Q: How do you teach Advaita to a blind person ? I am talking about a person who has been blind since birth, who has no vision of external reality/unreality. The adhyAsa bhAShya talks about superimposing the subject and the objects. But both subject and object are not perceived by a person who has been blind since birth. All that he/she would be aware of is taste, smell, sound, sensations. How would you proceed with such a candidate ? The theory of negating the superimposed almost fails for such a person, for he/she cannot ‘see’ or ‘perceive’ what is superimposed !
I am not saying the avasthA traya is not a good way to start here, the avasthA traya prakriyA holds good for even a blind person. That is, your dream is just like your waking state. But the problem is, there is no perception in either dreams, waking or deep sleep for such a person. Here’s a video that confirms that people who are blind since birth don’t see anything in their dreams : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpUW9pm9wxs.
If you’re a jIvanmukta, I request you to close your eyes and then tell me if you can still get established in the self, you’d understand how difficult this is !
Thanks for any and all inputs on this subject.
Note: I am aware that Atman is beyond perception, but to know one has gone beyond perception is easy when one still sees and not when he doesn’t see. It’s just the same for a blind man.Continue reading →
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 →
Objections to the theory
Other systems of philosophy claim that, although the rope-snake error is acceptable, the superimposition of anything onto the Atman is not possible. The argument is that any superimposition requires four conditions to be satisfied:
Perception. The object being covered must be directly perceivable, as is the rope in the rope-snake example. The Atman is not an object and cannot be perceived.
Incompletely known. The object must be incompletely known, as one is ignorant of the fact that the rope is a rope. In the case of the Atman , however, the advaitin accepts that the Atman is self-evident and always conscious – how can there be ignorance with regard to something that is self-evident?
Similarity. There must be some similarity between the actual object and its superimposition, just as a rope and snake have a basic similarity (one could not mistake the rope for an elephant, for example). But there is total dissimilarity between the Atman and anything else. E.g. Atma is the subject, anAtma is the object; Atma is conscious and all pervading, anAtma is inert and limited etc.
Prior experience. In order to make the mistake, we must have had prior experience of that which is superimposed. We could not see a snake where the rope is unless we knew what a real snake was. Whilst this is possible in the case of the rope-snake, it is not possible in the Atma–anAtma case because we would have to have prior experience of a ‘real’ anAtma and it is part of the fundamental teaching of advaita that there is no such thing; there is only the Atman.
Accordingly, in the case of the Atma–anAtma , not one of these four conditions is satisfied. Therefore superimposition of anAtma onto Atma, the fundamental cause of our error according to Shankara, is not possible – so says the objector. Continue reading →
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.
Q: I just have to ask your opinion on something that I experienced the other day.
I was sitting in my car around 7.00am drinking a cup of coffee and reading the short story “the dazzling dark” by john wren- lewis”.. as I finished it I put the paper down to contemplate what I read and just sat for a moment or two thinking who am I really, I had the strangest experience that I was sitting in the back of my car looking at myself sitting in the front of the car, i had a feeling/vision of seeing the back of my own head and body just sitting there…like a totally different person was viewing this strange body in the front….crazy stuff, it only lasted a split second or so..but was a complete vision….maybe I was imagining it because I wanted to see the truth so much..still do!….I really don’t know…but I can still feel it when I think of it…it felt great..like the body in the front of the car was, just a body.. .but I felt no real connection with the solid body)…..no fear, nothing,, it was just like looking into someone else’s car…this happened 2 days ago, I was going to dismiss it as just the mind at play., as iv had other small experiences before but dismissed them as mind states as I suffer form anxiety from time to time..fear etc, .but I don’t know, I really don’t know…
Enlightenment is not about ‘experiencing the Self’ – otherwise everyone would be enlightened. It is not about experience at all, it is about self-knowledge – the direct knowledge that you are already that which you seek. (See 25 – 97.)
Nor is enlightenment itself an experience – experiences come and go. Enlightenment is not temporary – once it happens, that is it. Consequently, if you had an experience and wonder whether you are now enlightened, you can be sure that you are not. Also, there is no need for a seeker to try to recapture a ‘good’ experience, thinking that it was somehow closer to enlightenment than the usual ‘bad’ experiences. (See 102 to 104)
It has nothing to do with ‘energy’, nor is it a ‘force’; it is not something ‘external’ that enters the person. It is not a light in any literal sense, nor does it make you less heavy in anything other than a metaphorical sense.
Physical manifestations of light, whether ‘flashes’ or ‘blinding’ do not signal enlightenment but are a sign that one may need to visit the doctor.
Similarly, ‘inner voices’ or ‘messages from the heart’ invariably arise from the mind and, irrespective of spiritual content, usually relate to the ego.
It is not an ‘expansion of consciousness’; it is not ‘within’ us (or without). Consciousness is already everywhere and always.
Enlightenment is not about altered states of awareness. Enlightenment is not a state and Consciousness is the reality of all apparent states, in the same way that gold is the reality of rings, bangles and chains.
Feelings of ecstasy, visions of God, yogic flying, astral projections and other “pastimes and drugs, and features of the press” (Ref. 8) have nothing to do with enlightenment. Nor do bright lights, visions, hallucinations or premonitory dreams.
Hope this effectively answers your question, although I appreciate you did not actually mention the E word.
Born some eighteen years before the death of Descartes, the Englishman John Locke claimed that reason was not the principal means for finding out about the world, as the earlier philosopher had contended. Instead, he advocated an empirical approach to knowledge, i.e. using one’s senses actually to see what is the case. This is the only means for obtaining raw data and we use reason subsequently to make sense of it. Only then can it become knowledge. He believed his own purpose in life was to enquire into human knowledge to discover its limits and the extent to which we could be certain of it.
Unlike modern, evolutionary psychologists, he believed that we are effectively born with no innate knowledge, a metaphorical ‘blank slate’. All of our knowledge and understanding is therefore built upon information derived from our senses. Everything we know or think about ultimately comes from experience. The limits of what we can know about reality are fixed by the abilities of the senses and the associated mental equipment. Continue reading →
Self-realization is a matter of clarifying the relationship between experience and truth, which in our habitual, conventional view is entirely clouded. In this existence we can speak of three modes of perception or experience. Each of them has a different relationship to the ultimate truth. Let’s begin with the mode where most of humanity lives:
Somethingness. The first mode is of finite, materialistic perception and identity—remembering that how we perceive determines our identity, and our identity conditions perception. In this mode, “God” or truth is basically seen as Nature, or Life in all its earthly wonder, its pain and pleasure, failure and triumph. In this mode everything and everyone is a “something,” a limited and known entity. A good example of perception in this mode is how children, and even some adults, will personify inanimate objects and project feelings or a soul into them. We might see everything as precious and special, but most importantly, things are regarded in their multiplicity. We see God as a great Something under which we are each another unique something, as in “all God’s children.”Love is therefore perceived as a special connection between separate entities. In egoic, finite consciousness we believe we have to fight and struggle so that “Love can win,” or that good can overcome evil. Hence, the tendency in this mode is to identify and split up into factions and parties, where we imagine we are on the side of good. Here we find all the divisive negative qualities of our limited view of somethingness. Everyone and everything gets sorted into identities and categories. There is no understanding of the unity beyond that, even though one may talk about or seek a limited unity of some kind. One does not understand precisely where and how that unity already exists; it is imagined as something—you see, another “something”—that we have to create.
Understanding Reality in the Vision of Advaita Vedānta
by Wolfgang P., email@example.com
We, as human beings, are interested in reality. Unlike animals, we are able to ask questions about the nature of our experience. We understand that experiences are numerous and fleeting, so the question arises: What is the reality behind those experiences? From this question subsequent ones emerge: What does it mean to say something is ‘real’ or ‘unreal’? What is the nature of reality? Vedānta is a body of knowledge to analyze the nature of reality and its relationship to the individual (jīva). It applies a teaching methodology that has been handed down from teacher to student since time immemorial. The aim of Vedānta is to make one understand its fundamental tenet:1
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगत् मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः
brahma satyaṃ jagat mithyā jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ
Brahman is the only truth (satyam), the world, jagat, is unreal (mithyā), and there is ultimately no difference between brahman and the individual self (jīva).
In this article I will explain the three categories Vedānta provides to understand reality: sat or satyam, asat, and mithyā.2 When we talk about reality, we need to distinguish that-which-is-real from that-which-is-not-real. This discriminative inquiry is called tattva-viveka. In Sanskrit, that-which-is-real is called satyam, whereas that-which-is-not-real is called asat. Continue reading →
As S.K. Ramachandra Rao relates in his Introduction to Sw. Satchidanandendra’s book ‘Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta’ ( a translation of ‘Shankara-Vedanta-Prakriye’ in Kannada language), the Swami decided to find out for himself what the real tradition of Shankara and the latter’s contributions to it had been, since he had suspected for some time that the former had been misrepresented by later advaitins. This desire took form in the way of a monograph he wrote in Sanscrit in 1929 with the title of ‘Mulavidya -nirasa. ‘He applied himself diligently to repeated study of Shankara’s works (Bhashyas on the three Prasthanas) for several years to convince himself that the sub-commentaries (of Vacaspaty Misra and Padmapada) had not done justice to the great master… It was in the year 1920, a year after his wife passed away, that he felt called upon to take this as a mission in his life’. Continue reading →