Heart of Gaudapada

It is not just a stray chance or strange coincidence that the three articles — “Gaudapada on the Appearance of a world-Gaudapada on the Non-disappearance of the world-Gaudapada on the logical incoherence of the cessation of a non-existent world” — appeared in quick succession in these columns. I suppose the real thrust of what is being pointed to by them becomes apparent only if all the three are considered synergistically and not divorcing one from the other. After all, It is One Consciousness that produced them operating through three voice boxes! And what all the three point to is the “Heart of Gaudapada.”

I used the word Gaudapada in the title of this Post as a synecdoche. It stands for “The Teaching of Highly Revered Gaudapada Acharya,” who marks the beginning of the human-form lineage of Advaita Vedanta, as the following stotra honors the parampara (lineage).

नारायणं पद्मभुवं वसिष्ठं शक्तिं च तत्पुत्रपराशरं च ।
व्यासं शुकं गौडपदं महान्तं गोविन्दयोगीन्द्रमथास्य शिष्यम्

श्री शंकराचार्यमथास्य पद्मपादं च हस्तामलकं च शिष्यम् ।
तं तोटकं वार्तिककारमन्यानस्मद्गुरून् संततमानतोऽस्मि ॥
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Gaudapada on the Appearance of a world

The most “radical version of Non-dual teaching” goes back to Revered Gaudapada (of 5th or 6th CE) who forms a watershed mark in the Advaita tradition. With him started the human form lineage of teacher-disciple. (Before him it was a lineage of Sages preceded by the lineage of Gods – see here).

Gaudapada says that we are prisoners of an unwavering belief in cause-effect relationships. He avers that cause-effect relationships do not exist. For example, he writes:

नास्त्यसद्धेतुकमसत्सदसद्धेतुकं तथा ।
सच्च सद्धेतुकं नास्ति सद्धेतुकमसत्कुतः ॥  — 4.40, Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya Upanishad.

Meaning: The unreal cannot have the unreal as its cause. Nor can the real be produced from the unreal. The real cannot be the cause of the real. And it is much more impossible for the real to be the cause of the unreal. (Translation: Swami Nikhilananda). Continue reading

Role of bhakti in jnAna mArga:

A highly respected Vedantin late Shri S. N. Sastri (see here) observed in his introduction to vivekacUDAmaNi that “There is a wrong impression among some persons, particularly Western scholars, that Sri Sankara did not attach importance to devotion to a personal God.” At the other end, we have some people who say that Shankara was a great devotee and cite the innumerable hymns in praise of various Gods and Goddesses he is supposed to have authored. Naturally, this situation raises the question on the “role” of devotion (bhakti) in Advaita Vedanta, particularly, in the Knowledge Path (jnAna mArga).

As a matter of fact, we cannot really think of exclusive compartmentalized approaches separated by rigid walls in Vedanta. The various methods (upAya-s) suggested in Advaita Vedanta are all only broad generalized schema. One cannot, therefore, take a position that bhakti is required or not required in Advaita. Many things work together in leading a seeker to arrive at the Ultimate im-mediated understanding (aparokSha anubhUti) of Non-dual Oneness. Continue reading

“All this is the Self “

There has been an interesting discussion going on at one of the Online Advaita fora on Self-inquiry. One of the discussants posted the view of the well-known 16th Century Advaitin, Swami Madhusudana Saraswati in understanding the oft-quoted statement, “All this is the Self.” Madhusudana Saraswati says in his magnum opus, Advaita siddhi as follows:

एतच्च सर्वमुक्तं विवरणे – निषप्रपञ्चास्थूलादिवाक्यानुसारेण ‘इदं सर्वं यदयमात्मे’ त्यादीनि निषेध्यसमर्पकत्वेनैकवाक्यतां प्रतिपद्यन्ते ; सुषुप्तौ निष्प्रपञ्चतायां पुरुषार्थत्वदर्शनादिति |

Meaning: All this has been said in the panchapAdikA vivaraNa – Sentences such as “All this is the Self” must be interpreted in such a way as to indicate the negation of the world’s reality, so that there is consistency of meaning with sentences that reveal the nature of brahman as one completely devoid of the world, such as “not gross”, etc; for the achievement of the fundamental aims of human existence lies in the attainment of brahman in which the world is completely absent, which is experienced in deep sleep. [English Translation by:  Sri S. Venkatraghavan. Accension by me.] Continue reading

Can brahman be a ‘percept’?

A few events seem to have conspired against the peaceful summer slumber at this site prompting me to pen a few words. Hope you will enjoy and add a few of your thoughts.

I have been struggling for a couple of months to locate the original Upanishadic quote for the phrase ‘sacchidAnanda‘ popularized by Shankara in all his bhAShya literature. I couldn’t. We all know that the phrase ‘sacchidAnanda’ does not come from any major Upanishads. So, I sent a query to our Dennis if he could help me out. Pop comes back the response in a jiffy from him giving me the mantras where this sobriquet for brahman appears. One of the Upanishads is maNDala bhrahmaNa Upanishad which, perhaps many have not heard even. I was floored! It was amazing how he could search so many of the Upanishads so fast especially when we know none of them are in the form of a searchable database. Not only that Dennis has a such a large collection of books, his Upanishadic knowledge too is so vast that one cannot but applaud and admire. Which, anyway, we often do here. Continue reading

Tidbits on Advaita

It appears that more and more people are taking to Non-duality as can be seen from the discussions on the social network platforms. One unfortunate fallout of this development is the absence of the rigor and purity of the Advaita message. Keeping in mind new beginners, I made three posts at a popular networking site. I thought of sharing them so that they may be useful for casual readers here and also to benefit myself from the comments/observations of the more senior followers of Advaita.

Post # 1. The Big “Me” and the small ‘me’:

It appears to me that there is some confusion in the concepts and usage of the two terms — the Big “Me” and the small ‘me’ in the Non-dual discussions.

I do not know about other Non-dual systems; but as far as Advaita goes, its doctrine explains these terms UNAMBIGUOUSLY.

It is quite popular in the West to suppose that all there is, is the Big Me alone. Hence, the theory seems to get extended to say that the apparent ‘me’ (the separate self) and the apparent world are also the “Me.” Therefore it’s all Oneness. That is NOT what Advaita says. Continue reading

Nothing To Do?

A Question that is often raised in Non-dual discussions is:

“Do you need to “become” brahman or are you brahman already?

“The implication in raising such a question is that there is nothing more to do than just hearing the teaching, “you are already brahman,” and lo, behold, you are brahman!

But such a statement, IMHO, is misleading and even mischievous.

I suggest, therefore, reformulating that question in order to arrive at what actually Advaita points to. The reformulated version would be something like this:

“Are you right now Pure Awareness, unborn and immutable, undivided, immortal and untainted by anything else?
OR
Are you right now Awareness + a load of various other things which are mortal, constantly changing, inert and limited?” Continue reading

‘brahman,’ the Bliss – 2/2

Part – I

Everyone must face the consequences of his/her actions. But who is it that ensures it? Who brings a guy back, once he is dead, and make him reap his just desserts?

The scripture only can provide an answer. And the answer is:   

विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म … |  —  3.9.28 (7), brihadAranyaka

Meaning:  Knowledge, Bliss, brahman.

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

‘brahman,’ the Bliss – 1/2

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

The Colossus

 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