Q: 1. Is there or could there be an Absolute Nothingness that everything, including Awareness, comes from or out of? Part of this question is the possibility that Awareness or Consciousness is only in this world and for this experience.
2. Without a brain and nervous system, or a manifesting medium, Awareness doesn’t even know it is. Therefore, it is still temporary, or a state it seems? And, as Nisargadatta says, what we are is PRIOR to this.
A: 1. The confusion of ‘awareness’ versus ‘consciousness’ a la Nisargadatta has been addressed in other questions. ‘Awareness’ in traditional (my) terminology is a characteristic of the mind of a jIva. A sharp, controlled mind has more awareness than a dull, undisciplined one. But ‘awareness’ is not a ‘substance’ in its own right, so it cannot ‘come out of’ anything. And ‘absolute nothingness’ is just that – and nothing can come out of it by definition! (Or, perhaps more accurately, ONLY nothingness can come out of it!) The concept of ‘absolute nothingness being the reality’ is shunya vAda, which is a Buddhist idea refuted by Shankara in his brahmasUtra and mANDUkya upaniShad commentaries. Continue reading →
My answer: A given individual can live without technology – telephone, radio, TV, automobile – but society in general can no longer go back (how far back?) to the time of 3 or 4 generations ago. Everything has been ‘piling up’ and become more and more complex and, at the same time, integrated or intertwined more or less haphazardly. We need modern technology even if only to take us out of this mess – a mess which I don’t need to describe in any detail and which affects the whole world.
Are we at the point of no-return? Nobody knows. While there are dangers, there are also opportunities, advances and turn-backs. Each individual is like a cog of a great machine (or a thread in a tangle?), and only individuals can bring about some change for the better – others do it for the worse. It is like the ancient lore of good and evil in endless battle. The myth of Prometheus (and also that of Pandora) loom over all of us. The Greeks understood all this very well.
NDM: R.D. Laing said “True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality… and through this death a rebirth and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer.”
In the west, when this happens it is referred to as when an ego collapses, fragments, or disintegrates and when the shadow and archetypal contents flood in from the personal and collective unconscious causing psychosis, or a psychotic break from reality.
In the east, its considered Self-realization or God-realization, seeing the face of God, Shiva and so on?
How do you make the distinction between a psychotic break like this here and a satori or awakening experience?
Ramesam Vemuri: Any of the psychological phenomena, hallucinations, lack of control, inability to filter diverse and dissonant signals coming to the brain (schizophrenia) are all related to the activity of the mind. So also visions etc. These have a clear signature in the brain. Orgasmic or epiphany states are also clearly seen in the activity of different cortical regions (see: Pleasure of Sex vs. Bliss of Self in Brain Scans, Religion Demystified, 2008, p: 86-88).
Q: I have been reading and studying your website and Advaita Vendanta in general and I ran across a few questions while recently reading an article.
You wrote: “Vedanta states that the search for happiness in the world is based on a mistaken idea about the source of happiness. The things of the world are seen as objects of one’s desire for achieving completeness and therefore satisfaction and happiness through actions directed at attaining those objects. Objects themselves are neutral, says Vedanta, but one projects a positive or negative bias on the object according to past experience and conditioning. As long as there is the belief that the objects of the world are the source of happiness the endless cycle of desire, action, result, and experience will continue, sometimes with disastrous consequences. “
Does this apply to goals that are not neccesarily objects but still something of the world? Like say for instance studying in college in a field you are interested in. If you are not just studying for the diploma itself and a high pay grade but for the love of the knowledge itself and for being more able to serve those around you would that still fall under mistaking the source of happiness?
I dont know if I am putting this the right way so I hope maybe you can understand what I am asking despite that. I just was wondering does Advaita Vedanta advise not having goals in life at all? Is it disadvantageous to the self to pursue goals in life? If desire for things outside of yourself doesn’t lead to happiness is it a mistake to desire knowledge and service to others as well?
Also, do you know where I could learn more about how western psychology and Advaita Vedanta are similar and different? Do you have any thoughts on this? I know western psychology is a very broad subject but didnt know if you know of any books or articles that relate the two.Continue reading →
Q: Good afternoon, I wonder if i may ask you about meditation please ? In particular TM, Transcendental Meditation.
I have been meditating twice daily for two years now and have not noticed any changes, no more calmness or anything really. I enjoy it while i do it but the feeling does not carry over into daily life.
From your experience would it be best to give it up or persevere a little longer please ? Is there something better than thus type of meditation?
A: Can you describe in some detail what you actually do and what you find? Continue reading →
Q: Advaitins believe that Atman is omnipresent / all pervasive and therefore doesn’t transmigrate after death. Only the subtle body does the travelling.
If such is the case, then why do some advaitins use the term ’embodied’? The term ’embody’ means, putting something inside a body. For example, once you put something inside an enclosed thing like water in a bottle, and then upon moving the bottle the trapped water also moves along with the bottle.
Is this what they really mean by embodied, that atman remains trapped/enclosed/embodied within the bottle called subtle body, and upon death, atman while being trapped moves along with the subtle body to a new physical vessel?
But then, if Atman moves along with the subtle body at death (i.e. if we take the word embody seriously), then it contradicts the teachings of advaita where they say that Atman is all-pervasive/omnipresent and has no need to change locations. That it is indivisible and cannot be enclosed by any bodies.
What exactly do they mean by embodied then?
A: Yes there is always a danger that, if you latch on to a particular way of phrasing things, you will be confused! The problem is that you cannot really talk about the reality at all so that teachers have to provide ‘explanations’ that are not actually true. You move forward in your understanding one bit at a time, discarding the earlier explanations as you go.
The ‘Atman’ is the word that Advaita gives to the reality as it ‘applies to’ the individual person. ‘Brahman’ is the word that Advaita gives to the reality as it ‘applies’ to the totality, universe and everything. And one of the key teachings is that Atman = Brahman. The word ’embodied’ is certainly used by some teachers but it is quite misleading. Atman is NEVER ‘in’ the body. A much better way of looking at it is that the reality (Brahman, perhaps better thought of as ‘Consciousness’) is ‘reflected’ in the mind of the person. This is why we seem to see separate individuals; the ‘quality’ of the reflection depends upon the quality of the particular mind. But body-minds are inert. They are conscious (small ‘c’) by virtue of Consciousness (large ‘C’) reflecting or animating the body-mind’. Continue reading →
NDM: Ok, what about the belief in karma? Reincarnation? Whatever the incorporeal essence is that some believe transmigrates.
It is known in different spiritual traditions; “the most sacred body” (wujud al-aqdas) and “supracelestial body” (jism asli haqiqi) in Sufism, “the diamond body” in Taoism and Vajrayana, “the light body” or “rainbow body” in Tibetan Buddhism, “the body of bliss” in Kriya Yoga, and “the immortal body” (soma athanaton) in Hermeticism.
Karana-Sarira – causal body, subtle body, Jiva, “Atman” and “Purusha” in Vedanta. Budhuta, Linga Sharira in Theosophy. Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical teachings usually referred to the Etheric and Astral Bodies. American Indians and indigenous peoples from around the world refer to this as aspirit, animism, or guide.
Others like James Hillman call this psyche. These are the various ethereal bodies that some believe contain samskAra-s, or sin and so on? Do you believe that such an ethereal essence or a thing exists?
What are all these various traditions talking about or pointing to exactly? Continue reading →
Q. ‘Is finding true self also a feeling or emotion?’ Quora
SK. Emotions and feelings are deeper than thoughts. Attachments and aversions are deeper than emotions and feelings. True self is deeper than attachment and aversions. Even though some people think of it as feeling or emotion, in reality it is much deeper than just that. The reality of true self only comes with direct experience of prolonged practice of consistent meditation for a long period of time. Continue reading →
[NDM: Also what about this sensitive money issue that seems to hit a raw nerve when ever it’s raised.
Is there anything right or wrong with doing this? Is there anything right or wrong with making a few , rupee’s on this ancient non dual teaching? What is your take on this controversial and almost taboo question?]
Ramesam Vemuri: First of all no question need be a taboo. If a particular doubt posits itself as a stumbling block, well, it should be attended to.
The ancient Indian system advises a student to redeem his indebtedness to the teacher by rendering service, by payment in kind or cash or in the absence of any other means of repaying, by passing on the wisdom obtained by him to others after taking Guru’s permission. This obviously shows the necessity of some accepted social structural norm to preserve and propagate the knowledge to others. Does this mean that the ‘wisdom’ is on sale or available for prostitution by the highest bidder? Moreover, a seeker had to be eligible to receive the wisdom, the most important criterion being his single minded unswerving devotion for liberation in exclusion to any other desire (including food, clothing, wealth, status etc.).
The ancient sages foresaw a danger also in throwing open the knowledge for one and all because it can be detrimental to the very health of the individual and the society, if it is misunderstood and/or incompletely understood. Continue reading →
Q: Many Vedanta teachers, nonduality, and especially Direct Path teachers answer the question “Who am I?” with these kinds of constructs:
‘I am that which is aware of objects. I am the awareness of objects. I am awareness.‘
I understand the intention of this way of formulating things; it moves the seeker away from the notion that s/he is this or that object (body, mind, etc.). But my problem with the formulation is that it seems to be presented as satyam, but it is in fact mithyam. (When taught properly it’s a good adhyAropa apavAda device, but many of the nonduality teachers I’ve read teach it as an ultimate truth, the foundation of their teachings.
The true (satyam) answer to “Who am I?” is “I am Atman/brahman.” And this is NOT synonymous with saying “I am awareness (or anything else that can be conceived, envisioned, described)” because Atman/brahman is beyond all attributes. So, if one were to avoid using the Sanskrit terms, my answer to “Who am I?” is something like:
‘I am the mystery.‘
My question for you as a traditional Advaita teacher is: What is the validity/usefulness of the “I am … ” constructs I listed at the beginning of this email?Continue reading →