Q: After reading and listening to non-duality teachers I got to know that there is nothing that can be done; there is nothing to attain and nothing to achieve. Whatever ‘is’, simply is.
So what should we do actually? After knowing this truth how should we live our life? Earlier I wanted to do sAdhana to attain self-realization and enlightenment. Now I have understood that it is the ego which is asking that.
Now in my life I have a feeling that, whatever activity I undertake, it’s just about keeping my mind and body engaged. Be it any activity – reading a book, doing meditation, working at the office – I feel that there is a separation between ‘I’ and the ‘mind’. When an activity or any kind of work starts, then the Mind and body are involved in it but I am separate from all of them. When the activity finishes, I again have my body and mind available to be engaged in another activity.
A: You seem not to be differentiating between absolute and empirical reality (paramArtha and vyavahAra). From the absolute viewpoint, there is only Brahman so that doing, enjoying, knowing etc. have no meaning – there is no one, no thing. But from the empirical perspective – from your personal viewpoint – there is a world and people. And there are j~nAnI-s and aj~nAnI-s (people who know the truth and those who do not). If you do not know the truth, you will suffer in life, so what can (and should!) be done is to find out the truth: that who-you-really-are is Brahman. Of course it is the ego that wants to do this but this desire is the one desire that is not only permissible, it should be encouraged!
Once your mind truly and irrevocably knows the truth (this is the meaning of being ‘enlightened’), you can then do whatever happens to be your svadharma or ‘calling’. This may just be carrying on doing your everyday job, living a family life, or whatever. But you may need to continue nididhyAsana in the form of study, reading, teaching, discussing Advaita so that the Self-knowledge is consolidated and you benefit from peace and happiness etc. for the remainder of the jIva’s life.
Shankara explains that It is Pure Intelligence and is also Bliss. It is a Bliss not smitten with pain. It is serene, beneficent, matchless, spontaneous, ever content and homogeneous, he amplifies.
Shankara, however, says, we cannot close the issue at that. We should explore and understand better what exactly the word “Bliss” would mean.
In our normal parlance, “the word ‘bliss’ is generally known to denote pleasure.” The shruti uses the word ‘bliss’ as an adjective to brahman. Can we infer from this that shruti says brahman is pleasurable?
Here are a few more examples where the Upanishads talk of brahman and Bliss: Continue reading →
Ha, finally, a gentle streak of relief seems to have descended on to the faces of the assembled august Audience, sitting on the edge of their seats for hours with knotted foreheads, wide-open eyes and mouths, waiting in tension for the next onslaught of verbal missiles. None in the Royal Assembly could answer the final question of the Challenger and that decided what was at stake for the day. The fierce war of words seems to have come to a close with the well-statured Pundit, an embodiment of Knowledge Supreme, just began to take slow and steady steps, along with a horde of his disciples, followers and admirers, towards the exit door of the Royal Court. The gathered experts started to wipe the drops of sweat on their bald pates, foreheads and chest using their upper garment as a hand towel. Rolls of murmurs and exchanges opened up among small groups of the men, cascading into unclear sounds. Some people were talking within themselves or speaking to nobody in particular as they recapitulated the dense moments and the profound depths of the discussions. Continue reading →
Q: Talks that I have been listening to use the terms ‘witness’, ‘eternal witness’ and other synonyms. Is pure consciousness or Brahman this ‘Ultimate Witness’? If so, obviously, it can’t witness unless there’s a manifesting medium to do so, correct? But ‘to witness’ implies duality. Also, it is often said that Brahman is transcendent or beyond the body-mind, and something other than the mithyA universe. So that means, again, that it can witness everything.
How do you reconcile the fact that knowledge is in the mind with Brahman being the witness beyond and apart from it? And how does this fit in with non-duality – there can’t be two things?
A: The effective explanation is ‘adhyAropa-apavAda’. The reality is that there is only non-dual Brahman or Consciousness. You begin with the conviction that the world is real, you are your body etc. Advaita gradually disabuses you of such notions by use of prakriyA-s (teaching ‘ploys’) such as analysis of the states of consciousness, cause and effect, real and unreal, seer and seen. Each of these takes you a little further in understanding. But, once the particular example has served its purpose, it is discarded. Analogy and metaphor can only take one so far; they are means to an end. Metaphors to illustrate this are leaving the boat behind once you have crossed the river, and letting go of the pole in pole vaulting before you go over the bar.
Historically (perhaps (?) since the days of Prof. Max Muller and Dr. George Thibet), the Sanskrit word ‘brahman‘ is rendered into English as Consciousness which is ‘caitanya.’ ‘brahman‘ is derived from the root “bRh” which means very huge. The derivation can take many forms like:
bRihatvAt – unimaginably Infinite in expansiveness;
brahmaNatvAt – encloses everything within Itself (all-inclusive);
barhaNatvAt – deliquesces [assimilates (absorbs/dissolves) all into Itself.]
Possibly “Colossus” may have been better or a more appropriate translation for brahman, IMHO, because Consciousness captures only one aspect of brahman, the other two being Beingness and Bliss (going by the popular “sat-cit-Ananda“).
Vedanta offers us three unique prakriyA-s (processes) to ‘understand each of the three aspects of brahman, as follows: Continue reading →
Q: Do you have the perfect definition of Consciousness as per Advaita Vedanta?
A: Traditional Advaita prefers to use ‘Brahman’ as referring to the absolute reality, although the aitareya upaniShad says ‘praj~nAnaM brahma’, which is translated as ‘Consciousness is Brahman’. Probably the most famous ‘definition’ (as far as that is possible) is the one in the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1): satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma – Brahman is real/truth/existence – knowledge/consciousness – limitless.
And in 3.1.2, the same Upanishad says that one should strive to know that from which all these beings are born, that in which they live and exist, and that to which they return – that is Brahman.
Brahman is the sRRiShTi sthiti laya kAraNa – the cause of the creation, maintenance and destruction of everything.
And so on! There are lots of ‘pointers’ but no definition as such, as explained in the answers above.
Q: Maybe I’m asking about consciousness with a lower case ‘c’ – I just want to know how you would define that word.
A: Nothing special here. The Sanskrit word is ‘chit’. Swami Dayananda’s definition is ‘limitless self-effulgent awareness; the self-revealing’. The book ‘A-U-M’ tells you all about the ‘states of consciousness’ and that their ‘substratum’ is turIya. See the article I wrote about ‘states’ of consciousness (https://www.advaita-vision.org/states-of-consciousness-2-3-4-and-1-2/).
Suppose, I sit and imagine with and within my mind that I and you are both sitting at a Caribbean beach (of course wearing masks and observing safe distance) watching the boats and the men and their activities. What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in my imagination are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them?
Suppose I see in a mirror me and the entire room where I am. What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in the reflection are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them?
Suppose a bunch of exquisite and unseasonal flowers and an imposing elephant are conjured up by a magician (Illusionist). They are indistinguishable from real flowers to the eye and the animal’s behavior is very natural, What can we say about the stuff with which all those objects in the magic are made up of? Is there any substance at all in them? Continue reading →
Some time ago (31st Oct 2020), during our prolonged discussions (beginning early Sept 2020) upon whether the world literally disappears when a jIva gains enlightenment (Ramesam and Venkat say that it does and I deny that), Ramesam asked me to provide references to support comments that I had made. Since this topic is very relevant to Volume 2 of my book on ‘Confusions in Advaita’, I have been researching and writing about it for the past 6 months. Since the various aspects now take up some 30,000 words plus, I will not be posting any more material – you will have to wait for publication of the book, unfortunately unlikely to be before 2023.
Apologies to readers who will find that this post is not particularly readable or directly helpful. The book presents all of the arguments in a logical and readable manner, only using the indicated quotations as supporting material. Here, the references only are presented solely to complete the earlier discussions and provide ‘answers’ to Ramesam and Venkat as the pUrvapakShin-s.
Q: I am struggling to understand where reality ends and mithyA begins.
I understand that everything in my experience is Consciousness. But I cannot reconcile this with seeing ‘things’ in the ‘world’. I appreciate that, if I am Brahman, meaning that my little jIva consciousness is actually Brahman, then it is my consciousness that is generating this entire perception of nature and mammals. In other words, the only thing going on with the ‘jIva seeing world and objects’ is Consciousness.
But what is going on for the animals and objects? Are they really there or not? Are they appearing just through my human mind via Brahman/Consciousness? Are there no objects in reality? When I see a leopard, all that is real is Consciousness seeing Consciousness? Then how are the leopards appearing with so much complexity and purpose?
I realize that time and space are appearing in Consciousness; I realize that leopards are appearing in Consciousness. But what are they? Do you have any way to answer this that doesn’t rely on the Advaita Vedanta language since that language isn’t getting through to me? I.e. dependent reality, Ishvara, mAyA, mithyA: none of these words seem to be pointing me in the right direction.
Here is a great and profound Talk by Swami Sarvapriyananda who patiently, taking all the time in the world and repeating himself for the sake of the audience, explains the process of perception and realization of the Self. The Video is over 1 hr 39 mins. It is enough to watch the first 56-57 mins. The rest is Q&A; a couple of questions are good.
If one carefully watches this Video, it will not be possible to hold on to the notion that a jnAni, who “understood” what is brahman, not in theory but really, would “still see objects as ‘objects’ but just the difference is that he now (after the “realization”) knows them to be unreal.”
The Self-realized individual sees himself/herself (i.e. brahman = Awareness) everywhere.