Tattvabodha – Part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 2 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 2 provides an introduction to the series and begins the discussion of sAdhana chatuShTAya sampatti. There is also a hyperlinked Contents List, which will be updated as each new part is published.

Q. 371 – Deep-sleep state

Q: In advaita, we use the recall of a “good deep sleep” as a very important argument for proving continued presence of awareness… the question is, how does this recall happen? We have a process in advaita by which ‘the presence of a pot is known’. How is deep sleep known? Or – How is the fact that one slept well, recalled?

Responses from DhanyaRamesam, Martin, Ted and Dennis

A (Dhanya): When I was a child, there was a TV show I liked to watch.  It was called ‘You Are There.’  As I recall, the show depicted a famous scene from history, and then ‘you’ (meaning in this case the narrator), magically showed up in the scene and got to ask the historical figures all sorts of questions.  (I guess I should Google it to make sure I recall the details of the show correctly).  Anyway, I do remember that I enjoyed the show, and often these days recall the title, because one could ask oneself the question, ‘How is anything known?’ and the answer would be because ‘You are There!’  The whole point of deep sleep in the teachings of Vedanta is to is highlight ‘You are There’  Your nature is consciousness, i.e. that by which anything is known.  The absence of any thing is also known.  Thus one can recall the fact that one slept well.  Why?  Because You are There. Continue reading

Modern knowledge and the Vedas

Do the Vedas really contain any advanced knowledge as so many people claim they do?    QUORA

15.3.15 – I’d say the Vedas contain the most fundamental and ‘advanced’ knowledge there is, though mostly portrayed  in the form of paradox (analogy, metaphor, story, etc.), so that one has to crack the code in order to find the wealth hidden in them. That knowledge is not like empirical science, which is cumulative and provisional, and which could be said to be somehow contained in it, even if in embryonic or potential form. That knowledge or perspective is metaphysical rather than mystical. According to the Vedas there is one and only one reality: consciousness (brahman, the Absolute, etc.), which pervades the whole universe; it is immanent in it as well as transcendent… “the smallest of the small, the largest of the large”. It cannot be measured out or understood by the mind, for which it is ineffable, but it is that by which the mind comprehends… it cannot be expressed in words but by which the tongue speaks… it is eye of the eye, ear of the ear, mind of the mind, as expressed in the Upanishads.

Modern physics is having a hard time trying to explain away what consciousness is in terms of physical phenomena (neuronal activity in the brain), but consciousness is not just an irreducible phenomenon or datum; it is reality itself, everything being comprehended in it (theories, doubts, projections, emotions, things, thoughts, intelligence, observer and observed, you and I). The part (for instance, an ‘external’ observer) cannot understand the whole into which he/she is enclosed. For the Vedas, to repeat, reality is one, and contemporary physics is trying to find out in which way it is so (‘theory of everything’, ‘unified field’…). Not all physicists are reductionist, some of them having seemingly mutated into philosophers with a workable understanding of the core of Vedic teachings.


Q. 370 – nirvikalpa samAdhi

Q: Should a person have compulsorily experienced nirvikalpa-samādhi in order to know that he has a mind which is prepared for jñāna? In other words, is experience of nirvikalpa-samādhi a must as a sādhana?

Responses from VenkatMartinTed, Shuka and Dennis

A (Venkat): Nirvikalpa-samAdhi is an experience of the absence of objects, for a finite period of time, which the experiencer eventually exits to re-perceive the world.  As it is not permanent, it is not real.  Any temporary experience that is witnessed cannot be a pre-requisite for j~nAna – since j~nAna is the permanent dissolution of the illusory I-thought.

“Abiding permanently in any of these samadhis, either savikalpa or nirvikalpa, is sahaja. What is body consciousness? It is the insentient body plus consciousness. Both of these must lie in another consciousness which is absolute and unaffected and which remains as it always is, with or without the body consciousness. What does it matter whether the body consciousness is lost or retained, provided one is holding on to that pure consciousness? Total absence of body consciousness has the advantage of making the samadhi more intense, although it makes no difference to the knowledge of the supreme.” – Sri Ramana Maharshi Continue reading

Vision Of Truth (sad darshanam) – Part 21

िये प्रकाशं परमो वितीर्य

स्वयम् धियो अन्त: प्रविभाति गुप्त: ।

धियं परावर्त्य धियो अन्तरे अत्र

संयोजनान्नेश्वर-दृष्टिरन्या ।। —२४

dhiye prakAsham paramH vitIrya

svayam dhiyo antaH pravibhAti guptaH

dhiyam parAvartya dhiyaH antare atra

sanyojanAnneshvara dRiShTiranya—24

dhiye = to the intellect; prakAsham = sentiency;  paramH = Supreme; vitIrya = lent;

svayam dhiyo antaH = Itself (being) inside the intellect;  pravibhAti guptaH = shines while being hidden; dhiyam parAvartya = having turned intellect;  dhiyaH antare – within intellect;  atra = here; sanyojanAt = by uniting; na Ishvara dRiShTiranya = Ishvara vision (takes place)not by anything else.

The supreme having lent sentiency to the intellect, shines while being hidden inside the intellect. Having turned the intellect, here, within the intellect, by uniting, Ishvara vision takes place not by anything else.

The organs and mind are material in nature, by themselves inert. The all-pervading consciousness also available in the mind, lends sentiency to them. They, by nature are extrovert.

Man, has a tendency of feeling inadequate in many ways. This makes him search for something to make him more fulfilled. He resorts to the external world through the mind and organs. This is innate to all and has to be deliberately changed.

The first step to changing is to discriminate between the real and the unreal. Coming to this stage itself takes along time. Years of conditioning has led man to believe he is getting happiness and peace from the world. He has time and again been credulous enough to believe so, never questioning it, accepting it as the norm. On the other hand, he has been incredulous at the fact that the truth is something diametrically opposite. Continue reading

Q. 369 – mokSha

Q: What is meant by mokSha as a puruShArtha? (The answer should incorporate a definition of mokSha.)

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Shuka and Dennis

A (Ted): Moksha literally means, “liberation.” It indicates freedom from dependence on objects (i.e., anything perceivable, conceivable, or in any way experienceable) for happiness, contentment, or a sense of wholeness and completeness. And since it is our vain pursuit of permanent fulfillment through impermanent objects that is the cause of suffering, moksha also implies freedom from all suffering.

 Moksha is the essential purushartha (i.e. goal or end) that we are seeking, though in most cases not consciously, through our pursuit of artha (security), kama (pleasure), and dharma (virtue). If we analyze the objects we chase in any of these categories, we invariably find that it is not actually the object itself that we want, but rather the sense of peace and/or happiness that it seemingly provides us. Admittedly, the objects we seek to obtain in these areas are either necessary for our survival or enhance our enjoyment of life, but all are limited. And no limited object can provide limitless fulfillment. Thus, if we depend on these objects for our happiness, we doom ourselves to inevitable disappointment and certain suffering. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am pleased to announce that Dr. VIshnu Bapat has granted permission for us to host his unpublished commentary 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.

Here is the link to Part 1. This provides an introduction to the series and covers the Invocation. There is also a hyperlinked Contents List, which will be updated as each new part is published.

Upadesa Nun Malai

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi said little and wrote less. Much of what we have in English are (probably) imperfect recollections of his talks.  David Godman and Michael James have contributed excellently by translating some of Bhagavan’s original works into English – and perhaps most notably, Sri Murugunar’s collaborative effort with Bhagavan on Guru Vachaka Kovai.

An English translation, by ‘Kays’ of a Tamil “Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai” has recently been published.  This is a translation and commentary of Bhagavan’s poetic works, including Upadesa Undiyar (in Sanskrit, Upadesa Saram) and Ulladu Narpadu (Sat Darshan). The author, Kanakammal originally spent 3 years with Bhagavan before his passing, and then imbibed teaching from Sri Murugunar on Bhagavan’s works.

In her forward she writes “Though Murugunar taught exhaustively, what I could retain was much less. I had no courage to attempt to write on the Absolute Whole with this imperfect intellect of mine . . . None can say with certainty this is the really meaning for Sri Bhagavan’s compositions are an inexhaustible treasure”.  She passed away in 2010 at Sri Ramanashram.

Kays has also translated into English Lakshmana Sarma’s (“WHO”) translation and detailed commentary on Bhagavan’s Ulladu Narpadu. Bhagavan instructed him over 3 years on this verse by verse, from which Sarma translated Ulladu Narpadu into Sanskrit, which he got Bhagavan to approve, and then wrote a Tamil commentary.

Bhagavan himself said: “Everyone is saying that Lakshmana Sarma’s commentary on Ulladu Narpadu is the best. Nobody has studied Ulladu Narpadu the way Sarma has”.

Neither book is easy to find outside India.  Both are available at the Indian Sri Ramanashram website.  The first is also available here:


Aside from Michael James’ and David Godman’s translations, I suspect there is nothing as authoritative in English as these translations and commentaries on Bhagavan’s works, by two who sat at his feet.

Q. 368 – vAsanA-s

Q: Do vAsanA-s belong to the causal body or the subtle body?  

In the subtle body camp I got a response from one of Swami Dayananda’s senior students saying that the causal body is pure ignorance with no attributes and that vAsanA-s “definitely belong to the subtle body”.   In addition, from my own quick review of some of Shankara’s basic works I can find no passage that says the causal body is anything but “avidyA” and find no mention of the term “ vAsanA-s ” anywhere.

In the causal body camp I have James Schwartz and multiple pieces of Chinmayananda literature.   In fact I have seen them equate vAsanA-s to avidyA by pointing out that avidyA and vAsanA-s are both caused by the guNa-s.

Can you help with this one?   What is going on here?  Btw, as an interesting side note, in Swami Dayananda’s extensive Gita course-books the word “ vAsanA-s ” does not appear once.

Answers from Ramesam, Ted, Martin and Dennis. Continue reading