The Model of Insight

It occurred to me whilst reading Joseph Campbell’s Pathway to Bliss, that if we have no models of nameless now, then, well, we have no models.

Whatever conclusions we draw from this are our own doctrine(s) making themselves visible. For some the need to qualify and argue with such a proposition is tantamount (regardless of whether or not the author suggests their words be broadcast as superior wisdom or truer truths). For others there exists a desire to understand what it means for their own insight-now-moment.

660467Swami Krishnananda says there is, “a transference of human attributes to the Divine Existence [when] one contemplates the Cosmos as one’s Body. Just as, for example, the one contemplates one’s individual body, one simultaneously becomes conscious of the right eye, the left eye, [and so on] and all the limbs of the body at one and the same time, and one does not regard the different limbs of the body as distinguished from one another in any way, all limbs being only apparently different but really connected to a single personality, so in [the Vaisvanar Vidya] meditation, the consciousness is to be transferred to the Universal Being. Instead of one contemplating oneself as the individual body, one contemplates oneself as the Universal Body… The limbs of the Cosmic Person are identified with cosmic elements and vice versa, so that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara…” (p6)

He goes on to say, “[that] whatever our mind can think, becomes an object for the mind; and that object, again, should become a part of the meditator’s Body, cosmically. And, the moment the object that is conceived by the mind is identified with the Cosmic Body, the object ceases to agitate the mind anymore; because that object is not any more outside…” (pp6-7)

Then, perhaps, even though we have no models of it (at least none we recognise as such), the notion of the mind itself can be identified with the Cosmic Body, with the Cosmic Existence; and rather than ‘objects of the mind’ becoming part of the ‘meditator’s body’ (in order to transfer consciousness to the Universal Being), contemplation itself can be identified with the Cosmic.

This would ostensibly cut out the middle man, so our every moment is a cosmic contemplation, simultaneously one as the so-called appearance of not-one. Whence it would be a function of the one for what we have labelled the appearance of not-one to fathom itself however it fathoms itself (rather than a path taken or not taken by an individual). And all that is apparently different but really inter-conected to a single field or oneness, would be known-felt-explained in those terms – oneness as an organic contemplation of oneself, cosmically.

The Māndūkya Upanishad (1996) by Swami Krishnananda

Pathway to Bliss: Mythological and personal transformation (2004) by Joseph Campbell

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.

Should I stop enquiring???????

ripplesShould I stop enquiring???????

Vijay Pargaonkar

(मुञ्डकोपनिषत्) MundakaUpanishat 3-2-9

“Anyone who knows that supreme Brahman becomes Brahman indeed……….”


My search for Brahman started with aparokshAnubhUti (supposedly written by Shankaracharya) where it is stated that knowledge of liberation is obtained through enquiry. It then goes on to explain what constitutes enquiry:                                                               (अपरोक्षानुभूती) aparokshaAnubhUti (Shloka #11 & #12) (translation by Vimuktananda)

“Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara (Enquiry), just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light”.

“Who am I? How is this (world) created? Who is its creator? Of what material is this (world) made? This is the way of that Vichara (Enquiry)”. Continue reading

Q. 371 – Deep-sleep state

Q: In advaita, we use the recall of a “good deep sleep” as a very important argument for proving continued presence of awareness… the question is, how does this recall happen? We have a process in advaita by which ‘the presence of a pot is known’. How is deep sleep known? Or – How is the fact that one slept well, recalled?

Responses from DhanyaRamesam, Martin, Ted and Dennis

A (Dhanya): When I was a child, there was a TV show I liked to watch.  It was called ‘You Are There.’  As I recall, the show depicted a famous scene from history, and then ‘you’ (meaning in this case the narrator), magically showed up in the scene and got to ask the historical figures all sorts of questions.  (I guess I should Google it to make sure I recall the details of the show correctly).  Anyway, I do remember that I enjoyed the show, and often these days recall the title, because one could ask oneself the question, ‘How is anything known?’ and the answer would be because ‘You are There!’  The whole point of deep sleep in the teachings of Vedanta is to is highlight ‘You are There’  Your nature is consciousness, i.e. that by which anything is known.  The absence of any thing is also known.  Thus one can recall the fact that one slept well.  Why?  Because You are There. Continue reading

Who Slept Well?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the first of a four-part article by Acharya Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission Washington (edited by myself) clarifying the nature of the deep-sleep state and addressing a number of problems which frequently cause confusion in seekers.

I wish to express my appreciation to Pujya Sastriji and Shree Subbuji for directing me to the Panchadashi Ch.11, where the deep-sleep aspects are discussed extensively by Shree Vidyaranya.  This article is in response to a question posed by a sincere seeker in a private mail. His question focused on the following:  Who is the experiencer, knower, and the recollector of the deep-sleep state, when the mind is not there? In essence, who slept well and knows that he slept well and is now recollecting that information when he is awake.  This response to the question is based on my understanding of the 11th Chapter, together with a private communication from Shree Sastriji the post to Advaitin by Shree Subbuji.

In searching for answers, I came across the article by Shree Ananda Wood on the topic of Shree Atmananda Krishna Menon’s understanding of the deep sleep state. Given the fact that all descriptions of the deep-sleep state are necessarily from the vantage point of the waking state, we can only rely for analysis on 1) shaastra pramANa and 2) those experiences that are universally common.  The problems with Shree Atmanandaji’s interpretation of the deep–sleep state are noted at the end, since there are many people that I see on Facebook, as well as elsewhere, who follow Atmanandaji writings relating to deep sleep state. Continue reading


differenceVive la difference!

I am still in the process of writing my next book on the Mandukya Upanishad and kArikA-s. I have just written the following section on the concept of ‘difference’. Since I posted a query to the Advaitin group, relating to what Swami Paramarthananda had said on the topic, I concluded by sending the completed section to the group. Accordingly, I am also posting this here.

In his commentary on this kArikA (2.34), Shankara touches on the logic of this concept of ‘difference’ and Swami Paramarthananda expands upon this. What, he asks provocatively, is the color of the difference between red and blue? Clearly, it is potentially a very important topic since, if it could be proven logically that the idea of ‘difference’ is incoherent on examination, it would effectively demonstrate the non-dual nature of reality. Numerous post-Shankara philosophers have looked into this and formulated involved arguments. There is extensive material in the post-Shankara texts of brahmasiddhi, iShTasiddhi, tattvashuddhi, khaNDanakhaNDakhAdya and chitsukhI/tattvadIpikA but, having looked at these, they seem too impenetrable to study in detail. (No references are given for these – you really don’t want to read them!) Continue reading