Knowledge, Action and Liberation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost readers will be aware of the Brahmasutras – the third ‘leg’ of the prasthAna traya (the threefold set of scriptures that constitute the authority for Advaita – and some will even have read them! And you may also know that the first, famous sutra is athAto brahma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into Brahman. It is the claim that Brahman forms the subject matter of Vedanta and has to be enquired into if we are to gain Self-knowledge.

The author of the Brahmasutras is said to be vyAsa, also known as bAdarAyaNa and the purport of the work is to summarize, in an extremely abbreviated form, the philosophy of vedAnta, showing how this naturally derives from the (last portion of) Vedas. (Of course, this does not mean a summary of Advaita. Others have written commentaries on the Brahmasutras and shown how it is commensurate with the philosophies of dvaita and vishiShTAdvaita.)

What fewer readers will know is that there is a similar (much longer) work, called the pUrva mImAMsA sUtra-s, written by the ‘father’ of pUrva mImAMsA philosophy, Jaimini. And, surely not coincidentally, the first sutra in this work is athAto dharma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into dharma. This makes the claim that dharma forms the subject matter of the Vedas and has to be enquired into if we are to gain liberation from saMsAra. The word ‘dharma’ is often translated as ‘duty’ and the meaning of this word relates to what we ought to be doing with our lives. Their claim is that knowledge is useless, since it cannot produce any benefit. They utilize only the first part of the Vedas – the karma kANDa – believing that only actions can achieve anything and that, consequently, we must assiduously follow the injunctions, rituals and meditations prescribed there in order to attain liberation at some point in the future.

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Topic of the Month – bhakti

The topic for July 2014 is bhakti.

Along with many others, I used to think that there were 3 paths to enlightenment: karma, bhakti and j~nAna. I now know better! There is only one ‘remedy’ for saMsAra j~nAna, since only knowledge can eliminate ignorance. But karma yoga is valuable for mental preparation and bhakti is an attitude that should prevail throughout. It is also excellent as a starting point for many. We also need to differentiate bhakti and upAsana

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Meditation

Most spiritual seekers, Western as well as Eastern, meditate. Therefore countless forms of meditation have developed: still and in motion, silent, with chanting, with prayer, concentrating on something or seeking the opposite of concentration. In Advaita Vedanta meditation plays an important role, too. There are two forms: Meditation on an object and meditation without an object. Continue reading

Interview with the Gita

We are very fortunate to have access to Bhagavad Gita ­– described as Mother, Goddess, Shower of the Nectar of Advaita and the Release from the Endless Cycle of Rebirth – to answers the many questions that relate to our day to day living. The advice relates to every person who, like Arjuna, find that, when the minds alone is involved, it is clear what’s needed, but when feelings become engaged they are no longer convinced they know what’s the right thing to do. And, at the end of each chapter, Gita is described as Brahma vidya [Knowledge of Reality] and yoga shAstra [scripture that prepares the mind for Brahma vidya]. So the questions start from this point: Enlightenment is the unshakable knowledge ‘Aham BrahmAsi’ [I am Brahman]…

Q: What stops us from knowing this truth of oneself 24/7?
Gita: Mind has three basic defects:
1. it is impure (i.e. it is ruled by appetites and aversions)
2. it is unsteady (i.e. it is unable to hold one thought for any prolonged period of time, let alone forever – i.e. it is NOT capable of being ‘unshakable’)
3. what it holds to be true is erroneous.
Krishna describes this sort of mind of the irresolute as ‘bahu shAkAh anantAh’ – many branched and endless. Continue reading