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.

Has that very appreciation become a cause for some trouble? 🙁

People began to say in some discussions at an FB group that such a knowledgeable person like Dennis holds that my stance was wrong regarding whether what is perceived by the senses is brahman or not. Therefore, they accuse me saying that I misinterpret the Upanishads, though I merely copy-paste authentic translations and never interpret anything by myself. Recently another American gentleman from a small Non-duality group in Seattle referred to the article at:

The “I-am-realized” Delusion – 1: | Advaita Vision (advaita-vision.org)

Presumably, perhaps, he was hinting to the Comment there on by Dennis, rather than the article itself! LOL LOL.

Dennis says in his Comment: “If [Shankara] says: “ln answer to the question ‘In what way is all this brahman?’” and answers: “all this world has come out of brahman…”, it seems clear to me that he meant by ‘this’, all of the perceivable separate world of objects.” In addition, Dennis posed the question: “… how do you conclude that “this’ in the above mantra refers to the ‘Universal’ substratum of the world and not the nAma-rUpa-vyAvahAra which are the perceivables?”

In his latest replies in his Q&A column, Dennis happened to refer to “all of the posts on ‘world does not disappear on enlightenment’ etc.?” In some other context, he referred to the detailed commentary by Shankara on the 2.1.1, taittirIya mantra, satyam jnAnamanantam brhama.

Obviously, the issue on ‘what appears is brahman or not’ is still very much alive in public’s mind. It has, moreover, taken two enormous routes. One is on whether what appears to the eye is brahman Itself or a superimposition made by the finite mind of the ignorant observer? In other words, does the eye see the Reality or an illusory form of It?

The second question is whether a fully enlightened mukta sees a world in the same way as a finite observer does or s/he has a different vision?

I am still puzzled how such a learned man like Dennis can hold that what appears to the eye is itself brahman. I offer here a few more of bhAShya and other references on the topic.

Shankara himself says that the Reality, brahman, is NOT available as a percept in his commentaries in sUtrabhAShya. For example:

“for whatever is perceived is perceived through the light that is brahman, but brahman is not perceived through any other light, It being by nature self-effulgent.” Swmi Gambhirananda explains in a footnote that “brahman is not an object that can be illumined.”

In his commentary at 13.12, BG, Shankara writes: “That thing, indeed, which can be perceived by the senses, such as a pot, can be an object of consciousness accompanied with the idea of existence or an object of consciousness accompanied with the idea of non-existence. Since, on the other hand, the Knowable is beyond the reach of the senses and as such can be known solely through that instrument of knowledge which is called ‘shabda‘ (the Word, i.e., Revelation), It cannot be, like a pot, etc., an object of consciousness …” [Translation: Alladi M. Sastry, 1897.]

kaTha Upanishad says at 2.3.12: नैव वाचा न मनसा प्राप्तुं शक्यो न चक्षुषा ।
अस्तीति ब्रुवतोऽन्यत्र कथं तदुपलभ्यते ॥ 

“Not by speech, not by mind, not by the eye can It be attained. Except in the case of one who says, ‘It exists’, how can It be known to anyone else?” [Translation: V. Panoli.]

अगृह्यो न हि गृह्यते — 3.9.26, brihadAraNyaka.

“It is imperceptible, for It is never perceived.”

And finally, how could anyone be not familiar with the very first verse in Vedantasara of Sadananda Yatiswara? The shloka reads:

अखण्डं सच्चिदानन्दमवाङ्ग्मानसगोचरम् |
आत्मानमखिलाधारमाश्रयेऽभीष्टसिद्धये ||
  —  Verse 1, vedAntasAra of Sadananda.

I take refuge in the Self, the Indivisible, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, beyond the reach of words and thought, and the substratum of all, for the attainment of my cherished desire (summum bonum). [Translations: Swami Nikhilananda 1931.] (Bold font by me).

In regard to the second question about the ‘disappearance of the world,’ let me restate what has been said many times, that let us not give primacy to the appearance or disappearance of the object, world, but examine whether the sense of an independent self, a ‘me’ as the separate ‘seer’ continues to be present on liberation.

Because of the fact that Dennis mentioned about 2.1.1, taittirIya, I read the commentary of Shankara on that mantra. I found it interesting that right at the beginning itself, Shankara, in his intro, writes: “Hence is begun, the text, brahmavid Apnoti param etc., for the sake of realizing the Self as freed from all distinctions that are created by limiting adjuncts, so that (as a result of the realization), ignorance which is the seed of all the miseries, may cease. And the need of this Knowledge of brahman is the cessation of ignorance, as also the total eradication of worldly existence which results from that. And the Upanishad will declare, “The enlightened man has nothing to be afraid of (2.9.1, taittirIya), and that it is inconceivable to be established in a state of fearlessness so long causes of worldly existence persist (2.7), and that things done and not done, virtues and vice, do not fill him with remorse (2.11). therefore, it is understood that the absolute cessation of the worldly existence follows from this Knowledge which has for its content brahman that is the Self of all.” [Translation: Swami Gambhirananda, 1957.] (Bold font by me).

30 thoughts on “Can brahman be a ‘percept’?

  1. Dear Ramesam

    Dennis has often stated that it is the mind that has ignorance, and it is knowledge gained by the mind of nonduality, is what is meant by cessation of ignorance; realisation can happen only in the mind is what he asserts

    Your post clarifies the point that for Sankara, the world, body and mind are all the superimposition on substratum; they are the ignorance. Hence Sankara can draw out their equivalence in saying “cessation of ignorance, as also the total eradication of worldly existence which results from that”.

    This is further brought out in the Maitreya – Yajnavalkya dialogue where Yajnavalkya asks:
    “When to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self . . . what should one think and through what? Thought what should one know That owing to which all this is known – through what, O Maitreyi, should one know the Knower” – Brhad up 2.4.14

    The first part of this quote clearly identifies the thinking organ – the mind – as part of the Anatma, and as such, can never know the Atma. So then, what is Self-knowledge, if it does not happen in the mind?

    The answer is provided by Sankara in his commentary to Brhad Up 4.4.20:

    “The knowledge of Brahman too means only the cessation of the identification with extraneous things (NB: necessarily includes body-mind, as per Yajnavlkya). The relation of identity with It has not to be directly established, for it is already there. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with Brahman should be established, but that the false identification with things other than That should stop. WHEN THE IDENTIFICATION WITH OTHER THINGS IS GONE, THAT IDENTITY WITH ONE’S OWN SELF WHICH IS NATURAL, BECOMES ISOLATED; this is expressed by the statement that the Self is known. In Itself It is unknowable, not comprehended through any means.”

    Note here that the Self is not realised through the mind; rather all that is not-Self (including the mind) is discarded – ie what Gaudapada calls no-mind. But what is no mind, how can it function?

    Sankara provides a clue as to what is meant by no-mind in his commentary on Yajnvalkya’s speech in Brhad Up 2.4.12, “As a lump of salt dropped into water dissolves”:
    “After attaining (this oneness) the self, freed from the body and organs, has no more particular consciousness, as, ‘I so and so am the son of so and so ; this is my land
    and wealth ; I am happy or miserable.’ For it is due to ignorance, and since ignorance is absolutely destroyed by the realisation of Brahman, how can the knower of Brahman, who is established in his nature as Pure Intelligence, possibly have any such particular consciousness? EVEN WHEN A MAN IS IN THE BODY (IN DEEP SLEEP) PARTICULAR CONSCIOUSNESS IS IMPOSSIBLE; SO HOW CAN IT EVER EXIST IN A MAN WHO HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY FREED FROM THE BODY AND ORGANS?”

    As to how can the ‘individual’, without particular consciousness, then function – good question! Sankara responds in 4.4.22:
    “Since it has been established through scriptural evidence as well as reasoning, especially in this dialogue between Janaka and Yajnavalkya, that the Self as described above is not connected with work, its results and its means, is different from all relative attributes, beyond hunger etc., devoid of grossness and so on, birthless, undecaying, immortal, undying, beyond fear, by nature homogeneous Intelligence like a lump of salt, self-effulgent, one only without a second, without prior or posterior, and without interior or exterior – THEREFORE AFTER THIS SELF IS KNOWN AS ONE’S OWN SELF, WORK CAN NO MORE BE DONE. HENCE THE SELF IS UNDIFFERENTIATED. The Gita too says, ‘All work, O Arjuna, together with its factors is finished with the attainment of knowledge’ (IV. 33). Here also (IV. iii. 32) it has been stated that all other beings live on particles of this very Supreme Bliss that is accessible to the knower of Brahman. HENCE THE LATTER CANNOT UNDERTAKE WORK.”

    And hence Gaudapada can describe the jnani as living on what comes to him by chance.

    best wishes,
    venkat

  2. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you very much for a beautiful and comprehensive schema of the process that leads an earnest seeker from ignorance to Self-realization.

    I am getting more and more convinced that the sure way to miss the heart of Shankara’s teaching is to keep oneself focused on being able to explain how a liberated individual, still burdened with a body, conducts his life in a world — whatever name one may give to such an individual, viz., living-liberation, jnAni, jIvanmukta.

    Many of the Neo teachers like Tony, Jim, Lisa &c and the followers of a particular Indian Swami seem to be in a hurry to get christened as ‘Liberated,’ even before having a clear idea of what is Self-realization as per the scriptures. As you, suggested, Venkat, the most important point is about who or what gets liberated.

    Definitely, liberation is NOT for the gross body, a brain or a kidney. It is also not for the subtle body – mind, life-force etc. It’s for the jIva. The question is then, who is the jIva?

    To my understanding, jIva is a peculiar mithya entity having two components. One is the insentient mind-intellect etc. and the other is a ‘speck’ or a ‘spark’ of Consciousness which is Sentience. (Regarding how the Indivisible Infinite brahman got divided into many separate jIva-s, one may use the theories of Reflection or Semblance or Delimitation. It is, however, a moot point which theory is taken, because the so-called division of the Supreme is imaginary, “an ‘as though’ division,” as brihadAraNyaka says). The so-called ‘speck’ or ‘spark’ or ‘particular’ of the ‘as though’ divided Consciousness is the one which sheds Its imagined ‘particular’ nature, (as explained by Sage Yajnavalkya to his wife, Maitreyi), and returns to being the Universal – much like pot-space becoming infinite open space.

    When the imagined ‘confinement’ of the ‘particular’ Consciousness is lost, the sense of ‘I am a separate karta/bhokta’ is also lost. When the shells of confining layers are broken, It is at once the Infinite Oneness. The Infinite Oneness obviously cannot have a ‘second’ thing along with It for It to see, because the presence of a second thing would have compromised Its Infinity.

    Yes, the mind does have a role in this process. The mind has to purify itself first by being totally detached from the body and its vested interest in an apparent world in which it so far continued to live in an impure state maintaining its relationships, desires and activity. The pure mind is the one which acts as a portal. It works as a ‘remembrancer’ to the ‘speck’ or ‘spark’ of Consciousness, reminding It about Its True nature.

    Once the job of the mind is done, as you said, quoting Sage Yajnavalkya, it dissolves fully on videhamukti. It is said to retain a ghostly form, somewhat like the Cheshire cat, till the body finally drops. The chAndogya mantra at 6.14.2 says that happens ‘soon’ (ciraM) – there is not too much delay for the body to fall.

    No wonder Shankara in his entire bhAShya on the 10-11 Upanishads or the 555 Vedanta sUtra-s never referred to living-liberation. ‘jIvanmukti’ was perhaps a short passing stage and nothing to shout from roof-tops for him. So what is important is to understand clearly what is “Realization” and achieving it rather than be concerned to explain with how a mukta lives his life. One can know it when one comes there.

    Of course, one may argue that the term ‘jIvanmukti’ was unknown to Shankara and hence the paucity of its use by him. Nothing can be more WRONG than that. Shankara clearly knows that term because he used it at a singular place in his vast corpus of commentaries. He used it at the BG (5.27) bhAShya.

    Most of the FB crowd are those who want to say that they have realized brahman, but they see a world and happy to live in it. They think that it’s enough to know that the world is unreal, in order to be Self-realized! I don’t know Shankara would agree with that!

    Our perceptual system (5 senses + mind) CANNOT see brahman. As 1.2, kena said, what can see is the ‘eye of the eye, ear of the ear, mind of the mind.’ One need to have that brahman-vision to be able to see Self in all, as Shankara said at 116, aparokAhAnubhUti. Introducing the verse 5.29, Shankara says: “Now will be described the effect of Yoga, the perception of oneness with Brahman, which leads to the cessation of all samsara.” He comments at that verse: “He sees all beings – from Brahma, the Creator, down to a clump of grass – as one with the Self; and in all the different beings – from Brahma, the Creator, down to inanimate objects – he sees the same; i.e., he sees that the Self and brahman (the Absolute) are one.”

    You may recall, Venkat, that you sent to me the following quote from Ramana’s GVK verse 293 which says: “Having known for certain that everything which is seen, without the least exception, is merely a dream, and that *it [the seen] does not exist without the seer,* turn only towards Self – Sat-Chit-Ananda – without attending to the world of names and forms, which is only a mental conception.”
    Sadhu Om adds: “When it is said “… the seen does not exist without the seer… ”, we should remember that the seer is also an unreal dream, like the seen.”

    I think it should settle the issue regarding what is perceived. If one says, “whether you know it or not, it is always brahman that you see,” it has to be marked as a pep up talk or a sales pitch. One cannot perceive brahman with the normal eye; one needs the brahman-vision.

    regards,

  3. Dear Ramesam (and Venkat),

    There is an awful lot to read here (I only just discovered the post from a couple of days ago – sorry!).

    I began reading but stopped after I noted a couple of points to which I wanted to respond. If I continue, I will probably forget! I will return to continue reading later.

    1) Regretfully, I do not have a miraculous, scripture-wide knowledge (and memory!). And I would not want others to think that this is so! I simply have a very good search engine on my PC. Sorry to reduce it to the mundane.

    2) “Everything that I see is Brahman.” I am mystified as to how there can be any discussion about this. Since there is ONLY Brahman, how can this not be true? If what I see is other than Brahman, how can reality be non-dual?

    OK, I understand what you are getting at here but clearly you are missing the point that this is all I have been saying (wherever I have said it). The usual metaphor is gold-ornament. When I look at the ring and the bangle, I may (in my ignorance) believe I am seeing separate entities but, in reality I am always seeing only gold. But I don’t dispute that I cannot ‘see’ Brahman qua Brahman because Brahman is not objectifiable (and I have never said otherwise).

    The j~nAnI sees the ring as ring but knows it to be gold. And sees the world as world but knows it to be Brahman. It really is very simple!

    If what has been written subsequently raises other points, I will probably get to them eventually.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  4. ‘Obfuscation’ is the word that springs to mind.

    Both Ramesam and Venkat are appealing to, and quoting from, many sources. The net result of this is a lack of clarity about what is actually being claimed. I seem to recall that, many months ago when this topic first arose, I asked that we each explain in words of one syllable, as it were, what we were actually saying, so that it would be possible to see anomalies, illogicalities etc. easily. This did not happen because the objection was raised that I was always asking others for scriptural references to back up claims, and not allowing them to put themselves forward as authority. Accordingly, it was claimed that we should not say anything unless we could providing supporting statements from Shankara.

    Reading through the material above, I do not doubt that the references are correct (although I might well object to translator’s word choices or additional comments). But the overall message is no longer simple and thus no longer easily understood and accepted or rejected.

    If you want me to continue this discussion (when I have said before that I have finished writing about it for Vol. 2 of my ‘Confusions’ book and am no longer interested in repeating myself), could I ask one or both of you to write a short explanation. In fact, even better, would be for you both to liaise off-line and come up with a joint ‘statement’. This should explain what happens when someone is enlightened, covering the ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ ‘state’. Just a few sentences in simple language, without reference to scriptures or other authority. I will then ask questions about the explanation as appropriate.

  5. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    I equally respect the knowledge possessed by you both with regard to the Shankara Vedanta. I also respect equally the views that both of you express in these columns.

    At the same time, I feel sorry I am unable to go with Dennis’s suggestion that: “even better, would be for you both to liaise off-line and come up with a joint ‘statement’.” By that denial, I don’t mean to even remotely indicate that I underestimate Venkat’s proficiency nor undervalue his understanding. The denial is only because that neither of us have any joint agenda nor a single objective between us. If Dennis finds certain commonality of views as expressed by both of us here, it would merely show what it is the ‘majority view’ within the population of the three of us whose names make a frequent appearance here.

    However, I concur with the other suggestion made by Dennis to forsake bhAShya quotes (which was contrary to the earlier ground rules). One can make simple sentences; but the devil is always in the detail, as the saying goes 🙂 !

    I am a game to see how it goes with the new ground rules. I am sure all of us will have a chance to question the other’s statements and even their questions.

    regards,

  6. Below is my first cut attempt to express my understanding. The expression may need improvement, the words my need sharpening and what is being conveyed may need fine-tuning.

    1. What is perceived by the senses and/or conceptualized by the ordinary mind is not brahman.
    i) The entire corpus of Advaita Vedanta literature is to explain why it is so.
    ii) Some of the scriptures, however, offer a variety of means for training the mind to help develop a perspective that is not in its habituated routine.

    2. A perceiver or knower and what is perceived or known are always within the same realm.
    i) A waker always sees the awake world only; a dreamer is always within the dream world.

    3. The Infinite Awareness is that wherein one sees nothing other than the Self; wherein one sees a second thing, hears a second thing and understands a second thing, is finite personal consciousness.
    i) The Infinitude of the Infinity will be lost if a second thing appears along with It.

    4. The Advaita goal is freedom (mukti) from samsAra, the endless cycles of birth and death.
    i) Advaita siddhAnta is not about providing a happy and comfortable life in this world nor is it a DIY technique to ensure one’s self-improvement.

    5. Desirelessness, dispassion and detachment are the key elements one has to develop to be able to proceed on the Knowledge Path for Liberation.

    regards,

  7. Hi both

    Dennis – I look back and realise that I have actually responded briefly to your challenge on more than one occasion:

    https://www.advaita-vision.org/brihadaranyaka-2-4-12-13/#comment-8967

    https://www.advaita-vision.org/brhadaranyaka-upanishad-4-3-4-4/#comment-9100

    Indeed the latter comment is a plain English summary of all the points that Sankara sequentially develops in Brhad Up 4.3-4.4 (the subject of that post).

    But to short-circuit this, the source of our disagreement is whether ignorance is in the mind of a jiva (in terms of seeing duality) or whether ignorance is the cause of the world-body-mind.

    From this flows everything else. You assert that ignorance is in the mind, then knowledge can remove the ignorance that the world is separate, and so the jiva – jnani continues with this knowledge, albeit with pratibandhas that can be removed through sadhana.

    I hold that Sankara meant – as also demonstrated in this article by Ramesam – the latter position. I have also expounded that here:

    https://www.advaita-vision.org/ignorance-the-cause-of-the-world/

    However your counter-argument to this is an appeal to personal experience, to over-ride and dismiss as “figurative” a plenitude of Sankara’s and Gaudapada’s statements on this. I suppose that is why you are trying to get away from quoting Sankara!

    The fallacy of course is this “personal” experience. At which point you say ajata vada is the ultimate truth, but that vyavahara is our experience (and implicitly must also be that of a jnani).

    Hence a jnani can continue to function in this world as an individual seeing names and forms, whilst ‘knowing’ they are all Brahman. Your position is then identical to a physicist who knows everything is made up of the same stuff at the quantum level; and yet continues to act in the world according to his desires and fears. I suppose the physicist still needs to work on his/her pratibandhas.

    Given that I have anticipated the debate, I suggest Dennis, that you focus on Ramesam’s points.

    Best,
    venkat

  8. Venkat,

    You are prevaricating! I am attempting to keep things extremely simple and you are trying to get me (and readers) to look back at several posts and try to extract what they think is intended for themselves. If we have been through this already, why are you and Ramesam opening it up again?

    If you both do as I suggest, I will continue the discussion. Otherwise, not. I am not ‘trying to get away from quoting Shankara’. What I am trying to do is establish your logical position first. We can discuss and agree (some hope!) this position first and THEN find substantiating quotes. What you have been doing all along is coming up with the quotes first, misunderstanding them and consequently deriving an illogical position. That is not the correct way!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  9. Hello everyone! My name is Jason. I have been reading these blogs for many years, including all of the comments that come through. Thought I’d join the party! Actually, I couldn’t help myself!

    The constant arguing, debating and disagreeing not only gets old but completely misses the point about all of this!

    Having sincere doubts and asking questions is perfectly fine and necessary, but the “end game” here is to have a clear Understanding about this. EVERYTHING ELSE is simply ego games.

    So, it’s quite simple…

    There’s ONLY Brahman! Period.

    That means, NO SECOND THING!

    That means there is no world or body or mind or anything else! (That would all be a second and third and fourth thing!).

    As Swami Dayananda said ALL THE TIME… other than Brahman, it’s just word and meaning, word and meaning, word and meaning, ALL THE WAY!!! Everything can be explained away!

    Therefore, if you truly know this, that’s it!

    If you don’t, then go back to the beginning and GET CLEAR!

    It works. It really does. It’s simple.

    Doubts and questions are great, ask them and get them answered. But just arguing and disagreeing gets you nowhere, and in the end keeps you trapped and suffering!

    The Upanishads are clear and say this…

    Kaṭha Upaniṣad:
    This has to be attained through the mind alone. There is no plurality at all here. One who sees here plurality, as it were, goes from death to death. (2.1.11

    Not much more to be said for now.

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for joining in. I’m sure it gets a bit tedious for readers when they only find the same old contributors every time!

      Best wishes,
      Dennis

    • Hello Jason,

      I join Dennis to thank you for being here.

      I trust you have read my Comment of August 7, 2021 at 18:00 (the very 2nd one posted as a reply to Venkat) in this thread. May I suggest that you may take a look again. [Please do not ignore the last para.]

      It’s good to know that you think you are brahman.

      regards,

  10. Dennis – all you have to do is go to read either of the two first links I sent you – they do not have quotes – they are a numbered list of point. It will take you one minute. If you don’t want to bother, that is absolutely fine. It speaks volumes of your arrogance.

    I suggest you continue the conversation with Ramesam.

    venkat.

    • Venkat,

      Your two references are both explanations of your understanding of particular passages in Br. Up. Neither of them does what I asked, namely: “This should explain what happens when someone is enlightened, covering the ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’ ‘state’. Just a few sentences in simple language, without reference to scriptures or other authority.” I think you will agree that commenting on a scriptural text does not constitute ‘without reference to scriptures’.

      Arrogantly yours,
      Dennis

  11. Sorry you are not willing to ‘play the game’, Venkat. I will go with Ramesam, as you suggest. Could I ask that you do not participate in this to avoid confusion/extra work, please.

    Dear Ramesam,

    Apologies for responding to Venkat before yourself; I didn’t see your post until later.

    I feel you are making things too complex here by introducing extraneous ideas. I will try to précis your statements and respond to those. Obviously, you will correct me if I have misunderstood.

    <<1. The objects of perception and conceptualization are not Brahman.>>

    I can see this is going to be very difficult. Your very first statement contradicts my understanding and does not explain/justify how you can make it. My earlier comment questioned this belief. I said: “Since there is ONLY Brahman, how can this not be true [i.e. that ‘everything is Brahman]? If what I see is other than Brahman, how can reality be non-dual?”

    Objects in the world or in the mind are name and form of Brahman. If they are not this, what are they? Note that talking about adhyAsa or whatever will not get you out of this. What you perceive is Brahman, irrespective of whether you call it an illusion, projection, superimposition or whatever. It is what you THINK it is that changes.

    <>

    I don’t understand. Surely statements such as ‘sarvam khalvidam brahman’ tell us that they ARE Brahman? Consciousness is Brahman; I am Brahman; You are That. I would say that scripture and Shankara explicitly reject all other notions such as the puruṣa and prakṛti of the Sāṃkhya philosophy.

    <>

    No problem with this but I suggest it is not relevant to our discussion.

    <<2. A perceiver or knower and what is perceived or known are always within the same realm.>>

    I mostly agree with this (although lucid dreaming is a slight problem). But I am not sure what you are implying by it. One can only learn about, and talk about, paramārtha in vyavahāra.

    <<3. The Infinite Awareness is that wherein one sees nothing other than the Self;>>

    What does this mean? There is always only Brahman in reality, which does not see anything obviously. One is never ‘in’ Infinite Awareness. There is only ever Brahman. You are Brahman and ‘what you are in’ is Brahman.

    << i) The Infinitude of the Infinity will be lost if a second thing appears along with It.>>

    We agree!

    <<4. The Advaita goal is freedom (mukti) from samsAra, the endless cycles of birth and death.>>

    Agreed again!

    << i) Advaita siddhAnta is not about providing a happy and comfortable life in this world nor is it a DIY technique to ensure one’s self-improvement.>>

    Also agreed, although I don’t see its relevance to the discussion.

    <<5. Desirelessness, dispassion and detachment are the key elements one has to develop to be able to proceed on the Knowledge Path for Liberation. >>

    No problem with this either but, again, I don’t see its relevance.

    What I was looking for was an explanation for what happens when someone is enlightened that entails the disappearance of the world. You will pardon me if I claim that your exposition so far does not provide this.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  12. Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for your response.
    I propose to ignore your reference to the chAndogya quote as well to Shankara as these violate the new Ground rule we have set. I shall ignore the reference to Lucid dreaming too because it is an extraneous issue.

    You said in the closing lines of your post: “What I was looking for was an explanation for what happens when someone is enlightened that entails the disappearance of the world. You will pardon me if I claim that your exposition so far does not provide this.”

    I did anticipate that the main reason for the entire trouble lies right there in such an approach. I already explained in the very 2nd para of my first comment (as a reply to Venkat) up above why one should not start with that as a goal. I copy below that para for your convenience:

    Excerpt from Comment on August 7, 2021 at 18:00:

    “I am getting more and more convinced that the sure way to miss the heart of Shankara’s teaching is to keep oneself focused on being able to explain how a liberated individual still burdened with a body conducts his life in a world — whatever name one may give to such an individual, viz., living-liberation, jnAni, jIvanmukta.”

    The subsequent paras slightly amplify on that para.

    With regard to the “disappearance of the world,” my point has already been made in the Blog Post itself. I copy here for your convenience:

    “In regard to the second question about the ‘disappearance of the world,’ let me restate what has been said many times, that let us not give primacy to the appearance or disappearance of the object, world, but examine whether the sense of an independent self, a ‘me’ as the separate ‘seer’ continues to be present on liberation.”

    If you like to insist on “what happens when someone is enlightened,” I am afraid, I cannot be a player for this because I suppose it is too premature to deal with it as it would lead to either speculation or a blind belief that ‘I am brahman’ along with my body, finite mind and the sense of “me-mine” intact, including my prejudices, self-interests, assets, sex etc. etc.

    regards,

  13. Sorry, Ramesam, for referring to ‘all this is Brahman’. When I said “without referencing scriptures”, I meant not referring to chapter and verse or bhAShya as justification for what is said. I did not mean to suggest that we should begin as though we were completely ignorant of the teaching of Advaita! You, yourself are doing exactly the same thing when you refer to ‘the entire corpus of Advaita literature’ or ‘Advaita siddhAnta’ or ‘the Advaita goal’. I take it as read that we both accept that the essence of the teaching is that Brahman is the truth; the world is mithyA; the jIva is Brahman.

    Also, the thrust of my suggestion was that the person (you) specifying their ‘logical position’ should not refer to scriptures. Once that is in place, in order to question and refute it, it is clearly going to be appropriate to refer to the standard beliefs of Advaita.

    You can ignore the point about disappearing world if you like. I assume it would arise naturally out of the discussion anyway but, if not, that is fine.

    I am also not asking for your own personal experience of enlightenment, simply your understanding of the process from your knowledge of Advaita.

    Hope this is now clearer, in which case perhaps you might proceed to respond to my initial objections or provide a new formulation. And might I suggest a new rule, namely that we do not refer to earlier posts as a response. By all means copy and paste if this is really necessary.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  14. Dear Dennis,

    I am sorry for the delayed response because I was struggling within myself whether I understood your objection correctly or not. I couldn’t convince myself that a person who authored a book on Mandukya and knows its mantra # 7 and other important mantras from the Upanishads that define brahman, would pose a question like that. In your latest post you merely said “you might proceed to respond to my initial objections.”

    Your ‘initial objection’ to my position, as I see it is your statement: “What you perceive is Brahman.” How it is NOT is already pointed out by me in the Original post with scriptural evidence. Okay we will ignore it in the light of the new Ground rule.

    Let us take a fresh look. If there is a finite object which is seen, there is a finite seer to whom it appears, and in addition there is the action of seeing which links the seer and the seen, it’s already one too many to be a-dvaita!

    Any further discussion would necessarily become more technical.
    As you are aware, if your eye sees two moons, it is not that there is an extra moon in the sky. Nor does it mean that the single one moon has split herself to appear as two. It is simply because the ‘seeing’ apparatus is defective. That is why one does not talk of transfiguration, as you well know, in Advaita, but only a changeless change (vivarta).

    And, therefore, so much of Advaita teaching addresses the point of change in the “vision” — from being a finite separate individual to being as that very Self (i.e. sat-cit). It is not enough as you said, “You are Brahman and ‘what you are in’ is Brahman.” No, the sentence needs to be modified to say “You are Brahman and what you have to be is “AS” Brahman.”

    The gold-ornaments or clay-pots analogy fails here. The multiplicity is NOT because the basic substance (sat-cit) has split or decided to be to appear as many (objects). It’s a problem of defective vision of a finite seer. (The new Ground rule is restraining me quoting from the bhAShya-s).

    If you say that my above explanation is based on a misunderstanding of what your objection actually is, I will be the happiest man!

    regards,

  15. Dear Ramesam,

    I was trying to ‘pin you down’ to making simple statements of what it is you actually believe so that I may (equally simply) refute them or show them to be deficient or ambiguous, or conceivably realize why I have been misunderstanding you. It seems that you want to insist upon the usual ‘waffly’ descriptions, with barely comprehehsible Shankara quotations, followed by my equally waffly responses, which have the effect of propagating these discussions over months (without any conclusion) rather than bringing them to an (amicable) end quickly.

    That is what has happened every time before and I am not prepared to do it again.

    It seems to me that the only we can ever resolve our different views is by going back to ‘first principles’ as it were. The Mandukya, on the other hand, represents the end point, the final understanding if you like. Maybe we do actually agree about that but there are certainly some mismatches en route!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  16. “barely comprehehsible Shankra quotations”

    That perhaps is THE problem – a lack of comprehension.
    And so glaringly obvious where it lies!

  17. When it is said that Brahman alone is, it means that Brahman is present in every experience. Every experience or object has five components: asti (existence), bhati (consciousness), priya (dearness), name, and form. The first three represent the unchanging Brahman and is the Adhisthananm (substratum)and the last two being superimpositions are mithyA, lower order of reality and need not be counted. Only non-dual Brahman is left. This fact has to be intellectually understood. There should not be an iota of doubt. It is knowledge, not an information. NidhidhyAsanA is meant to overcome any mental obstacle ( pratibandha). There is no need to look for any experience of Brahman separately. Any such effort is bound to fail because It is not an object of experience. It cannot be directly experienced by sense organs. In this sense, it is said that Brahman is beyond any experience.

  18. Bimal: “It [brahman] cannot be directly experienced by sense organs.”

    Thanks Bimal.
    brahman CANNOT be a percept. Period.

    Collins English Dic gives the meaning for “percept” as: (Philosophy) a concept that depends on recognition by the senses, such as sight, of some external object or phenomenon.”
    The American Heritage Dic gives the meaning as: “A mental impression of something perceived by the senses, serving as a basic component in the formation of concepts; a sense datum.”

    The concept of “substratum” also needs to be understood from Vedantic sense. Can’t remember where, but Shankara also denies somewhere in his bhAShya-s that it is not in the sense that the world overlays on the “substratum” of brahman.

    regards,

  19. Swami Dayananda was VERY clear about all this…

    -There is no substratum as that would again mean duality.

    -All there is IS Brahman, period.

    -B is A, but A is not B.
    Meaning: the wave IS water, but water is not the wave.

    -Also, Swami D was very clear about word usage, and he said the ONLY words to use ontologically for all of this is Satya and Mithya.

    -And lastly, the fact that Satya and Mithya are NOT apart from each other, or that there is NO distance between Satya and Mithya.

    So therefore, again, all there is is Brahman. The examples of water/wave or gold/ornaments or clay/pot pretty much sums it all up if understood properly!

  20. Thanks, Jason! You should be aware though that quoting Swami D. carries no weight with Ramesam, since Ramesam regards him as a charlatan… (Can you believe it, the most important and clearest teacher of modern times!)

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  21. Well ok then.

    Since there’s so much bantering and disagreeing from Ramesam, I would honestly love to know what he thinks or knows the truth to be? And what teachers or sources he says are the “proper” ones?

    Most people coming to this site are sincerely looking for answers and for the final truth of things, so stating that clearly and consistently would seem to be the point instead of a forum for arguing and ego games.

  22. Hi Jason,

    I requested you to read the very first comment of mine at this thread (the response on August 7, 2021 at 18:00. I just have to repeat the same request in reply to your question above saying: “Since there’s so much bantering and disagreeing from Ramesam, I would honestly love to know what he thinks or knows the truth to be?”

    And regarding your second question: “And what teachers or sources he says are the “proper” ones?” I am surprised you ask this, because, you may not have missed so many times the assertion of Dennis about Shankara as the ‘go to’ standard.

    All the best,

  23. Ramesam,

    So I just re-read the above entry you suggested I read again, and yes, got it and agree.

    And what I continue to “get”, is that there is ONLY BRAHMAN!!!!

    … everything else is simply imagined or conceptual and therefore not true nor real.

    So this WHOLE THING is exactly like the “coin on the forehead game”!

  24. Jason,

    You write: “I read again, and yes, got it and agree.”
    Thanks.
    Then where is “so much bantering and disagreeing from Ramesam,” that you alleged? 🙂

    All the best,

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