Two questions in QUORA

Q&As in Quora)

What are some essential self awareness exercises?

M. None, unless attention… Greg Goode (a Non-dualist teacher) recommends ‘Standing as Awareness’. That is the title of a booklet by him.

In Advaita Vedanta Gaudapada and Shankara did not recommend any exercises except, perhaps, Asparsha yoga (which means, ‘no-relationship – with anything), and only as a preparation for less-gifted students. All experiences derived from exercises, including Samadhi, are only temporary. Advaita is not Yoga, and there are no injunctions or exercises in it – only Intuition and reasoning based on it. There is the triple way or method: ‘hearing’ (the scriptures= Upanishads), reflecting on what has been read or listened to (if one has a guide or teacher), and contemplation (nididhyasana). That is all. (There are other answers to this question and the following one).

Will we as humans be able to distinguish between our conscious and electrical conscious?

M. I don’t understand what you mean by ‘electrical conscious’. Do you mean the electro-chemical signals between synapses in the brain which transmit and share information between neurons? That is only the physical basis or vehicle for consciousness. Consciousness is not a phenomenon, it is an (ontological) reality – ‘what is’ – beyond even conceptualization, and not physical. Consciousness is indescribable and unknowable by the mind (brain-based mind, again, being a vehicle or ‘transducer’), and, thus, a metaphysical or spiritual reality.


If we do not experience from within a body, then where oh where do we feel-think-do from?


Image by valemngilda

Think of a whirlpool. There seems to be a definable shape that we can point to and know as a whirlpool, and yet there is nothing separate or fixed about its whirlpool-ness. All the water that constructs the thing we have labelled “whirlpool” is in flow, never the same water in any moment, and yet it appears to hold its shape/from so convincingly that we believe we can point to the moment our whirlpool began, measure it’s lifetime, and record the moment it ceases to be.

But what is it that convinces us that the whirlpool is separate and of its own causal relatedness to “other” forms we have labelled in the single field of All That Is?

For as much as we focus on the ways to practice into a consciousness immune to mithyA, we have the experiences we have as All That Is in constant flow, unfixed and inseparable, no matter how we might label that experience.

It seems prudent to mention at this point that we are prone to use the word experience to separate so-called “personal identity” from “other-ness”, so the concept of experience encompassing all that we have labelled inner, outer, before, present, and so on, is an unnatural leap… until one comprehends the arbitrary lines we have drawn (even in language being the means of defining ideas that can be fixed in objective transfer of meaning), and recognise these too as whirlpools in the ocean of All That Is.


Image by Andrey Alyukhin

Of course, the analogy can only go so far. According to the assumptions of our current cosmology, to know-observe a whirlpool is to be separate from it, and to literally form a whirlpool the ocean must exist within an atmosphere. But in our present physics of a causal universe, we have no means of explaining an alternative conceptual reality with words. Even the term “reality” inspires our perceptual bias dividing existence as dimensional from that which cannot be known/named/defined.

Which also means that while it seems that we can be taught the Vedantic mokSha; that there are those who trust innately, and perceive (for want of a better word) the whirlpool in its ocean state. Those who seek to trust, and devote themselves to practices which might reveal an ocean in all things. And those who examine trust through chemical, experimental, and philosophical means in order to demystify that which defies explanation (which will ultimately allow us to speak of that which language is yet to adequately express)… we do not experience (learn/live/know) from within a body because the “body”, the “self”, and experience as a point of separation, are all whirlpools within an ocean of All That Is.

“There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none possessed of the means of liberation, none desirous of liberation, and none liberated.” Gaudapada (K2.32)


om copy

Everyone (reading this blog!) has heard of the syllable ‘OM’. The Devanagari for this is the immediately recognizable ॐ but it is made up of three letters, a, u and m. Thus, it could actually be represented as औम् and the ITRANS, instead of being written OM, would be ‘aum’.

How OM can function as a symbol for brahman or the entirety of creation is elucidated by Gaudapada and described in my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’. Here is the section that describes the Sanskrit aspects:


The spoken word ‘OM’ is actually Sanskrit. The written ‘OM’ is its ‘Romanized’ representation (i.e. using the English alphabet). In its original language, it actually looks like this:

If you have ever been to India, this character will be very familiar and it also frequently appears on New Age items and jewelry. But this is in fact a special, shorthand representation and the word is actually formed from three separate letters. (Only this word, in the entire language, has a special symbol – this is an indication of how important it is considered to be.) Continue reading

A-U-M Awakening to Reality – Review of book

‘Lucid and exhaustive of most important book in Advaita Vedanta’

The Mandukya Upanishad, the shortest (it has just 12 verses) and , according to a general opinion, the most important of the 12 main Upanishads, has the added interest in being associated with the authoritative karikas of Gaudapada, grand-mentor of Shankaracharia, the initiator of Advaita Vedanta. Of the former it has been said that his is ‘a rational analysis of the totality of our experience in all three states: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Incomplete and insufficient will be any philosophy that is based on the waking state alone’ (Swami Brahmananda).

‘When everything has been said, the fact remains that Vedanta is the only way of thinking that claims to study life in all its aspects in a scientific manner. It treats of truth, wisdom, and happiness, subjects of eternal interest to mankind. The credit of having brought to the notice of thinkers the value of its all-comprehensive method revealed in the Upanishads, and of having successfully built an impregnable system on that solid basis, will ever belong to Gaudapada.’ (Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati).

This new book, authored by the well-known (and, one could say, prolific writer in the field of Advaita Vedanta – this is his 7th book), Dennis Waite, has several features that make of it an important addition to the literature in this specialized area, one that is becoming much better known than it was some 10-20 years ago.

Beginning with a few general remarks, something that strikes the reader is the clarity of the writing and the logic of the exposition of its contents which, at first sight, appears to be an introductory text for the un-initiated. Far from it! – and it is not a question of its length (420 pages) or even of the exhaustive coverage of everything that is relevant to the Upanishad itself and Gaudapada’s running commentary in the karikas. Clear and didactic it is, but the tools (armamentarium), organization of the work, and employment of many important Sanskrit words together with their English translation, plus a long Glossary (41 pp.), make of this book an indispensable reference for the modern reader of both this important Upanishad and Gaudapada’s contribution.

An important feature of the book consists in the numerous references (81 in all!) – most of them with short-to-medium length descriptions of the tenets or arguments of the, mostly modern, authors consulted when DW was in the process of preparing this work (Annotated Bibliography – 33 pp.)

Apart from the illuminating Introduction (36 pp.) and ‘What the Mandukya Upanishad is About’ at the beginning, the following 7 sections are: The World Appearance, Causality, Creation, Nature of Reality, Self-Knowledge, Practical Aspects, and Conclusion. They are all important, certainly, but I found ‘Nature of Reality’ to be like a centre-piece.

There are 7 Appendices at the end, comprising altogether 95 pp. To give one an idea of the completeness of the work, one of the Appendices (No. 5) deals with pronunciation and transliteration, using a recently proposed method: ITRANS. Lastly, a full Index, containing also a list of all the karikas mentioned in the book. AM

Creation According to Reason

small_A-U-MAlthough not scheduled for publication until the 25th of this month, both Amazon UK and Amazon US claim to have only a few copies left! So, to remind you of the sort of content you can expect, here is another extract from the book on the topic of ‘Creation according to Reason’.

Having spent some time showing how key passages from the scriptures claim that there is no creation (and explaining how there can be apparently contradictory passages elesewhere), Gaudapada turns to reason – his principal tool in this work.

Read the extract here.

chin mudrA

small_A-U-MHere is the second extract from my forthcoming book on the Mandukya Upanishad and Gaudapada’s kArikA-s. It explains the symbolism associated with the cover image. This explanation occurs near the end of the book, since it utilizes concepts with which the reader might be unfamiliar (until he or she has read the book). But since readers of this site should certainly be familiar with the terms, there is no harm in presenting it here!

chin mudrA

Now that we have almost concluded the unfolding of the kArikA-s, we can return to that cover image! The ‘hand-sign’ is not actually mentioned in the Mandukya Upanishad, nor by Gaudapada, though it is highly relevant. As I mentioned in the introduction, it is a gesture associated with the Sage who is said to be the first teacher of Vedanta – Dakshinamurti. As such, he was the head of the teaching sampradAya and did not himself have a teacher – i.e. he was already fully enlightened. He is also identified with the God Shiva. It is called chin mudrA or j~nAna mudrA (more usually chin), where chin means Consciousness and mudrA means sign.

It is often said that Dakshinamurti taught through silence. Of course, this would not make any sense. Silence can be interpreted in innumerable ways, few of which are likely to convey useful knowledge! But, once we have the knowledge, a symbol can convey a world of information, reminding us through memory of what we have previously learned. Witness the vast amount of knowledge which is now conveyed to you through the word OM.

The hand position shown on the cover of this book is another symbol of this sort. And it is highly relevant to the same knowledge.

Here is the symbolism:

  • The thumb represents paramAtman. There is some reasoning behind this. The scriptures speak of paramAtman as residing in the space in the heart (hRRidaya). By this, we were expected to understand ‘mind’, since it used to be thought that the mind was contained in the physical organ of the heart. Since the heart is about the size of a fist, it was reasonable to think that the space inside was about the size of a thumb.
  • The forefinger represents the individual or jIva. It could also be thought of as the ego or sense of myself. It is common in many cultures to use the forefinger to point out personal opinions and also to threaten or criticize others whose views differ from ‘mine’.
  • The second finger represents the gross body, sthUla sharIra or waker.
  • The third finger represents the subtle body, sUkShma sharIra or dreamer.
  • The fourth finger represents the causal body, kAraNa sharIra or deep-sleeper.
  • The first finger is normally held in association with the other three, indicating our identification with the body and mind.
  • All four fingers depend upon the thumb for their strength and ability to do practically anything. It is this feature which distinguishes us from other animals and gave humanity its great advantage in manipulating objects.
  • When the index finger is moved to touch the tip of the thumb, it separates from the other three, indicating realization that I am not in fact these bodies at all. In forming an unbroken circle with the thumb, it is recognizing that jIvAtman and paramAtman are one, unaffected by the three mithyA states of consciousness.

I now have a firm publication date for the book, incidentally – it is September 25th. It is now available for pre-order. It is quite expensive, but then it also quite thick (431 pages).

The paperback details are: ISBN 978-1-78279-996-2 UK: £20.99 US: $36.95
and the EBook: ISBN 978-1-78279-997-9 UK: £12.99 US: $21.99

Buy from Amazon US; Buy from Amazon UK

The first extract from the book may be read here.

Waking World is also Unreal

small_A-U-MDreams are a powerful metaphor in Advaita. The Yoga Vasishtha is perhaps the best known book to utilize them extensively but probably the earliest teacher to do so was Gaudapada in his kArikA-s on the mANDUkya upaniShad.

He effectively says that the waking state is unreal, like dreams, ‘because we experience it’. This is anvAya-vyatireka logic: we experience objects in dreams, and they turn out to be unreal; therefore the objects we experience in waking are also unreal.

This does not sound very convincing and there are various arguments that we can raise to object to the analogy. Gaudapada raises them for us, in case we can’t think of them all! Here is the third argument he puts forward. It is an extract from my forthcoming book, which will be published 25th September 2015.

Third objection to world being unreal

And this leads on to the third objection namely that, whereas the dream world is subjective, the waking world has objective reality. It is experienced as external to ourselves, whereas the dream takes place in our mind (K2.9 – 10). But this notion suffers from the same confusion as before. We only recognize that the dream world is ‘in our mind’ when we are awake; at the time of the dream, it is just as much ‘external’ as is the waking world when we are awake. We might as well say that the waking world is really non-existent since it disappears when we are in the dream or deep sleep states. At the time of the dream, I experience external objects and events in just the same manner. Their illogicality or even impossibility only becomes apparent on awakening. Continue reading

Questions by Peregrinus

[Reference: ]

Gary Crowley 2006Dear PtN,

Great Questions!

In providing answers to those very  questions, volumes have been written, several concepts have been floated and related downstream issues have been under constant debate from several centuries (if not millennia) ago up to even now . The positions taken are so extreme and contradictory to each other that protagonists of different propositions do not see eye to eye.  Unable to wrap their minds around the Advaita concepts and unconvinced by the Advaita models, some people (Tatva vadins – followers of the 13th century Madhvacharya) ascribe as much reality to the individual as to brahman but deny the identity of the two. The fights between them and the Advaitins are legendary. And there are notorious disagreements even within the Advaitins also on subtle details of the theories they propose as answers. Hence it is quite safe to say at the outset that there are no straight answers to any of these fundamental questions, as you may be already knowing from your voracious reading. Hence, switching on all caveats and disclaimers …… …… ……, I stick my neck out. Continue reading

Life is a dream – The world is real


A. Of course, if everything is like a dream (mithyA), then the sages and their scriptures are a part of that dream. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the teachings and the scriptures are not useful for awakening from the dream.

B. That is true, in my understanding. ‘Life is a Dream’ (Calderón de la Barca’s play), ‘All the world’s a stage’ (Shakespeare). As to Vedanta, here is what a sage (among so many others) has said: “Vedanta plays the role of the dream lion in this world. Vedantic knowledge itself is part of the illusory world. But then it dissolves the entire illusion of this world, revealing reality as it is.” Sw. Parthsarathy.

A. If no one dies, then no one is enlightened either, and yet we still talk as if people really do die and really do become enlightened.

B. True also. That modifier, ‘as if’, is crucial.

In the next para. you write: “…an individual who appears to exist while not really existing (AS AN INDIVIDUAL) has appeared to become enlightened while not really being enlightened (AS THE PURPORTED INDIVIDUAL).” I have taken the liberty of adding the capital letters, for advaitic sense. Further, while ‘everybody is enlightened’, as Neo advaitins claim, ‘no one is enlightened’, as the sage Gaudapada declared. Are these two seemingly contradictory statements true – and in what sense? *

A. I think the problem with brain damage is the possibility that a j~nAnI [sage] would lose most or all of the knowledge (including Self-knowledge) that he gained through his studies.

B. This is as seen from the vyavaharika (empirical) perspective, which cannot be denied (only understood). Jñani/s (sages) also experience thoughts and emotions. With them, these either quickly disappear, or are transmuted or resolved into consciousness; in fact, they are only consciousness, as mind is also a projection of consciousness.

Something more for pondering: “People forget the reality of the illusory world”. Huang Po.

(*) Gaudapada (Shankara, and the whole tradition of advaita Vedanta) deny multiplicity as being real. In essence ‘all is One’. The Neo-advaitin’s dictum (’everybody is enlightened’) is thus true and false at the same time.


Topic of the Month – Dreams

frescoThe topic for the month of February is Dreams and Dreaming

Here also is an opportunity to ask questions on this topic and receive answers from the bloggers.

We always assume the present to be the waking state and, by contrast with it, the previous state sublated by the present to be dream. It is impossible to distinguish them otherwise by any subtle definition. (Loose translation of Gaudapada kArikA 2.5) (Please, no reference to EEG to refute this!)