The scriptures utilize many stories and metaphors to coax the mind towards an understanding of Brahman – after all, this is one of the few ways this can be done since Brahman cannot be described. One that is rarely encountered is the myth of rAhu.
According to Monier-Williams (Ref. 179), the word ‘rAhu’ means ‘the Seizer’. It refers to a story in the Hindu purana-s (sacred books of mythology and cosmology), although the myth also occurs in much older Buddhist texts. The fable has the gods ‘churning’ the ocean in order to extract the ‘nectar of immortality’ (amRRita). One of the demons who are watching this, disguises himself, steals a portion and drinks it, thereby becoming immortal too. The sun and moon gods witnessed this and told Vishnu, who subsequently cut off the demon’s head. The head became known as rAhu and the rest of the body (with the tail of a dragon) as ketu. They were then evicted from the earth, from where rAhu continually tries to wreak revenge on the sun and moon by eating (‘seizing’) them. We see these attempts when eclipses take place. Continue reading →
Alan Jacobs, President of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK, died last month. Well-known and respected in the Advaita community, he was the author of nearly 30 spiritually-related books, from a contemporary, free-verse rendering of the Bhagavad Gita to a compilation of material from Ramesh Balsekar.
I only met Alan a couple of times so am not qualified to write any eulogy. I will leave that to Paula Marvelly, who knew him for many years. I can however, agree entirely with her summary: “Alan was the quintessential English man of letters and a perfect gentleman. I shall always have an enduring image of him sporting a Panama hat, cravat and cane, with a cup of tea near to hand”. Continue reading →
Shankara leaves no scope for any doubt when he declares at the end of his commentary at 2.1.33, sUtra bhAShya, that “The shruti statement of creation does not relate to any reality, for it must not be forgotten that such a text is … meant for propounding the fact that everything has brahman as its Self.” (Translation by Swami Gambhirananda).
Shankara also asserts in his commentary on mantra 2.1.20, brihadAraNyaka: “Therefore the-mention in all Vedanta texts of the origin, continuity and dissolution of the universe is only to strengthen our idea of Brahman being a homogeneous unity, and not to make us believe in the origin etc. as an actuality.” (Trans: Swami Madhavananda).
He makes it abundantly clear in his commentary at 3.15, Gaudapada kArikA that “Therefore, we have reasonably to conclude that the scriptural statements regarding creation, etc., are for the purpose of helping the mind to realize the oneness of Atman, and for no other purpose whatsoever. Therefore, no multiplicity is brought about by creation, etc. (Translation by Swami Nikhilananda.)
The 35th Sringeri Acharya HH Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha was unequivocal when he told a disciple that “To cater to the doubts of such people (i.e. less advanced aspirants) as regards creation, the scriptures speak variously of origination. Scriptures are actually not concerned with creation at all.” Continue reading →
The uncompromising position of Advaita Vedanta is that “Nothing is ever born” as Gaudapada tells us in his mANDUkyakArikA (verse) at 3.48 and repeats it for emphasis at 4.71. As many as four Upanishads wrap up the Absolute Reality from the Advaita viewpoint in the following verse which appears also in Gaudapada’s kArikA:
न निरोधो न चोत्पत्तिर्न बद्धो न च साधकः । न मुमुक्षुर्न वै मुक्त इत्येषा परमार्थता ॥ — 10, amRitabindu upanishad; 2.31, Atma upanishad, 11, avadhUta upanishad; 5.13, tripuratApini upanishad; 2.32, Gaudapada kArikA.
[Meaning: There is neither Dissolution nor Creation. There is neither bondage nor any seeker for freedom. There is neither any one wishing for salvation nor any one who achieved it. This is the absolute Truth.] Continue reading →
Q: Since feelings, perceptions and thoughts require a body-mind, and who I truly am is Atman (= brahman), then why should one not commit suicide in order to escape their mental suffering? When they die they will only remain as ‘brahman’. I know the concept of karma is used to scare people away from suicide, but this doesnt exist since brahman (who you really are) feels nothing and does not experiernce it. So what do you have other than the concept of karma to logically persuade someone out of suicide?
A: It is the person that ‘suffers’ and contemplates suicide, because he believes himself to be the body-mind and identifies with the perceived pains and negative emotions. If you KNOW that you are Brahman, then you also know that you are not the person. There may still be physical pains and the mind may still throw up negative emotions but there is no longer any identification. You know that you are even now perfect and complete; there is no identification with body, mind or world because you know they are not real. Indeed they are your own ‘manifestations’, simply the effect of past causes that affect the body-mind appearance. They do not affect who-you-really-are. Why try to change them?
But unless the person knows this, you are never going to convince someone who is contemplating suicide. They need more empirically conventional solutions such as drugs and counselling!
If you are not happy with this response, I can throw it open to the other bloggers and see if they come up with anything better.
Q: Does the phrase satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma means truth-knowledge limitless or Existence-consciousness limitless? (The latter is the definition given by Swami Dayananda in one of the summer camp tapes.)
A: Strictly speaking, sat means real, existence or being; sattA means being or existence; satya means truth or being. If you look up ‘existence’, you will probably find asti or astitvam. If you look up ‘sat’ in Monier-Williams, one of the meanings is ‘that which really is, entity or existence, essence, the true being or really existent’. If you look up ‘sattva’, you get ‘being, existence, entity, reality, true essence’.
So the answer is that both are used in either context and there is no clear meaning associated with either (and I have come across both being used in both meanings. I am fairly sure that Swami D has used both to mean ‘existence’ and both to mean ‘truth’. Sanskrit is a very versatile language! (But, if you ever come across me using it clearly in one way and Swami D using it in another, take Swamiji’s meaning! He knew Sanskrit inside out; I don’t!) Continue reading →
Q: No one wants desires. When we get a desire, what we really want is for it to go away. The usual way to achieve this is by following the desire and fulfilling it. But an alternative way must be to ‘dissolve’ the desire somehow. Then it goes away without having the trouble of giving in to it and trying to satisfy it. Can advaita do this?
A: Here is what I said in ‘Advaita Made Easy’:
“Life is a never-ending cycle of desires followed by actions followed by results (usually disappointing ones because we expected too much). It is a cycle because, once we have attained the desired objective, we quickly supplant the old desire by a new one and the process begins again. We thought that we would be happy when we got whatever it was that we believed that we wanted – but it always turns out that we were mistaken.
“Why do we do it? It is because we feel that we are limited in some way and that the desired object will make us complete. This applies to all desires, from the most basic to the most sophisticated. But there is only one desire which, once achieved, will bring us the fulfillment that we seek and that is to realize our true nature. This is because that realization will bring with it the discovery that we are in fact unlimited. We are already complete.”
You mention, “It is not about experience at all, it is about self-knowledge – the direct knowledge that you are already that which you seek.”
Let’s say I don’t know what 2+2 equals. Then you teach me that it equals 4. Is that knowledge? (intellectually knowing more stuff?) Or is knowledge (Self knowledge) something different? Continue reading →
You could equally have asked: Why do stones and trees… the earth, the universe exist? There is no answer to any of those questions – other than by the various theologies. Existence is, and is the way it is, how it is – it is a given. No reasons can be given, in the same way that we cannot find a meaning to it all.
But we can assert with confidence that there is intelligence in the world, in the universe and, by extension, in all it contains; intelligence is participated in by all beings. By persistent questioning, it is possible to find an answer as to what is the nature of the universe, of existence, and of ‘me’. That answer is both personal and impersonal. Find out what the rishis of old revealed, which goes way beyond religion. Continue reading →
Without Consciousness, nothing can be known. But Consciousness itself cannot be an object of knowledge, just as in a totally dark room, a torch may illuminate everything but itself. Knowing requires both knower and known. For Consciousness to be known, it would have to be a knowable object but it is the knowing subject. We ‘know’ Consciousness because we are Consciousness. Consciousness is our true nature. The ultimate observer (which is who you essentially are) is simply not amenable to any type of objective investigation: who could there be beyond the ultimate observer to do the investigating?
Numerous attempts have been made to define Consciousness. Most seem to revolve around the assumption that a person’s behaviour indicates its presence or absence. It is argued that consciousness is present during the waking and dream states but not in deep-sleep or under anaesthesia, for example. But this is again to confuse Consciousness and awareness. When we awake from a deep-sleep, we are able to state with confidence that we were ‘aware of nothing’. This is a positive statement – there were no gross objects, emotions or thoughts present for us to perceive. Continue reading →