avastha-s and prakriyA-s

One may be motivated to find out the Ultimate Truth by reasons of either epistemological curiosity or soteriological aspiration. If it is the latter, s/he would obviously go by the guru vAkya or shruti vAkya (instruction of a teacher or a canonical text). From an epistemological perspective, however, our ancient Seers and Sages used essentially two approaches in imparting whatever they found to be the supreme unquestionable “really real” ultimate ‘Thing’ for which they did not even give a name. They referred to It simply as “That” but declared It to be ‘ekameva advitIyaM‘(one only without a second). Thus did the a-dvaita (not-two) philosophy was born and ‘brahman ‘ became an indicator word for That, whatever ‘That’ is or, inexplicably, is not.

One of the approaches commonly taught in our scriptures was based on a study of the processes of cognition – be it an object, the world, another person, or in other words, the thing that is ‘perceived.’ The other was an analysis of the three states of consciousness that all persons experience in their daily life.

It has been an unsolved enigmatic question for me whether the pioneering Advaita philosophers who discovered the Ultimate Truth arrived at their finding by adopting any of the two above methods of approach or they first discovered the Truth through other means and used the two approaches later on as powerful illustrative metaphors in order to convey to others what they found. (Of course, I am not getting into the argument of the meaning and significance of “apauruSheyatva” at this juncture).

Comprehending the logic of ‘object cognition’ is beset with plenty of technical jargon. (Click for a PPt (54 slides) on this topic). What I am writing about here concerns the analysis of the awake, dream and dreamless deep sleep states. This approach is easily accessible to all because these three states are readily available for inquiry in the lab of everyone’s daily life without any conditions of prerequisite qualifications.

Once a seeker is convinced that s/he is not actually the entity that apparently travels through the three worlds of awake, dream and deep sleep, that understanding gets firmed up through careful and  critical examination of those three states (avastha-s) following certain practices and processes (prakriyA-s). The prakriyA-s are the jumping boards for the leap into jIva-brahmaikatva jnAna (Self-Knowledge).

What I wish to highlight in this Post is the peculiar correspondence between each of the three most commonly observed prakriyA-s and the three avastha-s. I was surprised to notice it and felt it a bit strange that such a relationship should exist. Each of the prakriyA-s seem to heavily draw from the characteristics of an avastha. For example, all the features of eka-jIva vAda are explainable based on a comparison to the dream world.

Table:  prakriyA-s and corresponding avastha :

State Awake world Dream world Deep Sleep (No objective world)
Corresponding prakriyA Superimposition-Sublation I  Alone Am (eka-jIva vAda)   Self-inquiry
Governing Doctrine of Creation sRRiShTi-dRRiShTi-vAda dRRiShTi-sRRiShTi-vAda ajAti-vAda
Concept involved Creation-Based-Perception Perception-Based-Creation Nothing Ever is Born
Sensory Organs Functional Do not function Absent
Mind Present Present Absent
Type of world experienced Empirical world Ephemeral world No world
Space-time Dimensions 3-D Space and time Time dimension only No space-time
jIvanmukti krama mukti eka jIva’ is brahman sadyomukti

I attempted to tabulate above some features of the three prakriyA-s along with the avastha.

[A caveat though. Usually a good teacher uses a seamless combination of the three prakriyA-s or tailors a module by mixing and matching different components of each of the three processes in such a way that the product is palatable to a given seeker. It should also be noted that the three broad approaches being referred to here do not have any rigid walls of separation. The walls of separation, being quite porous, are suggestive only.]

I seek to elicit the comments of our learned readers, if the line of thought presented above regarding the inferable correspondence between the avastha and prakriyA has any significance.

One thought on “avastha-s and prakriyA-s

  1. Certainly both interesting and insightful! Not sure about ‘significance’. Maybe the question should be: does it have any value with regard to ‘teaching’ advaita. My first impression is that it seems to be more relevant to the Western tendency to analyse a ‘philosophy’ in an academic manner in order to understand it. And, although this approach may be valuable to someone studying the subject at university, it is not necessarily of any use to a seeker.

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