Advaita In Plenitude Only?

predator-prey Man seeks refuge in philosophy usually when things are not working for him/her in the world. When s/he is desperate and exhausts all the means at his/her command, he searches for succor elsewhere, anywhere. Mind becomes palpably uncertain, agitated, and anxious in those times. The misery and sorrow that spring from having to helplessly watch the unsatiated hunger of their children, the endless destitution, disease and penury of their own, the daily grind of laboring in hot Sun for a pittance of a wage, the constant stress from the hawkish creditors who compound their struggles, make the parents desperately want someone who could tell them the purpose of their life and provide at least a ray of hope.

Easily will such people get attracted by and gravitate towards anyone and any system that offers the assurance of an invisible Savior, Protector and a mighty and merciful God — in short a dualistic philosophy. That teaching calms their minds and thereby rejuvenates their strength to face the drama to some extent.

In contrast, the texts on Advaita speak of not only surpassing sorrow but also attaining nothing less than “immortality.” Short treatises even graphically describe the prior miserable plight of the seeker who pleads for help and amelioration from his pathetic condition appealing to the mercy of his Guru for redemption. For example, we have in vivekacUDAMaNi:


O Master, O friend of all who reverently surrender unto thee, thou ocean of mercy, I salute thee; save me, fallen as I am into this sea of worldly existence, with a direct glance from thy eyes which shower nectarine Grace Supreme.  —  35 .

I am burning in the blazing infernal fire of this world-forest; I am being tossed around by the cruel storms of misfortune; I am terrified (within and without).  O Lord! save me from death; I have taken refuge in you, for I know no other shelter.  —   36,

Rare are the Non-dual teachers who upfront say that the human problem at the human level cannot be solved at all by Non-duality. If someone approaches with a severe headache, if we prove by some invincible logic that it is all an imagination and in reality there is neither a person nor a head at all, surely that may bring a smile to the philosopher but not to the guy who suffers. Same is the case with hunger, destitution, disease. People in pain, hunger etc. look for a cure at that level only. For them, the Non-dual teaching sounds like an escapism. As Vedantins, we may say that Advaita is an inquiry into the ultimate Truth and not a problem-solver at the phenomenal level. We may hold that one needs a priori a healthy body and a sane mind to be able to pursue the Advaitic inquiry.

I often wondered, “if so, is Advaita for the affluent and in times of plentitude only?”  It was my loud thinking that it could be the reason why Advaita prospered in ancient India (when all resources were in abundance and the population was scanty).  This hunch gets buttressed by the fact that now Non-duality is catching up in the Western world like USA, UK, Netherlands etc.

I raised this issue at a social network site (not in so many words as above, though). Dr. Greg Goode was kind to react to it. I share here what he said.

Greg Goode:  “I wouldn’t say that nonduality is a cure-all. It has definitely been used as escapism, and so have other aspects of spirituality.

Nonduality isn’t going to help improve things for an individual or society, because these notions and related forms of experience are called into question. That’s why in the traditional paths that include nondual teachings, the teachings come at the end. There is so much more to do, and so many ways to help beings lessen suffering.

Good point about the history of Vedanta in India.”


As long as one is hungry (i.e. needs an energy input) and still continues to breathe, s/he does need a thing that exists SEPARATE from and other than himself (food and oxygen).  The predator-prey conflict is inevitable and misery ensues with no uncertain certitude to the victim.

I welcome your thoughts.

24 thoughts on “Advaita In Plenitude Only?

  1. Ramesam,

    Interesting hypothesis.

    However, the recognised masters of advaita: from Sankara to Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramana, Nisargadatta lived and died in poverty. Their earnestness was not driven by prosperity, and indeed they gave up what prosperity they had – to live, as the Bhagavad Gita says, by what comes to them by chance. Indeed, Sankara frequently advocates renunciation and life as a sannyasin.

    So your hypothesis of advaita in plenitude can only be right, if we take advaita as a religion, and its ‘popularity’ as a measure of its efficacy. But really, its popularity in the West, together with Zen and others, speaks volumes for the dislocative impact of modern civilisation. People have been brought up feeling money, power, fame are the key metrics by which we measure success – perhaps more so than in any other generation. And yet the pernicious impact of this system is clearly evident in both personal ills (stress, depression, drug addiction, isolation) and societal ills (gaping inequality, endless wars, crumbling social safety net, collapsing economic growth, resource exhaustion, irreversible climate change) – and an overwhelming sense of dissonance with principles of equality and justice, together with utter helplessness (fostered by the media and political elites) to be able to do anything to change the system.

    Hence people seek escapes – through holidays, extreme sports, etc . . . And hence the ability of so many ‘modern’ advaitins to charge money for their seminars and DVDs that tell people, in softly spoken voices, that this is an illusion, a dream, so don’t worry, just enjoy the presence, the awareness, the now.

    But for the rare ones who are true seekers, the plenitude will never be a factor in catalysing the search for truth.

    So you need to differentiate – apply viveka(!) – between true seekers (who will always be rare) and escapists (who may well wax and wane with the economic and political environment).

  2. Thank you Venkat for your very thoughtful inputs.

    As you say, the cultural milieu in which one is born and brought up and the prevailing social structures, practices and value systems do impact the behavioral pattern and aspirations of an individual.

    Nevertheless, as you must no doubt be aware, the Hierarchy of Human Needs grows in a systematic way, as observed by Maslow in 1943. Self-actualization (Pursuit of knowledge, Spiritual enlightenment, Giving back to the society etc.) arises in general (exceptions apart) only after certain minimum physiological wants are fulfilled.

    Those who promote bhakti mArg with a strong belief in a personal or favorite Godhead, do speak of fulfilling the initial needs of a seeker before the concept of total “surrender” to the Guru or Godhead is introduced.

    While I agree with all you said, I am not sure I will go with the idea that Shankara, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda could be cited as examples for those who lived and died in poverty or starvation. Speaking relatively, perhaps, Nisargadatta was born and brought up in a poor family (son of a laborer for a share-cropper), but he had enough means to keep the wolf from the door. All these people may not have been ostentatiously rich, yet they were not in utter penury.


  3. The above mentioned ‘examples’ were mostly taken care of by their followers. Nisargadatta, unlike so many of the ‘models’ of Self Realization that India adheres to, actually ran a business. Imagine that!

    India and poverty seem to be intertwined for millenia. Don’t you think this has something to do with the culture of ‘renunciation’ and the simple exploitation of religion and politics by those ‘invested’ in keeping the charade going? I would imagine it would be tough for an Indian to throw off all the religious nonsense it has built up for centuries just like it would be tough for an American to give up the greed of capitalism and the seeking of power. Yet, both places are ‘models’ of idealogy gone awry. But, there is something much more basic in India’s problems of ‘haves and have nots’. Religion has not helped at all. Non duality will never help.

    There are two types of people who turn away from the world. The first simply turns a blind eye and focuses on getting what they want or need for themselves. They usually mix in a lot of ‘philosphy’ and worldiness with their desiring. The other type, are those who have lost interest in gaining for themselves. They have no interest in worldly pursuits or accessories. They are aware of the ‘fable’ of riches and comfort. They are dispassionate but not blind to their circumstances.

    Then, there is a 3rd type which is exceedingly rare and impossible to understand. They are those who have undergone a physical mutation along the lines of what J. Krishnamurti and U.G. have reported. According to U.G., the world has no use of such a one, and that one has no problem with his/her circumstance. That mutation takes place in every cell in the body. It is a wipe out of every trace of self and no self. It is not a philosophy or a meditative state. That becomes manifested. Nothing less than mutation can be called liberation. The rest is just a point of view and we all know what that is like……..

  4. “India and poverty seem to be intertwined for millennia”

    Not really. Let’s be clear. India has been an the forefront of civilisation and intellectual thought for millennia. Western imperialism condemned much of the developing world to decades of exploitation and pillage. It put in place divide and rule tactics to separate communities. And it fostered sycophantic and corrupt local elites, which then took over the running of the country – usually aligned to the interests of global elites – and hence condemned the country (and many others). The presiding billionaires in India today are testimony to this corruption. India today is run for and by the elites – albeit using distracting tactics of populism and religion as camouflage.

    To blame the ills of India on advaita and a tradition of renunciation is just stupid.

  5. Stupid? Not really. Is the cast system an invention by western imperialism? Is the image of the renunciate and the meditating yogi covered in ash, a western invention?

    I think there are many examples that can be pointed to that have been instituted since ancient times. India has been a feudal society and subject to elitism centuries before the appearance of westerners. Religion is the prime mover in most societies and religion is almost always corrupt and power grabbing.

    I can understand your reaction as it seems to attack your identity. But what place does a defense serve when the situation is so dire there? Maybe you are just used to it on a day to day basis, but the outsider is well aware of the current circumstance and is not impressed by what has been going on for who knows how long. Being at the forefront of civilisation and intellectual thought hasn’t done much for the common man, my friend. Wake up and smell the garbage.

  6. I don’t have any such identity – that’s your projection. I have absolutely no time for the elites, the feudalism and corruption of India. Elitism, class systems, corruption and the rest are functions of capitalism. Have a look at its prevalence in the West today. That is why Marx wrote that capitalism has within it the seeds of its own destruction. That is why Greek and Roman empires rose and fell.

    Have a go at reading some modern history and economics. You might want to read about the kick-start that the pillage of the world and slavery gave to the US and the West in industrialising their economies, before you get too dewey-eyed about the wonders of western civilisation. And how the West desperately sought to hang on to their empires and influence, and destroyed and impoverished countries in the process: Vietnam, Indonesia, Palestine, South Africa, South America, Iraq.

    Good place to start reading would be Prof Noam Chomsky’s “Necessary Illusions” or “Year 501”. Also try William Ophuls’ “Immoderate Greatness – why civilisations fail”

    In any event we have now got to a level of inequality, greed and corruption in the West / world, such that it is turning on itself for profit (health care systems, etc) and thereby undermining its own social structures and safety nets. Have you not read the news about the rich stashing away money in offshore locations? About the creeping privatisation of education and healthcare?

    And of course, the haunting legacy of exploitation of the environment that has bequeathed us irreversible climate change, that will further decimate the poorest societies. Look at the heatwave that hit India this year, killing hundreds, and wiping out agriculture and leading to increases in the suicide rate. Every successive year over the last 5 years have been the hottest on record that the earth has experienced. The cause? Man-made climate change, the majority of which has been generated in the West – though admittedly with the rest of the world racing to catch up.

    You might want to wake up, see the big picture, and the real source of garbage.

  7. Yes, the real source of garbage is our minds, which functions more or less the same way in the east as the west, just different references. There is no point in attacking or defending any culture, as culture itself (the accumulation of man’s experience) is what leads us into all of this, everywhere. This is why I mentioned the 3rd type of person, the one who has undergone a physical mutation and has been freed from the accumulation of mind which all philosophies and points of view originate from.

    • How do you know for sure that these people underwent a “physical mutation”? Was there a DNA sample taken before and after for comparison purposes? What specific mutation are you talking about? As Carl Sagan famously noted, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Where is the evidence for anything beyond a psychological transformation?

      • Charles,

        I remember seeing the following in the book called ‘The Biology Of Enlightenment’, by Mukunda Rao. This is probably the definitive book on U.G. after this ‘calamity’ took place. Allow me to quote a passage that sort of relates to what you are asking. The questioner is asking about UG’s brain and how it puts things together to talk intelligently after UG told him that from one moment to the next, there was no carry-over of impressions about anything. That each moment was very new and all the images of memory did not interfere with the senses operating in a pure sensory capacity.
        I am paraphrasing…..

        “All I can say is that there is awareness of both outside and inside of you and there is only the human body functioning in a remarkably sensitive way. I don’t know……I don’t have any way of checking this fact. I believe brain physiologists have said that one one-third of the brain is used by the human beings and remaining two-thirds are dormant. but suddenly now, these two-thirds of the brain seem to have come into operation. This is an assertion and it is for the scientists or physiologists to break open my skull (laughs) if I could submit myself to them, but I’m not interested in satisfying the curiosity of medical scientists. But, they’ll find these things out in their own time, it’s their business. What’s the point in submitting myself to the doctors to break open the skull and examine whether the brain mutation has taken place or not?

        But one thing I can say and that is, the spiritual and religious minds throughout the centuries seem to have had some kind of experience of this kind, but when you try to make another man understand what all this is about or what this state of being is, you have to do some kind of abstracting of this state of being and throw these abstractions at the person and he is puzzled. And, if he has any regard for you, or if he thinks you are a religious or enlightened man, he’ll place you high, but you are not interested. What value has such an individual for society? None at all. ”

        To try and evaluate whether all this is physical or psychological is a little misleading. The psychological and physical go hand in hand. The way UG describes what took place and how it left him is very ‘matter of fact’. The changes in his body seemed to leave him in a state where the psychological no longer functioned. All thinking about thinking disappeared. No seer. No dualities, but not replaced by non-duality. Simply not operative. Thought happened only when there was an outside demand for it, ‘oh there’s Charles coming to visit me’. No evaluation of Charles or any ideas about who Charles is from subsequent meetings. No way of looking at himself. No self, no other. Only the functioning of the body in its ‘natural state’ without the interference of thought.

        • Anon,

          “I believe brain physiologists have said that one one-third of the brain is used by the human beings and remaining two-thirds are dormant. ”

          This is just hearsay. A myth only.

          Neuroscience has clearly established that all such concepts of using a third or 10% of the brain is totally false. There is no fallow land in the brain waiting to be utilized.

          JK, Nisargadatta used to say that they did not “think” an answer to a question. They said that they heard a question and watched equally with the Questioner an answer arising .

          2. Peter Dziuban’s comments in my latest Post – Part 3 of “Living in the Moment Eternally” are quite germane in this context.

          3. Why don’t you volunteer, Anon, for a rigorous study on the possible changes in your own body physiology (compared to some dummies like me) to see if a footprint for what you preach can be found?


        • Anon-ji,

          Thanks for your added clarifications. Since I have remarked previously that you should not attempt to critique Shankara without first having studied him, I am compelled to note that I’ve never read anything by U.G. or watched any of the available video of him. I certainly acknowledge your apparent deep respect for the man, and I say what follows without knowing much about him myself, other than what you have written here on AV.

          In your paraphrase U.G. refers to the “two thirds of the brain” normally dormant. Given your tendency to talk in terms of physical transformation, mutations, and so on, I better understand now why you might take this view, since you learned it from someone you take to be the gold standard for Liberation (or whatever you wish to call it).

          But as Ramesam said, it’s just a myth, a thoroughly debunked one at that. It’s usually stated here in the U.S. that we only use 10% of our brains, with 90% dormant, and sometimes with the added variant that Einstein used whopping 12% of his brain — so just imagine what amazing powers we might have if we used 100%!

          Unfortunately, it’s just a science fiction plot device. Imaging studies, which have been replicated countless times, clearly show that there is no portion of the brain that is “dormant.”

          So U.G. was wrong, that’s all. My impression (again, only based on what you have written here on AV) is that U.G. didn’t really know what it was that happened to him. So he spoke in terms like an activation of ‘two-thirds of a dormant brain” without actually having any clue as to what really happened inside his brain. There is no possible way he could have known anyway, not in physical terms. We simply don’t have anything that resembles sensory or cognitive access to what is going on at the cellular or molecular level, in the brain or anywhere else in our bodies. He was guessing, simple as that. And he guessed wrong. I wonder then, what else might he have been wrong about?

          Also, when you say that perhaps Ramana Maharshi did not achieve the “full Monty,” I think you know otherwise, since you also tend to quote or refer to him fairly often as well. This is not a good defense of your point anyway, especially as it leaves open the reversal: Perhaps U.G. did not achieve it either, and you are mistaken in thinking he did. For all we know, it might have been a brain tumor or some other organic disorder that caused his calamity. The case of Suzanne Segal is illustrative in this context.

          Now, I do not mean to give the impression in any of the above that I think we will find markers for Liberation in the brain tissue that prove to be truly reliable indicators. Results are now starting to come in from a pair of 25-year-long studies of the correlates for Alzheimer’s disease. All of the study participants have agreed to donate their brains for analysis. What is remarkable is that people whose autopsied brains show definite signs of Alzheimer’s were fully cognitive and sharp right up to their passing. Just because a person’s brain has all the hallmarks of this debilitating disease, that does not necessarily correlate to a decrease in cognitive function. It all depends on the “cognitive reserve” a person brings to the equation. Learning a second language, for example, has been shown to delay onset of dementia symptoms by up to four years.

          So I think we must be very wary of talking in terms of physical changes to the brain, mutations, and so on.

  8. In the case of U.G., this was before DNA sampling was available.

    With regard to your questions about proof, there simply is none. There are just the conversations that people like myself have had with U.G. and his explanation of what happened to him and how he functioned after this ‘event’. The real ‘proof’ is the day to day, moment to moment witnessing of someone who is ‘not suffering’ either psychologically or physically. There were physical maladies but it never altered his demeanor or attention. He wasn’t engaged in any form of ‘practice’ or mind control. In fact, he specifically said that this was not a psychological transformation, but a physical one that left him functioning in what he called ‘The Natural State’. Every cell in his body underwent this ‘mutation’. He called it atomic and was very painful. It left him devoid of the fellow that he called U.G. which disappeared with this mutation. He literally underwent a death. Witnesses that I know personally, saw him blue and not breathing. He never knew why his body didn’t just die. Indians told him that those who survived had something to give to humanity. I’m not sure U.G. ever bought that reason, but his door was open 24/7 and anyone could come and see him.

    Because you regard Shankara as someone who lived ‘the Truth’, what proof could you offer that he was indeed ‘liberated’? In my case, at least I knew the fellow and tried to catch him ‘loafing’ for years. I put him through every test I could think of and he outlasted every doubt and objection I could muster. Even with such certainty that I had, that this was a man who truly ‘walked the walk’ and underwent some kind of ‘mutation’, something ‘transcendental’, ultimately, it has been no use to me. How could it? Everything we try to do to eliminate suffering falls short. Sure, we can lessen the suffering by ‘controls’ of varying degrees, but nothing takes it away for good. It is man’s nature to suffer and he is powerless to change it. Our own existence is suffering/separation. Our disappearance IS mutation and liberation from existence. This is the only evidence that can matter. The rest is struggle and conjecture.

    • Anon-ji,

      Discussion with you is difficult because you continually make self-contradictory or unsupported statements without seeming to realize it, or even acknowledge it when pointed out to you. To take but one example, you agree that there can be no proof of statements like, “Liberation requires physical mutation.” Then you go on to make that same unsubstantiated claim all over again, based on something U.G. told you, and insist that his transformation was physical and not psychological. Yet from your own description of him, it is trivially obvious that he was psychologically different before and after his “calamity.” Of course it was a psychological transformation, and to say otherwise is just plain silly.

      I don’t doubt U.G. said that his cells had undergone a physical mutation, but this is a scientific claim utterly without merit, and to my mind, it represents a false understanding on U.G.’s part as to what actually happened to him. It won’t be the first time that has happened, where someone had an experience that yielded a major “spiritual” transformation, and then retrofitted his own assumed explanations for what happened. But to talk in terms of “every cell in his body” is just speculation and nothing more. We do not have proprioceptive physiological access to what is going on at the cellular level, and for *that* claim there *is* a lot of scientific proof.

      Further as to suffering, Sri Ramana Maharshi died from cancer that his doctors said must be causing unimaginable pain, yet he died with a smile on his face and no apparent suffering. He never said a word about “physical mutations,” changes at the cellular level, or any other such projected nonsense, probably because he did not take himself to be the body or consider it real.

      All this talk about bodies and cells is just your own focus. You seem to think bodies are real and substantial, but when examined closely the physical body is no more substantial than the dream body. The body is just food that has been digested and turned into flesh. It’s a tube made of meat, literally. By assuming that a physical change of the body itself must take place with Liberation you attribute a reality to the physical body that it does not possess. This is Dualism all over again.


      • Perhaps Ramana never underwent the ‘full Monty’.

        This whole business is about contradiction. Our lives are about contradiction. There is no getting away from it. If you are seeking an absence of this, you will not find it. It is the absence of ‘you’ that resolves this. This is what U.G. and others have said about the human condition. What you think or find is never ‘it’ and never enough if you are honest with yourself. This is all I’m trying to point out. All these words are not yours or mine. They are useless in these matters.

  9. Anon,

    This time you got totally TOTALLY off-kilter !

    There are too many untruths, too much of mis-information, too glaring ignorance of history, too blatant imperialism to deserve a comment here.

    But I should not fail to point out a few of the howlers in what you contend about Advaita:

    1. Anon: “Nisargadatta, … … actually ran a business.

    Ramesam (Now): Since when the Brits call it a “Business” if a father assists his son in running a small stall vending beedies (tobacco wrapped in dry “tendu” leaves (Bot. Diospyros sp.)) in a poor part of Mumbai?

    2. Venkat: To blame the ills of India on advaita and a tradition of renunciation is just stupid.
    Anon: “Stupid? Not really. Is the cast system an invention by western imperialism?”

    Ramesam (Now): Why bring in an unrelated topic? Pray, Is it UG who taught you that “cast system” is a creature of Advaita?”

    3. Anon: “India has been a feudal society and subject to elitism centuries before the appearance of westerners.”

    Ramesam (Now): You should study the Vedic times (ancient history) of India when Advaita stood out as the Pinnacle of contribution to Abstract thinking by the Sages rather than smugly being stay-put with the times of medieval history since when the Moslem and the European began Invasions.

    4. Anon: “.. the real source of garbage is our minds …”

    Ramesam (Now): Why go on ranting on “mind”?
    Per Advaita, there is no second; All is brahman, if one truly got the message.

    5. Anon: “… the 3rd type of person, the one who has undergone a physical mutation and has been freed from the accumulation of mind.”

    Ramesam (Now): Does Advaita or UG say that “undergoing physical mutation” is the key for Freedom from the mind? God save the Queen.


    • I am always off-kilter, Ramesam. Hasn’t it struck you that you are in the same boat?

  10. Charles,

    I think that in stating that all of our brain is being used could also be incorrect in the sense that perhaps some aspects of the brain are ‘under-used’. Take the case of bio-feedback and the different brain waves that are measured during different states of ‘concentration’, ‘relaxation’, ‘meditation’. There are physical affects in the body that correlate with the different waves. In the case of deep concentration/absorption during meditation, there have been many cases reported of unusual perceptions, intuitions, and physical experiences never taking place before this happened. I do think there is some truth to the fact that our brains are NOT functioning, at least consciously, at full capacity. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Perhaps because of UG’s association with JK and his use of the word ‘mutation’, he decided that this was the mutation that JK referred to. Whatever it was that happened to him, actually happened no matter what we call it. Perhaps the word mutation was symbolic for him. He repeatedly stated that it was impossible for him to live the way he did before this happened. It was a profound change that affected every square cm of him. It WAS a kind of mutation that took place, but perhaps this is just a way of abstracting it from what the common man knows. In any case, it’s better that we don’t get hung up on the word and dismiss everything that this man has talked about.

    If you do decide to read some of his conversations, you will see the moment to moment way he functions and looks at the whole business of seeking, attainment, and understanding, from a point of view which has changed radically and challenges every notion that we have about ourselves.

    In my case, when I met him and saw and felt the way he lived, it had a profound effect on me, not in the sense that I had spiritual experiences, but in the sense that he threw me back on myself and made me look for the first time in my life at what I thought I knew. He never prescribed anything or offered any teaching whatsoever. Yet, by talking about the way he functioned, you were immediately struck by how different you were functioning and looking at everything. This comparative mind that arises, is the culprit.

    • Anon-ji,

      “I do think there is some truth to the fact that our brains are NOT functioning, at least consciously, at full capacity. Wouldn’t you agree?”

      It depends on what you mean by “full capacity.” As I noted, it’s quite clear from the science that there is no part of the brain that is dormant. So we have to be careful in talking about some aspects of the brain being “under-used,” since this could be interpreted as a form of dormancy. Let me put it another way: barring disease (lesions, tumors, stroke damage, etc.), 100% of the brain’s cells are active in that they receive oxygen and process waste products that are carried off in the bloodstream.

      It’s also important to note that we don’t yet have a reliable scientific theory to explain what consciousness is, and we therefore must be cautious to avoid assuming that correlation equals causation. (The Alzheimer’s example I provided is a good illustration of why we need such caution.)

      That said, there is no question that the brain has a certain amount of plasticity to it, which is precisely why we are capable of learning, as well as cognitive improvement even in old age. There is ample evidence to show that consistent practice of, say, mindfulness meditation, yields a measurable difference on brain imaging scans for certain regions of the brain. This is not “using more of the brain,” but rather using existing neural networks in a new manner. Along the same lines, there is good evidence now that some action-based video games improve concentration and reflexes, and even enhance the efficiency of visual processing for shapes and figures.

      But none of this means that “enlightenment” equates to specific changes in the brain, or that U.G. was correct in how he viewed what happened to him. I don’t doubt that he underwent some type of radical transformation. What I doubt is that we can reliably equate what happened to him with Liberation as discussed by Shankara, the Buddha, Zen Masters, and so on. And the difficulty of equating any given time-based “experience” with a permanent cessation of suffering is an obvious point that has already been thoroughly discussed here on AV, and which I will not revisit here.

      Best Regards,

  11. Dear Charles and Anon,

    I am very happy to see the interesting conversation between both of you.
    IMHO, this fits more legitimately under the Series of my three Posts with the title “Living in The Moment Eternally.”

    Earlier on, Anon took a dig at me to say that I was looking for creating an Institute where jIvanmukta certificates could be issued (see :

    It was a rare or perhaps the only instance when Dennis heartily “agreed” with Anon in saying that it was futile to look into the brain to see if the sense of a separate “me” was absent.

    I am glad to see now that Anon is taking a slightly different line!

    I would like to draw the attention of the Discussants to my Comments here:

    and also here:

    My objective is very limited (one may call it academic at this stage) and I may be allowed to say that our knowledge-base in Neuroscience is at present inadequate to assert one view over the other as far as the brain of a jIvanmukta is concerned.

    But I have no doubt that a “signature” will be there – it may not be the positive ‘presence’ of an indicator; it could be the “absence” as I explained in one of my Blog Posts at Beyond Advaita.


    • Ramesam,

      I’m not sure what you mean by ‘Anon is taking a slightly different line.’ I still don’t see how scientists could look into the brain and see the absence of a separate self. Let’s just say I don’t have the imagination for it.

      But, there is another issue which would concern scientists examining the brain of a ‘jivanmukta’. In Buddhism, there are 4 stages of ‘enlightenment’. The first stage sets the stage for the subsequent three more. This is the understanding that there is no separate self, no entity that inhabits mind and body. Through further contemplation, mindfulness, and jhana (a type of concentration), samadhi happens. Through samadhi, the skandas (I don’t know the terms that Vedantins use and my use of skanda is just mine that I picked up over the years, I think the Buddhist term may be different), the so-called ‘seeds’ of defilements are gradually burned up or disappear giving each successive stage (4) a name and a deeper realization until the whole business is done. As the Buddha declared when he was done under the Bodhi tree, ‘It is finished’.

      My point is not to name these stages, but to point out that what one calls a jivanmukta may not be the same for every jivanmukta because the ‘defilements’ reside as seeds in consciousness or wherever they reside and could have different effects on the brain at each successive stage. This might also explain to those who have had ‘satori’ or ‘insight’ into the non-existence of self, but who still experience dualities and disturbance. This also correlates with what Nisargadatta always told his followers that they needed to stabilize this sense of ‘I Am’ and ‘Being’. These are but stages.

      Since all this is theoretical, conceptual, for me it has nothing to do with anything except the imagination, reflected consciousness in Vedantic terminology. It is a way losing the thread of mindfulness and is anti-thetical to living in the present, or as Ramesam call it, ‘Living In The Moment Eternally’.

  12. Anon,

    I shall make just two points here and respond in more detail at the thread on “Living in the Moment Eternally.

    1. You are right. The way you used the word skandha (which means aggregate; heap) differs from the way it is used in Buddhism, as I find at the Wiki. In the sense you are using (as seeds of ‘defilement’), the corresponding Vedanta term is vAsanA or saMskAra.

    2. Doesn’t matter for now what model you would like Science to look into – whether it is the “marker” which indicates the absence of “me-ness,” as I suggested, or the four stages of brahmavihAra as you suggested, you accept that there is a rationale for “scientists examining the brain of a ‘jivanmukta’. ”

    Let’s agree there and Thank you for that.


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