When a man, renouncing all thoughts, is not attached to sense objects and actions, then he is said to have attained to Yoga.Continue reading
Author Archives: Venkat
Who attains Knowledge?
In order to appreciate Ramesam’s question “What happens after Self-realisation?”, I think we need to first understand who is it that has ignorance, and therefore who attains Knowledge / Brahman.
What exactly is “Self-Knowledge”?
There is a lot of earnest discussion, here and elsewhere, on self-knowledge, self-realisation. But what exactly is it? What does knowing that ‘I am Brahman’ actually mean, when Brahman cannot be known?
For all the words that have been written by Sankara: on creation, on satyam / jnanam / anantman, on ‘tat twam asi’, on knowledge rather than action – what is the essence of it all?
Surely the essence is this, and this only. Self-Knowledge is the utter dis-identification with the not-Self, the most difficult of which is the body-mind.
And That (which remains, which cannot be defined) is the ananda, the peace, of a jivanmukta.
The sruti is the means of knowledge, in that it points this out. Sruti is said to be the only means of knowledge, because normal sense perceptions and reasoning would not inevitably lead to this very radical self-challenge: I am not what I fundamentally believe that I am.
The seeker hears it, mulls over it, develops the conviction that it is true that s/he is NOT the body-mind, and lives on the strength of it. And in so doing that habitual body/mind – identification is dissolved. Hence why desirelessness is both a path to and a fruit of knowledge – if there is no body/mind identification, then what desires can there be?
And sruti tells us that utter desirelessness is the cause of the highest joy.
“The world is Brahman”
Gaudapada makes it clear throughout his Mandukya-Karika that the ‘world is Brahman’ (he never uses this phrase as far as I recollect) only in the sense that the dream is the dreamer. It has no other reality – however nuanced by the word “relative”. For the jnani, both Gaudapada and Sankara write, this dream world is to be discarded, such that there is no further compulsion to action.Continue reading
Gaudapada on the logical incoherence of the cessation of a non-existent world
Swami Ghambirananda provides a clearer understanding of MK1.17:
MK17. It is beyond question that the phenomenal world would cease to be if it had any existence. All this duality that is nothing but Maya, is but non duality in reality.
Sankara extract: “If one is to be awakened by negating the phenomenal world, how can there be non-duality so long as the phenomenal world persists?
The answer is: Such indeed will be the case if the world had existence. But being superimposed like a snake on a rope, it does not exist. There is no doubt that if it had existed, it would cease to be. Not that the snake, fancied on the rope through an error of observation, exists there in reality and is then removed by correct observation.
Therefore the purport is that there is no such thing as the world which appears or disappears.”
An illusory snake superimposed on a rope cannot be said to cease to exist, when it never did have existence. The illusion of the snake is dispelled and the rope remains. And remembering that the jiva that ‘perceives’ the illusory snake is also part of the illusion and is dispelled.
A world of difference.
What is jnana?
In his bhasya to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.21 (the Yajnavalkya – Janaka dialogue), Sankara goes to great lengths to explain what is knowledge, ‘merging with Brahman’ or ‘unity with all’, by comparing it to the deep sleep state. I will take a large part of the quote – it is well worth the read:Continue reading
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3 & 4.4
Brhadaranyaka means ‘great forest’; it is one of the longest Upanishads covering a breadth of topics, and one on which Sankara wrote the most extensive of commentaries. As a result it is easy to get lost in this forest, to pick out specific trees within it, without seeing its broad sweep and context.
In BU4.3 and 4.4, Janaka is helped by Yajnavalkya, step by step to attain liberation. At each significant step, Janaka offers Yajnavalkya a boon of a thousand cows as gratitude and to progress the teaching further; until at the final stage, when he is liberated, he offers his entire kingdom and himself.Continue reading
Manifesting Brahman – Vivekananda
An interesting, (occasionally side-tracked!) talk on Swami Vivekananda by the ever-ebullient Swami Sarvapriyananda:
His punchline – Vedanta is about manifesting the divinity within. Recall Sankara – neti neti and renunciation, with any action not for selfish ends but for the good of the whole.
Dennis and Shishya – I commend this to you both, for entirely different reasons.
To know Brahman is to be Brahman
Vedanta says that what we truly are is Existence-Consciousness-Infinity (= Brahman).
The universe is an illusory appearance on/of this substratum of Consciousness. It is not real.
The jiva (= mind = I-thought = ego) is part of this illusory appearance. It is a result of the erroneous super-imposition of an I-thought arising between the insentient appearance and Consciousness. Thereafter desire, fear and suffering, like and dislike ensues.
The logical coherence of Sankara’s body-mind dis-identification and sannyasa
Many teachers seem to selectively pick and choose what advaita means by jnana, dodge between relative and absolute truths, and argue that some Vedantic statements are figurative and should not be taken literally. What they singularly fail to do is to consider holistically the teaching and the logical consistency inherent in its philosophy and method.
We have recently been discussing the extent to which Self-realisation is more than some knowledge acquired in the mind, but actually is equivalent to a total dis-identification with the illusory body-mind, dissolution of particular consciousness and identification with all. Sankara and the Upanishads continually emphasise this.