Q. If you have the time (and inclination) I would really love to get some clarification on exactly what you mean when you write “There is still a personal self after enlightenment; it is just that it is now known not to be who I really am; it is simply a ‘reflection’ in the mind.”
As stated I would tend to label what you seem to be calling “enlightenment” as a transpersonal perspective, not a transcendent one. But as I said earlier, words are terribly slippery and do not necessarily covey the same meaning to the recipient as they do to the sender.
For example I absolutely know (and it is far more than simply an intellectual “knowing”) that I am not “Cate” – my personal identity, name, desires, dreams, experiences, thoughts and opinions. And yet I would hardly call myself enlightened.
My experience (and what a joke it is to phrase it like that since it is not “my” experience at all. But that’s the most convenient grammatical way to put it) is that the bliss of union arrives with the absence of “me” altogether. Oneness arrives with “my” departure. There have been hours and days and even weeks when the perspective of any sense of the personal self has disappeared altogether. The personal memories of Cate were there and available for use, as was the personality, but there was no shred of what I would call a “personal self” remaining.
A (Dennis): I wouldn’t have thought to put it like that but yes, enlightenment IS a ‘transpersonal perspective’ as opposed to transcendent. There is already only Consciousness, and you are that ALREADY. How could you be anything else? (There is nothing else.) So the problem of the unenlightened person is that they do not know this. To ‘become enlightened’ is to realize the truth of this. This is to realize that who-you-really-are is not the person or the mind. But this does not negate the appearance of body and mind.
So, if you ‘absolutely know this’, then you are enlightened. Denying that is simply giving in to mental habits of humility or whatever. (Of course, I don’t suggest that you go around claiming to be enlightened; this is not the sort of statement that is appreciated by most people!)
Experiences of bliss etc have nothing to do with enlightenment.
“One early morning in October upon awaking from slumber, there arose a sensation of the sense of self being gone. It was seen that there was literally no one there and that all movement was happening spontaneously without central control.” Nancy Dolen, interviewed by Jerry Katz.
Why the Neo-Advaitin is not an Advaitin at all
Recently, I asked the question: “Who or what is it that acts?” And it led me to think that this is a question that many modern teachers need to ask themselves. The above quotation immediately triggered my antipathy (my apologies, Nancy, nothing personal!) In fact, one could pick up virtually any book by modern neo-advaita teachers and find a similar statement. Here are a few:
“What sees through it? There is simply seeing – there is no-thing, no one that sees.” (Nathan Gill – already awake)
“For this body-mind, when liberation was seen, any sense of localization ended for a while. Awareness was seen to be everywhere. The room in which standing was happening, the street in which there was walking, the bodies and lamp posts and benches and space that were appearing, were not differentiated in the belonging from this arm, this thinking process, this seeing, these feet walking the pavement.” (Richard Sylvester – I Hope You Die Soon) Continue reading →
From horizon to horizon a strange noise is bounding. Thunder, it is thunder you say, for you are older now, you know the name of this sound. Rain has been coming steady while you sleep, surrounded by your dream.
Think you that you know what thunder is, and rain, because you have names? Yet you can hardly say what it means to wake in the night and listen, suddenly so nakedly alone in your senses, rapt beyond all reason.
You know then the great silent thing that empties you between each rumbling— You are not what you think, nor the world what it appears.
As consciousness is unchanging, enlightenment is not, strictly speaking, a process of altering, increasing or expanding consciousness. It is a process of subtracting ignorance.
When a thick layer of clouds dissolves, we can see and feel the sun that was always shining behind them. Yet the sun never changed. The turning of the earth brings a new morning and the apparent rising of the sun. In the same way, when we turn our attention toward our true nature, the felt presence of awareness seems to appear anew. Of course it has always been there, but our attention was directed elsewhere. Continue reading →
The ‘ocean-wave’ metaphor is a potentially powerful one but is often misunderstood. Here are a few quotes pulled off the Internet from a Google search:
“The waves emerge briefly as a separate entity; however, just as quickly merge back into the ocean of which it is a part. Us, as human beings, are very much like the waves of the ocean. We briefly surface and display a uniqueness that cannot be duplicated; however, in the end, we reunite with the Whole.”
“Actually our existence is just like an ocean. You are a wave of the ocean. You may be the most powerful, most thunderous, most beautiful and most inspiring wave of this ocean. But in the ultimate analysis you are just a wave. And the destiny of a wave is to merge again into the ocean. One day your little wave will also merge in the ocean of existence. Contemplate on this and understand the reality. We all are simple and ordinary in front of this huge cosmic play that is going on.”
“To explain this further, Babaji gave beautiful example of wave – the wave by itself has no identity, it has identity of wave only for a certain time. When it rises it is known as wave, but once it merges back into the ocean the wave no longer remains the wave, it becomes the ocean. We have the karmic illusion of different and separate identity. When we go in, there is no difference, we are particles of that One.”Continue reading →
Q: I read an article of yours in which you said that traditional Advaita is a “proven methodology.” You also say that it is impossible to tell if another person is enlightened. But if you can’t tell if someone is enlightened as a result of practicing Advaita, how can you say that Advaita is a “proven methodology”? What constitutes “proof”?
A (Martin): There are two parts to the question: 1) what constitutes proof in the context of Advaita Vedanta; 2) What does the questioner mean by enlightenment.
1) Is a proof here the proficiency in discussing/remembering/debating on topics of this tradition shown by one who has followed it for x number of years?
Answer: That can hardly be a proof. Whether parrot-like or not, ability in this regard may show, at best, a degree of intellectual understanding in the areas discussed as well as, possibly, a good memory and lexical ability. A real proof would consist in bringing about a complete change in outlook on life, meaning an inner transformation in the way the person sees the world and reacts to it. Does he/she see themselves as a doer? This may not be evident to anyone other the one undergoing the change.Continue reading →
Q: Self-Realization is a very rare occurrence – the Gita states something like 1 in a billion, and there are very few authentic, fully realized beings known to us, such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and a few others, (as well as the great anonymous ones). Granted, the world has changed and everything is much faster than it was, but this cannot surely apply to self-realization. The Neo-Advaitins’ awakenings or enlightenments cannot possibly be synonymous with the self-realizations of the great sages such as Ramana and Nisargadatta?
Also, the hallmark of the great sages such as those mentioned above is that they have a transparent, translucent quality that emanates contentment and peace. The Neo-Advaitin teachers that I have observed do not emanate peace, instead, they come across with their body-mind personality traits/baggage as either ‘manic’, ‘neurotic’, ‘depressed’, ‘nihilistic’, etc. The talking, and so much talking at that, is coming from the mind, and not from “mauna”. It is more like a mixture of counseling, psychotherapy and psycho-babble rather than pragmatic Advaitin philosophy.
So my question is … has self-realization been dumbed down and redefined by the Neo-Advaitins, or do they not claim full self-realization, but only to be ‘awakened’ or ‘enlightened’? Tolle comes to mind and Mooji, too… the talking never stops.
The ‘Real I’ verses the ‘Presumed I’ – An Examination of chidAbhAsa
Ramana Maharshi’s instruction to seekers to ask themselves ‘Who am I?’ is lauded by many modern Western teachers as sufficient, on its own, to lead to enlightenment. I suggest that this is not strictly true; that what it can do is rather to give us insight into what we are not and thereby point us in the direction of traditional teachings to learn about our real nature. It is inciting us to conduct Self-inquiry in the proven manner, i.e. by listening to a qualified teacher interpret the scriptures, rather than merely providing a mantra or formula to provide an answer directly.
An explanation of how traditional teaching can lead us to an understanding of who I am might begin with an analysis of our three states of consciousness – this is the so-called avasthA traya prakriyA of traditional advaita.
We almost certainly begin with the belief that who-I-really-am is only fully present in the waking state. In the dream state, I am not in command of my mental faculties so that the mind free-wheels outside of my control even though I am not actually unconscious. And we no doubt accept the deep sleep state as one in which mind and body rest and recuperate in order to be ready for the trials that the next day may bring. According to this interpretation, consciousness in deep sleep is in a resting state, as indicated by the lowered activity shown by EEG displays. (This view, also supported by many Western philosophers, claims that consciousness is a by-product or ‘epiphenomenon’ of the brain; an evolutionary advantageous development to enable an animal to find food and mate more efficiently than before. This is also the view of the chArvAka-s or materialists of thousands of years ago – it is certainly not new!) Continue reading →
Q: If Brahman is perfect, not ignorant, and the sole subject, what is the purpose of enlightenment as proposed by Advaita as the perfect one needs none?
If the ignorant jIva-s are nonexistent and Brahman is perfect, ignorance is nonexistent, therefore perception of separation is nonexistent. It appears that Advaita, while advocating non dualism and a perfect sole subject, in fact is dualist, reaching out to a nonexistent audience to fix a nonexistent issue, to provide realization that the absolute already witnesses. Can you shed some light on this?
A (Dennis): Coincidentally, an answer I gave recently to a different question effectively answers yours also:
<<< You have to decide whether you are talking form the empirical viewpoint or the absolute. If you don’t do this, you just get confused because the ‘explanations’ differ.
You are brahman, whether or not you know this. There is ONLY brahman from the absolute standpoint. No one has ever been born so there is no one to be reborn. Continue reading →
Over the past few months, we have had several posts following which there were discussions in which some participants attempted to argue that knowledge was not the direct cause of enlightenment. Alternative suggestions have been that enlightenment comes with nirvikalpa samAdhi or that one has to pursue some course of action, such as asking ‘Who am I?’.
I argued that neither of these were the case; that ONLY Self-knowledge could give enltightenment. This is primarily because ignorance is the cause of saMsAra and knowledge, not action, is opposed to ignorance. And I said that I would endeavor to find quotations from scripture or from Shankara to support this contention (since some participants were not prepared to accept arguments from such as Swami Dayananda).
Below, I have compiled a brief list of some of those quotations and hope these should be adequate to convice readers that the above is the stance of traditional Advaita and it is supported by clear, reasoned argument. Continue reading →
Does sAdhana (spiritual practice) empower the ego?
An essay by Atman Nityananda
If you abandon sAdhana in order to avoid this sAdhana-ego you are left with nothing except egoism. Egoism plus sAdhana is better than egoism minus sAdhana. ~Swami Sivananda
Liberation is the dissolution or the death of the ego which is a field of energy crystallized in our bodies. Liberation has nothing to do with an enlightened ego. There cannot ever be an enlightened or liberated ego.
Liberation is neither for the ego nor for the consciousness which is already free. Liberation is for the mind. When the mind after intense spiritual practice (sAdhana) becomes free from all egoistic tendencies, rajas and tamas then liberation takes place for none and the mind celebrates its unity with the spirit or Consciousness.
But some neo-advaita or non-teachers as they call themselves like Tony Parsons claim that the spiritual practices empower the ego instead of dissolve it. They claim that is impossible the ego to be eliminated by sAdhana by the very fact that the sAdhana is done by the ego. They say that sAdhana and the dissolution of ego is a contradiction because the ego itself is engaged in sAdhana and this keeps the ego alive. Continue reading →