Understanding Reality – Part 3


Understanding Reality
in the Vision of Advaita Vedānta

by Wolfgang P., wpl@gmx.net

Read Part 2 of this article

Consciousness is limitless, anantam

What is ‘everything that is experienced’? It is the empirical universe, the world, jagat, which consists of everything we experience. Every object or content of consciousness is jagat, and this jagat is mithyā, depending upon sat-cit for its existence. Not only the gross objects, but also the subtle ones, like emotions, thoughts, concepts and so forth. There is literally no limitation to the possible contents of consciousness. Even when you say, “I found something that cannot be an object of consciousness” you have proven yourself wrong at the very instance, since this ‘something’ has to be already a content of consciousness to make the claim in the first place.

Is consciousness limited space-wise or time-wise? If yes, consciousness would be an object within space and time, having a certain location, a certain spatial and temporal expansion. But this is not the case. Consciousness is not an object within space and time. It is the other way round: Space and time are experienced in consciousness, so they are also mithyā. Furthermore, sat-cit is not limited spatially. Consequently, there cannot be two of them, otherwise they would have a spatial border. Therefore, sat-cit can only be one. If we apply this reasoning to time, the same applies. As time is mithyā to sat-cit, sat-cit cannot be dependent upon time. Hence, sat-cit is beyond time, which means it is uncreated, ajāti, and eternal. Continue reading

Q. 392 – Traditional lineages

Q: Are there major differences between the lineage of Swami Sivanda and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa? If i want to study the traditional vedanta which teachings/teachers would you recommend?

A (Dennis): If you want ‘traditional’, steer clear of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda etc – they are ‘neo-Vedantins’ and diverge significantly in some respects. Sivananda I do not know so much about  (except his Brahmasutra commentary is very good). I think his lineage may introduce elements of Yoga philosophy. I suggest you go for Swami Dayananda and disciples – you can’t go far wrong there!

Q: The only real question that matters “Who am I?” is also the major issue for the Ramakrishna lineage. Is their approach less truthful, and if so in what sense?

A: The bottom line of many systems may be the same. (Indeed, MUST be the same for any valid system, of course). It is how they guide the seeker to that understanding that is important. But, for neo-Vedanta, attaining nirvikalpa samAdhi is attaining mokSha. This cannot be true (says the traditionalist) because NS is an experience in time. We are already free, perfect and complete; the problem is that we do not know it.

Q: A quote from Nisargadatta: HOW CAN WORDS EXPLAIN THAT FROM WHICH WORDS ORIGINATE? Then what about all the spoken or written words from the Vedanta teachers?

A: It is not possible to speak about reality. All objectification is simply name applied to form.  If you have ‘Book of One’ 2nd edition, read ‘Description of the Self’, P. 249. You lead up to it, using adhyAropa-apavAda and ultimately make the intuitive leap as in bhAga-tyAga-lakShaNa. You know what brahman is because you are That.

Q. 391 – Dissociation

Q: Does the psychological concept of dissociation have any role in advaita? In other words, the subjective experience of being detached, depersonalized, or wholly uninvolved in any given situation–is this the same as what advaita might call “awareness” or “just happening?” If not, how are they actually different?

A (Dennis): Who-we-really-are is not the mind; we are the Consciousness in which the mind arises. However, it is the mind of the person that realizes this in what is termed ‘enlightenment’ or (better) Self-knowledge. A mind that is not balanced and controlled/disciplined is most unlikely ever to be able to attain this Self-knowledge; it will be more interested in avoiding fear, satisfying desires etc. A mind that is unbalanced/disturbed etc is even less likely to be capable of assimilating the teaching of Advaita. As far as I understand the term ‘dissociation’, it refers to just such a mind – one in which the functions of the mind are out of balance, with some parts functioning normally and some not at all. So, no, it is not the same.

Good question, though!

Q. 390 – karma and judgement

Q: On the subject of karma please could you explain who or what decides on the destination of the “stamp/soul/” to a higher or lower life form. It would seem to be a judgmental decision based on our behaviour so presumably cannot be “Self” which is unaffected and affects nothing?

A (Dennis): You have to distinguish between paramArtha and vyavahAra. The absolute reality is that there is only brahman – non-dual Consciousness. There is no world separate from Consciousness, no people separate from Consciousness. The world and people are mithyA. So, in reality karma has to be mithyA also; there is no birth, no death, no reincarnation, no one who acts and no one to be reborn as a cockroach.

Explanations at the level of vyavahAra are interim explanations for the benefit of someone who does not yet appreciate the above. At this level, there seems to be cause and effect and all the apparent scientific laws that operate in the world. Ishvara is the name given to the ‘entity’ of ‘brahman + mAyA’ who lays down these laws. But the laws are not operated by Him on an individual basis; they are simply the ‘rules’ that are necessarily followed by everything in creation (such as gravity, Newton’s Laws etc). There is no ‘judgement’ involved at all.

Q. 389 – Enlightenment is not an experience

Q: I just have to ask your opinion on something that I experienced the other day.

I was sitting in my car around 7.00am drinking a cup of coffee and reading the short story “the dazzling dark” by john wren- lewis”.. as I finished it I put the paper down to contemplate what I read and just sat for a moment or two thinking who am I really, I had the strangest experience that I was sitting in the back of my car looking at myself sitting in the front of the car, i had a feeling/vision of seeing the back of my own head and body just sitting there…like a totally different person was viewing this strange body in the front….crazy stuff, it only lasted a split second or so..but was a complete vision….maybe I was imagining it because I wanted to see the truth so much..still do!….I really don’t know…but I can still feel it when I think of it…it felt great..like the body in the front of the car was, just a body.. .but I felt no real connection with the solid body)…..no fear, nothing,, it was just like looking into someone else’s car…this happened 2 days ago, I was going to dismiss it as just the mind at play., as iv had other small experiences before but dismissed them as mind states as I suffer form anxiety from time to time..fear etc, .but I don’t know, I really don’t know…

What do you think?

A (Dennis): You should read my book ‘Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle’. There is a whole section on ‘what enlightenment is not’ that covers this sort of thing. Here are a few relevant quotes from it:

  1. Enlightenment is not about ‘experiencing the Self’ – otherwise everyone would be enlightened. It is not about experience at all, it is about self-knowledge – the direct knowledge that you are already that which you seek. (See 25 – 97.)
  1. Nor is enlightenment itself an experience – experiences come and go. Enlightenment is not temporary – once it happens, that is it. Consequently, if you had an experience and wonder whether you are now enlightened, you can be sure that you are not. Also, there is no need for a seeker to try to recapture a ‘good’ experience, thinking that it was somehow closer to enlightenment than the usual ‘bad’ experiences. (See 102 to 104)
  1. It has nothing to do with ‘energy’, nor is it a ‘force’; it is not something ‘external’ that enters the person. It is not a light in any literal sense, nor does it make you less heavy in anything other than a metaphorical sense.

Physical manifestations of light, whether ‘flashes’ or ‘blinding’ do not signal enlightenment but are a sign that one may need to visit the doctor.

  1. Similarly, ‘inner voices’ or ‘messages from the heart’ invariably arise from the mind and, irrespective of spiritual content, usually relate to the ego.
  1. It is not an ‘expansion of consciousness’; it is not ‘within’ us (or without). Consciousness is already everywhere and always.
  1. Enlightenment is not about altered states of awareness. Enlightenment is not a state and Consciousness is the reality of all apparent states, in the same way that gold is the reality of rings, bangles and chains.
  1. Feelings of ecstasy, visions of God, yogic flying, astral projections and other “pastimes and drugs, and features of the press” (Ref. 8) have nothing to do with enlightenment. Nor do bright lights, visions, hallucinations or premonitory dreams.

Hope this effectively answers your question, although I appreciate you did not actually mention the E word.

Materialist View of Consciousness

I came across this essay last week. I don’t actually remember writing it, although the file was dated Feb of this year! (My memory must be deteriorating faster than I thought!) Anyway, since everyone (who contributes these days) seems to be particularly interested in Consciousness and scientific views, it seemed a good idea to post it. Apologies if I have already posted it somewhere before…

Shankara’s Refutation of the Materialist

Seemingly, the most prevalent view today of the nature of consciousness is that it is a phenomenon that comes into existence when the brain reaches a certain level of complexity. To use the favored term, consciousness is an ‘epiphenomenon’ of matter.  In fact, this is not a novel idea; it has been around for a long time. An Indian philosopher with whom the theory is particularly associated is Charvaka, who lived around 600 BCE.

The materialist philosophy itself is called lokayata in Sanskrit, and this is the term used in the principal Vedantic text, the Brahmasutras. It is interesting to note that the term ‘lokayatika’ was effectively used by the eminent philosopher Shankara as an insult but nowadays would be regarded by most people as a compliment, since it literally means ‘someone experienced in the ways of the world’ – an indication, perhaps, of the spiritual depths to which Western society has sunk! Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 34

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 34 answers some doubts as to how Brahman can be the cause of the world and differentiates saguNa from nirguNa.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Tattvabodha – Part 19

Part 19 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 19 looks at the traditional description of the formation of the mental aspects from the sattvika qualities of the five elements and the formation of the organs of action from the rajasika aspects.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.