Q.412 Definition of ‘Enlightenment’

Q: In your writings you use quite often the word ‘Enlightenment’. In ‘Back to the truth: 5000 years of Advaita’ you give the following definition of “Enlightenment”:

“Enlightenment is a sudden recognition that non-duality is, has always been, and will always be the reality of our experience”

and further you explain:

“[…] it refers to the transition from the position of believing oneself to be a person – body, mind etc. as described earlier – to the position of knowing, that there is only the non-dual Self […]”

This is probably a pretty good definition, however the words ‘recognition’ and ‘knowledge’ here can be easily misunderstood.

‘Knowledge’, in the view of most people, including most of the spiritual aspirants, is a kind of intellectual knowledge or insight. As a result these people hearing the Advaitic non-dual doctrine usually just add to their ideas a new one: ‘I am non-dual Self, I am Brahman’, thinking that this is the required knowledge (or recognition) they have missed so far and that this is the Enlightenment.

Moreover, the term ‘Enlightenment’ is used by many religious/spiritual traditions/movements and is differently defined/interpreted by them; in fact there is a wide range of interpretations/definitions of the word ‘Enlightenment’. Further, many claim that there are stages of ‘Enlightenment’, saying that that there can be a deep or shallow enlightenment, full or partial.

Advaita defines ‘knowledge’ or ‘true knowledge’ differently and according to Advaita such an intellectual knowledge or mental recognition of non-dual truth is not the true knowledge at all. So such an ‘Enlightenment’ has relatively little value in Advaita spiritual system, being seen just as an intellectual understanding of the non-dual truth. From this point there is still a long way to the authentic realization of the truth, called ‘true knowledge’.

Taking all that into account I am rather against using the term ‘Enlightenment’ in the context of authentic Advaita teaching. In my view it doesn’t bring much clarity, confusing many. Why not use original Advaitin terms, which are meaningful, concrete, almost free of misconceptions and leave little room for interpretations?

Would you please explain if the term ‘Enlightenment’ has any origin in traditional Advaitic texts? Which ones, please give the exact examples. What is the original Sanskrit word which is translated into English as ‘Enlightenment’? Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 10

Part – 9

Modern Evolutionary Biologists are increasingly realizing that “thought” evolved its own survival tricks. Thoughts get replicated and passed on by ‘memes’ just like biological traits are propagated by ‘genes.’ A Meme is “an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory and gets copied to another individual’s memory” with variation and selection. Slogans, catchy tunes, many beliefs, culture are examples for memes.

Our mind has a tendency to forget certain things. Strangely it may also show things that were never seen previously by us. This is because somebody else’s experience infects our mind as a “meme” and we begin to believe that it was our own experience. Dr. Grant says, “An idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior.” It then causes you to tell your friends, “thus exposing them to the idea-virus.”

Thus Memes spread like viruses using human beings as carriers. In a way all our thoughts are infections. There is nothing like an original thought. The word ‘meme’ was coined by Prof. Dawkins in the late seventies. But our sages recognized the havoc memes could play thousands of years ago. Maharshi Vasishta tells in Yogavasishta the delightful story of how Sage Gadhi was confused and befuddled when his mind was infected by other’s experiences. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 9

Part – 8 

At the end of Part – 7 we made a reference to the tricks that our mind plays on us.

I think I can safely bet that all of us (unless you are yourself a magician) wonder how a magician or trickster pulls off a trick fooling us right in front of our eyes.  Magicians and tricksters take full advantage of the fact that beyond the radar of our ability to consciously detect things, our brain and mind do many things unknown to us. By a sleight of hand or carrying out an elaborate illusion, they hack into our brains with their skill.

Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde and her husband Dr. Stephen Macknik, Neuroscientists at Barrows Institute in USA have been studying the magician’s tricks for the last few years. From their work and the research of many other scientists, we are understanding much better about the way our cognitive mechanisms work in showing us the objective world we “think” we see out there.  Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 8

Part – 7  

At the end of Part – 7, we made a reference to the bag of tricks that the mind had acquired to help in the preservation and the perpetuation of the “form” of the body-organism.

Before we take up that issue for a detailed discussion, we should also make note of an important and closely related point. It is the “power” of the mind. For all practical purposes brain is after all the seat, or at the least the surrogate, of the mind.

All schools of philosophy agree on the power of the mind. The mind can do miracles. You see them all the time but you are so habituated to experiencing the miracles that you tend to overlook their immensity and astounding quality.

The faith oriented schools of philosophies exploit the ‘power of the mind’ in visualizing, securing and realizing, in the interest of the body organism, situations that are congenial to make the life of the body-organism easy, comfortable and reasonably happy. A number of techniques have been developed and refined over time to serve towards such an objective. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 7

Part – 6 

The Intelligent Design people and almost all religions speak about ‘Creation’ by a God accepting “The Doctrine of Creation-based perception (sRiShTi-dRiShTi-vAda).” The assumption behind this concept is that I am able to perceive a world out there because I am born into a pre-existing creation.

Biologists talk about ‘Evolution’ accepting Darwin’s Theory. The assumption behind this concept is that there exists an operational mechanism of natural selection and survival of the fittest in their struggle for perpetuation giving raise to a multiplicity of species.

Vedantins (Advaita school) consider the ‘unmanifest and unknowable something that IS or IS-not’ as an apparent cause for the ‘Illusory appearance of a world.’  It is called as the ajAti-vAda, The Doctrine says that ‘Nothing is ever born.’ It holds that an apparent creation happens when perception takes place. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 6

Part – 5  

We ought to know first what really real Reality is in order to find it. To say so does not make sense either. If we knew the Reality already, what’s the purpose of this struggle?

Obviously, we don’t know the Reality. Still, we can say what reality cannot be.

Vedanta gives us a working definition for reality:

त्रिकाल अबाधितं सत्यम्

Meaning: The Truth is that which exists the same in all three periods of time (past, present and future).  (Not a good definition, but let’s stay with it for now).

Truth should not keep changing from man to man, place to place and time to time. If it is so highly variable, there can never be anything that can be said to be a Reality.

But before proceeding further we have to be aware of one more quality of the mind, the tool with which we investigate. Our mind has a tendency to reify or deify. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 5

Part – 4 

We have been assessing the reliability of our sensory apparatus – the mind plus the five sensory organs – in the last two Posts. We already discovered that they do not show what exactly exists out there. They may show non-existing things to be existing but we slavishly believe in what they show to us. Let us examine this issue one more time so that you will be free of doubt.

Undoubtedly a chocolate tastes sweet and a hammer dropped on our foot hurts. We find things hot or cold, tall or short, light or heavy and so on. But do these qualities rest within the objects seen out there or do our senses project them on to something which lies there? Is there truly an inherent solidity and physicality to the objects we perceive in our awake state? We seldom ever brood over this issue. Let us do a small experiment to know whether the solid looking stuff we see around really exists or not. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 4

Part – 3 

At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”

If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”

But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing. Continue reading

REALIZATIONISM

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X. Belief is not the same as knowledge or understanding. Concepts and ideas are not reality itself – they are pointers to reality (a ‘finger pointing at the moon’); they are things of the mind to begin with, but it is un-logical to think or say that any one of them has, or can have, no contact with reality – directly or indirectly.

Y. We never really grasp what these teachings are talking about except in our conditioned mind. Continue reading