Friday, January 24, 2014

Contemplative Meditation (nididhyAsana)

Contemplative Meditation (nididhyAsana
by Vijay Pargaonkar

[Vijay Pargaonkar moved to the USA as a teenager over four decades ago. Nevertheless, he did not give up his deep interest in the ancient Indian philosophical thought. He practiced TM and followed the teachings of Ramana and Nisargadatta for a few years. He then shifted to Advaita by taking up a systematic study of dasbodh of Swami Ramdas, pancadasi of Swami Vidyaranya and the Upanishads.

Vijay Pargaonkar is an electrical engineer by profession and lives in Wisconsin, USA. I am grateful to him for his write up on nididhyAsana for publication at our Blog. He can be reached at pargaonkar2003@yahoo.com -- ramesam.]


Contemplative Meditation (nididhyAsana
by Vijay Pargaonkar 

 [nididhyAsana is the contemplative meditation stage in the traditional advaita teaching. It is the third and final phase after shravaNa (learning the Non-dual message) and manana (reflecting on the message until
all the doubts are resolved). nididhyAsana is an umbrella term. It stands for all such methods that are helpful in ingesting the teaching of Oneness of the Seer – seen and in having an unbroken thought on brahman, thus facilitating the abidance as brahman.]

I used to believe: I am a karta (doer/ agent for action), bhokta (experiencer), pramAta (knower) and the jagat (the external world) is real.  After practicing sAdhana – chatushThaya and intense shravaNa and manana and guidance from a few knowledgeable people, I have realized the following:  

 ü jagat is a series of vRitti-s (thought-waves) arising and fading as mind one frame at a time. Each frame seemingly has an object(s) and a subject “i.”  While the objects keep on changing, the subject “i” apparently remains the same assuming different roles as karta, bhokta, pramAta etc.

ü The objects are mere names and forms just for the sake of ID-ing and their substratum is the sat brahman. Also the subject “i” confined to my body-mind does not truly exist. The Witness (sAkshi) of both “i” and the objects is the Real “I”, which is the one Consciousness in all.

ü What I have been taking to be ‘me’ thus far has been in fact a mis-identification of myself with the limited body-mind.  In truth, I am the witnessing Consciousness (sAkshI caitanya) and the substratum for the jagat (Including the ‘me’). So the real ‘me’ (aham) and brahman are the same – aham brahma asmi.

ü Now that aham brahmAsmi realization is ingrained in me, I do not have a sense of a separate “i” or “me”. I understand that there is no separate “me” as an entity anywhere. That means that there is no ‘ego’ existing as an independent entity. So "I" never thinks in terms of “I am ‘this’ or ‘that’.”  However, "I" in its infinite freedom may take the form of "i" as a modulation of Itself.

ü Now that I know there is brahman and brahman only and no-thing else, there is really speaking no ‘separate’ jIva sitting there seeking to get freedom or liberation (mukti). All the jIva-s that appear to be there are already brahman! So there is no question of the jIva-s waiting for the mAyAsabalita brahma (i.e. brahman associated with mAyA) to dissolve at the end of pralaya (dissolution of the world). mAyA sabalita brahma, Ishwara and so on are mere stories postulated by people who in the first place needed an Ishwara as the Creator of the world because of their belief in creation.

ü Now I am free from the wrong notion that I am a doer and an enjoyer. With this my sorrows and happiness(es) have come to an end because there is no more an entity which classifies things / events in terms of polar pairs of opposites and judges them as acceptables and rejectables with reference to the likes and dislikes of an imaginary ‘ego.’

Having realized the above, there are occasional instances when the belief “I am karta/bhokta” and the “world is real” temporarily pop up.  This is when nididhyAsana is needed.

I use a three step prakriya (exercise) to get back on track of unbroken contemplation on brahman (akhanDAkAra vRitti):

1.    I, as a separate self, am not karta/bhokta/pramAta.

2.    "I" am no “thing” but merely a witness of all things.

3.   "I" (I) am not different from what is witnessed. Or I am everything that IS.

This three step prakriya removes the temporary feeling of “me” as a separate being and frees me from the notion that I am a doer and enjoyer.

The most important caveat here is: The above three-step 'aide-memoir' should not stay merely as statements at a verbal level.

It often so happens that an intellectual understanding of advaita message takes place, but the feelings of separation continue at the level of bodily sensations and perceptions. To get rid of them at the body level is the HARDEST part. This is the reason why many practitioners say that they read all the Upanishad-s; they understood the advaita teaching yet complain that they are unable to "realize" One brahman. Or incessantly linger with hope for “Grace” to work a miracle sometime in future forgetting that the “Grace” is right now right here with them.

So a seeker has to be vigilant about the sense of separation rising up or hiding in different nooks and corners of the body. When such 'sensations and perceptions' of separation arise, one should just observe them indifferently, unconcernedly. One should not have any agenda with them - either to control or suppress or modify. Mere observation eventually orphans them. But any agenda to do something with them to get rid of etc. will only strengthen them and will go to perpetuate those feelings.

I also use the following as meditation to stabilize in aham BrahmAsmi:

I am conscious. I do not need any proof for this.
I do not have to specially "do" anything to understand that I am conscious.

I have to exist to be able to know that I am conscious. I do not require any proof for this also.

The “I”, the “knowing” and the “existing” are NOT three different things. It is the one and same "me" only.

If this 'me' thinks that its knowing capacity is limited and is confined to the body-mind and all things exist outside 'me', it leads to suffering. When it understands that knowingness and beingness are one and the same without the difference of inside and outside, that is itself bliss. This means the 'sufferer' ends.  Though 'suffering' per se may not end, the claim of ‘ownership’ for suffering dissolves.

Further, the following meditational prakriya helps to calm down the ego (ahamkAra) attenuating the strong ripples or vRitti-s  of a separate self in mind.  (In this meditation, the separate sense of ‘ego’ is viewed as a reflection (a virtual image) of brahman, the True “I”):

ü  The very first AbhAsa (thought-wave, a ripple) arising in brahman is Ishwara. Prior to this Ishwara thought-wave at t(0), its All One homogeneous, undimensional “whatever-That-Is”.
Unless this Ishwara-perturbation happens, there is no reflection even.

"I" am causal to this wave which is not different from Me. This is My phase as Ishwara.

ü  At the Ishwara level, the cidAbhAsa (reflected image) is no problem. It appears as if (iva) brahman is looking at His reflection in still waters.

ü  Subsequent ripples generate hiraNyagarbha (prajApati, the Creator brahma). 

"I" am causal to this wave which is not different from Me. This is My phase as hiraNyagarbha.
       
 Multiplicity is engendered with a sense of 'me - not me' distinction - the genesis of ego (ahamkAra) takes place.

ü  Coeval with the ego comes the 'jagat', i.e. more fragmented "objects" with independent IDs (with individuated names and forms).

ü  Along with ahamkAra and jagat come likes and dislikes and rAga-dveSha dualities. These qualities congeal chidAbhAsa and propel it to take action (karma) being judgmental in terms of “acceptables” and “rejectables” for self-perpetuation. This is the beginning of the cycle of life and death (samsAra).

"I" am causal to this wave which is not different from Me. This is My phase as virAT.

ü  Now brahman à Ishwara à hiranyagarbha à virAT à ahamkAra are all thus "phases" of brahman only happening within brahman. The 'ego' (ahamkara) phase/modulation of brahman has to dis-cover the extra layers of ripples to know that it is itself brahman.

ü  yoga aims at stilling the ripples and see the simulacrum of brahman in the stilled waters (nirvikalpa samAdhi).

ü  The process of Realization that the Totality of ‘Whatever-that-IS’ (without fragmentation and labels) is, Itself, brahman even with all the levels of the ripples being in place is jnAna mArga (The Path of Knowledge).


Acknowledgments: This write up is a summary of my extensive discussions with Dr. Vemuri Ramesam who steered me through several subtle and a few fundamental misunderstandings regarding various concepts, terminologies and definitions used in Advaita Vedanta.  I am thankful to him for his patience and kindness. I also thank the reviewers of the draft version of this article for their suggestions.


10 comments:

Vijay said...

A questioner personally sent me this query – there are members on the forum who know a lot more about nirvikalpa Samadhi than I do. I would appreciate responses!

“I thank Ramesam for publishing nidhdhyAsana.I am also hoping to learn finer aspects of advaita from the illustrious members of the forum.
I will appreciate if the members could shed some light on nirvikalpa samadhi in terms of advaita meditation: in nirvikalpa state "idam vrittis" have calmed down - the water is still. Is only "aham" vritti present? Is this a triputi-less state? How is this different from sushupti?
I will appreciate if one could lay out the entire nirvikalpa state in terms of advaita.
Thanks”
Seeker

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Thank you Seeker for the Comment.

nirvikalpa samAdhi is no different from sushupti as explained in Gaudapada kArika (with Shankara's commentary). The vRitti-s are undoubtedly attenuated in samAdhi. But liberation as understood in advaita is the complete collapse of the sense of separate self irrespective of and in spite of the vRitti-s. So the question is what happens when the seeker is out of nirvikalpa samAdhi. Please see the Post of 18 Aug 2011 on "Deep Sleep Knowingly" at this Blog.

Angie said...

excellent post. like many, i, too, am at the stage of intellectual understanding, but not yet truly living/experiencing Oneness. when i have a toothache and am moaning and groaning away and no one else feels my (physical) pain, it is hard to see how it's all one consciousness:)

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Dear Angie,

Thanks for the Comment.

The dilemma you express regarding others not 'feeling' your pain though you understand that Consciousness is all One arises because there is a slight misunderstanding. Let me give you two metaphors to illustrate the Advaita teaching. You can yourself see then where the misunderstanding lies.

i) You know that you are 'One' conscious person. But what you consciously experience with your ears like a melodious song on the radio is not experienced by your eye. Why is it so, if you are One and the same conscious person?

ii) Suppose you are sitting in a room with windows in different directions. You are the same one conscious person, but the view you experience from (say) the northern window is different from the view you see from the southern window. Why is it that the N-window does not experience the same view as the S-window if you are the same one consciousness viewing?

The answer is obvious. What is experienced will depend on the apparatus you use for the experience and the limitations of that particular apparatus. It has nothing to do with the basic capacity of 'experiencing.' Trust you will agree.

Now, where exactly you place your consciousness - in the ear or eye or the northern or the southern window? In other words, how do you identify yourself to be -- are you the eye or the ear or the N-window or the S-window?

You, as Consciousness, are not the eye or ear or any of the windows. You, as Consciousness, are not even affected by any of the experiences.

The ear has its experiential content and the eye has its experience. They need not be the same.

Likewise, Consciousness is One. Different body-minds have different experiences. The True You, Consciousness, does not identify Itself with any one specific body-mind like you do not identify yourself with only the ear or the N-window.

Therefore, the problem lies in mis-identification of "I" with the limited apparatus through which an experience is experienced.

Hope it is clear now.

regards,

P.S. Nice to hear from you after a long time. How have you been keeping?

Sham - e - Ghazal said...

Dear Angie
The real master has already answered your question! But let me offer my little change.
a. How do I get rid of this excruciating pain
b. How come no one else experiences my pain.

a. I recently had an eye surgery to fix the macular hole in my eye. They insert four probes with tiny video cameras thru the cornea to work on the retina. They offered me two options for the anesthesia: put me down or put me in a twilight zone - I preferred the latter one. I was doing fine till the nurse whispered "oh my god!!". This triggered an excruciating pain in my eyes till the anesthesia kicked in. At this stage, the pain was still there but I was not feeling it. SUFFERING WAS THERE BUT NO SUFFERER!
If you could do this without anasthesia then you got it. Ramesam knows someone who actually did it.

b.As far as someone else experiencing my pain - there was nobody, no Vijay, no Surgeon, no nurse, no probes - JUST ME the Awareness/Beingness.

Vijay

Sham - e - Ghazal said...

Dear Angie ( I made a little correction - pls ignore my first post)
The real master has already answered your question! But let me offer my little change.
a. How do I get rid of this excruciating pain
b. How come no one else experiences my pain.

a. I recently had an eye surgery to fix the macular hole in my eye. They insert four probes with tiny video cameras thru the cornea to work on the retina. They offered me two options for the anesthesia: put me down or put me in a twilight zone - I preferred the latter one. I was doing fine till the nurse whispered "oh my god!!". This triggered an excruciating pain in my eyes till the anesthesia kicked in. At this stage, the pain was still there but there was no i to feel it. SUFFERING WAS THERE BUT NO SUFFERER!
If you could do this without anasthesia then you got it. Ramesam knows someone who actually did it.

b.As far as someone else experiencing my pain - there was nobody, no Vijay, no Surgeon, no nurse, no probes - JUST ME the Awareness/Beingness.

Vijay

Angie said...

Thank you all for your response.

@ramesam: The two metaphors do help to clarify. However, in both metaphors, there is a ultimately one common entity that collates and knows all the different experiences.

case 1: my eyes see, my ears hear, and these are all experienced by the common entity "i".

case 2: "i" who is in the middle of the room and looking out the windows collates the views from each window and ends up with a "complete" picture.

Does a body-mind who has realised Oneness see a "complete" picture that is collated from the 7 billion body-mind apparatus? If so, what is that?

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Very good, Angie. You did capture the main thrust of both the analogies.
So I hope that the answer to your original question as to 'why the pain in your tooth is not felt by your, say, neighbor, though Consciousness is One in all’ is clear.
In the analogy, the body-mind called Angie is one window that sees tooth pain and the body-mind called the neighbor is another window which sees maybe a marriage ceremony, though the Consciousness that illuminates (throws light on or in other words gives the 'sensing capability' to both the body-minds from the central position) is One. Each window sees and experiences its limited view and it has no way of knowing what is seen or experienced by the other window.

The present question of yours is emerging because of a slight confusion. What you have done is that you have placed the "experiencer" or "collator" of the scene viewed at the center. So what you have in the scheme of things is:

i) The view out there.
ii) The apparatus that provides a limited scene (the body).
iii) The Experiencer/Collator at the Center.

Who or what is this Experiencer or Collator giving a meaning, a label and and an ID to the view? It is none other than the "mind." But mind is a limited thing and is intimately linked to the body.

In the analogy I have given, the mind is part of the apparatus having the 'function' of giving a meaning to the object viewed. Mind is as much an inert thing as the body is and it does not have the ‘sentient capacity’ (i.e. ability to provide illumination). So I placed both the body and mind together in the position of the apparatus (window). What is at the center then?

The illuminating Consciousness is at the center. Just like the Sun himself does not see or experience anything but gives light for all eyes to be able to see, Consciousness provides the illumination to all the minds – yes, the seven billion of them!

Because of space limitations, I explained only briefly here. For more details, I suggest you may like to read the Series of my articles on The Enigma of Deep Sleep at Advaita Academy.

regards,

Angie said...

My understanding was that the experiencer/collator of each body-mind was the consciousness illuminating that particular body-mind. Hence if there is only one Consciousness, it should be able to collate the experiences of all the 7 billion body-minds that it illuminates. I must be missing something here... Let me read and reflect on your articles and get back to you.

PS: I am fine, hope all is well on your end too.

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Dear Angie,

The articles on Deep sleep may not have touched the specific point you have raised now. Maybe I did discuss it at the Advaita Simplified Series. Let me check up. In the meanwhile, I shall leave you with another metaphor that may relate to the issue of concern here.

Think of the Universal One Consciousness (brahman) as the self-effulgent Sun. Next think of innumerable puddles of water on the ground showing the reflection of the Sun. Now say there is a breeze producing ripples in the puddles. Each reflection of the Sun in each puddle moves and oscillates as per the geometry and location of that specific puddle. But the Sun in the sky does not get affected; nor would he move as per the rippling (i.e. experience the ripple). Do you agree thus far?

Consciousness is like the TV antenna, unaffected by the quality, language, content, color of the program. But the antenna is the one which has that 'sensitivity' to detect a program. That quality of 'sensitivity' has no describable characteristics like weight, size, shape, color etc. It is just the detector/sensor. It is one and the same antenna for all the programs. Likewise, Consciousness is attributeless and One only. Each body-mind shows a different program depending on its own condition.

Did we not discuss some of these issues in our earlier exchange of mails? Would you like to continue the discussion by e-mail rather than here?

regards,