Swami Dayananda

dayanandaIn case anyone has not yet heard, Swami Dayananda passed away yesterday, the 23rd September, at 22.18 IST in Rishikesh. Unquestionably the greatest teacher of Advaita in our lifetimes, he must certainly rank as one of the most important ever. Fortunately the legacy of his own writings and transcriptions, and that of the institutions he founded and the teachers he taught, will live on to the benefit of future seekers.

As a topical example of his teaching, I would like to reproduce the following pieces on the subject of manonAsha. These are extracted from the excellent book already recommended in these pages: ‘Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati – his uniqueness in the vedanta sampradaya’ by D. Venugopal.

manonaSha or Thought-free-mind Confusion

There is also a widespread contention among the adherents of aShTANga-yoga that the truth of the self is covered by vRRittis (thought-forms) and it has to be uncovered by stoppage of thoughts (citta-vRRitti-nirodha). Pujya Swamiji clarifies that thought is not the problem. He says:

“The confusion comes from the statement that AtmA is undivided (nirvikalpa). The vision of the ShAstra is that while the knower, known, and knowledge are not separate from AtmA, AtmA is independent of all of them. In MANDukya UpaniShad and in the kArikA, the dreamer is cited as proof that there is no real division (vikalpa) such as dreamer, dream and dreamt, even though during the dream, the division was taken to be real.

The purpose of the dream example is to make us see that the waker’s experience of duality is not any different. In the jyotir-brAhmaNam of the bRRihadAraNyaka UpaniShad (4.3. 1-6), the invariable AtmA in dream and waking is presented as the light of awareness (jyotissvarUpaH). It is obvious that AtmA is always nirvikalpa, in spite of the apparent division. That is what is said in Kena UpaniShad, ‘in every form of knowledge, AtmA is understood by the discriminative as the invariable’ (2.4). Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa. This is entirely different from a state wherein there is absence of thoughts.”

“In aShTANga yoga, the aNgI (the main thing to be achieved) is nirvikalpa-samAdhi, a state wherein there is the absence of subject-object relationship. Even though it is a desirable accomplishment, the state itself is jada (inert) inasmuch as there is no thought (vRRitti) that can destory ignorance. In samAdhi (a mental state of absorption) and also when there are thoughts, what obtains as invariable is the svarUpa of AtmA, which is nirvikalpa. Again, the notion that when there is no more thought, then there is enlightenment implies a duality such as AtmA and thought; when thought is, AtmA is not; when AtmA is, thought is not. Both become equally real because one exists in the absence of the other. But that is not true. Does thought deny AtmA? Is there a thinker without AtmA? Is there a thought without AtmA? In fact, thought is AtmA. But AtmA is not just a thought. AtmA is satyam, being present in all situations. The situations are mithyA, dependent as they are for their existence upon AtmA.”

“Thoughts are natural and they will always return. So, you have to do nirodha all the time to see AtmA. Even if you see AtmA in samAdhi, AtmA becomes objectified and is reduced to the level of any other object in the creation. If AtmA is the object, who is the subject? Assuming you see AtmA in samAdhi, can there be fulfillment in terms of knowledge or of fullness? You continue to be a saMsArI. According to this, if you settle for AtmA, you miss the world and vice versa. So, a yogi is always tense, afraid of the world.”

“Elimination of thoughts is not knowledge; it is not self-discovery. Thoughts do not cover AtmA. Thoughts come, I am. Thoughts go, I am. Compare this with: snake is, rope is; snake is not, rope is. So, there is the mistake of equating thoughts (which come and go) with I (which is always there). If I do not know who I am, this original mistake is never corrected by removing the thoughts. VedAnta does not accept thoughts as the cause for sorrow. The mistake of taking thoughts for AtmA is the cause of sorrow. This is entirely different from what the modern VedAnta and Yoga say.”

“Sorrow is a result of a mix up between the real and the apparent. A wave is not separate from or independent of water while water does not depend upon the wave. So too a thought is not independent of AtmA, I, awareness, while AtmA is independent. The mistake of taking the thought as AtmA is obviously the cause of sorrow. Even if thought is a problem, the solution, ‘Get rid of the thoughts’ is wrong. The thought, ‘I am small’ is a problem. Mistaking the thought for I is the problem and the solution is the knowledge, ‘I am real, thoughts are apparent’.”

“The reality given to the mind is to be destroyed by knowing the invariable AtmA manifest in all thoughts. AtmA is not covered by thoughts. Wave does not cover water; in wave itself, we see water. The wave need not subside for us to see the water; in wave itself, we see water. There is no covering at all. AtmA cannot be covered by anything except by ignorance. It is always manifest. I am awareness, always free from thoughts, in spite of thinking. This is the darShana of the one self. What is real is always one, one alone is real. This knowledge destroys the old silly mind that stood against me. Thinking continues but it is known as mithyA, apparent and so, it is as good as nonexistent. One’s shadow is not a problem. MithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it.”

(Swami Dayananda, Talks on Upadesa Saram, p 78-80 and The Teaching Tradition of Vedanta, p 11-12)

14 thoughts on “Swami Dayananda

  1. No comments on the personality. But the theory presented here is a distortion of Upadesa Saram. In religion/philosophy, The word ‘know’ is the most misleading since it is commonly understood to mean an intellectual construct stored in the brain. So we have many people here and everywhere who ‘know’ that ‘I am atma.’ This knowledge/delusion continues until life teaches otherwise. When I am bleeding profusely and the medics are working desperately, the ‘I am atma’ knowledge disappears instantly. Unless a person is living/being in that state, the whole theory is in the same category as Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Now back to Upadesa Saram of Ramana. Verses 9, 19, 20, 26, and 30 will show the extent of the distortion.

    9. By the power of meditation, devoid of thoughts, one is established in true Being, and this is supreme devotion.

    This verse alone points to the fact that one is esablished in Being by being FREE of thoughts. This addresses the statement in the article that states ” the notion that when there is no more thought, then there is enlightenment implies a duality”. Or the statement “thoughts come, I am, thoughts go, I am”.

    The Swami may indeed explain his point of view with an alternate theory of his own. Nobody can question that. But he cannot base his explanation on the foundation of Upadesa Saram.

  2. twopaisa, I’m curious to hear in your own words what this actually means to you:

    “9. By the power of meditation, devoid of thoughts, one is established in true Being, and this is supreme devotion.”

    I agree that ‘I am Atma’ is useless and misleading. One good whack and its out the window for most seekers.

    What do you think ‘meditation’ is?
    Is ‘devoid of thoughts’ synonymous with Being? Can there be thoughts and still be established in Being?
    How is Being related to the body? Free of thoughts or free of the influence of thoughts, the identifying principle of thoughts, ‘I’?

    For me, the Swami seemed to love analysis and intellectual explanations. This was certainly not the case with Ramana. As long as there is ‘someone’ thinking, there can never be any real peace.

  3. I will give my explanation. You are free to reject it.

    Devoid of thoughts is synonymous with Being. But what is meant by ‘devoid of thoughts?’. Does it mean the jnani stops thinking altogether? No. But it is what I would call as ‘voluntary thinking’, as opposed to being swept by the current of thinking involuntarily through incessant mind activity. Thinking only when needed to speak, write, and other functions. The body exists and is cared for but it is not through the ‘me first’ principle based on ‘I am the body’.

  4. Is this your actual experience or is there a fluctuation in and out of Being because the ‘I’ principle still identifies at times with particular images, thoughts/feelings?

    I would say devoid of thoughts is a samadhi state which is what it is but not permanent. Ramana seems to advocate ‘practicing’ this samadhi. Abidance could be synonymous with this.

    I don’t reject this or what you said. A complete absence of the ‘I’ principle, No-Self, doesn’t seem to be an experience of any sort, judging by what some have said about it.

  5. As I said, it was an explanation, my understanding with the intellect. Take it for what it is worth.

    There cannot be fluctuation in and out of Being if one is actually living as stated in verse 9. This is indicated by the use of the term ‘established’. Further reinforced by ‘supreme’ which indicates ultimate. The coming and going state you have mentioned is different and is mentioned by Ramana and others in other places.

    Of course all this is moot so long as my life is nowhere near any of this.

  6. If all this is moot, why do you bother with it? Is there anything not within the field of experience?

    OTOH, is there anything in the field of experience, worthwhile? 🙂

  7. I am not sure what you mean by bothered. I happened to notice an erroneous interpretation of Upadesa Saram which led to my post.

    Yes, everything in MY field of experience is worthwhile for me. By which I mean those experiences I/mind want to be repeated again (good times with family, friends, etc) and those that I never want to happen again (loss, death, illness). In this manner, my experience helps to shape my future.

    Now what does any of this mean to you? I feel that is more important.

  8. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. You are making a statement that Dayananda’s interpretation is erroneous. It could be.

    But you say your life is nowhere near this (Ramana’s interpretation), so I wonder how is it that you know Dayananda’s point of view is erroneous? If this is not your moment to moment experience (established in true Being…), are we just plucking some more strings of hope for the attainment of something? I fail to see what the rejection or acceptance of anyone’s interpretations have to do with oneself except more conceptual constructing.

    Is there really a future and someone who is going to experience it? It certainly seems that way unless you’ve had a real change in your point of view. That change comes about when you begin to stop indulging in conceptual thinking and sink into what you really are which is unfathomable but clearly present. What you are is what is without the interpretation of thinking. The conviction that no amount of thought can ever lead you to real understanding triggers something. Then, there is no problem to solve. All this philosophical and religious ideation can only lead to problems. Those problems are created in our brains in order to keep us believing that we have some kind of continuity. I find it is rather impossible to communicate this to most people. Ah well……….

    • Continued:
      “The conviction that no amount of thought can ever lead you to real understanding triggers something.”

      But I (and just about every person I know) want only to enjoy my pleasures and don’t really want real understanding. Thoughts, past memories are critical. What does every culture in the world today celebrate? Birthdays, anniversaries, school/college reunions etc. The mind is happy replaying the past over and over and remembering the good times. Such thinking itself gives more pleasure in the present. That is the very essence of our lives. Giving up thinking means giving up all my desires and fears. Including all the religious pleasures – my God, my prayer, etc etc. Who REALLY wants to do that? Have we any understanding (even if intellectual) of what is involved and all it’s implications?

      Yet so many say they are seekers of liberation!

  9. I may be wrong, but you seem to be mixing theory with actual living. The interpretation of Upadesa Saram was incorrect. This can be pointed out by anybody who is reasonably familiar with the subject/theory. If you don’t like Upadesa Saram, take something else, say the Constitution. One does not have to be a judge or a lawyer to ‘know’ freedom of speech is guaranteed by certain Constitutions. If somebody denies it and claims the opposite, anybody can point out the distortion. But only a judge would know in specific situations how this freedom operates in daily life, what is/is not freedom, what are its boundaries etc.

    Of course most of us have a future that we are looking forward to. A future in the family, career, spiritual life! And so on. Where is the doubt?

    A change in merely a point of view is another mental adjustment and hardly profound. Statements like “change comes about when you begin to stop indulging in conceptual thinking and sink into what you really are which is unfathomable but clearly present”. And ” What you are is what is without the interpretation of thinking.” are more theoretical constructs, at least for me. They are not going to solve any of my problems anymore than all the volumes of religion and philosophy already accumulated during my lifetime.

  10. Not having a problem is not the same thing as solving a problem.

    What sort of problems do you have? Money, love, greed, hatred? All happening in your head. All caused and perpetuated by your own thinking. What I’m suggesting is a ‘head-on’ confrontation with what you think you are. If you think this is theory, you haven’t understood anything. This is a practical approach and has nothing to do with religion and philosophy. There are changes that are profound, that allow you to live with a minimum of conflict and that open ‘doors’ to something very profound. If this is not in your experience, don’t assume it is not in someone else’s.

  11. As I said, it is certainly not my experience. A man who is starving on the verge of death cannot indulge in a ‘head on confrontation’ by imagining there is no problem except in his head. Ditto for a parent beside the dying child. I find all this the result of excessive thinking and theorizing that comes about due to lack of understanding about the limitations of the intellect in solving problems. Just my two paisa, nothing more.

    Of course, your experience may be different and I am not assuming anything about that. Best wishes.

  12. For some reason, you choose to invent situations that you imagine yourself to be in and then make a conclusion. Are your imaginary people even interested in this subject? Now is the moment for the ‘head-on confrontation’. It is not reserved for some special moment of terror. 🙂

    I’ve mentioned several times that no amount of thinking is going to provide any satisfaction to anyone for very long. That is what the confrontation is all about. Through persistent observation of this, ‘doors’ open. I don’t know why you reject this. Could be something you’ve read that is stuck in your mind, or you just don’t take it far enough. Or, perhaps you think that self just magically disappears without looking at what it actually is. You have to engage this with your whole being. These are basic things in the instructions of great men like Ramana, Nisargadatta, and the Buddha. The language may vary but not the results.

  13. We are not on the same page. I give sample situations from the real world as examples but you find them happening to imaginary people. It is also my experience. I find in reality people do NOT want the self to disappear no matter how much they try to imagine they do. There are many many ‘have to’s and instructions but that is simply not operational in daily living. Frankly, words like confrontation, persistent observation, atma, Self or whatever else have simply become too stale for me. Simply accepting or repeating ‘thinking does not provide satisfaction’ does not stop the thinking process.

    If you are living differently, it is best to ignore me since what I write is not relevant for you. That is perfectly understandable. May be it is relevant for somebody else.

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