The Pursuit of Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. This is the motivational force for everyone. The Vedas acknowledge this. The first part of the Vedas – karmakANDa – is effectively aimed at those who look for their happiness in external, limited, objects and pursuits; the latter part of the Vedas – j~nAnakANDa – is aimed at those who are looking to find the happiness within, through gaining knowledge of their true nature.

Here is a brief article from Ramesh Pattni, called

WHAT IS VEDANTA? VEDANTA AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

The pursuit of happiness has been the foremost goals of humanity from time immemorial. There is, however, a diversity of understanding and experience of happiness across traditions and cultures around the world. Eastern traditions which offer great insights into the human condition and psychological processes, have a universal appeal which point towards attainment of happiness by different means.

The development of Positive Psychology in recent decades has focused on the study of happiness and wellbeing and examined evidence for the ways and means to happiness.  Currently there are two dominant Western approaches to human happiness and well‐being: Hedonic and Eudaimonic perspectives. The former is based on the idea that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and obtained through the contact with the world of objects. The eudaimonic approach is that happiness is an end in itself and the highest good and based on a life of virtuous living and contemplation. Continue reading

Who Slept Well – part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the second 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.

When I enter into a pitch dark room I cannot see the presence of any object there as it is too dark. I need a light to illumine the objects. In a pitch dark room, the existence or non-existence of any object cannot be established; they may be there or they may not. In essence, their existence becomes indeterminate or anirvachanIyam. On the other hand, I can see that the room is pitch dark and understand that it is because of this that I do not see the presence or absence of any object. Darkness envelops both the known and the unknown.  However, I do not need a light to see the darkness.  In addition, I know that I am there even when the room is pitch dark.  I do not need a light to know that I am there. I am a self existent entity and therefore a self revealing entity, and hence I do not need any pramANa to know that I am present in the dark room. It is similar to saying that I do not need a light in order to see another light.  Being a conscious-existent entity, I am also a self-revealing entity or self-luminous entity or I am aprameyam, not an object of knowledge for which a pramANa is required. In addition, my presence as a self-luminous or self-conscious entity is required to illumine any other object – tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhUti; it is by that light of consciousness alone that all objects get revealed. Therefore, the light of consciousness that I am can illumine the darkness as well as the light that opposes the darkness.  Thus I am the light of lights, since I light the lights and darkness too – jyotir jyotiH. Therefore, I say that I see it is pitch dark which is covering the existence as well the absence of all objects. 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

Q. 356 – Signs Along the Way

Q: I’m firmly convinced that nothing outside myself can give lasting fulfillment, I have acquired quite a facility for playing the piano and am still improving that skill, and when I do make an improvement it’s usually after a long period of practice until the next breakthrough ad infinitum, I’m in a fulfilling relationship with my girlfriend and I have a great job at a pharmacy, I’m in good health as well, but beneath it all is this sense it will eventually change and I ask myself is this it? All my needs are met but I still feel incomplete. I have good karma and predominantly sattvic tendencies, so how will I know I’m making progress on my path? Are there certain objective milestones that I will definitely notice and be like ok I’m closer to realizing who I am? You said the mind needs to be receptive and mostly controlled but I just wish there were more specific instructions.

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, Sitara, Ramesam, and Dennis.

A (Ted): The way you will know that you are making progress on the path is that your penchant for wanting things – be they tangible objects, money, relationships, power, prestige, achievements, particular physical or psychological states of being, spiritual experiences, or whatever – will diminish. 

 Vedanta says that all desires fall into four basic categories.  The first three are security (artha), pleasure (kama), and virtue (dharma).  From the description you offer, it sounds like your life is rife with objective phenomena that fit into all three categories.  Your good health and great job offer security, your facility for playing the piano and the fulfilling relationship you enjoy with your girlfriend provide pleasure, and your good karma and predominately sattvic tendencies bespeak a virtuous character.  Still, you remain unfulfilled.  This, according to Vedanta, is as it should be – or rather as it is – at least for the person who still believes lasting peace and happiness can be had through the acquisition and enjoyment of objects. Continue reading

upadesha sAhasrI – Part 14

upadesha14

Part 14 of the serialization of the  presentation (compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures given by Swami Paramarthananda) of upadesha sAhasrI. This is the prakaraNa grantha which is agreed by most experts to have been written by Shankara himself and is an elaborate unfoldment of the essence of Advaita.

Subscribers to Advaita Vision are also offered special rates on the journal and on books published by Tattvaloka. See the full introduction

Q. 354 – Consciousness and reality

Q: I have an odd question, a question that I am not even sure how to formulate, it concerns consciousness. Why does Advaita philosophy insist on calling the ultimate reality consciousness? The word consciousness implies intelligence and thought – how do we know that anything outside of brains is in any way conscious?  Does this mean that physical reality amounts to the “thoughts” of this consciousness? Can the transcendent consciousness send messages to an embodied consciousness? 

 I know that an advaitin will say that there is only a non-dual reality but I mean this (however unreal or relative a reality my individual reality may be from an ‘ultimate’ perspective’) in much the same way that, until you received this e-mail from me, you were not aware of any ‘message’ or meaning from me.

  If I see a figure in clouds or a face in some wood-grain, should I see this as information with meaning? Does the consciousness ‘behind’ or ‘underneath’ everything communicate meaning with physical events (pictures, or ‘my thoughts’ , or even ambiguous hand-writing!) the way we normally communicate meaning with words and concepts? In other words–if the entire universe is consciousness, can anything be truly mindless or meaningless? Continue reading

Q. 353 – Witness to the boredom

Q: I have a problem with the boredom of everyday life. Nothing seems to satisfy me. I just find it so difficult to be just here in the moment and be content with that. You say: go through life and work etc, but as a witness to it all.

Am I living in moment as I should? Should I give all my attention to each action, so that the ego is absent or should I just be the witness of everything every action on a moment to moment basis?

Maybe if I understand how to live in the moment better and had some clarification, that would help me stay present and focused on just living. My mind lives in the future.

(Note: I have reworded the question slightly but some of the replies quote from the original question. Apologies for any confusion!)

Answers are provided by: Sitara, Ted, Ramesam, Martin and Dennis. Continue reading

Witnessing Consciousness – Q.340

Q: What is the difference between the witness, witness consciousness and consciousness? I know myself as the witness or maybe as witness consciousness but I do not know myself as all there is which, I guess, would be knowing myself as consciousness. But how can I ever not see the world of objects? So do I not remain a witness choicelessly?

A (Sitara): Contained in your question are seven questions (which I have passed on to the other bloggers, so some may refer to them):

 1.            What is the difference between the witness, witness consciousness and consciousness?

This will be answered below along with the last question.

 2.            (implied question) Is there a difference between the witness and witness consciousness?

Answer: no, not in the way I use the terms. But there is the possibility of a flawed use of the term ‘witness’. Witness means the ultimate subject that cannot be objectified. If witnessing is attributed to the mind, the so-called witness is nothing but a thought, i.e. it is just another object. And the so-called witnessing is nothing but an experience.

 If, however, witness is used in the sense of ‘ultimate subject’, you can use ‘witness’ and ‘witness consciousness’ interchangeably. I prefer the term ‘witness consciousness’ (or simply ‘witnessing’) because the term ‘witness’ suggest too much of a personality. Continue reading

Different Teachings – Q.334

Q: How do you explain two enlightened people (in the advaitic sense) that have different teachings?  For instance, I think someone like Greg Goode and Swami Dayananda would disagree on many things despite both arguably being enlightened. For example let’s take Greg’s essay on idealism (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/teachers/idealism_greg.htm).  

 I don’t think Swami Dayananda-ji will agree with the core position that an object doesn’t exist unless perceived.   In fact I have asked Swami Tadatmananda this question (in the form of ‘does a rock exist before someone sees it?’) and he answered in the traditional sense saying that it does.   From your point of view does this still fall under the umbrella of differences in teaching style?    I also believe we could get a debate between the two on the topic of Ishvara and freewill. Continue reading