Now therefore the description of Brahman: not this, not this

From Shankara’s commentary on Gaudapada’s Karika (from Sw Nikhilananda’s translation):

II.32: “Though Atman is by nature pure and non-dual, yet It is not aware of Its true nature on account of such obstacles as the notions [Venkat: thoughts?] of happiness, unhappiness, corporeality, etc superimposed by ignorance. The purpose of scripture is to remove these illusory notions; thus it serves a negative purpose. This is accomplished when scriptures describe Atman as neti, neti. Thus dissociating from Atman such adjectives as happy or unhappy, which would make It an object, scripture indirectly helps to establish It as the eternal subject. The negation of attributes reveals the real nature of Atman”

II.36: “As non-duality, on account of its being the negation of all evils, is bliss and fearlessness, therefore knowing it to be such, direct your mind to the realisation of the on-dual Atman”

Note here that Gaudapa and Shankara, both differentiate between knowledge of what Atman is (which has been defined as negation of all notions, rather than any positive knowledge) and its realisation.

Then there is Shankara’s commentary on Brhadaranyaka Upanishad II.iv.12 (from Sw Madhavananda’s translation):

“That separate existence of yours, which has sprung up from the delusion engendered by contact with the limiting adjuncts of the body and organs, enters its cause, the great Reality, the Supreme Self, which stands for the ocean . . .  When that separate existence has entered and merged in its cause, in other words, when the differences created by ignorance are gone, the universe becomes one without a second.”

“These elements, transformed into the body, organs and sense-objects, from which the self comes out as an individual . . . are merged like rivers in the ocean, by the realisation of Brahman through the instruction of the scriptures and the teacher, and are destroyed. And when they are destroyed like the foams and bubbles of water, this individualised existence too is destroyed with them . . . After attaining (this oneness) the self, freed from the body and organs, has no more particular consciousness . . . How can the knower of Brahman, who is established in his nature as Pure Intelligence, possibly have any such particular consciousness? Even when a man is in the body, particular consciousness is sometimes impossible (e.g. as in deep sleep); so how can it ever exist in a man who has been absolutely freed from the body and organs? So said Yajnavalkya – propounded this philosophy of the highest truth to his wife, Maitreyi”

Note in the latter part of this quote the absence of ‘particular consciousness” being described in similar terms to the absence of objects/perceptions/thoughts in deep sleep.

Would welcome thoughts from traditional vedantins on your interpretation of this vis a vis the previous discussion on jnana being simply knowledge that is gained by a mind, rather than dissolution of all knowledge.

Is enlightenment an event in the mind?

This is an interesting question which was initiated through the blogging of Ramesam and Martin on the need for both analyses and synthesis to arrive at knowledge and the conversation between Dennis and Anonymous. It might be interesting to explore this further?

The ‘traditional’ school of Advaita seem to argue that jnana is based upon knowledge that can be gained from scriptures and a competent teacher, together with a period of ‘purification’.

The realised masters of Advaita – most notably Sri Ramana and Sri Nisargadatta – but also the likes of Sw Chinmayananda, JK, Francis Lucille – would argue that mind is a necessary first step, but then it has to be discarded. If I can synthesise my understanding of their pointers – I think it is that the mind itself is just thoughts and this is the cause of the maya / illusion. Therefore to get out of the maya, to become a jnani, mind itself needs to be set aside; but of course a mind / thought cannot volitionally do this.

I’ve already set out some quotes in a previous thread with Martin under “Buddhi is also something perceived”, which includes one on ‘no mind’ from Gaudapada.

Here is what Vasistha had to say (from “The Vision and the Way of Vasistha” by BL Atreya): Continue reading

Q.364 – Dispassion

Q: I think I understand “Dispassion” and it’s importance, I’ve read “even loathing for worldly objects”. But I do have some passions or so it feels like it. For instance, I enjoy fabric and sewing “alot” is this just Brahman? At times it feels like an addiction. I don’t think there are judgements againt whatever passion one may have?? I guess I am just a bit confused. I am I guess in the beginning of my journey.

A (Ted): The Sanskrit word for “dispassion” is vairagya. Vairagya is defined as “indifference to the results of one’s actions.” Thus, dispassion is not so much a matter of the absence of desire as it is a matter of not depending on the satisfaction of any desires one does harbor for one’s sense of wholeness, completeness, and wellbeing.

 As long as one is ignorant of one’s true nature as whole, complete, limitless awareness, one’s desires spring from a sense of incompleteness and inadequacy. In other words, discomfited by the mental, emotional, and physical limitations with which one seems afflicted as an apparent person, one feels that if one obtains certain desired objects, attains a certain desired status, achieves certain desired goals, accomplishes certain desired feats, or becomes established in a certain desired state of mind, then one will transcend the limited, inadequate, incomplete person one takes oneself to be and consequently become better or whole or even enlightened. Continue reading

Awareness of Self

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you know, it is difficult to assess what another person ‘experiences’. It is also difficult to equate various words that might or might not mean the same thing to one person or everyone. Not sure if this is possible. Probably not. So, the following is not the gospel. I could be mad, mistaken, and a fool. Being foolish is not the worst thing. Feel free to call me names like Martin does.

For me, the word awareness has to constitute both subject and object. Someone or thing is aware. It is a function of the human being. We all have it and it is functioning right now. For me, all awareness functions within the context of self and consciousness, self and consciousness being virtually the same thing. I am talking about what constitutes self, not about self’s true nature. Self’s true nature has to be devoid of self completely and therefore out of the realm of all consciousness. Thus, it is also devoid of awareness as this is a function of our human nature, not our true nature. Normal death erases all experience and awareness but not our true nature.

Our human efforts can only concern itself with our human nature and that lasts maybe 70-90 years. To know thyself is a human endeavor that involves using observation. How else can we understand anything? Mind is involved to be sure. Everything we know is reflected in the mind. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with our true nature. Our true nature is not a reflection of our human life. No human faculty can know its true nature, only the human nature can be known. The only way we can ‘know’ our true nature is through the ending of this separate self that we call ‘me’, ‘I’, etc. And, it is not possible for our human nature to bring an end to itself. From what I have read of the sages, conversations I have had with sages (of course, the ones I think are sages!), it happens in a blink of an eye. You are simply swept away. It is a revelation, not an attainment. It is not a result. There are no levels of attainment, only levels of self. No true self. The body may remain, but no person inhabits it. True nature and human nature are not compatible. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes.  To know the self is to forget the self. But forgetting the self is not erasing it from memory. It’s erased from your whole being.

As others have said our own existence is common to us all. By observing this sense of existence, me, self, being it, breathing it, living it, you by-pass all the mental analysis and duality that most are involved with. The sense of problem is relieved and a kind of centeredness that focuses this observation can be felt and deepened. This centeredness is a  gateway that our true nature reveals itself through and brings an end to all forms of self.

Posted by ‘Anonymous’

Control Genes With Your Thoughts

The day is not far when you can control your genes with your mind! Effectively you can change not only your moods and behavior but also essentially what you are by the power of your thought!

The technological possibility is established through a ‘Proof of Concept’ research paper just published in Nature Communications.

“We wanted to be able to use brainwaves to control genes. It’s the first time anyone has linked synthetic biology and the mind,” says Martin Fussenegger, a bioengineer at ETH Zurich in Basel, Switzerland.

Schematic representation of mind-controlled transgene expression (After M. Folcher et al, 2014)

Schematic representation of mind-controlled transgene expression (After M. Folcher et al, 2014)

Continue reading

Buddhi is also something perceived

“To arrive at the conclusion that this solid-seeming world is a mere thought does not solve the whole problem. It cannot give entire satisfaction, for the thought-world remains.

The examination did not give satisfaction because it was conducted from the level of the buddhi which was left unexplained.

Buddhi is also something perceived. Is not oneself (Consciousness) the real Perceiver? To examine thoughts one has to take one’s stand in perceiving Consciousness

When it is seen that the content of thought is nothing but Consciousness, thought vanishes and Consciousness remains.”

Sri Atmananda, Atma Darshan

Buddhi – An Invitation to Use the Mind

620396_web_R_K_B_by_Jakob Ehrhardt_pixelio.deWhen introducing Advaita Vedanta the mind is one of the first things I deal with for two reasons:

  1. the average Western seeker is “anti-mind”. So he needs to start to appreciate this instrument, which for Advaita Vedanta is indispensible.
  2. The average seeker (probably the world round) is confused about what is going on in his mind and needs to be able to distinguish between its useful and its less useful functions.

In my experience seekers respond very positively when learning about the four different functions of the mind (in fact four different aspects of thought): manas, chitta, ahamkara and buddhi. This teaching is helpful in two ways: it enables the seeker to distinguish between manas and buddhi, and it enables the seeker to understand the nature of the ego. As the latter is not the topic of this month, I will not go into ahamkara (ego) here but concentrate on buddhi.

As to what buddhi is, I think that Dennis’ quote sums it up excellently,

The average Western seeker has never heard of buddhi or any of the different functions of the mind. For them mind is a uniform thing, a container filled with thoughts, perceptions, knowledge, abilities, experiences and possibly feelings. Why I say “possibly feelings” is because, at least in German speaking countries, feelings or emotions will never be accounted to the mind but to the heart, a mysterious entity which no-one is able to locate or clearly define except for pointing vaguely to the physical heart region. Continue reading

“Who / what am I” is the fundamental question the buddhi has to decipher

As one journeys through life, it may happen that questions arise as to what is the nature of the world around me, what is the purpose of life, how should one live, how / why do some experiences (good or bad) happen to me and not to anyone else. And for some, that may lead to a quest to find answers to such questions.

It may be that through science, through philosophy, or through religion one finds a path. The questions may initially be outwardly focused. But as one investigates the external world, the inevitable question must arise – what is the nature of ‘me’ that is trying to investigate the world?

So the ultimate quest has to be self-investigation; for without this self, there is no world that can be investigated. And in investigating the nature of one-self, one gradually realises that the body, mind and feelings are not really me, leaving only that which is the witness of all this. But this is elusive.

Vedanta is a set of beautiful pointers to help your buddhi gradually see the transiency of the world, and turn to the one constant that is conscious of the world. It is a pointer, because once the direction of travel is understood, it is no longer necessary to keep looking at the map. For understanding the vedantic scriptures is not the goal; understanding what is it that I am is the goal.

And to do that, it must be insufficient to simply accept some authority saying that ‘you are Brahman’. Liberation, freedom, can only mean absolute freedom from everything – including any and all authority. It means being able to stand alone, without any supports or crutches, and find out what it is you really are.

And so many of the sages of the 20th Century – Sri Ramana, Sri Atmananda, J Krishnamurti and Sri Nisargadatta advised just this.

Sri Atmananda commented (in Notes on Spiritual Discourses):
144: The basic error is the false identification of the ‘I’-principle with the body, senses or mind – each at a different time. This is the pivot round which our worldly life revolves.
151: Exactly in the way that the ego would examine other persons or activities outside you, standing separate from and unattached to the person or thing examined. Here you should stand separate from the body, senses and mind; and dispassionately examine them.

Sharp vs. Subtle Intellect

A suggestion has been made elsewhere in these columns that “Vedanta differentiates between what is called ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).”

Experienced Vedantins may differentiate ‘sharp intellect’ from ‘subtle intellect’ in trying to make a point in order to explain contextually some specific concept they would like to amplify on.  But it is doubtful if Advaita Vedanta itself has  anywhere  highlighted the difference between ” ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) and ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi).” If we ask whether there is a vedAnta vAkya or shruti mantra to support a claim of difference between the two types of buddhi, the answer is perhaps a resounding “No.”

Vedanta does, of course, contrast ‘sUkshma‘ in relation to ‘sthUla‘ form of  many entities (e.g. sharIra, buddhi, loka-s). Bhagavad-Gita too talks of a stratified order from gross to finer when referring to objects to sensory organs to mind to buddhi &c.


There is also an idea promoted in some quarters that  ‘sharp’ intellect (tIkShNa buddhi) is useful more often in Science whereas ‘subtle’ intellect (sUkShma buddhi) is utilized in Vedantic study. The reason given is that “The former is the analytical mind characteristic of the scientist [whereas] the latter [i.e.] the ability to integrate rather than divide [is the requirement of Vedanta], to see the unity in diversity.” Continue reading