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.

4 comments:

Musafir Rahgir said...

Dear Dr. Vemuri,

Your answers are touched with clarity, mastery, and directness. The questions are also very good.

Perhaps, the theosophical 'masters' pushed the guruship envelope too hard with JK. The beauty of your response lies in your reference to the avastha-traya prakriya (the methodology of three states), without which the illusoriness of the entity 'me' cannot be logically established. The journey of no journey, as my root Vedanta teacher once told me, is from 'me' to 'I.' It is 'as though,' iva.

You are right: Grace aka guru's guidance is available everywhere-- books in brooks, tongues in trees, and sermons in stones, as the Bard of Avon tells us.

When the student is ready, the Divinity sees to it that a guru will cross path with the student. As Ramana says somewhere, the outer guru guides the seeker to the guru within. The Divinity alone is appearing in the form of a guru and a student to own its own glory. It is wisdom seeking wisdom.

Bhagavad Gita 4.34 and Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12 points out the need to learn with a teacher who is not only well-versed in the scriptural lore but has also experienced the vastu, the tattva (the Ding an sich, thing-in-itself) in his/her first-hand experience. (Rumi says, he who tastes, knows)

The meeting of a genuine seeker and a true teacher is very very rare. Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi-Janaka, Socrates-Plato, Shams-Rumi, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, and Gurdjieff-Ouspensky--some archetypes come to mind.

Thank you for allowing us to learn from you.

In Oneness,

sd

Musafir Rahgir said...

Dear Dr. Vemuri,

Your answers are touched with clarity, mastery, and directness. The questions are also very good.

Perhaps, the theosophical 'masters' pushed the guruship envelope too hard with JK. The beauty of your response lies in your reference to the avastha-traya prakriya (the methodology of three states), without which the illusoriness of the entity 'me' cannot be logically established. The journey of no journey, as my root Vedanta teacher once told me, is from 'me' to 'I.' It is 'as though,' iva.

You are right: Grace aka guru's guidance is available everywhere-- books in brooks, tongues in trees, and sermons in stones, as the Bard of Avon tells us.

When the student is ready, the Divinity sees to it that a guru will cross path with the student. As Ramana says somewhere, the outer guru guides the seeker to the guru within. The Divinity alone is appearing in the form of a guru and a student to own its own glory. It is wisdom seeking wisdom.

Bhagavad Gita 4.34 and Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12 points out the need to learn with a teacher who is not only well-versed in the scriptural lore but has also experienced the vastu, the tattva (the Ding an sich, thing-in-itself) in his/her first-hand experience. (Rumi says, he who tastes, knows)

The meeting of a genuine seeker and a true teacher is very very rare. Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi-Janaka, Socrates-Plato, Shams-Rumi, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, and Gurdjieff-Ouspensky--some archetypes come to mind.

Thank you for allowing us to learn from you.

In Oneness,

sd

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Dear Musafir Rahgir,

Thank you for your kind Comments.
Please accept my apologies for the delay in publishing your observations.

You have summarized the core of Vedanta very well. Obviously, you are well-learned.
Our salutations to you.

warm regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Ramesam-I much prefer your phrase "Tranquility itself raises as Equanimity and appears as justice"
to the entire body of words produced by Spira in all of his multiple videos.

thank you for amazing article.

E