Philip Renard appears in the ‘Teacher Lineage’ charts in Advaita Vision under Nisargadatta Maharaj but he has also been significantly influenced by both Ramana Maharshi and Atmananda Krishna Menon. In his first English language book, Philip writes about Advaita as communicated by all of these modern sages.
An extract from the book (about Atmananda) can be read here.
I have not yet read the book, which has just been published. It has a chapter devoted to each teacher, followed by a summary chapter, short biographies, extensive ‘Notes’ and bibliography.
Q: I’ve just started reading about advaita and Hinduism and wondered about the concept of loka-s. Are these physical or mental places or do they not really exist at all? What do Advaitins believe now, after 2000+ years of advancement of scientific knowledge?
A (Dennis): Advaita is a ‘gauged’ teaching – the teacher aims to address the present level of understanding of the student. This is why the seeker should always try to find a traditional teacher and should not merely attend random satsangs given by non-traditional teachers travelling around the world and probably staying in one location for no more than a week or two. A ‘course’ of traditional teaching may take a lifetime and would certainly be expected to continue for a number of years.
The way that it works is that the teacher provides an explanation that is suitable for the seeker at that time, and advances the latter’s understanding. Later, that explanation will be taken back and a more sophisticated one provided in its place. The methodology is called adhyAropa-apavAda. The teaching of loka-s etc is an ‘early’ one, and was aimed at Hindus who were used to worshipping gods, believing firmly in reincarnation and so on. Continue reading →
I occasionally get asked questions about reincarnation, in respect of advaita. And the sort of answer that I usually give is along the lines of saying that who-we-really-are was not born and neither will it die. Accordingly, it is really a waste of time to worry about if, why and how, the unenlightened jIva navigates through saMsAra.
But there is a whole section in the Brahma Sutra dealing with this somewhat abstruse, and seemingly ultimately irrelevant topic. It has some interest, and raises a few questions. So, for those who feel that they are doomed to return for at least another lifetime, here are some details about what the scriptures say is involved.
In the past, I had always assumed that the nature of the body into which a jIva is born in any given life is determined sometime between the events of procreation and birth. Not so! A rudimentary, ‘minute body’ is actually allocated at the time of the death of the previous body (according to the scriptures). This new gross body, along with the subtle and causal bodies, life forces (prANa-s), mind, sense organs and organs of action (j~nAnendriya-s and karmendriya-s), together with the accumulated saMskAra, then ‘travel’ (gati) to the next birth. Consciousness or chit does not travel, of course, since it already exists everywhere! Continue reading →
The teachings of advaita/vedAnta list several qualifications necessary for a student of self-knowledge to have. The first two are known as viveka and vairAgya. viveka is often translated as discrimination, which definition is further expanded to mean the ability to discriminate between the real and the unreal.
The real is defined as that which never changes. It is also known as Atma, brahman, the self, or absolute reality. The unreal is everything else. The hallmark of the ‘unreal’ is change.
vairAgya is often translated as dispassion. But as my vedAnta teacher has often pointed out, this isn’t really a very good translation of the word because it can conjure up images of a person with no apparent emotions who holds the world at bay. Continue reading →
Q: I ‘understand’ that Brahman is Eternal, Changeless, Being, Its the mAyA aspect that is puzzling. Why create an illusion and then ignore it thru dispassion, observation, witnessing, spiritual practice, etc… the very thing you (Brahman) made for your play of a world/dream you now must awaken from. I have often pondered that Brahman did not make/create the world but the mind/Self did thru a type of mis-creation a false identification. Does this make any sense?
A: The ‘final’ message of Advaita is that there is ONLY brahman (i.e. really, really ‘non-dual’). Ideas such as mAyA are part of the interim teaching to help lead the mind to that final realization. Eventually, they have to be dropped. brahman did not create anything – there is no world as a separately existing entity – it is all only brahman. So yes, as you say, the apparent separation is effectively generated by the mind as a ‘false identification’. Read the adhyAsa series that I posted – http://www.advaita-vision.org/adhyasa-part-1/ – or better still read my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’, which is all about this ‘final message’.
Q: I have heard a teacher say that, if you have listened to Vedanta / Upanishads teaching, you have heard the truth; if you do not honor this by continuing to deepen the listening, there are the following consequences : you will not hear the truth for thousands of lifetimes, and have to be reborn starting again from plants, insects and so on. Can you shine some light on this please?
A (Dennis): What you have heard is nonsense. The most important requirement for pursuing Advaita is what is called mumukShutva, which means the ‘burning desire’ to discover the truth. Once you have that, you are going to continue seeking anyway. The other requirements are things such as a still mind, ability to concentrate and discriminate, ability to control the mind and senses so that your attention is not easily distracted, being prepared to put provisional trust in what is said by the teacher.
The theory of karma says that your actions will have lawful consequences in this life or the next. But this is all interim teaching anyway. The ‘bottom line’ is that who-you-really-are was never born in the first place and is already perfect, complete and free. You just don’t realize this. Hence the requirement for finding and listening to a qualified teacher.
Q: I can hold an object that I know nothing about in my hands and start meditating .Within about 10 minutes I receive images related to the object, such as where it has been, who previously owned it, sometimes where it came from. At times I have visual images of walking through the original building or house where it previously belonged. I would like to know what this is called; is it dangerous; should I perservere and try to expand this experience? Is it valuable or beneficial to practice it?
A (Dennis): It’s called psychometry. (Wikipedia: Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, “spirit, soul” and μέτρον, metron, “measure”), also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object.”
It has nothing to do with Advaita, which is about gaining Self-knowledge – the knowledge that there is ONLY Consciousness. Pursuing this ‘ability’ will not help; indeed it will almost certainly take you away from Self-knowledge, down a blind alley, if you like. True (and worthwhile) meditation is about cultivating a still, quiet mind and the self-discipline to control that.
Part 29 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.
The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.
Part 29 explains what happens to the j~nAnI and his accumualted karma on enlightenment.
There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.