Beyond Stillness – Q. 331

Q : I am a “solo practitioner” of the advice of Ramana Maharshi, as I understand what I absorb of it. My enquiries move between an apophatic and cataphatic flavor.

 When I do this, I am moved to an absolute stillness. Upon ‘coming back’, there is a sensation of still not passing the barrier of stillness. I am not sure how to continue. Should I continue to practice just like this? Until I have destroyed differentiation? Should this be a lesson on what the real really is?

[Note (Dennis): Here are the meanings of those terms from my Oxford dictionary –

apophatic /ap’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through negating concepts that might be applied to him. The opposite of cataphatic.

cataphatic /kat’fatk/ – adjective Theology (of knowledge of God) obtained through defining God with positive statements. The opposite of apophatic.]

A (Meenakshi): Apophatic and cataphatic flavor:

 The culmination of vedanta is not in the knowledge of an anthropomorphic god. The main teaching is that the truth of all, is you. Whenever, brahma satyatvam (the truth, ie. Atma being brahman) is taught, in the very same breath, jagat mithyAtvam (unreality of the world) is also taught. Hence, negation of the unreal and assertion of the truth go hand in hand. The truth of you being brahman is meaningless as long as the world is not cognized as unreal. If the world and ego are taken as real, then one can never appreciate the oneness of the individual and whole. Hence, it is good to have apophatic and cataphatic flavor.

 Also, one needs to know that the self, as such, is beyond all negations and assertions. When the self is taught as ‘not this’ ‘not this’, it is indirectly taught that the self can never be objectified as ‘this’. It cannot be labelled by a word. A word is always for a form. The truth being formless, it cannot be named as such. The words ‘brahman’, ‘advaita’, ‘witness’ etc are only for the purpose of bringing home the teaching to the student. The truth is formless and nameless. It cannot be a thought in the mind or an event.

 There are three ways in which the philosophy is taught:

1)  Inquiry into creation (jagat vichAra): One learns that there has to be a cause for the world. If this cause has another cause then it will lead to infinite regress. Hence, the truth of the world is a causeless cause which is brahman. The scriptures teach this many a times; the essence of which is that, the self alone is the material and intelligent cause of the creation and is itself not an effect.

 2) Inquiry into Ishvara (God, macrocosm):  Ishvara, macrocosm is the total, all names and forms included. One learns to appreciate the presence of Ishvara throughout. The basis for the macrocosm is again the same causeless cause. Through such an enquiry one arrives at the fact that the truth of the total is the all pervasive truth.

 3) Inquiry into the individual: This is the way that Ramana Maharshi used to advocate (if i may use that word). The existence principle/consciousness is what pervades the world, the total and the individual; It is distinct from the three, yet inherent in the three. This truth appears as the three. Ramana would ask one to inquire into the ego and see that the consciousness that enlivens the ego is the same as existence outside. This is known when the ego is negated as unreal.  The truth of oneself is known by directly enquiring into one’s ego. This is the ‘Who am I’ enquiry.

 Solo Practitioner:

 It is good that you are doing this yourself, since one’s enquiry cannot be enquired by another. The self is closest to you. It pervades the ego. Delve into it and know it.

 Stillness:

 The are these stillness moments that you mentioned. One has to delve more into the truth of it. Who is it that knows the stillness? Stillness of the mind is, in other words, resolution of the mind. We are not looking for a state where the mind is resolved. Our problem is that we have a wrong notion of finitude. So, the teaching has to be dwelt upon.

 There are different types of meditations like relaxation meditation, concentration meditation, meditation on the totality as being all pervasive and meditation on universal values of kindness etc. Then there is vedAntic meditation where the teaching of scriptures is dwelt upon. In case of the inquiry, as suggested by Ramana Maharshi, one has to enquire into the truth of the ego. Enquiry cannot be done with a resolved mind. The ego has to be known to be unreal. The consciousness pervading the ego is to be claimed as one’s nature, the only truth.

 Coming Back:

 Once the truth is known, the mind is meditative wherever it goes. That means that the truth is apprehended, no matter what. The knowledge is never lost sight of in spite of the appearances of the world and ego. Ramana Maharshi talks of this remembrance as the greatest abidance

(niShThA). One always remembers one’s gender no matter what kind of interaction one is having in the world. So also, the truth of oneself as the whole is always cognized.

 Differentiation

 Differentiation is never really destroyed in the absolute sense. Even after the truth is known, the world and the ego will continue or else we would have wise men drop dead immediately after gaining knowledge. The change is merely cognitive. What was thought to be real (the world and ego) is now totally falsified as relative. What was till now thought as distant in time and space (self) is now ‘known with conviction’ as the truth of oneself.

 Practice

 It is a good to practice contemplation along with some study and reflection. It helps. Merely contemplating on the ego without appreciating the underlying consciousness that enlivens the ego is not useful. The self that seems to be limited by the ego, is actually the only truth, that not only pervades the individual ego but is all-pervasive and division-less.

A (Ramesam): The Question raised by you is very subtle and is an important one that comes up in the course of many a seeker’s life. It crops up particularly in the minds of those seekers given to observing one or other ‘practices’ (upasanas).  Recently I happened to answer a question on ‘thoughtless state’ during meditation. It is available at: http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.com/2012/08/stream-of-thoughts-question.html

Is the ‘stillness’ you are referring to is akin to the thoughtless state? But then it makes me wonder why you have used terms like ‘apophatic’ and ‘cataphatic.’ Even a well read and highly knowledgeable person like Dennis had to see a dictionary for their meaning!

You may be knowing that these are terms more commonly found in Christianity Theology. How could you combine them while talking about what you have understood to be Ramana’s philosophy?

I admit, I haven’t read much about Ramana’s advice you speak about. But as far as I know, he asks you to find the things by yourself by ‘go on questioning until nothing is left to question and then question the questioner.’  The usage of the two terms, apophatic and cataphatic, by you gives away, IMHO, actually the problem you have now landed into.

Let me first explain what I understand by the two words:

Apophatic means: that God can be described only in terms of what He/She is not and never in words that can say what he is.

Cataphatic means: we can describe God in positive terms of what He/She is.

Now you see, what is the enquiry here? It is not so much about finding God. It is about language and an appropriate expression to package the God. Have you realized that there is upfront an implicit “belief” in the existence of a God somewhere apart from you and you have to locate Him? Is this understanding working behind unconsciously?

When there is a priori the assumption of a God being there somewhere, all my effort is going towards a search  for Him. That would be a perpetual struggle like the cat chasing its tail. But Ramana would want you to find out who is actually carrying out the search, whether there is any entity called “I” at all rather than run after a “belief”  in a God. There is no God separate from what is “all around.”   And what is “all around”  is what is created by you, as your projection. You are thus the creator. You are the God.

In fact, this is the critical distinction between Advaita and other monotheistic schools of thought, particularly those of the Abrahamic teachings.

So let us leave the ‘apophatic and cataphatic’ terms.

Leaving those terms, can you describe what is going on in your practice in simple words? Is it more like trying to home onto ‘some’ formless imaginary Brahman? Or would the words ‘thoughtless state’ or ‘gaps in thoughts’ describe better what you called as ‘absolute stillness’?

If it is so, the link I have given to a detailed analysis about it could perhaps answer your question. If not, I will appreciate if you can reformulate your question describing your actual experience.

But one thing I may say here. Trying to be in a ‘blank stillness’ is not advisable. If you have understood the Advaita teaching, what right now is Brahman.  It is not any extraordinary earth-shattering situation. It is just the ordinariness of everything, non-exclusively, without a separate ‘me’ popping up as the ‘observer, seer, doer, owner’ etc.

A (Sitara): As far as I can see you have tapped into the stillness that you are but you did not recognize it as who you are. Instead your mind, after a while, started to objectify it – so you ‘came back’. You got the impression that you did not pass a certain barrier. This barrier is called ignorance – not recognizing your true Self (in the form of stillness).

 Now, what to do? Obviously ignorance has to go and has to be replaced by complete understanding. How? Advaita Vedanta recommends study of Vedanta under the guidance of a competent living teacher. Western Advaita teachers have different approaches. Direct Path teachers work purely on the base of logic. All agree that what is missing is understanding – something that no kind of practice will ever deliver. See who seems best for you, but a teacher is needed for almost everybody. You certainly are a dedicated seeker but what you describe is exactly what is most likely to happen at some point for a solo practitioner: he/she getting stuck due to non-understanding.

 Your idea that you, by means of a practice, would be able to ‘destroy differentiation’ reveals your notion that you can manufacture your own enlightenment. It is impossible. Identification with a separate ‘I’ will have to die in enlightenment. Both cannot go together.

 The belief in a separate ‘I’ is the very basis for differentiation/duality. But differentiation need not be destroyed. Ignorance has to be removed and replaced by understanding. This understanding will unveil the view of ignorance that made you believe in a separate ‘I’ and differentiation.

 You ask: ‘Should this be a lesson on what the real really is?’ Definitely but you have to get the message. My advice: Find a living teacher you trust to guide you.

A (Peter): Ramana gives us the essential question: ‘Who am I?’ Vedānta gives us the answer in the succinct formulation: ‘Tat tvam asi’ (You, the apparent individual, are That, the Supreme Reality, the Whole).

 Using logic we can negate what we are not: anything that is an object of our observation is what we are not. In this way we can negate body, life-force, powers of perception, powers of action, as well as thoughts and emotions. The main problem, thereafter, is that we are left with a half-complete job, because we still do not know in a positive way what we are. (It is a myth that just through negation we somehow arrive at Reality. If that were true we would know the Reality every night when all false loci for Self are negated in deep sleep. Yet we return to self-ignorance morning after morning.) So it is not surprising that, despite experiencing profound stillness, you experience a ‘coming back’.

 I once asked my teacher why this idea persists that the Self is what remains when all thoughts are resolved and she said because it is true; but there’s a catch: we do not recognize what’s there because we do not really understand what we’re actually looking for. Swami Dayananda tells a funny story about travelling in a plane, squashed up in this window seat by a large Australian in the seat next to him. The man chatted on about going to Rishikesh to visit a particular Swami and handed Dayanandaji  a paper with the name and address of the man he was going to visit. It Read: Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Purani Jadhi, Rishikesh’! So here was the man clearly in the presence of the one he was going to meet, almost sitting in his lap, recognizing him as a Swami, and yet until Swami Dayananda said ‘I am that Dayananda you are going to meet’, the man remained in ignorance. So we need to be shown how to recognize what we see.

 Even the seemingly positive indicators of Reality such as Truth, Consciousness, Limitlessness, etc merely help us negate further those things that do not have these characteristics. They too, in common with all positive ‘indicators’ are not observable as objects of experience: they are to be understood, not experienced. Understanding is the key. If you hear the word rose, something clear appears in mind. If you hear the word ‘Consciousness’, what happens? The meaning of Consciousness is ‘I’. How do you strip this word of all false overlays that stand for ‘meanings’?

 Traditional Vedanta tells us that the only means for discovering the meaning of Consciousness, ‘Tat’, the Reality that you are, is by studying Upanishads with a qualified teacher – not by being a ‘solo practitioner’. Your practices, however, do sound as though they have sharpened your mind. So now apply that sharp and incisive mind to serious study. Good luck with finding a teacher, one who knows how to ‘handle’ words such as ‘Consciousness’ to bring you to a point at which you see what they see and thereby find what you seek. This is the real teaching and this is what will deliver the breakthrough you seek. Nothing needs to be destroyed: you don’t need to destroy the wave to know it is water. There is only Self, this is the teaching of the authentic teachers: and you are that.

A (Dennis): Here is what I said in response to a similar question several years ago:

<<I’m not actually the best person to ask about Ramana’s Self-enquiry; a) because I have never really practiced it and b) because I can’t say that I really believe in its efficacy. You may ask how I can make the latter claim when I admit to the former! But, as I repeatedly tell people, since our problem is one of Self-ignorance, the only remedy is Self-knowledge to eliminate that ignorance. ‘Doing’ anything or ‘experiencing’ anything is not really going to achieve anything (other than maybe highlight the ignorance so that one is prompted to try to obtain the knowledge). So, to my mind, the value of repeated asking ‘Who am I?’ is to bring about the realization that I am not any of those things that I might have thought myself to be – body, mind, intellect etc. Basically, if I can observe it, I cannot be it, since I am the observer. As you say, this might lead one to the conclusion that ‘I am the witness’. But the point here is that this witnessing is only possible through the body-mind equipment. Furthermore, the very concept of ‘witness’ is meaningless if there is no witnessed object – i.e. we are still in duality. So, in reality (paramArtha), there can be no witness.

So, it is all of this understanding that has to be garnered and not more, specialized experiences of witnessing or inquiring. All of this is fully and completely explained in the scriptures, but ideally needs a qualified teacher to unfold this in terms which are immediately recognized by the seeker.>>

I read in one of the Mountain Path journals an article effectively stating that shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana are of value ‘only as a preliminary step’ whereas the Self-inquiry as described by Ramana is the ‘direct path’. This is contradicted by several thousand years of tradition. Traditional teaching works by negating the false understanding that we have about ourselves and the world and then pointing to the truth of brahman. The facts that reality is non-dual, that everything is brahman, that ‘I am That’ are not realizations that are likely to be made by simply being still or asking ‘Who am I?’ This knowledge is only contained in the scriptures and has to be conveyed by a suitably qualified teacher in order that it should be believable, reasonable and ultimately eliminate our self-ignorance. Also, the end point of seeking is not ‘extinction of the mind’ as this same article suggested.

I would certainly never suggest either that Self-inquiry is valueless or that Ramana Maharshi was not a brilliant teacher but it does seem to be an unfortunate fact that some of the things he said have been taken out of context and are lauded by some modern teachers as efficacious in their own right, bypassing the methods proven by many generations of teachers. Unfortunately, I believe that this is not the case as far as the vast majority of seekers are concerned.

6 thoughts on “Beyond Stillness – Q. 331

  1. “Since our problem is one of Self-ignorance, the only remedy is Self-knowledge to eliminate that ignorance.”

    The elimination of ignorance may not be quite so straight forward? Jnanis state that this ignorance is beginningless and endless, so how how can something that has no beginning, nor any end, become eliminated? It is perhaps useful to enquire where this ignorance is located? To whom or what does it belong? What are its effects and consequences?

    The ignorance is located in the Atman. The effect is that the Atman incorrectly identifies with the jiva, which it is not. Fait accompli, we only know the Atman as the jivatman. The Atman, not knowing itself, inquires “Who am I?” and consulting its inner depths receives the answer “I am everything”, which would appear to be true, and because the Atman is pure consciousness it naturally believes that everything it is conscious of, everything it sees, is itself. When the jiva (a nature, the natural self) is presented by the buddhi (higher intellect) at the prompting of Shakti-Maya, to the consciousness of the Atman, the Atman believes it is that jiva. Precisely what the Atman does not know is… “if I can observe it, I cannot be it, since I am the observer.”

    The consequences therefore include… the Atman becoming the jivatman and being subject to apparent transmigratory existence. To whom or what does this ignorance belong? If ignorance is defined as not knowing, lack of knowledge, then the simple antidote to ignorance would indeed appear to be knowledge. But, in Advaita, the Atman is defined, by Sankara and others, as pure consciousness, caitanya. The word ‘pure’ means wholly consisting of itself and nothing else, no impurities, no additions, nothing extraneous. The Atman is consciousness and nothing else. If the Atman is pure consciousness then how can it acquire knowledge without suffering an addition that is not itself? Advaita also states that the Atman is Brahman and Brahman is changeless. Presumably the Atman is similarly changeless? So how can the Atman change its inherent ignorance? How can the Atman ever come to know itself? How can consciousness ever know itself? How can the Atman acquire knowledge? How can the Self, which does not know itself, know itself? Just like consciousness, knowledge requires an object, so how can there be Self-knowledge, except in the illusion of the mind? How can pure consciousness acquire Self-knowledge? All deeply philosophical problems… caused by the tenacious belief that the Atman is identical with Brahman (Parabrahman).

    Can knowledge be acquired? Jnanis state that knowledge is not something which can be acquired, because you are knowledge. As Cit you already have all knowledge available. Knowledge and consciousness can be observed to stand side by side, the one helping the other. But to be aware of this fact some other observer must be observing their co-operation. There is an awareness which stands behind consciousness and knowledge, observing them. Therefore it can tentatively be concluded that the Atman is not an absolute. So what is the Atman? It may well be part of Prakriti? Prakriti imitating, or pretending to be, or mirroring the Parabrahman? Prakriti mirroring the genuine original consciousness that is the Absolute? The Atman moves, moves towards the jiva and due to lack of knowledge of who itself is, identifies with the jiva, identifies with a non-existent projection of the buddhi, and becomes attached to it, bonded with it for aeons of time… but in time will eventually experience release, moksha. A Consciousness which moves, evolves in knowledge and understanding, if that is possible, sounds very similar to Prakriti? The Absolute is regarded by advaitins as Consciousness which does not move, because being everywhere, to where would it move? If all this analysis is true, the ignorance is probably located in Prakriti, which can be regarded as merely putting on a show in the Theatre of the Universe for the observing Self in the audience. Ignorance is part of the show, it is not genuine.

    It could provisionally be concluded that the Atman is part of the illusion, perhaps even the deepest part of it? Ignorance is located in a very deep and inaccessible part of ourselves… in our purest consciousness. That is why we find it so difficult to find the solution to the problem?

    Who sees all this? It is the Witness. Therefore to state… “the very concept of ‘witness’ is meaningless if there is no witnessed object – i.e. we are still in duality. So, in reality (paramArtha), there can be no witness.”…. is to deny the usefulness of the Witness. If Brahman is everything and everywhere then the Absolute is present in the Paramartha as well as the Vyavahara. Jnanis state that you, the Absolute Self, are present in the superimposition of the Vyavahara as the Witness (Sakshin and Purusha) and ‘outside’ in the spaceless timeless Paramartha as the Parabrahman. Therefore to attribute meaninglessness and non-existence to the Witness is to deny the very aspect of yourself which is capable of observing the fundamental problem with your consciousness which is responsible for all your apparent suffering. If the Witness is realized to be the same witness everywhere and in everything… where is the duality in that?

    The Witness is the audience in the Theatre of the Universe. Sakshin is in the stalls and Purusha is in the upper circle. Sakshin observes the play of the succession of the five subtle elements and Purusha observes the action and interaction of the three gunas struggling for dominance. The three gunas in combination with the five subtle elements… constitute the universe. There is nothing else. If you are going to deny the audience you might as well wind up the show?

    This is perhaps why it is advisable to try to distinguish original consciousness from reflected consciousness. Sankara states we have two consciousnesses. One consciousness is our genuine and original consciousness and the other consciousness is a reflection of it. The reflection occurs in the mirror of the mind. The mind is composed of the five subtle elements unfolded by Shakti-Maya of which akasha (space) is predominant. The subtle element of inner space, individual mind, magically reflects the light of Isvara (located in the Sun) as the world and our original consciousness is reflected as a series of observing selves in it. We mistake the one for the other. The secret is to observe which one moves. Only the Witness is able to do that. The one that does not move, you cannot see… that is the genuine consciousness. On the question of genuine and reflected consciousness… this is perhaps why some advaitins state… the Atman and Brahman are reached, then transcended.

    • Namaste Yehan, In your post you write as though authoritatively in refutation of the simple statement you quote:

      *** “Since our problem is one of Self-ignorance, the only remedy is Self-knowledge to eliminate that ignorance.”

      You cite Nisargadatta as your authority. Yet your whole lengthy challenge is riddled with inaccuracies and misunderstandings from the perspective of the traditional teaching of Advaita Vedānta, which is the scriptural perspective. I feel that the scriptural perspective needs to be put as a counterbalance to your piece for the sake of those who are new to the teaching. I have gone through your entire argument in detail to point out where it diverts from the traditional teaching or where its conclusions are illogical.

      *** You say: The elimination of ignorance may not be quite so straight forward? Jnanis state that this ignorance is beginningless and endless, so how can something that has no beginning, nor any end, become eliminated?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Ignorance may be beginningless but it is not endless. If it was, then self-ignorance can never be dispelled. We may, for example, start off ignorant about the movements of the planets, but with guided study, this ignorance can be ended. So too, with study of śāstra under a qualified teacher, self-ignorance can end.

      *** You say: It is perhaps useful to enquire where this ignorance is located? To whom or what does it belong? What are its effects and consequences? The ignorance is located in the Atman.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Wrong. Ignorance is located in the mind: ‘I’ can observe my ignorance. ‘I’ = Atman. (Even Nisargadatta says this: “The mind is both the actor and the stage. All is of the mind, and you are not the mind. The mind is born and reborn, not you. The mind creates the world and all the wonderful variety of it.”) How can Atman, whose very nature is knowledge, be the locus for ignorance? Knowledge lights up ignorance (‘I don’t know Swahili’) as well as its opposite (‘I do know my 2 times tables’). But Atman remains untainted by ignorance as the crystal remains untainted by the colour of the object placed in its proximity. As a result of your basic error, the sentences that follow in your argument are also inaccurate…

      *** You say: The effect is that the Atman incorrectly identifies with the jiva, which it is not. Fait accompli, we only know the Atman as the jivatman. The Atman, not knowing itself, inquires “Who am I?” and consulting its inner depths receives the answer “I am everything”, which would appear to be true, and because the Atman is pure consciousness it naturally believes that everything it is conscious of, everything it sees, is itself.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Atman does nothing at all. All activity described in the above sentences belong to mind/manas. The scriptural authority is Gita where the wise are described as those who think “I do nothing at all” despite seeing, hearing, grasping, walking etc.

      *** You say: When the jiva (a nature, the natural self) is presented by the buddhi (higher intellect) at the prompting of Shakti-Maya, to the consciousness of the Atman, the Atman believes it is that jiva.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Firstly, Jīva is not the ‘natural self’: Atman is. Jiva is Atman erroneously identified with the body. Secondly, buddhi is māyā manifest, so to talk about them as two concurrently existing things shows that the grasp of these concepts is vague. (Even Nisargadatta says: “The original Maya has no colour, no shape, nothing at all. You cannot conceive of that original Maya.”) Thirdly, you compound your misunderstanding by a phrase like ‘the consciousness of the Atman’ as if consciousness and Atman are two separate things! Atman is sat-cit-ānanda.

      *** You say: Precisely what the Atman does not know is… “if I can observe it, I cannot be it, since I am the observer.”

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: This sort of idea finds no support in the teaching. Atman is all knowledge and yet you speak of it as possessed of ignorance.

      *** You say: The consequences therefore include… the Atman becoming the jivatman and being subject to apparent transmigratory existence.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Another misinterpretation. Atman never loses its nature as pure existence-consciousness.

      *** You say: To whom or what does this ignorance belong? If ignorance is defined as not knowing, lack of knowledge, then the simple antidote to ignorance would indeed appear to be knowledge. But, in Advaita, the Atman is defined, by Sankara and others, as pure consciousness, caitanya. The word ‘pure’ means wholly consisting of itself and nothing else, no impurities, no additions, nothing extraneous. The Atman is consciousness and nothing else. If the Atman is pure consciousness then how can it acquire knowledge without suffering an addition that is not itself? Advaita also states that the Atman is Brahman and Brahman is changeless. Presumably the Atman is similarly changeless? So how can the Atman change its inherent ignorance? How can the Atman ever come to know itself? How can consciousness ever know itself? How can the Atman acquire knowledge? How can the Self, which does not know itself, know itself?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Up to this last statement (that the Self ‘does not know itself’), all your questions/observations before it were valid: Atman is pure, untainted, unchanging, the Reality, Brahman and therefore all the doubts, questions, errors, etc do not belong to Atman. They belong to mind – as you say in your next sentence, negating everything you have said hitherto.

      *** You say: Just like consciousness, knowledge requires an object so how can there be Self-knowledge, except in the illusion of the mind? How can pure consciousness acquire Self-knowledge?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Firstly, consciousness does not ‘require an object’: experiences require objects, cognitions require objects, but consciousness does not. Secondly, consciousness does not need to ‘acquire Self-knowledge’: pure consciousness IS the very Self itself!

      *** You say: All deeply philosophical problems… caused by the tenacious belief that the Atman is identical with Brahman (Parabrahman).

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: All problems and confusions are caused by an erroneous understanding of Atman (as has been demonstrated by some of your statements above), not by the truth of the oneness of Atman and Brahman. This unity is essential to the vision of advaita.

      *** You say: Can knowledge be acquired? Jnanis state that knowledge is not something which can be acquired, because you are knowledge.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Jñānis say that the cover of ignorance needs to be removed which can be perceived as the ‘acquisition of knowledge’. (Removal of ignorance about the movement of planets can be seen as acquisition of knowledge about their movement).

      *** You say: As Cit you already have all knowledge available.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: As cit, you ARE knowledge, you don’t HAVE it. In fact, you, the Reality, are cit.

      *** You say: Knowledge and consciousness can be observed to stand side by side, the one helping the other.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Another misunderstanding. From what point of view is this observation made? From where can one see consciousness as an object, let alone see it ‘stand side by side’ with knowledge as though separate?

      *** You say: But to be aware of this fact some other observer must be observing their co-operation. There is an awareness which stands behind consciousness and knowledge, observing them.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: The ultimate observer is consciousness! ‘Awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ are synonyms.

      *** You say: Therefore it can tentatively be concluded that the Atman is not an absolute.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: This conclusion is reached because of misunderstanding about what consciousness is and about what Atman is.

      *** You say: So what is the Atman? It may well be part of Prakriti?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Massive misunderstanding of the teaching! Where (apart from misunderstanding) does such an idea arise?

      *** You say: Prakriti imitating, or pretending to be, or mirroring the Parabrahman? Prakriti mirroring the genuine original consciousness that is the Absolute? The Atman moves, moves towards the jiva and due to lack of knowledge of who itself is, identifies with the jiva, identifies with a non-existent projection of the buddhi, and becomes attached to it, bonded with it for aeons of time… but in time will eventually experience release, moksha.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Atman is never identified, never moves anywhere, is never bound and never freed. It is only the mind that entertains false ideas and imagines bondage.

      *** You say: A Consciousness which moves, evolves in knowledge and understanding, if that is possible, sounds very similar to Prakriti?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Consciousness is every unmoving.

      *** You say: The Absolute is regarded by advaitins as Consciousness which does not move, because being everywhere, to where would it move? If all this analysis is true, the ignorance is probably located in Prakriti, which can be regarded as merely putting on a show in the Theatre of the Universe for the observing Self in the audience. Ignorance is part of the show, it is not genuine. It could provisionally be concluded that the Atman is part of the illusion, perhaps even the deepest part of it?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Totally illogical. How does this follow?

      *** You say: Ignorance is located in a very deep and inaccessible part of ourselves… in our purest consciousness.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: How can consciousness and ignorance occupy the same locus at the same time. How can darkness and light occupy the same locus at the same time?

      *** You say: That is why we find it so difficult to find the solution to the problem?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Any problem with understanding arises from a total misunderstanding/mis-interpretation of the teaching and not from the application of reason.

      *** You say: Who sees all this? It is the Witness. Therefore to state… “the very concept of ‘witness’ is meaningless if there is no witnessed object – i.e. we are still in duality. So, in reality (paramArtha), there can be no witness.”…. is to deny the usefulness of the Witness.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Only a misreading of Vedānta will lead to the conclusion that the value of the Witness is being denied.

      *** You say: If Brahman is everything and everywhere then the Absolute is present in the Paramartha as well as the Vyavahara.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: This way of stating things is where the root of error: there is only the Absolute – Paramārtika and Vyavahārika are names of two levels of perception of that one Absolute: the former is ‘as it is’ and the latter is ‘as it is manifest in transactional ‘reality’ ‘.

      *** You say: Jnanis state that you, the Absolute Self, are present in the superimposition of the Vyavahara as the Witness (Sakshin and Purusha) and ‘outside’ in the spaceless timeless Paramartha as the Parabrahman. Therefore to attribute meaninglessness and non-existence to the Witness is to deny the very aspect of yourself which is capable of observing the fundamental problem with your consciousness which is responsible for all your apparent suffering. If the Witness is realized to be the same witness everywhere and in everything… where is the duality in that?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Only a wrong understanding of the sentence you quoted at the opening of this para is responsible for any confusion.

      *** You say: The Witness is the audience in the Theatre of the Universe. Sakshin is in the stalls and Purusha is in the upper circle. Sakshin observes the play of the succession of the five subtle elements and Purusha observes the action and interaction of the three gunas struggling for dominance. The three gunas in combination with the five subtle elements… constitute the universe. There is nothing else. If you are going to deny the audience you might as well wind up the show?

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: There is only ONE Witness: sometimes referred to as sākśin and sometimes as puruṣa. It is therefore an error to postulate two observers.

      *** You say: This is perhaps why it is advisable to try to distinguish original consciousness from reflected consciousness. Sankara states we have two consciousnesses.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Where does Śaṅkara state this?

      *** You say: One consciousness is our genuine and original consciousness and the other consciousness is a reflection of it. The reflection occurs in the mirror of the mind. The mind is composed of the five subtle elements unfolded by Shakti-Maya of which akasha (space) is predominant. The subtle element of inner space, individual mind, magically reflects the light of Isvara (located in the Sun) as the world and our original consciousness is reflected as a series of observing selves in it.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: All this is fanciful and confusing. And has no authoritative support.

      *** You say: We mistake the one for the other. The secret is to observe which one moves. Only the Witness is able to do that. The one that does not move, you cannot see… that is the genuine consciousness. On the question of genuine and reflected consciousness… this is perhaps why some advaitins state… the Atman and Brahman are reached, then transcended.

      The Advaita Vedānta perspective: Which advaitins state this? What do they say is higher than Brahman?

      Om
      Peter

  2. Could I please ask that you keep comments short. Open discussions are not encouraged. Comments are intended only for clarification and must be restricted to the topic of the blog; they should not be regarded as an opportunity to express opinions of your own. If further questions are raised in your mind, you can always send in a question of your own.

  3. Sri Peter

    Thank you for your detailed response. I am truly grateful.

    It is very helpful to have the traditional interpretation of Advaita, via Dayananda and Atmaprakashananda, presented by yourself to compare with one’s own understanding of Advaita. I would love to be able to reply to all the points you have made, but the site owner has warned us against doing that.

    Everything I have written is based on experience, confirmed and expanded by reading Nisargadatta and some Upanisads. When I read Nisargadatta I feel completely in harmony with everything he says. I have never found anything in Nisargadatta I disagree with. Of course there are some deep statements of his that are difficult to understand, but amazingly over time one begins to understand them. When I read traditional teachers of Advaita, I admire their command of the subject but soon begin to detect their limitations. They simply do not go far enough. Often they are philosophically quite mundane. Worse, I believe they have an imperfect understanding of the subtle world.

    I realize this site is full of Dayananda derived advaitins and I am definitely not one. Paramarthananda is fine, brilliant, helpful, very accomplished. You and Meenakshi are wonderful. I will go on reading you both. The rest is a pain. My own comments must similarly be a pain to you. So, I have decided not to post anything again in future, to spare you the disharmony. I suspect we will never agree, the experience is probably the same, because we are all one, but our interpretations of our experiences are too different.

    Of course we may simply be calling phenomena in the subtle world by different names? Experiences do not come ready labelled, one has to guess what others are naming and calling these spiritual phenomena. There is bound to be confusion, mistakes.

    One cannot abandon experience. Without experience one cannot understand Advaita, with experience one seems to understand a different Advaita to many other advaitins. It is best to withdraw gracefully.

    Blessings to you.

    Yehan

    Two consciousnesses: Paramarthananda: on the Mundaka Upanisad chapter 3 two birds. Sankara: Bhasya on the Bhagavad Gita chapter 2 verses 16-17

    • Namaste Yehanji

      Thank you for your response and your kind words. One thing that does unite all who come here is the search for meaning and we stumble along between patches of light shone here and there by the masters and teachers. We come to a place like this to share accounts of the patches of illumination (which sometimes might take the appearance of contention).

      For the traditional advaita vedāntins, as well as for others, the necessity of testing the strength of their own understanding against other views on the same matter is a valuable discipline: mananam. You bring a different point of view for sure. So please do not feel you need to vanish from the site.

      Also, thanks for the mention of the Gītā and Muṇḍaka verses. It was an opportunity to go back to them and read the commentary. Only the ancient sages could have come up with the concept of mithyā: something which is ‘as though’ there but cannot be found apart from its cause. There but not there. The one-way equation: wave is water, but water is not wave.

      So keep writing and enjoy the journey.

  4. Dear Yehan

    In case you did not know, Swami Paramarthananda himself is Pujya Swami Dayananda derived advaitin; and these were his words about Pujya Swami.

    Quote
    Lessons learnt from Swamiji’s life
    1. It is possible to show unconditional love and compassion towards all.
    2. It is possible to accommodate everyone irrespective of who the other person is.
    3. It is possible to help everyone, known or unknown, unconditionally.
    4. It is possible to pay attention to every single person even when one is surrounded by a huge crowd.
    5. It is possible to listen to everyone intently even when there are endless people.
    6. It is possible to remain relaxed in spite of hectic activity.
    7. It is possible to live a life of deliberate thoughts, deliberate words and deliberate actions.
    8. It is possible to live a life without any agenda of one’s own.
    9. It is possible to live a life, taking things as they come.
    10. It is possible to derive inspiration and motivation from oneself inspite of old age and poor health.
    11. Lastly, it is possible, but not that easy, to emulate Pujya Swamiji.
    My namaskarams to Pujya Swamiji
    Unquote

    Regards

    Śuka

Leave a Reply