New interview

For those interested, here is a link to a recent interview with myself conducted by Creative India magazine. It provides a general introduction to the nature of Advaita and background to my own involvement. The only aspect that readers of this site might find novel is a disagreement I had with respect to the Sringeri Acharya’s definition of Astika!

Two questions in QUORA

Q&As in Quora)

What are some essential self awareness exercises?

M. None, unless attention… Greg Goode (a Non-dualist teacher) recommends ‘Standing as Awareness’. That is the title of a booklet by him.

In Advaita Vedanta Gaudapada and Shankara did not recommend any exercises except, perhaps, Asparsha yoga (which means, ‘no-relationship – with anything), and only as a preparation for less-gifted students. All experiences derived from exercises, including Samadhi, are only temporary. Advaita is not Yoga, and there are no injunctions or exercises in it – only Intuition and reasoning based on it. There is the triple way or method: ‘hearing’ (the scriptures= Upanishads), reflecting on what has been read or listened to (if one has a guide or teacher), and contemplation (nididhyasana). That is all. (There are other answers to this question and the following one).

Will we as humans be able to distinguish between our conscious and electrical conscious?

M. I don’t understand what you mean by ‘electrical conscious’. Do you mean the electro-chemical signals between synapses in the brain which transmit and share information between neurons? That is only the physical basis or vehicle for consciousness. Consciousness is not a phenomenon, it is an (ontological) reality – ‘what is’ – beyond even conceptualization, and not physical. Consciousness is indescribable and unknowable by the mind (brain-based mind, again, being a vehicle or ‘transducer’), and, thus, a metaphysical or spiritual reality.

 

‘shruti’ support for ‘eka jIva vAda’

boxing  ‘eka jIva vAda,’ the Doctrine that says “I Alone Am” is a perpetually  fascinating as well as a perplexing topic in Advaita. It has been debated at many Non-dual discussion fora in the past, both online and offline. Enthusiastic seekers no doubt will continue to do so in the future, if for nothing else, at least as a part of their manana (reflection on the shruti vAkya learnt by them about jIvabrahmaikatva (Identity of the individual and brahman). We are no exception here at this site, thanks to the indulgence from Dennis.

Even though neither Dennis desired nor I anticipated, willy-nilly another round of discussion on ‘eka jIva vAda‘ got opened up triggered by a few observations Dennis made at his latest Post on “Q.394 – Becoming One.” First he raised a few questions, then two, and then one more. The last question was the inevitable left hook: What are the “scriptural references for EJV?”

That’s off my kilter. I jumped out of the rink. Had to look for succour. Fortunately there is help available from redoubtable experts, highly knowledgeable Advaitins. Instead of presenting them in the ‘Comments’ section of the thread, I felt that their answers to the query deserve to be posted as a separate Blog.

I am very grateful to Shriman LalitAlAlitaH, Shri Venkataraghavan and Shri Praveen Bhat for their kind and prompt response and for their ready consent to letting me post their views here. Continue reading

Foundation Sources for Advaita

Below is a compilation of two dozen + one of the Mantra-s/shloka-s from various shruti /smriti sources which form the Basic Foundation for the Concepts of Advaita. The selection is arbitrary and purely based on what appealed to me to be significant. Other learned seekers may like to add to or delete from or suitably emend this list in order to make it comprehensive and authentic. If any authoritative lists are already available in public domain (preferably online), a reference and a link to them will be appreciated. Continue reading

ROLE OF “REPETITION” — 2

ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 2

 

This is an alternative viewpoint regarding the role of “Repetition” in understanding the core message of advaita.  As it often happens, there is nothing like “the right perspective” in these matters. One may use one’s own discretion in evaluating these different points of view.

1.  There is no doubt that Repetition helps in getting a thing by heart or to memorize a quote, a mantra, a verse etc.

2.  We know ‘Practice maketh perfect’ and  practice necessarily involves repetition.

That means, we are making an operation (mostly those that involve neuromotor skills) into a more mechanically executed action – transferring a routine from being a cerebral activity to cerebellar activity.

3.  The ‘phala‘ (result) of certain ritualistic karma (like offerings made for the appeasement of gods, gaining merit etc.) is expected to increase proportionally with the number of times the ritual is carried out. (Please see Note: 2 at the end). Continue reading

Repetition-1

ROLE OF “REPETITION” IN SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION, PRACTICE AND UNDERSTANDING — 1

All of spiritual instruction and learning has two aspects or dimensions:  The Theory and Praxis – a doctrine to understand and a method to practice, so that the former may dawn in the seeker’s mind as an experiential realization of his/her own. In advaita Vedanta the goal is to understand the Reality by dispelling the misunderstanding. The final understanding to arrive at is that there is no essential distinction between the jiva (individual self) and Atman (Universal Self), and further, that Atman, the Self, is Brahman (its cosmic extension, as it were). Here the two terms of the polarity, subject-object, get obliterated, given the intuition (anubhUti, akhandAkAra vRtti) that reality is One. Knowing and Being are no longer distinguishable from one another, when Happiness shines self-effulgently and this is encapsulated in the three-pronged expression, sat-chit-Ananda.

The method of imparting the above Non-dual message is usually by teaching (through gradual and progressive steps) so that the seeker intuitively grasps the Reality, the ‘what Is’. Normally a teacher is required for this education; otherwise, the scriptures (basically the prasthAnatraya; the purANas and specific treatises likes the prakaraNa grantha-s being the accessories) are the source to which one can access again and again. Saying ‘again and again’ implies repetition… or does it? Repetition of what? Continue reading

What is Death – part 6 and final (metaphysics or spirituality – non- duality)

Image

 

Meditation

‘There is doubt concerning a man who has departed. Some say, “He is”, and others say, “He is not”. Taught by you [Yama, god of death], I would know this. This is the third of my boons’.

‘Do not, do not insist: release me from this’…. Choose a hundred years, sons and grand sons… elephants, gold, horses… Naciketas, enter a great realm of desires: I will make you the enjoyer of your desires… but do not ask me about dying’.

Naciketas, the young seeker, will have none of that.

‘Since you, Death, tell me it is not easily understood, and no one else can be found who can teach this as you can, there is no boon to equal this’.

…………………………………..

‘Yama continues: ‘The wise one [inner self] is not born, nor does it die. [Hidden in all beings] it is not from anywhere, nor was it anyone. Unborn, everlasting, eternal, primeval, it is not slain when the body is slain.’  Continue reading

What is death – part 3 (Transmigration)

The wheel of transmigration

Although whatever is understood by transmigration or reincarnation does not strictly belong in this discussion on the “problem”, or the “reality” of death, it is so entrenched in people’s minds due to cultural and religious accretions, that a short account of it is not altogether out of place here. In the milieu of Hindu and Buddhist traditions reincarnation occupies the main doctrinal position in their exoteric or “religious” aspects, apart from belief in and worship of a deity or deities, and second only to the doctrine of karma – to which it is intimately related. Death of the body – the ‘gross body’ – is a foregone conclusion once it is irreversible (biological death).

A conventional account of reincarnation is as follows: ‘as for the jiva-atman carrying these vrittis, if during his lifetime the individual had performed some special acts of merit (punya) or demerit (papa), then the jiva-atman would proceed to heaven or hell. After spending his special karma-phala there, he comes back to the earth’. A more elaborate description is that once the seeker realizes nirguna Brahman he/she merges with Him/It, thus attaining immediate liberation (sadya mukti)’.Those who are eager to go beyond paths [the journey of life here and hereafter] tread no path’ (com. on Mu U. lll.2.6). ‘Just as the footmarks of birds cannot be traced in the sky or of fish in water, so is the departure of the illumined’ (Mahabharata). These two quotations are taken from ‘Methods of Knowledge’ – According to Advaita Vedanta’, by Swami Satprakashananda, p. 299. Continue reading

What is Death – Part 2

In the case of the human being, is death – whatever meaning we give to it – an ending, a transformation (in psychological terms), a recombination of parts (physics and biology), or a transfiguration, such as what is called reincarnation, transmigration  or metempsychosis (religious tradition)? Is it terminal, or a new beginning, a renewal – in someone of the senses enumerated above?

Or is death simply illusory? In the restricted sense we are now having in view (related to a human being), what is the meaning of ‘death’ – a question which, whether it has a precise answer or not, must have been asked countless times, at least ever since one or more individuals started to ask these kinds of questions, that is, to philosophize? It is frequently said that according to Plato philosophy begins in wonder. With such a broad view or approach of the problem we can appreciate how many possible answers, or rather areas of research and inquire are open to ourselves. We saw that, whether a (“short-lived”) event or a (gradual) process,  death can be defined in simple terms in what concerns the body, in fact the body of any organism, as was stated in Part 1. Going beyond this, and entering directly into the realm of philosophy – the philosophy of Vedanta in particular – the problem is also simplified by just saying that the only ‘things’ that ‘die’, or are annihilated, are forms, phenomena, which are impermanent. Essence or substance, being changeless, does not die. Continue reading

Traditional Teaching and Deep Sleep – III. mAyA & Creation

[The latter part of the article requires a bit of mathematical (or at least arithmetic) orientation in the reader. If you know the addition, 1 + 1, that is enough. Otherwise, it could prove slightly boring!]

We shall tackle now the question of how we wake up to be what (we think) we were before we went to bed.

I said in my previous argument that our waking up to a new morning and into an awake state is comparable to another cycle of creation.  So I suggest we examine how creation itself takes place.

From a scientific perspective, creation seems to be happening from ‘nothingness’ and dissolving back into nothing.  Vedantins prefer to call nothingness as ‘Beingness’ simply because even ‘nothingness’ has to ‘Be.’

If we go by what Quantum Physics tells us, what we may refer to as ‘nothingness’ is not just emptiness.  There is an enormous amount of energy in ‘Emptiness.’ Physicists have been able to measure this energy of empty space.

The energy within the empty space of the nucleus of an atom is the main reason for the weight of the nucleus (and hence of the matter we are all).  The energy of the emptiness within the intergalactic space is the reason for the expanding universe causing the colossal and mighty galaxies to recede from one another at speeds exceeding the speed of light. This vast energy is the result of constant creation and annihilation of virtual particles smaller than sub-atomic particles. Thus creation-dissolution is an ongoing unstoppable roiling and boiling process from emptiness to emptiness within emptiness!

Continue reading