New interview

For those interested, here is a link to a recent interview with myself conducted by Creative India magazine. It provides a general introduction to the nature of Advaita and background to my own involvement. The only aspect that readers of this site might find novel is a disagreement I had with respect to the Sringeri Acharya’s definition of Astika!

8 thoughts on “New interview

  1. Dennis –

    You disagree with the Sringeri Acharya ‘To say that you first have to be an astika in order that you can study the scriptures makes no sense to me’. I would like to suggest the real meaning of ‘Astika’ is not one who has faith in the Veda Pramanam but rather one who has belief in the fact that Brahman exists. I do not have to look into a book to know that I exist.

    The Acharya is only paraphrasing what the Shruthi itself says .. नैव वाचा न मनसा प्राप्तुं शक्यो न चक्षुषा । अस्तीति ब्रुवतोऽन्यत्र कथं तदुपलभ्यते ॥’ (क उप) [naiva vAcA na manasA prAptuM Sakyo na caxuShA l astIti bruvatonyatra kaTham tadupalaByate (kaThopanishad)]. “Brahman is not reached by word of mouth or the mind or by seeing. How can It be known by anyone who does not already ‘says’ It exists”.

    To believe that the Shrutii reveals ‘Brahma Satyam’ is the primary confusion in Vedanta. In my opinion, this conviction about an ‘a priori existence of the Shruthi’ is also the basic misconception within the Swami Dayananda school of Vedanta that also includes Swami Paramarthananda.

    Regards
    KR

  2. ‘To believe that the Shrutii reveals ‘Brahma Satyam’ is the primary confusion in Vedanta. In my opinion, this conviction about an ‘a priori existence of the Shruthi’ is also the basic misconception within the Swami Dayananda school of Vedanta that also includes Swami Paramarthananda.’

    What does ‘prior existence of the Shruti’ mean? — That it alone is the way or venue for realisation of the Truth (satyam)? As such it would seem to be a contingent, no a necessary condition.

    Atman/Brahman is an already existing entity, as KR is saying, and, accordingly, does not need a proof or a teaching methodology. ‘I’ am that’ (Consciousness-Existence). But what Its real nature is no one knows or can know (as an object to the mind). All concepts and dualistic experiences are sublatable. The only thing that can be done is to remove the veil of ignorance which appears to hide It, for which purity of mind and an intense desire for knowledge or liberation (mumkshutwa) is a requisite. Sastras can help the seeker by, mostly, negation (not this, not this). Realisation of the Truth – Brahmanubhava – is spontaneous and non-transferable. It alone is non-sublatable.

    If all the above is correct, then it seems to be in agreement with KR’s comments – and also with Sri Satchidanandendra’s teaching (SSSS).

  3. I think it was Prof. R.E. Nisbett (at Michigan Univ) who pioneered systematic studies on the differences in the perspective of people in the West and the East (Of course the sampling could be primarily from the easily available student populations). Whatever may be the limitations of such studies, some remarkable aspects do come into forefront.

    It was reported that when a Westerner views a scene, his/her attention gets focused on the prominent or central point of the scene. In contrast, the Easterner (if I remember right, referring to the far-East) observes the overall background field and obtains a summated vision of what is there. Another aspect is the assertion of the individuality in the case of a Westerner whereas the lack of such self-assertion in the case of the Easterners. (Our marriage Invitation cards, for example, are still issued by parents or grandparents, if the grands are alive).

    That being the case, if anyone studies the age old ancient scriptures of the East, one should have to understand those texts and the words in them as per the “tradition” in the East. In fact, tradition carries more weight in interpreting and understanding the terminology of the Vedantic lore.

    It is simply disingenuous if a Swami or Swamini coins up their own definitions abruptly to peddle their ware. One such example is the word “shraddha.” This is a very difficult ‘concept’ for translation into a Western concept. If one gives the meaning to be “Open minded,” for shraddha, it borders, IMHO, on ludicrousness. I guess the problem with the word ‘Astika’ too is in that sort of liberty assumed by some of the teachers.

    Wikipedia says: “Āstika literally means “there is, there exists” and nāstika means “not āstika”. These have been concepts used to classify Indian philosophies by modern scholars.”

    [PLEASE NOTE THE WORD “MODERN SCHOLARS”]

    The Wiki goes on to say: “The various definitions for āstika and nastika philosophies has been disputed since ancient times, and there is no consensus.”

    [PLEASE NOTE THE WORDS “DISPUTED SINCE ANCIENT TIMES]

    It gives some more interesting info: “Manusmriti does not define, or imply a definition for Astika. ”

    “[T]he 6th century CE Jain scholar and doxographer Haribhadra … did not consider “reverence for Vedas” as a marker for an Astika. ”

    “Astika, in some texts, is defined as those who believe in the existence of Atman.”

    [For more details see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80stika_and_n%C4%81stika ]

    regards,

  4. Whether it is Vedanta or Science, the basiic axiom is ‘Existence exists’. It is only because of this any observation is even possible and only upon this observation is knowledge built and therefore all knowledge (including ignorance, error, misconception, opinion, assumption, belief, faith etc ) is of the nature of Existence only. There can be absolutely no distinction between ‘I know that I know’ and ‘I know that I do not know’.

    Yet, even though Vedanta and Science are both ‘pursuit of knowledge’ only, we do make a distinction between them. And the Sringeri Acharya is pointing out that distinction as being of the nature of mutual exclusivity; Science and Vedanta can never co-exist. This of course does not mean one is superior to the other :-)).

  5. Dear KR,

    ” ‘Existence exists’. ”

    “There can be absolutely no distinction between ‘I know that I know’ and ‘I know that I do not know’.”

    Great points. Indisputable, I would say. Kudos to you, KR.

    “Science and Vedanta can never co-exist. ”

    I am not sure here.
    Perhaps, the problem can be in the definitions. For me Science is not a laundry list of some ‘concepts/theories/data’ gathered at a point of time. It’s a live, ever fresh inquiry. So also Vedanta too.

    As Shankara in his vAkya bhAShya on Kena upanishad 1-4 says puzzlingly:
    आचार्य आह ‘अन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि’ इत्यागमम् ।
    (The teacher said “It is different from the known and beyond the unknown” ),
    even Vedanta can never make one reach the final Truth except for pointing.

    Science is still a ‘work in progress.’ As the trends of research in both Theoretical Physics and Neuroscience do indicate, I am certain they both will converge some day (The work of Cognitive Scientists like Prof. D. Hoffman and Physicists like N. Arkani-Hamed, for example, need to be watched), in the near future.

    regards,

    regards,

  6. Dear Shri Ramesam

    After “Science and Vedanta can never co-exist.”, I was tempted to add ‘(of course there is no problem with science and vedanta co-existing). I am sure you will appreciate the subtle message there.

    In the Kenopanishad passage you have quoted, my understanding of the bhAShya is as follows: This entire universe, with whose exploration Science is obsessed with, comprises of only two things .. the ‘known’ and ‘not known’; there is no other thing. Both of them are diverging and unbounded knowledge-functions and so there is no possibility of any final knowledge with respect to them. The Atman is neither of those. For the Vedantin, the seeker of self knowledge, neither of them is worth knowing because he knows ‘ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परं’ brahmavidApnoti paraM The knower of Brahman gains the ultimate .. ‘आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः’ AtmA vA arE draShTavyaH This Atman should be known.

    You are quite right when you say ‘even Vedanta can never make one reach the final Truth’ but to that Vidyaranya humorously says ‘Ok so what ? It certainly is better than samsara !’. ‘कूटस्थोऽस्मीति बोधोऽपि मिथ्या चेत् नेति को वदेत् ? तादृशेनापि बोधेन संसारो हि निवर्तते’ kUTasthOsmIti bodhOpi mithyA cEt nEti kO vadEt ? tAdrishEnApi bodhena samsArO hi nivartate .. If it is urged that even ‘I am Brahman’ knowledge is also mithyA only, who is disputing that ? But even with that kind of knowledge, samsara is overcome. So, it is beneficial only.

    Your last paragraph, I have serious problems with. Science may be a ‘work in progress’ .. but working towards what ? When will this work be completed ? How will that be indicated ? You may recall Sage Narada’s words to Prajapati ‘मन्त्रविदेवास्मि नात्मविद् .. भगवः शोचामि’ mantravidEvAasmi nAtmavid .. BagavaH shocAmi .. I know only the Veda mantras but not the Atman .. O Lord, I grieve. The Atman, being Existence itself, can never be a ‘work in progress’.

    I would like to hear your views on the above.

    Regards
    KR

    • Dear KR,

      “The Atman, being Existence itself, can never be a ‘work in progress’. I would like to hear your views on the above.”

      I prefer to be very brief here because (i) The main theme of this thread is different — it’s more like what you originally posted on Mar 08, 2017 and I do not wish to divert the attention to Science & Vedanta and (ii) You yourself are aware of the things.

      I may point out just for general info that, in a way, your above post contains the answers to the question you pose.

      Whether it is the seeker who says, ” I know ‘ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परं ” or Narada says “I know only the Veda mantras …,” they are all clearly dealing with something “known.” From there, they want to progress to grok the “unknown.” The fallacy in that is obvious! Brahman is, after all, neither “the known nor the unknown.”
      (kena 2 – 2 : नाह मन्ये सु वेदेति नो न वेदेति वेद च | I do not think that I know Brahman; not that I do not know it too. I do know).

      Whether it is wrestling with the shruti mantra-s or scientific investigation, yes, both will not lead to Self-realization. At the best, one of them may work as efficient sedatives and bring about a comfy feeling to say “samsara is overcome.”

      Yes, everything one does looks as though it is a “work in progress” till figuratively s/he turns 180 deg to realize or the search ends, because as you put it, “The Atman, is Existence itself.”

      The only thing is the probability of success following the traditional way is one in a million or so (BG VII – 3) and I don’t think there is any valid ground to believe that this ratio has improved in the last millennia of years. The open question (to be debated separately and not here) is whether scientific method could possibly improve the probability.

      regards,

  7. If I may interject at this point, I am reminded of C. P. Snow’s (The two cultures and the scientific revolution), which division and corresponding factional allegiances, evidently, have not yet been completely overcome: empirical science vs. the humanities (Snow was a strong advocate of science). This current discussion could be endless, but permit me to quote from ‘Nonduality’, by David Loy (pp 7-8):

    ‘Unlike science, which inquires into objects which are in the world, philosophy sets out to penetrate into the unity of all things by going back into their fundamental origin. Consequently, the object of philosophy can permit nothing outside itself by means of which it might be understood. Other objects are logically dependent on it, but it itself depends on nothing. Thoughts and statements about such an “object” are necessarily self-reflexive; while we explain everything by reference to this object, we must explain it by itself; it is self-explanatory, its own point o reference.’ — quoting Sebastian Samay, “Reason Revisited: The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers”, 1971, 213.’

    I think that there is no question that a scientist can also be a philosopher, or become one (e g Shrödinger, Friedlander, Eddington, Einstein himself) but, I would say, in so far as someone’s science is inspired by philosophy, the latter is prius – logically and epistemologically (no need to recourse outside of itself). Of course, philosophical systems are the result of conceptual thinking and intellectual intuition (altogether mithya), and only direct experience of non-duality (pure Consciousness, Atman-Brahman, etc. being only verbal symbols) is what finally counts for a non-dualist or Advaitin.*
    * ‘[E]ven Vedanta can never make one reach the final Truth’ (Ramesam). I am sure he means: the doctrinal content by itself.

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