The Mystery – Part 6

Continuing this new, short series presenting the booklet by Bimal Prasad, in which he answers some ‘Rarely Asked Questions’ on Life. Primarily from the perspective of Advaita, questions addressed include the nature of happiness, consciousness, mind and ego. There is also practical guidance on meditation in the final chapter. Answers are relevant and succinct, so that many of the issues of interest to the seeker are covered.

This sixth part looks at the relationship between Consciousness, witness and ego, at the nature of the Self and reality, and asks what we mean by Self-knowledge. See the Contents List or go straight to Part 6 of the series.

The complete (electronic form) booklet may also be purchased from Amazon.

Knot of the Heart

I first encountered this term many years ago in discussions on the Internet with people who were influenced by Ramana Maharshi. The context was that, in order to attain enlightenment, it was not simply to do with gaining knowledge, or some key experience, but to do with breaking down some sort of emotional or psychological barrier. Maybe this is a peculiarly Western problem, whereby anything to do with the heart is equated to emotions. At any rate, the concept did not ring true for me at the time!

Also, prior to this, I had encountered the concept of the self or Atman living in the ‘cave of the heart’. This is an ambiguous and unhelpful phrase, if ever I heard one! If you read my review on the Mundaka Upanishad, you will have seen that I addressed this particular concept. As far as the literal idea is concerned, it is the vishiShTAdvaitins who believe this. They claim that the jIvAtman is aNu parimANa – atomic in size, as opposed to vibhU parimANa – all pervasive. (Note that the word parimANa should not be confused with pariNAma, meaning ‘transformation’, or pramANa, meaning source of knowledge!) Their idea is that the jIvAtman is minute and occupies a tiny space in the body, with its attribute of consciousness somehow radiating out to all parts of the body. There are many jIvAtman-s and only one paramAtman. Needless to say, these ideas are systematically refuted by Vyasa and Shankara. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 15

Part 15 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 15 continues to look at the metaphor of the five sheaths, from the Taittiriya Upanishad. This part explains the bliss sheath and then goes beyond the sheaths to examine the nature of the Self – Atman.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

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

whirlpool

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.

13186929-Background-with-physical-formulas--Stock-Vector-physics-scientific-equation

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)

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

Vedanta the Solution – Part 27

venugopal_vedanta

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 27 begins the enquiry into the nature of the jIva. It looks at the various explanations for how Consciousness manifests in the body-mind and the special role of the buddhi.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Vedanta the Solution – Part 26

venugopal_vedanta

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 26 examines the nature of AtmA, utilising the ‘descriptions’ from the Brihadaranyaka, Kena and Mandukya Upanishads. How can we ‘know’ the Self, when it is not an object?

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Reflections on Body-Mind and Liberation

shankaraThere has been much healthy debate recently on the Advaita Vision Blog about Liberation, who or what is a jnani or jivanmukta, and what it means to follow traditional Advaita. The theme of this post is that we cannot resolve such questions without first gaining a clear understanding of the body-mind and its role in the context of Liberation. What follows are some reflections inspired by a spirited discussion with Ramesam, with due credit to him for stimulating many of the thoughts below. Any errors or possible misunderstandings are entirely my fault. Or perhaps not, since “Words fall back from it.” Continue reading

‘ego’, self, and metaphysics – Part lV

In the Buddhist perspective, the ego or self as ordinarily considered in Western traditions (i.e., as soul or person), is a non-self, actually a non-entity (anatta). Hence the suffering, which stems from an experience -ultimately illusory- of separation and vulnerability.

Here we have to consider two things. First, according to Mahayana Buddhism, Adi-Buddha, equivalent to Dharmakaya – the highest metaphysical, or divine, level – represents that unique Being or Divine ‘State’, pervading all manifestation as Buddha-nature; and second, the notion of the Self (Atman, derived from the Hindu Vedanta) is not only compatible with that view, but also with that of the Spirit in Christianity and in Islam.

As to the soul (metaphysics and theology), though intrinsically perfect or whole in itself (one could add: in ‘primordial man’ –the purusha or Hiranyagarbha of Hinduism)- it experiences imperfection, self-limitation, anxiety and doubt in its state of (aparent) separation -the ‘fallen state’. Being, not just potentially, a ‘focal point of the Universe’, yet it becomes, through ignorance and self-will, the subject of illusions, attachments, and passions which lead to that predicament. Its condition is thus ambivalent; it can orient itself upwards (or towards the centre) – to ‘holiness’ and integration – or downwards, pulled by its ‘lower nature’ (nafs in its lower stages, according to Sufism). The end result will be either self-denial, or self-assertion; self-giving, or ego-centeredness. Inevitably, this latter tendency, based on ignorance, can only lead to an unwanted result: dispersal, disintegration, and suffering. Alas!, on the whole, if not in principle, psychiatry is not interested in this distinction or dichotomy; but let not anything else be said about this at this point.

From the viewpoint of advaita vedanta, all of what is described in this paragraph – and what follows – pertains to the empirical, relative (ontological and epistemological) level: mithya (or vyavahara), in other words. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 7 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 7 begins the section on Atma vichAra – investigation into the nature of Atma – and in this part specifically asks the questions ‘What is true knowledge?’ and ‘Who is Self?’. There is also a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.