Q.400 – Consciousness and the person

A few questions or clarifications please…

  1. As you’ve said to me before, to focus on this world and everything within it, is really the wrong focus, because it’s mithyA. And what we really are, is that in which all of it occurs?
  2. Am I correct in saying that Vedanta is truly a specific system or process to know who you really are as well as understanding the functioning of everything?
  3. So the elements or energy is not who we are since they are dependent on Consciousness. As Nisargadatta said, “without Consciousness nothing is”.
  4. To gain self-knowledge however, there must be a body with a nervous system. So the body does matter in relation to self-knowledge? But, consciousness doesn’t care whether it’s manifested or not?
  5. Words cause confusion, so what is the difference between Consciousness and Awareness from your understanding?
  6. The mind is discussed a lot, and many say that to have ‘no mind’ is the key to peace and freedom. Is the mind a part of the brain or something entirely different?
  7. Upon gaining self-knowledge, does the mind continue or fade away if you will, leaving the brain to function in its normal and natural way without the mind blocking it?

A (Dennis):

  1. You are not the body-mind; you are Consciousness. There is only Consciousness in reality; the ‘rest’ is just appearance and mistaken interpretation.
  2. Advaita is a teaching methodology to bring you to this realization.
  3. Elements, energy etc are only name and form of Consciousness.
  4. In reality, there is only Consciousness. From the perspective of the person, there is a body-mind. The realization that there is only Consciousness has to take place in the mind of the person in order for the person to realize that ‘All there is is Consciousness’.
  5. You can define words how you like. As long as you do this, there need not be any confusion. The way I use these terms is that Consciousness (capital ‘C’) is the reality (better called ‘Brahman’ to avoid confusion); and ‘awareness’ (capital or not) and ‘consciousness’ (small ‘c’) refer to the person’s perceiving/conceiving ability.
  6. The ‘person’ requires a mind in order to function in the world. This applies whether the person has Self-knowledge or not.
  7. It is likely (though not necessary) that the mind of someone with Self-knowledge will be less prone to disturbance by desire/fear etc.

Q. 386 – Has enlightenment been ‘dumbed down’?

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.

Responses from Melanie, Martin, Ramesam, Charles, and Dennis Continue reading

Nisargadatta terminology

A frequent contributor to the site, Vijay Pargaonkar has provided the following valuable information rearding the terminology of Nisargadatta Maharaj:

When references to Nisargadatta Maharaj and his teachings come up at the AV forum during discussions, the arguments often seem to become tangential. I think this is mainly due to the differences in terminologies and definitions used by the followers of Nisragadatta and the ones used in traditional Advaita forums.

Last week I came across a rare Satsang tape in Marathi where Maharaj clearly lays out his version of the Creation Model and Prakriyas while explaining various Advaita terms according to his definitions. I have excerpts of this Satsang translation (as I heard and understood) below, where I have indicated the Sanskrit/Marathi terms along with the English terms used by the translator – the translator has actually chopped the live recording and inserted his English translation in between.

Creation Model

Prior to your waking is Nirguna, the substratum of Waking. The Nirguna is not at all bothered by this samara (samara = ‘war (of life)’). In Nirguna appeared knowledge (Bodha).  This is pure Consciousness or Beingness or the Sense “I am” that has no shape or form. In this pure Consciousness there appeared a slight perturbation or movement and the pure Consciousness then grabbed a body-form (deharupa). After wearing this body form it started calling itself a man or woman while bound by different concepts (I am this; I am that; I am going; I am coming etc.). These concepts are all imaginary (Kalpana) and not real. Continue reading

Q. 359 – Some potential practices

sleeperQ: As a long-time Krishnamurti fan, I often “practice” awareness (mindfulness): when a thought arises I watch it live out its life and disappear; when I sip coffee I am aware of the feel of it, the taste, the fact that I am sipping coffee, etc.

 1. Is it okay for me to continue doing this while I am studying Advaita Vedanta? (OK in the sense of not undermining the Advaita learning process.)

 2. Does Advaita hold that is valuable/beneficial to practice this kind of nonjudgmental awareness? Is there a similar practice in Advaita?

A: According to (traditional) Advaita, you are supposed to have gained sAdhana chatuShTaya before you embark upon the formal path of self-enquiry (shravaNa-manana-nididhyAsana). This includes shamAdi shakti sampatti, the sixfold ‘accomplishments’. And the first of these are shama and dama, tranquil mind and sense control. This is obviously a similar sort of idea to mindfulness. So any practice which helps bring the mind under control, so it is not thinking about something else while supposedly giving attention to Advaita, is fine. But very definitely the idea is become disciplined first, so that you can direct the whole of your attention. If you try to do it at the same time, you will end up doing neither well! Continue reading

The Focus of Attention…


I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention,

I become the very thing I look at,

and experience the kind of consciousness it has;

I become the inner witness of the thing.

I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness, love;

you may give it any name you like.

Love says “I am everything”. Wisdom says “I am nothing”.

Between the two, my life flows.

Since at any point of time and space I can be both

the subject and the object of experience,

I express it by saying that I am

both, and neither, and beyond both.

Nisargadatta Maharaj


Short questions and answers No. 2

Here are a few more short Q & A’s which do not merit a separate post of their own: (Dennis’ answers, so don’t blame any of the other bloggers!)

Q: Nisargadatta says : Delve deeply into the sense ‘I am’ and you surely discover that the perceiving centre is universal, as universal as the light that illumines the world. All that happens in the universe happens to you, the silent witness. On the other hand, whatever is done, is done by you, the universal and inexhaustible energy.

My question in two parts:

 1. If my awareness is the absolute one and there is no other – then yours does not exist?

 2. If they both exist as the Absolute but are separately perceived by two minds why am I not aware of your experience as well as my own?

 So far as I can see, without reliance on solipsism, non-duality/Vedanta must posit a reality where the Absolute is being “dipped into” by separate minds? Continue reading

Dennis: Free Will (Part 3)

Go to Part 2

The metaphor of the motor boat crossing a fast-flowing river was used by Swami Chinmayananda. The current represents karma or destiny, as dictated by our prArabdha saMskAra; the power of the motor represents our own self-effort or free will. If the current is strong and our will is weak, we will be unable to overcome its force. If we are able to exert powerful self-effort (puruShArtha), we may overcome the force of habit and forge a new path.

Advaita tells us that who-we-really-are does not act in any case. For there to be action, there would have to be (at least) two things. But, empirically, we the witness see the body (which is only matter) performing actions. We identify with this and think that ‘I am acting’. The Bhagavad Gita (III.27) says: “The guNa-s of prakRRiti perform all karma. With the understanding clouded by egotism, man thinks ‘I am the doer’.” Continue reading