He was married, and after many years a son was born to him, whom he named Haru. The parents loved the boy dearly. This was natural, since he was the one precious gem in the family.
On account of his religious nature the farmer was loved by the villagers. One day he was working in the field when a neighbour came and told him that Haru had [652] had an attack of cholera. The farmer at once returned home and arranged for treatment for the boy. But Haru died. The other members of the family were grief-stricken, but the farmer acted as if nothing had happened. He consoled his family and told them that grieving was futile. Then he went back to his field. On returning home he found his wife weeping even more bitterly. She said to him : How heartless you are ! You haven't shed one tear for the child”. The farmer replied quietly: “Shall I tell you why I haven't wept? “I had a very vivid dream last night. I dreamt I had become a king; I was the father of eight sons and was very happy with them. Then I woke up. Now I am greatly perplexed. Should I weep for those eight sons or for this one Haru?”
The farmer was a jnāni; therefore he realized that the waking state is as unreal as the dream state. There is only one eternal Substance, and that is the Atman.
[Not that bad for a non-advaitin tantric bhakta!]       
But for my part I accept everything: Turīya and also the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep. I accept all three states. I accept all – Brahman and also māyā, the universe, and its living beings. If I accepted less I should not get the full weight”(all laugh).
3.  Chapter 33 Sunday, October 26,1884, [Page: 653]
Mahima: “’A’, ‘u’ and ‘m’ mean creation, preservation and destruction”.
A Scene from Corribert
Master: “But I give the illustration of the sound of a gong: ‘tom’, t–o–m. It is the merging of the Lila in the Nitya: the gross, the subtle and the causal merge in the Great Cause; waking, dream and deep sleep merge in Turiya. The striking of the gong is like the falling of a heavy weight into a big ocean. Waves begin to rise: the Relative rises from the Absolute; the causal, subtle and gross bodies appear out of the Great Cause; from Turiya emerge the states of deep sleep, dream and waking. These waves arising from the Great Ocean merge again in the Great Ocean. From the Absolute to the Relative and from the Relative to the Absolute. Therefore I give the illustration of the gong's sound, ‘tom’. I have clearly perceived all these things. It has been revealed to me that there exists an Ocean of Consciousness without limit. From It come all things of the relative plane and in It they merge again. Millions of Brahmandas rise in that Chidakasha and merge in It again. All this has been revealed to me; I don't know much about what your books say”
[For Shri Ramakrishna the matter was not a question of punditry but of experience, anubhava, or as Shankara would have perhaps termed it aparoksha anubhUti.]
4.  Wednesday, February 25, 1885, [Page: 699]
Shri Ramakrishna was at the house of Girish Ghosh in Bosepara Lane, Calcutta. It was about three o'clock when M. arrived and prostrated himself before him. The Master was going to see a play at the Star Theatre. He was talking with the devotees about the Knowledge of Brahman.
Master:  “Man experiences three states of consciousness: waking, dream, and deep sleep. Those who follow the path of knowledge explain away the three states. According to them, Brahman is beyond the three states. It is also beyond the gross, the subtle and the causal bodies, and beyond the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. All these are māyā, like a reflection in a mirror. The reflection is by no means the real substance. Brahman alone is the Substance and all else is illusory”.
The knowers of Brahman say, further, that it is the identification of the soul with the body that creates the notion of duality.[700] In that state of identification the reflection appears real. When this identification disappears, a man realizes ‘I am He; I am Brahman’”.
[Rest of the conversation not dealing with the three states.]

A Scene from Corribert

Friday, July 18, 2014

What is the purpose of life?

What is the purpose of life?
[We often wonder what all this life is about. The survival of all the religions depends on how elaborate and complex is their answer to this simple question of 'purpose of life.' The answer given by the religions demands unquestioning 'faith' and total acquiescence. Discerning people however remain skeptical about these unfalsifiable explanations. How does Advaita respond to the question on the purpose of life? I am reproducing here an answer given by me abut a year ago at the Advaita Vision Web site -- ramesam.]
Q: What is the purpose of life?  
If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda and we are actually this ‘Self’ already, why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’?
 How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur. This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists?
 The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.
 To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true  and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.
 And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?
 Q: What is the purpose of life? 
A:  The question betrays the fact that you are assuming that there has to be a purpose behind everything and life (which, perhaps, you presume to be something very lofty) should have an exalted purpose. Why is it so? 
Can’t  things “just be” purposelessly? 
Sometimes you might have caught yourself whistling or humming. Did you ask yourself for what purpose was it? Certain things just happen as a celebration. Purpose is a later attribute, a second-guess most of the time, or an attempt at explaining away things.
 Q:  If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda and we are actually this ‘Self’ already,
A:  This statement of Advaita is valid if and only if you have “Realized” it by yourself. It is not a dictate to be taken as a dogma or a command to be accepted.
Q:  …. why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’? 
A:  If one has really understood Advaita, a statement like, “these are illusions” IS itself illusory.  To say, “this is ignorance” IS ignorance. There is NO scope for any other thing like illusion or ignorance – what ALL is Brahman and Brahman alone!
 Q:  How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.
A:  Yes, there is no convincing answer. “Lila” is an explanatory artifact for someone who is interested to appease his/her mind with such fictitious artifacts.   That is NOT the ultimate teaching of Advaita.
Q:  This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists? 
A:  There is no need to aggrandize or demonize “Self.”  Let us keep it simple. 
Whatever you are conscious of has to simply “be”, that is to say, it has to be present and existing.  Even if someone says, “there is nothing”, nothing has to ‘exist.’ If nothing exists, how can he say “there IS nothing”?
Or, say, you fantasize in your mind something which is not physically present in front of you. That means there is a ‘thought’ and you are conscious of your ‘thought’ mentally. Do not worry about what that thought is concerned with (i.e. the content of the thought). The thought itself is existing and present and what you are conscious of is that thought only.
Thus existence or beingness IS fundamental to everything and can never be denied.
So “Existence” or “Beingness” is the one common denominator for all things. And that’s all what Advaita speaks about  – there is “Existence” and It is the only One thing that exists and eternally present.
Or look at this way. Can you say that ‘I do not exist’? Even to say that, someone who says so has to exist!
Therefore, there is no requirement of a faith in some other person’s word or belief in some handed down wisdom to say that you exist and that you are conscious of your existence.
And examine a little more closely to see if there is an additional ‘you’ other than existence and the knowing of your presence.  You will not find any other entity than just your beingness and knowing that you are.
And that’s all what Advaita teaches. You exist (sat) and you know (chit) that you exist and ‘you’ are not different from that Beingness and Consciousness.
 Q:  The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”. 
A:  Your contention is wrong about the role of ‘faith’ in advaita.
We have proved the Advaitic teaching with reason in the answer given above.
Let us see what role ‘faith’ plays in Advaita.
Any transaction that takes place between two individuals requires mutual faith in one another until at least the transaction is completed.  For example, when you go to pick up a can of soup from a store, you have faith that what is described on the can is truly present inside it. As you pick up the can and walk, the shop-keeper has faith in you that you will make a payment.  After that, it is up to you to “experientially realize” that the claim made on the label of the can (about what the soup is made from and its taste) is true or not.  Neither the can nor the shop-keeper can a priori make you feel the taste without your own effort and experience.  Right?
Similarly, Advaita wants you to have faith in what it says and the teacher only till the transaction of the teaching is completed.   If you have posed the question here on this forum, it shows that you have come with some faith on the web site. Will you raise your questions here if you have no faith at all in this transaction of Questions and Answers?
Now is it unreasonable to require this sort of faith to complete the transaction?  Can you bundle this faith with the sort of ‘faith’ demanded as a pre-condition by the religious philosophies asking you to blindly believe in their savior who is projected to be the only one you can depend on?
Actually Advaita makes you independent. It asks you to examine it by your own analysis and understanding by a thorough reflection on what it says and deeply contemplating over it.
 Q:  To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’. 
A:  You will  not be faulted if you say, after a thorough study, “It is bunkum.”  Why?
Advaita is all inclusive. It does not exclude anything.
How can anything be outside Advaita when all that IS is One and nothing else exists?  Therefore, a statement ‘that it is bunkum’ also falls within the domain of Advaita!
If you did read and understand fully Revered Gaudapada, the Acharya himself said, “there is no bondage, no liberation, no seeker nor any salvation; this is the final Truth.”
 Q:  And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?
A:  Who says that duality exists? Only “you” say it if you think you are a separate self.  Advaita teaches that it is ALL one thing only (including you).
The world you see is your own creation, like the dream world you create when you go to sleep.  And is your dream different from who you are? Whom can you blame for what you dream?

Added on 18 Jul 2014 @ 7:15 PM: 
Peter Dziuban commented as follows through an e-mail:
"Life, Divine Perfection (which is the only Life), is already perfect, and It is ALL, Total, Complete--so It can't have a purpose."  If there were a purpose, a goal, that would imply incompleteness and not Totality, Wholeness.  All wouldn't be complete, or ALL.