‘Know thyself’ – Delphic Oracle

What is the interpretation given by modern philosophers to the Delphic injunction “O man, know thyself”? (Question in Quora)

This knowledge or question is one modern philosophers, psychologists, educators, and people in general are, to my knowledge, not interested in.

‘… self-knowledge, is hard to come by. To ‘know thyself’ (Orphic oracle) is a tall order, and most people are not interested in making the effort, or know how to go about it. But man is called upon to surpass, transcend himself, not to ‘make himself’. Until that happens, it has been said, “we are all hypocrites”. As we have seen, we cannot blame the ‘ego’ (or one’s ‘personality’: “the way I am”), that phantom, mask or impostor, for having infected us in the first place. Is it genetics? Heredity? Clearly, in the end, no one can escape responsibility – if we take the individual (‘I’, myself) as separate, or s/he take themselves as such. What we call ‘my ego’ is nothing but an excuse, a rationalization and, ultimately, an escape from real freedom.’ — Ego, ‘ego’, and metaphysics – Consequences for Psychotherapy Continue reading

Q. 429 Discussion on ‘I am That’

Q: I have a couple of questions about ‘I Am That’.

As I understand it, this essentially says: Atman = brahman. So the ‘I’ is not the ahaMkAra ‘I’, rather the Atman ‘I’.

1. Did I get that right?

2. When one begins to reflect upon ‘I Am That’, is one expected to feel the I as the ahaMkAra I? And then move, gradually, towards realizing the I is in fact Atman?

3. The reason I ask (2) is because I have a great deal of difficulty ‘feeling’ my ahaMkAra I. It just doesn’t ‘compute’ with me. Does this brain/body sense things, have feelings, emotions, thoughts; am I aware of external and internal things? Yes! All the time. But are these sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc. = ahaMkAra ‘I-me’? No. They’re just… stuff that happens, electrochemical dances in a brain in a skull in a body that is identified as ‘Jack’ Is this a problem – that I can’t consciously/directly feel my ahaMkAra I? That when I look for it, I see mithyA, nothing of essential substance? Could my not being able to directly experience my ahaMkAra I be a stumbling block? Continue reading

Enlightenment (Part 3)

(Read Part 2)…

Simply wanting to become enlightened is of no use unless one understands that this means the acquisition of Self-knowledge. Swami Dayananda explains this:

“With so many concepts of mokSha available, a mere desire for mokSha is not good enough. It must be converted into jij~nAsA, a desire to know. This is very important. This conversion means recognizing the fact that mokSha is in the form of knowledge, which is to be gained here in this life. So mokSha is not later or elsewhere.

“Conversion of one’s desire for mokSha into jij~nAsA implies a certain cognitive change. To begin with, one has some idea about mokSha, which may not be more than a belief. When one thoroughly exposes oneself to the teaching, there is the possibility of discerning that the mokSha is in the form of knowledge alone and not in any other form.” [vivekachUDAmaNi – Talks on 108 Selected Verses, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Gangadharesvar Trust, 1997. No ISBN. Purchase from http://books.arshavidya.org/]

As I have put it elsewhere:
“The Self is already ‘enlightened.’ There is nothing that can or need be done to alter this fact. The problem is simply the mind and, in its ignorance, the identification with something limited, be it mind, body, role or whatever. Accordingly, to remove that ignorance, knowledge is needed and this process is all at the level of mind in the phenomenal world. When sufficient knowledge has been acquired, the ignorance is dissolved and the mind realizes that already existent truth. But nothing has actually changed. Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 47

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 47 begins the explanation of the mahAvAkyatat tvam asi‘. It first deals with the ‘direct’ (vAchyArtha) meaning. The 3 indicators (lakShaNA-s) for deriving the implied or intended meaning (lakShyArtha) of a word are then examined.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Q. 428 A dialog on getting to know brahman

Q: I’m struggling (a lot) with ‘believing in’ Brahman.

I realize the problems inherent in this struggle: (1) It’s probably futile in my early stage of Advaita studies; (2) Brahman is beyond mind, so any attempt to truly apprehend it is doomed to failure. And yet I persist. 😉

I can walk with Advaita Vedanta through all the Neti-ing – I/Truth am not this, not this – but when Advaita makes the leap to IS THIS … I shake my head and turn away. Brahman seems like an abstraction born of fear/uncertainty, like other similar abstractions such as Heaven, The Ground, The Truth, etc. (I am not saying I know that Brahman IS an abstraction born of fear, rather that it seems to me that it could be.)

So I keep looking for analogies, things I can/do or ‘believe in’ that might be similar enough to Brahman that I could relax into it a bit.

Today I thought: Perhaps Brahman is (quasi-)synonymous with Nature? Nature – ‘everything that is’ – is all-encompassing in a way that suggests Brahman to me. Science’s take on Nature is conceptual, but the essence of Nature is, I think, not conceptual.

So: ‘Everything that is’ + non-conceptual – this sounds Brahman-esque to me. Yes? No? Continue reading

Q. 427 pramANa and reason

Q: Regarding the relationship between scripture, logic, and experience in the context of Vedanta being a pramANa:   It seems like the ‘rule’ is that for scripture to be considered valid it must be both supportable by reason and non-negatable by reason. But what exactly does that mean?

A (Dennis): Basically, according to Advaita, THE pramANa is scripture (shruti). In practice, this should be unfolded by a qualified teacher, who you trust not to mislead you. You make the conscious decision to take what is said ‘on trust’ until such time as you realize its truth for yourself. Shankara said that you should not accept any scripture that is contrary to reason. But ‘unreasonable’ scriptural statements usually turn out to be gauNa, which effectively means ‘figurative’, and are explained (reasonably!) somewhere close by in the text in which they occur.

The Sublime Homecoming

A chapter from the novel by Mukesh Eswaran has just been posted to the main site.

Here is a brief description of the book by the author:

The life of Michael Pearson, an American scientist, falls apart when his wife accidentally dies. His search for a way to deal with his grief, which takes him to India and back, leads him to spirituality. Since he firmly accepts Darwin’s theory of evolution, he is skeptical of the validity of the claims of spirituality. But Socratic dialogues with an enigmatic man in India called Swami and his subsequent life-experiences compel him to gradually rethink his position. The novel traces Michael’s arduous odyssey to self-discovery in a secular life, ending in a crisis that decidedly resolves his doubts about the compatibility of spirituality with evolution. This novel clearly illustrates how everything in life—from the mundane to the sublime—can be approached in the light of nonduality or Advaita. And if one wants to understand how and why spirituality is completely consistent with the theory of evolution, this novel is worth reading.

Mukesh Eswaran is deeply interested in spirituality, especially Advaita. He is an academic by profession and teaches at a university. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Litmus Tests for Self-realization – 1:

The deceptively simple looking Advaitic message “tat tvaM asi” (You are That) hides behind its elegance an enormous depth and profundity of philosophical contemplation. Either being unaware of or grossly ignoring the rigorous bodily and mental discipline that goes into prior preparation before one can appreciate fully the meaning of these significant Vedantic sentences (mahA vAkya-s) in this Internet age, one may believe that by mere hearing of that inimitable statement one is entitled to claim “ahaM brahma asmi” (I am brahman). S/he may even buttress that claim saying that “Nothing needs to be done and after Self-realization also it is all business as usual” because Shankara said that “I am already by my very nature forever blissful That” (nitya suddha buddha mukti svabhAvaH).

Fortunately for us, our ancient Advaita scriptures shine with ever-shimmering bright nuggets of ‘indicators’ sprinkled all over them. These nuggets are like the twinkling stars in the vast depths of space which help a seeker to test for himself/herself whether we truly grokked or not the message of the jIva-brahma ekatva (Oneness of the individual ‘me’ and the eternal, immutable, infinite Self). Continue reading

In defence of Osho

Comment by ‘Jack Shiva’:

Dear James Schwartz,

I read your essay “The Horse`s Mouth” and wrote a few comments about some of the passages.

“It so happens that the Osho people, in spite of the fact that most of them spent long periods in India, had virtually no knowledge of Vedic spiritual culture even though they paraded around in red clothing…much to the consternation of the locals…and called themselves ‘neo-sanyassis’ which translates as ‘new renunciates.’ Renunciation is a tried and true Vedic spiritual idea but in this case it is not clear what was actually being renounced.”

Osho had a different concept of sannyas, in which the renounciation would be of the ego , and not the world as in traditional sannyas. Although this kind of rebalancing of the worldy and spiritual lives has been quite a common theme with many gurus of the last century.

When Osho initiated his first disciples in 1970, he gave this talk at the end of a meditation camp in Mt Abu: Continue reading

Enlightenment (Part 2)

(Read Part 1)…

Here is how Jean Klein puts it:

“…it lies beyond duality and cannot be grasped by language. One can however, endeavor to describe it by saying that the realized man is one who has reached a pure and full consciousness of ‘I am’. For the ordinary man, such a consciousness is always confused because it is impure, that is to say, accompanied by qualifications. ‘I am this or that’, ‘I have to deal with this or that’. In reality this ‘I am’ is ever there, it can’t be otherwise. It accompanies each and every state. To return to the ‘I am’ in its complete purity, there is no other way than the total elimination of everything that accompanies it: objects, states. Then that consciousness which hitherto used to turn to the innumerable companions of the ‘I am’, sees them all to be lifeless, finds itself, and realizes its own everlasting splendor.”
[Be Who You Are, Jean Klein translated Mary Mann, Non-Duality Press, 2006, ISBN-10: 0955176255, ISBN-13: 978-0955176258] Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK

Unfortunately, between hearing this and knowing it to be true, there seems to be a very large, if not insurmountable, gap. How do we bridge it? Here is what Dhanya says: Continue reading