Q. 388 – Proof of Methodology

Q: I read an article of yours in which you said that traditional Advaita is a “proven methodology.” You also say that it is impossible to tell if another person is enlightened. But if you can’t tell if someone is enlightened as a result of practicing Advaita, how can you say that Advaita is a “proven methodology”? What constitutes “proof”?

Responses from Martin and Dennis

A (Martin): There are two parts to the question: 1) what constitutes proof in the context of Advaita Vedanta; 2) What does the questioner mean by enlightenment.

1) Is a proof here the proficiency in discussing/remembering/debating on topics of this tradition shown by one who has followed it for x number of years?

Answer: That can hardly be a proof. Whether parrot-like or not, ability in this regard may show, at best, a degree of intellectual understanding in the areas discussed as well as, possibly, a good memory and lexical ability. A real proof would consist in bringing about a complete change in outlook on life, meaning an inner transformation in the way the person sees the world and reacts to it. Does he/she see themselves as a doer? This may not be evident to anyone other the one undergoing the change. Continue reading

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.

References
The Māndūkya Upanishad (1996) by Swami Krishnananda

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

The aim of Advaita VIsion

about2

If you click on ‘About’ in the menu bar at the top of the page, you will be taken to the page that lists the aims of this blog and the associated website at www.advaita.org.uk. This page was written by Peter Bonnici (with assistance from Ramesam), with whom I initiated Advaita Vision around 4 years ago. (As most readers will know, Peter is unfortunately no longer with us.) Despite its ease of accessibility, one wonders how many visitors actually read it. Certainly it would seem that some have never done so. Accordingly, I reproduce it below, since its content is so important.

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This site provides a platform for all who are attracted to the vision of non-duality and like to share their views and their approaches.

Here’s why Advaita Vision will be an open platform for all committed to self-enquiry:

  1. People are at different points on their spiritual journeys.

Therefore different expressions of the fundamental principle of advaita are needed to meet their specific different needs. 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

Q. 355 – Faith in a Path

Q: How do we get the conviction to go on a spiritual quest?  Unlike science, there are no indicators to give feedback if this is even the right path. We need to have blind faith in the general idea itself before we venture into it. Can we only do this through negation of the other paths, where apparent validations are possible by material feedback.

A devil’s advocate argument could be to dismiss everything associated with the vedas/upanishads as nonsense, since nothing can be proved. Another way to look at this is to acknowledge that the ancient sages have come up with practices such as yoga and meditation, which sort of proves their intellect and extrapolates on their ability to see things farther than a average person can and thereby have faith in their judgements.

 I am not able to articulate my question very well but I hope I got my point across.

Answers are provided by: RamesamDhanya, Ted and Dennis.

A (Ramesam): Man, by his/her very nature, feels incomplete. He seeks fulfillment of what he lacks through effort using his natural or acquired talents.  In fact, it is this “lack” that drives his passion for action along the path of the means chosen by him suiting to his comfort-level.

At the most basic level the drives that motivate a man for action are the biological and physiological needs.  As described by the Psychologist Maslow, the subtlety of these needs changes from a lower to higher level in the following manner: Continue reading

Q.342 – Teachings of Nisargadatta and Ramana

Q: Is there a difference in the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj?

A (Dennis): This is too general a question, really. The short answer is that the bottom-line message of any teacher of Advaita must be the same, obviously. But the methodology depends upon the teacher lineage. Nisargadatta did have a lineage, although his own style developed somewhat! And Ramana did not have a lineage at all. The absence of a lineage means that what is said lacks rigor and is subject to differing interpretations etc. This is why the recommendation is always to try to find a qualified, traditional teacher.

Q: I do realize that my question was too general and could not be dealt with in a short answer. What I had in my mind was with regard to their approaches to meditation/ self enquiry or the “path” recommended by them. In self enquiry Ramana stated that while enquiring into “who am I?” the I that is enquired into is the individual or the ego and not the Self. According to him, focusing on the ego or I would make one realize that it is a phantom and thus lead one to the Self. Nisargadatta, on the other hand, seems to suggest that one should focus directly on I am, which is the same as the Self. In this sense, I thought there was some difference in their teaching. Continue reading

Am I awake yet? – Fred Davis

So, am I awake yet, or what?

by

Fred Davis

 

I edit Awakening Clarity, a Nondual blog, and as a result of that I get emails from the four corners of the worlds.  A fair number of them express confusion.  The writer has had some sort of spiritual experience.  And now they want to know where they are on the spiritual map.  One response that arises here when someone asks me something along the line of, “Hey, am I awake, or what?” is exactly this:

“If you’re concerned about whether you’re awake or not, then you’re not–at least not right now.”  Such a question simply would not occur to conscious awakeness. Generally, in fact, given the nature of the situation the person is writing in about, and their choice of language their letter contains convincing evidence that they are not awake right now–at least not in the way they are asking about.  In truth, everyone is always equally awake, so all we are ever talking about is whether or not we are consciously awake, knowingly awake–right now. If we can get clear on this we can see that there’s no room left for higher or lower, better or worse, more spiritual or less.  All of those things spring from beliefs, opinions, and positions (BOPs), which conscious awareness simply doesn’t have.  The apparently separate being it’s working through will certainly have a broad array of BOPs–that’s essentially what a separate being is–but not the awakeness behind it.  You will understand, of course, that language is failing us here; we do what we can. Continue reading