Thursday, May 17, 2012

Essence of Advaita -- A Question- Answer Session - Part 2/3

Essence of Advaita -- A Question- Answer Session - Part 2/3
(Excerpted from Yogavaasishta, Chapter VI: Nirvana, Book - II, Sarga 190)

[Part 1/3          Part 3/3]

Sage Vasishta:  What you say will amount to equating Knowledge and the world.  How can the world be then subjected to creation and dissolution?  After all, Pure Knowledge cannot be subjected to creation and dissolution!
Rama:  Let us be clear on one thing.  The creation was not there to start with.  It came about later on.  You say that illusion is the reason for it.  What is the reason for the illusion?
Sage Vasishta:  The question is based on an unsupported assumption on your part!  You presume that the cause-effect relationship is valid and real.  But causal relationships have no reality.  Why do they lack reality?  Because never is there a real cause or a real effect.
What is perceived (chetya), who perceives (chit) and perception (chaitanya) are different forms of your Consciousness-Self. 
Rama:  If what you propose is correct, this purely inert and mechanical gross body becomes the knower (chit).  If so, Ishvar, the source for all Knowledge will be inert.  It is like saying that the log ignites the fire and the fire is being burnt down by the wood!
Sage Vasishta:  No, that’s not what I said!  ‘The seer’ can never be ‘the seen.’  The subject can never become the object.  But the most subtle and salient point is that there is no object, ‘the seen’ at all.  The seer who is Pure Consciousness appears as though It takes the form of the triad – the knower, the known and the knowledge.
Rama:  There got to be at the very beginning of the creation someone or other who was the very first knower of the creation.  There cannot be something ‘known’ in the absence of a ‘knower.’ 
What existed prior to creation was Pure Consciousness alone.  Hence we are forced to admit that It was the first Knower of the first created things.  How was that first ‘known’ substance generated?
Sage Vasishta:  Rama!  If at all we said that there was a ‘seen’ or ‘known’ substance produced at the beginning of creation, you may legitimately question us about its origin.  But that has never been our argument.  We are consistent in our assertion that there has been no legitimate cause behind anything ‘seen’ at the beginning of creation or even later on at anytime.  Hence there is no thing ‘seen.’  Because there has been no thing seen, Consciousness is forever without bondage.  Consciousness cannot be captured in words.
 Rama:  That being so, how was the ‘thought wave’, “I”, born?  How did the knowledge, “I see the world” originate?  How does one have the feeling, “I am alive”?
Sage Vasishta:  You see, there was no cause for the creation even at the very start.  So nothing ever is really born.  The entire creation is only an illusion.  Therefore, what you see is merely an illusion.
Rama:  According to you then, what exists is the Supreme Brahman only.  It cannot be expressed in words.  It does not contain Knowledge.  It has no thing ‘known.’  It is eternal, self-effulgent and unblemished.  To whom does this illusion happen then?  Of what nature is the illusion?
Sage Vasishta:  There is no reason behind the illusion!  Hence there is no illusion at all!  ‘You, me and everything’ are all the superbly serene Supreme Brahman only!
Rama:  Revered Teacher!  I am awfully confused!  I am unable to even formulate my questions.  Obviously I am not fully enlightened.  What misgivings can I place before you?
Sage Vasishta:  Rama!  You are still going by an attempt to establish a sequence of cause-effect relationships.  There has to be a touchstone which can establish the correctness or otherwise of the sequence of causes and effects.  If we examine based on that yardstick, the causes will evaporate.  For example, a doubt is the cause for a question.  The cause for the doubt is ignorance.  If we can get rid of the ignorance, there is no scope for a doubt and the later questions.
So go on, shoot your questions.  When all the questions are resolved, you will automatically land in and be at ease as the Supreme Consciousness.
Rama:  Revered Teacher!  As per your teaching, there is no cause for creation and hence there is no creation.   I could understand that.  To whom did the imaginary division of a knower and the known occur?  How did it occur?
Sage Vasishta:  Rama, you have an intellectual understanding of the matter.  But the understanding is not fully rooted in you for lack of practice.  That is the reason a non-existing illusion has ensnared you.
Rama:  Sir, rephrasing myself then, why is there an absence of practice?  How does the practice take place?  Further the so called practice is also an illusion.  Wherefrom has it come? 
Sage Vasishta:  You asked the question under the assumption that you were ignorant and that state of ignorance was ‘real.’ 
Let us say that your assumption is correct.  But simply because you thought that you were ignorant, the Infiniteness of the Supreme Brahman will not be compromised.  Therefore, even your thoughts on practice are a form of that Supreme Consciousness.  Hence your question does not have any validity.
Rama:  The illusion of the world is eliminated for Jivanmuktas like you.  Even then you think of instructing people like us.  You use words for that purpose.  You also admit something has to be instructed and there is someone to be instructed.  How do all such things happen?
Sage Vasishta:  The whole process of instructing etc. is also Brahman.  The disciple, teacher and instruction are all Brahman.  There is neither bondage nor liberation in the eyes of an enlightened man.
Rama:  You are establishing that illusion of a world is an impossibility taking recourse to logic. Granting that, wherefrom the ignoramus in the world acquire the knowledge of differentiating space, time, action, matter etc. etc.?  How could these different things gain a reality?
Sage Vasishta:  It was because of ignorance only.  There is no other reality than ignorance before obtaining enlightenment (Jivanmukti). 
Rama:  There is no duality or Oneness in the Jivanmukti that you refer to.  In other words, the idea of someone being taught or someone teaching does not arise.  Does the instruction (teaching), taught by a teacher who lacks the ‘quality of teaching’ in him, contain any ‘value as a teaching’?  Can such an instruction lacking the ‘value as a teaching’ within it lead to Nirvana?
Sage Vasishta:  A separate individual (jiva) is the Supreme Brahman not aware of Himself.  The individual realizes that he is Brahman on the Awareness of being Brahman.  So it is Brahman, who is under ignorance.  It is He who receives the instruction in this process.  Because the instruction is being received by Him, it is a teaching.  Thus the instruction becomes one with what is taught and through that it becomes one with the Supreme Brahman.  Hence you cannot state that the instruction lacks the ‘value as a teaching’ in it.  This whole scenario is applicable only in the case of ignorant people.  In the case of enlightened people like us, as you said, an instruction cannot have the ‘value as a teaching.’
Rama:  You used the expression, “enlightened people like us.”  It does show that words like “I”, “we” have significance for them also.  Implicitly it means that they too have the “I”-thought within them.  The only difference is that one cannot say that this “I”-thought is generated in them out of ignorance because they are completely free of ignorance.  In that case we have to agree that the Knowledge in them has become the “I”-thought.  Then we have to admit that the teaching is different from the “I”-thought.  But “I”-thought and the individual (jiva) are the same. How could such a jiva enter you who are totally Consciousness-Self?
Sage Vasishta:  Wind is movement.  Movement is wind.  In the same way, in the case of Jivanmuktas, the Knowledge Itself is “I”-thought.  This “I”-thought and the “I”-thought under ignorance are different.  The “I”-thought of the ignorant people is based on the attachment to the body, senses etc. 
Rama:  So the world of a Jivanmukta is Consciousness as shown by the maxim, ‘the turbulent wave is also the placid ocean.’  It means that the person to be taught, the Guru who teaches and the teaching and other similar triads are all Consciousness. 
Sage Vasishta:  You asked me a little earlier a question about the presence of the ‘value as a teaching’ in the instruction of a Jivanmukta.  You contended that a Jivanmukta lacks within him both the sense of duality and oneness and hence you said that he would not have the sense of separation of a teacher being here and a disciple over there.  Hence you doubted whether the ‘value as a teaching’ will be present in his instruction.
From what you say now, that question loses its locus.  Do not visualize an ocean and a wave to be two separate things.  What is, is One only!  It is Infinite, Serene, Perfect and the most Supreme!  That is Pure Non-duality.  Get a hold on It.
Rama: You said that Pure Knowledge and “I”-thought were like wind and movement in the case of Jivanmuktas like you.  If Pure Non-duality is firmed up, who is it that thinks differently – sometimes as Pure Knowledge and at other times as “I”-thought?  Who is one that experiences this “I”-thought?  There has obviously to be someone to do these things.  If such thoughts of differentiation are unavoidable to Jivanmuktas, what can we speak of the ordinary folk?  Therefore, it looks that an illusion of distinction is inevitable for anyone.  It follows that the illusion of a world is also inescapable.  It would mean that we are necessarily trapped in the cycle of bondage and liberation. 
What then is the advantage of Pure Non-duality?
Sage Vasishta:  Bondage comes only if one takes what is perceived to be true.  Knowers of Truth will not do that.  From their stance, it is Pure Knowledge appearing in different forms.  Hence they are unconcerned with bondage and liberation.
Rama: A black object appears black and a white object appears white in the light of a lamp.  But the lamp itself does not become the black or white object.  Likewise, if various substances are seen because of Pure Knowledge, we have to say that those substances are really there and hence are seen.  So the reality of the objects is established by the instrument of Knowledge.  This is our common experience.  But you postulate that all things get annihilated along with their cause by Knowledge.  How do you justify it?
Sage Vasishta:  We had already demonstrated adopting different approaches that the objects of the world lacked beingness.  We said that there was no cause behind them and hence they did not have beingness.  If such non-existent things are seen, that appearance has to be like the silver in nacre.  Such an appearance will last as long as the illusion lasts.  It cannot survive beyond that.  Knowers of Truth do not suffer from the illusion.  Hence they do not see anything to be external to them. 
Rama:  Let us for the present leave the issue whether the silver in nacre or the dream world etc. are real or unreal.  Misery does come out of them.  Even the illusory world brings suffering.  What is the way to avoid the sorrow?
[Dialog to be continued in Part 3/3.]


Alberto Martin said...

I have been trying to correlate this text- Yoga Vasishta, vi,2,190, with the version I have, trans. by Swami Venkatesananda, 1993, State U. of New York, but am unable to accomplish it. Is this one a different version, or by a different translator? Both seem to me cogent and understandable but, if different, is one of them preferable to the other? Thank you.

ramesam said...


The material presented here is taken from: Yogavaasishta - Part V: Nirvana, Book II, notes/comments by K.V. Krishna Murthy with English rendering by Vemuri Ramesam to be published by Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore, India. We have faithfully stuck to the original unabridged Sanskrit text and the explanation (in Sanskrit script) as per "Sri Vaasishta Maharamayana Tatparya Prakasa of Sri Ananda Bhodendra Saraswathi Swamy, Nirmaya Sagar Press, 1937, Bombay (now Mumbai).

I would like to leave it to you re: preferences.