Experience vs. Knowledge

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

Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 10/12:

[Part – 9/12]

[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.471 More on Consciousness versus consciousness

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

Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 9/12:

[Part – 8/12]     

NDM: So without a teacher/guru of some kind, how does one navigate a path through this non-dual jungle? How did you do this without falling into all the traps like getting stuck in the absolute, or only seeing half the picture and the other pitfalls?

Ramesam Vemuri::  Non-duality is not the jungle.  Non-duality is clarity.  Information on it, about it and around it is the jungle!

One of the derivative meanings for the Sanskrit word Guru is, as you may have known: “the dispeller (ru) of darkness (gu).” In the ancient times when knowledge is transmitted through oral tradition, a human Guru (dispeller of darkness or ignorance) was necessarily required because the Guru was the only information source. Each Guru developed, used and expanded certain terminology to explain the Truth as realized by that Guru to a lineage of his disciples.

Fast forward to the present day.  We have now multimedia storage devices as information resources and satellite communication technologies for its dissemination.  These do dilute the mandatory requirement of a human Guru (dispeller of ignorance).

The more important question is how do we manage with the information ‘overload’ and distinguish the grain from the chaff. Continue reading

Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 8/12:

[Part – 7/12]      

NDM:  Did you ever formally study traditional Advaita Vedanta?  

Ramesam Vemuri:  I should at the outset say that other than as a matter, perhaps, of curiosity, me or what I did is utterly inconsequential; it need not to be considered important. I never studied Advaita formally under a Guru-sishya sampradAya (tradition) nor did I pursue any particular teacher or Ashram.  In fact, I feel repulsed to “follow” any organized system that upfront demands obsequious obeisance, dictates a belief structure, creates a hope and promises a distant carrot.

My spiritual inquiry, if I may use that term, has been more like the pursuit of research in science – define the problem as it arises, do a literature search, then investigate, check and cross check to the extent possible and so on.  In this process I was exposed to Zen, a wide variety of teachers in Advaita (from traditional to Direct path to Neo) and also bits and pieces of other systems. Undoubtedly there is a greater influence of Advaitic thought of the ancient Indian texts on me simply because they are some of the finest philosophical texts based on logic and were also the more readily accessible resources for me.  I am truly indebted to each one of them and also to the innumerable people who helped me in arriving at a clear understanding.

NDM: Is there any particular method or study out of all these various ways that clicked with you over the others?
Continue reading

Q. 470 Aah!

Q: Does this sound right to you?

Advaita considers this to be innate certain knowledge: I exist, I experience (i.e. I am a subject). It is the bedrock of the Advaitin teachings. The source. If I am not utterly certain that I exist and experience, all of the downstream Advaitin views of self and reality will be skewed.

A: No. It is certain knowledge that ‘I exist’. But that ‘I’ (Atman) does not act or enjoy (akartA, abhoktA). So it does not ‘experience’ either. It cannot be a ‘subject’ because then there would have to be an ‘object’ – and that would be duality. Everything other than ‘I’ is mithyA. ‘Experience’ is via the reflected consciousness (chidAbhAsa) in the mind.

Q: I understand.   The thing is, I’m a very intuitive person. I rely on and trust my gut feelings about things. Pure reasoning and logic only go so far for me, particularly in the metaphysical realm.

So in order to be certain that I exist, I need to know it in my gut. Up to now, neither reasoning nor shravaNa has elicited this in-the-gut certainty. What has is perceiving, thinking, and feeling stuff – I experience, therefore I am. 

Brahman is clearly neither subject nor object (nor anything else that can be thought or expressed in words). Thus Atman is also neither subject nor object. Ditto for the Self. But some students (a sizeable number I reckon) are going to find it next to impossible to somehow KNOW stuff like this with certainty but without relying at all on experience, gut feeling, intuition, etc.

A: Sureshvara says that only shravaNa can bring the ‘final understanding’. If you do not currently have it, all you can do is more manana (which you are doing by asking questions) and nididhyAsana (more reading, listening to talks etc.) and then, at some point in the future, come back to more shravaNa. And repeat this loop until a shravaNa session brings you an Aah! moment!

Q:

 

A: Very good!

Doership and personal responsibility

Q. Is the standpoint of the Vedanta man not the doer? If so, where does his/her personal responsibility begin and end? (from Quora)

A. Individual man is a doer (and an enjoyer) so long as s/he identifies themselves as such, thus reaping the results of their actions. If the presumed – seemingly independent – individual knows that s/he is in essence the supreme Knower/Actor, that is, pure Consciousness, then actions, enjoyments, happen, but s/he does not claim any of that: any response comes directly and spontaneously from Consciousness.

Bear in mind, though, that it is not Consciousness itself which acts, rather it is behind all actions: ‘It is the hearing of hearing, touch of touch, mind of mind’, speech of speech’, etc. (Ke Up, 1-2) as their background or substrate.

‘Mind alone – when ignorant – is the cause of bondage and mind alone – when enlightened – is the cause of liberation’ (Amrita Bindu). M.

Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 7/12:

[Part – 6/12]                                         

NDM: What would you say are the odds of someone being “enlightened” also becoming a Jivanmukta?

Ramesam Vemuri:  Advaita holds that everyone is already a Jivanmukta.  Some scriptures unequivocally declare that the mind is most important.  If it knows clearly that it is unbound, it is free.  If it thinks it is bound, it is in bondage!

And incidentally, the Advaita teaching does not say one “becomes” a Jivanmukta. The teaching is that “You are That.”  It is not to ‘become’ but just to ‘be.’

Enlightenment or the first glimpses of ‘realization’ may entitle one to be called as a Jivanmukta.  But to be unceasingly in/as brahman, one has to overcome several of the distractions that the mind keeps posing.

NDM: The one question that really interests me is what someone can do about their vAsanA-s if they are enlightened, but still have problems with them?  Continue reading

Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti – 6/12:

 [Part – 5/12]

NDM: What about an energetic shift?  Does this also take place?

Ramesam Vemuri:  A particular individual may call his experience as an ‘energetic shift’ and only he can tell what those terms signify.  Most people may figuratively express “realization” as a change in perspective, a sort of re-orientating, rather than as anything extra-ordinary or dramatic.

NDM: So if the understanding isn’t crystal clear, are you saying this is the reason why one may not become a Jivanmukta?

Ramesam Vemuri:  That is true.  Absolute clarity without even a speck of confusion or doubt on the teaching (shall we call the “theory”?) of Advaita is a must and is the primary step. Lack of clarity or misunderstanding can lead one astray into pursuit of false mental states, fancy expectations and may even result in unhealthy minds or dead ends.

NDM: Will crystal clear knowledge wipe out all vAsanA-s? Continue reading

Q.469 Consciousness versus consciousness

Q: Consciousness (capital C) is brahman is ineffable. consciousness (lowercase c) is the state of being aware (of something). These are fundamentally different ‘things’ … they really have nothing to do with each other. They might as well be called x and Y instead of x and X.

What am I missing here? What justifies consciousness and Consciousness being portrayed (linguistically, in any case) as the same thing except for the capitalization? How is consciousness similar to Consciousness? 

Or is it as simple as: What we call consciousness is <whatever happens to arise mentally when> Consciousness reflects off the mind? In other words: There is no consciousness per se, there is only reflected Consciousness in ALL its forms? The feel of consciousness … qualia, presence, what it is like to be a particular mind-body at a particular moment.

How is this *feel* similar to Consciousness? If they are utterly dissimilar, why use the same root word with different spellings?

A: Interesting questions, although I think maybe you are making more of this than is really there.

Firstly, Consciousness and consciousness have to be the same in reality, since there is only Consciousness. How can you say they have nothing to do with each other? In the light analogy I used [If you look at the analogy of light, the light reflected off a mirror is still light, still photons of electromagnetic radiation, even though the mirror itself is not the originator of those photons.], the reflected photons are the same photons, not newly originated imitations. We call the reflected Consciousness ‘consciousness’ but it is still only ever Consciousness. The reason that we want to differentiate is to explain aspects such as why Consciousness manifests differently in different minds. You could say that a clear, disciplined mind ‘reflects’ Consciousness much more ‘brightly’ than a dull, identified mind, in a similar way to a clean mirror reflecting light much more brightly than a dirty one.

You say to begin with that “consciousness (lowercase c) is the state of being aware (of something)”. But it is Consciousness that enables us to be aware of anything. When Consciousness enlivens the mind, we just happen to call it ‘being conscious’. Your statement “There is no consciousness per se, there is only reflected Consciousness in ALL its forms?” is one way of putting it.

The ‘feel’ of being conscious is one aspect of the mind’s response to the reflection of Consciousness. There is no ‘feel’ under anesthesia, for example, because there is no reflection taking place since the mind is inactive.