Enlightenment – akhaNDAkAra

The word akhaNDAkAra means ‘form of the whole’. AkAra means ‘form, shape, appearance’; akhaNDa means ‘entire, whole’ (a means ‘not’, khaNDa means ‘broken, deficient, fragmented’). So, what happens on enlightenment is that the previous mental disposition of believing ourselves to be separate and limited is replaced by the realization that we are the unlimited whole – brahman.

This realization takes place in the mind of a person at a moment in time but the irony is that, once it has occurred, it is then known that who-we-really-are is timeless and mindless.

Swami Paramarthananda tells a story about a game he used to play as a child. He and his friends would take a child into a room that was entirely empty and they would place pillows about the room and stand the child up against one wall. He was told to memorize the positions of the pillows and then they blindfolded him. He was then told that he had to cross the room to the other wall without touching any of the pillows. The other children then watched as he very carefully edged his way forward. Whenever they laughed, he would retreat and move sideways before trying again. Eventually he reached the other wall and was allowed to remove the blindfold. He then discovered that all of the pillows had been removed before he began and that he had been moving across an empty floor trying to avoid non-existent objects. Continue reading

Q. 425 Truth and reality

Q: As I see/feel it, Truth (with a capital T) is a human concept, and like all concepts, is not real (except in our minds). “What is” is simply “what is” … period, end of story (literally).

Advaita Vedanta seems to say that Truth (Brahman) is real, that it is in fact the only reality.

  1. Are the two assertions above incompatible? (I have the feeling that, ultimately, they’re not, because the Truth I’m talking about is a concept and Brahman is not.)
  2. If they are, is my take that ‘Truth is a human concept and therefore not real’ a deep obstacle (perhaps even a show-stopper) to my studying Advaita?

A: It is not possible to talk about brahman/reality because it is non-dual and without attributes (see Q. 328). You need to accept/appreciate this. But of course, as part of the process of removing self-ignorance from the mind, we do need to ‘as if’ talk about it. And we do this via pointers, negation and so on. All of these are concepts and have to be dropped IN THE END. But, in the interim, we make use of them without worrying about the fact that they are mithyA.

The other point is that words are very slippery things and different people can understand different things. The word ‘sat’ can certainly mean both ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ (as well as ‘existence’). Whether or not you regard these as synonyms may cause you a problem of the sort you describe. But the word ‘reality’ is as much a concept as the word ‘truth’! These are the sort of things that twentieth century Western philosophers argued about. Don’t worry about it! Gain Self-knowledge and you can then happily drop all the concepts, or simply use them as appropriate when you want to talk to someone who doesn’t have Self-knowledge!

Q. 424 Paradox of the Illusory Self

Q: I’ve read your wonderful book, Back to the Truth, and much from your website. I’ve learned so much from what you’ve offered, it’s impossible to thank you enough. I do have a question that continues to arise again and again. Though simple, it’s never quite answered head-on. It’s hard to phrase it in a single sentence, so here goes: 

Sometimes it seems that nondual teachers are simply saying “Did you notice you’re conscious? That’s what you are.” There are many such teachers, as I’m sure you are aware. Some, similarly, seem to say that realizing there is no person is all there is too it, everything else stays the same. Meanwhile there are many many accounts of realization that include an understanding of the nature of consciousness, of seeing he world of objects as empty or transparent, and many have said that the mark of realization is an awareness that does not go away (or seem to go away) during deep sleep. These understandings seem beyond no-self.

So when an instructor says something like “who wants to know” or “who wants enlightenment” I get very frustrated. I get it that there is no person that wants to know. Maybe I don’t get it enough (certainly not experientially), but just dropping the idea of a self and saying “yep I’m conscious, I’m aware” does not lead to these other powerful understandings, or deeper truths. 

Body minds that have realized no-self still go on through life with a few desires and interests that they try to satisfy (Ramana Maharshi reading the news, for instance). This body-mind is interested in big Truths. So why tell me that seeing through the self, knowing that I am aware (or awareness) is enough? There seem to be another, bigger, even more interesting truth to be discovered. 

So, I guess a simple way of asking my question is: Paradoxes rise from a illusory self seeking to see through itself. but they don’t arise from a body mind (or even an illusory self) seeking to understand oneness, consciousness, the universe, etc. I assume we have to see through the self to realize the rest, but why do so many seem to ignore the rest? Continue reading

Q. 421 – Creation and lIlA

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’.

Tattvabodha – Part 29

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.

Truth or Reality

Truth Reality Bhavagam (God)

Bhrigu said, ‘Truth is Brahma; Truth is Penance; it is Truth that creates all creatures. It is by Truth that the whole universe is upheld; and it is with the aid of Truth that one goes to heaven. Untruth is only another form of Darkness. It is Darkness that leads downwards. Those who are afflicted by Darkness and covered by it fail to behold the lighted regions of heaven. It has been said that Heaven is light and that Hell is Darkness.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CXC

*

‘Reality’ is a metaphysical concept or notion (which thus combines reason and intuition. As a concept, it purports to refer to something which is actually existing and is not just verbal (that is, it exists outside its verbal expression). Continue reading

Q. 418 – When enlightenment occurs

Q: “You cannot experience brahman. But everything you experience is brahman (since brahman is all there is).”

1. Are both assertions true?

2. My understanding (based on both being true) is that you cannot experience brahman directly, but you are always experiencing it indirectly via vyavahara/mithya objects. Very much like Plato’s cave and Kant’s phenomena/numina, you experience shadows/phenomena … not the dinge-an-sich/numina which casts the shadows. 

My Advaita is rusty (shoving vyavahara and mithya together into vyavahara/mithya is probably not kosher) … but is the gist of my understanding right? Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 15

On Narada Bhakti Sutras  – 15

Part – 14  

6.  FROM MARKANDEYA PURANA:

Narada happened to go to Indra’s court at a time when the celestial damsels Rambha and others were giving a dance performance.  After a while Indra enquired from Narada as to whose performance was like best by him. Narada responded by saying that the performance of that girl who danced with passion, emotion and agility was the best. The dancers were debating within themselves as to who did better, when Indra intervened and requested Narada to declare the winner. Narada announced that that girl who could excite the Sage Durwasa would top them all. A damsel by name Vapuvu accepted the challenge.

7.  FROM BRAHMAVAIVARTA PURANA:

The sons of Daksha were about to commence creation. Narada met them at that time and directed them to work for liberation instead of getting stuck with the cycles of birth and death. He successfully dissuaded them from creation.  Coming to know of the role played by Narada, Daksha complained to Brahma. Daksha then cast three spells on Narada – that Narada would take birth in the womb of Daksha’s daughter, he would be a wanderer without a stable place of stay and he would not have a wife. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 14

Part – 13  

4.  FROM ADBHUTA RAMAYANA:

The Musician Kaushika was singing melodious tunes in the Heaven. Goddess Lakshmi along with her cohorts, several Sages, Narada, Tumbura and several others visited the Heaven at that time. Goddess Lakshmi requested Tumbura to sing along with Kaushiki. After the duo performed, she honored them and bestowed gifts to them. Narada felt slighted by her action. He cursed her to  be born to wicked people and be punished by them.

Lord Vishnu then cajoled Narada and told him that Tumbura achieved special accomplishment because of his devotional singing. Vishnu asked Narada that he should go to the Manasottara Mountain range and learn singing from a bird living there if he desired similar abilities. He went to Manasottara Mountain and learnt the singing under tutorship of the bird. When he returned and met Tumbura, he discovered he was no match and felt very jealous of Tumbura. So he went back to Vishnu. Vishnu promised to teach singing to Narada when Vishnu takes birth as Krishna.

Narada approached Krishna and requested him to teach him singing. Krishna directed him to learn the singing for a year from Jambavati. After that Krishan directed him to go to each of his wives for a year and learn singing. Even then he could not master singing. Finally he was taught by Krishna. He became very skilled in singing, he became free of his jealousies and lived happily.

5.  FROM LINGA PURANA / SHIVA PURANA:

It was a time when Narada was observing askesis on the Himalayan Mountains. In order to disturb his austerities, Indra sent a few celestial damsels to distract him.  But Narada was a great devotee of Shiva. Because of the power of that devotion to Shiva, his mind was very stable and did not get lured by the damsels. Narada felt proud of his own achievement. He thought that it was because of his prowess that his mind did not waver and he did not fall for those girls’ wiles. After completing his austerities and meditation, he went to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Even though Vishnu that it was due to Shiva’s power, Narada was boastful of his ability to control his mind in not being beguiled by the celestial damsels. Vishnu decided to teach him lesson.  Narada took leave of Vishnu and proceeded on his onward journey.  Vishnu created a city at a place on Narada’s route. He also generated an attractive palatial building in the city. A voluptuous and beautiful woman by name Shrimati was also created and placed in that palace. Narada fell for her charm. He wanted to win her hand. So he went back to Vishnu and requested him to bestow the Vishnu’s looks on him.

Narada and Parvata were on a tour of the world. They reached the city where Ambarisha lived. Ambarisha received them with befitting honors. They saw the melodiously singing Shrimati at his house. They enquired about the girl. Ambarisha told them that she was his daughter. Both of them requested him to give that girl in marriage to them. As it was not possible for both of them to marry her, he agreed to give her to one of them whom she chose.  A date was fixed for Shrimati to meet both and select one of them.  Narada and Parvata met Vishnu separately without the knowledge of one another and each of them prayed to Vishnu to convert the other’s face to look like that of a monkey. Lord Vishnu fulfilled the desire of both of them. Both of them came to attend the function where Shrimati would express her choice.  Vishnu also went to witness the goings on. Everyone laughed looking at the mokey-like faces of Narada and Parvata. Shrimati chose Vishnu as her husband because of his comely features. Vishnu took her along with him.

Narada and Parvata were outraged. They cursed Ambarisha that he would become a womanizer as he failed to stick to his word of marrying Shrimati to one of them.  But Vishnu’s weapon chased them both and they had to run away.  They went to the Heaven and they saw Shrimati at Vishnu’s place. They cast a spell on Vishnu accusing him for having deceived them by making their faces look like monkeys and winning the girl of their love.  They said that Vishnu would be born as a human being, would suffer separation from his wife and would be able to join back with her with the help of monkeys. Vishnu revealed that everything happened the way it did because of the power of Shiva. Because of that curse, Vishnu eventually took birth as Rama, got separated from his wife, and could get back his wife with the help of monkeys.

(To continue …. Part – 15).

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 13

Part – 12  

2.  FROM DEVIBHAGAVATAM:

Once Narada went to visit Vishnu. Noticing that Narada was approaching them, Laksmi, the consort of Vishnu, moved away from being near to Vishnu.  Narada wondered why she had to move away seeing him who was just an aged Saint. When he enquired the reason, Vishnu remarked that it would always be better to keep distance from other males as anything might happen under the power of illusion. Narada requested Vishnu for a demonstration of his power to create illusion.  Vishnu then took Narada on a ride on his Vehicle Garuda and reached Kanyakubja. Vishnu asked Narada to have bath in a pond there. When Narada came out of the pond, he got transformed into a beautiful lady. Vishnu quietly left the place.

A King by name Taladhwaja saw the lady and fell in love with her. He took her along with him to his city. He made her his queen. They had a few sons. In course of time, some enemy kings pillaged his city. They killed all the sons. The queen was extremely grief-stricken at these developments. Lord Vishnu went to her in the guise of an old Brahmin and consoled her. He taught her about the impermanence of relationships in this world and instructed her on spiritual Knowledge. He took her along with him. He asked her to have a bath in a nearby pond. Immediately after the bath, the queen got back her original form of Narada. Narada prostrated to Vishnu and realized His powers of illusion. Continue reading