[An INTERVIEW BY Paula Marvelly – Sixteen searching Questions probing the Depths of Physics and Advaita Vedanta – Responses from Dr. Ramesam Vemuri – 2011]
Paula Marvelly is a Web-designer, playwright and author in search of the Ultimate Truth for over two decades. As a seeker, she carved out a unique path for herself interviewing over fifteen living Advaita teachers from India, Europe and USA and studying the lives of over twenty enlightened women. Her two books published in 2003 and 2005 received rave reviews. Paula’s books are:
The Teachers of One: Living Advaita: Conversations on the Nature of Non-Duality, May 25, 200
Women of Wisdom, 2005 – The Journey of the Sacred Feminine through the Ages.
Paula now maintains a Web Magazine The Culturiumwhich explores the interface between spirituality and the cultural arts.
Part 1: Relation between Modern Physics and Vedanta:
1. How does Quantum Physics or modern Physics in general relate to Vedanta in answering the question about universe?Continue reading →
Four years, four weeks and a fortnight ago exactly to this day, we discussed Deep sleep in these columns. As we know, the traditional Vedanta (TV) following mANDUkya upanishad and Gaudapada’s kAkrikA, considers Deep sleep as one of the three states that plays on the substratum of turIya (the Fourth). Even amongst the TV people, there are schools that hold that prAjnya is no different from turIya. Swami Ishwarananda of RK Mission, Kerala produced a short monograph expounding this theory supported by Upanishadic quotes. I presented those arguments in a three part series of posts here, here and here. The followers of Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati of Holenarsapur too support this contention. Atmananda Krishna Menon (1883 – 1959) who propagated the “Direct Path” (DP) approach of Self-Inquiry too taught that Deep sleep itself was Pure Consciousness knowing Itself as Itself. The actual experience of Consciousness experiencing Itself in Deep sleep cannot be known or conceptualized by the awake state mind. The Consciousness knows Itself by being Itself and another name for that is Happiness. Happiness here does not mean any state of excitement or arousal. It is simply the absence of ‘unhappiness.’ In other words there exists during Deep sleep neither a sense of lack nor any desire. It is not a state triggered by or obtained through the contact of the sensory systems. It is acausal. Continue reading →
Whatever may be one’s understanding and knowledge, surprisingly and embarrassingly, simple questions can sometimes throw off one face down flat on the ground. You want to hide somewhere. One such simple question used to be an outstation visitor asking me in the small place I lived in India: “What is the best place to eat in your town?” What can I say when I myself never ate anywhere outside, having been brought up in a family where it is considered that it is a despicable thing to eat out? (Of course, this was much prior to the IT and DINK (Double Income No Kid) culture made its worldwide invasion!)
I faced a similarly embarrassing question in Vedanta the other day. A friend on one of the ubiquitous social networks first appreciated my ability to answer lucidly on Advaita related questions. I naturally got inflated. Then she enquired if she could ask a question on Bhagavad-Gita. I readied myself to brace any challenge feeling inside me that BG cannot be a problem. When I expressed my willingness to answer, she shot at me: “What is the best Bhagavad-Gita translation that does not deviate from the original in its meaning I would recommend to her.” There were two limiting conditions. She was a Westerner studying Advaita Vedanta on the Direct Path; and two, she did not know Sanskrit. Though I read many BG translations, I had not read any BG version without Sanskrit. Further, Bhagavad-Gita is commonly taught in the Traditional Path of study as it is one of the three canonical texts (prasthAna trayI). I did not know any of the Western Advaita teachers who melded BG verses into their teaching. I was totally deflated. I literally had to run for cover and hide my face. Fortunately for me, a few good friends came to my rescue. I share the information I got from them here as others may find it useful. Continue reading →
The Upanishads are the records of the “Knowledge” gained by the supremely dedicated Sages and Seers in the distant times through their incisive questioning and unbiased inquiry. They are written in the idiom and style of the day, at the same time taking a great care to see that the purity and pristine nature of the message is preserved for the posterity without getting mutilated by the passage of time. Hence, access to them was highly restricted. Their wording is very cryptic, symbolical and often too profound to be apparent to a casual reader. The Knowledge Itself, however, does not come with any tags of intellectual property rights or authorship claims. But expounding the real meaning of the text (called as ‘mantras’) demands expertise in many auxiliary fields like logic (nyAya), grammar(vyAkaraNa), prosody (chandas), orthology (nirukta) and linguistics in addition to a familiarity of the cultural milieu of the times. The Upanishads were transmitted orally to a closed group of eligible and committed students either by a father to son or teacher to disciple tradition. This method of imparting the Upanishadic Knowledge is known as sampradAya. In the absence of a Guru explicating them, it is impossible to make sense of them or understand clearly the meaning in-depth. Prakashananada’s interpretation of the svetaswatara Upanishad mantra IV – 5 following a dialectical approach of taking the thesis of the opponent and then providing its rebuttal to establish the eka jIva vAda typically illustrates the point made above. It is presented here as a conversation between an opponent and Swami Prakashananda Saraswati. Continue reading →
‘eka jIva vAda,’ the Doctrine that says “I Alone Am” is a perpetually fascinating as well as a perplexing topic in Advaita. It has been debated at many Non-dual discussion fora in the past, both online and offline. Enthusiastic seekers no doubt will continue to do so in the future, if for nothing else, at least as a part of their manana (reflection on the shrutivAkya learnt by them about jIvabrahmaikatva (Identity of the individual and brahman). We are no exception here at this site, thanks to the indulgence from Dennis.
Even though neither Dennis desired nor I anticipated, willy-nilly another round of discussion on ‘eka jIva vAda‘ got opened up triggered by a few observations Dennis made at his latest Post on “Q.394 – Becoming One.” First he raised a few questions, then two, and then one more. The last question was the inevitable left hook: What are the “scriptural references for EJV?”
That’s off my kilter. I jumped out of the rink. Had to look for succour. Fortunately there is help available from redoubtable experts, highly knowledgeable Advaitins. Instead of presenting them in the ‘Comments’ section of the thread, I felt that their answers to the query deserve to be posted as a separate Blog.
I am very grateful to Shriman LalitAlAlitaH, Shri Venkataraghavan and Shri Praveen Bhat for their kind and prompt response and for their ready consent to letting me post their views here. Continue reading →
A sheer Joy of 50 minutes. I was sitting glued to the seat. It’s almost like a Meditation where a ‘you’ dissolves untraceably and seamlessly into each pixel appearing on the screen.
All the super Stars of Physics, both of the past and current times, and their theories are discussed in simple understandable terms. The scientific evidence thus far available points to the inevitable inference that the perceived world is no more than a dream-like virtual reality, with no solidity or physicality to it. Nor do the space and time have true existence. Every object and every event in the universe is equidistant from the One Consciousness that is crafting the projection. Continue reading →
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 guruvAkya 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. Continue reading →
The above are some of the questions that all curious and observant persons ask at one time or another. Those very questions are at the base of all human investigation – be it a scientific quest or a philosophical contemplation. Continue reading →
In a short Video of 8:19 min conversation with Dr. R.L. Kuhn, Cognitive Scientist Dr. Donald Hoffman explains his approach to the Science of Consciousness and developing a mathematical model for precisely formulating equations with predictive power.
I off and on referred in these columns to the exciting new Theory of Integrated Information developed by Porf. Giulio Tononi of Wisconsin to explain Consciousness (For example here and here). We have Dr. Tononi explaining the basic concepts behind the theory in simple words in the short Videos at the following links: