Q.410 Teaching the blind

Q: How do you teach Advaita to a blind person ? I am talking about a person who has been blind since birth, who has no vision of external reality/unreality. The adhyAsa bhAShya talks about superimposing the subject and the objects. But both subject and object are not perceived by a person who has been blind since birth. All that he/she would be aware of is taste, smell, sound, sensations. How would you proceed with such a candidate ? The theory of negating the superimposed almost fails for such a person, for he/she cannot ‘see’ or ‘perceive’ what is superimposed !

 I am not saying the avasthA traya is not a good way to start here, the avasthA traya prakriyA holds good for even a blind person. That is, your dream is just like your waking state. But the problem is, there is no perception in either dreams, waking or deep sleep for such a person. Here’s a video that confirms that people who are blind since birth don’t see anything in their dreams : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpUW9pm9wxs.

If you’re a jIvanmukta, I request you to close your eyes and then tell me if you can still get established in the self, you’d understand how difficult this is !

Thanks for any and all inputs on this subject.

Note: I am aware that Atman is beyond perception, but to know one has gone beyond perception is easy when one still sees and not when he doesn’t see. It’s just the same for a blind man. Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 5)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 4 of the series

Proofs for adhyAsa  
There are two shruti-based pramANa-s for adhyAsa , the first is ‘postulated’ and the second ‘inferred’.

Postulated
The first takes an observed fact – for example I wake up one morning and find the road outside is flooded – and postulates an explanation for this – e.g. heavy rain occurred whilst I slept. Since I slept soundly, I have no direct knowledge of any rain but, without such a supposition, I have no reasonable way to explain the observed phenomenon. Other ‘unreasonable’ explanations may be put forward but the one suggested is the most plausible to the rational mind. In order to justify an improbable explanation, the more plausible must first be discredited. Since the observed fact can only be explained in this way, the explanation becomes a pramANa or valid means of knowledge. This pramANa is ‘perception-based’. as opposed to ‘shruti-based’. Shankara’s concept of adhyAsa is in fact a shruti-based ‘postulate’ since there is no mention of the subject in the veda-s themselves and it is in this way that it becomes a valid knowledge in its own right.

Just as this principle can be used to explain the flooded streets, shruti-based postulates can be used to explain that the ideas that we are mortal, doers and enjoyers are all due to error. For example, the kaThopaniShad (II.19) says ‘If the slayer thinks that he slays or if the slain thinks that he is slain, both of these know not. For It (the Self) neither slays nor is It slain.’ Also the gItA (V. 8) tells us that one who knows the truth understands that we do not act. We are not ‘doers’ or ‘killers’ or ‘killed’. Therefore, any statement such as ‘I am a doer’ or ‘I am an enjoyer’ must be an error, from shruti (and smR^iti) based postulate. Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 4)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 3 of the series

Objections to the theory
Other systems of philosophy claim that, although the rope-snake error is acceptable, the superimposition of anything onto the Atman is not possible. The argument is that any superimposition requires four conditions to be satisfied:

  1. Perception. The object being covered must be directly perceivable, as is the rope in the rope-snake example. The Atman is not an object and cannot be perceived.
  2. Incompletely known. The object must be incompletely known, as one is ignorant of the fact that the rope is a rope. In the case of the Atman , however, the advaitin accepts that the Atman is self-evident and always conscious – how can there be ignorance with regard to something that is self-evident?
  3. Similarity. There must be some similarity between the actual object and its superimposition, just as a rope and snake have a basic similarity (one could not mistake the rope for an elephant, for example). But there is total dissimilarity between the Atman and anything else. E.g. Atma is the subject, anAtma  is the object; Atma is conscious and all pervading, anAtma  is inert and limited etc.
  4. Prior experience. In order to make the mistake, we must have had prior experience of that which is superimposed. We could not see a snake where the rope is unless we knew what a real snake was. Whilst this is possible in the case of the rope-snake, it is not possible in the AtmaanAtma  case because we would have to have prior experience of a ‘real’ anAtma and it is part of the fundamental teaching of advaita that there is no such thing; there is only the Atman.

Accordingly, in the case of the AtmaanAtma , not one of these four conditions is satisfied. Therefore superimposition of anAtma  onto Atma, the fundamental cause of our error according to Shankara, is not possible – so says the objector. Continue reading

Q.398 – Use of metaphors

Q: There are two concepts, super-imposition and manifestation, in Advaita to  describe the ‘relationship’ between Brahaman and the empirical world. Super-imposition means that the world is super-imposed on Brahaman. Manifestation means that the world is a manifestation of Brahaman. My doubt is as to how a manifestation can be super-imposition also? My gut feeling is that there is a subtle link between the two concepts which I am unable to ‘see’ because of the proverbial ‘ignorance’. 

A (Dennis): They are each a metaphor to give the mind some insight into the nature of reality. The reality is non-dual so that all metaphors and all ‘explanations’ are ultimately untrue. The world and the jIva are mithyA. Brahman has no relationships. Use the metaphors and explanations of the scriptures and teachers to help guide the mind to realization of the truth but don’t ever take them as more than what they are. And do not worry if one ‘explanation’ disagrees with (or even contradicts) another. They all have to be dropped in the end!

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

Claim against Swamiji (SSS)
 Big fuss on whether avidya =mAyA
·           Swamiji does not like tarka or reasoning
·           Swamiji does not admit of avidyA in deep sleep
·           Swamiji does not endorse prakarana works, as he says they are not written by Shankara
·           Swamiji claims no role for bhakti in the advaita tradition
·           Swamiji does not accept that an enlightened soul may still suffer the consequences of past deeds
·           Swamiji advocates learning from books only, and being self taught without a teacher
·           Swamiji overuses the phrase adhyAropa-apavAda giving the impression it his discovery
·           Swamiji is not of the tradition
·           Swamiji claims he is right and everyone else is wrong

Continue reading

Q. 372 – Superimposition and Memory

Q: What is the relationship between memory and superimposition (adhyAsa)? In the metaphor of rope and snake, we say that we fail to see the snake clearly, because of inadequate light – there is partial knowledge and partial ignorance. When we superimpose a snake on the rope, we are drawing on fear and memory. We must have seen a snake (or image of one in a film or book) before in order to be able to mistake the rope for one. Similarly, we mistake brahman for the body and the world etc.

 But what about a baby or someone who has no memory as a result of brain damage? Is there still superimposition in this case?

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Sitara and Dennis

A (Ted): We have to bear in mind that the example of a rope being mistaken for a snake is an analogy, and as is the case with any analogy, the example is imperfect. In the example, the snake image is based on a previous experience of the mistaken perceiver.

 In terms of mistaking the body-mind-sense complex as well as the innumerable other objects that constitute the manifest universe for Brahman, however, we are dealing with something a little bit different. Whereas in order to mistake the rope for a snake, one must have previously seen a snake, the projection of the apparent reality (i.e., the manifest universe in both its subtle and gross aspects) is not based on experiential memory, but rather results from the mind’s ability to recognize the “cosmic blueprints” that abide in dormant form in the Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is personified as Isvara, and are made manifest through the conditioning that maya upadhi, the limiting adjunct of causal matter, puts upon Brahman. That is, the mind is an instrument that is designed or a mechanism that is “programmed” to recognize these forms and, thus, is able to discern their apparent existence within the cosmic soup of pure potentiality (i.e., the unmanifest realm or “mind of God,” if you will) from the data it receives via the perceptive instruments/organs. Continue reading

Seven Stages of Chidabhasa

chidAbhAsaGuest Author – Vijay Pargaonkar
Seven Stages of Chidabhasa

Based on Panchadasi by Vidyaranya Swami

Chapter 7.0 “Trupti Deepa”(marathi translation by Pundit Vishnu Shastry Bapat (1908) and hindi translation by Pundit Ramavatar Vidyapati (1912))

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4-4-12
br4-4-12

 

 

“If a man knows the Self as “I am This” then desiring what and for whose sake will he suffer in the wake of the body.”
(The entire Trupti Deepa chapter of Panchadasi is based on this shruti mantra)

Kutastha, the pure Consciousness, is asanga (without any association) and avikari (immutable). This Kutastha is also the adhisthana (substratum) of “bhrama” (illusions- not to be confused with Brahman) of indriya-sharira (body- mind complex). When it gets associated (the association is only vyavaharic/transactional and not real) with mind through anyonya-adhyasa (mutual superimposition) it is known as Jiva. Kutastha’s reflection in mind “chidabhasa” alone cannot be the Jiva since it has no existence of its own without Kutastha – image in a mirror is not possible unless there is a face behind it. The mixture/combination of chidabhasa and Kutastha is also referred to as purusha in the the shruti above. Continue reading

Revision of ‘Review of article on Shankara’ – part 3

RB: “Now the error in calling avidy¯a as something epistemic should be obvious. The following extract, from [SSS], is clearly putting the philosophical cart before the horse:

‘Avidy¯a is subjective and has been explained by ´ Sa ˙ nkara as the natural tendency of the mind to superimpose the self and the not-self on each other.’

When the conception of j¯ıva itself is due to avidy¯a, how can avidy¯a be the ‘natural tendency of the mind to superimpose the self and not-self’?” (*) Continue reading

Review of article on Shankara by Ramakrisnan Balasubramanian

(This is a slightly modified article published here one year ago, which was improperly and incompletely posted. Ramesam had asked me to review the following article, with which I complied after much hesitation. The article is over 40 p. long and quite dense and complicated in parts – in other words, ‘academic’: for specialists only; one could add: cutting the slices so thin, that the substance is practically lost, or forgotten).

Review of ‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by ´Sa ˙ nkara Bhagavadp¯ada’ – by Ramakrishnan Balasubrahmanian. Continue reading

Review of article titled ‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by Shankara Bhagavadpada’

(Ramesam asked me to review the following article, with which I complied after much  hesitation. The article is over 40 p. long and quite dense and complicated in parts – in other words, ‘academic’: for specialists only; one could add: cutting the slices so thin, that the substance is practically lost, or forgotten).

Review of  ‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by ´Sa ˙ nkara Bhagavadp¯ada’ – by Ramakrishnan Balasubrahmanian

The first impression, on a quick glance at the beginning of the article, is that the criticisms of the author contained in the article, and addressed to the writings of Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati (SSS), a recognized sage and scholar, are extensive to the latter’s whole opus, as coming from an uncompromising position concerning the teachings and method of Shankaracharia. Some of the words and expressions used in the article are quasi-litigious (e.g., ‘intellectual arrogance’, ‘vociferously opposes’, ‘pointless’, ‘glaring inconsistency’, ‘making errors’, ‘misconstruing’, ‘twisting’, ‘has invented a new term’, etc.), reminiscent of the theological disputes and diatribes in the European Middle Ages. Evidently, SSS had his followers as well as his detractors, and the same can be said of the author of this article, who belongs to an opposite camp. Occasionally, he shows signs of (partial) approval of his adversary’s (if one can use this term) enunciates; for example: “No doubt SSS’s textual analysis skills are excellent, but the problem I see with SSS’s writings is his obsession with terminology, rather than philosophy. Indeed none of his works are about the philosophy of advaita [!], but are oriented almost exclusively towards contradicting previous commentators of ´Sa˙nkar¯ac¯arya”. And soon after that: “The difference between Padmapada and SSS is that the former is a philosopher, while the latter is a textual analyst”. Concerning these  pervading criticisms of the work of SSS by the author, Ramakrishna Balasubramanian (RB), the reader may judge whether they are excessive, unwarranted, or justified.

The main criticism by the author, in respect of the interpretation of avidya by SSS, is that this is not due to a double superimposition of the self and the non-self, as the latter maintains, but only to a superimposition of a subject, non-self, on the self: “[T]he fundamental error is a superimposition of an observer on the real… and by a reverse process the inner self, which is the witness of everything, is superimposed on the inner-organ”. He calls this reverse act (or process, as he calls it) ‘natural’, since “a superimposition of observer on the self naturally leads to the imagination of objects ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ the observer, just as described by Gaud.ap¯ad¯ac¯arya”. He adds: “The usage of the continuative ‘adhyasya’ in the above passage also clearly indicates that the superimposition of an observer is avidy¯a and is prior to the reverse superimposition”.

Logically prior?, prior in time? Or simultaneous, by mutual implication? Continue reading